And here we are for Day 2! Everybody, please enjoy the continuing Zutara saga!
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender
Prompt: When I grow up
" So where did you were going again?"
" Just out for a little while."
" Yeah, but out where exactly?"
" Just a little sightseeing, maybe some shopping. I have to go get Ty Lee, now that I think about it. We can go gift shopping together."
" Good, luck, she's like, glued to Cloak-and-Dagger these days."
" That's unfair, Toph. Ty Lee and Mai are friends."
" Yeah right, Snoozles, that's what they want you to think."
" Toph, hun, not everything is a conspiracy."
" It is in my world, War Paint."
" But your world...your world is scary, Toph."
" What kind of warrior are you, Snoozy?"
" Now, now, Toph. You are pretty intimidating."
" I'm just saying that you have...a knack for freaking people out."
" Was that a compliment or an insult?"
" Answer carefully, Suki."
" C'mon, Sokka, I am the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors. I do have preservation instincts."
" Compliment, definitely."
" Good, because if it was an insult, I'd have to knock your nose off, and that would be a shame, since I like you."
" Is this one of those girl things that we men can never understand?"
" So I should just stop trying to figure out how you two became friends."
" That might be best honey."
" Listen to War Paint. She's got a brain under all that make-up."
" It's mandatory."
" I never said it wasn't cool."
" You don't even know what it looks like."
" I can imagine Sokka. Geez."
" That really wasn't the nicest thing to say, honey."
" I mean, do you need to go out of your way to point out that I'm blind, or that I can never really know what any of you look like."
" How untactful."
" I feel kinda...like I wanna go home."
" Sokka, apologize!"
" But...! I-! That's not-!"
" Oh, Toph, do you need a hug?"
" Yeah. Yeah, I think I do."
" Okay, that's it! I'm calling bullshit on this!"
" ...Well, crap. He got us."
" Ah, it was fun while it lasted."
" Nice acting War Paint."
" Thanks. Espionage and undercover work were only a small part of the training we underwent."
" I really need to visit the Island more."
" We'd love to have you."
" Are you two ignoring me?"
" I'm sorry, did you say something?"
" How long have you been there, Snoozles?"
" You two are so cruel."
" Oh, come on, Sokka. You know I love you."
" How about you remind me?"
" Ew! Spirits, there's a kid standing right next to you!"
" Sorry, Toph. But you know...sometimes, you can't resist."
" Wait until you're a little older and in love."
" If I ever get like that, I'm asking Sparky to roast me."
" Aw, then who will help me gang up on Sokka?"
" I'm sure you can take him on all by yourself."
" I'm standing right here!"
" Yes, but it's so much more fun when you have a partner in crime."
" Seriously, I can hear everything you two are saying."
" I suppose so."
" Stop ignoring me!"
" So don't go asking Zuko to do anything stupid. He wouldn't do it anyway. He likes you too much."
" Not to mention that my sister would rip him a new one."
" Yeah, there's that. Katara's pretty scary too."
" Sugar Queen has her moments."
" Well, I've got to get going. Those presents won't buy themselves."
" See ya War Paint."
" Bye Suki."
" Ah! Child! Right here! Stop!"
" You'll understand one day."
" I don't want to! Never! Never, never, never, Snoozles! War Paint! Quit swapping spit, or you'll be late!"
" Oh shi-shoot! Shoot! I've got to go! Bye Toph! Bye honey!"
" Later Suki!"
" You can swear in front of me War Paint. I've probably heard worse-and she's gone."
" ...Want to go cheat some cheaters out of their money?"
" As tempting as that sounds," Sokka was still staring idly off into space, and didn't catch the sarcasm in her tone, " I've got some other plans. Maybe tomorrow."
" Okay, sure-" Sokka stopped dead, eyeing the short, blind girl suspiciously. " Wait, what plans?"
The only answer he got was a mysterious, and rather chilling grin.
" Oh, just some plans."
Zuko grumbled as he balanced the trio of large, creamy pies in one hand, holding the handle of a burlap sack filled with fruit tarts in the other. He shifted his weight from side to side, trying to compensate for the pies, which, though fewer in number, where so stuffed full of fruits and creams and set in heavy, wooden dishes, severely outweighed the lighter and less stuffed tarts.
