This is definitely the longest chapter I've ever written, I wrote all of it in one day as well. I know where's my social life? XD I've added a different twist on the story and I tried to slot it into canon. Credits to whoever can spot which quotes are from which episode.
Zuko'sbiggestfangirl, ArrayePL, Spammy93, Cate Bishop and theconscience. Who reviewed on the last chapter. You guys rock!
The Complete and Utter Top Secret Journal of Kasumi
Yesterday, the Waterbender, Katara blew up the water mains in Zhao's ship. Yeah, I mean BLEW IT UP. Like a fricken ninja. Just in the nick of time too, it seemed like that Side burned F****** was getting pretty suspicious of us (Usually I'm there to give him a foul mouthed lecture-hehehe) Oh I do miss those days that me and Zuko used to send him hate-hawk mail….
She was scarily amazing though, pulled water out of thin air and made some swooshy mooshy motion and BABOOM… She told me she'd condensed the moisture in the air then froze it which blocked up the pipes and the ship caused its own inflicted doom.But to be fair, I was my idea to blow up the ship
I've never really thought about using defensive power against the opposition. She used the opponent's power against them; she said too much power possessed by one person was dangerous. I'd say she was in a hell lot of danger.
Which of course, she is.
Mom said that's what Waterbenders actually do, defence is their speciality. She also wants to be begin the lessons of society, which basically means prancing around with a fan and kimono and speaking all posh and pouring tea. I call them "Ladylike lessons". Seeing as I'm almost sixteen, I'm supposed to start finding a suitor and acting like a Fire Nation Lady.
Zuko's scared. He's more than scared, he terrified that Zhao's put the pieces together and discovered the ship's secret. (Katara.)
Personally I like Katara.
She's all kick ass and what not and she doesn't eat people. (Thank Agni) I might watch her spar with Zuko sometime cause Jee and Ty watched it when I was on helmsman duty and they said it was legendary.
The Prince steals quite a lot of glances at her-mainly when he thinks no-one is looking. At first I thought it might be her appearance that attracts all this attention. She's pretty flat chested. (Still bigger than me!), but it's not that.
Sometimes she looks back, catches him looking. Her face turns crimson and Zuko just seems…sad?
Either way, I'm going to find out.
She stood by the railings as Zhao's ship was enclosed by flame. It blazed along the horizon right along the coastline like the setting sun. She had done what Kasumi wanted; taken the ship for all it was worth. Condensing the water was easy, basic Waterbending. But as soon as they snuck back onto this ship, Zuko was at the wheel, already barking orders at his labour force.
When she had asked him why they were going so soon he just shook his head in a jerk, bangs shaking and told her to stay inside. She hadn't gone straight away, she just stared at him; trying to read him and worrying for both of their sakes until Zuko clenched his jaw too forcefully and screamed, "GO!"
He threatened to drag her inside if she didn't go herself.
She didn't know how long she spent in the corner of her room, rocking silently. She had curled her hands around her knees and refused to move even though she should have probably done something about her appalling appearance. She kept hearing shouts and orders alongside a multitude of screams and explosions. She hadn't washed for a while. Strands came out of her braid like a worn out shipping rope and she had bleeding cuts from the uneven air vent surface had grazed her on Zhao's ship.
Did I just…
When Iroh finally came in to tell her that it was safe to come out, she had run outside at her first opportunity. She stood there, clasping the cool railings until it cut into her palms. In her mind she was still rocking.
The ship was now just a flame flickering on the water. It looked like the tributes people used to lay on the ocean to respect the death of a loved one, but that was back in the Water Tribe. She raised a hand to her forehead and pulled back sharply. I'm burning up.
She felt a comforting hand on her shoulder to her left, it was rough and large and she recognised it; Lieutenant Jee. He shuffled awkwardly towards her and studied her expression, his narrowed tawny eyes scanning her face, he was way too close for her liking. She coughed awkwardly.
"Um, do you mind?"
He gave her a small smile. "Sorry, I was just wondering…"
She gave a shaky sigh, Yeah I know.
"Did I blow it up?"
He gave a sheepish shrug and rested his elbows next to her on the railing; he had to bend down because of his tall frame but he managed it and stared at the horizon just like her. "Well, didya?"
She laughed, he reminded her of her Dad so much. All that dorky behaviour and his futile attempts to try and understand his two teenage children. Despite herself she found her eyes filling up. She missed him more than she could muster.
Jee's brow softened, "Hey you don't have to cry about it!"
Furiously she wiped them away. She had become so tearful recently and she had called her friends names when they cried back at the Water tribe. Dammit Katara, grow up!
