Title: Turbulent, Moon-Ridden Girl
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Characters: Katara, Zuko.
Author's Note: written for renegadekitsune.
Summery: "At the Western Air Temple, Zuko circled around them, always walking at the edge, where the light of the cooking fire bled into the night. Katara smiled." Hama may have won in more ways than she expected.
At the Western Air Temple, Zuko circled around them, always walking at the edge, where the light of the cooking fire bled into the night.
Even after helping Aang with his Firebending, even if Toph seemed to to have adopted him as her newest pet, he was still Other, still Fire Nation royalty, and was treated as such.
He'd loiter in the shadows, lurk, and she'd catch glimpses his expression and be reminded of Ba Sing Se. He looked adrift, lonely, punished and she had to turn her face towards someone - Haru or Sokka or Teo - to explain why she was smiling, wanting to keep the satisfaction that bloomed in her heart hidden.
(She never smiled at Aang in the evenings.)
She watched Zuko (for him to betray them, for him to turn, for him to play at being human - because it was a lie, all that deep longing she saw was a lie.)
Days passed, the moon growing quickly, ripening to fullness, filling the sky with light and dimming the flames of their campfire.
Katara slept on the Temple's stone floor and dreamed of Hama for three nights in a row.
She dreamed of being imprisoned, she dreamed of being chained, she dreamed of being the last of her kind. She dreamed of giddy, mad laughter and her own body betraying her, the way it felt to bend someone's life force. (She had felt Hama's heart beating, old and tired and frantic, and known that if she twisted her fingers just so none of the villages would ever have to worry about their crazy witch-innkeeper ever again.)
Katara woke up.
She stared at the ceiling, at the dirty and roots protruding through gray rock, and didn't feel like Katara, daughter of Kya and Hakota, Master Pakku's brightest student.
She felt like the last Southern Waternbender alive.
"Here," she said, that evening.
She stared straight ahead, looking at the indistinct rocks on the other side of the ravine, ignoring the gibbous moon and pinprick stars Zuko had been staring at until she'd walked out onto the terrance and shoved a bowl of trout-lobster stew under his nose.
Katara's arm was held out straight, the bowl resting in her palm.
She shot a glance at Zuko.
He was staring at her like she was seal-squirrel who'd started turning cartwheels.
She raised her eyebrows, annoyed, and felt herself flushing.
Zuko reached out, carefully, like he expected her to jerk the bowl away at the last minute. That he could think her that petty made her guts squirm with something she refused to call shame.
"It's just noodles," she said defensively.
"Thank- that's fine - I like noodles," Zuko answered, almost stuttering. He looked at her through his bangs.
"And they're cold," she added, ignoring the steam that had been rising out of the bowl since before he'd touched it.
"Oh," Zuko said in a small voice, sounding confused.
She twisted her head and looked back inside. Sokka was staring at her, his shoulders raised inquringly and one finger twirling by his temple.
Katara rolled her eyes eloquently and went back to staring at the ravine. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear (she really needed to start braiding it again, but it was enough of a pain just to brush it in the morning - she was close to hacking it off just for connivence's sake). Katara glanced over at Zuko, who was nibbling at what looked like a suspiciously generous chunk of the trout-lobster Sokka had caught earlier.
She snagged the strand of hair she'd just pushed behind her ear and started to twirl it around her finger and listened to the awkward silence.
"Oh, look at the way the moon has sped across the sky," Katara say, not looking, "I should-"
"It's - ah very pretty?" Zuko broke in with.
"-go." Katara blinked, and looked at him straight on. It was strange to be face to face with him and have neither one making threats.
"If you like the moon," he backpedaled. "Which I don't, because I'm Fire Nation, and we, uh, prefer the sun."
Katara was still staring at him. Zuko looked down into his bowl, and started playing with his chopsticks.
"Listen, you-" she started to defend Yue's beauty, snapped her mouth shut, remembered that she had given him soup to be kind and that she should probably preserve her karmic points and make a strategic retreat now, before he said something else that make her want to smack him.
Besides, she was pretty sure Sokka would get pissy at her if she didn't let him defend Yue's honor.
Katara huffed in annoyance. "You're impossible," she informed the Fire Prince, spun on her heel, and went back to her seat.
"So, Sugar Queen," Toph started, lips quirked crookedly.
"I don't want to hear it," Katara snapped. "It was nothing."
That night, she dreamed confectioner's sweetening was falling like snow. She tipped her head up, eyes closed, and let the powdery sugar fall on her face, licking it off her lips with quick darts of her tongue.
It was sweet-spicy and made her mouth tingle.
Katara woke up late. The sun glared into her eyes. She lifted a hand, shading her face and turned her head away, sleep already tugging at her limbs.