that would have been the best avatar of all

So at some point, they changed the triggers for some romances to pace them better, which was probably good. But apparently they forgot that some of your other companions can comment on the romance and didn’t change the timing of THOSE comments. This becomes particularly hilarious, in a rather morbid way, with Qyzen and a woman JC.

OK, I understand your hunting culture, and the wookie that attacked us had been killing Trandoshans for bounties and didn’t leave us a choice about killing him. Didn’t realize your friend would, um, present us with a trophy from the encounter or that you would consider it an “exceptional courting gift.” OTOH, I guess I’m pleased to know that women Trandoshans participate equally in achieving scores with the Scorekeeper (who is a goddess after all) and can also initiate courting since I have yet to see a woman Trandoshan in the game.

And yes, you are my very odd best friend, even if you do apparently think I’m some sort of avatar or spokeman of your goddess, and I guess I’m honored that you are trying, in your own way, to be my wing man. But I’ve taken one whole flirt with Felix. Total. How did we get to:

“As Herald, I offer pelt to you. Perhaps your mate, Lieutenant Iresso, would like?”

Whoa! How did we get from a simple flirtatious “Maybe I’ll indulge my curiosity a little” to calling him my mate? (And are you eavesdropping on the bridge to already know about that conversation?)

So, pretty sure that this was supposed to pop much later in the romance, lol.

Sadly, if you reject the gift, he either says “I offer gift to win any heart, Herald, and you turn away. Is shame” or if you say tactfully that Felix might not understand, he says “Truly? Is unworthy mate for Scorekeeper’s Herald, then.”

The one upside of this is that this is the conversation that you begin to find out the connection between Qyzen and Mako…

12 DAYS OF SHIPMAS - DAY FIVE (ZUTARA)

In case you missed the original post, here’s what’s going on.  

And here are all the other stories so far!

ARGH!!! I knew this would happen, I’ve been so ill and what with Christmas stuff and blurgh.  I’m so sorry this is late today, but I have a feeling they might all be a bit late from now on, but I’m going to try my best still!! <3

Today we have Katara and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which, if you haven’t seen, quite frankly I don’t know how you’re living your life - IT’S AMAZING!! Please check it out if you haven’t already!

This is the longest fic so far, but I haven’t got time to put half of it up on ff.net or AO3, so it’s just going to clog your dash up a bit lol.  Sorry.

4.4K words, no smut.  Set after A:TLA and disregarding Korra.  Picture set by me, though I don’t own the images.  Tagging @ourloveislegendrarry @27snowflakes and @gloster - I hope you guys enjoy this! xJx 

***

Five Gold Rings

  The four nations of the world had been at peace for several years now, and life, on the whole, was tranquil and prosperous.  Katara had seen many towns and cities rise up from the ashes of war before returning home with her brother, Sokka, and together they were helping the people of the Southern Water Tribe recover after so many harsh years.

  Today was one of her favourite kind of days, she mused as she sat out near the open waters of the sea, mentoring the handful or so of children who had exhibited bending abilities in the past few years.  She tried her best to tutor them all together at least once a week, and popped by their homes as often as she could to offer personal tips and advice.

  But today was a group day, with the wind in their hair as they all worked together on the Butterfly move, which sort of looked like a figure of eight.  The older ones were starting to get the hang of it quite nicely, but for her babies it was enough that they were able to swirl the water up by themselves at all.

  “That’s it Makita!” Katara cried excitedly as her littlest student managed to sweep the water from their small pool up into the formation they’d been studying. The other kids cheered and clapped as the girl gritted her teeth to hold the shape for a few more seconds, before it collapsed into a puddle, splashing chilly droplets over the small class.  

  Katara laughed as Makita grimaced apologetically at the other shrieking kids. “Okay, okay,” she said, siphoning off the water with a flick of her wrist.  “Let’s not make a fuss.  Makita you did a good job!”

  “Thank you Katara,” said the young girl shyly, hugging herself.  “Do you think one day I’ll be a master, like you?”

