The first time it happens is on the docks.
They haven’t seen each other in six months, but they’ve exchanged letters every week. In the beginning they signed their letters, “Hope you’re well,” or “Take care.” But more recently things like “Missing you,” and “Until we’re together again,” have been making appearances at the bottom of their letters. Zuko always signs his own name simply, in clear and plain characters. But he always writes Katara’s name with flourished script, as if every time he twirls the brush in his hand to write her name, he is painting a masterpiece.
It is no sooner than Katara sets foot on the wooden planks of the docks that he lifts her off them. She is bound up in Zuko’s warm embrace. He twirls her around, once, twice, uncaring of the prying eyes surrounding them. She laughs, joyous and unrestrained and basks in the strength of his arms around her.
The next time it happens is on the beach.
Katara steps out of the water and the little droplets that sparkle against her skin are brighter than the blazing sun above and infinitely more entrancing.
Zuko can’t help himself. (Not that he wants to.) “I think I love you,” he blurts.
“You think?” Katara smiles at him and wrings the water out of her thick hair.
“I do.” The words dance out his mouth, light and true. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
He sweeps her legs out from under her, cradling her in his arms as he twirls them around. But when he sets her down to kiss her, she throws herself at him, wrapping her legs around his hips so that he has to catch her again. She kisses him into a head-spinning high. He kisses her until they’re both breathless and dizzy.
The next time it happens is at the edge of a glacial cliff at her home in the South Pole. This one isn’t so much of a twirl as a spin. Or perhaps a flip. Zuko holds a ring out on his mitten and allows the swirling, twirling, flipping, flopping, unplaceable, unnamable feeling in his heart shape the words that form on his tongue.
“Marry me? Please?”
Katara makes a sound that may have been “Yes.” It may also have been “Duh.” It may have been “Finally.”
She tackles him and fortunately the soft snow is there to cushion his fall. She kisses him and only allows him to be away from her a fraction of a second to whisper “Yes, yes, yes.”
She kisses him into the snow until there is a distinct Zuko imprint. He decides that this is unfair and he flips her onto her back and kisses her until there is a Katara imprint in the snow.
It happens their entire life. Zuko loves to pick her up; he loves to feel the way she clutches to him; he loves the way she giggles or squeaks; he loves the look on her face when he sets her down, always asking for a kiss.
It happens when Katara finds Zuko spinning slowly, rocking their baby in his arms. He dances quietly around the room, oblivious to everything but the nodding-off child in his arms.
It happens when she surprises him in his office late at night. It happens when they run into each other in the hall. Sometimes it’s a quick twirl and a quick kiss between the everything-elses of life. Sometimes it’s a slow spin and a long, lingering kiss after the unpredictable dips and lifts of the dance that is their life together.
It happens randomly.
It happens all the time.
It happens at their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They dance slowly and, in this moment, the world revolves around them. Zuko holds her close against him and although he loves the onlookers that are here to celebrate with them, he sees only Katara in this moment. Katara, his whirling, swirling bride. Katara whose very name is a masterpiece itself. Katara, the woman who sweeps him off his feet with every look, every laugh, every “I love you.”
He twirls her and she laughs, light and sweet. Her laugh rings in the air and his arms tighten around her.
And so it goes. Through the dizzying realities of life, they always find a way to twirl together.