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Promoting Peace

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Promoting Peace

 

Chapter One

 


 

 

The war had been going on for hundred years, three nations have been rebellioning against the one nation that had started the war. The Fire Nation has been trying to control the war since the Avatar's disappearance hundred years ago. We find Katara and Sokka in their homeland, this is where her story begins.

 


 

"Katara?" She heard her father call to her. She was practicing her waterbending techniques that she had learned while in the Northern Water Tribe. She was grateful to have had someone to be her teacher, as she had been self taught for so long. Shifting, swirling the water through the air, she moved it a pouch at her side, bringing in, then topping it off with a cork. She turned her attention her father, to find her brother was also with him. He seemed almost uncomfortable to be there. Immediately she felt as if something was out of place in her world. She remained rooted to her spot as her father came to stand directly in front of her. He started by placing his palms against her shoulders and bringing her into a tight hug, she felt as uneasy as her brother looked. She forced herself to look up at him, and he placed a gentle kiss atop her head before she wiggled her out of his grasp.

"Father? What's wrong? Why do you both look so pale?" She couldn't keep the worry from her voice as they both tensed, though her father spoke and she gave him her full attention.

"Katara, you know I love you and I wouldn't ask you of this if there was another way." Her father spoke. She stood stock still, attention high alert. "You remember that envoy we received from the Fire Nation two weeks ago?" She nodded her head carefully, a pit forming in her stomach. "It seems that the Fire Nation's prince, as I know you're familiar with, he's coming to be coming of age in a few months..." He paused, he could see the wheels clicking, "...and his father has demanded a trade of sorts for peace."

She definitely did not like where this was headed. The pit had gotten heavier and she felt like she was going throw up at any given moment, she croaked out "what sort of trade?" She felt ill at any possible negotiations that could come from that demon.

"That's the thing, Katara. He requests that you marry his son; Prince Zuko." She saw her fathers expression falter on that sentence, she also saw him regain his composure just as she lost hers.

Katara's expression turned into a scowl, her anger flaring up. "There is no way I would marry that pompous jerk!" Her voice causing the water to shift around them, the waves quivering around them as they stood on that chunk of ice with her, that could break off at anytime leaving them to suffer with her rage. Sokka stepped back, he knew her temper well enough to know that could happen when she wasn't in control of her bending. He knew that their father knew that they had encountered Zuko during their journey with the Avatar and Toph, the Gaang as he liked to call it. Amidst their travels, himself and his sister had returned the Southern Water Tribe, thus temporarily saying goodbye to their friends. The Avatar had gone to visit an Airbender they had discovered in one of the Earth Kingdom towns, who was going to help him develop his skills to beat Firelord Ozai. Toph had ventured back home to confront her parents, to announce her independence and tell them off, as she had phrased it.

Sokka shivered as wisps of water began to dance around them.

Though, that didn't stop their father from saying what he had to. "I understand your anger, daughter, however this is for the sake of our tribe, your home. Whether you dislike him or not, it is in your best interest to reconcile with Firelord Ozai's son. Who knows, maybe you'll even fall in love?" His voice stern, as his leader qualities emerged.

"No! He is a childish idiot! I will not marry that hot headed, arrogant, annoying brat!" Her voice raising an octave as her anger began to bubble over, the water around them became more volatile just like her emotions. Hakoda glanced toward Sokka to see him inching away. He stepped back toward his son, grabbing him by the arm and pushing him to the front lines to aid his battle.

"Hey there, Katara." Sokka started out, uneasy about this entire situation, even more so for his father's betrayal to face her wrath. "I know this is a shitty situation, a shituation, if you know what I mean." He smiled at his pun, she did not, "okay, not funny." He held up his hands in defense as her scowl deepend.

"Look if this were to not happen, then the envoy that was sent here probably has orders to destroy our home. You don't want that, I don't want that, our family wouldn't want that. Please reconsider, if not for you, for the rest of us who can't rely on bending to save our people from extinction." Sokka seemed both proud and saddened by what he said. She could see it in his face, she saw the deep worry lines etched in both his and their father's face, as if they had been talking about this for days and this was the only situation they could come up with that ended positively.

She felt herself waver for just a moment, until an image of Zuko popped into her head, that caused her anger resurface instantaneously. "Oh! Sure! Let me just go right on up there and sacrifice myself to be that jerk-face's wife, when that probably wouldn't stop the Fire Nation from attacking while you're defenseless. Yeah, because that sounds like a great plan." She emphasised her sarcasm as she spoke.

Her father and brother stood before her as she began to tremble, instead of exploding, she dropped to the ice and began to cry. She didn't want to be his bride, anything but that. She would rather fight Firelord Ozai than marry his son. The two stood there for a moment, shocked that they weren't being attacked by her waterbending. Sokka took this as the perfect opportunity to flee before she could regain any semblance of control. Their father, Hakoda approached her calmly, dropping to his knees to calm the weeping girl before him. He felt tremendously bad for even asking her to do this for them, for her people. He brought her into another tight hug, whispering to her, "you're a strong young woman, just like your mother was. You know the path you must take. I just hope it is the right one."

 


 

"You welcome me back to my homeland only to tell me this? Is this some sort of joke?" Zuko voice told his peers that he was furious, the candles around them burned brighter and higher with his new found rage. His attention turned to his younger sister as she spoke, his brow narrowing, he knew she had to be behind this. She would do anything to get back at him for nearly betraying her back in Ba Sing Se. He had been back in the Fire Nation for a week before his father finally summoned him.

"Oh Zuzu, do you not like father's generosity?" Azula snickered from her position next to their father, where he longed to be. A wicked grin splayed across her features as she sat there watching him as confusion sets into his features. He did wonder what she meant by that. "Why! You don't know do you, Zuzu?" Her voice haughty.

"Why don't you enlighten me?" He seethed out. His focus on her till his father's voice rung throughout the throne chamber. His golden eyes jumped to his father's, for a moment he felt fear course through his veins with the sort expression his father wore.

"Your honor, your home, you family, you could have it all back with this simple deal. Or would you dishonour our name further by rejecting your one and only chance at redemption?" Zuko felt himself involuntarily shiver, though he kept his composure even under the gaze of his father.

"Of all people, why does it have to be her?" He emphasised 'her' with distaste.

Azula grinned smugly from her perch. "Father could cast you aside again, instead. Would you prefer that?"

Zuko's gaze dropped to the floor. He knew that this was definitely some kind of trap to lure out the Avatar from wherever he was hiding. He knew that he and his friends had parted ways a month or so ago. His mind racing for an answer. Before he could come with one, his father spoke again, his voice less pleasant than before, and it shook him to his core.

"Is that a no?" Firelord Ozai inquired, a brow raising. He could see that his father was losing his patience with him, which this was more than what he could have hoped for. He would be home, where he's always wanted to be for past couple of years. He could regain the honor he lost, though his scar would remind him always of his past. He brought his gaze back to the floor in thought, he could say no, but he knew that would anger his father to no end and wouldn't end well for him. If he said yes, he would be bound to that water peasant that he hated almost as much as he hated the Avatar. He heard Azula snicker, whispering something to their father. Coming to a conclusion, Zuko raised his head, looking directly into Firelord Ozai's eyes.

