A FEW NOTES
~First off, be forgiving with spelling and gramar. This fic has been cooking so long, everything just blends together and I can't even see my own mistakes. That said, I still try my best. That also said, if anyone wants to beta or proof read for me, that's cool.
~The name "Spit Venom, Drink Gas, Breath Fire" has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, setting, or characters. It is just a summery of Toph's attitude, as I interperet it.
~It also happens to be a lyric, which I have used but claim no rights to. Those of you more musically inclined may recognize several such occasions in the fic. Yeah, it's a rip, if you don't like it, there's the door - |[ ]|
~This fic began as a brief writing exercise on character study that I had no intention on posting. It then became a oneshot, twoshot, and threeshot. However, I kept writing still, and it has somehow become a decent length story.
~As mentioned, this is my attempt at writing the characters as faithful (as this ship can be) to themselves. A bit of time has passed, so I also tried to focus on making them more mature while still trying to stay within the constraints of canon and character. Let me know if I pulled it off, please…
~In regards to the plot itself; it starts out kinda drama-y and angst-y and lame-y. But action and violence and will be soon to come. If I were to say overall what this story is about, I'd say it's about war. And how it forces you to grow up.
~There is to be no mention of the R word in this fic by anyone. Doing so will be met with swift and mighty justice.
~This story will start out looking like Kataang. Then maybe Zutara. But this story is 100% pure Toko. Other ships are; Sokki, Kataang, Jiru.
~So far, I have written (as of 12:52 AM Monday July 11, 2011) about 32k words worth of story. I'd like to say it's 100% done before I posted it, but I'm getting the itchy finger.
~Lastly, I will say something on reviews. I welcome all haters and hoeskies alike. But something nice and pretty is always preferred. Or it may get metal in here.
.::Spit Venom, Drink Gas, Breath Fire::.
Ch 1: Thinking About Me :1 Ch
The cool spring wind blew through her hair, whipping the traditional loops of her ancestors in her eyes. She leaned back, closing her eyes and tilted her face up to the sky, enjoying the heat that washed over her and the radiant light that penetrated her senses right through her shut lids. She couldn't help but feel a little giddy. It had been two years since she had seen her friends, and four years since they had all been together. The thought was enough to draw a disheartened sigh from her. The pragmatist in her told her it couldn't be helped. That was just life. It's the natural order of things for people to grow apart. But part of her had once held out hope that the bonds they had forged in fighting a war were stronger than that. She smiled thinking that perhaps optimism was a fool's endeavor and wondering just exactly when she had become so jaded.
It probably happened in the time she had not seen hide nor hair of what were supposed to be her best and closest friends. In two years, the only one of them she had seen was her brother and, on the sparse occasions that she made the long boat trip south with him, Suki. She was grateful that they visited, though if she were to be honest, she had the impression that Sokka made the voyage less to see his sister and more out of a sense of duty to his struggling tribe. The Southern Watertribe had made progress since the war had ended. The humble little collection of whale-skin huts and ice shacks was starting to return to its former glory. And, with the generous help of a troop of waterbenders from the north, slowly but surely a majestic city of ice grew from the animal hide shelters. But life in the south was by no means easy. It didn't have the population to warrant frequent visits from merchant ships like the north did. Nor did it have anything worth trading, other than fish, which could be obtained in the north in larger quantities for less coin.
Katara sighed, opening her eyes and stripping off her coat. After so long at the South Pole, she was not acclimated to the warmer weather of the equator. She glanced around the saddle, eyeing each of her traveling companions in turn. Sokka and Suki. Haru and some girl he had insisted go along with them (the waterbender vaguely remembered being introduced to her, but at the moment, couldn't be brought to care who she was). They were all locked in the polite and unwieldy conversation of old friends who had grown apart. Awkward pauses and uncomfortable laughs ran rampant as they attempted to find common ground. Katara directed her gaze to the only other member of their group not participating in the torturous forced conversation, a young man who sat on the head of the massive bison they were soaring through the sky on. And as she did, she felt her gaze become a scowl.
