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24 November 2008 @ 03:30 pm
Quincunx  
Title: Quincunx
Pairing: Zuko & 5 'Ships'
Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender
Genre: Romance, Family, Friendship
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,549
Summary: Love in five words.

Written for 5_loves

Quincunx

Fast rode the knight
With spurs, hot and reeking,
Ever waving an eager sword,
"To save my lady!"
Fast rode the knIght,
And leaped from saddle to war.

--Stephen Crane

I. Metamorphosis
the deceit is cunning, is swift, is an avid lie

He saw her today, sitting by herself sitting tea (in a little deserted haven due south). She looked peaceful, pleased in that odd, dove-curtained way she’s excellent at. He walked up to her, silent--stealthy like an unsuspecting shipwrecked beauty.

She turned her head and glowered at him. “I heard you, Zuko. I’m not deaf you know. You make enough noise to wake the earth. Literally.”

“I know. But I’m quiet compared to most people.”

“Not like Twinkletoes. If anyone could ever surprise me, he has the best chance. But I admit, you’re a close second.”

Zuko sat down next to her, felt the ground as she did: all pebbly and beaten and homey-feeling.

“So how come you’re not hating me like the others?” he asked.

“There’s nothing to hate.”

“What about all the ‘bad things’ I’ve done?”

“Like what?”

He gave her a frown. “Like hunting down Aang, trying to capture The World’s Last Hope, blah, blah, blah.”

“Oh. That. Yeah, well, I wasn’t there for those scenes was I? So when I met you, I really don’t have anything to hate.”

“I burnt your feet.”

She reached down and felt the blistered heels and open sores and wondered why he was opening up wounds too. “I know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

And Zuko knew too, that everything would be all right. Because she said so.

-x-

The next morning he brought her a gift, a bundle of wildflowers (that he knew she would scorn). And knew that she couldn’t say no either.

“I still don’t trust you completely either.”

Zuko grinned. “I know.”

And that was just okay with him. Small steps, he reminded himself. One at a time, there is no need to rush. He has a lifetime to make amends.

II. Hide My Face
my veil is worn as protection from the sun—phobia, you see

Mai asked him something strange once, how they met and why he was so afraid. He honestly shrugged and said he didn’t know.

She sighed and mentioned something (offhandedly) about fountains and a veil, and how they ended up tangled together, dripping wet.

“You always have the wildest imaginations.”

“And you’ve always had the worst memory.”

“And you’re pale as death.”

“You should know, seeing as how you are death.”

Zuko weaved his arm around her waist, a snake slithering—seeking—for a burrow. He tilted his head until he was almost resting on her shoulder. Mai shrank away. He leaned in even more.

“Would you stop that?” she asked, annoyed.

“Stop what?”

“Stop it, just stop it. I don’t like you messing up my veil. The sun is killing, you know.”

With deft, clever, roguish fingers, Zuko takes the silky cloth away and sends it flying into the air.

“Now you can’t run away from me anymore.” (And braced himself for her anger.)

And was surprised to find none there.

Mai smiled in her dismal way. “You’re the elusive one, not me. I’ve waited for almost twenty years.”

-x-

She never questioned why he only kissed her in the afternoons, never questioned just why he was so shy about it. She was just glad he did it at all. But Mai would never let him know, that would be inviting disaster.

(But he had a secret inkling that he’d never disclose—directly.)

They both liked to keep parts hidden, more intriguing that way (they explained mutely).

-x-

And one day, he said it. And she nearly died of shock. I love you, the words rang clear and true in her mind.

She found her own tongue frozen, the words pooling into half-melted icicle splatters. Drip, drip, till she managed a sentence out.

“I love you too.”

And the words didn’t sound as fake as she pictured. They sounded sort of nice.

III. Smile
you should smile for the world, just to beguile it (for fun)

She had a charming, harmless smile. He thought he could trust her.

There was something about the way she ran too (reminded him of dancing). She tore down the cobbled paths without ever looking back or side-to-side, and he could’ve swore she flew at times.

And so, when she asked him on a date, he just couldn’t refuse. (Even Iroh coaxed him into it, coached him more like. Taught him how to behave, hello and how do you do?)

Jin was sweet, Zuko admitted. Uncannily sweet, like something that will cause a toothache later.

But she was so kind to him (and didn’t mind the blackening scar) and he couldn’t help but want to make her smile.

And so, it had been very lucky that he didn’t get caught (when he lit up those lanterns). And when he kissed her, he tasted strawberries.

-x-

They met again in the market square (where things began and sprawled out to touch skies and mountain-tapestries). She hadn’t changed one bit, and her smile, that was the most beautiful part.

He took her out for tea again and this time he did not run away. She joked that she would never forgive him for that. That had been a very ungentlemanly thing to do. Jin sipped at her tea and winked over at Iroh.

Zuko blushed furiously.

This was not what he had in mind.

And the blush spread to his roots when she enveloped his hand in hers. (He could feel burns that weren’t there before).

And she still smelled of strawberries. But now there was a note of aloe too.

-x-

He thought of writing her a poem, to say goodbye. And suddenly remembered: he had no spine.