"I will accept on the condition that you allow me back into your council and that I live in the main house." He did not waver in his words, he knew that making these demands wouldn't go his way. His father agreed to the terms, and he was left bewildered. A presence came to stand next to him, and he looked dumbly over at him, before standing straight.

"Ah, Admiral Zhao, perfect timing." Firelord Ozai spoke, voice even. "You may leave, 'son'." The way his father that made him both happy and feeling like was being deceived.

Prince Zuko hesitated before turning around, heading toward the end of the throne room, and out the large doors fixated to the wall there. His mind racing, trying to figure out what they were planning, or at least what Azula was planning.

Once Zuko was no longer in the room, Azula's malicious smirk took its place on her features, "he's walking right into our trap, father."
o///o

Kanna had been going about her duties in her hut when she heard a noise come from outside of it. She finished her task before stepping out to see what the cause was. A beautiful black hawk had perched itself on one of the courier poles bearing the Fire Nation emblem strapped to its chest with a leather parchment holder, a messenger hawk it was. Kanna took the parchment out and read it, her heart thumped against her chest in unease. She gave the bird some feed and water for it's journey and then headed to where her son-in-law Hakoda was.

It had taken her some time to locate him, and when she did he was lazing about the icy ground with his song, snoozing amidst the growing grass and warmth of the summer sun. Summers in the south weren't hot, but they were definitely welcomed as it was cold all other times of the year. Kanna came to loom over them until they stirred, from the corner of her eye she could see her granddaughter, whom the letter concerned keeping up with her forms. She had been training non-stop since the envoy arrived four weeks ago, it only intensified two weeks ago, after Katara's father had spoken to her. Kanna was so proud of her, yet so disappointed in the two who lay there without a care in the world. Kanna then used her own waterbending to drop water on the pair.

With a shock, the two jumped to their feet looking for whoever disturbed them, like two peas in a pod. Kanna with a return of her movements returned the water back into her own satchel, bringing their attention to her and the parchment in a hand. "They have sent word of Prince Zuko accepting the arrangement. There is also another envoy on its way as of a week ago. It will be here in three more weeks." Kanna told them, Katara was within earshot now, she had started toward them when she saw her grandmother drop water onto her unsuspecting victims. Kanna turned her attention toward the young woman, "it's not too late Katara, you could always make a break for it before it arrives."

Katara, though she was furious at what was happening knew that she had to take responsibility whether it was her duty or not. Though, she wouldn't admit defeat just yet, she was stubborn afterall. Katara requested to read the scroll for herself, felt disgusted reading it, handing back to her grandmother before turning away to head back to the village.

Kanna watched her go, she saw her shoulders tense, and knew that this was heavy burden to bear. "It'll be okay." She heard her son-in-law say, "my daughter is strong in so many ways, just like my dear Kya."

 


 

Katara had returned to her own hut that she shared with her family, weighing the pros and cons of this fraudulent marriage. She knew that it was a trap and was shocked that Zuko of all people would accept this. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it was likely he was being blackmailed into. She knew he would never accept her for who she was, not because she was a waterbender or his mortal enemy, but because one of her best friends was his and his fathers nemesis, the Avatar.

Grunting, she crawled across her furred floor grabbing some parchment rolls from her bag, a quill and ink. She began to write her response, pausing half way through in thought. She she be pleasant or spiteful in her response, she was wondering. Going with the latter she finished writing, rolling it up and placing a ribbon around it. She wouldn't send it out yet, she'd wait till the morning.

 


 

 

Kanna entered the hut an hour later after finishing the rest of her personal tasks and after reprimanding her son-in-law and her grandson for slacking off in their own duties. Kanna saw the scroll, and her sleeping granddaughter lying next to it. Kanna bent down, unwinding the scroll to read it. A thoughtful smile crossed her lips as she looked up to the shifting young girl, then back down to the paper in hand. She finished reading it and decided to send the letter herself instead.

Chapter Text

A/N: Rewritten as of 8.29.18/8.31.18. Want to read the original? It can be found here. Warning to those who read the original, it's poorly written (also written 11 years ago).


 

Promoting Peace

 

Chapter Two

 


 

His skin glistened in the glow from the moon entering through windows in the chambers he was given, though they were not his own-not from his childhood. He had a room in the main house of the palace where he grew up before his exile. His skin a creamy white, dewy from sweat, he had been training.
A rasp from across the space. Another.


Zuko's eyes slid toward it, someone had been knocking on his door. He straightened himself out, bringing his arms up, over his head, then downward-cooling down. He headed for the door, as another knock came. Upon his approach he could make out odd noises. Pulling open the broad door, a guard who was stationed there turned his head to question the prince's actions.


A small black white object bolts inside before Zuko could close the door, not noticing it at first. Until his ears are drawn to a familiar noise, it's perched on his dark red covers, like most the Fire Nation decor. He eyes it warily, it's eyes of golds and green follow him. He had come to stand in front of the feline, reaching out he caught it before it had a chance to jolt away-grabbing it by the scruff of its neck. He heads toward his door once more, opening it, preparing to toss it out.


Just as he pulled back his door, someone was standing there, their fist curled, poised in motion of about to knock. He was taken back by who stood there. He did a once over, a quick glance from head to toe, then back to her face. She was plain, still shorter than him, and still very much one his sisters underlings, so why was she there?


"Ah-" Ty Lee gasps, "Prince Zuko..." She appears shocked at his sudden appearance in his own doorway, he watches her eyes drop to his chest and down, then back up again till her eyes shift away from his bare chest once more, trying to look aware but at him.


Zuko found her presence tiresome, he was also particularly annoyed by her blatant staring and fidgeting. He didn't care for this young woman, and her certainly didn't want to be anywhere near her. In order to get her to leave sooner, he asked her way she was there.


Ty Lee's eyes shifted back to his own golden orbs then down his jaw, to his collarbone, to his pecs and toned abs to the mewling creature in his hand. Suddenly she seemed to remember why she was there. "My cat.." Trailing off as she points the feline in his hand. Zuko's eyes shift to it and to her, without a second thought he flings it at her, promptly closing his door right after, just as she's about to say another word. He paused there with his door firmly close behind him, his orbs search the room, as if to focus on something else, he felt disgusted in the way she looked-longingly-at him. He shuddered.


He shifted, his body moving on it's own to resume what it had been doing before, training.

 


 

Katara had awoken to a dim light shining through her huts small holes across from her, it shone in her eyes, she rolls to her other side, as if to feign waking up. She shifts a few moments later before sitting up. Her brow damp from a cold sweat during her sleep. She felt sticky and uncomfortable that night. Her bleary eyes sifted over the space expanse of her hut, skipping over her brother sitting on the far side, and immediately going back to look at him. "What?" She asked, as if she was being judged.


He seemed to eye her cautiously, choosing his words carefully, "i-it's just that, I'm sorry, Katara." He responded dejectedly. She tilted her chin to the side, wondering what he was apologizing for. When he saw her reaction, he explained, "i-it's just that if our roles were reversed, I don't think I could marry someone I didn't-like-let alone love." Katara seemed to stare blankly at him for a moment before shuddering.


