Prompt number twenty-five, fence.

"My stars shine darkly over me.

The malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours.

Therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone.

It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you."

-William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Sebastian, Act II Scene 1)

—blind stars of fortune;

She was different than Mai.

Her chestnut hair flowed freely from her face, caressing the most intimate places on her body from the curve of her shoulders to the swell of her small chest, already looking wilder than a Noble could ever be. Her face flushed, her lips slightly parted, he thought he had never seen a creature more beautiful than her.

But there were other things, too.

She was smaller, more delicate, and he felt like if he held her too closely or too roughly, she might break into two pieces. But she was strong, her own actions showing him valor that he didn't know she possessed. It made his stomach ache in a way that wasn't quite nauseous and wasn't quite pain.

Every time she grabbed his face and pulled him down on top of her, bit his ear softly, he felt different. Like he wasn't completely himself. Even though her element was the converse of his, he could feel her fire, her passion. He found himself so aroused that he prayed to Agni that this wasn't some sick dream that would make him unable to look her in the eye for days.

Unbidden, he thought of her in her underwear when they used to spar or that Fire Nation outfit that showed off her midriff. The war had taken his sanity from him during those times, not taking the time to truly appreciate her beautiful body, her goddess-like stature.

The way her tongue dipped into his mouth while he pulled her hair, he wondered if he would ever find the strength to pull away and face the real world again—a world full of ravaged towns and cities, hungry people, and dying soldiers. It was a responsibility that he hated to think about, hated to be part of.

He just wanted to forget. Just be with her.

So he did.

Fighting with her is like a bending battle with words.

The heat that spits out of her mouth—as if she's breathing fire—is so unmistakably her trademark, that in the back of his mind, he can't help but enjoy the way she looks. Her demeanor is so fervent that he almost kisses her to remind her that whatever they're arguing about doesn't matter.

He can't even remember the reason they had started fighting in the first place.

When she got up from the chair she had confined herself to, he almost followed her, before remembering that it was probably best to just give her time to cool down. Fires needed to die down before they could be doused.

He remembered something Uncle had said to him; sometimes it's just better to apologize first, even if you don't know why you're sorry. A year ago, he probably wouldn't have thought about admitting that a peasant had gotten the better of him, but no he would just bite the bullet.

He'd rather fight with her than fuck with anyone else.

He hates knowing that she's not his.

Every time that son of a bitch walks into a room, he can't help but think horrible things. What made it, Twi or La or Agni, so that that couldn't be him? He feels hate for himself, for his best friend, his peace negotiator, the savior of the world. Aang saved the world for her.

Zuko saved her sanity for her.

And when she touches him lightly, he feels his fists clench in his own pathetic attempt to retain his own jealousy, his own mistakes. But she wasn't a mistake. Sure as hell felt like one, especially when they had escaped war meetings, peace summits, to be with each other.

Or had he been dreaming?

If he was, he never wanted to wake up.

When they have a fight, he's the first person she comes to. And he just takes her into his arms, kisses her shoulder, whatever exposed skin he can get his mouth on. Finally, she will left her head and look into his eyes, his scar, his face and just slowly blink.

And he takes that as an invitation.

It's easier to be with her at these times than to never be with her at all.

So he kisses her ear, trailing onto her face, watches with genuine curiosity at the effect he had on her. Her lips slightly part, half way between giving way to a moan or a name. Whether it's her name or not, he doesn't know, can't bear to know.

After all, their whole relationship is built on a lie.

We can't love each other.

Afterwards, as he watches her naked body rise and fall with breath, glowing in the moonlight, he wonders how he could have ever lied to himself like this.

When, in fact, had it become so easy to live a lie?

Zuko figures it was when he realized that it was easier to hate her, or at least feign indifference, than to deal with his feelings. It was a coping method, trying to block out passionate fantasies and redirect caught gazes. He couldn't deal with himself, with her. He felt sick.

So when she opened her eyes and stroked a piece of hair back onto his matted forehead, she smiles, and he kisses her instead of hearing what she has to say.

It might force him to admit that he'd rather love her and feel like shit than never love her at all.

Aang knows.

He can feel it in the way his friend stares at him, like something was inconceivably wrong. It wasn't war—that had been resolved. It wasn't the rebellion against his regime—those people could be silenced. So it had to be about him.

About Katara.

And he silently follows the Avatar into a room reserved for war meetings, and sits down on the table, looking at his companion tiredly, as if he is an old man. And in some ways he feels he is: He's seen and done things that have aged him beyond his years, given him wisdom beyond any man.

And yet, so has Aang. So he listens quietly to the accusation, unable to blink or move a muscle in his rigid face. He feels cold, but warm with the satisfaction that they no longer have a secret to keep from the world. But what he feels the most is the twisting of his heart when bald man walks out of the room.

No goodbye.

It's been months.

He's taken to concubines, though none of them seem to quite satisfy him the way the maiden from the world of water can. Aang has been on trip after trip to quell the latest uprising in Ba Sing Se. Sokka and Suki expecting, long gone on Kyoshi Island. Where is Toph?

A letter arrives that week from Katara and Lady Be Fong, alerting him of the status of the peace treaties within the nations, but that's it. Nothing that he can pick up from shows that this was no more than an orderly update on the post-war world they all lived in, ravaged by distress and the disease of the wary.

No one who read it would ever guess that the long-gossiped affair between the Fire Prince and the Water Peasant was on hold.

Except the current Fire Lord.

Why don't we have some tea and you can tell me about your problems with the ladies, Prince Zuko.


The first question plagues his mind for no more than half a second.

I love her.


A question to an answer, he can't think of more than three reasons that were appropriate.

She's got the ability to do it, the willpower.

It sticks.

And they're convinced.

She loves him.

That's all he can think about as he goes to bed that night, sitting on the red-ashen linens on his bed.

For so long, she had said, I've thought that ignorance is bliss. But being unsure of what I feel was the true reason behind my capriciousness. I love him, I know that now. It's easier to pretend like I don't. But I'm willing to fight.

And so was he, she just didn't know it yet. Toph was the best eavesdropper in the entire Fire Nation at the moment, and he believed every word she had relayed to him.

He couldn't afford not to.

She puts a cherry into his mouth.


He bites down, feels the sweet juices spray the inside of his mouth.

They have forever, maybe, or possibly just tonight. But he can't bring himself to care. He just wants to immerse himself in her. Her hair, her eyes, her body.

She's a vixen.

And he's her lover.

They make love well into the night, and never before had the passion been so great between them, so wonderful that he felt he might cry. She just curls up against his chest, her breath lightly brushing against his pale skin.


He smiles at her, kisses her forehead.

Holds her tighter and sleeps deeply for the first time in years.

I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender.