It had been a week since Zuko and Katara had defeated Azula and she now was being held in the highest security mental facility prison cell inside the Fire Capital. It had been a week since they had seen the rest of the gang, her father, Uncle Iroh, the members of the White Lotus, everyone. A week since they had decided that everyone would meet in the Fire Nation capitol when Ozai was defeated. A week since there was hope that everything would be okay.
Zuko refused to crown himself Fire Lord until everyone else came to the capital. As they waited, Katara helped heal anyone who needed it, including Zuko's own injury sustained during their battle with his sister. Zuko gave her a tour of the palace grounds including the small pond that he and his mother sat at and fed the turtle-ducks. But like so many other things in his life, even the turtle-ducks were gone.
And then word finally came.
A small group of rebels (Zuko and Katara knew this to be the White Lotus) had managed to free Ba Sing Se but the Phoenix King had managed to defeat Aang, killing him in the process. With his powerful army and air force, the Phoenix King had retaliated, undoing all that the rebels, all of them really, had worked so hard for. The Phoenix King would be returning the Fire Capital within the week to meet with Fire Lord Azula.
She screamed at Zuko that he was lying, that this was his idea of a sick joke. How dare he say something so cruel? That Aang was dead. She hit his chest as if that would make the "truth" come out. Then she read for herself those terrible words. Katara collapsed to her knees in that bright sunny room in the Fire Palace where just a few short minutes ago they had been drinking tea and playing pai sho trying to distract themselves from thinking about the people they cared about. She was in too much shock, too much anger to cry. She blamed herself that she wasn't there to help save Aang. She was mad that she never got to say the little things she wanted to say to him. She knew he was her destiny and now that was ripped away from her. What was she going to do now? Go back home to the South Pole, that is of course if the South Pole still existed, and wait for some water tribe boy to marry her, have babies, and wait for death to take her? Stay in the Fire Nation and await the Phoenix King's return and face whatever wrath he would unleash on them?
"What do I do now?" Katara murmured to herself, feeling more lost than when her mother had been killed. Everyone she knew, everyone she cared about, just like that…gone. All she had now was Gran Gran.
She glanced over to where he sat as that realization hit her. His knees were pulled up, his elbows resting on top, and his head in his hands with his fingers gripping his hair. She slowly crawled over to him, placing an arm around his shoulder, and her forehead against his head. He slowly lifted his head and looked into her eyes. He looked as lost as she did. She saw the tears pooled in his golden eyes that mirrored her own cerulean ones. He pulled her into his arms and there they sat clutching each other for dear life, rocking as a mother would her infant. In that comforting embrace, her tears began to fall in waves mixing with his own, her sobs shook both of them to the core, her screams were muffled in his shirt until finally they were both empty.
If that servant who entered the chamber hours later thought it odd to find the prince sitting on the floor embracing the waterbender, he made no mention of it. He was just there to announce dinner was ready. It wasn't his place to question the actions of royalty. Agni knows he had walked in on stranger things.
Katara and Zuko got up and trudged to the dining room as if they were heading to the execution chamber. They sat alone in that room filled with delicious foods piled high on serving platters. Out of courtesy Zuko placed a few items on his plate and Katara mindlessly followed. They had eaten together before and she knew that he had to eat first. Not that she cared who ate first since eating was the furthest thing from her mind. He took a small nibble of a dumpling if nothing more than for appearances for the servants watching them then put in back on his plate. She only poked the food on her plate with her chopstick. The very idea of eating made her sick. How could she be expected to do something as trivial as eat and drink when there was nothing left?
"I'm going to crown myself Fire Lord," Zuko announced suddenly, staring at his plate.
Katara glanced at him with empty eyes. "And do what Zuko?"
"Face my father when he arrives. Fight him! Defeat him! Get back everything that was lost," he bellowed as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
She snorted as she continuing to pick at the food on her plate, "You're in no condition to fight."
Letting his rage overwhelm him, he lept from the head cushion and hurled his plate across the room letting it smash against the wall. Fists clenched and smoke coming from his nostrils, practically challenging her from where he stood above her, yelled at her. "How dare you! How dare you say that to me! You don't think I could take him? You think I'm some weakling? Well I'm not! I am the crown prince of the Fire Nation. Soon to be the Fire Lord."
She calmly looked up at him as she placed her chopsticks on the plate, folding her hands in her lap. "I never said you were weak, Zuko. That is the last thing I would never consider you. But look at the facts. You are still injured from our fight with Azula. He has a whole army to defend him. What do you have right now?"
"I will be the Fire Lord and my military would have to obey their Lord. And I have you. Together we can-."
Katara cut him off before he could finish, "No. I think the Phoenix King trumps the Fire Lord. Maybe another time, but not now. The odds would not be in our favor. And as hopeless as I feel right now, I don't have a death wish."
He closed his eyes slowly letting Katara's tranquility and words absorb. "So what do we do?" he asked after a moment sinking back down to his cushion, placing his head in his hands.
"If only I knew. Maybe tomorrow will bring an answer."
Zuko had woken up at his normal time, as the sun rose, and wondered around the palace grounds. Somehow he had ended up in the stables and noticed someone next to Appa. He couldn't tell who it was and instantly was on guard. As he stealthily approached the sky bison, he saw her.
"What are you doing?" he asked, standing mere feet from her.
Not even looking up from her task as she continued placing supplies in the saddle, she announced, "I'm leaving. I'm going to the Earth Kingdom to look for my brother and father. Toph. Anyone. Everyone. Someone."
"So you're just going to run away?" he challenged.
She turned her head but did not look at him. "I'm not sticking around to wait for your father, if that's what you mean. Besides, my family's out there somewhere and I can't just leave them."
"Katara, you can't go by yourself."
"What? You're going to come with? Don't you have a country to run now? A tyrannical father to defeat? A nice little fire nation girl to marry and have little fire nation babies with?" she rolled her eyes.
"What are you talking about?"
"You have all these things now Zuko. You finally got what you wanted," she waved her hand indicating the palace and the city, "I have nothing. Everything, everyone is gone and I'm going to do what I can to find them."
"What if you can't find them?" he said after a moment.
She sighed, "Then I guess I'll go home to the South Pole, I guess. If there's a home to go to." She placed the last of her supplies onto Appa's back.
He watched her movements and pinched the bridge of his nose. He slowly closed the distance behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You don't have to go, you know?"
Turning around and looking up, she could practically feel his breath on her skin. Her brows knitted together, "I can't stay here any longer, Zuko. This isn't my home. It's yours. Hopefully you'll be able to accomplish what the rest of us couldn't."
A single tear slid down her cheek. His hand, as if having a mind of its own, reached up and with his thumb wiped it away. "What if I can't?" he asked as his hand continued to rest on her cheek.
"Well, you can always come to the South Pole," she gave a fake smile as she patted his hand then removed it from her face, giving a gentle squeeze before releasing it, "Just promise not to destroy our wall like you did last time."
She gave Zuko a hug, clinging to him for perhaps a bit longer than she should have, but given that it might be the last time they saw each other she couldn't help it. She finally removed herself from their embrace and kissed his cheek before climbing onto Appa's back. She looked down at him with tears in her eyes. "Good luck, Zuko."
"You too, Katara."
"Yip, yip," and with that she was gone.
AN: Okay so this is my first ever fanfic. I've got a whole story plotted out and I hope that it works. It's been forever (12 years in real time) since I've written anything so please let me know what you think.
Forgot to add the disclaimer.... I don't own ATLA yada yada yada.... I make no profit (although the $$ would be nice right about now)...belongs to Nick, Bryke, and upteen other people other than myself...etc. etc.