Edit: Sorry for the name change. Need to dodge stalking little sisters who really shouldn't be reading my stories...I tried to keep the Omega part. This is my 3rd name change . Grr.
I'm a horrible, terrible writer, I know. I'm sorry for keeping everyone in suspense for so long. Really, really sorry. The next chapter will not take this long. It was a bad combination of being sick, having finals, my beta's computer dying, and me being stuck on two different segments...just bad timing all around. I hope you enjoy, however. Wish it were longer...meh.
Read and review! Let me know what you think. I live off of your comments.
Thank you to my lovely beta, WritingSchizo101! (it's not her fault she had computer issues) Thank you for being so patient with my numerous chapter versions.
The Prince's Slave
Zuko took a deep, calming breath, trying to keep a rein on his temper. The fire in the room flickered erratically for a moment until it stilled to small, controlled flames. What did he want from Katara? Where did he want things to go? Why the fuck do we have to talk about this now?
"Back at the palace—" he closed his eyes, trying to work things through mentally. His anger slowly drained away, leaving him feeling older than his sixteen years and resigned to life. Fine, if Katara wanted to talk, he'd try to talk. "Azula has always been my father's favorite. He once told me that she was born lucky while I was lucky to be born." Golden orbs snapped open, burning for a moment with a deep-seated resentment Katara had never seen in him before. "We had an argument, the first since our Agni Kai. He told me my only use was to marry some ally's daughter. Mai was always the ideal choice because she had visited the palace since Azula and I were children and her father was rising in status. I told Father I'd prove my worth to him and regain the honor I lost three years ago by finding the Avatar for him. That's why I broke off the betrothal with Mai."
He sat down on the bed again, looking exhausted. "I don't know what is going to happen, Katara. I don't control every aspect of my life—marriage being one of them. I can prolong the torture but it's going to happen and it's going to be outside of my control. My father and his advisors aren't going to let me marry a Water Tribe slave—even if you were free. The fact that you're a Waterbender means you're not supposed to be alive. I promise that I'll take care of you and the baby, no matter what. I simply can't promise to marry you."
That promise isn't enough, Zuko, she thought stubbornly. "So I'm a pampered sex slave or a mistress?"
"Dammit, Katara, are you trying to have a fight?" He jumped up from the bed and strode towards her. The Waterbender didn't flinch as he approached and grabbed her wrists, the candles behind Zuko sputtering fitfully again and the acrid smell of smoke hovered around them. She could tell that he was mere seconds away from losing control.
"What are you doing? Let me go!" She tried to pull free before growing still.
"Do you have any idea how little like a slave you're actually treated? I don't beat you. I don't pass you around to the men. I've essentially stolen you from the palace because, technically, my father purchased you, not me." He yanked the gold slave bands off her wrists and threw them across the room. "Who gives a shit? Screw it. In the end, you're mine. Slave bands or not, I'm not letting you go."
The gold bands clattered to the floor in the corner , Katara watching their path carefully. Zuko wasn't done talking, however.
"Are you happy now? You're not a slave—but you're still mine. Mistress, lover, call it whatever you want to call it. You can do whatever you want except leave. If you do, I will hunt you down." Eyes burning with a fierce determination bored into hers. "You can continue to fight me all you want, continue to disobey me in all the little ways you do—don't think I haven't noticed—but I will not tolerate a traitor. Are we clear?"
"Go to bed." He brushed past her and walked out the door, shutting it firmly behind him.
Her gaze flickered to the shredded tapestry, a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. The symbol of the Fire Nation was in pieces, as were her current relations with the Fire Nation prince. There was so much anger and hurt trapped inside Zuko. Why? What had happened to him to make him so? His uncle was so calm and clear-headed. And Azula…Azula was a crazy bitch. Katara's fingers reached around to gently touch one of her scars on her back. Zuko wasn't cruel and heartless like Azula, however. Katara could tell he wanted to find the right path—he just didn't know how.
Tears stinging her eyes, she collapsed on top of Zuko's bed, trying to find comfort in the cool, red silk. She didn't know who she was crying for—Zuko, herself, or the unfortunate soul growing in her womb.
He strode across the deck, walking to the prow of the ship and looking out at the dark abyss of the water, the stars reflecting on its smooth surface like small diamonds scattered across midnight blue silk. By dawn, they should reach port. Supplies were running low and he needed to send out scouts and hawks to search for news of the Avatar.
