Disclaimer: Not mine.
Pairings: Katara/ Aang, Zuko/ Mai, Katara/ Zuko.
AN: Due to my near stalker tendencies, I've been hunting anything about the new series coming out for Avatar/ Last Airbender – Legend of Korra. I'm half wanting to see it, and half not wanting to (because they might just ruin everything they did – but who knows?). And upon my searching I saw an episode in where Zuko's voice actor will be featured in – with ties to Zuko himself, titled "Skeleton in the Closet.". That piqued my interest – and then this just came from imagining what part this new guy could be, what the episode could revolve around, the meaning of the title… Needless to say it's Zuko/Katara, but stays "almost" in canon to what we know so far of the new series.
The imposing figure was broad of shoulder, with long black hair that hung in heavy curtains against his back. His skin was darker than most of the Fire Nation, with sparkling golden cat eyes that reflected the high late afternoon sun. They squinted, calculating, as they sized her up.
"Who are you?" He demanded, voice raspy and firm. It commanded respect, it commanded loyalty and fear and admiration. He was powerful, strong and ultimately a formidable match for the young woman in front of him. But that didn't mean much to the head strong woman. Korra squared her shoulders, two front bangs dangling beside her chiseled face, pale sky blue beads reflecting against her oceanic eyes.
"Korra. I'm the Avatar." Her hands had found her proud hips. Though she was female, her body was compact and square like the armies of the Southern Water Tribe where her heritage hailed from. "I've come for help."
His eyes hardened, fists tightening at his sides. He loomed over her, frightening and terrifying – if she hadn't been the Avatar, with the weight of the Republic city and Benders alike on her shoulders, she might've been scared. Maybe. But she was of the Southern Water Tribe. She was the Avatar. She had mastered three of the four elements – and she was only sixteen. It normally took Avatars their whole lives to master their skills – the exception being Avatar Aang. She was proud and strong and determined. She didn't have to take this from him.
"What help could you want of me?"
She snorted. "You're the Fire Lord. I came to you for help. You shouldn't be snapping at me, but praising my feet and running over yourself to help." With great strain she lowered her voice, appearing humbled in front of the Fire Lord. "It's a matter of all benders – fire benders too that are at stake. They need their Lord, his help, as do I."
He rolled his eyes skyward, and something appeared familiar and yet not about him. He looked like his ancestors – with sharp chins, strong shoulders and long frames. The draped black around his tight chest was still in the style of the royal robes, which gave him a darkened edge. It made him taller, bigger, in control – powerful.
From her past self Aang, she knew he reminded her of his ancestor, Fire Lord Zuko, the ruler who brought peace to his power hungry lands. The enemy had turned friend and had been Aang's best man at the simple wedding ceremony to his lifelong bride Katara; they had the same blood, similar features. Even his voice reminded her past self of the young man that changed a country during his rule.
Zuko was revered, and spoken about in only the greatest and highest of praises. But something else was familiar about this Fire Lord. Something that her memories wouldn't let her see.
"Get over yourself," he muttered, turning toward the large palace at his back. The gleaming red walls and high burning fires made the already hot summer air stale and oppressive. But knowing from Avatar Roku that was how the Fire Nation people liked to feel. This was the feeling of home to them – heat, stiff air, summer sea breezes and spice. "I am not about to bend over backwards for a small girl, with too big of blue eyes and too strong of a chin. You are the Avatar, solve the crisis yourself."
"Hey, don't you walk away from me!" She shouted indignantly as a blast of fire flew from her fist. The Fire Lord swatted the flames away, only one eye looking at her. Her lips pursued and she felt her own orbs darken. She readied another blast of heat, ready to make this arrogant young man listen to her. He couldn't have been her senior by a handful of years. He would listen to her. She was the Avatar and she needed his help. People, his people, needed his help. She would make him listen.
Then he squared his shoulders, not quite glaring at her. Something changed. Something clicked between them as Korra's determination made her fists shake. His posture lessened, his shoulders dropped. His arms became less tense, his lips softened.
Admiration briefly flashed through his eyes before nodding curtly to the Avatar. "Maybe I can be of assistance after all. Follow me." Turning on his heel, he didn't wait for her response. He let the Avatar follow behind him, mouth gaping and eyes clouded in confusion, until he reached the golden stairs of the capital, of his grand home – home to his ancestors. And let her walk ahead of him, when the doors peeled back, letting a spark of smugness shine on his brilliant face at the surprise on her young visage when royal guards bowed to her feet.
