Title: Afterglow

Author: Burning_Ice

Rating: M

Summary: It's a proven fact that intimacy the evening before a demanding physical activity such as a marathon (or an epic final battle) will improve a woman's performance, but damage a man's the following day.

Pairing: Zutara

Beta: Nobody . . .

Warning: Lemon, PWP


Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender belongs to Nickelodeon, Mike, and Bryan, but Zutara? That belongs to everyone.

. .








Katara sniffed and rubbed her eyes as she curled up on Appa's leg. She could hear Sokka's snores emanating from the Sky bison's tail, and every so often, Suki would elbow him and whisper for him to roll over and be quieter. Sokka would grunt, snort, yawn, and then for a few brief minutes, the night would be still.

After an hour or so, Suki had stopped waking him, so she too must have finally drifted off.

The water bender wondered how they could sleep. Thoughts were chasing each other around her mind in a frenzy of activity. It was like her brain would not shut off, her eyes would not close, and her legs would not lose the yearning to run. It was, however, the fear of the following sunrise more than anything else that made it impossible for her to rest. She knew as soon as she fell asleep, tomorrow would be upon them, and if they couldn't find Aang . . . well . . . the world would end.

Over her shoulder, she heard Zuko mutter something and thrash his head back and forth restlessly.

At least I'm not the only one who isn't sleeping peacefully.

Rolling over onto her right, she watched him. His eyes were closed, but they darted this way and that, and his fingers clawed at the thick fur of the slumbering bison. He must have been dreaming about his father, or his sister, maybe just losing the war in general.

Sliding off her own furry paw mattress, she eased herself onto Zuko's, then gently lowered a palm to the center of his chest, shaking him.

"Zuko." She whispered, hoping the noise would not wake Suki. If Toph was awake, she would ignore them, and it would take more than a whisper to drag her brother back to consciousness.

"Mmnnf, I . . . don't want to play volley ball . . ." Zuko blinked a few times, his brain registering the change from dream to wakefulness, "Katara? Is something the matter?"

"You were having a nightmare." She told him, then when he gave her a glance that stated that that was clearly not a good enough reason to rouse him, she added, "You were talking, I was . . . I thought you would wake everyone up."

It was true enough.

The Fire Prince brushed his hair from his eyes, then rolled over onto his right facing away from her.

"Thanks, you should go to sleep." It looked like his eyes were closing, though Katara had to lean over him to see his face at all.

"That's just it, I can't sleep."

"Then count the stars."

"Sitting here is making me think too much . . . what if we lose tomorrow, Zuko?" Katara whispered.

"We're not going to lose. We're the 'good guys'." Zuko reminded her.

"Will you take a walk with me?"

Zuko raised himself onto his elbow and squinted at her, a 'you must be joking' expression plastered to his handsome features.

"Please?" she added hopefully, "I don't want to be alone right now. I want to talk to someone."

"Can't you talk to Suki?" he asked in a hushed grumble.

"She's asleep, you're up."

Sometimes, the Fire Prince suspected that deep down, he was a big softie, especially when it came to Katara. Stretching his arms over his head, he nodded in consent to the master bender sitting next to him, and watched her stand and beckon to him.

The path he followed her down was little more than an old game trail. It led to a small babbling stream that they had filled their skins and washed their dishes in earlier that day. By moonlight, however, the place had a different, ethereal feel. The grass and leaves glistened in the pale light, the flowers danced in the slight breeze, and the stream's splashes seemed more hushed than they did under the sun. Even the mosquitoes, which were so aggressive during the day, had vanished, and were replaced by fireflies and crickets. Besides the soft chirping, there was no other sound, Sokka's snores had been left far behind them, and not a single animal stirred in the forest.

Zuko hugged his arms around his torso, still shaking sleepy cobwebs from the corners of his mind, even the moss that coated the rocks seemed ghostly. Abruptly, Katara turned to face him. Her arms mirrored his, though there was no trace of a chill in the soft summer air. It was their souls, more than their bodies, which lacked warmth.

"Are you worried about tomorrow?"

"Of course." Zuko sat down on one of the rocks and pulled his knees up to his chest, "I'm terrified."

"Me too." Katara settled beside him, a little closer than he would have expected her too. Instead of curling up like him, however, she undid her boots and armor and slid them off.

"Where do you think Aang is?"

Katara shrugged as she rolled up her pants to her knees, then dangled her feet into the running water below. The Prince watched her drawing circles on the surface with her toes, the water swirling to follow them just a hint more devotedly than it would have a non water bender.

"Are you worried about him?" Zuko knew it was a stupid question. It was no accident that it was her laying awake while the rest of them slept. She was the Avatar's closest ally, and most loyal friend. He would bet money that as soon as the monk grew into his feet and ears, she would start dating him.

"Yes." Katara drew her right ankle from the water and wiggled her toes, watching the water drip from them in slow, even dribbles. ". . . but that's not why I can't sleep."

