AN: Thank you so much you guys! I am really glad you like the story thus far. Now some of you predicted certain characters that would be popping up in this story and it makes me feel so predictable lol. But anyways they're bound to show up sooner or later. So here we go...the longest chapter of this story yet and I know everyone is very out of character but hey bare with me. I told you this wasn't going to be like every other concubine story you read...didn't I? lol ok so enjoy! And please review! I love hearing what you all have to say about this story!
"Katara?" his eyes widened as did Katara's as she saw him pressed firmly against her body. She flushed as she shoved him off of her without thinking and quickly rose to her feet. Only when she noticed him still on the ground gazing up at her did she realize her mistake and held out her hand for him to take it.
At first he just laid there propped up on his elbows eyeing her wearily but soon reached for her hand, his rough calloused palm brushing against hers. She felt it weird, his hand in hers but also found it somewhat comforting. She couldn't explain the strange surge of energy that passed through her body when they touched but she dared not hope it was not attraction.
"Forgive me my lord, I did not see you standing there," she grabbed a rag off the table and began to wipe down his torso that was drenched in the fruitatious drink. Smirking as she did so, Zuko watched her clean up the mess that she had created quickly before dropping her hands and disposing of the rag.
Noticing that all eyes were on them, especially the eyes of an enraged Mai and an amused Ty Lee and an intrigued Azula, Zuko wrapped his arm round her waist and led her out onto the balcony where they would be able to talk alone and so that they could be rid of wondering eyes. He hated it when people stared at him, let alone at the women that were with him. Women desired him, men despised yet honored him. He was the most popular young man in all the Fire Nation and so was anyone that was caught with him. Once he was sure that there were no more lingering eyes on them he released her then proceeded to walk towards the railing of the balcony, leaning against it for support.
His eyes roamed the skies, gazing at the bright sapphires that glistened above, creating a marvelous canvas for the ever illuminate full moon. It was a beautiful night, the cool salty sea air awakening the senses, the breeze smacking gently against his face and the soft whispering music of natures calling reaching his ears. He sighed, tonight was a perfect night.
"Katara, not that I am displeased in seeing you here but, what are you doing here?" his voice was soft and low but it held not anger or venom. It was soothing and confused but also hard and firm.
Her hands gripped the railing before her as she looked out over the vast ocean, its surface reflecting the night sky as if it were nature's mirror, "The Fire Lord," she paused, sighing she continued, "the Fire Lord thought it best if I joined you and your friends for a small vacation from palace life. He said the drastic change must have taken its toll on me and thought that I deserved to get away, no matter how short a time I had," she finished, her eyes trailing over to him but not making eye contact, "my lord."
Nodding his head in understanding he looked away from her and back out at the scenery.
"If my father thinks it is best that you join us, then by all means my lady, join us," he smiled looking back at her. He didn't know why, but he was truly excited that she had come to spend the rest of the vacation with him and the others. Not that he would tell her, but he did miss their interactions no matter how small and minute they were he still missed them greatly. And then the subject seemed firmly planted in his mind. Why did he care so much that she was here? Why did he seem to enjoy her company no matter how little or how often she shared it with him? What were these feelings that he was experiencing? He knew very well that he could not be love for he did not yet understand it. He believed that as a young man, he nor any other could truly understand love until they realize that what means most to them they could not live without and he thought for sure that he could live without Katara. No matter how lonely it would be at the beginning, but everything would go back to the way it should as if she had never come to his palace in the first place.
"So what's the plan?" Aang asked Sokka earnestly. Sokka had been contemplating on what should be their next move. They had exactly a year and a month before the comet arrived and eleven and a half months before the solar eclipse.
"I think we should still stick to the invasion plan. We will meet up with earth kingdom forces at the rondevu point and go from there. Once were inside you take down the Fire Lord and I along with a few others will go looking for Katara and Yue," Sokka began as his eyes wondered over a map of the Fire Nation.
"My guess would be that since they were taken prisoner that they are probably being held somewhere in the capital city or the palace city," his forefinger traced round the lining of the city on the map, "seeing as they are watertribe and they are both benders," he trailed off, focusing on the map once again.
"Sokka, do you think they are alright?" Aang asked softly, his eyes drifting from his friend and slowly sinking to the earth beneath their feet.
But before Sokka could answer there was a rumbling in the earth and out of nowhere Toph came bursting up from her earth tent, landing in between them, causing both boys to jump out of fear.
"Of course they're alright Twinkletoes. It's Sugar Queen and Madam Fussy Britches," she snickered at their nicknames, "besides, they know how to take care of themselves and are more than willing to do whatever it takes to protect you as well as the rest of us."
