Title: Fighting for You
Pairings: ultimately Zutara
Warnings: Modern AU. Language, some violence.
Summary: Katara is the Princess of the SWT, a branch of The Tribe, a waterbending mafia based out of the North Pole, establishing themselves in Ba Sing Se. Zuko the banished prince of The Nation, a firebending syndicate, is involved in the amateur fight scene of Ba Sing Se. Katara's financial interests turn physical as they raise up in ranks but glory has a price when Zuko's past comes back.
While Katara dealt with the paperwork and the media that soon arrived on scene, Zuko's cell phone went off. He prayed it was someone telling him where Liang was.
He wasn't so lucky.
"You! You stupid son of a bitch. You let that… that criminal and all her illegal bullshit get our daughter." Jin's voice screeched in his ear. Ever the journalist, she had found out. Put on the story even. It must have been devastating, regardless of their history. Liang was still her daughter.
"It's not her Jin," he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. Jin never knew that piece of his past and now she would. "What do you mean?"
"This is my problem not hers. It's my sister." Against better judgment Zuko told her everything.
The door rattled under Zuko's fist as he struck the defenseless wood. Waiting. Waiting. Finally Jet opened the door. Zuko pushed past him tearing through the apartment.
"Aw, shit man. I thought you were the cops. They've been breakin' down my door all night. What the hell is going on? Is Liang really miss-?"
"Where is she?" Zuko's nostrils flared as he turned to face his friend, ignoring Jet's subsequent questions about now Katara's whereabouts.
"Mai! Where the hell is she? What does she know about this?" His voice cracked and his body fell into the recliner. "Where the hell is my daughter?"
"Mai's not here, Zuko. And why would she know…?" A moment passed as the situation dawned on him. "It's her friend, isn't it? Is that bitch the one who did this? You know her?"
"Yeah. I do," Zuko rose, "She's my sister." Pacing the floor, yanking at his hair, oblivious to Jet as his friend put two and two together. "why didn't I listen to her? Katara told me to get the bodyguards. She told me. I didn't listen and this is what I get. I thought they'd come after me. I never thought... I didn't want to think… That… that they would take my baby. I messed up bad Jet. Why am I so bad at being good?"
Jet stood beside his friend and gripped the back of his neck. "We'll find her, man. She's my daughter too you know. And I'll be damned if some Nation bitch touches a hair on her head."
The door opened and both men turned to find Mai walk in with a tray of coffee and a bag of pastries. She froze in the doorway the moment she saw Zuko. Unthinking, Zuko rushed, grabbing her arm, shoving her against the wall the liquid pooling around her feet. She should be lucky that Katara wasn't there to use that coffee against Mai. "Where is she?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Zuko."
He lifted his fist, wanting to strike out at her, instead punching the wall. "Please, Mai. I know you know. Please?"
There was a non-verbal showdown between the two, finally Jet playing ref, pulled Zuko away. "Mai? Do you know anything?" Jet asked softly, grabbing her hand in his and giving his winning smile.
Mai never cried. In all the years growing up with her, Zuko had never seen her cry. Until that one single drop ran down her cheek just now. "I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I tried to stop her. She… She had some men take her-."
"Where, Mai? Where? Tell me." Zuko clenched his eyes tight, unable to fathom the horrible, terrible things he had planned once he got hold of his sister.
"I'm sorry," she sighed after finally disclosing the location, the two men staring at each other.
Azula, of all places, had picked the now defunct building where Zuko first started fighting.
Where it all began.
"Use your head, Zuko," Iroh cautioned. The elderly man seemed indifferent about Katara organizing her small arsenal on the dining table.
Zuko simply rolled his eyes, weighing one of the glocks in his hand. "I'm gonna use my head to bash in Azula's."
"Zuko, she has changed. She's not the little girl you remember."
"Yeah, well I remember her taking my stuff and burning them. And so help me if she burns what's taken from me, I'm going to kill her."
Iroh grimaced. He must have remembered all the burnt toys, mutilated dolls, and evil grins. "She'll be waiting for you."
Setting the glock back down, drawing flame to his palm, his anger concentrated into that little ball, he nodded. "I can handle Azula."
A simple, knowing smile passed over his face. "She won't be alone."
Katara beamed, sliding back the mechanism on her favorite pistol. "Neither will Zuko. It'll be my pleasure to show that smug bitch who's the boss."
