Fic Title: Love Amongst the Embers
Rating/Warning(s): M, underage sexual situations
Why This Must Be Read: After the Ember Island Players' performance, and with the help of a little rice wine, Zuko and Katara decide to rewrite an ending to their story that fits. Deals with the aftermath of Aang's declaration of feelings towards Katara, and how she hesitated big time to return them. The story unfolds in a way that includes everyone, perfectly in character.
By the end of the second intermission and the beginning of the last act of the play, Sokka had somehow procured a couple of bottles of rice wine. He passed them around within the group, as they watched the final invasion scene play out before them. "This is it! The finale, you guys!" he exclaimed excitedly.
At least the wine will numb the pain of watching this disaster, somewhat, Katara thought, and took large gulps of it on her turn, shuddering a bit as she did as it stung her throat on the way down. She watched furtively out of the corner of her eye as Aang finally reappeared and took his seat, and she felt as though she wanted to will herself to shrink into the wooden bench below her. He had just tried to kiss her outside on the balcony, after she'd just explained to him how confused she was and how complicated the entire thing between them was and the fact that she'd needed some time to think—and now, to her embarrassment, she found she couldn't even look at him. She stared at her feet instead as she passed the rice wine to Zuko sitting next to her, and felt his eyes on her before he drank, gently roving and curious.
The last part of the play was even more atrocious than what they'd been subjected to earlier. The portrayal of the Day of Black Sun invasion was largely uneventful; Katara grimaced with guilt as her actress told Aang's actor—actress?—that she loved him like a brother. There was even a handshake exchanged, and behind her Katara heard the Avatar's head thump against the wooden rail in frustration.
Zuko's actor, still with the silly-looking scar mask on the wrong side of his face, was shown joining the group—whose collective reaction was largely a nonchalant shrug, followed by, "…I guess we have no choice. Come on!" Katara rolled her eyes, and Zuko snorted next to her. The rice wine had made its way back to him in the reverse direction, and he tilted his head back to take a large swig.
"If they only knew the real way this had all played out, they'd be shocked," Katara whispered to him, and he nodded. "They'll never know the real truth of what happened."
Zuko appeared to mull it over. "…That may not necessarily be a bad thing," he offered. "Remember, this is the troupe who butchers 'Love Amongst the Dragons' every year."
"But they should at least be told what really happened and what didn't!" she insisted. "Like Jet flooding the village, he didn’t actually kill anyone…and how your sister shot your Uncle with lightning, they didn’t even show that…and—"
"And underneath Ba Sing Se?"
Katara froze, but then nodded—perhaps too quickly. "…Yeah! Right." His mouth turned down slightly at the corners—only briefly, she noticed, before he took another long pull of wine to cover it.
Fandom Category: Avatar: the Last Airbender
Fic Title: Empty Spaces
Author: Psalm 136
Rating/Warning(s): M, underage sexual situations
Why This Must Be Read: This is a story set immediately after the series finale of Avatar, with a focus on Zuko and Katara, that night, and how they deal with the emotional turmoil of the aftermath of Azula and Zuko's agni kai. Lovely bits of characterization, and really great look at Zuko's characterization and how much Katara's trust means to him.
Katara was hunched over a water basin, crying quietly, when Zuko found her. She had told him she was only leaving his room for a moment to find some supplies for their dinner, and he'd thought it odd when a half hour passed and she hadn't returned, even for directions. His legs were still weak from fighting Azula, and parts of his body would randomly twitch from the vestiges of lightning, but he hadn't needed to go far to find her.
He watched her silently for a few moments, debating what the best course of action would be. When she let out a pitiful little sob, his heart overruled his questioning mind, and he limped over to her, and knelt at her side. He shivered slightly, having shed his destroyed tunic, but settled a hand on her shoulder. He felt something inside of him crumble when she looked up at him with red eyes and sniffed like a small child. He drew her to his chest and let her cry against him.
He always wonders what his life might have been like if he had allowed someone to comfort him as he was comforting her.
Katara snaked her arms around him. Her left elbow was resting on his shoulder, her forearm dangling down his bare back. Her right arm was holding her body against his, her fingers splayed on his lower back. He held her close, letting her burrow her face into his neck and keeping her still when her body threatened to shudder and tremble its way away from him.
Many minutes passed, and Zuko shoved away his selfish thoughts about how much his knees were hurting and how much he felt like passing out. He clung a little tighter to Katara, hoping to anchor himself to the world because he knew it shouldn't be spinning as wildly as it currently appeared to be. His head really did hurt badly, but Katara needed him.
No one has ever needed him before.