Dancing in the Dark
Chapter Seven: Kiss Me
All Standard Disclaimers Apply: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or anything related to it.
She groaned as she stumbled back. Her hand rose as she rubbed her forehead and grimaced. What was that mask made of out? Granite? Zuko felt her hand leave his and hold him back as she tried to sooth the spot that had collided with his mask. As she rubbed her head, Zuko felt like slapping himself stupid.
The mask. How could he forget he was wearing a mask and go in to kiss her? Behind the said mask, he flushed, embarrassed that he had completely forgotten and subsequently made them look like fools. Still, a small smile tugged on his lips. It was kind of funny. If it weren't happening to them.
For Katara, the felt like throwing herself in the lake. Had she actually tried to kiss a mask? She didn't even bother trying to take it off. Instead, she had been drawn in by its endless dark pits for eyes and, lost in the moment, found herself leaning upwards for a kiss. A kiss on his cold, inanimate lips.
Among the sound of wind blowing through the trees, the water lapping at the shore, and the crickets chirping in the distance, Katara heard something else. She stopped rubbing her head and looked up. Her eyes narrowed as she laid her eyes on the masked dance instructor who had turned his head away.
"Are you laughing?"
Zuko heard her voice and jerked into a straight position. His arms flew down to his sides as he clamped his lips together to keep from letting this small fit of laughter escape. Under her suspicious glare, he shook his head from side to side, as if trying to convince her that no, he wasn't laughing.
Katara raised an eyebrow and pulled her hand away from him. She crossed her arms and shot him an unamused glare. "You're laughing." She accused.
Zuko sighed slightly and relaxed his posture. Reluctantly, he nodded. A small smile caressed Katara's lips and she turned her head away. "I guess it was funny…Sorry," she said. She took a step back and Zuko frowned. Where did she think she was going? "I got caught up. I didn't mean to. It was stupid. Just forget it ever happened, okay?"
He frowned more so. It was stupid? To kiss him? Forget that it happened? So she didn't want to kiss him. The Zuko part of him was a bit happy. Perhaps she really had been lost in the moment and wasn't infatuated with his masked persona rather than him. However, the Blue Spirit part of him was insulted. Why didn't she want to kiss him? Was there something wrong with him? There was nothing wrong with him.
Katara raised her hand and rubbed the back of her neck thoughtfully. Her eyes moved back over to him. "Let's just start over," she insisted. She ran a hand through the top of her hair and self consciously adjusted her clothes. "I can still use a little more practice."
Not knowing what else to do, Zuko found himself nodding. He rolled his shoulders back in an attempt to loosen up. Katara stood in front of him and raised her hands back to their first position. His hands met hers and firmly held them in his. It took all of Katara's strength to lift her head up and meet his blank gaze.
Her body rested against his. He could feel the heat of her body through the fabric of their clothes. Her face was tinted with red and he couldn't help but wonder just how far her blush had spread. He swallowed down his thoughts and began telling himself that they had to practice. After all, that was what they came for.
They began the dance once more, this time taking it slower. He led her around the tree in utter silence. Once…twice…five times. Time seemed to slow for just that night. Just for them. As they rounded the tree once more, she began to relax and allow the movements of her body to be become less rigid and more fluid.
His eyes squinted behind the mask. Katara's ocean blue orbs glistened in the moonlight as they looked at him, filled with complete faith. Gods, how he would love it if someone looked at him like that when he wasn't wearing the Blue Spirit mask; when he was just Zuko. Looking into her eyes, he decided that they were what calmed the Avatar inside the boy. He needed that.
Katara never even realized they had come to a near stand still once more. They were no longer moving according to the formal steps he had spent so much time teaching her. Instead, they were leaning into each other, swaying their bodies together as they turned in a small circle.
It was just them. The world outside the tree no longer existed. Katara's eyes looked up desperately into the black pits. "Why are you wearing a mask?" she whispered softly. "What are you hiding?" She hadn't meant to say it out loud. It had been a thought that accidentally came out.
The spell was broken and the body rocking against hers stiffened. Zuko felt as if the wind had been suddenly knocked out of him. Did she want him to take off the mask? His heart began to pound once more. Did she want to know who he really was? His stomach twisted into knots. There was no way he could do that; no way she could accept the truth.
His hands released hers and he stepped back, putting a good distance between them. He turned his head away, unwilling to look at the hurt look on Katara's face as he moved away from her.
Katara watched as he held his hand out to stop her from coming forward. She mentally face palmed herself. There was a reason he had been wearing the mask the whole time. There was no reason why he had to take it off then. She turned her head away, ashamed. How could she ask something of him? She had no right to.
"I'm sorry," she said as she bit her lower lip. Her hands clenched on either side of her. Stupid! Stupid! You ruined the moment! "I shouldn't have asked you that. It was rude."
Yeah…rude… Zuko thought to himself. He didn't look at her.
"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I should've known you didn't want to take off the mask," Katara rambled on. She raised her hand and rubbed the back of her neck. "I'm just curious. I'm sorry. Really." She insisted.
Zuko glanced back at her. She was looking down at the ground, her hands wringing each other in front of her. His own hands clenched at his sides. Didn't she understand that he couldn't take off his mask? Not in front of her... He could only imagine her outrage. She would be furious.
It wouldn't be the anger that he found so attractive. He found it alluring when she was angry; her face flushed, hair out of place, and panting for air. She would be angry for reasons he didn't want her to be angry because of. She'd automatically assume he had been using her. The worst part was that was his original intent. It had changed since he spent time with her, but the fact was he had still planned on using her; if only to find the Avatar.
The only reason he came now was to be with her without all that baggage between them. And he knew she would never accept that. She would've been deceived and women did not take well to deception.
"It's just that this is probably the last night I'll see you," she was still talking. "I kind of wanted to know who you were."
Zuko shook his head. No, you don't.
"Are you…are you running from the law?" Katara offered. Zuko shook his head and paused. Technically, yes, but not exactly in the way she was thinking of it. He decided to give her a clue to try to tell her why he was uncomfortable without the mask; he was scarred. Yes, that would work.
Zuko waved his hand over his face and moved his hands in odd motions in front of him. Katara narrowed her eyes, struggling to understand what he was trying to say. She shook her head slowly. "I'm sorry, I don't understand." She admitted.
Zuko rolled his eyes. This was the girl who couldn't get the color blue… He held his hand up, asking for some time. He began to dig into his pockets. He had bought an extra set of spark rocks after his Uncle had worn out the old ones. He had forgotten to give them to him and were still somewhere in his pocket.
He pulled out the two stones and held them in front of her. "Okay…" she nodded. Zuko snapped the rocks together and made sparks. Her eyes widened as she gasped. Her hands rose to her mouth as she looked at him with pitying eyes. "You lost your face in a fireworks accident!?"
