He said he'd throw a real party. And a real party he did throw.
Zuko's twenty-first birthday rung in louder and prouder than the new year. It had been four years since the end of the war, and the Fire Lord saw doubt and contempt diminish amongst his council and staff. He could only hope that the same was happening amongst his people. The rebel groups more or less gave up after a couple years, only attempting to assassinate him once in a bl(y)ue moon now.
It was nearly morning when the palace finally fell quiet. Haru,Teo, The Duke, Pipsqueak, a handful of Kyoshi warriors, and many other friends had been accommodated with lodging not too far from the palace. As for Sokka, Suki, Aang, Toph, and Katara, he couldn't imagine them not staying with him while they were here. It was just like old times-plus a palace and a surprisingly successful reign.
Iroh was the only real adult invited to the party, and despite his efforts to keep up with the youngsters, he was out like a lantern before midnight. His tsungi horn arrangement did not go unappreciated, however. The song he played inspired many, even Zuko himself, to dance freely. And that's how the rest of the night went. If one were not eating, they were either cramping gleefully on the dance floor or drinking endless rice wine. Katara alternated between the three religiously throughout the night, and when it was time to get her situated in her quarters, she vehemently protested.
"It's dark in there, Zuko. What if a spirit comes for me?" Zuko was impressed. He tried to get her to slow down on the wine but she said she could hold her drinks. Katara should be doubled over a chamber pot right now with the amount of alcohol she consumed, but instead she only seemed a bit tipsy and managed to walk in a mostly straight line. She was right.
"If there's a spirit, then I'm sure you can handle it, Master Katara." There was a light mood in the air and he genuinely felt happy to be in her presence. "Besides, it won't be dark for much longer."
Katara pursed her lips, closing the door to her guest room and walking down the hall.
"Where are we going now?" His voice followed behind her.
She responded without facing him, turning a corner and stopping in front of a grand door. "Your room."
Zuko nearly choked on his spit as a deep blush struck his features. "M-my room? Katara, you're drunk."
She turned to him with an arched brow. "I'm not drunk, Zuko." She stated matter-of-factly. "A waterbender that can't hold their drinks is no waterbender at all." She made a step toward him, pressing a finger to his chest accusingly. "And did you think I wanted sex?"
Zuko's face and neck were burning hotter than any star. He was sputtering for words and truly mortified when one of his chamber guards cleared his throat. Zuko's eyes darted between his guards then Katara. She languidly folded her arms, jutting her hip out just a bit.
Before he could melt into a puddle of embarrassment, Zuko demanded that his chamber doors be opened. "Goodnight, Di Zhu. Goodnight, Po." He hung tight to his courage as he gripped Katara's hand and pulled her inside, not knowing whether to be relieved or neurotic as his guards closed them in.
"I'm waiting." She kicked off her slippers and nonchalantly rolled onto his enormous bed.
Zuko fought the urge to pace the massive room. How could she just ask something like that? In front of his guards, no less? It was absolutely-
"You know," she sliced through his inner monologue, sitting up on his bed and locking eyes with his. "If you didn't think that I wanted sex, it wouldn't be so hard to answer."
He audibly gulped. She was right, he supposed. But it almost felt shameful to admit. "You know that I respect you in every way possible.
Right, Katara?" His voice poured out like sticky rice. He wanted to step closer but was afraid that she would take it the wrong way, so he shifted on his feet nervously.
She smirked knowingly and patted the spot next to her, pleased when he got over himself and sat down.
"I know you respect me, Zuko. But you're also entitled to think what you want about me." Katara shrugged and laid back on the silky sheets. "I may have lost some inhibition because of the wine, I'll admit, but I had no plans of seducing you."
Zuko nodded thoughtfully, removing his headpiece and placing it on the bedside table before sitting back against the headboard.
She closed her eyes and hummed quietly. "Not tonight, at least."
Zuko's eyes nearly popped out of his head and he dared to look at her, laying on his bed. Her attire was casual and easy to discard if needed. Spirits, what was he thinking?
"You-" he squeaked. "What do you mean?" He was terribly hot in the dressed-down version of his regalia, and wanted nothing more than to peel off a layer. He could physically feel the shade of red his skin possessed now, spreading all the way to his chest.
Katara giggled at his discomfort and scooted up the bed to lay on her side, facing him. "If you want me to talk then I need you to act your age, Mr. Fire Lord."
She wore something similar to her signature blue dress with shorts in place of her leggings. Combined with the sleevelessness, lower-cut neckline, and the slits going up the skirt, Katara was showing off more skin than he'd seen of her in a very long time. This conversation was going to be impossible.
He tore his gaze from her legs and inhaled a deep breath, channeling his inner restraint.
"I'd probably never admit it while sober but, I've thought about what it might be like to have sex with you."
Zuko's breath caught in his throat at the confession. His limbs also became rigid as he tried to let it sink in.
"Relax, Zuko. It's normal." She reached over and rested her palm against his cheek. It felt like pitching an ice block to a flame. Katara snorted and discarded her hand as steam rose from where she touched him.
"Normal?" He echoed. Frankly, he was flabbergasted but his curiosity got the best of him. He was slowly becoming comfortable with the situation he found himself in. Talking to someone about things like this was unthinkable, since nobody in the palace was really a friend. When the Gaang wasn't reuniting, he was on his own when it came to companionship.
