Thinking Out Loud @jacqstoned
Casual Friendship

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.

A/N: This chapter goes out to my amazing twin, who finally discovered that I've been basing this story on her real-life adventures. Hope you enjoy this! :D

CHAPTER 11: Casual Friendship

Zuko is right. Jin's favorite band, The Xirxu, is an extremely loud, extremely extreme death metal band, and the scratchy screams coming from the lead singer grates on his nerves. The back of his scarred eye pounds with a mounting headache, but he stands patiently looking for an excuse to take a breather while Jin is still bouncing along to the tunes.

Mercifully, the song ends to raucous applause.

"I'm gonna go get us some drinks. You want anything?" he shouts over the whoops as the band starts up another song. Jin turns to him, flushed and beaming, and nods.

"Water would be great, thanks!"

Zuko heads to the tents set up off the side of the concert grounds, wondering why on earth people subjected themselves to this kind of ear-exploding music, when he hears someone shouting his name.

He looks around; there isn't anyone vaguely familiar around him, so he trudges on to a stall and buys two bottles of water. He was halfway through the quad when he hears the voice again.


What the hell?

He stops in his tracks. Only his recent acquaintances have called him that. He peers through the rapidly falling dusk— and he thinks he sees Katara, waving at him from beside the organizers' tent.

Well, this is weird.

What would she be doing in an event like this, in this part of town, on a Saturday? Shouldn't she be doing laundry or something else a responsible person does on a weekend?

Katara jogs a few paces towards him and he sighs, running a hand through his hair as he meets her halfway.

"What are you doing here?" he asks as soon as he reaches her. He expects her to scowl at him, but she answers with a grin.

"Nice to see you, too, Zuko," she greets, drinking from her red plastic cup. "And to answer your question, I'm having fun!"

Zuko raises his eyebrows. "Didn't think you knew how to have fun," he deadpans.

"Hey!" She glares at him and Zuko smirks at the familiar expression. She crosses her arms. "I do too know how to have fun! Those guys think I'm fun." She jerks a thumb towards the tent behind her. "What are you doing here?"

"I was on my way back to my date when you called me over."

"Oh," Katara lets her arms fall to her sides, the contents of her cup splashing to the grass. "Is she fun?"

"I guess," Zuko's brows furrow. "Are you drunk?"

Katara examines her now-empty cup petulantly. "Nah, I'm just tipsy."

"Maybe you should take it easy. This place is, like, almost an hour away from town."

"No way! I'm having fun today, remember?" She crushes her cup and throws it casually over her shoulder. Zuko frowns.

"Having fun doesn't have anything to do with driving home drunk, Katara. Is your brother gonna pick you up, then?"

"Nope, he's doing some underground rap battle tonight." Katara giggles and mock-raps in a deep voice. "'That's right, I'm Sokka, it's pronounced with an 'okka'! Young ladies, I rocked ya!'"

"What's going on with you?" Granted, he doesn't know her that well, but there's something off— and forced— about the way she's acting.

"I'm the kid today!" Katara yells gleefully. "Screw responsibility! Haru will take care of me!"

Zuko frowns. "Who's Haru?"

Katara mutters something that sounds vaguely like "moustache" before tripping over nothing. Zuko catches her arm easily.

"Okay, where's this Haru guy?"

Katara looks around blearily. "He and Teo and The Duke went to get water."

"Who are Teo and Duke?"

"It's The Duke!" she corrects him, as though it was of utmost importance, then suddenly points to the direction of the snacks tents. "There they are!"

Zuko looks at the trio approaching them and drops Katara's arm. One of the guys is wheeling himself easily on a wheelchair, the other fiddles with a motorcycle helmet. The last one, the guy with the moustache— he assumes this is Haru— regards them warily as he reaches Katara's side.

"This is Haru," Katara introduces, latching on to Haru's arm. "Haru, this is Zuko. Toph's roommate. Y'know, Ty Lee's girlfriend."

Zuko snorts at this. "Toph moves faster than I thought."

"Frankly, I'm surprised they lasted this long," Katara says.

"Nice to meet you, Zuko." Haru smiles warmly at Zuko and offers his hand. Zuko awkwardly shakes it. "You seem familiar, though. I think I've seen you in that tea shop downtown."

Zuko rubs the back of his neck. "Ah, yeah, I actually work there."

"It's his uncle's," Katara supplies then flashes a mischievous grin at Zuko. "Hey, by the way, congrats on not being a freeloader anymore."

Zuko scowls. "Well, steak dinners are expensive, especially when they're barely eaten."

"How did you two meet again?" Haru asks, glancing curiously between the two. Zuko sputters.

Thankfully, Drunk Katara is quick to recover.

"Through Toph. We go way back. She's actually a friend of mine from high school."

"Hey man, Jun's about to finish their set," the guy with the helmet calls out to Haru. Zuko takes this as his cue to leave.

"I, uh," he raises the water bottles in his hand in explanation. "I better get back to my date."

Haru smiles at him and wraps an arm around Katara's shoulders. "See you around, Zuko. Thanks for coming to our event, really helps a lot."

He nods back and Katara waves at him cheerily before leaning against Haru's shoulder. Zuko clenches his jaw at the sight and stalks back to the general area where he left Jin.

Why is she so nice to him?

It annoys him that he feels annoyed. Why should he be annoyed? Last time he checked, they are barely friends. Sure, she was nice to him on game night, but nothing can ever come from that. As Toph has pointed out, it's not like they are ever getting a second date. And Haru seems like a nice guy. And he is here with Jin, who miraculously likes him and overlooks all his awkwardness.

He smiles as he spots Jin waiting by the sidelines.

"Hey. Sorry I got held up. Bumped into someone I know," he hands her a bottle of water and she grins at him.

"Wanna get out of here?" She half-shouts, clearly still a little deaf from the band's performance. Zuko grins amusedly and, feeling a little bold, wraps an arm around her waist and kisses her deeply.

"Yeah, let's get out of here."

A/N: Thanks to everyone who still shows interest in this! Reviews are very appreciated. They keep me going.

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. First Impressions 600 0 0 2. Second Impressions 568 0 0 3. Scarface 714 0 0 4. Toph Luck 1255 0 0 5. Tough Love 1418 0 0 6. Tea Time 1093 0 0 7. Spa Day 1389 0 0 8. Date Night 1885 0 0 9. Game Night 2680 0 0 10. Casual Dating 2327 0 0 11. Casual Friendship 1099 0 0 12. Pride 1848 0 0 13. Prejudice 1525 0 0 14. Breaks 1819 0 0 15. Beach Bums, Part 1 1962 0 0 16. Beach Bums, Part 2 3173 0 0 17. Beach Bums, Part 3 1970 0 0 18. Ex and Whys 2706 0 0 19. Open Book 3403 0 0 20. Open Eyes 1901 0 0 21. Open Bar 5281 0 0 22. Closed Mind 2536 0 0 23. Closed Doors 3661 0 0 24. Bitter Work 5530 0 0 25. Save the Date 4694 0 0 26. Color Schemes 3621 0 0 27. Cake Tasting 4097 0 0 28. Fittings 6798 0 0 29. Party Planning 4527 0 0 30. Flu Season, Part 1 5379 0 0 31. Flu Season, Part 2 6825 0 0 32. Flu Season, Part 3 5352 0 0 33. Cactus Juice 6109 0 0 34. I Do 8191 0 0 35. I Don't 3356 0 0 36. The Future 3798 0 0 37. The Past 8838 0 0 38. A New Chapter 3284 0 0 39. EPILOGUE: Lasting Impressions 324 0 0