And here's Day #4! Be prepared for angst, cause likr I said, it's gotta hurt to heal!
And also, as I saw writing the Suki/Sokka/Toph dialogue, a thought occured to me: I realized why I find it so easy to write Toph! She reminds me of (especailly now, with her own brigade adn such) of Suzumiya Haruhi! Someone has to draw this, because there's no way I can do it justice.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.
Note: See if you can catch the 'real world' reference in today's piece.
Prompt: Tastes Like Chocolate
"Well, since Phase One was a complete flop-"
" Why is everybody looking at me?"
" We've been over this, Snoozeles. What part of fall guy don't you get?"
" I protest to being called that."
" Sokka, we've been over this too. Give it up, you can't win."
" I say we put it to a vote!"
" In case you haven't noticed, Snoozy, this ain't a democracy."
" It's a dictatorship."
" I still call a vote."
" Fine, me an' War Paint vote to call you the fall guy. That's two to one, we won, you lose, shuddap!"
" That's not fair! Suki didn't vote, you voted for her!"
" That's because she understands the way things work around here, and you don't."
" I'm with the Melon Lord on this one."
" You're always with the Melon Lord! Everything we've done has been you agreeing with Toph!"
" Why argue when I think she's right? And besides, who would you rather have for a brother-in-law? Aang, who will probably make you go penguin sledding with him, or Zuko, who will go with you on hunting trips and talk about…pointy things…with you?"
" …That's cheating."
" Nope, it's the truth. Now back to what I was saying. Phase One ended in complete disappointment."
" If I may be so bold, it wasn't a complete failure. It was enough to keep Subject A away from Roadblock A for a while. She's been a avoiding him like crazy."
" Not to mention Cloak-and-Dagger has been spending all her time with Sunshine, so that gets her outta the running."
" Wait, I thought Haru was Roadblock A."
" Oh right, my mistake, thanks Sokka. Roadblock B then."
" No, that's Jet."
" Who's Jet?"
" A guy Subject A used to like."
" So he's still a threat?"
" Not quite, Suki. He's dead."
" Well if he's dead, how can he even qualify for the Roadblock title? It's not like his ghost is coming back, is it?"
" Well, War Paint, he gets that title because the relationship subject A had with Roadblock B was very similar to relationship she has with Subject B. Therefore, he is sorta still a threat."
" How do you figure their relationship is similar?"
" What did you just say, Toph?"
" Nothing, I coughed."
" You need to get your ears checked, Sokka."
" As I was saying before we got off track with the Roadblock labeling, Phase One did yield the desirable effects of Subject a avoiding Roadblock C. However, she is also avoiding Subject B, which is completely unacceptable."
" What do you suggest we do?"
" Force them to confront their feelings."
" So what, we lock them in a closet, or something?"
" A little more extreme than what I had in mind, but a good idea nonetheless."
" We have planned a little beach get together for this afternoon…"
" War Paint, I like the way you think!"
" I chose her partly because she's so gorgeous, and mostly because I love a woman with a brain!"
" Sokka, shut up an let the experts do the jobs."
" Yes, dear."
" I love how whipped you have him."
" I got a few ideas by watching how you handled him."
" No problem. So how do we get them alone?"
" Well, I have a few ideas, War Paint…"
" I'm all ears…Commander."
And so, with two of the most tactical brains scheming together, Zuko and Katara found themselves separated from the group at that afternoon's beach party, standing in the trees of one of the forests on Kyoshi island, the waves crashing against the rocks and drowning out the sounds of their friends.
Katara made herself comfortable on a rock, staring up at the sky.
" So, you have no idea where we are?"
" None whatsoever." Zuko ran his fingers through his hair. " I'm not even sure how we got here."
" Toph's behind it, you can pretty much bet."
" What makes you say that?" Zuko glanced at her, taking in the sight of her exposed neck and head being thrown back in laughter.
" Just trust me, this had 'Toph' written all over it."
" Does it now?" She smirked at him from her rock.
" She's probably noticed we've been avoiding each other and taken it upon herself to try and make us talk."
Ah, so they had arrived at that, had they?
