This seriously came on a whim. I think it's the fastest I've ever come up with something, but then again, this oneshot is only 1000 words or so. Anyways, I know this particular idea is totally generic and has been done many times over by other authors, but bear with me here. I needed to get it out, I was feeling a bit deprived of writing.
Oh, and by the way, this is sort of a sister story to "Epilogue". You don't have to read it to understand this one, though, since there's only a really tiny, vague reference...but if you want to… :D
(Wow, I'm running out of creative titles.)
The sky has long lost its blood red hue since the comet's disappearance. Now, the moon casts a white-yellow glow on the smoldering remains of the Fire Nation Palace. The wails and hysterical shrieks that had echoed throughout the grounds for hours subside into wracking sobs, then sniffles, and finally into a well-deserved silence.
With this silence, though, comes a tension that seems to thicken with each passing minute.
They sit hunched in front of a small fire, scanning the skies every so often for any sign of their friends' return. For the Avatar's return. The minutes turn into hours, and Appa lets out a despondent moan.
They continue to wait.
- - - - -
She's busy rewrapping his wound for the fifth time when he notices it.
It's a quiet, simple statement – more of an observation than anything else – but Katara starts as though she's been burned. She jerks her arms back with a sharp intake of breath; unfortunately for Zuko, the makeshift bandages are still clenched in her hands when she does this. He visibly winces as the cloth tightens around his abdomen.
"I'm sorry!" She gasps, rushing forward to loosen the wrap. "Are you okay? I didn't mean to do that, I wasn't paying attention…"
Zuko stares at the waterbender as she continues to fuss over him, her words trailing off into an incoherent mumbling. She's grown increasingly anxious ever since her outburst a few hours earlier, after the sky had lit up a brilliant orange and blue. Zuko had had enough sense to keep his questions to himself at the time. Now, though, is an entirely different matter.
He gently reaches for Katara's wrists, pushing them away from his stomach, and her blue eyes fly to his face.
"Katara, I'm fine," he insists, offering her a small smile. It quickly fades into a frown. "…But you're not. Talk to me."
She bites her lip and looks away. Zuko waits for her to respond, but realizes it isn't going to come as easily as he'd like. He sighs.
"You're worried about Aang." It's not a question.
Katara closes her eyes, and Zuko's horrified when a single tear rolls down her cheek, followed by another, and another. He doesn't know what to do. So he lets go of her wrists instead, fidgeting awkwardly while she wipes the tears away.
"D-don't cry," he stammers, as Katara wraps her arms tightly around her knees. "I'm sure everything's alright. It'll all be over soon, he'll come back, he always does, right? My father can't –"
He abruptly realizes his mistake and snaps his mouth shut, but it's already too late. At the mention of the Phoenix King, the dam breaks, and Katara is sobbing into her knees.
Zuko wants nothing more than to slam his head against a pillar.
"N-No, that's not what I meant!" He exclaims hastily, a desperate edge to his voice. "Aang did defeat my father, I know he did, that blue beam of light must have been from him…" He groans in frustration, running a hand through his hair. Argh - stupid, STUPID!
"He wanted more," Katara whispers brokenly, her muffled voice almost inaudible. Zuko freezes, amber eyes wide.
She lifts her head and bitterly swipes away her tears. "He wanted us to be more than just friends, but I told him…I-I said it wasn't the right time, and that I was confused…and then he kissed me and I ran away and just…ruined everything…" She shakes her head furiously, crying even harder. "I barely spoke to him after that, and now we don't even know where he is, much less what happened to him! I just wanted this war to be over, but I'm just so stupid…I-I didn't even think about what would happen if he didn't…if he actually…"
Katara decides not to finish the thought, instead letting the sobs take over again.
Zuko is at a loss for words. Of all the people in the world, he thought he'd be the very last person Katara would ever talk to about...this sort of thing. After all, he isn't exactly what anyone would call "skilled" in the relationship field.
Hesitating for just a moment, he pulls the fragile waterbender into an awkward embrace. Throwing what's left of her pride out the window, Katara clings to his ripped robes and buries her head into his chest. He pats her back despite the shooting stabs of pain from his abdomen.
"He's going to come back," Zuko says reassuringly, and he feels her nod. A moment later, she pulls away, a watery smile on her lips.
"Wow...you're actually more caring than I ever gave you credit for, Zuko." Even through the tears, she's apparently regained a hint of her usual sarcasm. He shoots her a deadpanned look, and Katara manages a weak laugh.
"Really, though," She says sincerely, "Thanks."
Before he can respond, a loud mechanical whir pierces through the silence, and Zuko snaps his head up to see a single damaged airship descending from the sky. Katara is already sprinting towards it, and the gangplank barely touches the ground before she collides with the exhausted airbender and sends him staggering backwards.
"I'm so sorry," She sobs quietly into his shoulder, and that's all it takes for Aang to understand. His eyes soften, and he pulls her into a tight embrace.
"It's alright. It's finally over, we're all okay…"
Zuko slowly makes his way towards the airship, where Sokka, Suki, and Toph watch the couple with warm smiles. Sokka notices Zuko's bandages, though, and his grin fades.
"You okay, Zuko?"
Zuko gives a nonchalant shrug. "I'll be fine."
His eyes flicker curiously from Sokka's injured leg to Aang's tattered pants, though, and he smiles.
Oh well. For now, the explanations can wait.
Don't you hate it when you start off a story thinking it'll turn out great, and then by the time you get to the end the only thing you want to do is trash it because it suddenly sounds like crap? Yeah. I hate it too.
Hm…out of character? (Dramatic Katara?) Haha, I reread this and was like, "OMG SHE'S TEARBENDING." xD
Seriously, though, if you think about it realistically, Katara would totally freak out after the whole adrenaline rush of battling Azula passes and whatnot. What else do you think about while waiting for the outcome of the biggest battle of your life? I'd go crazy. (Not as crazy as Azula, though.)
Review, review, review! :3