Forever and Always Honest
The sky had cleared from a dark gray into a mixture of gold and deep blue. The thunder and lightning had moved away from their area and the rain was drizzling to a stop, slowly following the rest of the storm north. The sun was dropping down to the line of the horizon, and in the other direction the moon was beginning to take its place in the sky. Along with the moon came Katara.
"They're here!" Aang called to Toph, who was hiding for cover from the rain under a rocky canopy. Toph darted out from her cave and ran towards Zuko and Aang as Appa landed feet from them.
Sokka was unhesitant to leap down from the bison's back and then was immediately swarmed by Toph's welcoming hug.
"Sokka!" she cheered excitedly. Sokka gave her a quick hug back before Toph could embarrassedly pull away. Next to greet him was Aang.
Katara neatly fixed up and played with Appa's reigns, not realizing she was being waited for on the ground. While she was drowning out the rest of the world with a sweet smile and a happy hum, Zuko impatiently saddled onto Appa and crawled up towards Katara.
"Hey," he breathed seductively down her back. Katara gasped unexpectedly as her cheeks flushed a light pink.
"Hi," she turned to face him.
"How'd it go?" Zuko took no time in diving in with his flow of questions. Katara had her hands placed on her hips with a triumphant and unctuous crooked smile on her face and that was more than enough for Zuko to get the picture.
"Perfect," she replied smugly.
"Good job," he complimented with a nod.
"Thanks," Katara slid off the bison's head and sat down on the slimey, damp grass and Zuko followed her tutelage. "So," she whistled off with a trail, not knowing what to say to Zuko first; there was so much rumbling around in her brain from him to decipher and pick apart. "You can lie now?" she asked, twiddling her thumbs around in circles.
"No," Zuko said straightly.
"Liar!" Katara playfully jabbed his gut, remembering how many times she did that to him at the fortune teller's house. Zuko laughed.
Before their conversation could go on any farther, Sokka, Aang and Toph joined them and sat down. Momo flew into the middle of their circle and rolled around in the grass, wanting to be apart of their meeting.
"So, Sokka," Zuko began, leaning back lazily, "good to be back?"
"Definitely," Sokka exasperated.
"What happened to you when Azula took you away?" Aang asked curiously. Everyone chimed in, just as curious.
Sokka picked something out of teeth before beginning. "For a long time she was carrying me around, threatening to beat me if I moved or said anything back…which was fine with me, I wasn't in the mood to talk."
Toph sniffed. "Sokka wasn't in the mood to talk?" She asked, amazing. Everyone laughed but Sokka.
"Ha, ha," he mumbled sarcastically. "After I realized I was being dragged around by Azula, I tried squirming and sneaking away, and she got mad so she threw me at a big tree and I hit my head on a branch and fell to the ground. The next thing I knew Katara was there fighting her."
"That's right," Katara chirruped. "And when I finally got Sokka onto Appa, I flew a little's way away from Azula and then healed his head," she paused, thinking, "wait-- what actually happened to your head, anyway?"
"I was busy being heroic," her brother replied simply, winking in Aang and Toph's direction. The two giggled to themselves. "So what happened to you and this one while everyone was gone?" he pointed to Zuko.
Katara and Zuko shared glances and, satisfied with not having to blurt out the truth anyway, kept quiet and waited for someone else to share or change the subject.
"Apparently for the past four days they've been cursed into not lying and the only way to get un-cursed it to tell your biggest secret and apparently their biggest secret is loving each other," Toph said, as if it were a completely normal explanation.
"Oh, that's cool-- WHAT?" Sokka whipped towards Katara. "You love Zuko?" He screamed. He turned to Zuko. "You love my sister?"
Zuko wiped Sokka's spit off his cheek and cringed at the though of Sokka being that close to his face, praying it'd never happen again.
"Back off!" Zuko crossed his arms defiantly.
"Yeah, Sokka," Aang started. His voice had gotten lower and more serious and Zuko could smell the angst and sadness weighing down on Aang's shoulders. "No matter what you do or say you can't stop them from loving each other." His voice had a certain jealous and angry tone in it.
Catching on, Katara sighed in disheartenment. "Aang--" she began softly, finally beginning to feel sad and guilty.