"Then what's the matter?" Zuko leaned back on the dew flecked moss, and stared at the stars, his fingers laced behind his head.

"I keep thinking about every thing I'll never get to do if I die tomorrow. All my regrets." She leaned forward, so all the Prince could see of her was her long hair curling down her back.

"Yea? Like what?"

"I don't know . . ." She turned to look at him, crossing her legs and resting her weight on her right palm, "Like . . . I never got to see the Eastern Air Temple." It was a weak example and she knew it.

"It's quite beautiful. I never learned to play the Sungi Horn." Zuko replied teasingly.

"I bet you would be great, I've never seen a dragon."

"That, you must do. I've never toured the upper ring of Ba Sing Se."

"It's mostly stuffy rich people . . . I never kissed Jet."

"I wish I had gone back for Mai."

"That girl with the dark eye makeup? Was she a friend?"

"No, an ex girlfriend."

"I've never HAD an ex boyfriend."

"It's not as glamorous as you might think." Zuko told her dryly.

"If I die tomorrow, I'll never get to fall in love, for real." Katara touched her mother's necklace thoughtfully. She loved Aang, and he had made it clear that he loved her, but she wasn't convinced that she was IN love with him.

". . . or get married." Zuko responded.

". . . or have a family," Katara felt her eyes sting, she wanted so badly to be a mother someday. It hurt to know that there were good odds that she wouldn't ever get to be.

". . . or bend lightning."

". . . or make love."

Zuko paused to look incredulously at Katara, and she flushed under the scrutiny.

"What kind of girl do you think I am?!" She snapped, angry that he was surprised by her virginity.

"Well . . ." He paused to consider his answer carefully, as it was a loaded question, "I didn't think you were old enough to . . . You just don't seem like the type to . . . um . . . I guess I just wasn't expecting THAT particular regret from you. I mean . . . how old are you?!"

"I'm fifteen!" she replied defensively, "I'm not saying I want to go hop a ride into the nearest red lantern district, just that it's something I'll never get to do."

"I was surprised because you don't seem like the type that would think about it," Zuko had collected his wits into a complete response, "I wasn't surprised because I didn't think you were a virgin."

They sat in silence for a few seconds, then Katara continued the tangent, as though she was embarrassed about it, but needed to confess to SOMEBODY.

"I mean . . . I never really wanted to die without . . . well . . . It's just . . . it is sort of a big deal." She spoke in a quick burst punctuated by short pauses, as though the words fell through her lips without her consent. "Er . . . well, you've done it, right?"

"I'm a seventeen year old boy." Zuko told her as he nodded, his mouth quirking into the smallest of smiles, "Looking at grass makes me want to have sex."

"Well, it's worth experiencing, right?"

"Yes . . . I suppose if we're being honest, Mai never used to let me . . ." Zuko lost his nerve, he wasn't sure how much Katara actually knew on the subject, "Never mind."

"Let you what?"

"It's nothing."

"Don't say that . . . I want to know! Let you touch her chest?" It was a guess; Katara really wasn't sure how to finish the sentence.

"No, that's not it . . . so, let me get this straight . . . You woke me up on the eve of Sozen's Comet and therefore the eve of the salvation or destruction of the world as we know it, to have a girl talk?" Zuko had half a mind to march himself back to Appa and go back to sleep, "Why don't you go gossip with Suki? I'm pretty sure she can answer any of those sexy questions from the same point of view as you."

"Ok, then, what's a real kiss like?"

Zuko stared at her, refusing to be distracted.

"Come on." She prodded, twirling a lock of her hair in her fingers nervously.

"It depends on who you're kissing." Zuko replied evasively, then straightened and sat up as what she asked fully sunk in, "Wait . . . You've never kissed anyone?"

"Aang, twice, but, it doesn't count! It's Aang . . . and he kind of just . . . grabbed me . . . both times." Katara buried her fingers into her hair, flattening it to her scalp, and rocked forward, "Actually, I take that back, it counts, I don't want to die never having been kissed."

Zuko looked at the girl, completely puzzled as to what he was supposed to do. Did she want a hug? Was he supposed to say something reassuring? Should he offer to kiss her properly? Should he tell her kissing wasn't that important and that she wasn't missing out? What would Uncle do? Spirits only knew . . .

"What do you . . . I mean, is there something I can do to help?"

From her condensed virginity meltdown, Katara still managed to punch him hard in the arm.

"Ow! I meant like, advice, or something . . . I didn't mean it like that." That comment seemed to make it worse.

Katara didn't answer him, instead, she turned around and began swirling circles in the water with her toes again. This time, however, she was nearly kicking the water, splashing it fiercely in all directions. Somehow, he got the distinct impression that he had said something wrong. You would think that by sheer luck, he would do something right for once, karma owed him.