"I do this for our people." She establishes. A thought comes to her. Wait? How did he know she had chosen to go through with it. She does a quick look around, the scroll was missing. She turns on him, looking at him as if he was a suspicious culprit. "How do you know?" Her voice, collected though she felt like screaming, her cheeks turning a dark hue.


Sokka, confused, asked her what she meant, and she had questioned him about the whereabouts of the scroll. "Gran Gran said she sent the courier hawk back with your letter of approval." Katara's face beat red from both anger and embarrassment. She rose to her feet quickly, pulling her parka tighter, her people usually slept in them for warmth during the night, where it was chilly in summer, below zero in winter. She had fallen asleep above her furs and in her boots. Moving past her brother, she exits, crisp air biting at her tanned skin. There was a sharp sting to her eyes at the suddenly light shining over snow covered mounds of frozen rock, grass and water. She abruptly faces the direction she needs to go, briskly heading toward her destination, knowing where to find her grandmother.

 


 

Her focus wavered during her mission, she found herself going in the opposite direction, when she realized it she was already well past her grandmother's tent, she had headed toward waves sloshing against thick ice and hard ground. She paused, an eerie sensation washing over her. Blue orbs searching her surroundings, trying to pinpoint the odd feeling she was having, where it was coming from.


A noise behind her, like a creak in a wooden floor. There were no floors, let alone wooden ones anywhere near here, perhaps at the dock on the far side of her village. She turned, frozen in place. Blue staring into yellow, vice versa. A strangled noise came from her, and groan, it sounded like--to her--from him. What was this? She questioned. Why would she be thinking of him at a time like this. Her eyes focused on his orbs, trying to determine if she was hallucinating, or still asleep. She found her gaze following a slick trail going from his temples, down his cheeks, meeting his jaw. There it dripped down past his collarbone, to his exposed skin. She felt her cheeks heat up at the sight, wanting to look away. but couldn't. Her focus on him made him shift under scrutiny. She took a moment more before looking up. It took her far too long to speak, "Zuko," her voice low, shy even. A quick blink and he is gone from her sight. Her head whips around, no where to be found. She closes her eyes, this half naked young man standing in what appeared to be a river. Her imagination immediately drawn back to his build, he was slim, yet muscular. His shoulders and chest were broad. She felt herself bite the inside of her cheek as her eyes scanned over the image in her mind. She had seen him a handful of times without his upper garments on during their fights with him. Why would she remember that detail out of so many others?


She remembers the groan that was made upon seeing her, was it a groan? Or was it a grunt? She wasn't sure, she found it difficult to place it's sound. Her eyes had caught his, he wasn't staring through her, like she had thought, but at her. As if he had been truly there. She felt something burn in her stomach, she felt nauseous with the way his eyes had skitted over her, dropping to her knees, allowing her stomach to settle as she tried to remember what she was doing before.

 


 

His golden watched her carefully, unsure of what he had been seeing. The one he loathed stood before him, hadn't he just been training not even a moment ago in his private chambers? A noise of annoyance escaped him, grunting at her with displeasure. She stood stock still before he watched eyes drop, looking on with a mixed expression of horror and curiosity. He felt a sense of unease pit in his chest, moving uncomfortably under her intense gaze. It's not till she says his name, does he truly look at her. She's in her summer parka-it had less fur than her winter coat, dark navy pants, fur lined boots, her dark brown hair was down, enveloping her shoulders as she stood before him, her eyes zeroing in on different parts of exposed flesh. Her eyes then turned from shock to what was that? Disgust? Her face had contorted in weirdly before he blinked, and she was gone.


Staring into an empty, cold room before him. What? He stood there for a long moment, inhaling. He could smell salt wafting off the water around them, it was light, and airy. It was lush, and green, unlike his homeland and hers. He remembered the first time they had met, it had been a few years since that time had come and gone. His lips curls into a snarl, upturning over his canines at the memory. Looking back at what he had just seen in his chambers, he wondered if it were some sort of premonition? A detail flickered into his mind, there had been fire encircling the young woman, her look of disgust seemed to double as her brow and features pulled down, she was glaring and pouting at him. Her eyes held a dangerous gaze. Blinking again, his eyes had gone back to her face before she was glaring,


He blinked, the image disappearing long enough for him to climb on top of the bed, keeping his sheets off of him, as his body was far too hot in that moment to deal with such a novelty as comfort. He lay there, staring at the ceiling trying to unravel what he saw.

 


 

Standing outside her grandmothers healing hut, it was larger than hers, it had to be, to accomodate the sick, injured or pregnant members of her tribe. Her grandmother was the primary healer there, where she learned a lot of her basics from before traipsing around with her brother and a boy they found in the ice all those years ago. Closing her eyes briefly, she pictures the first time she met the arrogant prince, she frowned. Without another pause, she flew open the flap of her grandmother's hut, it fluttered to the side as she stepped inside.


She found her grandmother as the healing pool, showing the younger members of their tribe how to push and pull the water gentle movements. Her grandmother looked up to find Katara standing there, a look of frustration and determination there. Her grandmother told the younglings that she needed to speak with Katara alone and they will resume their lessons later on. When they had gone, she sat there with a small smile, as if she knew why her granddaughter was had appeared so suddenly. "I'm sorry Katara." She said simply. Katara stood there silently watching her grandmother, hearing her apologize, suddenly she felt guilty for being angry. She knew her grandmother had sent it in her stead, because she knew deep down that she wouldn't-that she would choke on being a hero to her people. Her anger faltered as she moved toward her loving grandmother. When Katara was close enough, she had reached up, pulling her down and engulfing her into a tight hug.


"Gran Gran?" Katara's voice but a whisper.

 

"Yes, dear?" She responded, not so quietly as the young woman in her arms.


"I forgive you-I-I'm sorry." She replies, squeezing tighter. Her grandmother didn't answer her, instead began soothing motions, by rubbing circles on her back. Her grandmother knew better than most what it was like to be put into an arranged marriage. She didn't wish the same for her granddaughter, but, also knew that she could handle it.

 


 

Sokka found his sister training near the shore, not too far off from their village, he had watched her in awe for a moment, her form was near perfect from what he'd seen of waterbending masters from their travels and from the North. The water octopus that she had perfected after practicing so hard to learn it, flowed around her with the ease of her movements. He found it calmly to watch her train so diligently, he was always surprised she could calm down when she was put into a bind, or stressed while controlling the water around her. His eyes slid from her to the plants, or if she absolutely needed to, she could pull it from her surroundings. He knew she would try to avoid doing that at all costs, she hated that. He brought his attention back to her when he noticed her stop from the corner of his eye. She just didn't simply stop because he was there, he saw her shudder. He bit his lip, he could see that she was trying not to cry. He had noticed that too, that she had been crying less and less over the years. He stepped forward involuntarily, kicking a rock with the movement. He watched her wipe away whatever tears had fallen, to turn to look at the opposing noise in her quiet solace.

"H-hey..." He began, bringing his hand to his neck, rubbing it awkwardly. She didn't say anything, but did give him a glare and a questioning gaze. "Dad wants to talk to you."

