DISCLAIMER: I do not own "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Don't worry, I am NOT starting another story. I have way too many running already. This is just a one shot, a taste of something that I might get back to once I'm finished with everything else. Anyone who likes this idea, and has the time and will to make it good, you have my complete permission to run with it. It's just a cool idea that I've never read before, and I really wanted to get it down. This story is a bit of a crossover with Kill Bill, Wanted, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, kinda, more in the way of themes than characters...if that makes any sense. You'll see when you start reading. So, enjoy, and please review, and tell me if you like the idea!
P.S. This is an AU that has a setting in America, and there's no bending. At least not in this one shot. Everyone is seven years older than they are in the series.
The Order of the White Lotus is a secret society that has been charged with maintaining the balance of the world for thousands of years. They watch and they wait, only intervening when necessary. Those of them who do the intervening are called the White Lotus Assassination Squad. The descendants of the most influential members of the Order, the Squad contains the best warriors the world has ever seen. They protect the Fate of the world by eliminating those who get in it's way. They are the Gate Keepers, the Gaurdians, the Dark Angels. A brotherhood bound in blood, the members of the Squad can only leave under order of the Grand Master. Yet, no one ever truly leaves the Squad. The blood that stains their skin always stays with them. Forever.
He pulled his coat closer around him as the chill wind that Chicago was named for crept between his clothes, touching his skin. The soft snow crunched under his feet as he walked down the busy sidewalk.
For some reason, Zuko had always liked Chicago more than New York City, his hometown. It seemed older, realer, grimier. The fact that his newest target was located in this particular city was just a perk.
Today was oddly busy, Katara realized. It was Wednesday - which was usually the diner's slowest day - but today it was bustling. Must be the weather, she thought. Sure enough, it was still snowing, like it had been since three o'clock that morning. Katara didn't mind the weather, however. In fact, she was probably the only person in the Windy City who liked it. The snow reminded her of home, and the life that she had once known. The loud clang of a newbie dropping a dozen plates shook her out of her thoughts. The past was just that. The past. No need to dwell on it now.
After checking on one of her tables, she stopped at the diner bar, taking a moment to put her long hair up into a messy bun. It fell down constantly, becoming a constant annoyance. She was honestly thinking about cutting it all off.
"Busy day, hugh, Tara?" said Haru, one of the diner's original workers, and Katara's closest friend. He had tried to date her when they first met in college, but she quickly snuffed out that candle. Now, he was content with just a platonic relationship. Or, at least, that's what he told her.
"Yeah," she said, tucking a strand behind her ear. "I don't think it's ever been this busy on a weekday."
"It's the snow, most like it." said Haru as he moved closer to her. "Got everyone all frazzled, even though we should be used to it by now. I mean, we live in Chicago, not Miami. So, what are you doing tonight?"
Katara shrugged, and pulled down the hem of her shirt.
"I have a test to study for, and a paper to write." Haru groaned, throwing his hand up into the air.
"By God, Katara! All you ever do is study!"
"Hey, where's my food!" shouted a customer at the bar, who had been waiting for a while. Haru waived him off.
"I think that the educational pursuits of the University of Chicago could wait one night, don't you? Besides, when's the last time you got out? Or went on a date..."
"I don't have time for 'dates', Haru." said Katara, holding her trey in the crook of a hip, her fist resting on the opposite side of her hip. "Besides, I only have one more year 'till I have enough hours to graduate with a bachelor and a masters degree. After that, I'll get a real job, and have plenty of time for dates, I promise you."
Haru only smirked, shaking his head as he watched Katara make her way back out into the thick of the diner.
"You have to live again sometime, Katara!" he shouted out to her. Katara only shook her head.
I did live, once, she thought. A life that I never wanted.
Zuko tried to suppress a laugh as he stared up at the old, 1950's style diner that his contact had pointed him to. He had never imagined Katara working in a place like this, or even working, for that matter. Her family had always been wealthy, and her skills afforded her the means to live whenever she needed them. Now to think that she was barley pushing by in this oh so cliche display of independance... Zuko finally let himself laugh. So Katara.
The bell that hung above the door rang loudly, alerting Meng that another customer had entered the building. She was so absorbed in her magazine, however, that she didn't even bother to look up. Besides, her aunt owned the place. She knew that she wouldn't get fired.
