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Ginger Tea and Warm Blankets

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There's a storm. She is loving it and he is in love.

The only sound came from the waves crashing against the cliffs, wind blew her hair in every direction. He could hear thunder through the waves.

Zuko watched Katara from the safety of the Ember Island house. Her arms were wide open, her head facing the sky, welcoming the rain. She was beautiful. The full moon above her bathed her in white light. It was dim but that didn’t stop Zuko from admiring her.

Then she moved and Zuko stopped breathing. She brought her hands above her head stopping the rain around her in a bubble. Then the bubble opened like curtains revealing the waterbender. She put one foot in front of her and mover her hands in a circle above her head making the water fallow her. She separated the stream in to two for each hand.

Zuko watched her turn, flip and jump around, the water fallowing her like two serpents. Some were fighting katas, some were dancing. Katara ended her dance with combining the two streams again and bringing them down in front of her, the she separated them again and twisted them around and finally crashed them together where her enemy would be. Her stance was wide and Zuko recognized it as his. It was a move he’s been developing for the past week. He couldn’t quite get his fire to separate and combing as good as Katara could but it was his move. He was sure of it.

Has she been watching him train? Usually when he comes back from his early morning practices she has just woken up. Or has she been acting so no one would ask where she has been?

Zuko was snapped out from his thoughts by a cold and a wet hand on his shoulder. He looked up. Katara stood in from of him, her hair stuck to her neck, back and shoulders. She was still wet even thought she could have bended all of the water away. Zuko’s eyes fallowed one drop of water that disappeared in her top binding and he flushed.

“Were you watching me train?” she asked and with one move of her arm she was dry.

“Did you steal that last move from me?” he asked her back instead of answering her question. He didn’t want her to know the truth. Katara sat next to him on the porch and wrapped her arms around her knees. She smelled like the sea.

“Yeah,” after a moment of silence Katara answered “I’ve seen you train every morning when I come back from my morning swim.” It sounded a bit like she was admitting to dirty secret.

“I still have slight trouble combining and separating the flames at the end.” It was his turn to admit something “But you did good. You just need to work on your balance when you bring the water down. The force can knock you down if you’re not used to it.”

“Thanks.” After that they just sat in silence and watched the rain die down and Yue disappear behind clouds. Katara sighed and put her hands on the porch leaning back. Now their shoulders were slightly touching and Zuko felt Katara shiver. Even though it was summer, just few days before Sozins Comet, the rain was cold and if she wasn’t careful she could get sick. Concerned Zuko grabbed Kitara’s hand.

“Your hands are cold. Come on, let’s get you inside. You could get sick.” Not waiting for a response, he stood up and dragged her with him in the living room. He sat her on the couch and went in to the kitchen to make tea. While the water was boiling he walked back to her and took a blanket. Zuko wrapped his hands around it for a while and afterwards covered Katara with it, who hadn’t moved from her spot. She had expected a slightly cold blanket which she’ll have to warm up with her body temperature but Zuko had already warmed it up. When Katara was tucked in he walked back in the kitchen.

Katara watched Zuko make tea and snuggled deeper in the blanket. Warmth spread through her. Weather it was from the blanket or something else she couldn’t tell. Zuko came back with two cups of tea and without saying a word he passed her one cup and then sat at her feet on the couch. Katara was happy about the warm cup and wrapped her cold, she just realized she was cold, hands around it. Putting it to her nose she inhaled.

“It’s ginger tea with honey. Uncle used to make it for me when I was sick.” She smiled behind the cup and thanked him. They sat and drank the tea quietly.

Katara enjoyed the warm liquid as it warmed her from the inside out. Zuko watched her from the corner of his eye. He noticed her small smile when she cuddled with the cup to keep warm, he noticed the subtle furrow of her brow when the tea was a bit too hot for her to drink. He noticed how her toes slowly creeped under his thigh to keep warm and he let her.

The small touches were enough for him. He knew she could never be with him. Even if by a miracle she liked him, he knew it would never work. So, he made due with the small things. He savored the moments when their fingers brushed together when she passed him something, when their shoulder bumped in the hallway, when she smiled at him whenever he made tea.

His love wasn’t skipped heartbeats, blood rushing, blank mind and butterflies. At first it was but then it grew. It grew to the love it was now - his love. His love was familiar, homey. He wasn’t flushed when he spoke to her, his heart was beating normally and there were no butterflies. She was his home, his safety net. She had his heart in the palm of her hand and she didn’t know it. He would do anything for her. For him, loving her was just as natural as his bending. And no one is nervous when they bend. Sure, sometimes it hurt, but then she’ll flash that smile or say something of even just look at him and he was mended. He was home.

When Katara was done with the tea Zuko took her cup and took it in the kitchen. He washed the cups, dried them, walked back in the living room and stopped in the doorway. Katara was asleep, the moon was shining on her peaceful face. He couldn’t leave her here to sleep. She was sitting and he knew it was uncomfortable.
Zuko carefully took the blanket off of her and then stopped. He had forgot she was in just her bindings. His eyes traveled down her every curve and landed back to her face. Agni, she’s beautiful, he thought. Zuko shook his head a gathered her in his arms and took her to her room. Her door wasn’t shut all the way so he pushed it with his foot and took her in. Zuko laid Katara on her bed and just as he stood straight to walk out, she caught his wrist.

“Can you please warm the covers?” she quietly asked still half asleep. Once again Zuko flushed and thanked every spirit he knew that Katara couldn’t see the smile that had spread across his face. He moved his hands across her covers and when they were warm enough he covered her half naked body. He watched he snuggle deeper and fully drift back to sleep with a smile on her lips.

At the door Zuko looked back at the sleeping bender and felt a pang in his heart. He loved her so much, but she wasn’t his and will never be.