She shifted to face him, as she returned her water to the ocean. He gazed at her until she spoke. For some reason, he felt uncomfortable, there was a thick tension between them. It had taken him a moment to notice. Typically when she was mad, she would be shouting and having some sort of tantrum, but the silence was eerie and unnerving. He stood there under her heavy gaze, then she was moving. He winced instinctively when she got closer. She didn't water whip him, she didn't even yell at him, or express herself, she simply walked past him. He felt that was very uncharacteristic of her. She was a distance away before he shouted to her again, "go easy on him, okay?" He didn't know if she heard him or not.

 


 

He had intended on heading to his uncles room, he wished to speak with him regarding the details and to hear his thoughts on it, instead he found his feet moving in another direction, the opposite direction. He found himself following a path he once took as a child, with each step, it dawned on him as he passed through the hall leading toward one of his previously favourite locations, the gardens, the center of the palace. He paused at the entryway, not daring to enter. His golden orbs skipped over it, it was unchanging for the most part, minus his younger sister practicing her lightning bending near a pond his mother and him had spent much time at. Feeling uncomfortable at both the memory and the sight, unease settling over him. Unable to enter his once paradise, he abruptly turned around heading toward his initial destination.


The hallways haven't changed, still dotted in red and orange tapestries bearing their nation's symbol over dark red walls, a painting here and there, mostly of his father or his fathers father, and such. He didn't need to look at them, to know they were there or what they were of. He remembered being a child who often looked up at them, hoping he would one day be on that wall. A hollow chuckle escapes him at the the thought. He knew he would never be on that wall, not even with this fake marriage.


Blue orbs staring into his, a shudder runs through him, the hallucination he dubs it to be before he had finally called it a night, that early morning. A sense of disgust at it boils in his chest as he continues his path.


"Prince Zuko?" He hears ahead of him, his golden orbs peering up, when had he cast his eyes down? Zuko came to meet the voice, finding his uncle leaving his room. "I was just coming to see you." His uncle continues, voice chipper. His eyes eyes finding his nephews. When she Zuko approaches, he ushers his uncle back into his room so that they can talk. Upon closing the door behind him, his uncle begins to offer to make some tea. At first Zuko was going to decline, though he took him up on his offer, unsure of when they would get another chance to be together-like this.


"Have you heard?" Zuko found himself asking, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He sat down on one of the finely made chairs with a less than princely drop into it.
As Iroh goes about the process of brewing the tea, he nods as he speaks, "yes, I overheard the guards talking about it." Zuko glanced toward him, chin resting on hand, elbow on arm of chair.


"Do you not find it suspicious? What with the timing of returning?" Zuko asked, his uncle had begun to put various tea leaves in the a white-green jade pot, while also grabbing two sets of cups. He studied his uncle's reaction, noticing the fall in his face before returning to a smile. "It's a trap." Saying it out loud made it seem more real to him. "Of all, it had to be her."


Iroh had turned away to finish preparations, he glanced over his shoulder to look over his nephew when he enunciated her, Zuko had turned his eyes to something against the opposing wall, fixated on it, avoiding a look he knew he'd received for his prejudice against the girl. Iroh turned fully around, heading back toward the young man. Setting the tray down gently as not to spill water out of the pot, onto the short table in front of Zuko. Settling himself down into a chair opposite of Zuko, he began to pour the tea. A sweet jasmine aroma filling the space between them.


"What could they possibly gain by this marriage?" Zuko said, almost as if it was to himself.


Iroh watched him carefully. "Why did you accept, Prince Zuko?" His question drew in the eyes of the young firebender to him, his draw dropping, lips forming a small O, taken aback by his sudden question.


Zuko was silent for a long moment, closing his mouth to regain his composure he'd briefly lost. Why had he accepted? He knew he didn't want to be their pawn. He knows that even though this marriage is fake, he would still have to be with her, near her, see her. So, why? Closing his eyes in thought, she came to mind again, not his hallucination, but a time they had spent in Ba Sing Se, when they were trapped together, and she was gentle with him. The first time really, she and him had been alone several times before whether it was with the pirates or at the Northern Water Tribe. The way she looked at him, touched his scar, a shudder runs through him. Perhaps he had accepted because he knew she would understand. Another flash of her coming across his eyelids, she was eyeing him down, betrayal etched into her expression, her lip between her teeth as she tried to hold back her questions. This was also while in Ba Sing Se. Sighing, he opens his eyes, bring them back to his uncle, "I don't know." He wasn't sure if he was being honest with himself or not, what he did know is that he was going to regret this decision.


Iroh, quiet for a moment, "she'll be a good partner to have, regardless." Zuko's eyes snapped open.

 

"What do you mean?" He demanded.


"Well, she is a waterbender, if you have any fires you can't put out, she can," Iroh chuckles at the irony. A single brow on Zuko raises, as his lips turned downward in confusion, he could put out his own fires. Zuko barely caught the tail-end of what he said next, "of your heart."

Chapter Text

Promoting Peace

Chapter Three

 


 

She was preparing her pack, choosing carefully of what she needed to take, there were still a few days before the envoy arrived to retrieve her from her homeland. Her hands slid up to her neck, teasing the cool surface of the necklace that was once her mothers necklace. Her mothers image came to mind for a moment before she sighed heavily, there was still so much to do, so much to prepare, would she ever get the chance to come back home? She wasn't sure, she wanted to take as much as she can, if she she couldn't. Gnawing her lip, blue orbs scanning the surface of their tent, she couldn't very well take all of it. She heard a fluttering of their flap open, revealing her brother. Sokka stood there for a moment, taking in the sight. He came to crouch beside her.


"Hey, guess what." He nudged her with his shoulder. Did he sound happy?


"Hm?" She mused, eyeing him. She had been passive aggressively avoiding her brother for the past two weeks and four days. That hadn't deterred him from trying to see her as frequently as he could manage, between dealing tribe obligations, meetings with their father, or checking in on the envoy that was still there.


"I'm going too." He announced, his grin wide. It took Katara a moment to understand his meaning. Her eyes going wide as she turns to hug her brother.


"You're not lying, are you?" She said, though muffled in his fabric.


"I'm not. I convinced-although I didn't need to-dad to let me go with. Protecting my little sister is a brothers job, isn't it?" Sokka said, jutting his chin out proudly. As if it were some feat to behold.


"Oh Sokka!" She exclaimed, relief washing over her. She squeezed her brother tightly, he returned the embrace. They stayed like that for a few minutes longer before he also began packing in advance. He helped her double check and they put the packs in a corner of the tent, as to not forget they were there. Katara's smile faltered when she remembered what they had been packing for again.


Sokka saw her frown, "you, I wasn't supposed to tell you. It was supposed to be a surprise." Katara glanced over at him, the frown fading a little, his own smile grew a touch. "Dad and Gran Gran wanted it to be a surprise too."


Oh. She realized she would have been excluded, though she's sure she would have been happy at the end. There were only three days till it arrived.

