Well, this is the last one for this series! Usually I only write Zutara once a year for ZWeek, but madthesaxon effectively flattered me by requesting more, so I'll have a separate one-shot coming out before the end of the summer. Thanks to everyone for reading!
This takes place a little while before the Momentous one-shot. Please enjoy!
Katara ran into one of the servants, Aiza, in the hallway.
"Aiza! Good morning! How are you?" Katara asked, glowing with youthful happiness.
"Uh, I'm doing quite well," Aiza answered uneasily.
She was one of the oldest servants in the Royal Palace, and she just wasn't quite used to the new Fire Lady yet.
"Aiza, would you happen to know where I could find an empty basket?" Katara asked.
"Yes, I will go get one for you, my lady," Aiza answered, starting to shuffle toward the kitchen.
"Don't be silly. I'll come with you," Katara said, walking beside her. "And just call me Katara. It's my name, after all."
Aiza surely wasn't going to just call the Fire Lady by her name, but she could almost appreciate the sentiment, in a weird way.
Once they were in the kitchen, Aiza quickly found a basket and handed it to Katara.
Normally she wouldn't question the Fire Lady's intentions, but since she was curious and Katara insisted on being so nice…
"May I ask what you will be using the basket for, my lady?" Aiza asked tentatively.
"Well, my lady," Katara teased, "Don't you know what season it is?"
"I do believe it's summer," Aiza answered.
"Besides that!" Katara laughed. "It's berry season!"
"Berry season? You're going out to pick berries by yourself, my lady?" Aiza questioned, wondering why Katara didn't just tell someone to go do it for her.
"Of course not! Zuko is coming with me," Katara said with a smile.
"The… the Fire Lord?" Aiza asked, in a state of disbelief.
"He's the only Zuko I know of," Katara stated.
"So… you're going to go pick berries… with the Fire Lord…" Aiza said slowly, still not comprehending.
"Yes, my lady, that is exactly what I intend to do," Katara said. "Do you find that strange? If so, you obviously haven't spent enough time around us, which is a shame. We'll be back this afternoon with a bunch of purple berries, and I would love to help you make fruit pies with them. Then you should have dinner with Zuko and me. He would help us with the fruit pies, but I'm afraid he's a lousy baker. He always ends up burning things."
"You… want to make fruit pies with me… and then you… want me to come to dinner… with you and the Fire Lord…" Aiza, eying the young girl. "You two really don't know how to act royal, do you?" she found herself asking, but then she clapped a hand over her own mouth.
Katara laughed again and shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe those who came before us didn't know how to act royal."
Aiza just stared at her, not knowing how to reply.
Just then, Zuko entered the kitchen.
"Oh, Zuko, there you are!" Katara said, going over to him and grabbing his hand. "I got the basket. Let's go!"
Zuko took the basket from her with his free hand, and they began to walk away. Aiza watched the pair, raising an eyebrow at the Fire Lord swinging the handmade basket at his side.
"Where did you find this?" Zuko asked Katara.
"Aiza found it for me," Katara said.
Zuko looked back, and Aiza's face turned red as she tried to pretend that she hadn't been watching them.
"Hey, Aiza," he said with a smile, and then the two of them continued on.
"Hey," Aiza said mostly to herself, her eyes narrowed.
Zuko and Katara ventured out on their own, despite the protests of the palace guards. After overriding the protests of yet another set of guards, they made their way past the palace's defensive perimeter and headed southwest toward the palace garden. Two hours later, the basket was filled to the top…
"Zuko? Did you eat some of the berries?" Katara asked. "I swear the basket was full a second ago."
"No," Zuko said quickly.
"Stick your tongue out then," she said, walking over to him.
Zuko shook his head, pretty clearly indicating his guilt, and Katara chucked a handful of berries at his face.
"Liar!" she accused with a laugh. "I wonder if your legendary immaturity will make it into the history books!"
He stuck out his purple tongue and then said, "Only if yours does!"
"Zuko!" She went to whack him on the arm, but he grabbed her wrist to stop her and then bent down to kiss her before she could say anything.
"Jerk," Katara said as he pulled her into a hug.
"I know," he said with a chuckle.
"You know, Zuko," Katara said, looking up at him, "The people in the palace really don't what to make of us."
"What do you mean?" he asked curiously.
"I don't know, I guess… they seem almost offended when I ask them nicely for things or when I treat them like real people," she said, frowning.
"They're just not used to you yet, or me, for that matter. I wasn't this nice to them when I was a kid, and I think it kind of freaks most of them out. I have to admit, if you weren't here, I'd probably be acting as stiff and pompous as they're expecting us to act now."
"It's just… I want to earn their respect, not demand it. I don't want to be like…"
"Like my father?" Zuko asked.
"I didn't mean-"
"No, it's okay," Zuko assured her. "I don't want to be like him either. We have to be the change we want to see in the world. A new season of ruling has come, Katara."
Katara stared at him dreamily. "You and your fancy Fire Lord talk," she said humorously. "How come you sound so eloquent when you're saying your Fire Lord stuff, but you can't even say you love me half the time without stuttering?"
Zuko let go of her and made an immature face. "I do not stutter!"
"Yes, you do!" Katara yelled, running back toward the berries and sticking out a purple tongue over her shoulder.
"Hey!" Zuko cried, chasing after her.