Disclaimer: I don't own the Avatar: The Last Airbender or any of its characters.

The Shadow of the Past

Chapter 1 - Cruel Fate

Story by Last Butterfly

Summary: Modern AU, no bending. The first chapter is the background of the two characters, and it is the base of the story. How did Zuko gain his scar? What happened to Katara's and Sokka's mother? Read it to find out! - Zutara, Zuko x Katara

It was well after midnight when a pair of golden eyes popped open. The twelve-year-old boy sat up in his bed, rubbing his eyes with pale hands when he heard a noise.

He silently went to his door and by the time it stood ajar, he heard that noise again, coming from downstairs and it mixed with muffled voices… he guessed from the kitchen.

He slowly walked out of the room, taking the steps leading downstairs when he recognized the voices. The lower, soothing one belonged to his mother while the other… the rougher one was his father's without a doubt.

He just reached the end of the stairs when the last let out an angered grunt, and hardly did he take another step, he could hear a muffled cry and the sudden moving of furniture…

Ursa backed away from her chair while looking wide eyed at her husband. She raised a shaking hand to her reddening cheek, which already seemed swollen because of his hit. When she felt the metallic taste of her own blood she realized that her lower lip was throbbing with a good reason.

"Y-you… you've promised…" She whispered but her weakened voice only made Ozai's lips curl into an evil smile. "You've promised that was the last time!" In the meantime a low whistle of a teapot slowly became louder in the kitchen, covering the noise of his chair as he stood up.

He had been taller than her, his broad shoulders and his bare upper body made him more intimidating in the orange light of the kitchen's lamp. When he walked towards her, she stumbled backwards until her lower back reached the counter. She peeked behind her before taking one step to the side – closer to the filled basin – then let out a gasp as he stepped right before her.

When he raised one of his hands she defensively put hers before her, but instead of hitting her again he held her wrists, making her freeze as his other hand rose. This time he stroked the side of her face then, while holding her chin, he first turned her head to the side – to have a look at her cheek – then back to look in her eyes.

His golden ones showed nothing though. No regret, no shame, not even anger. Only his voice rang cold as he slightly raised her chin. "You know why you got that, don't you?"

She couldn't help it when tears appeared in the corner of her eyes. "You're drunk…" She let out only a whisper while her lower lip started trembling. It was then – as his grip strengthened upon her chin and wrists – that she cried out again. "Stop, please!"

"My brother…" He hissed while leaning closer to her face. "My own brother questioned my today! He dared to ask what I had done to you…" His hand quickly let go of her chin only to grab in her hair. "What did you tell him?!"

"Nothing!" She yelled and tears rolled down her cheek as he yanked her head backwards. "I swear I didn't say anything! But he had accidentally seen my arm and…"

"Accidentally?" He sneered before shoving her hardly to the side. She fell on the ground, only avoiding the counter's edge by sheer luck.

The teapot's whistle rang in her ears. She looked up at him and as he came closer, towering over her, she scooted backwards but he grabbed her, pulling her to her knees before yelling at her. "Don't lie to me, bitch!"

"O-ozai, please…!" She begged as he raised his arm beside his head…


For a moment both of them froze at the third voice, but then Ursa slightly paled as her husband turned his head with a narrow look. "Zuko…" His grip upon her arm loosened, but he did not let go.

Their son stood in the doorway with his side towards them so that one of his hands they could not see…

"Go… back to bed, my love…" She said on a voice like nothing had happened, but it still sounded weaker than usual. "We're fine…"

The edge of Ozai's lips curled upwards. "You've heard you mother…" The boy's gaze moved to his mother then back at him. "Now get out."

Zuko clenched his jaw raising his chin as his father turned his back on him. "No."

Ursa's heart skipped a beat. "What?" Her husband's voice showed surprise… and anger. Her eyes rounded as the boy lifted his other arm, pointing straight at his father with a baseball bat, which he hid behind him before. "I said no." His father's eyes narrowed as he went on. "I'm warning you…" He said then held the bat in both of his hands – raising it beside his head – and the fact that those were shaking had only been visible in that moment. "Leave her alone!"