"Yeah I did,"
"Seriously? How did you…?" He stopped to see her expression, she could feel her face crumpling up with dread and he stopped, smiling weakly. "Never mind,"
"I have a daughter just like you, y'know,"
She wiped her eyes and pondered on the thought. Jee had kids? She'd never thought soldiers were even allowed to marry, let alone begin a family.
"Yeah that's right," he carried on, smirking at her bewilderment. "She's a bit younger than you but I can read her like a book, she tries so hard to hide her true feelings, especially when she's upset," he trailed off and stared at the horizon with a sad smile etched on his features. He's thinking about her right now. Katara stared down at her clenched fists on the railings and silently wondered if Hakoda was thinking about her too.
"It's okay to speak y'know,"
"Yeah," she began, still clutching the rails. "I used to tell my friends everything, I…" she tilted her head to peer at the grey sky. "I used to be so open,"
"I understand," Jee said immediately.
"No, you don't," she replied sharply. No-one could possibly understand what she was going through right now.
A solider could never relate her experiences.
"I haven't seen my kids in a long time, Katara," he stated solemnly.
"Oh, I'm sorry"—
"Don't be." He finished, he wiped his hands on his uniform. "Anyway, it's you we have to worry about, not me,"
"Why, am I in trouble? I mean I know I stole some fried fish from Korin but"—
"AhHa, how can you be making jokes at this moment?"
She shook her head. A Joke? She hadn't laughed for a good while. Maybe I do have a trait of Sokka in me…
Jee chuckled. "Shall we say a prayer?"
She cocked an eyebrow. "What for?"
"For the men that died today,"
She froze-dread and self-hatred weighed down her body like heavy sacks, she felt her whole frame tighten just to hold herself up in a dignified way.
Jee frowned. "You didn't know..."—
She shook her head viciously. "Who died, Jee?" her voice cracked and strained.
"—it's not anyone you would have known…"
"I don't care,"
"Agni, Katara, you didn't know…"—
Jee's eyes shone with strange fear. "Please don't…" he pleaded quietly.
"Tell me now."
"Quite a few of Zhao's soldiers died today, Katara. Sailors aren't taught how to swim in the Fire Nation. It makes them loyal to their ship-so they can't abandon it. Many of those soldiers drowned to death…"
"No," she was vaguely aware of her shaking her head. "That's not true,"
"I can't believe you didn't know…Zhao was furious, I think he knew about you. What with the shouting and all. Zuko had to get us all out of there real quick or…"
She didn't hear the rest.
Her whole body actually shook with terror as she raced inside. She raised a tanned, trembling hand to her face and found that there were shameful tears rolling down her cheeks. She thought of all the times she had imagined herself killing in those harmless imaginary games back in the Water Tribe. How could she have joked about that in contentment when the harsh reality was this painful?
You killed today, Katara. You killed many men. Some of them were probably Father's just like Jee.
In her mind she saw children receiving the messenger hawk of their Father's death. She saw them weep and mourn and draw their swords in revenge—
She kept running, even though she had nowhere to go. To her horror, in addition to the tears, she felt bile rising up her throat. I need something right now. A bowl. A Sink. Anything!
To her left, she registered that the captain's quarters was easily accessible. Did he have a sink in there? Either way she burst through the door and ran through it. Towards the end of the room was the fold screen and the same bathtub he had bathed in the night before. In the left hand corner was a low sink, the same height as a toilet. She leaned over it, her breathing heavily laboured.
"Katara what in Agni's…"—
Zuko was cut off when he heard gagging and Katara's own whimpering.
She didn't care how humiliating it was that he was seeing her like this or that she looked a complete mess, all she could think about was murder.
You killed. You killed. Murderer, murderer.
After a while she felt a hand on her lower back, it rubbed in soothing circles and helped with the nausea almost immediately.
Numbly, her brain managed the register what he was saying. "It's alright, its okay. It's over; it's all over now…"
When she had finished retching, she collapsed into his arms and they sat in a sprawled mess in the corner of the room. For that moment, he was her stronghold.
He rocked her ever so slowly as she took deep, painful breaths against his chest. She didn't care who he was or what he meant, she just needed something, someone. He didn't quite know the extent of her "Thank You,"s. She noted they fitted nicely together; her resting against his chest, her head titled on his shoulder, he muffled her cries.
"It will get easier," Zuko stated softly.
She struggled in vain to hold back any more tears, she had never expected Prince Zuko to be a so gentle. Prince Zuko won Drinking Game every month, Prince Zuko, the angst-filled teenager who would obsess over practicality.
Maybe he just understood the pain.
