Katara has everything that she has ever wanted, yet is still miserable.
Aang is showing the children around the Fire Nation capitol today, so Katara spends her impromptu day off in the library, sipping on a glass of wine.
She had been reading at one point, but has since pushed the scroll aside, choosing to stare at the liquid in her glass instead.
When he comes in she barely glances up.
"Oh. Sorry, I didn't know you were in here. I'll go." She can hear the shuffling of his feet as he starts to back out of the room.
She thinks it might be the alcohol that makes her feel so bold.
She looks up at him and is not surprised to see that he is surprised to have been spoken to.
They talk sometimes, but never alone. Never when it's just the two of them.
He slowly moves forward and sinks down into a chair opposite of her. She spends a long moment just looking at him before deciding that he really hasn't changed much. Not like she has, anyway.
A silence stretches between them. It's a loud silence, filled with things still unsaid, with feelings still being kept safe.
She watches as he takes in a deep breath and finally looks up at her. His eyes, she decides, have changed. They are not happy; they're blank. She fears she'll never know the reason.
She fears she might be the reason.
"Congratulations." His voice breaks a bit, so he pauses to clear his throat. "On Tenzin, I mean."
She nods, still watching him watch her. "Thank you."
"Interesting choice in name."
The left side of her mouth quirks a bit in a barely attempted smile. "It was Aang's idea."
Bitterness crosses over his face before he quickly schools his expression into something more professional. He's good at that, she decides. He's good at not letting on how he really feels.
She's become good at that too.
"Has he shown any signs of bending?" Zuko asks quietly.
"Not yet. I know that Aang is hoping he'll be an airbender."
There's another flash of bitterness again. "Of course he does."
"It's only fair," she reminds him. "Our first two were both waterbenders."
Zuko nods slowly, finally turning his gaze away from her.
"And your family?" she prods. "They're well?"
He nods quickly. "Yes. My daughter starts her firebending lessons next week."
She gives him a genuine smile and he looks away again. "That's wonderful."
He clears his throat before changing the subject. "I hear that Chief Arnook is presenting Aang with an ice sculpture in his honor next month?"
Katara finally sets her glass of wine down on the table and pushes it to the side. "We leave for the North Pole in a little over a week." Her fingertip trails the base of the glass and Zuko's eyes follow the movement of her finger. "I'm not sure how long we'll be there, this time. But the children are excited. They've never been to the Northern Water Tribe before."
Zuko is nodding again, slowly pushing his seat back and preparing to stand up. He gets to his feet and looks back down at her.
His eyes are blank again, as if he's determined not to show anything.
"I'm really happy for you, Katara."
She feels the edges of her composure start to crack.
Her lip wobbles and her chest feels tight. She's held in so much for so long and she's not sure when she'll finally burst.
He reads her like a book. He's always been able to understand her, even when she doesn't want him to.
A part of her hates it when he says her name, like a cruel reminder of what she has given up.
"You are happy, aren't you?"
Her composure splits down the middle and shatters.
She can't lie to him. She hasn't been able to for a long time.
He takes a few steps forward, hand reaching out to her, before he remembers himself and freezes. He visibly swallows.
The tears are hot, and they fall down her cheeks at a quick pace. She does not bother to wipe them away.
She looks at him again, but he is blurred. She shakes her head, slowly at first. But then it becomes a quick and jerky movement because she can't keep up the denial any longer. She has to be honest with someone.
She can't hold this inside forever.
She does not jump when he slams his fist down on the table, causing it to wobble and nearly topple over with the force.
She sniffs and watches as he sinks back down into the chair. She cannot see his face; his head is buried in his hands.
"You told me that you'd…" he trails off, voice muffled.
"I didn't think I'd be a shadow!" She swipes the tears in her eyes away with her thumb. "I thought that it was the right thing to do."
Because didn't everyone always say that she took care of the Avatar anyway? And didn't everyone always say that she'd make a wonderful, wonderful mother? And didn't everyone always talk about destiny, and that being with Aang was hers?
She wonders why no one ever talked about passion, or equality, or what it meant to never feel tied down.
He pulls his head out of his hands and gazes at her. His golden eyes are rimmed with red and she hates herself for doing this to him, for telling him these things. Ignorance would have been bliss.
"I wanted you to stay," he says softly. "I wish every day that you had."
His secret is out.
"I wish I had stayed. With you."
Now hers is too.
He pushes his hand to the middle of the table and lets it rest there.
She moves her hand to meet his and brushes her fingertips across his knuckles. He does not move away.
They and their families say goodbye a few days later.
They give each other a quick hug, but as they pull away their fingertips linger together for as long as is appropriate.
Then they smile stupidly and laugh at nothing.
They've become good at not showing how they really feel. It's their new talent.
A talent that hides their feelings and smothers their secrets.
Uggg, heartfail. :(
This is a response to the Zutara Week 2011 prompt "Secret", and I'm not sure why I decided to write something this stinkin' sad. I suppose this is also a response to all the new information regarding The Legend of Korra that's been released, like how Katara and Aang had three kids and what not *holds back vomit*.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed this, despite the sadness. Review and let me know what you think!