"Or else what?" When his father's cold, golden eyes suddenly met his, he unintentionally shuddered, which made Ozai let out a laugh. "You disrespectful brat…" He finally let go of his wife, turning towards their son, and his usually smooth voice sounded rough, fuelled by his now uncontrolled anger. "It is time you learn your lesson!"

The boy's grip strengthened upon the handle of the bat as his father headed towards him with his fists clenching by his sides. The teapot whistled so loud that it completely hid a low noise as Ursa got a hold of a frying pan.

He suddenly stopped beside the stove and his gaze drifted to the side when his son's lips parted. After that everything happened too fast…

Just before his wife could have used her temporary 'weapon' against him, Ozai whirled in his place, caught her hand and with twisting her wrist made her drop it. She cried out before he pushed her and her son's eyes turned round when she fell to the ground, hitting the back of her head. By the time her eyes opened again… it was already too late.

Zuko almost let go of the bat in his hands. "Mom!" He gritted his teeth and tears appeared in his eyes when his father's lips turned into a frown while facing him. Without even thinking he ran towards Ozai, with the bat ready in his hands.

But he was reckless. He almost blindly headed for him, only thinking about his mother's safety, not his own.

He realized too late when his father grabbed the heated teapot from the stove, and when he finally got close enough to hit, the man's hand shot forward with it…

All Zuko remembered after that was the pain and a scream on a voice which he first did not realize as his own. Then everything went blank…

The blue eyed little girl held her knees against her chest and bit her lower lip with a smile as she heard her brother's nearing footsteps. They were playing hide and seek while their mother left to the shop, and she climbed into the kitchen counter.

And in the meantime their father used out his little free time, finally reading into one of the many books he wanted to finish for ages. He was sitting in the garden for half an hour now, but forgot to turn off the TV inside, which was the only source of noise in the house.

When she heard her brother's faint voice, she realized that Sokka got tired of looking for her, because she heard him ask their father about where she might have been and then heard a low creaking noise which meant that the boy sat down outside too.

A pout came to her lips and when she slowly climbed out of her hiding place she heard through the window that both her brother and father started chuckling on something. She crossed her arms but a smile appeared on her face as she decided to go outside, crossing the living room.

When excited voices and shouts sounded from the television she turned her gaze there to see what was going on. But as she could recognize the familiar scene there, her smile faded at once. One of her hands reached up to her neck where a necklace hung with a blue pendant – she always did that when she'd been worried.

"Hey, Katara!" Sokka stepped in the room with a big smile on his face. "I knew you'd grow tired of… waiting…" His voice trailed away as he looked at the TV too, and his mouth stayed open.

On the news, right in front of the grocery store where they usually went, a lot of people were running around, mostly in uniforms.

"…we just got informed that the robber was indeed shot by the riot force to be stopped, but apparently that truly was the second one of the gunfire. The ambulance is heading towards the hospital in this very moment with the victim of the first. She – as we were told – is a local citizen, mother of two…"

When the scream of his daughter reached his ears, Hakoda threw the book away while jumping to his feet and ran inside, fearing from the worst.

He would have never imagined how far his worries lied from the truth…

Ursa felt horrible. Her fingers trembled above her knees upon her dark skirt, and in those final moments she was suddenly more aware of the wooden seating she pressed into at the trial.

Even though her brother-in-law, Iroh placed a reassuring hand on one of her shoulders many times when those shook, she felt she had no control over herself… or this situation.

Her heartbeat continuously drummed in her ears while she shivered in the middle of July. But every time she dared to bring her gaze to the side, peeking at her husband, his eyes met hers… and when he let a smile come to his lips all these feelings worsened.

Her hands desperately clenched upon a small bag in her lap. Not like she'd have anything expensive in it or something like that… she just needed something to hold onto. But as she'd remembered that she put a letter into it before, her hands let go of it at once.

That letter was sent to her by him. She didn't know how he could send it to her while in custody, but the threatening words written by his very hands burned themselves in her mind.

