Welcome to my first ATLA fic! I hope you enjoy.
It really was too good to be true, and Katara had always silently feared as much- even from the beginning, even from the moment when he had leaned on her to get up and gaze at his screaming, frustrated, defeated sister.
It was in the tremor of the muscles, in the stagger of his gait, in the slight catching of his breathing as he tried in vain to reassure everyone he wasn't in any real pain. Anyone would chalk it up to the mere shock- getting shot with lightning is no little thing, whether you manage to half-redirect it or not- but Katara's senses as a healer told her that it was not just that.
But then, the day of Shozin's Comet ended, and Aang had won, and Fire Nation healers took care of Zuko prior to his coronation- and no alarm had been raised. Katara held her breath every time that Mai would come with news of him and anxiously searched the soon-to-be crowned Fire Lord's fiancée's face for worry or a spark of fear in her eyes, but there was none. And though Mai's face was often as expressionless as a doll's, Katara knew her eyes were not as masked as they had once been. That Iroh was his normal serenely jubilant self corroborated that no alarm of any sort had been raised about the Fire Lord Zuko's convalescing health.
After Zuko's coronation, Katara had almost convinced herself that she had been wrong- with Aang at his side, the young man had looked robust and confident, his full of hope, love and optimism for the first time in the brief time the Water Bender had known him.
And so, at Iroh's tea shop in Ba Sing Se not too much time after, Katara forced herself to push that lingering, stinging worry deep into the recesses of her mind and enjoy that she finally knew, felt certain, that Aang loved her and she loved him back. She let herself enjoy the tea healthy looking Zuko served her, laugh at Sokka's poor excuse for drawing, enjoy the music by Iroh, and finally walk out in the balcony as it became painted in the gold of the glorious setting sun, to make a promise to the Avatar and seal it, all with one silent, gentle, devoted kiss.
It was Aang that really broke the delicious embrace between them, his eyes searching hers with a slight frown.
"Will you now tell me what is troubling you, Katara?" he asked in that gentle yet demanding way that seemingly only the last Airbender could employ.
Katara considered denying what she had so studiously pushed back to be able to enjoy herself free of burdens, but staring into Aang's large grey eyes she felt unable to lie or refuse him.
"It's Zuko," she sighed, glancing at the tip of the sun disappearing over the horizon, one hand leaning against the banister of the veranda.
"Zuko?" intoned Aang, his frown deepening. "What about him?"
There was a slight edge of defensiveness in her – now official- boyfriend's voice made Katara glance at him. His body stance was relaxed, nothing like that night in the theatre.
"It's nothing like that," she said in such a simple manner that Aang relaxed immediately, not able to restrain a breath of relief. But then he frowned again.
"What, then? Did he do anything? Tell you anything? Because I'm sure-"
"No, no," Katara sighed, shaking her head. "It's about that lightning, Aang. The one he took for me."
Aang stayed silent just when Katara direly wished he would speak, for she didn't know how to go on.
And then, she didn't have to.
There was a shriek from inside the tea shop that tore the peaceful cadence of the crickethoppers all around them in the flora, as dusk had set in.
And then Iroh's voice calling something desperately, but Katara didn't really need to listen to know it was a plead. She rushed inside along with Aang, and immediately Suki and Sokka parted the little ring they had formed with Toph around Mai and a hunching Iroh, to let her through, to let her see.
Zuko was collapsed on the floor, limp as a rag doll, one hand weakly clutching at his chest, his ashen face slightly grimacing as tremors controlled his body.
"Oh, no! What happened?" Aang's voice seemed to come from far away, although Katara knew he was still right there next to her, expecting her to step forward and help him, help their friend.
Katara knew in that instant, that what she had feared, was now taking place.
And though she rushed forward, hand going at the water at her belt, her heart sank with chagrin.
And this ends part 1! This is a little something that bugged me so much I couldn't stack in the fiction waiting cue any longer. To be able to complete my other story and move on, I simply MUST tinker with ATLA some.
Just how many of you felt that the healing of Zuko after taking (even part of) Azula's lightning was WAY TOO DARN FAST? Especially considering Aang's experience (despite him taking all the brunt of it)… it just wouldn't let me leave it alone like I do other little nags in stories and cartoons I read and watch.
So here is a 3-part story (that is 3 chapters) exploring and explaining away the miraculous insta-heal.
Story follows canon (sorry all those rooting for other pairings) the way my stories generally do.
I hope you will enjoy it anyway!