I do not own ATLA. This is just for fun. So please enjoy!
Chapter 26: Revealed
Zuko could not believe what he was hearing. Katara was under arrest? "June, are you serious? Wait, stop!" He placed a hand on the DS' shoulder trying to halt her approach.
"Remove your hand from my person immediately or I'll arrest you for obstructing an officer."
June stared him down; waiting from him to let go so she could continue doing her job. Feeling her intent gaze, he blanched and dropped his hand.
"Actually, Zuko, I should probably go with her." Katara had finished adjusting her clothing and was making her way to June.
His mind was running in circles. He just made love to the woman of his dreams, on the counter in his uncle's teashop. The post-coital bliss was quickly scattering and she was going to disappear again. He had to do something! Anything. Come on, Zuko. Rear in gear!
"Would someone please tell me what the hell is going on?" He looked on as June turned Katara around and cuffed her hands behind her back.
The cold metal clicked around Katara's wrists and June turned to speak. "We have several witnesses placing a person matching Katara's description fleeing a murder scene earlier today. I got lucky finding you here. This was only the second place I looked. I'm just going to take you in for some questioning." She turned her suspect around again to face her. "In addition, you have a connection with the victim."
"Who is it?" Zuko asked, his anxiety slowly rising.
"What are you, new? I can't just give that information out to civvies, despite whatever involvement you've had with us in the past."
And like magic, everything clicked into place. "Jet!" Katara exclaimed. "Jet's the victim."
June put her hands on her hips. "Either you're very smart, or you're very guilty."
Katara shrugged. The gravity of the situation weighed on her mind like a lead brick. "Right now it feels like a little bit of both." You should have kept your mouth shut, Katara! You idiot . . .
June began to lead her out of the shop. Katara felt she should go anyway and tell June everything, clear her name. But she couldn't just leave without doing something first. "Detective, could you give us just a moment? I promise I'll come quietly."
"Whatever. Just don't make me wait for forever. I don't want to have to walk in on you two again."
Zuko froze. "What do you mean 'again?'"
The DS deadpanned. "I caught you two bumpin' uglies. You didn't hear me come in and I felt it was rude to interrupt, so I gave you the courtesy of five minutes."
"Only five minutes?" He was slightly shocked that June would have been that considerate, but she couldn't wait a little longer?
"Please, judging by the noises you were making, you were almost done anyway. If you don't want to get caught, lock the door next time." She turned and waited for her suspect in the dining room leaving them apparently alone.
Zuko was the first to break the silence. "You wanna tell me what's going on?"
"Katara . . . "
"Ok, fine. Here's the short story." She puffed her cheeks out in exasperation. Today has just been a rollercoaster of emotions and something tells me it's not over yet. Might as well get it over with.
"Remember when I mentioned that I saw you die? Well, it wasn't you. It was Jet, apparently. But I didn't realize it at the time because his head was covered. And it all happened because of this girl. This amazingly beautiful girl. I mean, stunning. I didn't think about it at the time. I think that if I did swing that way, I would have easily said yes, had she asked. My panties would have hit the floor so fast –"
A vision of Katara making out with another woman flashed in Zuko's mind, but he had to get her back on track. "Katara, stop avoiding it."
"At any rate, I thought it was you on the end of her noose and she dropped you because . . . I'm in love with you."
It was Zuko's turn to puff his cheeks. Pinching the bridge of his nose he leaned against the kitchen counter. "Oh boy." A beautiful woman, a noose, a murder – this was definitely the abridged version.
"Yep." She walked up to his side and placed her forehead on his shoulder. "And then I blacked out and I found myself here. I think you know how that ended."
"We . . . 'bumped uglies.'"
"Yeah," she laughed. "In your uncle's shop kitchen! Will he be upset when he finds out?"
Part of him loved that she showed no shame in Iroh's discovery of their actions. "Are you kidding? The man will be ecstatic. He would be proud his shop was being used so liberally. He'll probably make some joke about me finally getting laid with some bad tea-related pun."
"At least that will work in our favor."
Back on good terms, Katara felt it was the right time. "I think I won't keep June waiting any longer. If I go to prison, will you wait for me?"
"If you go to prison, I will probably join you. I don't want us to be separated like that again."
"You know you'd be in a different prison, right? With all those man parts."
"You're right! I'll just have to look forward to those conjugal visits, then."
