DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN AVATAR: THE LAST AIR BENDER, NOR DO I CLAIM ANY RIGHTS TO IT. I AM ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PLOT OF THIS FANFICTION STORY
Summary: Destiny brings a young doctor and a wounded prisoner of war together. Can their love be able to withstand the barriers and horrors of what lies across enemy lines? AU Zutara and minor Taang and Sukka. Thou hast been forewarned. Don't like? Don't read.
He woke up not knowing where he was. He ached all over and couldn't see out of his left eye. It must have been covered. His right eye seemed to be working fine. The last thing he remembered was fighting in the front line then everything went black...
There was an explosion. His best friend, Lu Ten, had been killed in action beside him...
Someone tried to pull him away, but he was overwhelmed.
Then a loud blast and sweet oblivion.
Now he was awake, very much alive and in a great deal of pain. He hissed as he tried to move his hand. He shifted slightly and a sharp pain shot through all his muscles. He hissed again and groaned with the effort. It was not worth it. He would just have to lie wherever he was until someone came and helped him.
"He's awake now," he heard a male voice say.
"Thank you Duke. I will take over from here," said a female voice. The first left the room and he heard the door open and shut. At last, someone who could tell him where he was. He had a feeling he was in a hospital, but it was different from all the ones he had ever been to. Of course it had all the normal equipment of a hospital, but it wasn't the same, somehow...
"How are you feeling?" asked the female voice somewhere to his right. He opened his eyes slowly and blinked. The woman who stood before him was a vision. She had the brightest blue eyes he had ever seen and her brown hair was held up neatly although a few strands had come loose and rolled gently down the side of her face.
"W... water," he managed to say, felling rather thirsty. She asked a nurse to get him a glass. Her expression made it clear that this act of kindness was not of her own free will, as if, if she had the power, she would rather see him die a slow death, but something held her back.
"There. Now, how do you feel?" she asked again.
"Better, thank you."
She took her clipboard in hand and scribbled something down then signalled to another nurse to check his fluids. After a bit of poking and prodding, the nurse told the woman a series a complicated medical jargon which the woman quickly scribbled down.
"Thank you," she said and with one last contemptible look at him, she took her clipboard and turned to walk out of the room. Blue eyes, he decided to call her. If nothing else, he would remember her for that. The nurse by his side drew his attention.
"Where am I?" he asked slowly.
"In the Southern Barracks," she said simply. He fought despair as best he could. He was in enemy territory!
"I am not allowed to speak with you," she said and fluffed his pillow then left. He sighed and shut his eyes. He did not know what they had planned for him, but he was sure he wouldn't want to find out. Prisoners of war were not treated well. He was being treated well, however and that was cause enough for alarm.
"How is he?"
"He's stabilising. He's gained consciousness at least. He has sustained injuries to his spine, but with time will be able to walk again. He has four broken ribs, two more fractured and one bruised, he has broken both his arms in several places and his legs took a pretty thorough beating as well but are healing. He suffered from minor shock and received severe burns to his face and arms. He will be sore for a few weeks, but he'll be fine."
"Good work Katara, now I hope I don't have to remind you how important this prisoner is to our mission?"
"No father," she said looking down. She had thrown a mad fit when he had told her that she was to care for one of the enemy. Why should she be the one to care for that Northern scum? She had fought tooth and nail against it, but then her father had explained that she would be doing a favour for her country if she restored his health. Grudgingly, she did as she was told,She was one of the best doctors in the country. She would nurse him back to health if it was in her best interests and it was.
"Good. Now send for your brother. I have an important message for Sokka."
Katara rose and left the office.
She had a feeling her brother was going to be asked to join the war and she worried for him. He was always belligerent and picked fights even in times of peace. He would go out there and get himself killed... but that was the life of a warrior. Steeling herself, she walked down the narrow passageway to the training room where Sokka was training, or at least, had been training.
He was huddled in a corner with his back to her and Katara could hear giggling in front of him. He was with nurse Suki again. Rolling her eyes, she cleared her throat and he turned.
"Father wants you," she said before he could yell at her for interrupting him. Leaving those three heavy words hanging in the air, she turned and walked back the way she came heading for her own chambers seeking a moment of peace.
Zuko lay in the hospital for close to two weeks and each day, his blue eyed doctor (he had learned that she was a doctor) had come to see him and find out how he was doing. She never changed her rigid expression and never spent more time than necessary with him. She hated his guts. He could see it from the way she looked at him. So much contempt and such vicious anger veiled behind an expressionless face...
She was all he thought about in the day. In the night, because of the drugs he was given, he longed to dream of her. Today, she was looking at his bandages and checking his fractures. She worked quietly, not moving him more than necessary, touching him as if he were a flame and not saying a single thing to him.