Oh, for the love of… Zuko stared at her for a moment longer. Was she serious? He shook his head and looked around. A stray twig was lay at the base of the tree. He picked it up and held the spark rocks near its tip. With a little firebending help, the twig's tip caught on fire. He pocketed the spark rocks and moved the branch in front of him and pointed to the flaming end.
He watched as the fire was reflected in her eyes; the realization sinking in. "You have a burn mark," she whispered. Zuko nodded and blew out the flame before someone else noticed it. He tossed the twig on the ground and Katara smiled gently. "That's okay. Plenty of people have been scarred."
He shook his head again and waved his hand all over his face. You don't want to see this…
Sighing tiredly, Katara put her hands on her hips and gave him an unimpressed look. "You know, I know someone who has a burn mark over his eye," she said. Zuko's head perked up. He wasn't so naive as to not realize she was talking about him. "He's dealing with it fine. No shortage of confidence for that guy."
Zuko narrowed his eyes behind the mask. Are you saying I'm arrogant?
"I'm sure yours isn't as bad as you think. His takes up a good portion of his face," Katara rambled on. Zuko's mouth dropped. First he was arrogant now he was ugly? "And as much as I hate to admit it, he's not bad looking."
Suddenly, it became interesting. Zuko moved his head back, allowing her words to register. So, she didn't find him ugly. That was good. He crossed his arms over his chest and nodded his head, urging her to continue.
"It actually brings out his personality more," she began. "He'd just be a jerk if he didn't have it. One pretty boy jerk. But the scar kind of makes him more mysterious," Mysterious…he liked the sound of that. "My brother and I think he's really angsty. I've never seen him smile. He's always scowling or glaring or threatening us. Even when he's working, he looks like he's brooding and angst ridden."
The corner of Zuko's lip twitched. Angsty? She thought he was full of angst? He gritted his teeth. Okay, perhaps he was full of angst, but he had good reasons!
"Aang really believes that he's a good guy. I wonder if he's talked to them about teaching…" she trailed off as her eyes widened. Zuko tilted his head to the side questioningly. "Never mind." she said quickly. She stood up straight and tugged her shirt down in a self conscious manner.
Yes, he answered her silently. He has talked to my Uncle about someone to teach him firebending. Uncle said no…and looked at me. Zuko watched her look around the familiar area, trying to change the subject with random gibberish about leaves. He smiled slightly. Even though she trusted him, she still didn't know who he was and didn't reveal the secret of his and his Uncle's identities.
Even if in reality it didn't matter. Inside, he couldn't help but feel flattered. Whether she wanted to or not, she was looking out for them. "Well," she said as she gave him a bright smile. "Shall we continue my dance lesson?"
He nodded and extended his hand. Katara placed hers in his and stepped forward. They began a dance style she had begun learning earlier that week. Something that had both their bodies pressed tightly against each other, making them move as one. Katara couldn't stop blushing.
She could feel every movement of his body against hers. The way his muscles stretched, the way his legs brushed against hers. The fact that the lower part of her belly was constantly pressed over his. There was one particular movement that had caused her to yelp in surprise the first time they did it. That had been embarrassing. It was just dancing after all. Right?
Zuko loved this dance. It had taken him ages to learn and perfect. His partner was doing baby steps in comparison to what he could do, but the one move she seemed to have gotten down perfectly was the one that made his mid section tighten. Each time she did it, a small hiss came out of his lips.
Now that he knew she found him 'not bad looking' and obviously wanted a kiss from him, the tightening down below was growing worse. He silently hoped she didn't notice.
Katara was lost in her dream world once more. The dance really made her feel like a woman and not a fourteen year old girl barely reaching fifteen. He treated her like a woman; handled her like one. Not as little girl, but as a woman; she rather enjoyed that.
His hand ran up the side of her body and Zuko cursed his teenage hands. She had nice hips. Nice legs. With time, she would only fill out more. Gods, why did they tempt him so? He swung her out and watched as brown hair fly around her body. As she stopped, he jerked his arm and brought her spinning back into his arms.
Their faces met. Her eyes reflected the blue mask in their orbs and Zuko wished that nothing was between them. Katara wished she could rip the mask off his face. He felt her hot breath against his skin. "Sorry…" she whispered, the tip of her nose grazing the mask's surface. "I got too close."
She turned her head away and pulled back. She was blushing furiously. She couldn't believe she had nearly done it again! She was not some love sick, hormonally charged teenager! She was a Master Waterbender! And she felt like slamming her head against a wall.
"You know…" she said, her voice breathy and trembling. "I think…I've danced enough for tonight."
His eyes widened and his heart clenched. No…
Her hand wiggled between their bodies and she placed her palm on his broad, firm chest. "I should get back." Her eyes were lowered as she tried to push him away.
Silently, Zuko took a step back, his hands trailing down her arms and holding on to her hands in one last futile attempt to hold on to her. Katara pulled back and he felt the warmth of her hands leave his. "Thank you," she said in a shaking voice. She had to leave before she really did rip off his mask. "For the dance lessons." she lifted her head and offered him a smile.
His eyes narrowed. He could see the disappointment and sadness in them. Zuko nodded. His body wouldn't move.
"I think I really improved," Katara offered as cheerfully as she could. She turned her head and looked down at the flowers by the tree. "Oh…and thanks for the flowers," she said as she walked over and gathered them in her arms. "They're gorgeous…thank you."
Zuko nodded once more, watching as she shifted the black and white lilies in her arms. Katara bowed her head. "I'll never forget this."
Zuko closed his eyes. Me neither...
She turned around and his hand flew out. Her eyes widened as she whirled around and faced him. A questioning look graced her face as her eyebrows furrowed.
What am I doing? Zuko asked himself. His right hand held her left wrist firmly. He felt as if his body were moving on his own. His other hand rose to her face. Behind thin black gloves, his fingers traced her lips softly. As they ran over the soft pink swells, her lips parted and a hot breath ran over his finger.
He swallowed nervously. Katara watched as his dark eyes stayed focused on her. Her heart raced beneath her breast as his hand rose once more. She found her eyes closing as his hand went over them. Zuko released her wrist and raised that hand behind his head. With a few firm tugs, the mask was loosened.
He pulled it up, raising it over his head. Her eyes were closed. He knew they were. His body came forward; closing the gap between them he lowered his head. Just one wouldn't hurt. Just one kiss good-bye. That was it. Then they would go their separate ways. His eyes began to close.
For one long, agonizing moment, Katara felt him hesitate above her. She could sense his lips hovering just above hers and feel his breath across her face. Her tongue flickered over her lips once more to moisten them. She felt his heart beat against her and she leaned upwards.
He felt them press against his. Smooth, soft, and warm. They were just like he imagined them. And he wasn't about to let them go. Zuko leaned forward, parting his own lips to gather hers and urge her to do the same. A low moan escaped her lips as firm ones sealed over hers aggressively. The panda lilies in her arms were forgotten as they dropped to the ground.