"Not that you're not pretty enough for guys to want to kiss." He attempted, scratching the back of his head as the silent treatment was maintained. I don't want to die never having been kissed. The sentence resurfaced in his head, and he swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. Had she been hinting?

"Do you want to kiss?"

He saw her back stiffen, her shoulder blades tense, and the splashing of her feet in the water silenced.

"Er . . . each other; right now." He clarified, suddenly worried she hadn't understood.

Katara, for her part, was considering the options. She did want to kiss someone, though, she would have preferred it to be a boyfriend over an ally. However as allies go, one could hardly do better than Zuko. He was handsome, strong, royal, and usually made up for with good intentions what he lacked in charisma and subtlety.

Finally, too embarrassed to vocalize it, she nodded, still staring into the water. She had always pictured a first real kiss to be more spontaneous, or . . . romantic. Still though, any genuine first kiss was better than no first kiss, right? And, the moonlight and the river rocks was a beautiful, near perfect mood setting, right?

"Alright, come here."

She heard Zuko sit up behind her, and shift closer. It was his breath on her neck, though, that sent the butterflies in her stomach swarming, and she tensed, still staring at the water. Her throat constricted, and she tried in vain to swallow the lump that had begun to grow there.

"Look, Katara," She heard his voice soften, "You look like you're about to panic, maybe it's not a good idea."

"No," the water bender found her voice again, and she turned to face the prince, "I'm fine, I'm just . . . self-conscious." After the short explanation, Katara closed her eyes and tilted her head back, pursing her lips in an amateurish way.

Zuko suddenly felt self-conscious himself, he had, on occasion, fantasized about the water bender, all the older men on the team (minus Sokka of course) had. She was pretty, smart, and strong, and really the only girl to look at in the whole of the Western Air Temple until Suki had come.

Careful not to touch her, he leaned in and brushed his lips to hers. He made sure to keep it as platonic as he could, she was a lot younger than him, after all. When he saw her suddenly stiffen, he jerked backwards, breaking the kiss and placing new distance between them.

"Why did you stop?" She looked up at him quizzically. It didn't take a genius to see that she was disappointed.

"You didn't want me to? You stiffened."

"No." Katara hunched into her shoulders, as though she was ashamed to admit it, "I wanted a real kiss."

"I gave you a kiss."

"I meant, like, something . . ." hotter.

". . . something?" he prompted.

". . . like . . . an open mouthed kiss." As she spoke, she gestured, pointing first to her lips, then him, then back to her lips, her fingers moving in a small circle.

"Oh." That explained it. Aang must have given her a very sweet, but very friendly kisses. She wanted to experience something more intimate. Zuko glanced out over the grass, he could stand and say he needed to sleep, he could leave her, go back to the camp, but he had come this far, he felt he should finish what he had started. It was very real that they could die tomorrow, and the more he thought about it, the better kissing her looked. The prince pressed the heel of his hand into his forehead, wondering if he was just trying to justify taking advantage of her. She was scared and lonely, what she needed was a hug, not a lip lock.

Before he could overanalyze, he leaned forward again, delivering a kiss he felt would be more to her liking. This time, when her lips were pressed to his, they were not passive, she was trying hard, but her form was terrible. For all her boldness, he quickly saw that the bender had no idea what she was doing.

Patiently, Zuko raised a hand to cup her chin, and gently repositioned her head so she could reach him properly. Then he drew back enough so that their bottom lips no longer touched.

"Relax your jaw and remember to breathe, it's not a contest." He whispered into her mouth as he pulled a strand of her hair from between their lips. It must have inadvertently gotten caught in her mouth when she had spoken.

After she had taken a breath, nose to nose with her one time enemy, Katara felt her body loosen on it's own accord. No sooner had her shoulders dropped before the Prince had pressed his mouth to hers again. Instead of just pressing his lips to hers, he caressed them with his own, focusing first on her lower, than her upper lip. Then, to her delight, his tongue darted out and slid between them, curling up in the process to run along her teeth and toy with her upper lip.

Katara gasped in surprise, and her hand moved involuntarily from her lap to his right knee, pulling them both closer to her. This surprised Zuko, and he broke the kiss, yanking back and muttering an apology, it was a reflex.

"I, um, wasn't trying to stop you." Katara released his knee, but her fingers lingered, hovering a few inches above his leg.

The mood, however, had been shattered, and the Prince found himself scooting away from her and rubbing his shins nervously. The water bender's hand returned to her lap, and she laced her fingers together, as though to prevent them from straying. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Katara placidly staring at the moon and Zuko desperately trying to come up with something worth saying to break the silence.

"It's a nice night."

Katara nodded.

"Beautiful moon."

"Yes, it is."

"So . . . we kissed."

Katara gave him a curious look, then, to lighten the mood, she kicked a submerged foot, splashing him with the moonlit water.

"Don't say it like that." She told him, "You'll make it even more awkward."

"It's not supposed to be awkward." He mumbled to himself, remembering Ba Sing Se, "But it always is."

