notes Ah, Zutara and Disney. Happy Holidays, ChelseaM3!

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a girl worth fighting for

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i. let's get down to business

"I didn't know The Blue Wolf of The South had another son… and a waterbender at that."

Katara squirmed under Prince Zuko's gaze; his golden eyes were smoldering, and she wasn't quite sure how to handle it. She was sure her heart was working overtime, with the way she could hear it in her ears, but she had to suppress the blush that she was sure was coming so she could act manly.

"Um!" she squeaked—squeaked!—accidentally, but was saved when Toph slapped the back of her head. "Ow!"

Prince Zuko raised his good eyebrow.

"Uh," she corrected, in a much deeper voice, "Yeah. Dad doesn't talk about me much."

"I think I can see why," the prince replied, and even though his tone was condescending, Katara was too distracted by the way he leaned in to inspect her. "You said your name was Sokka?"

Wow, she thought, he was gorgeous even with the scar.

Toph hit her again. "Ow—yes! I mean, uh, yes, your highness."

Finally, when he seemed satisfied, he leaned back and waved a hand to dismiss her. "I understand the Water Tribe only sends men to war. I would have preferred your father, as he has faced our enemy before, but you'll do."

She would've been fine ending it there, but Toph shouted do something manly! and really, the first thing that came into her mind was scratching her balls.

So she did. Theoretically.

"You won't regret this, Prince Zuko, your highness, sir," Katara said, while scratching her theoretical balls.

The prince pinched his nose. "I think I already do."

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ii. a fire within

It had taken her quite a while to get Prince Zuko's approval in combat—and Toph certainly didn't help by trying to cheat while training was going on—but finally, at the last day of bending practice, she thought she saw him nod approvingly at her after their spar.

She was fantasizing about that nod (and that small smile) he gave her as she bathed in the lake.

"Ew, Sugarqueen, your demeanor is disgustingly giggly again, so I can only assume you're thinking of Prince Sparky."

Katara rolled her eyes. Toph was unforgiving with her teasing the past week, especially regarding her supposed crush on Prince Zuko. "I'm not giggling, Toph. I'm just satisfied he's finally recognized me as an equal in bending."

Her ancestor-guardian rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure. That'swhy you're thinking about him while you're naked."

Katara blushed quite scandalously, and not because the word 'naked' made her think of Prince Zuko stripping for practice a few days ago.

"I wasn't!"

"What? I'm just saying, I don't blame you. I've been around some time and he's got the finest ass I've seen in a century. And not to mention his package—"

"Toph!"

"Which you're about to see in a few seconds…"

"WHAT?"

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iii. hope he doesn't see right through me

After weeks of rigorous training, they were finally being called to the frontlines. Katara knew they weren't ready—she could see it on the frown of Prince Zuko's face—but the letter from General Iroh came, and they had to respond.

They had to march over two mountains to get to the rendezvous position, and judging by the company, Katara could tell it was going to be a long walk.

"So," Jet, who Katara had memories of she wish she could permanently erase ("I'm king of the rock, suckers!"),drawled, "What's your type, Sokka? I bet you like women with a bounce, huh," he said 'bounce' with a smile that could make prostitutes run. He made grabbing motions and added, "I like them big myself!"

Before Katara could reply, Haru, who Toph referred to as 'Mustachio', said, "Breasts aren't the only thing important in a woman, Jet," and Katara thought he was a decent guy, right then and there, until he added, "The backside is important too."

The other men murmured in agreement, and suddenly they were on a roll.

"She should be as pale as the moon! With eyes that shine like stars!"

"She should marvel at my strength, and adore my battle scars!"

"I could care less what she looks like, it all depends on what she cooks like!"

They laughed together, and Katara considered draining all the water from the rice paddies around them to freeze them until they learned their lesson.She was contemplating on concentrating the ice in one particular area, but her daydream paused when Prince Zuko broke rank to scold them.

