Her face is far too expressive; you can read her story through her eyes, and her heart by the firm line of her lips. You can witness her passion as she narrows her aqua eyes in spite of the fact that this should be a battle already lost. She doesn't believe in lost causes. There's always a reason to keep persisting.
She appears as strong as a warrior - and isn't that what she is? She's been fighting in this war for as long as she can remember, even if she never picked up a sword to do it. Anyway, she likes her own methods better.
And so this realisation rains on him, quite literally.
"What are you - "
"I want to fight you."
He's drenched and unhappy. He narrows his hazy, golden eyes at her firmly, "I'm not going to fight you."
She shrugs her shoulders as if she'd been expecting this reaction, "I never said you had to fight back."
That's how he finds himself having the wrath of a Master Waterbender directed entirely at him. He growls to himself, frustrated. She always has to make things difficult, doesn't she?
"That's it, waterbender. I'm sick of your self righteous - "
"ME? Self righteous?"
He's knocked backwards by a large wave of sea water so quickly his head nearly spins. A scowl forms on his lips. "Yes, you. You won't even give me a chance."
She spits at him, "Ba Sing Se."
"That was a long time ago, Katara, I've changed."
He just barely dodges her signature water whip attack. "So you say," she drawls, eyebrows furrowed with determination. She intercepts his fireball halfway with a satisfying splash of water. Katara almost smiles.
They come to an almost sort of agreement. He doesn't bother her, she doesn't try to blast his head off with a large chunk of ice. Aang seems the most pleased out of all of them, "Great, glad that we settled this! Aren't you guys?" His hopeful and wide eyes scan the group scattered around the campfire, stopping at Katara.
She notices. "Oh, yeah. Everything's great." Not like there's a traitor among us. Her shiny eyes shift to Zuko, who has taken to sitting near Toph, and narrow.
He matches her glare with a fierce one of his own.
"Um, yeah," Aang scratches his head awkwardly, having noticed the tension, but since everyone else was obviously ignoring it he wasn't sure if he should too. He doesn't like conflict. "Look maybe if you guys - "
"Twinkle Toes," Toph intercedes loudly. "They're not trying to kill each other. I'd say there's been some improvement. Leave it."
Katara turns to Aang with the most reassuring smile she could muster, "It's okay, Aang, really. Just focus on your firebending."
"Get out of here!"
"No! I want to see that Aang's making improvement!"
Aang glances nervously between the two with almost disbelief. They'd managed to get through last night without any fights but he really hadn't expected it to last for long, truthfully.
"You're distracting him! Do you want him to learn or not?"
"I'm not distracting you, am I, Aang?" Katara's eyes are on him at once, wide and innocent. She's using the pout.
Aang flushes. "She's really not - "
"You can have your boyfriend back when he's not in the middle of my lesson," Zuko says coldly, not sparing the blushing Avatar a glance.
"He's not my boyfriend." Katara shoots back, indignantly, causing Aang's flush to deepen in color. She folds her arms irritably over her chest.
Zuko nearly growls in frustration. "I don't care! You're disrupting the Avatar's training. Do you want him to lose to - " my father "The Fire Lord?"
"O-Of course not. Aang...He has to beat him. He has to." Katara shuts her eyes and heaves a deep sigh. "Fine."
Zuko watches as she retreats back to their camp, feeling confused. She gave up much more quickly than he'd have thought. With a shrug of his shoulders he turns back to the Avatar, "Alright. Where were we?"
"I was just worried."
Zuko glances over his shoulder, alarmed. He spots Katara standing just behind him and hesitates before moving over a bit so she can sit. She offers him a meek smile in return. There's an awkward silence before Zuko clears his throat abruptly. "What? You were worried that I'd kill him?"
"Not even," Katara replies, her eyes glazing over as she seems to consider his words. "You...wouldn't," she shakes her head. "You have just as much to lose as any of us. You wouldn't."
This suprises him. "Then what?"
She swallows, "Well, see, the first time Aang firebended...he didn't have much control. I just wanted to make sure you weren't pressuring him too quickly."
"We only have so much time, Katara."
"I know," Katara admits, "I know that. It's just... I worry about him. He's only a kid, you know? And he's got so much to deal with right now." Her eyes glisten and for a terrifying moment he thinks she's going to cry but luckily for him she doesn't allow herself to shed a tear.
Another wave of surprise hits him. Her referring to Aang as a kid is a little off putting because he had assumed that they were... well, together. "He's catching on just fine," he offers just because he can, even if it's not the whole truth.
"He's a fast learner."
"I'm sorry I keep picking fights with you."