"How many girls have you kissed?"


"Really?" Katara squinted an eye at him, "Only three?"

"Well, how many boys have you kissed?" he shot back.

"Just one." Katara flushed, "I mean . . . two, now."

"Well then, you can come back and squint at me when you've kissed four."

Katara crossed her arms and pouted, happy, at least, to be distracted from her insomnia. Unfortunately, the conversation was dying again.

"So, was I good?"

Zuko paled, another loaded question. He really hadn't pictured himself playing this social pai sho with the water bender. As he looked at her, however, he noticed the way she was leaning towards him, the way she kept chewing on her lip, and the way she kept casually glancing at his. She obviously wanted to kiss again, unfortunately, the Prince knew deep down he wouldn't be able to justify kissing her again.

Once was charity, twice was attraction.

"Yea, sure." He told her vaguely, "Katara, I'm getting tired . . ."

Before he could finish, the water bender had pressed herself to him again, knocking him backwards with the momentum of her chest. No sooner had his skull hit the soft moss on the river bank, when the girls lips rammed into his.

She must have been paying very close attention through the first two snogging sessions, because this kiss held a lot more confidence than the last. Unfortunately, for all it's intensity, it wasn't passion he tasted on her tongue, but desperation. In spite of the turn off of her motivations, the Prince found his body reacting to her, first his fingers twitched from where they lay face up in the moss, then, slowly, he moved his hands to rest on her waist.

A droplet of water hit him on the cheek, and he frowned, his attention on his mouth slackening. The sky had not been cloudy, how could it be beginning to rain? Then, the first drop was joined by a second, and his brain registered that they were both hot. He opened his eyes, to see her, still silently exploring his mouth, tears collecting on the tip of her button nose.

"Katara . . ."

The sound of her name was mostly muffled by her own mouth, and she swallowed the syllables whole, refusing to break their connection.

Part of him regretted not stopping her. He should have pushed her off and left, but, somehow, he couldn't muster the strength of will to protest. It was her vulnerability, he realized in retrospect. He had never seen her so unguarded against him, he had never seen her so honest in physically admitting her desire to be comforted. It seemed to ignite something inside him, a primal instinct to protect.

His hands moved from tentatively resting on her sides to engulfing her back and pressing her tighter against his chest. He warmed his hands with his bending warding off the cold of the night, and caressed the back of her neck, hitting a sensitive spot that made her whole body shudder.

Then, the Prince began to kiss back with every intention of leaving her so senseless that she would forget what she was even crying about. When he heard her hiccup a small sob, he relented, reigning the kiss back to shallow contact, but she didn't pull away or sit back. Instead, she stretched out on top of him and rested her head on his shoulder, her forehead pressing into his neck. Her free hand came up to cup his jaw. She did not want to break the embrace, so he cradled her against him again, this time more gently than before. He let the passion drift out like the tide, confident that as soon as she was ready, it would flow back into them.

Katara found it reassuring to be in contact with him, and soon her tears slackened. His pulse throbbed underneath her fingertips, and the muscles that supported her held hidden strength. Just closing her eyes and inhaling the musk that clung to him was enough to make her relax; make her forget, and the distraction was most welcome.

Nestled into his neck like that, she must have been hiding from him, probably embarrassed by her own girlish blush, swollen lips, or atypical physical boldness. He let her cuddle up to him, and closed his eyes as he felt her fingertips trail along his jawbone, then down his neck, across the scratchy and jagged shell of his ear, across his scar, down the bridge of his nose, then lips, then back to his chin. Her fingers made the circuit a few times before coming to rest on his hair, her thumb pressed delicately into his forehead. Her hands rested there for barely a minute before he felt her lean forward and graze her lips across the soft muscles of his neck.

Zuko's mouth turned dry.

"Katara . . ." he rasped. It was meant to be an exclamation to catch her attention and signal her to stop, but instead, it surfaced as a contented sigh that only made her braver.

The kisses turned to gentle nips and tastes, and her hands left their innocent perches and began to explore him. They smoothed across the fabric of his vest, exploring the forms beneath that she had seen so many times but never had the luxury of touching before. The water bender ran her hands down his chest, ribs, forearms, then across his upper abs.

Pressing her palms to him, she tried to sit up for a better view, then seemed to realize that she wouldn't be able to from her current position. Slowly, as though she was scared she would spook him, she moved to straddle his legs. Zuko's fingers, out of habit, found her knees, and caressed them gently, bracing her in her new perch. Her hands descended to him again, and they paused as she came into contact with the fabric of his belt.

She looked up at him questioningly.

She wanted his permission to take off his shirt.

The Prince flushed, the tears were still hot and clinging to her cheeks, but he couldn't deny that his desires were rousing. He looked off to the side, it was not honorable to take advantage of a grief stricken women, but it was cruel to deny her the comfort that she wanted. He decided he would have to vocalize this and put an end to their flirtation then and there, she was distraught, and didn't know what she was doing.