  “Of course,” Katara replied without hesitation, but Benko, one of the older boys, drowned her out.

  “Katara’s the best waterbender in all the nations!” he boasted proudly.  “She helped the Avatar defeat the Firelord!”

  “Tell us about the Avatar, please!” another of the boys begged, and soon all of her half a dozen students were all chirping questions.  

  “Yeah, tell us about Avatar Aang!”

  “Are you really the best ever waterbender?”

  “Was the war really very scary?”

  “Did you see the new Firelord already today?”

  Katara’s head snapped around to Makita, who had last spoken.  “Wait, what?” she said, and poor little Makita instantly looked guilty, like she’d said something wrong.  “It’s okay,” Katara said, shaking off her own shock.  “I just didn’t know – did you say the Firelord was here?  In our village…today?”

  She knew the Firelord – Zuko – was touring the nations, it was all anyone could talk about.  It was all to do with assuring the world that the war years were truly behind them, and that his was now a peaceful nation.  All the traders that came through the tribe talked about was how handsome the prince was, and what a wise and admirable leader he had become.  But Katara herself had not seen or spoken to her old friend in many years.

  Little Makita nodded.  “My momma said he was getting here at noon, that she heard he made a detour.  She said it’s because we’re special.”

  “I bet he’s here to see Katara!” insisted Benko, and her throat instantly went dry and her stomach flipped.  Which was ridiculous, why wouldn’t she want to see Zuko?

  “Now, now,” she said, calming the kids down.  “He’ll be here to see all of us.  How about we work on something to show him if we get the chance – a little display perhaps?”

  The kids became instantly excited about the idea of performing for the Firelord, and Katara set about working on something that they could maybe put to music that their visitors would enjoy.  But her mind was only half on the task as she kept an eye on the sun in the sky, judging the time.  Their lessons had started early as usual, and Makita had said the delegation was due at noon, so she probably had an hour or so.

  Seeing as her and Sokka were on the general council, as well as knowing the Firelord personally, she felt it would be appropriate to be there when the party arrived. So once the kids had got the hang of the few tricks they were going to present, she sent them on their way so she could dash home and run a comb through her hair.

  For a moment, she felt a flush of embarrassment as to why exactly she was fussing over her appearance, but then she rationed that he was royalty after all, and it was important to represent her people with class and dignity. But there was a part of her that she couldn’t ignore that very much wanted to show Firelord Zuko that she wasn’t a child anymore.  That she was a leader too, to both her people and to waterbenders around the globe.  

  The first thing she noticed when she arrived at the town square was that Sokka was missing. She assumed she had been the only one to get late notice of the Firelord’s visit, but now she worried her brother had been left out entirely.  Sokka had a tendency to be a little…rambunctious in his opinions, but she was going to be livid if somebody thought it was a good idea to leave him out of the delegation.  However a quick ask around led to the discovery that he was out leading a hunting party and would be back before nightfall, in time for the welcome feast. Knowing her brother, his priority would be his stomach, and then seeing their old friend, so she guessed it was okay he was missing the first of the pleasantries.  

  Half the village had amassed by the time the first hint of a procession greeted them. “Look!” some of the children had cried in elation as giant spider-birds made of fire swooped over the horizon, dazzling the tribe with a beautiful display accompanied by horns and drums that gradually got louder and louder. Slowly, over a dozen carriages came into view being pulled by eager tiger-bears, the snow around the whole contingency becoming visibly slushy from the warmth even from this far away.

  The first of the caravans to arrive barely came to a halt at the town’s entrance before several young fire nation men and women were hoping out and creating and aisle for the occupants of the next vehicle to embark between, most notable of which was the Firelord himself.

  “Announcing Firelord Zuko!” a squire proclaimed, and the town’s cheering wrenched up a notch to become almost deafening.  

  Katara was too taken aback to clap or scream though along with her people; she was too busy taking in the man that had taken the place of the boy she used to know.

