I are back!

This is my first time writing an ATLA fic (I hail from the One Piece fandom) so I hope you'll read and enjoy.

I guess I wanted to do a sort of mature spin on the Zutara/Kataang dynamic - again, I am a Zutara fan and definitely not a Kataang fan. I just can't get the image out of my head of a kid falling in love with their babysitter. So yeah, lots of canon references and post-SC events.

Anyways, enough rambling.

On with the story!


He is Zuko.

She is Katara.

He wants to capture the Avatar.

She wants to stop him.

And so they begin.

oOo

The first time his view about her changes is during their face-off at the North Pole.

She manages to freeze him in place, but he is so consumed by the adrenaline pumping through his veins – so close, the Avatar was so close - that at first he doesn't feel the cold bite of the ice. But then, with the moon shining in her eyes, she encapsulates him completely and, only now that he is unable to move, does his mind register his skin burning and suddenly he thinks we are not so different.

Though he would never admit it, that thought scares him.

And so, as it has for the past three years, fear is automatically converted into anger and he blasts his way out to show her (and he) just how different they are.

oOo

Hesitantly, hesitantly, he lifts the choker to his face and watches the candle's flicker-flame glint off it. Marvels silently at its simple elegance.

Slowly, slowly, he closes his eyes. Breathes deeply.

Finally, finally, he presses it to his scar. Feels the cool touch of the blue stone.

It soothes.

oOo

He realises he wants her to trust him when they are imprisoned together in the underground catacombs of Ba Sing Se.

He realises he wants her to respect him when she coldly snubs him after he saved her life in the Western Air Temple.

He realises he wants her to love him when she stands frozen in place as lightning crackles from his sister's fingertips straight for her heart.

oOo

They finally announce their inevitable relationship to the world a year after the war.

Outwardly, he smiles and congratulates and cracks bad jokes about descendents and drinks a toast for their eternal happiness.

Inwardly, he knows he would willingly allow himself to be chased all over the world if it only meant that he would be the one standing by her side.

oOo

He is at a get-together celebrating her twentieth birthday.

It is as lively and upbeat and crazy as always, yet he immediately notices that one person is missing. One who is, according to her brother, halfway around the world mediating a feud between two rival Sandbending clans. It is only then that it dawns on him - Aang's love is for the world. He was never destined to love one person alone. His heart clenches and seeks her out among the throng of partying people with a sweeping glance.

The sad look in her eyes he alone observes as she walks to the kitchen for refills tells him that she has known this for a long, long time.

And it is taking its toll.

oOo

Mai, for once, completely understands him.

Well, if accusing and then yelling and screaming and carrying on for a good half hour in the blandest way possible before packing up and throwing a few kunai at his head for good measure and moving to the other side of the city can be counted as understanding. But she doesn't tell her parents about their break-up (granted, she never told them about their getting together either) and visits when she needs to.

He is grateful yet can't help but taste guilt, however, when she tells him that she is getting married in the next spring.

oOo

Sometimes he thinks Can we start over?

He knows that this is something that has already happened.

Sometimes he thinks Would you like to stay?

He knows that this is already happening, but not in the way he wishes it to be.

Sometimes he thinks Will you marry me?

He knows that this is impossible.

oOo

Many whisper that he prefers to be alone. Some think that he is detached and cold. Others gossip that he's just not interested in girls.

With no other presence save that of a freshly brewed pot of jasmine tea, an old ex-general hears all and smiles sadly.

Iroh knows better.

Iroh always knows better.

oOo

She comes to him crying.

Tells his shirt that she can't take it anymore as he uncomfortably returns her tight embrace.

Asks-no, pleads with him to let her spend the week, the night, the hour. Please please please she is silently chanting as her lungs fill with his scent. At first, he doesn't understand what could possibly possess her to cross many thousands of miles from the Western Air Temple in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on her back.

And then he remembers the birthday party.

How many other occasions has the Airbender missed? He knows that she would have struggled with herself long and hard before coming to this point. He knows that she would have called herself things like selfish and needy and greedy for wanting the Avatar's love for herself. Wanting to just be loved, and not wanting to share, for who can bear to share the one they love most?

The next morning reveals a Fire Lord on the couch, a Waterbender in his bed, and an Uncle once more hopeful for his nephew's happiness.

oOo

The Avatar never knows of her more and more frequent trips.

A part of him feels terrible guilt for stealing another's woman, but he's not. Isn't he? She merely stays for the company, that's all. Isn't she? Her brother divides his time between the Southern Water Tribe and Kyoshi Island, while the feisty little Earthbender's blatant distaste for Air Temples ensures she is never around either.

She spends her days walking the gardens and winding, endless hallways with him and, on occasion, his uncle. Eventually, she persuades Aang to relocate closer to the Fire Nation where, coincidentally, only ocean bars her from the Royal Palace.

He complies, and never guesses her ulterior motive.

oOo

"You know, I think I love you."

oOo

He is waiting for her long after his candle burns out.

What she murmured right before the waves speed her away from him continue to ring in his ears.

But what would it change? Their love was forbidden. There was duty. There was responsibility. There was Aang. No matter how much she loved him, he was absolutely certain she couldn't break his heart, and that thought broke his heart.

Having her so close and yet so far was killing him.

oOo

That night, with only Yue as a witness, they come to an unspoken conclusion amongst tangled limbs under red silk sheets and silent gasps stolen before they can escape open mouths.

She would stay with Aang, but he knows she will only ever love him and him only. Dimly, he also knows that eventually it would all blow up in his face. That he is jeopardising the relationship between their nations. But when she walks towards him with dark hair tousled by the wind and salt encrusting her robes and eyes restless with loneliness and everything unfulfilled he knows he can't deny her.

Can't deny himself.

oOo

He is Zuko.

She is Katara.

Does he regret? If he were to be truly honest, without any explanations or justifications, he would say no.

Does she regret? If she were to be truly honest, without any explanations or justifications, she would say no.

And so they remain.


Constructive criticism is the best way to move forward. Your imput as readers is very much appreciated.

Especially if you feel I could have expressed myself better in places (I'm struggling with that at the moment).

Til next time,

-cherrichik