Work Header

Warm Cheeks

Chapter Text

That afternoon was nothing like a typical afternoon on Ember Island. The blue of the sky had been replaced by a grey shade of stormy clouds and the ever-playful sea now looked threatening. Zuko sat atop the balcony, watching the changing weather. He watched the clouds gather, reluctant to move despite the wind blowing from the north. He knew that if he stayed in the same spot the rain would soak him. He decided he didn't want to move, maybe the rain would wash away his doubts, his fears...
It had been two days since he and Katara had sat on the edge of the bridgefoot, with the tide soaking their bare feet, while they kissed. It had been two days since that kiss they shared for just some seconds. He remembered that as they separated, both looked out at the sea, perhaps not looking for answers, only wondering if it would keep their secret.
They had not been alone since that night. They spoke a few times, but the kiss did not come up, and Zuko, personally, was afraid to ask. Perhaps that was one-time thing, one of those one-time events best left in the past, because if you brought them into the present they would lose their charm.
A fine drop of rain took him out of his reflections, that drop became one, two: a hundred. Zuko closed his eyes and stood there, hands resting on the railing, as the rain soaked his hair, face, and fingers. It was a relaxing experience that, sadly, he did not do often.
"I didn't know you liked the rain." He suddenly heard. He recognized Karata’s voice, but did not move. He simply inhaled a breath of fresh air.
"It has a relaxing effect, this." He answered shortly after, still not opening his eyes. He heard footsteps: Katara was approaching.
"You know I wasn't used to the rain?" He heard her say, opened his eyes and turned to the waterbender. She took a couple more steps and put her arms on the railing, soaking wet with the rain as well.
"I had no idea, but it's strange, since you are a waterbender..." said Zuko, letting his words die, waiting for Katara to tell the rest of the story. Because from her intonation, he knew she wanted to tell something.
"There's very little rain at the South Pole." She explained. "Water always falls as snow. I'd only seen the rain a couple of times." Katara extended her hand to let more raindrops fall on her. "It still surprises me."
Zuko noticed that particular sparkle in her eyes, the one she always had when she spoke about something that excited her.
Katara closed her eyes and sighed, enjoying the rain that soaked her. Zuko smiled as he realized that, at least in that, they were similar.
"The first time I was in a big storm I felt very powerful." Katara counted, still with her eyes closed. Zuko merely watched as the raindrops trickled down the waterbender's face. "I don't know how to explain it. It's not the power I feel on nights with a full moon, no. This power was like running downhill, with nothing to stop you, just your restless heart, your legs that won't stop..." Katara exhaled, as if the memory alone made her feel powerful and she could not contain herself. She opened her eyes and looked at Zuko "I don't know if you've ever felt anything like that."
Zuko thought for a few seconds and remembered that time, right before he joined the group, when he redirected his father's lightning bolt.
"I caught a lightning bolt once. I redirected it, but for a few seconds... Yes, I understand what you're talking about." Zuko noticed Karata’s lips contracting into a smile and then looked away, realizing that perhaps it was too noticeable where his attention was.
Both were drenched in water, Zuko more than Katara, but water was dripping from both of them. Zuko went to pull back a strand of wet hair that fell unruly on his forehead, noticing that his hands were cold, that in all those minutes talking to Katara he didn’t bothered to warm himself. He wondered if Karata’s hands were cold.
Zuko extended his hand to Karata’s. He placed his palm on the back of one of the girl´s hand, noticing that her skin was cold. The waterbender placed his other hand over Zuko’s.
Zuko wondered how such cold hands could cause such a warm sensation in his chest.
"About what happened the other night..." Katara muttered. The firebender looked at her expectantly. "I don't know what to tell you."
Zuko looked at his hand, caught between Karata’s hands.

"You don't have to say anything."

"But I want to say something." She responded, frustration on her words.

"Then tell me what you feel, whatever you feel."

Katara watched him, with those big blue eyes. The prince was intimidated, but he did not look away.
"I like spending time with you. I couldn't stop thinking about that kiss, but I don't know, everything's so complicated now and I..."

"Then let's not complicate things." Zuko suggested, his voice drowned out. Katara seemed to expect a detailed explanation of that suggestion. He said his definition of uncomplicated. "If you just want to talk at nights or hold my hands, that's fine. If you just want to kiss when no one can see us... That's fine too. We don't need to decide anything yet, Katara."

Katara set her gaze on the sea. Apparently she was reflecting, the prince couldn't help but think that while the waterbender was reflecting, she was holding his hand between her owns.
After a long time Katara looked at him again.

"Nothing will be decided." She commented.

"Not until the war is over."
She nodded, happy with the idea. The firebender, now calmer, stroked his thumb on one of Karata’s hands. Then he gently unclenched the grip. This time he took the waterbender's hands in his hands, and in a few seconds warmed them. He noticed that beneath the raindrops, Katara had managed to blush. Zuko smiled, flattered by it, and then kissed her.

Their lips were both cold, but that changed after some seconds.