Hello again, darlings! You should know that I started typing this the instant chapter 15 was up, just like I promised. I don't know when I'll finish, but hopefully it'll be soon.
Okay, now that months and months and months have passed, I've decided to wrap this sucker up. This is the end, my wonderful readers, and as such, there is no letter. (just a warning for any of you out there who still care about formatting.) Thanks for sticking with me for two ridiculous years.
This chapter is slightly more...risqué, let's say, than the previous ones, but we're all mature people here, right? Riiiiight? Oh, who are we kidding? Try not to giggle too much or get offended.
Zuko awoke with the feeling of someone in his arms. He had never done that before. Sure, there had been...other women, since Katara. To put it delicately. Well, one other woman, to be more precise. When he was younger. Too young. And stupid. A stupid kid who thought that the best way to celebrate a war's end was with a woman he barely knew, and who had left him before the sweat on his forehead had dried.
This, though…this was different. He felt incandescent. Like the woman in his arms had taken some of that inner light that burned so brightly within her and passed it into him. Like she had taken the broken, scarred man that he was and made him something better.
He liked that feeling. He could get used to it.
Katara stirred in his embrace. She was wearing one of his plainer tunics. She had awoken after only an hour of sleep, complaining of cold. Zuko chuckled softly at the memory. She got cold so easily, for someone from the South Pole. But he supposed living in that climate only made her appreciate warmth that much more.
She opened her eyes and blinked adorably.
"What's funny?" she asked in a tiny, tired voice. Zuko couldn't help but smile and press a soft kiss to her lips.
"You are," he replied.
"You know what's funnier?" Katara teased, yawning. "Your snoring. Except it isn't. Because it nearly singed my hair off." Zuko snorted.
"I don't snore," he scoffed.
"Sure you don't," Katara said. "And I'm madly in love with Aang." At this, Zuko laughed.
"Don't be ridiculous," he chided her. "Remind me…whose bed are you in right now?"
"Hmm," Katara mused. "You know what? I can't quite recall. Give me a hint," she said, grinning.
"Well," Zuko said, tapping his mouth in thoughtfulness. "He's really good looking." Katara laughed, and it was a glorious sound. "And he's very smart," Zuko continued. "Not to mention those abs. Don't even get me started."
Katara grinned and poked at Zuko's stomach.
"Abs, huh?" she asked. "Not sure I've ever met anyone like that. Really good looking? It's not ringing a bell."
"Well, that's a shame," Zuko remarked casually. "Because if you don't know who the guy is, he certainly isn't going to bring you breakfast." Katara stomach growled rather inopportunely.
"Hmm," she said. "Excellent point."
"I know," Zuko countered, looking smug.
"I guess I remember the guy somewhat. About yea high," she gestured over her head, "moody, shaggy hair? Snores?" she goaded him, grinning. He couldn't help but grin back. There was a moment of silence where they just laid there, looking at each other. Not talking, but not in awkward silence. Just…comfortable. Zuko had never felt more…right.
"Marry me," he blurted, the words escaping him before he had time to think. Katara's eyes widened.
"What?" she asked in shock. Realizing what he had said, Zuko knew that it was exactly what he wanted to say. He wanted Katara in his life forever. He wanted her at his side, his wife, his Fire Lady, his family. His everything. So he repeated himself.
"Marry me," he said insistently, still smiling. Katara shook her head.
"Zuko, I can't marry you," she said, her face incredulous. Zuko, for some reason, was unperturbed.
"Why not?" he asked her, knowing that her reasons why she shouldn't marry him could never outweigh his reasons why she should.
"Your people," she started to say.
"Need to get used to change," he cut her off. She shook her head at him, propping herself up on one elbow, looking down at him where he lay.
"Your advisors," she began.
"Don't own me," he finished for her. He reached up and toyed with her hair. She sighed in frustration.
"But your uncle," she tried to tell him, swatting his hand away.
"Loves you. Probably more than he does me," Zuko told her, taking her face in his hands. "Katara, stop doing this to yourself."
"I can't!" she exclaimed. "I can't marry you! I'm not good enough for you!" she said, finally voicing the fears that had been lurking in the back of her mind for three years. At this, Zuko's persistent smile faded. He looked furious. He was furious.
"Don't say that," he said to her, getting out of bed and stalking around his room in a pair of black pants. Katara couldn't help but admire his muscular back even as she feared his anger. With a jolt, she realized that he was still speaking to her.
"Don't ever say that," he repeated emphatically, nearly yelling, turning to her. "You are…you are beautiful, and kind, and caring, and strong, and everything that a good person should be and more, and you deserve every happiness that this world can give you. So don't you ever say that you aren't good enough, not for anything," he said, quieting. "Because you are," he finished. He sat on the edge of his bed, looking deeply into Katara's eyes, hoping she saw in them how much he loved her and needed her.
For a long time, she didn't say anything, and he couldn't read the look on her face. Finally, she spoke.
"Okay," Katara said, and Zuko breathed in with a whoosh, just now realizing he had been holding his breath to begin with.
"Okay?" he asked, to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
"Okay," she replied. "I'll marry you." Katara smiled for the first time since he had brought the subject up. Zuko felt his heart soar. He had thought he was happy before, when he had awoken to find that it, that Katara, was not a dream. That happiness was nothing compared to what he felt now. Not knowing what else to do, Zuko threw himself onto the bed and kissed Katara deeply.
"I love you," he mumbled against her lips.
It had been worth the wait.