"What's all this noise about?" He demanded. The men immediately cowered and silenced, and that would've been the end of it, but Jet.

"We were just discussing women, your highness," Jet said, bowing partially, but with his trademark smirk on Katara couldn't tell if it was really out of respect or mockery. "Perhaps you'd like to join us?"

Prince Zuko seemed shocked he was asked such a direct question, but kept his face stern. "No, that is fine. Carry on, soldiers."

He began steering his horse away, but then someone from the ranks whispered, "I heard the only girl he knows is his mother." Everyone stilled, even the prince's horse, but whoever that was didn't know how to read the environment and added, "and Princess Azula, but I don't think she counts."

Since he was facing away from them, Katara couldn't read the prince's reaction. She half expected him to challenge the speaker (it sounded suspiciously like Toph) to an Agni Kai, but then she knew he held Agni Kais in higher regard than that. Perhaps a more traditional punishment: maybe making them do a kata a hundred times? It would be tiring and utterly painful, but it was worth it if it meant all of them shutting up.

Surprisingly, he did none of the above, and was actually very calm when he turned around. "If you must know, I like a girl who has a brain, and who always speaks her mind."

Katara thought she saw him glance at her before he galloped away, and but it couldn't be.

After all, she was a man! Right now, at least. Right? He couldn't know, right?

Her heart was hammering a mile a minute.

"Spirits, Sugarqueen, Sparky stares at you for one second and you go crazy. You must really like his ass." Toph picked her nails from her position on Katara's head. For the nth time since their companionship, Katara thanked her ancestors for making sure only she could see and hear the little earthbending spirit. "In fact, he just got off his horse to fix his boot. He's bending over right now—"

Katara swatted Toph away.

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iv. time is racing towards us

It figures her secret would come out because she tried to save everyone's lives.

Her older brother always told her that her selflessness would get her into some sort of trouble one day.

"It all makes sense to me now," Prince Zuko breathed, backing away from her, and she bit her lip to prevent from calling him back. He came to see her in the healing hut, where she had no choice but to strip in order to heal the large gash wound the enemy general gave her, and he had entered just when she was putting back her chest bindings. She was afraid he'd be angry—or worse, disappointed—in her, but his expression only showed awe. He was staring at her like everything just made sense for him, and he looked very, very relieved.

She couldn't help but scowl. "What are you looking at me like that for?"

"That night at the lake," he was drawing things out, clearly mapping his understanding in his head. "No wonder why you were so embarrassed."

"What?"

"I thought it was strange—a man who scratches his balls in public shouldn't be ashamed to bathe with other men. But you… you squealed when Jet touched you, then you ran away. It didn't make any sense to me. I thought about it the entire night."

Katara couldn't believe this. "You lost sleep over that?"

He didn't seem to hear her. "I can't believe Uncle was right," he said, more to himself than anyone else, and Katara caught that rare small curve at the corner of his mouth.

It was nice he wasn't mad at her being for a woman pretending to be a man (Katara crossed her fingers and hoped he wouldn't report her to the Water Tribe first, because her dad might kill her before Chief Arnook did) but he still wasn't making any sense to her. "What do you mean Uncle was right?"

"Uncle—um, General Iroh, wrote to me, telling me to believe in my manliness."

That made even less sense. "Why would he tell you something like that?"

"That is—I wrote to him about how strange you were and how I couldn't help but feel attr—" Prince Zuko flushed, and with the rise of heat to his cheeks, he seemed to remember himself. "I mean—forget it. It's none of your business."

Katara wondered where this strange, awkward, not-making-sense Prince Zuko came from. Where was her angry, fearless Captain? The commanding officer who confidently told her 'I can make a man out of you'? The sparring partner who admitted she was his equal? He used to treat with her taciturn respect, not with awe and embarrassment. How could have everything changed between them now just because he knew she was…

"Does it… really make much of a difference?" She asked, quietly, "Now that you know I'm a woman?"