" Avoiding each other?" Zuko fought to keep his voice even. " What gave her that idea?"
" The fact that we haven't spoken anything more than polite small talk in two days?" Katara offered, digging around in the pocket of her loose blue pants for something.
" Oh, she noticed, huh?"
" Everyone noticed." Katara withdrew her fingers with a small wrapped package. " In case you didn't know, we're generally attached at the hip."
And then suddenly, as she was undoing the cord that held the little bundle together, Zuko was directly in front of her, eyeing the thing in her hands and leaning down over her, breathing in the scent of her hair.
It was stupid, he knew it was, he knew it, but the sight of her (in blue pants that cut off after the knee and her white wrap being the only thing on her chest, her skin glistening in the slowly sinking evening sun) was almost more than mortal flesh could bear. With a strand of dark hair curling over her mocha shoulder and a quizzical look shading her blue eyes, Zuko wondered exactly how he had chosen dumping the fruit over kissing her in the kitchen not two days earlier.
" What's that?" He gestured to the object. He meant for it to come out as innocent as any question he may have phrased, but with her body so close and the light shining in her eyes, his voice came tumbling out husky and deep and as far from innocent as it could get.
" Earth Kingdom chocolate." She said calmly, and he wondered where the shy, startled girl of days before had gone. " Toph brought some along. You want any?"
She offered him a chunk she'd broken off, held in between her fingers, teasingly dangled in front of his face as everything was with her. He reached out for the treat, fully intended to take it from her hand, when the memory of another object pressed in between those fingers swooped over his memory and all he could think of was the way she'd trembled against his lips when he'd plucked that straw-blueberry from her with his teeth. A haze settled in on his senses, and suddenly all that mattered was making her shake like that again, making her stare up at him with that same heat.
He encircled her wrist with steady fingers, and pulled her outstretched hand up to his mouth. Still gripping her hand (which was starting to tremble just a bit, and that fact excited him more than he dare to admit), he encased the piece of chocolate with his lips, and felt the skin of her fingertips just barely brush his teeth as he took the piece from her offered digits.
Never once taking his smoldering eyes off of her (though hers were fixated on her fingers and his mouth), he pulled the wrist away, chewing slowly, focusing more on the brush of her hand against his cheek than the taste of the chocolate.
Katara closed her eyes and took a deep breath, looking up at him. His stomach dropped out at the reigned sparks that flitted in her eyes, and the urge that had haunted him for days (weeks, months, he 'd lost track of how long he had to control himself) rose up in him, hot and fast and urgent.
" Isn't that trick getting a little old?" She asked playfully, but the air around them was super charged, and every breath yielded an electric tingle.
" Are you asking for new ones?" He was panting. He didn't know why, but Agni help him, just the sight of her so close and so open and so willing was driving him into a frenzy.
" We're gonna have to talk about this sometime." She whispered, popping a piece of chocolate in her mouth. " It's up to you when."
" Why me?" He wasn't so much paying attention to her words as watching the gooey treat disappear between two plump lips, a small, dark stain slathering the very corner of her mouth.
" Because you started it." And her voice was breathless, like there was no air and she was gasping. Her eyes were half lidded and, in the final rays of sunlight, she looked half like spirit, sent to tempt him in the woods.
" You've got some chocolate, right here." He gestured to his mouth. But instead of reaching up with her fingers to brush it away, Katara poked her little pink tongue out and swiped it over her lips, trying to find the stain he'd mentioned.
The sight of it undid every restraint, broke every barrier, and demolished every bit of self-control Zuko possessed.
" Here, I'll get it."
And he swooped down before either could register what was happening, pressing his mouth to the corner of hers and licking the little bit of chocolate away with his tongue. He remained for half an instant, taking in the feel of her body being so close and the taste of her skin under the treat and the sound of her breath panting in and out of parted lips, fanning over his face like a warm breeze…
He snapped back up, dawning comprehension on his face as he stared into her bewildered eyes.
" Katara…I…" For once, in her presence, his words deserted him.
" …You can…" She started out in a small voice. Zuko watched as she looked away and lowered her head.
" You can tell me…that you didn't mean it…That this all meant nothing, that we we're…we we're just playing around."