"Yea you're probably right," Aang mumbled, looking up at the moon for guidance.
"Take her to the Fire Lord, he approved of the last water wench, perhaps he will approve of this one!" a sickly slave trader hollered as his men hauled up a young woman round Katara's age with skin licked by the sun, eyes forged from the oceans and hair illuminated like the moon.
Her body was mangled and beaten, battered and bruised, but she was alive and would soon realize that she was not alone in this La forsaken land. She had been bound by the hands and feet and was dragged unceremoniously up the steps of the palace, blood trailing behind her, seeping from her open wounds. Once inside she was thrown to the ground like some carping bag and awaited for whoever it was to decide whether she would stay or go to some brothel to please the common men.
An elder gentleman, with eyes kind as the morning light entered, lifting her chin so that he may get a better look at her features.
"General Iroh," both men bowed, and then watched as he carefully examined the young woman on the ground.
"My dear what is your name?"
Her tear stained face turned to his, her lips twitching slightly as a new set of tears threatened to release, "Yue, my name is Princess Yue of the joined Water Tribes," she whispered softly, holding back her tears as hard as she could.
Iroh stepped back, his face contorted in confusion and hurt, "Oh my," he stated softly, "soldiers," he yelled, "take her to the head mistress and have her cleaned up and sent to my rooms. The princess and I need to discuss a few things," their eyes met and she lipped what seemed to be a thank you and he returned it with a small smile and simple nod.
"Yes sir," the soldiers muttered, taking her with them to the harem's head mistress.
"First Princess Katara and now Princess Yue," Iroh stroked his beard as he watched them take her away, "how is it that two princess' end up here in the Fire Nation of all places?" he feared things were afoot.
Few moments passed in silence between them but neither of them were the first to break the silence, instead it was Mai. She was seething and if she had been a firebender, Zuko would have sworn steam would be rolling off of her at this exact moment.
"Zuko I'm tired, may you escort me back to the resort?" she asked him kindly, though her eyes were narrowed dangerously on Katara's back.
Nodding he took her hand but turned back to Katara, "You can join us if you wish or you can stay and enjoy the party, whatever you decide Katara."
Nodding she watched as they retreated into the room filled with guests then proceeded through the double doors and out of the beach house towards their resort. Katara sighed. She and Mai did not get along well, though she was never the one to instigate such issues between them in the first place. And to think that she was getting jealous over some boy, which in Katara's opinion seemed rather ridiculous but then again every girl was different and Mai had proved that over a hundred times and would a hundred times again.
She watched their retreating forms walk along the beach, seeing a gentle shove here and there, like two lovesick lovers and she smiled. Finally they were out of sight and she sighed contently as she looked out over the ocean.
"Hmm I wondered why Mai seemed so upset," it was Azula. She came to stand across from Katara as she turned to face the princess bowing her head as she was expected to.
"I do not understand why Lady Mai should be upset by my presence. I was sent here by order of the Fire Lord, it has nothing to do with her as to my reasons for being here," Katara answered in a spiteful tone, "my lady."
Azula eyed Katara; she was rather beautiful and could understand why Mai would be weary and jealous of her. If Zuko began to harbor any sort of feelings for her, well, Mai wouldn't stand a chance.
"She's afraid that you will take my brother from her," Azula began. She saw Katara's eyes narrow dangerously but continued, "she's afraid that you will take her place as his Fire Lady or something rather absurd as that but don't worry I told her that that could never happen," moving closer Azula's eyes scanned over Katara wickedly, "here you are, a princess in a foreign land, one that is your enemy. You are not treated like royalty here and you are defiantly not my brother's type. You are a sex slave, a concubine princess and shall remain as such until we have no further use of you or perhaps until you die…"
Katara's eyes widened. What was it with this girl that she had to be so wicked? Katara did not need her to explain the various reasons why she could not love Zuko, why she could never be with him, for she already knew the answers and she was strong enough to not allow herself the opportunity to fall for him.
Clearing her throat and straightening her back, she vowed that from this day on if this girl gave her hell while she was here, well, she would give it back to her tenfold, "Well you can inform Lady Mai that Zuko and I shall never be what she fears shall come. If nothing we are two people with common interests in the art of bending and various other tidbits, but shall never be anything more that friends or perhaps friendly aquatiences," she bowed her head, "my lady."