He glances at her out of the corner of his eye with a smirk, "No you're not."
"You're right, I'm not." Katara laughs, and Zuko finds himself almost enjoying the sound of it, much to his own dismay. "You're fun to mess with sometimes."
"Just not when you win," she adds reluctantly.
They both laugh this time and Katara elbows him gently in the ribs. She thinks this could be the start of something akin to friendship, maybe.
After Yon Rha, Katara is understandably a bit shaken up. A part of her wishes that she had just killed him on the spot, but the more reasonable part of her knows she did the right thing. She's not a killer. She can't be.
Still, she feels miserable.
"Hey. It's going to be alright."
Katara stays silent.
The waterbender's lower lip quivers and she fears that if she tries to speak she'll burst into tears. Memories of her mother's death have been brought back, vividly, and she isn't sure how much more she can take.
But it's not. Nothing in that moment seems okay, or like it ever will be. Katara launches herself at Zuko and stains the fabric of his clothes with her tears. Relentless sobs wrack through her body and hesitantly Zuko wraps his arms around her.
It's awkward but strangely comforting. They stay like that for a while; her crying onto his shoulder, and him trying to remember what consoling someone felt like.
She hears a horrible, horrible scream befores he realises that it's her own. Katara gapes at Zuko's body that's been struck with lightning. He writhes on the ground, whimpering. She knows the lightning was meant for her, she knows what he's done.
"Zuko!" Her voice is back under her control now that she's done screaming. She runs quickly to his side and tries to begin healing him but an awful cackle steals her attention.
Katara's eyes narrow in determination. "Zuko, just hold on."
It's an intense game of cat and mouse that they play. Azula, naturally, the predatory cat. She shoots lightning carelessly from her fingertips. It's like she's drunk on power and doesn't care who falls to her attack, so long as someone falls.
A plan formulates in Katara's head. It might not be the wisest or most strategic plan but it's all she has.
She entraps Azula in ice and waterbends her way around so she can successfully chain her hands behind her. And then it's done.
It worked. She can't believe it worked.
Azula struggles against her restraints and literally breathes fire. Katara shudders.
"Zuko!" She screams, running to his injured body. Katara quickly pours some water onto her hands and they begin to glow faintly.
"Katara?" His voice is barely whisper.
She can't help the relieved sob that escapes her as she nods.
"Well congratulations, Fire Lord."
He grins at the familar voice and turns around. "I don't think I like that tone. Maybe I'll just have my guards deal with you."
"What's the matter?" Katara's eyes twinkle with mirth. "Afraid you won't be able to take me?"
"Of course," he rolls his eyes, but then startled by the force of her hug. He returns the gesture wholeheartedly. "I'm glad you're here," he says.
"Why wouldn't I be?" She asks, the question muffled by the fabric of his robes. She peers up at him seriously. "You're okay, though? Happy, right?"
He cracks a smile, nodding. "Yeah. I actually think I may be ready for this."
"But," she raises an eyebrow, pulling away from their embrace. He thinks she's getting too good at reading him.
"But now I have a whole nation that's looking to me to recover from a war that's been going on for a hundred years."
They both stay quiet for a moment.
"You're not alone."
"I know. Aang's already offered to help out when he's around."
Katara doesn't bother to resist the urge to roll her eyes, and she folds her arms firmly over her chest. "Not just him, you know. We're all here to help. We're a team."
"Right," he smiles, though it's painfully forced. "So, what about you? What are your plans?"
She mulls this over for a second or two. "I might head back to the Southern Water Tribe. It'll be strange to be going back home," she muses.
Zuko hesitates. He wants to ask her to stay. He wants to be selfish because he doesn't really believe he can do this all by himself. He exaggerates a grin in her direction, "You'll be happy there."
"Yeah," she says quietly, noting the look of disappointment that flickered across his face. "But I'm happy here too."
He looks up, a little too hopefully.
"I told you that you weren't alone in this," Katara grins. "Did you think I was going to leave you hanging immediately?"
"But that's your home - "
"Unless you want me to go," she quirks an eyebrow; a challenge.
"Of course not," Zuko remedies instantly. A smirk creeps onto his lips, "I'm sure we could find some room for you in the dungeons."
They both laugh and Katara, not for the first time, thinks it could be the start of something a bit different than friendship. Something more.
Author's Note: I'm back. Okay. So, this pairing is more like an addiction to me than anything. I've been thinking of writing something else about them - a multiple chapter story - but I don't want to post anything until I have a clear idea and some drafts written out. Anyway.
I hope you enjoyed it, as cliche as it was, and thank you very much for reading! (: