Chapter 3: Helpful Hand

There was a feeling of emptiness that settled its way in to my core, and loneliness was not far behind. I drowned them out with the cold water that rained down on me. I let out a heavy sigh of tension as I tilted my head back and leaned my back on the stone wall. The water calmed my muscles, and I ran my hands through my wet hair. The coolness was welcomed during the summer, and I welcomed it every afternoon. There was a sense of peace that washed over me, and I felt lighter than a feather. This is a place where I didn't have to worry or stress about anything. I inwardly chuckled at the irony I just realized. I hated water. I feared it ever since I was seven, and now here I was letting it sooth me.

The afternoon was the only time of the day I could relax. I was alone in the room that I was imprisoned during this time, and I took the time to take a shower. The bathroom was connected to the room so I wasn't really going anywhere. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the last of the water before turning it off, and reaching for the towel that hung on the hook a few feet away. I took the red towel and wrapped it securely around my chest, and walked out. I didn't need to look up to know where the sink was. Instead I just walked straight and grabbed the comb I used to brush my hair.

I knew where everything was in here. The sink was straight ahead from the shower; which was next to the door on your right when walking in. The tube was a in the back of the room against the wall, half of the left wall was a window covered by thin cloth so light could come in, and other things needed for a bathroom. When I had first came in I looked around for the shower, but all I saw was a tub for bathing. I couldn't bath in a tub. It reminded me too much of the Water Room. I would remembered all the horrifying images and events that took place, and I wouldn't be able to handle it. So I kept look until I found it.

There were no curtains to indicate where it was. That's why I couldn't find it. The shower was a shower head with a hook two yards away for a towel. I didn't understand why it didn't have curtains even though there were hooks and a pole across the wall for one, but I didn't really care. All I had to do was place the chair I found in front of the door, and the door wouldn't open. Even though I was the only one in the room I did it as reassurance that no one would come in.

I took the comb in my hand and ran it through my curly hair. Once that was done I set the comb down and looked into the mirror. It's been two weeks since I've been back in the Fire Nation. Nothing much has changed yet everything has. I didn't speak at all. It's not like I spoke much to begin with though. There was nothing to say, and if there was no one to say it to. Even though I was around Zuko most of the day our relationship wasn't the same. Needless to say there was no relationship. All that was there was silence, tension, and pain when we were around each other.

Over the weeks I've had a lot to think about, mostly it was about Zuko, and I had gotten a lot of things straighten out in my head. The first thing was that he wasn't going to hurt me. The first day I had been terrified of him. I was his now. He could've done anything he wanted with me, but he didn't. Almost every day he promised me that he wasn't going to hurt me, and I began to believe him. That was until I reminded myself about Ba Sing Se. I couldn't understand why he would do that. He turned his back not only on me, but his own Uncle.

How could I trust someone who turned their back on their own family? How could I forgive him for turning his back on us? I really thought he had changed, but now I was questioning wither or not it was all an act. I couldn't say my feelings for him were an act, because they weren't. I really liked Zuko, and whenever I thought about the moments we spent together in Ba Sing Se I got happy. The thing was that we weren't in Ba Sing Se anymore everything changed, and it would never be the same.

I brought my attention back to the reflection in front of me, and frowned at the other person I saw. I was still underweight from all the weight I lost from being on the ship, but I wasn't expecting it to come back over night. There were dark shadows underneath my eyes from sleepless nights. I hardly got any sleep at night. Most nights were plagued with nightmares that had returned from long ago and new nightmares. The other nights were plagued with fear. It was fear of the nightmares coming true, and then I would lie awake telling myself they wouldn't come true and that they weren't real.

I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand before using the towel around my chest to dry my hair. When that was done I hook the towel on its hook, and proceeded to get ready. I picked up the wrappings for my chest bindings, and wrapped them around my chest and over my shoulders. I had tried to clean them myself, but no matter how many times I put them under the water they always came out the same dingy white. Once my chest and bottom bindings were on I took the tunic Zuko gave me and put it on along with the pants. I tugged at the elbow length sleeve, pushing back the temptation to rip it off. The Fire Nation summers were the hottest out of all the nations, and I'd how hot they were. Even the slightest piece of material caused suffocation.

