The first time Zuko wanted to kiss Katara it was under the crystal catacombs under the Ba Sing Se. Surrounded by the green glow of the crystals with her hand on his scar Zuko was overwhelmed. The exhaustion of the past three years have finally caught upto him. He had been banished, declared traitor, turned fugitive and when he finally gives up his hunt of the avatar to begin a new life as a tea server Azula happens and now he is trapped here, his new life ripped to shreds. But he is not alone. The avatar's waterbender is here. After unjustly accusing him of trying to capture the avatar, though he can't blame her, they reached a fragile understanding after confessing the pain of their dead mothers. The waterbeder surprises him by offering to heal his scar, his mark of shame. His scar defines him, his destiny of chasing the avatar and now she is offering him a chance of freedom.
For the the first time in years Zuko dreams. He dreams of the waterbender healing his scars both outside and inside. He dreams of being whole again free from the pain and nightmares that haunt him. He dreams of a different destiny one not determined by his father but by himsef. He is tired of chasing the avatar and the truth is Zuko doesn't want to. He remebers the boy's offer of friendship in the forest and dreams of a future where they are friends. Zuko is overcome by the compassion shown by her that even after all the pain he had caused the avatar group, had caused her personally, she is offering him salvation. He remembers how the waterbender didn't even flinch while touching his ugly scar and suddenly he wants to kiss her. He wants to taste those lips that offered him healing and he wants-CRASH!!!-and all his dreams are shattered.
Katara leaves him to hug the avatar and the boy glares at him reminding him that they are enemies. His dreams are crushed under the weight of reality. She leaves the cave without giving him a single thought and her offer of healing forgotten with his broken heart. Zuko curses himself for being so foolish, for trusting her, for believing that they can be anything other than enemies. When Azula arrives he follows her without hesistaton. He is the the Prince of the Fire Nation and she is a water tribe peasant. The lines are drawn and they belong on the opposite sides.
The second time Zuko wanted to kiss Katara they were on the outskirts of a fire nation village. It was raining heavily and they were overcome by the torrents of rain and emotion after confronting Katara's mother 's killer. Zuko had finally realised his destiny is to help the avatar to restore the balance. He is determined to make things right and atone for his sins. Most of the group had accepted him but Katara still hates him. She is quick to remind him of his sins that she had neither forgiven nor forgotten. He has observed how she looks at other with care and love which turns into an icy stare on him. It hurts him that he had caused this by his betrayal. He craves that care and love she freely gives to others. He is no stranger to proving himself and is determined to earn her trust and forgiveness. So he helps her find her mother's killer.
He is in awe of her power. The little girl that could barely move puddles has turned into a master that could stop rain. But most of all he is in awe of her as a person. She had shown mercy to a man who killed her mother, a man who deserves to die. He know the feeling of anger boiling the blood, the strong pull of vengenance. But she is strong enough not to be blinded by it. After his mother and his uncle she is the best person he has ever known. He silently leads her to he cave when she tumbles. He catches before she could fall and she buries her head in his chest and starts sobbing uncontrollably. He tightens his grip and holds her closer. Her cries ring in his ears and he wants to kiss her. He wants to kiss her pain away, wipe those tears with his lips and keep kissing her until all her hurt is gone and she is happy. He holds her chin and lifts her face. Her hair is messed up, her cheeks wet with tears and rain, her lips trembling but she looks so beautiful that he barely suppresses the urge to kiss her. She is vulnerable and he would not take an advantage of that. He settles for stroking her hair as his mother used to do when he was a child. He gently clears her tears with his thumbs as he cups his face."Hey, its going to be alright. Ok. I am here for you." he tells her. She nods slowly and walks behind him.
They don't talk on their journey back and he givs her space. He barely keeps his mouth shut when Aang agin prattles about forgiveness. But when she forgives him and hugs him, he feels exhilarated. He has finally redeemed himself to the most compassionate person in the world. He now feels like he is worthy. But there is something more. He stares at her back as she walks away from him a strong feeling for Katara taking root in his heart. He dares not name it. He had finally made things right and would not ruin it.
The third time Zuko wanted to kiss Katara was on the night before his coronation. Katara had come to his chambers for a healing session before the big day. THere was an atmosphere of peace surrounding the palace. They had won the war and can begin to restore the balance. Zuko knows that some trouble would soon come up but he enjoys the bliss while it lasts. Which brought him to the girl hovering over him with water coated hands. The girl he loves.
Katara. After she forgave him they had gotten so close that he considers her his best friend and she knows it. What she does not know is that his heart burns for her. He had tried to bury these feelings but after the agni kai he had stopped fighting it. He had accepted in his heart that he loves her. Loves her so much that he would jump infront of lightning again. After knowig her personally he thinks his heart stood no chance.
