A/N: Okay, this is the first Zutara story I've written to be amusing. Hopefully I achieved that. I took a different approach to Zuko and Katara's characterization in this fic, mostly because I got tired of reading stories where they barely keep in touch after the war is over, or when they only communicate through letters for years before they randomly meet up later. So, I guess I wanted to break the mold and make them best friends in this story, only because I refuse to believe that after all the shit that went down in the series finale, that they wouldn't have been extremely close. Anyway.
This story is rated M for stoned!Zuko/Katara, drunk!Zuko/Katara, language, and eventual sexytimes. You have been warned.
Also, pretty sure this will be in three parts. Enjoy!
"Lady Katara, while I do understand your position concerning Fire Nation politics, and the fact that you are a well respected individual amongst its citizens, I'm afraid I cannot—"
The servant was a short and squat man with uneven sideburns and a squeaky voice. He was also brand spankin' new at his job, which was why Katara did feel slightly guilty when she stepped around him and continued down the hallway to the throne room.
"Lady Katara— Please! Lady Katara—!"
But she had already thrown open the heavy doors to the throne room and was greeted with eleven heads turning in her direction.
Ahh, she had interrupted a meeting. She loved interrupting meetings. She scanned every face until she found the one that meant the most to her. "Hello Zuko."
There were mutterings amongst the ten other men in the room. Did she really just call the Fire Lord by his first name? She obviously has no manners. But don't you know, she's that Waterbending woman from the Southern Water Tribe, the one that taught the Avatar. But isn't she dating the Avatar? No, you imbecile, they parted ways romantically quite some time ago, don't you read? Well excuse me for paying more attention to the well being of my own country and not who the illustrious Avatar is dating, and it's not like she's of any importance to us anyway. If you actually paid attention you would realize that she is of every importance to the well being of this country you daft—
Zuko scooted over to make room for her and gave her a curt nod when she sat down. "Katara," he acknowledged. "You're late."
"Or perhaps you started early?" she countered, taking advantage of everyone else's moment of distraction to pull her hair back so it wouldn't get in her face. She pretended not to notice Zuko's gaze sweeping over her hair, face, and then figure.
A moment later he cleared his throat and shook his head slightly as if to clear his thoughts. "Alright gentlemen and Katara, these are the new trade routes we're thinking of establishing with the Earth Kingdom…"
At nineteen years old, Katara had set herself up a System. In the springtime she would travel with Aang and Toph, mostly around the Earth Kingdom, and sometimes to the Northern Water Tribe. The Avatar's Peace was unsurprisingly difficult to maintain, since there were three different nations who wanted things done their way. Katara and Toph had had to help Aang master another element: the element of smooth talking. And he was surprisingly good at it.
She spent the summers at home in the Southern Water Tribe. Although it was becoming more and more trying to do so. Hakoda was convinced that she should have been married a couple of years ago. This only irritated her. She was not becoming an old spinster at nineteen years old for Spirit's sake.
Usually autumns were spent on Kyoshi Island, visiting Suki and the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors. Katara was becoming quite handy with those fan…things. Although she still preferred waterbending for obvious reasons.
Winters were spent in the Fire Nation, mostly because it was warm. But also because Zuko not only wanted, but appreciated her help. Sometimes she helped him with paperwork, other times with straightening up the palace. In the past year or so Zuko had even started asking her to sit in on meetings and give her opinion. He claimed that an outsider's view on things was probably the wakeup call the older advisors needed. But in all honestly, Katara was pretty sure she just made him less nervous. Winters weren't exactly the longest season, but Katara still found herself spending the longest periods of time there. She was beginning to think it was because Zuko was perhaps her only friend who never asked her what she was going to do with the rest of her life. He didn't even ask her what she was doing now.
The System was infallible. Katara always stuck to the System.
Madame Meishuo was a plump, loud, and very opinionated woman. She was considered the finest matchmaker in both the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom. She was also Iroh's new favorite person.
"General Iroh, how good it was for you to invite me here!" she exclaimed as soon as she sat down for afternoon tea with him. Iroh, who also spent his winters in the Fire Nation, had called her in to speak with him on "very important matters". She had her suspicions, but she also knew it was best to be polite to a pending customer. Especially when said pending customer was uncle to the Fire Lord.