The Avatar. A boy, not an old man. How long until the Avatar became full-fledged? He had to learn Waterbending, Earthbending, and then Firebending. The last would be the hardest. No Firebender would betray his country for the Avatar. With the North Pole still intact, however, the Avatar could easily find a Waterbending master up there. The Earth Kingdom still abounded with plenty of masters that hadn't been hunted down by the Fire Nation. The Fire Nation had been working to round up as many benders as possible, but the kingdom had yet to fall and yet to be completely open to Fire Nation conquest. Much like their bending art, the Earth Kingdom was powerful and unyielding. The Fire Nation was all-consuming, however. The Earth King and his country would fall soon enough.
I have to find him before he starts to master the other elements. Once he becomes master of the four elements, it'll be all the harder to stop him.
"I'm surprised to see you awake, Prince Zuko."
Iroh's rumbling voice stirred Zuko from his pensive mood. "It's one of those nights, Uncle."
"I see." Iroh moved to stand beside his nephew. "And how does your Waterbender fare?"
"She's fine, Uncle."
"When we pull into port, you should purchase supplies for one in her condition."
"I've already—" He paused and blinked. "How do you know?"
"I guessed during our tea this afternoon and she told me the truth." Iroh replied. "She is a very brave girl, you know."
"She's as frustrating as the Avatar himself."
"What will you do about your child?" Iroh asked gently. Zuko was nearly a child himself. He was younger than Lu Ten had been when his own dear son had been killed.
He was quiet for a time, staring out at the watery depths before them. "I don't know. I'll try and take care of them—somehow."
Iroh nodded, his own golden eyes piercing the darkness of the ocean. Right now, it would be unthinkable for Zuko to marry Katara. Ozai would never permit it. The councils would balk. Politically, it would be catastrophic. The heir to the Fire Nation did not marry Water Tribe slaves—especially if that slave was an illegal Waterbender. Zuko had involved himself in an intricate quandary.
"Right now, it's more important to get the Avatar. I can't believe he's just a child."
"Well, that's good news for the Fire Lord." Iroh said optimistically. "The Fire Nation's greatest threat is just a little kid."
"That little kid is the greatest impediment between me and a life of happiness, Uncle."
There's where you're wrong, Zuko… "There's no guarantee that you'll find him, Prince Zuko. Your father, your grandfather, and your great grandfather all tried and failed to do so."
"That's because their honor didn't hinge upon the Avatar's capture. Mine does. I will find him and I will prove myself worthy to my father. He'll accept me as his son and heir and I will have my honor back."
"Are you certain that is what it will take? Perhaps there are more important things than capturing the Avatar."
His fists clenched tightly, revealing the whites of his knuckles. "I will find the Avatar. That's all that matters."
"You will not find him by sulking and brooding. Come, enjoy some tea with me. Then I think you should get some rest."
"I'll pass on the tea, Uncle."
"It's so good for you! You'll feel much better."
"I'm sick of tea." Zuko ground out.
Iroh looked horrified. "Sick of tea? Impossible. Being sick of tea is like—like being sick of breathing. You can't get sick of breathing."
Zuko rolled his eyes. "Fine, if it will make you leave me alone, I'll have tea with you. Only one cup."
His uncle's countenance brightened greatly and the pair exited the deck.
Zuko re-entered his bedroom at dawn. He'd spent the night bunking down in the empty prison hold and had woken once he knew the sun was rising. Katara was still asleep, curled in the center of his bed. Her dark brunette locks were in a state of disarray, one arm tucked beneath her head and the other resting on the space across from her where Zuko should have been.
"Dammit, Katara…I don't know what to do." He brushed a hand over her hair in an unusual display of affection. The whole thing was a mess. He should have taken precautions back at the palace to prevent conception. It wasn't an uncommon practice, especially when plenty of nobles took advantage of their slaves. Yet the concern had never crossed his mind. He'd been caught up in the delight and desire that came with Katara. Even now, the idea of utilizing such precautionary measures seemed cheap, as if it would make her the sex toy she kept claiming she had become.
Given the chance, however, would he do it all over again and ensure such protections the second time around? Would he prevent his son or daughter from coming into the world, just to make his life a little less complicated?