 



Replaying the words his uncle had said a few weeks ago, "in your heart", what did that even mean? Ever since, over other night he'd have odd dreams of the girl and him placed in different into different situations, the dreams always ended on an awkward scene, waking him in frustration both mentally and physically. Sitting himself up, he rested his damp forehead on a hand, another weird dream. This time they were in his room, initially it had started out like they were forced to spend quality time together, somehow they had managed to start talking, their conversation led from one thing to another. He doesn't remember the words, though. Somehow they became intimate and as things were getting steamy, he woke up. An exasperated sigh escaped him, he could feel the ache in his head, these dreams-no, these terrors-were going to be the death of him. Zuko shifted the covers to reveal another part of him was aching. Was he attracted to her or the situation? He shuddered at the idea.


Rising off the bed, he went about his daily routine of calming down, exercising until his uncle came to retrieve him, and taking his meals with his uncle. He had kept himself nearly the entire time he'd been back at the palace. Occasionally being called on by his father for arrangements regarding the wedding, he had been surprised the first time, he thought he'd be kept out of the plans. By the time the meeting had ended, he knew why he'd been requested to join, because they wanted to torture him what was approved and what wasn't. Falsely giving him the hope he could give his input. After that, he would just listen to what was being said, remembering everything in case they slipped up. His uncle also had been hearing whispers amongst the staff and he relayed anything of importance to his nephew.


Even now he was waiting on his uncle, just when he began to think he was running late, a double knock came from the door. Promptly Zuko answered, revealing his uncle Iroh. Though, he looked a tad breathless. Had been running? "Uncle, what's the matter?"


"Oh. Ah. Pack your things." Iroh told him. Zuko quirked a brow at him in question.


"What's going on, Uncle?" Zuko tried again.


"We are to meet your bride-to-be in Ba Sing Se." Iroh announced, placing a palm flat on his stomach, after regaining his composure. "We leave in an hour."


Zuko eyed him warily, annoyed at the sudden change. No. He knew that they must have predetermined that this what they would do. Leave him to think that this was sudden would have suited them just fine. He turned around to show his uncle his belongings. Revealing he'd never unpacked in the few weeks they'd been there. Unease set in stomach, he wasn't sure why he hadn't.


Iroh motioned for Zuko to grab them and follow him back to his own quarters.

 


 


Another day passed as Katara had resolved herself to spend the remaining days with her family. Laughter came from their tent as Sokka performed one of his infamous impersonations of Toph and Aang from their journey. Another roar of laughter overcame them. Their father told them of stories from his youth and their grandmother also told them some of hers and some of their mother when she was young too. Katara was quiet while she watched her family, a warm feeling had crept its way into her chest, she had a smile on her lips until Sokka knocked into her, then she was up on her feet shouting playfully at him. They began to bicker and Hakoda tried to calm them down, not before one of their neighbors told them to pipe down. Their tent fell silent, lasting only moments, before another rip of laughter rolled over.


Katara chuckled while getting up to step outside. It was too warm inside, she wanted to cool off a little. Stepping into the crispy night air, she sucked in promptly, staring up at tonight's stars as they twinkled back at her.


"Katara?" Her grandmother called, coming to stand next to her. "Come back inside, you'll catch your death out here."


Katara glanced toward her, a small smile on her lips, "I will in a moment, Gran Gran."


"Is there something on your mind?" She inquired.


The young woman mused on whether to confide in her grandmother or not. "I-it's just that, I'm going to miss you and everyone here so much. I don't know if I can bear it if something were to happen while I'm away." She blurted out.


"Is that all? Katara, we were fine the last time you left, we'll still be here the next time you return." Her grandmother said reassuringly.


"B-but..." She started in protest.


"No buts Katara. I helped raise you better than that." Her grandmother shushing her, then taking her hand placing it over heart. "You will always be here, as I will be there for you."


Katara was silent, staring teary eyed at her grandmother. "Oh, Gran Gran." She heard, it wasn't from her. Her eyes came to land on Sokka and their father standing next to him, Sokka was teary as well when he came to join the hug, Hakoda following suit.


"It's just like your grandmother said, we'll always be with you, my dear daughter." Hakoda said, squeezing all of them tightly together.

 



It wasn't until the next day passed, and that they were all standing at the docks waiting for the ship to arrive that it finally hit her. She was leaving her family, her home, she didn't know if she was ever going to return, this could be the last time she saw these faces. It was becoming difficult for her to breathe then. She had to hold her bag to stay in reality, turning away she could see the ship coming into view. It wasn't long now. Turning back abruptly, she went to her family, opening her arms. They stood for a moment, echanging a look before they all engulfed her into a massive hug, like the one from the other night.


"I'm going to miss all of you so much." Katara cooed.


"I'm going to miss you guys' too." Sokka said, emotion coming into his voice.


"Remember." Their grandmother held a hand to both of their hearts, and they each nodded in understanding.


"You two will always be my children. You may be in the Fire Nation in a few weeks, but we will come for you should you ever need us to." Hakoda spoke for himself and the village, the other tribe members cheered in unison, each wishing them the best of luck on their new journey and wishing that they don't forget them.
"Thank you, dad." They said together, hugging their father together now.


They chatted amongst themselves until the ship arrived and began docking procedures. When the crew of the ship had finished, when they turned to head toward it, Katara faltered in his steps. He Sokka was about to ask what was wrong, his eyes laid on the man at the top of the ramp. Katara felt her knuckles tighten, turning white with anger. Sokka felt just as angry as his younger sister, he stepped in front of her, protecting her against the Fire Nation man who was among the first to come to her small tribe.
Hakoda came to stand beside them, "what's the matter...?"


His children wouldn't look away from him, their expressions turning from scowls to anger.


Hakoda looked up the ramp as well. His blood running cold. He remembered him. He was not a fan. He looked to his children again. Placing a firm hand on both of their shoulders, squeezing so that they'd look up at him, and they did. He whispered to them. "You two are strong individually, but stronger together. Don't let your guard down, don't run away, stand and fight." Katara felt like that wasn't something her father would usually say, but she took it anyway. Sokka on the other hand, took his father's words with pride.

 


 


"We'll be arriving in Southern Earth Kingdom water in a few days, Prince Zuko." A guard told him, dodging a kick from the prince, swinging out his arm to try and connect. Zuko grabbed the guards wrist mid-swing, pivoting abruptly and hoisting the guard off the ground, up and over his shoulder. The guard landed with a thud on the metal of the ships deck. Zuko and his uncle had been at sea for three days already. They were to arrive in Ba Sing Se much earlier than Katara was planned to. His fathers plan was to have them meet there, and travel together back to the Fire Nation where their wedding would be held a week within their arrival. Zuko felt nauseous at the idea. He motioned with his hand toward the guard to come at him again, once he rose to his feet. He waited for the guard to make his move. They sparred in silence for a half hour more till his uncle emerged from the gallery. Zuko bowed to the guard, "is there anything else to report?"


"Yes sir." He bowed in return, "we were informed that we'll be arriving in Omashu. There is also another thing..."


"Prince Zuko!" He called, cheerily. The guard snapped his mouth shut, side stepping and bowing curtly to Iroh, even though it had been a long time since he had been a general, even if we was royalty. Zuko looked to his uncle, he was carrying a tea pot and two cups.


"You may leave." Zuko told the guard, the guard did just that. "Hello uncle."