Her hands rose, finding their way around him and digging into the cloth of his shirt as she pulled him closer to him. A hot breath passed between them as they parted to take a breath. All thoughts of leaving left Katara as she felt his hand slipping from her eyes.
Zuko licked his lips. She tasted…good. A smirk tugged at their corners as he opened his eyes and glanced down at her. Her face was flushed and she was gasping for air. A surge of male pride shot through him. He did that to her. His hand rose and pulled the mask back into place just before his other hand fell from his eyes.
Through the mask's eye holes he watched as Katara stumbled back. Big blue eyes fluttered open, a hazy look on them as she opened her mouth, unsure of what to say. A shaking hand rose and gently landed on her lips. She looked at him silently. Disappointment and want were written all over her face.
Gods…she wants more… Zuko realized as he watched her turn her head away, embarrassed. She was just too embarrassed to ask. Zuko mulled over the situation. He wanted it. She wanted it. There was only one major problem and that was his identity. If only he had something to keep her eyes covered…
Golden eyes landed on the sash around her waist. Bingo.
He was walking forward and Katara tensed up. What was he doing to do? She took a wary step back, but he continued forward. "Hey…" Katara began, a frown on her face. She brought her arms closer to her as she stepped back once more. "What are you doing?"
Her back met a solid object and she let out a yelp. Katara turned her head and stared in horror at the tree she had back herself up against. Zuko stopped an arms length from her. Well…this is familiar…
Wicked little fantasies played out through his head and as smirked behind the mysterious blue mask. Katara paled as her hands flew to the side of her and landed against the tree behind her. She began to look for a way to get around the tree when a hard body pressed against hers. A sharp breath escaped her as she tensed against the tree.
Zuko watched the panic in his eyes. It wasn't a scared panic. Deep down, she knew he wasn't going to hurt her. It was a nervous sort of panic. The kind that didn't know how to react. His hands lowered and rested gently on her hips. When he was Prince Zuko and she was tied to a tree, he had to keep his distance. After all, soldiers were watching and he liked his privacy.
But this time… He smirked as his hands untied the sash that held her shirt closed. Katara's face looked down. Her eyes were as wide as saucers as she realized what he was doing. "Wait…what are you-"
A finger gently sliding over her lips silenced her. His other hand held her sash and gently massaged the side of her hip, coaxing a moan from her. Zuko bit his lower lip. He liked that sound. Carefully, he lifted up the sash and held it over her eyes. He paused before it actually touched her face.
If she really didn't want to do it, if she protested in any way, he would step back and let her go. Katara opened her eyes when she felt him stop. She saw the sash held over her eyes and relaxed. So that was what he was doing. She looked past the piece of cloth. He seemed to be waiting for her to give her approval.
Katara smiled and nodded. She craned her head forward, placing her closed eyes against the make shift blind fold and giving him enough room to tie it behind her. She thought she heard him let out a relieved sign and bit her lip to keep from laughing.
Zuko reached back and gently tied the sash behind her head. When it was secured firmly, he released her. His hands went down and gathered hers. Carefully, he raised them to either side of the mask and placed them on it.
Beneath her finger tips, Katara felt the mask. His hands held hers in place as they lifted the object over his head. The cool night air caressed Zuko's face and he looked down at the blindfolded girl in front of him. He released her hands, reached forward and cupped her face.
Warm lips went over hers as they parted. She leaned into him, her arms raising and wrapping around his neck as he rested against her. Zuko closed his eyes and pinned her lower lip between his. Katara smiled. She was right. She would never forget this.
"Question," Sokka said as they walked through the streets of the Lower Tier. "Why did we have to come all the way down here for the festival? Isn't there one up there?"
"Let me give you a word of advice, Snoozels," Toph said casually as they strolled down the street. The sun was setting in the distance and, upon Aang's request; they had decided to get a quick evening snack before taking on the festival itself. As a result, they were going back to the Tea Shop. "A festival in the Upper Tier is boring. If you want it fun and lively, you have to go with the common people. They know how to have fun."
"She does make a good point, Sokka." Aang told him. Sokka sighed.
"Fine…but I can't stay long down here," he reminded them. "I'm due at the poetry house to give my good-bye series to my fans."
"Your fans?" Katara scoffed. "Does Suki know?" she asked as she raised an eyebrow. Sokka looked flustered and turned away.
"Hey, laugh now, but I'm sure she'll more than appreciate my lyrical skills the next time we meet." He assured her.
Katara rolled her eyes and continued walking. They were all dressed in different shades of green. Even Aang. Aang and Toph were already wearing their masks while Sokka and Katara held theirs in their hands. Katara had been in a good mood all day. Aang was curious and Sokka wanted to ask why, but didn't want to ruin her mood. Katara had the distinct feeling Toph knew.
Still, she didn't bring it up. Instead, they went about the day preparing for the festival. They had to pick up their clothes and their masks from a shop in the Upper Tier before they came down. Katara and Toph had gone to the day spa once more while Sokka and Aang started packing.
A small frown reached her face and Katara looked down at the ground. Tonight was going to be their last free night in Ba Sing Se. Afterwards, they would begin packing and organizing the assorted troops that they were going escort outside the wall. They would go to meetings, speak with officials, and prepare for the up coming eclipse.
Then they would leave the city. Katara let out a heavy sigh. It was all right, though. She had her fun. A grin reached her lips. And oh, how she had fun. She shivered at the memory of the night before. Honestly, she had no idea what she had been thinking; making out feverishly with a man whose face she'd never seen and whose name she didn't even known.
Moaning 'Blue Spirit' as he suckled on her neck made her giggle and it wasn't just because she had a sensitive neck. She'd heard more vocal sounds from him that night than all the prior nights but together. He still hadn't talked, but his mouth had been busy most of the time anyway.
Unconsciously, she raised her hand and tugged the collar of her dress up. She couldn't let Sokka see the marks that dotted the base of her neck. He'd go ballistic and then go off on a man hunt after firmly chastising her and locking her in her room. Luckily, the collar of her dress was high enough to hide them.
At the end of the night, it had been Sokka's worried voice that pulled her away from him. She had been gone later than usual and he went after her to make sure she was okay. Katara had hurriedly pulled her shirt closed and felt her partner in crime help her stand up and brush her off. He gave her one last kiss on the cheek; the chastest thing he had done since they started kissing, and then vanished. She barely managed fix her hair and tie her sash back on before Sokka came bursting in.
She had only half listened to his lecture as he dragged her back home. Part of her was glad he was leaving early that night to go to his poetry thing. Having an older brother hover over you got quickly got irritating.
"We're here!" Aang exclaimed. He happily skipped through the open door with Toph following him coolly.
"Hey," Sokka reached out and stopped his sister before she went in. She turned around and gave him a questioning look. "Stay away from Zuko. He's been giving you weird looks."
