The howling of the icy winds seemed almost quiet compared to the roar of the avalanche that still had everyone’s ears ringing and bodies shaking. What Katto had done was stupid, unthinkable, and brilliant all at the same time.
And yet, for General Zuko, the intentional natural disaster brought about to wipe out their enemy was the last thing on his mind. Because despite having survived the avalanche, falling off the face of the mountain, and managing to hold Zuko’s weight despite how weak he was while the soldiers pulled them back to safety, it was still unsure if Katto would survive the night.
Because at some point in those five seconds of actually facing off with the enemy, Katto had been struck.
They had been quick to stem the blood flow and rush to the nearest village for a proper healer, but it was far too close of a call. Katto had been unconscious practically since their feet had once more touched solid land.
Zuko could still clearly see triumphant blue eyes beaming up at him as he scolded the incompetent soldier for such a crazy move before suddenly crumpling in pain. The blood on his small, tanned hand looked far too bright as it dripped down onto the snow and all Zuko could remember was feeling confused as to how Katto could possibly be bleeding.
He was now standing vigil outside the small hut of the local healer. Zuko had ordered his men off several hours earlier, but all they had done was move an acceptable distance away before setting up camp and settling down to stare at the healer’s door.
He knew his men had developed a soft spot for Katto long before he had, even if he was sure Katto had earned his respect first. Everyone insisted Katto was like that annoying younger brother who couldn’t do anything right but still managed to bring a smile to your face for trying.
Zuko couldn’t quite agree with that assessment, and it wasn’t just because he never smiled.
There was something about Katto…something that seemed off. Zuko didn’t know what it was, but it annoyed and intrigued him in equal parts. He found himself watching the man more often than not, leading to some questionable looks from those who caught him staring. One instance even led to an odd talk about how “the guys would respect you no matter what, you know? Because there is no honor lost in feelings you can’t help, right?”
Zuko had no idea what Jee was going on about, but had nodded in consent regardless.
The door to the hut creaked open, and Zuko watched as all of his men shot to their feet in the distance.
Zuko turned to the healer, who gave him a weary smile.
“She’s lost a lot of blood, but she’s going to be fine.”
Relief immediately flooded into confusion.
“She?” Zuko echoed. “What do you…?”
He trailed off and watched as the healer’s eyes widened in horror. She quickly covered her mouth against the slip – they had brought her a soldier, she knew the army only took males to fight – "I...I mean-"
So many answers were clicking into place within Zuko’s head.
Breath caught in his lungs, Zuko brushed passed the woman and entered the hut. In the mat against the corner was Katto, staring groggily at the steam rising from a teacup on the floor beside him – her.
When she noticed Zuko, her eyes lit up and she struggled to rise, only to freeze as she saw the look of shock and anger on his face. Belatedly, she noticed how her blanket had fallen to reveal her breasts, and although she rushed to cover herself, the damage had already been done.
Turning on his heel, Zuko stormed back out the door, only to find his men hovering less than ten feet away, eager to see how their friend was doing. But Zuko didn’t dare let them see her like this. If they knew…
She had worked far too hard to earn her place among them.
If his soldiers knew, they would make her life a far worse living hell than before. But if they were to come to the realization that their General knew, Zuko would be bound by law to kill her.
And he couldn’t do that. Not when…not when she had saved his life.
“Pack up!” Zuko snapped as he stormed passed everyone. “I said pack up!” he repeated when no one moved. “We’re leaving! Now!”
“But…what about Katto?”
Zuko very nearly drew his sword on the man.
“Forget about Katto,” he said darkly. “He’s in no state to accompany us anymore.”