Author's note: I like stories where Zuko's redemption does not mean he and Katara end up together. I do think his actions should have some consequences. I view CoD as sort of being what could have happened if Zuko had not turned on Katara and his uncle. But he did. I wrote this before the finale. I realize this has no Mai. It's not for lack of love for Mai or Maiko, it just didn't fit to put her in.
He couldn't lie to himself. He had felt something for her. As they fought, as they struggled, and as they nearly lost their lives he had felt the pull in his heart. There were feelings there for this girl, this waterbender who had threatened his life, teased him, and yet had offered him her compassion and finally her friendship.
Zuko decided to confront her, to see if maybe there was…
He found her sitting alone, her eyes staring out over gardens in the fire nation palace, focused on the young Avatar and Appa. The palace itself was in shambles from the recent battle, but amazingly the gardens had remained in tact.
"May I sit with you?"
Katara turned her head and smiled up at the prince. "Of course."
The young man sat down next to her and a few moments of awkward silence cut through the air. Finally he could stand it no longer.
"Listen, there is something I…I uh wanted to tell you…"
Well…I wanted to uh…say that I'm sorry."
A confused look passed over Katara's face. "For what?"
"For everything. You know…before."
Katara smiled softly. "There is no need to apologize. I think you have done that enough already. The world is at peace and you helped in that."
She patted his hand and Zuko felt a lump rise in his throat.
"Well, that's not all I wanted to tell you. I mean I…uh…well, I've been feeling…something…for you…and I wanted to know…"
He moved his other hand so it was resting on hers and she pulled it away, startled. It was clear from the expression on her face that the feelings were totally his and his alone.
"You don't feel the same…" He said, his voice trailing off.
She shook her head. "No."
Laughter caused them both to turn their heads and Zuko watched as her face softened, a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. Aang waved cheerfully when he noticed they were watching him and the prince took note of the way the waterbender's face lit up.
"I love him." She said after a few moments of silence.
"I just do. I just love him. He is everything to me." Katara stated simply and without hesitation. The smile widened a little more as the young Avatar was knocked flat on his rear-end by Appa's tongue. "I can't expect anyone to understand it. The Avatar belongs to the world, but Aang is mine. And I'm his."
The waterbender looked at the fire prince.
"I guess it was always like that and I was stupid enough not to realize it until it was almost too late."
"Azula's lightning strike."
The girl nodded. "When Aang went down it was like a part of me died. And then when he lived I just knew. I guess sometimes it takes something major to make you realize what you've always known. I love him."
The two watched as Aang rushed over to them, taking Katara's hands in his own and leaning in to kiss her. His eyes were sparkling and he smiled when her hand brushed his cheek.
"I love you." Aang said softly as his face inched close to her ear. He whispered something Zuko couldn't hear, causing the girl to laugh and blush fiercely.
The young Fire Lord watched them for a moment, envious of the love they so obviously shared, how easy and natural it was for them to love each other. But he was also happy for them. If anyone deserved happiness and love, it was the arrow-headed boy who saved the world and the waterbender who had fought bravely at his side.
Author's Note: I'm not a Zuko fan or a Zutara fan. Since the finale I've been a bit disturbed by the abundance of "Katara dumps Aang for Zuko" fics or "Katara just ignores Aang for a redeemed Zuko" fics. Katara and Aang's relationship is beautiful in its simplicity, IMO. Sometimes love just is uncomplicated and easy. Especially when it is with the right person.