She seemed to be shaking a little, but Zuko couldn't quite see where she was going with this.
" …I promise, I won't get mad. I'll accept that, and we can both just move on…pretend nothing happened."
Was she…could she be…
" So, tell me that you didn't mean it…and everything will be fine."
Was she…giving him a way out?
The realization jolted him as she opened the door for him to just walk away, and the two of them to go back to the way they had been, before he started throwing her mixed signals. The temptation to accept the offer, to tell her he was just kidding around, and that he didn't feel that way about her, over whelmed him for a moment. To get out of all this with no consequences…
But hadn't she always been honest with him?
In her anger, in her tears, in her happiness and forgiveness, Katara had never deceived him, never tricked him, or lied, had only ever been truthful and honest in her endeavor, be it fighting him to protect Aang, or forgiving him on the pier, holding him closer than anyone had done since his mother had vanished.
Didn't he owe her the same kind of honesty?
" Just tell me that-"
" I meant it."
His words hung in the air, cutting her off and startling her enough to look up at him again, blue eyes wide and shocked, staring at him with her face bathed in sunlight. He sucked in his breath as he took in the picture she made there, against the green leaves and the rough, brown bark.
(He'd tied her to a tree once, what felt like a lifetime ago. He'd tied her to a tree and tried to trade her the necklace for the whereabouts of the Avatar. He'd dangled it in front of her, swept up behind her and whispered into her ear, too stupid and too young and too unhealed to even appreciate the softness of her hair against his cheek and sound of her heart echoing into his ears.)
With no warning, Katara flung herself forward into his arms, wrapping hers around his neck and whispering incoherent sweet nothings into his ear as he gathered her against him, pressing her into his chest and half laughing, half crying into her hair.
" I meant it." He kissed the top if her head. " I meant it." He kissed her ear. " I meant everything." The shell of her ear, her pounding pulse. He pressed his lips, with abandon, against her cheek, darting up over her face as she breathed and panted and mumbled things against his face, half buried in his loose hair.
" I wanted you to mean it." She kissed along his ear. " I wanted you to mean it more than I've ever wanted anything in the world."
" I've always meant it." She was placing little kissing over his jaw and he was having trouble remembering his own name.
" Oh Tui. Oh La." She kissed the tip of his nose. " You have no idea…I wanted…You're such a tease…I…you…" She grabbed his face and brought it down, and for a split second, he allowed himself the pleasure of imagining this could be real.
" We can't…" He forced himself to stop, hovering a centimeter over her parted and waiting lips.
" What?" And there was heartbreak in her voice.
" We just…it's nit possible…we can't…" He stumbled, and her grip in his hair tightened.
" Were you lying before?" Her voice was dead serious.
" No!" He said desperately. " No, never…I meant it, I meant it when I said that I meant everything…"
" Then mean it right now." She started forward, but he pulled back.
" Could you really do this?" She pushed forward again. " I mean really do this?"
" I want to." And his heart nearly sang. " And you want to too." She opened her blues fully and eyed him. " You do want to, right?"
" More than anything." He whispered, and the familiar ache started up in his chest.
" Then go ahead."
" We can't!"
He was shaking and he couldn't breathe, and it would be best if she pulled away, he knew that, but when she tried to, he pulled her back with shivering arms and pressed his face into her hair, mumbling and kissing it and trying desperately to make her understand.
" We can't. I want to, oh Agni do I want to, but it's impossible. We…we just can't…and not because I think it'll be too hard, because we'd win that fight, I know we'd win it…"
" So why not?" He swore he heard tears in her voice.
He smiled bitterly into her curls.
" Could you do that to Aang?"
She stiffened in his arms. He pulled back, looking into her stricken face.
" Could I do that to Mai?"
She shook her head from side to side, her shoulders held stiffly by his hands and hers still fisted in his shirt, clasping desperately to some vestige of what could be. Her eyes flitted from side to side frantically, scared that they might catch a glimpse of the two people in each of their lives, or perhaps, searching hopelessly for an answer to the pain in her chest that he knew matched his.
