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20 June 2012 @ 03:14 am
Queen's Gambit [Zuko/Katara, Aang/Katara]  
Title: Queen's Gambit
Pairing: Zuko/Katara, Aang/Katara
Fandom: Avatar Last Airbender - Legend of Korra (crossover-ish)
Genre: Angst, Drama, Post-series
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1,5251

A/N: This fic is a product of trying to reconcile canon with headcanon. Not sure if succeeded or am merely tired.






Queen's Gambit




I.


She brought Kya to life on accident.

Wandering lost in the woods, Kya found her first. Her clothes were dirty and threadbare with gashes and scars. Instinctively, Katara enveloped the girl and hugged her close. Her hair smelled like the ashes of fallen timber. And her eyes were clear and bright.

"It'll be okay. I'll take care of you," and healed her wounds.

That night, Katara tried cajoling her to talk. Refusing to speak, Kya (that's what her name will be) twisted away and fell asleep, cuddling into Appa's thick, summer fur.

The second night, Katara waited for the child to speak. Kya opened her mouth and iced the air. Deep down, Katara was pleased, had known all along.

The third night, Kya sat next to her at dinner. She still didn't talk but allowed Katara to smooth back the tangles in her curls. In the moonlight, Kya's hair looked silver-spun.

--


Aang saw Kya and swept her up (in thunder, in ablution).

Katara knew from the twinkle in his eye and the tugging at the corners of his mouth that he loved her immediately. But that was expected because Aang loved and loved and loved. His heart scooped up skies and carried mountains home.

Eventually, his heart will burn out, weaken and die (no buttresses flying). He knew it too. But for now, he will love them both.

That, she thought, was his most endearing trait. That he was selfless and sacrificed—a bit too much.

--


Kya learned to talk today and called Aang Papa. In a thin, white cotton robe, she climbed on top his shoulders and stared Katara down. Wrapping her girlish arms around him, she ordered him to soar her heavenward, oh papa, please.

Smiling, Katara pretended not to notice the erosive anger growling from within her. She tried not to be jealous, to think of it as merely inevitable.

And so, she didn't begrudge him: looting her daughter like a fat, inept thief stomping down lilies. Graciously, she allowed him a clean getaway.


II.


Ursa and Bumi came all at once and relentless. Born of fire, they were tenacious.

In squabbling disarray and hissing embers, Ursa fell into her arms. Zuko, ashamed and guilt-ridden, kneeled for forgiveness (he was eternally apologetic). Profuse and passionate, he explained and begged her to raise his child.

Katara agreed because she knew—and he knew—that she couldn't decline.

Sometime long ago, she was declared a constant mother. Except now (the mind was a grotesque collision) she couldn't remember how. Or when, or a million fragments of why.

Spine straight and pride untarnished, she let Bumi follow her home. Orphaned and desperate, he clung to her for life. And he (like the rest of them) will gradually eat her alive from the inside-out. And they will all leave her. A carcass for the scavengers to pick.

--


Katara watched her daughter and his daughter wrestle and laugh. They ran and tumbled, hand-in-hand, caught in the giddy headiness of childhood cheer. She clapped along as they sang. They performed cartwheels to entertain her and blew back kisses, drifting amidst a lavender sea.

From her perch on the tip-top hill, Katara guarded them jealously. With all her strength, vigilance, and the odd impending worry of failing.

Kya was ten and Ursa's five. One was pale and the other dark. And they both called her mother even though she was not.

Not really, truly. She tried to explain (that your father and well Aang and I). But she lacked the heart—the guts. They thought she was theirs to keep forever, and like a charade, she will indulge them. One last time (she told herself).

Bumi giggled as Kya shoved Ursa into the dirt. Hoisting him up, Katara mentally practiced scolding the girls.

--


Katara's son was different from his siblings. Standing aloof and dignified, he called her Mother. Not Mama, not Mom. Whereas Ursa had two fathers and Kya one, Bumi had none. He had her and her alone.

And somehow, that was enough (for both of them).

--


"Mother, why can't I firebend like Ursa?"

Katara sighed and studied Bumi fondly. She knew this day would come. The dread, the inescapable, prevailing sense of doom.


Because your mother couldn't. Because your father extinguished her in flames and then burnt himself up.


"Because you're too special for that."

"But you and Aang and Zuko can all do cool things! Even Kya can bend. Why can't I?"

"All benders and only one Bumi in the family. You're the only unique one we've got."

"Oh."

And Bumi quelled it at that: giggling at the revelation. He was unusual, distinct and formidable. He was her baby treasure.


III.


Aang proposed to her when he was seventeen. At nineteen, she accepted. Lost and afraid, she drowned him in her own lonely waves.

He loved her far too much. And she loved him too. He was all kindness and unending, boundless devotion. He demanded for her to reciprocate, to surrender the last, the tiniest (hanging off, shredded) and most insignificant bits of her.

And so, she gave and gave and more and more until—

Katara kissed him raw. She wanted to hurt him, just a little. To show him that love (with all its spite) was an ugly, ill-pickling mess.

But he was gentle and unfolded her tenderly.

Aang was always kind.

It killed her (nestled) inside.

--


Zuko was solely chaos and no game. No strategy or foresight.

He was cursed with isolation for retribution. And despite every trick she tried, he remained bitter and morose.

She's not coming back, Katara tried to say.

The dead cannot rise. They are forever-forever gone.

She willed the words to rise from the currents and manifest in a storm. But they stayed quiet, slumbering in the whirlwind pit.

