"I have chai on the stove," Katara offered again.
"No tea - I'm late for - I was just about to -" What was he looking for? Aang didn't realize it, but he was directing these phrases while looking at Zuko. To think that years of bender training and rigorous meditation practices had not prepared him for this! Petty male jealousy. What worse, Zuko didn't seem threatened at all by Aang's presence. He smiled - smiled! - and welcomed Aang in again with a quick nod.
"I was just leaving," the firebender stated, and to Aang, it sounded genuine. Zuko turned to find his shirt, which was drying flat on the kitchen counter. "She won't bend the tea out for me," he said to Aang as if in confidence, and Katara rolled her eyes. "Can you believe it? I had to wash it and let it dry out naturally."
"He needs to learn not to spill tea on himself like a five-year-old," Katara replied sharply, sipping from her mug. "I'm no one's maid!"
"You've made that clear."
Aang thought to dry out Zuko with a blast of air, but he was afraid of what he was capable of in this hostile, tense state. Maybe he would accidentally blast him through the window. Maybe he would blast Katara along with him. Aang watched the firebender pull on the damp sleeves with some difficulty. No doubt he had attempted to wash the fabric himself and failed. The stain was still apparent under his breast pocket. He fumbled with his buttons and folded his collar. He nodded at Aang and waved at Katara. She looked up and barely acknowledged his leaving. When he shut the door, Katara shook her head with a small, irritated smile. The thud of the door left a brief silence, where Aang looked at his shoes and noted Katara's choice in rug color - not surprisingly, a deep, bottomless blue.
"I'm sorry to have interrupted you." Aang straightened himself and cleared his throat. He thought his face was warm; absentmindedly, he sent his hand to his right cheek to see if his embarrassment was apparent, but his skin felt cool there. He was having trouble holding Katara's eyes in his. He felt embarrassed for her. For himself.
"You weren't interrupting anything," she answered. "Believe me." Really? He wanted to believe her. She stood up and poured him a cup of chai against his refusal. She was in her pajama shorts - the same ones he had helped her into a week ago after her rough night. He didn't need to fight with himself to turn away. She had momentarily lost her appeal to him. At the same time, he wanted her now more than ever. He wanted her to tell him Zuko had only come for tea, spilled it, and left.
"It's obvious you were in the middle of something - "
"We really weren't," she protested. "I'm not going to keep denying it to you. And he didn't spill any tea on himself. I threw it at him."
"Oh." He wasn't sure how to respond. "Listen, Katara, I'll leave you alone." She looked up at him from the counter before he turned away. Her eyes were pained, the brows meeting at the center. What was once blue and vibrant looked gray and wilting. She was attempting to keep her full-lipped mouth pressed into a thin line, as if preventing a bad thought from flying out and hurting him. He returned her pained look with his own.
"I'm sorry again," he murmured.
"Please don't go," Katara said. "Come sit here with me." She plopped herself on the couch again and tapped the seat next to her. "Come on." She held out the second mug to him. "Come. Don't make me beg."
"I left you a note this morning," Aang said suddenly. He marched forward and took the mug from her gently.
"On your door. Did you get it?" Aang took a polite sip. His heart was beating so hard and so fast, he was afraid Katara would hear it. "It was taped on the door with a sticker."
"Is it this note?" She dug in a nearby drawer and pulled out the note Aang had scribbled earlier that day. He shoved it into the pocket of his orange pants. "I'm sorry," she said. She looked at his pocket and shook her head. "I thought it was for Suki. I texted her but she never replied. I didn't know it was for me. There was no name on it. And I didn't think anyone would leave me any notes. To be honest," she said, "I thought it was from Sokka."
"You didn't open it?"
"Aang," Katara said.
"Do you have somewhere you need to be right now?"
"No," he said, and thought of Suki and Omashu's. "I think I took care of all my chores today."
"Okay." She flexed her neck towards the window behind her. Aang watched and became captivated despite his attempts to remain aloof. The room was warm, steamy, and it smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg. Now that he was closer to her, he smelled jasmine leaves, too. Her hair, though it seemed messy and unwashed, fell past her shoulders in perfect bronze ringlets. Even in a masculine, unflattering shirt, Katara looked like a morning goddess. He looked closer to find a light brush of stubble on her bare legs, and smiled coyly to himself.
"That guy," Aang started, because he had to know. "He's your boyfriend."
"He was my boyfriend," she answered. She was still facing the window; Aang watched her breasts rise and fall with a sigh. Then she turned to him, suddenly animated, and pulled out a stack of fresh Fire Nation bills from behind her. "Look at what he gave me," she said, and threw the stack on the coffee table so that it landed with a thud. "A breaking-up present."
It was a short stack, but Aang guessed it was the equivalent of 500 gold pieces. It was a generous gift, but no doubt it was to pay off some sort of debt. He hadn't known Zuko long, but he doubted he was the generous, romantic type. Aang drank from his mug and thought of what to say. When he looked up again, Katara was lighting a cigarette, her left hand cupped about the flame.
"He's a firebender, you know. He used to light my cigarettes for me."
Aang opened the window behind them and took his seat again. "It isn't good for you."
"Like he gave a shit."
"You fought with him at Rough Rhino's. I didn't think you'd see him again after that."
"I had to," she said. "I can't tell you why now, but I had to see him today."
"I should go." Aang had finished his tea. He didn't know why, but he wasn't comfortable here. Maybe it was because he had seen Zuko leave this room a moment ago. Maybe because Katara was smoking and ranting - she wasn't at her best right now. Maybe it was because he felt they had just left the sheets together. Even though Aang knew Katara needed a friend, he doubted he could be that person for her. He was too invested in her. He wanted her to be his. And she was still too close to Zuko - she harbored something from that previous relationship that Zuko did not. Aang wondered why. Truth be told, she was a better catch than he was. He seemed hot-headed and emotionless. Stubborn. A little self-righteous.
And what about her? She was a little self-righteous too. Emotionally unstable, clearly damaged. And unable to let go.
"I wish you'd just sit around," Katara said in a small voice. From Aang's vantage point, Katara looked like a little girl. "Is it the cigarette? I can put it out. Hey, why don't you let me read that note you left me earlier?"
"It was nothing," he said over his shoulder. "Just an invitation to something. But it was cancelled." With that, he closed the door quietly behind him and made his way to the elevator. He had pressed the button and was waiting for the elevator's arrival when he felt Katara's soft hand on his shoulder. He smelled her before he even turned around.
She whispered, with cinnamon on her breath, "Stay, please," and turned him to face her.
Ok, so i had to upload this TODAY because this is NOT zutara... and i felt bad leaving that last chapter. but there has to be some drama ok? like i said before, this IS kataang/tokka but it'll take a while to get there. i expect to be finished at 25 chapters :)
i apologize because i haven't been on my top writing game these past few weeks. i hoped fanfiction would get the creative juices flowing again. you know how writers have great writing days and not so great writing days. this is the latter. much overdue love. -gg scorpiaux