New Chapter for you guys. The NHL lockout is making me sad.
Zuko hit his chair like a ton of bricks. He was usually a fairly good morning person. Pee wee hockey practices usually take place very early in the morning, so the routine of being an early riser had been ingrained from an early age. Yet, this particular Monday morning Zuko was definitely not looking forward to school. He had texted Sokka the night before and let him know not to pick him up today. Not that Sokka needed telling, even that meathead could tell putting Zuko and Katara in the same car would be a bad idea. Hell, in fact putting anyone from the group in the same car would have been a bad idea. How had a Friday that started so good turned into a Sunday that ended so badly? They won the game, he got the girl, kissed the girl, and then it all went to shit. Suki had seemed to smooth things over when the girls emerged from the bathroom, but that was just the start.
Zuko looked up from his meal as Katara and Suki were sitting down. He gave a weak smile and Katara returned it. Ok, Zuko exhaled, she wasn't that mad. A smile was a good thing right? Ok soon everyone would be laughing and having a good time.
"So what did you do to get Sugar Queen all hot and bothered?" Zuko's stomach did a summersault. Leave it to Toph, Zuko thought. Just as everything was settling she decided to flip the table. Very cautiously, he glanced at Katara. She was not looking back at him, she was looking down at her food, her face getting more and more red. Katara was about to explode, Zuko had to do something. He did what he always did in these situations, he looked at Suki. She seemed to have nothing for him, shit. Zuko did what usually got him in trouble, he opened his mouth.
"We just, uh…" Well he was off to a roaring start. "She was not happy about the prank, and…" He trailed off again. If this were speech class Zuko would definitely be pulling an F. A quick look back to Suki, she looked at him as if he were insane. "And, well, I um-"
"What?! Are you embarrassed to tell them?!" Katara's outburst cut Zuko off, and he slowly closed his eyes waiting for the bombardment of insane that was about to hit him right between the eyes. "We made out in the snow bank." Zuko still had his eyes shut, but could tell she was facing towards the others now. "And apparently, for city boy here, taking advantage of small town girls isn't a big deal!" Zuko's eyes shot open. What the fuck was that supposed to mean? He looked at Katara with bewilderment, but she refused to meet his eyes. He then looked to Suki again, why wasn't she fixing things like she always did? Suki looked just as shocked as he did. Then he slowly turned to the three people at the table that had no idea what was going on. Sokka was in shock, but Zuko could tell it would turn to anger soon. Aang was already angry, big surprise, he was still gaga for Katara. Then there was Toph, the little pixie had the biggest shit eating grin on her face.
Zuko was losing this battle. Sokka, Toph, and Aang were the jury of public opinion now. Katara's prosecution had struck a heavy first blow. Zuko was now painted as the accused. Where was McCoy from Law and Order when you needed him? Again he looked to Suki for assistance. She gave him the raised eyebrows of 'Stop looking at me, there is nothing I can do for you'. Zuko needed a rebuttal, and was shocked to find he had one. In his fights with Azula he never had a good comeback, she just got him too angry to think straight. Luckily Katara didn't know him as well as his sister did. Katara wasn't making Zuko angry, just scared of what the others would think. Scared Zuko could work with, he could form clear thoughts while scared.
"Taken advantage of? Who was on top?" Katara gasped. Suki lowered her head into her hands, apparently she didn't think fighting back was a good idea. To hell with what Suki thought, Zuko had his honor to think about. Wait, Zuko mused, when did he ever use the word honor? Never mind, he pushed his thoughts of honor out of his head, he was on the offensive now. The three headed jury now turned to Katara. Her mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish. Zuko allowed himself a smug smile, big mistake. Once Katara saw that smile cross his face, her whole demeanor changed.
