DISCLAIMER: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
CHAPTER 9: Game Night
"Never have I ever…" Suki swishes the partially melted frozen margarita in her glass, thinking hard. "Been in a fistfight!"
"That's not how the game works!" Katara giggles. Despite what she said about wanting to take care of her drunk friends, the amount of alcohol she consumed is already making her loud and giddy. "You have to say something you've never done before!"
"Ah, fuck it, Katara, I wanna drink!" says Suki, downing the contents of her glass.
"That's my girl!" Sokka says, throwing an arm around her as he takes a gulp of his beer.
Zuko and Toph both take shots of tequila.
"Am I the only one who hasn't beaten up people?" Katara cries out indignantly.
Zuko chuckles quietly beside her. She turns to him irritatedly.
"I know Toph and Sokka's been in tons of fights, but you? Seriously, is everyone here that barbaric?"
He shrugs. "I'm trained in mixed martial arts."
"That is so cool!" Sokka says. "I never had training until I joined the force. I still think that's why Suki beat me all the time in sparring."
"Oh, please," Suki says, rolling her eyes. "I'm just a better boxer."
"Alright, alright! I concede," Sokka puts up his hands in defeat. "Never have I ever... feared for my life after breaking up with someone."
Toph snorts. "Who the hell has been in that situation, Snoozles?"
Zuko drinks. He looks up at their dumbfounded faces.
"You just said you're trained in MMA!" Sokka says incredulously. "Who was your ex, a hired killer?"
"No, but she likes throwing knives."
Toph bursts out laughing. "How in the world did you get out of that one?"
Zuko flushes, rubbing a hand on his nape. "I… sort of… wrote her a note."
Katara sputters on her drink. "You broke up with a girl using a note? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Nothing's wrong with me!" Zuko runs a hand down his face. "It was around the time I-"
He stops abruptly. He wasn't ready for them to know how he ended up living with Toph.
"Around the time you…?" Suki prompts.
"Never mind. The point is, I had no choice. Leaving her the note was the best way to go."
"No wonder you feared for your life." Katara refills her drink. "I would totally kill you if you broke up with me using a note."
"If I broke up with you?" Zuko says, both startled and amused, not knowing if this was one of those times she was talking to herself.
Katara shakes her head, eyes wide. "I meant, if I were in your ex's shoes!"
"I don't think you have to worry about that, Sugar Queen," Toph says, feeling around the table for the pitcher of frozen margarita. Zuko reaches for it and refills Toph's glass. "We all know you scared Sparky so much he'll never go on a second date with you."
Zuko nearly drops the pitcher. "I never said that!" he says amidst Sokka and Suki's laughter. Words barrel out of his mouth, the alcohol loosening his tongue. "I never said anything about the date until Toph dragged me to the party, and I swear, I didn't know you were gonna be there, I know you didn't want to see me, it was so awkward-"
"See!" Katara points a finger accusingly at Toph, forgetting she can't see. "I told you it was awkward! And you just laughed in my face! It was bad enough I had to deal with Aang-"
"The bald dude?" Zuko asks, making Sokka laugh even harder. Zuko looks at the group, confused. "He seems like a good guy. What's your problem with him?"
"Yeah, Katara, what's wrong with Aang?" Suki says teasingly, taking a swig out of Sokka's beer can.
Katara's dark skin flushes a deep red. "Nothing! There's nothing wrong with him!"
"Then why'd you break up with him?" Suki teases.
"You dated the bald dude?" Zuko laughs despite himself. Katara glares at him.
"What's so funny about that?"
"It's just…" Zuko tries to keep his face straight. "It makes sense. That he'd be your type."
"I don't have a type! And what's that supposed to mean?" Katara shoots back at him.
Toph snorts. "Twinkletoes was so not Sugar Queen's type. He just wore her down."
"Oh, come on," Sokka chimes in. "Aang's a great guy, and Katara wouldn't have stayed with him for three years if he wasn't her type."
"Don't I get a say in this? I'm right here!" Katara protests.
"They were together three years and she still broke up with him," Toph says to Sokka, clearly ignoring Katara. "Besides, remember Jet?"
"Toph!" Katara buries her face in her hands.
"Who's Jet?" Zuko and Suki ask at the same time.
"No one!" Katara slams a fist on the coffee table. "Can we talk about something else, please?"
"Oh yeah!" Toph sits up excitedly. "It's my turn on Never Have I Ever!"
Zuko groans. "I didn't think we were still playing."
"Never have I ever…" Toph smirks at Katara's direction. "Had sex in a public place!"
Katara fumes while Sokka and Suki down their drinks unashamedly.