A chill passed over Zuko. Agni, he loved when she was so confident. He kissed her roughly. "Then let's do this."
They rolled up to the abandoned building. The only sign of life were the two black Mercedes in the parking lot and a sliver of light from an open side door. The air was still as though it too sensed the impending battle. Katara was even silent, save for the noise of the zipper being pulled to her neck and boots crunching the debris underfoot. Their eyes met, speaking volumes without saying a word. They were getting their "baby" back. No matter what.
Zuko entered first, his eyes adjusting to the darkness then finding one single light shining down on four bodies. The familiar ring stood in the middle. Stools and buckets scattered about as though left to rot. He was hardly aware of Katara behind him, her shoulder pressed against his own. His ears pricked up listening for his daughter and, thankfully, hearing her humming softly. She sat cross-legged on the floor with someone. Two men stood behind them, one with the small machine gun, ready and waiting; the other appeared to be unarmed. "Must be a bender," he thought.
The unarmed man coughed and the other body on the floor turned to look over her shoulder. So seemingly casual she looked over her shoulder at them. Liang looked up too. Her smile so bright as she greeted them, "Hi Daddy! Hi Katara!"
Katara could feel Zuko breath out, hear his intake of breath sated that at least she wasn't hurt. "Give me back my daughter."
That cat-like smile should have unnerved Katara. Instead it made her angry. Katara did not like to be taunted. She felt the air, finding every droplet she could should the pistol tucked in her pants fail her. It seemed as though Zuko was testing the air also. Should they continue? Should they stop?
"In my country, one would exchange pleasantries before getting down to business," she smiled, speaking at first in their native tongue then switching to Earthese. "Have you really become so uncivilized, brother?"
"Civilized people don't kidnap children."
"Perhaps," she threw back, seeming uninterested in the conversation as she gently patted the little girl's head and helped Liang to stand up. "She really is a good kid. She'll be perfect."
It was Katara who asked, "For what?"
"To join us, of course. She is Nation, despite the fact that you bred out an Earth woman," she shuddered at the thought of the mixed heritage. "Regardless for that little indiscretion though, Liang will be coming home with me."
"Like hell she will," Zuko growled, lunging forward. Just as soon as he moved, Azula gently pushed the girl into the bodyguards, the flicker of a spark at her fingertips, daring them to come closer.
"Oh, Zuzu, don't make this harder than it needs to be. I was telling her all about the Fire Nation and what a wonderful place it will be. I think she'd quite enjoy it. Besides," Azula's voice dropped dangerously low, "the Crown needs penance. And it's your life or hers."
Zuko growled again and moved in. Katara could see blackness darken his features. She grabbed at his arm, hissing, "We said we'd do this together."
"This is my fight not yours. I need to do this for myself." He looked so sure of himself. "I want you to get my daughter and get the hell out of here. I don't care what happens to me. I can't lose Liang. Or you."
"Zuko…," her voice trailed and she knew this was a battle she couldn't win. At least in what little time they had. Instead she nodded and agreed. She held out her pistol butt first. It looked so small in his hand. "Take this just in case. I've learned that bending doesn't always work. Let this be my way to help."
He nodded. She nodded back. Harmony in battle. One on offense, the other on defense.
Zuko let a shot of flame release from his palms, aimed at his sister carefully avoiding his daughter. Katara rushed from behind, knocking back the two bodyguards, encasing them fully in ice ignoring them as they gasped for air within. Another fire ball shot out. Then another. As it did, Liang was scooped into Katara's arms, a wall of water creating a barrier between them and Zuko's attacks and Azula's volleys. The front exit was blocked, the back one chained. Even the windows were boarded up. Damn! Katara remembered the layout of the building and holding onto the girl while avoiding the flames, dropped them into the little office. She checked for any injuries and got a toothy grin instead.
"Doin' okay, sweetie?" she asked. Liang nodded wholeheartedly then widened her eyes, "What about my dad?"
Katara could hear the sizzling and sparking, smell the ozone. She knew he could manage. But her thoughts lingered on that smile of his sister's and suddenly she wasn't so sure. There was something off. "I don't know yet. We'll just have to wait and see."
It was all she could do not to go out there and help him. This wasn't the ring and she didn't want to be the spectator. But she had promised.
