A/N: I apologize for the delay. I went back and forth, debating over how I wanted to end this little ficlet, and actually ended up reworking some scenes. I do feel satisfied with how it turned out, however.
Warnings: The return of stoned!Zuko/Katara, language, and obnoxious cuteness.
And now I present to you the final part of 'The Date Clause' in all its cheesy glory. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it! Enjoy and review!
The sun slanted in through the window and hit Katara square in the face. She moaned before rolling over, legs entangling themselves in the sheets. But the sun continued to beat down on her face with relentless enthusiasm. With a groan she rolled out of bed and stumbled to the window before drawing the velvet curtains shut with a little more force than necessary. Grumbling she maneuvered back to the bed and climbed in, wondering how anyone could possibly be up and functioning at this hour.
She didn't notice the vase of fresh fire lilies sitting on the bedside table.
Madame Meishuo was not amused.
First of all, whoever had made her coffee that morning had done a wretched job.
"Does no one in the Fire Nation put sugar in anything?" She flagged down a servant before promptly shoving the coffee cup in his face. "This is so bitter I'm getting wrinkles! Here, taste it and tell me it's not terrible."
The servant looked down at her with a blank expression. "Actually, I'm the one that made your coffee, Madame."
"I—Well then!" She grabbed hold of the servant's hand and put the cup back in it. "Thank you but no thank you. Good day," she cleared her throat before turning on her heel and walking out of the dining hall. She would not start out her day feeling this embarrassed, she would not.
And where was General Iroh? He was late!
She made her way out into the gardens before settling down on a stone bench before some flower beds. She took off her sandals and wiggled her toes against the soft grass. She was a native of the Earth Kingdom after all.
"I hear from the servants that you had some coffee trouble this morning, Madame Meishuo."
She swiveled in her seat to see Iroh standing off to her right, surveying some blossoms that she didn't recognize. Most have been some kind of rare Fire Nation flower.
"Something like that."
Iroh nodded before diverting his attention back to her. After making his way over to her and standing beside her, he pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to her.
"Before you ask, it's a news flier."
She glanced down at the paper and read the headline out loud. "Lady Katara Caught In Compromising Position With Mysterious Hooded Man."
She promptly burst out laughing.
"Where'd they do it then?"
"A storage closet in a pub."
A snort followed by more laughter. "That's fantastic! I told you Iroh; just a push was all they needed. Who caught them anyhow?"
"I did. Well, technically the bartender as well. He was not pleased."
"Well I hope they didn't make too big of a…mess." She cleared her throat again.
"They just shattered a bottle of firewhiskey, that's all."
"Ah firewhiskey. That explains everything." She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I should probably bring that girl some contraceptive tea, just in case. I suppose I also owe her a necklace, don't I?" She stood up, slipped back on her sandals and was just about to leave when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned back to see Iroh pulling a small coin purse out from his pocket.
She waved him off. "That's not necessary."
He smiled before nodding knowingly and putting the coin purse away. "I'm assuming it's the title you want then?"
"I'm wealthy enough to buy your tea shop in Ba Sing Se and turn it into my personal day spa if I so wished. But for people to assume that I made the match between the current Fire Lord and his beau, even though I technically didn't do all that much, that is priceless."
Iroh laughed good naturedly before crossing his hands over his belly. "I'll have a lot of fun spreading those rumors."
"I'm sure you will."
Katara knew it was well past eleven in the afternoon. Katara did not care.
Her head was pounding.
Katara had decided that spending the rest of the day in bed would be the only acceptable way to survive the next twelve hours. Then it would be nighttime and she could just go back to sleep. Of course, this was Zuko's room which meant that he'd reappear when the sun came down. This meant that she would already be waiting for him in bed when he withdrew to his quarters for the evening. The quarters that she was in now.
She burrowed back down into the bed before closing her eyes again. It was a solid plan.
Except that horrible matchmaker woman ruined it by letting herself into the room.
"Figured you'd be in here. I heard you had an exciting night last night!"
"No loud voices," Katara mumbled weakly as Madame Meishuo sat down at the foot of the bed.
"Sit up dear and drink this. It will help your hangover."