Toph drums her fingers on the table, smirking. "C'mon, Sweetness, I'm waiting. You can't lie on Never Have I Ever."
Katara could feel her entire body heating up. She glares venomously at Toph and begrudgingly takes a sip of her margarita.
"With the bald guy?" Zuko blurts out. He can't imagine that cheerful, almost innocent guy doing the deed in public.
Katara turns her glare on him. "Can you not call him 'the bald guy', Scarface?"
"You and Aang did it in a public place?" Suki whistles. "Never knew you guys had it in you, Katara."
Toph sniggers. "Oh, it wasn't with Aang."
Katara buries her face in her hands with a frustrated squeal.
"Why are you so intent on bringing Jet up?" she moans into her hands.
"Payback for dragging me to the spa," Toph snickers.
"Going to the spa is our thing, Toph! I didn't think you minded this much," Katara rolls her eyes at the memory of Toph paying extra for five more minutes of the Swedish massage. "Besides, I don't know why Jet has anything to do with that!"
"I'm trying to prove a point to Sokka, Sweetness, so if you could just pipe down for a sec, that would be great."
"What point are you trying to prove, exactly?" Katara crosses her arms over her chest.
"Oh, come on," Sokka complains, catching on to Toph's point, "I never really liked Jet on account of him being a total dirtbag and him groping my baby sister every chance he got-"
"I could very well take care of myself, Sokka-"
"Oh really, because that's not how I remember it when I had to rescue you and Aang from almost getting arrested-"
"Who is Jet?" Zuko wonders out loud over the heated conversation, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"He's this kid in high school who got held back a year because of all the stuff he wrecked," Sokka explains, dislike dripping in his tone. "Flooding the principal's office, smoking behind the gym, joining a motorcycle gang, all that crap."
"Katara was obsessed with him," Toph adds mischievously.
"I was not obsessed with him," Katara pipes in weakly. "I just… really liked him, that's all."
"Yeah, you really liked him," Tophrepeats mockingly, rolling her milky green eyes, "You liked him well enough that you got caught doing it in the football field."
Suki laughs heartily. "Seems fun, Katara."
"It wasn't," Katara mutters, busying herself with cleaning up the little bits of water that pooled around her glass.
It was fun, she admits to herself, but the memories of how it ended between her and Jet marred every other feeling she had. She lied when she said she just really liked him, and Toph knew that. Jet is the first boy she ever loved, and after he left her the way he did…
Katara stands up abruptly, nearly crashing into Zuko on her way to the balcony. Why did Toph bring him up? Just to make prove that Katara has a "type"? Or to prove to Sokka that Aang isn't right for her?
Well, they're both wrong. Both Jet and Aang weren't right for me.
"You know, for someone with such strong convictions, you sure can't decide on your dating life."
The raspy voice startles her, but she doesn't turn around. Instead, she says in an exasperated voice, "Why are you here?"
"This is my house," Zuko says, matter-of-factly. Katara glares at him over her shoulder. "Also, they've, uh, kinda elected me to talk to you." His hand finds the back of his neck as he looks away, embarrassed.
Katara turns to face him and leans on the railings. "Well then, go ahead. Talk."
Zuko drops his hand from his nape and looks at her guiltily. "I don't really know what to say."
Katara crosses her arms over her chest. "Then why'd they send you here?"
Zuko chuckles darkly. "Because your brother and his fiancee don't know me well enough to know I don't talk, and Toph's too wasted to even stand up."
"Great, so what good are you?"
Zuko shrugs and offers her a fresh bottle of beer. Katara rolls her eyes but swipes it off his hand regardless. He joins her by the railings.
Katara takes a sip from the bottle and passes it to him wordlessly. He takes a swig and passes it back to her. They pass the bottle back and forth a few times in silence until Zuko blurts out, "It's okay to be embarrassed, you know."
Dammit, why did I say that? I must be drunker than I thought.
But Katara doesn't seem to mind. She just passes him the bottle and asks sourly, "Yeah? You don't think I'm a… a… floozy or something?"
Something between a snort and a laugh escapes from Zuko. "Floozy? Who uses that word?"
He expected her to retaliate, for her temper to flare up again, but instead she just hugs her arms and says in a small voice, "So you think I'm a floozy, huh?"
"What? No!" Zuko says, confused. "I never said that! I mean, you were in high school. People do all sorts of crazy stuff in high school."
Katara shrugs and takes the bottle from him. She takes a long drink before speaking again in a voice barely above a whisper. "I think he just wanted to get caught. To get back at his parents for getting divorced or something. And I fell for it."
"He used you to get back at his parents?" Zuko says, his temper rising for some reason he can't understand. He blames it on the alcohol.