"Before that! When you grabbed my ass!" Oh no, the focus was now back on Zuko. Zuko was done and he knew it. He had used his one piece of ammo, now he was done. Why was she acting like this? Kissing her had seemed like such a good idea at the time. Delusions of them going out had filled his head. It would be perfect, the six of them would be paired off and Zuko could have the perfect small town life. Zuko then came to the realization that it would never happen for him. He was too different from this group of people. Zuko did his best to fit in, accepting the kid like behavior of his new friends. He thought them weird. He thought they were too childish, and then he realized it was him who was messed up. He had grown up in a place where people his age acted older then they should. Katara was freaking out about the make out session because she wasn't used to it. She was a kid, and she should be too. But Zuko? He hadn't been a kid for a long time. He was a binge drinking, chain smoking city boy. He had quit when he moved up here, but damn he wished he had a cigarette right now. Unfortunately every place that sold them here knew who he was, and that he wasn't 22 like his fake id said. Hell, he didn't even know where his fake id was anymore. Zuko was a latch key kid that grew up in a world with no parents around. A world of cutting class, doing drugs, and breaking the law on a consistent basis. These five on the other hand had grown up in a world of white picket fences, pies cooling on window sills and every other small town cliché you could think of.
"You know what kids?" Zuko stood up from his seat. He almost didn't recognize his own voice, he just sounded so damn defeated. "I'm going to go home." Every looked really uncomfortable. The look of kids at a dinner table where mommy and daddy just finished a big fight. Luckily he was on the end of the booth and didn't have to make somebody move to escape. He reached in his pocket and pulled out way too much money for the bill and threw it down on the table. Smiled and nodded at Gran Gran who had emerged from the kitchen due to the yelling and left.
"Well that could have gone better." Suki said as the door shut behind the exiting Zuko. She looked around the table. Sokka was slowly beginning to eat again, none of the glee from the win remained on his face. Aang was visibly upset, knowing that Katara had made out with Zuko was obviously brining up his unrequited feelings for her. And poor Toph, she could see the same thing Suki was seeing on Aang's' face. It must be hell for your first boyfriend to be in love with somebody else. Lastly she looked at Katara. Suki may only be a year older then Katara, but right now she looked so much younger. Quivering lip, hands in her lap, those big sad eyes. "Katara, are you ok?" Katara didn't respond, she just sat there. Sokka had finished his burger and stood up.
"Well, I'm off to somebodies party." They all looked up at him. Suki had no idea what the hell her boyfriend was thinking. Nobody at this table looked in the partying mood. He held his hand out to her and surprisingly she took it. "I need to have some fun, this meal was one hell of a downer." He pulled Suki to her feet and they were walking out as well. Suki looked over her shoulder at the three they were leaving behind. Maybe it was best those three were left alone, they had some things to work out. As they went outside into the cold Suki saw Zuko a few blocks down, walking to his uncles' place. Hunched against the wind, with his hands in his pockets, he looked so alone. She wondered for a moment if asking Sokka to give him a lift was a good idea, but figured Zuko didn't really want any company right now.
Aang was pissed, basically seeing red. He couldn't believe Zuko had taken advantage of Katara, or she was on top of him, or whatever happened. Aang was so disappointed in her, how could she? He focused his gaze on Katara, she was looking rather despondent. Her elbow propped on the table, with her head in her hand. She didn't look sorry, she didn't look embarrassed. This made Aang even more upset. How could she just sit there like this wasn't a big deal? She made out with Zuko!
"I can't believe you let him do that to you." Aang said the most accusatory voice he could manage. Katara seemed to be brought out of her daze, and stared up at him.
"Excuse me?" Katara replied. She didn't seem too happy with his comment, but he didn't care. She's the one that made out with a guy she only knew for a few weeks. All the fantasy's he had about them ending up together were falling apart. She was supposed to be above something like this. Katara wasn't supposed to make out with anybody. She was supposed to be his. "Would you like to repeat yourself Aang?" Aang leaned back in the booth, fine if that's the way she wanted to play it.