" You okay there?" Katara asked, holding her two fruit pies in one hand (with such an amount of ease that Zuko had to wonder if she hadn't done this sort of thing before.). She'd taken out a length of rope from one place or another (Zuko had been too busy trying to keep the pies upright after an embarrassing stumble over a pebble that he hadn't seen – he was well aware that the waterbender at his side was never going to let him live that move down – exactly where the rope had come from), and swiftly tied the handles of her own sack (containing cherry tarts for Aang) together, and then tied the rest of the rope around her waist. It was an ingenious method, Zuko could admit, but it left her looking calm and collected as she walked while he bounced and swayed at her side, trying very hard to keep the pies from toppling over and splattering both him and Katara in multi-coloured goo.
" Just peachy." He said through gritted teeth, leaning back to catch the teetering pie and swing it back up onto the top of this little tower.
" Speaking of peach..." She looked off to the side, and Zuko tried very hard not to let his eyes linger on the exposed column of her brown neck. " I can't believe they were out of straw-peach fruit pies."
" Well, what did you expect, it being the Chun Festival after all." She gave him a blank look. Zuko blew a dangling piece of hair out of his eyes, and continued. " The Chun Festival is the Festival of Spring, or the Festival of Rebirth. During the week long celebrations, everyone in the Earth Kingdom eats dishes made with straw-peach fruits."
" Well, straw-peach fruits are supposed to be the symbols of spring and longevity. Eating them at this time is supposed to bring you a long life filled with happiness." Zuko smile wryly. " But personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that straw-peach fruits are in season this time of year." He looked over at Katara, expecting to find her smirking at his cynicism, and rolling her eyes at the legends surrounding the fruits.
She wasn't smirking.
She was staring off into the distance, her eyes wide, but not taking in anything, impossibly blue against the dark of her face. Her mouth was parted slightly, and a faint blush (almost invisible, but Zuko had keen eyes – despite the damages of the scar – and was tuned specifically into the mood shifts and body languages of Katara) bled onto her cheeks.
Zuko bit his lip, and hoisted up the bag of tarts that was starting to slip through his fingers.
" Katara?" His voice was tentative.
" Hmm?" She hummed distractedly. She turned to look at him, blinked, and then seemed to remember where she was. " I...sorry. We don't...Festivals at the South Pole are...there aren't many. And after..." She looked away. " After Dad left we just...we didn't have them anymore." Zuko looked away too, hearing the words that he knew would never leave her mouth, but hung in the air between them like rain.
" After the Fire Nation attacked."
They continued on in uncomfortable silence, the shuffling of their shoes in the dirt and the clacking the wooden dishes that held the pies the only noise between them. Every now and then, Katara would look up at Zuko, her expression pained, open her mouth to say something, and then stop. Her eyes would turn back to the ground, and her mouth would close quickly, as thought she were afraid of even letting the words out.
They arrived at a large, cream coloured villa with two characters written on the door. Katara paused to read them.
" Shui...Yin..." She sounded out. Zuko walked past her in an odd sort of shuffle, trying to keep the pies balanced.
" It means mercury."
Katara jumped, yelping as one pie flew out of her hands and flipped over in the air. She managed to hold onto the second pie even as she forced her feet to dig into the ground and hold her up right. Lamenting the loss of the bananalon cream, she gripped the orange-plum flake closer to her side and turned to see the damage done by the wayward dessert.
It was resting, quite undamaged, on the perfectly still, sole to the air foot of Ty Lee, who had stopped mid-back flip (her other leg was still frozen, half extended down to stabilize her landing, and she used it to balance her body as her arms were still planted on the ground) to catch it.
The circus performer grinned in delight.
" Hi Katara!" She chirped, raising up one arm (and using the other one to keep herself off the ground) and waved enthusiastically. Katara returned the gesture with a little less pep, beginning to feel dizzy from just looking at the angles the runaway noble had managed to get her body into.
" Hey, Ty Lee."
" You're going to drop that pie in a second." Mai said in the same monotone voice she'd used to surprise Katara. There was, however, an upward curl of her lips and a twinkle in her golden eyes as Ty Lee stuck her tongue out at her.