With a sigh I let go of my sleeve and walked out of the bathroom, and into the oversized bedroom. I walked past the wardrobe and his desk. I walked around the large bed a few times to give my legs a little exercise before going to the left side of the room where my makeshift bed laid. I let myself fall on top of the soft cushions before sitting up. I looked around the room and noticed how quiet it was. I curled my legs close to my chest, and placed my chin on my knee. That emptiness and loneliness that I tried to drown out in the shower was coming back. I was alone. Not just in the room, but in life.

Aang is dead. I told myself, and reminded myself of this every day. I felt like I was punched in the chest. No matter how many times I tried to tell myself it wasn't my fault I felt like it was. I wasn't the one who shot him down. I wasn't the one who struck him with lightning, but for some reason I felt like I did. Somehow I thought his death could've been preventable, but it wasn't. Now the world had no hope in having their Avatar to save them.

Anger surged through my veins, and I wanted to punch the wall behind me, but I couldn't. I brought my knees closer and let my anger slowly dye down. I had to calm myself down before I went in to a bending fit. I had gone through them quite a lot when I got mad, but I could do it now. I extended my hand and looked at my open palm. I couldn't bend anymore. I wasn't allowed to. That was one of the unsaid rules that were set. There were a lot of unsaid rules, but my bending was the clearest one. My bending was the reason I was in this situation, and I knew if I started bending I would get in to serious trouble.

Even if I were allowed to use my bending I wouldn't. It was unneeded like my voice. So with nothing to do I turned towards the window behind me and looked out. The widow was high off the ground, and from I slept I had the most beautiful view of a pond. The water looked so clear and fresh, and the little turtle ducks seemed to think so too as they waddled around. That's when I saw the mother turtle duck emerge from under the large tree by the pool of water, and join her children. They all began to play in the water without a care in the world. A small smile spread across my lips, and I let my head rest on my knees.

I wasn't alone anymore in the room. Zuko came in when the sun was setting. I didn't turned around or move my head. Instead I stared at him from the corner of my eye. He gave me a quick yet longing glance before walking towards the bathroom. I let out a long sigh. He was back from where he went, and so the cycle continued. When he walked out of the bathroom he wore a sleeveless tunic that hung loosely; showing the defined muscles that ran up and down his arms to his chest. Along with a pair of black shorts that hung loosely as well. He walked towards his desk and was out of my line of view.

My heart hurt when I saw him. It was an indescribable pain that twisted in my chest and burned in my heart. Even though he did all those things in Ba Sing Se it never changed the way I felt about him. The feelings were still there. I still cared about him, and I didn't know why. It was all confusing, and I couldn't make sense of it. What made the feeling worse was that I felt like I was missing something. I needed to get away from him because this pain only got worse every passing day, but there was nowhere to go.

I turned my attention to the setting sun and watched as it became nothing more than a glimmer of light. I grabbed the red curtain and closed it. The sun was gone there was no reason for the curtains to be open. Behind me a chair scarped across the floor and footsteps echoed towards the door. A light knock sounded through the room and the door was opened. Zuko was handed a tray with different foods and drinks, he silently thanked the servant, and walked to the left side of his bed. I knew everything that was happening without looking back. It was routine.

Before Zuko could tap me on the shoulder I turned around to face. I didn't make eye contact though as I took my plate of food. I bowed my head in thanks and stared down. I could feel him staring at me, but I kept my attention to the plate in front of me. He eventually sat back on his bed and ate his food. It was silence that entertained us now as we ate. I should have been used to it after two weeks, but the silence still bothered me. It was like being on the ship again only this time there was light and another person in the room. I moved making the slightest noise and Zuko's eyes looked up at me.

I waited until he turned back to look at him. I didn't move my head but my eyes so he couldn't tell I was looking at him. He seemed to be on edge for some reason. He tapped his chopsticks in the air, and barely touched his food. I averted my gaze back to my own plate, and ate knowing there was nothing I could do. That was until Zuko set his plate aside and turned to face me. I grew tense very fast and froze in my spot. I knew he wasn't going to hurt me, but it was just reflex.

"Alec," He said, and my name rolled of so softly and gently that it sent a shiver down my spine. It was strange though. My own name sounded foreign to my own ears. Confusion rushed over me, and I slightly lifted my head. This wasn't part of the routine.

"I want to tell you something," He continued, and I raised an eyebrow. He hadn't said anything since my first day. He had left me alone like he promised, but now he was talking to me. Why? What? Did something bad happen bad happen? I thought, but what else could happen that could be considered bad?

"This might sound odd, but do you remember when you used to help Chef Hue?" He asked, and now I was lost. Chef Hue was a man I would help months ago on Zuko's ship when he used to chase Aang. I hadn't seen him since the ship explosion when he left to go to another ship, but I couldn't remember any more than that. I knew he was a nice man and that I would help him in the kitchen but that was it. Most of my time as a captive on Zuko's ship was a blur. I knew he was waiting for my responds and I nodded my head. I might not be talking to him, but I wasn't going to ignore him.

"Did you like helping in the kitchens?" Zuko pressed, and there was something behind all these questions. He was talking to me as if we talked every day, but I guess he was trying to keep the tension out it. I couldn't stand it anymore and looked up at him. Amber met grey and a shiver ran through my whole body. Zuko seemed surprised that I was actually looking at him, but I kept my composure. I nodded my head again to answer his question.

"You must feel stuck in here," He began and turned his gaze to the wall behind me. "I know you can't go anywhere, but you've been in this room too long. Today I went to the kitchens, and I remembered when you used to help Chef Hue. You looked happy back then," A small smile graced his lips. I looked back down at the plate of food. My chest tightened in pain.

"The Chef here needs help. It might not be the same as helping Chef Hue, but it's still better than being stuck in here," He continued, but there was a pause. I could tell he was looking at me now, and I want to look away, but I already was.

"Would you like to help in the kitchens here?" Zuko finally asked. He was asking me. He didn't tell me or demand me to. He was giving me a choice. Silence filled the air again as he waited for my response. I nodded my head before really thinking about it. It was done on impulse, and I didn't think it through. All I knew was that I could get out of this room that imprisoned me.

"Okay," He said on a little higher note. If I didn't have to look up to know that there was probably a small smile on his face. He confused me as well as pained me. He acted like he still cared, but did he really? There was no way of knowing, and that's what made the confusion worse. I forced the oncoming thoughts out of my head and focused on the plate in front of me, but I was no longer hungry.

"When you get there the Chef will tell you what you need to do. They'll be other people there as well. Most of them will be girls, and there'll also be…" Zuko rambled on. I sat there listening to him but not responding. He kept going on about what to expect, and that I didn't have to do it if I didn't want to. What was I going to do? Tell him I didn't want to? I would have been lying. I wanted to get away from everything, and if helping in the kitchens helped than I was going to do it. Sure I was only going to help four hours a day, but it was better than nothing. I sat there anxiously wanting to get out, but I didn't show it because even though I was anxious I was frightened as well. I hadn't stepped out of this room in two weeks. What was behind that door? I didn't really get a chance to actually gather my surroundings the first day since I was practically dragged here. I felt like I was going to be sick.

"Do you understand?" He asked, and snapped me out of my light haze. I nodded my head. He gave me a knowing look and I wish I could just look away. I couldn't though. Those amber orbs still captivated me. He let out a deep and sad sigh, and walked towards the door. I stood up from my spot on my bed and followed behind him. He stepped out of the room with an air of confidence, but I was hesitant. I took a timid step out of the room, and looked around to be met with an open corridor. On my left there was a wall, but on my right there was no wall at all. Instead it led outside. There were red curtains pulled to the side which could be closed anytime.

