Hey, there! So this is my first one-shot, though it's a long one. Heh.
Anyways, this is, of course, a Zutara story and it's set up right after "The Ember Island Players." It is my version of what happens next since I didn't like how the series ended.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: the Last Airbender nor any of the characters
Scary Stories and Pranks
The night was silent as darkness crept in, casting eerie shadows in every corner, in every room, and in every crevice of the large isolated royal beach house on Ember Island. A cold wind swept by, creating a howling sound like that of an injured animal, causing a chill to run down the spine of any who heard its call. Large clouds slithered in the dark sky and would occasionally conceal the full moon that hung in the heavens, cutting off any light and rendering the night pitch black.
The gang huddled together around the warmth of the bonfire in the middle of the courtyard of the quiet beach house as the day drew to an end and the night crawled in. The light cast by the fire drew shadows on the faces of the young teens, enhancing their terrified and awed expressions as they listened intently to the serious banished prince who was recounting a horrifying story as he sat perfectly still among them.
It was the night after witnessing the horrible Ember Island Player's latest play and the gang had decided to make their own entertainment. Aang was beginning to regret bringing up the idea of staying up late to tell scary stories. He just wished for the night and the horror tales to be over so they could all go to sleep and wait for the reassuring light that morning brought. The older teens were wishing the same, though they were more successful in hiding their fright by teasing their younger friends.
As he continued with the story his Uncle Iroh had told him about the demon that haunted its victims to the point they went insane before it slowly killed them, Zuko inwardly smirked at the barely concealed frightened expressions of his friends.
I may not be able to make good jokes, but I sure can scare the crap out of people, Zuko chuckled evilly in his head.
He glanced briefly to his right and his suppressed smirk turned into a small smile. Katara was listening to every word he was saying, and as the story wound up to the scariest part, she had begun to scoot closer to him—so close their knees were almost touching—though he was not sure if she even knew or noticed.
Ever since they had come back from confronting Yon Rha, Katara and Zuko had become practically inseparable. The more time he spent with her, the more she fascinated him. She was not like any other girl he had ever met before and he found himself trying to know everything there was about her, though she did have a very annoying temper that also brought out his own heated one. And he had to admit that she was a very pretty girl, and he was positive that she would be even more beautiful as she grew into a young woman. Glancing briefly at her stunning features, he flushed lightly at his thoughts before he looked away.
But though they have become good friends she still kept some distance between them, almost as if she were still afraid that he would betray them again—betray her.
How was he supposed to make her see that he would never hurt her ever again? That what he meant about bringing down his father and ensuring that peace was achieved was true? But most importantly how was he supposed to tell her that he could not stop thinking about her, that all he wanted was to be near her, that he was beginning to have very strong feelings for her that he had never felt about anyone before, not even Mai? That he could possibly be falling…in love with her?
But he couldn't. He could not tell her what he felt because he was positive that she would never look at her one-time enemy as something more than a friend. He did not want to ruin the deep friendship they had built the moment they had both confided in each other about the loss of their mothers. But most of all he would not be able to bear her rejection.
I can't believe that I, the former Crown Prince of the mighty Fire Nation, am afraid of a mere girl's rejection! Oh, how the mighty have fallen, the young man groused inwardly.
Mentally shaking his head of such gloomy thoughts, Zuko continued with his narrative, his voice turning colder and darker. So dark that it made the hairs of those listening stand up and a cold chill run down their spines.
Suki huddled closer to her boyfriend's side and Sokka wound an arm around her waist, though he was the one who was trembling. Aang brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, his gray eyes almost popping out of his bald head. Toph crossed her arms over her chest with an indifferent look on her face, though she did slide closer to Aang and the warmth of the fire.
Katara wrapped her arms around herself as she listened intently to Zuko's macabre tale. Though what he was saying was making goosebumps rise on her skin, she just could not get enough of his alluring deep voice. It made her shiver, and not out of fear.
I could listen to his voice all day and never get tired, the waterbender thought with a wistful sigh before she mentally laughed at herself, Whoa, I'm turning into a rabid fangirl!
They all gasped in fright at another part of the story and Katara scooted a bit closer to Zuko's warmth, hoping that he did not notice that she was getting so close to him that they were almost touching, but she just couldn't help it, being near him made her feel so safe and secure.
