I was thinking about different ways a post series Zutara romantic relationship could start and this little scenario came to me:
Spoilers: It's a post series fic so I guess the whole show
Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Also, I think I kinda rushed my way through this and didn't really proofread so if you pick up anything that bothers you let me know.
Sidenote: I might have been a little harsh on Aang in this. It wasn't my intention to do that, but I just re-read it and I might have been a little mean without realizing, so I appologise if you really like Aang (I mean I like him too but sometimes I think he needs a swift kick in the pants).
They'd put it off for a few years, peace was new and things had to be rebuilt and everyone agreed that if it was meant to last it would. They'd been fifteen when the war ended, Sokka and Suki, and while that might be practically ancient when it came to the northern tribe's standard on marriage, for the rest of the world they were still quite young. So he went to the South Pole and she went back to Kyoshi and they visited each other often, and wrote letters and drew bad pictures. Eventually they decided they had waited long enough and so here they all were – the old gang and practically every person they'd ever met – dancing and cheering under a full moon. And for the last few hours Katara had danced right along.
She'd twirled and laughed and drank, the way a young woman should at such an event, until finally her sore feet begged for relief. She plopped down next to Gran Gran and poured herself another cup of whatever it was that was making her so giddy. Gran Gran was using a Kyoshi warrior fan to keep herself cool. She had a serene look on her face. Pakku was next to her, passed out and sprawled across the table.
"GranPakku can't hold his liquor," Katara yelled over the noise.
"It's the heat. Makes him stupid."
She didn't quite get the connection but laughed anyway. The music swelled and she looked out to the mob of dancing people. Haru and Ty Lee were intensely focused on each other. The Duke was attempting to put the moves on a Kyoshi warrior too old and too tall for him. Pipsqueak was spinning Aunt Wu about wildly. Iroh seemed to be dancing with three women at the same time. Smellerbee pulled a knife on girl who dared get between her and Longshot. The Hippo had just literally thrown Toph's mother up in the air.
"Katara!" She looked up and to see Aang beaming down at her.
"Dance with me!"
He looked so happy she almost said yes but her aching heels protested.
"My feet hurt Aang. I'm taking a break."
"Aw, come on Katara. Just one more."
She took a breath and steeled herself for the incoming battle – his pleading, her refusing, until eventually she either snapped at him or gave in to his requests.
"I'll dance with you Avatar." Jun the Bounty Hunter stood with her hands on her hips. Aang gulped and before anyone could respond, he was being dragged away into the crowd. Katara could only stare after them, somewhat shocked by the unlikely rescue.
"I like her." Gran Gran was smirking.
She murmured her agreement and did her best to feel guilty about the relief she felt.
Her drink was sweet – maybe too sweet, deceptively sweet. It was the sort of drink where on minute you're upright and the next you're falling all over yourself. She'd had drinks like this before, had learned their danger the hard way a few times. She remembered the headaches and the nausea. She finished her cup anyway – why not finish what you start?
The music stopped and she clapped along with everyone else. A new song started up – slow and romantic. Iroh cut in between Aang and Jun, grinning wildly even as the bounty hunter rolled her eyes. Katara braced herself as Aang turned with determination in her direction, but she was saved once again as Bumi grabbed him and dragged him away – yelling something about elephant koi.
The crowd on the dance floor thinned as the slow music played on and soon only a few couples remained. In the middle of them Sokka and Suki swayed and gazed at one another. Sokka whispered something and Suki laughed and blushed.
A pang swept through her and she stood up.
"Its too hot. I need some air."
Gran Gran nodded in understanding and before anyone else could take notice Katara fled the part of town designated for the wedding reception – a large circular area at the entrance of town where Kyoshi's statue stood.
The main street of town was deserted save for some glowing paper lanterns and smatterings of flowers. Glowing bugs she couldn't remember the name of buzzed around her as the sky moved from dusk to night. She walked to the end of the street but found it wasn't far enough away from the celebrating, so she made her way to the path to Avatar Kyoshi's shrine.
She was happy for her brother and her new sister, for their love and their joy, but she needed a moments away from it all. Needed a few seconds alone to catch her breath. It wasn't everyday your brother got married – wasn't everyday you realized just how grown up you'd all become.
The shrine was sparsely decorated. Kyoshi, despite the makeup, had apparently despised frivolous decorations. Her shrine was basic and functional and so only two red lanterns adorned the structure. There were no flowers but spread out on the wooden steps that led into building was a drunk Fire Lord.
A muffled grunting noise came from his general direction. She cautiously made her way up into the front porch stopping just short of his shoeless feet.
"What?" He groaned.
"Are you ok?"
"You're lying on the ground."
He opens his eyes and stared blearily up at her.
"Uncle gave me this," he held up a huge and half empty jug.
"You want some?"
She sat down next to him on the steps and stared out at the path she'd just climbed.
"That Kyoshi was a large lady."
He turned on his side and curled around the giant jug.
"Her shoes were really big."
"I know. Aang wore them once."
"Aang's feet are tiny."
"He was on trial. We were trying to prove he didn't kill Chin the Conqueror."
"With her shoes?"
"He wore her dress too and the make up."
Zuko burst out laughing at this. It was a startling noise, if only because she'd only heard it two or three times in her entire life.
She liked the sound of it.
He sat up, still giggling to himself, and took a big swig from the jug. He held it out to her but she refused again.
"I don't think I've ever seen you drunk."
"I'm not drunk."
"Yes you are."
He looked at her and gave a lopsided smile.