"Didn't know you were that type of girl Katara." It had as much venom behind it as Aang could manage. He wasn't very good at being mean. If he was ever angry Aang would just yell, never be vindictive. The path he was taking this conversation down was new to him. "Fooling around with random guys, real classy." Katara was now sitting at full attention.
"Well Aang, I don't really see how it's any of your business." The volume of her voice was rising exponentially. Her eyes were narrowing as well, Aang was determined to stand his ground. As for if it was his business or not, she had been his friend for a long time. Zuko on the other hand was the new guy. She shouldn't just be making out with him. Damn Zuko, why did he have to show up and be all dark and mysterious? He just shows up and has to join his group of friends, and get his dream girl to fall for him.
"Well when it gets brought up in front of the group, we kind of become involved." That was as good an explanation as any Aang decided. Katara didn't seem to agree with him, she just seemed to be getting angry with him. Maybe that was a good thing. Now she could stop seeing him as a little brother and start seeing him as a guy. A guy that could get angry right back. "So Zuko manhandles you and you retaliate by kissing him?"
"Actually I bit him first, since you're so damn interested." Aang lost his edge for a moment. He went from mounting anger to a little bit shocked. Bit him? Was that like a sexual thing? How far did they go? If she liked him so much why was she upset with him? Aang was getting more and more confused, and quickly his shock over Katara's admittance of the biting was gone. He was mad again.
"So you're into that kind of stuff?" He was being childish now, but Aang didn't care. She had betrayed him, somehow it felt that way at least. Katara stood up, she was about to storm off like Zuko had done. Was she going to find him? Was she going to kiss him again? Aang didn't want this, she should stay here in Gran Gran's with him. "Running off to find him?" She stopped, good, at least he kept her here for a little longer.
"I'm going home, you're pestering is pissing me off." Aang was losing it now. She was mad at him? He wasn't off with somebody he barely knew doing god knows what.
"So questions piss you off, not guys groping you?" Katara started walking towards the door now. She stopped turned and glared at him.
"Why the hell are you acting like this Aang? I expected it from Sokka but he actually acted like an adult and went about his business." She was tearing up a bit in the corners of her eyes. Aang had made her sad as well. He didn't care though, he wanted to make her hurt, because she hurt him. "What the fuck is it to you?" He opened his mouth to respond, but somebody else answered.
"Because he's still in love with you!" Aang swung around to see Toph crying. In his rashness and anger, Aang forgot she was there. She had just sat there and listened to the whole thing. Aang instantly felt his anger drain away. It was replaced by copious amounts of shame and regret. Toph had said the actual words, but the way he acted up until she voiced them gave him away just as much. Toph suddenly stood and rushed out the door, almost bowling over Katara as she did. Katara left shortly after. Aang sat alone in the booth until his Uncle picked him up. Gran Gran must have called him.
Sokka didn't see anyone from the group all day Saturday. Well he saw Katara around the house, but they didn't speak. After Suki and he left the diner they went to a party, but they didn't exactly have a great time. They spent it talking quietly in the corner about his sister. Then they called it a night rather early, and went home.
Now it was Sunday, and he had practice to get to. Coach Pakku gave them Saturday off after the win. Sokka was sure a hellish Saturday practice would have been in store for them if they had lost. But, then again, if they had lost the group wouldn't have imploded on itself like it did. He and Zuko wouldn't have come up with the prank, Zuko wouldn't have kissed Katara, and the meal wouldn't have disintegrated into a fight. Sokka surprisingly wasn't mad at Zuko for making a move on Katara. He figured it was coming eventually. They obviously liked each other, and quite frankly Sokka was tired of playing the over protective brother role. Maybe it had something to do with Zuko not being from South Point. Sokka didn't have a lifetime to judge Zuko like he did every other guy in town. Sokka chuckled to himself and walked into the locker room.
