When we finally reached the Fire Nation docks, I was glad there was no welcome party. Our visit would be kept quiet, for now, which gave us the opportunity to wander around. Two of the Fire Lord's many service men and women were waiting for us, ready to take us to the Palace.
"Welcome to the Fire Nation," One of them, a young girl, said happily, waving us forward. The other, a strong-looking man, took our bags.
We reached the Palace shortly after. I could feel so many emotions stirring inside of me, mostly excitement and joy. I would finally see Zuko again. I sighed happily, which received a smirk from my brother.
"Happy to see Zu Zu, are we?" He asked.
"Yes, actually," I replied. "It's been too long."
His smile grew bigger as he tried not to laugh. My brother is so immature.
"Katara!" I heard someone say. Unfortunately, it was not Zuko, but that doesn't mean I wasn't happy to see my friend.
"Toph!" I called and ran forward to embrace the earth bender.
"Hey, Sugarqueen. How are you?"
"I'm great! How have you been?"
"Hey, Sokka. How are you?" Sokka mumbled behind us, obviously not happy with the lack of attention.
"Hey, Sokka. How are you?" Toph repeated, before laughing. I joined her, but Sokka just sighed and rolled his eyes.
"I didn't know you were coming!" I exclaimed, ignoring my brother
"Yeah, well, I guess Zu Zu has a big reunion planned," she said. "Aang's coming, too."
I nodded happily. I hadn't seen any of my old friends in at least a year. Even if Aang and I once had some tension between us, we were still good friends and I couldn't wait to see him. But that all slipped from my mind when a figure in dark robes stepped into view.
"Zuko," I breathed. Luckily, no one heard me, but Zuko smiled when he saw my lips form his name.
I resisted the urge to run forward and kiss him. It was difficult, though. He looked so breathtakingly handsome, even with his scar. Not that I could care, either way.
"Hello, Sokka," He said, then turned to me. "Katara."
My heart skipped a beat when he said my name. I ran forward and hugged him. "I missed you, Zuko," I whispered into his shoulder. He smiled and pushed me away, softly and reluctantly.
"Come. I'll take you to your rooms," He announced.
- - - - - 3 - - - - -
We followed the Fire Lord as he showed us our separate rooms. I was in a room next to Zuko's. Toph had already unpacked in the room beside mine, and Sokka was across from us, leaving one spare room for Aang beside his. I stepped into the room I had stayed in once before, shortly after Mai had left Zuko. It was a large room, with a king-sized bed in the middle. On one side was a row of bookshelves, a lounge and table, and mirrors. On the other, there was a walk-in robe beside another door, which led to a huge bathroom. The far wall was made entirely of windows, apart from the doors leading to a balcony joined with Zuko's and Toph's. It was here that I went to first.
As I stepped outside, I felt a small breeze tickle my skin lightly. It blew my hair, which I wore out, around my face. As I gripped the banister, I looked at the amazing view. Below me was the Palace Gardens, full of lush, green plants and bright, colourful flowers. I could see a pond, the water glinting in the sunlight, with dark shadows skimming the surface. Turtle ducks, I remembered from my last visit. In the distance I could see the ocean. It was a deep, deep blue and made me feel right at home. I thought I could hear the sound of rushing water from here, before I realised there was a waterfall in the centre of the balcony that wasn't there a year ago.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" A voice interrupted my thoughts. I turned around and saw Zuko. Butterflies filled my stomach, and, again, I had the sudden urge to kiss him.
"Yes," I managed.
He smiled slightly. "I'm going for a walk. Would you care to join me?"
He led me to a staircase I hadn't noticed before that led straight into the garden. It was perfectly hidden behind the vast amounts of flowers and trees, obscuring it from view. He held my hand as we walked through trees and around bushes of flowers.
"It's really good to see you, Katara," he told me, smiling.
"You, too," I smiled slightly.
"I didn't think I would miss you so much. It is really great that you're here."
I smiled more. "I missed you a lot, too."
We walked in silence for a while before Zuko spoke again.
"Do you want to go to the beach?"
- - - - - 3 - - - - -
"Do you want to go to the beach?" I asked, knowing how much she loved the water.
Her eyes lit up. "Yes. Yes, I would."
She sighed. "Zuko... I-" She began, trying to find the right words. "I need..." She shut her eyes, but continued walking. She remained silent, the unfinished sentence holding both hope and worry. What if she's already found someone else?
