This piece is set after my Sokka and Zuko fanfic (Journey to Ba Sing Se), which should be read first.
"What do you say, Momo," Katara asked the lemur on her shoulder, "A cup of tea before we meet Sokka to discuss the invasion plan?"
Momo chittered happily, which Katara took as agreement. The Jasmine Dragon beckoned welcomingly, delicious smells hanging in the air around. Katara walked up the steps and was greeted politely by a waitress.
"Table for two please," Katara said, stroking Momo.
As the waitress bowed at her request, a horrifyingly familiar voice broke through the quiet chatter of the other patrons.
"Uncle," Zuko called, "I need two jasmine, one green and one lychee."
Katara fought her instinct to run as Iroh replied to his nephew's order. Despite the fact that Sokka had warned them all that Zuko would be in the city, nothing could have prepared Katara for meeting the scarred Firebender in person. She took a deep, calming breath, reminding herself of Sokka's words. Besides, she really wanted a cup of tea.
Katara avoided looking at Zuko as she was lead to her table, instead glancing around the teashop. It was everything to be expected from a building in the upper ring of the city. The customers were all very well dressed, talking politely to each other over steaming cups of tea. The walls and floor were decked out in traditional Earth Kingdom greens, broken up by beautiful bamboo paintings.
When the waitress showed Katara her table, she breathed a quiet sigh of relief. The table was fairly tucked away, perhaps she wouldn't have to talk to the man who had chased them across half the world. The waitress gave Katara a list of teas and waited for her to make a decision.
"The jasmine is a favourite," the waitress recommended, seeing Katara look blankly at the long list.
"Yes, that's fine," Katara said.
The waitress bowed and left her alone. Momo jumped off her shoulder onto the table. The lemur started to paw at an embroidered piece of the tablecloth. Katara scanned the list of teas, recognising only about half of them.
It didn't take long for her tea to be made. Katara was pulled out of her thoughts as a tray was placed on her table. She looked up from the menu to thank the waitress, but it was Zuko serving her this time. He avoided her gaze as he quickly moved the items from the tray to the table, including – oddly – a small plate of fruit pieces.
"It's for your lemur," Zuko explained when he finally looked up and caught Katara staring at it.
Momo had no objections at being served by the Firebender, as he immediately picked up some fruit and began munching it amidst delighted purrs. Katara picked up her cup of tea and breathed in the gently spiced scent. She realised Zuko was still hovering over her table.
"Do you need something?" Katara bit out.
Zuko hesitated for a moment, then slid into the chair across from her. Katara glared at him and opened her mouth to tell him off, but Zuko spoke first.
"Is Sokka alright, did he find you without any trouble?"
The question caught Katara off guard. She stared at Zuko, but saw nothing except concern on his face. She nodded and Zuko gave a sigh of relief. Katara took a sip from her cup and was surprised at how good it was.
"Do you think my brother can't take care of himself?" she asked sharply.
"He can be a bit reckless," Zuko said carefully, "And there could be others like those soldiers on the wall..."
Katara interrupted with a disapproving sniff. Zuko took that as his cue to fall silent again. He ran his hand through his hair, which was almost long enough to get in his eyes. Katara held her cup of tea tightly, letting it warm her fingers through.
"Did you make this?" she asked, indicating the tea.
Zuko shook his head.
"My uncle," he said with a shrug, "He makes all the tea. Did the Avatar get his bison back?"
"Uh," Katara struggled, thrown by the sudden change in direction, "Yes, Appa's back," she frowned, "How did you know about Appa being missing?"
"There's posters everywhere," Zuko said after a moment's hesitation.
Katara's frown did not lessen. There was something he wasn't telling her. She sipped at her tea while thinking. Momo crept over to Zuko's hand and gave it a suspicious sniff. Before either Katara or Zuko could comment on his behaviour, Momo ran up Zuko's arm and sat comfortably on his shoulder, chittering to himself all the while.
"Is he normally like this?" Zuko asked, his head askew to give the lemur more room.
"He likes being fed," Katara said shortly.
"I've got to go," Zuko told Katara, standing up at the sound of the voice.
He took a few steps before he remembered the lemur that was firmly attached to his shoulder. Zuko turned back and pried the animal off his clothes.
"Wait," Katara said quietly, "Do you know who freed Appa?"
Zuko froze for a second, during which time Momo wriggled free of his grip and settled on his shoulder again. With a noise of frustration, Zuko wrestled the lemur off for the second time.
"I heard it was the Blue Spirit," Zuko said, quickly, "He's helped the Avatar before."
Katara watched at him suspiciously. Zuko held out the unhappy lemur at arm's length to Katara. The Waterbender took back Momo and scratched him between the ears to calm him. It seemed to do the trick.
"The Blue Spirit?" she repeated thoughtfully, as Zuko hurried off to take care of something.
Katara finished the rest of her tea in contemplative silence. Momo curled up on the table and began to sleep. Even though Katara took her time in finishing her tea, Zuko didn't return to her table.
Finally, Katara couldn't find an excuse to delay leaving any longer. Sokka would be waiting. Impatiently. She picked up Momo, who gave a sleepy chitter of protest, but didn't fight being pulled off the table. Katara left a few copper pieces for the tea, then put down a silver as a tip. She would come here again, maybe. Perhaps bring Sokka and Toph, though probably not Aang, not yet.
After all, it was very good tea.