"Madame Meishuo, it is very good to see you. Would you care for a cup of tea? It is made with ginseng and is supposed to energize the body and soul."
Madame Meishuo smiled and nodded. As soon as her tea cup was full she picked it up and took a few sips, all the while peering at Iroh over the rim to see if he was going to say anything else. After a full two minutes of silence, she sighed and put her cup back down.
"Iroh, we've known each other for some time, and I think it's safe to say that you know me fairly well. Which means you know that I don't like to dilly dally around when I have things to do. So why don't you explain to me why, exactly, I'm here?"
Iroh beamed at her. Always the professional, she had cut directly to the chase. This was good. He would need her professional opinions and ideas if this little plan of his was ever going to work.
Placing his cup back down next to hers, he turned slightly in his chair and gestured to another couple having lunch in the courtyard some ways off. "I have a proposition for you, Madame Meishuo. I'm sure you're aware of my nephew's recent change in relationship status?"
Madame Meishuo followed Iroh's gaze, and a thoughtful look came over her plump face. "I heard he and the Lady Mai broke off their engagement? Must have been hard for him. He's twenty one now, the people expect him to marry soon."
Iroh nodded, but offered nothing more. This was the Madame Meishuo, and she wouldn't be the greatest matchmaker in the world if she had a slow sense of perception.
"Who is he eating with though? She's very pretty—Wait! Is that Lady Katara of the Southern Water Tribe? I had forgotten that they were friends. Well isn't that nice." She turned immediately back to Iroh. "Why am I here, again?" Once again, she had her suspicions, but she wanted to hear them come straight from Iroh's mouth.
But Iroh continued to be silent; instead he continued watching Zuko and Katara eat their lunch. Finally, after some huffing, Madame Meishuo settled in to watch them too.
Katara was making her soup and noodles hover and dance over her bowl through her bending. Zuko watched with amusement, and after a beat he reached out and snatched up a noodle from the swirling orb and plopped it into his mouth with a smirk.
"Hey!" Katara retaliated by grabbing one of his sticky rice balls and shoving it into her mouth. Then they both began digging into the other's food.
"How mature of them," Madame Meishuo observed with a raised eyebrow.
"You don't understand," Iroh said softly. "When the Fire Lord is around Katara, he gets to act like the kid he never got to be. They have fun together and she brings him peace."
The matchmaker across from him merrily nodded. "But what about her? What does he give her?"
"Zuko does not judge her, but rather chooses to understand her. He accepts her for who she is and does not ask any more from her then she can give."
Madame Meishuo blinked before clearing her throat. "So, what I'm gathering is that you feel as if they'd make a decent match. Alright, I agree with you. Love is friendship on fire and all that. But they aren't together." She paused, tapping her chin as she thought. "Would you say there's sexual attraction?"
At this, Iroh snorted.
Madame Meishuo grinned. "So they're best friends, they're sexually attracted to each other, they understand each other. But they aren't together. We have established, however, that they should be." She propped her elbows on the table and leaned forward. "Listen Iroh, if these two are going to get a grip and get it together, it has to happen naturally. You just give them a teensy weensy little push in the right direction. Preferably a push that happens under pre determined romantic situations. They need to go on a date, just one date, with each other."
Iroh sighed, he was afraid she's come to this conclusion. "But you see Madame Meishuo, they won't agree—"
She held up a finger, silencing him. "Yes, yes, I know." She pulled out a small box from her traveling bag and opened it, revealing a handful of what looked like smoking herbs nestled inside. "First, we give them some of this. Then all we have to do is get them to agree to go on one date with anyone. And to ensure that they attend this date, we take away something of value that they cannot get back until they go on the date. Second, we make them think they're going on dates with different people, but in reality it's with each other. Give them some activities to do together, perhaps throw in some alcohol, and therein, General Iroh, lies the push."
Iroh thought this over for a second. "I don't particularly understand your thought process on this one, Madame Meishuo, but they don't call you the best for nothing. Now, how exactly—"
She tapped the box filled with natural herbs. "This is called The Petal of the Cactus," she said with a wicked grin.
Iroh felt suddenly hopeful.
It was late into the night and Zuko was buried under a mountain of paperwork. He was alone now in his office as he had (begrudgingly) told Katara to go to bed some time ago. She had moaned and carried on about how he was working too hard, but she had still ruffled his shaggy hair affectionately before leaving him to his work.