Katara tilted her head up and peaked out at the matchmaker. The woman was holding out a cup of tea. Tentatively, Katara sat up before taking the cup, bringing it to her lips and sipping. The flavor overall was smooth, but the aftertaste was bitter. Too bitter.
"Drink it down dear. Gulp it if you must. Drink it—there's a good girl."
Katara drained the cup before gagging. "Most hangover tea Uncle Iroh makes is much better than that! Most tea that's super bitter is tea that—" She froze. "Oh."
Madame Meishuo folded her hands over her lap and gave her a small smile.
The young waterbender could feel herself turning red. "Erm…while I do appreciate the thought... I don't…actually…need it."
The matchmaker quirked an eyebrow. "Really? Because I was informed by Iroh that you and Fire Lord Zuko had some hanky panky last night in a storage closet."
Katara's face met her palm. "I suppose that depends on your definition of 'hanky panky'."
"I'm not following."
"Well…he just…you know."
"I do not know."
Katara heaved a sigh before making a very inappropriate gesture with her fingers.
"Are you telling me he didn't—"
"Well sweetheart he does love you then, doesn't he?" She sounded very amused.
Katara groaned before burying her face in her hands. "Oh Spirits I know! I mean, it was very nice for me. Very nice. But I feel so bad because the bartender tossed a bucket of cold water onto him so that he could walk home with some dignity! And he was so nice when we got back here too; I mean he didn't try anything! Most guys…most guys would want to finish what they started you know? And, granted, neither of us were very coherent, firewhiskey does that, but I distinctly—"
"Sweetheart I'm not a therapist."
"—remember him saying something about having a 'final confession' and I'm scared he's forgotten about that though. AND WHAT IF HE REGRETS LAST NIGHT? Oh no….oh no no no I just don't think I could handle that. And of course when I woke up he was already gone and I don't know where he is—"
"He's in his office."
"—not to mention I woke up with the hangover from HELL. Thank you for the tea by the way, I actually feel much better now. But I just don't know if I should go to him and try to probe his memory or if I should just tell him I love him, because I mean, I do—"
"I was serious about not being your therapist."
"—OH SPIRITS….I DO LOVE HIM. I LOVE ZUKO—"
"That's quite a revelation."
"—but of course I've always loved him. At first it was just like how I loved Sokka, like a brother. But that all changed somewhere around seventeen, but I was scared. I mean, he was with Mai and I just assumed he didn't feel the same way even though everything felt different. And I could have sworn he was looking at me the same way I looked at him but I just thought that he should be happy with Mai and that I should be happy with our friendship. But this past year everything has felt so charged—"
She finally shut up when her mother's necklace hit her on the forehead.
"I told you, I'm not a therapist!"
"Well EXCUSE ME for trying to confide in you—"
"You know, why don't you tell all that to Zuko?"
"I…suppose I could do that. Did you say he was in his office?"
"Yes I did. You should probably change out of his nightshirt before you go to see him, however. And possibly consider putting on some undergarments. Just a thought."
Katara was trembling.
This was honestly pathetic.
Talking to Zuko should not be such a daunting task. He was her best friend who knew pretty much everything about her.
And, because of last night, he had officially seen her naked. That was a big deal.
"It's just Zuko," she said out loud to herself. "Just sarcastic, overprotective, foot-in-mouth Zuko. Same as always." Steeling herself, she opened up to the door to his office and slipped inside before she could lose her bearings.
It was sweltering. A fire blazed in the fireplace, but it was so hot in the room that the air felt sticky. She heaved a sigh. Zuko always did this when he was freaking out about something.
She found him half dressed, crouched beside the bookshelf.
"You're hiding from me!"
He looked panicked. "I swear I'm not!"
"You have suspiciously tucked yourself out of sight beside a bookshelf."
"Obviously it's not out of sight, considering you found me and all."
"Your wit and charm continue to slay me Zuko—"
"I'm avoiding Uncle."
"Oh. How come?"
He quirked an eyebrow as if his reasons were completely obvious. "Because when he does come to talk to me, which eventually he will, it's just…it's going to be awkward. "
He scooted over next to the bookshelf before patting the floor space next to him. She sat down next to him before leaning her head back against the wall.
