Ready for more? Here you go!

Warning: Mature content! For the full smutty version of this chapter please follow the links on my profile. Enjoy! ;)

Many thanks to PurseMonger! Without her, my horrible mistakes would still be there haha.

Avatar: the Last Airbender belongs to Bryke...unfortunately.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

New Sensations

Zuko slowly opened his eyes, blinking the haziness away as he tried to calm down his rapid breathing. He felt hot and the hardness between his legs ached as the last details of his very arousing dream left his mind. A dream where he had been doing very interesting things to Katara against a sturdy tree. A small groan escaped him as yet again he was tormented by images of what he could not have, but craved with all his being. At least, for a little while longer. Grumbling under his breath, the young firebender absentmindedly let his eyes wander around the unfamiliar dark room as he tried to sit up.

He gasped, his body stiffening, when he felt something brush lightly against his erection. Looking down, Zuko swallowed thickly when he saw Katara sleeping in his arms, her head resting on his upper arm and her leg thrown over his hip, dangerously close to his evident arousal. He very much wanted to roll them over until he was pinning Katara down beneath him so he could rub himself against her, but he fought vehemently to keep his control. He knew he should have kept his distance from her like he had been doing the past few nights, but the only thing he had wanted to do was have her in his arms after the vows they had made the previous night and the loving smile she had directed at him. Never before had he had the need, the desire, to say such tender and emotional words, but those were the kinds of feelings Katara evoked in him.

Taking a few calming breaths, Zuko tried to carefully extract himself from the waterbender wrapped so tightly around him, which was difficult since all he wanted to do was continue laying there with her in his arms. However, he knew if he remained he would want to do more than just cuddle with the beautiful waterbender.

Once he had gently moved Katara away from him and laid her comfortably back on her pillow, Zuko scooted away from the futon and stood up with a groan as he tried to adjust himself. This was really becoming a slightly embarrassing problem. With a sigh, Zuko turned his gaze to the window, noticing that small rays of light were peeking from the curtains. He knew that it was time for them to head out soon.

Turning back to the sleeping waterbender, an affectionate smile curled his lips as he watched her frown in her sleep at the lack of his body and warmth. She mumbled in her sleep, her brow furrowing softly, before she rolled onto her back, her lips slightly parted, and her breasts moving up and down as she breathed. The front of his pants tightened again.

Agni, how he wanted her.

Heaving a loud and self-pitying sigh, Zuko again turned away from Katara's enticing body. He had to get it into his head that he had to be patient and wait until the day came when he would finally be able to make love to her. And when that day finally arrived, nothing would be able to stop him from deriving pleasure from her body and returning the favor.

"Thank you, for your hospitality," Zuko said coolly as both he and Katara gave a small bow to the older couple standing on the porch of their house.

Zhuang Yu and Satomi quickly returned the bow before they straightened up with smiles on their aged faces.

"You're welcome. It's the least we could do for helping us," the gray-haired man replied.

"Have a safe journey, dears," Satomi spoke up as she waved at them as they shouldered their packs. "And I hope you have a wonderful and pleasurable marriage."

Katara blushed lightly when the older woman gave her subtle wink.

"Thank you," Katara responded sincerely.

After bidding Zhuang Yu and Satomi another goodbye and promising to repay everything they had done for them, Zuko and Katara turned away from the small house and headed out toward the village where they would make one stop before making their way to Omashu.

"What was that wink that Satomi threw at you?" Zuko asked curiously as he looked down at the young woman walking beside him.

Another blush appeared on Katara's cheek as she almost faltered in her steps.

"Oh, uh, it was nothing," she replied with a nervous giggle.

Zuko eyed her suspiciously, but he shrugged and let it go. It was probably something between women that he probably would not be able to understand anyway. He felt Katara grab his hand and he smiled as he squeezed hers. Now that they were alone again, he felt no qualms in showing her his affectionate side. He knew that she understood that he was apprehensive in showing his tender side since he was not used to them—his father and sister were not the most affectionate people, after all—and he did not want to seem too soft in front of the eyes of those he was trying to show his fierce and authoritative side to. He could just hear his advisors and courtiers chuckling under their breaths.

The morning sun was bright in the blue sky as both young benders walked along the path that would lead them to the village sometime in the late hours of the night. After their small talk from the previous night, their conversations began to flow as comfortably and as enjoyably as they had many times before. As more time passed by getting to know and understand each other better, the more their understanding and their love grew.

They paused for a few minutes to take a small break under the shades of some trees since the day had become hot. Katara replaced her water pouch to her hip after drinking some water before returning her attention to Zuko who was drinking from the water canteen she had been using before. She watched as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before he let out a sigh. Katara allowed her eyes to roam Zuko's tall frame even though his clothes were slightly impeding her view. She knew it was muscular and hard since his body had been pressed so close to hers a couple of times. Her eyes settled on the spot between his hard thighs as she recalled the feeling of another hard thing pressing into her.

A deep red hue surfaced on her cheeks and she quickly averted her eyes when he called out to her. She had been having such thoughts so many times recently that it slightly embarrassed her. Katara busied herself by retying the water pouch to her hip before she followed Zuko, taking his hand immediately when he held it out for her. He asked her if something was wrong, but she stuttered out that everything was fine. Not wanting for him to continue asking her, Katara pulled on his arm with a large smile and picked up their pace.

Ever since she had that talk with Satomi, Katara could not stop thinking about the older woman's words. She agonized over the decision of what to do, of the repercussion that would follow if she were to surrender to her attraction to Zuko, of what her family would think if they ever found out. And Zuko wasn't making it easier either, especially when he kissed her, or held her, or looked at her with smoldering eyes when he thought she wasn't looking.

However, after her talk with Satomi, she had a new point of view that she had never considered before to help her make a decision. Satomi had said there were other ways to be intimate that would not compromise her virtue, but would be pleasant nonetheless. Katara did not know what these other methods of intimacy could be, but the more she thought about it, the more curious she got, and the more she wanted to find out. With Zuko.

But could she really do such a thing? Would she regret it later if she allowed herself to become intimate with Zuko in such a way before they married?

Katara looked up from frowning pensively at the ground beneath her feet and shifted her gaze toward Zuko as he walked silently beside her. As if he felt her intense gaze on him, the young Fire Lord turned his head toward her and smiled as he brushed his fingers against her cheek. Katara let out a soft sigh and her heart stuttered in her chest at his affectionate gesture before she placed her hand over his.

Zuko paused at the adoring and soft look in her eyes before he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her gently into his strong chest. He was unable to stop himself from pressing a deep kiss to her lips, to express the same tender emotions he held for her that were difficult for him to expressed verbally. When Katara sighed delightfully into his mouth, he knew that she understood him just as she always did.

After a while of embracing and placing gentle kisses on each other's mouths, they realized they were on a road where anybody could chance upon them and they pulled away. They smiled sheepishly at each other before they continued walking without saying a single word, they knew there was none to be said at the moment to emphasize what was in their hearts.

"Agni, Katara, it's like you place a spell on me that makes me forget where I'm currently at and all I think about is kissing your lips," the young firebender told her after a while with a playful frown.

Katara giggled as she flicked her hair over her shoulder with an equally playful glint in her eyes.

"Oh, yes, because I'm an amazing enchantress," she said half sarcastically and half amusedly.