He was having a hard time focusing on his work, however. His thoughts kept drifting off to a certain waterbender who was probably curled up under silken sheets in a guest bedroom only a few rooms down from his office. He wondered if she slept in a gown or in her underwear (now that was a lovely mental picture), or if she slept in nothing at all (holy shit).
He groaned and rubbed at his temples. Katara's visits were probably his favorite time of year, but he never seemed to get anything done when she was around.
There was a knock at the door and a moment later Iroh stepped through, puffing on a pipe.
"Nephew!" his uncle exclaimed happily, throwing his arms wide. "Why are you still in your office at this late hour? And where is Lady Katara?"
Zuko sighed and tilted his head back towards the ceiling. "Katara went to bed some time ago, and I am trying to put a dent in this paperwork Uncle, so if you could please—"
"Nonsense!" Iroh exclaimed. He brought the pipe to his lips and a moment later expelled a puff of smoke. It wafted over to Zuko, who sniffed it and straightened. "Uncle," he said sternly, "that's not tobacco. What are you smoking?"
Iron shrugged nonchalantly before offering his nephew the pipe. "Just a special smoking herb I received from a friend. Would you like to try it, Fire Lord Zuko?"
Zuko shook his head. "No thank you, Uncle, I really need to get to this paperwork—"
"But it will relax your body and mind, making your work easier and enjoyable."
Zuko watched his Uncle for a moment before rolling his eyes and reaching out for the pipe. "Fine, if it will get you to leave me be, then fine." Iroh handed him the pipe and Zuko quickly brought it to his lips before inhaling. Smoking was enjoyable for firebenders for very obvious reasons, and Zuko felt himself relax as the sweet taste of the smoke covered his tongue.
-Five minutes later-
Suddenly everything was hilarious and Zuko could not stop laughing. He was surveying some of the papers gathered on his desk (not actually filling them out or signing them, mind). "Hey Uncle, this guy misspelled 'routine'. How do you misspell that? I mean its r-o-u-t-e-e-n…no wait. Ha, now I just misspelled it. Where's Katara? She'd find that funny. I should go wake her up and tell her about it. She'd appreciate it. Me misspelling 'routine', I mean."
Uncle was watching him with twinkling eyes before slowly placing a contract in front of Zuko. The Fire Lord's eyes scanned over it quickly before he snorted and laughed some more. "A date clause? Seriously? I don't have time for that. Katara's here. I bet she'd get mad. If I went on a date, I mean."
Iroh handed Zuko a pen. "But Zuko, you need to put yourself out there more. Just go on one date with a lovely young lady. Once insy weensy date. That's all I want you to do. And it might make Katara jealous."
Zuko's head snapped up at that. He stared at Iroh with bleary and red eyes. "You think? No…no she wouldn't. Katara doesn't get jealous of me when I'm with other girls. I mean, that whole time I was with Mai she wasn't. Jealous. She wasn't jealous."
Iroh frowned. "Sometimes nephew I wonder if I should get you a pair of glasses."
Zuko frowned. "I'd look funny in glasses." He started searching for a blank sheet of parchment. "I should draw a picture of myself wearing glasses and then show it to Katara. She'd find it funny. The drawing of me with glasses, I mean."
Iroh poked his nephew on his shoulder. "Zuko, if you go on this date, Katara will be really happy about it."
Zuko's gaze narrowed. "How would you know?"
Iroh grinned. "A wise old man's intuition. It is merrily three hours of your time, Fire Lord Zuko. And it will make Katara happy."
Zuko blinked. "Make Katara…happy." He grinned stupidly before dissolving into laughter again. "I love making Katara happy. She's so pretty. When she's happy, I mean. When she's not being pretty all the time."
"Sign the document nephew."
For the first time since Iroh had put it there, Zuko noticed the pen in his hand. "Ha ha….okay sure." He signed the date clause with a flourish before holding it up for his uncle. "Yay."
"Very good Zuko!" Iroh praised, clapping his hands together. "I just need one more thing." He reached forward and picked up the old Fire Nation crown that Iroh had given Zuko when he had still been in prison. "I just need to take this with me for a little while."
Zuko suddenly looked distraught. "Wha? Why?"
"It's so that you don't try—" Iroh paused. "It will make Katara happy."
