|By Katherine Rebekah||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Katherine Rebekah||Drama||PG||None||None|
|As One Speaks to a Friend|
When Katara pulled into the driveway at the beach house, Toph was still eying her, despite not being able to see a thing, and those milky green orbs constantly flitting towards Katara and flitting away was starting to creep her out.
"Toph, can you stop?"
"Stop what?" The blind girl played dumb.
"Looking at me."
"News flash," Toph waved her hand in front of her face as sarcastically as possible.
"You know what I mean." Katara slid out of the car, Toph following suit and walking around the front of the car to continue the conversation.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm just worried about you, Katara. That's all," she said it nonchalantly, as though it wasn't an awkward and unusual display of emotion for her. But it was impossible to hide it forever and she showed her distress by sprinting off toward the house, leaving Katara out in the steady drizzle by herself.
Aang had said there was someone here, but the only out of the ordinary car parked in the driveway was Zuko's. She peeked into the window of the Smart Car for any evidence of a plus one, the only thing she could find was that the interior was spotless, the blood stains gone.
Toph made it out of the drizzle before Katara, and she had failed to close the door behind her, so as Katara stood at the bottom of the porch steps, she had a perfect view into the house.
A soft glow emitted from the living room, a delicious smell of fruit pie drifting out with it. She could also see the TV was on, images of gore and blood shed flickering across it, Sokka on the couch with a look of unbroken concentration as he controlled his shooter game. Suki was seated on the arm rest to make room on the couch where, right next to Sokka, with a controller in hand, being tackled with a noogy from Toph, was Bato. Katara's gaze locked on him. Aang walked in, fruit pie in hand and in an instant everyone was on their feet ogling over it, blocking her view of Bato.
Then Aang saw her, no doubt noticing her menacing grimace, and ran out into the rain, closing her portal into that world behind him. In the short moment it had taken to witness that scene something in, Katara seemed to have suffered another tiny blow. Bato had practically abandoned them, but the moment he steeped foot back in that house he was treated like family? The scowl held its firm grip on Katara's lips as she continued to stand in the rain staring.
Then there was something warm and firm on her forearm. She looked up to see Aang. He wore a smile. A sad smile, but a smile nonetheless. Katara realized this was the first time he had seen her sense last night when he had put her to bed, sniveling and covered in mud and blood. How was he not mad at her?
"Sweetie, it's freezing out here, why don't you come inside?"
He was perfect, too perfect, looking down at her with those big gray eyes. Katara wondered how they could still look so innocent after all Aang had been through and done. She gazed back into them, her eyes equally as large, but more like a deer in head lights kind of way, while his eyes radiated every ounce of unconditional love that they could. It was impossible not to stare.
She didn't know long she had been looking at him when Aang leaned down and pressed his lips against hers.
It took her by surprise. This was not the husband and wife peck she was used to. He lingered, sliding the hand that had been resting on her shoulder up into her hair, trying to coax her into it. She didn't move, didn't pull back. She became rigid, stiff as a board, cold as a corpse. And the thing was that she didn't know why. Why wasn't she kissing him back?
Aang, noticing that he was basically kissing a dead fish, pulled away and looked at her, the innocence in his eyes suddenly replaced with a flood of hurt and confusion.
"Did I do something wrong?"
The words stung. Katara gazed back at him, stunned.
"Uh, no I just, um," she stuttered, thinking of an excuse, any excuse, "What made you think I wanted a kiss?"
Aang shifted his wait from foot to foot, nervous, as if this were some schoolyard crush, "Well, we're out here standing in the rain, alone, and when you look at me like that usually... you know." Aang fumbled with his words, feeling as small and insignificant as he had years ago, a middle school student, his second attempt at kissing Katara. Being rejected by her still hurt as much as it had back then. "I thought it was a moment or something."
Katara shook her head, "No, you don't understand. It wasn't that. I mean, I love you, Sweetie, it's just, I'm thinking about other things." She got on tiptoes, pecked him on the cheek. It was reserved, comfortable, safe. Then she went in, leaving Aang out side in the cold rain.
"Yeah," Aang murmured under his breath, "other things." But how could she not see that to him she was the only thing?
Inside, it was warm, there was fruit pie, the Christmas tree was lit up, and the familiar, somehow comforting, sound of Sokka playing his Xbox droned on in the background. It felt like home. Everything, that is, accept for Bato. Or at least that's what she told herself, but if she thought back far enough, she could remember a home with Bato in it. The only time her family had been whole.
Katara grabbed a slice of fruit pie with her bandaged hands, shaking the memory from her head, and took it into the kitchen where she could eat in relative peace, not bothering to give Bato even a sideways glance.
