Why: because Zutara is perfect and I will never stop shipping it, even when Aang and Katara have great great great great great great great great great great great great (you get the point) grandchildren.
Yeah. Anyway. Avatar: the Last Airbender belongs to Mike and Bryan and Nickelodeon and all that good stuff. Please enjoy :)
He found her at the beach, knee-deep in water and staring out at the moon. Whether she heard his footsteps or not, she didn't turn around.
Zuko set his Fire Nation boots next to her Water Tribe ones and followed her in. He was always following her, whether she wanted it or not. He wondered if he could ever stop.
"I know," she said without looking at him, eyes still locked on the starless sky. "I should go get some sleep." Her hair was down and loose, blowing in the wind, and Zuko realized it was the first time he'd seen her without hair loopies, as Sokka called them.
"I wasn't going to say that. You think I can fall asleep tonight? We're going to the Earth Kingdom to kill my father." He cut off the last word with a sharp, bitter note.
She faced him, water swishing around her legs. "Zuko…"
"Katara, don't," he said hoarsely. "I don't want you to pity me."
"You hide it well, but you don't want him to die, do you? He may be the Fire Lord, and he may have scarred you, but he is still your father."
"There were happy times once," he started, but couldn't finish around the tight feeling in his throat. Happy times, here on this island, in the very house they were staying in now. "Before my mother left."
"I know," she murmured. "It was the same with my family."
"Funny how much we have in common," he said without humor in his voice.
Katara half-smiled, but it melted from her face, and sadness crept in to replace it. She looked at him, and his breath caught in his throat.
Blue. Katara's eyes were blue, blue like the ocean, blue like the sky, but not like the harsh light of Azula's firebending. They were gentle, and steady, and beautiful, and Zuko trusted them, and he loved them, and he suddenly felt hot all over because he wasn't supposed to feel like this, but he did. He shoved it down hard and bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood.
She drew water up to her hand and started spinning it around in a slow circle, the sloshing sound the only noise between them. "Zuko," she said suddenly. "Do you actually think we can win the war?"
He laughed softly. "Honestly? Six kids, barely experienced, against the Fire Lord and his whole army? I'd say the odds are against us."
Katara looked away, down at the water swirling around her palm. "I guess they never really were for us, anyway."
Before he could stop himself, Zuko rested his hand on her shoulder, felt the warmth of her skin underneath the cloth of her shirt sleeve. "That's…not what I meant," he said gently. "'In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself.' That's something my uncle once told me. I didn't listen to him at the time, but…it was very good advice."
She smiled at him—a real smile this time. He didn't hesitate to open his arms, and she didn't hesitate to go into them. Her fingers pressed against his back, head resting on his chest. "After—after it's over," she whispered unsteadily into is shirt, "Aang—Aang will—"
"You don't love him," he said. It was not a question.
"I do. But not the way he loves me."
"Why don't you just—"
"I can't hurt him like that. Aang is still a child. It would crush him."
"You're sacrificing your own happiness so that he can have his. It doesn't seem fair."
"It's not fair," she said, and pulled away. "It's just the way it is." She started to walk towards the shore, but he grabbed her arm to stop her.
"Don't talk like that. Maybe we can still find a way. Make everyone happy."
"We both know that's not true," Katara said in a hollow voice.
Zuko looked at her, falling cascades of dark hair and small frame and sad blue eyes, and felt a hard, cold ache form in his chest. Katara was strong-willed and stubborn. She would not give in. She would do anything to make Aang happy and care nothing about herself.
It wasn't fair. It was just the way it was.
Zuko put both hands on her face, paper-pale skin against smooth brown, and brought his lips to Katara's forehead.
She sucked in a breath as he took his hands off her cheeks. He ignored the heat flooding his body, all of the instincts that wanted him to move toward her instead of away.
Instead he waded through the ocean, water as blue as Katara's eyes swirling around his legs, and walked away.