Azula smiled, perhaps she could get along with this waterbender and perhaps she could become her sparring partner as well, "Don't call me my lady, save that for my mother or the next Fire Lady, and you don't have to call Mai anything other than Mai," she began, "the same goes for Ty Lee…and call me Azula," she stuck her hand out for Katara to take it, "I hope that we can become friends for it will be a long while you are here and I would so very much hate it if we were enemies," she smirked as Katara boldly reached out for her hand, shaking it with confidence.
"Very well Azula."
"Come on, Ty Lee and I are going down to the beach, this party is boring," she smiled, turning away as Katara followed her off the balcony, "Ty Lee get over here now!" she yelled. The perky acrobat back flipped over to them and walked out with her hand slung around Katara's shoulders.
For several hours the three girls played around in the crystal clear waters, allowing the waves to drag their bodies to and fro, relishing in the peacefulness of the night. They had sat by a fire, drying themselves off and began talking about all sorts of interesting things. Azula about her new fighting stances that she had mastered, Ty Lee with how she missed the circus life and Katara with Water Tribe ghost stories.
She figured that if she would be staying here for a while it was better to make friends than enemies, or perhaps make a friendly bond with her enemies, especially with Azula and her friends…though Mai was going to be a challenge. As they say, keep your friends close, keep your enemy closer.
When they had finished, the moon was high above them, shining brightly as ever and they knew that it was time for them to head back to the resort. The three girls headed inside and as they came to the base of the stairs they heard what sounded like…moaning.
Katara swore she turned red upon hearing Mai scream for Zuko over and over again and decided that perhaps she should distance herself from the house until she was sure they had finished…whatever it was that they were doing in the private sectors of his room.
"Sounds like Zuzu's using his concubine well," Azula sneered, she didn't exactly like the fact that her friend was enjoying her brother so much. To her it seemed odd and rather disgusting to say the least. Ever since Mai and Zuko had shared their first night together, Azula never looked at her the same.
She and Ty Lee proceeded up the stairs but Katara remained glued to the base, her hands tightening round the railing fiercely. The moaning annoyed her, the woman who shared his bed angered her and for the life of her she could not understand why.
Over the time that she had been present, she and Zuko had never shared any sort of pleasurable moments together, they fought, they talked but never once did they even hint to the other that there might be something there. So why is it that hearing what was going on up there so difficult for her to bare? This question would rack her mind for countless hours and still she would not be able to sift through all the crap in order to find a clear and decisive answer.
She wasn't in love with him, nor did she love him, but she did value what little friendship they had and she knew that he had felt the same. He was always kind to her, but then again he was never easy on her. When they fought, he treated her like a common enemy, which in truth they were but he treated her just like he would with any other sparring partner and she had appreciated that. Most of the men she had fought against always seemed to go a little too easy on her because of her gender. Zuko on the other hand did not. He believed that an enemy is an enemy no matter what their sex or race is. A female can kill a man just as easily as a man could kill another man.
"Katara aren't you coming to bed?" Ty Lee asked as she finally reached the top of the stairs.
This question pulled Katara from her thoughts, which she seemed to be losing herself in quite frequently, as she looked up at Ty Lee, "Actually I think I'm going to stay down here for a while. I'm not tired just yet," she mumbled, Ty Lee raised a brow and Azula turned back around and stood at Ty Lee's side, "you know being a waterbender and all. I rise with the moon and it's full tonight, I just can't seem to keep my eyes closed just yet," offering a smile she hoped that this answer would service for now.
"Very well, when you're done down there doing whatever it is you will be doing, be sure to put the fire out. I don't want this place to burn to the ground while I'm in it," Azula order before turning her back to Katara once again and proceeded down the hall.
Katara nodded her head then waved at Ty Lee as she bowed then quickly followed after Azula. The moaning was still ever present which made Katara blush once more and she heard Ty Lee giggle, at least she wasn't the only one who acknowledged what was going on. And with that Katara headed for the outdoors, dousing the fire before she did so.
As Azula neared her bed chamber she hears Mai moaning constantly and her patience was wearing thin, "Mai! Zuko! Stop that this instance! Some of us are trying to go to bed and cannot do that with you sexual performance!" her fist made contact with the door to Zuko's chamber and suddenly she heard the moaning come to an end. Sighing with relief she walked down to her room, closing the door quietly behind her.
Ty Lee watched for a moment then began to walk towards the bathing room where she would prepare for bed. Her hand reached for the handle when the door suddenly swung open and Zuko stood before her, a towel wrapped round his waist and one slung over his shoulder.
"OH ZUKO!" Ty Lee squealed as she covered her eyes quickly.
Smiling at how he could still make Ty Lee blush walked past her and towards the door, "Its fine Ty," he said softly as he started to enter his room.