"Katara . . . I can't take advantage of you like this."

"I'm the one taking advantage of you." She replied, her voice strong with the slightest hint of amusement.

"You're not thinking straight." Zuko continued, propping himself up on his palms, the desire to preserve her innocence and the desire to cheer her warring inside him, "You'll regret it if you lay with me, you should save yourself for someone who you love."

"I just want to take off your shirt." The way she was begging scared him. It wasn't so much about the shirt, but about the line. He was afraid that, like when they sparred, once they started they would not be able to stop. Not until they were both collapsed, spent.

"I'm not going to bed you." Zuko told her bluntly, "its wrong, not to mention if we survive the battle tomorrow, you'll hate me for it."

"I won't hate you." Her hands had not left his belt, but they shook a little, "I'm just . . . . . I don't want to go to battle tomorrow with regrets I could have experienced . . ."

"So, you're saying you want to experiment tonight because you think you're going to die tomorrow?" Zuko frowned, she sure had a way of making him feel special.

". . . No." Yes. "We'll find Aang. We're going to win tomorrow." Her eyes were tearing again.

The Prince leaned his head all the way back until his chin pointed up at the sky. With his eyes closed he considered his options. Her emotions were unstable, but it was easy to see that she needed to relax into a distraction, and she wanted the distraction to be him. Pleasuring her, however, was a risky thing to do. If he did it right, she would enjoy herself and doze off, if he did it incorrectly, he would add frustration and disappointment to her already long list of feelings.

Of course, there was also that selfish part of him that did want to touch her, did want to reciprocate, did want to protect her, and did want to teach her. That selfish part of him wanted to comfort her, and to be comforted by her, he was, after all, human. In fact, he felt a small burst of pride that he could bodily comfort her, it was not something someone had ever asked of him before, and he was determined not to decimate the trust she was showing him.

Sitting back up, he looked at the girl in his lap. She was looking around, anxiously wringing her hands together; playing with the hem of his belt, and without a word, he leaned forward caressing her cheek gently with his hand and kissed her. Her hands moved to hold onto his vest gently.

This time, he ignored the tears when they fell. There was no better way to console her than the attention he was already giving her. He felt her raise herself up onto her knees to get closer, and he angled his head more sharply back in order to maintain their connection.

Reaching out, without looking, he began untying the belt around his vest, careful to remain attentive to her as he did so. No sooner had he slipped the materiel off his shoulders, than she broke the kiss and began tugging his burgundy shirt up over his head. He reached out to help her, as she was obviously unused to disrobing a man, and was about to yank his ears off with the collar.

The shirt soon joined the vest on the moss, and again their lips met, gently reassuring. Zuko found them playing a sweet game, he would show her a move he knew, and she would awkwardly, after a pause, reverse it back to him. This amusement cheered her up more than anything else, and she actually giggled when he sucked gently on her tongue.

The kiss, broken by her laughter, segued into a soft embrace, and the water bender nuzzled his chin a small smile still playing on her lips. Her hands, however moved from his shoulders, trailing down across his body, raising goose bumps in their wake, and it wasn't long before Zuko shivered.

Katara smiled, then dipped her head down to kiss across his collarbone. It was instinct more than anything else that made her yearn to know what his skin tasted like. After a few experimental kisses, she adjusted her hair and tried again, wishing that she had thought to plait it before she woke Zuko. Of course, there would have been no reason to think she would need to, but hindsight was always twenty-twenty.

There was pressure on her arms, and Katara found herself being guided off his lap. At first she thought that he was stopping her, and she protested. Then, she felt him maneuver her onto his discarded top, and suspend himself on his elbows and knees over her.

Katara felt her breath catch in her throat as he lowered his head to her neck. He was leaving a mark, she could tell, but he was touching her so gently he probably did not think it would bruise. She had a view of all the muscles on his back tensing, keeping his weight off of her, then his mouth found her earlobe, and her eyes closed.

Zuko smiled to himself as he felt the bender gasp and arc up against him, inadvertently pressing her breasts to him as she did so. She really was a novice in the art of love making, yet, he didn't really mind.

Deliberately, he found the ties to her tunic and started pulling them loose. He felt her stiffen, but then she began pulling her arms out of the sleeves to help him along, unclasping her armor and shedding her gloves almost eagerly.

The Prince leaned back, letting her sit up and push the garment from her shoulders. She shook a bit in the breezy night, the crescent moon lacking the warmth that the sun had provided during the day. He took her right hand and kissed it, first on the back where it was proper, then on her palm. As he did, he let his jaw slacken and his tongue dart out, tracing a spiral that coaxed a small gasp from the bender.

