An: Yes, I know it's been a while since I… put anything up here really, and I'm sorry guys, I'm really trying to figure out a good updating/posting schedule, so be patient with me, my week days are very busy.
Anywho, a new story in celebration of Season 3 starting next week, and of course it's Zutara since we all know Mike and Bryan are just screwing with us and they really support Zutara not Maiko…
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Give and Take
Katara giggled as she rolled down the slope of a snow-covered hill and landed in the soft powder at the bottom. She popped right back up, shook the soft flakes from her hair and looked around. She didn't often managed to give Sokka the slip, her brother was so bossy, and just because he was seven he thought he could tell her what to do. The little girl frowned to herself as she repeated her brother's words in her head. 'Don't wander away from the village, Katara. Don't talk to strangers, Katara. Don't do this, Katara and don't do that.' The child huffed silently to herself and turned her blue eyes up to the sky, watching the artic sun shine high in the sky. A bird was circling over head and she squinted her eyes, trying to see it better, watching as it looped in lazy arcs and fluttered absolutely still on the wind. Suddenly it dove, and Katara tracked its progress downward to her left and heard a splash. Seconds later, the bird rose again, now holding a fish in it's sharp talons.
Katara watched it go, laughing as disappeared into the glare of the sun, and then her eyes slid to where she had seen the bird dive. If a bird could catch a fish, then so could she. That would prove to Sokka that a girl could hunt too, and then maybe he would take her next time he went hunting with their father. Katara began to scramble through the knee-deep snow toward the hills that blocked her view of the water.
The climb was challenging for the small girl, and soon the hair at the back of Katara's neck began to stick unpleasantly to her skin under her parka, and Katara paused to catch her breath half way up the hill. Something itched under her collar, and the child reached up to find the strong fibers of her mother's necklace rubbing unpleasantly on her sweaty skin. Katara reached back and carefully unclasped it, before tucking it into her pocket, and then continued her scrambling climb. A few moments later, Katara had reached the top, and her eyes widened at the vast expanse of the water. It stretched as far as she could see, and Katara let out a happy yell as she hurdled down the incline toward it.
She had always loved water, but she had never seen so much of it in her life before, stretching for so far and so wide that it touched the sky in the distance. Katara paused a few feet from the water's edge, warning bells going off in her head. 'Don't go near water alone, Katara.' Sokka's voice echoed in her mind and she hesitated a moment uncertain. Her father had told her this once, too, and Katara did not want disobey him, but still…
Shaking away Sokka's voice from her ears, she stepped forward cautiously. She wouldn't go in, just look and wait for a fish… and maybe dip her fingers in. Katara knelt down into a crouch at the water's edge and stared intently into the depths, looking for signs of movement. After five minutes, she felt the need for movement, but stilled herself, remembering how her father and Sokka would sometimes sit for hours on end before the brought in even one fish. Katara leaned further out over the water and ducked her head closer, trying to see deeper into the shadowy water, when there was a plop and ripples disturbed her vision. Katara jerked back and searched for the source of the movement and saw to her horror her mother's necklace slowly sinking down into the water. With a cry she lunged forward, sinking her arm into the bone-chilling water, but it was too late, the necklace was out of reach and vanishing quickly.
Katara searched wildly about for something that was longer that her arm that could reach her precious gift, but there was nothing. Tears began to flow down her face as she watched the necklace sink deeper and deeper, once more plunging her hand in to grasp onto nothing but water. Again and again she tried, but came up empty handed each time. She was sobbing now, arm numb for the water and cheeks stained from her tears. How could she go home without her necklace? It had always been there, a pretty jewel hanging around her mother's neck when Katara was still a baby, something she had borrowed to dress her dolls up in, the symbol for remembrance of her mother that her father had pressed into her chubby hands. And now it was gone, down in a watery grave, in water that, if Sokka had been with her, he would have never let her go near.
Katara leaned over the surface again, hand hovering over the surface, needing to plunge back in to grasp for the necklace, but unable to enter the freezing water again. If only she could reach the necklace! Katara stared down, focusing on the tiny glimmer of blue that she could only just make out far down. Her hand quivered, still just above the surface, and Katara closed her eyes. She needed this necklace, nothing else mattered, nothing else existed outside of the small blue jewel far down at the bottom.
Her hand above the water suddenly felt heavy, as if a small weight were attached to it. She jerked at the feeling, her hand rising a few inches. It felt as if she were lifting something. Katara looked back down into the water and gasped, the necklace seemed closer than before, hovering just above the water. Katara looked between her hand and her treasure again, before she lifted her hand tentatively. The necklace jerked upward and Katara gasped. What was she doing? How could she possibly be pulling the necklace toward her?
Katara pulled on her hand sharply in excitement, and felt as if the weight had suddenly slipped from her hand. Her heart clenched as she watched the necklace slowly start to sink away from her. The tears began to well up again, but she forced them back, and ripped off her dripping glove to wipe them away, the salt on her hands burning her eyes, before she slowly lowered her hand back to the waters edge. She wasn't sure what she had just done, but whatever it was, she was going to try again.
Katara stared down at the necklace once more and cleared her mind of everything else. Her eyebrows scrunched in concentration and slowly, she felt the strange tug that had pulled on her hand before. She began to raise her hand slowly, keeping her eyes glued on the band below. She felt the pull begin to slip, and in panic, she dropped her hand back down a few inches, and to her relief, the weight was still there.