But Ty Lee had other ideas, "Wait a minute, if you're here then who was in there with Mai?"
Zuko gave her a questioning look, as if he had no idea as to what in Agni's name she was talking about.
"When Azula, Katara and I came back, we heard Mai screaming rather heatedly and thought that you two were…" she trialed off, "Azula told you to knock it off, Katara decided to stay downstairs and I was going to the bathroom…and that's how we ended here," she sped off quickly with her words, leaving Zuko even more confused, "well goodnight!" she entered the bathroom shutting the door quickly behind her, trying to hide her pinked face.
After entering his room, Zuko noted that Mai was sprawled out over his bed, naked. He sighed; he was in no mood for this tonight and decided to ignore her current position.
"So shall we finish off where we left off my lord?" her voice was velvety and full of need.
Zuko rolled his eyes as he approached the bed, clothes in hand and he sat at the edge, starting to dress himself, "We cannot finish what was never started Mai, besides I told you not tonight," slipping on a black pair of baggy pants and a white top that he left open he slid into his boots and headed back for the door.
"Where are you going?" sitting up she pulled the covers to hide her body from him, though it didn't do her much good, Zuko had seen her before and had a photographic memory. But it seemed to comfort her in a way.
"Out," was all he said before disappearing behind the door.
Making his way down the steps, he heard as they moaned and creaked beneath his feet. Once he had reached the bottom, he noticed how dark it was and lit a small fire in his palm. His eyes searched the darkness for Katara but she was nowhere to be found, his eyes came across the fire place and noticed that it had been doused only a few moments ago. Suddenly a noise caught his attention, it was coming from outside. Darting to the window he saw the outlined shape of Katara, but there was also someone else out on the beach with her, following her. Apparently they were in an argument or a conversation of sorts, but Zuko did not like the looks of this at all. He watched carefully as she waded out into the ocean, allowing the waters to hug at her thighs and noticed that the man did not follow after her, instead he bowed then left her alone on the beach.
'Time to see who that was and what they were talking about,' he thought to himself as he headed for the door.
"Beautiful night isn't it?" a dark and mysterious voice came from behind her. She turned to see a man, round the same age as the Fire Lord, if not a bit younger standing on the beach only a few yards from her.
'Had he been there the entire time?' she asked herself as she watched him make his way slowly to her right side.
"Yes it is," nodding as she quickly turned her attention back towards the water. She did not need to look to tell that his eyes grazed over her flesh hungrily for her skin crawled in fear and anxiety. Perhaps she should have stayed inside and just bared the awkwardness instead of being out here alone, for there was something far off about this man.
He leaned closer, "So what is a beautiful young woman such as yourself doing out here unescorted?" he questioned her, trailing his hand over to hers that rested nicely at her side. Seeing this she moved them away quickly.
"I am actually here visiting my friend Prince Zuko," that was the best she could think of, perhaps after hearing who she was with, let alone belonged to he would leave her alone, "his father sent me to the island to see him."
"Ah Prince Zuko," the mysterious man chuckled, "the Prince with a golden heart," he muttered.
"Excuse me?" Katara demanded her hands on her hips.
"Do not get me wrong, this nation is not worthy of someone like him, but we are grateful to have him. He is just so much more caring than his father and I along with many others see that as his greatest weakness and perhaps the leading up to his demise once he is crowned Fire Lord," again he leaned closer to Katara, "I even hear that he wishes to put an end to the war once he is named Fire Lord. Can you believe that? After all that we've done he wants to throw it all away!" he laughed darkly which sent chills up and down Katara's spine, she had to go. She needed a good night's rest and a great amount of distance between her and this man, but before she would leave she would get his name and perhaps discuss this with Zuko later on to see what more she could find out about this man.
Looking up at the sky as if it were a clock she looked back down at the man standing before her and smiled graciously, "I'm sorry but I must be heading back, I only came out here for a moment of silence" she turned walking away then stopped herself, "oh I forgot, I never got your name stranger."
"Zhao, Admiral Zhao and yours Miss…" he trailed off.
"Katara," she bowed her head, "Admiral," but before she left, she watched him bow then turn away, leaving her on the beach alone once again.
'Oh for the love of La!' she thought thankful that he had left, 'I need to learn more about this Admiral Zhao…his name sounds familiar,' she wondered off into her thoughts once again.
Unbeknown to her she was once again no longer alone. A paled hand snaked out from its owner, reaching up to her shoulder and grabbing her firmly in one quick move.
