❯ Zuko Was No Coward – Heat Source ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
There were times in Katara’s short existence that she just wanted to die. Shouting echoed down the temple corridors, reverberating in her head and turning her dull headache to a pound.

�Katara? Come on, Katara, I’m hungry!�

She rolled her eyes, hugging her stomach. Right now was a time she wished she could die. Or at least curl up into a small, dark hole for a few days. The pain was always the worst at the beginning, she thought her brother would recognize the symptoms. Sokka stuck his head in the door, scowling when he saw that she hadn’t moved. �Everyone’s starving.�

She shot him a glare. �So feed them.� He looked scandalized and his mouth opened. It snapped shut a moment later when her glare intensified. �So, help me, Sokka, if you say one word about women and cooking, I’ll waterbend you right off the side of the temple.�

His eyes widened and a look of dawning understanding spread across his face. �I was going to say no such thing. I’ll get Zuko to cook.�

�Zuko can’t�never mind.�

Sokka had already disappeared, the door swinging shut behind him. Her muscles spasmed and she groaned. How she wished for the wide, flat stones Gran-Gran would put in the fire and then wrap in clothes to let her hug when the time came. Perhaps if she wished for it long enough, the heated stones would appear.

Her door crashed open, sending her scrambling to her feet and whipping out water in an automatic defense. Her lower back screamed in protest and she grit her teeth, forcing her limbs to move. Water splashed over her would-be attacker, freezing him to the spot, even as her fingers sought the more difficult source of water in their blood.

�Katara!�

The shout broke through her momentary panic and the water dropped from her hands in surprise. �Zuko! What are you doing here?�

She watched the firebender melt his way free, steam rising from his clothing and his eyes sweeping over her figure. �I heard you were bleeding.�

A blush flooded her cheeks. Aang and her brother were morons. If she wasn’t feeling like her spine was trying to wrench itself out of her back, she’d go and pummel them. She needed to lay down. Slouching back to her bed and collapsing onto the rumbled sheets, she resumed a fetal position, muttering, �I’m fine, Zuko.�

He looked paler than usual and his eyes narrowed. �No, you’re not. You’re hurt. Your movements are stiff.�

She rolled her eyes. Of course her movements were stiff. There was a mini war being waged in her body. �I’m hurting, not hurt.�

Flames sparked from his fingers and he clenched them into a fist, jaw tightening. �What happened?�

Katara frowned, sitting up and giving him a hard stare. Since when had he started caring about whether she was hurt? Not too long ago he had no problems slamming her into the ground. She mulled over that thought. Perhaps that wasn’t quite true. She’d seen him wince every so often or not take the opening that was blatantly obvious. Still, even her brother understood her death glares when the time came. He’d been on the receiving end of a violent temper many times before he learned to avoid it. Zuko had a sister, surely… Her expression softened. No, he wouldn’t know. He’d been banished before Azula reached the right age and then he’d been surrounded by men for years out at sea. The reason behind Zuko’s apparent ignorance didn’t stop her from blushing. �Really, Zuko. I’m fine. It’s completely normal.�

He stalked into the room, still searching her for signs of blood. �Since when is bleeding normal?�

She folded her arms, unconsciously pushing her breasts up and drawing Zuko’s attention. Her chin rose, trying to keep her voice even. The whole situation was turning mortifyingly embarrassing. �Since I became a woman.�

A heartbeat passed with Zuko staring at her incomprehensibly. His eyes jerked back to her face, apparently just realizing where his gaze had been fixed, and then understanding came with a fierce blush. His mouth worked but no sound came and Katara had to giggle at his look of growing horror. �You�you mean…�

�Yes.�

He took a few steps back before recovering himself. �Does it always hurt?�

Katara grimaced, hunching over in attempt to bring some kind of relief. �The first few days are the most… uncomfortable.�

Her reply was met with silence and she curled back into a ball, hoping he would just leave her alone. Her hopes were dashed when he spoke again, �What’s it feel like?�

�Like my uterus is trying to gnaw its way out of my body,� she muttered.

Zuko winced. �How do you stop it?�

Katara huffed. She did not want to have a facts of life conversation with Zuko right now… or at any time in the future. �You don’t.�

His jaw dropped, voice incredulous, �So you just… bleed everywhere?�

�Since when has blood bothered you?� she snapped, frustrated.

�Since it became yours!�

She blinked, staring at him in surprise. Zuko folded his arms, scowling at the wall behind her, cheeks pinking. Katara hated the mood swings that came along with her time. She hated how they rolled and rioted inside of her. One minute she was ready to break every bone in Zuko’s body for almost no reason at all, the next all she wanted was a hug. She could feel her nose tickled and her eyes burn, a tell-tale sign that tears were fast approaching. �Zuko, I’m not going to die. You can’t even see it. I’ll be fine in a few days.�

He seemed to accept her statement, his eyes dropping to the side and giving a tense nod. �Does anything help?�

�Heat,� she sniffled, ashamed that she was so close to tears. �Gran-Gran would heat up stones in the fire and�What are you doing?�

Zuko crawled onto the bed behind her, his hands gently pushing her onto her stomach. �Relax. I won’t hurt you.�

Warm hands moved slowly over her back, soothing heat soaking through her clothes and skin. Gradually, she relaxed as Zuko quietly massaged the muscles in her lower back. Katara pressed her face into the bumpy mattress, a contented sigh escaping her lips. �I thought you didn’t like blood.�

He snorted. �Shut up.�

The mattress shifted and Zuko pulled her to him, curling his body around hers and wrapping his arms around her stomach. She couldn’t stop the small moan of pleasure at the heat he gave off and she snuggled closer, muttering, �This doesn’t mean I like you.�

Soft laughter danced across her neck, his voice whispering close to her ear, �I know.�

Zuko Was No Coward – A Powerful Bender
Zuko Was No Coward – Lie to Me