Have you ever tried to type a chapter with a wonky key? It's a torture I tell you. The H and Enter keys in my keyboard have gone completely nuts. I have to type it like three times before it registers. Bloody $$#$^%&$#%@$T%Y^$%@#%*.
Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let's talk about this story. The thing is, I have lost my interest in this story for some reason. I am not sure why. But I will finish this story. There's not much left. As I envisioned this story from conception, this story ends with people coming to know Aang's truth. As of now, other than Zuko, Iroh and Toph are the only ones that know the truth. The rest will come to know too, soon. Here I give you some more of Azula's thought process and Katara putting Zuko together.
All three of my fics, viz, Broken Hearts and Shattered Breaths, Subterfuge, and Sleepless in Ba Sing Se will not be updated next week. Because next week is Zutara Week. I am taking part in it and the awesome FictionallyFun is helping me loads. So expect an update after Zutara Week is done.
Thank you for all your love. As usual, R&R.
Zuko chewed the inside of his cheek, his mind filled with a buzzing. He was staring at the pages that were written in what he knew to be Mai’s handwriting, but he wasn’t reading a word of it. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. That usually worked for him. Having gained a modicum of control, he opened his eyes again and focused his attention on the papers in is hand.
He did it again last night. He called her name out in sleep. He does it sometimes. Wonder what he dreams about? He never speaks about those dreams. He even avoids taking her name when he is awake. But yesterday, we got the wedding invite. She’s getting married to the Avatar, and Z didn’t react at all when we got the invite. But then, I found a charred handprint on the writing desk. He says he loves me, does everything I ask him to. Takes very good care of me. But I wasn’t the one he took a lightning for. I was the one he locked in a jail cell and abandoned to be tortured.
Zuko felt a patina of sweat cover his face as he tried to make sense of the words he read. He turned to look at Katara who was looking at him with a soft expression.
“She… What does… did she think I didn’t… because of you? I did have nightmares about the Agni Kai sometimes but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love her. Yes, I had feelings for you, but I loved her too.”
“I know. She does too. Read on,” was all that Katara said, rubbing his back gently.
I’m pregnant. Told Z and he is practically bouncing on his heels. He has been telling me that he loves me to the point that it’s annoying. But also adorable.
Zuko felt a smile twitch his lips as he moved to the next page.
He was with me all day. I’m not feeling too well, and he has been taking care of me in a way no one ever has. He doesn’t even go away when tell him to. Over the past few days, he has been very caring. He hasn’t called her name in dreams in a long time. Maybe I have been overanalyzing things. Z wears his heart on his sleeve. If he says he loves me, he does. That’s all there is to it.
He turned over to the last page, not noticing the slight tremble in his hands.
Z will fall sick if he continues this. Izumi needs warmth, so he sits with her for hours together, keeping his body warm. Then, when the nurse takes her away, he insists on ensuring that I am kept warm and comfortable. When I tell him to get lost and leave me alone, he then goes to work. His world seems to revolve around me and Izumi. He is willing to put the entire nation second, for me. I was stupid to ever think he didn’t love me.
Zuko sighed, cradling his head in his hands.
“See? She knew,” Katara whispered, draping an arm around his shoulder. “Don’t weigh yourself down, Zuko. She knew.”
“You did what?”
Katara’s eyes widened as she watched the situation escalate out of control. Earlier this morning, after Zuko read the papers, he had managed to pull himself together. Katara had managed to even convince him to come with her to pay Azula a visit. Azula, who had been absolutely calm and composed around Katara all this while, she completely flipped out upon seeing Zuko. She began to rant and rave, something along the lines of what she had said earlier. Katara asked Zuko to leave and had been trying to get Azula under control when the woman shouted behind Zuko’s back.
“You should be kissing my feet for your new family.”
The words had stilled both Zuko and Katara. Slowly he had turned and looked at her with narrowed eyes. “What does that mean?”
“Izumi! Do you really think she would have been so open to your new wife and kids if I had not talked to her?”
“You did what?” Zuko’s expression was downright lethal as he took a couple of steps closer.
Not knowing what to do, Katara placed herself between the siblings, but Azula moved her to the side. “Stay away from this, Katara. This has nothing to do with you. And Zuzu, I spoke to Izumi.”
“What did you tell her?”
Azula shrugged, “Just told her that her life has changed, whether she likes it or not. I told her that she could be a child about it and sulk. Or she could be a grown up and try to talk to the other kids.”