Aang shook his head, "It's fine, really," he implored, standing up and walking away. His stormy exit had hard, loud footsteps that didn't belong to the Twinkle Toes Toph was used to hearing.
"What's with him?" she asked.
"I don't know," Zuko played dumb, "but I'll go find out." Zuko stood up and followed Aang.
"Hey," Zuko approached him.
"Hi." His legs were curled up to his chest and his chin was resting between his knees. Aang didn't seem too willing to talk at the moment.
"Listen, I understand why you're upset," Zuko began.
"No," Aang curtailed, "you don't."
"I do so; you like Katara and you're sad and upset-- maybe even a little angry-- she doesn't like you back the same way."
"Sure, rub it in," all emotion had been drained from his quiet voice.
"I'm not trying to," Zuko insisted, "I'm on your side."
"You don't know what it feels like," Aang told him, staring down at his feet.
"I want to, though."
"No you don't," Aang said, "it's a terrible, sick-to-your-stomach feeling and no one should ever have to go through this."
Zuko licked his lips. "You don't either."
"I can't stop liking Katara! I've been trying to do that since I met her and it hasn't worked yet and--"
"That's not what I meant," Zuko interrupted. Aang looked over at him. "You're my friend. You're Katara's friend," Aang cringed at the thought of being 'just friends', "and I don't want you to be sad. So if you don't want Katara and I to be together," he paused with a sigh, regretting what he said next before even speaking, "then we won't be."
Aang let Zuko's words seep into his skin before he realized what he had truly just said. Aang swallowed the dry lump in his throat and thought of Katara's shining, smiling face and a gentle smile smeared onto Aang's.
"Zuko," Aang said, "you have to be with her! I just want Katara to be happy and if she's happy with you then that's all that matters."
"No. If I'm with Katara then you'll be sad."
"No," Aang corrected, "I'll be sad if she's sad. You'll be sad if you're not with her. Toph and Sokka will have no one to laugh at their jokes then they'll be sad. Sad! Sad! Sad!" Aang stomped his foot down as if he were a young child having a temper tantrum.
Zuko arched his eyebrow at Aang. "I'm getting the feeling you want Katara and I to be together?"
"Yes!" Aang shrieked, dramatically throwing his hands up in the air. "Of course you should be with her! Do you want to make everyone sad and upset for the rest of their lives! How could you be so selfish, you jerk!"
Zuko leaned away from the yelling Avatar. "Okay, okay," he mumbled, "just stop yelling!" Aang calmed down and gave Zuko his blessings with an approving, wide smile and thumbs up. Zuko humored him with a cheesy smile and weak thumbs up in return.
After a few more minutes of one-on-one guy talking, they agreed to agree on the subject and rejoin the rest of their friends.
The gang all sat around for a little while longer, catching up on their few days apart, laughing, joking, discussing the future of the group,and Aang's upcoming training sessions with Katara, Zuko and Toph. The sun swam along the edge of the horizon as the moon crept up from the other direction, putting the last few chirping birds to sleep for the night. The sky was golden and gray, making a striking sky. Sokka had taken Toph fishing for dinner and Aang tagged along to practice some water bending, leaving Zuko and Katara alone at last.
"So," Zuko slid his arm over her shoulder in a nonchalant manner, "Azula put up a good fight?"
"I guess so," Katara bit her lip. "Zuko, I--"
Zuko wasted no time in curbing her sentence, pressing his lips against hers passionately. Katara rolled the back of her hand onto Zuko's neck before grabbing it securely, squeezing his chest closer onto hers. Katara leaned back, Zuko on top.
"Katara," Zuko lifted hip lips from hers with a gasp. Katara's hand slithered over Zuko's cheek, rubbing it lighting, gradually slipping her fingers over his soft lips.
"Yes?" She whispered back.
Zuko reached for her hands and scooped them up into his.
"Katara," he began, "just because we aren't cursed anymore doesn't me we need to go back to being dishonest. Please always be honest with me," he pleaded.
"Of course I will," Katara soothed, her lips meeting Zuko's ear, "forever and always," she gently kissed his ear.