She swallowed and looked up to study his expression; his jaw was set and his Adam's apple bobbed in front of her. How had he gotten this close? He radiated heat.
"It's alright, Katara,"
She shook her head vigorously. "No it's not,"
"Yes, it is," he murmured, eye's flashing. "The first time is always the hardest, but the second time and the third, fourth and countless times after that…You don't feel like this anymore,"
She wanted to tell him that this was wrong. That she had never even considered…
When she did, he responded with; "We are the choices we make, but we cannot choose our destiny," He paused to stare at her. Right at her, like he had before he won drinking game. "I haven't had that freedom in a long time,"
She didn't know how long they spent just savouring each other's company, but when she awoke in the morning, she was lying in his bed. Someone had pulled over an extra woollen quilt for her. But Zuko had already gone to morning training.
For the Prince, things were beginning to look up.
He appreciated the fact that the crew had now developed a sufficient routine in favour of Katara's benefit. They accepted her willingly and he was grateful for it.
Usually he awoke at sunrise, like most of the Firebenders, however he trained alone on the front deck, permitting the soldiers to join him when he was feeling generous. (Not very often). Then it was Physical exercises outside with the crew and Iroh, followed by meditation indoors.
It was only after that when he ate breakfast-which was usually Jook with added cinnamon- Kasumi and Katara usually woke up at around this time, where they would discuss the course of action for that day (and sometimes build a Jook-canon and fired it AT HIM), then he'd send the orders for the day and addressed the crew (BLAH BLAH). For the rest of the day, it was either intense training or navigation with a quick lunch thrown in there somewhere. Then an evening meal from Fang, the ship's cook and finally bed.
Kasumi and Katara had quickly become the official troublemakers of the ship. They joked around, they fought with eachother (and the crew when his back was turned), and Kasumi wrote some hate-mail to Zhao and then Katara would practice Shamishen, which she had learnt back in the Water Tribe and Kasumi would sing along (badly).
But most of the day, the only highlight was running into one of the two girls. They had been busier than ever recently. The crew had been collecting any evidence of the Avatar they could find; usually this was from scraps of newspaper or occasionally a spoken recount of what they had heard from nearby civilians. He had heard the Avatar could run faster than the wind and whisk up tornadoes, but that was all Fire Nation propaganda, wasn't it? Zuko was reluctant to allow Katara off the ship, in fear of discovery so he left her in charge whilst he gathered supplies. This was a good routine, because unlike Kasumi, she aided Korin with her quest to clean the ship.
He had noticed that Katara was close to turning 15. In the Fire Nation, 15 year old girls were supposed to give up their general studies and begin to take up domestic skills and the arts. They were supposed to dispose of their play clothes and trade them for kimonos and fold fans and Obis. They would learn the rules of society and begin to court a line of suitors in preparation of finding a suitable husband.
He wondered if it was like that in the Water Tribe.
If that was the reason she ran.
If so she was making the most of what freedom she currently possessed.
He watched her as she fought with Kasumi, she wore only a blue wrapped Kimono top, with ripped white pants and her brown hair fell in a long braid down her back; only occasionally she let the curls out. (Which he liked best).
She joked with Sailors (The dirtiest of all kinds) who were double her senior, she was ridiculously good at fighting whereas she could master the arts as well—though she choose not to (Kasumi's influence). She could tell if something was wrong due to her instinct and her wisdom matched this; when she ALMOST defeated Iroh at his own game of Pai Sho. In all honesty he was slightly jealous of women. How could contain their dignity when mastering skill and society?
It was beyond him for sure.
Another highlight of the day was that Katara had agreed to spar him in the evenings.
And she trained in her underwear.
It came as a shock to everyone, really. But when she appeared for their first spar he was so a-taken back that he spilled tea down his armour, which she kindly bent out afterwards. She held her head high when Ryu began cat-calling, instead just raising an eyebrow at him and sighed. Zuko assumed it was part of her culture that she trained which such a lack of clothing so he didn't say anything in fear he might offend her.
He bowed, she mimicked the Fire Nation bow and it began.
She was a skilled fighter; there was no denying that; the way she moved was elegant, yet wild. He had to block many of her moves, so he could get a better look at them. It was quite a struggle though, she constantly threw attacks at him and he could feel her getting agitated that he wasn't attacking back.
"Why won't you fight back?" she called in frustration.
In response he fired a blast that singed off the split ends of her braid.
She raised her eyebrows. "You're still holding back!" she taunted.
He rolled on his back to dodge the array of icicles that smashed into the metal next to him. It was true. He was holding back, he wanted to study her properly before he made an approach. He dodged another blast and hid round a pillar.