They sat in a circle, flames of blue light flickering in the darkened room. Shadows shifted against his hollow cheeks, sharp and angular. Behind him was a portrait of a middle aged man, face still clean shaven, with a deeply burnt inlaid scar against his left eye. If his skin was less tan, white as if the sun never touched it like his people, this Fire Lord would exactly like his grandfather, the Champion of the Fire Nation as the Sages referred to Zuko in ancient readings.
"Why are we meditating?" She asked, annoyance obvious. His eyes were closed, breath tickling the air between them. The flames rose with each inhale and descended with each exhale. The blue flames were almost purple, dark and in control, white hot yet soothing. Her flames had ever only gone deep red, and that was when she concentrated on their intensity.
"The Avatar is connected through the universe, by way of past selves," The Fire Lord was whispering. "You need help in retaining order in the Republic City. You need to understand the conflict before you can fix it. You need to ask a past self for help. You think the Fire Lord will help, and all my interference will do is start conflict." His cat eyes caught her, and the spilt second of regret was tangible. "I will not start another war, like my forefathers before me. My Grandfather was a wise man, and he instilled in me the power of peace. But I will help you find the answers you seek."
"The Fire Lord and the Avatar have a long history. Avatar Aang told me as much." She recalled, pointing to her skull. Her thick mane of hair had become heavy and frizzle in the warmth of the small room, drooping over her shoulder. The Fire Lord's face smirked before returning stoic and eyes closing once more. "Aang told me you could help me. That you would help me because it meant saving others. Mediating is what you suggest, and that will give me the answers I need?"
"Mediating always brings inner answers forward." He nodded. "Now close your eyes and concentrate on the flames around you and call upon Roku. Use the skills of firebending, harness his spirit to you. He was the last Fire Bender of the Fire Nation to become the Avatar. He is connected to both our lives through blood and history. He will do best to be your guide."
Closing her eyes, Korra nodded. The flames surrounding her grew larger, her passion and drive stronger than the calm of the Fire Lord before her. She was oppressive, determined, harsh and chaotic. He was soothing, calm, an ocean of peace in the stifling heat of the meditation room. Soon, she felt a door opening, and a tired face of an elderly man met her. Before stepping through, she heard the words muttered off her lips. The question on her mind since the beginning of her travels, since Aang pointed her in the path she was now on. "What is your name?"
"Iuko." And she let the waves of the spirit world pull her through the soft portal.
"Ah. You must be the new Avatar." Roku nodded, smiling. Korra bent forward, displaying the correct style to honor those of the Fire Nation. Roku's smile grew larger, hands clasping in his large ornate sleeves.
"I am honored to meet a past Avatar."
He smiled again. "And I am honored to meet you, young Korra. What troubles you, to bring you to this realm child?"
Her blue eyes wavered, the strength she displayed to Iuko vanishing. She felt exhausted, drained mentally and physically. This was her journey as Avatar but she still had yet to learn Air Bending and she wasn't any closer to finding her trainer, than she was to solving the crisis of the Republic City. "I need help. The Republic City is in turmoil. Benders are being persecuted for their abilities. I need to stop it, and save those in trouble. I just don't know how."
"That is a large order." Roku rubbed his jaw. A large red dragon huffed behind him, curving his long body beside his master and friend. He was grand but a sense of comfort surrounded Korra at seeing him. "And you are still very young to be stopping such worries in the world."
"Not as young as Avatar Aang when he stopped the Hundred Years War." She smirked, hip cocking. Roku could not help but smile at her brashness. She reminded him of another soul in the spirit world, one he frequently talked to, when she had been young too. "Tell me what you think is best. They say it is over something in the past, feelings blurring into something more. Aang said to come to the Fire Lord and ask for his help. But he won't do much but point me toward you. And now I'm here. Why is that? What do I do?"
The smile tired, lines in the elder's face deepening. "For Aang to send you to Iuko, means this is something he knows much about. But will not part with the information willing. My young friend Aang is a kind hearted man, even now in the Spirit World, where he spends times comforting those recently dead and tending to animals. But he could never understand one part of his life, which seemed to elude even his compassion and wisdom."
"Elude? Does this have to do with anti – Bender feelings? Did Aang cause this conflict?"
"It may play a part, though I do not think this caused the conflicts. But as the Avatar, you should understand your history. Aang learned of the connection between the Fire Lord Sozin and myself, through memories, in order to understand the start of the Hundred Years War. Perhaps he wanted you to understand his connection to Fire Lord Zuko, through our memories again, so you may help your cause. Either way, you must understand history before you are to alter the future."
She nodded again, shoulders drooping. She was used to such cryptic talks and readily accepted that it was her duty to figure things out, even with her past selves giving her information. "Whatever knowledge you have to spare, I'll gladly take Roku."