  The first noticeable difference was how tall he’d gotten, and he’d always been foot or so higher than her.  But in his billowing red robes he looked even more impressive, and she realised he’d gotten broader too.  Gone was the scrappy kid desperate to prove he was worthy to the world, and in his place was a man who knew exactly where he belonged.  

  Then, it was the smile.  He gave it freely, to the children who ran to give him sweets, to the council members who stepped up to greet him, and to his associates who seemed to be fretting over his every move.

  “It’s fine,” she saw him assure them as he talked to the people of the tribe.  Or, at least, that’s what she assumed he said. She had let half the crowd push in front of her as she stood and watched, not feeling it was right to claim any kind of privileged position over her fellows.  Yes, she knew Zuko, but it felt like a lifetime ago now, and she would say her hellos when the opportunity presented itself.  She wouldn’t throw herself at him like a fan.

  Not that she blamed her people for their excited reaction, it wasn’t everyday royalty chose to visit their little community, especially when it had come as a bit of a surprise.  But she just felt it wouldn’t be right to approach him amongst all these other people, not after all they had been though.

  To them, he was a war hero, a survivor, the leader of the new free world.  To her, he was still that troubled boy who had fought them for over a year, who had been misguided and confused, but had still thrown everything away to side with her, Aang, Sokka and Toph to unite the nations and defeat his father, despite the odds.  He was that boy who had slept in caves and bathed in rivers, quietly determined to win, at all costs.  

  She had seen him fall at the hands of his deranged sister, and it had been she who had saved him.

  So no, she would not approach Zuko now, in fact, it would probably be best to make her exit and find a quiet moment later.  She had just decided this was exactly what she wanted to do, when she looked up and realised she was being pointed at.  By several people.  All standing near to Firelord Zuko.

  “There she is!”  Of course, her student Benko had made sure to make himself useful as he stood proudly by Zuko.  

  The people around her turned to look, and she felt her cheeks flush in spite of the cold air as her and Zuko’s eyes met after so many years apart.

  His smile stunned her completely, and she barely registered that he thanked the people around him, who he’d obviously asked to point her out for him.  And then he was walking towards her, his delegation hurrying behind him, but he seemed oblivious.

  The crowd parted, and Katara didn’t have time to do anything but stand and wait as he came to a halt in front of her.  Only then did he seem to become as aware of everyone else as she was, suddenly eyeing them up both left and right, before turning back to Katara.  “Erm, hi?” he said.

  And with those two words, Katara realised that she had been worrying about nothing. He may have been the Firelord, but he was also still the same dork who had as many faults and quirks as the rest of them.

  “Zuko,” she said warmly with a laugh, before forgetting all propriety and flinging her arms around him.  The noisy crowd got even louder, and she could hear some people shouting, but all she cared about was that after a second or two, she felt Zuko laugh back, and return her embrace with fervour.  

  “It’s been a long time,” he murmured.

  She nodded in agreement.  “It has.”

  They parted bashfully as Zuko quelled his enthusiastic security detail with a look. His scar still stretched over his eye, and looked thoroughly menacing when he wanted it to.  “Katara,” he said warmly.  “Would you do me the honour and escorting me around your magnificent home?”

  She felt her eyes widen as she quickly sought out the council and tribal elders. A few of them scowled at her for her audacity, but most, including the chief, nodded and smiled approvingly. Which was lucky, as she’d been planning on agreeing no matter what they had said.  “Of course,” she told him and extended her arm out to show the way. “It would be my honour.”

  The next few hours were spent visiting various landmarks in her small but thriving village.  They started with the town hall where preparations were already underway for the celebrations that evening, then continued via the schoolroom and healing hut, where Katara often volunteered her waterbending abilities whenever a malady was serious enough to warrant it.  They saw the works of art that had been erected in the past few years, then looked on as their humble military guard performed a short, ceremonial parade, before Katara’s students enthralled a sizable crowd with a display of their most advanced waterbending, just like they had practiced that morning.