"Yes, Zuko. Normal." Katara stood up and got under the covers, sighing in comfort. "I've thought about what sex with you would be like, sex with Aang, sex with Jet-"
"You fantasize about a dead psychopath?" He was genuinely amused at her blatant honesty. While she thought about an answer, he got off the bed and carefully stripped down to his pants and an undershirt. He fought to discretely wipe his sweaty palms as he peeled off his layers. When he laid next to her on the bed, she laughed at herself and started an answer.
"I know he was pretty rotten for most of our encounters with him, but sometimes I imagine his spirit visiting me in the night."
Zuko couldn't even feel embarrassed, his disgust was very clear and he scrunched up his nose. "That's disgusting, Katara."
Katara simply shrugged in return. "I don't have to be proud of any of it. It just happens sometimes." She glanced at Zuko and smiled at how relaxed he'd become. Sure, he was immersed in the whole Jet thing but he wasn't fidgeting anymore.
"Who do you fantasize about?"
He took a deep breath, watching her face and not losing composure as if he expected her to ask. Then he folded his arms behind his head and stared up at the high ceiling.
"June comes up sometimes." He held his breath momentarily, feeling her shift on the bed. When he turned his head to meet her, she was grinning wickedly.
Zuko couldn't contain the bubble of laughter that emerged from his chest. Katara blushed for the first time since she entered his chambers and laughed as well.
"I don't think I've ever heard you laugh like that, my Lord."
"I didn't think we'd have shared images in our Spank Banks."
At that, the pair let loose of everything being held back. Zuko's nerves had simmered into nothingness as he sat up, clutching his stomach gaily. Katara was now laying flat on her back being consumed by hearty chuckles. They felt young again. Young and happy, without a care in the world. Neither of them truly knew what that was like during childhood, facing the war from opposing sides. But that was over now. They could afford to be happy.
Katara wiped tears from her eyes, finally coming down from her high in sync with her friend.
"If you ever tell anyone that I have a Spank Bank, you're done for."
"Who am I going to run to? Jet?"
Zuko snickered proudly at his joke; the shoulder punch he received for it was definitely worth it.
A comfortable silence settled between the two. Despite the enormity of the bed, they had grown close enough for their ankles to touch. Katara's was under the covers but touch was touch, nonetheless. It was Zuko's turn to roll on his side, skipping past comfort and edging his way into audacity. He didn't speak until she met his gaze.
"What do you fantasize about me?"
The corner of her mouth twitched upwards in the slightest fashion. Then she slowly peeled the comforter off and resumed her position. If she was nervous, he couldn't tell.
"I fantasize about being in this very room sometimes." Katara inched her leg closer until her ankle overlapped his. It was small and subtle but Zuko could hear his pulse picking up.
"Sometimes we're on Ember Island, on the beach. I'd lose my top in the water and you'd walk up behind me, using your hands to...cover me."
Her foot gradually moved up his calf, settling at his knee.
"And sometimes you're just pounding me from behind in the South Pole."
Zuko was breathing deeply, fighting to keep control over his body. His temperature was rising exponentially and a terribly familiar heat was stirring at his core. All the while his eyes were locked on Katara's. She looked so calm and confident. And her damned foot was making things worse. But he swallowed everything and dared to scoot closer.
"It seems as though I'm in a lot of your fantasies, Katara."
Her foot hooked around his leg gently, pulling him a bit closer. Her calf now rested along his lower thigh. She darted her tongue out to moisten her lips; they weren't dry but she needed to distract them. His eyes drank in the gesture keenly, hooding slightly. He wondered where this conversation would lead them.
"I never said that you weren't."
Zuko hummed quietly at this. "Are you sure you didn't plan on seducing me, Katara?" He drew her name out like a beg, savoring each syllable and letting it vibrate on his lips.
Her leg curled around his like a snake then, leaving their bodies inches from eachother.
"Say my name like that again and I'll have to adjust my motives," she whispered. Their faces were a hair's breadth away, lips parted as puffs of air blessed the others'.
Zuko stole a glance at her lips then found his way back to her cobalt orbs. They were glassy with desire. He could faintly see the ocean in them and wanted nothing more than to drown in her.
"I think of you too," he gasped out. His arm went to loop around her waist, not quite pulling her closer but securing her in place.
"All the time, Katara."
He didn't imagine coming clean to her like this, but when life gives you cabbages-
"Tell me how." Her palm went up to cup his smooth cheek, tracing her finger against his sharp jaw. He grew warm at the spot but was intent on answering her.
"I fantasize about you being in this very room sometimes," he started.
"Sometimes we're on Ember Island, on the beach. We never make it back to the beach house, so sometimes I taste you on the sand."
His palm smoothed down her waist to hold her hip, absorbing her body heat and turning hot with fever.
"And sometimes you're just riding me like an ostrich horse in the South Pole."
Katara shivered against him, subconsciously moving her hips to somehow meet his and grind back against his palm. The groan that left Zuko's lips was purely primal but he gripped the reigns of control.
"What do you want to do about that?" She teased softly, dragging a fingertip along his thin lips.
Zuko's palm found the slit of Katara's dress, smirking smugly as he dove in blind.