"Forever and always," Zuko repeated, trusting her words. "No secrets, no holding back."
Katara foxily chuckled. "Trust me, Zuko," she grabbed the cloth covering his shoulders and crushed her chest back against his, "I'll never hold back." Katara closed her eyes and smashed her lips against his, ruffling up his hair in the meantime.
Just then, a light footstep lightly crunched down on the grass next to Katara's ear and her eyes shot open quickly. She groaned lightly and shut her eyes again, the bight, yellow sun directly in front of her. She covered her eyes from the sun with her hand and blinked a few times with another soft grumble.
"Zuko?" she whispered in a mutter, dazed and confused, wondering why he wasn't still pressed against her.
Katara blinked again and licked her dry lips, striving for Zuko's. She looked around at the dry landscape and all her sleeping friends. Aang was curled up on Appa's tail, Sokka was snuggled deep beneath his thick blanket and sleeping bag, and Toph had her feet and head perched up on uncomfortable looking rocks. She figured that was normal behavior for an earth bender.
"Zuko?" she mumbled again, sitting up, her eyes frantically searching everywhere for him.
Zuko was drifting past Aang and Sokka and Appa and Momo. His footsteps were so light even Toph didn't wake up. He cautiously dipped his feet into the cool water of the creek and fish obsessively swam away from him.
'What is he doing?' Katara asked herself, silently sprouting up and approaching him, 'what's going on? Why is everyone sleeping but Zuko? Wasn't I just kissing him?'
"Zuko?" She asked once more, standing feet from him. Zuko looked over at her, confused and surprised she was up so early. Normally, he was the only one awake at this hour. This was his alone time and he loved and needed it.
"What are you doing awake so early?" he asked her quickly, his voice an octave higher than usual.
"So early?" Katara repeated, "It was just night time. Zuko, what's going on?"
Zuko arched his eyebrow crossly. "What are you talking about, Katara?" he asked, just as puzzled as Katara looked. "Are you okay?"
Katara nodded slowly, her vision doubling for a moment or two before she blinked.
"It was just overcast and rainy. And we were all awake and spread out. I had just got back with Sokka from fighting Azula, remember?" she looked at Zuko like he was loosing his mind, but Zuko was positively sure it was her that was wrong.
"Are you sure it wasn't just a dream, Katara?" Zuko asked her.
Katara's throat closed up and she quickly dejected Zuko's suggestion, not bearing that possible fact of reality. She shook her head vigorously.
"You don't remember?" Katara asked him in awe, Zuko still quizzical and slightly worried about her mental state, "Azula had captured Sokka so I went to save him!"
Zuko scoffed and began to play along with her story. He lazily crossed his arms. "Oh really? Why weren't Toph, Aang and I there with you?"
"I said I wanted to do it alone," she looked into his shiny hazel eyes, "and you said you believed in me and that I didn't need any back up. That I could take her on myself," her voice got quieter and quieter as she talked.
"Katara, Azula never captured Sokka. He's fine, see?" Zuko pointed at her snoring brother, sprawled out under wool blankets and a pillow over half his face. "Everyone's fine."
"But you," Zuko touched her hand and began dragging her back towards her sleeping bag, "I'm not so sure you're fine. Katara I think you need more sleep. You're talking crazy."
Katara huffed and snatched her arm away.
"I'm telling the truth!" Katara protested. Zuko put a finger to his lip, signaling her to be quiet so the others wouldn't wake up. "I'm telling the truth!" she whispered to him. "Don't you remember the honesty curse?"
"Honesty curse?" Zuko said flatly, not covering up his disbelief in Katara.
"You and I were cursed to be one hundred percent honest until we admitted our deepest darkest secrets!" Katara paused and thought about her shouting to their friends that she had a crush on Zuko, and Zuko screaming on the top of his lungs 'I love you' to her. "You don't remember?" she squeaked, tears beginning to poke at her eyes.
"I don't remember it because you dreamt it, Katara," Zuko's posture loosened up, his concern and confusion dying down quickly. Zuko went back to soaking his feet in the river. He fell back onto the bright green grass and shut his eyes, letting the sunlight spill onto his face.
Katara let a tear slip out from her eye.
