I, being the sad person I am, decided to trawl around websites in search of a quote to base a fic upon. This is the quote:
"Never frown because you never know when someone is falling in love with your smile." - Unknown
Just as a heads up, this fic doesn't take into account the events of "Avatar Day" or "The Blind Bandit" and is set sometime in the near future.
Sand, Stars and a Smile
A slight breeze swept across the shore, lifting up tiny grains of sand and dancing with them across the ocean. The young girl, who sat just out of reach of the water, wrinkled her nose as the wind tickled the back of her neck. She let her cobalt eyes follow the repeated movements of the sea as it constantly strove to reach her, but always failed.
Her eyes lifted up from the water's edge and her gaze fixed upon the horizon. The sun was neither risen nor set. It was just peeking over the water, washing the sky with soft pinks, fiery oranges and the coolest of blues.
Behind the brunette haired girl the moon was taking the place of the sun. It was barely noticeable; a pale silver disk hanging above the trees where her party was camping for the night. Katara let her lips curl into a shadow of a smile, it was a rare occurrence for her to have the time to sit and watch the sun set, and as a result she hardly ever appreciated the fact that the sun and moon shared the same sky at certain times.
Katara sighed and held out her hand. Effortlessly beckoning the water, she pulled a ribbon of her element from the ocean and let it glide through the air towards her. The stream of water curled around her fingers as she thought about what her next actions would be.
Pulling out the water into a fine strand, Katara moulded it into the outline of a short child, complete with arrow tattoos. Upon the face of her creation Katara put a wide grin. She smiled at the watery expression; it was so true to life, just like Aang. Next she made her brother, boomerang in hand and face slightly puckered in annoyance. Katara sighed as she realised her brother had been very annoyed as of late, and it was all to do with their two new companions.
Straightening out the water again, Katara's fingers began moulding a new shape. This one was more rounded at the stomach, short and squat and upon the figure's face she put a wide smile, the mouth opened in a hearty laugh. Katara's own mouth stretched into a smile as she thought about this new addition to their team. Iroh was not the problem by any means; in fact the loveable old man had already been welcomed into the fold. No, the problem was their other companion.
The water writhed into the final shape. This one was taller than any of the others, with more defined shoulders and arms and a proud, strong stance. Katara put the finishing touches to it, with a scar across the left eye and a frown settling on the lips. It occurred to Katara that she had never seen the sullen teen smile; although his Uncle insisted that he was capable of such a feat. Katara studied the miniature man for a moment longer and shook her head slightly, guiding the water back into the ocean.
Whilst Katara was glad Zuko and his Uncle were no longer pursuing the Avatar, she was getting extremely frustrated with the problems that had arisen. Zuko and Sokka could not go half an hour without having an argument, and lately Katara had spent a lot of her time either patching up ripped clothes or patching up bruised boys.
Sokka was having trouble trusting Zuko, and Zuko was having trouble admitting that he had been wrong to chase Aang around the world for the past few months. The problem being, Sokka was waiting for Zuko to apologise for his actions, something Iroh had done without hesitation.
However, Zuko refused to take a dip in pride and as a result Sokka was constantly picking at the exiled prince.
This was the reason Katara was currently sitting at the seafront. Every night, without fail, there would be an argument after the group landed and set up camp. In one way or another, Sokka and Zuko would start an argument and the other three members of the group would have to separate the pair to stop anybody getting injured. The rest of the night would be spent in an irritable silence.
This evening, however, as soon as Appa had landed in the clearing in the woods, Katara had taken off. She had wanted to avoid the inevitable argument, and so she had taken to exploring the small island they had taken refuge on for the night. It had only taken her around ten minutes to find the sandy beach upon which she was sitting, and she liked her little sanctuary very much.
As if the world was determined to ruin her moment of peace, Katara heard a twig snap behind her in the foliage. Katara didn't turn towards the noise; instead she listened to the rustling of the bushes. She hoped it was just a docile animal looking for fruit to eat, but her hopes were dashed when she heard another few sticks snap and someone curse.
Katara heaved a great sigh and leant her forehead on her knees. Though the voice had been low she would recognise it anywhere. She shifted her gaze to the trees and saw from the corner of her eye as one of her companions emerged.