"This isn't a game of hide and explore, Zuko!" she shouted.
He promptly turned, flames in his fists to extinguish the ice canon she fired. "Oh really," he replied, wiping his hands on his tunic. "I thought seeing as you obviously can't touch me…"—
She replied with a jet of ice-cold water splashing in his face.
"Woah," he said quietly as he shook his bangs. "That really wakes you up,"
She appeared to his left, smirking in her white wrappings, soaking wet…
Without thinking he spun on the ground and kicked to create a wave of flame and she responded by matching them with an equally powerful (If not more) water whip. "You can't knock me down!" she responded triumphantly.
He ran closer like a charging Komodo dragon. Okay let's try a different technique.
The game turned into hand combat, she blocked his punches with forms he had never seen before, her fingers curled like a Mantis. "You've gotten stronger," she noted.
"So have you," he replied as he ducked from one of her whips.
She was an expert at dodging; he couldn't aim a full attack on her. If she would just stay STILL for one damn minute in her entire life.
He fired some attacks at her head, so he could prevent her from gaining the upper hand. She would have to duck, right?
"Basics, Zuko! Basics," he could hear his Uncle calling from the side-line. Yes basics, think back…
His plan was in action, Katara lost her balance and struggled on the floor; she was used to shifting ground; like an icy tundra. It was hard for her to adjust to the stability she now crawled on. Desperately she made an ice fortress around her broken form (he noted that she had smashed her shoulder) but he knew it was no use. He smashed through it with one punch and they both screamed and shouted at the impact.
"Stay away!" she screamed as his full force landed on her.
"Get off me!"
"Hey stop it," he replied sternly. "You're hurting," She was bashing against his chest. Did this woman ever give up?
Unexpectedly she shot some water from the air into his eyes and he lurched back in shock, instantly it was his back that was pinned on the ground, but his weight was too much for her and they rolled together, grunting as they did so.
He didn't draw fire, he could've singed her. Instead he shielded her body and took the force of the blow when they made contact with the ground once again. Well, aren't I the perfect gentleman?
Instead of being the perfect lady she slapped him in the face and jumped back to her feet.
He blinked at the sting and distantly he could hear his crew in hysterics. He could make out Kasumi's delighted squeals; "Yeahhhh! You go, Katara!"
In pure rage he launched himself at her, aiming to wind her by tackling her in the stomach. She made a taunting gesture and beckoned him towards her, bending over slightly. "Come and get me!" she called.
Oh you're in for it now.
He smashed into….hard.
It was hard and cold and it wasn't Katara.
It was an ice wall and Katara was behind it. Before he could register what was happening a whip of water came out from nowhere and hit him hard in the groin.
He bent over in excruciating pain and he felt her real weight slam into him. He whirled. She whirled. A result which ended with him slamming into the bitter boards of the deck, his neck jerking from the impact, Katara straddling him, her tanned hands lay on his tunic front.
He panted, she panted, her hair had come out of its braid and curtained around her shoulders, falling over her chest. He couldn't quite describe how she looked. He was still trying to get his head around her underwear.
"WOOOO!" "YEAHHH!" "HAHA!"
His crew came into view, he had almost forgotten they were there and they were watching. For the moment it was just him and Katara and that was all that mattered.
Men appeared from their watching posts, they had been wearing their helmets.
Kasumi gave Katara the hand up and high fived her best friend, then she laughed at Zuko and gave him a hand too. He winced at the sudden movement, he realised he was covered in bruises. He whirled to Katara and sure enough she was suffering from the same injuries as him, her shoulder looked slightly disjointed and out of place.
Ty came to attend to her wounds at once and Zuko pulled a face. It was evident that he showed an interest in her. Didn't he have a sweetheart at home to wait on him like everybody else? Still, it annoyed him when he acted like this. Ty was just a Private after all.
He glanced up to the clouds as he rubs his wounds; the helmsman gave him the thumbs up from his crow's nest. His moustache waved in the wind and he received a toothy grin. It surprised him how much support he had from his crew.
Korin arrived with sufficient medicine. She tended to Zuko's wounds by wrapping a bandage around the cut on his arm and dipping them in salt-water for cleansing. He winced at the stinging sensation and Korin rolled her eyes. "It's just a little graze, my Prince,"
Her eyes almost popped out of her head when she caught sight of Katara's state of dress. "What in Agni's name…"
"Oh stop fussing, Mom!" Kasumi had cut in, her cheeks flushing.
He could hear Ty from a few paces away murmuring to Katara. "I'm really sorry, but this might hurt…"
She took a deep breath and Ty slammed her shoulder into the metal wall. She gasped with the pain but everyone heard the "pop" when her bone clicked back into place and knew that he'd done the right thing.
