Zutara Week 2012, Day 4—
Whimsical: (adj.) 1. Given to whimsy or fanciful notions; 2. Of the nature or proceeding from whimsy, as thoughts or actions; 3. erratic, unpredictable
Katara stirred the soup. She blew lightly on the concoction and tasted it. A smile overtook her features. It was just the least bit spicy, enough to make Sokka jump around like a flounder-horse fish but not enough to make Zuko do the same. Zuko could hold his spice. It was eerie how well he handled it. She smiled. "Hey, Aang," she called. The young monk smiled up at the waterbender. "Can you do me a favor and call everyone to dinner?"
Aang smiled widely. "Sure," he answered, then disappeared into a long, winding hall of the Air Temple. It wasn't long till he was back, with Zuko, Sokka, and Toph in tow.
"What's for lunch little sis?" Sokka asked, sitting down at a makeshift stone table. He'd made a point of calling her that since Zuko joined and, because the Southern Raiders had gone well, making a pointed glare at the scarred firebender.
Katara set down a plate in front of Toph. "Soup," Katara answered, rolling her eyes. Was there really any question as to what was for lunch? It was always soup. To think it was anything else would be silly and whimsical. She handed Toph a spoon and then turned to serve Aang. He smiled up at her as if she were the very sun. It made her uncomfortable. Then she served Zuko, and her guilty hands found some reason to touch his skin. It was so pale.
Sokka was the last to be served. Smartly, he watched around as everyone took a taste. No one jumped up and down like the were being burned. He lifted the spoon to his mouth and tasted it. "Holy flounder-horse taco!" he shouted. His wooden spoon fell down to the floor and he jumped up and down, blue eyes wide. He started waving his hands in front of his tongue as if it would somehow cool it. "What did you do to this? Make it liquid fire?"
Zuko looked at Sokka. He spooned in more soup and sloshed it around his mouth. It wasn't hot in the least bit.
Katara laughed. She stole a spoonful from Sokka's bowl. "It tastes perfectly fine to me." Sokka's eye twitched. This was the reaction she was looking for. Katara smiled. "Here," she said, "I'll water it down." She bent some water into the bowl from the fountain behind her and grinned. "Wimp," she muttered, before leaving.
"Hey, Katara!" Aang called after her. Katara took a deep breath. It wasn't him she wanted to call after her. "Aren't you going to eat?"
Katara shook her head. "No, I don't think so," she said slowly. With that, she walked back to her room.
The room was nice, better than a mat on the floor, that was for sure. It had a small window overlooking the cliff. Of course, the were on the bottom of a cliff, but still. The view was amazing. Whimsical. She sighed. She seemed to be using that word a lot lately. Whimsical. It was a pretty word, and its meaning was nice. She herself couldn't exactly afford to be whimsical. She was the Avatar; she was his caretaker. Whimsy was not a thing she could afford.
But oh how she wished she could.
If she could afford whimsy, she wouldn't be longingly brushing her fingers along the arm of the banished Fire Prince. She wouldn't be craving the sound of his voice. If she could afford whimsy, she could have him. Or attempt to have him. But she couldn't. She couldn't afford the fanciful thoughts of Zuko. She couldn't lust after what wasn't reasonable, sensible. She had to keep her head. She had to be sensible. No matter how much she wanted desperately to allow herself a shred of whimsy.
She couldn't allow herself to think of the way his skin was so beautifully calloused. She couldn't allow herself to think of the way he gave her a smirk that melted her heart in a way she couldn't allow. She couldn't allow herself to think of how he tried to make her feel better on the way back from the Southern Raiders. She couldn't allow herself to think of the way he laughed. She couldn't allow herself to think of how nice he was in private. She couldn't allow herself to think of the way he laughed. She couldn't allow herself to think of the way he knew what she needed. She couldn't allow herself to fall for him. It would be whimsical for her to do so; she couldn't allow herself to be whimsical.
Katara watched as the sun sunk down, leaving behind only the glowing and disappearing pink, the only remnants to prove that the sun had ever been up. Soon, even those lights would be gone, leaving behind only darkness. No proof of the sun ever having risen. Maybe like what she felt now. Maybe the whimsy will leave, and with it, all feelings she had for Zuko.