"Good Korra. Now come, I have a story to tell you. It involves Avatar Aang, Fire Lord Zuko and the Water Bending Master, Sifu Katara."
His arms were burning hot around her waist, the searing heat at once painful yet comforting, playful yet tempting. The bubble of lust in her gut – the strong emotion that nibbled at her insides – flared to life, taking hold of her limbs. Her own arms circled his neck, pulling him closer, deepening their passionate kiss that became a sweet dance of forbidden lust. Forbidden passion. Forbidden love.
Always forbidden. Always hidden. Katara pushed closer, wanting his bare chest closer to hers', wanting everything he had to offer. She wanted his lips closer, harder, bruising in their intensity. She wanted it all.
Roughly he pushed her against the wall, trapping her there with his legs tangled within her own, his arms pinning her between his hard body and the cold wall. Sweat dripped above them, the flames of the candles in the bath grand and hot from their chaotic breathing. Zuko pushed closer, bit the corner of her mouth and struggled to pull away.
"We can't." he choked out. His breathing was haggard, tinged with regret. "Aang-"
"For once in your life, will you just think about us!" She raged, the water quaking around them. Katara's blue eyes wavered, his lips red and swollen. "I'm married to Aang. You're married to Mai. Tenzin was born not more than a year ago, and I can't stop lo-"
His lips stopped her sentence. He was forceful, determined to take the words from her. Such things would only cause more trouble. They were already been unfaithful. They were already sneaking away at times of the year to be together. He was the Fire Lord – had been for almost a decade. She was a mature, Water Bending Master, the wife of the Avatar and the mother of his only child.
He had been at the wedding. He had watched her be given by Sokka to Aang, saw her kiss his best friend, saw her dance their first time together as husband and wife - as partners for life. He also saw the way the Avatar looked at her in the pale blue dress and long beaded cap – and he remembered the same dress on the floor during the reception when she and he met in a suite of the fire palace. Ever since, nothing had been enough to stop them.
Her hands were cold on his skin, smoothing his chest, to the star scar at his naval – which he gained saving her from Azula. Her lips were soft and coaxing – his were hard and slanted. Their tongues danced and soon she was beneath him on the cold tiled floor, her long tan legs warm and cold at the same time, tangled in his white legs darted with black hair.
The friction between them was what he loved the most. He loved how she was soft but hard against him, womanly but childish, ordering and dominating yet placate and kind. She was nothing like Mai – who loved him, cared from him, but remained aloof unless she came to his bed to try and provide an heir to their kingdom. Katara was the sun and the moon and the water and passion and chaos and bittersweet love. She was regret but want. She was always in his dreams and always in his head and their late, infrequent visits were the only things that kept him sane in a country that demanded him every waking moment.
Hours passed, as they drink their full of the other, basking in their naked warmth. He took her on the floor, against the wall and doors. She surrounded him in the bath and on the sink vanity. Neither remembered how long they've been together nor did they care. Neither wanted to return to their real lives – where he was a Fire Lord, proud, proper with the perfect Fire Lady who was as patriotic and yet loyal as him; or where she was the Wife of the Avatar, the Water Bending Master, Mother of Tenzin the Avatar's only son, and the woman many applauded and respected for she was the reason the Avatar was found and loved and saved their world - saving them.
But right at that moment, they were just two lovers, caught in a destiny without being able to be more than what they were. Slowly they dressed, looking at each other before Katara walked from the room. She knew Tenzin would need her soon, and though she was just with Zuko, her son was her everything. And when she did leave, she didn't return, and Zuko returned to his room, where his lovely and perfect wife waited for him.
Korra's blue eyes open, shock coloring her cheeks. She looked to Roku who sadly nodded his head to her unasked question. "The Fire Lord and Sifu Katara were lovers? And Avatar Aang knew this?"
Roku shrugged, very slowly as if afraid the newest Avatar might explode. "Not at first, young one. Aang was always faithful to his wife, and doting on her. Anything she wanted, he would gladly give." Then he smiled. "But sometimes Fate cannot be stopped. The Fire Lord and Avatar have always had a complicated past and intermingling of lives. For me, he was my best friend turned enemy. For Aang he was his enemy turned best friend, turned competition."
"But how did Aang come to know this? Why didn't he stop it?" Her heart yearned for the man she knew in her past self. She knew he was kind, gentle, loving and admirable. He wouldn't hurt a fly and cared for anything.
Quietly, Roku turned toward his dragon, patting his large head. "Aang didn't know right away. It was after a series of visits he did. And this is what eluded him. He couldn't understand why both of them needed to be together. Why they had to see each other. Why they continued to hurt him."