Above deck, the lookout shouted that they were coming in to port. Katara stirred and opened her eyes to find Zuko watching her. "Is something wrong?" Her soft voice was sleepy.
"We're going to be docking for the day. You can come if you wish, but you're to stay with myself or my uncle." He replied brusquely, getting to his feet.
"I'll come," she agreed, sitting up in bed. As she stretched, catlike and sensual, he felt the familiar desires stirring. They'd been at sea for almost three weeks, but for the past week and a half, they hadn't been intimate. Since Zhao, they'd been ice cold with each other.
Turning away from her, he caught sight of the golden slave bands, gleaming darkly in the shadows. He'd get rid of them later.
The sun was sufficiently high enough for Zuko to douse the candle flames. Katara was finger-combing her heavy mass of rich, dark hair when he turned around once again. "Are you ready?"
"Mhmm." She affirmed and followed him out into the sunlight. Above deck, Iroh and a few choice guards were waiting. They were pulling into port at an Earth Kingdom Fire colony, but it was still better to have safety in numbers. The group made their way out of the ship and onto the docks. Once setting foot on land, Katara's stomach rolled, causing her to grimace and instinctively clutching Zuko's arm.
He steadied her and murmured a reassuring whisper in her ear. "Take it easy. I'm right here."
"I don't feel very well." Her normally dark skin had a pale sheen to it.
"Do you want to go back on the boat?"
She shook her head emphatically. "No, I just—just need to give myself a few minutes."
Zuko told Iroh and the guards to keep moving and start purchasing supplies. He led Katara over to a crate on the docks and helped her sit down before taking his place beside her. He kept his hand wrapped securely around hers. "Let me know when it passes."
"When we left the capital, I stopped feeling quite as sick. It's like everything is worse on land."
"What other symptoms have you been experiencing on board?"
She closed her eyes, trying to will her stomach to settle. "Some dizziness. Headaches. I'm tired a lot." Her breast binding had been feeling too tight lately, causing her to wrap it more loosely than usual. She couldn't have been more than eight or nine weeks in and Katara was already dreading further symptoms. She'd been too young when the other village women had conceived to remember what they had gone through. A woman in the village had died in childbirth because there weren't anymore Waterbenders to help her heal. Katara shivered at the thought.
"What's wrong?" Zuko noticed her tremble and knew it wasn't from the sickness.
She spoke her mind without thinking too deeply about the effect her words would cause. "Wouldn't your problems merely go away if I died giving birth?"
Immediately, his eyes darkened and she regretted the foolish comment. "You're not going to die and neither is the baby. Don't think like that. Neither one of you are a problem to me, Katara. I don't want to hear you say something like that ever again."
"I'm sorry, Zuko." Katara apologized quietly, knowing she had upset him.
They sat in silence for several more minutes until Katara felt well enough to walk again. Catching up with Iroh at a supply store, Zuko left Katara in his uncle's care while he took a walk to calm down.
A fierce possessiveness overtook him whenever he thought of Katara. He wouldn't let her leave him and he would do everything in his power to keep her safe and well, along with their child.
She almost missed it.
While Iroh instructed one of the guards on their needed supplies, Katara had amused herself by perusing the shop. On a wooden table cluttered with jars, statues, books, and numerous other items, a narrow wooded box stood out only by the Water Tribe symbol it bore. Curious, she reached for the box and opened it, discovering an old scroll inside. Carefully setting the box down and opening the scroll, Katara was surprised to see detailed Waterbending techniques described within.
No doubt stolen during a Fire Nation raid, she thought with a hint of bitterness. No matter. It was in a Waterbender's hands now and it would stay there. There was only one problem…
She didn't have any money of her own and Zuko didn't want her to learn how to bend. He hadn't said so explicitly but she had been able to tell by the way he deflected her question the other day. It was highly unlikely that he'd be willing to purchase the scroll on her behalf. Casting a surreptitious look around, she slipped the scroll into the folds of her skirt, feeling a twinge of guilt at her thievery.
In short order, Zuko returned and Iroh called the men to return to the boat. Katara followed after them, her recent acquisition completely unnoticed by both the store owner and the Firebenders.
What Zuko doesn't know won't kill him, Katara reasoned as they boarded the ship. It wasn't really stealing since it did belong to her tribe. She was merely taking back what was rightfully hers.