"No," the prince answered quickly, but Katara could tell it was a lie. Of course it mattered. The Water Tribe-Fire Nation treaty agreed they'd only take men for field soldiers, in consideration for the Water Tribe's culture, of course. The Fire Nation, who traditionally accepted women warriors, had to restrict the women to do guard work within their borders. If Zuko didn't report her and someone else found out, both of them would be in deep water because of what she did.

"I suppose," Katara began, weighing the consequences in her mind, "I'll just turn myself over." It was the best course of action for both of them. She began to stand up, trying not to mind her fatigue (she had to bend an avalanche), but Prince Zuko's sudden grasp on her shoulder made her stop.

"Don't do that," he murmured.

"What? You can't keep my secret. If you do, we'll both be—"

He silenced her with a finger on her lips. Katara's entire world stilled, and all she could see was the prince's intense golden eyes, focused on her, and she suddenly remembered her first day in training camp, how those eyes made her almost forget why she was there.

"I told you," he said, and really, he should stop touching her because she couldn't think—wait, was it just her or was he getting closer? She could practically feel his breath on her cheek, and his hand was hot on her bare shoulder.

Prince Zuko spoke against her lips, "It doesn't matter to me."

Then he leaned further in.

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v. heed my every order

In the end, one of the other Water Tribe warriors, Hahn from the North (no wonder he was such a prick, Northerners were such pricks!), found them out, and threatened to report Zuko to the council as a traitor.

"Water Tribe women are banned from joining the war," he stated for everyone to hear, after he had caught her and Zuko in a mild state of undress (she remembered Toph complaining I told you so! I told you to keep your clothes on!) "But the prince has been harboring one ever since the beginning! Keeping her for his own pleasure, asking her to pretend to be a soldier!"

Katara didn't like where this was going. Clearly, Hahn was trying to attack Zuko more than her. "No!" She tried to project her voice as much as possible, with as much dignity as she could while in a poorly tied Fire Nation robe, "None of that is true! Zuko had nothing to do with me joining the war! I just… I just didn't want my father to be called! He's very old, I wanted him to rest! And my brother has been missing for years!"

Hahn sneered. "So, you came here of your own accord, but offered your body to the prince so he would keep your secret!" He made a twisted face and prepared to scream, "Whor—"

But Zuko punched his face before he could project the shout.

Almost automatically, Jet and the others shielded her from Hahn.

"You traitors to the treaty!" Hahn's nose was bloody and Katara was sure at least two of his teeth were chipped, but she had to give him credit for resilience. "I'll make sure the Council of Elements hears of thi—"

To everyone, it looked like Hahn passed out before he could finish his sentence. To Katara, it looked like a really angry Toph knocked him out with some earthbending.

Zuko was still breathing heavily, and his fists were clenched in anger. Katara reached out and held his arm.

Jet whistled softly.

"So, what do we do now?"

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vi. a girl worth fighting for

Katara supposed, amidst everything, she was lucky she got out of the war alive. They defeated their enemy, and thanks to the Avatar bowing to her in front of the entire Council of Elements (you have done me—and the world—a service, child) Chief Arnook even (reluctantly) pardoned her disobedience to the Water Tribe, and the council pardoned her disobedience to the treaty.

She went home carrying the Avatar's Staff (so your family will know what you did for me) and the crown of the tyrannous Earth King (so everyone will know what you did for the world). Honor didn't matter so much to her family as compared to others, but she was just proud she wouldn't bring shame to any of them.

When the tearful reunion with her father was done, she was also glad to find out that her brother was back from guerilla warfare—"The realSokka is here," he proudly exclaimed, and Katara was just so happy to see him she decided she'd tell him about the embarrassing things she did under his name at a later time.

