I don't own Avatar the Last Airbender.
Katara huffed angrily. How dare that presumptuous brat question her cooking. The task had always been designated to her, it wasn't because she was exceptionally good at it, but because she was a "girl." She hadn't really held any attachment to the task, but the fact that Zuko was the one who asked to take over, irked her.
She knew that he hadn't really changed, she could feel it. Just like in Ba Sing Se, when he claimed to have undergone a "transformation" and then betrayed her. Betrayed her like she hadn't just offered to heal that hideous scar that deformed his visage. She had suggested it out of simple kindness and a wish to help her fellow human. Then he'd gone and proven himself undeserving of her pity and empathy. He was going double cross them, her, again. She could feel it in her blood.
Although… he had been rather good recently, obediently following her directions and refraining from fire-bending.
Still, she would never trust him. Ever. She hated him, plain and simple. Everything about him made her want to heave, and wretch and cry out in anguish and frustration all at once. Of course she wouldn't lose her composure like that, especially over that prat who had wormed his way into her family's den. A venomous viper amongst lambs.
She sneered, rolling onto her stomach, and grinding her teeth in agitation. Ever since he'd joined the group, she'd made sure that he knew his presence was unwelcome. She'd hissed and threatened, glared and just all around bullied him while the other's weren't looking. Yet, he still didn't seem to get the message that he should just leave. Disappear. Vanish without a trace and leave them in peace to fight Fire Lord Ozai. Growling faintly under her breath, Katara stilled.
Frantic steps sounded outside her door, and she smiled. Her darling prince had most likely messed up the soup, and Sokka was going to come rushing into her room begging her to make something edible for them. She would be their savior, and "firecracker" would become the source of their vexation once more. The water spirits knew just how expensive and hard it was to buy food.
There was an unexpected knock, making her frown momentarily. Sokka never knocked.
Aang peeked into her room, "Me, Katara! Dinner is ready, so come eat with us!"
Katara froze, eyes widening fractionally. Eat?
Aang frowned, concerned when his friend didn't move, pushing open the door, he stepped forward tentatively, touching her forehead. "Are you ok? I can't believe you trusted Zuko enough to let him cook for us!" Confirming her solid health, the nomad withdrew his hand, smiling, "Not that we minded, because his stew is divine!" drooling ever so slightly, Aang praised their nemesis.
Oblivious to Katara's rising horror and displeasure, he continued dreamily, "He even resisted putting meat in it for me. Oh! And Sokka's going to eat your portion if you don't hurry." The young man captured her wrist and attempted to drag her from her bed, only half way succeeding, as she stumbled after him in shock.
So Zuko had outdone her in cooking had he? And what had Aang said about trust? She didn't trust him at all! And yet her rage had lead her to put all of them in danger. What if Zuko had poisoned the food? She shivered. Freedom was a liberty she could not, would not, permit him.
Wrenching her limb away abruptly, she put on her best sugar queen smile and motioned for Aang to lead the way, rubbing her wrist unconsciously. She had to confirm this. There was no way that a firebender left alone a male firebender had outdone her in cooking. Men did cooking like fish on a stick, and charred pig-goose on a spit…
Nearing the fire, Sokka's over-eager voice caught her attention, "With this, Zuko my friend, you have completely assimilated into our Aang gang. Yes my friend, no man could be all bad and make such a sublime soup." A mumble accompanied the almost drunken-sounding confession.
'Acting all embarrassed,' Katara scoffed, "How despicable."
Aang glanced carefully at Katara, alarmed at the amount of hostility he was sensing. She didn't seem to realize that she was speaking her thoughts, and the aggressive aura she was emitting was almost murderous it its intent. He shivered. He had always known that Katara disliked Zuko, but not this much. Everyone was finally accepting the brunette, only his water-bending teacher was apposing their growing family.
Stepping into the light of the fire, Aang sighed in relief. In the light of the fire, everyone was content and was Zuko smiling? Growth in a positive direction! His smile nearly blinded Sokka as he looked over his shoulder to greet them.
Either he really likes the thought of more soup, or Katara kissed him, the warrior concluded. Knowing his sister, it was probably the soup.
Motioning for Katara to sit, the brother placed a bowl of soup in her hands. "It's the most perfect soup EVER!" Suki nodded in silent agreement, "The best I've had in a while, no offence to your cooking or anything Katara!" Sokka added quickly and stopped, and glancing eagerly at his sister, only to find her glaring at Zuko passionately. "Katara?"
"What, Sokka?" she snapped, "I am not offended at all. Really. I'm just surprised that Zuko managed to cook something edible. After all you would expect that from a prince, would you?" Said prince winced visibly as she spat out his title. Or ex-title as it was. Toph, all seeing as she was, noticed and frowned, Katara just wasn't going to accept the firebender, was she?