  Finally, Katara felt it was appropriate to end their tour at the war memorial she herself had helped to create.  “The metal was a gift from Toph, in the Earth Kingdom,” she said, referring to the gleaming silver sculpture of a man and a woman with a child in their arms, all reaching towards the heavens, hope clear on their faces.  Katara had shaped and then frozen the wave of water perfectly lifting them up, helping them to achieve their goal.  She checked every day to keep the ice sculpture perfect, and one day hoped to share the duty with her new generation of benders.

  “Did you know Toph is training a battalion of earthbenders into becoming metalbenders?” she asked Zuko after he had stared silently at the memorial for quite some time. He nodded.  “It’s quite the revolution.”

  He nodded again, but remained stoic, taking in every detail of the statue.  

  “Zuko?” she said softly, touching her fingers to his shoulder.  He blinked and turned to her.  

  “My apologies,” he said stiffly.  “Sometimes, we can fool ourselves that the war was long ago.  It only takes a small reminder such as this that it was only really yesterday.”

  They began to walk slowly away, heading to the accommodation that had been especially prepared for the Firelord and his people.  “I don’t think the war will ever truly leave us,” Katara admitted kindly. “We all lost so much.  But,” she paused, and looked to catch his eye.  “I don’t think it should leave us.  Otherwise, if we don’t remember the mistakes that were made, how can we avoid repeating them?”

  She couldn’t help but touch her mother’s necklace that she still wore every day.   It would be wrong to forget her and the sacrifice she had made.  But at the same time she did not want the memory to hold her back.  She just wanted it with her as she moved on with her life, much like the icy waters supporting the family in the memorial.  

  She was relieved when Zuko gave her a small smile, and shook his head.  “You always were very wise Katara,” he said ruefully.

  She grinned back at him.  “And bossy, or had you forgotten?” she teased.   But Zuko’s sidelong glance held something sincere she wasn’t quite sure about.

  “Some say bossy,” he mused.  “Others say natural leadership.”

  She couldn’t help but allow herself a moment of pride at his words.  It had been important for her to come home and help her people become the best they could be, and she knew her worldly experience would be a great asset in that.  It hadn’t always been easy, it had just been what she needed to do.  It was also one of the reasons she hadn’t been able to stay with the Air Nomads; she hadn’t been able to help Aang with rebuilding his nation because it wasn’t where she belonged, not then.  That, and…

  “Have you seen Aang at all on your travels?” she asked tentatively, hoping she wasn’t going to regret asking, but Zuko’s face shone with genuine happiness as he replied.  

  “Oh yes,” he assured her.  “Numerous times.  Many benders from the Earth Kingdom have migrated to the Air Nation to help with rebuilding their cities, and several hundred non-benders have even chosen to relocate their homes there.  It’s thriving.  I’m even hoping,” he said cautiously.  “That there might be some from the Fire Nation who would wish to join them too, to strengthen their community even further.”

  “That’s wonderful,” said Katara as they neared the accommodation across the snowy courtyard.  And she meant it, but it hadn’t really been the true intention of her question. “And, um, Aang himself?  How is he?”

  She wished she had loved Aang the way she had been supposed to, as a lover and a wife. But after the war, as they had grown from childhood into adults, she had had to be honest with herself, and eventually Aang, that her feelings had been sisterly all along.  She loved him in that respect, and was fiercely loyal to him as both a friend and as the Avatar, but that wasn’t enough to build a life together on.  It had been deeply painful to leave though, and she very much hoped that they would be able to reconnect soon as part of their new lives.

  Zuko considered before speaking.  “He is extremely well,” he said, though his tone was sombre.  “Every day he is uncovering more of the Air Nomad heritage, and with the world in balance he is more in tune with the past Avatars than ever. And I do believe,” he added with a rare smirk.  “That his beloved sky bison are breeding zealously.”

  “Good for them,” Katara chuckled.

