Zutara Week. Day One. Mask.

I own nothing! Zuko, Katara, Suki, Sokka, Toph, Aang, and anything else recognizable belong Mike/Bryan/Nickelodeon/Viacom! Title is a part of a quote from Sophocles.

Zutara Week 2011 is, of course, run by the lovely trishna87, senbo-sama, AnimantX, and Irrel on deviantART. Best wishes to GreenifyME, who unfortunately couldn't participate in ZW this year.

Mistrust Blossoms

"Zuko told me what you did. Or…what you didn't do, I guess," Aang says, pride filling his sunset-washed eyes. Katara looks at him and tries to scrub away the shining streaks of tears that fall over her copper skin. The firebender hardly hears what she responds with but startles as she shuffles toward him and throws her arms around his neck.

Both boys watch her retreating form as she walks back toward their little cliff-side camp, though different sentiments of concern and relief spill over the Prince and the Avatar respectively. Distracted, Zuko imagines that Aang is smug when he preaches his nonviolence mantra. Something inside him grows exponentially annoyed with that same pacifistic attitude. He throws the wild card at the younger boy, and he feels even worse when Aang struggles to answer him.

"Look, I'm sorry," Zuko grumbles. "It's been a long day, and I…" Zuko pauses. He isn't going to say that he thinks Katara is holding something back, for he's not entirely convinced of his musings yet, and chances are that she'd brush them away if they were to confront her about it. "It's been a long day," he repeats, a sharp hint in his voice that wards off interrogation.

As they approach camp, Aang trailing a few steps behind Zuko, Suki is cutting vegetables while Katara impales the cut chunks onto sticks and loads them onto the stone rack Toph had bent for her. The waterbender laughs at Sokka's stupid jokes, but she stops short once the boys are close.

Katara spoons rice into bowls and passes them, along with the roasted vegetables, around the fire. Zuko takes his with a murmured "thank you," and she smiles. It's not quite right though. It's a mask of false emotion, Zuko can tell. The ice in her eyes hasn't thawed, despite the warmth in her smile. He has a sinking feeling he knows why she's acting like this, and it bothers him. More thank bothers, he thinks; worries. Tortures.

Dinner ends and everyone scatters off to do this or that. Aang and Toph go to the cliff for some earthbending practice; Suki follows Sokka into his tent; Katara surreptitiously glances at Zuko before wandering off. He's already decided that he's going to follow her, but he thinks it would be best to give her a little time to herself.

He's never been one for waiting, however, and only a handful of minutes pass before he goes after her. There's no question as to where she is, and Zuko almost smiles when he sees her sitting on the pier, dangling her feet into the gently cresting waves below.

The wood of the dock creaks under his weight. "Katara," he says, his voice accompanied by the constant roll of the ocean. She nods once in acknowledgment. "You still don't trust me, do you?" he asks slowly.

"Yes, I do!" she immediately disagrees, whipping around to look at him. He squints at her, and she chews at her lip for a second before sighing, "No. Not completely." She looks away again. Zuko knows that she's not done and stays silent behind her. "Believe me, I am truly grateful for what you did for me today. And I want to trust you, I really do. But…you know…the last time I decided to trust you…" Katara trails off there, since both of them know what happened.

"What can I do?" Zuko pleads. "I'll do anything."

She contemplates for long moments, twirling ribbons of saltwater around her fingertips. Finally, she rises to her feet. "Don't move," she commands. A rush of fear swarms through his chest then: he knows now what she can do to a man with the simple flex of her hands, knows that she could easily kill him with minimal effort.

He obeys nonetheless and forces himself to keep his eyes open. Katara takes deliberate steps toward him, stopping inches away. She reaches up and splays gentle fingers across the marred half of his face. She trades a wide circle around his bad eye, over aristocratic cheekbones and where his eyebrow should be.

The healer girl brushes her hand over his forehead, pushing his hair out of his face to reveal the scar in its entirety. He gauges her expression carefully as she follows the comet-shaped mark up into his hairline and then around his ear.

"Hold up your hands," Katara orders. She nods as he brings up his hands in front of his chest. Carefully, she aligns her palms with his, matching their fingers together. She takes a deep, shuddering breath and stretches up on her toes.

In all actuality, he didn't know what he had expected her to do, but kissing him was not on his list of possibilities. Even so, he complements her, moving in effortless tandem as he reciprocates.

Zuko shifts his hands slightly, naturally weaving his fingers through the spaces between hers. He hears her breath catch between their lips, and he doesn't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. She folds her own fingers around his, squeezes his hand, and waits. It's difficult to focus on everything else that isn't her mouth on his, but he copies her without hesitation, pressing lightly against her knuckles.

She relinquishes her position at his mouth but doesn't let go of his hands. "Okay," she breathes. "Now I trust you." Katara smiles up at him. The mask has fallen away; this time, it's genuine, reassuring.

"Really?" Zuko questions in disbelief. He finds himself staring at her lips.

She blushes under his gaze. "Well…it couldn't hurt to make sure," she justifies and leans up to kiss him again.

Happy Zutara Week, everyone! :D

Post Southern Raiders fluff. Fluff fluff fluff.

I seem to be having issues. I could have used this story for Caught, but I already had an idea for Caught. And then I thought of a new idea that could have been used for Caught, Mask, OR Secret, but I think I might use it for Caught and think of something else entirely for Secret. Or I could go with my original idea for Caught and use the new one for Secret to kill two birds with one stone (or…three birds with two stones…?) but I'm not entirely sure I like my original idea for Caught. …Lol. xD

Review, please?
Tchao, Zutarians.