After everything he had done for her, after he had helped her trace down her mother's killer so she could finally find closure, how could she continue to hold onto her anger and grudge at him? All that resentment and hurt she had felt toward Zuko had snuffed out and now all she felt was a small bit of guilt for treating him so harshly when he had decided to join them. And after she had forgiven him and given him another chance, she found out that he was an incredible person once she got to spend time with him and know him better.
And once she had gotten a closer look at him now that she did not have to run away from him and be captured (not that she would mind it now) she had to admit that Zuko was pleasing to the eye even with the large scar on the left side of his face.
Okay, okay the guy is hot! No pun intended. She blushed at her thoughts as she sneaked another look at his mesmerizing face.
He was not like most teenage boys whose only thoughts were girls and having fun and seeing who could burp the loudest. No, Zuko was too mature for such juvenile things and she now understood that his difficult childhood was what made him grow up too fast, something that she herself knew about very well. That was one thing that attracted him to her and she could not stop the feeling of wanting to be the one to help him be more carefree, more happy.
No. She couldn't think of such things because she knew that it would never come to be. And even though they spent so much time together she made sure to keep a distance between them because…she was beginning to fall in love with him. She did not know how this feeling came to be or when she realized it, but it was there and she could not stop it.
That was why she could not accept Aang's confession of his feelings for her that night of the play. After a long moment of debating with herself, she had talked to the young monk that morning to tell him she could only see him as a friend. He had been devastated at her rejection, but he had sadly and reluctantly accepted it. She felt guilty for hurting him, but she was confident that one day he would find that special someone. She could not return Aang's feelings because her heart already belonged to Zuko. Yet, she knew that she had to keep away from him or otherwise she would only come out hurt in the end. Zuko was a prince and once they defeated Ozai he would become the Fire Lord. He would never see a simple Water Tribe peasant as anything more than just an ally and a friend.
"Once the demon devoured the life out of its latest victim, it slithered away in the dark night to find a new person for its sick enjoyment, anticipating the moment when it could sink its claws into the next unsuspecting, innocent soul and crush the life out of them," Zuko whispered darkly as he wrapped up his story.
A chilly wind blew by and the flames from the campfire flickered eerily. The group was silent as they tried to stop their hearts from racing and control their breathing as the fear consumed them once the prince's words sank in.
Katara let out a shaky breath as she tried to calm down her nerves before she froze and everybody else gasped when something sprang out from the ground right in front of her and what seemed like a claw grabbed her ankle. Letting out a terrified scream, Katara threw herself at Zuko and clung to his neck tightly, burying her face into his neck as she screamed for help.
Zuko caught her and wrapped his arms around her. Shocked, Zuko stiffened in his spot as he tried to figure out what was happening as he felt Katara grabbing onto him, her warm breath tickling his neck, her petite body pressed into his larger one. Who knew that Water Tribe women were so forward? He looked down at the ground to see a claw made of stone wrapped around the frightened waterbender's ankle.
He narrowed his eyes at it before he quickly looked around to see a grinning earthbender. He glared at Toph—not that she could tell—for scaring Katara like that. He looked back down at the trembling girl in his arms unable to stop the feeling of happiness that she had gone to him for protection.
"It's okay, Katara," he said calmly as he patted her back soothingly, "Everything's fine."
"B-but the d-demon," Katara whispered as she tightened her hold on him as the grip on her ankle became stronger. Why hadn't the demon killed her already?
"There is no demon, Katara," Zuko told her quietly as he ran his fingers through her soft chocolate tresses.
"W-what?" Katara stuttered as she relinquished her hold to look at him to make sure he was telling the truth.
When Zuko gave her a soft smile and she realized what she was doing, Katara blushed ten shades of red before she finally looked down at her ankle. She frowned when she saw the stone claw before it crumbled and fell away onto the dirt floor.
Loud laughter made her jump and Katara whipped her head around to see Toph rolling on the floor, banging her small fist on the ground, as she laughed her head off.
"Oh, sweet spirits, Sugar Queen!" Toph cried out as she continued to laugh hysterically. "That was epic!"
Katara gaped at her in disbelief and shock before she huffed angrily. Finally letting go of her death grip on Zuko's neck, she smiled sheepishly at him before she muttered a quick apology as her cheeks became stained once more in a deep red color.
Toph continued rolling on the ground as her laughter echoed throughout the courtyard. "I don't think I ever heard you scream like that before! It was hilarious!"