  As they reached the door to the guest lodgings, Zuko cleared his throat and his entourage backed off a little to give them some space.  “When I saw him last,” he began hesitantly.  “Aang had…met someone.  An Earthbender.”

  “Oh that’s wonderful!” Katara cried, with such genuine force she almost surprised herself.  She certainly surprised Zuko as she grabbed his hands and squeezed them.  She laughed sheepishly.  “Sorry,” she said, letting him go and pulling at her hair.  “But, I mean it.  All I ever wanted was for Aang to be happy.  I truly hope he is.”

  Zuko beamed back at her, and took one of her hands between both of his.  “I do believe he is,” he said.

  For a moment they stood there, hands clasped, until one of the more pushy aides cleared his throat, bringing them both back to their senses.  

  “Okay,” said Katara cheerfully as she removed her hand a little shyly. “Well, I shall see you shortly.  For the feast.”

  “Oh, yes,” blinked Zuko.  “Yes, for the feast.”

  “Bye,” she said awkwardly.

  “Bye,” Zuko agreed, as his aide all but shoved him through the door, making Katara chuckle.  The guy obviously didn’t approve of his Lord talking too much with a lowly waterbender.

  She didn’t care though.  She felt strangely light as she headed back to her own home to get ready as night began to fall.  

  The fest was excellent, and Sokka made it back with his hunters just in time for the first course to be served, and his jubilant mood was enough to make anyone get into the party spirit.  Not that the mood had been dour before, what with all the free flowing food and wine that the tribespeople had come together to provide.  A band was playing merrily (and loudly) in the corner and it took no time at all for dancing to break out.

  Katara had been honoured with a seat next to the Firelord, but she hardly had a moment’s quiet to talk with him as he was greeted by one person after the other wishing to gain an audience. Some had genuine concerns they were eager to discuss, but others merely just wanted to profess their happiness at his new, far fairer rule of his nation.  

  She didn’t mind though, having found herself an elderly but enthralling firebending scholar with which to discuss technique.  Having spent so long with the Avatar, she always found it fascinating how varied the different schools of bending were.

  Once the deserts had been presented people started milling around, and Zuko was soon pulled away to tour the room as people filled every space to dance and mingle. Katara tried not to let her eyes follow him as he patiently circulated from one person to the next, but he seemed more vulnerable now he was not dressed in his official robes with their quite frankly dangerous shoulder decals.  Now he was clad simply in a fine tunic and trousers, his hair tied back in a more casual bun at the back of his head.  

  “If that were me,” the old bender leaned over and muttered into her ear.  “I’d want rescuing right about now.”  She shot her eyebrows up at him in surprise, but the old man didn’t look like he was going to take his words back.  In fact, he gave her a gentle nudge with his elbow. “I’ll create a distraction.”

  Before she could ask what on earth he meant, he’d already set off a shower of indoor fireworks which instantly grabbed everyone’s attention in a sea of gasps and cheers.  So, before she could change her mind, she nipped down from the table and skirted between everyone looking at the roof of the town hall, filled with harmless sparks courtesy of the old firebender.  

  Zuko started as she touched his elbow, but stilled as she pressed her finger up to her lips and whispered “shh” to him with a wink.  He was soon grinning back, letting her take his hand in hers as they slipped back through the crowd.

  As they passed near the head table again, Katara managed to grab the firebender’s eye and mouth “Thank you” to him.  He barely nodded back, not wanting to give them away after such a marvellous distraction, but Katara spotted the slight motion all the same as they slipped out the back door, passed the kitchens.

  “Katara,” Zuko laughed.  “Where are we going?  You know I’m going to have to keep my guards from throwing you in jail for kidnapping me?”

  “I’d like to see them try,” she said, only half joking as they made it out the final exit and into the cold night, hands still firmly clasped together.  They didn’t stop running (or grinning) until Katara got them to their destination; the highest peak just outside the settlement, just before the terrain dropped away into the vast pine forest.  “I thought I’d show you one more of our tribe’s best tourist features,” she said, slightly out of breath as she gazed up at the sky.  “The Dancing Lights.  They only happen for a few weeks at the height of the Winter Solstice.”

