I'm clearly insane, as even though I am busy and trying to get other stories written, I decided it would be a good idea to participate in Zutara Month. Yeah. So, as you might have guessed, Where the Ocean and Sky Collide is indeed going to be a collection of thirty-one Zutara ficlets and one-shots. None of the stories are related and will vary in size, genre and era. Updates will be daily.
Also, I'll just state now that I am going to be uploading my responses according to my own time zone. So no, I'm not posting early; I just live in the FuTuRe (New Zealand) and am a day ahead of most people around the world. ^_~
Soundtrack: The Dream is Still Alive - Xandria
It starts with a flash of violent blue. Katara watches the light streak through a sky painted with blood and fire, crackling with an energy that is so beautiful, so deadly. Her mind screams at her legs to move, but it is as if ice has spread its way over her body, encasing her in a paralysing shell. She cannot move, and her heart is beating so fast, and her chest is constricting so tightly, and everything just seems to be closing in around her, shutting her into a world where only she and the light exists.
I'm going to die.
The words are an unspoken whisper in her mind, except suddenly she is no longer in the direct path of the light. Zuko is there, and he's cradling something that sparks with violent blue to his chest, and it's as if time just stops, or maybe that's just her heart, because she cannot believe that this is happening. She cannot believe that the scarred prince she once hated is now the only thing stopping her from certain death, even at the risk of his own life.
The name rips free of her throat, raw and desperate, because the light has been sent crackling off into the distance, yet he is still clutching his hands to his chest, his body convulsing in painful contortions. He doesn't fall gracefully; he collapses in an awkward heap on the ground, shuddering and curling up into himself like a dying animal. Even from where she is standing, she can hear the awful gasps that escape his lips, like air escaping through punctured lungs. It's too much, far, far too much, and suddenly the ice that holds her frozen shatters. She doesn't think; she just runs, desperate to reach him before it's too late, but she is not fast enough to beat Azula's wall of blue fire.
"I'd really rather our family physician look after little Zuzu, if you don't mind," Azula taunts, sweeping her arms around in a circular motion to prepare for another lightning strike.
Katara can feel the heat of the flames lick at her skin, but that is nothing to the storm of rage brewing in her heart. Her eyes narrow as she meets that insane-edged gaze, and she gathers the water to her hands and charges after the princess. It doesn't matter if Azula is a firebending prodigy; Katara will not give up—not when there's still a chance to save him. Azula's laughter echoes around the arena as lightning escapes from her fingertips like wild streaks of madness, aiming to kill, but Katara does not falter. Fire cannot extinguish her anger, her determination; she is a flood that twists and smothers until, finally, the princess is left writhing on the ground in chains, screaming and releasing flames into the air. The insanity has been contained, at least for the moment, but there is no relief. Not just yet. Because Zuko is still unmoving on the ground, and that is something that Katara cannot accept.
"Zuko!" the waterbender shouts, running towards the fallen figure.
She collapses on her knees beside him, placing glowing palms on his chest. A faint heartbeat pulses against her palm, but it's so weak and fragile, like the fluttering wings of a wounded sparrowkeet. Fear forms a lump in her throat, thick and choking, because she knows all too well that there is no vial of Spirit Oasis water to aid her this time. If she cannot heal him, he will die.
Please, she inwardly begs, even as tears prickle at the corners of her eyes. Please, just let this work. Just let me heal him.
Closing her eyes, she allows the water to connect with his chi, blending in a fusion of liquid and fire. His energy is all tangled knots and frayed edges, but she just keeps on trying, no matter how scared and exhausted she feels. Nothing is impossible to fix, that's what Gran-Gran used to say, and Katara wants to believe that right now. She wants to believe that the wounded sparrowkeet fluttering against her palms can fly again instead of this eternal, sickening descent.
Please, Zuko. Something warm rolls down her cheek, lingering on her trembling lips. Please don't do this to me. You've never given up before. Fight!
Under her hands, a boy's chest rises and falls. Her breath catches as she feels the sickening flutters of his heart even out, becoming stronger and of a steadier rhythm; it is a song of determination, a song of life, and it is the most beautiful thing she has ever felt. Warm fingers close around her wrist, and her eyes snap open to meet a blur of pale gold. She cannot believe that there was once a time when she had despised the colour.
"Thank you, Katara," Zuko rasps weakly.
Fresh tears roll down her cheeks, and she places her hand over his. "I think I should be the one thanking you."
He doesn't explain why he took the lightning for her; instead, he simply returns the pressure of her grip. It's such a simple gesture, but it is one that is filled with unspoken words—whispers of friendship and gratitude and something so much more; however, it is the overwhelming sense of relief that Katara feels which makes her smile. Because Zuko is alive, and somehow that makes everything okay.
Somehow, it is enough.