He moved to hold her close, not wanting her to leave just yet. "If you don't get convicted though, here's the key to my apartment." He slipped it into her sweatshirt pocket since her hands were still cuffed behind her. "I'll still love you either way."
"Sounds like a plan." She pecked him on the lips. "See you then." She walked into the dining area with her head held high. "Lead on, Detective."
June liked Katara. She really did. And she did not enjoy guiding her to the cop car parked outside. She may have left the cuffs a little looser than she normally would on a perpetrator. She just knew that Katara would not make a break for it despite it being only the second time they'd met.
Perhaps it was the way Zuko was around her. June thought back to when Ozai was on trial and the slouch Zuko always seemed to have. The poor kid was a wreck – preparing to put his father on trial and be deemed a traitor by his whole prior existence. Plus, his girlfriend at the time! She was a real head case. And then his sister turned out to be an actual head case. Azula also carried quite the torch for her brother. How gross is that?
And to top it off, the kid carried the burden of his own mother's death. June felt differently. She read the police report after she joined the force and was assigned to keep an eye on Zuko. Something didn't jive. She kept the case handy, always looking for clues on a trail gone cold.
With Katara around, Zuko stood taller and smiled. He showed actual emotions and the past didn't seem to matter. He was alive.
And June would be damned if she let anything happen to the kid now.
Placing her hand atop Katara's head, she guided her into the back seat of the cruiser. Sitting in the back seat of one of those vehicles handcuffed was never comfortable. She had been on the other side – she knew. Closing the door, she tapped the top of the car twice indicating the cargo was secure. It pulled away from the curb before making a slow three-point turn and driving into the night.
Zuko pointed after it. "Aren't you supposed to go with them?"
"I'll catch up. I brought my own ride." She gestured to the alley next to the shop. "Don't worry. I left your girlfriend in capable hands." She started walking towards the dark passage.
"That's not what I'm worried about."
June mounted a black motorcycle of considerable girth and strapped her helmet on. "It's procedure, Stud. Even if she does end up in prison, she's a big girl. I'll make sure she ends up with the nice convicts."
Yeah, she sympathized with the kid. It didn't mean she had to show it.
"By the way, I nabbed some cookies while I was waiting for you two to finish up. This should cover it." She held up a roll of some singles.
A furious blush on his cheeks, he grabbed it and shoved it in his pockets. "Yeah. Thanks for that courtesy."
"I know you would have done the same for me." Jumping on the kick-starter in her stilettos, she revved the machine to life.
She had her hand on the clutch and hesitated. Something still wasn't jiving. There was a piece missing.
"Zuko . . . Watch your six."
The bike squealed and fishtailed as she whipped it around, speeding off to the station and waking half the strays in the neighborhood in the process. She was a cop. Speeding and noise violating were just some of the perks.
Zuko watched the detective's back until she was out of sight. He could still hear her bike tearing up the pavement blocks away. Watch my six? What did she mean by that?
He walked back into the Jasmine Dragon's kitchen. The romantic moments from just a few minutes before were dissipating in the wake of the exodus. He could still picture her perched on the counter, eager and waiting for him. Her body was just begging to be touched, kissed, and pleasured. "Zuko!" he heard her say, as if she was still in the room. The memory made him harden and his blood pressure rise.
Finding himself at a loss of a lover to help him continue, he set up to clean the mess he made. The unfinished teacakes he covered with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to be made in the morning. The wiped down the counter and then he sanitized it again, just to make sure there was no trace left for his uncle to find. Although, Katara was okay with it, he didn't think he could admit to his uncle that he defiled the prized teashop.
When he had finally cooled off and felt the kitchen was clean enough, he locked the front door of the shop behind him ready to go home. He figured Katara was going to be at the station a whole yet. Hands shoved in his coat pockets, he began walking to his car parked a few blocks over. He was so at peace that he jumped when his phone began to vibrate.
"Hello? Zuko, here."
The other end exploded with volume. ZUKO, ANSWER YOUR PHONE ONCE AND A WHILE! I'VE BEEN TRYING TO CALL YOU FOR THE PAST 2 HOURS!
He'd recognize that shrill anywhere. "Ty Lee? What's up? You never call me."
Zuko, it's Mai. She's in the hospital. He could hear her voice hitching on the other line. She's pretty badly beat up. She keeps asking for you . . . Could you come see her?
He didn't hesitate to answer. "I'll be right there."