Everything was quiet except for the warm breeze that rushed by. A shiver went down my spine as I began to walk forward. I walked behind Zuko as we went through another door leading to a hallway. The hallway was large with a high roof, and a spacious walkway. I glanced around on edge; expecting someone to come out of a closed door. No one was around though and it was nerve wrecking. I turned my head to look forward to make sure I was still following Zuko, but he was staring at me. I jumped back startled and he gave me an apologetic look. He averted his gaze to the floor, but spoke.

"You don't have to walk behind me," He said, and I realized what he meant. In the Fire Nation it was disrespectful to walk next to or ahead of the Royal Family. I was walking behind Zuko because I wanted to see everything, but he took it as me trying to respect him. I wasn't doing it on purpose. I just looked away from him, and kept walking at the pace I was. I had no respect for the Royal Family after everything they did, but I wasn't going to listen to Zuko either.

I heard him let out a sigh, and keep walking. Another wave of confusion washed over me. He wasn't angry. I was expecting him to snap, but for the past weeks he's been calm. Much like he had been in Ba Sing Se. Stop thinking about Ba Sing Se. That place no longer exists. I told myself, and kept walking. All the hallways were the same but some had stairs and some had windows. It was a labyrinth of red walls. I had no idea how Zuko could remember where to go, but he did. After so many twists and turns we stopped at a door. It was at the end of the hall and from what I could hear there were people.

"Alec, if anything happens you can tell me," He reassured. I didn't respond though. Of something did happen I probably wouldn't tell him at all. He knew I wasn't going to answer and opened the door leading into the kitchen. The once noisy atmosphere was silenced as we walked through the door. I looked down at the tiled floor in embarrassment, but followed Zuko. I finally lifted my head though when a woman approached us. Brown hair was tacked in a large bun, and an apron was around her waist. She was short and plump with round cheeks to complement her fake smile. I instantly knew she was a pain.

"Your highness," She addressed and bowed. I glanced at Zuko and I could tell he thought the same thing. "How may I help you?"

"Lamis this is Alec. She'll be helping you," He bluntly introduced. The woman, Lamis, turned to me. Her eyes went narrow a bit and her smile became faker. Just from the look on her face you know she was already making her judgments. She nodded her head, trying to hide it.

"Well hello dear," She greeted and I bowed my head the slightest. She then turned back to Zuko. "Do not worry, your highness, she is in good hands."

"That is expected," Zuko stated irritated. His change of tone let her know he was not joking around, and she bowed again.

"I will be back after noon," He told her, and before he turned around to leave he caught my eyes. I turned the other way though, and when he looked away I watched as he walked away. It wasn't until he shut the door did Lamis showed her true colors.

"Okay, ladies! Get back to work!" She shouted and started barking orders. She walked away, and I stood there not knowing what to do. Great. Just great. I thought sarcastically. I finally looked up to examine the place I would be working at and it was huge. This was supposed to be a kitchen, but now I knew why they called the kitchens. It was at least the five times large than Zuko's room. Woman ran and stood around doing their jobs. I noticed how useless I was just standing there, and walked towards a table. Almost all the woman that stood around backed away. They either moved to the other side or another table.

Instead of acknowledging them I turned to the task in front of me. I looked down and saw a knife and a variety of vegetables. So all I have to do is cut vegetables? I thought, as I picked up the knife. For some reason it felt good holding it. Ever since that day I acted Zuko I hadn't been around any form of weapon. The dual dao swords weren't in his room anymore, and neither was the dagger. I guess it was a good thing too. During the first few days I was so paranoid, and I couldn't think straight. I probably would have done something that could've had me killed.

I pushed the thought out of my mind and began cutting a carrot in front of me. I blocked out the noise as I did my job, but I couldn't help but feel the stares and glances that were sent my way. Anger built up inside me because I knew why they were staring. It was no surprised that word reached around the palace about the Prince's concubine. It was disgusting. I didn't sleep with Zuko. I wasn't tramp that went around doing so. It made me sick to even think about it. I began cut slower, but every time the knife made contact with the table I dug it in to the wood. My anger became evident on the table, and I kept doing this until my hand started to cramp.