"My name is Zuko," he said to her, finally tired of her silence. She said nothing, just continued to wrap bandages around him.
"What is your name?" he asked again. She still said nothing, checking his bruises and bandages again. He stopped her hands, taking them in his. She pulled them away and glared at him.
"Say something," he said.
"Hello," she said and picked up her clip board. She scribbled on it furiously and then put it down and looked him in the eye. Wordlessly, she reached for the bandage around his eye. She unwrapped it carefully and examined the skin around it.
"How does it look?" he asked getting a little self conscious after a bit. She said nothing, got a fresh bandage and began to wrap it up again.
"Why won't you talk to me?" he asked when she was done. She looked at him, huffed and turned to walk away.
Katara leaned against the door and took a deep breath. When he was a giant mass of cuts, wounds and bandages, it was much easier to treat him as the enemy. Finding the body of a god under it all was playing merry hell on her resolve. It didn't help that he was being nice. And those eyes...
She'd had to remind herself several times that he was the enemy and couldn't be trusted. He was one of those lying back-stabbing Northerners. They had destroyed her home for crying out loud! Her mother was dead and her father had never been the same since that dreadful day.
Clutching her clipboard for dear life, she hurried down the halls to her own room, far away from the prisoner. Tears ran down her cheeks as she did. This couldn't be happening again... not again.
Jet had been one of those guys; the bad boy, the one every girl longed to tame. He had been at the canteen when she was there with her friend Toph. She had been telling Katara about her encounter with the then new Navy pilot, Aang, when Jet came up and asked her to take a look at one of his buddies' wounds. Meeting his eyes for the first time had made her heart flutter. On top of being gorgeous beyond anything she could imagine, he was quite the catch. Every woman for miles around was sure to be positively green when they heard!
Two weeks of meeting in her office after hours so he could walk her to her bunker had sealed her fate. She was hooked. Their first kiss brought everything she ever imagined to life. He was so suave and smooth and such a rogue... she couldn't help it. She was sure he was hers. He would do anything for her...
Then she had found him one night, getting into the army base files in her father's office. She was the only one with another copy of the key to his office so she would naturally be allowed to take a look at them, but for him to invade her and her father's privacy like that...
She let him go but broke it off. Of course nobody understood why, and when he took a new girl just days after they broke up, she confirmed her initial feeling; he had been using her.
He hadn't read anything incriminating thankfully, and he died a few weeks later in battle. He had tried to apologise, if only to keep her quiet. She wouldn't give him the time of day, and she was still bitter about it. She would not give any other man the chance to break her like that again. She had vowed that to herself and it had worked just fine for her so far...
Now she had a handsome, wounded enemy soldier sitting in her infirmary and she had to make sure he was in perfect health for whatever it was her father had planned for him. Whatever it was, it wouldn't be good. Perhaps he would be used to test new drugs or weapons? She knew the scientists needed fresh tissue for their tests and that would require a healthy human being.
It was too gruesome to imagine the things that could happen to him, and still, how frightening it must be to find oneself within enemy lines. She could only imagine what it must feel like. All he wanted was someone to talk to, someone to empathise...
She shook her head. She had promised herself to never go back down that road and it would be a cold day in hell before she let herself be fooled again!
She nodded, stiffening her resolve. The patient was a prisoner of war. He would not charm her into divulging any important secrets. She would do her duty and move on with her life. There were other casualties in the army base that needed tending to anyway.
Zuko stood up slowly and hobbled to the little window in the wall beside his bed. He could see very little beyond it. There was a wide cobblestone yard stretching out for about fifty feet and beyond that, an electrical fence. Beyond that was an empty field that stretched on as far as the eye could see. He sighed. What he wouldn't give to be able to walk in open fields again without the worries of war and revolts and attacks.
His sweetheart would probably be told that he was missing in action. Mai never showed any emotion. She always pretended to be strong, but he could tell when she was upset or sad or even angry. He wondered if she would cry for him. He would probably never see her again...
"You're not supposed to be up. Get back in bed," came a voice from behind him. He turned to find his doctor glaring at him, clipboard in one hand and medicines in the other.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to have a look outside," he said. She was surprised that someone as strong as he was would be so resigned to his fate. She wondered if perhaps it was a ruse to get her to lower her defences. Either way, she lowered her guard for a few minutes and obliged to respond.
"You are in a fragile condition and so you should rest. You will undo all my work in that case." She set the medicines down and began work on his wounds once again.
He said nothing as she checked him and scribbled on her clipboard.
"How am I?" he asked when she was done.
"You'll live," she said simply and walked away. Zuko stared at the door through which she had left for a long time. It was a start. She had talked to him. If he was going to die there, he might as well get used to that fact and enjoy what little pleasure life had to offer. At that moment, it was a beautiful blue-eyed doctor with a clipboard and a strange resolve to never be civil with him.