"We're here," I said, waking her from her thoughts.
"What?" She asked, before opening her eyes and surveying the beach surrounding her. "Oh..."
"Do you want to swim?"
Again, her eyes lit up and she nodded. She began to take off her outer clothes, and I felt my heart stop when I saw her undergarments, clinging to her perfect body. I'd seen her in the strip of material covering her chest and the short pants before, when she was water bending, but that was two years ago. She had changed a lot since then, becoming more and more curved. Her chest area, I noticed, blushing slightly, had grown, too.
She stepped into the water and put her head under. I took the opportunity to breathe before undressing myself, wearing only my pants. I walked into the water until it was waist height. Katara's head broke through the surface right in front of me. Her hair and body was covered in drops of water that shone in the sunlight. Before I could stop myself, I leaned forwards and, cupping her face in my hands, kissed her softly.
She was frozen in shock at first, but, slowly, her lips began to move with mine. Her arms wrapped around my neck and her kiss became passionate and fierce. I pulled her closer and pressed my body towards hers, which she did in return. Her body seemed to fit perfectly against mine, like the last two pieces of a puzzle, finally joining together to create a beautiful whole.
We finally broke apart, gasping for breath. She dropped her arms, but I continued to hold her face. I stared into her beautiful, blue eyes.
"What was that?" She whispered.
I smiled. "I have tried to find the right words to tell you how I feel about you for a very long time. I wish I had told you before... Katara, I'm in love with you."
She smiled brightly, unshed tears of happiness in her eyes. "I was trying to tell you that before," she said. "I just didn't know how." She gave me a short kiss and whispered, "I love you, Zuko."
A shiver ran down my spine when she said my name after those three, beautiful words. "I love you, too, Katara." The simple sentence seemed to say all of the unsaid feelings I had despaired over. It was astonishing, how powerful words could be, especially the three saved only for those close to your heart. I suddenly craved to feel her lips once more, and gladly gave in to my desires.
- - - - - 3 - - - - -
TWO DAYS LATER (A/N: Use your imagination. What do you think happened in that time?)
"Zuko!" Uncle called from behind me. "Come and have tea with me."
"Yes, Uncle," I replied and followed the old man into his quarters. I sat on the floor in front of Uncle's tea table and he poured me a cup of jasmine tea. I breathed in the aromas of fresh tea before sipping it slowly.
"Zuko, I seemed to have misplaced my lotus tile for my Pai Sho game," he told me.
"Yes. I have searched everywhere but the Royal Storeroom, and my aching joints won't allow me to climb the ladder to the second level again."
I finished my tea and gave my uncle an annoyed look. "How did you lose it in there?"
"I was searching for my old tea set and I must have dropped it. You understand the importance of the white lotus tile, Zuko."
"Yes. And you want me to search for you?"
"I would much appreciate it, Nephew."
The Royal Storeroom was the only place in the palace that the servants couldn't enter. It was sacred to our family, and held many treasures that were passed down to the next Fire Lord. Only the Fire Lord himself, or a direct family member of him, could access it. It was separate from the rest of the palace, but not hidden from sight.
I stood and bowed to my Uncle, before turning and walking back through the door. As soon as I shut it behind me, Katara stepped out of her room.
"Hi," she said.
"Have you seen Toph?" she asked.
"Sorry, no," I told her. Come to think of it, I hadn't seen the earth bender since breakfast. She was probably in the practice arena, but I didn't think about it much. I had a stupid Pai Sho tile to find. "I would help you look for her, but my Uncle has lost his lotus tile again. He asked me to search the Royal Storeroom for it."
"Oh. Okay. Well, good luck."
"You, too." I watched her walk away before heading towards the gardens which lead to the old, dusty storeroom.
- - - - - 3 - - - - -
I decided to look in the practice arena for Toph. She liked to earth bend when she was bored, and with Sokka spending time with Suki, who had arrived shortly after us, and Zuko and I running off to the beach - I blushed - she was probably feeling lonely. I had just reached the arena door when an alarm sounded. It was an evacuation alarm, one I'd never heard before. We were told the first time we visited the fire nation that, if we ever heard this, we should take refuge in the quad yard that led to the palace gates.
I heard someone running on the other side of the door and quickly opened it to a startled Toph.
"Sugarqueen?" She asked. "What's going on?"
"It's an alarm," I told her. "Come on."
We ran through the palace and out into the quad yard where Iroh, Sokka and Suki were waiting for us. Zuko was nowhere to be seen, but that didn't mean he was in any danger. So why did I feel so sick?
Suki was talking to Sokka, who was pointing to something behind us. I turned and saw a thin trail of smoke coming from where I knew the Royal Storeroom was.
I froze on the spot, terrified. Zuko was in there, I thought as my heart stopped beating and my whole being filled with despair.
"Sugar Queen!" Toph called. "You can stare later!"
But I still didn't move. I was the only person, apart from Iroh, who knew that Zuko had taken a trip to the storeroom to find a missing Pai Sho tile.
"Katara?" Toph called, worried. I sunk to my knees and felt tears filling my eyes, but I didn't dare let them fall. I didn't know for sure that Zuko was still in there.
"Katara," I felt a hand rest on my shoulders. Iroh spoke again. "My Nephew has survived much worse."
I nodded, but still didn't move.
"What?" Sokka asked. "What about Zuko?"
No one answered.
For two of the longest minutes of my life, I stared at the smoke trail. My heart was slowly falling apart with every second I couldn't see the Fire Lord. I was about to scream in despair when a figure appeared from nowhere at the other end of the quad. A slightly blackened Zuko stepped forward at a leisurely pace. He didn't look hurt at all. He wasn't even coughing.
"Zuko!" I yelled, letting the tears run freely. I jumped up and ran to the Fire Lord, embracing him. "I thought..."
He chuckled. "Nothing can tear us apart, my love." He whispered in my ear.
I couldn't help myself. Right in front of my friends and my brother, I kissed him. All of my fears melted away as his arms wrapped around my waist and my hands ran through his hair. We pulled apart for a brief second before he pressed his lips back to mine. My tears ran down my cheek, falling down my chin, but I didn't care. Not when I felt a gush of wind blow my hair and clothes. Not when the sun burnt the back of my neck. Not when I remembered my brother was watching the whole thing.
After hours of endless passion - or what seemed like hours - someone coughed behind us. I felt the floor beneath my feet shake and I was pulled away from Zuko.
"This is a family show!" Toph called. Zuko started laughing, but I couldn't join in. I was still terrified by the thought of what would have become of him if he hadn't escaped. I haven't felt that much fear since the war, and I really didn't want to revisit those time again.
"What happened?" I asked softly, almost whispering.
He wrapped his arms around me for comfort and he began to explain, loud enough so everyone could hear, but with his eyes closed. "I was looking for uncle's lotus tile in the storeroom, which was just sitting in the middle of the floor," he said. From his sleeve behind my back, he produced the tile and tossed it to uncle. "I must have leant on something, because the next thing I know, there's fire shooting from the mouth of a statue behind me. The walls caught fire, so I jumped out of the window. I had to make sure nothing on the bottom floor caught on fire, though, so I had to go back inside and close the door before the flames spread."
I nodded and whispered, "I was so worried."
"I'm sorry," he whispered back.
"Well, I want to know something else," Toph said. "Since when have you two been together?"
Oh, I thought, mentally kicking myself. I'm such and idiot.
I pulled away from Zuko and wiped the tears from my face with my sleeve. The first thing I noticed when I turned around was the giant ball of white fur.
"Apa?" I asked, which was responded with a roar from the sky bison. Then I saw the boy, standing beside Toph. "Aang!"
I rushed forward and gave the Avatar a huge hug.
"Hey, Katara!" He said happily, unfazed by the scene he had just witnessed.
"Aang!" I heard Zuko call from behind me. "It's good to see you."
I stepped back to allow room for Zuko to welcome his guest. As he walked by, his side brushed against mine and he glanced at me before shaking Aangs hand. Everyone else followed our example and greeted the final member of the GAang, before Toph lost her patience.
"Okay!" She stamped her foot. "We've all said hello to Aang. Now, I want to know. When did Katara and Zuko start making out?"
My cheeks burned red and I didn't dare look at Sokka. He was probably furious, being the paranoid, over-protective brother he is. I was dreading the next thing that would happen, certain he would yell at me for kissing someone, and screaming at Zuko for touching his little sister. I was not, however, expecting what he did say.
