Many Forms, One Love
Rated: Teen for romance
Summary: Zuko and Mai are witness to a new relationship in blossom, and consider the universal nature of love. (Post-Series)
Pairings: Maiko and Kataang
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.
LES: Double-dipping is bad, but not in this case because a vast majority of my fans are not aware of this story. I wrote this story months ago as a Secret Santa gift and have been meaning to post it for a long time. I've finally got the will to do it. This story is dedicated to my all-time OTP: Kataang and my second-place pairing: Maiko.
It had been nearly a year since Zuko had begun his world-wide chase of Aang, and now he found himself in the place where it had all begun.
Peace talks were well underway, even though all those involved knew that it would be years before the world was balanced and healed once more. It was still the trying that counted: people wanted the world to be healed.
The peace talks were the reason that Zuko found himself at the Southern Water Tribe in the first place. With the exception of the Air Nomads, the Southern Water Tribe had suffered the most damage during the war, so Zuko was there to pledge his support to rebuilding the tribe.
When Zuko and Mai arrived (the later bundled up in at least eight layers of clothes as she was unaccustomed to the cold) the last thing they had expected was finding that the Avatar and Katara were all ready there assisting with the construction of new buildings and directing the Northern Waterbenders.
What was even more shocking for Zuko then seeing the Avatar there (since Zuko had last heard that Aang was travelling the Earth Kingdom spreading the word of the war's end to the most obscure of the Fire Nation army's outposts) was seeing Aang's attire.
For the first time in known memory, Zuko saw him wearing something other than the clothes of his culture. Zuko was so used to the image of his bald head and bright orange outfits that seeing him in anything else was a shock.
For one, he wore traditional Water Tribe garb, except Zuko could see that the fur lining had come from Appa rather than some other animal that the Water Tribe men had hunted and skinned. Once he recovered from the shock of that, Zuko had to admit that the blue looked really good on him, as it matched his tattoos almost perfectly. But an even greater shock was resting on the top of Aang's head.
He had heard rumors that Aang had once grown his hair out when he was hiding in the Fire Nation, but he had never seen the sight for himself. But Zuko could not deny the short black hair that covered Aang's head.
When the Firelord had questioned Aang about growing his hair out, the young Avatar had blushed and said in a small voice: "Katara likes it."
Of course, Zuko had known about Aang's feelings for Katara for months. Having been in his position once before: a young boy crushing hard on a girl that he felt that he could never be good enough for, Zuko could tell just from seeing the looks of longing adoration that Aang kept sending Katara's way that they had more in common than he had once thought.
Has it really been only a few years since Mai and I were like that? Zuko wondered to himself, watching as Aang told Katara something in a flirtatious voice. She blushed and giggled, quietly telling him to not be so loud. Fat chance of him stopping. He's just testing how far he can take this relationship. I once did the same thing with Mai. Apparently, Katara didn't totally mind his forwardness because she rewarded him with a kiss on the cheek. He seemed to be on cloud nine. I wonder if Mai and I were that obvious… We probably were.
Several days passed in much the same way. Most of the time was spent working on building up the nearly-decimated tribe, but the rest of the time was free time. Zuko's free time was mostly dedicated to his betrothed, but he also spent a decent amount of time watching Aang and Katara's interactions, remembering the nostalgic feeling of being young and in love.
It was an uncharacteristically warm South Pole day, which still meant that it was freezing cold, but at least the sun was out. The presence of the sun coaxed Zuko and Mai outside, and they watched Aang and Katara play their little flirty games, which was very much like ordinary tag, except it involved more teasing. To anyone who was watching who was unaware of their relationship, it looked perfectly ordinary. But Zuko and Mai both caught the longing glances, the lingering touches, and the hugs and kisses they quickly exchanged when one managed to catch the other.
Finally, after several minutes of silent contemplation, Zuko found the will to break the comfortable silence between them. "It's heartening, isn't it?"
Mai met his eyes, but for several moments he did not elaborate on his meaning. "What do you mean?"
"I meant how a hundred years of war has done nothing to change the way we express our love for each other." Zuko said thoughtfully. "Just look at Aang: behaving like a love-sick fool. He's behaving just like I was when I began to court you."