"Goodnight Uncle." Zuko then busied himself with his drawing, not noticing his Uncle leaving his office to talk to a plump woman on the other side of the door.
Four minutes later he was fast asleep.
"Zuko…? Are you alive?"
Someone was poking his head relentlessly. He opened his eyes slowly. He saw parchment, spilled ink…was that a drawing of him with glasses? Katara spotted it about the same time he did and snatched it up, a grin splitting across her face.
"Wow Zuko. How late were you up last night? Did you get slaphappy?" Her blue eyes continued to trace over the drawing and she snorted with laughter. "You gave yourself a mustache."
"Shut up Katara," Zuko groaned, moving to sit up in his chair and rub the sleep from his eyes. "What time is it?"
"Half past ten."
It took about thirty seconds for the Fire Lord to be out of his chair and scrambling around his office for his fancy robes, the hell were his shoes— ah, there they were, his crown…his crown his crown…where was that stupid thing—
"Zuko," Katara said, gaining his attention. She was trying to keep a smile off of her face. "Calm down. Your meeting at ten fifteen was cancelled."
But Zuko was already shaking his head as he moved around everything on his desk. "This is bad. This is really bad."
"I thought…but it was a dream…wasn't it?"
A smoking pipe. Uncle Iroh. A dating clause. His Uncle carrying his crown, the one that was so important to him, out the door. Lots of laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Throw some thoughts of Katara in there…
He glanced at the paper that was in her hands, the drawing he had done of himself wearing glasses.
"Zuko?" Katara called, concerned gaze following him as he continued to search his desk. "What's going on? Is your crown missing—"
"I have to find my Uncle." And with that he moved past her and was out of his office. Katara rolled his eyes. She wished Zuko would stop and explain things to her every once in awhile. She hated being out of the loop. However, she was definitely keeping this drawing of him wearing glasses. It was hilarious.
Breakfast was normally much more fun with Zuko there to talk to, but Katara had picked up a couple of adventure scrolls in the library and had one spread out next to her while she ate. She was just getting to a very riveting part when a plump woman with heavy purple eye shadow smeared on her eyelids slipped into the chair next to her.
"Hello," the woman said amicably, and Katara nodded back quickly, too absorbed in her scroll to give the woman a proper greeting.
A moment later the woman struck a match and lit a cigarette and Katara gagged as the smoke drifted over to her.
"Um, could you please smoke that somewhere else? I'm trying to eat my breakfast."
The woman gave her an apologetic look, but didn't put out the cigarette. "Sorry dear, I just assumed everyone that stayed in the palace with the Fire Lord was okay with a little smoke."
This caused Katara to raise her eyebrows and turn to face the woman head on. It was then that she recognized her. "Madame Meishuo? The Matchmaker?"
The woman gave her a feral smile before nodding. "The one and only."
Katara's eyes narrowed. "Well then, Madame Meishuo, would you please put out your cigarette? I don't care for smoke."
Madame Meishuo nodded and shrugged. She still didn't put the cigarette out. "Well alright then. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Most people from the Water Tribes don't have the backbone to handle a smoke now and again. They just can't appreciate another cultures tradition. Can't blame you, your taste buds most be dull from all that…blubber."
At this Katara bristled. She whirled around in her chair and snatched the cigarette from Madame Meishuo's hands. "I'll have you know that if anyone from the Water Tribe appreciates another culture's traditions, it's me." And with that, she took a massive puff from the cigarette, practically coughing a lung out when she finally expelled the smoke.
She paused. That hadn't tasted like other cigarettes Zuko had coaxed her into trying.
"This isn't tobacco is it?"
Madame Meishuo gave her a mischievous grin and shook her head.
-Three Minutes Later-
Everything was hilarious and Katara could not stop laughing.
"And then I found a picture of him with glasses! It was great. He's actually pretty good a drawing though, but he never draws anything funny. I wish I had it now, you'd laugh too!"
Madame Meishuo was tapping a piece of paper on top of Katara's scroll. "Would you sign this please, sweetie?"
Katara picked it up and glanced it over. "A date clause? Why would I want to go on a date?"
Before Madame Meishuo could open her mouth to explain Katara had dug in to the fruit bowl. "Oh man, this fruit is delicious. I don't know what it is about the Fire Nation, but when it comes together with fruit, it just makes super amazing fruit. Like…it's awesome. It's so good. It's the best fruit I've ever tasted. I don't even know if I can explain to you how awesome this fruit is."
