ATLA is not owned by me, as Mike and Bryan own it! I just love the universe and the characters, so don't sue me! 3
The fire rages in me. Daylight fights through the night with the cries of redemption. The sun ignites the light in our eyes, and this is possible.
All It Takes For Your Dreams To Come True – A Skylit Drive
CHAPTER ONE - REDEMPTION
The ground rumbled above her, causing Katara to leap back in shock. A bright light flooded a short tunnel, soon eclipsed by two dark shadows.
"You've got company," a rough voice snarled as the third person came tumbling down the tunnel.
The opening closed with a clatter. Katara's eyes adjusted as she noticed the scarred figure in front of her.
Her eyes grew wide with recognition.
He looked up from the kneeling position and their eyes locked. Surprise was quickly replaced by disgust on the waterbender's face.
Zuko turned his back to her as she began pacing around the dim-lit caves.
"Why did they throw you in here?" Katara sighed, waving her hands frustrated. "Oh wait, let me guess. It's a trap so when Aang shows up to help me, you can finally have him in your fire nation clutches!" Her fists balled in anger.
Zuko glanced towards Katara silently; not allowing himself to be hooked by her antagonizing. She began pacing again, glaring in his direction.
"You're a terrible person you know that? Always following us, hunting the avatar, trying to capture the world's last hope for peace." Katara yelled towards Zuko's back. When he remained silent, her voice lowered, dripping with acid. "But what do you care? You're the fire lord's son. Spreading war and violence and hatred is in your blood."
"You don't know what you're talking about!" Zuko quickly retorted. "I don't?! How dare you? You have no idea what this war has put me through." Katara dropped to the floor, clutching her knees to her chest. "Me personally." Tears welled up in her eyes as her voice dropped to a whisper. "The fire nation took my mother away from me."
"I'm sorry." His quiet voice responded. The concern caught Katara by surprise. He turned to her and with pain in his eyes said "That's something we have in common."
She wiped a tear from her cheek as she looked at Zuko, the anger diminishing.
They remained like that for a few moments, silently staring at the other. Katara stared into his golden eyes, the thoughts flooding her mind.
"What does he mean by that? I honestly don't think a fleet of fire nation ships crashed into his home and murdered his mother." Katara thought to herself. She had never allowed herself to think of Zuko as a real person with real problems. In her mind he was just the arrogant, ruthless jerk he had always been.
He stepped towards her, his face a mixture of compassion and caution.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you before." She spoke up half-heartedly.
"It doesn't matter." He quietly responded.
She stepped towards him, continuing. "It's just, for so long now, whenever I would imagine the face of the enemy, it was your face."
"My face." Zuko reached up touching his distinctive scar. "I see."
Katara corrected herself, "No, no. That's not it. That's not what I meant."
"It's okay." He assured her. "I used to think this scar marked me. The mark of the banished prince, cursed to chase the avatar forever. But lately, I've realized I'm free to determine my own destiny. Even if I'll never be free of my mark."
A thought sparked. "Maybe you could be free of it."
"What?" Disbelief covered his face, yet Katara could see the sliver of hope lighting up his eyes.
"I have healing abilities," she started to explain.
Zuko interrupted her, the hope vanishing from his face. "It's a scar. It can't be healed."
Katara reached under her shirt and pulled out the pendant filled with water from the Spirit Oasis. She held it out towards him. "This is water from the Spirit Oasis from the North Pole. It has special properties, so I've been saving it for something important." Stepping towards him, Katara looked intently at the firebender's distinctive scar. "I don't know if it would work, but…"
Her hand reached out to touch the scarred skin, his golden eyes burning into her. He gasped as her fingers made contact. It was smoother than she thought it would be. Her heart raced and she felt her stomach flutter. His eyes closed as her fingers traveled the dark skin, his breath picking up in speed. His skin felt warmer than she had expected.
The vial felt cold in her other hand as her fingers moved to remove the lid. She could feel the pain this was causing him, not physically, but emotionally.
The walls at the back of the cave rumbled, before shards of earth came shooting out of the newly formed hole in the wall. Katara's face lit up as she saw Aang and Zuko's uncle Iroh step from the hole. Forgetting the firebender momentarily, Katara ran towards Aang, relief washing over her and she threw her arms around his neck. She was safe. She was getting out of this dark, damp cave. She could hear Iroh throw his nephew into a hug behind her.
