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24 June 2010 @ 08:17 am
Fic: be the one you always were (Avatar: Katara, Zuko)  
Title: be the one you always were
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Rating: G
Word Count: 1220
Characters/Pairings: Katara, Zuko
Summary: Missing scene from The Southern Raiders.
Notes: This is all due to nessismore's musical prompts! I'm a bit of a hesitant writer but the song Losing Sleep by Charlotte Sometimes stirred a little something and I thought I might as well share since I've been enjoying a Katara/Zuko revival lately. :) All errors are my own, all characters are not! Included in those errors: I totally misheard the lyrics of the song so I'm posting what I thought they were, not what they actually are. XD

Be the one you always were
Don't you, don't you dare lose
Be the humble girl you are
Don't cry in strangers' cars

As they walked away from her mother's killer, even the steady downpour did nothing to disguise the hot, angry tears streaming down her face unwelcome. Each drop felt like the venom flowing in her veins being leeched away and yet she couldn't imagine running dry. Ever being the same girl who laughed and trusted and pulled everyone else through their day. Not when there was so much hate to draw on, more than just what she felt towards the man crumpled on the ground behind her. She hated the looks on the faces of the people she loved the most, the looks that told her they knew what she wouldn't do. She hated that they were wrong, that she didn't even know what she would do. That it still felt like it was all up to the flip of coin that she was walking away now without blood on her hands. She hated that she was crying. She'd told herself she wouldn't around him again, she'd wanted never let him know more about what she was thinking than she knew about his own thoughts. And yet here they were, him trailing a few steps behind her not saying a word while she was so stupidly ripped open. Her hatred poured out into a sob, into the words weak and wrong ringing through her head, until finally she collapsed on a fallen log and put her head in her hands and just cried.

Even when tears feel like they could last, they never do. You run out of water. Slowly, the noises of the forest once again became louder than her own breath in her ears. The rain had gentled on the leaves. There was a cracking of branches. Warmth, a fire. She lifted her eyes to watch Zuko noiselessly setting a pot over the fire. A pot? Hadn't they left their stuff with Appa? She tried to remember if they had been walking in his direction and looked only to find the familiar ridge they'd left him at not far off. She turned her eyes back to Zuko cautiously and watched as he went through his own domestic routine to turn a campfire into home, just she had done herself for the past year. Except his included sniffing a battered teapot she didn't recognize and pouring the contents into two cups. He turned to her finally, meeting her eyes just briefly and held one out. His voice was quiet, "Tea?"

Katara extended a hand and took the cup. Zuko turned back to the fire. The heat sunk into her palms and she shivered, realizing only then how cold she'd gotten. She bent the water from her hair with one hand and then brought the cup up to her face, breathing in the steam. She felt empty, more worn out than she'd admitted to in such a long time. Her eyes felt tight. She took a sip of the tea and let the warmth flow through her. She took another and almost sighed, then without thinking remarked, "It's good, thank you".

She couldn't stop her eyes from flickering to Zuko as he stilled in breaking the loaf of bread from his bag in half and looked up at her. His eyes looked so wide, so hopeful for a second, before he quickly looked back at his hands and mumbled, "You're welcome."

Her lips twitched. If it didn't feel so faraway from her, she felt like she wanted to laugh. How could things change so much in an hour? How had she wound up in sitting in front of a fire next to Zuko with his expression looking as open and artless and pleased as she'd ever seen it, all because she said his tea was good? It didn't seem quite real to her. Maybe that's why a few minutes later, as she stared into the fire, she asked aloud "Was I wrong?"