"That wasn't funny!" Katara snapped, embarrassed for being scared like that and jumping on Zuko like a helpless little girl.
"Oh, yes it was!" Sokka cried out as he guffawed while Suki giggled quietly beside him.
"Yeah, you should've seen your face, Katara!" Aang piped in as he began to laugh as well, showing Katara that he was no longer ignoring her.
"Why did you scare me like that?" Katara yelled angrily as she turned her glare back at the young earthbender.
"Geez, relax, Sugar Queen, it was just a harmless joke," Toph huffed and rolled her eyes. "You should learn to loosen up."
Katara's mouth fell open when all except Zuko started to laugh at her before she snapped her mouth shut with an audible click as she glared angrily at them. How dare they make fun of her like that? She practically had a heart attack! And to top it all she had made a fool of herself in front of Zuko!
All laughter stopped when Katara sprang to her feet and placed her hands on her hips, her blue eyes blazing in fury. Sokka and Aang gulped, Suki shifted uneasily in her spot, and Toph just dug her feet into the dirt.
Zuko watched with an amused smirk as they all squirmed uncomfortably as the silence stretched on as Katara's anger and hurt surrounded them, making the hairs on the back of their necks stand up again. They could swear the temperature had dropped to an icy chill. They all gaped in shock, however, when the waterbender dropped her hands to her sides and started to giggle.
"Ha, ha! That was a good one, you guys!" Katara laughed.
"Uh…you're not angry?" Suki asked uncertainly.
"Of course not!" the waterbender said as she gave them all a big smile before she gasped. "Ah, it's getting late and I haven't started on dinner!"
They all watched as she ran inside the beach house yelling over her shoulder for them to wash up for dinner as if they were bratty kids. They glanced at each other, surprised and relieved.
"Well, she handled that better than I thought!" Toph commented with a large grin.
"Yeah, I was afraid that she would've skinned us alive or something!" Sokka laughed before he grabbed Suki's hand to help her up. "Sharing scary stories was fun and your prank just made today even better!"
"Yeah, but I think we should get ready for dinner before Katara really snaps," Aang said as he rose from his spot.
Zuko watched them go as they made their way back inside. He had a feeling Katara would not let what happened go unpunished. Smirking, he stood up and followed the others to the small dining hall as he wondered what would happen before he allowed a large grin to appear on his usually impassive face.
Katara had hugged him again. And her soft body pressed to his felt oh so nice.
Midnight was pitch black as heavy and dark clouds hung in the sky and hid the small moon. Something banged against the side of the building as another loud wind howled by, rustling the tall palm trees that surrounded the house as well. The air crackled with static and the smell of wet dirt indicated that a storm was near. One lonely figure slithered through the dark and empty corridors of the silent beach house, swiftly running by many unoccupied rooms as it approached the courtyard at the back of the royal beach house.
Peering around the corner, the mysterious being smirked evilly when the Water Tribe Warrior was sighted. He was huddled close to the fire to keep warm. It was his turn to keep watch in case anybody found out who they all really were.
Another cold wind blew by and the long, dark tresses of the silent being danced around in the air. Katara's smirk widened as she gathered some water from the moisture in one of the plant pots she was hiding behind.
Loosen up they say, she growled in her head. Oh, I'll show them that I can have fun too! She cackled mentally for a while before she frowned at herself. Okaaaaay…
They all thought she had let go of the little 'prank' from a few hours ago, but they were sadly mistaken. Nobody messed around with her! Too bad what she had in mind couldn't work on Toph since she couldn't see, but a sleeping mixture fixed that problem. Besides, her plan would work better if the earthbender did not detect her footsteps.
Stretching her hands apart, Katara bit her lip as she concentrated on bending her element to her will. The liquid water rippled for a second before it began to thin out, turning into a soft white mist. Concentrating even harder, Katara moved her hands in a series of twists until the mysterious mist took on a shape of a woman. Smirking smugly to herself, the waterbender shifted her hands a bit and smiled triumphantly when the woman's foggy form moved with her actions. She had come across this particular technique a while ago and now she was going to test it out.
Moving closer to the shadows, Katara made sure no one was around and her path was clear so she could return to her room so nobody would know what she was doing. She needed them all to think that it was a real ghost.
That will show them to scare me like that! She laughed in her head, a mischievous glint in her blue eyes.
