Zuko couldn’t sleep.
Apparently it didn’t matter that he had been up since the ass-crack of dawn and in and out of meetings literally all day. His brain just… would not shut off. And as much as he tried not to think about her, his thoughts always ended up circling back to Katara.
She had been staying in the fire nation for a few weeks now; she had come just for a visit, but when Zuko had asked for her help with reallocating some funds to the local hospitals, she had quickly made it her duty to make sure that those hospitals had the money they needed. She had also made a habit of visiting the facilities herself and taking stock of whatever else they needed, and asking how she personally could help. Of course, Zuko was ever grateful to her for that; it meant that he didn’t have to send one of his own people to work out what the hospitals needed, and Katara probably knew more about what they could benefit from than anyone he employed at the palace anyway.
But, although she had been an incredible help to him, she was also a huge distraction. He found himself getting lost staring into her eyes, only to be brought back by an awkward cough from a guard or Katara herself asking if he was okay. His thoughts would frequently wander during meetings towards how good she looked in red, and how he loved not only seeing her in his nation’s colors, but also that he loved seeing her in the midriff-baring shirts that were the style in the Fire Nation right now. Which wouldn't be an issue if his meeting room wasn’t filled with a dozen middle aged and old men that ended up just staring at him as he tried to remember what they had said while he had been daydreaming about running his hands along Katara’s bare hips.
So here he was, lying in his too big bed, trying desperately not to think of Katara (thinking about her while he was in bed was never a good idea) so that he could finally go to sleep.
Clearly, it was not working.
Sighing with frustration, Zuko decided that sleep was apparently just not happening tonight, at least not now, and it might do him some good to blow off steam in the training area. He pulled on a light robe, not feeling the need to find a shirt since he would be taking it off to train anyway, and headed down to the open space he used to practice his firebending.
He stepped outside into the refreshing night time air; it was still warm, but nights in the Fire Nation were usually a very comfortable temperature. The full moon hung high in the sky, the stars surrounding it sparkling like jewels. Zuko took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the night before he realized that someone else was already in the courtyard.
And of course, it was Katara. It seemed that he would not be able to escape her tonight, either in his thoughts or in person.
She must have been restless as well (Zuko remembered her once telling him that the full moon made it hard for her to sleep) because she was standing knee deep in the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, gracefully bending the water in a large ribbon around her head. She had her eyes closed, and Zuko couldn't help but stare at her. She looked so serene; little droplets of water speckled the bare skin where her clothes did not cover her, which was most of her body. It looked like she was just wearing a thick band of fabric as a shirt that came to rest a few inches above her belly button, and a pair of short leggings that ended about half way up her thighs. Zuko suddenly felt his mouth go dry, and just as he had decided that he would turn around and go back inside to fail miserably at falling asleep again, Katara opened her eyes and found him openly staring at her.
“Oh, hey Zuko,” she spoke casually, letting the water she had been bending fall back into the fountain. “You couldn't sleep either?”
“Nope,” his tongue felt like it was three times its normal size in his mouth, and the monosyllabic answer was all he could manage while she was standing there in front of him.
“Well… did you want to spar?” she shrugged her shoulders and stepped out of the fountain. “I figure you’re probably here because you wanted to expend energy, so we might as well help each other out.”
“Sure,” he did his best to ignore the wording she had used (he would love to help her out with some other things, too…) and walked towards her, dropping his robe on the ground on his way. He thought he noticed her looking at his chest, but mentally shook himself. He must have been imagining things, because there’s no way she’d look at him like that.
They both dropped into bending stances, and soon there was water and fire flying through the air, clouds of steam regularly drifting up into the sky. Zuko tried so hard to stay focused, but the moonlight reflecting off of Katara’s skin, slick with sweat, and the stars reflected in her eyes made for a wonderful distraction. Her hair had come loose from the bun she had it in when he arrived, and the light from the moon bounced off the water in her hair in the most tantalizing ways. He couldn’t help but take in the soft curves of her body and the strong muscles of her thighs and arms that were accentuated by the starlight. He really did try, but the captivating image of Katara combined with the exhaustion of working all day and sleeping so little finally caught up to him, and eventually she had him pinned down on the ground, her thighs bracketing his hips and her hands holding his arms out to each side, pushing down with the weight of her upper body to keep him there.
“Do you yield?” she was panting above him, the majority of her thick hair spilling over one shoulder, cascading down beside his face like a waterfall. Her big blue eyes stared into his, sparkling with the light from the moon like firecrackers, and he couldn’t help but get swallowed by them. He took in every inch of her face as it glowed above him like his own personal star as he stared dumbly at her, at a total loss for words because of her all encompassing beauty. His breath was already labored from the fight, but he felt like his heart was beating faster than humanly possible due to her proximity, and he just couldn’t make his mouth move enough to form words.
He couldn’t be sure how much time passed as they laid there. It felt like hours, but in reality it was probably closer to seconds. Her lips were parted and her face was flushed from the fight, and Zuko found his thoughts beginning to wander the longer he stared at her. And he couldn’t kid himself; he was absolutely staring. The curve of her neck and bare shoulders glistening with sweat called to him, and he wished nothing more than to be able to taste the spot where her neck and shoulder met.
When he finally looked back into her eyes, he was met with her intense stare, and there was a certain heat behind her eyes that he’d never seen before (except for in his dreams). He saw her look down at his lips as she licked her own, and his heart was beating so fast he thought it might explode right out of his chest. When she looked back up into his eyes, something snapped in both of them, and they surged forward at the same time, their lips crashing in a heated kiss. Katara moved her hands from holding Zuko’s arms down so that she could rest her weight on the ground, and Zuko took the opportunity to thread his fingers into her hair at the nape of her neck with one hand while he wrapped the other around her back to pull her body flush against his. The feeling of her skin on his birthed an intense wave of heat inside of him, and he reluctantly broke the kiss before his body decided to take over and embarrass him.
Again they stared at each other, both trying to catch their breath, and a small smile crept onto Katara’s face as she leaned her forehead against his. She let out a soft giggle, and Zuko couldn’t help the smile that spread over his face.
“That was…” she started, not seeming to know where her thoughts were taking her.
“Not what you expected to happen when you came out here?” Zuko finished for her and she nodded, lifting her weight off of him and lying down on her back beside him. “Yeah, me neither.”
“Well,” she turned her head to look at him, and the smile on her face made the moon and stars look like dying embers compared to the brightness he saw there. “I’m definitely not complaining.”
“Good. I don’t think my ego could handle it if you had complaints,” a different kind of warmth spread through him as she laughed at his dumb joke, and he realized that this girl held his whole heart in her hands, and he wouldn’t trade it for the world. “What now?”
She turned her head and looked back up at the bright moon and twinkling stars.
“Maybe we can just stay out here for a while,” she had almost a wistful sound to her voice, and Zuko moved his arm so that he could hold her as she propped her head on his shoulder. “The sky is so beautiful tonight.”
Zuko hummed in agreement, and it didn’t even matter that the ground was hard beneath his back or that his arm would surely fall asleep the way it was positioned or that he was still sweaty and probably smelled. If he could, he would have stayed like this, gazing up at the night sky with Katara, for the rest of his days.