Her lips were parted as well and her eyes open, fixed on him. The connection was foreign to the fire bender, he was used to his lovers closing their eyes and concentrating on the pleasure he brought, not the act of him giving it. The Bender beneath him, however, was mesmerized by his movements, and the Prince found himself changing the angle for her, so she could see her palm and his mouth and tongue.

It was fun, putting on a show for her, and he pressed her fingers into his face and rubbing his scar along them, then down a path on the inside of her arm. He repeated his actions with her other hand and the opposite side of his face, and Katara decided she preferred the scarred side of his face against her, it was rougher, textured, and uniquely his.

She felt him go for her bindings next, the white fabric looped a few times around, and smirked when he couldn't figure out how to undo it.

"It's this one." She pulled on one of the ends, and the fabric fell from her.

"I knew that." He told her plaintively. His melancholy did not last long, he was quickly distracted by the new expanse of skin exposed to him. Delicately, he ran his thumb over one of her nipples, teasing it until it was hard, then lowered his mouth to it, sucking gently. As he did so, he reached out to cup her other breast with his free hand.

"Zuko!!" Katara's voice was husky in her throat, a pitch he had never heard her use before. She arched again, her fingers burying themselves into his hair, tugging gently at the roots, but pressing him firmly down into her so he wouldn't get any ideas about stopping. Happily, the water bender felt him nibble on her gently, then switch to the opposite side.

Zuko was enjoying himself, and by her soft whines and bucks underneath him, he could tell she was too. Soon, however, he felt her push a little on his head, and murmur his name again softly, signaling that she wanted more. The Prince was already achingly hard, and he wanted nothing more than to take her right there, but this was her first (and possibly last) time, he wanted to make it special.

As his mouth took a tour around her navel, he hooked his fingers into the waistband of both her pants and underwear, sliding them off her waist.

"Lift up your hips." He whispered to her, and slipped the bottoms the rest of the way off when she obeyed.

She tried to sit up, perhaps to help him pull her pants off, but he pressed a hand into her chest, and guided her back down to the fabric strewn moss of the riverbank. The ease at which he was disrobing her was a little telling, and he hoped she wouldn't wonder why he was so acquainted with how they fastened. In truth, he had imagined undressing her on occasion; he had never really thought much of it. At the time, he thought, it had only been for fun and variety. Now he was no longer sure.

Her feet were still wet from dangling in the stream, and after he pulled the cloth of her pants over them, he leaned in and kissed the instep. Cautiously, he trailed a line of kisses up the inseam of her leg, some slow, others quick, but all searing hot in the still night.

Katara felt her pulse quicken as his fingers touched between her legs. She pulled him up to her for another long kiss, only to break it again with a moan as his fingers, which had been calmly surveying her, found her center.

"Oh spirits . . ." she swore at the exotic sensations that flooded her, pressing her forehead into his shoulder. She felt him nibble gently on her neck, assuring her of his presence.

Zuko was not used to touching a woman he had not had the luxury of really seeing first, but her nail digging grip on his back signaled he was going nowhere soon. He let his fingers wander, mapping her out in his mind as he went, memorizing the touches that made her whimper. He moved slowly, letting her experience and compare the different feelings, not trying to take her higher . . . yet.

Still showing her the range of sensations, he pressed a finger into her entrance with the intention of feeling for the strands of her barrier but being careful not to break them. He was surprised when he had slid his fingers in to the knuckle and encountered nothing. It wasn't disappointing, in fact, it was a relief that she would be spared that part of the discomfort, but, he couldn't deny being curious.

"Katara . . ." he pressed his lips to her ear, "you're hymen is already broken."

She knew her whole face was flushed, and could see the color had spread across much of her chest as well. It was embarrassing to talk about, his fingers still deep inside of her.

"Yes . . . umm, I forgot to tell you about that."

"Who-" Zuko raised his head to look at her.

"You did." She cut him off, ". . . do you remember when you knocked me into the post of the paifang gate in the North Pole?"

Zuko nodded and cringed, he knew what she was going to say next. It would shed new light on her weeks of hostility.

"Well, that's when."

He was upset . . . she could tell by the way he suddenly looked away and closed his eyes. It probably had not even occurred to him, and she quickly grabbed his chin, getting his focus back on her.

"Hey, umm, better you in the North Pole than Azula when she knocked me into those crystals under Ba Sing Se." she joked, leaning up to kiss him and squeezing her muscles around his fingers, reminding him that no matter what happened in the past, he was with her now in the present, and that's where he should be living.

"I'm sorry . . . I . . ."

"Don't, Zuko."

Something about the way she said his name made him pause and appreciate it, perhaps because he had heard it hissed in anger so many times before. He still felt guilty, still felt like a monster, but it jogged his memory that she had initiated, she had deepened their contact at each crossroads. She wasn't going to hold it against him, she wanted him between her legs.

This time, when his fingers moved, they had a purpose. He curled them into her, feeling left and right along the front of her wall, groping for the small patch of ridged skin. Katara mewled and squirmed underneath him, burying her face into the crook of his neck, her thigh pressing and rubbing quite pleasantly into his groin as she moved.