"Welcome to Aunt Wu's Place, take a seat wherever, a server will be right with you." she mumbled. She could sense that the customer was still standing there, which slightly annoyed her. What was he, a creeper or something?
"Can I help you with anything else, sir?" she asked, idly flipping the page.
"Yes, I believe you can." said a deep, surprisingly smooth voice. Meng glanced up from her magazine, and the most handsome man she had ever seen stood before her, and kind of lop sided smirk on his face. He wore all black, which complimented his pale skin, and he had bright, golden eyes that seemed to go right through her. There was a large scar on the left side of his face, but it gave him a kind of mysterious air. His thick black hair fell around his eyes, causing him to flip his head in a very sophisticated way. Meng immediately wondered if he would take her to her senior prom.
"W-what can I help you with?" she stuttered. The man grinned in a way that surly broke many a heart.
"I heard that a girl named Katara worked here." Meng's smile immediately fell, and her shoulder's slumped.
"Yeah, she works here. Tables five through eight." she said, pointing her finger at an open table. The man nodded his head, then gave her a small wink before seating himself. Meng rested her head on her fist, scowling.
Katara always gets the good guys.
Katara heard the door open, and prayed that Meng wouldn't let him sit in her section. All of her other tables were already full, and the kitchen was already running on low.
"Looks like you've got another one, Katara." said Haru from behind the counter. Katara smirked, and stuffed her writing pad in the back pocket of her black slacks. She had to keep reminding herself that the Spirits were never kind to her.
With a sigh, she turned to approach the newest customer with a big "welcome to Aunt Wu's" grin, but what she saw made her heart stop in her chest.
She had to be dreaming.
I mean, she had to be.
There was no way that him of all people, would be in Chicago, at that diner, in her section in reality. Fate wasn't that cruel, was it?
"What's wrong, Katara?" asked Haru as he moved closer to her, his eyes locked on the mysterious new figure. "You know that guy, or something?"
As if alerted by Haru's voice, Zuko looked up from the laminated menu that he was looking over, and locked eyes with her. Deep, golden eyes, that seemed to swim and sparkle in the light. Those eyes that could reach through every wall that she had ever built, and grab on to her soul. Yep, that was Zuko.
"I used to know him." responded Katara, her eyes still locked on Zuko. "A long time ago."
"He's not gonna cause any trouble, is he?" asked Haru, with a bit of a quiver in his voice. Katara grinned, and rolled her eyes.
"Now that, I can't promise."
With a burst of confidence that she didn't know she had, Katara began to walk towards the large booth that the somberly dressed boy who had once been a major player in her life's game was occupying. She could see the smirk starting to form on her face. Katara's dreamlike exterior suddenly broke. She had forgotten how much of an arrogant pig head Zuko was. This was going to be interesting.
Faster than he could have anticipated, all of these old emotions that came with Katara came flooding back to him. She looked different, yet - oddly the same. Her long hair that he used to spend hours running his fingers through was situated on top of her head in a makeshift bun, a few tendrils falling around her face. She wore a white, long sleeved shirt with the words "Aunt Wu's" in yellow script displayed on the front.
Zuko couldn't help but notice how the shirt hugged her curves in an almost tantalizing way. Curves that she didn't have four years ago. His uncle always said that Katara would grow into her body, and he had not lied. Her long black slacks rustled against the floor as she walked. Her sapphire eyes that he had fallen in love with so long ago were now locked on him, mixed expressions flooding through them. The flush rising in Katara's cheeks was apparent, and he could have sworn that her breathing had quickened. He couldn't help but smirk. He had never caused quite that type of reaction from her before. He had to admit, his ego was inflated.
When Katara finally made it to his booth, she felt like an eternity had passed. So close to him, she noticed that his hair had grown out, and his shoulders had broadened. She even noticed a little stubble forming on his chin. He had grown into a man now. One thing that had remained the same about him, though, was his scar. That painful looking scar that had changed his entire life. She would never forget the day he received it. It was the most traumatic days of both of their lives. It was a day that didn't enjoy meditating on.
For a while they both just stared at each other. It was as if they dared speak, the allusion would be broken, and the dream would dissolve, and they would both wake up.
Finally, Katara decided to be the bigger man in a sense, and take the first shot.
"What can I get for you, sir?" She tried to make her voice as even as possible, but it ended up coming out like a monotone record. Zuko rose one eyebrow, the corner of his mouth curling up.
