It wasn't when he kidnapped her. It wasn't in the catacombs of Ba Sing Se. It wasn't even when he accompanied her to search for her mother's murderer.

The first time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation was the first night he washed the dishes.

"What are you doing?"

"Exactly what it looks like."

"I'm the water-bender here."

"Your point?"

"Normally, I-," Katara stopped herself, the dishrag hanging from her loose grip, and watched him silently for a quick moment. Zuko was kneeling in front of the crumbling fountain, sleeves rolled up and arms elbow-deep in the steaming water. His shoulders worked up and down as he scrubbed a plate and set it aside, only to pick up the next one.

"Thanks," she finally said.

"You're welcome."

-----

The second time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation, she washed the dishes. He dried.

"Don't scorch it."

"It's not exactly fine china."

"Just use the rag."

"It's fine."

"It's not exactly efficient."

"Practice of any form is a good idea."

"That's a stretch."

Katara pushed a small wave over the edge of the fountain with the curve of a finger. Zuko used the rag to dry his face off and went back to fire-bending the plates dry with steam.

After the second wave, Zuko frowned at her. With a smirk, Katara pointed to the surface of the water with her chin.

"It's getting a little cool."

With a quick punch, the fountain was warm again, steam rising up and over her arms as she washed and rinsed the remaining cups.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

-----

The third time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation, he kissed her.

"Ouch!" Katara yanked her hand out of fountain and held it up. A small bead of blood formed on her skin where the tip of the skewer had nicked her palm. The red dot rose and then broke, a little rivulet of blood mixing in with the water rolling down her hand.

"Are you alright?" Zuko looked over at her, plate and dishrag in hand, the picture of domesticity. Katara bit her lips as she smiled softly, nodding.

"Just a prick," she held out her hand for a quick inspection. A new, thin line of blood moved along the crease in her hand between her thumb and forefinger. Zuko blotted at her palm with the dishrag. "Ew, no! That's for the dishes."

"You were bleeding," he said simply.

"It's fine, look," Katara dunked her hand back in the water and pulled it out. "It's already closed up. Not a problem." The tiniest peek of red appeared on her palm in the fading sunlight.

Zuko flipped the towel over his shoulder and grasped the side of her hand with his own. A warm thumb brushed along the creases in her skin and rested above the pin prick. His dark hair shielded his face from her eyes. She just watched the top of his head blankly as he lowered his mouth to her palm and kissed it softly.

Katara swallowed weakly, the saliva sticking uncomfortably in her throat. The steam from the warmed fountain was a little too hot for comfort. Curling her fingers in on the spot he had touched, she took a deep breath and swallowed again.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

-----

The fourth time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation was when he sat next to her at that horrendous play.

She could feel the heat from his thigh next to hers even through the heavy material of his cloak. Her breath was shallow and it was everything she could do to pay attention to the play in front of her instead of the man at her side.

Then the play got in to full swing and it was everything she could do not to jump down from the balcony and beat that actress senseless.

Zuko was just as tense next to her, both of their sets of shoulders locked in anger. Katara's hands shook silently as she grabbed at her skirts, willing herself not to shout out in anger.

Then his hand was on hers, his warm palm engulfing her fist and sending new tremors up her arm and down her body. His thumb traced lazy lines across her hand, along the crevices between her fingers and around the little bone in her wrist. A small breath escaped her lips, but her other hand gripped her skirts tighter, quelling the urge to wrap her arms around him and bury her face in the crook of his neck. He was so warm, she could sleep and dream and not have to watch the caricature of herself on the screen.

Every muscle clenched as his hand slid down from her fist to rest against the inside curve of her thigh. Her legs pressed together but she didn't push him away. Gently, she draped her hand over his, holding him in place. It was awkward and she didn't exactly know what to do, but it felt nice when he started to stroke her leg with is fingertips. With another swallow she was sure everyone in the audience heard, Katara shifted her gaze to the side. His head was turned slightly towards her, still giving the impression of watching the play, but meeting her eyes in the dim light. It was impossible for them to read each others thoughts, so they just sat there, fingers entwined, Katara's body practically shaking with the need to do something.

-----

The fifth time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation was during intermission.

Ember Island sunsets were beautiful and she could almost forget her problems as she watched the red and orange light dance across the ocean. What finally made her mind switch off was the knowledge that he had stepped up behind her on the empty balcony. Her fingers twitched anxiously, waiting for him to speak.

Instead, Zuko stepped forward, his body pressed lightly against her back. Katara felt her face start to turn but stopped herself. All the moisture had left her mouth and she wouldn't have been able to speak if she even had an idea of what she wanted to say.

Then his hands were on her waist, fingers stroking her robes lightly. Her mouth hung open as short, little breaths moved in and out of her lungs. He kissed the back of her head and paused, waiting for her to react. Katara remained stock still. She could hear him swallow nervously despite the blood rushing in her ears and clamped her hands down on his when he tried to back away. His grip tightened on her waist immediately and pulled her back, pressing her flush against him.