Zuko froze as his eyes landed on the Waterbender sat on the sand. He hesitated for a moment. True, he had no real problem with the girl; it was her brother who he couldn't talk to without wanting to kill him. The fact was he had never had a real conversation with the girl. A few words here, a friendly gesture there but never a conversation.
He saw Katara shift her eyes back to the horizon and he relaxed. The fact that the girl hadn't gotten up and left or told him to get lost was highly reassuring and Zuko gathered she wouldn't mind it if he went to sit with her.
Strolling closer to the water, Zuko sat down on the girl's left; near to her, but not next to her. Neither teen said a word; instead they just studied the setting sun together.
The next few minutes passed in a comfortable silence; both Zuko and Katara knew they didn't need to force conversation.
It was, however, to be Katara that broke the silence.
"So, am I going to have to go back to camp and mop my brother up?"
Zuko shot her a sideward glance. "I wouldn't worry too much. We didn't actually fight today, we just argued."
Katara smiled slightly. "Will wonders never cease? So what did you argue about this time?"
Zuko scowled. "After you disappeared into the forest everyone was sort of feeling awkward. I know you get fed up with the constant fighting, I think we all do. I tried to show your brother I'm on your side now by offering to help with the dinner. He was having none of it."
Katara groaned and lay back in the sand. The sky above was rapidly fading into indigo and the stars were already starting to twinkle. "What did he do?"
Zuko's form was no longer in Katara's range of sight but she heard his voice from somewhere above him. "He accused me of trying to poison everyone. I tried to point out that that would mean I was trying to kill my own Uncle, but he just said he wouldn't put it past me."
Katara shook her head slightly and grimaced as she felt the grainy sand clinging to her hair. Sitting up she undid her braid and ran her fingers through the loose locks, ridding herself of the sand.
Zuko watched her from the corner of his good eye. He wondered how it was so easy for this girl to talk to her one-time enemy. His eyes travelled to her mouth and he couldn't help but wonder at the smile that always seemed to rest there.
Katara redid her braid with nimble fingers, showing that this was ritual to her. When she finished she looked around at Zuko and was quite surprised to see her companion's eyes fixed on her. When he didn't move after a few seconds, she waved a hand in front of his face.
Zuko started slightly and focused his eyes on the girl "I'm sorry, I was just thinking."
Katara tilted her head to the side. "What about?"
"How can you smile so much?"
Katara blinked. "Excuse me?"
"You always seem to smile, no matter how dismal the situation seems. I just don't see how you can do that."
Katara sighed and sure enough, she smiled as memories of her childhood rushed back to her. "My mother always said that a smile can be the brightest light in times of darkness."
Zuko's golden eyes narrowed in confusion. "Isn't your mother… gone?" Katara nodded. "Well, how can you smile when you think of her? Whenever I think of my mother, it usually makes me feel depressed."
Katara looked Zuko straight in the eyes, her smile never faltering. "My mom was always a bright woman, and I've always felt that it would be an insult to her memory if I was upset when I thought about her. Besides, I bet my mom would like to know that her memory brings a smile to my face."
Zuko stared at the girl in bewilderment and admiration, before sighing and turning back to the ocean, which now reflected the sparkling stars above it.
Katara noticed his sigh and laughed softly. "You know, smiling is meant to be infectious. If someone smiles at you, you are meant to want to smile also."
When Zuko made no response, Katara's keen mind started developing a plan.
Zuko didn't pay much notice to Katara's words and all was silent for a while. However, he sensed movement at his side and turned to see Katara doing something completely baffling.
She had turned herself around so that she was facing him completely and she was pulling the most ridiculous faces at him. Zuko watched with his mouth slightly open as she stuck her tongue out and crossed her eyes.
When Katara uncrossed her eyes she saw that Zuko had raised his eyebrow and was staring at her as if he feared for her mental wellbeing, but alas, there was no trace of a smile.
She grinned rather sheepishly and turned back around to the water, a smile still playing on her lips.
Katara turned around to Zuko and waited for him to continue.
"Even though your bizarre attempt at getting me to smile didn't work… thanks."
Katara would have appreciated the thanks alone, but what Zuko did next was worth so much more that a thank-you.
It was the silent bond of friendship between the pair, it was the reason why Katara's heart skipped a beat, and it was the reason why the two teens moved ever so slightly closer together on the beach.