"Enchantress, indeed," Zuko whispered to her with a slight growl before he cleared his throat and resumed his cool expression. "Come on then," he urged as he tugged her along.

Katara smiled. That sweet kiss, Zuko's words, and the way her body reacted to his mere presence had made the decision for her.

She would follow both her Gran-Gran and Satomi's advice. She would keep her virginity until her marriage bed, but she would also allow her body the comfort and pleasure of being intimate with Zuko, however small that intimacy was. They did not have to make love and go through the whole act. No one needed to know what they did. It would be something special between Zuko and her. She felt so good when Zuko just kissed her and she burned to know what it would feel like if they went a bit further. She knew Zuko was an honorable man and he respected her wishes, even if it was obvious he had to hold himself back. That is why she trusted him, trusted him with her body and her heart. She loved him more than anything in the world and she was going to prove it to him by giving a bit more of herself to him than she had ever allowed any man before.

A small sigh escaped her as she flicked a glance toward her future husband's face. The only problem was to find a way to make him understand what she wanted without embarrassing herself.

The sound of a large group of people coming from behind made them tense, and they quickly veered off the path to hide behind the bushes and trees. They were apprehensive at the thought that it could be Jianguo and his group, so they peered warily behind the shadows of the trees. The group that passed them did not seem like they were from the rebels' camp and Zuko assumed that they were just heading toward the village. Both young benders looked at each other and smiled in relief at the thought that they were indeed heading back to civilization, however small it was. Just to be safe, they decided to walk beside the path, hidden among the trees, in case they ran into anyone else.

It was midafternoon when they decided to take a small break and eat the small rice balls Satomi had given them. Just as they were about to head out again, Katara paused and tilted her head to the side.

"What is it?" Zuko asked as he turned around when he noticed she had stopped.

"I can feel another large body of water not far from here," Katara spoke up as she looked at a point beyond the trees before she looked up at Zuko. "Maybe we can refill my water pouch and your water canteen."

Zuko frowned as he looked back at the path before he gave a small nod. They had consumed most of their water since the day had been hot.

"Let's check it out then," he said.

A few minutes later, they were struggling their way through a thick cluster of bushes before they suddenly emerged into a small and beautiful clearing. The lush green grass had a few patches covered with small white flowers that from afar resembled spots of white snow, while tall trees with branches heavy with green leaves encircled the peaceful glade to give it a feeling of a private haven. However, what had Katara smiling in delight was the tranquil waterfall that cascaded down in large rivulets from a small hill and pooled at a crystal clear pond surrounded by a few small boulders.

Zuko watched as Katara's blue eyes sparkled in fascination as she stared at the serene pool, and a small smile tugged at his lips at the way she lit up at the simplest of things. Of course, that did not mean he was not going to pamper her with exquisite gifts once they married. After all, she deserved everything he could give her.

"How about we spend the night here?" Zuko spoke up once she finally ripped her gaze from the trickling waterfall. "We can arrive at the village tomorrow."

"Are you sure?" Katara asked as a small crease appeared on her smooth brow.

"Yes," Zuko assured her with a smile. "You can even take a bath after we eat."

"Alright!" Katara relented easily with a large smile brightening her face.

Zuko chuckled at her quick response before he walked over to the edge of the pond and dropped the heavy bag with the things he was going to trade in the village. Katara quickly followed him and placed her lighter pack next to his. The only things she was carrying were a few new blankets Satomi had given them to replace the ones they had taken from Jianguo's camp.

"How about you collect firewood while I try to see if I can get something for us to eat?" Zuko spoke up when Katara turned to look at him.

"Okay, but be careful, alright? Try not to set the whole forest on fire," Katara told him with a teasing smile.

"I'll try," Zuko responded with a dry chuckle.

Walking away from the charming clearing, the young lord stepped into the thick forest as he tried to find something that he could present to Katara for their meal. So far, Katara had been the one that had provided them with food when she had caught some fish for them, and though he knew it was ridiculous, it had upset him. It was just that he felt like it was his responsibility to bring in the food. He was the man. It was his duty. And he wanted to prove to Katara that he was a man capable of providing her with what she needed.

Shaking his head, Zuko brushed the thoughts aside as he looked at his surroundings. He remembered the hunting tips Zhuang Yu had given him after bringing the boar-pigs into the house and he immediately set out to look for animal tracks. Watching for tracks was something he could do and was used to, and he carefully examined the forest floor as he went. Once he found small paw prints, he followed them until the tracks disappeared into a small hole between the roots of a large tree. As quietly as possible, Zuko retreated, sat in the shadows of some low trees, and stared at the dark hole to wait for the creature to emerge. He remembered that Sokka would wait hours for his prey to come out and have that perfect chance to strike. If the sometimes-silly warrior could do it, then Zuko was determined that he could as well. He just hoped it would not take that long so he could return to Katara.

As he waited, he was immediately brought back to the day when he and Katara had started that game of chase that led to a wonderful experience against the rough bark of a large tree. The taste of those plump lips of hers, the feeling of her soft breasts pressed so tightly against his chest, the feeling of her heat against his hard length as he moved against her…Zuko groaned quietly before he shook his head to clear his mind when it became evident that he was becoming aroused at the memory. Damn, never had he been so easily—and willingly—distracted by a woman before.

He snapped to attention when a movement caught his eye and he watched silently as a rabbit-squirrel stepped cautiously out of its hiding place. Its small nose twitched as it scented the air while its long bushy tail flicked behind it. It stayed at the entrance to its burrow for what seemed to Zuko like hours before it scurried away from the hole. It stopped a few feet away, flicked its large ears in every direction, and again darted away.

Zuko held his breath as the small animal froze a few feet in front of him, its long ears swirling wildly atop its head, before it moved again under the shade of a tree where many acorns were scattered around its roots. Standing noiselessly from his spot, Zuko took a small step forward as he prepared to flick his fire whip out and behead the rabbit-squirrel just as he did with the boar-pig.

The rabbit-squirrel, oblivious to the danger that was so close to it, continued to gather acorns into its puffy cheeks before it dropped one as a small twig snapped from behind. Zuko watched as the animal froze again before it spun in his direction with frightened eyes. They looked at each other, both unmoving. Without warning, the animal turned on its paws and sprinted away. Zuko took a few long strides as he raised his arm and flicked out his thin fire whip.

Katara finished refilling her water pouch and Zuko's water canteen by bending the clean water from the waterfall into them before she returned to where their bags rested. She sat before the pile of wood she had erected for a campfire and chewed on her lip as she again debated whether she could go through with her decision. Every time she thought about bringing it up with Zuko, her face would heat up in embarrassment and uncertainty.

What if she was making a mistake? What if she made a fool of herself? What if she could not please Zuko?

Katara let out a calming sigh. She should not rush into things, but let it come naturally when the time was right. But when would she know when the time was right? She almost felt like laughing at how ironic her situation was now. When she had been with Aang, she had shied away from thoughts about intimacy, but with Zuko, it was all she could think about every waking moment of the day and in every dream at night.

The sound of someone approaching made her tense up and she reached her hand to the water pouch at her hip. She immediately relaxed when she saw Zuko stepping into the clearing and she raised a bemused eyebrow at the pleased grin that adorned his face, before a smile broke over her own face when he proudly raised the animal he had caught. She watched as he quickly approached her, and upon reaching her, he presented her with his kill with an extravagant bow.