" Will not!" The acrobat brought her hand back down to rest on the ground next to the other one. " I can keep this up all day." She pulled her leg back and then dropped the pie in between her two feet. Once she had a secure grip on the pie, she walked smoothly forward on her hands, stopping in front of Katara, and smiling. " Here you go!"
Katara grinned back weakly.
" Thanks." She took the bananalon from Ty Lee's feet. Once free of the burden, the girl threw her weight against her hand, pushed herself off the ground, and flipped once before landing with her feet together, arms extending and sparkle in her eyes.
" Ta-da!" She announced. Katara giggled a little, and Mai rolled her eyes, turning to Zuko, who had been watching the goings-on with a little half-smile on his face.
" Show off." She huffed, looking her boyfriend. " How was the market?"
" Not as busy as I expected." He held the sack out to her. " Here, you fruit tarts."
She took it, not meeting his eyes. Zuko kept his smile up, the strain of it beginning to hurt his cheeks.
" No problem."
" Ooh! Pies!"
With a whoosh of air Ty Lee came flipping over to the couple, her eyes fixated on the three pies in Zuko's arms.
" Lessee, lessee..." She took the two top ones off. " Pineapricot and lemon-plum, yum!" Resting one pie on the flat of each hand, she hugged Zuko tightly. " Thanks Zusie!"
Katara couldn't help it. She snorted.
" 'Zusie'?" She looked at him. Zuko blushed.
" Shut up." He muttered.
" 'Zusie'?" The Water Tribe girl pressed.
" Well, 'Zuzu' was already taken." Ty Lee pouted. " That's what Azula called him, so I had to come up with my own nickname."
" Toph calls him Sparky." Katara said, more loudly than she would have had Zuko not been frantically motioning for her to stop talking behind both of the Fire Nation girls' backs. Both girls turned to look at him just as he was flapping his arms in desperate circles, his eyes pleading for Katara to stop. He froze as the girls looked at him. Mai quirked an eyebrow. Ty Lee blinked in confusion. Katara smirked and tilted her head towards him, a move he hadn't seen since their long-ago battle at the North Pole (Your move, Zuko).
She quickly composed himself, pulling his arms back to his sides, and looking away, angling his bangs so that they covered his pink cheeks.
" 'Sparky'?" Ty Lee blinked again, her confused face slowing fading to a bright grin.
" Shut up." Zuko muttered through his hair.
" 'Sparky'." Mai shook her head. " Leave it to Miss Bei Fong."
" Aw, I like Toph. She's so cute when she's being all tough! Like a tiger-wolf kitten!" Ty Lee gushed. " Oh! We should invite her to go to the Festival with us tonight."
" Ty, I don't think-" Mai started, but Ty Lee had already darted over to Katara, her hands clasped together and her entire body quivering with delight.
" Kat, could you as Toph if she wants to come with us to the Festival tonight? Could you, could you, could you?" Ty Lee bounced up and down. " It'd be s much fun! And you can come too! And The Avatar and Momo and- Oh!" Her eyes were almost gleaming now, and Katara took a step back, twitching nervously. " How's your brother doing, Katara."
" He's thinking of proposing to Suki." Katara said firmly, steely look in her eyes. Ty Lee seemed to deflate at that.
" Oh." She perked up. " But it'd still be great if he could come. He could even bring-" her chipper voice was a little strained here- " Suki if he wants. She's nice too!"
" I'll see if they want-" Katara glanced over at Zuko for help to get away from the bubbly girl in pink, but cut herself off as she took in the scene before her.
Zuko was standing, his shoulders rigid (it was a decent enough distance between them, but Katara was so used to reading Zuko's movements – an instinct that had come to life during the time when a tensing of his shoulder meant that Zuko was about two seconds away from firing a blast of fire at her – that even the slightest twitch on his face was a plain as day to her) and his fist clenched, looking at Mai. There was a heat (unfriendly, dark, not unlike the way he'd looked at her that first day they'd met in ice and snow and war)in his eyes as he stared at her. Mai wasn't looking at him, but the glare she directed at the ground made Katara surprised that the grass beneath her feet hadn't burst into flames. Her arms were crossed, and, Katara had to squint to make it out, the hand gripping her elbow had white knuckles.
