By Seniya

There are times like these when the night seems to hang stagnant about them both, like a damp velvet curtain…confining…suffocating…smothering. They've learnt to ignore it. When the stars in the sky only seem to hiss in rage, never humming, only screaming a crude version of a lullaby, far too lovely a song to be sung by human lips, even with the grim lyrics…bittersweet lament.

And of course, when the moon looks upon them merely to turn away, refusing to bathe their bodies in her ethereal glow, she banishes her light elsewhere, and she leaves them both to the good humor of the dark...sweet suffering.

But these are the times that he cherishes most. When the violence around them has ceased, (silent now, if only for a mere moment); when the shuddering in her body has faded, both from the tears and him. The times when she's just curled up against him in that fragile ball, with her chestnut tresses tumbling across his naked chest like a silken river.

And then his heart trembles to think of her, and of their future, because tomorrow is creeping upon them both with each passing second, and he doesn't know if he'll ever have her near him again.

People die in wars.

After all.

And he's scared: terrified really, a deep, gruesome fear, part anger, part uncertainty, all consuming. Fear of loosing her, anger because he's let her get so close, fear of loosing himself so that she'd have to move through this life without him by her side, and anger at the anonymous future man whose arms she might find solace in.

And it's then that he knows that he wants her again; to hear the gasp of his name as he lures it from her parted lips; to gaze upon the flush on her face and her neck; to feel her warmth and her softness; to know that she is his and no one else's.

But he won't…because she's tired; tired from the tears; from the fights; from the fact that he's made love to her as though he were starving for her body. So he'll let her rest, for he isn't that selfish.

And she sort of shifts against him, and he only tightens his grip about her waist, and she sighs as he watches her face relax, as he listens as her breathing slows.

He can't sleep…rather, he won't. Not tonight when his dreams would never be able to compare to the reality. Tomorrow night, alone on the battlefield, then he would dream…of this. Of the touch; of the gooseflesh under his palms when he first kissed her trembling lips. Of the taste; the sleepy glide of her lips when she opened to grant him welcome. Of her aroma: something subtle, sweet and lingering.

He wants to remember her smell most of all, so he tries to burn it into his memory, while his mind jeers that it will only lighten with the sunrise and he will be left with nothing.

He ignores that as well. For time is far too precious to waste it with doubts and fears; to destroy this moment with words and foolish thoughts when all he wants to do is to feel and to remember.

Soon, he tells himself, soon he'll tell her everything. He'll explain to her just what she does to him…how she makes his pulse quicken and his thoughts blur—how she steals all of his reasoning and leaves him weakened.

He thinks that she already knows sometimes, only sometimes, for she isn't arrogant enough to brag about it. The fact that she's gentled the Fire Prince. That he's hers more than she is his and that he's far too besotted to care.

He's never rough with her, and that's surprising because she always imagined that he'd be violent and unpredictable. Yet he isn't. And sometimes the way he runs his hands along her face makes her think that he's even tender. Sometimes, the way he looks at her, at that exact moment when they're both drowning in that pool of white-hot sensation, it makes her believe in wonderful things…things like love and happiness…things like forever, because she's certain that she can see those things underneath his golden eyes.

Sometimes she wonders if he thinks that it's pathetic the way that she submits to him—falling down, finding salvation in the cocoon of his arms; dying just as he whispers her name against her neck.

And sometimes she can't bear it, just how quickly everything ends…and then she's forced to reawaken and made to remember that there is a war and it dawns tomorrow, and he might never be able to hold her again. And reality tears away at the trappings of her fantasy, leaving naught but ribbons that aren't even big enough to hold the pieces of her broken heart together.

So she always closes her eyes when it's over, because in her mind, in that darkness she can have happiness. And he always believes that she's asleep, and then there's sadness all around them and she just wants him to kiss her again because they could both already be dead.

And soon the sun will chase away the darkness, a savior to some; a slave master to too many. And tomorrow he will leave her side, still believing that she's asleep, and he'll brush a kiss against her forehead and whisper promises into her hair. And he'll touch her, run his finger along her cheekbone just because he wants to remember how soft she is, and then he'll leave.

And Katara will weep. She'll cry until her throat is raw and her head is throbbing, she'll scream curses at the sun and the Gods alike for taking him away from her. Because she's scared; she's terrified of being alone because she's grown accustomed to having him holding her and her body is merely a soulless shell without him to breathe life into it.

But tomorrow hasn't come yet, and it's still tonight, and she draws still nearer to his warmth, grateful, unbelievably grateful for the echo of his beating heart.


Author: Well, it's my first Zutara, and it was written in less than two hours when I had a fever…so if you don't think it's very good or as good as my others, don't flame me, I'm very sensitive. I hope you did enjoy though. I also posted this (or a less edited version of it) on the Zutara community on livejournal.

Disclaimer: I disclaim.