Katara looked at her brother as if he had lost his mind. "He has not," she snapped, despite the small, hopeful feeling. "Stop being so over protective. He's not going to do anything."
Sokka snorted. "I'm still watching him."
"Well, I didn't know you found him so attractive. I'll stay out of your way." Katara gave him a little mock bow of her head and Sokka grumbled. The siblings walked into the tea shop and were seated with the other two.
"I see you four are going to the festival," Iroh said as he began to serve them. "Do you have your masks ready?"
"All set!" Aang said. "Are you going, too?"
Iroh nodded. "Yes, even my nephew is going."
"Your nephew?" Katara snorted. "He is actually going to a festival."
"Yes, a girl asked him out." Iroh bragged. A small tinge of jealousy bubbled inside Katara and she quickly shoved it down. How could she be jealous of some girl who took out Zuko? He probably couldn't even have a decent conversation. Not that the Blue Spirit could…not talking and all. But, gods, could that man do things…
"Well, that's surprising." Sokka said. The group ordered and leaned back against their chairs to wait for their food to arrive. As Aang and Toph discussed the kind of other snacks that would be present, Katara sipped on some tea and talked with Sokka about his poetry.
At the front door, a large group of festival goers came in and Iroh and the owner immediately went to seat them. "Li!" The owner called out into the back room as he headed for the arriving group. "Can you please bring table two their food? The Chen party is here and Mushi and I are both needed!"
"All right!" a voice said from behind the curtain. Zuko tied his apron securely on and ran a hand through his hair. He had been on a break. As his thick, short hair ran through his fingers, he couldn't help but smirk proudly. Katara had complimented his hair the night before as she ran her hand through it. She had tugged down the hood of his black clothing and suddenly he felt her fingers weaving through his hair.
He let out a sharp gasp as he jerked his head up slightly from the crook of her neck. Somehow, he ended up seated at the base of the tree with the waterbender straddled over his hips, her shirt wide open. Curse those infernal white bindings that held her back! Meanwhile, her hands had undone his shirt. They had fallen to the ground beside them along with his mask and swords.
Curious brown hands had physically memorized his upper body. She had complimented him on that, too, actually, in between her whimpering and moaning. It would've gone further if her wretched brother had not shown up. Zuko scowled. He couldn't help but feel annoyed. He was on the verge of living out his capture fantasies and the next thing he knew, he heard her brother calling for her. The idiot.
Whenever I see the fool, it'll be too soon… Zuko fumed. He walked out of the back room and moved the curtain out of the way. He lifted his head and his mouth dropped. Just ten paces from him was the very girl he had been making out with the night before. In a surge of panic, Zuko darted back into the back room and leaned back against a wall.
His heart threatened to jump out of his chest as he gripped the counter next to him. His eyes narrowed and he glared at he curtains that blocked her from his view. What was she doing there? He wasn't ready to face her yet! Not after last night! He wasn't ready yet!
"Li," the owner's voice said from outside. "What is taking you so long?"
Zuko cringed. His mind tried to think about it rationally. First of all, she didn't know it was him. While she was nipping at the curve of his ear, he distinctly heard her call him Blue Spirit. He let out a heavy breath. So long as he didn't incriminate himself, he was fine. He inhaled and exhaled one more time and then emerged from the backroom, his usual stern look on his face.
"Take these to the Avatar's table." Iroh said as he passed Zuko and handed him a tray filled with snacks. Zuko nodded and marched over purposefully.
He stopped beside them and, in jerky movements, placed the plates of food on the table. "Here's your food." he announced coldly.
"Oh, hey, Li," He cringed. Why did she have to talk to him? Didn't she know what feelings and thoughts came into his mind when he heard her voice? "I ordered a three layer cake. This is a fruit tart."
Then he made the mistake of looking down and meeting her gaze. Ugh! How dare she look so normal while he was nervous!? His face was heating up as his eyes darted away. "Right. Sorry." He grumbled and turned on his heel, rushing back to the back counter as if it were his lifeline.
"Okay…" Katara trailed off. She shook her head and looked back at her friends. "Anyway, I chose this mask because I like penguins…see? Doesn't it kind of look like one?"
As he put a small three layer cake on to his tray, Zuko couldn't help but look over his shoulder and check out Katara's mask. So that was what she was going to be wearing to the festival. He frowned. Why did he want to know that? He would have his hands busy with Jin.
A plate was placed in front of her and Katara thanked Zuko without looking at him. Part of him was annoyed, but brushed it off. He, as Zuko, had nothing with her. His hands clenched over his tray at the disappointing thought. He looked over his shoulder as he cleaned the table behind them. She was laughing. She has happy, and laughing, and completely natural.
It would be different if she knew that it was he she had been kissing. Zuko gritted his teeth and continued to clean the table. Jin would arrive soon to pick him up and then he would no longer have to deal with the uncomfortable feeling that the girl he wanted was sitting five paces behind him discussing, of all things, dancing.
"Hey!" a voice piped behind him. Zuko shot up and whirled around. Jin beamed him a wide smile and gave him a little wave. "Ready to go?"
"Is it time already?" he asked, confused. Jin nodded. She was dressed in all black, as promised, and had a mask resting on top of her head; ready to be pulled down over her face.
"Don't tell me you forgot." she said, giving him a mock pout. He shook his head.
"Just let me put my apron in the back and get my mask," he said. Jin nodded and waited patiently behind the counter as Zuko went to the backroom. As soon as he emerged, he tucked the blue mask at his side so that no one could see. "Ready?"
"Yes!" Jin beamed and grabbed on his arm. She pulled her closer to him and pulled him forward. Zuko couldn't help but grimace. Katara was right behind him. "I can't wait! I heard you can dance!"
Katara snapped her head up as the couple passed her. She settled her gaze on the girl clinging on to Zuko's arm and unconsciously gritted her teeth. "Katara," a voice called out to her side. She turned and saw Sokka giving her a questioning look. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah," Katara said. Her eyes darted to the side before she lifted her mask and put it on. "I'm ready."
As Aang paid, the other three walked out the door. They waved at Iroh as they passed. Katara adjusted the mask over her face and scanned the street in front of her. The entire street was lined with lanterns for the festival. Her eyes squinted. She couldn't see Zuko or his 'date' anywhere.
Are you jealous? A small part of her mind asked. You got pretty down and dirty with some guy who you don't even know last night and now you're jealous because some girl is with Zuko? Oh, you're a sick little koala otter, aren't you, Katara? You can't have them both!
Katara frowned and tore her head away from the street. It wasn't bad to like two men at the same time, right? Sokka still loved Yue and he was also in love with Suki. Besides, she would never see the Blue Spirit again. It was a fling. She hadn't gotten too attached. And Zuko, there was no chance that would ever work out. She had already come to that conclusion…as disappointing as it was.
No, she decided. I am not jealous.
