Spoilers: s2 finale 2x20, "Crossroads of Destiny"
Context: Haven't written zutara in forever! Feels familiar, like a good and saucy dessert. Written challenge response to the lyrics "A subtle kiss that no one sees" from the song "Read My Mind" by the Killers.
That No One Sees (A Subtle Kiss)
They say the devil's water
It ain't so sweet
You don't have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while
"It's a scar." He looked at her sideways, then at the cave wall, and added, "It can't be healed."
Katara licked her lips in the dry atmosphere of the cave, trying to remind herself to breathe shallowly and not be irritated at his dismissal. Yelling would be a mistake if they were down in this hole for much longer. Making a decision, she stuffed her hand down her shirt and pulled out the glass vial she'd carried for months. Raising the tiny flask between her fingers, Katara considered her own strength. Then she considered Yue's generosity, and wondered if this was really the purpose the blessed water had been waiting for. She looked at the boy, his black hair disheveled and his face resigned to sadness in the glow of Ba Sing Se's greatest treasure.
Of course it was, Katara decided. A gift of freedom was a gift Yue would always approve of.
"This," she said, catching the prince's attention with the flicker of the glass, "is water from the Spirit Oasis at the North Pole. It has special properties, so I have been saving it for something important." His eyes, yellow and sharp, flickered over her form as she approached, the same way the stray wolves that followed a snow hunter's camp would watch the fire from distant banks. Now standing in front of him, the part of her mind that wasn't afraid was twisting at the very act of being close to him in peace.
"I don't know if it would work, but..." her voice turned into a mumble, but Zuko must have found what he needed in her expression, because he closed his eyes. Her stomach flipped, almost panicking at this trust from the son of the Fire Lord. As her left hand began to work the cap off the vial, she reached up and ran her fingers over the plane of his cheek.
Zuko was still, refusing to even acknowledge the contact, but his breath spread warmly over her wrist, and the crimping of tight flesh beneath her fingers reminded Katara of the vines in the banyan swamp. Yes, she could work him through this. Her eyes wandered, caught up in the fascination of examining a supposed enemy. The firebender's nose was straight, his eyebrows were wide, and with her fingers covering the mark Katara found a new appeal in his face. She was learning to see the prince in a way she never could when he shaved to a topknot and scowled so fiercely that his pretty angles became a mask of ferocity. The mask was calm now, waiting...waiting for her. With her thumb she followed the curve of the burn to Zuko's mouth, and then she froze.
Prince Zuko's eyes were open, meeting hers, and in a flood of anxiety Katara floundered. Moving was impossible when he stared at her so intently, because that would be... that would be... but Zuko was just as still. She hadn't even gotten the vial open, hadn't even started, yet he was looking at Katara as if she'd changed his life.
"I," she began, but at the same time Zuko's mouth dropped a fraction, so her thumb rested on his bottom lip. The pride of the Southern Water Tribe couldn't remember what she'd been planning to say. Something within Katara - - something that might have been her heart - - began to wail against her ribcage, to scream that this moment was not fair. Not the right time. Not the right healing.
Not old enough, not trusting enough, not powerful enough. She was not enough yet.
She didn't have to be, because Prince Zuko took the last step for her. His lips were cracked slightly from the heat of the desert city, the variations of his skin tickling hers. His palms seemed to float in the air before finding her waist, curling shyly into the cloth of her white seal belt. Katara's free hand dropped the vial of against her chest, and moved into his hair instead. With the boy's mouth pushing softly against hers, she could smell the tea shop where he worked and feel the thinness of his frame beneath the robes. That Zuko could be brittle (could be real and touchable) was another lesson. They were pouring down too much, too fast, all these things Katara had to learn.
Standing on her toes to kiss more of him, Katara tried to bury the enemy and experience only the boy. He was not so much older than her, not so very proud. This Zuko was the real one, this slow and hungry boy. If he could touch her like this, kiss her like she was water to drink, then she knew he could never fight her again. How could anyone, after this? How could people go to war and be enemies, go to war and hate a stranger, when that stranger could end up the person they were meant to hold?
She and Zuko stood closer now, their knees bumping (his above hers), hands like butterflies seeking a new place to land with every brush. Katara's fingers slid across his shoulders to his neck, and the pads of her skin barely ghosted there when he jumped back, dropping his head and breathing hard.
She put her palms to her face, hot and spinning. Not enough, she thought, but she didn't know if she meant herself or Zuko or both of them together.
"I," said the boy. It was his turn to trail off roughly. "I..."
Katara glanced down to see one of her hands had latched onto the glass vial of spirit water, pulling its leather thong taught.
"Zuko." She met his gold animal eyes with her own, and the world exploded in green crystal.
Flame and reservoir, air and stone: these are the things Katara remembered from that night. Water douses fire, lightning severs crystal: these are the things she witnessed. Prince Zuko had it in him to kiss and also to hate: these are the things she learned.
That Katara could do the same - - that was a lesson just for her.
I want your loving
And I want your revenge
I don't wanna be friends