Title: Zutara Week 2009

Author: Jade Sabre

A/N, Take 1: So I'm a day late with this one, but in my defense I took the GRE on Monday and was kind of out of commission for the rest of the day. Anyway, here's my first entry for Zutara Week 2009. I'm not entirely happy with it, but I think that's partially because I'm going to break down and end up writing a whole series of ficlets set in this universe, because the potential for hilarity is ENDLESS. I think I saw some others in this same vein, but none quite like this—at least, I hope so.

Reviews would be absolutely lovely!

A/N, Take 2: So, once again coming in nearly a year after the fact, I am here with my entries from Zutara Week 2009. I didn't finish the last three, and I don't know if I will; but I was rereading these ficlets the other day, and found them enjoyable, and thought I would share. With 2008's fics, I tried to stay in a post-Western-Air-Temple but pre-Boiling-Rock timeframe; the 2009 ones all fall between Southern Raiders and the finale. Aside from this one; and now, lest my note become longer than my fic, I release you to read it, and review, if you will.

Disclaimer: Having rewatched "The Southern Raiders" a thousand times, I can safely say that I do not own Avatar, because how anyone could come up with a Kataang ending after that episode is a problem for which I still have not found the solution. …outside of the awesome Zutara fandom, that is.

challenge 1: crossover

All in all, Katara decided, it was shaping up to be a pretty terrible week.

So far, the only bright spots she could identify were the kind of bright spots one found in the darkest of circumstances: they had escaped, they had avoided capture, and her ship had not been blown to tiny pieces. Her ship had also not crashed into anything, which was of course due solely to her and Sokka's superior piloting skills. And they were relatively safe for the moment, provided that the Empire didn't decide to start randomly blasting the asteroid field to bits.

Still, the fact that they had had to escape and worry about being captured and blown to bits, the fact that they were still hiding, meant that she wasn't going to be able to really rest easy until they were far, far away from here. And they weren't going to be able to get far, far away from here if she and Sokka weren't able to finish their repairs. SU-K1 had had an infuriatingly long list of minor damages that were easily addressed, but the overall looming issue of the damaged hyperdrive motivator was still lacking a solution. She'd left Sokka sitting in front of the hyperdrive scratching his big furry head while SU-K1 offered unhelpful solutions, leaving it to her copilot's discretion as to whether or not the droid stayed active or became part of the repair. A permanent part. She wouldn't lay any blame; the droid's tinny voice, almost specially designed to tease and nag a Wookie in six thousand different languages…

On second thought, she wasn't so sure she wanted SU-K1 as part of her ship. Without stopping, she altered her course through the ship, passing by the cockpit and intending to take a shortcut through one of the smaller passages in order to tell—

A flickering flame stopped her in her tracks. Prince Zuko, celebrated Rebellion leader, diplomat, and general pain in the everything, was manipulating a tiny flame as he welded shut a valve whose cover had been flapping around for days. Prince Zuko, the least practically helpful (if most idealistically driven) man she had ever met, was fixing her ship.

Katara was not entirely sure how she felt about that. On the one hand, it was her ship, and she and Sokka could handle all the repairs just fine. On the other hand, it was just a little valve that had needed welding to keep it from knocking the wires around it loose and shutting off power to the galley (which would cause a failure in the lights in the sleeping quarters, which would probably mess with the water pressure in the 'freshers). He was being helpful. That was okay.

On the other other hand, she had pretty much given up on the prince. Oh sure, there had been that little incident in the south passage, and there were times when it seemed he went out of his way to put a hand under her elbow or some other mannered bit of nonsense that required physical contact, but for the most part he seemed more amorously interested in the Rebellion than in anything else. Which was not a little frustrating, given his sharp eyes and quick wit and impressively muscular frame—Katara shook her head. It wasn't worth it.

Zuko had stopped welding and started trying to push the valve back into place—easily done, if one knew exactly how to jiggle it, and so Katara stepped forward to help him. He threw off her hand the moment it touched his—his skin was hot—and then hissed as he scraped his palm across the hot metal.

Katara crossed her arms, miffed. "Easy, Your Worship. I'm just trying to help."

He cut his eyes at her, going back to the valve. "Will you please stop calling me that?"

Katara started. He'd sounded…well. Desperate? Annoyed, but not to the point of hostility? In any case, it was a tone demanding some sort of compliance, at least to find out how deep it went. "Sure, Zuko."