" We…we…" She stuttered, and he cautiously stroked her shoulder. " We…we should be allowed…"
" We can't." He soothed, biting the inside of his cheek to hold back his own tears as several gathered in hers.
" But we want to…" She whispered helplessly.
" But we can't." And as she surrendered to sobs, he drew her into the circle of his arms, rubbing her back and murmuring nonsense words into her ears as she cried into his chest.
" I am so sick of having to give up everything I want for everyone else!" She raged, ramming her fists against him. " I'm tired of pretending like everything's so good when it's not!"
" Don't you love Aang?" He brushed her hair aside.
" Not the way he wants me to!" She stormed. " Not as much as he seems to need me to!"
She pulled back and stared at his face.
" Everyone knew Aang liked me, Spirits, I knew he liked me!" She grabbed her hair and yanked. " But does that automatically mean that I'm obligated to love him back?"
" He's the Avatar." Zuko took her hands in his. " He saved the world just for you."
" And I'm flattered, I really am." She said in a defeated voice. " But does that mean I owe him something? That he some how earned my love? Shouldn't I give it freely?"
" In an ideal world." Zuko ran his thumb over her knuckles.
" In an ideal world, you should've kissed me by now." She teased, but there was only melancholy in it. Zuko yanked her close by the hands he held, and looked at her with complete seriousness.
" I should've kissed you a few minutes ago. I should've kissed you in the kitchen two days ago. I should've kissed you in that hallway." She stared at him as if she were seeing him for the first time. " I should've kissed you the day of my coronation. I should've kissed you after you save me from Azula. I should've kissed you that night we found the Southern Raiders. I should've kissed you under Ba Sing Se. I should've kissed you when you offered to heal my uncle. I should've kissed you the night I had you tied against that tree." He leaned down and looked at her lips, the ache swelling to an unbearable, searing pain in his chest. " I should've kissed you the instant I first saw you, but I didn't, and now I can't. Our relationship is never going to be anything but should have's and might have been's."
" Why?" He barely heard her voice as he let her go and started away from her.
" Because that's all we'll ever be allowed to have."
" Why?" Her voice was stronger this time, made raw and broken by her heart shattering in her chest. In the dying light of the sun over head, his broke with hers.
" Because we're the only ones strong enough to live with that sort of relationship."
And he left her under the trees.
The entire party turned to Zuko as he shouted. He was standing up at his place at the dinner table, looking incredulously at his girlfriend. Mai was looking at the floor, biting her lower lip and looking guilty. Abruptly, she raised her head and met his stare head on, her eyes sad but determined.
" You heard me." She whispered, and there was something similar in her tone to Katara's earlier that day.
" You can't be serious!"
Zuko waved his hand about.
" You're causing a scene."
" I think I have the right to do that!"
Mai grabbed his hand and pulled him from the table.
" We'll discuss this outside." She turned to the company, who was still staring at her. " If you'll please excuse us."
And she pulled Zuko out the door and onto the porch, shutting the large piece of wood behind her.
From her position at the head of the table, Suki shot a glance at Katara, who was stirring her soup listlessly, having not even glanced up during the exchange. She'd ignored Aang's questions about her health all night.
Suki looked worriedly over at Toph, whose face was set in a concentrated frown.
" I guess this would be a bad time to announce our engagement, huh Suki?" Sokka piped up from beside her, and promptly fell over as Toph shifted the earth under his chair.
" We're gonna need a bigger mop." Toph murmured to the older girl as Katara excused herself from the table and started off to her room, Aang bouncing after her, even though she'd stated her wish to be alone. " A much bigger mop."
" Can we stop with the cleaning metaphors? It's starting to creep me out."
" Quiet Snoozy."
" Great Toph, now you've got Suki doing it!"
The only sound in the dining room was Sokka's face meeting the ground once more.
It's a humout/angst/humour sandwich.
And now, I've got some good news for you guys. Now that it's hurt, it can begin to heal. Get ready for more Suzumiya!Toph in tomorrows prompt, along with the Totally On Board! Suki (which SOS Brigade member is she?) And the Kyon!Sokka (I'm a Sukka fan, but I also like Kyon/Haruhi...weird.)