"My, my. You seemed to need a break, Prince Zuko." Iroh chuckled, amused for a reason Zuko knew not of. "Will you join me, nephew?"


Zuko nodded, taking a seat beside his uncle at the only bench and table on deck. There was a cool breeze, water wisps springing free from the ocean as it crashed against the outer hull. "Thank you, uncle." Taking a cup from him, he sipped at it. It was earthy and reminded him of his time spent in Ba Sing Se with his uncle in their tea shop, where they were surprisingly comfortable, more so than when we was just in the Fire Nation capital.


"What were you two talking about?" He heard his uncle ask.


"Our destination. How long we'll be there." Zuko responded, "the guard was actually supposed to tell me something else he found out, but-"


"Oh, did I interrupt?" Iroh asked, not so innocently.


"Hn." Zuko responded, sipping his tea again.


"I did hear from some others on the ship that they all know of your engagement to Miss Katara." Iroh spoke, sipping his own tea, ignoring the sputtering sound coming from his nephew.


Zuko cleared his throat, "what?"


"Ah, yes, they even seem happy that their prince, exiled or not, is be married." Iroh chuckled again.


"They should mind their own business." Zuko stated, his voice etched with irritation.


Ignoring him, Iroh continued, "I believe it is good for them to be in high spirits." Peeking over his teacup he saw the prince had a tinge of red on his cheeks. Was he embarrassed that his people were happy for him, or were his cheeks red for another reason?


Hn. Why would they be happy? They aren't the ones who have to marry the water peasant. His lip curled under his teeth. A flash of her from one of his lucid dreams flits across his eyes, they were on his ship after meeting in the Earth Kingdom, her hair down, dripping from training in the storm his ship was in. They were forced into one chamber due to limited capacity, her clothes clung to her form as she entered their shared quarters, he had watched her enter the expanse, his jaw dropping an inch. She hadn't looked at him when entering, immediately heading to her side where her belongings were to fetch something to aid in drying off. His golden orbs watched her with each step, his breath hitching in his throat as she bent over grabbing her required item. His eyes taking in every inch. "And that's when, I won." He heard, the words not coming from the image in his mind, but from his uncle next to him. Zuko snaps out of revere, bringing himself to look at his uncle, he shifted uncomfortably, a tightness in his pants. Drawing a leg over his other to hide what had happened as his uncle continued to talk. Every so often making a noise, as if he were paying attention.


"Prince Zuko?" His uncle called, he didn't respond, "so, I was thinking, Prince Zuko, would you want Miss Katara in your quarters or close by?"


"Hn." He responded absently.


"Oh! That's wonderful news, Prince Zuko!" Iroh exclaimed, clasping his hands together.


"Huh?" Zuko responded, coming back to reality, unsure of what he agreed to.


"It's nothing, Prince Zuko." He chuckled again. "You know Prince Zuko?"


"Yes uncle?" He drew out, growing tired of their conversation-or lack thereof.


"What will you do if this is a trap set forth by your father and sister?" Iroh asked, concerned.


"I'm not sure, uncle." He admitted, setting his pride aside to answer honestly. "A part of me hopes it isn't."


"Me too, nephew, me too." Iroh agrees.

 


 


The young woman was sitting in her designated quarters, her items left in a pile near the bed. She eyed the tapestry riddled walls, every inch of this room screamed Fire Nation. She sat very still on the bed, it wasn't comfortable in the least. Katara looked out her porthole, her view of ice and sea. She sat there, looking around the room. Several weeks of nothing but waiting. Fun. A knock came to her door moments later.


Pulling it open, she had to crane her neck to see who stood there. Ugh. Zhao's shadow cast down at her, appearing ominous and close, too close. Biting back her distaste she inquired why he was there. Zhao's gaze sized her up, and she shifted under it, not enjoying the scrutiny she was receiving.


"Dinner is being served on the main deck, you are free to join us." Zhao told her, his nose turning upward as if he'd smelled something dirty while gazing at her.


"Great. Thanks. You can go now." She spoke, not hiding her own disgust. She was about to close the door in his face, when his booted foot prevented it. A shiver coursed through her.


"You will do best to know that I am in charge of this ship, and you will show respect." Zhao's voice commanded authority over her.


Rolling her eyes, "yeah, well, respect is given when it is deserved."


Zhao's face contorted in a way she didn't think was possible, she knew he was angry by his eyes. She was afraid of him, never would she show it. He stepped forward, pushing the heavy metal door aside like it was paper.


Never before would she also think to use his name to deter someone. "Firelord Ozai would also see to it that no harm comes to me, while I am aboard this ship." She all but hissed out, brow narrowing. He paused, retracting his steps, not because of what she said, but due to someone coming down the hall. Her heart was racing.


"Ka-" Sokka began to call out, just as Zhao exited her room completely, turning to leave, not before sizing Sokka up as well. With Zhao's back turned, Sokka came to his sisters room, he waited for him to be out of earshot, "are you okay Katara?"


"I will be as long as he doesn't come back. He creeps me out, how is he still alive?" Katara asked, not expecting an answer.


"Right? I thought according to Iroh, whom according Zuko that he wasn't coming back after the ocean spirit took him under." Sokka said in hushed words, unable to hide his suspicion.

Chapter Text

Promoting Peace

 

Chapter Four


 

 

Sokka left her quarters after having their meal there, she sat there in silence, trying to meditate. She was never very good at it, Aang often scolded her for not trying hard enough. Exhaling, her mind wandered to the arrogant prince she wasn't fond of. Chewing on her lip as an image of popped into her mind, he was shirtless again, that much was clear. She allowed her eyes to investigate his bare heaving chest, a memory she recalled while in the Earth Kingdom during yet another battle with him. Her stomach ached at the sight, she shook her head to get his image out. "Bad, this is very bad." She said aloud, unaware of the man that had creeped into her chambers without so much as hearing the door creak.

"By your definition, what is very bad ?" It spoke, the voice startled, she yelped in surprise, back slamming against the cold metal surface. The footsteps got closer, was it just her, or were they loud? She step breaking the silence and making her heart thud against her ribs. Trying to pinpoint where it was coming from, trying to cool her nerves at the same time was difficult. Blue orbs frantically searching, darting over darkness. "You have not answered my question, girl." This voice was deep, manly, grating and older. She knew who it was by the second time he spoke. He'd gotten closer, she could tell. Instinctively she grabbed the covers first to protect herself against her assailant.

In a moments time, he pressed his weight onto her bed, feeling it dip, her own body shifting to adjust to the new angle the mattress had taken. A strangled noise escaped her as a low chuckle emitted from him. It grew closer, all her bravado gone from earlier. Quickly before he got too close, she searched for water skin. Her hand skimmed the strap, a moment too late, he was upon her now. She could make out his silhouette with the aid of the porthole, rays of moon pouring in. Her eyes shut involuntarily as hands came to grip her wrists, moving them above her head, their breath too close for her liking. She squirmed against him, kicking and writhing to get free. Then there was silence. She felt the pressure ease, the extra weight on the bed was gone. Opening her eyes tentatively, she looked around. She went immediately for the candle on it’s stand near her bed, striking it so that it’s light would fill the space of her cabin. Was someone not there just moments before? Had she fallen asleep? She didn't remember it happening, it must have been a nightmare.

