AN: Okay, this is not an "Acts of Kindness" update-(readers boo and throw rotten tomatoes at me). But here's a new fanfic (though it's going to be short, only about three or four chapters). I just rewatched "CROD" and I was inspired to write this. Hope you don't think this is cliche! Please r&r!
I do not own "ATLA".
CROSSROADS OF CHALLENGES
Katara was limp as the Dai Li carried her out of the throne room. What had she done? Why hadn't she checked to see if it was really Suki she was talking to? Why didn't she run faster? Why-
Suddenly she realized something and all the blood drained from her body. The plans for the invasion. She had dropped them as she fell. And most likely, the Fire Nation princess had taken them. And looked at them. And now all their hard work would be ruined!
Katara bit back tears. What had she done?
The Dai Li went into an underground tunnel and Earthbended an entrance. They tossed Katara in, sealing the rock so she couldn't escape.
Katara, feeling the paralized sensation leave her body, jumped up and strted banging on the door. "Let me out!!"
She continued to scream, but no one came to her aid. Pacing around in a circle, she cursed her fate. If she could redo one thing in her life right now, she would rewind back to he tea shop and not rush over to the palace. Try to find help. Do something.
Hours seemed to pass. What was going to happened to Ba Sing Se now?
Suddenly a rumbling noise and light filtering in startled her. The rock entrance loner again, and two agents were tanding there. One was holding a young man with dark shaggy hair with his arms behind his back.
"You've got company." one sneered and threw the man down the ramp.
He rolled, bumping against the ground like a ball bouncing across a street, grunting in pain and startlement. He lay at Katara's feet and looked up.
Katara gasped in horror as she saw that familar scar in the darkness.
"Zuko!" she exclaimed, then glared down at Zuko. Why was he here? Was he going to torture her? Was he in league with Azula?
The prince kneeled in front of her, returning her hateful stare.
He turned around to look at the wall. He would not listen to the peasant. He was still seething about the trick. Everytime he was happy, Azula managed to destroy it! Why? Was this his so-called destiny? To be tormented for the rest of his pathtic life by his sister?
Katara clenched her fists. How dare he ignore her! After all he had done to them!
"Why did they throw you in here ??" she shouted accusingly. "Oh wait. Let me guess. It's a trap! So when Aang shows up to rescue me, you can finally have him in your little Fire Nation clutches!" Katara made claws as Zuko turned to look at her, but he turned back. He didn't respond.
She continued with her tirade. Why wasn't he saying anything?? She wanted to get a response out of him! She wanted to fight and have him exchange heated words in return. In frustration, she yelled, "You're a terrible person, you know that ?! Always following us, hunting the Avatar, trying to capture the world's last hope for peace!" Her boice turned bitter as she looked away from him scornfully. "But what do you care ? You're the Fire Lord's son. Spreading war and violence and hatred is in your blood!"
Zuko finally turned around, looking her in the eyes. He raised his head, and spoke with anger and defense. "You don't know what you're talking about."
Katara was furious. How could he be so naive, to think that the Fire Nation was innocent! They had ravaged, burned, tortured, hurt, raped, scarred, murdered, and wiped out hope in the world! Hell, they even started this damn war!
"I don't ?! Well how dare you! You have no idea what this war has put me through! Me personally!" tears began to leak out of her eyes and her voice quavered. She turned her back to Zuko and crouched down, bringing her knees up to her face. Katara placed her hand on her necklace, the one he took, the only token of her mother left. Kya, he mother, was dead. Gone forever because of this...demon's nation. She began to sob. "The Fire Nation took my mother away from me!"
Please, Katara, don't cry! Not in front of him! She couldn't stop, crying sadly and bitterly. She had revealed one of the most private things about herself to Prince Zuko. She was weak. Burying her face in her arms, she cried, trying to stifle her sobs, but could not.
Zuko turned his head slowly and looked sadly at her. He knew the pain all too well of losing a mother. And this Water Tribe girl had opened up to him. She was sobbing.
Zuko's mind began to race on how he could play on this weakness, but he mentally shook his head, digusted at himself. How could he do that to her? He stared for a moment at her vulnerable form.