She was in the middle of thanking her ancestors for Toph (who regained her status as Greatest Earthbender In The World… for some reason, Katara did not want to know how that status was taken away—it involved three centuries, a lot of cactus juice, and an Avatar called Twinkletoes—and why guiding her was the condition for getting it back) when she heard her grandmother welcoming someone by their front door.

"Good day, Honorable Grandmother," she heard the familiar rasp of formal tones, accompanied by an awkward cough. "I am Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, Duke of The Outer Islands, First Son of Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa, Third in Line for The—"

Her grandmother simply stared at him, unimpressed. She didn't even let him finish before she called, "Katara! Your husband is here!"

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"He's not my husband, Grandma! We're not married!"

"It sure sounded that way, from the activities you two did… at least, according to your little earth spirit."

"What? No, we—Toph!"

"I just report the truth, Sugarqueen!"

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When her grandmother finally left them alone, and Toph's cackling finally subsided in the background, Katara was sure she was red until her neck. The only consolation was that Zuko looked the same.

"So, um," she began, trying to lighten up the situation and save them from further embarrassment, "What brings you here?" They had parted on good terms, but they never really agreed when to see each other again. After defeating the Earth King, the pull of their duties to their family was strong, so they decided to handle that first. Katara really didn't expect to see him so soon.

"You, uh," Zuko, for all his princely demeanor—straight back, perfect posture, impeccable armor, topknot without a hair out of place—still acted like an awkward teenage boy around her sometimes, and she loved it. "I thought… I thought you might want to have back your necklace."

Oh. "You still have it?"

He looked offended. "Of course! I made sure it was with me all the time." He coughed. "I mean, after Hahn… I made sure everyone remembered you. What you did for us. You saved us from that avalanche. I wore it around my wrist so everyone could see."

Katara grinned. She took his wrist and held it gently. "I bet Hahn hated that."

"He did." He twisted their hands so he was holding her instead of the other way around, and his fingers began to intertwine with hers. "So, will you take the necklace?"

Katara raised an eyebrow. "You know what it means when you give me a necklace, right?"

Zuko only smiled.

She knew that smile. It was the same one he gave her after he told Jet what kind of woman he wanted.

He knew!

With her heart fluttering in her chest, Katara asked, "Do you want to stay for dinner?"

Suddenly, her grandmother (who, now that she thought about it, she was sure was eavesdropping with Toph) asked, "Do you want to stay forever?"

Zuko lifted his free hand to touch her face, gently, and Katara could feel the heat in his fingers. She closed her eyes as he tucked a piece of hair away from her forehead and kissed her there.

"Dinner... sounds great."

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"I hope they don't live here when they get married, because really, the things I had to go through after they started getting it on!"

"Toph!"

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FIN – 011414

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endnotes Merry Christmas, ChelseaM3! Thank you also for your gift to me. A lot of things happened during the holidays and during my first few weeks back from the festivities, and I really wasn't able to manage my time well between this, the family outings, medical school, and getting sick to top it all off. Thus, I sincerely apologize for being late.

Thank you also to chromeknickers for being an awesome admin about this.

Part of ChelseM3's prompts was "Disney", so I decided to do Mulan! I originally wanted to do Aladdin, but I've seen that been done by other authors before, and I don't think I could match what they've already written. Frozen was also an option, but I'd have to change the story drastically for it to fit the characters, so I decided to forego it.

There are a lot of inside jokes only people who have watched Mulan might get, so I hope most of you got it! If not, watch Mulan! It's one of my favorite Disney movies, so I highly recommend it.

Roughly, these were the characters and their counterparts:

Fa Mulan - Katara
Li Shang - Zuko
Mushu - Toph
Lao, Ying and Chien Po - Jet and Haru
Chi-Fu - Hahn
Shan Yu - Unnamed tyrannous Earth King
The Emperor of China - The Avatar

I posted this in AO3 before posting here… hopefully this version is a much cleaner one, and it makes more sense.

Critique, as always, is appreciated!