Title: A Promise Worth Breaking
Rating: PG-13 for language, innuendo, and sexuality
Summary: Never, he said. Never again will I fall in love. It was an easy promise to make, and seemed even easier to keep. Zuko just never thought he'd meet anyone quite so determined to make him an oath breaker. AU Zutara
A/N: Yay! Another Zutara AU! I think I got everyone pretty much in character, although Katara gets pretty pissed, I warn you. So...on with the show!
"This much worrying is bad for your health, nephew."
A twitch of the eyebrow and rapid but steady footsteps were Zuko's only reply.
"You should sit down and have a nice cup of calming jasmine tea."
Zuko gritted his teeth and clenched his fists.
"Are you sure that you don't want to—"
"Uncle!" Zuko exploded, turning to the calm old man and glaring. "I don't need any calming tea!"
Iroh raised an eyebrow and took a sip from his own steaming cup, a bizarre sight to many others sweltering in the humid tropical weather. "It's quite good. You're positive—?"
Zuko gnashed his teeth before grinding out, "Yes, Uncle. I'm positive."
There was a brief silence as he continued pacing. At last, Iroh inquired quietly, setting his cup on the table, "Is today the day?"
A terse "Yes" was all Iroh received as an answer. Nevertheless, he forged onward. "You should stop getting so worked up about this, nephew. You will strain yourself. Would Mai not want you to be happy?"
"Don't say that name to me!" Zuko snarled, hands clasped behind his back and eyes gleaming with anger and suppressed sadness. "Shut up about her!"
Iroh sighed. "Please, if you will only accept that she is gone—"
"I said shut up!"
The considerably older and wiser man returned to his hot drink. "If you insist, nephew. But please," Iroh frowned, "don't aggravate yourself so."
Zuko glared accordingly, at last halting and tensely settling down in a lounge chair.
Taking his silence as encouragement, Iroh continued, "After all, we go on vacation every winter to relax, don't we? Please, nephew, just enjoy the warm sun and the blue ocean, before we must return to cold New York," Iroh admonished, not unkindly, as he gestured around at the dream-like environment surrounding them. "It's like three weeks in paradise, isn't it?" Iroh added, beaming.
It was true. The palm trees swayed in the gentle breeze, and the beneath their feet was a stunning white. The Hawaii Hilton was proud of being one of the most acclaimed resorts in the region, and took no hesitations in lavishing those lucky enough to stay their in free breakfast buffets, weekly luaus, pineapple juice, surfing contests, and little paper umbrellas—much to Iroh's delight.
The pair traveled to an exotic location every year around Christmas at Iroh's expense. The older man always gave his best efforts to cheer up his nephew and get his mind off of Mai (god forbid try to get the issue resolved; after what had happened to the poor girl, Iroh doubted he'd ever get over it), but never to any avail. Zuko was determined in keeping her ingrained his mind in a way of self-torment, yet denying Mai's lingering presence within him to any inquirers—Iroh included.
"Stop being so optimistic, Uncle," Zuko snapped bad-naturedly, scowling as he supped from his coconut smoothie with a grimace. Why the hell had he ordered it, anyway? he wondered absently, slamming it down on the glass table that separated their chairs. Ah, yes; it had been a dream he'd had recently, of chestnut brown hair and blue eyes worth drowning in and small, lithe hands and—
Yes. And of coconut scented mocha skin.
Zuko wondered if he should be worried that his life-long distaste for exaggerated metaphors was finally wearing off. He checked the list of ingredients on his sunscreen, but found no perpetrator—not that he would have been able to tell anyway; they all looked the same to him.
Surveying the beautiful scene splayed out before him, Zuko reluctantly leaned back in his lounge chair, relaxing his tensed muscles. The plastic straps of the lounge chair were stretched taut beneath his bare back—his Uncle had insisted that Zuko 'at least get a little bit of a tan to show off to the girls back in New York.'
Zuko continued to observe the view. He couldn't argue that it wasn't a magnificent display, but he'd never been one for the ocean. The ocean would seize hold of you and drag you down into its murky depths without a second thought, wrap its chilly tendrils around your ankles and refuse to let go, force the air out of your lungs and take away the ability to so much as whimper—
Zuko would know. When he was five years old, he'd almost drowned in an ocean just like this one.
He scowled and rolled away from the beach and the traitorous waters, closing his eyes and yanking his hat farther down so that it nearly covered a third of his face. Iroh, he knew, assumed that Zuko had gotten over his childhood trauma long ago, and the stubborn young man was certainly not going to tell him otherwise.
"Afraid of the ocean? Me? As if," Zuko muttered to himself. It was a dislike. A preference. And definitely not an irrational fear.
Besides, even if Zuko had been afraid of it, it would have been completely and totally reasonable, because that water was evil, dammit.
Iroh shifted in his chair. "Nephew…"
Zuko cracked one eye open. "What?" he snapped, annoyed.
Iroh looked a bit taken aback, but gave an amused chuckle at his nephew's antics all the same. "I believe that you have acquired quite the fanclub."
It was true. From all over the beach, girls were gawking at him—mainly his bare chest, well-defined with hard muscles. Despite himself, Zuko felt a blush creeping to his cheeks.
Damn girls. Couldn't a guy build up his muscles without being eye-candy for the entirety of the female population?
