A/N: Inspired by a sweet anon on Tumblr.
The One With(out) a Super-Villain
"Let me go!"
The words were a tad slurred and without any force. Did she fling a couple punches at him? Bat at his face like a stunningly inebriated cat? Yes. Would she probably have destroyed the face of anyone else? Also yes. Didn't stop him from cradling her like the most precious of puppies and carting her off, on the ground and safe. He smirked as she continued to protest, words she had snapped at his civilian self ages ago floated to the forefront of his mind. "Not a chance, Painted Lady. I have a duty of care."
"Asshole, you're a super-villain." She giggled. "My super-villain."
She tried to wiggle away again - lady was water, appropriately enough, as she tried to sink out of his hold - so he tossed her a little to adjust and tighten his grip. Her one arm tightened around his neck while the other clutched at her hat - as if they both didn't know that was more secure than the bank vaults. Still, the bit of air she got made her veil flutter, and he could catch glimpses of her delicately painted cheeks.
Too bad her eyes were a bit dulled by drink rather than alight with battle fury or passion or care.
"I don't give a shit if I'm a super-villain, I can and will arrest you for flying while drunk; maybe I can't put you in jail, but I will absolutely tie you up in my lair until you sober up."
Her laugh was the darkest, saddest thing he'd ever heard from her lips. "It's the anniversary of the worst day of my life. Drinking numbs the pain and since flying clears my mind, I'd like to ask you from the bottom of my heart to fuck right off."
"My Lady," he began, unsure, and in that moment of weakness she wiggled free, stumbling towards a wall.
"You," she said with a wild point in his general direction. "You should take your inexplicable care, and your warm body, and your fantastic arms-" She trailed off, briefly losing her train of thought. She caught it again, signaled by another wild wave of her pointing hand. "Take all that and just fuck off back to your secret lair and leave me and my best friend Jack Daniels alone."
He kicked opened the door next to her. "But won't you come in and join me in said lair?"
She blinked, stunned. "Holy shit. This is your lair."
"I never knew the greatest waterbender of our age had such a mouth," he replied, steering her into the door and to a couch. He tried to leave her to get water, but she pulled him down next to her. Certainly not what he'd had in mind the numerous times he'd imagined joining the Painted Lady on a couch. Plus, he'd always imagined it in his apartment which had a couch much nicer with no coffee stains.
"Do you actually live here? I've never seen this part."
He flushed as she threw an arm over his shoulder, pulling him closer to her. "That's because this is where I patch myself up so I don't get blood in my apartment. When I finally leave, I want my security deposit back."
"Another reason to bring me here. If I throw up, it's in a more run down place."
"Why do you assume my place is better than this?"
"You always have funds for those crazy schemes. Makes since you'd have a better place to crawl back to when I'm done kicking your ass." She took a breath, face twisting briefly, then continued, " you do know all those schemes end up helping people, right? After we strip away your over-dramatic doom names and brighten the colors, they better people's lives."
"Oh my god!" She twisted suddenly, hands on his shoulders pushing him into the couch as she came to straddle him, staring down into his theatrical mask. "Are you a super-villain trying to do good?" The rice whiskey on her breath was nearly strong enough to intoxicate on its own, or perhaps that was the nearness of her. "Why don't you? Just add a bit of color to your costume, take off that scary mask and-"
Before he could react her fingers were curled around the fanged mask and then it was on the floor. She pouted, her whole weight resting on his thighs, when the unveiling just revealed black cloth over his face. Only his amber eyes started out of the black, the eyes surrounded by black makeup he was very careful applying each time he left as the Blue Spirit.
He gestured to those same eyes that let the world knew he bent fire. "I'm Fire Nation, aren't I? No one would let me close enough to help. Super-villain is what they expect, so villain I will be."
"Still, the black mask underneath is a bit much."
"The Avatar and the Blind Bandit have knocked it off before; you're just too polite. I am... very recognizable. We've even met when I was out of costume."
"Oh. Well how am I supposed to kiss you?"
