Category: Avatar: Last Airbender
Author: Mrs Pettyfer
Title: The Color of Truth is Red
A/N: I actually thought I had posted this already but apparently not. :P This is a very short one-shot written for Zutara Week 2011's theme "awkward." Takes place right after The Ember Island Players. Enjoy! =)
"One day soon I'll hold you like the sun holds the moon
And we will hear those planes overhead and we won't have to be scared." - Letters From the Sky, Civil Twilight
Chapter 1 - The Color of Truth is Red
The air was different.
Not that the air was the only thing different from the South Pole, but Katara had gotten used to the crimson tiled roofs and constant sunny days in the Fire Nation. A pleasant change from the usual freezing tundra she called home. But the air—it was humid and thick. It seemed to catch all sorts of smells, whether it be the tropical flowers or the bakery in the town of Ember Island.
Ember Island was, well, an island; and therefore the smell of salty sea air wrapped the island up in a blanket. She lived on water herself, but still, the smell was different. Call it the climate, if you will, but no matter the smell it brought Katara relief when she took a deep breath, overlooking the water below.
The past two hours Katara had had to endure possibly the worst play in existence: the Ember Island Players. A play about she and her friends and their adventures, very inaccurately portrayed. She—a crybaby who gives speeches and preaches about hope all the time? Ridiculous. Aang, portrayed as a girl and Toph as a guy. Poor Zuko, his actor wore his scar on the wrong side of his face. And Sokka…well, his jokes really weren't that bad. Suki's actress was fine; somehow she had gotten the luckiest out of their group.
While the play was certainly ridiculous, it seemed to have a strong effect on Aang, more so than everyone else. This was understandable, given that since the true play hadn't ended, the writer apparently decided to make up the ending—by the Fire Lord killing Aang.
That didn't go over well and put everyone in a sour mood. All except Sokka, of course, which was the reason Katara was still at the theater, even though the play was over. Her brother was backstage somewhere, talking to the actors and giving the actor Sokka more lines.
"Some play, huh?"
Katara turned, startled at the voice. Zuko stood against one of the pillars, arms crossed as he leaned against it. He wore a cloak over his red and gold tunic, a hood shadowing his face.
"Yeah," said Katara, turning back to the water. "I'm actually surprised how accurate and inaccurate it was."
"Accurate?" Zuko questioned. He joined her by the balcony and gripped the rail lightly with both hands. "Were we watching the same play?"
"Well, I mean the actors were horrible," Katara corrected, "but a lot of the events were true. We've been all over the world—I can't help but give credit to the poor guy who tracked all that information down, even if his actors are atrocious."
"Aang's really upset," said Zuko, as though hearing her earlier thoughts. "He's sitting on the steps out front with Toph. I tried to talk to him but he wouldn't talk to me."
A wave of pain shot through Katara, particularly because of the earlier incident on this very same balcony. "You give him space when he wants it, but Toph won't."
Zuko snorted. "True."
"The fight…the war won't end like the play." Katara wasn't sure if she was convincing him or herself. "Ozai won't win." When Zuko said nothing, she turned to look at him. "You believe that, right?"
"I want to believe that." He was oddly still, eyes lost in the ocean. His eyes glowed more of a silver than gold in the moonlight. "But I don't like making promises unless I'm sure I can keep it."
"You're supposed to agree with me," said Katara, frowning. "You're supposed to say everything will be fine."
"Then I'd be lying to you, and that's something I don't want to do."
She looked away, not really sure why. They were silent for a few moments, each absorbed in their own thoughts. The moon was full tonight, glowing brightly in the star lit sky. A silver reflection moved in ripples against the water. It was beautiful, and should have been a romantic setting when Aang had kissed her. Yet it wasn't, because all she could think about was how confused she was, how terrible the timing had been, and the appending war. She wished she knew how she felt about Aang. She really did. But there was so much going on, so much that was bigger than her love life. How could she stop to think about it when there were more important things at stake?
"Did you really have a thing with Jet?" Zuko asked after awhile, cutting through Katara's thoughts. "I didn't know that."
"No!" Katara flushed. "I mean…not like that. Not like…not like they showed it." She cringed, remembering the actress's words about Jet being 'bad.'
"You said the events were accurate," Zuko pointed out, some smugness to his voice.
"Not everything, obviously," Katara snapped. "I mean, they made up stuff they didn't know for sure."
"Like Ba Sing Se."
Katara felt suddenly stiff and had to cough to clear her dry throat. "Exactly. I never told anyone about…about that." What exactly that was, she didn't know.
"Me either," said Zuko. "I guess the writer had to make up something for a boy and girl being trapped in a cave together."
"Yeah." Katara was sure her face had reddened even further, and was thankful for the night sky. "Ridiculous, isn't it?"
"Which part?" Zuko was smiling but it didn't reach his eyes. "You finding me handsome or you having eyes on me ever since I captured you?"
"Both! Neither…no!" Katara huffed in frustration, wishing she could somehow melt into the floor. The entire play had made her feel so awkward around everyone that she could barely speak straight. "I don't think you're not handsome…but I'm not saying you are! In that way…or well, like that. What I mean is—"
"Calm down, Katara" Zuko chuckled. "I'm only joking with you. It's not like in that way was real."
That stung, though she wasn't sure why, only that it angered her slightly. "Why's that? Am I not good enough for you, Your Highness?"
Now it was Zuko's turn to feel uncomfortable. His cheeks flushed, almost the same tint as his scar. "What? No! I never said that."
"Then what are you saying, exactly?"
"I just meant—those were actors, Katara. You never said those things and even then…" He paused, his lips frowning, and looked back at the ocean. His hand found his scar, as though unknowingly.
Seeing this kind of insecurity and sadness broke Katara from her uncomfortable bubble she had been trapped in since the moment the play started. She didn't realize her own hand was moving until her fingers brushed his hand, lightly touching his scar. His good eye widened at her touch.
"For all that its worth, I do think you are handsome," she said softly. He raised an eye brow, as though questioning her sanity. "And I wouldn't change a thing about your face, not even if we did Ba Sing Se all over again."
His hand shifted so his fingers interlaced with hers, still pressed firmly against his scar. There was a look on his face, one Katara couldn't identify and if asked she probably couldn't even describe it. She felt her own breath hitch a little as she smiled at him.
"I knew it!" Katara and Zuko jumped apart, their moment interrupted by Toph's tiny form—both of their faces a dark shade of red. "I knew something was going on between you two!"
"Nothing is going on!" The accused shouted simultaneously. Katara stormed off first, red faced and muttering under her breath. Zuko followed shortly after, shaking his head and running a hand through his untidy black hair.
"I can tell you're lying!" Toph called in a sing-song voice.
"Shut up, Toph!"
A/N: Really, how can Zuko and Katara NOT talk about that awkward moment during the play? lol I realize this is super short, which is why it's more of a drabble than an actual one shot. :P Hope you liked it.