I could have done that. That should have been me.
He cursed himself that he was missing these simple opportunities to compliment her. Jee had already sneaked one in about her skill, his Uncle was gushing with praise. It wasn't like he wanted to want to compliment her anyway.
But it gave him peace of mind when he did.
The next day, things were returning to normal. He woke up saying to himself-"Today will be the day. The Avatar will come to me today. This will be it,"
It never usually was but that didn't stop him. The Avatar gave him hope.
It was a crisp morning, the coldness hit him like one of Katara's slaps and he was suddenly grateful for the insulation of his armour uniform. Iroh greeted him as usual and they ran over a few fire bending forms (which he had literally perfected), only to receive Iroh's silent stare to replace the expected praise.
"What's wrong, Uncle?"
"There's a storm coming, Prince Zuko, a big one,"
Zuko followed his point of direction and raised an eyebrow at his Uncle, "You're out of your mind, Uncle-there's not a cloud in sight, it's perfect,"
Iroh frowned at his nephew, Zuko could see his eyebrows furrow across his worried eyes. "Listen, Prince Zuko-there is a storm approaching directly from the North, I suggest we alter our course and head southwest…"—
"Right back to where we started? I don't think so, we'd be handing ourselves over to a furious Zhao,"
"We will have to confront him eventually, Zuko. We need to stop off at a harbour at least for the night," Iroh spoke with a sternness that made Zuko stop and consider.
He took a deep breath. "We know that the Avatar is travelling northeast, so we will do the same,"
"Zhao is already ahead, Uncle! I'm not throwing away the slim chance of returning home because of your Old Man Superstitions- When I actually see a cloud with my own eyes, then I will consider docking for the night," he trailed off and stared at the horizon-there wasn't any clouds. "Until then, we continue," he finished, softly.
"My joints tell me that…"
"It's your joints against my brain, Uncle," He smiled slightly at his Uncle's stupidity, had he even looked at the sky? It was cerulean blue, the greys he expected to emerge were absent from the skies portrait.
Iroh groaned, "You need to consider the safety of the crew as well, my Prince," he adjusted the cuffs of his morning robe. "It's not just you who will be in danger,"
Zuko knew where the general was going. Katara was evidently his new weakness and his Uncle had picked up on that. Feeling like that was infuriating and made him feel powerless; caring hurt. They contradicted eachother. It was a strange sensation-having someone he wanted to protect. He hated every moment of it.
"The crew know what they signed up for, the moment the set foot on this ship-they knew what dangers they might come up against. I don't doubt them,"
Iroh snorted fire; something he didn't do very often. "Don't pretend you don't care,"
Zuko locked his jaw. There is was again. Iroh was playing on his weakness. He did care, but he acted aloof-it made a man stronger that way.
When he didn't answer, Iroh shook his head, "You don't have to be noble all the time, Zuko,"
Something about the tone of his voice made him want to break down; he clenched his jaw tightly and stared at the ground.
"Please, just…don't, Uncle," he said quietly.
There was a sound behind him and he saw Jee and Ty emerging from the cabins, instantly the anger and annoyance (or was it jealousy) that he possessed for Ty before came flooding back towards him. He flushed and cursed himself for being so immature.
"I hope you all heard that," he said in a louder voice. "We're continuing North, despite rumours of a storm," He held his head high and tried his best to look passive.
Lieutenant Jee frowned and shot a quick glance at Iroh, "That's not fair, we could all be killed," he replied sternly.
His temper rose, where was their authority? This was his ship and he didn't need some weak-willed lecture on the decisions he was making. Didn't I just have this conversation with my Uncle?
He rose next to him and looked his faithful Lieutenant right in the eyes. He almost matched his height now, which gave him a secret ego-boost. I must be growing.
"Finding the Avatar is more important than any individual's safety," he growled, directed at Jee.
It was Ty who protested, "Your Highness, I…"
"You will learn to not speak out of turn,"
Ty continued his pitiful attempt to get his voice heard. "If I may…"
"Permission declined, Private,"
"Where is Kasumi?" he asked politely.
Jee narrowed his eyes angrily. "In the kitchen," he spat. "C'mon Ty, let's go practice those forms," He curled a hand round the younger man's shoulders and led him to the training space. Jee's words stung, they were aimed at him because it used to be Zuko, himself who sparred with his Lieutenant. It didn't matter now anyway, he was too advanced for Jee's easy go fire blasts.
Silently, he prayed to Agni that Ty would get his ass kicked by Jee and hopefully perish in the amidst of it.
