Summary: The road to their relationship was like a scorching desert, yet at the end, it was infinitely more blissful than a mirage.
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Zutara Week 2013
Theme 1: Calor
So I walked into the haze…
There was no wind. The sun was thrashing down relentlessly upon her dry, parched skin – which was almost as dry as the searing ground beneath her feet. The sky was void of white patches of cloud; just an endless field of molten amber… And it was endless, for she had been walking for a time too long. She was tired, sore, wanted to stop. Her breath was growing thinner, sharper, struggling in and out of her lungs; her eyes felt like coals in her head. It would be so easy to just… quit. She had often considered ending this journey, but there was always that familiar sight to convince her otherwise.
Now I see you lying there…
To give up would be an insult. A connection kept in place because the two people it linked were too stubborn – or scared, perhaps? – to let it fall away. She hated the fact that since this had begun – whatever it was – she had been the one to waver, even just a tad, and he had been the constant, unafraid to pierce her with his gaze as he told her that he loved her. She hated that she could hardly respond, let alone meet his eyes. It was all too much. It was all too difficult. Most of all, she hated that he was the one to make her question herself. When had Katara ever considered giving up on anything?
Through her trembling lips, she frantically sucked in a deep breath. It was all she could manage as she was urged to start forward, with a rekindled purpose. There was a patch of green in the distance, and without anticipating it, a shimmering miasma washed over her, bringing a wave of rapture… and before she knew it, she was lying on a carpet of lush grass. Soft as snow, it was cooling, tiny beads of clear dew clinging to the blades and soaking into her skin, quelling the raging heat in her body. It was nurturing, yes, but not nearly enough.
And a million dirty ways…
She did love him.
There were moments like these when he was tender, when they could stop fighting to be together and simply be. They could luxuriate in each other, laugh, whisper, engage in battles of wordplay; they did not need to hide or feel guilty or wonder if their relationship – whatever it was – met everyone’s expectations. They were what they were. These cherished times eclipsed all of the adversities, chased away the worries and problems of the world and left nothing else but two people. Nothing else, but each other.
Forget the horror here…
The looming tree before her gave her shade, what with its large, outstretching branches appearing as though it were beckoning her closer. And she obeyed, ignoring the whimpering sound of protest in her throat that felt too much like grinding sandpaper. She would not have to feel that way much longer. At least, she hoped so. Katara drew closer to the tree, secretly revelling in admiration, secretly intimidated by its imposing air, secretly craving its protection.
Yet they were equals. He needed her as well – more than he showed. He craved the peace she brought him.
And just as he had demolished the walls around her, startling her with his fierceness and ardency, almost as if he had been moulded into the perfect guise to smash them to pieces… it was her turn now. To show him that she was not afraid of being with him and she would not give up, no matter what traitorous thoughts crossed her mind and burnt freckles of doubt within. She owed it to the both of them.
After what they were sharing, they would never have to hide again.
She placed a shaking hand against the rough, calloused surface of the mighty tree – a tree that had weathered storms, whether of the desert sand or of the mind. And she began to climb, hoisting herself ever higher, rising, rising; seeking out the fruit she knew would be at the top. She was the only one who believed it was there. Along the impossibly tall tree, she slipped and struggled and bruised herself, a velvet thirst lying beneath the sweat breaking across the surface of her skin due to her journey through the smouldering heat.
Now the waves they drag you down…
She would not give up. It was a challenge. Maybe she was stubborn and did not enjoy losing, but she also cared.
There were red stains on her fingers by the time she finally pulled herself to the top of the tree, perched in and amongst the sharp green leaves. She was only allowed a split-second of rest before another feeling of exaltation shot through her, toes curling.
Ah, but there it was – a fruit that became the centre of her attention.
Like a beggar, she desperately grasped for it, her panicked hand clutching the air as she reached further. Closer… closer… And she had it in her palm. She had his heart in her very palm. She was the only one, and so was he.
Eyes welling with tears for her victory, she bit into the fruit, letting the sweet flavours erupt in her mouth and slide down her throat, quenching her thirst. Rain cascaded from the sky with a snapping sensation, granting the surrounding desert, the unusual greenery in the midst of the scorching sand, and namely herself relief from the stinging heat. As the water showered down, her head fell back, a smile not failing to grace her face…
Wipe you clean with dirty hands…
As Katara floated back to reality, where she lay with her chest heaving, the silken sheets twisting haphazardly around her glistening body, she opened her eyes. She was sprawled on the bed, and indeed, sleep was tugging at her mind. His pale, muscled arm stretched behind her, pillowing her head with her hair fanning out behind them; and although his keen golden eyes were closed, he could feel her gazing at him, shown when his arm suddenly curled tighter around her to pull her to him, so that her head nestled against his bare chest. A contented sigh left him. She stared at her single slender finger, tracing a circle on his defined collarbone, unaware that he was enjoying the tickling sensation of her eyelashes on his skin each time she blinked. She stifled a yawn and laid her palm flush against the place where his heart was calming down.
Beat. Beat. Beat.
It sounded exactly like hers.
A light smile caressed her delicate features, while she allowed a warm wave of sleep to blanket her, covering both of them.
Perhaps this was what it felt like for two people to truly belong to one another…
It’s the Spanish Sahara
The place that you’d wanna leave the horror