So! Here's my first Avatar story, and also my first one-shot! I've been obsessing over the series lately…you can blame Lyralocke for half of it. This story's actually dedicated to her - I don't think I ever would have stayed a faithful fan if she hadn't been there to help me survive through this stupid Avatar hiatus with her amazing stories. Guys, I'm telling you now, go over to her profile page and read what she's got. It's absolutely brilliant.
The other half of my obsession is from watching fan-videos over at LiveVideo. If you ever get the chance, stop by there and look for "ravenhpltc24" and "Shockerz". Their videos literally make my jaw drop sometimes. Seriously.
Anyhoo, onto the story.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar, unfortunately. It belongs to Nickelodeon, although they don't deserve it, for leaving us hanging like this in the MIDDLE OF THE FREAKIN' SEASON.
They were practicing firebending near the outskirts of the Western Air Temple, attempting to incorporate that so-called "Dancing Dragon" into different fighting techniques. They'd been at it for hours, in fact; it hadn't been long before Haru, Teo, and The Duke disappeared into the depths of the temple yet again to explore. Toph had been the next to go, mentioning something about a nap in a "nice coating of earth", and Sokka left soon after, unsheathing his sword along the way to admire his reflection.
Only Katara stood against the threshold leading outside to the practicing grounds, arms folded tightly across her chest. Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she studied the two benders in silence. Aang was currently dodging Zuko's advances, looking slightly uneasy as a fiery punch narrowly missed his face. The prince took it as an opportunity and swiftly landed a kick to his stomach, sending him flying backwards; Katara visibly bristled, even as Aang safely airbended himself to a stop.
"No!" Zuko thrust a hand to the side in irritation. "I told you, no airbending during training! You can't rely on other elements to help you learn a new one!"
Aang smiled sheepishly, a hand rubbing the back of his neck. "Sorry, Sifu Hotman."
"I told y – Will you stop calling me that?!"
Aang only smiled wider, and without another word they began their routine again, the flames engulfing them like searing hot serpents.
Katara clenched her teeth in frustration, grinding a foot into the ground. This just wasn't right. She couldn't understand how Aang could so easily forgive a person who had tried for so long to destroy him. He was still so naïve, she constantly reminded herself. Still a thirteen-year-old boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. And although he needed someone to teach him firebending to save that world, it didn't make her any less willing to accept Zuko into the group.
She shook herself out of her thoughts in time to see the firebender land another hit on Aang. He fell to the ground with a painful grunt, and Zuko dropped his stance, the edges of his lips twitching upwards. Katara instinctively reached for the cork of her waterskin, her blood boiling. If that smug little prince laid a finger on her Aang -
She froze abruptly and blinked. Her Aang? No, that wasn't right. What was she thinking? She shook her head and focused her attention back on the two boys. To her surprise, Zuko had bent down and was offering a hand to the slightly dazed airbender, a rare smile on his face. Aang flashed back a grin and was pulled to his feet.
"You're improving." Zuko stated with a nod. "It's all about combining firebending with both offensive and defensive attacks. I know it's usually not your style to take the offensive, but it's a skill you need to learn. Especially if you want to understand the true depths of firebending itself."
Aang nodded, then placed a fist under his open palm and bowed in respect. "Thanks, Zuko."
"We'll go over a little more of the basics, and then you can go."
Katara reluctantly dropped her hands from her waterskin. She still didn't trust him one bit. As long as Zuko was alone with Aang, she would be there to make sure his "transformation" was everything he claimed it to be. She watched as the prince aimed another blazing kick at Aang's head without hesitation, and her expression darkened. She ground her foot into the cracked floor even more.
One wrong move, and she wouldn't hesitate to kill him, either.
"You know, for someone who hates everything Fire Nation, you've sure got a pretty hot temper right now."
Katara nearly fell over in surprise at the sound of the voice behind her. "Toph?" She regained her composure and fixed the blind earthbender with a questioning stare. "I thought you were taking a nap."
Toph leaned against the doorframe opposite of Katara and raised an eyebrow. "As if I can sleep with you grinding a hole through the floor. Vibrations, remember?" She wiggled her fingers to emphasize her point before folding them across her chest. "What's with you, anyway? Zuko hasn't done anything but help Aang since the day he joined us."