" You didn't have to." Mai said, and her tone implied that rather than feeling flattered by the apparent extra attention Zuko had given her, she was annoyed.
" I just wanted to do something nice for you." Zuko said, exasperated. " I even asked for seedless pomegranate."
" But I don't like pies."
" Couldn't you just pretend? For me?"
" I'm not going to act like I like something when I don't. You'd just run off and buy more of them and waste money."
" Agni, Mai." Zuko ran a hand through his hair. " I just wanted to do something special for you. You could at least act like the thought mattered."
" Let's not do this now."
" Oh, of course, let's just shove it aside, like we always do."
Mai rounded on him.
" Don't take that tone with me, Zuko."
Whatever the Fire Lord's reply was, Katara didn't hear, it, because Ty Lee looped an arm around her and started leading her out the door, chattering on about what to wear to the Festival.
" We're going to see the annual play, The Hidden Poet." Ty Lee squeezed her arm. " So dress up, alright?"
" Ty Lee, what was-" Katara looked back as she was almost dragged out the door of the villa, her face puzzled. Ty Lee gave her another squeeze.
" Oh that's nothing! Just a little tiff they're having." She laughed, and even Katara could tell it was fake. " You know how young love is. I'm sure you and The Avatar have your spats all the time."
Katara blinked, trying to recall a time she and Aang ever fought. He usually deferred to her, but if they disagreed...
The image of him soaring away at the Western Air Temple popped into her head.
" So I'll see you and the rest tonight!" Ty Lee gave her a slap on the back. " Meet us by the statue of the First King, okay?"
" Ty..." Katara looked over the girl's shoulder into the yard of the villa. Ty Lee noticed her gaze and sighed, placing one hand very gently on the waterbender's shoulder.
" Don't worry about it, okay? They get like this all the time nowadays." She offered the other girl a smile. " It'll all blow over."
" But..." Somehow, the look in Mai and Zuko's eyes didn't offer the positive results Ty Lee seemed so sure were going to happen. The acrobat gave a slight shove to her shoulder.
" Sometimes, you just gotta let these things run their course, ya know?"
" You followed her."
" And you didn't know?"
" Oh, she knew, don't worry. War Paint led me on so many wild goose chases around the city I was starting to get dizzy."
" Why do you think I was so late, Senpai? I was trying to shake her."
" If I'd been anybody else, War Paint woulda lost me after five minutes."
" I guess I could let you off the hook...this is still a serious violation though."
" How so?"
" Doll-face, this club doesn't exist outside of the members. You're not even supposed to know about it."
" But I do know."
" Yeah, come to think of it, why does she know?"
" Are you saying I'm not good enough to get in, War Paint?"
" No, of course not. Why would you even think that?"
" Play nice with the other kids, Doll-face."
" I was just saying that I thought there were strict rules that had to be followed to even know about the Black Lotus Ops."
" There are. You need to be a certain age, have serious recommendations, and pass a certain number of tests before you start your mentoring period, which lasts four to eight months, depending on the trainer and the trainee. If you pass that, then the hard stuff begins."
" Exactly. So how does Toph even know about it."
" Because I'm just that awesome."
" Doll-face is a...special case."
" See? I'm special."
" Will we be taking her along with us, Senpai?"
" Of course you're taking me along!"
" I dunno. She's still just a kid. Might get too hairy out there for her."
"Didn't you say this was a safe zone?"
" I'm coming whether you like it or not!"
" Quiet, Doll. The big kids are talking. Yeah, I did. Why?"
" Well, wouldn't it be safe for her? Especially if you and I were with her."
" I can take care of myself just fine thank you!"
" I dunno..."
" Hey!" Toph stamped her foot impatiently. The earth rippled out from under her, drawing the attention of Jun and Suki, the latter of who looked at her as a big sister might look at a younger sibling who just interrupted an important conversation. Jun merely leaned back against the wall of the alley the three girls had ducked into to discuss how to proceed, and regarded Toph casually through one half-lidded eye. Toph exhaled heavily through her nose and clenched her fists.
" I'm coming with you." She said simply. Jun raised an eyebrow.
" And if I say you can't." Suki looked at her mentor sharply. Toph smirked.