With that in mind, she followed her friends up the street. Yet every corner they turned, all she could think about was whether or not Zuko was there or if her masked dance instructor was there. She gritted her teeth in frustration.
"Okay, I have to get going soon," Sokka said as he looked up at the sky. "I'm expected and I can't keep my fans waiting."
"Right," Katara snorted. The four of them stood by the edge of an open court yard lit up by glowing lanterns around a flowing fountain. A small band was playing in one corner as children ran around snacking on treats and adults danced in circles around the fountain. "You haven't even seen me dance yet."
"Oh, right…" Sokka grinned. "You learned how to dance, didn't you?"
"Are you saying I still can't?" Katara asked, a slight edge to her voice. Behind Sokka, Toph and Aang both took a step back.
"Admitting it is the first step." Sokka told her. The 'sibling fight' alarm went off.
"Hey, Toph! They're selling frozen sweets there!" Aang shouted, rather loudly. Toph nodded.
"Right behind you, Twinkle Toes!" The two twelve year olds scurried away from the siblings, both not wanting to be involved in another round of Katara vs. Sokka.
"Well, you are in for a surprise!" Katara said. "Come on." she grabbed his hand and tugged him forward.
"Wait, I have to dance with you?" Sokka asked, wrinkling his nose and giving her a disgusted look. "Yuck! You're my sister!"
"Oh, stop being a baby," Katara grumbled. She turned around and gave him a challenging look. "Unless of course, you're scared."
"Scared? I'm not scared!" Sokka retorted proudly. "The only thing I could be scared of is having your big feet crush mine!" Her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"You really want to challenge the waterbender by a fountain?" Katara asked, putting her hands on her hips threateningly. Sokka swallowed nervously.
"Um…let's just get this over with."
"I thought so." Katara nodded.
From one of the streets leading into the courtyard, Jin dragged Zuko. Her eyes lit up as she looked around and saw the open air market near-bye. "Li, look!"
He turned his head and cringed. There was a huge crowd in the market. "I'd rather not." He said quietly. Jin pouted and tugged on his arm.
"Please?" she pleaded, looking up at him with pouting lips.
"I don't like crowds." Zuko didn't glance down. She let out a heavy sigh and released his arm from her hold.
"Can I go?" she asked. He shrugged.
She sighed once more and shook her head at him. "I'll be back in a few minutes," she assured him as she stepped back and melted into the crowds. "Wait right there!"
Zuko rolled his eyes. Like he was going to go anywhere else. His arms crossed over his chest. He adjusted the small black mask Jin had given him. His blue mask was still tucked at his side. Silently, he leaned against a near-by wall and watched as the people rushed around before him.
He could hear the music clearly ringing over the sounds of people's voices. Adults danced in front of him and he watched with critical eyes. It was fairly obvious that none of them had any formal dance lessons. Not in that rotting cesspool they lived in. Still, he noticed one particular figure in green leading around a stumbling oaf rather well.
She still needed some work, but she was passing. The person she was dancing with was tripping and colliding with other dancers. He smirked. Now that was a man who could use dance lessons. Then, they turned and the smirk on Zuko's face was wiped off.
"Katara…" he whispered. He cringed as he watched her let her partner, who he realized was her brother, go.
"Ow!" Katara bent down and gripped her foot. "Sokka!"
"Sorry!" her older brother cringed. "Are you okay?"
"Just help me to a seat!" she winced. Sokka leaned over and put her arm around his shoulders as he helped her limp to the nearest bench. Across the court yard, Zuko frowned. What did the so called warrior to do his prized student!?
"You got it?" Sokka asked. Katara sat down and shot him a glare.
"I'll live," she spat out, obviously annoyed. "You were one to talk! You can't even dance for the life of you!"
"Hey, I have more important things to do than dance." Sokka bristled.
"Like what? Poetry?" Sokka's eyes widened. Katara rolled her eyes. "You forgot, didn't you?"
"Madam Chiu is going to kill me!" Sokka exclaimed as panic surged through his body. "Katara-"
"I know, I know," she sighed as she waved her hand dismissingly. "I'll tell the others you're gone."
"Thanks!" Sokka said. He gave her a thankful smile and rushed off. "And sorry about your foot!"
"Yeah, you'll be sorry when you find yourself frozen to your sleeping mat…" Katara murmured under her breath. She sighed heavily and looked down at her foot. The pain would be gone soon, but she was still annoyed at her brother. Mocking me when he's just as bad…Oh…if Gran-Gran were here…
As she sat on the bench against a wall, by herself, Katara reached down to remove her shoe and make sure Sokka hadn't broken anything, when two black gloved hands appeared over the green fabric of her slippers. Her blue eyes went wide as her heart skipped a beat.
It was impossible. How did he know it was her?
Her entire body stiffened as she watched the gloved hands carefully slip the expensive green slippers off her foot and place it beside them. Beside her body, her hands clamped on to the wooden bench. Blue eyes fixed themselves on the tender ministrations of black gloves as careful fingers slid down the length of her injured foot, carefully checking for any problems.
Zuko tentatively raised his eyes as he felt her foot begin to tremble. He smirked slightly. As his hand worked her foot, gently massaging the pain away, he looked up. He could see her surprised eyes behind her penguin mask and watched as they relaxed and gave in to his actions.
He hadn't planned to put his mask over the smaller one Jin gave him. He hadn't planned to cut across dozens of dancing bodies. He hadn't planned on going down on one knee, in front of her, just to make sure she was okay. His body had moved on its own.
"Is it okay?" she asked. He lowered his head and looked back at her foot. She had cute toes. Someone liked to go to foot spas. He nodded. "Good. I thought my oaf brother crushed them." He smirked behind the mask. He had been worried that Sokka had as well.
He picked up her shoe and slipped it back on before lowering her foot and standing up. He bowed before her and stretched out his hand. "Dance?" she asked, pointing to herself. He nodded. A wide smile graced her face and she nodded. "It would be my pleasure." she said as she bowed.
Zuko should've known the second she placed her hand on his that between them, the night would not end with a simple dance. However, at that moment, he just wanted to dance with her in public. Smiling widely with her cheeks flushed and glowing in the lantern light, Katara took her stance in front of the 'Blue Spirit'. Another leg of music started and before long, she was floating beside him.
How many songs had they danced to that night? Whatever it was, it seemed like it wasn't enough. Lost in the yellow haze of the court yard and it's swirling, multi-colored dancers, Katara found herself crushed against the Blue Spirit and lost in his eyes.
Was it crazy to fall for a man whose face you had never seen? It was probably as crazy as her and Zuko.
The banished prince, for the first time that night, was enjoying himself. He never admitted it, but he did like to dance. It helped out with his sword fighting and firebending. Since he hadn't done much of those lately, dancing would have to do. However, he did find dancing much more pleasant.