IV. God
the goddess never dies

He met a real-live goddess when he was born, and learned to call her Mother. And that was the goddess who first broke his heart.

And that was the woman he could never forget & forgive.

And sometimes, late on nights like these (the moon is striking particularly bright and lucid) he would still walk for hours and wait. But deep down, he knew she would not return, not for another thousand years.

-x-

He was eight when she brought him the puppy. It licked his face, hands, and followed him everywhere. Azula laughed and called him baby. And Ursa frowned and scolded her daughter. Zuko was happy, his mother hadn’t forgotten (not like his father).

So, when the puppy died, he cried and crawled into Ursa’s lap. And she petted him and told him to hush up.

(She looked worried and erratic, and there was a maniacal glint in her eyes.)

Zuko was scared and buried his face into the folds of her skirts.

-x-

He told Katara about her when they were trapped in the Catacombs. He didn’t know why (must’ve been hallucinating). When Katara reached to touch his face (the disfigured side) he nearly jumped.

She had so much of Ursa in that gesture.

It scared him to hell (he could see the fiery gates).

-x-

Ursa was a good mother, he realized. She left so he could stay, so he could rectify the wrongs and do something decent. And she did this knowingly—an insidious intent.

Zuko was glad that she finally died, that he was there with her (and that she died in content).

V. Fruit
it’s overripe and mushy, do you fancy some spotty mold?

“Do you know why I tied you up that time by the river?”

Katara glared. “That’s a great way to start a conversation. And how are you today?”

“I’m serious. Don’t you think about it?”

“Not really. You were a real jerk back then. I would’ve hit you if you hadn’t tied my hands.”

He laughed. “That’s true. Then do you ever think how things would be different now if I did get you as a hostage?”

She shifted her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“You, me…Aang and, well, you know.”

“I don’t know. Besides, it’s a long time ago, Fire Lord.”

“I guess so.”

And they both left it unspoken. Sly and wily, they understand there were some subjects too sacred to tap in.

“Would you help me with this? I can’t get heads or tails of what it’s describing.”

“Sure.”

He walked over to the piles of scrolls and documents and is glad that she’s agreed to linger. If only until the month is up.

-x-

He liked her and she liked him, but that was years ago. A passing make-believe, before they even knew who they were. And Zuko had this annoying feeling that the Katara he liked was a painted, gilded idea. And the Katara he loved (now) was his best friend in the world.

But it still hurt sometimes, trying to decipher this-Katara and that-Katara—not combining them into one, like he wanted.

The thought was quite disgusting.

-x-

Things change, and he could relate to that better than anyone else. People change too, he wanted to say. But there was no tangible need; she sensed that better than anyone else

Just friends, he repeated.

That didn’t matter so much either.


 
 
 
The Princess of Seyruun: I miss you.amelia_seyroon on November 25th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Ursa, we miss you. :(
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on November 25th, 2008 05:12 am (UTC)
I miss her too. T_T
The Princess of Seyruun: Why do I understand your pain?amelia_seyroon on November 25th, 2008 05:14 am (UTC)
I want her back. T_T
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on November 25th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Seriously. I can't believe Bryke just ended her story like that.
The Princess of Seyruun: you suck.amelia_seyroon on November 25th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
Seriously. Lame.
silly_izzy_me on November 25th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
And one day, he said it. And she nearly died of shock. I love you, the words rang clear and true in her mind.
She found her own tongue frozen, the words pooling into half-melted icicle splatters. Drip, drip, till she managed a sentence out.
“I love you too.”
And the words didn’t sound as fake as she pictured. They sounded sort of nice.


Perfect, yes.

I liked these a lot! The one of Ursa... man, we really needed to see her again :(
jill_rgjill_rg on November 25th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
I expected Song to be included. Oh, well, they were all beautiful; my favorites were Mai's and Jin's. Kudos for the allusion to The Goddess. I guess all these girls have parts of Zuko's Goddess in them.
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on November 25th, 2008 06:48 am (UTC)
I do love Zuko/Song. :)
~Amaterasu~okami_no_yume on November 25th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
Ahhhh, more of your strange, beautiful, haunting writing style. So eerie and dark and twisted. (In a good way!)
avocado_loveavocado_love on November 25th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
My favorite was the Zuko/Toph, although the Zuko/Jin was also lovely. How did the puppy die, I wonder? Or maybe I just don't want to know.
Alice: tamakitenshiyaki on November 26th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
Zuko and his hos. I like it. :D

Haha but seriously, you write with so much maturity, it makes me very happy. :) It's been so long since I've touched any Avatar fanwork.

I still do like Zuko/Katara the best and you wrote them wonderfully. You expressed their complicated situation so well. :D
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on November 26th, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Seriously, what a piiimp.

Thanks & luff to you. :)
treeflamingo: wallflower: Sunako&Kyouhei: surprise!kistreeflamingo on November 27th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
Ursa! There isn't nearly enough Ursa in canon or in fandom. 'Tis a shame. Thank you for that piece.

The &Katara piece was fantastically true: it would be so complicated for them. And the &Mai piece was so beautifully defeated that even the triumph at the end felt tiny. I loves it.
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on November 27th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it. :)