She wasn't even sure exactly what she was asking. And yet after only after a few breaths, Zuko replied, "No." He was staring into the fire, just as intently as she had been a moment ago. "If you might find a little peace with yourself, you weren't wrong. I think your mother would have wanted that for you. " He was silent, he didn't even seem to notice that she was still watching him. His hair shadowed his face, she couldn't even see his scar from this angle. He looked so unfamiliar, still covered all in black like she was. In the next moment he seemed to process what he'd just said and glanced over towards her, met her eyes a little uncertain like he had overstepped his bounds by even mentioning her mother right now. Maybe she even could have thought that. When the world seemed more real and he was the boy she knew not to trust. But today, she saw he'd been talking to himself as much as to her and she wondered if there was anyone left who didn't feel so much older than they looked.

They sat for a while, sharing the tea and the food he'd packed, long enough for the sky to clear and the sun to start to its dip towards the horizon. "We should probably head back" she finally said, "If we leave now, we could get there before sunset." He nodded and went over to break down the pot and hanger from the fire. Katara wiped her own cup and then his, carefully wrapping the teacups and teapot and putting them on top of his bag. They worked their way smoothly around and within minutes it looked like they'd never even stopped there.

The walk back to Appa was surprisingly short and their silence surprisingly comfortable. The sun baked her clothing dry and a steady breeze pushed Zuko's hair into his face. Katara peered up and tried to make her mind as empty as the blue sky. When their ride came into sight, her steps quickened a bit. She laid a hand on his warm, wooly flank as Appa gave her a comforting groan and turned his head to snuffle at her. She murmured thanks to him for his concern. Zuko swung himself onto the saddle with almost too much ease for so little practice. With one more scratch to the bison's nose, she pulled herself up his horn and climbed up too. Zuko had his back to her, busy securing the bags. She hesitated for a second and instead of taking the reins, she picked a spot at the front of the saddle. As she settled in, her hand drifted to her throat without her thinking. She reached back to untie the mask that had disguised her, pulling it off to reveal her necklace, sitting in the hollow where it always rested. She started in on the rest, unwrapping the waistband and yanking the concealing black over her head. She could almost feel Zuko's eyes on her as she adjusted her tunic and stuffed the extra material in her bag but he merely followed suit. As she worked to free her hair, he appeared in the corner of her eye in his usual red and gold and swiftly took a seat across from her at the front of the saddle.

"Ready?" said Zuko, meeting her eyes.
"Ready." she replied. And she was.
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Jokingly Jade: avatar:  katara lostjade_sabre_301 on June 24th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
I come bearing actual critique! Please take this as a sign that I really liked your fic--you have a lot of little gems in it, but there is some stuff that could use some work. Most of it is in the first paragraph, which I skipped as soon as I read Each drop felt like the venom flowing in her veins being leeched away--the whole paragraph is full of cliches and clunky language, and really feels like you were warming up and then once you got into your groove didn't go back to see if you could get the warm-up into the groove as well.

(side note: that's actually kind of how I feel about the song as well--the intro was blah, but once it hit the chorus it hit a sweet note.)

Secondly, I think the piece also would have a little more impact if you broke up the longer paragraphs--having the action all blocked together makes it feel very step-by-step, less organic, with less room for the breaths in between. For example, when Zuko says the line "If you might find a little peace with yourself, you weren't wrong. I think your mother would have wanted that for you. ", you follow it up by saying "He was silent," but you don't leave room for the silence--you immediately jump into Katara watching him, so his words mush into her action and lose their potency.

Finally, you have some comma splices, and some missing commas near your dialogue tags--nothing a good beta can't find and fix.

SO the reason I said all that is because I absolutely adored the following lines:

he went through his own domestic routine to turn a campfire into home, just she had done herself for the past year.

the whole idea of him making tea. I am a sucker for Zuko making tea.

she saw he'd been talking to himself as much as to her and she wondered if there was anyone left who didn't feel so much older than they looked.

Zuko swung himself onto the saddle with almost too much ease for so little practice.

you have these wonderful little character gems and moments in this fic, and with a little polishing they'd really get a chance to shine, and now I am going to stop because I realized I was making a gem metaphor and that may possibly be the height of cheesiness.

anyway, I liked your fic muchly. Thanks for the read!