"I hope this is good enough for my first kill," he remarked with a smooth grin before he gave a little shrug of his broad shoulders. "I've never had the need to hunt down an animal before to eat it."

Katara smiled widely as she took the beheaded rabbit-squirrel in her hands. She blushed slightly when he intentionally brushed his fingers against hers.

"It's great. Thanks," she said gratefully as she laid the animal in front of her before she raised her head to smile at Zuko who was grinning smugly to himself. "You know, there used to be a small tradition in our tribe, many, many years ago, where a man presented his kill to his chosen woman."

"Really?" Zuko asked with interest as he watched Katara pull the small dagger he had given her from the pile of other weapons before she began to skin the small animal. "I thought that the man had to propose by giving the woman a necklace."

"Actually that tradition was created in the Northern Water Tribe," Katara explained absentmindedly.

"I see," Zuko replied with a confused frown. "So your tribe doesn't use it?"

"No, we do. After our sister tribe helped with the reconstruction of the Southern Water Tribe these past years, we have now adopted that tradition," the waterbender explained as she continued to remove the animal's fur. "It replaced the older one when the tribe began to expand, the living conditions became better, and of course after spending time with members of our sister tribe."

"How interesting," Zuko mused as he continued to watch her.

"I've always wondered if there's a tradition in the Fire Nation for a man to propose to a woman," Katara enthused as she looked up briefly to smile curiously at him.

"Well, I'm not sure about what the rest of the Fire Nation citizens do, but there is one tradition among the nobility," Zuko informed her.

"Really? What is it?" Katara asked and tilted her head curiously.

A secretive smile appeared on Zuko's face.

"I'll tell you about it later," he told her mysteriously.

Katara raised an eyebrow at him before she returned to her task. Skinning animals was nothing new to her, especially since the warm furs were a necessity in the cold climate of the tribes.

"So what did the earlier tradition of the Southern Water Tribe signify?" Zuko asked instead to redirect her thoughts from the subject.

"It was a way for the man to show the woman that he was a good hunter and that he would be able to provide for her and their future children," Katara explained as she continued with her work.

"I see," Zuko commented coolly as he eyed Katara's concentrated face before he continued after a long moment of silence, "And how would the man know if his chosen woman had accepted him?"

Looking up from skinning the animal at the tone of his voice, Katara heard the undercurrent in his words and saw the uncertainty in his eyes. She placed the now bare animal beside her and washed her hands with some waterbending. She stood up before she looked at him to give him a reassuring smile.

"Why, the woman would accept his offering, of course," she said softly as she reached a hand out to place it on his chest. She smiled when he shivered at her touch before she breathed out, "And she would also give him a small token of appreciation as her acceptance to his proposal."

"What kind of token?" Zuko asked quietly as he stared down deeply into her eyes.

He held his breath when Katara rose on the tips of her toes and raised her face close to his until her breath tickled his lips. His breathing sped up as he waited anxiously for her to close the distance between their lips, but instead she moved her head to the side and placed a quick kiss to his cheek before she pulled back with a grin.

"There. That's the token of my appreciation," she said flippantly.

Zuko narrowed his eyes at her before he grumbled under his breath about her being a tease. When Katara giggled at him and made to move away so she could start on their meal, Zuko grabbed her arm and pulled on it until she stumbled into his chest. Before she could protest indignantly, the young lord cupped the back of her head and kissed her until she was begging for air. Pulling back, Zuko smirked smugly at her dazed look.

"I think it unfair that the man would only get a kiss on the cheek after possibly risking his life to hunt an animal down," Zuko remarked casually as he moved away to light up the pile of wood.

"And what do you think would've been a better token?" Katara asked as she stared at him dazedly as he shot a spark of flames that instantly created a campfire.

Zuko dusted his hands off before he glanced at her from the corner of his eye.

"Uh…I think it's best that I keep that to myself," he muttered before he cleared his throat as he indicated at the animal at their feet. "Don't you have to wash that before we roast it?"

Katara pursed her lips since it was the second time he had said the same thing to her before he tried to avoid telling her what he had in mind. Although a part of her shied away in virginal embarrassment, another part of her—the more insisting part of her—wanted to know. However, she knew that if she wanted Zuko to open up to her, she had to be the one to take the first step, he would never do anything to pressure her.

Looking up to the setting sky, Katara brought her gaze back down to Zuko as he started to fix their bedding and she again began to chew on her lip anxiously.

The flames of a small crackling campfire was the only bright light visible in the little clearing surrounded by the darkened forest. Crickets chirped and night birds called out into the calm night as the young Fire Lord and the waterbender rested on their backs atop the luscious grass and stared at the millions of twinkling stars that speckled the midnight sky.

Resting on her side with her head pillowed on Zuko's arm, Katara watched—completely enthralled—the soft expression on Zuko's face as he related a short myth about the brightest star in the sky Lady Ursa had told him when he was a child. She listened with a pounding heart as his deep, velvety voice caressed her ears as he spoke, as his sandalwood scent tickled her senses, and as the heat of his body warmed her skin as he tucked her to his side. When his large hand accidentally brushed against the side of her breast, Katara almost let out a deep moan.

Zuko finished his story, and with a soft smile, he looked down at Katara as she lay quietly at his side. He paused at the strange way she was staring at him, and when she did not say anything, he began to worry.

"Katara?" he called out as he gave her a small squeeze.

"We should bathe," she spoke up softly.

"Bathe? But it's the middle of the night," Zuko said in bewilderment as he frowned at her.

"I know," Katara continued in that same soft tone.

Before he could speak again, Katara moved away from him and stood up. Zuko sat up, and with a confused expression, watched as Katara made her way toward the quiet pond until she stood at the edge with her back turned toward him.

His eyes widened when he saw her tug the dark sash around her waist before she dropped it to the floor beside her, followed slowly by her dark green shirt. Zuko swallowed thickly as the smooth skin of her shoulders and her lower back gleamed under the half-moon's light. He was surprised, however, when she began to lower her black pants down her hips and he quickly averted his eyes before the sight of her became his undoing. However, when he heard her toss her clothes aside, he was unable to stop his gaze from returning to her form. He gulped when more of her skin was revealed to him, her slender arms, her bare thighs, her exquisite long legs…

Breathing rapidly, Zuko again looked away from her and leapt to his feet before he reluctantly turned away. He closed his eyes for a moment in order to regain his composure, but the sight of Katara in only her under-wrappings was burned into his mind, making it hard for him to achieve his iron control. He needed to get away, put some distance between him and the bewitching woman that stood in front of the sparkling waterfall, before he broke his promise.

"I'm…" he rasped before he cleared his throat as he began to walk away, "I'm going to look for more firewood."

"Zuko," her sweet voice called out to him and he immediately paused.

Katara watched timorously as Zuko shifted in his place and his hands shook at his sides before he clenched them to cease their trembling. When he did not turn around, Katara resisted the urge to gather her clothes and cover herself up in mortification at the thought that she had somehow done something wrong or that perhaps Zuko was appalled at her brazenness. But she steeled her nerves and took a few calming breaths to stop her own trembling. She needed to take the first step. She wanted Zuko to know that she was ready for them to take one step further into their relationship.

Swallowing her uncertainty and insecurity, Katara called out to him again in a timid voice.

"Please don't go, Zuko."