As he turned Katara around, his eyes caught a glimpse of oncoming white and peach. Song. He quickly turned Katara smoothly in the other direction and saw green. Jin. Swearing silently, he knew they were bound to find him. He looked down at his current partner. She was lazily leaning against him now, her head resting on his shoulder as her fingers tangled and untangled themselves in his hair. She hadn't seen the other two girls.
Katara was smiling intently when she was suddenly jerked forward. She lifted her head as her partner moved away from her. He was pulling her forward, further from the crowd of dancers. She tilted her head to the side. He kept looking past her, as if looking at something.
Curiously she turned her head around. Before she could see Jin and Song, who had seen each other and were talking, she was pulled around a corner. "Where are we going!?" Katara asked breathlessly as Zuko pulled her down the dark alley way. "Blue Spirit?"
Zuko! My name is Zuko! Call me by my name! He wanted turn and yell, but continued running. His heart was racing and adrenaline was pumping through his veins.
"Wait!" Katara was panting behind him and finally tugged her arm back. Zuko instantly stopped and whirled around. He looked down at her as she stopped behind him. She leaned against a wall as she gasped for breath. "Let me catch my breath…"
His eyes softened. What had he been doing? He just dragged her into the middle of no where…some dark alley between some houses. He bit his lower lip. Her hair was taken out of place as she pulled her mask off. Her face was heated and flushed. Her swollen pink lips were parted for breath and the collar of her dress had come undone.
"What was that all about?" Katara gasped as she lifted her head and looked at him questioningly. Suddenly, she realized where they were. Alone. Her eyes widened a she stood up straight against the wall of the house.
In the distance, they could hear the sounds of the festival and see the glow of the lanterns. But in the back alley, it was just the two them. Alone. Her heart skipped a beat.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Zuko knew he wasn't supposed to be there with her. But he was. And he would make the most of it. Silently, he reached back and began to until the blue mask. Katara's eyes widened when she realized what he was doing. Was he finally going to show her his face?
She leaned forward eagerly as she raised her hand to her chest. The blue mask was lifted and…her heart sank.
Zuko bit his lip to keep back a chuckle as he watched her eager face fall with disappointment. He was suddenly glad he wore the mask that Jin gave him. It was all black and large enough to cover everything from his nose up. Including his identifying scar.
"That is not funny." Katara frowned.
He shrugged and put the mask down before putting one hand beside Katara's head. His other hand lowered and gently tapped on her mask. She rolled her eyes. Apparently, he wanted her to take it off. "No."
Zuko jerked his head back. What the…this wasn't how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to take off her mask and then the kissing was to commence. He tilted his head to the side, a frown on his lips. Katara smirked. "You dragged me all the way here-"
His hand stroked the side of her face and she let out a sharp gasp. Zuko smirked. As his hand slipped under her collar, he could feel the intense pounding of her heart beat. He leaned in closer, pressing her body between his firm, hard body and the wall behind her. His other hand gently slid down the side of her body, tempting her.
If she didn't want to take off her mask, he would just have to make her want to. Katara's eyes widened as she watched his eyes close behind the black mask. He leaned down and kissed the lips of her mask. No way…Was he really going to kiss her mask if she didn't take it off?
Take it off now! Her mind demanded. Look at what you're missing! Behind the mask, Katara whimpered pitifully. Zuko smirked. One hand gently slipped beneath the mask and caressed her warm cheek. The other traced circles over her hips and thigh. He heard her groan as she gave in.
A second later, the mask dropped to the dirt lined ground below them as Katara leaned forward and sealed her lips over his. She could feel him smiling triumphantly against her and rolled her eyes as she wiggled her arms around his neck. His arms wrapped around her waist tightly, keeping her close to him as he bombarded her with long, excruciatingly delicious kiss after long, excruciatingly delicious kiss.
As his lips trailed down the side of her face, Katara rolled her head back and exposed the tender flesh of her neck. Shivers shot down her body as a she felt him move against her, setting off pleasure points he had discovered the night before. As his lips rose over hers once more, she wrapped her hands through his hair and pulled.
A low groan escaped his lips, sending a hot breath over hers. Katara smirked and kissed him back. She was pinned against the wall, her body rubbing against his when she began to wonder if he would be willing to see her again the next few nights. After all, it would be at least another week before they left.
Yes…she would ask him.
"Li!" She felt his body tense against hers. "Li, where are you!?"
He tore his lips from hers and turned sharply to his right. Katara's hazy blue eyes opened and blinked, dazed. "What's wrong?" she asked breathlessly.
Zuko turned back to look at Katara and prayed that she didn't put two and two together. He found her looking up at him, confused as to why he had stopped. Her arms had loosened and draped around his neck.
"Li! I saw you come through here!" Zuko felt all the blood rush his from his body as he heard Jin's voice. "Where are you!? You're missing the festival!"
He grabbed Katara's hand and pulled her forward. "Li?" That was not the name he wanted to hear from her that night. It could've been Blue Spirit, Zuko, even apron boy, but not Li. Not from her.
Katara felt her heart stop in her chest. He had reacted to the name. Why did he react to the name? Her free hand rose and pulled the open top of her shirt closed as she stepped back from him.
"Li!" It was that girl's voice. The one that had been clinging on to him at the tea shop.
Katara paled. Zuko turned his head away. "Oh my gods…" Katara rasped out, suddenly finding it hard to breath. She pulled her trembling hand from Zuko's grasp. "Tell me you're…this whole time…"
He closed his eyes as Katara's shaking hand took hold of the edge of his black mask. He felt the object being lifted from his face and then the sharp, horrified gasp from the waterbender.
"No…" Her voice sounded as if he had just stabbed her in the back after betraying her. It sounded so disappointed, sad, and heart wrenchingly painful. "Zuko?"
His hands clenched on either side of him and he turned around. The faint glow from the lantern lights around the corner illuminated his face. And the scar. Katara stumbled backwards, putting several spaces between the two of them as her face flushed with humiliation. "Katara-"
"This whole time," Katara spat out, unsure whether to be more furious or mortified. Her vision was getting blurry as tears began to rim her eyes. "This whole time!"
He looked at her pleadingly. "I didn't mean for it to get that far-" The sound of flesh against flesh sounded. She slapped him. Zuko's head turned sharply to the side as Katara back handed him faster than he could react. He had expected screaming, crying, yelling, even to be frozen against a wall, but never slapped. It hurt more than he had expected.
"This is low," Katara hissed, her voice filled with venom as she shot him the coldest glare she could muster. "I can't believe you would do this…I can't believe I let you lead me on…I…" She covered her mouth as hot tears streamed down her face. "You were using me…"
"No!" Zuko exclaimed loudly. He took a step forward and Katara screamed.
"Get away from me!" she screamed, furiously. "I can't believe this! This whole time you were using me to get to Aang!"
"No!" Zuko insisted. "It may have started out that way, but-"
"What ever happened to getting to Aang the old fashioned way? I rather you tie me to a tree, you…you…you bastard!" Katara screeched. "But you…the things I let you do to me…" She suddenly felt dirty.
