Sunlight filtered through the gap in the blinds. Zuko groaned. He rolled over on the bed to escape the offending brightness. Just because he was a firebender didn't mean he always enjoyed waking up early. Especially when it felt like a komodo-rhino was stomping on his head. Actually, maybe there were two komodo-rhinos. Ugh.
There was a soft sound from near his ear and something brushed his chest. Zuko froze. That felt like a hand. A hand on his bare chest. His eyes snapped open. There was a girl in the bed next to him. A girl with dark skin and flowing brown hair, and—
"Holy mother of—"
Zuko flinched back so fast that he almost toppled off the bed. Katara was sleeping next to him. Katara. Him and her, her and him. In bed. Together.
Oh hell. Oh bloody, bloody hell.
Zuko swallowed. His stomach wriggled as if trying to tie itself into knots. His heart wasn't faring any better; it fluttered and lurched around in his chest like it wanted to jump right up into his throat. He was conscious of the fact that his nether regions felt suspiciously liberated. A peek beneath the blanket confirmed his fears. He was not wearing anything. In fact, a glance around the room (oh, it seemed this was Katara's and not his) showed his clothes strewn on the floor. Mercifully, Katara's breasts were covered by the white wrappings she wore when swimming. He didn't dare peek under the blanket to see if she was wearing anything below. Ostrich-horse tactics were a must right now. If he told himself she was still wearing all of her wrappings then there was no way they could have—no way he might have—
Ah, geez. Just thinking about it made his cheeks burn.
"Why can't I remember what happened?" he groaned, clutching at his hair.
His memories from last night were far too hazy. Maybe it was the awful headache getting to him. Either way, all he could remember were fragments: watching that horrible play, coming back home in a bad mood, and then—
Katara made another soft sound. Zuko cursed. She looked as if she was stirring. Panic bubbled within him, even as his cheeks got hotter. This whole situation made him feel embarrassed and confused and all sorts of awkward. He couldn't imagine facing her. Didn't want to face her when he was naked and had no recollection of how they had ended up in bed together. So Zuko did a very un-Zukoish thing. He bolted. Fast.
"Geez, are you trying to knock me over?" Toph snapped as he burst from the room and almost ran into her in the process. Only her sensory feet had saved her from the collision.
The prince clutched his clothes to his chest (thank the heavens Toph was blind). "Sorry," he muttered.
He quickly ducked into the room next door—his room—and let out a shaky breath. Okay. He was safe. Well, kind of. Toph had still "seen" him leaving Katara's room, and then there was Katara herself to deal with (it wasn't like he could avoid her forever), and—
"I am so screwed," Zuko muttered.
He really needed to figure out what had happened last night. Sure, he could admit that he found Katara to be a very attractive, very nice girl, but it wasn't like he had planned on losing his virginity to her. They weren't dating! They hadn't kissed or even said "I like you" to each other—at least not before the Night of No Recollection. Who knew what had happened during the big blank that was his memories. And that was the other problem. He couldn't even remember doing the deed! It was all so ... well, sordid. Somehow, he'd always thought his first time would have been more special than that.
But then maybe he was jumping to conclusions. Maybe there was still hope. Maybe he had just got into bed with her (because friends do that, right?), decided it was too hot to wear clothes (the summer nights on Ember Island could be rather muggy), and then—
Zuko sighed and let his head fall back against the door with a thud. Okay, that was logic fail if he ever saw one. Friends did not sleep in beds naked with each other. Friends with benefits, yes. However, the only benefits he got from Katara were not of the sexual variety. More like the "let's train together so we don't die when your evil father tries to destroy the world with the Comet of Fiery Doom" variety. Oh, and the fact she was actually nice to him now instead of trying to impale him with her glares all the time.
Another sigh escaped his lips. Yep, he was definitely screwed.
"So, you were pretty drunk last night."
