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****

He’s an old ranger, chewed up and spat out the corp. By all rights, he should hate–or at least pity–this fresh, bright eyed girl. Katara Karuk is the hope and pride of the ranger corp. And yet he’s fascinated. Entranced. There’s something about her that makes him feel right, something that reminds him of how it felt when Azula was still at his side and the world was something he still understood.

“I’m not very good at this,” she says in her thick water tribe accent, “You should have tried my gran-gran’s tea.”

He knows how it tastes because he’s been in her head (it really does taste as good as she says–even if water tribe tea is like nothing he’s ever tried before). Zuko takes a cup, one of the tiny white and blue porcelain tea cups that had been a gift from Pakku on Katara’s nineteenth birthday.

She nods with a small smile and they both fall silent. They gaze across the hanger to where Gypsy Danger stands, tall and proud ( there’s nothing like knowing that someone else loves your yeager as much as you do). Zuko knows, just as easily as he knows Katara’s every thought and memory and secret, that the girl sipping tea beside him is right. She’s supposed to beside him now and he doesn’t care what Pakku says, because she’s supposed to fight with him in that yeager.

Zuko drinks his tea.

****

The party lasts a week. It is impossibly hard to find a quiet moment because even as they grieve, the hope and joy of the future is too hard to suppress. In a lull, when everybody is sleeping off the alcohol or caffeine or whatever, Zuko finds her sitting in Gypsy’s empty hanger. He doesn’t bother speaking because there is nothing that needs to be said. Katara mourns Pakku and he can feel her pain just as clearly as she can feel his. He sits, setting a tray between them. Zuko pours a cup, sets it in her tiny brown hands.

“Drink.” he says and she does (it’s tastes just as bad as he’d promised it would).

They lapse into a comfortable silence. That’s the best part about being drift compatible, she thinks. There are no secrets between them, nothing hidden or held back. Existing on the same wavelength makes things easy. Simple.

“When are you leaving?” Zuko asks.

He tastes his tea and cringes. Katara smiles unexpectedly.

“A week,” she tells him, “I bought two tickets to Ba Sing Se.”

He doesn’t seem surprised (because he’s not), but he tells her about his Uncle’s teashop anyway.

“I think he’d disown me for this tea.” he admits ruefully.

“He loves you.” she says simply.

“He’ll love you.” he says with that honest gleam in his eyes.

Katara smiles again, blushing (his never ending fascination with her is both flattering and fascinating in itself). Zuko moves the tray aside and she leans against him. He smells like the ocean, like cleanliness and honesty (she wonders if this is a Fire Nation thing or just a Zuko thing). Katara inhales deeply, then subtly tosses the contents of her cup out as she does.

****

The smell of Jasmine wakes him. Zuko blinks, reaches for Katara, and finds her side of the bed empty. She’s sitting by the open balcony door, dressed in little more than her underwear, staring at the moon. There are two cups of tea beside her.

Zuko pads over quietly, pulling a t-shirt over his head. They haven’t drifted in more than a year, but he still knows how to read her. He sits, drops a kiss on her head, and takes his cup. As always, her tea is delicious. It’s a drop of silent pleasure, an art form for the two of them. Katara makes tea and there is always just enough for two, just enough for one water tribe girl and one fire nation boy.

“I had an offer,” she says, “In the Fire Nation.”

It’s not surprising, really. Katara Kuruk is one of the brightest minds in the world and beside her, he’s just as washed up ranger turned convenient hero. She has the opportunity to work anywhere, do anything.

“When do we leave?” he asks.

She glances sharply at him, blue eyes nearly luminescent in the moonlight. This is their main area of contention. Zuko has family here in Ba Sing Se, an Uncle with a popular tea shop and arms held wide open. He has no real reason to leave (they both know he is unlikely to reconcile his relationship with his father any time soon, if ever). And yet Katara is eager to see the world and partake in the shaping of it.

“Let’s face it,” Zuko sighs, “I’m the trophy boyfriend in this relationship. All I have to do is look pretty.”

She laughs because it’s such an obnoxious thought. Zuko is her rock, her strength, her passion. He gives her hope, even as she knows he is doomed to chase after her, make lousy tea, and smother her with much needed affection.

“Are you sure?” she asks, because this relationship–the physical love and affection–is still so new and the last thing she wants is to lose him too.

“Yeah,” Zuko says, “I’m sure.”

She kisses him. Katara has always been the less affectionate one, but she makes her love clear without words. Zuko pulls her closer and a few open mouthed kisses along the base of her neck sends them migrating toward the bed. They leave behind two cups of perfect jasmine, gentle steam drifting to the moon.