Her door opened. Katara's head snapped away from the window to her door; she expected Aang to come, worry making his gray eyes glow silver. But it wasn't. Instead, it was the source of all her whimsical problems. His golden eyes looked like melted butterscotch. Katara licked her lips, trying not to think of all the quaint, chancy, whimsical things she could do.
Zuko rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "Hey," he said. He licked his thin lips impishly. "Are you okay?"
Katara leaned against her dresser. "Yeah," she said, averting her eyes. She didn't want to look at him; it would enforce the whimsy she was trying to keep at bay. "I'm fine."
Zuko walked over to the bed. It was right next to the dressed, close enough that Katara could smell him. He smelt of sandalwood and ash. "You don't usually try to burn Sokka's tongue unless you're upset," he commented.
Katara pressed her lips together and stole a glance at the banished prince. His saggy black hair fell into his eyes, making her want to desperately brush it away from his eyes. It was a whimsical thought. She pushed it away and averted her eyes again. She stared at the blankets of her bed. It was the color of the Air Nomads; orange and yellow. They weren't the right shade of orange to remind her of Zuko's eyes, so it was safe to look there. "Yeah, well... I am his little sister," she grumbled. "It is my job to make his life miserable."
"That's not exactly what I'd call miserable," Zuko said. He was thinking about Azula's version of miserable. That was miserable.
"Sorry if I'm not insane," Katara said, knowing exactly what he'd been referring to.
Zuko laughed. "I'd rather you weren't," he told her. There was a moment of silence as the prince watched her. Her beautiful form was dressed in her blue dress. Her cheeks were flushed, though he didn't know why. Her dazzling blue eyes wouldn't look at him. "Why won't you look t me?"
The suddenness of his question startled Katara into answering honestly. "Because I can't afford whimsy," she answered. Her cheeks flushed further in an apple red. She stared at the orange of her sheets.
"I'm not very whimsical, you know," Zuko responded, confused by her answer. He played with the edge of the orange bed.
Katara rubbed her arm and bit her lip. Her nails dug into the skin of her upper arm. "You may not be, but you make me whimsical," she admitted, hating the red-hot warmth that spilled across her cheeks.
Zuko's eyebrows knitted together. "What do you mean?" he asked, confused.
Katara dug her nails deeper into her skin. There was sure to be a bruise later. "Nothing," she muttered. "Forget about it."
"You can't expect me to forget about it now," Zuko argued. He stood up from the bed and walked over to Katara. His fingers grabbed her chin, softly but firmly. She was forced to look at him. His golden eyes were insistent. "You've got me curious now. Tell me what you mean."
Katara was putty under the gaze of the very swoon-worthy firebender. She licked her lips. "I...," she stuttered, "I can't afford to be whimsical, Zuko. I'm Aang's caretaker, I'm his teacher." The words started to come out of her mouth, flowing like a waterfall. "I have to put him before anything else I do. I have to keep you all safe, until the time comes that I can't and that we have to fight. Until then, I have to keep you all safe. I can't be whimsical. I can't wish for things that might never happen. I can't wish for you. It's impractical, fanciful; it's whimsical. I can't afford to be whimsical."
Zuko blinked, searching Katara's sea-blue eyes for a hint of a lie. She had averted her eyes again, looked down from his eyes to his cheekbones. "It's only whimsical to wish for something unreasonable, something that can't come true," he reminded her.
Katara's lips pressed together. "I know," she mumbled.
There was a long, pregnant moment of silence in which Zuko just stared down at the waterbender before him, tracing the shape of her full lips. What do they taste like? he wondered. He pictured himself kissing her, pictured to softness of her full lips under his. And suddenly it wasn't just his imagination; suddenly his lips were on hers, soft but insistent. They tasted like seaweed and chocolate. He pulled away, and as he did so Katara bit his lower lip lightly, trying to keep him there.
"You aren't being whimsical," he said softly, taking his lip back from Katara. He chuckled lightly. "You're being perfectly reasonable." His tongue peaked out from behind his mouth to lick the outline of Katara's lips.
It was as if a weight was lifted off Katara's shoulders. Her lips felt a bit puffed and she was being held to the dresser by the weight of a sculpted firebender's body, she'd never felt more free. And she laughed. "Sokka's going to kill you," she said.
Zuko chuckled. "The guy can't hold his spice; I'm sure I can take him down with a well-placed firepepper."
Katara laughed. Zuko bent down again to press a kiss to her plump lips.