Zuko's shoulders tensed. He had hidden himself in one of the unused rooms in the house—far, far away from Katara—but Sokka had still managed to find him. The Water Tribe boy was wearing a smile that suggested he was about to get started on some epic teasing. Zuko was torn between wanting to tell the boy to shove off or to demand details to try piece his memories together. He had gathered that he had got drunk, but everything else was still hazy. Although there was that odd memory of him trying to have a deep and meaningful conversation with Appa. The bison's arrow had also come into it somehow. Weird.
Sokka's grin widened. "I'm never going to forget that song you sang."
The prince twitched. "Song?"
A truly evil glint entered Sokka's eyes. "You don't remember? It was very rousing. Toph cried … with laughter."
Zuko's cheeks went pink. Now that he thought about it, he could kind of recall singing one of those awful songs the crew had used to belt out on Music Night. Something about a talking pig-rooster and man trying to woo a woman.
"Of course, the song was just the beginning," Sokka continued, clearly enjoying the prince's discomfort. "You also got really soppy-affectionate at one point and kept hugging everyone and saying how you weren't going to let the 'Fatherlord' hurt any of us, because we're your precious, precious friends."
Now all the colour faded from Zuko's cheeks. "I didn't," he said in horror.
Sokka went on to explain that Zuko got all fired up again after that and tried to drag Aang off to do firebending training (all in the name of stopping the Fatherlord!). Toph had been forced to trap him in rock and had left him next to Appa to cool down. (Ah, that was where the deep and meaningful with the bison had come from.) It was all beginning to come together, though there was still something that confused Zuko.
"Then how did I end up in bed with Katara?"
The words escaped before he could stop them. He could have facepalmed. Sokka was Katara's brother. The boy was hardly going to be pleased that Zuko and Katara had potentially had sex together. Especially since Zuko had been off-his-head drunk.
Sokka's eyes widened. "You don't remember that?"
Zuko blinked. Sokka's tone wasn't angry. More amused? For some reason, that made the wriggly things in Zuko's stomach knot and tangle even more.
"Remember what?" he asked in a nervous voice.
Sokka placed his finger to his chin and made a big show of thinking about the matter. "Now what was that pickup line you used? Oh, yeah: you had me at hair loopies."
Zuko stared at the boy for a full five seconds. "You're lying," he said flatly.
Sokka actually looked disappointed. "What gave it away?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about when you say hair loopies." Then he thought about it for a moment. "Wait, do you mean the way she used to style her hair? Those loopy things?" He made circular motions as if to imitate the way Katara had styled her hair before coming to the Fire Nation.
"Well, yeah," Sokka said. "What else would you call them?"
Zuko was silent. He had no idea either. He was pretty sure there was a better word for them than hair loopies, though.
"So," Sokka said after a moment. "You actually shared a bed with my sister?"
Zuko heaved a sigh. "Yeah, though I have no idea how it happened."
He was glad he had not said he had also been naked at the time. Somehow, he didn't think Sokka would have taken such a blasé attitude had he done that.
"Well, she was the one who took pity on you," Sokka said with a shrug. "No one else had the patience to be your babysitter." He raised his eyebrow. "Seriously, you are a terrible drunk. Can't hold your liquor at all."
Zuko pressed his face to his palms and smothered a groan. Truth be told, he'd never had alcohol before (Uncle would never let him on the ship). He very much regretted giving into his depression and deciding to try the whole "drown his sorrows" thing. It hadn't worked, just brought a bad hangover and a lot of humiliation (and potential loss of virginity).
"Don't worry," Zuko muttered, still hiding his face against his hands, "I'm not going to drink that stuff again."
Sokka just laughed. Zuko knew the boy was never going to let him live down this embarrassment.
It was almost noon when Katara found Zuko. The prince had not wanted to face her until he could remember what had happened, but that had not worked out. His memories were determined to elude him. Now there was no escape. She stood before him with her hands on her hips and demanded to know why he was avoiding her.
"Don't think I haven't noticed!" she said.
He blushed and felt an odd urge to retreat into a shell like a hermit crab. Alas, he had no shell. "Uh ..." Words failed him. He rubbed the base of his neck.