“You did not!” Zuko growled.
“I did too. And guess what? It worked. She is being receptive, isn’t she?”
“You manipulated an eight-year-old! You’re starting it all over again!”
Azula’s expression faltered for a second before she lifted her chin in defiance. “I’m not starting anything. I’m helping you and if you can’t see that, then you’re dumber that I thought.”
Zuko’s hands curled into fists with smoke curling out of them. He pointed a finger at her and said through gritted teeth, “I’m warning you, Azula. Do not play your tricks on my children. Or else –“
“Or else what?”
“Enough!” Katara shouted, dousing the siblings in water.
“What the hell, Katara?” Both of them chorused.
“You,” she turned to Azula and said, “will go inside and stay there. And you, Zuko, out. If you both cannot talk like two adults, then you deserve to be in time out, like children.”
The two of them stared at her with fire burning in their golden eyes. Zuko opened his mouth to say something but then thought the better of it and stormed out of the room. Azula wiped the water from her eyes and said, “You’re lucky I consider you a friend. Anyone else and I would have burned them to ground.”
Katara leveled Azula with a stare and said, “You can try.”
Azula sighed and suddenly looked like she was exhausted. She dropped down to her knees and hugged herself, “I messed up, didn’t I? I always mess things up. First with mom, then with dad and now with Zuzu. I messed it all up.”
Katara kneeled next to her and said, “He’s a grown man. He’ll get over it. You didn’t mess anything up. You were trying to do the right thing.”
“Right thing?” Azula asked. “You saw how he acted, right? That looks right to you?”
“He will be fine. I’ll talk to him and he’ll understand. Are you okay?”
Azula swallowed and buried her face into her hands. She stayed that way, for a long while, unmoving, unresponsive. When she finally looked back up, Azula’s face had slipped back into the neutral expression she held. She stood up, and looked down at Katara in a way that reminded her of the Princess whom she had fought as a fourteen year old. But then, Azula smiled. Not the menacing one that she used to give when they were enemies but the smile she was used to seeing on her sister.
“Talk sense into that brother of mine, Katara,” Azula said. “I can’t talk to him without one or both of us going nuts.”
With a chuckle, Katara stood up and said, “I will. Don’t worry.” Giving Azula a pat on her shoulder, Katara followed her husband. She found him in his chamber, preparing for the day. As he was putting on the cuffs, he was muttering to himself under the breath.
“I don’t know how you have managed to get close to her, Katara,” he spoke without looking at her. “We can’t even stay in the same room!”
Katara crossed her arms over her chest and said, “That’s not true and you know it. The two of you have a very complicated history. Too much baggage. But you will have to put your baggage away. For your sister’s sake.”
He whirled around, his eyes blazing. “I tried, Katara! I looked past every insult, every mean crap that she’s thrown at me, the times she taunted me, when she tried to have me arrested, when she tried to kill Uncle, killed Aang, put Mai into the prison to torture her, tried to kill you. I looked past all of that and provided her all the damn support that I could. And how does she repay me? By manipulating my daughter? No. I draw a line at that.”
Katara opened her mouth to say something but he held up a hand and shook his head, “Don’t. Whatever you want to say in her favor, I don’t want to hear it.”
Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed his crown and began to march out.
“She was seeking your approval, Zuko,” she said to his retreating back, making him stop dead in his tracks. “She went about it the wrong way, but her heart was in the right place. You know what that feels like, right? Seeking the elusive approval of someone older and getting their rage instead?”
Her words made him stumble and he had to grab on to the door frame to avoid falling. Slowly, he turned around to look at her, “My approval?”
“Yes. Your approval. She wanted your mother’s approval and didn’t get it. Your father messed with her mind in ways we cannot even comprehend. Now you are the only family she has left. Yes, she has Iroh and Izumi and us, but she wants your approval, Zuko. You. Her older brother. The Fire Lord. Don’t hold it back. Don’t push her further into the abyss. Pull her back. I know you can do it.”
“I don’t know if I can, Katara.”
She smiled and walked up to him, placing a hand over his heart, “At sixteen, you found it in you to stand up to your father, and go against everything you ever knew and believed, to come support us. At seventeen, you took up the mantle of the Fire Lord. You accepted another man’s children as your own, without so much as a frown on your face. You found the strength in you to accept and love a widow as your wife. I was a mess when you married me. Yet, you put me together. If you can do all of that, you can pick up your sister too. And, of course, I’ll be with you.”