Zuko felt as if he had been burned once more. He didn't want her to regret anything with him. "Katara, I'm sorry. Please listen to me, I didn't mean to lead you on. One thing just led to another and…"
"And what?" Katara asked. Clear hot tears slid down her dark cheeks as she yelled at him. "What? You didn't find Aang? You thought it would be funny if you could lead a girl on? Didn't you have enough girls fawning over you at that stupid tea shop!? What!? Tell me!"
"I liked spending time with you!" Zuko shouted back, desperation laced in his voice. "I saw you…that night when you came to dance under the tree. That was the most pathetic thing I've ever seen-"
Neither bender turned to look towards the where the new voice was coming from. "I thought I could show you a few moves and then we started dancing and I liked dancing with you."
"Oh, gods…" Katara spat out. "You are such a liar."
Zuko frowned. "I am not a liar. It's the truth!"
"How do you expect me to believe you after hiding it from me?" Katara asked. She shook her head and ran a hand down her tear streaked face. "Why didn't I listen to Sokka?"
Zuko had a pained look cross his face. "Katara, things have changed-"
"Never come near me and my friends again," Katara hissed, absolutely disgusted. She clutched her shirt closed as she turned around. "I never want to see you again. Do you understand? Never."
"Katara!" She didn't answer or even look back. The waterbender continued to walk until she disappeared around the corner.
"Li?" a voice gasped behind him. "There you are!" Jin scampered up to him as he stood there, staring after Katara. "Li?"
His hands clenched and he turned his head away from Jin. "I have to go…"
Everyone noticed her change the last few days. She was constantly lost in thought even as she went through the motions of packing in preparation for their leave. Aside from that, she had been unnaturally quiet. Typically, it was Katara who started all the conversations and suggested things.
Instead, the group was met with an unnatural silence from the usually happy young woman. Sokka had asked what happened and Katara told him that she didn't want to talk about it. When he persisted, he only got an earful from his sister to leave her alone. Aang stayed quiet and Toph didn't say a word.
Every waking moment since she found out the Blue Spirit and Zuko were the same person, the thought had consumed her mind. Meetings which she should've been paying attention to were unheard. Conversations she should've taken part in were left alone. It had surprised her that she was even able to get the packing done.
Silently, she stood up from her chair as the group finished their last dinner in Ba Sing Se. "Where are you going?" Sokka asked as he looked up from the leg of chicken-pig he was finishing off.
"For a walk," she said. "I just need to clear my head."
Her brother opened his mouth to tell her he would go with, but Toph shook her head at him. He lowered his head. "Okay."
Katara nodded blankly and quietly walked out the front door. Her heart hurt so much, she could feel physical pain. A thousand questions ran through her mind as she walked. The same questions that had been going through her mind she since found out. In the end, it all came down to one thing.
Did he ever mean any of it?
In the last week she still hadn't been able to answer that question. All she knew was that even though he hadn't told her, even though he had purposely hid the truth from her, she didn't feel that what they shared was a complete and utter lie. He had been so good to her.
The dancing. The flowers. The kisses. They were all a part of Zuko she would never have given him the chance to show her if she hadn't met him as the Blue Spirit. But it still hurt. She had been humiliated. That entire time, he had known. Did he laugh about it?
No, she didn't think he did. But it still hurt. She blinked back at the tears as she looked up. The tree. Of course she'd end up at the park, in front of the tree. Stupid subconscious.
"Katara!" a voice said behind her. She turned around and saw Sokka jogging up to meet her. "Hey."
"Hey, Sokka." She whispered. Her brother looked at her worriedly.
"I know you don't want to talk abut it," he said as he stopped beside her. "But I'm getting really worried here. I'm your brother...if something is bothering you; I'm supposed to make it go away."
She shook her head and continued to walk towards the tree. "It's nothing you can help me with."
"Listen, I know it's about a guy." Sokka began.
Katara turned and looked at him. "How did you know?" His wide eyed stare meant that he didn't know, just blindly guessed and happened to be correct. She rolled her eyes. "Never mind."
"Katara, if some guy is bothering you-"
"Some guy is not bothering me," Katara said. She brushed aside the leaves as she slipped under the tree's canopy. "I just don't know…"
Her voice trailed off as Sokka followed her. He stopped beside her and gave her a questioning look. "Don't know what?" He followed her eyes over the area before them and nearly dropped his mouth. "Who put all of these here!? Do they know how expensive they are!?"
There were probably at least a thousand panda lilies scattered over the ground around the underside of the tree. Some looked to be days old, others looked to have been freshly placed. Katara's eyes watered.
"That jerk…" she whispered as she covered her mouth with her hand. "That stupid, jerk…" Sokka stood rooted at his spot, wondering who was frivolous enough to blow all their money on one of the most expensive flowers in the world.
Silently, Katara walked through the flowers. She had thrown out all but a single one of the bouquet she had been given after she found out about Zuko. The area smelled of the flower and memories of her last night under the tree with him resurfaced. Katara wondered if he had come every night and waited for her. Her heart skipped a beat. Was he waiting for her now?
She looked around, but didn't find a single sign of him…until she reached the water's edge. Half buried in dirt and a hand's length into the water was a familiar blue and white mask. Katara shoved her hands into the water and tugged the mask out. It looked to have been put there days ago. She wiped her fingers over the mud to clean it off as her eyes began to blur once more.
When she began to cry, Zuko wanted to jump down from his hiding place and run to her. To wrap his arms around her and tell her he was sorry. Instead, he had to watch her brother run up to her and give her reassurance.
"What's wrong?" he heard the Water Tribe boy ask. Katara shook her head.
"Everything," Katara whimpered vaguely. She clutched the mask against her chest and shook her head. "And nothing."
It had taken her a few more minutes to settle down before Sokka could lead her back to their house. Zuko sat on the branch and closed his eyes. There went his last chance to find the Avatar. Every night that week he had come at the same time, each time bringing armfuls of panda lilies for her and lining the ground with them.
He had accumulated so much and it had set him back over a thousand silvers. But he didn't care. Every night he had waited and didn't leave until the dawn threatened to break in the horizon. Every night he prayed for her to appear so he could make amends. Every night. And for all those nights, she had remained elusive.
Until just then. And at that point, all he could do was sit there and watch her cry. He'd never felt so helpless in his life.
"She really likes you, you know," a voice said below him. Zuko nearly fell off his branch as the childish female voice reached his ears. "Every day she thinks about you. And when she was cooking over a fire the other day, she just started crying. I don't even think she remembers."
The earthbender. Zuko frowned and jumped down. She was standing to one side of the tree and craned her head in his direction. "You knew this whole time."
She snorted. "What do you think your Uncle and I correspond about?" Zuko lifted his head. His Uncle had been writing to the earthbender…about his love life?
