Title: The One That Walked Away
Summary: Zuko is supposed to be the traitor, so why is it that Katara is always the one to walk away first? - Zuko's point of view on The Crossroads of Destiny and beyond.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. The song is Breakdown by Seether.
Wounds are ways to reveal us
She hates him, the Little Water Tribe Girl. It's obvious as the sun, even to Zuko. She's screaming at him, calling him a horrible person, telling him about hatred running in his veins. And even when it's more than Zuko thinks he can handle, even when he tries to protest, to explain, she continues. Just when he's going to snap, he hears her voice crack and she turns away from him.
"The Fire Nation took my mother away from me."
And suddenly, everything's changed.
"I'm sorry." He mumbles. He really is, because suddenly everything this little waterbender has said makes so much more sense. "That's something we have in common."
He turns to face her as he speaks. The moment the words fall from his mouth, she lifts her head and tilts it slightly to look at him. She wipes a few of the tears on her cheeks and stares at him for a moment. Her (suddenly oh-so-gentle) blue eyes meet his and he can literally see her defense soften.
"What happened?" She asks. Her voice soft, curious, but caring.
Still Zuko hesitates. He's never spoken to anyone of his mother or his feelings of her disappearance before (not even Uncle). It's always been something he's kept to himself (a secret buried deep within him too far for anyone else to find). And for a moment, he intends to keep it that way. To tell her to leave him alone and mind her own damn business.
But the whole time she just sits there, waiting. She makes no more snappy comments or any demands for him to hurry and tell her. She smiles at him, hesitant but understanding; her (insanely bright) blue eyes hold no judgment, only curiosity. And it's the first time in longer than Zuko cares to admit that someone has looked at him like that.
He takes a deep breath. "I was ten when it happened…"
And I should have been drowned
Zuko isn't sure how long they sit in the cave talking – whether it's only a candle mark or several, he can't tell – but he's surprised to find that it doesn't bother him as much as he expected.
Katara listens to his story, quiet and patient. She apologizes when he finishes, not only for what happened but for the way she treated him. "It's just, for so long now, whenever I would imagine the face of the enemy…there was your face."
"My face…I see." His fingers instinctively reach for his scar.
She starts to object, because that wasn't what she meant. But it doesn't matter, because he knows his scar doesn't mark him the way it did before, that it doesn't reflect his destiny. He's finally realized that he's free to make his own choices and live according to his decisions. "Even if I'll never be free of my mark." The words slip off his tongue before he even thinks about it, but for some reason, it doesn't bother him that this little Water Tribe girl knows his deepest feelings now.
"Maybe you could be free of it."
She explains her healing abilities to him and that how it, combined with her Spirit Oasis water ("I've been saving it for something important.") could possible heal his scar. And she wants to do it. Wants to help him.
Zuko's heart is pounding in his chest so hard that he just knows that Katara must hear it. But she's looking at him with those soft blue eyes and his breath hitches. And the next thing he knows, her (soothingly cool) fingers are on his scar (something he has not even allowed Uncle to do) and he's closing his eyes, something he just knows he should never do in front of the enemy. Because for all he knows, it could all be some sort of trap and the Avatar (or even Azula at that) could appear out of nowhere now and strike him down while he is vulnerable.
But for some insane reason (one that could very possibly get him killed), he just knows it isn't. And he just knows that this little girl from the Water Tribe, the one he had barely even glanced at before, the one he shared his deepest secrets and feelings with, is telling the truth. That she will heal him, give him the chance to start anew. Give him his chance to live without his mark.
So for the first time in longer than he can remember, Zuko trusts.
Suddenly the cave explodes and the Avatar comes skipping through. And before he can even comprehend what is happening, Katara leaves him and all but leaps into the younger boy's arms. The Avatar's cheeky grin only fades when he spots Zuko and his eyes narrow in challenge. As if he is accusing him of hurting the Water Tribe girl.
His body reacts without him, but Uncle holds him back, murmuring that the Avatar is not his enemy. That now they do not have to be on different sides, because it is time for him to make his choice, to make his Destiny. It is time for him to join with the Avatar. But all Zuko hears is the little Water Tribe Girl (Katara)'s voice, her promises to try to help him. All he sees is the girl with the eyes too blue walking away, barely even giving him a second thought. Because that is how this world works. Because there is no one he can trust and he should have never expected her to be any different.
(But he did.)
And I should have been down
When you made me insecure
"It is time for you to choose, Zuko." Uncle explains to him.
But before he even has a chance to begin to think, Azula finds them. She starts telling him about her plans to capture Ba Sing Se, about her plans to help the Fire Nation, about her plans that need him. She tells him that it's not too late for him to return to the Palace and that he can still redeem himself, how he can have his honor back. How he can finally have his father's love again. How everything he's ever wanted before can be his.
Or he can side with the Avatar and be considered a traitor to his nation. For life.
"You're free to choose." Azula tells him, before waving away her soldiers and leaving him.
Zuko isn't a fool. He knows that everything Azula is offering him will come with a price. Things are never that easy when it comes to his sister because he knows Azula always lies. But he knows his sister and he knows better than to fully fall into her words now. He knows the limit to the trust he will have to give her.
But when he thinks to the Avatar, all he sees is the waterbender with the too-blue eyes. All he can remember is the promises she gave him, the slight possibility of new life without his mark.
"I can try."
Only she didn't. Katara ran away from him and straight into the arms of the Avatar the moment he appeared. She completely forgot about him and the promises she gave him. The hope she gave him. She walked out of the cave without another word to him, as if their few but precious moments together meant absolutely nothing. As if she had never meant any of it. As if it had all been a lie.
"I thought you had changed!"
"I have changed."
Zuko isn't a fool. At least with Azula he knows what to expect.
Note: I found this while looking through some of my things. It's not completed and I'm not sure when it will be, but I thought I would go ahead and post it now. I can't say when the next part will be up, but it will probably be longer than this one.
It always bothered me how so many people consider the cave scene to be Zuko's betrayal to Katara, but she was the one who walked away from him first. She promised him pretty much everything in the world and then left him without a second thought. Yes, she glanced back, but she never hesitated to follow Aang away. I would "betray" her too if I were Zuko.
The next chapter will cover from when Zuko joins the Gaang to the end of the series. It'll probably be 2000-3000 words, so a lot longer than this one.