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The Wait

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"Zuko?" Suki said, opening the balcony doors and stepping out into the brisk night air. "You okay?"

Zuko half-turned away from the railing, a little smile shooting across his lips as he met her eyes in the murky light spilling through the windows on the balcony doors. The wind tugged at his long hair, and fluttered his robes.

His golden eyes met hers, and she could see his expressen soften from his usual stern one into a gentle smile that crinkled the corners of eyes.

"Suki, yeah... I'm fine. I just needed a moment."

She smiled a little, crossing the balcony and looking around, clocking the rooftops, the expansive, fog-shrouded garden stretching out below them, and the tops of the tall garden wall. Looking, as always, for signs of a threat to the Fire Lord.

But the garden was empty, crunchy leaves swirling in the fog that clung to the dry grass and poured like bitters through the skeletal branches of the trees.

"I figured. You always need a moment before a big speech," she said, glancing at him with another quick smile. "And if there's a balcony..."

He laughed softly and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the stone railing. "The view helps me clear my head."

"You'll do fine, you always do."

"I'm no speechmaker. I wish I could skip it."

"Poor Fire Lord Zuko...he's a fearless warrior, and a deadly politician. The only thing he fears is giving speeches to his stuffy governors at a boring little dinner party."

There are four hundred people in there, that's not a little dinner party!" Zuko protested, but she could see the smile in his eyes as he gestured to the balcony doors, which were the only thing between him and the horde.

Suki giggled and bumped her shoulder with his. "Just imagine them in their underwear."

Zuko grimaced immediately. "That just made me queasy...thanks a lot."

"Well then, imagine me naked."

Zuko opened his mouth, and shot her a furtive look before his gaze skated away. "That...would also not be helpful. It might makes things, uh...harder."

Suki bit her lip, trying to hide her smile. "Poor choice of words."

Zuko let out a nervous huff of laughter at that. "Yeah. But accurate."

"I know," she said, a little more seriously than she'd meant to. The words hung between them for a tense moment, as they danced, as always, around...whatever their relationship was.

It wasn't romantic, not yet, but it wasn't a simple, close friendship either. She knew how she felt, and she was fairly sure of how he felt, but they had just never stepped over that line.

Spirits, she wanted to step over that line. She was so tired of waiting.

"Suki... Umm..." Zuko started, and then sighed. His gaze caught hers again, just as a gust of wind billowed around them. Suki, wearing her formal robes and weapons belt and not much else, felt the breeze claw at her skin. She shivered, hunching her shoulders against the wind. Zuko saw, and stepped closer.

"What are you...?" Suki said, trailing off as Zuko unpinned his cloak and threw it over her shoulders.

"You must be freezing," Zuko said, settling the cloak on her shoulders. She lifted her hands, holding the cloak at her throat, shivering as the wind stirred her hair against her painted cheeks. "There...better?"

"Much," she said as Zuko rubbed her arms to warm her. With him standing this close, she was already feeling all kinds of warm. "Thank you."

"My pleasure," Zuko breathed, as his hand came to rest on her upper back over the cloak. His other hand pushed beneath the cloak, spreading on her waist and pulling her a half-step closer. Suki tilted her chin, her chest feeling tight all of a sudden.

Zuko stared into her eyes for a long, hot moment. He seemed to be waiting for something, but she was frozen to the spot, and it wasn't because of the cold.

"What are thinking right now?" she asked wonderingly. Zuko's nervous expression translated into a tip of his head, his dark hair stirring in the wind, bound only by his golden crown.

"I'm thinking about how much I want to kiss you, but I don't know if that's a good idea," he said, as her heart beat a tattoo against her ribs.

"Why not?" Suki breathed.

Zuko swallowed and licked his lips. "Because I may not stop."

"Then don't. What are you waiting for?"

"I don't know. I just don't want to mess this up."

She smiled. "Trust you to overthink making out."

"I know...I'm a disaster."

"Just kiss me, Zuko."

The words hung between them, heavy and ripe with mutual need. Zuko's teeth scored his bottom lip, and danced away, his eyes turbulent. Then he drew a breath and...

And then his hand slid to her cheek, cupping it, and sliding around to cradle the back of her neck. Her chin lifted, and then he was kissing her.

Gentle, needy, soft, and undemanding, his kiss was a question. She gave her answer with a moan, lifting up on tiptoe and deepening the kiss. The hand at her waist tightened, dragging her against the warm wall of his body. Her hands were trapped between them, still clutching the cloak to her throat. It was all lips, and teeth, and tongue, in a wild, uncontrolled dance of desire.

Zuko kissed as seriously as he did everything else, and the force of his desire left her gasping against his lips. He drew in air against her open mouth, and then claimed her again, angling his fierce kiss with a hot plunge of his tongue against hers. His hand slid into her hair, cradling her head as the kiss went on and on.

She didn't want it to stop. How long had she wanted this...how many times had they come close and shied away...

Too many times.

She didn't know what had made tonight any different. Maybe it was his nerves. Maybe it was the moonlight. Maybe he was as tired of waiting for the right moment as she was. Maybe it didn't matter.

All she knew was that she never wanted the kiss to end. Warmth ran like lightning through her skin as Zuko groaned and changed the angle again.

She freed one arm and wrapped it around his neck, her own fingers sinking into his hair. He tasted like spiced emberwine, and it flooded her senses, making her feel tipsy and hot. The cold wind nipped at them, but she barely felt it.

All she could feel was Zuko's heat, the press of his hand at her waist, the tight clutch of his fingers in her hair...and his hot mouth dashing against hers. Groaning with every sweep of her tongue against his. Everything else just seemed to fall away.

Nothing mattered but him.

"Ahem, Fire Lord Zuko? It is time for your speech," an interrupting voice said, throat clearing in embarrasment. Startled, Suki broke the kiss and turned to the servant standing respectfully in the half-opened balcony door. He was studiously not looking at them, and his face was bright red.

"Speech?" Zuko said stupidly and then cursed under his breath. "Oh, uh, yeah...the speech. Yeah, I'll be right there. Uhh, thanks."

"Yes, sir," the servant said, bowing and stepping backward through the balcony doors. He closed the door behind him, leaving them alone in the fog-shrouded wind.

Suki sank to her heels, her lips pressing together, the wild beat of her heart settling into the inevitable.

"You should go," she said in a small voice, dropping her arm from his shoulders and clutching the cloak to her neck, where it had been threatening to slide off.

"I want to stay," Zuko said in frustrated voice. He was still holding her tightly, the hand in her hair releasing, cupping her chin instead. He lifted her chin and stared into her eyes.

Suki took a ragged breath. "I know."

"When this is over..." he started, that fierce light in his eyes. "We should talk."

"Count on it," she said with a little smile that he returned. "They're all waiting for you."

He grimaced and glanced at the doors, then back at her. He leaned in and kissed her lips, as softly as he had the first time. He pulled away far too quickly, however, and slowly released his hold on her waist. "After my speech?"

"Yes," she said, with all her heart, nodding as he walked backwards toward the balcony doors.

"I should have kissed you a long time ago."

Suki laughed and felt warmth flood through her. "Yes, you should have."

"Wait for me," he said, and disappeared the door before she could reply. The door closed, leaving her on the balcony alone, the ghost of his lips against hers, the scent of his cologne clinging to the cloak he had wrapped around her.

She pulled his cloak around her, snuggling into the warmth of it as the wind twisted icy fingers through her hair. She didn't feel the cold. She just felt him.

Suki smiled. He had been worth the wait.

(end)