Disclaimer: Start eyeing the lawyers in the background. "I could write in some wolfbats to keep you guys company." They glare back in return. Mummbles Fine! The original characters and plot are the property of the author. ME! Because I can't afford the license from Nickelodeon. sniff

''- thought

Italic – feeling

"Hurry nephew the rains will be upon us soon." Struggling up the stairs of the cross bridge the elder man pauses for breath. "Hai, Ojisan.

The gentle breeze of the oncoming shower dissipated the sour smell of garbage within the poor district walls of the Lower Tier, Be Sing Se. Taking the bag of fresh groceries from Ojisan, Zuko plays the part of the ever helpful nephew. Closing the tea house has become their responsibility after the "misguided boy" incident. After cleaning the shop both himself and Ojisan escorts the shopkeeper to his home before proceeding to their own dwelling. Zuko could care less about the shopkeeper but he worried about Ojisan. General Irho may be the Dragon of the West but his is on in years and deserves protection from crazed relatives and obsessed fortune hunters. Although the little incentive to accompany the paranoid merchant does have some perks. They were able to move to better rooms closer to the teahouse, buy clothing replace their meager belongings and fresh food.

Ojisan began his evening preparation for dinner, swatting Zuko away from the cutting board. "Go meditate young man." The air was becoming more humid, yes he should focus on his core. Just because he was no longer after the Avatar didn't mean he should become soft. His inner fire would need to burn bright just incase of another incident. Such as one with his demented sister and her estranged entourage. He knows Mei and Ty Lee wouldn't willingly follow her. Azula has no 'friends' just subjects whom she controls. Settling next to the window he begins to reflect on his inner flame. Soon the gentle tapping of the shingles are heard and sprays against his brow, slowly bringing a scowl to Zuko's face.

'Rain, I hate the rain. It is a soft element, adaptable yes but weak none the less.'

Between the buildings laundry hangs like colorful flags. Just as wind changes the direction of the rain he hears the squeaking of the lines being pulled in. Sighing in defeat he watches. Looking down the reflection of a blue shirt within a puddle reminds him of her eyes.

'Katara of the Sothern Water Tribe, daughter to Chief Hakoda, prodigy and first female student of the well known water Master Pakku. Female companion of the Avatar, sister of the simpleton Sokka.' He knew the group very well. It would foolish for a hunter not to know his prey.

Their first encounter at her achievement of becoming a Master drew his attention.

'No that would be wrong, being the only female in the group at that time she was noticeable then. Trying to fight his soldiers with her pitiful trick, it mattered not that that it worked.'

Chuckle 'She was powerful even in her freight.'

It took three hours to unfreeze the solders.

Within the sacred oasis he found them. The young Avatar aglow in his meditative state. She stood by guarding him.

'Like a Skunk-bear would her cub.'

The clouds passed over the moon. Standing at the foot of the bridge it was her that made him cross. Her eyes bright with cold determination and even colder smirk. Not the avatar. He had to remind himself of this…

'She does not understand the Avatar is my destiny. My honor, my place in this chaotic war…'

Regret seeps into him 'Now it matters not. My status as a prince has been officially evoked. Now Azula, the crazed bitch, is the next in line. Just as my sire wanted.'

Quickly he disregards his current status. Katara failed of course but he could admire her cold fire. Such fiery determination and focus rivaled his own. The stubborn water peasant danced for him during their battle.

'Opposites vying for domination.'

Although born a prince of the fiercest element he admits he is made of flesh. During his banishment he has found to acquire certain appetites.

'Keh…she is just a little girl, a peasant, trying to play the role of a warrior. Born not even within the mere shadow of my status, she is nothing. My passion would break her. However tasty she may seem.'

His temperature rises with annoyance and anger, and then quickly cools.

'Nevertheless, her nature, her very her core is made of gentle kindness, unwavering compassion, fierce loyalty and yes…quite beauty. These qualities make her worthy of a few moments…or a full night. Her sleek form shivering in anticipation…begging for release.'

A calculating smirk appears.

'The Avatar is smitten by her. Weaknesses are found within your enemy to be exploited. Heat would draw her, consuming all within reach, eating away at everything until there is nothing left. Her inner strength would be easily broken. Shattered like crystal until only the dust remains.'

The last thought made him pause with unease. A different heat starts to raise within….an odd feeling clouds his mind for just a flick of a flame.

Another invading her personal space, touching, mocking… His life belongs to her for her he wasn't left behind in the cave. 'She offered to help Ojisan. No matter short the wick may be, it is hers alone…'

Grr…

'This is ridiculous she is not of royal blood. She knows naught of the court. Hell she probably isn't educated enough to read never mind the proper etiquette of social standing.'

Hhm

'She probably doesn't even know my debt to her. It does not matter. It is not of my concern; she and her friends are now at the hands of my twisted sister. Let the retched Fates have them. The gods are cruel and vexing always demanding payment.'

His heart skips a beat…

His sister always got what she wanted. Always, no matter what the consequences, to the victim that is. Unforgiving, spoiled, condescending, backstabbing, warped bitch, all describes his sibling.

'Sire to the core.'

Fear….

Ever so softly one word drops from his lips, "Koibito"

Anger

Scowl – honey turns deadly amber.

'No one touch what is MINE!'

Suppressing the need to kill, his nails dug into his skin. He would not lose control.

'All actions must be calculated for a set goal. An allotted time give to insure direction and urgency. Ojisan and I are deep within enemy territory. Any uncontrolled bending would call attention. I will not make the same mistake Ojisan did at the station. Stealth is my master weapon that keeps us safe.'

Slowly releasing his breath he focuses deeper within.

'From what I remember the necklace means she is betrothed. Thus a fact….'

'She said it once belonged to her mother. Fact...'

'First theory…Desperate times cause some to bend the rules of tradition a little. Her father may have permitted using his wife's necklace as approval from both, himself and the mother. Katara is of age, war is cruel and many have fallen.'

'Solution…If not then I will make sure the obstacle is removed. Or she will become a widow on the day of her wedding. She need not know. Such a willful creature as she could be gently persuaded to forget such a minor detail. Kept busy helping me run a country, educated as my equal. She deserves no less. Of course pampered and adored. Goes without saying. Warming my bed ensuring strong heirs; by my side raising a new generation. '

'Second theory…She wears the necklace as a keepsake then she is free to court. '

'Solution…No elimination needed, then just manipulate her time. Show her she is worthy. Only to me for I am the prince of the fiercest element, her yang, the perfect match. Any whom gets in my way will yield.'

'Either way, I need to understand her culture, and set things in motion.'

'Theory that will become fact. A time table will be created once my sire is eliminated.'

Smirk – 'koibito, houki Katara, my will is always done…'

Carefully pressing his hand against the window sill Zuko releases a controlled breath. Tendrils of smoke waifs around his fingers, so slight one may think it a trick of the mind. Withdrawing his hand the symbols of the four nations are elegantly scorched into the grain. One side of the circle Fire (kaji) and Water (mizu) the other Earth (daichi) and Air (tenkuu) all achieving the perfect balance within yin and yang. How the world should be.

Squaring his shoulders he becomes the Fire Prince once again. "Ojisan I'm going to the library."

All fire benders can locate a heat source no matter the size or distance. The great Dragon of the West smelt the burning wood; curiosity getting the better of him retraced the pattern.

The bedroom door opened with a snap. The elder said nothing as he drank his tea to hide a knowing smirk.

"Finally."