" I'll dog your steps until you agree to let me stay." She tapped her foot lightly. " I can track you everywhere you go, whether you like it or not. You can't get rid of me."
Out of the corner of her eye, Jun saw Suki pinch the bridge of her nose to ward off an impending headache. The woman, though the youngest girl couldn't see, mirrored the earthbender's smirk.
" I like your spunk, kid." She pushed off the wall. " Suki, congratulations. You now have a little sister for this mission."
" Senpai?" Suki followed after her, not even having to look as she placed a hand on Toph's shoulder to keep the younger girl from running off. Toph scowled, but didn't try to remove the hand.
" If the Grand Lotus asks," Jun's smile was just a little bit wicked, " we're gathering information on our clients."
" Clients?" Toph asked. Jun looked at her appraisingly.
" Tell me, what do you know about the relationship between Prince Pouty and the Peasant Princess?"
Hello again everyone! Today, I bring the hyper ball of joy that is Ty Lee, the tension (and not the good, sexy, Zutara kind) that is Maiko, and the stubborn determinion that is Toph. And the awesomeness that is Ju, but does that even need to be said anymore? Did it ever?
With the prompts, this year, I am trying to work a little more symbolism into the stories, which means that the pies were not chosen at random. Congrats to kittydemon18, who suggested pomegranate for Mai, and xyzisme, who thought that cherry would suit Aang (and described them in a way that had me snickering) Send me a quick sketch for a self insert, and I'll see to it that you two show up for the seventh day of the Chun Festival, with more than one plan up your sleeves.
Now, for the pies.
Katara's pies are Orange-plum and Bananalon (She bought tarts for Aang, and the pies were a good deal.
Orange is a fruit often offered at Chinese temples, and symbolizes a wish for good fortune.
Plum blossoms are the symbol of a young woman.
Bananalon (this pie is meant for Aang, but can be for Katara as well) is a combination of Banana and Melon.
Banana leaves are sacred to scholars in China (that's what the site said, anyway), and a banana is a wish for education and brilliance in work/school.
Melon means family unity.
Ty Lee's pies are Pineapricot and Lemon-plum.
Pineappeles are the feng shui symbol for wealth, fortune and prosperity. (it sounds liek Ty Lee, doesn't it?)
Apricots are the symbols of beautiful women. If a wife gives a red apricot to her husband, it means she is having a love affair.
Lemon symbolizes longevity, purity, love and friendship. Since Ty Lee risked everythig to help Mai on the Boiling Rock, I thought the friendship thing would be perfect for her.
And finally, Mai' pie is Pomegranate.
Pomegranate is the symbol of marriage to the Romans, and is featured in the legend of Hades and Persephone. The seeds represent fertility. Notice that Mai prefers seedless pomegranates. Zuko specifically got her a pomegranate pie, but since she doesn't like the seed, it implies that she doesn't want anything to come of their relationship.
Chun is Chinese for Spring. The Chinese New Year is often called 'The Spring Festival'.
Mercury for Mai's last name because it is silver, like her daggers, and very dangerous, like her. (Mai Shui Yin. It sounds cool, I think).
Mai and Zuko are both at fault for the state their relationship is in. Zuko is too passionate and Mai isn't passionate enough. Mai doesn't want to talk about things (as seen in the show. She always just kisses Zuko, and expects that to solve everything), and Zuko refuses to give her the space she needs to get her head on straight, because he wants to solves things here and now, instead of waiting for it to simmer down, and talk when they're both calmer. Both are at fault.
The Hidden Poet is based after the Japanese Noh play, Sekidera Komachi, performed during the Tanabata Festival, or the Festival of the Stars. It's about the famous poet Ono no Komachi, who has become old and lost her beauty. She is visited by the Abbot of Sekidera, two priests and a child, who inspire her again. She laments how far she has fallen and thinks about life in general. Look it up on Wikipedia.
That's all I can think of- oh wait!
Cherries are the symbol of merrymaking and festivity. They suit Aang because he always wants to have fun and is very happy, but shoves his responsibilities to the side. And as xyzisme said, cherry tarts are 'average, not special, make you sick if you have too many'.
Now, I think I'm done.