I wasn't as angry anymore, but I was still irritated. I was going to go back to doing my job, but then I saw a woman walking towards me. I turned my head to look at her, and realized it wasn't a woman but a teenager. She walked with an air of confidence as her brown waist length hair flowed behind her. Her ice blue eyes were like stone, and her tan skin told me she was Water Tribe. A lot of people in the kitchens were from different nations, but not a lot of them were from the Water Tribe.

She moved quickly and before I knew it she was standing next me. Without even a glance she started chopping the vegetables in front of her. I took a step to the side, and tried to keep my distance.

"I'm not here to babysit. Start chopping or you're going to get us in trouble," She hissed, and I furrowed my brow. What was she talking about? I wasn't sure, but something told me to ignore her. I didn't want trouble, and seeing how she blatantly gave orders that were the best thing to do. I went back to cutting. I cut one vegetable at a time trying not to cut myself, but I couldn't concentrate on the task. The girl next to me kept glaring at me while I cut.

"You're chopping those all wrong! You're slow, and they're uneven. Get it right," She snarled, and I seriously thought something was wrong with her. I inhaled and exhaled trying to calm my rising anger. I didn't know why, but I was angry. I was never one to lose my temper, but it was so easy to get angry now. I went at the same pace, and that's when she snapped. She stopped cutting and slammed her knife into the wooden table.

"Just because you're some harlot who beds the crown prince doesn't mean you have the right to snub your nose at the ones who have to work for a living," She snapped, and turned to face me. As soon as she said 'harlot' I lost it. I couldn't hold my tongue anymore. I clenched my knife, and grinned bitterly.

"Harlot? Are you introducing yourself?" I whispered darkly. My voice was low from lack of use, but I spoke clearly. I wasn't going to keep quiet now.

"I'm not the one screwing the prince," She whispered back, her grin lingering in her voice. I felt my insides turn. That sickening feeling returned, and I wanted so badly to use the knife in my hand.

"Back off," I warned. I could've let my anger out right there with the blade, but I knew better. I knew if I even tried to attack the girl I would get in trouble. Punishment wasn't merciful in the Fire Nation. I learnt that twice. I wasn't planning for a third.

"Why, are you going to tattle? You should be a good little concubine and go back to your bed, so the sheets are warm for later tonight," She mocked. I turned to face her with the knife in my hand. I held the blade in front of me while pointing it at her. She seemed didn't seem amused or threatened about this, and looked down at me. That's when I noticed her height. She was a good four inches taller than me, and stood erect to tower over me. She was tall, and almost as tall as Zuko by half an inch. I wasn't intimidated though.

"Why don't you go warm Ozai's?" I slurred through my teeth. She simply turned back around and started cutting vegetables. She acted as if my outburst was a small exchange of conversation.

"That's a questionable thing to say for a fucking, but then I would be above you in rank," She said calmly. What the hell?There was something wrong with this girl if she could cool down that quickly. My chest heaved up and down, and I made myself turn back to my job. Once I was able to loosen my grip on the knife I went back to cutting.

"I don't even want to be on the list," I said a little harsher than intended. From the corner of my eye I say her stop, but then start again.

"I see. Well than I suppose that makes you another one. But you're still cutting the carrots wrong," She told me.

"I'm use to stabbing people not cutting vegetables," I said, and stopped cutting again. The air was calmer now and things seemed to relax. It was strange how quickly the tables turned, but it was better than talking about the unmentionable.

"Well that will have to wait for another day. For now you are stuck here cutting vegetables," She chuckled. A strange comfortable silence washed over us, and we continued our tasks. I tried to cut the carrots differently, but after a while I realized something. "What's your name?"

"Kana. It means powerful. Perhaps it was the wrong choice of name hmm?" Kana asked rhetorically and shrugged her shoulders.

"Yeah, you're pretty dang scary, if you ask me," I said and chuckled. She didn't really scare me, but her first impression did. "My name's Alec, but I'm not sure what it means."

"Pretty name," She said, but stopped for a second. "If I'm not mistake, it's Air Nomad, correct?"

