xXx Chapter 1 xXx
xXx The Meeting xXx
A violent storm raged across the Fire Nation Islands; the wind and rain scraped against the land and its structures. Katara glanced out the windows, into the tropical nightmare, as she walked down the hall. The lit torches, which hung neatly on the walls, made a juxtaposed scene with the elements raging outside. She had been wandering around this maze of a palace all evening trying to find Aang. She spent a lot of time in the Fire Nation, the soul reason being that Aang often had to make extended trips there. He was always more than willing to come when Zuko needed him. He practically lived in the Fire Nation now. Despite the time spent here, she still had difficulties finding her way around.
She once had dreams of living a normal life with Aang after he defeated Ozai, but they were just dreams. Some much strain had been put on their relationship – it was easier when they were traveling the world together. She could see the problems, but she knew Aang couldn't, or wouldn't. It had been three years after Ozai's defeat, but Aang still acted like a little kid. There was wisdom, but not the maturity for a relationship. She often thought about ending it, but Aang was just too sweet.
"Katara!" Aang was swiftly walking toward her, with his same goofy grin. Some part of her often hated that grin, but this time, she was happy to see it.
She breathed a sigh of relief, "Aang, I've been looking everywhere for you."
When he reached her, he kissed her lightly on the cheek, which was the usual greeting, "Hi, ah, I can't stay," a frown crossed her face, "Don't be mad... I have to meet up with Zuko." His smile faded when Katara continued to look disappointed, "I'll meet up with you in the garden in an hour!" His words jumbled together as he bolted off.
Katara stared after him, "Garden? Has he not noticed the storm?" She muttered to herself, seeing how Aang was too far away to hear, even if she yelled.
For her, there wasn't much to do here, there never was. Instead of going back to her room, she decided to go on to the garden since it would take her thirty minutes or more to even find it. She would at least wait near the garden. As more time passed, her feet dragged across the floor, and she thought she would never reach her destination. She had to focus entirely too much on the darkness outside to see if she had reached the garden. Her eyes and feet were about to give out on her when she saw the tall trees whipping over the swirling pond.
She collapsed down on one of the chairs that was placed in front of the doors which led to the garden. She waited and waited, slowly the storm died, and Aang never showed. She knew she had waited well over Aang's promised hour, and got up in a huff. She stomped aimlessly through the long halls, not caring if Aang found her.
"Katara?" she skidded to a halt, barely avoiding a collision with Zuko, "What are you doing here?"
"I was waiting for Aang." She crossed her arms over her chest in annoyance.
"Waiting for him...? I saw Aang on the other side of the palace. He said that he was with you." He gave her an apologetic look.
"But he said he was meeting with you," confusion masked her face, "he was probably looking for me... I must be at the wrong garden..." She said the last part more to herself, but Zuko still heard her.
Zuko shifted his weight from one foot to another, not sure of what to say, "Katara, um, I'm not sure if it's my place to say, but..." he trailed off, unable to finish his sentence.
The increased look of worry on her face only made Zuko more unsure, "It's probably nothing, but when I saw him, he was already with someone."
"With someone? Who?"
He quickly painted out a picture of what he saw, "I couldn't see her, they were out in the garden. I said hello… I should have known something was wrong when I didn't get a response. Then Aang said she wasn't feeling well and that it hurt for her to speak. I didn't really believe him, but I decided not to question him about it."
Katara stayed silent for a few moments, "You're sure he said he was with me?" Her voice sounded small and desperate.
"Yes." That was all he could manage to say; he honestly didn't know how to handle the situation.
Zuko felt sorry for her, and irritated with Aang. Upon deciding that he had to say something, he placed his hands on her shoulders but lost his nerve when she looked up at him with her sad eyes. He hesitated but finally managed to splutter out something that wasn't all too reassuring, "Don't worry about this Katara... I'm sure it was nothing...just go ask him about it." he quickly changed his mind, if Katara went after him she would yell at him, "No, wait, I'll go ask him."
Katara's expression didn't change, "You don't have to do that, I'm sure you have something much more important to do."
He cut in when she started to walk away, "No don't...! just, just sit here, "he gently pushed her down onto one of the seats, "and I'll go get Aang for you." he added more when he saw the suspicious look on her face. "Since you don't know your way around here too well, it will be easier if I go get him." He waited in silence for her answer.
