A/N: I want to start off by saying I am incredibly sorry for the extreme wait between updates. What's really sad is that this chapter has been mostly finished for…a while. I just couldn't get the last couple of kinks worked out. And, to be fair to me (because I am the one talking), the last year I have been completely focused on working on a senior thesis/novel and only wrote fanfics when they occurred to me out of the blue and refused to leave me alone.
AND I owe someone a story for being my 200th reviewer! And I promised I'd get that out MONTHS ago. I am very, very sorry, and I'm working on that now.
But here the next chapter is, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Warnings: Well, I can't tell you or it would give it away, but…know that this is all in good fun and that's the only way I meant it. :P
Things Fall Apart: Chapter 12: Zuko's Emo Corner
Zuko was curled up in the corner of his study, and had been for several hours. He stared out the window over the grounds of the Fire Palace, admiring the play of light over the delicately manicured lawns and flower beds.
"Hey there, buddy," Sokka said, punching Zuko lightly in the arm. Zuko blinked and turned to face the other teen, noticing that the Water Tribe siblings had come in sometime while he hadn't been paying attention. Sokka was leaning over him and apparently had been for some time, while Katara was distractedly shifting through a few documents at the room's prominent desk.
He hadn't even heard them come in.
Sokka shifted uncomfortably for a moment, before taking a deep breath and beginning on what was obviously a rehearsed speech. "Zuko, pal, I know you're heart broken—"
Ah. He was taking about Zuko's recent break up with Mai. But Sokka didn't exactly have all the details, so whatever he said was pointless anyway. "No, I'm fine." The Firelord cut in, trying to stop the Water Tribe boy before he made a fool of himself, "I mean, I'm a little sad, but it was really a mutual thing—"
"Ah, that's what they all say at first." Sokka shook his head sadly. "Before the denial phase ends and the heartbreak really sets in."
"Sokka," He said sternly, "I mean it. I'm fine." Zuko licked his lips nervously, "Actually, I've been wanting to tell you some—"
"It's like a black cloud hovering in your heart," Sokka blithely cut in with a dramatic flare. "And that's when you realize that you're a horrible, disgusting little person that no one with a shred of self-respect could ever love!" He seemed delighted by the whole concept.
Zuko's eyebrow twitched. "Actually, no. I'm good."
"But don't worry!" The tan boy chirped, "Don't think about how the love of your life just dropped you like a sack of dead puppies—"
"What? Sokka, I said it was mutual—"
"Don't you see? It's all okay! Because now you're free to date Katara!" He crowed, gesturing broadly at his sister as if presenting a Brand New Ostrich-Horse.
Katara looked up from her work and blinked at them. She had an ink stain on her forehead.
"It's perfect!" he chirped. "You just broke up with Mai, Katara and Aang are over—"
"Sokka," Katara grossed tiredly.
Undeterred, the enthusiastic boy continued, "And if you two get married, we'll be brothers!"
"Sokka!" Katara protested, to little effect.
Stars in his eyes, Sokka nearly swooned, "It's like it's fate or something."
He turned to smile sweetly over his shoulder at his sister. "Yes?"
"I'm still dating Aang!"
Sokka, smile still glued on his face, hissed, "Stop ruining this for me!"
Fed up, Zuko stood from his seat and yelled, "Sokka!"
Sokka blinked once. Slowly. Then again. "Like… happy, or…"
Katara slapped a hand to her forehead.
"No!" Zuko gnashed his teeth. "Gay! That's why we broke up! I like men! Women sicken me!—no offense Katara—"
She waved it off good naturedly.
When Sokka's uncomprehending look continued unabated, he scrounged for a better explanation, "Gay like—
"Gay like Sokka's belt and matching handbag!" Toph volunteered, who had until this point been hiding inconspicuously in the corner.
Zuko scowled indignantly, "I'm not that gay."
Sokka stared blankly at the Fire Lord for several long seconds before slowly looking up to stare at the sky. He stayed still for a long moment before whooping, "Thank you!" at whatever deity might have been lingering overhead.
And then Sokka tackled him.
"Umm…" Katara shifted uncomfortably, "I think we should leave…"
"Why?" Toph demanded with a grin, "This is hot."
Katara froze as the enormity of what the younger girl had just said became clear. The two boys were on the floor… doing things to each other. On the floor. With Toph in the room. With a shriek of, "We're leaving!" Katara dragged the protesting young girl out the door.