Shyly (at wit's end), she laced her arms around him and dragged him down, promising to keep him safe. For a second, he was mistrustful but quietly waned in the end. She would not abandon him, like the other one did.

He kissed her hard and pushed up the silk of her dress. Brutal, he entered her. He was ruthless.

More and more she gave and gave.

--


Aang understood her better than anyone else but she understood Zuko more than she cared to know. And Zuko knew Aang loved her and she loved him back but Zuko loved her too and—

Infinite, the loop grew wider, bolder until soon it couldn't be stopped.

--


Katara divided her time into three even parts.

She accompanied Aang on his diplomatic journeys. Holding him for hours on those cold, long nights, she drained him of his grief and secret strife.

Nervous, disjointed, Zuko stood by her and feigned a confidence he couldn't call his own. Cupping his cheek, she told him not to be afraid, that he wasn't a little boy anymore, that now he was Fire Lord.

As for herself, she reserved a grain of resentment.

Sometimes, she hated him and him—all three of them.


IV.


She thought her heart would break when Aang presented her with Tenzin. Instead, Katara poured her love (every barrel left) into the boy. Blushing, Aang wouldn't meet her silent questions and combatted her gaze. But Tenzin became her fourth child.

It was only natural.

He grew tall and strong like his father.

He grew wise and beautiful like his other father.

And he grew up—like her.

--


"Why's he so small, Mama?" Kya asked.

"Because he's an infant."

"Make him bigger! I want him to play with us," said Ursa.

"Yeah, quickly before Appa eats him," and Bumi finished.

"Mama?" Kya began again.

"Yes, dear."

"I hate my name."

"Me too. What kind of a name is 'Ursa' anyway?" Ursa continued.

"Well, I like my name. It makes me sound crazy in a…you know, powerful and awesome way," and Bumi concluded (as always).

--


After a while, it became too difficult to keep up, dash, and mark the pace.

She'd had enough of Aang's anguish and Zuko's umbrage. Sick of his indomitable joy and his poisoning humility, Katara brought Kya, Ursa, Bumi, and Tenzin (in strict, matrilineal order) to Ba Sing Se. There, they will meet, the most extraordinary woman alive—stubborn too.

Behind the impervious walls of the ancient city (where the dead and living gather to keep—

and think of how to take)

Katara made her sanctuary-home.

Zuko will visit and so will Aang.

She drafted up an ultimatum in preparation.


V.


When Aang died, the news slapped them a solid defeat. Sudden, jarring: Aang died peacefully in bed.

Katara had lived so long with him (and him and them). Now, it was no more. Stealing a furtive glance at Zuko, she knew he was worse off. Aang had been his first and best friend.

So, she will take Zuko's hand and comfort him (and him and them).

She had played this role for so long, it was all she had left.





 
 
 
treeflamingo: Ouran: paintbrushtreeflamingo on June 20th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
I don't like this :( I mean, I love it, because it's beautiful and because I believe it and because these characters really could live this life. I just really, really don't want them to. There's so much tragedy here, although in some perverse way it almost seems like a triumph for Katara. Perversely. I just always hoped... I always hoped they'd find a happier way to... to be happy. :[

In other news, it's really, really good to have your writing back on my friends page. I have missed it :]
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on June 21st, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, it really is depressing. Honestly, I don't like it much myself. But it was the only way I could think of to recognize canon Kataang without letting go of Zutara (I refuse, just no).
treeflamingo: other: teatreeflamingo on June 21st, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
I kind of agree with you... I can't remember if it was because of canon or fanon, but at some point I jumped on the Zutara ship and concluded that it was much more seaworthy than the others. Putting Katara and Aang together sort of turns Katara into a pedo, you know? Aang was so young, and girls mature so much faster than boys - those two years she had on him were going to feel like decades all the way into their twenties. Maybe... maybe they were ~*~ boyfriend and girlfriend ~*~ for a little while when they were kids, the broke up, as kids are wont to do, and Katara spent a few years with Zuko before getting back with Aang, for whatever reason?

I dunno. You're right, though - this new canon needs a lot of intermediary fic to make it feel really satisfactory. (Lucky us!) The creators went with most juvenile future-path when working out the relationships with the characters (well, it is a kid's show), although fortunately they seem to have put a bit more effort into complexing-up the world itself.

...ugh, I can't believe in twenty-six and still this into a kids cartoon. Oh well! It's fun.
Y U no auto-translate?lye_tea on June 21st, 2012 09:41 am (UTC)
I didn't realize that Kaatang was going to be endgame until "The Fortune Teller." But I've always had a softspot for Zutara ever since "The Waterbending Scroll." I mean, I knew it wasn't going to happen but still...one can hope. Actually, most of my fondness for Zutara stems from the fact that I can't take the alternative seriously.

The whole dynamic between Aang and Katara just doesn't make any sense to me. I see a great friendship, hell, even maternal love oh Oedipus, you naughty boy but enduring romantic love???? Ugh. My impression was: boy has childhood crush on older girl, which he will soon grow out of because that's what goddam happens. Also (and maybe this is just me) it seemed that season 3 spent more time developing the relationship Katara had with Zuko than Aang. And since it was the last season and supposed to demonstrate a culmination of their relationship but failed...well, kinda significant.

This is totally petty and irrational, but another problem I have with Aang engaging in a sexual-romantic relationship with any one is that he's a freaking monk.

And no worries about being old(er) and still loving cartoons. They are unparalleled. :D

P.S. Sorry this turned out so long. I have many pent-up frustrations with this!