A/N: I know, I know I'm a bad author skipping around all different categories and never finishing a story. What can I say aside from sorry? Anyway, I've been watching nothing but Avatar this summer and I've fallen back in love with the series and characters all over again. That being said, this plot bunny has been attacking me relentlessly for a good long while now.
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender is not, in any way, shape or form mine. And it never will be.
Avatar: The Fall
Chapter 1- Understanding
"This is water from the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole. It…it has special healing properties. Maybe it could heal your scar." The waterbender's crystal blue eyes looked deeply into Zuko's golden ones, pleading with him to let her at least try and help.
"Katara," he mumbled with a hint of uncertainty, "What if you need it for something important? This scar…it's not like I'm not used to it by now. I'm not ashamed of it anymore either. Besides, I thought you guys hated me."
Katara shook her head, her eyes set and determined, "Zuko, we don't hate you…at least, I don't hate you. You've been banished by your father who sent you on a fool's errand just because you spoke out of turn at a meeting!" She put her hand on his shoulder as she saw him wince at the memories, "Did you know that Aang wasn't unfrozen until a year after your father told you to find him?"
Zuko's eyes widened in shock and he locked eyes with the waterbender, "W-what? You mean…you mean he knew? He knew that he was sending me out in the hopes that I would never find the Avatar?" The fire prince could feel his heart wrenching and tearing at this information.
His father really didn't love him.
"I'm so sorry Zuko, I really am." Katara soothed gently as she took one of his hands in hers giving it a soft squeeze, "If your father really loved you, he would never have banished you for speaking your mind, he would never have sent you to accomplish what was then an impossible task, and he would never have given you this scar."
Zuko fell to his knees in shock; his entire world was falling apart all around him. Tears made their way down his pale face as he hunched over, his hands supporting him as his body was racked with sobs.
Katara immediately followed him down, rubbing soothing circles on his back. The sobs that he let out were deep and long, as if his very soul was dying. He sounded as if he'd just lost everything he loved.
Her heart broke for him.
She wrapped her arms around him, bringing the prince close to her and letting him bury his face in the crook of her neck. She could feel the tears as they soaked through her clothes, but she didn't care. Zuko needed this, she was sure of it. Maybe this was the final closure he needed to be completely free of the war going on in his soul.
As he cried into Katara's embrace, Zuko couldn't explain why he felt so safe, so…loved there. This woman comforting him had absolutely no reason to be helping him. In fact, she had every reason not to.
In the past year the only thing that he had done to her, to them, was give them no end to their grief. He had relentlessly pursued them in order to get back into his father's good graces-a feat that he now knew was never supposed to be achieved. How could she…why would she feel the urge to console him, much less trust him?
He choked back a sob, breathing deeply as he steadied himself. Pulling away slightly, Zuko looked straight into Katara's concerned eyes.
She gave him a small smile, "That pretty much covers all the bases, doesn't it?"
Despite not wanting to, Zuko felt his lips twitch upward at her comment before the volume of the situation came back to him, "Why Katara?"
Without missing a beat the waterbender answered, "Because I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Because maybe if you hadn't lost your mother none of this would have happened and you would have been a happy child. Because everyone needs a shoulder to cry on. And because I know you're a good person."
Zuko's eyes widened in shock as he stared into the deep blue pools before him, completely and utterly speechless. She thought he was a good person? But hadn't he been ruthlessly hunting the Avatar and his friends these past few years? How could she just…forgive him like it was nothing?
A second chance she'd said.
Everyone deserved a second chance, even him. For the first time since he'd been scarred and banished by his father, he smiled.
"Thank you Katara," he whispered, tears of relief brimming in his eyes, "Thank you."
With that, he buried his face in the crook of her neck once more, feeling freer than he had in a long, long time.
They stayed like that, their arms wrapped around each other and the occasional sniffle from Zuko, until Katara pulled back slightly. At Zuko's questioning look, she pulled the phial of water over her head and quickly emptied it into her hands. The liquid glowed an ethereal blue before forming a glove of water over her hand.