She lifted her arms again and bid the misty figure to float into the courtyard. The 'ghost' slowly glided through the dark before it hovered over the dozing young man. Katara lowered her hand and the figure mimicked her, placing one cold appendage on Sokka's shoulder.
Sokka slowly turned around at the cold touch and let out a loud squeak when he came face to face with a foggy mist that looked like a woman.
"Ah! G-ghost!" he screamed as he jerked away.
He fell from his seat and landed hard on his ass. He scooted away as he raised a hand as if to ward off the spirit.
"Get a-away from me! Don't h-hurt me!" he cried out when the figure stretched both arms out and hovered over him. Sokka covered his face with his hands and let out a loud yell.
Katara dropped her hands and the 'ghost' disappeared as she raced silently back to her room. She placed a hand over her mouth in order to keep the laughter contained. It wouldn't do to be found out. She slid into her room and leaned back against the door as her shoulders shook with mirth.
Oh, La! That was hilarious! she thought gleefully. I didn't know Sokka could scream like a little girl!
She took in a few deep breaths in order to calm herself before she smirked when she heard doors opening and footsteps racing to the courtyard. She yanked her door open, placed on a worried and frightened expression on her face, and quickly made her way to where she knew the others were.
She found Suki cradling a shaking Sokka while Zuko and Aang looked down at him with worried expressions. She felt a small twinge of guilt, but she squashed it down.
"Sokka, I heard you screaming! What happened?" she asked as she knelt down next to Suki and Sokka and placed a comforting hand on her paler-than-usual brother's shoulder.
Sokka turned to look at her with wide eyes.
"I saw a ghost!" he exclaimed loudly. "She was all white and misty and she was so scary! She tried to kill me!" he shouted, but quieted when Suki patted his back.
"A ghost?" Zuko asked with a raised eyebrow.
"A ghost?" Aang repeated in a whisper with wide, fearful eyes. Ghost and spirits were two different things. While spirits were mostly peaceful and served as guides, ghost haunted the land of the living because of their past sins and could sometimes cause harm.
"Are you sure you saw it?" Katara asked. "Maybe you were just imagining things while you fell asleep."
"I wasn't hallucinating, Katara!" he cried out desperately, "I know what I saw was real! It was a ghost, I tell you! A ghost!"
"It's okay, Sokka," Suki said softly. "We believe you. Right, guys?" she asked as she turned to look at the others.
"S-sure," Aang stuttered.
"Of course," Katara replied as she again patted her brother's shoulder.
Zuko just shrugged.
"You don't believe me!" Sokka accused as he pointed a finger at them. "Just watch when she appears to you guys next and tries to take over your body!"
"Are you sure you didn't drink some cactus juice?" Katara asked.
"I haven't tried cactus juice since that one time!" he defended himself indignantly.
Sokka growled when Aang and Zuko began to chuckle while Suki lifted her hand to hide her smile.
"Laugh all you want, but I know it was a ghost I saw!" He stood up shakily and stomped his way back inside.
Katara smirked inwardly as they all made their way back into the house and went into their rooms.
One down. Three more to go.
Suki screamed and bolted from her bed, almost crashing into the door in her haste to get out of her room when it didn't open fast enough.
"Open, you stupid door!" she commanded at the innocent door as she clawed at it before she finally got it open and ran outside.
She glanced back over her shoulder and screamed again when the ghost chased her. She rounded a corner and crashed into Sokka, who was making his way to her with the others following behind him, and both of them fell onto the floor with a curse.
"Suki, what's wrong?" Sokka asked as he tried to sit up while he held his trembling girlfriend as the others surrounded them.
Zuko looked up when Katara came running after them a moment later and raised an eyebrow when he saw a small smirk on her face before she quickly hid it with a very convincing yawn. Was he imagining things?
"Oh, my gods, Sokka!" Suki sobbed as she clutched her frightened boyfriend's tunic. "I saw the ghost! I woke up when I felt something touch my arm and when I opened my eyes it was hovering over me on my bed!"
"That's it!" Sokka exclaimed loudly. "We're leaving this haunted house! Why didn't you tell us there were evil spirits in your beach house before you brought us here, Jerkbender?"
Zuko glared down at him. "That's because this house is not haunted and ghost don't reside here."
"But Sokka and Suki saw the ghost!" Aang exclaimed as he clutched Momo closer to his chest.