Zuko gave a sigh of relief before he walked off. He knew she probably thought that he was going to go warn Aang, but he knew if she found him with another girl... it would not bode well for the 'other' girl.
That was what Katara thought, and she had no intension of waiting there, or looking for Aang. She just wanted some fresh air. She decided to leave the palace, knowing that Zuko and Aang would look for her there first. She didn't want walk through the marketplace, she wanted to be alone. It had stopped storming, but little droplets of rain would hit her head every now and again. Silently, she cursed herself, she should have grabbed her coat before going out into the cool night. She couldn't see much the few stars that were out, but they did provide her with a little light.
She stumbled through the darkness; firebending powers would be really useful right about now. Even without the light she continued to walk, further than she had ever gone before. She started to wonder if there was anything else on this island, with all the free time she had here, she should know this place inside and out. The cold air around her intensified and she really wished she had her coat. Fog was settling around her, making her feel a little unsafe. She thought about turning around, and then she saw something in the distance.
A dark shape that probably wasn't visible form the marketplace or palace. Curiosity got the best of her, and she walked further and further away from the palace. Soon, she could no longer see it when she turned to look. She couldn't see the new building through the fog until she was practically at the door. It was then she realized where she was; the City Capital Prison.
Satisfied with her discovery, she prepared to head back; however, the sky had a different idea in mind, for it started to rain again. She groaned and quickly backed up until she was pressed against the prison door, and the roofing provided some protection. She looked beside her and almost laughed. The guard stationed by the door was asleep. She glanced and the rain in front of her, at the door, then back at the guard. What would it hurt if she went inside? After all, she couldn't go back out there, she had barely managed to get up here to begin with. The climb down wouldn't be easy, not with it raining.
The door opened with ease; so much for the security here. She stepped in quietly and closed the massive door behind her. It was a little warmer than outside, but not by much. She had no room to complain though; at least it was dry, for the most part. Sighing, she ran her fingers through her damp hair. This was defiantly not her day. Slowly, she walked down the stone floor, if a guard found her, it wouldn't be particularly good. As she went on, she began to think no one was on duty.
She jumped when a scream pierced her ears. She felt panic wash over her until she realized that it was not a scream of pain, but of anger. Annoyance replaced the fear when she put the voice with a face. Azula. She frowned, she never really thought about what happened to her. She knew Ozai was here, as he should be. In her opinion, Azula was too dangerous to be keept here. She was crazy, even more so than her father. As she thought about it, she came to the conclusion that the guards here would be attending to Azula, who was still screaming.
She didn't realize that she was still walking until she was deep in the building. Cells lined the wall to her left. She froze in her tracks and gave a sigh of dismay. She would never find her way out of this maze; it was just like the palace. She soon came across to one cell that had a guard stationed by it.
'Asleep, just like the other one.' she thought to herself as she looked down at the dozing man.
She tilted her head to the side and wondered why this was the only cell with a guard. She knew it wasn't Azula's; her screaming had faded as she walked further away. She glanced into the cell and saw that only one candle lit the room. The sad little candle provided less light than the cloud-covered stars. She could barely see the dark blob that sat in the corner of the small room. Quickly, she ducked down, worried that the person might see her. She shook her head since there was no way the person that was in there could have seen her. It was simply too dark.
"Don't bother, I already saw you."
She clasped her hands over her mouth to keep from gasping, though it didn't entirely work. She didn't know what to do, so she just leaned against the door in silence.
"Zuko, you've graced me with your presence again, hmm? I told you, I don't know where your mother is, but she's probably dead."
The cold sarcasm in the man's voice made her cringe. Her mind was searching for the face that went with the voice, but the voice alone wasn't enough. So she focused on what was said; it wasn't hard to piece it together. She now knew why a guard was here, it was Ozai's cell. She should not be here; this was the man that wanted Aang dead. Slowly, she pushed herself off the door, and tried to creep away.
"Where are you going?" There was no real curiosity in his voice.
Katara inwardly cursed before standing up. Even worn down by three years in prison, his voice was still strong and demanding. For whatever reason, she felt it would be unwise to disobey him.
"It's not Zuko..." She looked back up into the little square hole in the door, and only her blue eyes were visible in the dark. She didn't fell too scared, since there was space separating the door and the actual cell.
Ozai didn't move from his spot, and took his time responding to her statement, "...The waterbending girl, you were with the Avatar."
She gasped in surprise once again, he knew her, but how? They had never really met. This didn't bode well for her.
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