"Well, it's about time!" Sokka exclaimed. "Your cheeks go red every time you hear something about Zuko or the Fire Nation. You practically jumped up and down when you showed me the letter-"
"Okay! I get it!" I interrupted, my cheeks burning. Zuko chuckled beside me, which did not help.
"Hey, you're no better!" Toph said to Zuko. "When I asked about Katara, I could feel your pulse double in speed. And I could hear you saying her name in your sleep." His cheeks turned bright red and I couldn't help laughing, until Toph added: "Hey! Now you're twins!" She pointed to our matching red cheeks, and I splashed her with the water from the garden beside us before she could block it with her earth bending.
Aang and Sokka burst into fits of laughter at the sight of Toph, dripping wet. While they were distracted, Zuko walked over to me and put his arm around my waist.
Suki smiled brightly. "You're so cute together!"
"Yes, you are," Iroh said happily. He had stood to the side, watching us, until now.
I smiled, although my cheeks were still warm, and Zuko pulled me away towards the Palace. "Come on," he said. "I think it's safe to go inside now." Then he called over his shoulder. "Aang, I'll show you to your room."
"Coming!" Aang raced after us on an air scooter.
He settled into his room quickly and wandered about the palace, still riding on the air. We were all one happy family again, although this time, I had the man I loved - even when I was with Aang - holding me in his arms. I sighed happily, which earned a smile from Zuko.
"Happy?" He asked.
"Hmm... There is one thing that would make this better," I admitted.
"Oh? And what would that be."
A small smile tugged on my mouth as I turned to face the Fire Lord, his arm still wrapped around me. He leant forwards to touch his lips to mine, but just before they did, I pulled away.
"You'll have to catch me first!" I called, running as fast as I could away from Zuko and to the palace gardens.
- - - - - 3 - - - - -
I so badly wanted to feel her lips on mine again, but just when they were only millimeters apart, she pulled away and sprinted down the hall.
"You'll have to catch me first!" She called, and I quickly ran after her. I wouldn't let the girl of my dreams, the girl I loved, get away from me.
I chased Katara all through the palace gardens, loosing sight of her more than once. She was fast, I had to admit, but not quite fast enough.
"Gotcha!" I said quietly, as I carefully nocked her to the ground, wrapping my arms around her and letting her use me as a cushion. She was laughing happily, a smile on her brilliant face. When she fell, she used her arms to hold herself off the ground, and me. She was looking into my eyes, and I stared back into hers, mesmerized in the beautiful, deep blue.
"Zuko," she whispered. A shiver ran down my spine. I loved the way my name sounded, coming from Katara. I rested my hand on her neck and pulled her down so her face was the smallest distance away from mine. Grinning, I rolled her over onto her back and put my hands on either side of her head. My lips softly brushed hers before she pulled me closer, deepening the kiss. Our lips parted for each others and moved with perfect harmony. We were no longer two separate souls, but one, joined together by a love so strong, not even the strongest air bender could blow us apart, or the toughest earth bender knock us down. I wanted to freeze this moment, right here, forever, to never have to worry about any paper work or rebellions or the rest of the world. I didn't even want to breathe, ever again, if it meant staying with Katara for the rest for my life.
We pulled apart for breathe, only to smash our lips together once again, creating an explosion so big it rocked the spirit world. As much as we didn't want to, we had to finally separate our lips. It felt like we were the only two people in the world; everything was blurred. Then I realised we were surrounded by steam.
I chuckled lightly. "I guess fire and water can do something other than destroy each other."
She smiled. "I guess, in our case, steam is a beautiful thing."
"Not as beautiful as you," I sighed. She reached up and touched my scar, stroking it softly.
"I love this. It means Zuko, and it's special because it only belongs to you. It's beautiful, no matter what you may think... You're beautiful."
I smiled and leaned down, pressing my lips back to hers, happier than ever, all because of the girl beneath me.
Fire and water. Their opposites, and always have been. Fire is uncontrollable, fierce, and untamed. Water is pure, and a thing of beauty. Water can put out a fire, and fire can turn the water into nothing. Water leaves a slight mark, which quickly dries and vanishes, but fire... Fire scars. The two elements are against and destroy each other, and no other way has ever been known... But sometimes, the two opposites can work together. They can create something so beautiful and natural that the world can barely contain it. Water and fire, together, can create steam, and from that steam, something even more powerful is born. Love is what defines us, and, in the end, love will conquer all. I love Katara with my entire being, and nothing would stand in our way.