He looked at her form the corner of his eye. "I see you got your necklace back."
She smiled before bringing her fingers up to her neck to clutch the pendant. "Yeah, Madame Meishuo gave it to me this morning…along with some contraceptive tea."
Pink colored his cheeks, but instead of stammering over some awkward joke about the night before he grabbed an apple off the breakfast tray sitting on the floor on his other side. "Fruit?" he offered.
Ah, so he wasn't going to talk about it. She took the apple before turning her head away from him. Maybe he did regret the night before, since he couldn't bring himself to talk to her about it. She sank her teeth into the soft flesh of the apple but did not take note of the sweet taste of it on her tongue. She chewed mechanically before swallowing. With a sigh she placed the apple back onto the tray.
"Zuko?" she whispered.
He turned his head towards her, expression questioning. He was uneasy and fidgeting.
"You…regret what happened last night, don't you?"
She felt him stiffen beside her.
"It's okay if you do," she continued before he could say anything. "I mean, we were both drunk and its understandable if you did something last night that you wouldn't normally do when you were sober." She could feel her chest tightening, could feel her emotions gathering in the back of her throat. "I just want you to know that if you want to remain friends and only friends…I understand."
Plucking up her courage, she glanced up at him to see him staring at her with a calculating expression. "Do you regret last night, Katara?" he asked quietly.
She felt the beginnings of a tiny, if sad, smile on her lips. "No."
He squeezed his eyes shut before ducking his head. After a moment he reached out and tugged on her elbow, encouraging her to turn around so that they were facing each other. When her eyes met his, she noticed that his were shining more than usual, like there were tears in them.
"Do you remember last night, when I told you that I never confided in you about my relationship with Mai because it was none of your business?"
She frowned but nodded anyway.
"While that was technically true, I still wasn't being entirely honest with you." He scooted up to her, closing the space between them until their knees were touching. "If I talked to you about her, it would have been like signing my own death certificate. I felt like, if I exposed myself to you like that, told you those secrets, then it would have made it real. Like there was no turning back, that we were just going to be Katara And Zuko, Just Friends And Nothing More. I couldn't bare that, even though part of me knew it was stupid to ever wish for anything more."
He reached forward and took her hand in his, running his thumb across her knuckles. His hand was shaking.
"I love you," he blurted out.
"Since I was sixteen. Somewhere between you giving me a death threat when I first joined up with you guys and me throwing myself in front of a lightning bolt for you, I just…fell for you." He gulped but continued to hold her gaze with steadiness. "So there. That was my confession."
Katara felt caught between the urge to laugh and sob. Finally, after clearing her throat several times and continuously patting Zuko's hand so he would know she was going to speak, she spoke. "We're both idiots. You've loved me for the past six years and I've loved you for the past two."
His eyes widened adorably before he pulled her in close, his whole body shaking with unspoken happiness. Then pulled away just enough to start placing kisses on her forehead, the tip of her nose, the corner of her lips, her jaw, and her neck, with quiet 'love you's whispered in between. She giggled before clamoring up into his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck. He gazed up at her with unbridled adoration and she wondered how either of them had managed to suppress their feeling for this long. "I am curious though, Fire Lord Zuko, if you fell in love with me back then, why didn't you just tell me?"
He frowned and shook his head. "You were fourteen and infatuated with Aang."
"So you went to Mai?"
He sighed. "Okay, I should explain that. Our first couple of years together were, technically, real, with us getting engaged and all—What are you giving me that look for? You were with Aang! What was I supposed to do? Steal the Avatar's girlfriend? But then Mai figured out that she had feelings for Ty Lee, and that turned into three solid years of drama—that I did not appreciate, mind— which included convincing Mai's mother not to disown her and finding out whether Ty Lee returned said feelings."
"So you haven't even been with her these past few years?"
"Short answer, no. We mostly spent them pining over the girls we both wanted but couldn't have. But I told her we could still pose as a couple for the public until she figured everything out."
"You're a good friend."
