A/N: My muse appears to be on over drive. So here's another Zutara story. I'm pretty sure its going to be Zutara here on out for a while.
Disclaimer: Don't own.
Their romance, considering their circumstances, should have been the stuff of Earth Kingdom bedtime stories. He was a prince and she was a peasant and clearly they should have fallen in love. Their story, however, is not form those tales: they fell in love in a bar commiserating over past failed relationships.
In a dark corner of a bar in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se the Fire Lord and a master waterbender sat cloaked in shadows. They had managed to acquire simple Earth Kingdom clothes (Zuko had outgrown the clothes he wore when he lived there, they were now too short and Katara's dress had been far too nice for the Lower Ring) though they still needed the darkness to hide their obvious foreign looks.
"He said I was his forever girl," Katara complained burying her head in her arms on the table.
"Every teenager thinks their first love is their forever person," Zuko commented taking a sip from his bottle. He wasn't entirely sure what they were drinking but he knew it was strong and burned quite nicely.
She snorted raising her head. "Stop trying to sound so old, we're still teenagers." That earned a soft laugh from him. It was true, she was seventeen and he was nineteen but, truth be told, he had never really felt like a normal teenager. "And most teenagers who believe that don't try to save the world for their person," she took a swig from her own bottle, feeling warm and lightheaded.
"Really, you think he saved the world only for you?"
"No, he told me so. And then we had to go and be together. Which, yes, at the time sounded like a very good idea. It felt good. Then," Katara paused, trying to find the right words, "then he was all over the world and I was needed at the South Pole. We just…drifted apart. The feeling seemed mutual, especially since every time we were together it began to end in arguments that went along the lines of 'but you should come with me because I say so!' And I couldn't be that girl. I had responsibilities! I'm not going to go gallivanting around the world when I'm needed somewhere and don't you dare make a comment about me leaving the South Pole in the first place, I needed to go."
"I wasn't going to. You're not the kind of girl to follow someone around without a reason."
"How do you know that?"
"I fought against you. The pirates," she flinched, "implied that you stole the scroll. You're the Painted Lady. You and I broke into a Fire Navy tower, boarded the flagship of the Southern Raiders and confronted Yon Rha. Not to mention Uncle told me a very interesting story about a conversation with Master Pakku about a certain waterbender who fought for the right to learn how to fight rather than to heal."
"I don't know whether to be flattered or embarrassed that Grand Pakku tells stories about me and that Iroh then tells them to you."
"I would be flattered, the stories reflect well on you. However I would be worried about any stories Uncle might be tell you about me."
"What did you used to run around the palace naked or something?" She giggled at the thought. "Or maybe you ended up burning half your room when you were learning firebending. Or you painted on the walls. Or-Zuko why are you chugging your drink like someone dying of thirst?"
He stopped guzzling his drink for a second and looked at her carefully. He thought of the best way to phrase what he wanted to say but now his brain was fuzzy from the drink and he couldn't seem to think of any other way of presenting the information. "Because all those things did happen," he finally admitted.
Katara just stared at him. She had been trying to think of the most ridiculous and embarrassing things that a child could do. She never expected to be right. "I…well you managed to get a lot better with firebending."
They were each halfway through their second bottles of whatever it was they were drinking. Katara felt light headed and giggly. Zuko, on the other hand, could hold his liquor better than she could.
"You know what else I didn't like about Aang? I never felt that spark with him. The one that every story I was ever told about love had in it. I don't even know if I was attracted to him. I mean, you should think you're boyfriend is good looking right?" Her words were coming out more jumbled than she wanted but she didn't care, she wanted to say them. "And its not like back then I wasn't interested in boys. I was. I liked Jet-"
"Part of me still can't believe you liked Jet and the other part of me says he seemed like your type," Katara slapped his arm, "ow! Well he was. 'The Fire Nation killed my parents, help me avenge them Katara, I'm so sad Katara.'" That earned him another slap on the arm, only harder than the first.
"How can you even think that about me? Are you guessing or did you decide to talk to that stupid playwright from Ember Island and decide to base my whole personality off what he said?"
"The only reason I would talk to him would be to express my great loathing of anything and possibly everything he has ever written. I did, however, talk on numerous occasions to both Sokka and Haru. Mostly Sokka though."
"Argh! I don't always want to help people for that reason! I want to because it's the right thing to do!"