"I dreamt it," she told herself, almost as a scold to her mind for playing such a dirty trick on her fantasies and her fragile heart. "I didn't happen." Katara fell to her side and angrily dug her fingers into the dirt letting the gritty ground fill up underneath her clean fingernails. She choked back a sob, Zuko kissing her repeatedly flashing in her mind over and over again. The more she thought of it the more she recognized the reality.
It was all in her head.
"Katara," she heard Zuko's sweet voice call her name. Katara stood up sparingly and managed to trudge over towards him, her knees weak and face tear stained. Every move she took was a big, fat, reminder of lying with Zuko in the rain, kissing. She felt mocked by her own day dreams. The closer she got to him, the more clearly she saw him playing with something small and delicate looking. He was twirling it around in his fingers tips, being very ginger and light with it. 'What is that?'
A little yellow flower.
Katara sat down next to him, then fell onto her back. She looked over at the small piece of nature Zuko was stroking with his finger. "Pretty flower," she reported, eyeing at the flower identical to the one in her 'dream'. Katara was angry at herself for playing such a dirty trick on her heart.
"It's yellow," Zuko stated the obvious and Katara unsure why, "a primary color," he went on.
"Yeah," she played along, still unsure of why he was talking like this, "just like red and blue."
Zuko chuckled, leaning his arm against hers. Katara stared at the red cloth of his shirt meshing with the blue cloth of hers before she finally understood why he was saying such things. She smiled softly.
Zuko went back to looking at the delicate flower. "I think yellow goes a lot better with blue than it does red," Zuko sat up half way and curled Katara's hair behind her ear as she blushed the deepest pink she ever had before. He tucked the little yellow flower in her hair and sat back, admiring his work. "Perfect."
Katara blushed, "Thanks, Zuko," she mumbled under her breath, trying to hide her blush. From the corner of her eye she saw Zuko smile sweetly and she only blushed harder, but still smiled back.
"So you had a dream that you and I were cursed into honesty and that my sister kidnapped Sokka?" he asked, almost like he were laughing at the thought.
Each piece of the dream Zuko had missed rushed into Katara's mind. "Pretty much," she stated, smacking her lips together. As Zuko said it out loud, the more impossible and silly the entire situation sounded to Katara. She felt like an idiot. And even worse, the dream made her vulnerable to falling in love. She hated that right now. Now more than ever.
"So how did you and I get out of the honesty curse?"
Katara mashed her teeth down on her tongue. "I don't remember," she lied, feeling somewhat comforted by that lie.
"Oh," Zuko breathed, sounding slightly disappointed.
"I remember it felt nice to be honest, though," she went on, "to have someone I don't lie to or keep secrets from."
Zuko rested his head on his crossed arms. "I suppose it would," he said slowly, his eyelids sloping down.
'Forever and always honest,' Katara thought, 'he said it in the dream. Don't break a promise, Katara, even one in a dream.' she told herself, the sillyness of the dream draining from her bones and the reality and feeling of the dream rebooting her system. In just one moment she went to feeling like an idiot and ashamed to feeling amazing and lovely. She was beginning to confuse herself.
"Forever and always," she whispered aloud. She turned to Zuko, who was enjoying the sunlight kissing his smooth face. "Forever and always!" She told him, exclaiming. Zuko opened his eyes and turned to her
"What was that?" he asked, puzzled.
"Forever and always," she huffed. "Forever and always honest."
Zuko became flushed pink. "I-I don't understand."
"I always want to be honest with you, Zuko," she confirmed, brushing her fingers against his "always honest."
"Okay," Zuko drifted off, a bit confused. "I've always been pretty honest with you so far," he said before rethinking his words, "well-- since I've joined your group, at least," he corrected himself, his mind reliving the past.
"Can I start now?" Katara asked, pulling him from his flashbacks. Her lungs and heart were drumming quick, short pounds in her chest. She felt her blood turn to sludge and her stomach was suffocated by butterflies.
"Sure," he shrugged.
"Good." Katara looked down and inhaled a deep breath, preparing for embarrassment and anticipating a permanent painted blush on her cheeks.
"I want to tell you my deepest, darkest secret."
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