Sokka laughed nervously, scratching the back of his neck and glancing over at Zuko. "Okay Katara, if you say so."
"Listen up, princess," Toph interjected roughly, thoroughly irritated by the water benders animosity. "Zuko here, is one of us now, ok? We all know that you're the mother of our little family and all, but mood bender over here," she patted his arm, "has been accepted by everyone except you. Just because you've got some history, and got hurt by his past actions, doesn't mean that he hasn't metemorphisized into one of us fun loving, tree hugging, heroes, understood? I'd keep him if only for his cooking!" she grinned and her badly placed compliment. "So get over yourself and stop being a…well a bitch."
Pipsqueak covered The Duke's ears, Katara gasped, Toph looked content, Sokka and Aang let their jaws drop and Zuko just looked incredulous, a little scared and a smidgen pleased. He knew Katara wasn't going to take this well, though he did appreciate Toph coming to his defense. He really did feel accepted by this small gathering of nations. Even if Katara never forgave him for his sins, he still had Sokka, Suki, Aang, Toph, Pipsqueak and The Duke even Haru wasn't giving him any flak. The fire nation representative bowed his head and smiled to himself, lost in his thoughts. Not even Azula, Mai and Tai-lee made his heart float like it was now.
Azula was just plain evil, even if she was his sister. Ever since she was little her mind had been focused on making his life a living hell. Ture, she had her moments when he felt that she needed his support and he's given it freely, seeing as she was family and blood, but her prodigy status had quickly taken away any vulnerabilities that he'd seen as worthy of his empathy, and so she'd become a closed book to him.
Mai, well Mai was a lot like him in some ways. The brooder, never good enough, always the one being used, and emotionally neglected. He'd thought he'd loved her once. He was positive he still did. He loved Mai as a kindred spirit, the one that knew him the best and could comfort him when times were rough and more than a little challenging. She was his rock, his foundation. She'd held him together. If anything, he knew he could ultimately count on her when it mattered the most. Like the sister he never got in Azula, or had lost in Azula. If he had to marry one girl, it would be her.
Ty-lee was more Azula's counterpart then his friend. She'd always been there in the background helping Azula when she needed it, and he couldn't bring himself to care. She was almost like wallpaper, except her bubbly personality put her in the more annoying category of his organized brain. He'd never really paid her much attention and she'd never nosed around in his business besides asking cheerfully how he was every single time the met.
Here, in the glow of the fire, hostility radiating from the water bender, and exasperation sweeping through the rest of the occupants. He felt secure and completely accepted. None of them really cared that he was Ozai's son, nor did they care that Azula was his sister. They saw him as a firebender, true, but a trustworthy one. And he would do everything in his power to validate their belief in his character. "Thank you, Toph" he rasped, his voice slightly huskier than normal, an unnoticeable element that slipped by everyone except the earthbender.
"You're welcome Sparkles,"
Aang smiled as he watched Katara settle down, the rest of his friends laugh and Zuko rub this bicep.
"Just so you know," Katara ambushed him just outside his room, " I still don't accept you. Watch your step firebender." She stalked down the hall, taking the residue of Zuko's good mood with her.
Sighing and running a hand through his hair, Zuko slumped and entered the doorless sanctuary he'd come to treasure. Flopping down on the bed he'd moved over against the wall, the ex-Prince growled low in his throat, his mind awhirl with firenation and earthkingdom curses, all aimed at a blue clad girl that loathed his very essence. "I bet if I'd come as the Blue Spirit, she wouldn't give me any trouble."
"Yeah, but then you wouldn't really be one of us Zuko." The subdued chirping startled him into sitting position, boots hitting the floor with a loud thunk. Aang smiled at him from his doorway, "I didn't know you were having such a bad time with Katara…"the monk smiled sadly, "She's not really a bad person you know. She's really nice sometimes, and really pretty."
Zuko smiled wearily at the young man, "You like her?"
"Oh yeah!" Aang got excited, ready to talk about his favorite person, "Katara broke me out of the iceburg I was stuck in! That's how we met. I woke up and she was the first thing I saw. And then she went penguin sledding with me, she's really nice sometimes, and fun to be around too. Like the time…" Zuko listened attentively to the Avatar's babbling, nodding at all the appropriate times, and smiling slightly as the kid went on and on about how amazing the waterbender was. maybe this was what it felt like to have a friend. Mai had been a friend of sorts, but she'd never babbled to him about herself, and preferred silence when possible. She was steady as Aang was…fun…bubbly maybe.
Zuko wished for the first time that Aang didn't have to fight in the war. It was a sure way to lose this innocence he could feel radiating next to him; naivety embodied in one airbender.
It's a multichapter, not a oneshot. I usually label them if they are. Haha
Thanks to everyone that read this. Especially DayMoon89 and Axia who reviewed.