Zuko's brow furrowed at her words as he clenched and unclenched his hands. Did she not understand what she was doing to him? Did she not realize how much trouble and pain it caused him to hold himself back from her? Did she not know what he would probably do if she did not let him go?

He was brought out of his thoughts, and his curiosity escalated, when the sound of Katara stepping into the pool reached his ears. He heard the water lapping at her legs as she waded deeper into the water. Unable to resist the temptation, Zuko slowly turned around with bated breath.

His breath hitched in his throat as he watched her making her way deeper into the glistening pond, the white wrappings around her chest and her hips a great contrast against the darker color of her skin and hair. He watched with heated eyes as she paused for a second, the water now reaching to her waist, before she submerged herself. A few ripples spread across the surface of the clear pool as she disappeared. He waited, his body heating up rapidly, until Katara emerged from the surface of the water a few seconds later and flipped her long wet hair behind her, the act causing sparkling droplets to fly in every direction. She looked like an enchanting water nymph luring him toward her. Zuko licked his lips as his eyes traveled over her wet body as it glistened under the gentle moonlight before he brought his gaze back to her face.

Their eyes locked and it seemed like their surroundings and the sounds of the night disappeared, and the only thing they were aware of was the presence of the other. A diffident smile appeared on Katara's lips as she raised one trembling hand to beckon him forward.

"Join me, Zuko," she said softly. "Please."

Incapable of resisting her quiet call, Zuko slowly began to rid himself of his clothes as he continued to stare unwaveringly into Katara's deep, blue eyes. Once he removed his dark boots, Zuko reached for his trousers, but there was still a small part of his brain that told him it would be best if he kept them on. He still did not know what Katara truly meant in calling for him to join her in the pond and he did not wish to frighten her.

He stepped slowly into the water and shivered at the cool contact before he unconsciously raised his body temperature to ward off the chill as he waded into the water toward her, never breaking eye contact. Once he was standing before her, Zuko intently stared into her blue orbs as he tried not to let his eyes wander below her face, lest his control broke.

"Katara," he breathed as he reached a hand out to caress the skin of her blushing cheek with his thumb.

Katara's heart was pounding hard in her chest at the proximity of his warm body and she closed her eyes at the sound of his masculine voice and the feeling of his soft touch on her skin. Did he understand what she was trying to tell him?

Zuko watched as a small droplet of water trailed down her forehead, down her petite nose, and over her lovely lips, until it quivered on her chin. He watched intently as the sparkling bead trembled when a small shiver racked through her body and he followed its path as it dropped onto her chest until it slid down between the cleft of her covered breasts. He stared hungrily at the sight of her hard nipples straining against the wet cloth and he groaned softly when his cock hardened almost painfully in his trousers. He heard Katara let out a shuddering sigh and his eyes immediately settled on her slightly parted lips.

Before Katara could utter another word, she found herself crushed against the hard and unyielding body of the man she loved before her lips were caught in a passionate and fiery kiss that left her breathless and weak in the knees. Afraid she would collapse at the sudden intensity, Katara wrapped her arms around Zuko's neck, one hand gripping the hair on the back of his head, before she returned the assault on her mouth with equal fervor.

Zuko growled low in his throat when Katara pressed herself against him and a tingle went down his spine when her teeth accidentally grazed his tongue, causing him to tighten his arms around her body and lift her closer to him. She tasted heavenly. Just the pure, supple feeling of her wet skin under his hands was driving him insane with desire. He needed more, he wanted more. His hot tongue traced the line of her bottom lip before he pulled the plump flesh into his mouth and sucked on it.

The sound of Katara's sharp gasp brought him crashing down from his lust-induced haze and his eyes shot opened in shock and guilt at his sudden fierce assault. He wrenched himself away from her delicious mouth, and placing her back on her feet, he held her at arm's length as he tried to control his harsh breathing, and in the process, call forth his iron restraint before he ended up hurting her.

Breathing equally as hard, Katara watched anxiously as Zuko closed his eyes and shook his head as he held her away from him.

"Ka…Katara…" he panted in a strained voice. "I think we should get dressed."

"No," Katara pleaded between breaths. "Zuko…"

"Please, Katara!" Zuko insisted firmly as he gave her a pained look. "We have to stop before I break my promise and…I take you…here."

"Would it be that bad if it's here or anywhere else?" Katara asked quietly as she wrapped her arms around herself. "Don't…you want me?" she whispered.

Zuko shook his head and his eyes softened at the dejected look on her face before he lifted her chin with one finger so she could see his sincerity.

"If I could, I would have my way with you anywhere and anytime. Believe me, it doesn't matter where or when... the thought is always there," he groaned.

"But I...I want," Zuko swallowed as he tried to find the words that could help him express himself without sounding like a complete idiot. "Our first time…I want it to be with you as my wife. I want your first time to be in our bedchamber back in the Fire Nation with silky sheets beneath you and candles shining on your perfect skin, not in a random part of an Earth Kingdom forest."

Katara felt elated tears prick her eyes as Zuko's heartfelt words made her heart expand until she was afraid it would explode. With a watery smile, she gently placed her hand on his wrist.

"That's what I want too," she told him tenderly. "I want to give all of myself to you as your wife. I want to be your wife when you…make love to me for the first time."

A small crease appeared on Zuko's brow as he tried to understand what was going on.

"But just now…it seemed like you wanted…" he trailed off.

A deep blush blossomed across Katara's cheeks and she averted her eyes from his questioning golden orbs.

"Satomi said there were other ways to be i-intimate without…doing the whole act," she stuttered shyly.

"Oh. I see," Zuko responded with wide eyes and a light blush surfaced along his unscarred cheek.

"I know how much holding yourself back is affecting you and it made me feel so horrible. Then, you became a bit distant after that game of chase and it saddened me. So I t-though that—" Katara began hesitantly.

Zuko pressed his thumb to her lips to stop her words before he shook his head as he frowned at her.

"I didn't mean to make you believe my…predicament was entirely your fault and that you had to do something about it," he interrupted solemnly. "And I'm sorry for making you feel like I was pushing you away. But you don't have to force yourself to do something that you're not ready for. I said that I was not going to pressure you and I won't. I just have to—"

This time it was Katara's slender finger that stopped his words. Zuko furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at her inquiringly. He had said that he did not want Katara to do anything she was not ready for, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep that promise. Damn it, he was a hot-blooded male! How could he stop his body from desiring her?

"It's not just because I want to please you…" he heard Katara whisper gently, causing him to shudder at the breathless tone of her voice.

Zuko swallowed thickly at the intensity he saw in her blue depths as she removed her finger from his lips and again closed the distance between them, placing her small hand on his chest, provoking a low moan from his lips at her cool touch on his heated skin.

"I want it too," she said in a breathless yet firm tone. "I don't want to keep suppressing my feelings for you and the way you make my body react. I want to experience the pleasure of simple intimacy with you, Zuko. Only you."

Zuko had never heard sweeter words, everything he had felt for this beautiful woman suddenly exploded within him, and he could not have argued with her even if he had wanted to. Drawing her firmly against his chest, he tangled his fingers in her wet hair, and tilting her head, he captured her lips with his. He groaned when he realized that she had already parted her succulent lips in anticipation of his kiss.