But then she got to the kitchen; instead of finding it empty, she walked in on Zuko and Iroh making a pot of tea. Katara tried to slip out discreetly before they noticed.
"Katara!" Iroh's bellowing voice filled the small space and shook her to the bone, "I need your help. My nephew, while he is helpful in many ways, doesn't have the palette of a lady. Will you taste this tea for me?"
Katara smiled, or at least made the face she thought resembled a smile, and nodded. How could she say no to Iroh? She bent over and took a sip of tea out of the spoon he had been stirring with.
"It tastes great."
"That is just like you, Katara," he murmured, "always polite," he took a sip, "but it needs something more."
Katara, once again, tried to make her escape to be alone with her fruit pie, maybe in her room, but then Zuko shot her one of his looks that sent a nervous shudder through her body and wouldn't allow her feet to move. She could tell it was important.
"Uncle, the tea is fine. Would you go ahead and serve everyone?"
Iroh opened his mouth, about to protest, but then quickly shut it again, noticing the intensity in Zuko's eyes and steeling a quick glance between him and Katara. He gave a curt nod and left, taking the tea pot and ceramic cups with him.
"What could possibly be so important, Zuko," Katara slid her plate onto the counter, "that you should prevent me from enjoying my dessert?" She tried to say it lightheartedly, but Zuko's face made it very clear that this was not going to be a light hearted conversation.
He was silent, standing over the stove, staring down at the still hot burner where the tea pot had been, his scarred side facing her.
His face contorted, emotions swirling across it.
He grimaced again, as if hearing her voice was the cause of his pain.
"I'm sorry, Katara."
"What? Sorry for what?"
"I was there. I could have stopped it. Instead I held a gun to your head. I almost killed you."
Oh, it was that. Of course it was. What had she expected? They had probably all been sitting around talking about her for hours. Hopefully, not everyone was planing an emotional speech.
"Zuko," Katara contracted her hands as much as the badges would allow, half out of annoyance, half out of nerves, "we've been over this before. You couldn't have done anything. You were a kid. They would have killed you. And you didn't shoot me. You didn't. I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago."
Zuko shook his head, "Why? Why can you forgive me and not them?" He looked up from the stove now, those amber eyes filled with so many emotions. Begging her. Pleading for an answer. As if Katara had any of those.
"Are you suggesting I forgive the man that killed my mother?" There was unmistakable disgust in her tone. She thought Zuko, of all people, would understand.
"Of course not. I don't expect you to forgive anyone. I just don't understand. Why me? I don't deserve it."
Katara sighed, rolling her eyes, flinging her head back, trying to expel the stress that was welling up inside her, "Because you're you, Zuko. Because you said your apologies, and you turned around and you changed. Now, don't question how much you deserve a second chance again. Everyone deserves a second chance." Katara regretted the words as soon as she said them, waited to see if he would use them against her, but he did something quite different.
Zuko suddenly stretched out his hand and grabbed the pendent hanging around Katara's neck. The action surprised her and she took a steep back, the clasp on the back consequently snapping, leaving her necklace to rest in Zuko's hand.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" he stammered. No doubt remembering the last time he had stolen it from her, all those years ago.
"It's okay." Katara extended her hand and he gave it back. Nestled it in her palm like he was scared to handle something so precious.
"It never leaves your neck, does it?"
"Of course not." She began to fasten it back on. "You know that."
There was a pause, his eyes focusing on the pendent as she secured it in its rightful place. "That's your scar Katara. A constant reminder of what was stolen from you."
Katara's hand instinctively moved to it. "I never thought of it like that."
"Our scars mark us. Every day, a constant reminder. Just remember, I have to keep mine. But you? You have a choice."
Katara's mouth gaped open. "Are you suggesting I get rid of my mother's necklace?"
"No, just the weight that you carry with it. The weight that you carry around your neck every day of your life." He paused, waiting to see if she would respond, but she didn't. "I wish I could help lift the weight, because I played such a big part in putting it there, but only you can get rid of it, Katara. Trust me, I know."
"And have you gotten rid off all the weight of your scar?" There was almost a bite to her tone.
A small, sad smile played on Zuko's lips. "Not by a long shot, but I don't have much of a choice now do I?"
"What is that supposed to mean? You have just as much of a choice as I do."
"You've always been the hopeful one, Katara. The sunshine. The bright outlook. Your letting that be stolen from you. But me, I've always been the opposite. And how can something be stolen from me that I never had in the first place?"
"It can't, but have you ever thought you might be able to gain something? Maybe bring the hope into your life yourself?" Katara couldn't believe the words escaping her lips. She sounded like her old self. Wasn't hope and illusion? Isn't that what all this had proved to her?