"Thanks, Um… it is," I answered. I remembered when Uncle Iroh told me. I didn't even know it was until then.

"hmm, interesting a little turtle dove has flown so successfully in a hoard of lion hawks. Though I suppose only the smart ones can live past another dawn," She mentioned, and I could've laughed but it was hard to laugh.

"I've lived with lion hawks my whole life just not with this herd," I said shaking my head. It was really ironic. Who would have thought an airbender would have lived in the same nation that tried to wipe out their own race. I was born into this nation though.

"Then you must have a very hard shell. Make sure it doesn't crack... Though I guess they'd have to get past your talons, yes?" She said, and nudged me. She pointed towards the knife in my hand, and laughed. The laughter was nice, but all I did was grin.

"I guess so," I replied. It felt so good to use my voice. I had been silent for so long that it actually felt good talking to another person. Kana wasn't a bad person. At first I thought she was going to be like Lamis, but she wasn't. I glanced at the girl next to me, and wondered why someone from the Water Tribe would be here. She looked to be in here late teens, but she was still young. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen. Old enough to warm a bed for a man as we've already discussed. You must be younger though, or the Fire Lord would have taken you for himself. I've heard he isn't one to share," She mention casually. I froze. The very thought of being Ozai's scared me worse than death. He would have broken every fiber of my being if he hadn't given me to Zuko as a gift. Zuko never laid on hand on me. He held back, but if I were Ozai's I probably would have been somewhere bleeding on the floor.

"Fourteen isn't considered young," I said bitterly.

"It isn't," She said, and then looked at my vegetables. "You need to learn how to multi-task."

"If I try you'll probably find a finger in the food," I replied after I realized I stopped. I wasn't that great at multi-tasking.

"Well I guess it's good I'm a healer, isn't it? Besides you're holding the knife wrong, curl your fingers and use the knuckles to guide the blade. It's faster, and harder to hack off a finger," She told me. She was a waterbender. Only waterbenders knew how to heal. I began doing what she said, and noticed I was cutting smoothly now.

"Okay, but I don't think a detached finger be healed back on," I chuckled.

"You never know, maybe I'm just that good," She said, and pointed her knife at me hand. I cautiously curled my fingers into my hand, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't try anything.

"I don't want to find out," I said hesitantly and moved my hand away.

"Are you sure, because we have a cutting board and some knives it wouldn't take long at all. Not like getting you to do your work," She pointed out and smiled. I looked down at my progress and saw no progress at all. Only three carrots were cut at the most.

"Funny," I told her sarcastically, and nudged her.

"I know I am," Kana asserted and flipped her hair back dramatically. She laughed while I shook my head back and forth grinning. Me and Kana talked about many different things as we did our job. It felt good to think about something other than my surroundings. Kana helped me cut the vegetables, and I began to multi-task. She was really kind, but also very guarded. Whenever Lamis would walk by her expression turned to stone again and she fell silent. I did the same. I really liked helping in the kitchens. I actually had someone to interact with. I didn't have to be silent anymore. If it was going to be like this every day I would look forward to the four hours I had away from Zuko.

Hey! I'm back, but I come with bad news.

Okay, so I'm really sorry that this took a month, but a week after the last one was updated my USB broke.

It was so bent that I couldn't even get information out of it, and that USB had everything for this story.I lost so much. Including this chapter, and the next one. I had already had this complete, but once my USB broke I had to rewrite it. It was so hard because when I looked at this I re-wrote it twice. Hopefully the next chapter wont be as hard to write.

On another note...

KANA! Yes there is a new character in the mix, and she doesn't belong to me. Kana belongs to 2nd Avatar from her story The Two Souls: Flowing Water. I really suggest you read it. :D Me and 2nd Avatar are working together on the chapters that have Kana so don't worry. I have her permission to use her Character.

Oh yeah! It's been exactly a year since I've made my Fanfiction account!

And this story's birthday will be coming up too

I might do something for that occasion. Give me ideas. )

Sorry for the long Author's Note

Please tell me what you think please! Spam the review box with reviews!

Til next time

- Alec