They kissed slowly, tenderly, as they held onto each other as they stood in the middle of the pond. Zuko slowly backed her up against one of the slick boulders while droplets from the waterfall rained down on them. He kissed her with such tender restraint and thoroughness that it made her sigh happily. Pulling away slowly, Zuko gazed deeply into her eyes as they panted softly before he rested his forehead against hers with a low moan.

"Gods, Katara, you have no idea how much I want you," he groaned against her lips.

"I think I have a pretty good idea," she replied with a smile as she gently pressed her stomach closer to him until she felt the hard bulge between his legs, causing him to let out a hiss.

Zuko wanted to push back and press his arousal into her stomach, but instead he grasped her hips and gently pushed her away until she was pressed against the boulder behind her. When Katara looked away from him as if he had rejected her, Zuko leaned down to press soft kisses along her neck.

"I want you to know," he began softly as he buried his face in her wet hair, taking a deep inhale of her fragrant scent, "that I just don't solely want you because of your body and the pleasures it will bring me."

He pulled away from her hair to brush his lips against her soft ones.

"I want all of you…your body, your mind, your heart…everything," he told her ardently.

"I know," Katara sighed happily against his lips. "And I willingly give them to you."

"Just like I want to give you everything that I am to you," he growled against her mouth before he caught her lips in another searing kiss.

The tender kiss from before changed into a frenzied dance of lips, tongues, and mouths. Zuko's arms closed around Katara's small body as he kissed her with a hunger as scorching as the flames he commanded, his hard edges melting until she fitted perfectly against him. Shaken by his impassioned heat and the demands of his wet tongue, Katara clung to him tightly with a small cry as she responded to him as she had never responded to any man before.

Without breaking away from her lips, Zuko lifted Katara into his arms and he smiled when she immediately wound her arms around his neck after removing the water off their clothes with her waterbending. He walked to the edge of the pond and stepped out of the water, carrying Katara closer to the campfire where their blankets had already been laid out a couple of hours before. He knelt down slowly before he pulled away from their kiss and carefully laid Katara atop the warm blankets, the light of the campfire making her skin glow and her eyes glisten as they panted hard against each other.

Katara gazed at Zuko's muscular upper body, at the way his alabaster skin gleamed under the moonlight like marble, and she marveled, not for the first time, at his perfection despite the scar that rested on his chest. She moved her gaze away from his bare chest and blushed deeply at the intense yet loving way he was gazing at her. She gave him another shy smile. Apprehension made her stomach flutter and anticipation made her heart pound. Was she doing the right thing?

Zuko noticed the anxiety in her eyes and he brought a hand up to her cheek to soothe her worries. If only she knew, he was as nervous as she was. He knew there were other ways of intimacy, but the truth was that, besides the act of sex, he had never participated in such deeds. His only objective with the few women he had been with before was to find the quickest way to release his sexual frustration and, as soon as he achieved it, make his departure and forget the encounter. He had cared for Mai, but—as much as it embarrassed him to admit it—he had not been a good lover to her the few times they had been together.

However, the woman that lay before him was Katara, the woman he loved, and she deserved better than the way he had treated those women before, she deserved his full attention and devotion. Though he could not show his feelings for her by making love to her yet, he was determined to please her in other ways. He would just allow the little advice he had heard his drunken crewmembers boast about on music night as well as his male instincts to guide him in his actions. At the thought, his anxiety left him and he let out a calm sigh as he gazed down at her.

"You are so beautiful," he whispered as he ran his hand slowly, reverently, down from her cheek to her slender throat.

Katara smiled at him, but she tensed when his hand moved down between her covered breasts until it rested on her quivering stomach where he splayed his fingers over her skin. Zuko leaned down toward her, his body hovering over her small form, and touched his lips to her mouth in a light caress. He felt her tension ease at the contact and she willingly opened her mouth to him before she slowly let out her tongue to run it across his lip, causing him to let out a pleased groan.

Katara forgot her worries and fears as she allowed herself to get so lost in the soft passion of Zuko's kiss that she was unable to stop the surprised gasp that left her when she felt Zuko's large hand cup her breast over her wrappings. He squeezed it lightly and she moaned as a flare of heat raced down to her warm core. Unable to stop herself, Katara tightly wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her so that he was almost lying on top of her body.

Encouraged by her reaction, Zuko began to knead the soft, covered mound while he continued to make sweet love to her wonderful mouth. He was tempted to remove her under-wrappings, he very much wanted to feel her soft round flesh in his hand, but he did not know if she was ready for that yet. He was going to take this slow. He was going to please her unhurriedly and with tender care. This night was going to be about her, even though she had made this decision in order to please him and take away some of his torment in the first place.

They broke away from their kiss to catch their breaths, but Zuko did not detach his lips from her skin and instead trailed kisses to her ear. The young Fire Lord gently scraped his teeth against her earlobe, tugging at the soft flesh before engulfing it with a gentle suck. Katara's breath hitched at the sensation and she moaned. She was immediately reminded of her thoughts about Zuko biting her ear the first time she entered his royal bedchambers, and she almost giggled.

Who would have thought that it would come true?

Zuko moved away from her ear before he attached his mouth to her throat. Katara sighed when Zuko kissed her neck and she moved her head to the side to give him more access, which he rewarded by trailing his hot tongue along the slender column. Katara moaned deeply when Zuko began to massage her breast more firmly.

"Zuko," she breathed out as she pushed her breast closer to his warm hand.

Smiling against her skin, Zuko pinched the hard peak with his thumb and forefinger and grinned smugly when she let out a gasp and grabbed tightly onto his hair. He managed to loosen her grasp and again began to trail wet kisses along her neck before he moved to her collarbone where he dipped his tongue in the hollow of her throat.

Soon, Zuko was touching her between her legs, above her wrappings, and giving her a pleasure she had never known before. Unable to resist, Zuko pressed himself against her.

Hearing the cry of her sweet release, the pleasure he had given her, triggered Zuko's own release. Moaning incoherently, he slumped forward but managed to catch himself with one hand before he crushed her beneath him.

Agni, that was incredible. And he had only rubbed himself against her thigh!

Once coherent thought returned, the firebender roused himself from his pleasure haze. Panting roughly, Zuko slowly lifted his head to observe his waterbender. He watched with a pleased smile as Katara trembled and moaned as she slumped beneath him while her uneven breathing reached his ears. He pulled his hand away from her drenched center and watched her for a moment as she panted, her eyes closed tightly, while her body continued to give small shudders.

"Katara?" he called out softly as he touched her flushed cheek.

Katara opened her eyes with a stunned look before she gave him a languid smile. She reached up slowly and rested her hand on his cheek, smiling when he immediately leaned into her touch.

"That…that was…wow," she breathed out with a soft sigh before she smiled shyly at him. "Thank you."

Zuko smiled as he grabbed her wrist and kissed her hand. He settled himself beside her and drew her closely to his side. Gods, he felt so satisfied. He could not wait for them to do that again.

"If that was pleasurable, then I can't wait to find out how much more incredible it will feel when you make love to me," Katara sighed as she snuggled closer to him.

"I thought the same thing, too," Zuko responded with a light chuckle as he pressed a gentle kiss to her temple. "And I can't wait to find out."

"Did…you also…?" she asked tentatively as she glanced down at his crotch before she raised her head to look shyly up at him.

"Yes," he replied with a smile as he ran his fingers through her hair. "You pleased me so well."

"B-but I didn't even do anything!" she stammered as her flushed cheeks reddened again.