Palms closed as though in prayer, split the flames diverting them away. It felt so good to be a firebender. He didn't need to hide it. The heat and currents ran through his blood, fueling him with each fireball, fire whip, and blast. From the gleam in his opponent's eyes, she felt the same. Zuko was oblivious to the wood burning around him, to the searing heat, and burning smoke in the small facility. As with the ring, he sought out her weaknesses. Testing her. A sweep with his leg dropped her to her feet only to have her twirl back into the air. Azula propelled herself to the side then let loose fireball after fireball. Zuko absorbed them into his own fire sending them back.
Azula stood opposite him. Her breathing was heavy from the exertion. Apparently she wasn't as fit as he was. "Is that all you got?" Zuko remarked, almost feeling like when they were kids. But this was for real. This was for keeps.
"Oh, I've got more than you know, Zuzu." Her smile widened. Her arms circled, fingers outstretched. He'd seen this before. Once. With Uncle.
Only master firebenders could control it. But her exhaustion made her sloppy. The arcs of light, the crackle of ions, and as she focused, Zuko had one shot before the immenent attack. He breathed, focusing. He could do this. He had to.
Then her eyes flicked to where Katara and Liang hid and the blood rushed from his face. He didn't feel his feet leave the floor. He didn't feel his hands stretch out. All he felt was the surge of electricity course through him.
With a heavy thud, he landed on the cement floor. He watched her face twist into pleasure and turn back to her original target. He tried to rise. Get up, get up. That old mantra didn't work this time. He could feel the heaviness underneath him. Using the last bit of strength Zuko pulled Katara's gun from his belt, aimed, and the single shot rang through the air. The next sound was disgustingly wet as the bullet ripped through his sister's shoulder. Her scream echoed in the room fading away as her body went into shock and she slipped into unconciousness. Part of him felt awful, but then he remembered that it was his life or his daughter's. Azula failed to mention option "c": her own life.
His eyes fluttered closed. Was it all over? Is this the end?
Katara couldn't believe her eyes. Did that really just happen? Oh, La! Is he still alive?
Making Liang promise she wouldn't leave the safety of the office, she rushed out of the room ignoring the whimpers of the other woman, the heavy smoke, the searing flames.
Get to Zuko. Get to Zuko.
The tears clouded her vision. His breathing was labored but stable. Her hand gloved in water that pulled magically from the air pressed against the smoldering flesh of his chest. It had been too long since she had used her powers to heal on this level, a semester or two of med school back in the North had been too uneventful but now she was thankful as she willed the soothing liquid over his body.
"Zuko," the words pouring out, over and over above his limp body, "Please be okay. You stupid… I should have… you should have… why didn't you let me help?"
It was then his eyes slid open. His hand reached up, cupping her chin.
"Thank you," his voice was so far away. She could feel the pain emanating from him. Her tears spilled over lashes and down her cheeks.
"I should be the one thanking you." He painfully sat up with her assistance and embraced her. Pushing aside his hair, Katara searched for the inevitable bruises and burns that fighting caused. Suddenly a little pair of arms embraced both of them and Liang was back.
They were a family again. And they had fought for this little moment of happiness. And nothing would ever tear them apart again.
Zuko hated hospitals with a passion. The smells, the sounds. It brought back too many unpleasant memories. But this time was different. Like everything that had happened since first meeting Katara this time was happy.
Liang snuggled in beside Uncle Iroh in the faded chairs snoring softly against his round belly. It had been a late night when they arrived fifteen hours ago. Soon enough they could go home.
"Liang," Zuko whispered, rousing his daughter.
She rubbed her eyes and smiled. "Is she okay?"
Zuko smirked, "Of course she is. You ready?" In her exhausted state, Liang rose, gripping her father's hand tight, suddenly very nervous for what was in store in that hospital room.
They walked in. Monitors beeped, IV lines dripped but Katara sitting in that hospital bed, looked pleasantly alert despite her exhaustion.
"Hi Katara," Liang whispered nervously.
"Hey, sweetie," Katara motioned for the little girl to climb in beside her.
"Liang," Zuko began, hand resting on his daughter, "we'd like you to meet your baby brother."
The ten-year-old giggled at the little bundle who yawned loudly at the visitor. She had gotten her wish for the little sibling.
Both parents got their wished for their family. Now they were complete. This was the moment they had fought for.
And nothing would ever tear them apart again.
What a crazy fun journey this story has been. It started as a insane little idea that bloomed and grew thanks to all those who shared in my insanity. I want to thank each and everyone of you readers for that. Special thanks to those who helped me toss back ideas and reminders to finish this thing (you know who you are!).