"I still think it was just their imagination," Katara spoke up. "I haven't seen anything. It's probably all the stress with the upcoming final battle and everything."
"Hm," Zuko muttered. "You could be right."
"Yeah, it's probably nothing," Aang replied, though it was more for his own sake. He looked around before he asked, "Hey, where's Toph?"
"I think she's still sleeping," Katara responded quickly. "You know how she could sleep through an earthquake."
"Yeah," Zuko answered as he eyed the waterbender suspiciously.
Katara let out a sigh of relief as she finally left her room and scurried down the dark hall into a different corridor. It had been difficult to convince her brother that everything was fine and there was no need for them to leave the beach house in the middle of the night. They had returned to their rooms after an hour or more of trying to calm Suki down. The house was silent once again.
She made her way until she stood outside Aang's room. Grinning, she withdrew water from her pouch next to her hip and turned it into the mist. She peeked into the keyhole and smirked when she found Aang sitting in the middle of his bed with the blankets covering his body with only his face visible. His eyes were drooping and his head was lolling to the side as he fought to stay awake. It was moments like this where she could see how young he really was.
The mist slithered down and entered through the crack of the bottom of the door. Katara watched as Aang snapped his head up and his eyes widened when he noticed the mist entering his room. Before she could form the fog into the shape of the 'ghost woman', Aang screamed in a high pitch, making Momo shrieked which caused the young boy to leap from his bed before he crashed to the floor as the blanket got tangled around his legs. Aang frantically shoved the blankets away while still yelling as if he was being brutally murdered before he ran across the room toward the window. He cast a fearful glance at the still hovering mist before he jumped through the window and ran away like a madman.
Okay… I didn't expect that, Katara thought in shock before she started to giggle hysterically.
Hearing voices coming down the hall, she stood up and walked a few feet away before she ran back towards Aang's room just as the others rounded the corner.
"Aang?" she called out in worry as she yanked the door open in order to convince the others she was not behind the strange happenings. "Where did he go?" she asked softly.
The others peered around her and frowned when they saw the room empty except for a still chattering Momo on the bed. They all went inside the room and looked around.
"Oh, no!" Sokka exclaimed in a whisper as he grabbed his head with both hands, "The ghost got him!"
"Don't be stupid," Katara said as she rolled his eyes. "Ghosts don't exist."
"Of course they do!" the young warrior yelled as he pointed at the empty bed before he flailed his arms in the air dramatically, "Aang's disappearance is proof!"
Zuko walked over to the opened window and looked outside. His foot bumped into something and he glanced down at the floor. He bent down and grabbed what seemed to be Aang's shoe.
"My guess is that Aang was paranoid with everything that has happened and got scared, so he jumped out the window and ran away," the Fire Prince stated impassively.
Oh, crap! Does he know something? Katara thought in a panic as she snuck a glance at Zuko's uninterested face as he look down outside at the ground below the window.
"I'm sure he'll return in the morning," Zuko added as he tossed the shoe behind him without looking to see where it landed.
Sokka jumped out of the way and scowled when the shoe almost hit him in the face.
"That sounds reasonable," the waterbender said as she gave out another yawn. "Well, I'm going to bed. All this screaming and waking up in the middle of the night is making me tired."
Zuko glanced at Katara as she gave out another small yawn and left the room after she bid them goodnight with a wave of her hand. He had a feeling the 'ghost' would visit him next.
He smirked. He couldn't wait.
There were a few more hours left before dawn broke through. The dark clouds that had hung in the sky all night opened up and loud rain descended to the silent ground below, harshly bombarding the roof of the quiet structure. Thunder crashed somewhere in the distance and a brief flash of light illuminated the area before it returned to darkness.
Katara silently made her way down one of the long corridors of the royal beach house. She still could not stop feeling impressed by the elegance and wealth of the Fire Nation Royal Family and she was more impressed that Zuko did not let this go over his head—though he was a bit arrogant sometimes. But it was nothing that she couldn't handle with a few teasing remarks that would leave him spluttering indignantly or blushing lightly. Katara smiled slightly before she vigorously shook her head. There she went again thinking about the handsome Fire Prince. When was she going to learn that it would only cause her more pain?