"Believe me you didn't have to," he told her huskily. "Just your scent, presence, and touch were enough."

"But—" The waterbender frowned as she tried to sit up.

Zuko shook his head as he pushed her back down gently beside him, wrapping an arm around her waist. He gave her a small smile before he kissed her mouth.

"I promise you that another night I'll make it your duty to bring me to great pleasurable heights, okay?" he told her with a grin.

Katara blushed deeply at the heated glint in his eyes before she gave him a smile.

"Okay," she agreed before a yawn escaped her.

"I'm so sleepy," Katara whispered and yawned again as she snuggled against his warmth.

Zuko smiled again at her tranquil words and languorous movements. Her contentment made him happy. He allowed his blood and body to cool as he tugged her close to him after placing one of the blankets over them, while the heat from the campfire warmed them. He decided that once she fell asleep, he would clean up.

"Sleep, Katara," he said gently as he caressed her damp hair. "I'll always be here, every time you wake up."

Large gray clouds gathered overhead, blocking the bright early sun and the blue sky. The wind swept by swiftly and rustled the tree branches wildly about. It seemed that it was going to rain and the lost benders quickened their pace so they could reach the village before they were caught in the storm.

Despite the chilly and gloomy morning, Zuko's mood was blissful and content as he replayed in his mind waking up to a scantily clad Katara wrapped snuggly in his arms. The heat that went through him at the sight was indescribable. And the sounds and expressions she had made when he had pleasured her! And the incredible pleasure he had gained just by rubbing against her without them even being fully naked! He could not stop thinking about how amazing it would feel when they finally experienced true intimacy. He was very pleased and it pleased him that he was able to please her in such a simple way. At least, he hoped so since she had not said anything about it as they woke up, dressed themselves, and packed up their things. Did he do it right?

He had to admit that he was a bit worried that perhaps she regretted what they did. It would devastate him if she told him that she did, for he really wanted them to do much more, to know each other more intimately, to please her until she went insane with need of him, and he wanted to be able to find his own pleasure in Katara's embrace over and over again.

A strong, chilly breeze rushed passed them and Zuko looked up at the cloudy sky before he glanced at Katara walking silently beside him from the corner of his eye. He was just going to have to tread carefully so he would not scare her away like a nervous ostrich-horse, though he very much wanted to throw caution to the wind and continue with what they did the previous night.

Meanwhile, Katara felt like she was in a cloud of bliss as she remembered the wonderful things Zuko had done to her the night before. When she had woken up to Zuko's warm gaze and their half-dressed state, she had waited for the feeling of shame and guilt to surface, but instead she had felt so wonderful, and an overwhelming feeling of love for Zuko had settled in her heart at the thought that he had been so tender and understanding. Though she had been unable to say anything to him since they woke up, for she had been a bit self-conscious and embarrassed at the loud scream she had let out when such an overpowering sense of ecstasy overcame her. She felt her cheeks warm at the thought before a small crease appeared on her brow. She was worried since she had no idea on how to return the favor to Zuko and please him. How should she go about it? If only she had asked someone for advice… but then again, she had never had to face this problem before.

If only Suki were here, Katara thought with a frown. I'm sure she'd be understanding and would give me some tips…

On second thought, perhaps that was not a good idea, since Suki probably did such things for Sokka, and that was just a bit disturbing. Katara shuddered before a pensive frown settled on her features. Satomi had told her to ask Zuko to teach her what he knew. Maybe that was the best way to go since he would be more experienced in that field, right? However, the thought of how Zuko would know such things made an ache appear in her chest. She shook the feeling aside. She would just have to think about Satomi's advice when another wonderful occasion such as the previous night presented itself again. Oh, how she wished it would be sometime soon!

They were both interrupted from their thoughts when raindrops began to fall from the sky and land with big splashes on their heads. Katara tilted her head up and sighed as the cool droplets speckled the skin of her face. She loved the rain as much as she loved the snow. However, it was too cold in the Southern Water Tribe for there to be rain showers so she enjoyed it as much as she could when she visited the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom.

With a small grin on his face, Zuko watched the delighted smile that adorned Katara's lovely features as she spread her arms to welcome the rain. She was indeed a water nymph and soon she would be all his. Though he would like to continue watching the enchanting scene, he thought it would be best if they found shelter as lightning streaked across the sky. They were currently walking through a clearing and it could be dangerous being in the open during a thunderstorm. He pushed his soaking hair out of his eyes as he touched her back.

"Come on, Katara," he called out as the wind began to blow more strongly and the rain began to fall faster. "We should find a place to wait out the rain."

Katara sighed as she dropped her arms back to her sides before she nodded at him.


Zuko smirked at her pouting face before he turned away from her and started walking again. Katara started to follow him before a mischievous grin pulled at her lips. She gathered a small ribbon of rainwater that fell before her, formed it into a water whip, and before Zuko knew what she was planning, she playfully smacked the water whip across the firebender's firm backside. Zuko yelped before he spun around to give her an astounded looked, which turned into an indignant glare when she began to laugh at him.

A loud thunderclap resounded throughout the forest, causing Katara to jump and let out a squeak. Then it was Zuko's turn to laugh at her and she huffed.

"Are you afraid of thunderstorms, Katara?" he teased.

"No!" Katara retorted as she crossed her arms beneath her breasts, her wet hair sticking to her cheeks. "It just caught me by surprise."

Zuko smirked at her, but Katara decided to ignore him, and with an upturned nose, she walked past him and away. Chuckling quietly, Zuko followed behind her, but his humor died when a flash of lightning streaked across the sky and headed straight toward the oblivious waterbender.

"Katara!" he shouted.

Katara watched in shock as the unexpected lightning bolt headed toward her, but her view was blocked when Zuko stepped before her. At that second, all Katara could think of was the first time the same thing had happened and how Zuko had been hit by Azula's attack. She was frozen in place by fear, not for herself but for Zuko. She watched in horror as the lightning headed straight for Zuko, but he easily maneuvered the thunderbolt and shot it up to the sky.

Zuko breathed deeply as he waited for the remaining energy coursing through his body to dissipate before he lowered his arm. It was always such a rush to redirect lightning. His mind had been in a great state of turmoil for him to be able to produce and bend lightning before, but maybe once he returned to the Fire Nation, he would ask Uncle for some training. After all, his life was much better now that he was Fire Lord, had finally found his mother, and was engaged—unofficially for the moment—to the woman he loved.

Turning around to see if Katara was all right, Zuko became concerned at her frozen state and at the fear that was clearly written on her face. He pulled her gently to him and stroked her back in soothing caresses when she began to tremble. Thinking that she must still be in shock that she had almost been hit, he kissed her wet temple and twirled his fingers in her drenched hair.

"It's okay, Katara," he whispered to her gently. "You're safe now."

He was bewildered, however, when Katara shook her head frantically before she wound her arms around his middle so tightly that her strength shocked him.

"What's wrong?" he asked anxiously as the rain continued to fall on them and thunder rumbled around them.

"Are you crazy?!" Katara screamed at him as she leaned away to give him a watery glare, her hands resting on his covered chest where the scar was etched on his skin. "You could've been struck, just like that time with Azula! And what if this time I wouldn't have been able to heal you? You could have died!"

A small frown creased Zuko's brow at her hysterical words and he ran his hands up and down her arms to try to calm her.