  “Is that so?” Zuko asked, squeezing the hand still in his, gazing upwards next to her.

  “Well,” she said.  “That and the fact that you looked bored to tears in there.”

  Zuko sighed. “It’s my job,” he said practically, but Katara just shrugged.

  “We all deserve a break sometimes.  Look!”

  Her hand shot up as the first of the dancing lights began appearing.  Ribbons of coloured lights started arching across the black night’s sky, like ink swirling through water at the whim of an artist’s brush.

  “The Dancing Lights,” Zuko guessed correctly.  

  “They say,” said Katara, starting to shiver now they were stood still.  “That it’s the spirits giving us a gift, that it’s them talking to us as best they can.”

  “That’s what they say, huh?” Zuko murmured in wonder.  But then he must have felt Katara shudder as suddenly he looked down at her and her chattering teeth.  “Oh, wait, hang on,” he said, and with a flick of his wrist a fire sprung to life near their feet, as if a pile of tinder had just been waiting for them. He didn’t stop there though as he pulled her closer and rubbed her arms.  “You’re cold,” he admonished.

  “Not that cold,” Katara argued, but that was only true now thanks to Zuko’s fire and his, well…

  She was in the Firelord’s arms for warmth, she tried to convince herself, but it was debatable how good a job she was doing.  

  “I’m sorry,” he said after a little while longer watching the lights weaving over their heads.

  Katara frowned.  “For what?” she asked, genuinely confused.  She was the one who should have been apologising for dragging them out into the cold without even any furs.  

 But she felt Zuko shake his head, and she moved her eyes to meet his.  “For…not making this visit official until the last minute.  I wasn’t sure…I was hesitant as to whether or not you would want to see me?”

  She blinked, unsure of what to say, other than the obvious.  “Zuko,” she said.  “That’s ridiculous!  Why wouldn’t I be happy to see you?”

  He shrugged, his arms now fully wrapped around her (for warmth). “I know my behaviour in the past-”

  “If you bring up the war,” she interrupted.  “I swear I will stamp on your foot.”  

  For a moment he just stared down at her, and then he laughed.  “You’re going…to stamp…on the Firelord’s foot?”

  “If you give me reason to,” she said defiantly.  “Yes. I’m not going over this again. You made mistakes, we all did. The important thing is that we atoned for them.  What matters is here and now.”

  “Oh,” he said, chewing on his bottom lip, avoiding her gaze.  “Well, I’m sort of embarrassed I said anything now.”

  She laughed, and found herself rubbing his back reassuredly (but also for warmth).  “No,” she insisted.  “I think it’s sweet you were concerned.  Concern and humility are nice things to have.  They’re admirable.”

  Zuko looked back into her eyes again; his were so brown they were almost black.  They were mesmerising.  “You always see the best in everyone,” he marvelled.

  But she shook her head. “Only when it’s there to see.”

  “A lot of people don’t even try though,” he insisted.  “That’s…that’s also a nice thing to have.”

  Katara was aware that the Dancing Lights were fading away, and people back at the hall would probably be looking for Zuko by now.  But she didn’t make any move to leave, and neither did he.  “I’m glad you came,” she said after a while.  “It’s been lovely seeing you again.”

  “I’d like,” Zuko began, the words obviously catching in his throat.  “To see more of you.  If possible?”

  Katara swallowed.  Their faces were awfully close together.  “I’d like that,” she said.  “I’d like that very much.”

  As the last wisp of coloured light vanished from the sky, Zuko leaned down, and closed the gap between them, touching his cold lips to hers.  It was all it took for Katara to wrap her arms more tightly around his back, to fold into him and let the kiss deepen.  She wasn’t surprised, she wasn’t hesitant.  This felt about as right as right could feel.

  “Good,” Zuko whispered between the first kiss and the next.  “I’d like that too.”

End