Katara tapped her foot. "Well? What's your sudden problem with me?"
Zuko's blush darkened. "It's not that I have a problem. It's just, uh"—he shifted on his feet, glanced away shyly—"um, you do remember what happened last night, right?"
"Of course I do. I got stuck babysitting you for hours because you decided it was a good idea to drink all that alcohol by yourself."
He winced. "Right."
That was about all he could manage before words failed him again. This was so hard! He didn't understand how she could be so nonchalant about the situation. It was like the fact that they had been in bed together—and very likely had sex—didn't matter to her at all. He didn't understand.
Katara tilted her head to the side. "Is this just because you're embarrassed? Look, it's really not that big of a deal."
His eyes widened. That was his first time! Of course it was a big deal!
She blinked. "First time?"
Zuko realised too late that he had spoken aloud. Katara got all pushy and demanded to know what he had meant by that. First time drinking? First time singing in public (which she didn't recommend he do again, because he was terrible), or was it because he'd got all weepy and emotional on everyone?
The prince made a frustrated sound. "I'm talking about the fact we had sex!"
Katara stared at him like he had grown an extra head. "What?"
He could feel the heat of his blush spreading down his neck and reaching to the tips of his ears. "I mean," he gritted out, "I woke up naked in bed with you this morning. Doesn't that usually mean one thing?"
She blinked a few times. Zuko started to feel even more self-conscious. Why was she staring at him like he was crazy?
"Zuko," she said, and this time her cheeks dusted with pink, "we definitely didn't have—didn't do that last night."
Hope fluttered in his chest. "We didn't?"
She shook her head. "Definitely not. I would have remembered."
There was an awkward moment as they both just blushed at each other.
Zuko rubbed the base of his neck. "Then why did I wake up naked in your bed?"
Her blush darkened. "How am I supposed to know? You fell asleep on the chair downstairs, so I left you there and went to bed myself when I got tired."
His brow furrowed. It didn't sound like she was lying. In fact, hazy memories were finally beginning to return: waking up alone on the sofa, deciding he didn't want to sleep there and then making his stumbling way up the stairs. Their rooms were side by side. He had been drunk.
Very, very drunk.
Zuko facepalmed. He even swore. Multiple times.
"What?" Katara said. "What's wrong?"
"I am so sorry," he groaned. "I am so, so sorry, Katara."
When she prodded him again to explain, he confessed that he had mistaken her room for his own. He'd been too drunk and sleepy to either notice or care that she was in the bed as well. As for the lack of clothes, he couldn't explain that one. Maybe he had been hot?
Katara repressed a snort. "Well, that solves the mystery."
"You're not mad?" he asked, peeping at her through his fingers.
"Much as I want to be, it's not like anything happened." Her cheeks coloured and she glanced away. "I mean, you just slept next to me, right?"
"Then it's fine."
There was another awkward moment where they blushed at each other. Zuko's heart was doing the fluttering, thumping, jumpy thing again.
"Um," they said at the same time.
Zuko bit back a smile. "You go first."
She fidgeted with her hair. "About last night—the play, I mean. It really sucked."
"Yeah, it did," he said frankly.
"Right," she agreed. "But, uh, there was one bit that maybe wasn't entirely wrong. About how I feel." She lowered her gaze, tugged more on her hair. "About me and you."
Her blush suddenly flared up again, as if she'd just realised what she had given away. "A-anyway, that's all I wanted to say, so I'm going to—"
He grabbed her arm. "Don't run," he murmured.
She raised her face in a startled way, which gave him the perfect angle. He leaned down, pausing just a moment to see her eyelashes flutter—to see if she would accept his gesture—before he kissed her on the lips. The contact was short and sweet, but it had them both nuzzling foreheads when they pulled away, just content to be close to each other.
"It wasn't wrong about how I feel either," he told her.
She smiled and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. Zuko had to admit that even though he had done a lot of humiliating things last night and the Comet of Fiery Doom was still coming for them, he was pretty damn happy in that moment. It was nice to be with the girl he liked.