"I have had more training now, I'm not as untrained as I was when I faced Azula," he stated before he sighed, his voice becoming softer. "Besides, you're the one that could've been struck. I'm always going to protect you, no matter what."

Katara again shook her head as she gripped his shirt tighter in her fists.

"Every time you save me, you get hurt!" she exclaimed chokingly. "Like when you jumped in front of Azula's attack, or when you tried to protect me from Jianguo's men! I…I can't bear it any longer!"

Zuko opened his mouth to reassure her, but Katara's grip on him tightened as she stared intensely into his eyes, her cobalt orbs shining brightly with her tears that combined with the raindrops, and he was rendered speechless at the sight.

"Promise me that you won't risk your life for me ever again!" she demanded. "Promise me, Zuko!"

"I will make no such promise!" Zuko told her firmly as his grip on her arms tightened.

Katara glared at him as she opened her mouth to argue, but she paused when Zuko grabbed hold of her shoulders before he leaned down toward her, his warm breath coasting along the skin of her face, his golden eyes gazing intensely into her eyes. She could feel the warmth of his body despite the chill of the rain and she shuddered.

"I won't be able to keep such a promise," he told her, his voice was still firm but with a softer tone to it. "You're too important to me, Katara. The thought of you being hurt, of you ever…dying again… is unbearable. It causes me pain to even think about it. I will always place your safety before my own."

"And you don't think it hurts me to think of you dying too?" Katara began with a deep frown. "Besides, you're far more important than me. Many people count on your leadership, an entire nation depends on you, and—"

"You will never say such a thing to me ever again, do you hear me!" Zuko growled out angrily, causing Katara's eyes to widen in shock. "Do not belittle your importance to me and the love I hold for you!"

Katara again opened her mouth to argue, but Zuko shook his head.

"Would you sit back and watch as someone you love gets hurt?" he asked her quietly.

Katara closed her mouth tightly before she glared at him halfheartedly, they both knew the answer. She would also risk her life if it meant she could save those she cared for the most. She looked away from him, but Zuko placed both of his hands on either side of her face and gently turned her head so she could see him. He stroked his thumbs softly against her wet cheeks as they stared silently at each other.

"Don't be angry with me," he told her softly. "I love you too much to let any harm befall you. I have vowed to protect you and I will gladly give up my life for you."

"No…please don't say that," Katara whispered as she grabbed onto his hands while her eyes again began to sting with unshed tears.

"I am just stating the truth," the young Fire Lord continued, "But I promise you that I will fight for my life and will not let myself die so easily. I plan for us to live together for a very long time. We did promise to grow old together, after all."

His lips curled into a smile and Katara could not help but return his smile with one of her own.

"Zuko," the waterbender breathed his name since she knew it was the best promise he would be willing to make.

She reached up to press her lips gently to his. Zuko removed his hands from her face and wrapped them around her curvy figure as he deepened their kiss. He groaned at the feeling of her wet body in his hands. Their kiss became more passionate as they recalled the events from the previous night, but another crash of thunder made their bones tremble and they pulled apart.

"We need to find shelter until the storm passes," Zuko finally spoke.

Katara smiled inwardly at his breathless rasp before he cleared his throat as he grabbed hold of her hand.

They walked quickly through the rain, their boots squishing softly on the muddy ground, the rainwater running down over their eyes. As the dark clouds rumbled over their heads, they tried to keep the rustling branches from whipping them across their faces. When they almost stumbled over the roots of a tree, Katara raised one arm above her head and a sort of invisible barrier surrounded them, so that the water cascaded over them on every side, keeping them dry. Zuko gave her a grateful smile since the heavy rain had made it almost impossible to see where they were going.

It was a few minutes later when they spotted a large protruding rock that sprouted from a high mound and they quickly made their way to it. Katara lowered her arms as they stepped below the rock and they sighed as they dropped their packs before they sat down side by side. The jutted rock made the rain that flowed down over it seemed like they were sitting behind a waterfall.

"I hope the rain stops soon so we can find the village," Katara commented as she reached a hand out to touch the cascading water.

Zuko did not respond as his eyes trailed passionately down Katara's body since her wet clothes were clinging tightly to her curves while a few strands of her chocolate hair curled against her cheeks. Katara turned to look at him when he did not say anything.

"What are you thinking?" she asked as she tilted her head to the side.

"You should get out of those wet clothes before you catch a cold," he replied huskily as he looked away from her blue orbs to let his eyes wander to her chest.

Katara looked down at herself and noticed the hardened peaks that Zuko was staring unabashedly at as they strained against her wet clothes. A reddish hue blossomed across Katara's cheeks at his suggestive implication and the gleam in his golden eyes. Her first instinct was to cover herself, but then she smirked inwardly as she turned to face him fully.

"You're right," she chirped innocently. "I should do something about my wet clothes."

"Yes, you should," Zuko growled in agreement as he watched her eagerly.

He stared at her intently as Katara slowly stood up, her drenched clothes barely covering the length of her thighs and legs and the contours of her breasts, waist, and hips. His heartbeat picked up its pace as he watched her move her hands over her body, but he frowned in disappointment when, with a flick of her hands, she removed the water from her clothes and her hair before throwing the liquid outside their little shelter.

With another innocent look, Katara turned to smile at him.

"There. Problem solved," she quipped.

Zuko glowered at her as he again muttered under his breath about her being a tease that enjoyed torturing him. With a few giggles, Katara sat back down beside him. She let her own eyes roam over Zuko's frame and she felt herself warm at the sight of his defined muscles visible due to the soaked shirt that was plastered over his chest and arms.

"You should take off your clothes before you catch a cold," Katara teased as she returned his previous words. She planned on not helping to bend the water away from his clothing.

"It wouldn't be good to catch a cold right now, would it?" Zuko told her as he threw her a small grin.

Katara nodded quickly as she leaned forward eagerly when he stood up, though he had to bend a little since his head bumped against the underside of the protruding rock. With the grin still on his face, Zuko raise his body temperature until the water began to evaporate from his clothes, steam rising almost lazily from his form. Katara frowned—she forgot he could do that—before she scowled when Zuko smirked at her as he sat back down.

Maybe I did deserve that, Katara mused with an inward pout.

A comfortable silence settled over them as the rain continued to fall, lightning flashed across the sky, and rumbling thunder resounded throughout the forest. Zuko glanced sideways at the waterbender and noticed that she was staring outside with a peaceful expression on her face. Reaching his hand out, he touched her now dry cheek and waited until she turned her head to look at him.

"I've been wanting to ask…" Zuko began hesitantly. "Are you upset about what we did last night?"

Blue eyes widened in surprise as Katara gaped at the absurdity of his words.

"Of course not!" she immediately reassured him as she grasped his hand and brought it closer to her face until he was cupping her cheek. "How could I be upset about it when I enjoyed what you did to me so much?"

Zuko let out a sigh of relief as he caressed her skin and he smiled when she blushed at her confession.

"You have no idea how glad it makes me to hear you say that," he told her with a grin before he leaned down to place a soft kiss to her lips. He pulled away to give her a small frown.

"Is something wrong? You've been so silent all morning and I was worried," he told her quietly.

Katara blushed deeply as she averted her eyes.

"It's just that…um…you pleased me and you made me feel things that I've never thought possible, but I…didn't exactly do the same for you," she said softly.