"How're my favorite Polar Bears!" Sokka exclaimed as he walked in. He received a few halfhearted cheers in response. Everyone seemed not so happy to be here on a Sunday, but that seemed to go for every weekend practice. He saw that Zuko was already here and suiting up. Sokka dropped his bag next to his locker and sat down next to Zuko. Zuko glanced his way and gave a subtle nod. Sokka gave one in return and began to ready himself for practice.
As they got ready the room filled with more and more guys trickling in. Finally it was Aang that came through the door. Sokka and Zuko acknowledged him, but he walked right by them and plopped down at his locker and began to disrobe. Sokka shot a quizzical look to Zuko, who seemed just as confused at Aang's behavior. Practice was also confusing. The whole team seemed invigorated by the big win, except Zuko and Aang. Zuko was going through it like he always did. Full tilt, all in, work work work. But he was so robotic, not that Zuko was ever especially animated. Sokka chalked it up to his whole deal with Katara and let it go.
Aang on the other hand was so out of it that Pakku sat him on the bench for most of the practice. He was slow, didn't seem interested at all. It was like Aang was sleep walking. It was so weird to see the kid that had always been a ball of energy act like he had none of it. Aang was especially unresponsive to Zuko. Usually when Zuko gave pointers in practice everyone listened, especially Aang. Today he wasn't listening to anyone, he hid behind his Plexiglas visor. Sokka felt he should have talked to Katara about what had happened at the diner after he and Suki had left. Aang was definitely not ok. After practice the three of them stayed after the rest of the team cleared out. The room was very quiet. Aang had barely changed out of his gear, staring off into space. Sokka and Zuko were in street clothes milling around. Zuko was methodically packing his bag, so Sokka decided to start the conversation.
"So what's up Aang?" Sokka asked. Lame opening he knew, but it was to the point. And this problem seemed like it needed blunt force to deal with it. The kid was way too far in his own head for Sokka to pussyfoot around the situation. Sokka heard Zuko stop packing behind him. Well good, everyone was paying attention. "You weren't very 'there' today." Aang finished removing his gear and began getting dressed. He still wasn't even acknowledging that Sokka was asking questions. "Look Aang, you're my friend and you'r-"
"Looks like everyone has new friends." Aang replied curtly. Sokka was taken aback at Aang's attitude. Aang very rarely ever lost his temper, and when he did it was a huge blow up. Here he was acting not like he would normally angry. Aang was being spiteful, towards Zuko. Sokka always had the inkling that Aang still had feeling for Katara, but once Aang started going out with Toph Sokka thought the puppy love was over. Looks like Zuko getting to Katara first had brought Aang's crush roaring back. Sokka heard Zuko groan behind him. "Yeah, I'm talking about you Zuko."
"Get over it Aang." Came Zuko's even response. Sokka turned to see Zuko had stood up and was facing Aang now. Sokka had only seen Zuko ever fight with his sister, and that was never any big deal. Zuko always was hunching to meet Katara's eye level. But now, Zuko was standing to his full height, shoulders back, ready to go. Sokka had to admit the guy was intimidating. He might have to make sure Aang wasn't killed. Aang took a few steps toward Zuko, Sokka moved in between.
"This is all your fault Zuko!" Aang was yelling now. Sokka had his hand on the younger kid's chest to hold him back. But Sokka could feel Aang wasn't using all his strength to get at Zuko. Sokka didn't blame him, Zuko had about a foot of height and 50lbs of muscle on him. "You took advantage of Katara. And you Sokka, why aren't you upset about this?!" Sokka sighed, he knew Aang would try to drag him into this against Zuko.
"Aang, they like each other, a little horseplay is to be expected." Damn, Sokka thought, he was being very mature about this. He momentarily got distracted patting himself on the back, but was brought out of it when Aang knocked his hand away and backed up. The young goal scorer was beginning to tear up. "What happened after we left on Friday night? Katara was in a funk all day yesterday."
