AN: First and foremost, this story is inspired by Fandomme's "A Man's Drink." If you haven't read it, go right over and read the Three Drinks series and the Three Chores series. Awesome author. Anyways, the line that inspired me was something Katara said after Zuko asked her why she loved him. She responded, simply: "You're the best at shopping."
So, without further to do, a slightly Zutara one-shot on SHOPPING!!!!
Small note… italics Katara thinking
As soon as the strange group entered the store, Katara knew she was in dire trouble. The majority of the group immediately ran around like toddlers who had come upon a gleaming mound of sweets. It always amazed her how her companions seemed to be able to locate the most expensive, ridiculous merchandise in two seconds flat.
"Guys, try to stick to the list!" Katara called after them, but to no avail. That's what I get for picking a tourist town for supply shopping.
She glanced around at the massive store, containing numerous aisles and shelves that almost reached the ceiling. Directly opposite the entrance, a sleazy older man leaned over the front counter and grinned at her. Above him, a painted banner proclaimed in elegant symbols: "Cheap Chan's Fire Emporium."
Katara almost grimaced at that, but kept herself expressionless. The Earth Kingdom town was a sprawling development across a stretch of stunning beaches said to rival those of Ember Island. However, it was heavily used as a vacation spot for Fire Nation citizens. This was evident, as the majority of the shelves were filled with scarlet and gold souvenirs. She simply hoped they carried useful items as well.
"We shouldn't be here for long. There's a lot of Fire Nation influence here." A raspy voice suddenly came from behind her, and Katara almost jumped in surprise. Instead she turned around, and fixed Zuko with a perfectly nasty glare.
"Thanks for stating the obvious. But I'd like to see you try to get them to focus." Katara gestured to the other three members of their group. She turned back around with a derisive huff and strode away to the nearest shelf. Cradling her wicker shopping basket in one arm, Katara managed to pull out a small piece of parchment from her obi.
"Ok, so, first we need some thread…" The Waterbender muttered to herself, her eyes immediately scanning the shelves for some form of order. Unfortunately, she was met with a rather flashy collection of mini statues, depicting a vicious depiction of Ozai. Beneath that, a ridiculous collection of Azula figurines bombarded the shelves. Stupid tourist town, Katara thought with a sigh. What would anyone ever want one of these for? I guess if we ever needed targets for bending practice…
"Anything in particular I can look for?" The raspy voice had come back to haunt her. Katara stopped in her tracks and quickly swiveled on her heel. Zuko stood behind her yet again, his eyes trying to get a glimpse of her carefully written out shopping list. The Waterbender scowled at their close proximity and took a step back.
"Would you stop doing that?"
"At least it keeps you alert." He kept his face expressionless, at least, from what she could see. Zuko's long bangs were neatly combed in his face, completely obscuring his scar. It left him with only one eye to see out of, something that had sparked quite the argument between Katara and him before their departure.
Nevertheless, disguises had been a necessity. It was the first time they had felt safe enough to go into a town since leaving the Western Air Temple. Because of the lack of Fire Nation clothing in their supplies, it was quickly decided that Haru, Teo, and the Duke would keep camp with Momo and Appa. Katara, Aang, Toph, and Sokka had once again donned their stolen Fire Nation disguises, with the small addition of a full head wrap to Aang's outfit.
Zuko, on the other hand, was already dressed in Fire Nation clothing. Had his face not been one of the most recognizable to any Fire Nation citizen, he would have been ready to go. Katara had returned to camp after changing and immediately set to remediating that problem with a small comb from her bag.
The fight that ensued was brutal, only ending when Aang physically separated them. After it was made clear that Zuko would not accompany the foursome to town if Katara did not fix his hair over his scar, the ex-Prince complied with a growl. Toph laughed the entire time Katara ran the comb through his tangled dark locks, both benders scowling angrily at each other.
Now, in the store, Katara briefly inspected her grooming work. Not much of an improvement. It simply made the Firebender look much moodier.
"I don't need your help to stay alert, thank you very much. We're capable of watching our own backs, especially from firebenders." With a particularly snide expression, she marched away and into the next aisle. Browsing an assortment of multi colored souvenir hats, she heard peculiar noises coming from the next row over.
"Katara, you have to come see this!" The Avatar's excited voice called for her from behind the long shelf. She shifted her empty basket to the other arm, sighing loudly.
"Spirits, what is it this time? It better be something useful." Katara's eyebrows knitted in agitation, moving around the corner to find the two boys. Aang was ogling Sokka in envy, grabbing for an absolutely hideous jeweled monocle. Sokka peered through it at his sister, leaning forwards and waggling his eyebrows.
