The sun hangs low in the sky, casting an array of colours across it. Katara leans against the railing and looks out over the ocean below, basking in the late summer sunset, determined to soak in every last ray of sunshine. In a few moments, the light will slip away. She doesn’t want to miss it.
“Katara?” The raspy voice comes from behind her. She feels a smile creep up her lips and she lingers at the railing for a moment longer, before turning around to greet the source.
Zuko is in his royal garb, shoulders back, dark hair in a topknot. He looks… well, he looks like the Fire Lord. He gives her a small smile.
“Fire Lord Zuko,” she says, in the professional tone she uses in formal settings. She bows to him, as is customary, and he scowls.
“You don’t have to do that,” he says. He steps towards her and out from under the weight of his crown, shoulders relaxing, his gaze fixed on her. Katara feels the warmth in his eyes on her skin, more than that of the sun at her back. She wants to close the distance between them, but instead she is stuck staring back at him.
“What brings you out here?”
“I uh…” He blushes under her gaze. “I came to check on you,” he finishes. Katara raises an eyebrow, and ignores the heat rising to her face.
“Well, are you going to join me? You’re going to make me miss the sundown.” She turns back towards the railing, impatiently waving him forwards. He chuckles, and steps in beside her. His arm brushes hers, tingles the back of her neck, the base of her spine. She tries to focus on the sun, just dipping below the horizon now.
“It’s gorgeous,” she whispers. “I’m really gonna miss it.”
In a few moments, the light will slip away, and night will fall, and Katara’s last day in the Fire Nation capital will be over.
“Yeah.” She glances over at Zuko, to find him looking at her already. “I’m really gonna miss you.” Her heart stutters, her face burning. His eyes widen as his words catch up to him, and he takes a small step back, looking back down at the railing. “I —”
“I’m gonna miss you too, Zuko,” she says. And then, before she loses her nerve, she puts her hand over his.
He flinches, his head jerking back up to meet her eyes. She blanches, retracting her arm. “I’m sorry, I should have —”
He grabs her hand. Everything fades away. Her mind runs in circles, a desperate attempt at coaxing her mouth into forming words. His grip is firm and warm, as steady as his gaze. “It’s okay,” he says, lacing his fingers with hers.
The feeling returns to her mouth. “Okay,” she breathes. A grin breaks out across her face. Zuko’s smile is shy, but his golden eyes are sure. Katara discovers that she much likes the way he is looking at her. Her stomach flutters pleasantly. She breaks eye contact ever so slightly, to study his scar, and then, tentatively, she reaches up with her other hand, and places her palm on the rough tissue. Her heart flips. She feels the lightest of pressure as he leans in to her touch, his eyes fluttering closed. He looks so soft, so peaceful. Her thumb brushes the corner of his lips. Katara wonders what it feel like if she just drifted upwards ever so slightly and —
His hand closes over hers, and gently pulls it away from his face. Katara jolts backwards, slipping her hands out of his, and rocks back on to her heels. She peers up at him anxiously. Did he notice how close she got?
To her relief, he appears to be unfazed by her embarrassment, his eyes on the ocean again. She places a hand over her heart in an attempt to keep it in her chest, and follows his line of sight.
The sun is no longer visible, the last of its light dying the ocean a deep red, the sky turning indigo.
“We missed it,” Zuko murmurs. With her last shred of daring, Katara presses herself close to him, and lays her head on his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” she whispers. He wraps an arm around her shoulders.
As twilight fades and true darkness descends, they remain. Quiet voices and laughter ring out.
The light is gone but Katara’s day isn’t over yet.