"Really, Sage?" he said, a little bit of ammusment in his voice. "Don't tell me you don't recognize me."
"Well, it's a little hard with you dressed all in black like that. I could have easily mistaken you for an undertaker." Katara bit back. Zuko laughed, and ran his hand through his hair.
"Oh how easily you forget, Sage." They sat staring at each other for a moment more, communicating through their eyes. It was something they had always been able to do, and it didn't surprise them when the parlor trick still worked.
"What do you want, Blackthorn? That is, if you're still called by that name."
"Our names never change, Sage. Those are the names given to us by the Order."
"I'm assuming that you're here on Order business, then." said Katara, crossing her arms and cocking her hip. Zuko held his hands up in mock surrendeur.
"Don't get so hostile. Maybe I just wanted to visit you."
Katara rested her arms on the table, and leaned forward, only inches from Zuko's face.
"It's been four years, Blackthorn. Why would you ever want to visit with me now, unless it was on Order business?" The laugh seemed to fade from Zuko's eyes.
"You misunderstand the history we have if you think my feelings to be so shallow."
"How am I supposed to believe anything else?" Their eyes met in a heated clash of wills for a moment, daring the other to make a move. Zuko couldn't help but let his eyes wander down to her long, slender neck, where he saw his mother's necklace shining in the minimal light. He couldn't say he was shocked. After their last encounter, she had vowed to never remove it. But still, it brought back memories. Zuko leaned back in the booth, admitting momentary defeat.
"I'll take a coffee, and get one for yourself. We have a lot to talk about."
Katara gripped the handle of her coffee mug tightly, staring down into the steaming liquid. She had emptied three packages of cream and a whole bag of splenda into her coffee - just like she liked it - but she was yet to take a sip. Zuko, however, had downed half of the mug as soon as she put it in front of him. She was sure he was wishing it was a shot of gin at the moment.
Haru had been suspicious when Katara had told him that she was taking fifteen to talk to this guy. He still saw Zuko as some kind of a threat, and rightly so. Zuko was a leader in the most dangerous profession in the world. There were very few who wouldn't be intimidated by Zuko. Katara was one of them.
"You look good." said Zuko suddenly, shocking Katara out of her thoughts. There was a slight grin on his face, and attraction in his eyes. Katara had seen that look before, and she fell for it every time.
"So do you." she whispered, but she quickly moved to save herself. "I mean, you look different. What are you, twenty-three now?" Zuko chuckled slightly, and fiddled with the napkin dispenser.
"Yeah. But, you are climbing up there, too. Twenty-one, I believe?"
"Yeah. Now when Jet tries so hard to get me to drink, it can actually be legal." They both laughed at this, for Jet was an old friend to them both, and they knew his bad boy act pretty well. It was legendary.
"How is Jet?" she asked as a type of after thought. Zuko's smile fell a bit.
"He was recently added to the Order. He goes by Snapdragon." She couldn't help but roll her eyes. Typical. Zuko suddenly leaned forward on his elbows, looking deeply into Katara's eyes.
"How about you, Katara? How are you?"
Katara suddenly felt very self-conscious. That was the first time he hadn't called her by her code name since he arrived.
"Um, I'm fine. I'll be graduating soon, and I have a good internship lined up for me. I'm living a pleasant life. A normal life." Zuko snorted, and leaned back, drapping his long arm over the back of the booth.
"Normal? Katara, I've known you for a long time, and you are anything but normal."
"That's why I left the Order, Zuko!" she shot back, louder than she had intended. "The Order tore my entire life a part, and still expected me to fight for them! I'm tired of judging the Fate of others. I just want to be a citizen again."
"You were never just a citizen, Katara. You were born into the Order, and you are good. Remember when we used to fight together. God, we were great! Don't you miss those days? Those days when you were beyond normal?"
"No. No I don't, really. I missed my entire high school career; I had no friends outside of the Order, I couldn't dance anymore. I even missed my own prom! And then for all of that to lead up to...No. No I don't miss that life at all."
"Some part of you does." whispered Zuko. "How long has it been since you spoke to your brother?"
"Four years." she responded quickly.
"He's still in the Order, you know. But not in the Squad. He is approaching the title of Master."