"Maybe a little bit."
She suddenly noticed that his hair was down and he wasn't wearing his crown or his heavy robes. He'd been wearing them during the ceremony, she was sure of it, but now he was wearing an outfit similar to the one he'd worn in the days before Sozin's Comet.
"You changed your clothes."
"It was too hot for the robes. Plus no one pays attention when I'm wearing normal clothes."
"What do you mean?"
"No one bothers me about taxes or unemployment when I wear this."
"Is that why you're up here? Avoiding responsibilities?"
"Avoiding crazy Kings. Bumi kept talking about giant fish."
It was a lie and she knew it but she didn't press the issue.
She could still hear the music from up here. The song she'd fled to ended and a new one began.
"Uncle loves this song."
"He says that it was playing when he met his wife."
She blinked. It was easy to forget that Iroh had once been a young man with a young wife and his life ahead of him.
"What happened to her?"
"She died in childbirth."
She wondered if she could love a song that reminded her of someone taken too early from her.
She took his jug from him. The liquor was strong and it stung on the way down. She took a little too much and she coughed and sputtered after she managed to force it down.
He laughed again.
She gave him the jug back and he took a big gulp. He made a pained noise, hit himself in the chest with a closed fist, and then belched fire.
She took another sip - smaller this time. She sighed and wondered if she'd be able to make it back down the path without stumbling into a tree or something.
For a while they simply sat and listened to the music distantly playing, talking sips of the foul liquid. Zuko was one of the few people she could do that with – just sit and listen. Sokka needed to joke or eat, Toph needed to break something or make sarcastic remarks, Aang needed to talk or fly or move somehow. With Zuko she didn't need to pay attention or laugh or cook something or roll her eyes. It was calming sometimes, unnerving other times. At that particular moment, it was rather nice.
"So, what are you avoiding?"
"Nothing, it was just too hot. I needed some air."
"It's true! It's too crowded down there."
"What? I believe you!"
She stood up and walked out onto the grass. He unsteadily followed after her.
"I… I needed a break, you know?"
His voice was closer to her than she expected. She turned around and he was right there.
"It's all too much sometimes."
He nodded and she felt stupid – of course he knew what it was to be overwhelmed, he ran a whole country. She looked down at her shoes and saw his bare feet.
"You're not wearing any shoes."
"My feet got hot."
And then she was the one laughing.
"What? Is that weird?"
He chuckled along with her and soon there were tears in her eyes.
"I think I'm not the only one who's a little drunk."
"Shut up! If I'm drunk it's your fault, with your stupid jug."
"Hey, its not the jug's fault you can't hold your liquor."
They were shaking with laughter and she grabbed his shirt to keep from falling down. He wrapped his arms around her to steady them both. The far-away tunes changed again and unconsciously they started to sway to the sound.
Soon, the laughter ended and she suddenly felt exhausted and leaned against him.
"I just didn't feel like dancing anymore," she whispered.
He tightened his hold on her and she looked up at him.
"When did you get so tall?"
She smiled and without much thought found her lips on his. She brought up a hand to lightly to touch his jaw as he bent down to kiss her fully. He made a low noise and the hand still holding his shirt tightened its grip.
There was a loud bang and she pulled away from him abruptly. Someone had set off some fireworks early.
"I have to go. They'll be looking for me."
She turned and quickly moved towards the path but his voice stopped her.
"I've always wondered what it was like to kiss you."
She couldn't turn back to look at him but she couldn't move forward either.
"Well… now you know."
"I hope he's good."
She spun around to face him, angry and bewildered, her face scarlet.
"A woman like you needs a good lover."
She stared at him, aghast.
"You love the whole world and all of it doesn't love you back, and you accept that. That's just how it works. But there's a part of you that needs…needs to be…"
As he spoke he walked over to her and she could only watch him – paralyzed by some unrealized emotion. She was tense and quiet and just a little bit curious when she spoke.
"Recognized… Adored. You need something that's just… yours. You need a man that sees you… but he doesn't."
"He doesn't or you'd be with him right now," he felt his voice starting to rise and did his best to control it.
"He loves me."
"He loves what he can see but he doesn't see that part of you. He sees what everyone else sees. He sees you tuck in the children, sees you stirring pots, and treating scraped knees. He doesn't see the warrior or the ferocity. Doesn't see the yearning or the scars or the rage. He doesn't see your secrets."
"And you do?" She asked, incredulous.
"Well you shouldn't. You shouldn't see that sort of thing."
She was yelling now.
"You haven't the right!"
"Why not? Because I didn't save the world? Well… I… I helped… I helped with the fire… I'm important too you know, people sing out my name too."
"You think that's why… you know what, forget it, if that's what you really think… I don't need this. You're drunk. I'm leaving – try not to trip over anything."
"I want all of it. Not some. All!"
She furiously turned back to the path and ran back down to the village.
When she reached her seat she sat, poured a drink, downed it, and slammed the cup down onto table.
Gran Gran gave her a curious look.
Katara crossed her arms and stared off to the side. Pakku was conscious again but leaning heavily on Gran Gran. Toph was arm wrestling Piando. Ty Lee and Haru were furiously making out in the middle of the dance floor. Somewhere nearby she heard, "Nephew where are your shoes?"
And then Aang was in front of her, but before he could open his mouth, she snapped "Not now Aang!"
His eyes widened and he slowly backed away.
"It's hot," Pakku mumbled.
She looked over to where she'd heard Iroh's voice and saw Zuko staring at her intently.
Let me know what you think.