Zuko was delighted at her words. It made him happy to know that Katara wanted to please him so much.

"I told you not to worry about it," he reminded her gently. "Yesterday was about you. I wanted you to see that I could make you happy in a physical way." A large grin curled his lips. "But if you're so insistent, then I'll make sure you return the favor to me very soon," he growled out huskily.

"A-alright," Katara stuttered out an agreement as her blush turned a darker shade of red.

"But there's something else on your mind, isn't there?" Zuko continued as another frown settled on his brow.

Katara looked away from him in embarrassment as she tried to gather her thoughts and confessed her insecurities.

"I'm worried that I won't be able to please you," she confessed quietly after a moment.

Zuko frowned at her since he could not understand such an absurd thought. Just a soft touch from her caused heat to rush to his loins!

"Why do you think that?" he asked her incredulously.

Katara sighed exasperatedly as she moved away from his hand and crossed her arms over her chest. Was he really going to make her say it aloud?

"I have no experience, okay!" she exclaimed in frustration when he continued to look at her in confusion. "I have no clue on how to please a man or what he finds enjoyable!"

Zuko grinned at her embarrassed and annoyed expression before he scooted a bit closer to her.

"I know that and that's what makes me so happy," he confessed.

"What?" Katara asked with a confused frown.

"It makes me glad to know that you haven't done such things with Aa—uh, with anyone else. It pleases me to know that I will be your first for everything relating to the act of physical intimacy," he said with a smug smile.

Katara frowned at him for a moment before a smile broke across her face when she finally understood what he meant.

"I'm glad that it's with you that I will learn such things," she told him sincerely.

Zuko grinned and leaned down to kiss her again, but he frowned when she moved her head away before she peered uncertainly under her lashes at him.

"I'm afraid I won't be as good as…the other women you've been with," she confessed quietly. A lump formed in her throat.

Zuko felt like he had been punch in the gut and he gaped at her for a long moment before he uncomfortably cleared his throat. An anxious frown creased his forehead at her blank expression and he shifted uneasily in his spot.

"How is it that you know…about that?" he asked her carefully.

Katara glanced at him briefly before she looked away again as the sound of another thunderclap reached their ears. The thought of Zuko being with other women had always irritated her, although before she understood her feelings for him she had ignored the emotion. However, now the feeling was many times worse. The thought of him being intimate with another woman, of him doing the same things he had done to her with someone else, caused a painful ache in her chest.

"When we made our way to the Abandoned Fort on your flagship…" Katara began quietly, "I…I overheard...Mai and Ty Lee talking about it. Ty Lee even said the noblewomen called you a sex god."

"A sex god?" Zuko repeated slowly before he began to laugh. Loudly.

Katara turned to frown at him.

"What's so funny?" she demanded to know.

"Sex god," Zuko repeated again as he continued to chuckle, but he noticed that Katara was serious so he calmed down and cleared his throat. "I would surely disappoint them if they really knew."

"Knew what?" Katara asked.

"That I'm no sex god," he stated.

Katara rolled her eyes at him. "Obviously you're no god, but—"

"No, I'm no sex god," he cut her off, stressing meaningfully on the word.

"What do you mean?" Katara asked as she frowned at him incomprehensively.

Zuko closed his mouth into a tight line at the inquisitiveness in her tone. He again shifted uncomfortably and rubbed the back of his neck before he cleared his throat as he looked at her.

"I don't want our relationship to have any secrets so I will be truthful with you," he began tentatively, "It's true that I…have been with other women. Mai included."

Katara winced. It was one thing to hear others talk about Zuko's past actions, but it was something completely different hearing the truth from Zuko's own lips. She felt sick and her stomach made a painful lurch. She thought that maybe she should tell Zuko to stop and not tell her anything. That he could keep that part of his life a secret, but she also wanted to know, despite the pain it might cause her. Was one of the women he had been with one she had come across in the Fire Nation Palace? And if she did marry Zuko and became Fire Lady would she have to socialize with the other women, them knowing that they had shared Zuko's bed? She did not know if she would be able to handle their knowing looks.

She focused her attention on Zuko when he cleared his throat again.

"I'm really not as experienced as many want to believe. Since I turned fifteen, I think I've been with only five women," he admitted awkwardly.

"Five? Seriously?" Katara asked skeptically.

"Yes," Zuko told her with a firm nod.

"What do you mean by you 'think' only five?" she asked again. Though she hated the topic, she wanted to know.

Zuko gave a small shrug as he looked away to stare at the rain that was now slowing down to a light sprinkling. Why did they have to talk about this?

"Those women had no importance to me other than to satisfy a physical need, so I did not bother to remember how they looked or who they were," he said truthfully.

Katara narrowed her eyes at him and pursed her lips.

"That's so cruel," she said coldly. "How could you treat them like that?"

At the icy tone of her voice, Zuko turned to look at her before a small frown appeared on his face at the icy glare she was also directing at him.

"They are paid to take care of a man's needs and not for a relationship," he stated impassively.

"What? Paid?" Katara said with wide eyes. "You mean the women you have been with were…"

Zuko nodded when she trailed off.

"They were women from brothels," he said before he tried to explain carefully. "It was a sort of initiation rite to become a man among the crew of my ship. And the few times I had…employed their services was when my crew would demand time on land to have fun and find some distractions. So when the need rose, I followed after my men to the brothels. Of course, Uncle always made sure it was a place where discretion and cleanliness was most important."

Katara sat back to contemplate what Zuko had told her. Though she still did not like the thought of Zuko being with other women, she was glad that he had sought their attention in order to satisfy a physical need and not for something more deep and serious. Again a small ache appeared in her chest. That may have been the case with the women of those places. However, it did not count for his time with Mai. They had been in a serious relationship, after all. It must have meant something. The ache grew more painful, so that it made her eyes water and her nose sting.

Zuko reached for her hand and gently cradled it between both his palms. When Katara looked up at him, he tried to give her a reassuring smile.

"There is nothing for you to worry about, Katara, it was such a long time ago," he told her before he grinned at her. "Think of it as a way for me to have gained some experience so I can be able to please you now."

"As you pleased Mai?" Katara said in a small voice before she could stop herself.

"Katara," Zuko began with a frown, but he paused when she removed her hand from his grasp.

"Please don't," she said quietly as she turned away from him. "I don't want to know."

Zuko was struck at the hurt he saw in her watery eyes and his heart constricted in his chest.

"Katara let me explain…" he began anxiously.

"We should leave. The rain has stopped," Katara interrupted with a quivering voice before she cleared her throat as she grabbed her bag, stood up, and quickly stepped out of the shadows of the jutted rock.

Zuko quickly shouldered his pack as he scrambled to his feet in order to go after her as she walked swiftly away from him. It had been foolish of him to make a joke about his past experiences and how they must have contributed to his present expertise, for now he had caused her to suffer. He hated it when he hurt her, even if it was unintentionally. Any encounter he had had with those few women and Mai he would gladly renounce if it meant that he would not see the hurt in Katara's beautiful face.

Zuko quickened his strides so he could catch up to her, though it was not easy since the muddy ground was slippery.

He had to find a way to make Katara understand that what had happened with Mai and those other women had meant nothing to him. He had to make Katara understand that it was only she that mattered, that she was the only woman he had ever loved.

But how was he going to make her see that?

A/N: Uh oh. Trouble in paradise?

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know :)