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It's late, but it's finally done. Cross posted to 30_kisses and Katara_Zuko.

Counting Up

One. The first time they kiss, it's an accident, assumed to be a mistake; recognized misconduct and embarrassed feat all surging like a fire in both of their throats, thrilling to spill over and out like hot lava if either were to speak of it. Teenagers aching over a moment of heat sparked their thoughts just as a match sparks a fire.

Two. The second time it's only a bright brush, nothing short of passionate, but short enough all the same. Instead of hidden desires tucked behind controlled covers, stolen glances and secretive dreams were well displayed on their faces every time he touched her arm, or every time she let his name roll off her tongue. Though they are no longer teenagers, they cannot help but act like them.

Three. The third time they are starting to run out of excuses. Soft moans and gentle caresses all seem to happen too quickly, and she is afraid someone might see and misunderstand. She is with the Avatar, after all, and he, courting a Fire Nation Noble, would never be able to withstand the scrutinizing looks of his council at his taste in concubines.

Four. The fourth time they were drunk. Too much Fire Whiskey at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding had led to one thing and then to another, and after one kiss, the rest of the night was a blur to both of them. She woke up the next morning with a severe headache and slipped out of the red satin sheets before he even stirred. His fiancée never knew a thing.

Five. The fifth time definitely should not count. She was unconscious, and if he would have known that she could have healed herself if such a simple measure was taken to place her beautiful body in water, he would never have kissed her. Never.

Six. The sixth time they kiss, it isn't out of passion or love, but out of sympathy and grief, the feeling of being needed and wanted by someone in the world overwhelmed him with the loss of his wife, even though they both know that she's the only one he's ever loved the way that is envied. She stayed with him that night, being the person he would turn to when he realized he had lost his childhood sweetheart, not a true love, but a lover at that.

Seven. The seventh time is when they are caught, finally, by her brother. He doesn't freak out like he would have after the war; instead he gives them his blessing, as their father is away in the Earth Kingdom at the time of their proposal.

Eight. The eighth time that kissing is their otherwise occupied action at the present confirms the matrimony of the first Water-Tribe born Fire Lady. The people cry out at the unjustness of it all, but after a few months they are able to eat their words when the Fire Lord is away on trade specifications and she is able to stop an invasion by directing the generals against the rebellion of rouge Fire Nation soldiers that would have otherwise disrupted the Nation by a civil war.

Nine. The ninth time they kiss, it's an overjoyed kiss. The new life brought into their circle is lying in her mother's arms, named after her mother's mother, the tears of jubilance splashing down onto Kya's forehead, where it falls into the gold eyes that remind her so much of her father.

Ten. The tenth time isn't a good-bye, but a reminder that no matter what, they remain together because they are the sun and the moon, the fire and the rain, the warmth and the cold. After all, what is a fire without its flame, or the water without foam, they complete each other, and so even as they take their last breaths and their hearts their last beats, they really aren't leaving, but arriving. The last thing she sees are the brilliant flame that dances in and out of his eyes, even after all of these years. The last thing he sees are the crystals of cerulean pools that have lead him to her heart after years of love. And so they depart physically, but their spirits are just like Li and La, Yin and Yang—absolute.