"Maybe," Iroh suggested with a twinkle in his eye, "You should befriend one of them. Perhaps if they know you are involved, they'll leave you alone."
"As if," Zuko grumbled. "Besides," he added, almost as an afterthought, "If I was going to befriend a girl, it wouldn't be one of those…gawkers," Zuko finished distastefully, eyeing the crowd of girls staring at his chest with open disgust.
"Are you sure you're one to talk? You were watching the blonde in the bikini quite avidly yesterday," Iroh pointed out innocently.
Zuko promptly turned an obnoxious shade of red. "Be quiet, Uncle."
Iroh shrugged, barely concealing a smile as he sipped from his tea. "If you say so, Nephew."
Letting out a long sigh, Zuko contemplated returning to their hotel room. It would certainly be an improvement from this, he thought distastefully, but most likely not worth the effort. Knowing his luck, Zuko would be raped by a Pizza Hut delivery girl flaunting a mushroom-and-anchovy pizza he'd never ordered in the first place.
Zuko shuddered. Yep, definitely smarter to stay on the beach.
Folding his legs Indian style and propping up his chin on his hands, Zuko stared around the beach. Whenever his gaze brushed against one of the "gawkers," as he called them, they would blush and giggle and bat there eyelashes at him.
It was because of this, perhaps, that Zuko decided that something must be done.
Rising from his chair, he stalked onto the beach. Trying to hide his uncomfortable disposition (Zuko had little experience with girls, except for—no, he would not think about her) he approached a dark-skinned girl clothed in a blue bikini. Her dark brown hair was braided every so often in tiny strands and adorned with beads in placed.
Zuko really felt he should have taken the hint when he realized her skin smelled faintly of coconut.
Clearing his throat and feeling absolutely ridiculous, Zuko said loudly, "Hello."
The girl spun around, and Zuko started. Her wide blue eyes bore into his, and her full lips were quirked in a small O. After a moment, her eyes began to narrow. "So, did they send you here, too, then?" she asked at last, obviously angry.
Zuko took a step back, unable to conceal his irritation. "What?"
"Did they send you here as well?" she repeated, crossing her arms and glaring. When Zuko continued staring at her blankly, she rolled her eyes angrily and told him, "To make us leave, of course!" Stalking over to her umbrella and towel, spread out on the shaded sand, she called out to a boy, similar in appearance and paddling a surfboard to shore, "Sokka! I knew this was a bad idea! They've sent him," she indicated Zuko, "To make us leave.
Swearing, Sokka made his way to the beach, glaring at a bemused Zuko. "We have much a right to this beach as you do," he grumbled, surfboard under his arm.
Zuko stared. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said at last.
She snorted. "Sure you don't." When Zuko merely gazed at her coolly, she continued, obviously disgusted with his antics, "We're natives here. Katara and Sokka are our names. Our family owned this beach for centuries, until this stupid resort tricked our mother right out of it. We sneak in here at least once a week, but the hotel keeps sending employees to kick us out. We have as much—if not more—a right to this beach as everyone else here!"
Zuko frowned. "The hotel owns it, doesn't it?"
Katara stared at him. At last, she threw her arms in the air. "Oh, great! Another one! So, you're gonna sympathize with the industry like everyone else, are you?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying," he retorted, frustrated.
Katara glared. "Sure. Right. I bet your daddy's some big company owner and sent you here to learn the meaning of the dollar. I'm right, aren't I?" she concluded at Zuko's stunned expression.
"No, you aren't!" he snarled suddenly. Katara jerked back in surprise. "You're completely and totally wrong! And I don't even work here!"
Katara stared at him. "Sorry," she said at last, with a hint of sincerity that surprised Zuko. "We'll leave anyway." She yanked the umbrella out of the sand and began packing up their supplies.
Zuko watched the proceedings with a bit of cruel satisfaction, but angry all the same. How dare she say that about him! She didn't know anything!
"See you later, or not," he called after them tauntingly as they left. Sokka turned around and gave him the finger, while Katara stiffened and simply continued walking.
Zuko scowled and stomped back to his seat, dimly noting that his interaction with Katara had distinctly lessoned the interest of the gawkers.
Sinking down in his seat, Zuko glared into the distance. At last, Iroh inquired, "What is wrong, my nephew?"
Zuko merely muttered, "I'm going to the room," and stormed off, leaving Iroh still sipping his long-since cold sup of jasmine tea.
"Hm." Iroh smiled, setting his cup on the table. He'd have to ask his nephew what the conversation between him and—was it Katara?—had had gone. It had taken some straining of the ears, but Iroh had been watching and listening the entire time. He'd seen it all—the tension that had obviously been crackling between the two; the look on Zuko's face as she turned around; the hurt and anger on hers that he'd glimpsed as his nephew had rudely called after her…oh yes. Already, there was something sparking between them, and he had a feeling it wasn't going to end there.
Already, Zuko was caught up in her spell—even if he didn't know it just quite yet.
Iroh chuckled to himself. "It's going to be an interesting vacation…"
Did you like it? Please, please give me feedback. I understand if you completely hate it and simply don't want to waste your time, something like that, but if you're going to alert it, then I would really appreciate it if you would take the time to review. The comparison of hits/alerts vs. reviews on Zutara stories are sadly lacking compard to, for example, getting or Tokka. So, please, please review.