He rolled his eyes. "You make things so difficult sometimes."

Hard to argue with that. "I do, I really do," she said, watching him, wary and intrigued and a little delighted, all at once. Not so intrigued as to give up all honesty, however. "You could be a little nicer, though. Come on, admit it," she said, tilting her head, daring him. "Sometimes you think I'm all right."

He sighed and let go of the valve, shaking out his hand. "Occasionally," he said, with an air of defeat. "Maybe." He glanced at her, a quick up-and-down look that made her shift her stance, wondering if he—"When you're not acting like a peasant."

"Peasant?" she demanded. "Peasant? You think I'm—"

"Well, you are a peasant," he said.

"So what else should I—who said I was a peasant? You don't know I'm a peasant." She caught sight of red on the hand he was rubbing, and said, "You're bleeding."

"Yes, I am," he said as she stepped forward. "But you do act like a peasant."

He was watching her, too, watching her watch him as she automatically reached for her hydrohealer with one hand and his hand with the other. Her eyes on her work, the rest of her acutely aware of the tightness of the corridor and the proximity of his impressive muscular frame, she said, "I do not."

"Only sometimes," he said, his voice hoarse. She finished healing him, the cool blue light of her hydrohealer fading as she slipped it into her pocket, still holding onto his hand. It was a nice hand, as hands went, much smoother than her own. On impulse, she lightly ran her finger across his calluses (calluses from holding blasters, not from doing hard work constantly fine-tuning the fastest bucket of bolts in the galaxy). "You—" his voice cracked, and she resisted the impulse to look up at him "—s-stop that."

His voice sent shivers down her spine, tingling with possibilities previously thought unattainable. "Stop what?"

"Stop that," he repeated, almost petulant, and when she glanced at him, his face was red. "M-my hands are dirty."

"No they're not," she said, annoyed at his impracticality but mostly focusing on the fact that his fingers were curling towards hers. "I just healed them with water. What are you afraid of?"

"Afraid?" he said, and for a moment they looked at each other, and Katara thought perhaps he was afraid, and hell, she would be lying if she thought jumping into unknown territory without a star chart was the easiest thing she'd ever done. But she'd seen the prince—rescued him, fought beside him, fought with him, fought for him, dreamed about him, wished—and she knew that drawing back now would kill her, and she thought maybe it might kill him too.

Still, wouldn't do to make this seem like any sort of serious adventure; had to take him through the sublight paces, first. "You're trembling," she pointed out, although frankly she was too.

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am—" in one deft movement he tilted up her chin, and then there they were, their faces inches apart, and his good eye went wide as he realized what he had done "—not."

She searched his face, and then said, "I think you like me because I'm a peasant. You haven't had enough peasants in your life."

"I happen," he said, as she slowly raised herself on her tiptoes, "to like nice girls."

"I'm a nice girl."

"No, you're not," he said, and the heat of his voice was enough to lift her the last few centimeters. "You're—"

And then they were kissing, and stars they were kissing and Katara knew that this was exactly what all the fighting and the hostility had been building up to, this moment with her hands in his hair and his cradling her neck, and he was turning out to be a surprisingly good kisser considering she'd never heard any tale of his having any non-military exploits, and part of her was already warning herself that she could not afford any entanglements at this point in the game no matter how perfect and wonderful and exactly everything she had—

"Captain! Captain!" Somewhere beyond the sound of her blood rushing through her ears and Zuko's breath rasping with hers, SU-K1 was calling for her. It would figure, she thought vaguely, the droid's voice would be that piercing. "I've isolated the reverse power flux coupling!"

It took a moment for her to disentangle herself—she caught a glimpse of Zuko staring at her with something between wide-eyed happiness and utter confusion—and as she turned towards SU-K1 she felt his arms dropping away from her. The droid's strangely painted metallic features stared back at her with an expression that was supposed to be pleasant and non-threatening but which now appeared to be a giant target just aching to connect with her fist. She opened her mouth, closed it, licked her lips, and finally said, "Thank you."

"Oh, you're welcome, captain," SU-K1 said. "I'll go inform Sokka. No doubt he will be very pleased."

"Great," Katara said, turning back to Zuko, only to see him slipping out the door behind her. Damn.

Still, he could pretend to forget glances, touches, heated exchanges in back corridors—but even he couldn't be so high-minded as to forget a kiss. And it was a small ship, so he couldn't hide from her forever. She'd catch him again.