He toyed with her for several minutes, letting her soft whimpers compete with the singing of the crickets. In the end, however, it was too tiring to maintain the curling motion. Detangling himself from the strangling grip she had on his shoulders, he leaned down and sucked gently on her neck, then down her collarbone. Katara wrapped her own top up over her, suddenly cold without the heat of the fire bender pressed against her. She would have to fend for herself against the chill of the night air for a few minutes, though he doubted that she would notice it for long.

Kicking off his boots, shifting, and stretching out his cramped shoulders, he maneuvered backwards, stepping down into the stream, pulling her with him so she could perch at the edge of the water. Carefully, he found submerged rocks for her feet to rest on, it was unlikely she minded the sliminess; she had waded in that stream all evening during practice after all.

She had sat up on her hands, her eyes half lidded and her pupils dilated with arousal, her brow was furrowed with curiosity, she wasn't sure what he was doing, but did not seem to mind.

Zuko swallowed the nervousness that was building in his throat. He had never tried this before, but always wanted to. Careful to maintain their eye contact, he knelt down in the water and lowered his mouth to her.

Katara's breathing hitched, he could hear it easily across the expanse of her stomach. The fire bender found her clit, and with a little bit of finessing, turned his tongue in a slow lap around it. The moan that had been swelling inside her died on the tip of her tongue, and Katara collapsed backwards into a euphoric arch. It took her several seconds to remember the name of the man between her legs, but when her sex fogged mind did produce the answer, she gasped it again and again.

"Zuko . . . spirits, pleasssse, Zuko!! Ah! Zuko! ZUKO!!" It didn't exactly tickle, and it didn't exactly throb, but the contact was instantly addicting, and her body began to shake on it's own accord.

The way she was begging him for the pleasure of his touch in ways that she wouldn't beg him for her life was firing the Prince up. He stroked himself through the silken fabric of his pants, but before he had gotten himself far, the girl underneath him shivered so violently that he lost her clit. He judged by the way she tossed her shirt off herself angrily and whined, he was not the only one who lost something.

"That was . . . It's never felt like that before . . ."

He didn't bother asking if she meant her body in general or her body when she touched it. Rubbing his jaw, which was getting tired, he pressed his hands into her lower stomach, under the pretext of massaging her ovaries, but in actuality, he simply wanted to hold her down so she would not wriggle away a second time. Reorienting on her, he nipped the inside of her thigh, then sucked on it for several seconds, long and hard enough for it to bruise.

"Try to hold still this time," he told her patently, then, added after a short pause, "Remember to breathe."

"Please, Zuko . . ." she propped herself up and beckoned him closer, which he was happy to oblige. When he was close enough, she sat up and kissed him, noticing the strange, bitter taste that still clung to his tongue and lips, but not minding it at all.

"Take off your pants?" she whispered the question softly, but he jumped as though she had shouted. He looked up at her, eyes soft and almost intoxicated in appearance in the moonlight. For a minute, she thought he was going to protest, but instead he answered with a request of his own.

"Fight with me tomorrow. Don't leave my side."

Katara nodded, her fingers threading through his hair.

"Of course."

"Even if I have to fight Azula?"

"Especially if you have to fight her." She responded automatically, squeezing her knees on his waist reassuringly.

"I'll ask you again in front of the others tomorrow." He told her, looking out and across the grassy field.

"I'll try to act surprised."

"It will hurt a little . . ."

"I know . . . Suki says not much though."

He murmured something she couldn't make out, but assumed was her name, and she saw him rock back on his heels and begin sliding the wet pants down his hips and off his knees. She watched him raptly, he was not the first naked man she had ever seen, but, he was the first that was in such a state of need.

Laying down across her, he kissed her again, rubbing himself onto her thigh, letting her become used to the idea. He pressed a finger into her again, then, after he felt her buck, added another one. She was tight.

Bumping his head against her, he nudged his hips forward a little at a time until he was in place, then with one smooth thrust, sheathed himself inside of her, making the movement as quick as possible in the hopes that the pain would pass quickly too.

She gasped softly, closing her eyes and forcing herself to relax.

"Are you okay?"

Katara nodded opening her eyes again, then slowly lifted her legs and wound them around his waist. After feeling the encouragement of her calves across his back, Zuko pulled back out nearly all the way, paused, then slid back in. She was tighter than he bargained for, and he unfocused. He didn't want to finish too quickly.

It didn't take long to pick up a rhythm. He would be the aggressor, pounding hard into her, in response to the blow, she would tilt her hips up, tucking her pelvis so it took the momentum of his thrusts and turn them back onto him. In spite of himself, Zuko found himself speeding up, and the bender beneath him cried out, her fingernails scratching across his back. In the throes of passion, the Prince thought they felt superb, but he was sure that the following morning, while he was trying to fight Azula, he wouldn't appreciate them as much.

