❯ Zuko Was No Coward – It’s a Love/Hate Relationship ( Chapter 7 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Zuko glared at the necklace resting in Katara’s hand. It matched the one around her neck except for the carved stone. No, the design was different. He hated it. Fingers closed over the stone and the hand dropped to her side yet Zuko’s glare followed it. He wanted to torch it. He could, he knew he could. If only she would let him borrow it. Just for a little while…

�Zuko?�

His lips thinned and he raised narrowed eyes to her. She bit her lip uncomfortably, color dusting across her cheeks. Zuko felt an irrational anger rise up inside of him. She was going to give herself to some�some peasant. A thought jogged his memory. �Is it Aang?�

He remember that the young Avatar had a crush on her during the war. He’d thought�Maybe he was wrong.

�No.�

His fists clenched, fighting the urge to blast fire at something. Preferably that small scrap of cloth with the stone pendant she refused to give up. So it was some peasant. The Avatar he could understand. He knew she cared for him. But throwing her first love aside for some nobody? It was not to be borne. Not when he�

�Who is it?�

Katara sighed, looking away. �Zuko. It doesn’t matter who it is.�

He felt like breathing fire. �Yes it does.�

Her arms folded, creating an interesting effect on her breasts that Zuko tried to ignore. The years since Ozai’s defeat had treated her well. Slimming her down in some places and filling her out in others.�Why, Zuko? Why do you care?�

Zuko avoided answering. �I thought you loved Aang.�

Her lips firmed and her eyes dropped to the smooth stones at her feet. �No.�

Thought fled him. After all this time, that’s all she could say? �No?�

She flushed, her chin rising in defiance. �No. We… we’re just�� she changed her thought. �I treated him more like a younger brother than a lover.�

�So you thought you’d just accept,� he motioned to the necklace in her hand, unable to prevent the slight sneer, �that?�

Zuko decided he had never hated a piece of jewelry as much as he hated that necklace. She looked down at the necklace, her thumb tracing over the carving. �I don’t know.� Blue eyes sought his gaze, an unasked question burning in them. �Should I?�

He should have told her many reasons why she should accept the necklace. He knew he should have told her that suitor was a good man, that her father was eager for the match, that her people were looking forward to uniting both tribes again. He knew that her people had expected her to wed the Avatar or, if that didn’t occur, she would settle down with one of her own people. He knew he should send her away. He knew he should do all that but he found that he couldn’t. Not when everything he had ever wanted was gazing up at him, a silent plea in her eyes. So he did everything in his power to convince her to decline that hated offer and when, during his best persuasive efforts, the necklace disappeared, Katara found she didn’t particularly miss it. She would, after all, find a much better replacement.

Some months later…

Zuko could not prevent the smug expression that crossed his face as he traced the burgandy band that encircled his wife’s delicate neck before lightly touching the carved stone that rested against warm, tan skin. He felt an absurd amount of satisfaction as he looked at it. His own crest was carved into the surface. It was much better than that ridiculous blue one she had held before him months before. His eyes fell to the blue necklace that was now snugly wrapped around his left wrist once more, the stone resting against the back of his hand. Strangely enough, he felt just as smug about that one.

His bed partner stirred and blue eyes opened to find him watching her. Warm fingers slid along the band of her necklace before running over her chest to come to a rest high on her ribs. She arched into his hand, a pleased hum escaping her as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He dipped his head to give her necklace a gentle tug with his teeth, causing a quiet laugh. �What ever happened to that necklace?�

A rakish grin pulled at his mouth even as his lips brushed over her jaw. �I sent it back.�

�You did?�

Surprised disbelief tinged her voice though he could hear the struggle to focus. He laughed softly, his voice dropping to a whisper. �I did. I thought he ought to know the status of his offer.�

The subject was dropped and forgotten as Zuko turned his attention to the seduction of his wife. He didn’t need to tell his wife of less than twenty-four hours that the necklace in question had been returned in a small box accompanied by their engagement announcement. Zuko half-wished he’d been present when the box had been opened to find a small pile of ash, a charred stone, and the short note:

I thought I might return this to you as my fiancée has no need of it.
–Fire Lord Zuko

Zuko Was No Coward – Desperate Times
Zuko Was No Coward – The Weight of Responsibility