Out of all of them, he was the last person she had expected to up and abandon her. Zuko was busy ruling a country, so that was a given. Sokka, while not up to anything as grand as the young Fire Lord, was trying to start a life with Suki. And Katara had sympathy for that. Toph was busy with what Toph was always busy with. Bothering Zuko and Iroh. Katara had once considered the brash little earthbender her closest friend. And while it hurt that she never saw her, it was understandable. She couldn't exactly write and say hello, and she knew that Toph would sooner die than set foot on snow and ice. Which, out of the core gang, left only one person. The one person who had the means to see her any time he pleased was, ironically, the one person she saw the least of. And that, despite everything else, hurt the most. Knowing that he had the ability to be with her anytime he pleased, and still chose not even to drop by made her chest tight. She once thought they had had someth-
"We're here, guys," his familiar voice said as it cut through her thoughts. It was deeper than she remembered. It should have made her nostalgic, but at the moment, it served only to make her bitter.
She tore her eyes and thoughts away from the Avatar and peered out over the side of Appa's saddle. Beneath them was a chain of islands that made up the main body of the Fire Nation. As they soared over innumerable amounts of smaller islands, the large 'main land' as it was called, came into view. Unlike most of the other islands near by, it was less densely forested; a product of the ruthless industrialization of the previous Fire Lords. The sun was already dying the dusk sky a vibrant red as they drew nearer to the capitol city's crater. The sprawling metropolis and, in Katara's humble opinion, the most advanced city in the entire world, was set in the center of a long dormant volcano. Every time she set eyes on it, it never failed to amaze her.
The waterbender heard Aang shout a command to his furry flying companion and as the rushing wind assaulted her ears and her stomach threatened to jump out of her mouth, they began to descend towards the dead center of the capitol. Slowly, the palace came into focus, bringing a smile onto her face. On the rare occasions she visited, Katara made sure to soak in every bit of time she could in the royal stronghold. In the failing light, it stood as an oasis among the metallic desert that was the capitol. The vibrant greens of the palace's gardens stood out as a beacon of life and prosperity amid the dreary reds and black of the surrounding city.
Aang flew them toward the end of the path that made up the formal entrance to the palace, and as they neared the ground, Katara was the first to leap off of Appa. She set foot on solid ground again, taking in the wonder around her as she heard her companions scrambling down behind her. Several firebenders scurried down the long stone road that led to the palace, lighting the torch posts with a wave of their hand as they passed by. They were military, she noted. But the heavy black and red armor had been abandoned in favor of flowing dark red kimonos, probably one of Zuko's attempts to emphasize this was a time of peace. As night took the sky above and the dancing lights of the flames around her sprang to life, a chill crept up her skin. The royal palace was one of her favorite places on the entire planet, and as a person who had seen pretty much every noteworthy location on the globe; she considered her opinion to carry some weight.
While the technological marvel of the surrounding city often astonished her, it was the royal palace that she loved. Built long, long before the Fire Nation industrialized, it was crafted of stone and wood by what she could only assume were the master masons and carpenters of the time. The huge pillars and arching roofs were so distinct and unlike any architecture she had encountered before. It was beautiful, in the most profound sense of the word. She felt an involuntary smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as everyone joined her. Her brother was rambling on about something, but it seemed their conversation had grown much more natural. As they passed her by, she was glad they didn't have to force themselves to enjoy each other's company. She watched them walk for a moment down the long stone road towards the palace before she turned around.
Behind her, Aang was handing Appa's reigns over to several firebenders who were bowing deeply and repeatedly. The waterbender grinned as she watched Aang smile and rub the back of his head. Even after all this time she could tell he was still uncomfortable with people treating him with so much respect. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, noticing she was staring and waved. With a final word to the firebenders and several more bows on their part, he jogged up to her, a clumsy apologetic smirk painted over his face.
"Hey," he began slowly, unsure of what to say.
Katara sighed. She was hoping their words wouldn't be as forced as the others. She prepared herself for their first exchange in a long time with reassuring smile, "Hey yourself."
They walked in silence for a few moments, catching up to, but still lagging behind their comrades. Katara set her gaze forward toward the fire-lit palace and listened to the idle conversation in front of her, all the while well aware of the sideways gazes shot her way by the young airbender next to her.
"I missed you," Aang blurted out quietly enough so no one else would hear.
Katara had to stop herself from scoffing. Funny way to show it, not even bothering so swing by for two years, she thought. Despite the venom in her mind, her only reaction outwardly was returning one of the Avatar's sideways glances, "How old are you now, Aang?"
The airbender's steps faltered for a moment as the seemingly random question caught him off guard. "Almost seventeen," he replied after rejoining her side, "I'm starting to get whiskers."
Katara laughed quietly as she watched him scratch at the miniscule and nearly invisible hairs on his chin. He was growing, becoming a man, apparently. He was already taller than her, but he was still built like a collection of twigs that had mysteriously sprouted a big, bald head.