Katara bit her lip and stared at him for a moment before shaking her head. "None of it matters now. Just you." She bent down and kissed him. It was hot and deep and so much better than it had been last night because both of them knew exactly what they were doing and they both wanted this and his hands were already trailing up her legs—
"Not in your office," she said breathlessly. "A bed, pretty please?"
"Fair enough," he said into her neck. He stood, helped her up to her feet, grabbed her hand and then marched them both to the door. Her heart was hammering and she felt light headed and aroused. "How 'bout my room? It's closer."
"Okay," she heard him say as he wrenched open the door to his office and barreled through the doorway, gently tugging her behind him.
They both froze. Iroh, Madame Meishuo and a couple of guards were standing outside of his office, passing around what looked like a cigar.
Except it wasn't a cigar they were smoking, not really.
"When's the wedding?" one of the guards called out, grinning widely.
"The better question," Iroh began with amusement, "is when should we expect the heir, hmm?"
Katara and Zuko could do nothing but stare at them with their mouths hanging open.
"Rendered speechless by their love, I see," Madame Meishuo continued with a wink.
"Uncle? What the hell?" Zuko said, looking back in forth between his uncle, the matchmaker , and his guards (who were seriously slacking, because honestly).
"Nephew! We are just enjoying the last of Madame Meishuo's Petal of the Cactus!"
The cigar was thrust into Zuko's hands and he looked down at it with utter confusion. He looked over at Katara to see if she had something to say. She looked like she was trying very hard not to laugh.
-Seven Minutes Later-
"Shit Katara!...Ahhhhhhhh…" His hands were clutching the bedsheets and his body jerked around. There were tears in his eyes.
He was laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing…
Katara was straddling him, her fingers dancing lightly over his bare ribs. "I knew you were ticklish!" she exclaimed gleefully.
Zuko had descending into that silent, body shaking, tears streaming down your cheeks kind of laughter. His laughter was making Katara laugh. Finally she slid off of him and fell to his side, her hair pillowed around her. After catching his breath Zuko flipped himself over so that he was facing her and flung a leg over hers before scooting right up next to her. He began to tickle her bare stomach and side (her tunic and leggings hadn't lasted two minutes, she was just in her undergarments now) and she shrieked and giggled. "Stop!" she gasped, but she was grinning so hard her cheeks were starting to ache.
His tickling turned into gentle caresses, and he moved to bury his face in the curve between her neck and shoulder. "Katara, we fail."
"Why is that? I think…we're pretty successful. Yeah."
"It's just…I don't even know what's happening right now. Your hair smells nice. No, but anyway, I just know that this is the second time in the past twenty four hours that we have attempted to have sexual intercourse but have failed."
"Sexual intercourse?" Katara then broke out into side clutching laughter.
Zuko looked genuinely confused. "What?"
"Why so formal Fire Lord?"
He pulled back and blinked down at her, still confused, before it finally seemed to click and he broke out into a wide smile. "But 'fucking' sounds dirty though!"
She snorted before propping herself up on her elbow and walking her fingers along the hard planes of his abdomen. "There's nothing wrong with being dirty sometimes. In fact a mud bath can be refreshing! But that's not the point though. I mean, if you start the dirty talk out slow and work your way up it can be very…tantalizing!"
"But it makes me laugh."
"Right now everything is making you laugh!"
"You're laughing too!"
She giggled. "No no no, but it's so easy! Like…Zuko, you have really talented fingers."
"That's not even that dirty. That's like baby talk. You say that to a baby and it wouldn't even be scandalous."
"Zuko, your fingers are really talented. How do you reply?"
"I thank you, obviously."
"Okay okay okay…If you think my fingers are talented you should see what I can do with my…with my…di—"
He snorted, flipped to his other side and promptly fell off the bed. He laid there for a moment before he stood up and looked over at Katara, who was roaring with laughter.
His eyes flicked casually over her form and he smiled with contentment. "We're going to be happy, aren't we?" he called to her softly.
She calmed down before sitting up and giving him a serious if not all-knowing expression. "Yes. Yes we are."
-Thirty seven minutes later-
Zuko jolted awake out of the impromptu nap he was taking with Katara. "Damn you Uncle, you still haven't given me back my crown!"