"That's the problem," Katara muttered, glancing towards the two momentarily. "He can't be trusted after everything he's done. I don't care what he says – he nearly killed Aang once before." Her eyes narrowed. "He's not getting the chance to do it again."
Toph sighed, sounding both bored and slightly exasperated. "Look, Katara, I know this guy has done horrible things in the past. I get it. But ever since he's been here, I haven't caught a single insincere vibration from him. He wants to help Aang defeat the Fire Lord. I don't know why, but he does." Her blank eyes suddenly seemed to hold a misty look of respect. "He's given up everything for it. Just like I did."
Katara stared at her in disbelief. "What are you implying, Toph? That you two are the same?" She scoffed indignantly. "Zuko is the Fire Lord's son. He hunted us for nearly a year like some…obsessed maniac! I think I have every right to suspect some sort of conspiracy from him!"
"Look," Toph huffed, placing her hands on her hips in a fashion that rivaled Katara's. "All I'm trying to say is, if Zuko had really been plotting against us this entire time, don't you think he'd have done something by now instead of teach Aang the one thing he needs to end this war?"
Katara faltered for a split second, but it was enough. Toph smirked knowingly. "I think you know the answer, don't you?"
Katara turned fully in her direction and glared at her. "Fine! I just don't trust Zuko, okay?"
"Is that your reason, or your excuse?"
The waterbender gawked at her. "…What?"
Toph turned her attention to the fighting grounds in front of them. "He knows you're watching him. But I'm guessing you already knew that." The smirk widened when she felt Aang take another hit to the stomach. "Do you know what it's doing to him, though?"
Katara flushed at the implication. "What're you talking about? I've always watched him train!"
"Exactly." The earthbender paused for a moment, her grin looking absolutely wicked by now. "Your temperature's going up, Sugar Queen."
Katara threw down her hands in exasperation. "Toph, what does this have to do with Zuko?"
Toph laughed in disbelief, as if it were obvious. "Everything! I don't know if you've noticed, Katara, but ever since Zuko joined the group, you haven't left Twinkletoe's side for a single moment!"
Katara's eyes widened. "T-that's not true. They went to the Sun Warrior civilization –"
"And you paced around the temple worrying your guts out the entire time they were gone!" Toph snorted. "Face it, Katara. You're afraid of losing Aang more than anything in the world, even more than losing the war. And it's blinding you so much that you won't even hesitate to take everything out on the one person who's willing to train him!"
"It's Zuko! He has a past –"
"You're in love with him, aren't you?"
Katara froze. "W-what?"
Toph fixed a piercing stare in her direction. "Aang." She stated simply. "You're in love with him, aren't you?"
The waterbender blinked. Her heartbeat spiked out of control. "I-I don't love –"
Suddenly, her temper flared through the roof. She clenched her hands into fists at her side, shaking. "What's your problem, Toph?! What do you want me to do?!"
The earthbender's expression was hard as she pointed an accusing finger at Katara. "I want you to stop wallowing in your own denial, and to stop feeling so insecure. But most of all," She folded her arms back across her chest, defiant. "Stop making excuses. We're sick of it already."
Katara had the cork of her waterskin off in a flash. Water poured out and enveloped the length of her arm, and she glared at the other girl, seething. Toph didn't move. A moment's hesitation, then…
Aang let out a yelp of surprise as the waterwhip shot out in front of him, extinguishing Zuko's fireblast with a loud sizzle. The two boys stopped fighting immediately, staring curiously at the waterbender as she stomped across the fighting grounds towards them.
"Uh, Katara?" Aang questioned cautiously, eyes wide. "Are you –"
He didn't get to finish his sentence, because right at that moment, Katara placed both hands on the sides of his face and pressed her lips to his. He nearly fell over from the shock and quickly wrapped his arms around her waist to keep his balance. It conveniently served as a double purpose, though, and within moments he was lost in the kiss, firebending training forgotten altogether.
Zuko stared on, dumbstruck into silence. Toph came up behind him, grinning. "Whoo! That temper's hotter than I thought." She clapped a hand onto his shoulder triumphantly, and he cringed.
"Thanks, Hotman. I couldn't have done it without you."
She could only laugh at his baffled expression as she walked back into the temple for a well-deserved nap.
A/N: So there you have it. I have to say, I was quite happy with how this turned out. Took me a while to finish, though. I'm jealous of the people who can come up with these one-shots in a heartbeat. I seriously don't know how you guys do it.
Reviews are appreciated!