Katara pulled away, placing her hands on his shoulders. "Aang, I knew you would come." She said with a smile.
Zuko spoke up angrily, "Uncle! What are you doing with the avatar?!"
"Saving you, that's what." Aang retorted with a smirk.
Iroh held Zuko back as he lunged towards the young airbender with a grunt.
"Zuko, its time we talked," Iroh calmly stated, pulling the firebender's attention back towards him. "Go help your other friends. We'll catch up with you" he assured Katara and Aang with a smile.
Without a second thought, Aang ran through the hole in which he had come. Reluctantly, Katara followed, stopping to look back into those golden eyes. Zuko avoided her gaze, instead looking towards the ground. A surge of guilt flooded through her as she paused, debating to go back. She could hear Aang's footsteps growing further, so she turned her head and walked towards the airbender, and away from the firebenders.
Zuko watched Katara's figure disappear, the calm she brought, following her. He felt hurt, betrayed and confused by his Uncle. What reason did the he have to bring the avatar here? Conflict raged inside him. It took every ounce of strength in his power to not follow after the monk. He balled his fists and sighed.
"Why Uncle?" he whispered, turning his head from the old man.
"You're not the man you used to be Zuko. You are stronger, and wiser, and freer than you have EVER been." Iroh spoke. His eyebrows furrowed as he continued. "And now you have come to the crossroads of your destiny."
"It's time for you to choose. It's time for you to choose good."
Again the earth shook beneath Zuko. He cried out as the glowing stalagmites rearranged themselves, entwining themselves with his uncle's limbs. Two Dai Li agents and his sister slid into the catacombs and Zuko locked eyes with Azula.
"I expected this kind of treachery from Uncle, but Zuko." Her cold voice echoed in the cave. He stepped back as she advanced on him. He noticed the Dai Li agents assume the offensive stance. "Prince Zuko, you're a lot of things, but you're not a traitor," Azula continued. "Are you?" Her eyebrows raised and a half smile played on her lips.
"Damnit, she is trying to provoke me," he cursed to himself. "Release him immediately!" Zuko shouted.
Unphased by his demands, she continued. "It's not too late for you, Zuko. You can still redeem yourself." A wicked smile formed as her gaze narrowed at Zuko.
"The kind of redemption she offers is not for you," Iroh shouted from behind him.
Her expression changed as she looked at Iroh, the smile gone. "Why don't you let him decide, Uncle?" The disgust was apparent in the emphasis of the last word. Her face softened again as she looked towards Zuko pleading. "I need you Zuko. I've plotted every move of this day, this glorious day in Fire Nation history, and they only way we win is together. At the end of this day you will have your honor back. You will have father's love," Azula emphasized with a smile. Her voice dropped to a whisper, "You will have EVERYTHING you want."
"Zuko, I am begging you. Look into your heart and see what it is you truly want." His Uncle quietly added.
Images of home flashed through his head. His father's approving smile, his giant warm bed in the palace, and the adoration of his people were the first thoughts in his head. This was what he had spent the last few years of his life wishing for every night before he fell asleep. This was what he wanted. Before he could open his mouth to agree, more images came to mind: his uncle's smile from earlier that day, his mother's kind eyes, and then Katara. He remembered her soft hands touching his scar, the eagerness in her gaze as she stared at him. She had wanted to help him. After everything he had put her through, everything his family had done, she still wanted to help bring him peace. A lump formed in his throat as the conflict raged inside him.
Azula's sharp voice startled him back to reality. "You are free to choose." She raised a hand, and the two men with her moved the earth to leave him alone with his uncle. He stared at Azula's receding form and back towards his uncle and sighed.
"We've got to find Sokka and Toph," she shouted between breaths. She and Aang had been running through a giant room with a large pool and hundreds of glowing stalagmites. The hair on the back of her neck prickled and she turned around to see a mass of blue fire aimed at her. Aang flipped around and pulled a wall of Earth to shield them. The fire collided with the rock, sending small pebbles flying in all directions. Katara could feel the heat on her face and smoke clouded her vision. As the smoke cleared, she noticed Azula in an attack stance with two smoking fingers pointed at them, a look of pure hatred on her face.
Katara charged Azula, pulling water from the pool in the room with her. Swinging her arms towards the Fire Princess, she spun the wave over her. Azula was quick to act, summoning a wall of blue flame. The two elements collided, filling the room with steam. Katara's eyes scanned the room, stopping as Azula jumped through the steam, firing two quick fireballs towards Katara and Aang. In sync, the waterbender and the avatar commanded more water over them, dissolving the fire as Azula perched herself on a rock formation. Aang was quick with his earthbending, pulling the formation down. A surprised look crossed Azula's face as she was fell and landed in between the Katara and Aang. Katara could see the nervousness on Azula's face as she looked quickly between them. A blast of flame came from across the room, catching Katara off guard. Behind Aang, Zuko was approaching in an offensive stance.
Three sets of eyes were aimed at Zuko, awaiting his next move. He looked to Azula, seeing the hatred and anger in her eyes. His mind played over her proposal in the previous room. He looked towards Aang, the wide-eyed young avatar. Loathing bubbled in his stomach. This child was the cause of many of his problems the last year. He had made up his mind. He was ready to go home. His eyes narrowed as his fist coiled back, ready to ignite flame.
His eyes shifted to the girl in blue behind the avatar and his golden eyes locked onto her sapphire ones.
Everything stopped. Where her face now showed fear and apprehension, he remembered the kindness and eagerness as she touched his scar. Her eyes bore holes as the fire raged inside him. Before he realized what he was doing, the fire released from his hands.
Now the only thing he could see in Katara's eyes was redemption.
Azula jumped back in surprise as Zuko's flame ignited the ground at her feet. Zuko took the offensive, rapidly firing several balls of fire in her direction. She jumped back effortlessly, regaining her composure. At that moment Aang heard the earth move from behind him as several Dai Li agents joined the fight. Katara had already joined the offensive, bringing water crashing over the heads of the agents gathering around her. She crouched forward, placing her hands on the ground in front of her, causing the water to freeze around the feet of the wave of Earthbenders.
Rock hands flew through the air towards Aang as he rolled to dodge them. He blew a gust of wind towards the agents closing in on him, knocking them back. Over the shoulder of the one in front of him, Azula launched a wave of fire, knocking Zuko into the pool. She turned her attention towards Aang, two long blue whips forming in her hands. With a quick flip of her wrists they came towards him, causing him to jump back in the air. His fists balled and several green stalagmites attached themselves to each other, armoring him in the way Toph had shown him. Azula continued the assault with the whips, and Aang could feel the heat grow stronger every time a whip hit the glowing green rock. Quickly changing her tactic, Azula pushed her blue fire behind her, propelling herself towards him. Within arms-length, she brandished two blue fire daggers, endlessly assaulting, Aang defensively dodging. He allows the armor to fall as he flips back to the wall behind him. From his angle, he could see the whole room. Katara had surrounded her body with water, several limbs of water flowing as a handful of Dai Li agents trapped her against the wall. Her hair had fallen out of its normal braid and he face had an animalistic snarl on it. She was beautiful when she bent. She was powerful, but he could see she was outnumbered.
Almost inaudibly he whispers "I'm sorry Katara."
His training with the Guru replayed in his mind, and he knew in order to reach the avatar state he would have to let her go. Standing firm and strong he sighs, pulling rock to house him in a structure. Relaxing his body he clears his mind and everything goes black.
His eyes bring the view of the room to him. Katara stands cornered by several Dai Li, her body surrounded in water. Azula shoots fireballs towards a structure of rocks he is pretty sure houses the avatar. As if on cue, the rock structure begins to glow white, and explodes, revealing the avatar, his body glowing white with energy. He brings down a wall of rocks towards advancing Dai Li, crushing them swiftly. A giant wave rises from the pool, covering another group of Dai Li near Katara. Turning towards Zuko, the avatars eyes narrow.
In that moment, a large crack and the smell of burning flesh fill the room. The glowing stops, as the lightning recedes towards a triumphant Azula. Katara cries out rushing towards the fallen body of the avatar. Zuko hurries towards her, pulling a wall of fire to separate them from the advancing agents.
"Katara, you need to go!" Zuko shouts urgently.
"But what about you?" she cries, clutching the lifeless body.
"Just GO DAMNIT! Don't worry about me!"
Katara nods and pulls Aang towards the waterfall at the back of the room. As she advances up, she looks at Zuko briefly before disappearing in the water.
He turns towards his sister, allowing the wall of fire to drop.
"Oh Zuzu, you made a bad choice." She scolds, shaking her head. "Father is going to be so very disappointed with you." A quick punch sends fire towards him, which he quickly counters with his own. He looks around frantically, looking for a way out. Behind Azula, he sees his uncle, who nods with a smile on his face. At that moment, Iroh sends an enormous flame, filling the room with smoke and broken rock. Zuko takes this is a cue and runs towards the hole in the wall, one last look behind him at his uncle being overwhelmed.
He runs through the tunnel his uncle and the avatar had broken through. He can hear footsteps behind him, and as a precaution, he sends a few fireballs over his shoulder, at least one hitting a pursuer. The tunnel becomes steeper, and he can feel the rock ripping through the skin of his palms as he climbs up. He can see above him the light of the moon as he climbs towards it.
She steps out of the water carrying Aang in her arms. The waterfall she climbed leads to a room in the palace. Panicking she looks around, running aimlessly through the hallway. Aang's body begins to grow cold and she can feel the urgency gnaw at her. At the end of the hallway she notices a large decorative window. Setting Aang down against a door, she climbs into the windowsill. Katara pulls the water from the pouch at her belt and spreads it over the window. Her hands drop the temperature, causing the window to crack and then shatter into several pieces. Poking her head out the window, she assesses the height. About thirty feet below lay a small pool of water, decorating the Earth King's gardens. Breathing a deep breath and pulling her hands back, she draws the water directly to the windowsill, freezing it in the process. Katara turns around and pulls Aang back into her arms as she steps in the windowsill and slides down the steep ice slide.
Her landing isn't very comfortable, and it takes much of her strength to keep Aang from flying out of her grasp. Collecting herself, she sighs. She won't allow herself to become weak here. Aang needs her and Zuko…he gave himself up to allow her to escape.
Voices echo from around the corner as Katara throws herself into an offensive stance. Around the corner steps her brother, Toph, the Earth king and his bear. A moment of relief happens until Sokka notices Aang's lifeless body behind her.
"Katara! Is he…" Sokka shouts angrily.
Katara nods grimly. "I will explain everything when I can, but you need to get Aang to safety and I need to find Zuko."
"Excuuse me Sugar Queen?! Did you just say what I think you said?" Toph roars.
"Just trust me PLEASE! We need to hurry before it's too late!" Katara cries exasperated. "Toph, it will be faster if you come too, he is underground."
"Actually Sweetness, he is right behind us, now can we go?" Zuko, looking worse for the wear, runs towards them from behind a wall. "We need to go, now! I don't know how many are following."
She nods, reaching into the pocket of Aang's pants, pulling out the bison shaped whistle. Putting the whistle to her lips, she blows, finally letting the tears spill out.
After loading the avatar onto his bison's saddle, Zuko allows his head to drop between his knees sighing. He could see the mistrusting looks Sokka kept shooting his way, and the disproving stare of the king and his bear. He looked up towards Katara knelt over Aang. The small vial was in her hands as she extracted the mystical water out. It glowed as it spun around her fingers. She pushed her hands into the burned hole in the back of the avatar. Everyone stared intently as his body absorbed the water. Minutes passed in a strained silence before a loud gasp for air came from the avatar's mouth. His eyes opened slightly and he smiled at Katara before losing consciousness again. Katara's eyes widened alertly and she started to panic.
"Don't worry, he is still breathing Katara," a tired Toph said.
Katara sighed, locking eyes with Zuko.
"Thank you," she said silently, the words forming on her lips. He nodded slightly and looked towards the head of the bison. He could see the sun begin to peek over the horizon, and he closed his eyes.
AN: Welcome to my first fanfic! Thanks for reading this far :D As you can tell, I am not an experienced writer, but I love telling stories, and I hope you enjoy this one! I have read fanfic for a long time, and I think its time for me to contribute to this awesome community. The story is an alternate telling of what happened under Ba Sing Se, and a lot will change since Zuko did the right thing (the first time!). My story will be very Zutara centric, maybe with some other ships. If you enjoyed this, please review! I am looking for a beta or two to read before I post, so if you are interested, please send me a PM!