She found him cross-legged in his room. All the windows had been blocked out and candles lay in front of him, leaping with energy when he inhaled and glowing back down when he exhaled. He seemed oblivious of her entrance.
He whirled and to her bewilderment he smiled. It was only a twitch on the corner of his mouth, but it was warmed her inside, he looked like the teenage boy he should have been. This was an improvement, I'm finally understanding him.
"Iroh said you might be hungry, so I bought you some steamed rice," she said quietly, blushing at the intensity of his gaze.
"Oh well, thanks," he grunted quietly. When she turned to leave discreetly, he coughed and gestured for her to stay. "Please," he motioned for her to sit next to him. "I can't eat all this by myself; I'm not that hungry,"
Her form deflated. So the rumours were true-Zuko didn't eat, he didn't sleep. Maybe he was on some kind of disciplined routine, some volunteers back at the South Pole did that once. They refused to eat and sleep they just sat there in the icy climate in the middle of the village, it didn't last very long though. Gran Gran got fed up with their idealistic fantasies and dragged them inside.
Hesitantly, she picked up the chopsticks and dug into some of the rice. Zuko watched intently, she felt her face warming up.
"Leave the jerky," he added. "I'll eat that later,"
She nodded and switched her chopstick direction, "I don't like jerky anyway," she replied.
Zuko did a double take. "Are you kidding? That's the best part," he said, withdrawing some chopsticks from his robe and helped himself to the other side of the bowl.
She chuckled slightly. "You'd get on so well with my brother," she added smiling at the thought.
There was a silence, just them digging into the meal then-"What's he like?" Katara raised her head. "Your brother, I mean," he added, flushing.
Katara smiled fondly and cocked her head. The presence of Sokka invaded her mind like a flood. "He's an absolute goofball," she laughed. "Really, he is. He's only one year and a half older than me, but he thinks he all it. He's actually one of the oldest in the village, meat is literally his life and he's mad about inventing things. This one time he created a watch tower made out of snow, it took him three whole days of intensive labour to finish it and my friend, Natsuki accidently destroyed it-he was furious,"
"How did that happen? It must have been a pretty pathetic Watch tower to just fall down just like that,"
"Oh no, it was majestic. But it was made out of snow and well…." She trailed off, remembering how it actually was destroyed. "It was my fault really; Natsuki wasn't all that great at Waterbending at the time so I was trying to teach her some cool moves I had learnt that day. But she obviously didn't have complete control over it and…" she made a crumbling gesture with her hands.
Zuko chuckled quietly; the jerky was almost finished now. "You're lucky that your brother didn't kill you, I think my sister would've,"
Katara frowned. "You have a sister?"
Zuko carried on stabbing the last piece of jerky with his chopsticks, it clanged as it made contact with the bowl. "Yeah, Princess Azula. You might've heard of her,"
Vaguely she remembered some male soldiers returning from the courting season with some stories of a "Princess Azula," They weren't exactly the nicest stories she'd heard. "Yes, I remember now," she lay down her chopsticks and folded her hands on her lap. "I never heard anything about you, though,"
"The banished Prince isn't really important; I've been gone for three years now,"
"But your banishment should've sparked some stories at least?"
"I guess," he pushed the jerky on its side. "My Father didn't want many people to know about it, he was ashamed, I suppose. But he won't be for long,"
"I know," she agreed. "You'll find the Avatar soon,"
"I know so," she had some instinct that it was the Avatar's destiny to interlink with theirs soon and when he did, they'd be ready for him. "I'll help you,"
Zuko's face brightened slightly, the darkened. "You can't, it's too dangerous,"
She scoffed, and picked up the chopsticks again. "You're not my Father,"
Zuko rolled his eyes. "Have you been with Kasumi all day?"
Zuko smirked slightly. "Very funny," he paused slightly, "So your Father is alive?" There was a sense of relief in his voice.
"Yes," she said happily. "He's absolutely the opposite of you; he's jokey like Sokka and not at all brooding like you,"
"I do not brood,"
"Yes you do, what are you doing now then?"
Zuko blanched and placed the chopsticks next to hers. "I'm meditating for your information,"
"Meditating, Firebenders do it to control their breathing…and their temper for that matter,"
She snorted. "So you just sit there and…"
"Come here, I'll show you,"
She shuffled over to him and crossed her legs in an undignified manner. "So now what?"
"Shhh, I'm meditating,"
She peered at his form and tried to mimic what he was doing; she folded her hands in her lap and breathed in and out to match his breath. They sounded ridiculous together and eventually she broke down in giggles.
