Author: moor / beyondthemoor on LJ
Title: Merits
Genre: Romance/humour/vamp/Modern AU
Fandom: Avatar: TLA
Pairing: Zutara, Jetara
Length: approx. 900 words
Part: One
Rating: T/M
Disclaimer : "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and all related rights belong to their original creators… I am not among their ranks.
AN: In response to
hyperroo 's vampire/Zutara challenge on LJ, I present… the following:

"Merits" – Part One

Another dish whipped across the room, smashing into the wall just to the right of his head with a storm of shattered porcelain. The lightning outside the darkened windows brightened the room at the same time, and a second later, a loud boom of thunder shook the pair of snarling occupants.

Neither noticed.

"Of course not, why would it be important? I'm just 'some girl' right? I'm certainly not of any consequence to you!" The effort of hurling plate number four at the offending man's neck added a certain amount of emphasis on the last word.

"See this, this is why I didn't tell you! You're going crazy," he argued, dodging the projectiles easily.

"Oh no you don't, don't you dare put this back on me, mister!"

"I was trying to protect you!"

"Protect this, you lying hippopig!"

A glass splintered a cabinet door.

"Would you listen to yourself?" this time, he caught the plate in mid-flight. "Katara? Katara!"

It took Katara a second to realize it – she'd already launched another kitchen standard at him in the meantime, a coffee maker – and then she saw him catch the second, the blender, just as effortlessly. Her eyebrows furrowed slightly, though her anger remained. How had he done that? Must not be throwing 'em hard enough, she decided, ready to redouble her efforts.

Then her eyes went from the coffee maker in his one hand, to the ridiculously heavy blender… food processor, actually… in his other.

What the…

It had taken all her might to launch them at him… and he was standing there as if she'd just tossed him a couple of tennis balls? He was better than she thought if he could catch them so easily.

Her chest heaved with the effort of controlling her temper and racing heartbeat. She'd completely lost track of time when they'd started into their argument… But what had he meant, a minute ago?

I was trying to protect you.

Curiosity warred with pride.

She clenched her fist around the knife block. One good shot at his heart, that's all she needed. The jerk deserved a good beating, keel haul, and flaying-- but she'd settle for murder.

For his part, Zuko stood, waiting tensely a short distance away, but patiently.

And very, very, handsomely.

Damnit all to Hell…

Taking a deep, calming breath and letting it out slowly, she glared at him.

He glared back.

... protect you...

Curiosity won.

"What… do you mean?"

She lowered her arms and weapons as she spoke, and wondered what she'd do if she were to actually believe him. What would happen… what would happen to… She kept her eyes on him.

He waited before answering, his own eyes lowering away from her a moment. She felt her heart tighten. He couldn't have been… There's no way he could have been telling her…

"What did you mean, 'protect me'?" she asked, more forcefully. Putting a meager amount of trust in him – and herself, considering how violent she'd been a minute before – she stepped towards him, stopping less than a meter from his angry stance. Her feet made a tinkling, crunching noise as she crossed the ruined linoleum. The victims of her aggressive tantrum littered the entire room in a dangerous mess.

The storm continued outside, not yet ready to follow their tempering example.

Zuko's shoulders, so straight all the time with purpose and pride, lost their squared edges for a moment as he exhaled lowly. To Katara, he looked… tired. Still tense, as though he were controlling some unseen force within himself that threatened to break free and take over, but… worn, somehow, too. Her heart pulled to him, sympathising minutely, before returning to the protective cage of her chest.

This wasn't one of their comfortable silences, she knew it; but she didn't know if she was ready for it to end with an answer yet, either. The things he'd said to her, the way he'd said them…Unease snaked through her belly, and she finally started putting some consideration into his confession -- the trigger that had set off the tableware massacre.
While she reflected, topaz eyes flicked over her disheveled, wavy hair, her flushed face…. All the way down to her smooth, graceful neck where her pulse beat visibly.

And stayed.

She noticed the movement of his gaze. And its focus.

Her heartbeat ratcheted back up again, though not in anger this time.

He swallowed very slightly, but she didn't miss it. His mouth tightened, and he placed the appliances on the counter without a sound before turning back to her.

He knows.

The crunching noise was very soft, but it was loud enough to signal the first steps of her retreat. She could smell her own blood from her feet, cut and scratched from the glass shards everywhere.

His eyes never left her, and the corner of his mouth curled upwards.

For the first time, she noticed the slight indentation…

He hadn't been lying.

Oh… my… spirits…

Fear, icy cold, sprang from her stomach and flooded her every sense when his hungry eyes met hers. And stayed.

Her heartbeat stopped when he leapt at her.