Another strike of lightning flashed followed by the almost deafening sound of thunder. Katara paused for a moment as the light faded before she continued on her silent walk to the room Zuko was sleeping in. Though her plan of revenge for the little prank Toph had aimed at her and for the amused laughter the others had thrown at her was not directed at Zuko, she had no choice but to treat him with the same scare like the others if she didn't want them to find out that she was behind everything.
She planned on just scaring him a bit before disappearing since Zuko was the only one who had not laughed in her face for being scared so easily and jumping onto him. She blushed. He had actually held her to him within the warm protection of his strong arms and gently caressed her hair while he tried to reassure her that nothing was going to kill her. She still could not believe that he had actually been so sweet to her and she wondered why he had acted like that when he was always so reserved and uptight and pushed people away.
She sighed as she finally arrived outside Zuko's room. Why did he have to continue doing things that made her fall for him even harder?
If I didn't know any better I would think Zuko was a demon trying to seduce me and eat my soul, she giggled inwardly and shook her head at herself.
Rain continued to pepper down on the beach house while the wind howled wildly outside. Zuko lay perfectly still on his bed as he stared at the ceiling above him while he waited for Katara to appear with the 'ghost' before an impatient sigh escaped him. When was she going to show up?
He wanted to see how she managed to bring forth this 'ghost woman'. He was very impressed by the trick Katara seemed to have learned that was now causing havoc to their little group. It seemed that the waterbender always found a way to impress him and gain his attraction and attention without her even trying or knowing.
Zuko closed his eyes and let out a slow breath. It seemed that as the days went by in her presence his feelings for her kept growing and there was nothing he could do to stop it. After they had settled their differences, Katara had been so attentive and kind to him, always making sure he was fine and comfortable just like the rest of the group. It was Katara who sought him out when he would withdraw into himself and move away from the rest. She would bring him back by either raising his hot temper, by teasing him until he couldn't hold his laughter, or by talking to him soothingly until it made him want to gather her in his arms and kiss her.
He had thought about telling her what it was she was doing to him, what his feelings for her really were, and that he wished she could remain by his side after they defeated his father and the war ended, but he had no idea how to go about it. How would she react to his confession? Would she dislike the idea of them being together?
He sighed again. What should he do?
The firebender's eyes snapped open and he tensed as the sound of his door slightly creaking open reached his ears. He closed his eyes and evened his breathing as he pretended to be asleep, waiting to see what Katara had in mind as he shoved his previous thoughts from his head. Now was not the time for such things.
Katara peeked into the room from the small crack of the door to see if Zuko was awake. She smiled when she spotted his form on the bed in the dark room and the sound of his even breathing reached her ears despite the rain and thunder. She bit her lip as she tried to figure out if she should continue with her plan or not. She really did not want to disturb his sleep since she knew Zuko had a hard time falling and staying asleep, something that never stopped her from worrying even though he assured her that he was used to it and was fine.
Shaking her head, Katara pulled the water from the waterskin at her hip before she bent it into the white mist. She concentrated for a moment, the mist taking the form of the woman, and with a nod of satisfaction, she guided the specter into the silent room. It glided gracefully in the air, the woman's hair and clothing seemed to swirl as it moved toward the resting young man on the bed. Katara hesitated for a moment as another thunderclap resounded in the dark night before she moved the mist until it hovered over Zuko's form.
Zuko cracked an eye open and was barely able to stop himself from jumping away when the white mist resembling a woman floated above him. He wondered if perhaps he had been wrong in assuming Katara was behind the 'night terrors' and what was in front of him was indeed a real spirit, but then the sound of a small sigh reached in ears from the door and he relaxed.
With a quiet sigh, Katara reached out her hand—the 'ghost woman' following her movement—and gently rested it on Zuko's cheek. Katara frowned slightly when he did not stir before a small smile appeared on her face as she softly moved her hand until she was caressing his face. She wondered what it would feel like if Zuko would really allow her to touch him.
Zuko shivered when the first cold touch reached his check and he clenched his jaw as he tried to keep still. He resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow when the cool sensation began to travel the left side of his face and he could not stop himself from comparing the touch to that of a loving caress.
Is Katara caressing me? He suppressed the smile that threatened to appear on his face since he couldn't let Katara know that he was aware of what she was doing—at least not yet.
Katara stopped in her movements and frowned deeply.
Why hasn't Zuko moved? He should've felt the mist by now. She bit her lip and she took a hesitant step closer into the room. Is he okay?