Zuko broke a smile, his eyes still closed. "You're a failure, daddy is disappointed,"
She blinked. "Did you just make a joke?"
"No," he replied and continued his breathing ritual.
She laughed and regained her composure. "Thank You." He murmured, still in mediation mode but he had stopped the breath control.
"You're just about the only person today who hasn't got on my nerves,"
"Really?" She twiddled her thumbs. "I thought I do a great job of annoying you,"
"Well…" he let out a heavy sigh. "You don't,"
"Only when I kick your ass when we spar?"
"That's a different story,"
"Oh c'mon, that was fun wasn't it?"
"You slapped me in the face,"
She flinched, flushing as she twiddled with one of her loopies. "Oh sorry about that, natural instinct you know…"
"Well, your instinct hurts,"
She laughed but he didn't join in. "I thought I was finally figuring you out, Zuko, but it turns out I know nothing about you after all," she murmured.
"That's not true," he began, opening his eyes. "You know enough about me to know that I'm not like other Fire Nation soldiers,"
She cut him off; there was something she needed to know. "Who are you really?"
He was silent for ages, as if he was contemplating some dramatic answer, something that would really impress her. When she was finally beginning to regret she had asked the question he said, "I'm here, I'm your rescuer and that's all that matters now,"
Overhead she heard the patter of raindrops on the metal frame and shadows of shooting droplets fell over her skin. "It's raining," she began in awe. "How is that even possible? It was perfect only an hour ago…"
She trailed off when she saw the disgruntled look on Zuko's face. "Dammit," he murmured and then swore some other words under his breath.
"Stay here, Katara," He began to get up and she followed. "What did I just tell you?" he snapped.
She felt that similar rising sensation build up in her. "The last time this happened wasn't the most enjoyable experience, Zuko," she stated darkly. "Let me come out!"
His voice cracked a little, she saw his frame crumple-"Please, just stay here,"
He groaned, gave her one last pleading look and exited the room. One moment later she followed.
Outside, the weather was turning. It had become notably darker and growing up next to the sea; her instincts told her that they were all in danger. Rain thundered on the metal, rebounding back harshly to sting their ankles. Thunder rumbled overhead.
"Zuko, we need to get out of here…."—
"Well, lookie here," came the mocking voice of Jee. He and the other members of the crew were out on deck watching the state of the sky in a formation of cumulonimbus clouds. "I guess your Uncle was right about the storm after all,"
She could see Zuko flinch from behind him, his back went rigid and he whirled. "Lieutenant!" he shouted. "You'd better learn some respect, or it will teach you," he finished menacingly, jabbing a finger in his chest. That's what his Father said wasn't it. Katara mused-this was how Zuko coped during bad situations; he tries to be strong, apparently, just like his Father.
"What do you know about respect?" Jee sneered back, with General Iroh making a slicing gesture across his neck as he did so. Zuko stopped in his tracks.
"The way you're talking to everyone today, you're shouting at your hard-working crew and your esteemed Uncle which shows that you know nothing about respect. We're all worried about our own safety, whilst you only care about yourself and your honour," Jee finished; he knew the impact he had on Zuko.
Iroh slapped his forehead.
Kasumi entered, "Whoa that's some storm," she said casually. "We better get this ship to safety before…" she stopped when she realised the whole crew was in solemn silence.
Zuko whirled round and held his hands out in a defensive posture, Jee copied and soon their wrists were locked next to eachother. The circled one another menacingly-there was no bow at the start of this fight. It wasn't anything honourable.
"Easy now," Iroh added quietly.
Steam juddered off Zuko's fingertips and she knew this had to stop.
"General Iroh!" she called "Do something!"
The General was already onto it, he slapped the two men's hands away from eachother and they retaliated, both their hands still balled in fists. "Enough!" he shouted. "Grow up both of you," he held his hands out in a compromise. "We are all just tired for being at sea for so long, I'm sure after a bowl of noodles, everyone will feel much better,"
"I already ate," Zuko spat, he shot a quick look at her and she blinked.
"This is no time for eating," she cut in.
"Katara's right," Kasumi added. "Look at the clouds,"
They did, the rain was even heavier now and flashes of lightning illuminated the clouds with eerie shadows.
"I don't need your help keeping order on my ship!" Zuko shouted.
"Don't get so wound up," Kasumi shouted back, not because she was angry, just to be heard over the downpour. "We need to work together and—Ahh!"
There was a massive crash and the boat seemed to sway in a way it shouldn't. The lightning had hid somewhere around the boiler. Smoke came out of the chimneys in an uncontrollable manner. Water flooded on deck and everyone widened their stances to regain their balance.
"Where were we hit?" Zuko asked.