"Sign the document, Katara."
"But why would I go on a date? I don't want to. Have you tried this fruit? Oh Spirits, this fruit!"
Madame Meishuo was growing impatient. "Sweetheart, please just sign this contract. I promise you won't regret. It'll make Zuko angry."
Katara perked up at this. "He's so cute when he's angry!" Then she frowned. "But I'd rather Zuko be happy."
"Well then, signing this will make him happy."
Madame Meishuo handed Katara a pen, and she signed the contract with a flourish. Before Katara could dig into the fruit again, the matchmaker reached out and pulled Katara's mother's necklace away from her neck. "Oh dear, this has a giant spot of dirt on it."
Confused, Katara began to shake her head. "What? No, I cleaned it this morning!"
"Don't worry dear, I'll be right back with it! I'm just going to have it cleaned for you, alright?"
The waterbender gave her an anguished look but nodded anyway. "Well, if you think it's dirty—"
"Alright then sweetie!" Madame Meishuo exclaimed as she stood up with Katara's necklace in one hand and the date clause document in another. "Why don't you take a nap before your date tonight?"
Three minutes later she was fast asleep with her head in a bowl of fruit.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GO ON A DATE IN ORDER TO GET MY CROWN BACK?"
Iroh shrugged and held up the document that Zuko had signed the night before. "Just go on the date, Fire Lord Zuko, and you can have your crown back. Remember, you signed this document."
"BECAUSE I WAS HIGH. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON."
"Well Zuko, you should be careful what you smoke—"
"BULLSHIT. YOU GAVE IT TO ME. IN A PIPE. YOU GAVE IT TO ME IN YOUR OWN PIPE."
"AND NOW I HAVE TO GO ON—"
The sound of Katara's voice silenced Zuko's rant. Both men turned to see the confused waterbender standing in the doorway of Iroh's office. "Sorry for interrupting, but I was wondering if you could tell me where Madame Meishuo is? I need to speak with her. Immediately."
Zuko stepped forward and began to run his fingers through her long, wavy hair. "You have fruit in your hair," he explained, as if this was an everyday occurrence. She relaxed under his touch as he picked grapes and bits of orange out of her hair. His fingertips glided over her neck as he made sure everything was out of her hair. Her breath hitched. He smirked. In retaliation she moved her hand to trace along the side of his thigh that she could reach. He sucked in a breath before freezing. She smirked.
"—she should be in the courtyard enjoying a few musicians I called in to entertain her for the afternoon."
"Thank you Iroh," Katara said sweetly before turning on her heel and marching out of the room. Zuko blinked, stood up straight and then turned back to his uncle. It was Iroh who was now smirking.
"Do you and Lady Katara always tease each other in that way? You should be careful. Soon the both of you will reach a boiling point."
Zuko glared at him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, if you and Katara continue teasing each other at this rate, all your problems over producing an heir will be solved!"
"I really hate you sometimes."
Katara was livid as she stalked into the restaurant where she was supposed to join up with her "date". Absolutely livid. How was she supposed to know that the document she has signed earlier was a legitimate Fire Nation contract?
No, she wasn't livid. She was murderous.
And she couldn't get her necklace back until she went on this stupid date. She and her mysterious man had a list of three activities. First, dinner. Second, a play in the downtown part of the Capitol. Third, dessert, and then? Apparently she and her date were supposed to figure things out from there, but Katara would be booking it back to the palace for a stiff drink. Zuko would understand if she raided the special stash he had underneath his desk.
She slumped down at the table that she had been assigned to, one that was in its own private corner in this upscale, fancy restaurant that served Fire Nation delicacies. In other words, Katara wouldn't be getting a proper dinner tonight. She clasped her hands together on the table and waited for the waiter to come around so she could order a glass of wine to kick off the night. After a few minutes of waiting, she was about to get up and hunt down the waiter herself when someone slipped into the seat across for her. She steeled herself before looking up at the figure. He was hooded.
This meant he was sketchy. Great.
And then the hooded figure yanked off his hood. He had gold eyes, a scar across the right side of his face, shaggy hair that he kept just long enough to pull it back into a royal topknot, and a furious expression.
She shrieked and he shouted something about murdering his uncle.