New fic! And no, I haven't given up on any of the others. This one started as a drabble and turned into something that will have a few very short chapters. This is basically cotton candy fic. High sugar and high scarcasm, with little educational value. Enjoy it.

This one is all Katara's perspective, instead of both.

Closet Negotiations


A sorry-looking bucket and a pile of dusty rags were Katara's only companions. In the blinding dark of a small supply closet the young traveler felt no need to acquaint herself further; the smell of must and soap was evidence enough of their existence. She leaned against wood-board walls and hugged her arms tighter around her chest, gaze fixed on the line of light at the base of the door.

She kept herself busy counting the minutes until it would be safe to try and get out of there. Katara shouldn't even have been there in the first place, but one hiding place was as good as another when the personal guard of the Fire Princess dropped in uninvited. As soon as she recognized the two girls swaggering through the shop doors Katara had hastily moved to the back and escaped into the private hallways. She'd hoped for a window but somehow ended up with a closet; the brief minutes inside it so far had been tense and lonely. Noise, and shouting, and all manner of intimidating sounds echoed back to Katara from outside. She was getting prepared to open the door a crack and do some reconnaissance when it swung wide of its own accord and a large silhouette was shoved in her direction.

"You'll be safe in here, just don't make too much noise. And for spirits' sake, don't start any fires."

The door slammed shut again, leaving Katara with a stranger. A firebending stranger, by the sound and smell of it. His back to her and there was barely enough space to turn around, less than a foot between them at the furthest.

"Who's there?" his sharp voice asked. "If you don't answer in the next three seconds I'll consider you a threat and I will hurt you."

At the sound of his threat Katara gritted her teeth; the familiarity of his voice was difficult to ignore. She hoped and prayed to Yue that he was not that firebender. Would that it were anyone but him! A faint creak moved through the air of the tiny closet as she began to inch off the cap of her canteen. Before she could get to the water the air changed and a man's hand clamped down on her shoulder, spun her roughly, and finished by bracing her face-first against the wall. His breath tickled her neck, bringing back flashes of being tied to a tree with the fire prince circling like a vulture and whispering a bargain of lies into her ear. The memory made Katara angry, and she wondered if she could knock the wind out of him with a solid blow from her elbow. It would have to wait until he relaxed a fraction: right now he held one arm across her shoulder-blades to pin her down while his other hand ignited a tiny flame to the left of their heads.

With her cheek pressed hard against the wall, Katara was able to sneak a glance at the face of her captor. It was the prince indeed, and he didn't look any more excited to see her than she felt to see him. His expression shifted from startlement to affrontery and finally settled at resignation.

"Oh, you," he muttered, and his hands dropped from her back. Katara, grateful and at the same time slightly annoyed that her enemy—former enemy?—didn't consider her a worthy threat, turned around so her back was once more against the wall. She rubbed her neck tiredly and watched her fellow closeteer retreat as far away as possible. Their enclosure was tiny, and he could put less than dozen inches between them. If the poor, harried shop owner tried to shove one more refugee into the mix there probably wouldn't be room to breathe at all.

"Nice to see you too, Zuko." The arch in her voice was high enough make weaker soul cringe. The firebender just frowned faintly and looked away. Katara bristled at the dismissal, and let sarcasm seep into her tone. "What brings you to this closet, your highness?"

"I'm hiding from Azula's subordinates. Silence would help in that regard."

"They can't hear us with all the noise outside. Besides, you saw how far back the closet was." She eyed the door frame in the low light of his firebending—his entire body practically blocked it. Since when had he gotten tall? She'd have to convince him to switch places if she wanted to escape, and she'd prefer running for her life over being trapped in a small dark place with Fire Lord's son. He'd already proved he could restrain her before she had the time or room to waterbend, and in this tiny box his size gave him the advantage. Why oh why didn't she carry a knife like Sokka had suggested when they separated this afternoon?

Zuko, who looked like he was sizing her up, voiced the same conclusion: "You don't have any weapons but your water, do you? It's pretty stupid of you not to carry something. If I were to threaten you in here you couldn't do much."

Katara's breath hitched in her throat. "Are you going to threaten me?" she asked carefully. No inflection, no tone: a question that conveyed nothing.

Zuko's mouth twitched into a faint shadow of his former smirk. "No. Hurting you's not worth the mess."

"You're right," she replied. Katara's spine was straight as an arrow, her chin high. "Because if you were threatening me, I'd have to resort to more creative methods of attack. Did you know waterbenders can affect the water in your blood and in your stomach? I've never tried it, but I'm awfully talented." She didn't add the other things she was pretty sure she could do—things to his eyes, the liquid in his ear drums. Nasty, horrible things she thought of sometimes but would never suggest to Aang and never, ever wanted to have to try. Let Zuko think that the water in her pouch was her last defense.

The prince's gaze narrowed as he tried to determine if Katara was bluffing. His eyes were dark as amber in the firelight, lacking that dangerous edge of gold. It made him seem less frightening, somehow.

"Perhaps," he said at last, and the master waterbender knew that was all the acknowledgement she'd get from him, "But as it is there's not much point in threatening each other here."

With his words the fire went out and Katara was plunged into darkness once more.