the_codex: (Water)
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Title: It's Not a Handicap, Dammit
Rating: PG-13
Pairing/Characters: Zuko/Katara, Toph
Warnings: SPOILERS FOR THE WESTERN AIR TEMPLE.

Katara heaved the basket of clean clothes in front of her, headed back to the fire to fold them as she'd already bended them dry. She wanted to close her eyes and erase the memory of the sight she'd just witnessed, but as the ground was rocky and uneven, that was hardly a smart idea and she knew it. Instead, she sighed heavily, finally reaching the campfire and wiping an arm across her forehead despite it being a cool evening.

"Well," Toph muttered, sipping her tea. "You're pretty worked up for having just done some laundry."

She stammered out the first reply she could think of, determined not to let this one know what happened or she'd never hear the end of it. "I'm just tired. It's not my fault boys are chore-impaired and I'm the one stuck doing everything..."

"Pfft. Bull. You should know better by now."

She scowled at the clothes, picking them out and laying them on the blanket to start folding them. "I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't pester me, you know."

"I wouldn't if you'd stop trying to lie."

"I'm lying because you won't leave me alone!"

"No you're not," Toph answered, looking up from her tea. "You're lying because you're afraid of something. Same reason everybody lies."

Katara met that sightless gaze, convinced for a minute that Toph could see her bitten lip. "And what would I have to be afraid of?"

"Oh I don't know. Maybe what other people might think of you if you told the truth?" She shrugged. "Could be anything, really. People fear a lot of dumb things like that."

Katara paused, frowning back at the clothing, realizing it was Zuko's tunic and suddenly finding the thread pattern that trimmed the sleeves and the shirt-front far more engaging than she should've. A line of gold dragons that twined and twisted around reach other in a neverending dance. She swallowed hard. "I saw something I shouldn't have. Because my timing sucks."

Toph smiled. "It had something to do with Zuko, didn't it?"

She nodded.

"And the river?"

Another nod.

She grinned wider. "He was taking a bath, wasn't he?"

If she didn't know better, Katara would've sworn Toph could hear her blushing. "How'd you know?"

"Well what else would a Firebender be doing that close to water? You know how much he hates getting drenched." She took another sip of tea. "And I may be blind, but even I know people don't exactly bathe with their clothes on."

Katara's cheeks burned as she tried not to recall the sight of Zuko's pale, chiseled body, water running along the grooves of muscle. Glistening in the sunset and accentuating all the things she loved about boys. Wide, powerful shoulders and thick toned arms, strong chest and a stomach she could've washed his pants on. And some that she hadn't known she liked until that moment, mostly because she'd never seen them before. The curve where waist met hip and the slope of his lower back disappearing into the water, the river itself leaving the rest of him to imagination. She gulped, clenching her hand to control the tremor. "No. They don't."

"So what kind of show did you get?"

She snapped up, indignant. "I...I didn't stay and watch, if that's what you mean!"

Toph grinned. Knowing and smug and in all ways hateable. "Sugar Queen..."

Katara flushed her darkest, and if it had been anyone but Toph they would've easily seen it through her dark complexion. "What kind of show could I have possibly gotten? He was taking a bath for crying out loud."

"You haven't seen a lot of naked young men, have you?"

"Well it's not like I've had much opportunity," she growled. "Where I come from, three layers of fur is considered immodest. Besides, neither have you."

"True. But I don't really have to. There are other ways to enjoy people besides sight."

She felt almost dirty talking about such things with a twelve year old girl, but her curiosity rode on the heels of that shiver she couldn't quite banish from her spine. "Such as...?"

She smiled. "Sound. The way people talk. The way their voices change depending on what mood they're in."

Katara shivered again, even more pronounced than she had at the river as Toph's answer immediately brought Zuko's voice to her ear. That thin tenor that always rendered her unable to take him seriously because it sounded so girlish. But then there was that raspy undercurrent that could sound downright menacing when he was angry and used it right. Yet in the last few days since he'd joined their side and hadn't had much of a reason to threaten and scream at them, his voice was almost...gentle. Warm and soft and richly roughened in a way that made her insides quiver despite her best efforts to ignore it. She swallowed thickly, for just a moment imagining it in her ear as a panting whisper of her name.

"Yeah...I know what you mean."

Toph smirked, full out now. "Told ya."

She looked back at his shirt, fingering the collar of it, tracing one of the dragon's sinuous bodies, wondering if it would really be evil of her to start timing laundry duty around his evening bath.

That's silly. Of course it is!

But for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to care.

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June 2012

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