Honestly, that didn't surprise Katara. Both of them had been born into the Order, and each took their own paths through it. Katara joined the Squad. He was a thinker, she was a fighter. Of course, they were both brilliant in their own right, and both amazing warriors, but Sokka didn't mold into the Squad like she did. She never could quite figure it out, but she felt that she belonged there.
"Why are you here, Zuko?" she asked finally, using his true name for the first time. Zuko smirked.
"Always so hasty. Ever hear of polite conversation?"
"I have ten minutes left on my break, and if Aunt Wu catches me, she'll dock my pay. I don't have time for polite conversation." Zuko shook his head, but still reached into the inner pocket of the black blazer that he had been wearing under his larger coat. He pulled out something extremely thin that was a cross between an iPad and something off of Star Treck. The Order contained some of the most brilliant minds in the world. Of course, all of the members would have technology before their time. Sokka had joked that they were like some kind of James Bond meets Charlies Angels thing. In fact, he wasn't that far from the truth.
Katara scared down at the black screen which only showed the image of a white lotus Pai Sho tile rotating in midair. Zuko pressed down on the screen, and it immediately morphed into a simulated image of a file folder. On the front of the folder read "TARGET" in big, bold letters. He used the touch screen technology to open the virtual file, and a mirage of 3D images sprang to life. Pictures and letters and more files within files. Katara looked around, hoping that no one was seeing this, but no one was noticing them at all.
"Don't worry," said Zuko. "It only looks that way up close. To those around you, it appears to be nothing but an iPad."
Katara nodded, and continued to look over screen.
"Why are you showing me this?" she asked. Zuko leaned over, and touched the image of a file that read "IMAGES" and Katara's mouth nearly dropped. Zuko didn't even have to ask.
All he said was, "We have a new target."
Katara was staring down at a recent picture of the most powerful man in the country, even in his non-political state. Ozai Hiryo was the second son of the "prince of America", Azulon Hiryo, and a money mogul who had conquered Wall Street when he was twenty, and still taking a Business course at Yale. In that time he had founded near thirty Fortune Five Hundred companies, produced multiple movies that broke box office records and dominated the Oscars, and hosted his own talk show. He was also the head of the largest underworld crime ring that New York had ever seen, with branches in Chicago, LA, London, and Tokyo. He was also Zuko's father.
"Wow." was all that Katara was able to say.
"Exactly." said Zuko. "My father's crime ring has become too large. It rules a good bit of the world. In order for the balance to remain, he must be brought down before the government is effected any more than it already is."
"But...he's your father, Zuko..."
"He disowned me. The inheritance that has been passed down through the Hiryo family since the nineteenth century went to my sister."
"But, Azula is..."
"Still a member of the Squad, yes. Now you see why this expressed a bit of difficulty for the Order. Trust can not be wholly placed in Black Rose (aka Azula), and I cannot do this by myself. That's why the Order sent me out to find you. My father's has an army made up of the most powerful gangsters, assassins, and underworld lords flanking him. In order for us to even get close enough to pull this off, we need to bring the old gang back together."
Katara stared down at the screen, the image of Ozai smiling at the camera, his brilliant white teeth gleaming, and his long hair pulled back in a low ponytail. He looked handsome enough, but the evil could still be seen in his eyes.
"Come back to us, Sage." she heard Zuko whisper. "Come back to the Order."
Katara tried to swallow, but she found her mouth uncomfortably dry. She left the Order, she made a vow. Now, here was the ultimate hit staring her in the face, and she was being begged to take it. Zuko was right, she still had a little Sage the assassin buried inside of her, and she was screaming to take the job. But she wasn't who she was anymore. She wasn't the little girl playing Buffy meets Totally Spies anymore.
She glanced down at her watch, and quickly stood, almost tripping over herself.
"My break is over." she murmured. "I gotta get back to work."
"I'll be waiting." answered Zuko. Katara turned to walk away, but felt herself stop, as if her mind no longer had control. She looked over her shoulder, locking her eyes with her old partner in death.
"I'll think about it."
AN: Just something I forgot to mention, all of the members of the Squad have code names that are the names of flowers (Sage, Blackthorn, Snapdragon, Black Rose, etc.). You know how in Kill Bill, all the member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad have code names that are snakes? Same idea. White Lotus Assassination Squad...code names that are flowers. Kinda cheesy, I know, but I liked it. So, I hope you enjoyed, and review, please!