Gasping she pulled away, ready to attack whoever it was, praying that it was not that Admiral again. But to her surprise it was Prince Zuko, who at the moment looked very calmed and relaxed, especially in what he was wearing. Sighing in relief she lowered her hands then bowed to him before regaining her original composure.
"So how was the rest of your night?" he asked, now coming up to her side, looking out at the ocean.
"It went rather well. I spent time with your sister and her friend and to be truthful I thought it would have gone far more terrible than what it had, it was actually rather…" she paused looking for the right word, "nice."
Zuko nodded, "Azula can be nice when she wants to be and she can be fun to be around as well. On this trip I have seen a side of her that I hadn't seen since we were kids and I have been enjoying it rather well. But I know that once we return back to the palace, she will change back into that Azula we know and love," a smirk crossed his lips as he looked at her.
Katara did not need him to tell her what to expect for she already knew what Azula was like before they had come to the island.
"And I wouldn't have it any other way," he muttered under his breath. Sure Azula was cruel and harsh, nasty and vile, but that was just who she was. If she were this nice too often he would think that she had come down with an illness or was on the verge of death. But every now and then to see her enjoying life and just acting like a girl was nice to see at times too.
But now was not the time to think of his sister, he needed to know who that was talking to her and what had happened, "Katara, who were you talking to out here?"
At first she didn't answer him, she was trying to understand how he had known about her and the stranger she had just met, unless he had been watching her, but for some reason that did not upset her. If anything had gone wrong, Zuko would have put an end to it, so she was rather thankful that he was watching her.
"I don't know really. He approached me shortly before you came," she began, turning to him, now was the time to find out exactly who Zhao was and what kind of character he was known for, "my lord, what do you know of an Admiral Zhao?"
Zuko stiffened, his eyes narrowed as he approached her, "What do you know of Admiral Zhao Katara?" apparently he was not the type of person you wanted to be around she concluded, seeing as the prince became edgy.
"Nothing, he just came up to me and started talking to me," she replied, snappy just a tad as his attitude affected her slightly, "my lord."
"What did he talk to you about?"
She fiddled with her hands, looking away from him, "Just things…and you," looking back she noticed he stiffened again and knew that he was not at all pleased with that answer, "he said that you were the prince with the golden heart, you were far more fair than your father and that he feared it would lead to your demise."
Nodding he turned from her, fists clenched at his sides, "So I am suppose to be just like my father and grandfather before me? Heartless and cold, not caring who gets in my way as long as I accomplish what it is that my nation desires more than anything? Domination."
Without thinking she approached him, reaching for his shoulder to place a comforting touch to him, "No Zuko. Be who you are and never forget that. Do not try to be something you're not, for that will only lead to your demise," she whispered softly.
Her eyes widened when she realized that she called him by his name and immediately apologized for that but was surrendered to silence as Zuko rose his hand, "It's fine, for so long I thought that if I showed mercy, perhaps the people would see me as a just and gracious ruler. I will not change who I am because of one man that thinks he knows what is best for this nation. Zhao is nothing but a monster," swiftly turning back to her his eyes remained in dangerous slits, "you are not permitted to be around him alone, do you understand Katara?" he barked.
"Yes my lord," she lowered her head, placing her hands before her.
"Katara it is imperative that you stay clear of Zhao, he was the one who tried to wipe out the Water Tribes and failed miserably. If he found out that you were a waterbender, Katara," he grabbed her by the shoulders, pulling her closer to him, "I fear for your safety."
She smiled; he was indeed a charming man and a good friend, perhaps one for a lifetime, "I will do as you command my lord. Besides, I did not very well like his company much anyways," averting her gaze slightly towards the sand she felt herself being pulled into a massive hug, the prince's face buried in her hair and hers in his chest.
"Katara I do not know what it is I feel for you, but I know that I cannot live without you," he whispered admiringly, "just please, be careful," he murmured.
A smile etched into her features. Apparently he was just as confused as she was when it came to how they should feel about one another, with that she wrapped her arms around him, tightening her hold on him, "I swear I will be my lord."
He chuckled in her ear, causing her flesh to spike in an unfamiliar way, "Katara just call me Zuko when we are alone like this."
She nodded, "Very well my…Zuko." Her eyes closed as they stayed in this embrace for several moments, unknown to them that two pairs of golden eyes glared at them from their positions in the shadows.
"A waterbender?" a dark malicious voice chuckled darkly.
AHAHA! Ok so I know that this might be moving a bit fast...so from this point on its going to move slower and trust me the plot thickens! I hope you enjoyed this massive chapter! Don't forget to leave me a comment!