disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Jess, even if I know she's never going to read this. please smile.
notes: I have wanted to write this pairing for a very long time.

title: fairytales for the disenchanted
summary: We grow up and the world turns us into broken, angry things. — Zuko/Katara.

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(The storybooks we read as children didn't tell us that the monsters under our beds are the creatures we become when—)

Katara hunkered down behind a boulder, snarling underneath her breath. Steam hissed from the ground around her, the earth crackling with heat beneath her feet. It was misty, too cold then too hot, and the sun burned through the steam in soft shafts of light that just made her angrier.

She was going to kill him.

She was going to kill him.

The steam bent at her will, first to a globe of water, then a dagger made of ice and Katara's fingers closed around it, the edges digging into her palm but never drawing blood. She was going to kill him, and revenge would be very sweet, and—

"Where are you, you—" and the list of expletives ran long. She would have called him every name under the sun, from booger-breath to smokey (but then, weird nicknames were Toph's thing—Katara didn't really have the hang of it), but she had no idea where he was, and—

"Are you trying to kill me?!" he yelled, frantic and far away, and Katara rained ice in that direction just to make him angry.

"What do you think?" she shrieked over the mist.

"I think," he hissed in her ear, "you lose."

There was sharp, cold metal at her throat, and a solid body at her back. Zuko had her trapped between slitting her jugular and curling back into him to avoid bleeding out. Katara clenched her jaw, and forced herself not to move a muscle.

"So," she breathed through gritted teeth, "are you going to let me go?"

He rumbled in a way that could have been laughter, but Katara had the distinct impression he was sneering at her. She would have stabbed her elbow into his gut, but then—well, Katara wasn't ready to die yet.

"Waiting for the steam," he muttered.

Katara nearly hissed and bit him. He knew her too well—she didn't consider a fight over until one of them was knocked unconscious. Yue knew that they'd fought over who won enough as it was.

But that was what Katara and Zuko did. They fought.

She bared her teeth. Punctuated every word. "Let. Me. Go."

"Not yet."

Katara could have screamed as the steam slowly cleared, and she knew she'd lost. Anger was a comforting fizz just underneath her skin, colouring her cheekbones dark with rage. She was going to kill him—she was just going to kill him

She was pretty sure he could feel the fight draining out of her. The dagger clattered to the ground but his hands lingered there, pressing into her pulse and catching her breath low in her throat, a pleasant hum dancing along her skin. Shivers and electricity—and Katara remembered electricity, remembered the way he caught it to keep her alive.

She twisted around to look at him. "Zuko?"

There was something dark in his gaze, something burning and possessive and—oh. Oh.

She'd forgotten he could affect her like this.

He kissed her fast and furious, raw need and a strange, desperate sort of want that nearly swept her up and carried her far, far away, to a world where there was no war and no Fire Nation and no Aang—

Katara gulped, and shoved him away.

Aang.

Oh, Aang.

Katara stared at Zuko with haunted eyes. There was so much anguish in his face that she nearly forgot everything anyway.

But she couldn't.

"I—" she stuttered. "I—"

"Just. Katara. Just—"

She shook her head twice, furious tears sloshing behind her eyes. "I hate you. I hate you."

She wheeled, and ran blindly forward. She needed to get away. She needed to get away so badly. It shouldn't have to hurt this much, and she needed to get away before she did something that they would both regret.

And so she did.

(we grow up and the world turns us to broken, angry things.)

fin.