Katara sat in the interrogation room. She'd lost track of the time, but she figured she'd been held for more than an hour. She still had yet to tell her side of the story. They were probably just trying to make her nervous. Too bad for them. Her nerves were still pretty shot from earlier. Her second wind came when she found Zuko was still alive.
Yeah, he's definitely still alive. Boy's got stamina. I can't wait to get out of here, shimmy over to his apartment and –
"Good evening, Miss Katara." The room suddenly got much colder and the lights appeared to dim. The deep, resonating voice came through a speaker on the wall. "My name is Long Feng. Do you remember me?"
She hesitated, not sure how she should respond. Was there a microphone she should be using? Why wasn't anyone here in the room with her?
"You may speak normally. The room is fixed appropriately with microphones and cameras. Please be aware you are being recorded."
"I remember you."
The booming vocals echoed off the walls. It was as if Long Feng was everywhere at once, but he remained nowhere to be seen. The eerie effect shook Katara, but only slightly. She knew scare tactics when she encountered them. She had heard of the practices the Dai Li were known for, but she thought that most of them were rumors. She now knew that there was some truth behind how they got their information.
But Long Feng seemed so helpful last time . . . she thought.
"Let's get started, shall we?" the voice boomed.
She fired a question right back at them. "What would you like to know?" Stand your ground. You've done nothing wrong.
"Please give us an account of your activities today."
She reiterated her day blow by blow. It was fairly mundane. Until she left the gym. "I was on my way home, when someone grabbed my bag. A girl. She walked off with it and I followed her into that new construction area on BSSU campus."
"And you pursued her – why?"
"She stole my bag, that's why! What would you have done?"
"Reported the theft," the voice responded, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world. "Continue."
She crossed her arms with an exasperated sigh. "I followed her up the scaffolding. When I got to the top, I saw my bag and then I saw she was holding the end of a rope. On the other end of the rope there was a person. Their head was bagged and their hands tied. I thought it was Zuko, my boyfriend.
"She began to ask me a series of questions, in order to save his life. When I answered her, she said that no one could have him, and she let go of the rope.
"I don't remember much after that. I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember is being at Zuko's uncle's teashop."
"Please elaborate your relationship with Zuko."
She balked a bit at the idea. After all, their relationship didn't have the most ethical of origins. "I don't see how that's rele –"
"Answer. The question." Long Feng's voice bordered on angry.
"It's a fairly new thing. We've been seeing each other, maybe, a month? It's only started being serious very recently."
"What about before you were . . . intimate?" He emphasized the word like it was poisonous.
"He was a friend of my brother's." That's not entirely true, but it's not false either. It's perfectly acceptable to date a sibling's friend. "And he assisted me when I was assaulted by a man named Jet nearby Wan Shi Tong Library. I believe you're familiar with that incident." She recalled the very long time it took to speak to someone regarding her attack. Things went much smoother after Zuko spoke with someone at the counter and left them looking terrified.
There was an extended pause. After a few more moments of nothing, she said, "Officer? Are you – ?"
"Explain your relationship with Jet."
She jumped at the response. Katara was getting very tired of being interrupted. "Jet was an old boyfriend of mine. We ended things not on great terms. Earlier this semester he tried to get back together with me. I tried to discourage it as much as possible. I was not interested. But he wasn't having that and developed a plan to 'rescue me' from attackers he hired himself. After that night I had a restraining order against him. I frankly did not care if I never saw him again."
"What do you mean 'was' an old boyfriend?"
Shit. She realized she'd used past tense to describe his ex-status. She gave away that she knew he was dead. "I know Jet is dead. Hence, 'was.'"
"Are you confessing?"
"No. That girl who stole my bag killed him. She dropped him from the scaffolding."
"Yes, the girl." Katara wondered if they really thought she was the killer and the girl was a figment of her imagination. "There are no witness reports or camera footage of this girl entering or leaving the scaffolding."
"I'm not surprised about that. She was fast. Her actions seemed very calculated."
"She was beautiful." Apart from that Katara struggled to remember more details. "Um . . . She had dark brown hair – almost black. About my height and age. She was wearing Jet's old leather jacket. I recognized it as his anyway. And her eyes . . . They were . . . golden."
Golden eyes?! Like Zuko's! That means -
Her eureka moment was disturbed by a muffled noise coming from the speaker. The lights came back on to their full power and the door was opened a few moments later. She was surprised to see a friendly face in June.
"Thank you, Katara. You're free to go."
This is sudden. "Really?" she asked sarcastically.