Zuko spoke softly, his eyes full of sorrow. "I'm sorry." The girl choked. "That's something we have in common." Now he had opened himself up to her, of all people. He wanted to comfort her, but he shoved the thought away. Where did that come from?
Katara stopped her crying. Zuko lost his mother? His voice held pain and emotion. He...understood?
She wiped a tear from her face and looked at Zuko. He continued to look back at her. Did she see gentleness in his eyes?
Katara stood up at the same time Zuko did. The Waterbender brought her feet together and looked down, ashamed.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you before." she apologized.
Zuko turned away. "It doesn't matter."
"It's just that, for so long now, whenever I would imagine the face of the enemy, it was your face." she confessed. Zuko grimaced and placed his fingertips on his scar. His rough, ugly, unfeeling scar.
"My face. I see." he mumured. Katara gasped slightly at the hurt in his voice. Who knew the Fire Prince could be wounded, hurt? He had always seemed untouchable and full of fire. Now...he looked almost sad.
Katara regretfully tried to fix her mistake. She gently assured him. "No, no, that's not what I meant."
Zuko replied in a rough timbre. "It's okay. I used to think this scar marked me. The mark of the banished prince, cursed to chase the Avatar forever. But lately, I've realized I'm free to determine my own destiny-" he paused. "Even if I'll never be free of my mark."
Katara had a crazy idea. It might work. It might not. But she was a healer. It was her instinct to help, soothe the pain away. "Maybe you could be free of it."
Zuko turned around to face Katara. What did she say? Was she playing a game with him? No. She sounded sincere. He felt a small glimmer of hope flash inside of him.
"What ?" he asked hopefully.
"I have healing abilities." Katara spoke in a slight whisper.
Zuko turned away, disappointed. His heart sunk down, his chest tightening painfully. "It's a scar. It can't be healed."
Katara reached under her shirt and held up the small, delicate vial that contained the water-from the Spirit Oasis.
"This is water from the Spirit Oasis at the North Pole." she explained. "It has special properties, so I've been saving it for something important."
Katara walked up to Zuko and spoke with a slight uncertainy in her voice. But she had to try. "I don't know if it would work, but…"
Zuko stared at her for a moment. Healing his scar? Forever? He imagined it, but it was hard. No shame. A chance to start over, with a clean slate. He closed his eyes, silently accepting the Waterbender's offer.
Katara placed her hand gently on Zuko's scar. It felt warm, rough against her fingers. Zuko felt relaxed, and she gently stoked his scar. Could she really heal it?
Carefully, she uncapped the vial and drew out the purest, bluest water she had ever seen. She covered her hand with the familar healing glove and slowly pressed it to his scar. It began to glow pure white.
Zuko felt a coolness at his scar, seeping into his face. Suddenly, slight pain pinched him. What in Agni? He gasped as he felt skin knit togther, dead skin cells renewing.
Katara watched, concentrating with all her might, as the scar faded and replacing it was soft, albastor, pale skin. His shriveled ear grew and slowly formed into a round, normal ear.
The water stopped glowing. She sighed in relief and smiled at Zuko's new face. He seemed...handsome.
Zuko opened his eyes. "Did it work?"
Katara gestured to the crystals. "See for yourself."
Zuko looked at his reflection and gasped aloud. His eyes brimmed with tears as small as droplets of rain. It was gone!
He suddenly crushed her towards him and buried his face in her hair, smelling a sweet scent that reminded him of spring rain. His voice was full of hope and tears and conviction as he spoke. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." she wrapped her arms around him. He smelled of faint smoke and was very warm. She could feel the smooth texture of his robes, strong arms circling her by the waist, his face brushing her hair.
"What is your name?" he whispered softly.
"Katara." she replied, as he began to rock her back and forth.
"Katara..." he pulled away, looking at her with thanks in his golden eyes. "Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me..." He brushed his hand, gathered loose strands of hair, and tucked them behind her ear. Katara closed her eyes, feeling his gentle touch stroke her hair. He whispered praises and thanks in her ear and he hugged her again.
Suddenly, the crystals shattered around them and they both jumped. They turned to see Iroh and Aang.
"What is going on here?" Aang demanded.
AN: Hopefully I can post the next chapter soon! Review!