She was about to call back the fog and check on Zuko to make sure he was not injured or worse, but she froze when she saw Zuko open his eyes until it seemed he was staring straight at the misty woman above him. She held her breath, wondering if he would scream like the others and start running like demons were chasing at his heels. To her surprise, she saw Zuko smile as he reached one hand out until it hovered closely to the 'spirit's' face.
"Why are you here?" she heard him ask.
Unsure of what was going on or what she should do, Katara pulled the mist back until the 'ghost' hovered above the ground beside Zuko's bed. She watched as Zuko sat up with his gaze still on the being before him.
"Are you the spirit that the servants used to talk about? The one that comes out on rainy days in order to finish one last task so you could enter the Spirit World?" he asked again, his voice low and soft.
Katara frowned. This was not what she had expected. Now what? Smirking, she moved her hands and the 'woman' nodded as if she were answering the question the young man had asked. She wondered that if the 'spirit' confirmed it, Zuko would be frightened. She was once again surprised when Zuko smiled before he swung his long legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Katara's eyes widened and she gasped softly when his bare chest caught her attention. His pale skin stood out perfectly in the dark room.
"So then," she heard him continued, "you're the spirit who's looking for her lost lover?"
Lost lover? Katara repeated with a faint blush as she made the 'ghost' nod again.
Zuko smirked inwardly as he saw the slight hesitation the 'spirit' made before it nodded. He could just imagine Katara blushing madly with wide eyes at his question before he wondered what she would do after what he said next.
"Then I am willing to be your lover for the night so you could finally find peace," he said seriously as he took a step forward.
Katara's mouth flew open in disbelief before she snapped it shut as her anger and jealously flared. She dropped her hands and the 'woman' dissolved instantly before Katara angrily threw the door open and entered the room, slamming the door shut behind her.
"Katara?" Zuko asked in surprise while inwardly he was chuckling, "What are you doing here?"
Katara did not respond to his question as she stomped her way over to him until she stood right in front of him. She narrowed her blazing, blue eyes as she jabbed her finger to his chest.
"How dare you invite women into your bed, even if it's a supposed ghost, while we have a war hanging over our heads?!" she hissed. "I will not allow it!"
Zuko smirked as he grabbed her hand that was poking him on the chest, successfully stopping her small assault on his person and trapping her soft, small hand in his.
"Why, Katara…are you jealous?" he teased softly.
Katara sputtered for a few seconds as her cheeks turned a deep shade of red.
"No!" she denied as she tried to move her hand away from his grasp.
"Okay, then what were you doing outside my room?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I…uh…I…" Katara stuttered as she avoided looking at his eyes—or his perfect bare chest. "I was…just walking by! Yeah, that's right! I was just getting a glass of water."
"Oh, Really?" Zuko asked with another smirk. "The kitchen's close to your room and in no way near mine."
Damn! Katara opened her mouth to retort, but closed it since she did not know what to say to that. She was not going to tell him that she was the one who brought forth the 'spirit' and scared the others so badly that they almost wet themselves.
Zuko chuckled quietly when Katara refused to say anything and instead she looked away and huffed.
"You don't have to tell me," Zuko said with a large smirk, "I already know."
"Huh?" Katara asked as she looked up to glare into his golden eyes before her own eyes widened in realization. "You know that it was me that was scaring the others?"
Zuko nodded. "Yeah."
"B-but how?" Katara asked as she tried to again pull away from his grasp, but sighed in resignation when he refused to let go.
"I suspected it ever since you let the others go unpunished," Zuko began before he listed all the other things that he had noticed that let him know it was she that had summoned up the 'specter'.
"Darn. I thought I was being sneaky and careful," Katara muttered after Zuko finished.
"It's not your fault that I'm so perceptive," Zuko uttered with a smirk.
Ah, there was the arrogance she had mentioned earlier.
"Arrogant jerk," Katara grumbled with a roll of her eyes as she tried to pull her hand away again. "So why didn't you tell the others it was me?"
Zuko shrugged as he ignored her halfhearted struggles from his grasp.
"It was entertaining," he replied simply.
"I'm so glad I provided entertainment for His Majesty," Katara said sarcastically before she looked down with a blush. "So uh…would you really have…slept with the—"
"Of course not! You're the only woman I want," Zuko replied before he could stop himself. He tensed when he heard Katara gasp. Oh, shit.