"I asked Katara how she could do that with him." Aang gestured to Zuko, who had not moved an inch. "Then she got mad at me, when it was him that did, did... what he did!" So Aang had pressed Katara about Zuko, and Katara got mad. Sokka was starting to get the picture. "Then Toph said I still loved Katara and ran off. Now they both hate me and it's all Zuko's fault." Sokka ran a hand through his hair. Man this was bad. For Toph to go off like that, Aang must have done more than just ask Katara about Zuko. He would need to get the full story later. For now he needed to make sure Aang didn't do anything stupid, like attack a much bigger guy.
"Look, Aang-" Sokka began, but was cut off by Zuko.
"You're such a fucking child." Oh man, Zuko was angry now? Sokka needed back up, but there was no way he could leave these two alone to get some. "My fault? You're the one that led Toph on while you still were following Katara around like a puppy dog. Everyone could see it." Well truth be told, Sokka hadn't picked up on that. He was never the best at picking up on stuff like that. Zuko bent down and resumed packing his bag, this time much more erratically, but he continued to scold Aang. "You always expect shit to fall in your lap. If you wanted Katara, then you should have talked to her about your feelings instead of just waiting for something to happen. If you didn't really have feelings for Toph then you should have told her instead of expecting her to be the one that ended it. I mean really, you were too chicken shit to be honest with Toph and you hurt her. Because it was easier, it was easier to just be with her and still pine for Katara than man up and be honest with the both of them. You're the same out on the ice, no work ethic. You glide around and wait for somebody to do the hard work for you so you can put the puck in the net. My fault? What happens between Katara and I, is between Katara and I. Maybe she got mad at you because you were butting in where you didn't belong. So fuck off you little shit." Zuko finally stopped when he had nothing to left put in his bag. Sokka stared at the empty locker. Zuko had taken everything out of it except his blue jersey. He left it hanging, zipped up his bag and left the room. Sokka turned to Aang, he was crying now. Everything Zuko said was true, and Aang knew it. Sokka quietly waited for Aang to get his things together, and gave him a ride home.
So now it was Monday, and Zuko sat sulking in his chair. Everyone was shooting him strange glances. Then Suki came in, Zuko wasn't particularly happy about seeing his lab partner right now. She gave him a smile and sat down next to him.
"So, Sokka called me last night and told me everything." Zuko groaned in response and put his hand over his face. "Then I called Katara and she elaborated on what happened in the diner after we left." Zuko made no noise in response this time. "Quite the tongue lashing you gave Aang." Zuko dropped his hand and looked over at Suki. She wasn't showing any emotion, not tipping her hand as to whose side she was on. Maybe she was just staying neutral, Switzerland. There was one big brain full of street smarts behind those big green eyes, staying neutral was definitely the smart move here, Zuko thought.
"So, I've been getting some weird looks from everyone since I walked in to the classroom." Zuko nodded towards their classmates to emphasize his point. "Does the whole know about our little spat?" Suki looked around the room and then back to him.
"They want to know if you quit the team or not." Zuko furrowed his brow. Quit the team? He did clean out his locker. Maybe it would be best if he did. This wasn't his town. He didn't belong on its team. "Somebody saw your locker and freaked out. It's been circulating around town for the past 12 hours or so." She wasn't pressing him for an answer, damn, was Suki the only sane person in this town. Maybe she was just the only one that knew how to talk to him.
"Maybe it's better if I do quit." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "And maybe it would be better if I stayed away from you guys too." Yeah, probably wouldn't go over too well if he just showed up to hang out with Katara or Aang. "I messed up your little group something awful." She laughed, Zuko did too. He didn't know why, it wasn't meant to be funny. Then he felt her head on his shoulder and he opened his eyes. She was staring up at him sideways.
"Hang in there kiddo." Zuko took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Yeah, hang in there, in a frozen wasteland where nobody liked him. "Plus you have until 5 to decide on staying with the team or not." He chuckled a bit. The teacher came in and the class settled into their seats. He and Suki sat up straight and began class.
Hop you enjoyed. Reviews, as always, are much appreciated.