It took her ten tries before she was able to full raise the necklace to the surface. She had developed a gentle rocking motion with her hand, a give and take where she would pull up a few inches then drop down a bit, keeping the necklace safely under her control. As the necklace breached the surface of the water, Katara stared in wonder as it emerged in a bubble of water. When she pulled on what she thought was the necklace, it was the bubble of water that moved first, bringing the necklace with it.
Katara shook away her surprise as the bubble began to tremble, and she carefully guided it to where it hovered over the snow. Uncertain of how to release whatever spell she had cast over the water, she gave her hand a small shake, and water droplets scattered. The blue necklace fell to the ground with a thud.
The little girl dived for it, clutching it in her freezing, bare fingers and pressing it against her chest. Now that her mother's gift was back in her possession, Katara was flooded with emotions. She felt shock, relief, happiness, wonder and fear. What had she just done? Somehow, she had been able to control the water to bring back something she had wanted more than anything else in her life. Sokka had never done this; her father had never done this. No one who she had ever known had been able to move water the way she had just done. Was it something wrong with her, or something very right? Katara trembled as she sat huddled by the edge of the water, unable to get to her feet as she was overwhelmed by the feelings coursing through her small body. Her fingers ached from the cold, and then sun was beginning to set, but still Katara did not move.
Finally, when the long stretch of water merged with the night sky in the distance and seemed to sparkle with stars of it's own, Katara stood on stiff legs, and moved back slowly toward her village. When she appeared at the gates an hour later, Sokka wouldn't speak to her as he rubbed the tell-tale redness from his eyes, her father yelled at her for wandering off and then gave her a bear hug, and her grandmother scolded her before giving her bowl of hot stew and sending her to bed early.
Realizing she was in love was like learning to water-bender. She didn't get it right at first; in fact, she didn't even realize she was falling in love until there it was, right in front of her face. Sure, Zuko was her friend, and she cared for him. He could be grumpy and cold and anti-social. He had temper tantrums and sometimes stormed off, vowing he was through with helping the Avatar. He had the extraordinary knack of sending himself into depression, and sulking for days when things didn't go the way he had hoped. He argued with everyone and didn't take orders well.
But then Katara picked him up and turned him upside down, and under his hard shell, he had a soft belly, which Katara had discovered much to her own and everyone else's surprise. Once she got close enough to Zuko to understand him, he was a different person. He was strong and dependable and a powerful bender. He had gentle smiles and his voice was smooth and gentle whenever he forgot that he didn't like traveling with his friends. He was smart, and when he kept his head, was an incredible strategist in battles. He could often go for hours puzzling over a problem or a thought and his face would take on a rather dazed expression when interrupted, like he had just woken up. He couldn't overlook someone in need, and had once spent the afternoon playing with a small, orphaned girl, giving her piggyback rides and letting her chase him while Katara and the others helped rebuild a village.
He was just Zuko, her turtleduck-like friend. She liked to talk to him when she was homesick or when she felt stressed out, because Zuko understood. She liked to fight with him when she was frustrated because no matter what they yelled or screamed or threw at each other, he understood it was just a fight and they were still friends. She liked to fight alongside him because she knew he always had her back and she had his. Most of all, she just liked to be with him. He understood both silence and speech, and which Katara needed.
For a while, it was just a friendship between the two of them. They spent time together and cared about each other, but that was all it was. And then, like a smack in the face, Katara realized that she loved him. Not a little crush, not wondering what it would be like to be with Zuko. It was love, plain and simple. It had snuck up on her and then leapt out, laughing in her face and parading around.
Katara wasn't sure when she had started seeing him as more than a friend, when he wasn't just Zuko, dependable, grumpy, turtleduck, Zuko, but a Zuko who made her feel giddy when he looked at her. She wasn't sure when she had started craving his smiles that made her feel warm inside and the thoughtful expression when he looked at her that made her heart beat faster, the gentle touch of his hand brushing her shoulder or arm that told her he thought she had done a good job on something, a touch that sent her head reeling.
It seemed like the feelings had always been there, part of their relationship, but Katara knew that wasn't the case. Somehow, she had let her guard down and love had snuck up her. And though she didn't know when she had started to fall in love, Katara was even less sure when she realized it.
It might have been the time he combed out her hair when she had injured her hands to severely to do it herself, or the first time Zuko pulled her into a hug after a battle. Or it was possibly the night Zuko took her face in his hands and kissed her, afterward whispering into her hair that she was his most important person.
Maybe it was the accumulation of all three.
Whichever event triggered it, Katara knew that, like her water bending, she would not trade her love for anything. Zuko made her feel alive, made her feel whole and really there. She could be herself around him, and not worry about being strong or in control.
Of course, Katara knew that they would have to work, and work hard for their relationship. Things wouldn't always be smooth for them, and not everyone would be accepting of them as a couple. Katara knew that most of her family would not approve, there was too much bias against the Fire Nation as it was, and to accept the banished prince would probably be adding insult to injury.
Their personalities didn't slide perfectly together either, they rubbed each other the wrong way on more than one occasion, and both were strong in their beliefs, but, Katara realized, that was probably why they loved each other.
However, when she was around Zuko and he gave her that warm small and his cold eyes melted into liquid amber, Katara knew that they could make it. It was like water bending, if they pulled too hard one way, they would lose what they had, but if they could rock, each give and take equally, with a single goal in mind, then Katara knew in her heart of hearts that she and Zuko would survive.
Besides, she had already given Zuko her heart, and she knew she had his and she was not giving it back anytime soon.