His brain misfired, and he may have missed a heartbeat or two. "I'm sorry, what? Did you just, I, what?"
"That's what's supposed to happen right? The drunk, hurt heroine is comforted by the anti-hero-" Her fingers bunched the fabric around his shoulders. "-confessions are shared, they kiss-"
His hands found her waist, and with a quick abuse of physics he tossed her to the couch and disentangled himself, making a beeline for the small kitchenette. "Like you said, Painted Lady, you are drunk. I, just, you, I don't want," he broke off unsure as the faucet stuttered to life.
"You don't want me?"
"No!" He almost broke the glass in his hand with the strength of his emphatic cry. "No, I, I do, just-" She looked at him from underneath the brim of her hat, and there was a confused hurt he ached to wipe away. "You'll regret it if you kiss me now, and despite being your sworn enemy I couldn't bear to add a regret to your life. You look much better when you hate me then when you're sad."
He handed her the glass of water from a full arm's length away and retreated when she took it with a grateful "thank you." She had two glasses before he was satisfied.
"Don't leave?" she asked as he bent for his mask. Her face was so hopeful and voice so plaintive that he sighed.
I am so fucked. "Sure." He tucked her in with one of the less ratty blankets. He tried to make for the recliner, but she scooted enough to give him room to sit, looking at him until the guilt became too much. He sat down in the curve of her waist, resting a hand on her shoulder. "It's a valiant effort, my lady, but I won't fit."
"I don't want to be alone."
"It's the first anniversary of my mom's death that I don't have my dad or brother around. They're traveling for work, so yeah, I kinda am alone." She paused. Breathed. "Sorry, that came out bitchier than I expected. It's just easier for them. They didn't see the guy's face. They didn't watch her die."
He remembers a minion slinking into his father's office, announcing the death of the last Southern Waterbender. He remembers his face when the Painted Lady appeared, and every one knows the Northern benders wouldn't deign or dare to play on Sozin turf.
He squeezed her shoulder. "I am so sorry."
"She died because of me. He was after the last waterbender in the South, and she said it was her. She calmly told me to get Dad; he repeated her, mocking, and put a fist of fire in her face." A sob wracked her body. He pulls her close, wrapping her in his arms as if he can make the pain go away. "I will find him, one day, and I will face him. I will make sure he's sorry."
The brim of her hat pressed into his good cheek as his hands pressed into her back. "I know you will. He will know the weight of what he did."
He murmured platitudes into her ear and rubbed circles into her back until the sobs abated and her muscles relaxed. He gently laid her back down, humming one of his uncle's lullabies, and was satisfied to see her drifting to sleep, hands adjusting her hat just so.
He stretched out on the recliner, even as she made soft noises of complaint as he left her side. While he left his black mask on, he went ahead and removed his boots and gloves. It wouldn't be the first time he'd slept in his gear, and probably not the last. With that depressing thought, he closed his eyes and drifted off.
Katara woke in the middle of the night disoriented and confused. Her head was spinning, and her room was so grey - no, not her room, part of the Blue Spirit's lair. She sat up as the memories roared back to her, fumbling for the glass of water he'd no doubt refilled for her. She glanced at the recliner, where he lay curled up tight, back pressed to a seat so the minimum of vulnerability was exposed.
Head and heart ached as she stood and tottered over to him. He still had the mask on, and with the paint he applied even to his eyelids it was hard to make out the proportions of his face in the dark. His hands, though, were free, and curled into fists to match the rest of him. She ran a finger along the hand on top and made a hungover wish to touch more of his skin one day.
Carefully, she guessed at his temple and pressed a kiss there. Ridged skin pressed back under the cloth.
"I'm very recognizable," he'd said, and she'd assumed he was someone famous. She thought of the numerous people with facial scars she'd seen, and wondered who could be so brave as to don a mask, convince people to hate him, all in the name of bettering their lives.
"Whoever you are," she whispered in the night, the moon high. "I think I could love you."
Moonlight sped her home.
And if she spent a little less time on revenge and a little more on ways to bring the Blue Spirit to her side, that was no one's business but hers.