He hisses in pain as she brings her glowing hands to his chest. "Sorry." "It's okay." He replies when the pain starts to lessen. Her brow furrows into concentration as she starts working. He uses this opportunity to admire her. His eyes trace a path from her brown hair tied into hair loopies, down her pert nose to her plump lips. His gaze lingers there then moves to her round cheeks. The glow has faded but her hands are still there gently caressing hte scar on his chest. " I am so sorry." She speaks quietly, not meeting his eyes. "If I had hidden there, this wouldn't have happened." "It's not your fault. If anyone is to blame it's Azula. Not you, never you." She looks at him and there are unshed tears in her eyes. "But you neary died Zuko!" and then she starts sobbing. "Your heart wasn't beating. And it's because of-" "STOP" he yells loudly. He cant' stand the pain in her eyes and takes her hand and places it directly over his beating heart." Can you feel this? I am alive because of you. By all rights I should have died if it weren't for you. I owe you my life and I would not watch you drown in guilt for something thats not your fault." She looks at her hand on his chest and then then meets his eyes. He wants to pull her and keep kissing her until they both are breathless but he sits still. She eans towards him and kisses his temple. "Thank you." And with that she leaves. He barely registers her still in daze due to the feeling of her lips on his skin.
In the darkness of the night Zuko mulls over his decision of keeping his feelings hidden. He is going to be the Fire Lord and he could not have a reationship with a water tribe girl now. The people wouldn't accept it. And Katara would be leaving to the South Pole where her people live. Where she belongs. She would never stay in the fire nation for him. And then there is the matter of Aang. He loves Katara too and deserves her. Unlike him who has hurt her. And Katara would never choose him over Aang. So when he sees them kissing on the roof of Jasmine Dragon his heart breaks and his whole body threatens to give out but he bears the pain. He maintains his composure when on the inside he wants to run away and keep running till he does not exist. He tells himself that this is the reality. This is how it is meant to be.
Years pass and Zuo busies himself into his duties as the Fire Lord. He is determined to bring change. He overworks himself so he could forget those blue eyes, the feeling of her touch on his scar. She plagues his dreams in the night. When Aang visits with Katara from time to time as the avatar seeing them together hurts him like lightning through his heart. Those days are the most difficult. During those nights he consoles himself.
This is how it is meant to be.
Katara could never love you.
Aang deserves her not you.
Gradually these words ease his pain. The mind numbing pain of Katara turns into a dull ache in his heart. He gets better in hiding his feelings from others. The sight of both of them together doesn't hurt as it used to. He has finally accepted that Katara could never be his. Then one day, four and half years after Sozin's comet Katara arrives in the Fire Nation alone. They meet together for tea after she had rested. He directly cut to the chase. "So what happened?" He is not prepared for hte shock of her next statement. "Aang and I broke up." His face betrays his shock but he quickly maitains a neutral expression."What happened?" He asks for he's dying to know how could this couple break up after he had convinced himself for so many nights that thay belong together. "I guess we wanted different things. I was tired of travelling with Aang from one place to another playing second fiddle to him. My whole identity was reduced as the avatar's girlfriend and I want to achieve something by myself and carve my own identity." "But I thought you both belonged together." He blurts out. She looks at him and gives a sad smile. "Zuko sometimes people change." "So what brings you to fire nation?"he asks changing the subject. "Oh I was in Ba Sing Se trying to figure out what to do when I met Uncle Iroh. I told him and he was the one who advised me to meet you." Zuko doesn't know whether to bless or curse his uncle. He had never told uncle of his feelings but the old man suspected something. He considers her answer for sometime and replies "You could work as an adviser for me." Her eyes widen in surprise,"Really? Do you think I am qualified for it?" "Absolutely" he replies without hesitation. The more Zuko thought about it the idea had many merits. "You travelled with the Avatar for the last few years in the Earth kingdom and the Water Tribes. You would make an excellent diplomat. Also having you as on the council would improve relations with the Water Tribes. Plus you are very smart. And I trust you." She ponders over the offer quitely unconsciously chewing on her bottom lip. Her lips curve into a smile and she accepts. "I think your hot headed brain really needs some cool advice."she teases.
From then his days changed. The loneliness he felt was banished by her presence. They spar together in the morning, then break fast together. They go to the council meetings together and in the evenings they feed the turtle ducks. Katara as an adviser was brilliant. She helped improve the hospitals and made an arrangement for waterbenders from south to come to the fire nation and help in cleaning polluted water resources. This helped lessen the mistrust people of fire nation have of others. In her honour Zuko named it The Painted Lady project. Katara blushed when she learned that. They exchanged secrets near the turtle duck pond. Zuko told her how he got his scar. Katara told him of the resentment she felt towards her father for abandoning her during war. Zuko doesn't make a move on her. Deep in his heart he still believed that he doesn't deserve her. That one day she would leave him and go back to south where she belongs. So he enjoys the bliss while it lasts. But his heart still beats for her.
