Things weren’t supposed to go this way. Between the diplomatic meetings and constant bickering, Zuko didn’t expect it in the least. Yet, here they were, tangled up in a nest of sheets as the sun rose over the horizon of the Fire Nation.
He and Katara. The same Katara that used to hate his guts. The Avatar’s girl.
Agni, how did they even get in this position? He had no recollection of the previous night, which he deemed odd considering he didn’t consume any alcohol. It was so obscene that he didn’t even want to process it.
Groaning softly, he buried his face deeper in the embrace of his pillow. Next to him, her body—naked body, he tried not to remind himself—stirred, and he immediately stilled, inwardly debating on whether or not he could sell being asleep. Feeling the dip of the mattress, he held his breath. Oh gods, how was she even going to react after this? Worse—how would he respond?
To make things even more awkward, he’d forgotten to breathe, letting out the most embarrassing gasp that he would remember for all eternity. Knowing he couldn’t avoid the situation any longer, he shot up, yet still couldn’t bring himself to look over.
“Agni, Zuko! You scared me!” A shiver crawled through his entire body at the sound of her voice. He hated this.
“Hey,” was all his stupid self could manage. Should he even dare to ask her about the previous night?
He swore he could sense Katara raising her eyebrow. The temperature of his body rose with every second that passed. Shoulders tensed, he prepared himself for the worst. Surely she’d be pissed at what happened.
“Ugh!” —Here it comes—“Have you seen my wrappings anywhere? I can’t find them.”
...huh? “I’m sorry?” Slowly, he turned his gaze in her direction. The confusion couldn’t get any worse.
“You know...what keeps my boo—“
“LORD! I know what they are!” He dragged his hand over his face, turning into a tomato. “Aren’t they on the floor or something with the rest of the clothes?”
“What clothes? The rest of my clothing, or yours for that matter, aren’t here either.” She fixed him a hard stare as if she could look right into his stupidity.
He cursed louder than he ever had in his entire lifespan. They hadn’t even had the decency to remove their clothing in his quarters? What happened last night?
Slipping out of the bed, he took his bedsheets with him, leaving her with the comforter on top. “Stay here for a moment,” he instructed, shuffling over to his wardrobe. “I would call the servants in to help, but uh...I don’t want any rumors to spread.
A chuckle rang out from behind him. “Scared a little rumor, Zuko? Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”
Blush crept to places he didn’t even know it could reach. “Shut up or I’m going to lock you in here alone!” Zuko shuffled through, having trouble finding a robe to even remotely fit Katara. “You should be concerned about it yourself, Chieftain. What if your monk boyfriend caught a whiff of it? I’ve seen what his jealousy can do,” he blanched. Coming across an older tunic of his, he tossed it backwards.
She caught it with a scowl. “Aang and I—“
“I don’t want to hear about your business! I’m just making a point. Just be conscious.” The sheets slid down briefly as he grabbed some clothes for himself. He almost screamed; seriously, when would his embarrassment stop? He immediately dropped the clothes in his hands to securely pull the sheets back up to his waist.
“You didn’t have to do that...I was enjoying the view.”
He whipped his head around to snap at her crude comment only to choke on his own spit at the sight of her. He’d heard about women wearing their lover’s clothes, but he never imagined witnessing someone wearing his own, especially Katara. To his relief, she hadn’t grown much in the past eight years, whereas he had, making the tunic cover her a decent amount. Yet, the contrast of her smooth brown skin to the crimson color of his clothes left him tongue-tied.
The young water bender slipped off his bed, drawing the corners of the tunic tight around her body. “Thank you for letting me borrow this. As much as I would like to stay and sight-see, I should probably get back to my own quarters. As you said yourself, we don’t want anyone asking any more questions than they already will. I’ll return this to you after the meeting this afternoon. See you later, Your Majesty.” Giving a mock bow, she flashed him a mischievous smile before slipping out the door to leave him in deafening silence.
He fell to the floor, dizzy with overwhelming emotions. There were so many questions he had for both himself and her, but no answers were found.
Breakfast was torture. Zuko sat in the midst of the other leaders talking about all the changes being made in the alliance, which would have been interesting if Katara wasn’t sitting right next to him. She acted casually, speaking with the silky, eloquent voice of hers. It was as if nothing had ever happened, and that frustrated him.
It didn’t help that Aang sat on the other side of him, oblivious to what had went on. He wanted to flip the table and address what he felt was the elephant in the room, but that wasn’t going to happen.
“What do you think about the new medical plan, Fire Lord Zuko?”
He gripped the edges of his chair, trying his best to maintain his composure. “Ah..uh..yes, I think it’s a very well-thought out plan. The Water Tribes should be applauded for their continued efforts to improve the healthcare of their people. I would be happy to apply their methods here as well.” He glanced next to him, locking eyes with Katara instead of averting her gaze, which is what he truly wanted to do in that moment. “If that’s alright with you, of course. I hear this idea was originally your own.”
She grinned. “The credit isn’t all mine. Both Aang and the healers from the North played a part as well.”
A pang shot through his heart at Aang’s name, but he brushed it aside. “Well then, you’ll have to give them my thanks. For now I can only express my gratitude to both you and the Avatar.” He nodded at the man beside him, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly at the big, toothy smile that was flashed at him.
He felt guilty at that moment, thinking back on the kid that believed him even when others didn’t. There was no way he was going to let their friendship crumble because of what had went on (whatever it was) the night before. He needed to apologize to Aang, no matter what the outcome was.
But that required him actually finding out what the heck occurred between him and Katara. Since he had such a difficult time even looking at her, it was impossible to gather details that way. However, there was someone, or rather two someone’s, who always knew what went on around them, and they were his only choice at the moment.
Even if he just had breakfast, there was still room for tea.