"I don't know," replied Jee holding onto the railings in panic.
"I can bend the water back," she shouted, raising her arms in a complex form and throwing the liquid back into the angry ocean. "Move out the way!" she called.
Ah, she had missed her Waterbending.
There was another crash and she stumbled backwards, strong arms caught her and Private Ty was behind her. "Steady there," he shouted.
Zuko's good eye seemed to pop.
"Is she okay!"
"She's fine!" Ty shouted back.
"Stop fussing!" Katara replied.
"Look!" Iroh said and jabbed a finger at the broken chimneys. The helmsman had fallen out of the crow's nest and was dangling off the rails with a one hand hold. "What is going on?" Korin shouted as she came out of the cabins with a paper-reed umbrella. "Oh my…"
"The helmsman!" Zuko shouted and made his way to climb up the tower. Even from down on the deck you could hear the helmsman's grunts and cries for help. The ship rocked dangerously and a few times she saw them slip.
Jee followed at a close pace behind him and Katara realised what he was doing. He's sorry; he regrets what he's done. He's fighting.
And she would to.
"Kasumi get everyone safely inside, I'm going to try and calm the waters!"
Kasumi nodded. "You heard the girl!" she screamed. "Get your butts inside!"
She inhaled and sliced the water in half, one side controlled by each of her arms, they dispersed at her command.
Another lightning bolt crashed down it headed straight for her and… Iroh stepped in front of her and took the full shock of the bolt. She gasped.
"Iroh!" Kasumi screamed.
His whole body was glowing from the energy he possessed inside and with a jab of his other hand, the lightning shot off in the opposite direction.
"What in La's name…"—
"Ahh!" cried the helmsman above her and she looked just in time to see him loose his grip and fall…only to be held up by Zuko's arm, he dangled from the arm holds. Jee had his back and took the helmsman's hand. "Well done, your highness," They smiled up at eachother.
Once they were down, Zuko frowned at the two girls. "Get inside!" he screamed.
But Kasumi wasn't paying attention to him; she looked at the sea that was glowing a luminous blue beneath them. Something that wasn't natural.
It was him.
It was the Avatar.
He was just a boy.
He was controlling some kind of beast that looked like it could take the ship out in one swipe but he wasn't registering that. It was just the Avatar with his grey eyes and air bender tattoos that he was interested in.
"Attack!" he screamed. The Avatar was in reaching distance so he fired a multitude of blasts and they hit the boy, but only slightly. He dodged most of it but it singed his orange robe and shreds of it littered on the ship.
"Fire!" he screamed. "All of you! What are you waiting for?"
The crew were motionless.
The Avatar was further away now; he headed for the eye of the storm and straight out of the black clouds.
"No," The words were on his lips like a prayer.
"NO!" he screamed.
"We need to follow!" he shouted.
Jee looked away, his drenched hair sticking to his face. Iroh shook his head. Zuko turned away from them and looked back up at the sky.
It was grey.
The dullest and most mocking of colours.
He felt raindrops (and Dear Agni were they tears?) running down his bangs, and then trickling along his jaw.
For a moment, he didn't care about anything. He had just let the Avatar run out of his grasp, his only chance of returning home. Of regaining his honour.
His limbs moved without him controlling them, fire shot everywhere. Generated by his fists then by his kicks. He shot with everything he had. All his might, all his energy.
"We need to get inside!" Kasumi shouted behind him. "It's too dangerous!"
"Zuko!" Iroh was shouting. "Control yourself!"
Why should he? He'd been controlling himself all this time; he just needed to let all this frustration go.
Who was he angry at?
He fired a blast at his crew, but before it could reach them, it was extinguished by a wave of water. Katara stood in front of them, she was saturated, water dripped from her clothes in the same state she was when he rescued her.
"I don't want to fight you!" she called. "But I will if you get out of control!"
He balled his fists. He wasn't going to. Instead he turned to that cold, grey sky again.
"Why don't you just strike me!" he shouted. "You've never held back before, just take me and be done with it,"
And then her arms were around him. Like a warm, wave of security and safety.
He clung to her desperately, like she was the only object that was holding him together. Both of them sunk to the floor in their deflation and she held him tighter, stroking his back as she did so. They fitted so well together and he found himself thanking the spirits over and over again that he had rescued her on that stormy day.
"Katara, it's the Avatar, he's gone," he knew he sounded pathetic, but he could barely formulate articulate words at the moment.
"Shhh," she calmed him.
"It's like meditation remember," she whispered in his good ear. "Control your breathing,"
And with her words, he did.
Review and let me know what you think. I worked pretty hard on this chapter. 3