Catching one of her knees, he repositioned it so they looped up over his shoulder instead of wrapping around his waist. This not only gave him a new angle to thrust at, it kept his back well out of reach of her nails. Her other leg slipped down and splashed knee deep into the water of the stream beside them.

Katara, for her part was far too distracted by the new, deeper penetration. He was hitting the place he had teased earlier, and it made her scream. This was not like the whimpers from earlier, and Zuko quickly clamped a hand over her lips.

"Too loud!! --pant-- You'll wake --pant-- everyone!!"

"Mmm!!" she begged through his fingers, "Just like that!!! Don't stop!!!"

Zuko was glad she didn't ask for faster or harder, he wasn't sure how much longer he could hold on at this rate. His back was starting to burn from supporting his weight, his abs were starting to burn, and the knot in his loins was squeezing tighter and tighter. He wasn't far from the point of no return.

Throwing her arms out to either side, Katara closed her eyes and dug her fingers into the moss covered rocks along the riverbank. Her whole stomach tickled, burnt, and throbbed all at once, and like before, she could feel herself getting closer and closer.

Then, almost unexpectedly, the tension twisting and knotting inside her abruptly unwound and it felt like all the energy in her body rushed down and out of her. Her ribcage, stomach, and thighs began spasming, her muscles rippling and twitching this way and that in almost obscene gratification.

"ZUKO!!" He heard her yell out his name right before he saw her body coiled in on itself and she shook underneath him.

Then, everything exploded.

Every droplet of water in the stream, every blade of grass, every leaf, every cricket, every flower, every firefly . . . everything . . . exploded with light. Looking down at his arms, he saw his own blood shine in his skin as it pumped through his veins. Like everything else, his body was lit from within by the water it held.

He felt the scratches on his back heal, he saw her hickies fade, even his scar felt looser. The healing light from the stream was the strongest, it cast ripples of blue across her stomach and cheeks as it splashed by.

It was beautiful.

Katara didn't see any of her after glow. Even as the moss she gripped shone through her fingertips, she was oblivious to it, concentrating only on her orgasm, her eyes still screwed shut. She probably didn't even notice her bruises fade.

In the end, Zuko wasn't sure if it was the ethereal glow of her bending, the way she was thrashing this way and that, or the way her muscles were fluttering around him, but he felt his own climax swallow him, and he buckled forward onto the bender. His fingers clasped onto her, and he gruffly stammered her name, again and again.

As she regained her composure and the aftershocks ceased, he saw the ethereal glow of the water that lit the clearing from the inside out fade. She opened her eyes, reaching up with quivering fingers to bend a bit of sweat from his brow.

They stayed like that for the better part of a half an hour, collapsed and spent in each other's embrace. Finally, Zuko pulled himself out of her and rolled onto his back, limp in more ways than one. He kicked himself, he had been so distracted by the beauty of the lights that he had forgotten to pull out of her before he finished.

He opened his mouth to apologize, but before he could formulate one, he saw her sweep her fingertips down her stomach, bending his seed clean out of her body.

"I need to wash up . . . you should too." Katara muttered leaning down and kissing him softly, too exhausted to muster her previous passion, "Otherwise Toph will smell us on each other."

"I will." Zuko reached up and pulled her down for a proper kiss. There was something to be said about the chemistry between their elements. Even though it was on the ground on top of moss and discarded clothing, even though she was a virgin, it had been the best lay he had ever had.

He watched Katara slide into the water, splashing it up between her legs and across her stomach before dunking under the water. She shouldn't have done that. Her hair was matted from rubbing on the ground taking his thrusts, and wetting it would only make it harder to detangle.

His legs still felt soft, but he stood, gathering his rumpled clothes.



"No regrets?"

"No regrets."






Now stop bugging me for Zutara Hotness in NTCTW!! That fic has a plot, and apparently, plots take up a lot of the story time.




Okay, so, my first one shot . . . I basically wanted something to post to Live Journal to really jump on into the forums with a bang, so look for it there . . . I have to proofread it a few more times to be sure . . . I'll try to put it up on the big ones . . . though I don't feel like retyping it in caps.

I'm not sure I like Vulnerable!Katara, but I tried to make her relatable without seeming to have a Cinderella complex. She was definitely a challenge to write.




This is not a songfic, (god I can't stand those) but, it was inspired by the INXS song "Afterglow". If you do choose to listen to the song while you read, I'm sure it will only enhance the experience . . . (like how I tell you this AFTER you've already read it?)




I defy anyone to be able to draw that last scene. I made the line art, scanned it, thought about all the glowing I'd have to put into everything when I colored it, then gave up.




This is 21 pages in Microsoft Word. That's 8,500 words long of pure sexing. That's a lot of time, effort, and thesaurusing the word 'moan'.


You better review it, damn it!! Especially if you want more sexy one shots.