HERE I am participating in the spectacular-ness that is ZUTARA week, with my own little series of one-shots. I am still working on Acquiescence, currently writing out the final chapter, in fact, but I couldn't resist joining in on the fun. Hope you enjoy, and please let me know what you think! This will be updated daily until the week is over C:
summary: In which Zuko reflects on family roles.
genre: humor, fluff
rating: k for ka-pow
zutara week, day one
When it came to cooking dinner, the responsibility was shared, but Zuko definitely had a preference for his own meals. Aang always opted for nuts and berries and Sokka had questionable taste. Toph wasn't allowed to cook, they were often afraid to ask Suki, and Katara's dinners were…well, soupy. Zuko didn't like soupy things very much. Which was why, when he returned to the hut from gathering firewood with Sokka, the prince wrinkled his nose in disgust as he peered into the pot sitting above the fire.
"What…is that?" He demanded, setting down the gathered tinder.
Katara's glacial eyes snapped to meet his at once, a storm brewing in their depths. "Stewed sea prunes," she said tartly, lifting her nose in the air just the slightest as she made a point of stirring.
The firebender made a face. "It just looks like slimy rocks tossed in water to me," Zuko said, earning a bristling glare from the chef.
"It's a Southern Water Tribe delicacy!"
Zuko didn't seem to be listening, "Maybe I should have hunted those animals I saw…"
"I'm sorry; does this meal not meet his highness' royal standards?"
"No, in fact, it doesn't. Thank you for understanding—hey, Sokka," The firebender called, waving over the his friend in hopes of heading back into the wilderness to hunt something more appetizing.
It was Katara's muttered, "My mother used to always make this for us," that made Zuko dismiss the Water Tribe warrior when he had approached.
Zuko turned back to the waterbender and shrugged in a rather pathetic attempt of nonchalance. "I guess I could settle for it, this one time. Besides, it's too cold out to bother going out again."
Katara only replied with a well-timed scoff, but as Zuko looked into the pot, he could see the smile in her reflection.
Zuko wasn't accustomed to spending time with family; at least, not in the sense of doing fun activities together. Playing with Azula had never been all too great, often leaving the prince with a bitter expression and a reason to find mother and stay with her instead.
And so, when Sokka announced that he, Aang and Zuko should have some male bonding time, the firebender only replied with a look of utter disinclination. But he agreed, convincing himself that Sokka was not like Azula, and maybe some time with the guys wouldn't be so bad.
Besides, he had always wondered what it would be like to have a brother.
Male bonding time for the trio consisted of falling into a lake when trying to fish, getting lost in the woods on a hunting trip, becoming dinner for just short of what must have been one hundred or so flies, and returning with red splotches all over their bodies. Zuko made a mental note of never agreeing to other suggestions of male bonding time.
"Stop itching, you'll only make it worse," Katara reprimanded as the fire prince scratched at his elbow.
He scowled at her, refraining from lashing out, as was his irritable nature, and sat, scowling at a nearby plant that seemed to sag beneath his stare. "I'll itch whatever I want to itch," he grumbled under his breath. He was the heir to the Fire Nation throne, for Agni's sake! He would scratch as he damn pleased!
But then her hands were cool and refreshing as she spread the special ointment she had made of leaves and berries onto his itchy red swells and her touch was gentle and comforting and her eyes, when they met his, were endearingly annoyed, and Zuko decided that maybe having a sister wasn't all bad.
"He always went on these trips with the other warriors. Sokka and I were never sure whether or not he'd return. But when we'd see his ship coming into view through the fog, we would drop what we were doing and run to the shores to be the first to greet him," Katara said gently as stood in the water, fingers tracing along the silvery surface. "We celebrated his arrival."
"Funny," Zuko said distantly from his perch on the boulder, staring up into the millions of stars overhead. "That's what I felt like doing every time my father left."
Katara paused in her movements and glanced over at the firebender who seemed to glow under the moonlight. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright. Uncle was always there for me to act as my father. Did I ever tell you about the time he ate a poisonous plant?"
The way she smiled at him and stopped what she was doing so she could join him on the boulder filled the prince with a strange sense of acceptance and belonging. They talked until the sun rose the next morning and when they awoke from a short slumber, still on the boulder that was surprisingly not as uncomfortable as it would seem, their whispered stories of the night before were nothing but vestiges of a dream and Zuko wondered if any of it had really happened at all.
But when Aang mentioned something about Sokka pretending to be his father, the opposing benders locked eyes across the group fire and shared a secret smile as they drank their insufficiently brewed tea.
It was Zuko's eighteenth birthday, and the group was reunited on the eve of his birth to have a pre-celebration reunion.
She had grown well, Zuko noticed, unable to miss the way her silhouette curved beneath her attire. And her hair was longer. Her eyes were just as blue as he remembered, her skin just as tan and unblemished and soft when he took her hand to place a customary kiss. It was procedure of course, as he had also kissed Suki's outstretched hand. He made the mistake with Toph, who only wrenched hers out of his grip and punched him in the arm for trying that funny stuff.
Except it wasn't just customary when he had kissed her hand, because her touch sent something like lightning up through his lips and down his spine and he straightened up at the sensation, foreign and wonderful all the same, and blinked at the waterbender with wide and slightly confused eyes.
Her expression betrayed nothing short of the ordinary, and so he dismissed it, instead ushering his friends into the garden where paper lanterns hung on low branches and a picnic was set up by the pond.
Everything was light-hearted and fun, celebratory, as they reminisced on their misadventures, and Zuko wondered on how he could have gone months without seeing these people, their faces, and he took a mental snap-shot of their reunion, knowing it wouldn't last because the best things never did.
It wasn't until later that night when everyone had retired to their own chambers that Zuko saw her again in an awkward passing along the halls, not hidden well enough in her corner to be overlooked. He approached her and tears poured down her face and she kept trying to deny that she was crying but he was no fool and so he took her up into his arms and cradled her as best he could until her breathing was soft and rhythmic against his shoulder.
With little effort, the prince lifted her up and returned her to her bed, but as he made to leave, her hand found his and there was that static again. Her tired blue eyes peered up at him, pleading and lonely, and he settled in beside her, telling himself it was just like sleeping so near on their various journeys around the world…
Except her scent was overwhelming and her touch was electrifying and her kisses were frantic and delicious.
"Happy birthday, Zuko," Katara's soothing voice said into his lips as she let her eyes close with the rising sun.
The prince smiled.
Indeed it was.
thoughts , comments , questions ?
don't exactly think it was my best work
but i do enjoy the drabble style
so i hope it was alright c:
day two ; change