Tender Nightmares

Part 2


It's starting to get familiar, and Katara isn't surprised to find Zuko, leaning against one of the baths sulking.

Annoyed, but unsurprised.

"You again." She doesn't even bother going to bend a water-whip. It's never worked before, she doesn't think it ever will. She sits on one of the baths and contents herself with glaring at him. "Why does this keep happening?"
"I don't know." Zuko's response is short and angry, but this is nothing new. He crosses his arms in front of his chest like a shield and looks pointedly away from her.

Which is fine.

Infuriating on some level.

But fine.

"I wish it would stop." She crosses her arms like he has and looks in the other direction, "I hate falling asleep only to find you here." She presses a hand to her forehead, "I hate it."
"Me too." Zuko looks up, not at Katara, but at the ceiling. They can't bend here. Normally that would be reason enough to be uncomfortable. But if anything, this place feels too at peace, too right. Its wrong to be at peace around him, Katara reminds herself, its wrong and its dangerous.

Zuko cannot be trusted.

"How's home?" The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. She doesn't care, but its the nature of the dream to ask. At least, that's the best guess she can muster.
"Fine..." He's lying, it might as well be stamped out on his forehead and its almost as irritating as his presence. He looks down, then up at her and exhales steam, "I...my father has welcomed me back with honor."
"That's great." Katara snarls, "Are you done trying to kill us then?" Her pulse races and she grips the stone until her knuckles turn white.
"Yes..." Zuko's reply is hushed and hurt, "the Avatar is dead." Katara looks up at him. She feels herself slip off the wall and walk over to him. Gritting her teeth against every easy step. Zuko's arms unfold, though you couldn't tell it from his eyes. Her hands catch his cheeks and look up at him as his arms fall limp to his side. "He isn't though..." Zuko sighs, "I know the Avatar is alive." His own hands rise up, his fingers brush the cool pendent of Katara's necklace, she closes her eyes and swallows. Its an invasion, every fiber of her being wants to hurt him, how dare he touch her necklace.

He's the prince of the fire nation.
He might as well have taken her mother himself.
He has no right to brush her memento so tenderly.
He has no right to feel. To mourn his own mother.

She wants to hold him. To share the grief that fills them both.

"I'm so confused." He punctuates the whisper like a shout, and she knows if they were anywhere else he'd be a tempest of fire, "My uncle won't speak too or look at me. My sister is plotting something. I have everything I've ever wanted. Mei and my father and my honor back." His skin feels like an inferno beneath her fingers and for a split second she wants to quell his rage. She wants, for merely a moment, to protect and shelter him the way she has everyone else. "I should be happy." His hands wrap around and settle at the small of her back, "But I don't think I am."

Their foreheads press together, she can feel where his skin wrinkles and toughens into a scar.
"You shouldn't be." Her voice is hard and unyielding, "You're a terrible person. You deserve worse." Her head rests against his shoulder, "You're the worst person I've ever met. You're an evil, obsessive, self-entitled, merciless, murderous, jerk." She means every word and hates that they come out soft and gentle.
"I'll do what I have too." He vows, "I should have killed you when I caught you."

They both know he's glad he didn't.

They both hate it.


Katara rolled herself up out of sleep into a sitting position, clutching her knees. On hand flew to her necklace and she bit back on heavy, angry tears. He had no right. No right to touch her necklace. She pulled her self out of her sleeping bag and looked towards the moon. She closed her eyes and reached for the water at her hip, transferring into her stance. Her breathing slowed as she went through the motions, leading the water around her. Smoothing, calming motions.
"Katara?" She didn't look over at Aang. "Are you alright?"
"I had a bad dream." She explained simply, pushing the water in front of her back into her water-skin, "I needed to think."
"Wanna talk about it?" She offered the air-bender a small smile,
"Not really, Aang." She exhaled, "It was just a dream."


Zuko didn't bother sitting up. He rolled over and looked at the emblem on his bedroom wall. How often was this going to happen, he wondered. The dreams were tying him up in knots. He squeezed the pillow.
"I need some air." Throwing the blankets off of himself he dressed quickly and started towards the jail. His head was ringing with Katara's hate and his father's plan for the return of Sozin's comet. Maybe, maybe tonight Iroh would say something. Something cryptic, something wise. Something Zuko didn't even understand.

Anything.