With shaky legs she went to her door, locking it with an all-too-loud click, maybe it just sounded loud with the eerie quiet of her chambers? Shuddering, she knew she wasn’t going back to sleep that night. Instead she set herself into a position in the center of the room, preparing to meditate then train.

 


 

Zuko peeled himself upward with a start, cold sweat soaking both the loose shirt he wore and his sheets, eyes darting around his room, had he set fire to his father’s banners lining the room while he slept? If he hadn’t, then why were they on fire? Shifting his hands, he extinguished those bight flames. Golden eyes peering into darkness as he recounted what he’d dreamt of. He’d been having a battle with his sister Azula, it was fierce. Even now his hands trembled, just like they had behind his eyes.

Azula stood before him, his father sitting atop his throne, his counsellors at a table in front of his wall of flames that blocked the view of onlookers. They were to fight to the death, as he had challenged her, like he had his father so many years prior. Just like his dream, he swallowed hard. He had told her he didn’t want to fight her, but she insulted him in that snide way, the way she knew irked him, that he would respond to. Suddenly the surroundings shifted and they were in the palace yard as children, preparing to spar. He didn’t like to train back then, he spent those days as much as he could with his mother. As the dream continued, he battle had ensued nonetheless, alternating from childhood to near adulthood. Each strike so vivid and clear, she had shot off a lightning bolt, not at him, into the crowd. Zuko’s eyes had followed, watching as his uncle stepped in front of someone, redirecting her attack back at her, protectively. Zuko remembered he couldn’t quite see who it was, the more he tried, the harder it became while he watched the scene unfold in his mind.

He didn’t appreciate that his mind was playing tricks on him, rising to his feet, peeling the damp fabric off of him, tossing it aside. Even though the chamber was warm from the previous fire, a chill ran through him.

Instead of going back to sleep, he exited his chambers, heading up toward the deck, he’d train instead. When he arrived, only a few soldiers were making rounds, another group were crowded around a makeshift pit of fire, upon closer inspection they had used a metal barrel. Zuko’s brow raised as he saw his uncle with several men, were they singing? He saw his uncle playing an instrument, he had peered over one of the young lads in front of him, spotting Zuko. He immediately regretted surfacing from the stuffy hallway below. His uncle shouted to him, coaxing him into joining them for their songs and merriment. He joined them, a scowl on his face the entire time. The men were passing a bottle around, it sloshed in their tankards as they swayed to Iroh’s playing. It was passed to him then, he took a whiff of it, scrunching up nose with a turn, he passed it to his uncle. His uncle didn’t drop the liquid into his own tankard, instead he took a swig from the bottle in a manner not suitable for the former general. Zuko had found a makeshift chair to sit on, he was debating on whether or not he should go train like he originally wanted to.

“Prince Zuko!” On of the young guardsmen hollored, clearly whatever they were drinking was definitely alcoholic, the guard swayed, placing his hand on the prince’s shoulder to steady himself. Zuko eyed the offending appendage with dissatisfaction. Another guard grabbed the onto Zuko for support as well, forgetting themselves. Zuko could feel his anger bubbling over, he shot his uncle an angry look, all he did was smile and sing, far too in the moment to notice what was going on.

Abruptly Zuko rose, knocking the men’s hands off of him, they teetered with the sway of their ship. He stepped away, allowing his anger to diffuse as he headed to an empty space to begin training.

 


 

It wasn’t until the sun peaked over it’s horizon, sun shining into her chambers that she looked up. She had began practicing her waterbending movements, with her concentration broken, ocean water slammed against the metal of her temporary residence. Curious. She thought, had she been ocean water all night? Is that way her body seemed heavier and it had been difficult to push and pull. Pulling herself from her position, she gathered her clothes that she’d shed throughout the night, putting them back on, tying up her into a braid, not like the one she sported for a year, it was loose and the tie started at the base of her neck, her brown hair billowing out a bit, from a distance it’d look like her hair were short.

A banging at her door drew her attention to it. Maybe that isn’t about the water shifting weirdly? Katara sucked in a breath before opening it. Feeling annoyed at the sight, she figured he’d show up again. Commander Zhao stood there, she could that he was angry. Definitely the water. She watched his nostrils flare, as if steam would exit his body along with air. The idea amused her, she had forgotten weird night.

“Pardon, Sir?” It sounded like a guard, Katara guessed, she couldn’t see past Zhao’s tall broad frame. Zhao broke his attention from, snapping at the guard, who made no noise in retaliation, taking his anger out on him. She mentally apologized, when Zhao dismissed him.

Zhao turned all of his attention to the young woman, with a commanding tone, he demanded that she follow up to the deck. Raising a brow, she narrowed her gaze at him, refusing outright. He grabbed her wrist and tried to pull herself free to no avail. His fingers dug into her small wrist as he led her up the narrow stairway, when they’d reached his destination, he threw her to the ground. Landing on her elbows, she hopped to her feet, as various fire nation guards came over to see what the fuss was about. Katara’s frown deepened as she stood her full height, archering her shoulders back, and holding her head up with pride. She would not back down, nor show any weakness against this man. She saw Zhao slid his foot back, bringing up his fists, with one hand he motioned for her to come at him. Katara bit her lip, she didn’t want to fight him with so many men that followed him so close by. When she didn’t react the way he wanted, he threw out his fist, a ball of fire shot out toward her. Subconsciously she moved her arms, dissipating the bolt of fire before it would make contact with her torso. She deflected several more shorts before he came serious. He charged her, and she tried to dodge as many throws as she could. She wasn’t as agile as Sokka or Aang, hell, she couldn’t move like Zuko either. She remembered fighting him at the Northern water tribe, she remembered his moves as clear as day. How had she beaten him then? She was at a disadvantage here, the sun was hovering above now, and it been an hour so soon? As her mind wandered for that brief moment, she didn’t avoid the connecting of knuckles to her jaw. She stumbles backward, salt water stinging where he’d hit her, he’d cut her lower lip with mere strength, no bending. Katara couldn’t take it, she tried to be the better man and brush him off. Her temper getting the best of her as she rose her arms, salt water coming from either of the ship.

Katara positioned herself, when Zhao charged again, she was ready this time, she had been watching closely when he moved, she noticed he had been favoring a leg. She ducked as a bolt whipped past her, fringing hair with a sizzle. Dropping and rolling to the side, she threw out her arms as water came rushing toward him. She haised them, freezing it in place, then dropping him hard against the deck. She remembered that worked fairly well on Zuko, before, though Zhao stood, dusting himself off. “Is that all you’ve got, girl?” Is voice mocking. He was definitely bigger than Zuko had been, apparently more resilient as well. Katara alternating her position to form the octopus she had been so long working on and now that it was perfected, she’d have someone to practice on. Katara began whipping and bending with the octopus, as if it were an extension of herself. He deflected many of her attacks, some landing on his chest, neck, or face. To her, she felt it might have stung if it wasn’t for the fact she didn’t want to kept dodging the majority of her return blows.