"Yup. This is now my case. And I know you're not guilty. Go home. Get yourself cleaned up."
Ty Lee watched the exchange between Zuko and his ex, lying battered and bandaged in the hospital bed before him. When he showed up out of breath, Ty Lee's heart felt a slight pang of jealousy. Maybe he still had feelings for her? Did she still have to compete with him?
But after she watched him for a few minutes from the hallway, she could see his affection was much more platonic. He had color in his face. Ty Lee remembered when Mai and Zuko were together he was always frowning. He was always sad and his face drooped.
This Zuko was different. She could see that he had moved on and her heart relaxed.
But the relaxed notion wasn't to last. Ty Lee watched as Mai motioned Zuko to come closer. He turned his ear to her mouth. Speaking was difficult for her due to the cuts and windpipe damage.
When Mai spoke, Zuko jerked back. "Are you serious?" was his muffled response. Mai nodded and tears began to streak her cheeks. Ty Lee felt they'd had enough privacy and entered the room. Zuko turned to her.
"You are not to leave this hospital, Ty Lee? Okay? Wait until I call you, okay?"
"Zuko, what's going on?" she asked.
He didn't reply, but left even faster than he arrived. She turned to look at Mai, who was still crying. She put one finger to her lips, indicating that there was no more to be said and silence would be best in this situation. Ty Lee wanted in on the secret, but she knew to trust Mai. She gingerly climbed beside her wounded friend and held her as closely as she could without causing more injury. If she weren't allowed to leave, then she would stay and comfort.
Zuko dialed the number to his sister's asylum so hard, the phone screen split with rainbows at every strike. He was pacing his apartment's elevator waiting for the other line to pick up. Their response was not what he wanted to hear.
"How do you just lose a patient?! . . . Well, find her! What the fuck do I pay you for? You don't even call me when you find out she's missing? Believe me when I say you have one hell of a court case coming your way."
Azula was out. She was off her meds. And now she was coming for Zuko. That much he knew. Mai was a victim and Jet was a regrettable loss. But he admitted he wasn't too broken up about the latter. Now Azula was pursuing Katara to get to him. One of them was going to have to go down. Permanently.
His thoughts went to how to protect Katara now. He quickly dialed another number.
Ba Sing Se Police Department.
"I need you to deliver a message to Detective Sergeant June, please. She's currently holding someone named Katara . . . Something." He never could remember their last name. "Make sure she doesn't leave the station! It's urgent!"
Sir, who am I speaking to?
"Tell her it's from Zuko. She'll listen."
Before the operator could respond he hung up. Katara would be safest at the station. June would listen to his note. She has to.
The elevator doors opened and Zuko entered his apartment. He needed protection. And there was something he kept in case of emergencies. Not bothering to turn on any lights, he made a beeline for the bathroom and lifted the lid to the toilet tank. He was looking for a ziplock that should have been sitting on the bottom of the tank. He always kept a few hundreds and a loaded gun. Survivalist instincts kept him alive this long and he was glad to be prepared.
But there was no gun in the ziplock. "Shit! Where is it?"
He felt a presence and turned to the bathroom door. Azula stood there with the weapon he was looking for. And it was pointed right at him.
"You always did have the best toys, Zuzu."
She pulled the trigger and he saw blood splatter across the bathroom tile. The next thing he knew was nothing but blinding pain.
He felt Azula tower over him. She grabbed his face as he lay on the floor and he heard her speak.
"Let's play a game, Brother."
MERRY CHRISTMAS! I apologize for the inhumane delay. Grad school is kicking my ass and sapping my will to write. That and this was the HARDEST CHAPTER TO WRITE EVER. Like, "What's the point? They finally had sex. I can put this thing to bed right?" Nah, I couldn't do that to you guys. Besides, I want to see how this ends.
There's a ton going on here. I had a very hard time putting it all together. And I feel like this is suddenly moving very fast. I hyperventilate when I think about what's coming next. And then I squee. I'm such a fangirl of my own story. It's like a disease. I guess that's why they call it fan fiction. Huh . . .
Much thanks and love to all of you who continue reading this and who leave comments and to the newcomers who add this to their lists and remind me that I have to write the next chapter. (Yay for run-on sentences). I love you all as much as I hate grad school. Which is heaps.
Are there any questions you guys feel I'm not answering? Or going to answer? I'd love to hear some feedback!
XOXOX And as always, don't change that dial.