"You…w-what…?" Katara stuttered as her eyes flew up to stare at him, but his eyes were darting around the room as if he were trying to find some sort of escape.
"What? I didn't say anything," the firebender said as he released her hand and tried to retreat.
Katara this time grabbed onto his arm to stop him and hold him in place.
"I heard what you said, Zuko," she stated seriously before she softly asked, "Do you…mean it?"
Zuko was too surprised that he had not been frozen to the wall or incased in ice from head to toe that it took him a moment to reply to her question.
"Yes, I do," he told her sincerely. He watched as a blush appeared on her cheeks.
Might as well tell her everything, he thought.
"I…well…" he paused as he rubbed the back of his neck. Dammit! Why was it so hard for him to talk about his feelings?
Get a grip, Zuko! he ordered himself before he took hold of her hand once again and looked into her eyes, hoping that she would understand what he was trying to say without him saying everything.
"Katara…I like you…No, scratch that, I like you a lot."
Katara was left speechless at his confession as she stared into his eyes to see if he was just messing with her, but the sincerity she saw in them as well as the slight fear he tried to hide made her smile brightly at him.
"I…like you a lot, too, Zuko," she confessed with another deeper blush.
"Really?" Zuko asked in shock.
"Of course really, silly," Katara teased with a large smile on her face. "Or was the mighty Prince Zuko scared of being rejected?"
"Don't spout nonsense," Zuko growled as he looked away to hide the stupid blush that he knew had appeared on his face.
Katara giggled before she moved her hand away from his arm and took hold of his own warm hands.
"And here I was, scared that you would reject me," she said softly.
"Reject you? Never," Zuko whispered with a small smile as he gazed down into her cobalt orbs.
They stood there looking into each other's eyes for a long moment.
"Isn't this the part where you kiss me?" Katara whispered with a blush.
"Rather eager, aren't we?" Zuko teased with a smirk as he raised a suggestive eyebrow.
"You pervert!" Katara huffed as she playfully slapped his chest—his bare chest.
Zuko chuckled as he wound one arm around her waist to pull her close while he raised his other hand to tangle his fingers in her soft hair. Their heartbeats sped up and their breaths became ragged as Zuko leaned toward her face while she placed her small hands on his chest.
A thunderclap resounded around the room just as their lips met for the first time in a sweet, chaste kiss.
The following day was clear and bright. Not a cloud marred the sky and the sun shone warmly down to the Earth below almost as if no thunderstorm had passed through the previous night. Sitting together around the campfire, Katara and Zuko watched with amused grins at how the rest of their group fared this morning before they resumed eating. It seemed they were the only ones that had an appetite to eat breakfast.
"Running around and using my energy to create the 'ghost woman' last night has really worked up my appetite," Katara commented in a low tone so only Zuko could hear her.
She happily bit into a piece of fish as she smiled at him. Who would have thought that a night of sharing scary stories and pranks would bring them together?
"You would've woken up starved if you had actually stayed in my room last night after all those kisses we shared," Zuko stated smugly.
"Zuko! La, you're such a pervert," Katara exclaimed as she slapped his arm while she looked at her plate with a blush.
"I was just kidding," Zuko said and smirked as he rubbed his stinging arm, "…kind of…"
Before Katara could retort to his statement, a groaned curse coming from the ground a few feet away made them look away from each other.
Toph was sprawled on the ground on her stomach with a bucket filled with her stomach contents near her head.
"Ugh. My stomach won't shut up!" Toph groaned as she pulled the bucket closer to her, "And I feel like my head is stuffed up with cotton!"
Sokka and Suki ignored her as they huddled together in the middle of the courtyard. Sokka had his sword lying next to his side with his boomerang on his hand while Suki sat against his back with one steel fan on each of her hands. They would pull up their weapons and their heads would whip around at any sound that reached their ears.
Aang had returned at dawn and was now sitting farthest from the beach house. The young Avatar had his knees drawn up to his chest with his arms wound tight around them and only one shoe on. Momo was curled around his bald head as Aang rocked back and forth while he kept muttering to himself.
"Should we tell them the 'ghost woman' isn't real and it was just a prank?" Zuko whispered with a small frown.
Katara and Zuko looked at each other before they smirked mischievously.
A/N: So what do you think? Good, bad, horrible? …Freakin' awesome? Hehehe!