Now his mouth was at her neck, hot against her hair and flesh. Her eyes drifted shut as she rolled her head to the side. Every hair on her arms stood on end as his touches sent little bursts of electricity through her system. She was scared her knees would buckle with the force of her immediate reaction. It wasn't normal and it wasn't right and it was over all too soon when Sokka came running up the steps to inform them the show was starting again.

-----

The sixth time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation, he was already kissing her.

After rinsing her hands in the river, Katara wiped them off on the side of her robe. The path back to the campsite was just barely visible in the moonlight. She could make out another body working its way through the trees to the bathroom spot.

Katara smiled as he approached.

"I thought your Zuko costume was pretty good," she quipped, hoping for a light and fun tone but ending up dangerously close to squeaky and nervous. The moonlight glanced off his teeth when he smiled in reply.

"Thanks," he laughed. A few moments of silence ticked by, neither making a move to say anything.

"Well, sleep tight," she waved and stepped forward to pass by him.

"About the play-," he started loudly and then caught himself and looked quickly to the side. Katara couldn't help but grin; since he'd been spending more time with their group it became more difficult to believe she had ever viewed him as a threat. Sometimes, Zuko was the most awkward kid she'd ever met. Then, he stepped forward and took her hands in his.

"Yeah?"

"I, well, it had some merit, don't you think?"

Katara raised an eyebrow and then grinned wider. "I suppose," she laughed lightly. "Some merit."

"Yeah?" he voice was hopeful.

"Sure," she shrugged, a smile still plastered on her face. More silence. "Goodnight, Zuko."

"Goodnight, Katara."

Another beat and then his lips were pressed against hers, and it was weird because she had been smiling. She made a soft, surprised sound and Zuko quickly stepped back.

"S-sorry," he dropped her hands and stared at the ground. Katara smiled once more and pressed her palms against his cheeks, lifting his face up. She kissed him again and this time it was better. Both their lips were dry, but it was warm and gentle and Katara couldn't help but sigh lightly as they pulled apart again.

"Sorry," she grinned, running her thumb along the bottom of his scar and then tracing a finger down his jaw line. Soon, Zuko's hands were in her hair, pulling her back in for another kiss. Katara wrapped her own arms around his neck, clinging as he slanted his mouth across hers. Now it was hot and wet and Katara's body vibrated in the night air.

The bark bit into her skin when Zuko finally pushed her back against a tree. He was big and strong and pressed blissfully close to her own person. Katara gasped when they finally broke the kiss and his lips sought out the thin flesh beneath her ear. He tracked hot, steamy kisses along her collarbone and back up to her other ear before slipping his tongue along the edge of it. Her fingers wound their way through his hair, pulling him closer to her, wanting him to touch her everywhere because whenever his warm fingertips pressed against her flesh it ignited little fires along her skin.

Cool night air rushed across her belly when he lifted her skirts up and pressed his thigh between her legs. Katara couldn't help but push down against the muscle, a little groan rumbling in her chest as pleasure curled out from her center and along her extremities. Zuko's fingers never stopped working against her flesh, his lips never leaving hers. When they reached the waistband of her pants and curled underneath them, he paused when Katara stiffened.

She kissed him sweetly and rubbed her hips against him. They smiled at each other, neither could really see, but they knew and understood. He pushed his hand down past her waistband and cupped her. Katara's grip on his neck tightened. Zuko kissed her again and pressed his own need against her leg rhythmically. She ran a hand down his chest and rested her palm against him. The muscles in his jaw clenched and he stilled. Katara couldn't help but grin; he was a teenage boy after all.

Then his fingers slipped into her and all coherent thought was lost. She practically burned with need as his hot hand worked against and into her. Her breath came hot and fast against his neck as she tightened the arm she had wrapped around him. Somewhere beneath the layers of bliss being shoveled on top of her, Katara remembered to stroke with her right hand. Zuko pushed up and into her hand again and again. Little squeaks started to accompany the humid gasps as Katara bucked against him.

It was building, tighter and tighter, Katara felt like her insides were wrapping themselves into a knot. She abandoned Zuko, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him in for another sweaty, messy kiss. Her hips had a mind of their own as they twisted and pressed and rolled against him. It kept building, warmer and hotter and better and better, until everything froze. Katara felt she could bend metal with the force behind her embrace. Zuko was pressed against her and she could feel every hair against her face, every bead of sweat that rolled down her neck. Her heart beat once and then a desperate, dry cry ripped from her throat, and she exploded.

-----

When she woke up the next morning she smiled, reveling in the smell of breakfast. After sitting up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she looked across the campsite. There was Zuko, stirring a pot over the fire.

That was the seventh time Katara wanted to kiss the banished prince of the Fire Nation.