No matter what's going to happen that day: You belong to me.
We made an oath before God, Ursa. Till death do as apart, remember?
I'm going to return. And there will be no place for you to hide…

When the judge said out the word 'guilty', she heard Iroh heave a sigh, and was grateful for his low soothing voice from behind her.

Her eyes moved back to Ozai again. The man didn't move a muscle and his face remained emotionless as he was told the penalty: twelve years in prison.

Twelve years… Just as much as our son's age. One single tear slowly made its way down Ursa's cheek. Who you've scarred for life…

Katara sat on a bench at the playground's edge. Her tears silently fell from her eyes while she hugged her knees up to her chin. She was wearing black clothes, and even her favourite blue hairclips were changed to that colour which held up her usual hair-loopies… she only didn't let go of her necklace.

Once it belonged to her grandmother, then her mother. She was supposed to get it at her eleventh birthday, but her mother changed her mind and gave it to her months earlier. This was the last thing she ever got from her mother…

She didn't even lift a hand to whip her tears away, just let her eyes wander from one child to the other who yelled and played happily. She envied them… especially those who were taken care of by their mothers: hugs, smiles and strokes… Her tears always strengthened upon seeing these things.

But then… her gaze stopped on one particular person: a boy. He wore a pair of blue jeans, a red T-shirt and trainers, and sat with his back leaning to the wall at the other side of the ground.

His raven hair fell freely around his face, and beside his also sorrowful expressions, she could see – as the wind blew – that the skin around his left eye was covered by a scar, which was even darker red on his eyelid. He seemed to be alone too.

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. Maybe that's why when the boy's golden eyes met her blue ones, for a moment she forgot about the world. She had seen the pain and sadness in his eyes just as she was sure he had too…

He slightly straightened in his place as he was holding the glance of the tanned skinned girl. First he felt the urge to just jump up and run away like he did lately…

Ever since they moved here he tried to avoid people, even his sister, Azula… He made the decision of not telling the girl the origin of the scar upon his face. She had always loved their father more, and the divorce was more than enough for her. Since that she kept on taunting him about everything he did.

But for some odd reasons, his legs didn't seem to move that time. Her ocean blue eyes showed something unlike any other person since he gained his mark… and when the girl – though he saw that her cheeks were tainted with tears – made a smile at him, his expressions softened. Then as she lifted a hand and made a small wave, he raised one of his hands too and was about to wave back when…

An also tanned skinned hand grabbed her wrist. "There you are!" She saw that the boy at the other side of the ground tensed before she looked up at the hands' owner: Sokka. "How many times do I have to ask you not to wander around alone, Katara? Gran-Gran was worried sick!" But his brotherly frown disappeared as he saw her still teary eyes, which she wiped with her other hand quickly while standing up.

"I'm sorry Sokka…" She said with a sniff, and peeked back to where she was looking in the last minutes… but the boy was not there anymore. She looked around so that she might see which direction he had left, but there was no sign of him.

Seeing the sad expression on her face, her brother wrapped an arm around her before slowly leading her away. "Come, Gran-Gran promised pancakes to me…"

A/N: Hi there! This is my new fan fiction, and my first AU one...

I know it started quite dark... but this chapter is the base of the story and the whole Alternate Universe. Zuko is 12 and Katara is 10 here, but in the next chapters we will have a little jump in time. (Namely 7 years. XD) Where the two of them are together for some time now... I want to concentrate on them and how the other's family members would act around them...
(Oh, and Gran-Gran is with Pakku! Because they rock! 3)

If it will contain any other shippings, it will probably be Tokka. - If you ask why then I say that this whole fic was born from a little fangirlish talk with one of my friends, and she is a Tokka shipper; and I love every Sokka ships, so no 'boo'ing, m'kay? I'll concentrate on Zutara!

So be so kind as to give me some feedback (reading reviews is the best part in writing! I am serious!) that way I'll have more ideas how to go on, and you'll get the next chapter faster. Thanks for your time!