"Well, why did they?" She stood too, her white pants rustling in the silence of the Spirit World. "They both loved Aang. Katara married him, Zuko fought with him. How could they do it?"
The wisdom on the elder's face was bright in the muted blue of the world. "Because to them, they weren't setting out to hurt Avatar Aang, Korra. They were just two people in love. Who couldn't be, due to destiny. They became what the world needed of them. And they did it quite well too for the world they inhabited."
Anger, pity and sympathy burned in Korra's belly. Roku was wise and knew more than she, so for him to see the situation for what it was, she had to agree. Korra would never agree with the way Aang had been treated - he was her only guide until she met Roku - but she knew little of destiny and fate. She was still learning, and because of that, she could not argue with the man, argue what had happened in the past and prove the betrayal horrible instead of logical.
Slowly she nodded, breathing calmly as Iuko had taught her in the mediation room. "And how does this apply to the city I'm meant to help?" Her hands found her hips again, foot sticking out on the grass. "Because the Fire Lord and Sifu had a clandestine relationship, this caused anti – Bender feelings?"
He waved her closer. "I will show you."
"Why do you get to have her?" Aang shouted, fist connecting with Zuko's forearm. A blast of wind pushed them apart, as Aang stomped on to the ground, catapulting him toward the sky. The wind was cold against the blazing heat of his skin. Pure anger radiated throughout his small and lean form.
The Avatar had become a man after being freed from the iceberg, but his body still remained compact, lean and angular like those of his people. He, much like the rest of his group, had grown after decades since the end of the war. He had a child, a boy who could bend air like him, who was already pushing twelve – his age when he had saved the world.
Why was it, that he could save the world, produce one more Air Bender in the world, become a beacon of peace in trying times, but he couldn't be the love of his wife's life? Why?
Anger vibrated deeper, rage coloring his vision red as he sailed toward the ground. Zuko darted away, watching the smaller man punch into the dirt where his taller form had been. The earth gave way under his fist, denting as if the man had hit metal. Zuko felt a spark of annoyance but remained impassive as the man stood, his shoulders quaking under his pain and anger.
Zuko didn't want this – he had never wanted this. He had spent his entire life hunting the Avatar and then befriending him – he still didn't quite understand how he had been privileged enough to attain his friendship. And even now, he didn't want it gone. He wouldn't lose Aang over this – lose the favor of the only man who believed in him, besides his deceased Uncle – when everyone else left. He wouldn't.
"Aang, stop it." He muttered, hands glazing over in heat. The flames twinkled from a deep red to an electric blue, as the sky above roared with thunder. "She isn't mine. She's not an object. She's a person. A woman married to you. Because she loves you." I won't make him choose. He can't choose. He deserves love. He deserves her, after everything he's done for this world, and me. He deserves her love.
"But she loves you too!" Another burst of wind forced him away, sand kicking up into his eyes, flames blinking away in the storm. He had expected it, since fighting against and with the Avatar, even now he couldn't hurt someone readily – even in anger; he would avoid and subdue him with his boundless amounts of energy. Like he had to his father – like he had done countless times since.
So Zuko eyes closed before the small particles could blind him, and waited.
"That doesn't matter!" A circle of fire surrounded the Fire Lord as he felt Aang move closer. He wouldn't hurt his friend, even if Aang wanted to hurt him, but he had to offer some protection. Aang was still the Avatar and extremely powerful since the battle with his father. The Avatar tried to burst through, but the flames colored blue and continued to grow, holding him away.
Zuko clasped his hands behind his back, patient as his Uncle had taught him to be since taking rule over the Fire Nation; even now his wisdom was constantly on his mind. He could see the wear on the younger man – was it really almost fifteen years ago they had set him free from an iceberg? - And waited for Aang's breathing to calm as he slowly regained control. "It doesn't matter Aang. She loves you. You are who she will remain with."
"How can I have her, if her heart is yours'?"
Shoulder drooping, Zuko hung his head. Gone was his façade of calm and understanding – now he looked positively sick and regretful and hopeful. He knew the right way to handle this – to cast off everything he ever felt for Katara and give her to Aang to keep; to break her heart, and let Aang put it back together again. But he couldn't be that selfless, he was always selfless and for once he wanted the one thing in the world he loved. But how could he hurt his best friend that way?
Finally, he whispered dejectedly: "I don't know."
"Shortly after that, my friend Aang lost his temper on the small village. He raged for days on the wooden beams with fire, flooded the valley, up turned rocks and ravines, and blew away those that had hurt him." Roku hung his head. "Aang was a gentle man, but he had one flaw – his temper. Though it has been remarked that Zuko was often portrayed with a poor control on his temper, Aang was deadlier when he lost his. And the village suffered.