"Congratulations," she replied more sarcastically than was necessary.
Aang laughed awkwardly at this, and their conversation continued on as they entered the palace gates. Though she was still participating in their exchange, Katara's thoughts had left the Avatar as she observed the inner walls of the palace. It was filled with servants and towering banners of the new symbol of the Fire Nation that fluttered in the cool night breeze. Indoors, the floors were made of polished black marble that was buffed so thoroughly the stone had become reflective. As their group progressed towards the throne room, servants eyed them suspiciously before they bowed and moved out of the way and Katara found herself absently wondering if Zuko was aware they were arriving today.
As her brother's loud and obnoxious voice shattered the conversation around her, she got her answer.
In front of her, Sokka was banging his fist on the great metal door that guarded the entrance to throne room shouting things like, 'Knock knock! Delivery for Fire Lord Zuko!' As he pushed on the heavy door it began to creak open and the sight that met her eyes put a genuine ear-to-ear smile on her face.
The first thing she noticed was the distinct lack of flames that were usually dancing around the throne. Instead of the Fire Lord, Toph sat on the ornate stone chair sideways, with her back against one of the arms and her legs draped lazily over the other, picking at her fingernails and looking completely bored. A little ways in front of her, Zuko sat cross-legged on the floor of the chamber, his head resting in his hand as he stared intensely at a Pai Sho bored with a frustrated frown on his face.
Katara watched as the Fire Lord looked up, muted shock on his face. He recovered quickly and all around the chamber the ceremonial flames of the throne burst into life, towering over them and casting the cavernous room in an ethereal orange glow. In the new light, the Fire Lord looked intimidating, almost threatening as he stood, and Katara made a mental note of the impressive display of firebending she had just witnessed.
"I SAID WE WERE NOT TO BE DISTUR-" Zuko's scratchy roar was cut short as he saw the faces of the people who had intruded upon his throne room. And all at once the flames around them died away to their original nothingness and the threatening countenance left Zuko.
Katara couldn't help but laugh as Zuko's face went from thoughtful to frustrated to furious to shock and finally, skidded to a halt somewhere in the domain of delight. She watched him glance over his shoulder at Toph who had hopped off his throne and now stood behind him with crossed arms and a lopsided smirk her face. The Fire Lord stepped forward with Toph in tow as they all gathered around him. Shouts of greeting, clasped arms, and hugs went around, and Katara found herself examining her two missing companions as she rested against the chamber doors. Both of them had grown significantly, most notably Toph, who now stood at Zuko's shoulder height. In four years she really had changed into a beautiful young woman. Her frame was lean and lithe, perhaps a bit too muscular to be considered the ideal of femininity, but it fit her so well. She was wearing the colors of the Fire Nation, a shirt with torn off sleeves, an intricate vest over that, and simple pants that came down just past her knees. But what struck Katara most was her hair. For the first time since she had known the earthbender, her hair was down and flowing, and her bangs were almost out of her face. It was striking how she looked so much older as she talked with Sokka and Suki. Katara thought for a moment, realizing she was already seventeen. The realization gave her pause. It seemed like only yesterday she was a dirty and unrefined little kid. Now she was a dirty and unrefined woman.
The waterbender smiled and looked to Toph's side at Zuko. He was taller as well, and had his hair up in a traditional topknot, which Katara always tried not to laugh at. It made his face so boyish looking. His hair was seemingly longer, though it was hard to tell while it was up, but his face hadn't changed at all. And as she watched him more closely, she noticed his tendency to turn away the scarred side of his face while talking had disappeared. It almost gave her the impression he wore his mark with pride. She shrugged the thought off and walked up to the Fire Lord as he conversed jovially with Aang, Haru, and most interestingly, the strange girl Haru had brought along. The waterbender stopped short of joining their group, instead taking a place long the wall of the throne room and smiled at him. Zuko waved her over encouragingly, but Katara smiled wider and shook her head stubbornly. She laughed as Zuko sighed and broke away from his comrades with a wave and made his way towards her.
"It's great to see you," Zuko said as he joined her against the wall, watching everyone talk, "I'm sorry we haven't kept up."
"Don't worry about it, I know you're all important now," Katara smiled, wondering how Zuko of all people would be the one sensitive to her situation. She shot him a look and found he was still staring at the girl beside Haru.
"You know her?" The now curious waterbender asked.
