I love you for helping me build
Out of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple
It was the sound of shattering glass.
Katara dropped the wineglass she had been holding when she turned around and he was there on one knee. To his credit, Zuko didn’t move, didn’t even flinch. He was more than used to sharp edges – her sharp edges, his.
And he knew that those same edges bled seamlessly into the vulnerable parts of her. There, between her teeth. There, under her nails. There, inside her time-hardened bones lay her soft spots. The tender heart that she kept not hidden, only guarded. The sweet tongue that painted his name—
“Zuko,” she whispered above him. Her hair cascaded down her shoulders, a waterfall of loose curls. Her skin shined with sweat in the pale moonlight. Her eyes slipped closed as she circled her hips. “Harder. Please. Faster.”
Maybe he had let her weave her way under his skin, wrap around his bones until she was the answer to every question that had ever splintered off of his soul.
Her hands scrabbled at his chest and she whined again. He gathered both of her hands in his and drew her down.
“Not tonight,” he said against her lips. “Tonight,” she gasped as he slowly flexed his hips and filled her completely, “I just want to savor this.”
He lifted up the ring and asked again. It was the sound of crunching glass beneath her shoes and then the feeling of her lips on his and the shape of “Yes” over and over.
“Yes, ah! Yes!”
Katara always looked so beautiful when she came. Her legs trembled, her brows knitted, and she trapped her bottom lip between her teeth for exactly four seconds before the wall holding back the wave of pleasure shattered. Her features smoothed and her mouth formed a perfect little “O.” She swam in it for what may have been minutes or hours, heady and dazed.
“You’re too good to me,” she said as Zuko stood and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“No such thing.” He settled next to her on the bed and let his hands wander along her thighs, across her stomach, over her breasts. His words were the ghost of a breath in her ear, “You deserve everything. Let me give you everything.”
It was the sound of rain tapping on the glass windshield. Zuko took one hand off the steering wheel to hold Katara’s as they drove.
“Where shall we go to celebrate?”
“How about that little place down by the river?”
He made a sharp left turn and the tires squealed against the wet pavement.
She squealed when he picked her up suddenly and crushed her against him.
Sometimes the cruel parts of his past rearranged themselves into a venom that he had to bite back. Sometimes they took the shape of jealousy or fear and it was all he could do to center himself and breathe through the memories.
“I’m right here,” she said, and the words didn’t quite reach him.
It was the way she placed herself between the broken pieces of him like she was always meant to be there. It was the way he felt that, perhaps, he was more beautiful as kintsugi.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, stroking soothing lines up and down his back. “You’ll see.”
It was the sound of ringing glass as they toasted with champagne flutes.
“To our future.”
“Words like ‘forever’ and ‘always’ are lies,” she said, staring up at the ceiling. He rolled over to her, a worried look on his face. “People like to make these big promises, but in the end, they’re promises that can’t be kept. Nothing lasts forever.”
Sometimes the soft parts of Katara bled back into her sharp edges. Sometimes the shards of pain prodded at her soft heart until it was all she could do not to rip open her chest and throw her head back to curse the sky, the universe, the world that could be so merciless.
It was the way he melted into her and filled every crack and crevice. It was the way that he put her back together, fitting the fragments together and giving her pieces of himself to fill in the rest.
“Yes. Okay. I won’t promise you.”
“I’ll show you.”
He held her hand again on the drive home.
“This feels too good to be true,” she said, squeezing his hand.
“It’s true.” He lifted her hand to his lips to kiss it.
Her ring caught the light. Too much light for such a stormy night.
There was no time to scream. There was no time for fear. It was only a pair of headlights too bright and a cacophony of sounds too loud.
It was the sound of shattering glass.