"Just relax and let me heal you Zuko. It might hurt a little, but that just means it's working so don't freak out."
He nodded in understanding as she put her encased hand up to his face and over the horrendous mark. A soft white light began to pulse as she started and a sharp pain lanced through the scar before the skin began to re-stitch itself. Despite the ache, Zuko found that it didn't really bother him. Begrudgingly he realized that this was probably due to the fact that he had grown used to the agony some time ago.
Her face was screwed up in concentration and Zuko took this time to examine her more closely. And she was nothing short of physically stunning.
Dark brown locks tied in one long braid and pulled into two delicate loops fell from her forehead. Her eyes were a deep, pure blue that evoked thoughts of the ocean in Zuko's mind. Hidden within their seemingly calm and serene depths was the same ferocity and danger as the sea. He'd been on the receiving end of both more times than he cared to admit.
Her smooth, chocolate colored skin gave her an exotic beauty that made her all the more tempting, especially to someone who was used to the pale and drab redundancy of the Fire Nation's female populace.
Zuko felt himself flush when it finally dawned on him how close the two of them were.
That, and he was finally starting to open his eyes in regards to her as a female instead of just one of the Avatar's sidekicks.
Katara had brought her other hand up to cup his face, seeming to use it to even the effects of the healing out. Another sharp sting caused Zuko to wince and clench his fists in order to prevent himself from grunting in pain. Now focused on his healing, he realized that he could actually feel his skin knitting itself back together little by little.
It was an interesting sensation, to say the least.
Finally, Katara pulled away, a shaky sigh escaping her lips. She fell, sitting back on her knees, exhaustion evident on her face.
"Katara?" Zuko questioned, concerned for the water bender who had gone pale.
Opening her eyes, Katara looked up into the Fire Prince's worried gaze and smiled at him, "You look even better than before. Much more handsome." With that, the young bender collapsed backwards, her eyes rolling up into her head.
Zuko reacted instinctively, shooting up and catching her before her head could connect with the ground.
Sitting down slowly, he gently pulled her head onto his lap, frowning when she didn't stir. It was then that he noticed the sweat on her forehead, and his frown deepened.
'I guess…I guess healing my scar took a lot more out of her than she thought it would.'
His eyes shot open and his hand flew to his face, Katara's words ringing in his ears, 'You look even better than before. Much more handsome.'
Tentatively, almost as if he was scared, Zuko ran his hand over the left side of his face where the symbol of his banishment resided.
And felt nothing but smooth, healed skin.
Eyes wide and mouth open in shock, Zuko could barely breathe as his fingers brushed the once scarred flesh of his cheek and moved over the eye that he'd been unable to see out of for years. Now both were unblemished as though nothing had been marred in the first place.
Glancing down in awe at Katara, the Fire Prince couldn't help but let a few more tears fall down his cheeks, relishing the feel of the drops that ran down the left side of his face. She had really done it! She'd really healed him!
He smiled slowly when he noticed that her breathing had evened out, the steady rise and fall of her chest signaling that she had fallen asleep. She looked so calm, so…peaceful.
Something stirred within him as he took in her slumbering form. A sudden desire to run his fingers through her hair overtook him, and he complied, tenderly moving a few strands out of her face and behind her ear.
Despite everything they had gone through and everything he had ever done to this girl and her friends, she had found it in her heart to forgive him. Somehow, she had seen something within him that was worthwhile and she was willing to take a leap of faith.
Someone, aside from his uncle, had seen fit to trust him and give him hope, not shun him like his family had.
And he'd be damned if he was going to betray that trust.
A/N: So there you have it, chapter one. I've got to say, the moment Aang and Iroh burst into the catacombs and interrupt Katara and Zuko's "moment" has pissed me off to no end ever since the first time I saw it. Damn that bald little Airbender! Anyway, hope you enjoyed this chapter. Stay tuned for the next one and please...a review wouldn't hurt.