What I'm Hoping For
It had all started simply enough. A simple trip to the market-place to obtain some groceries for a simple dinner. But he should have known, after a good six weeks of travelling in her company, that nothing was simple where she was concerned.
He wasn't too proud to admit his—fondness for her—to himself that was. Admitting it to others was an entirely different issue. He shuddered at the thought of his uncle's undeniably smug face, or at the look of her anal-retentive brother, or even the Avatar…but of course, he shouldn't be considering such things, it was probably a fleeting desire, brought on by the tension from the war. Zuko wouldn't let it bother him. It wasn't too difficult to keep his voice from shuddering when she spoke to him, and he had noticed a definite improvement in the depth of the flush that covered his neck when she touched him. It was definitely fading now.
Or so he had thought, until that morning, at that market place. When that son of a swine merchant had—in the most asinine manner—seduced Katara (right in front of his face) into going off on an un-chaperoned excursion that night! He was furious. She was gleeful. Obviously, because that greasy fool had pulled several compliments out of his rather substantial behind—comparing her to the summer and such tripe.
He couldn't believe that she had fallen for it.
Zuko sulked the rest of the walk back. Usually these journeys were quite light hearted; she was nice to talk to. A very welcome change from the ridiculous ramblings of his aging uncle. But today he grew increasingly more frustrated with her behaviour. He had really expected more from Katara—but she had turned out to be such a girl.
"Is something wrong Zuko?" She was very aware of his behaviour, and he knew it. He'd seen her tentative peeks from beneath her eyelashes, only now she seemed to have found the courage to ask. "Yes." He stated plainly, seeing no reason to deny it. "I am not of the opinion that you should see that boy."
He had a habit of speaking as though his word was law. A trait that she assumed that he must have picked up in the Fire Nation. "Oh?" She asked, attempting to keep her voice casual, "and why not?"
"He…He's too old."
"He's only a few months older than me."
"You should be concentrating on your bending. Have you forgotten that we're preparing for a war?"
"Why is it so wrong to want to take some time to enjoy myself?"
"It's different! He's…He's fat!"
"Zuko?" The last excuse had made her laugh out loud; once she turned to face him however, she realized that he didn't share in her mirth. "Oh come on, what's the real reason that you don't want me to go."
She stared up at him with those bright blue eyes and he felt the very blood in his veins freeze. He wasn't about to divulge the truth. "Boys," he told her in a matter of fact tone, "only want one thing."
"And what's that?"
Obviously, he wasn't going to tell her that either. "You know…" He made a very vague gesture with his hands.
"Actually, I don't." And he frowned once her saw her grin.
"Don't patronize me."
"I'm not." He had started to walk faster and so she needed to jog to keep up with him. "You don't need to worry about me Zuko. I can take care of myself."
He decided that he would lie, "I wasn't worried."
"Good. Because I already have Sokka for that."
He resented having to ask that demented oaf for anything. But he suspected that this was the best way to handle this. In some strange way he supposed that he was being downright valiant.
"And you let her say yes!" Once the problem had been unearthed, and it had sunk into his inferior brain that, yes, unless stopped, Katara would be going out alone with an unknown male—who, as he so eloquently stated, possessed a penis, Sokka took action.
He stalked out into the middle of the clearing, where his sister was seated brushing her long hair in preparation for the night to come. The Water Tribe teen hissed out commands and insults all with equal venom, and by the time he was finished, Zuko felt as though he had to admire his guts.
Katara muttered something to her sibling, and before he could fully grasp what was happening, the thickheaded boar had placed his name into the situation. The admiration fled in that very moment.
"Zuko!" She snapped, and he for a long second, considering running away. "If I want to go out on a date then that's my business! Not yours!"
Sokka made a motion that indicated that he wanted to say something more, but Katara turned on him next. "It's not yours either!"
Her brother had taken that last bit as a deep, personal insult. And so that night, after wishing Katara the best of luck, he had convinced Zuko (an unlikely, although not entirely unwilling ally) and Aang (who actually did wise up and realize that his position was in danger) that following, not stalking, but following Katara on her date was in her best interest.