Mai turned to the two young lovers with a thoughtful gaze. "I still don't understand." She said finally.
"Aang was born over a hundred years ago, in a world without war. None of us can understand the sort of world that he grew up in because the war has been looming over us our entire lives. He also cannot understand the circumstances that we grew up in: with the war a constant part of our daily lives. Logically, people from two different times should not be able to understand each other on a fundamental level, and yet those two do… joined by the bonds of love that they share."
Mai nodded thoughtfully. "I think it's because love is the same no matter where you look. Some people might express those feelings differently, but, overall, the core of those feelings are the same. That is why love can blossom between two people from so vastly different upbringings."
"I guess we're not so different after all." Zuko mused, smirking playfully.
Mai caught the gleam in his eyes. "Zuko, what are you…?"
Quick as lightning, Zuko leaned over and pressed a kiss to Mai's lips. The young woman stilled with surprise for just a moment before her eyes drifted closed and she began to return his kiss. As he pulled away from her Zuko reached over and tapped Mai on the shoulder. "Tag." He said playfully, leaping just out of arm's reach.
Mai stood frozen where she was for a few moments and then, with a roll of her eyes, took off after Zuko, working hard to conceal the smile on her lips.
Some distance away, ignoring the antics of the young Firelord and his lover, another pair of young lovers delighted in the companionship of the one they cared about most.
Katara was 'it', and both she and Aang laughed loudly and unrestrainedly as she chased him around the snowy fields. Aang would pause in the chase; wait until she had almost caught him, and then swiftly Airbend himself away from her. Rather than be upset about losing her quarry again, Katara would laugh and continue the chase with renewed vigor.
However, as had happened many times before, they both got tired of the teasing, and Aang would stop. But, as she approached, he made no move to Airbend away from her. Eager to catch her prey, Katara leapt at his chest, knocking them both to the cold, wet snow.
Katara landed on top of Aang's chest, holding him close and laughing into his shoulder. Aang joined in laughing with her, holding her close as well.
Finally, Katara managed to catch her breath and she leaned up on her elbows, gazing fondly at the young teen under her. "I caught you." She said simply.
Aang laughed. "Yes, you did."
"Do I get my prize now?"
"I'll be happy to give you anything you want."
"Okay, then." Katara said, leaning down closer to her boyfriend. "I want you."
Aang smiled, reaching up to brush his fingers through her hair. "You don't even have to ask. I'm yours. I've been yours since you rescued me from the iceberg."
Katara smiled softly as she leaned down into a soft meeting of lips. Their mouths brushed briefly against each other, and parted just as quickly. After all, some part of their minds remembered they were not in the privacy of the hut, but out in full view of the village.
However, all thoughts of keeping the contact chaste disappeared upon the addicting feeling of kissing the one they loved. Their lips met again with a bit more urgency and parted once again.
"I love you." Aang whispered with a voice thick with emotion.
"I love you too, Aang… so much." Katara whispered back, breathing against his skin and kissing him once again. This time, the kiss was not chaste or urgent, but passionate. Katara parted her lips, an invitation to Aang to come and experience paradise with her. He accepted, slipping his tongue into her mouth and exploring her.
Katara tilted her head slightly to the side, finding a better fit for their lips, and when they found it, they both went back to concentrating on the feelings that rushed through their bodies.
However, the moment was not meant to be.
A loud voice caused the young lovers to pull apart from each other, Katara swiftly rolling off Aang's body. "Just what in the Spirit's name is going on here?" It was Sokka, who had just walked out of the hut and had a sudden view of Katara laying on top of Aang, touching him, and a thirteen year old sticking his tongue down her throat!
Aang suddenly remembered that they had not told Sokka about their relationship yet.
"Uh oh." Aang gasped, using Waterbending and the snow to push him up-right. Once he was on his feet, he took off at a dead run, leaving a flurry of snow in his wake.
Sokka ran after him at a normal pace, shaking his fist in the air. "Yeah! You'd better run, you little coward! The next time I see you, you're gonna get the beating of a lifetime!"
Katara rolled her eyes and began to walk after Sokka with the intent of calming him down before he exhausted himself chasing after Aang.
This was not how she wanted to spend her day, but anything for love, right?