But Zuko just shrugged and suddenly made himself busy, finding a rag and wiping down the counter. Katara could tell the conversation was over, which was fine with her. She was getting fed up with Zuko's cryptic words and gloomy mood. In a huff she grabbed her fruit pie and left, hoping to make it to her room this time without being interrupted.
It didn't happen.
Everyone was still crowded in the living room, now sipping on the tea that Iroh had bought out. Bato shot up at the sight of Katara.
Please don't talk to me. She thought. Please. Please. Please. All to no avail.
"Katara," Suddenly a hush fell on the room, every set of eyes looking her way. It was so uncomfortable, so very very uncomfortable. "I think you know I'm here to talk to you."
She narrowed her eyes at him. Swallowed a lump in her throat.
"If you're all insisting on this shenanigan, fine," she addressed the room, making her voice loud on purpose, drawing more attention then was necessary. "But you're not going to get to watch like it's a performance." She turned back to Bato. "I'll talk to you on the porch. It's cold so you'll want a jacket, and I would like a cup of tea if you please." The "if you please" was drenched in sarcasm.
Katara stormed out with her pie still in hand. It was no doubt almost too cold to eat by now. Despite her warning to Bato she didn't grab a jacket, but she never minded the chill.
She sat in one of the flimsy deck chairs that faced the ocean. From under the protection of the awning she watched the rain collide with the sand and ocean waves, making loud kerploping noises as it hit the violent waves, growing increasingly thick.
It didn't take long for her to hear the door swing open at the front of the house and Bato's footsteps across the creaky wooden boards. He took a seat next to her, silently, and handed her the tea. She placed the fruit pie down by her feet on the deck, doubting she would ever get to it now, but not really caring as she sipped on Iroh's jasmine tea. The stuff was amazing and warmed her to the core.
The two of them sat silently for a while with some unspoken agreement that the moment was too nice to be ruined with chit chat.
For a second, Katara stopped morning over the past, stopped fretting over the future, and just enjoyed the moment. She sucked in the fresh smell of the rain, listened to the gentle rise and fall of Bato's breath, pressed the tips of her fingers to the warm ceramic cup, and soaked up every last detail of that moment that she could. Katara hadn't enjoyed the moment in a long time, not even before this whole ordeal had started.
"Do you remember when you were little?" Bato finally broke the silence, but it seemed to flow naturally, as if he had found the prefect moment to slip his words in, "I would come over all the time. You rode on my shoulders and called me Uncle Bato and made me have tea parties?"
Katara couldn't hold back a smile at the fond memory, "Of course. How could I forget?"
"I remember one time we were having a tea party, you made me put a tiara on and everything," Katara let out a chuckle. "And you told me about this kid at your school, I can't remember if it was a boy or a girl or what their name was. You said that they used to be your friend and then they made friends with someone else and wouldn't pay attention to you anymore. You said that you had really liked them and they hurt your feelings."
Katara nodded, not because she remembered the kid or even talking to Bato, but because she remembered the feeling. She knew that feeling all too well.
"You told me that you would never play with them again." Bato sighed and let the steam his breath produced hang in the air for a second before continuing. "Katara, I'm just like that little kid. I left you. I didn't call. I was around but I didn't come around. I just came to tell you I'm sorry and I understand if you don't want me in your life anymore."
Katara looked away from the sea for a moment and at Bato, confusion creeping up in her eyes. Why was everyone apologizing to her today? "You mean, that's all you're here for? This isn't an intervention or something? This isn't you trying to fix me?"
Bato shook his head. "No. Nothing like that. I just wanted to make amends."
"But then why is everyone here?"
He shrugged, "Beats me. They were here when I showed up."
"Wait, what day is it?"
"Wednesday, the ninth. Why?"
Katara slapped her gauzy palm to her four head, a smile suddenly spreading on her lips, a real smile, it felt so odd. "It's Wednesday, that's why they're here. We all get together on Wednesdays. And I thought they were here to try and fix me our something." Katara didn't know why this realization made her suddenly happy, but it did. It just did.
"So?" Bato interrupted her small burst of joy.
"Well, should I leave?"
Katara realized he was expecting her to hold a grudge. Katara was so go at grudges. But she allowed that smile to linger, swallowing up her face, making amends for all the scowls she had worn recently.
"Of course I don't want you to leave. We're right in the middle of our tea party."
Song is Prince of Peace by Hillsong United (first Christian song guys!) I included the video because I thought it was fitting with the waves and all.
This chapter is inspired in part by Omashu Rocks saying "I really hope things turn around for Katara." Not turning around just yet, but at least she gets a break.
Quick question. So there is a kissing scene in this one (be it very mild). Should I up the PG ratting because of it or am I good?
For the collective works of the author, go here.