"That village became what is now Republic City. And a deep hatred of bending comes from Avatar Aang's broken heart." Silently he shrugged. "You see child, history often affects what happens to the future. Because of the lovers, Aang destroyed a village that would start a war on all bending."
"Does the city know this? Do the elders know why it began this way?" Her bottom lip trembled, the fear and rage of Aang's fight still in her veins. But she remembered the look on Zuko's face – beaten, drained, hurt. And she remembered the want from him and Katara – the love, forbidden and hurtful on their faces.
"They do not. They did not understand their parents' hatred and only fed off of it. If they knew it was from the Avatar's hurt, I believe things might have progressed differently."
"So now I am to stop a war on Benders that my past self began, when his two closest friends, broke his heart with their love. Sounds easy enough," she whispered sarcastically. She wasn't exactly thrilled at learning her past, but now she understood a bit more about the task in front of her. Sunder understood a bit more about Aang, about his devotion, about Zuko's regret and Katara's love. She turned toward the portal, where she could see her body, still within her trance and Iuko in front of her, meditating. A thought occurred to her. "Fire Lord Iuko is part Water Tribe, isn't he?"
A soft, careful smile appeared on Roku's face. "A generation back, a Southern Water Tribe woman gave birth to a girl – named Umiko. She was the Fire Lord's heir, and the Fire Lady adopted her to make her as such, for she could never conceive a child. Laws and such."
Korra's eyes widened. "Katara and Zuko had a child?" Korra's mouth opened. "A daughter?"
"She became the Fire Lord," Roku praised. "She was incredibly gifted in the art of Fire Bending, and taught her son the same tricks her father taught her." Korra's mouth opened again to ask another question as Roku raised a hand to silence her. "It was easy to pass Katara's daughter as Mai's, for she looked like Zuko, except for her eyes being the stark shade of blue. The world thought it was because of the Sifu saving the Fire Lord at such a young age, altering genes." Though he still smiled, his eyes saddened. "Katara let Umiko become Mai's daughter, for the same reason she never became Fire Lady. Katara was needed to be the Avatar's Wife and companion. She had a role to live. Much like Zuko had to be Fire Lord and not a simple man and husband to the Sifu."
"That's why Iuko has the same color as my skin…" she trailed off. Genetics were a funny thing. For a generation, it had been hidden that Katara had continued the Fire Nation's royal family. "Well, that explains a lot."
His finger waved into the air at Korra's concerned face. "Have patience with this information. Learning from the past can solve the future crises. but you must accept it happened and why."
"Of course Roku," she bowed again, in the tradition Fire Nation stance. "Thank you for what you've taught me. I will use this information in my quest and hopefully it will help me help others." Roku bowed to her in the traditional Water Tribe stance and smiled as she departed.
Though he knew it was good for Korra to learn of her past self history, in his heart he knew it was not easy to understand. For to love and to be loyal were often times tied together, but on rare occasions were not – and those times tended to bring about the most grief and heartache, to those involved and those that loved others.
"What did you learn?" Iuko asked, voice rough from meditation. His body was serene, at ease with the long meditation. He felt rejuvenated and focused. At seeing her tough face, the darkness in her eyes covered with wisdom, he knew she had found the answers where she needed them.
"What do you know of your ancestors?"
He shrugged. "Quite a bit. Did you learn something of them?"
She opened her mouth and then promptly shut it. Something in her wanted to be snide about what she saw – to understand Aang's side and discourage Zuko's and Katara's. But she watched the man in front of her, watched the same features displayed in Zuko and in Katara, though the world refused to see it. Aang had seen it. That was why Korra could. It always broke his heart to know Katara had another child – but she could tell, it hurt him more, that he wasn't able to give her up, to love Umiko like she did Tenzin. It had been Aang's one regret in life – to keep the love of his life, away from hers' and her only daughter.
So with much restraint to make her father proud, Korra smiled openly and winked, ignoring the facts she learned for the time being and concentrated on the now. "Did you ever hear the story of the Water Bending Master and the Fire Lord? I hear it's a pretty hot story."
Seeing his eyes alight with something between friendliness and amusement, she took it as cue she had been waiting for. His maternal grandmother hadn't been hidden from him. He knew he had descended from the same people as she. And their bond formed that much closer.
AN: So what do we think? Could happen right? Thanks for reading!
OH and the names? I couldn't remember but I based "Umiko" off a name that meant "child of the seas" (Good for her really being from Katara right?) - and Iuko was just a blending of Zuko/ Iroh. I didn't get terribly creative here like some in the fandom.