Zhao was within a foot of her, when had he gotten that close so quickly? He grabbed her wrist, hurling her over his shoulder, she tried to keep her face from smashing into the deck by pushing her free arm in front of her, softening her fall. A gnarly sounding crack came from her wrist. Biting her lip, she stopped herself from crying out. Zhao dropped his weight on top of her, his knee plowing into the small of her back, twisting her captured awkwardly back, she winced, if that kept up she’d be a world of pain. As the pressure continued, she could’ve sworn he whispered with this you’ll be easier to take. She wasn’t sure if it was the pain causing her to hear his wicked words or if he’d actually said it. With her free hand, she pushed through the pain, wiggling her fingers to see if her wrist had broken, it hadn’t. She shifted so she could move her arm. With a fluid motion, water from the surface of the deck rose up and she created the smallest water whip she’d ever made and smacked the tip into his face. His grip loosened, though she still couldn’t free herself. His weight was becoming too much on her back. With every last of effort she could muster, she twisted her body, ignoring white hot pain as her shoulder threatened to come out of its socket. Careening her body around, she pulled back a leg, and slammed her foot into his nether regions. She watched him release and fall back onto his knees, freeing her. She heard several gasps from the crowd, they made no moves to intervene.

Katara threw up her arms, moving them smoothly, yet fiercely until hundreds of pointy iscles hung in the ominously in the expanse. Zhao crumbled in on himself, Katara allowed a little chuckle to escape her. Not today . She thought.

“This battle is over.” Katara heard someone call out as they approached with heavy booted steps. She didn’t take her eyes off of the groaning man in front of her, he’d been grabbing his crotch and his face had contorted into pain. She knew better than to turn her back on the fire nation. The heavy steps came closer, standing tall behind Commander Zhao. She didn’t recognize him, the way that Zhao clicked his tongue in response, told her that he didn’t like him. Perhaps this was her chance to gain an ally other than her brother on this ship? Katara lowered her arms, returning her iscles into liquid, allowing them to drop with a splash, getting the guards and Zhao wet in the process. She grinned smugly, more to herself than them. “Take him to the doctor.” A guard that hadn’t been watching came running over to aid Zhao.

Katara watched as they went off, the guards who were on edge were dismissed. Blue eyes turning to the man before her. Her joints crying out in pain, she hoped she wasn’t showing it. He approached her. “What happened?” His question seemed earnest.

She bit her lip, wondering if she should tell him. She didn’t know if she could trust him. He saw her hesitation. “Worry not, I do not follow his orders.” He said in reassurance.

“He dragged me from my cabin, threw me on the deck and forced me to fight him. I tried to avoid his attacks, but I couldn’t just let him continue to attack me. I had to do something!” She didn’t realize just how angry she had been till the words spewed from her mouth.

He was nodding in response, “are you injured?” When she didn’t respond, he saw that she holding her wrist close to her chest and her other arm hung limp at her side. That told him what he needed to know. He approached her, she stepped back. He tried again, she receded again. “I’m not going to hurt you. Your brother asked your whereabouts before I came up here.” Her features softened when he mentioned her brother.

“Sokka did?” She questioned, her lip quivering.

On closer inspection he saw that her cheek was red, her lower lip split. He was by her side now, she hadn’t retreated this time. She looked like she was about to start crying. He took her elbow in his hand, when he made contact, she reacted like she was going to rip her appendage away from him, she didn’t, she was shaking though. His rough pads slid down her first arm, inspecting it for injuries, then up to her shoulder when finding none. She winced when his fingers pressed firmly there. Next the other arm, he didn the same thing, starting from her shoulder this time, down to her wrist. She winced again. He looked up at her, seeing she’d been watching his hands the entire time. “Any other injuries?” He inquired, she nodded her head slowly. “Where?”

“M-my back… He pinned me, using his knee on the small of my b-back.” Her voice wavering.

He looked at her, “I’m going to touch there, okay?” He didn’t wait for her approval before sliding his hand against her back, starting from her blades, down her spine to her lower back. She shifted under his touch. She felt heat from him, was it because he was a firebender, or was she feeling hot herself? Katara stepped away, uncomfortable. “Come with me.” He stepped away from her.

She watched his back, her blue eyes looking around the deck as various soldiers had been watching. She figured she might be safer with this mysterious man, he obviously held some authority or else the guards wouldn’t have listened. She had to run to match his pace, before slowing and walking behind him. The sudden movement hurt her joints.

She followed him below deck, passing her quarters, the dining cabin, various closed doors, down a short flight of stairs and heading toward the end of the hall. When they reached his destination, he’d opened the door for her. She watched him warily as she stepped in. She immediately set her eyes on Sokka who had been nursing a bruise on his eye. Katara ran toward him, wrapping her arms around her brother. She had never been so happy to see him. Squeezing the life from him, he wrapped his arms around her as well. “You’re okay.” He whispered, stroking her head.

Katara’s tears couldn’t be held back anymore, and she soaked his shirt. The man had come into the room, closing the door behind him, he watched the two. It wasn’t until he cleared his throat that Katara had stopped her crying. She was wiping tears away, turning to look at him. “Who are you?” She asked.

“That isn’t important. What is important is that you are protected from men like Zhao.” He spoke. Katara shifted to sit next to her brother, she studied him. He wasn’t as old as Zhao was, but not as young as Zuko. Perhaps in his late twenties, he was fit from what she could see past his armor, he had brown-gold eyes, his hair was pulled into a top knot. He leaned against a wall away from them. “You are the only woman on this ship,” he continued, “I was given explicit instructions to see to your safe arrival in Ba Sing Se.”

“Instructions from who?” Sokka asked, bringing his arms to rest on his thighs, hands clasped past his knees, as he slouched in thought.

“You’ll find out soon.” He responded. There was silence for a moment. He pushed himself from the wall, “now let me tend to your wounds.” Katara rose to her feet, she didn’t want to be touched anymore by anyone.

“No.” She said firmly. Sokka watched her, his head tilted.

“He’s not that bad, Katara, he treated my inj-” he trailed, looking his sister up and down, “are you injured? Why? Who?” Sokka was about to go into a tangent of questions, before Katara brought her hands up silencing him.

“Zhao and I fought, I won though, barely.” Katara muttered in annoyance. “He provoked me into fighting him by punching me in the face.” Her hands clenched in anger. “To end the fight, I kicked him in the crotch.” She stood triumphant, hands on hips, she winced at the pressure on both shoulder and wrist. She continued on, “it’s probably because of what I said yesterday.”

“So, you provoked him, then?” The other man asked. Katara’s head dropped, exhaling.

“Yes.” Katara glanced at the man. “Who would get revenge like that?” She paused, “no, wait don’t answer that. Of course he would.” She raised her injured hand to her face, fingertips pressed against her forehead, a movement she did when couldn’t understand the reasoning behind certain actions.

“That explains that. Now let me see those wounds.” He said, stepping toward her.

“No, no need. I am healer, I can heal myself.” She stepped back, legs knocking into Sokka.

“Hey, I’m sitting here.” He stated. “Just let him help.”

“There is no way you can get the one on your back without help.” He pressed, Katara sighed in defeat, letting him help her couldn’t be so bad, could it?