"Why, helloooooo, Miss Katara, how do you fair this fine day?"
Katara winced. It seemed Wang Fire was back, resurrected from the grave of past aliases. Oh La, please don't let me kill him. She fixated her brother with a demeaning look. "Sokka, please. That thing probably costs a small fortune. And it's ugly. Try to find something helpful instead."
"But Katara, it's so sophisticated." Sokka pleaded hopelessly, his eyes growing big in an expression he obviously thought was cute. Aang moved beside him, fixating Katara with a tiger-puppy pout.
"Yeah Katara, I think it'd be great for a new disguise." The Airbender grinned in hope.
"Put it back, losers." Toph appeared from around a shelf of fishing accessories, stopping beside Katara. The Waterbender almost sighed in relief. At least someone appeared to be on her side, even if the voice of reason was coming from a twelve year old.
"Yes, thank you, Toph. Please put it back, Sokka. What if you broke it?" Katara asked, shifting her basket in annoyance. The two boy's hopeful faces fell and she almost felt bad for a moment. A very short moment. Sokka grumbled something about killjoy sisters before turning to slowly place the monocle back on the stand.
"I hardly knew thee…"
"Yeah, yeah, Snoozles. Save it. I found something much better to buy." Before Katara could even feel the dread creep up her spine, Toph had grabbed her arm and yanked her around the next corner. The boys followed eagerly, wanting to see what the young Earthbender has discovered.
And there it was. Mounted on the wall was a monstrosity that could only be described as some sort of massive, mechanical crossbow. Katara wasn't even sure if that's what it really was intended for. The thing was about the size of Toph herself, and had enough jewels encrusted in the side to buy Ozai's left butt cheek.
Toph crossed her arms and grinned proudly. "I don't know what it is, but from the vibrations I'm getting, it seems killer sweet."
Aang and Sokka stared up in awe, and Katara had to lift a hand to close her brother's gaping mouth. Once he came to his senses, Sokka seized Katara's arm. "Think about how many firebenders we could take out with that thing! And from, like, five miles away! They wouldn't know what hit'em!"
"Look! It even has a name!" Aang pointed excitedly at a small golden plaque placed under the monstrous crossbow. He leaned forward, squinting his eyes at the tiny print. "Ozai's Vengeance…well, I think that could be changed."
"Yeah, that's stupid. How about Wang Fire's Revenge?" Sokka suggested, grinning proudly.
"Hey, Snoozles, I found it! I'm thinking The Tophinator!"
"The Tophinator? That's original." Sokka chided, his eyes still fixed on the gleaming hide of the bow.
"Better than Wang Fire's Revenge." Aang added, grinning back at the older boy. Sokka stuck out his tongue childishly. Katara, on the other hand, was ready to decimate her companions and commit herself to an asylum.
One glacier, two glacier, three glacier… Katara tried to calm down steadily. She had found she had been in an almost consistent bad mood since Zuko had joined their ragtag group four weeks prior. The Waterbender had resolved to become less high strung, but was failing miserably due to her companion's antics.
"Could you guys please focus? We should have already been out of this place and on our way back to camp! We're wasting time and putting ourselves in danger the longer we're here! There could be Fire Nation soldiers already on the way—"
Her angry rant was cut off by several items dropping into her basket. She looked down to find all the sewing supplies they needed neatly set in the bottom of it. Katara looked up to find Zuko's stony amber eyes.
"What else?" He asked, grabbing for the list before she could offer it. He peered over it for a moment, before dropping it into her basket. "Rope and twine…" Zuko quickly moved away, searching the shelves.
Katara stared after him, her mind blank for a moment. Then, without thinking, she turned to the other three and pointed at the departing Firebender. "See, this is why I like having him around! At least he gets it!"
She then froze immediately, realizing what she had said. Toph grinned, and the two boys stared agape at her statement.
"Did I say like? I definitely meant tolerate! No, even that's too soft a word." Katara covered quickly, her cheeks flushing. She turned swiftly, striding down the aisle away from the ugly crossbow.
"Yeah, sure, Sugar Queen! That's not what the heartbeat says!" Toph spouted after her, laughing loudly. Sokka snorted in disbelief and Aang looked slightly confused. Katara growled under her breath, and stopped to fix Toph with a death glare.
"Those are thumps of hatred!" She yelled, exasperated. Toph merely laughed harder. Annoyed and flustered, Katara turned the corner, only to bump into Zuko's chest. She was dazed for a moment, but then sniffed derisively and continued on.
Even so, she couldn't help but notice the almost imperceptible smile that flickered across his face.
AN: Yup, that's that. I guess it's not THAT Zutara-esque, but hey, it's all about reading between the lines.
Hurrah for shopping.