It was another boring, hot, dry, summer day, and Zuko was bored out of his mind. He had no interest in video games when his room was one hundred degrees. The chores were done, and he was sick of lying around. So his solution was to lie half naked on the concrete floor of his basement/TV room. Just as he was about to start a Blue Spirit marathon, his favorite show, a loud banging came from the door upstairs.
"Finally, somethings happening" Zuko whispered to himself as he got up from the floor. As he was walking up the stairs the banging on the door came again.
"Zuko? Are you in there? Come to the door!" the unmistakable voice of his neighbor Katara yelled over the knocking of her fist.
"What is it?" he asked opening the door.
Katara stood on the other side. She had her hair in a hundred braids all pulled back in a ponytail. For a top she had a blue bikini and for bottoms she had denim shorts. Zuko did a double take.
"Sokka was wondering if you wanted to go to the lake with us?" she asked uncomfortably.
They had never been on the best of terms. The day he moved here when he was five he had made friends with Sokka, and they had gotten into a mud fight. Katara who had been wondering what was going on outside had gotten hit with Zuko's mud ball when Sokka ducked. That marked the beginning of a rivalry that had lasted for quite some time. Right now they were in a truce. This was the reason she was uncomfortable, or at least that's what Zuko thought.
The truth was she was trying not to stare at his naked chest.
"Sure" Zuko replied going to grab some swim trunks and a towel.
They all met at the lake. Lake Unagi was about a half mile away from Zuko's house and is the home to the Unagi. Sort of like the Lockness Monster, the Unagi is supposed to be a giant underwater serpent. Sokka used to scare Zuko and Katara out of the water by telling them Unagi stories. Of course by now they had grown out of that, but the lake was still a hangout for many of the neighborhood's kids.
When they got there they found the lake uncharacteristically empty.
"Maybe the Unagi got them" Sokka whispered to Zuko
"Or they could be on vacation" Katara said rolling her eyes and smiling.
"Last one to the Tree is a rotten egg" Sokka shouted after sulking for a moment. They all sprinted to the Tree, Sokka with a slight lead. The Tree was the only tree with branches long enough to jump into the deep parts of the water.
Sokka climbed up the tree with Zuko and Katara right behind him. He ran out the length out the branch and cannonballed out into the lake. Katara having pulled ahead of Zuko ran across the branch turning around at the last minute to stick her tongue out at Zuko and jumped off. Zuko being more cautious than the siblings walked out across the branch, waited for everyone to clear away, and then executed a perfect dive into the lake.
Just as they made it back to shore to go up the tree again Azula and Ty Lee arrived at the lake.
"Hey Guys!" Ty lee shouted waving
"Hey!" Katara shouted back running up to meet them, or should I say Ty Lee. No one was on really good terms with Azula except for Ty lee.
Zuko and Sokka did another run on the tree while the girls laid out towels on the beach.
"You done already?" Sokka said to Katara while walking up to the girls with Zuko.
"I'm just talking with my friends" Katara retorted sitting up on her towel to give Sokka room to sit down.
"Zula can I share with you?" Zuko asked
"Get your own towel Zuzu" Azula said still sunning on her towel making Zuko scowl.
"You can share with me!" Ty lee said a little too eagerly
"Um ok" Zuko said sitting down awkwardly.
The group stayed at the lake for the rest of the day chatting and swimming. The sun started to get lower and lower until it rested on the horizon while the teens sat on the beach.
"Hey guys we should be getting back. It's going to be dark." Katara pointed out
"Before we go" Azula said speaking up "why don't we have a competition?"
"Ok" Sokka said always the competitor
"It's simple, whoever can jump off the highest branch wins" Azula said examining her nails.
"Sounds fun. Katara are you playing?" Sokka asked
"I don't know. I'm kind of tired." Katara said
"Scared Zuko will beat you?"
"You're on" Katara said marching towards the tree
"We'll be sitting out" Azula said still sitting on the beach with Ty lee.
"Suit yourself" Zuko said walking after the others.
Sokka picked a branch three quarters of the way up the tree and jumped off. Zuko not to be out done went two branches higher. Then it was Katara's turn. She went two more branches higher than Zuko.
"Isn't that too high? The branches look thin." Zuko said to Sokka
"Nah she'll be fine . . . I think" Sokka said not so convincingly
Just then they heard a creaking sound. The branch snapped and Katara fell . Zuko watched in horror as she plummeted. Their gazes locked for a moment, and then Katara hit another branch knocking her out. Zuko started to sprint into the lake with Sokka still frozen behind him. Katara hit the water on her back knocking the air out of her. She started to sink. She stopped eight feet down on the bottom of the lake. Zuko sucked in a big mouthful of air and dove down.
The water was murky, filled with algae and silt. Feeling around with his hands on the bottom he found nothing for a few terrifying seconds. Then his hand hit something, her foot. With one arm under her back and one under her knees he lifted her out of the water and swam her to the surface bridal style. When he could stand on the bottom he shook her shoulders gently.
"Come on Katara wake up. You beat me. Gloat, say something!" Zuko said desperately
"Ow . . ." came the faint reply immediately followed by her coughing up water
Smiling faintly and relieved Zuko carried her to the shallows and set her gently on her feet.
"You scared me" Zuko whispered to her
"Thanks" she replied faintly unable to break gazes with him
Their faces were very close Zuko realized. He wanted to kiss her. She looked like she wanted to be kissed. He leaned in a little . . .
"Katara! Are you ok!" Sokka said running over having finally snapped out of it
Zuko backed off while Sokka bear hugged his sister. Katara leaned into Sokka letting him support her wait while he babbled on about how he was worried, but Katara couldn't hear him she just heard Zuko's voice in her head
"You scared me"