Zuko shook his gaze loose and smiled at Katara's tone, "Yeah, I do as a matter of fact. She and I once went out on a date. Her name is Jin and I met her in Ba Sing Se. Seeing her kind of makes me feel… Nostalgic."
Katara looked at Zuko, bewildered. She made no effort to hide the surprise on her face that such a personal and out of character piece of information had been offered up voluntarily, "Are you sure you're Zuko?"
The Fire Lord chuckled and turned on his shoulder as it rested against the wall so he could face her, "Are you sure you're Katara?" His tone had suddenly lost its joking edge and became serious, "You've hardly said a word to anyone since you got here. And I happen to know for a fact the little leprechaun has been dying to see you, excuse the pun."
Katara smiled at the firebender's reference to Toph and glanced over at her as she spoke to Zuko, "Is that so? You sure you're not just trying to get rid of me?"
"I'm sure," Zuko replied uncharacteristically smoothly, "You forget, I now have much more…convenient ways of getting rid of people. Perks of being the big bad Fire Lord." He watched her face rise in amusement at his pseudo-threat and was glad Katara had lightened her mood, "Go. Talk. I'll get some servants to see that rooms are set up for all of you."
She nodded in affirmation before leaving Zuko to make her way over to the little earthbender. As soon as she was in arm's reach, Toph had struck her shoulder with what Katara was sure was more stone than fist. She rubbed the tender skin with an expression torn between a grin and scowl, "Good old Toph. Oh how I've missed the bruises."
The earthbender laughed and threw her arms around Katara. It was a hug. Brief, but a hug none the less, "Nice to have you back around, Sugar."
Katara smiled down at her friend, "Since when do you do hugs?"
The raven-haired girl pushed her away and blew the bangs out of her face as she led the waterbender back to Zuko's throne, the firepit as she jokingly referred to it, "How about since you disappeared for two years."
Katara sighed, not wanting to get into that. She kept up a conversation with Toph for a long time while Zuko made rounds between the rest of them. She had lost track of time when the Fire Lord entered the chamber again, a young lady at his side. He cleared his throat to get everyone's attention, "This is Lin," he said motioning to the girl beside him. Katara glanced at Lin, who was in the midst of a polite bow. She was young, the waterbender noted, probably not any older than Toph, "She will show you all to your rooms."
Groans went around the room, signaling no one was ready to retire quite yet. Zuko held up his hands, a smile on his face, "Sleep. Trust me. This palace rises at dawn. And we are going to have a long day tomorrow. As I'm sure you all know…it is my birthday." Zuko paused and Katara watched as he and Toph exchanged smiles, "Uncle is insisting on throwing a…get together of sorts." A snort from Toph sounded out, "Okay," Zuko conceded, "It's more like a dinner party."
"Every princess deserves to have a ball!" Toph yelled out, and Katara smiled as a round of laughter went around the room, even Lin was trying to suppress a giggle beside the Fire Lord.
Zuko glared at Toph, who replied by sticking her tongue out playfully at the Firelord. And Katara found herself wondering how close they had gotten as he continued, "Anyway, the point is, get some rest. We'll have plenty of time to catch up tomorrow."
From her spot against the wall, she watched as Lin ushered people out after they bid each other good night. After several moments, only Toph, Zuko, and herself were left in the dim light of the throne room. The waterbender smiled as the pair made their way over to her.
"Don't feel like sleeping?"
"What's wrong with you?"
Katara laughed inwardly at the stark contrast in their approach. She turned to Toph first.
"Nothing is wrong with me, leprechaun." The waterbender suppressed another laugh as Toph frowned and crossed her arms, muttering something about how she was already spending too much time with Zuko.
Katara turned to the Fire Lord, whose eyes were locked on Toph with a smile on his face, "And no I don't feel much like sleeping. Do you mind if I wander around a little? I don't think I've ever told you, but I love this place."
Zuko tore his eyes away and nodded, "No, no, of course not. Make yourself at home. Your welcome anywhere there isn't a locked door. I'll let the guards know not to bother you."
Katara thanked him, and bid both of them goodnight. She watched them walk away in the darkness wondering what exactly was going on between them. As they rounded the corner, she looked around the newly deserted corridor. With a smile, she set off to explore the palace, alone and in the dark.
Well that is it for now. I think I'm just going to publish the first chapter, see how the reviews are first. There is a lot more written, but it will be a while probably before I post chapter 2.
Anyway, you may now review. Go ahead. Do it. I dare you.