Six months pass and its the five year anniversary of Sozin's comet. There is a celebration and all of Zuko's friends arrive in the palace. Zuko is mingling with the other nobles when he sees her. Maybe it's the wine, maybe it's the romantic music playing in the background or maybe the fact she looks etheral in the red gown turns him from a stoic Fire Lord to a sixteen year old boy in love. He glides towards her. "May I have a dance with the most beautiful lady in the room?" He asks. Her eyes widen a little and she gives him a coy smile. "Of course. How can I refuse the mighty the Fire Lord?" She rests her hands on his shoulders and he on her waist and together they dance to the romantic music. He bends down and whispers in her ear "You look etheral in this red dress." Her cheeks turn pink and she replies after a bit. "You yourself look dashing in those imperial robes." Their eyes meet for a moment and they burst into laughing. He moves his hand to the small of her back and pulls her closer. They flirt harmlessly and soon he is lost in the ocean blue eyes of hers. All his inhibitions are down and he leans forward to kiss her and-"Mind if I cut in?" Zuko turns around to see its Aang. Zuko wants to tell him to go away but he releases his hold and replies "Ofcourse." The magic of the night is broken and he berates himself for being stupid. Katara would never be his. He reminds himself as he walks towards the other guests to mingle.
It was late in the night when the guests finally start dispersing. Zuko was very tired and was looking forward to sleep. He had spent the rest of the function entertaining other guests and didn't see Katara again. He was thankful that Aang had arrived in time preventing him from making a stupid decision. There was dull ache but other than that he was ok. He was mostly over feeling hurt on the topic of Katara. He made his way towards his chambers but was stopped on the path by Katara. "Did you enjoy the ball?" he asks her. "Can we go somewhere private? I need to talk to you about something important." She replies. There was something wrong about her demeanour and she was looking at him with a strange expression. "Ok. Lets go to the turtle duck pond." On their way towards the pond he caught Katara stealing glances at him and averting her eyes when she was caught. This strange behaviour of her was worrying him.
They reached the pond. It was a full moon and there was a serene atmosphere in contrast with the tension radiating from Katara. "Alright. Whats the matter?" Katara looks down and fiddles with her mother's necklace a nervous habit of her. She speaks slowly." At the party I put Toph to bed when she got drunk. She asked how was Sparky in bed. I was shocked and asked her how could I know. She laughed and told me that she could feel his heart beating like a komodo rhino when we were dancing and that Sparky definitely wants to fuck you. I told her that we were just friends and then she started laughing loudly and said Sweetness you were dumber than I thought. This guy jumps in front of lightning to save you and you can't put two and two together. Maybe I should call you Dumb Queen. With that she dozed of." The entire area was silent as she looked up to find my eyes. "Toph was just being drunk and stupid, wasn't she?" There was a storm of emotions in her eyes and she waited for my answer. Zuko thought for a moment to deny everything but he didn't want to lie to her and some part inside her wants to spill the truth. "Yes. Toph's right." She gasps and asks again "Do you ... are you in love with me?" Zuko replies yes as he prepares himself for her rejection. She looks as if she still can't believe it. "Why didn't you tell me?" Somehow this question made him angry and he explodes at her pouring out all his insecurities, his reasons that he used tell himself. "Because it wouldn't work. I am the Fire Lord and you are water tribe. There would be many difficulties. Would you leave the South Pole to settle here permanently for me? And most of all I know you don't love me. I know I don't deserve you and-" and suddenly he was cut off by a pair of warm lips on his. He was shocked by Katara kissing him that he went still as she moved her lips on his. She removed her lips and gave him a tight hug. "I know that there would be many difficulties. But there is nothing I would not go through if I could be with you. I love you Zuko. I love you so much." Zuko could scarcely believe all this. He lifted her face to see the truth in her eyes. Her eyes were shining with love and adoration for him. He whispers slowly "Can you say it again?" She breaks into a dazzling smile and caresses his scar and said" I would say it as many times as you want. I love you Zuko." Zuko kisses her and finally he could taste her sweetness of those plump lips. They keep kissing each other till they part for breath and then began kissing each other again.
Zuko wakes up and was startled for a bit at not waking up in his room. Then he remebered the reason for it and grinned. He turned around to see Katara sleeping with leaves in her hair. He sat down near her and started methodically removing them from her hair. She looked so cute while sleeping that he couldn't resist to kiss her awake. She first blinked owlishly and then on seeing him gave him a dreamy smile. "I love you." The words tumble from his mouth on their own. Her eyes soften and she replies "I love you too." Zuko is overcome with happiness that he starts laughing. She laughs with him and together they watch the sunrise together. It was a beginning of a new day, a new life for them. They don't know about the difficulties ahead but they know they would face them together.
It took a year for them to marry. A year of convincing idiot nobles and idiot big brothers. A year of sweet kisses and secret makeout sessions. The nobles were relentless but they forgot that they were dealing with Zuko and Katara, two of the most stubborn people in the world. They refused to give up each other openly basking in their love. Finally after the help of Uncle Iroh, after Katara proved herself to be an excellent future Fire Lady and a promise of a peace treaty with the water tribes on marriage the nobles finally relented. Zuko was lying in the bed with Katara both of them naked with their limbs entwined thinking of himself as the luckiest man in the world. His wife (wife!) was idly drawing cicles on his chest. She lifts her head to look at him her eyes glazed and her hair messed up after the incredible sex they had. "When did you first want me?" She asks. Zuko smiles as he starts speaking. "The first time I wanted to kiss you was in the crystal catacombs under Ba Sing Se...."