And Then There Were Eight
Her brother and friends bring chaos, an excitable lemur, and rib-crushing hugs. They also bring Uncle.
"What?" Zuko splutters while Katara finds herself trapped in her brother's arms. "Uncle, why are you—"
"Oh, we bumped into each other." A too innocent smile. "Aang I had a good chat on the way here."
Zuko's nose scrunches. "Aang?"
Aang grins like the bundle of friendliness and sunshine he always is. "That's my name, you know."
"I know that, but—"
"Oh, and he told me all about how you freed Appa. Thanks for that!"
"Uh, sure, but—"
"Oh, and guess what? Your uncle says he's going to be my firebending teacher!"
Zuko gives up on getting a word in with Aang and just rounds on Uncle. "You are?"
"It's time," Uncle says sagely.
"Time for what? And I thought you wanted to stay here and open your own teashop! Why do you suddenly want to teach the Avatar firebending?"
Uncle opens his mouth to respond, but Toph elbows past them to head for the kitchen area, demanding to know if they have any food. She declares she didn't get to eat any breakfast since, in her words, Twinkletoes was too busy wetting himself with eagerness to leave.
"Toph!" Katara hisses. "You can't just demand food from people."
"What?" A careless shrug. "Gramps is cool. He won't care, and I don't particularly care if Prince Dramatic gets upset."
Now Zuko just blinks. "Prince Dramatic?"
"Yeah, I know it's not very good," Toph admits. "Don't worry, I'll come up with something better for you." She punches him on the arm. "Oh, and thanks for looking after Sweetness. I hear she was a real handful."
"What?" Katara responds, going red in the face and turning to Uncle. "Is that what you told them?"
Toph snorts. "Knew she'd fall for it. So, where's the grub?"
Katara wants to get mad, but then she takes one look at Zuko while everyone still chatters around them, trying to drown out the other, and she just ends up laughing. The poor guy looks so lost and overwhelmed.
She nudges him in the arm. "Alright there?"
He blinks a few times. "Are they always like this?"
Sokka suddenly stands in front of them, expression determined as he meets Zuko's eyes and holds out his hand.
Zuko does the nose scrunch thing again. "Er …"
"Thank you for taking care of my sister. We were all really worried when we found her stuff hidden in Long Feng's office, and—"
"What?" she exclaims. "You found my stuff? Is Mum's necklace there as well?"
"And the Spirit Oasis water?"
Appa rumbles from outside the window. He's too bulky to fit in the apartment.
"Oh, not you, Appa. I was talking to Katara." Sokka glances back at her. "Anyway, it's all there, clothes and everything."
"Yes!" She punches her fist to the air. This is the best news ever.
Sokka smiles before turning to Zuko. Then his expression and voice go serious again and he once more extends his hand. "Right. Well, we were all really worried, but it seems you kept her safe for us when she was injured and stuck as a cat, so thanks."
"Uh, sure …" Zuko cautiously accepts his hand. "No problem."
Once the handshake is over, Sokka makes a big show of letting out a breath and shrugging off his serious demeanour. "Phew, that's that done. Never thought I'd have to make friendly with the jerkbender."
Katara slaps her palm to her forehead. "Sokka, you ruined it."
"What?" he says, spreading his hands. "It's true."
"Guys! Guys!" Aang says over top of them. "I just got a great idea!"
"Oh, score!" Toph cries. "Leftovers!"
Zuko just sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I don't even know what's going on now."
That's when Momo lands on his head.
It takes a long, long one-on-one chat with Iroh (she's finally learnt his name) for Zuko to agree to come with them on their travels. He still seems a bit uncertain about the whole thing, but he admits to Katara that he doesn't want to stay in Ba Sing Se on his own. He and Iroh have been together for three years.
"Besides," he says shyly, "at least this way we won't have to separate."
She kisses him deeply for that comment.
"Um." He pulls back from her lips. "I just have to check: this does mean we're dating now, right?"
She rolls her eyes. "I can't believe you even have to ask."
Then she kisses him again just to prove her point. He really will always be her Prince Idiot.
"Wait, so you called her Cat?" Sokka asks.
Delight shines in his eyes and he laughs, going so far as to slap his leg. "Oh man, that's hilarious! You know, because Katara, Cat. Cata—"
Katara holds her hand up near her brother's head in a threatening manner. "Go ahead, Sokka. Finish it. I dare you."
He gulps. She holds his gaze a moment longer before she goes back to talking to Aang.
Fifteen seconds later, Sokka grins to himself. "Catara."
Yay, we've reached the end!
Blahblahbayern, I hope you enjoyed your birthday gift! It has been my pleasure to write this for you, especially since you've been awesome enough to translate some of my fics into Russian. I am forever in awe that you have the patience for that!
Also, random fact for you all: I'm actually allergic to cats and don't care for them all that much (for obvious reasons, since they turn me into a sneezing, wheezing, rash covered thing who's just like 'lol, who even needs to breathe?'). So yeah, writing this was kind of funny because I was just like 'ugh cats' in my head the whole time. Still, I always enjoy putting characters into silly situations (especially when body transformations are involved), and being able to include dumb name puns warms my heart.
Anyway, thanks to all who reviewed and joined me on this ride! I'll be working on The Undying Fire from now on, so for those following that fic, you can expect to start seeing those weekly updates again. :)