Summary: This is the scene in the Crystal Catacombs done over the way I would have wanted it to happen as a Zutara shipper. For now it's a one shot up to the point before Aang and Iroh arrive. If I feel inspired I might expand.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Avatar: The Last Air Bender.
Crossroads of Destiny: Zutara Style
Deep underground in the Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se, Katara waited in the green glow of the rock prison. Breaking the silence with the shuddering wrench of grinding stone, a rock portal opened and a second prisoner tumbled down the passage and landed in a heap at her feet.
"Zuko!" Katara's eyes opened wide in shock as he looked up at her.
Zuko lowered his gaze to the ground and silently turned from her. He nealt on the ground as she paced behind him.
"Why did they throw you in here?" She cried with exasperation. Her eyes narrowed, "Oh, wait, let me guess, it's a trap. So that when Aang shows up to help me, you can finally have him in your little Fire Nation clutches."
At this he turned and looked at her for a moment with questioning eyes, then quickly turned away again.
Katara continued her rant undeterred by his silence, "You're a terrible person, you know that? Always following us, hunting the Avatar, trying to capture the world's last hope for peace. But what do you care? Your're the Fire Lord's son: spreading war and violence and hatred is in your blood."
"You don't know what you're talking about." Zuko weakly tried to defend himself, he was nothing like his father, but these were the consequences of his actions.
"I don't?" She shot back at him, "How dare you? You have no idea what this war has put me through, me personally." Katara turned her back and, slumping to the ground, she fingered the pendant at her throat as tears flowed freely down her cheeks, "The Fire Nation took my mother away from me."
Zuko's eyes softened and he turned to her, "I'm sorry. That's something we have in common." These words and his passive demeanor softened her as she realized that they were not so different, that they had both suffered terrible losses because of this war the Fire Nation persued.
They stood in silence for many moments before Katara finally spoke, "I'm sorry I yelled at you before."
"It doesn't matter."
"It's just that for so long now whenever I imagine the face of the enemy it was your face."
Zuko brought his fingers up to his scar and turned away from her, "My face... I see."
"No. No, that's not what I meant," Katara stammered, startled at her reaction to his pain. Only minutes before she would not have cared that she had insulted the Prince, but now she felt differently, she didn't think of him as the enemy any longer, but as a man who'd lost as much as she.
"It's ok. I used to think this scar marked me. The mark of a banished prince, cursed to chase the Avatar forever. But lately I've realized I'm free to determine my own destiny even if I'll never be free of my mark."
"Maybe you could be free of it..."
"I have healing abilities," Katara said hopefully.
"It's a scar. It can't be healed," he returned, dismissing the idea.
Katara walked to face him and pulled a vial from her tunic, "This is water from the Spirit Oasis at the North Pole. It has special properties so I've been saving it for something important. I don't know if it would work, but..." Zuko bowed his head and closed his eyes as she reached up to touch the angry red scar on his face.
They stood like this for a long time, he contemplating the gesture this once enemy was offering and she whether or not he would be a better man without his mark. She felt the stiff, smooth skin around his eye, gently caressing from his brow to his shrivelled ear, then stroked the pads of her fingers back to his cheekbone, tracing the boundaries of the scar. Zuko hardly breathed, fearing she would shrink from him in disgust.
Katara took a deep breath and stepped closer to him so that her face was mere inches from his. He could feel her breath on his cheek. At last she uncorked the vial and withdrew a portion of the special water.
"No," he whispered as he gently grasped her hand and entwined his fingers with hers. "Thanks for the offer, but I think it's best left where it is."
She smiled up at him leaving her hand in his, "I understand." Tentatively, she reached up and placed her hand on his shoulder as she stood on tip toe to place a light kiss on his scar. Zuko breathed in her scent as he snaked his arm around her waist to pull her into a tight embrace.
His savior, his enemy, his friend. His whole life had just changed all because of this water bender. She held him just as tightly as tears streamed down her face. Her chin resting against his neck, she tangled her fingers in his hair and they held each other, neither wanting to let go.
After a time they pulled apart, her hands still at his shoulders, his still encircling her waist. They held each other's gaze until at last Katara sighed and looked to the ground, "So what now? We need to get out of here." They continued to hold hands, his right clinging to her left, as they gazed around the glowing catacombs.
"Well, neither of us is an earth bender. Maybe we should just wait. Like you said, the Avatar will come for you." Zuko guided her to the edge of the cave and sat down with his back to the crystal wall, pulling her down beside him.