Katara takes a swig from the bottle again. She winces as she hands him the beer, but whether it was from the drink or the memories, Zuko doesn't know.
"I hated myself after that," Katara continues, her hands gripping the balcony railings tightly. "That wasn't me. I don't do stuff like that. I just got caught up because I really loved him."
"Well," Zuko drinks from the bottle, searching for words to say. "Toph's an ass for bringing it up."
Katara snorts half-heartedly. "She was right, too, though. About Aang. He just wore me down. I really care about him, but listening to him make all these plans for our future— that wasn't me, either."
"I get it," Zuko says before he could stop himself. "That's why I left Mai, my last girlfriend. She expected me to be someone I don't want to become."
Still no excuse for breaking up with her using a note, though, Katara thinks to herself.
"I heard that." Zuko says, smirking.
"Why do you always hear my thoughts?" Katara cries out in frustration.
"Because you say them out loud, dummy," Zuko replies calmly. He sets down the empty bottle of beer they've been sharing.
Katara giggles unexpectedly. Zuko looks at her, brows furrowed. "Why are you laughing?"
"You must have been such a chicken not to break up with her face to face," she laughs slightly.
"Well, I find it easier to write down my thoughts than to say them out loud like you do."
She flicks him on the arm. "I can't help it! No one ever noticed before. Besides," she says, twirling a lock of hair around her finger, "Is it really so bad? You said it was cute."
"When did I say it was cute?" Zuko asks in surprise.
Katara's eyes widen as she realizes what she said. "Towards the end of our date," she mumbles, busying herself with her hair so as not to look at him.
Zuko watches her hands, transfixed, as she continues to play with her hair, before suddenly reaching out and pulling the lock of hair away from her fingers.
"Stop that. You're making me dizzy." He says, still holding the lock of her hair delicately between his fingers.
"You're drunk!" Katara dissolves into a fit of giggles again.
"Am not," Zuko mutters, twirling her dark hair around his pale fingers with unexplainable fascination.
Katara swats his hand, laughing. "Quit playing with my hair, then."
Zuko startles, dropping the lock of hair from his fingers. He didn't realize how close they'd gotten, their arms brushing against each other. His eyes lock on hers, and he is drowning in blue.
He'd seen blue eyes like hers before, but none of them are capable of holding so much emotion as hers. Whether they were livid, like they were at the rooftop party, or sparkling playfully and curiously, like they are now, Zuko knows he has never seen eyes quite like hers.
Katara's breath catches in her throat. They are so close to each other that she could feel the heat of his arm against hers. His face fills her vision— she sees his lips part as though he is about to say something, and she sees his eyes peering at her through thick black lashes. She swallows as she realizes something.
She hadn't noticed the color of his eyes before, which is curious, because they are such a peculiar shade that she thinks she imagined it for a second. But as his eyes bored into hers, she wonders to herself why she has not noticed until now.
His eyes are gold. Like the dying embers of a sunset.
Her heart thunders in her chest. His gold eyes flicker to her lips and back to her eyes. Impulsively, she leans forward, drawn to those curious golden eyes.
He leans forward, too, but then he stops, closes his eyes, and lets out a gust of warm breath that, ironically, sends shivers down Katara's spine.
"You're drunk, too," he says, somewhat painfully, his eyes still closed.
Katara takes a step back, her heart still racing. "Am not," she whispers.
"Are too." He looks at her with a half-hearted smile and sighs again, but they are not close enough anymore for Katara to feel his warm breath.
Zuko opens the door to the balcony. "You and Toph can take my room. I'll sleep on the couch."
"Why can't I take Toph's room?" Katara says, suddenly uncomfortable.
"Because then your brother and his girlfriend would have to take my room, and I don't want other people having sex on my bed."
He blushes as he says the words, but glancing at Katara and seeing her cheeks turn red, he feels a slight wave of gratification.
He pokes Toph awake as he passes by the group around the table and explains the sleeping arrangement to the three. Sokka and Suki rush to Toph's room hand in hand and giggling while Toph trudges to his room sleepily. Katara and Zuko trail closely behind.
As Toph plunks herself on the bed, Katara turns hesitantly to Zuko, standing at the threshold of his bedroom.
"Hey, Zuko?" she ventures timidly.
"Did I really scare you on our date?"
Zuko's lips twitch up at the corners. "Yes," he answers honestly.
Katara smiles back at him. "Good," she says, closing the door.
A/N: I'm so sorry if this was all over the place! This is actually how Never Have I Ever usually ends up between me and my friends- sloppy and loud and stupid. Tbh writing this chapter made me a bit uncomfortable ahaha. Oh well. Please leave a review!