"Why didn't you tell her?" Zuko asked. "If you knew."
"Why didn't you tell her?" Toph retorted. "Anyway, I hope you know that we're leaving tomorrow."
"What?" Zuko's head shot up and stared at the girl disbelievingly.
"I take that as a no, you didn't know," Toph sighed. She shrugged and headed out. "I don't know what you see in her, but you two are made for each other."
Zuko frowned. "Is that supposed to be an insult?"
"See ya!" Before Zuko could ask another question, Toph seemed to have disappeared into the ground, leaving the banished Prince standing alone.
It was just before dawn when Zuko reached his apartment. His Uncle was just getting up and gave him a surprised look as he walked in, a blank expression on his face.
"Zuko?" Iroh began. "Is something wrong?"
Golden eyes narrowed and shot the old man a glare. "Don't give me that," Zuko frowned. "Why didn't you tell me she was leaving?"
"Oh…" Iroh nodded thoughtfully. "You spoke to young Miss Bei Fong."
"I can't believe you, Uncle! You knew this whole time!" Zuko snapped. He took a deep breath and shook his head. "I don't even know what to say to you right now."
"How about good morning?" Iroh beamed cheekily.
"I'll see you at work!" Zuko shouted. The door to his room slammed loudly and Iroh jumped a bit.
Inside, Zuko fell on his sleeping mat and closed his eyes. Why did life hate him? It took the young man another two hours to get ready for work. By the time he arrived at the tea shop, Iroh was already serving the morning customers and the owner was doing his daily inventory.
"The Avatar is taking some troops and Dai Li with him, did you hear?" one of the usual customers asked his companion.
"It seems that Ba Sing Se is about to fully immerse itself in war."
"It's nothing to worry about. After all the Avatar is on our side."
He walked in, a scowl on his face as he headed straight for the back counter. Could he go anywhere without being reminded about Katara? And how she was leaving that day? He had barely put on his apron when a small cough sounded behind him. He turned around and saw Jin standing there. She kept her eyes averted as she lifted her hand. "Um…Song and I had morning tea."
"Oh…" he mumbled. He had been quieter than usual lately, but that hadn't stopped the two girls from coming to check on him. "20 coppers."
Jin nodded and handed him the coins. Like a zombie, Zuko took the money and put it away. "Um…Li..." she began softly. He turned around and saw that Song had gotten up and was approaching him. "Are you okay?"
He turned his head away. "I'm fine."
"You seem…distracted lately," Song added as she stood behind Jin. "We were worried."
Zuko didn't notice the usual group of older men watching and silently critiquing. The owner sighed heavily as he stood by the door. "I was sure it was going to be the Avatar's waterbender…"
"Just give me one second!" a voice shouted outside the door. The owner looked out his door curiously and gasped as he saw a massive white beast land in the middle of the street. A few people let out yelps of surprise as the flying bison yawned.
"Don't worry!" the Avatar shouted from the top of the bison's head. "He's friendly!"
"Katara!" Sokka shouted as he watched his sister slide down Appa's side.
"Toph! Hold him back! I'll be back in a second!" she shouted as she landed on the ground. Toph nodded and turned to Sokka. She smiled threateningly.
The owner jumped back as Katara bowed to him and darted into the tea shop. "Katara?" Zuko had seen her the moment she appeared in the door way. She stopped in her tracks.
She immediately zoned in on the apron wearing bus boy at the back counter. When she woke up that morning, she had asked Aang if they could make one final stop at the tea shop. She told him "I'll get you a firebender." He didn't ask any more questions. They packed up and headed straight for the tea shop. Katara had an entire script to say to him, one she had spent the entire night going over. However, now that she actually saw him in person the words that she had practiced and went over vanished.
Silently, Zuko stepped away from the two girls who were vying for his attention as he rounded the counter and began to walk forward. He wondered if he was hallucinating. Katara couldn't be there. It had to be a figment of his imagination. Perhaps he was still actually in bed, sleeping. Yes…that was it.
Katara stood just before the door way, a brown wrapped package held tightly in her hands. "We're leaving," The words were definite and to the point. Zuko's eyes squinted as Katara's lips began to tremble. "I…" She bit her lip as she held up the package.
He didn't know what to do. Did he go to her? Did he wait for her to come to him? Were they even supposed to talk? Katara took a deep breath. The entire tea shop had gone quiet. Iroh silently walked up to his nephew. He elbowed the boy in the back and Zuko stumbled forward.
The server boy shot his Uncle a glare before turning back to Katara. He could see the tears rimming her eyes now. He hated seeing her cry. It hurt more than all the scars he would receive in a life time. He tossed he tray he had been gripping on the nearest table and walked forward, his arms extended.
Blue sleeved arms wrapped around his body as he embraced her shaking figure. Her face buried itself in his shoulder as she clung on to him tightly. "I'm sorry I slapped you." she murmured.
Zuko raised an eyebrow. He had expected to hear 'I love you' or something, but he supposed that was the best he could ask for. She was saying so much more. "I deserved it." he admitted.
"Yeah," she agreed as she pulled her head away and looked up at him. "You did," Her hands rose and cupped the sides of his face. Her fingers gently caressed the burned skin over his face. "Zuko…" she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.
He had been waiting for her to say his name like that for ages. Before he knew what he was doing, he had consumed her lips in his. Her arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him down as their mouths opened and greedily explored each other amidst the slack jawed stares of the by standers.
Iroh smiled proudly to himself. His plan was excellent...flawless.
She pulled back and Zuko followed her mouth until he could no longer breath and was forced to pull back. As they parted, she rested her head against his. Tear filled blue eyes looked into his clear golden ones. "We're leaving," she whispered as she loosened her arms around his neck. A warm hand gently stroked his burned skin. "Come and find us." she added as she grazed her lips against his just so he could feel her once more.
"Katara! We have to get moving!" Toph shouted from the bison outside.
Her arms slipped between their bodies. He shuddered as she moved against him. A low, seductive voice whispered before him once more. "I'll be waiting." It was a promise.
Katara pulled away from him and slipped something in his arms. She stepped back and bowed to Iroh once more before she turned and rushed out of the tea house. Outside, Zuko could see the bison take off with Katara in its saddle as he stood, rooted in his spot. In his hands, he clutched the Blue Spirit mask that had been lovingly cleaned and wrapped.
"Uncle." Zuko said dumbly as he turned around. Iroh looked attentive.
"What is it, nephew?" Yes…his plan had been flawless.
"Prepare our things," Zuko told the old general in a deep, authoritative voice. "We're going after the Avatar."
Tales of Ba Sing Se
The Tale of Katara & Zuko
"Dancing in the Dark"
A.N. – Ta-da! My 'I'm bored' fic is complete! The ending was kind of rushed, but think you know where it was all leading anyway. Thank you all for reading!!! Okay…let the hate mail begin.