Toph had decided to sit this one out, and she and his uncle Iroh had watched the trio with disgusting smugness, as though they knew something that everyone else had missed.
"I can't see anything!"
"Shush up Aang! Who does he think he is anyway! Touching my baby sister in such a…"
"Hey…Sokka…" Aang had just found a very convenient rock, which aided his height deficiency significantly. "…He's kind of holding her like how you were touching that Earth Kingdom girl last week…"
At that point Zuko and Sokka exchanged a very serious look. "We need to get in closer." Zuko pointed out at once, to which Sokka agreed heartily.
They moved together as one, darting behind couples and groups until finally they settled upon a nice dark corner, facing where the lovely duo had decided to stop to—as far as they could see enjoy the scenery.
"Look at him." Sokka hissed with badly contained disgust, craning his neck to get a better view, and also to pick up some pointers (obviously this guy knew his stuff).
"What does she see in him anyway?" Zuko muttered, to himself honestly, but due to the proximity of his companions they all heard it. Within seconds, both were glaring at him with equal contempt.
"What do you care? As I recall this is your fault in the first place!" Sokka snapped.
"All you had to do was to watch Katara. Throw a fire blast at anyone who got a little fresh. But, no! She goes out with you and brings home a date!"
Aang nodded his agreement eagerly.
"From now on I'll be accompanying Katara on her market trips."
Again, Aang nodded, now with a large grin plastered on his round face. "I agree completely. Katara is safer with Sokka."
"And what logic is that?" Highly offended that they now wanted to take his special, and (dare he say it) much anticipated, alone time with Katara away from him, Zuko raised his voice. "How will you protect her from anyone? Hammer their knees with your yard stick!"
It got worse after that. "Listen prince boy! I understand that you'd rather have your sister fed to the platypus bears —and believe me, I agree. But my sister, in case you haven't noticed, isn't a complete psycho and…"
"Look. They're moving again!" Aang pointed towards the pair, who by now had tired of the scenery and moved off to find more interesting pursuits.
They stumbled after them, stopping this time behind a stack of crates.
"What's she laughing at?" Zuko began instantly, "he isn't even funny."
"Funnier than you." Sokka whispered to Aang, who snickered.
That knee crack had stung; so let the fire bender suffer. "You aren't. What? Don't look so surprised. I'm sure that you have many other redeemable qualities. Jokes just aren't your thing."
"Sokka knows funny." Aang put in, and Zuko wondered if it was some cardinal sin to strangle a monk. "Katara thinks I'm funny." He said in a blistering undertone.
And that one hit them both right where it hurt the most. For Sokka had long discovered the perks that being funny held—and Aang, well, Aang just didn't really like Katara thinking anything about Zuko.
"Don't talk about my sister!"
It would have gotten worse, had their argument not gotten so loud that it had begun to attract spectators. Including Katara.
"What are you doing here!" It wasn't a question; in any case, she didn't care for the answer. It was Zuko who got to his feet first, looking completely apologetic. "Katara…this…it isn't what…it looks like…"
"Were you spying on me!"
"What…No…Katara, we were just, sampling the night life. Doing some bonding…manly bonding…" Sokka made a valiant attempt to push forward his chest but it faltered with just one of Katara's ice blue glares.
"And you," She snapped at Aang.
"I'm sorry Katara…I jut wanted to make sure that you were safe." It was a tearful plea, and Zuko imagined that with his large dark eyes and childish pout he could calm even the most ruthless of dictators. Katara was nothing in comparison. She softened immediately. "Of course I was all right Aang. You didn't have to worry about me." She drew him closer to her side.
"You know Katara…I was worried…"
"Shut up Sokka!"
She had set off towards their campsite, Aang happily trotting by her side, and the other two trailing along in her wake.
Her date, long forgotten.
Author: These are all written for the Zutara100 community on LJ. Figured I'd post them here since I'm desperate to have more stories on my profile page. These will all be connected, mostly laughing at Awkard! Zuko. Because I find him adorable. Any suggestions on how to torture the boy will be taken into serious consideration. I'm working on one with him at a wedding right now. BWHAHAHAHA!
Reviews are always appreciated.