Katara was furious, gesticulating wildly, berating the Zuko as he glared back, unrepentant. Zuko didn’t see what the big deal was. The kid was missing. Big deal. He was the Avatar. He was probably off chasing a lemur or meditating somewhere. It wasn’t like Zuko couldn’t find him. He could always track down the idiot. But Katara was acting like he was the world’s worst person and Zuko was getting sick of it.
“How could you just let him wander off? You were supposed to be training him! Have you lost your mind? We’re barely a month out from the eclipse and Aang is missing. This is unbelievable! You’re so irresponsible! I knew I never should have trusted you! You’re probably still working for the Fire Nation. I bet this has all just been a ruse to get close to us so you can snatch Aang away once and for all! What? Did you have agents stashed somewhere in the woods, waiting to grab him? Is that it? You’ve had him hauled off and you’re going to make a token effort to trick us into thinking you’re on our side and that you’re not the one behind his abduction and then you’ll disappear too and we’ll all be left wondering if there isn’t some monster in the forest eating people and then we’ll hear about the reanointed Prince of the Fire Nation, excused for his crimes against the kingdom and re-crowned as heir to the throne for capturing the Avatar. That’s it, isn’t it? You’ve just been using us this entire time!”
While she continued shouting, a movement behind her caught Zuko’s eye as Aang came sailing into view, flying loop-the-loops on his glider, blissfully ignorant that this insane Water Bender who’d appointed herself the kid’s pseudo mother was losing her mind.
“Katara,” he tried to interject, ready to tell her the boy had been found.
“Don’t interrupt! I’m not going to believe a word you say. You’ve been working against us from the beginning. You’re evil. You’ve always been evil. I should’ve known. I knew from the minute you grabbed me and wanted to ransom me to pirates that you were evil! How could you do this!? You’re unbelievable!”
“Katara,” he tried again.
She wasn’t listening, ranting now about how he was probably still in contact with Azula, and how he’d gone hunting the Southern Raiders with her to make her trust him and how she never should’ve let her guard down.
“Katara!” he growled, pointing.
She wasn’t paying attention, too busy getting good and frothy in her rage, the water in the fountain behind her waving and dancing in time with her angry gesticulations. When she started saying he obviously still just wanted his precious daddy’s approval and how he was still hunting for his honour, Zuko had had enough. He could shut her up. He would.
Growling furiously, Zuko invaded her personal space, his hands snatching the front of her tunic and hauling her against him before he crashed his mouth down upon hers. She struggled against him for a moment, still angry, but Zuko persisted, kissing her hard, one of his hands wrapping around her plait and grasping the back of her head, holding her against him, not about to let her pull away. He moved his lips against hers insistently, trying to penetrate her fury with some other emotion so that he might get a word in.
After what felt like a lifetime, the little water-bender melted against him, her hands lifting to rest against his chest and her lips yielding beneath his own. She kissed him back lazily, seeming surprised, but no longer angry as the sweet sensation of being kissed swept her away. Unable to resist the opportunity when it presented itself, Zuko swept his tongue against the seam of her lips, sinking into her when she parted them obediently, her tongue darting out to meet his.
Spirits, but he’d been thinking about kissing her for a long time.
She jolted when she realised what she was doing as he eased his grip on her, kissing her languidly now that the fury was draining out of her. When she jerked back with a gasp, Zuko let her go, raising his eyebrows when she spluttered incoherently.
“What are you doing?” she demanded breathlessly, her hand coming up to gingerly touch her lips as though she couldn’t believe they had betrayed her so much as to kiss him in return. “You can’t just... Aang is missing! And you had him kidnapped. I won’t let you distract me by... by...”
“He’s behind you,” Zuko spoke over the top of her when she struggled to find the words for the kiss that he’d just given her.
“Katara?” Aang asked in a small voice from behind her, his expression that of a kicked puppy, his eyes all full of hurt and reproach.
Zuko kind of hated to see the look on his face, but the kid had to know that this intense girl he’d been crushing on believed him a reckless child in need of mothering, not a potential boyfriend. That much was evident from the way she’d kissed Zuko back so hungrily. If she returned Aang’s feelings, she’d never have kissed Zuko that way.
“Aang?” Katara asked, her cheeks flushing red as she spun toward the boy. “Where have you been!? I was worried sick! I’ve been yelling at Zuko, thinking he had you abducted.”
“But... you were kissing him,” Aang said in a small, hurt voice.
Zuko sighed, raking a hand through his hair in annoyance when Katara turned back to him, looking confused and embarrassed and guilty and well-kissed.
“Next time,” he dead-eyed her when she didn’t seem to know what to say. “Hold your tongue.”
She gulped, nodding in agreement. Shaking his head, Zuko turned and walked away, leaving her to deal with Aang’s hurt feelings and her own mental flailing.