"Would you have wanted to help me before I told you about my mother?" It was a question Zuko had wanted to ask for sometime but had never had the opportunity or courage to bring it up while they were both sober.
"I…that was completely different!"
"How was it different?"
"All I knew about you before then consisted of firebender, son of the Fire Lord, has an uncle, ties girls to trees, manhandles old women, tries to capture Aang, and has a ponytail. Not exactly the type of person I'd offer to help."
"But you admit you would have helped someone who had lost everything?"
"Yes, ok, I admit I like to help people in need and the needier they are the more I want to help, are you happy now?" She quipped.
"Sincerely," he smirked.
"You know, you're one to talk. I know you freed Aang from Zhao and, from what I can tell; you stuck by your uncle while you were wanted by Azula. You're a big softy too sometimes," she teased. He scowled at her.
"I'm not drunk enough to hear you call me that."
"But I mean it in the nicest possible way," her tone was mockingly singsongy. His scowl deepened, realizing he lost this round.
Into their third bottles each they were both gigging at everything the other said.
"You know what I think you should have done? Dump Aang sooner. He would have had to grow up a little more I think."
"I didn't want to hurt him! And I really thought I was in love. But I guess I do love him like a brother. Ew! I've made out with someone I love like a brother!" She gagged a little at the realization.
"At least he could be responsive. You know, I really loved Mai, and she was a good friend but man there were times where I wondered if I was doing anything right. She would just be silent and unmoving," he made a face at the memory. "There were some good times though," he did smile at those memories.
"If there were good times too then why did she dump you?" She purposely emphasized her words.
"She threatened me if I ever broke up with her again. And before you say anything, yes again. I broke up with her right before I joined your group. In a letter," he saw her opening her mouth to respond, "don't start! Uncle already gave me a rather long lecture about the proper ways of ending a relationship. It didn't help I also locked her in a prison cell."
"…What did you do on your field trip with my brother?" She shrieked.
"Nothing you didn't already know about! I just conveniently left out that part."
"You wanted to 'end me' if I slipped up. I figured that telling you I locked my ex-girlfriend in a cell would not be a good way to get into your good graces."
"Well, that's true." They both took a long swig of their drinks and looked around the room. Other patrons were getting up and moving on, but there was still a steady trickle into the bar.
Katara sighed and, looking at her bottle and not at Zuko asked "do you want to hear something awful?"
"I'm sure nothing you can say to me right now is more awful than things you said before."
"I didn't feel all that bad about dumping Aang when I did it. I also didn't feel the remorse I thought I should feel when I saw him for the first time in six months earlier today. It was hard and it hurt, but I don't regret my decision. Does that make me a bad person?" She raised her head to look at him and Zuko noted the glassy quality her eyes had taken on.
"No, it doesn't. You weren't happy, why should you have stayed in a situation where you weren't happy? You deserve better."
"Were you happy with Mai or was she letting you be happy?"
"Right, well, you are a dumper talking to a dumpee but if we're going to be honest both Mai and I weren't happy with our relationship for awhile. Neither of us, however, wanted to acknowledge this so we kept soldiering on. It was when we became really pressed about marriage that she finally ended it." He took another swig of liquor.
"Why would talk about you two getting married kill your relationship?"
"I'll let you in on a secret, but I will deny ever telling you anything if Mai learns you know about this. She didn't want to be married to the Fire Lord because her whole life she had been told what to do and how to act and she wanted some time to be free. I can't say I blame her, she deserves to be free and happy after being friends with my sister."
"That's…kind of pathetic Zuko. I can't believe that you wouldn't hold a little grudge against her for not wanting to marry you."
"I, unlike you, don't hold grudges for as long or as sincerely," he jumped when she kicked him under the table. "Now that hurt! Say you're sorry!"
She sprang up in her seat to lean over the table to glare at him. "Make me," she calmly threatened.
He was stuck and he knew it. He had no way to make her do anything. "I'll make you apologize later," he promised. And he would, hopefully after beating her in a sparing match.
She sank back into her chair; feeling satisfied that she had won. "Does…does time make it better?" She asked softly.
"I've only been single three months longer than you." She looked at him hopefully. "And it's not that better now."
He was half way through his fourth bottle and she was still on her third but he figured she was way more drunk than he was.
He was staring at her and all he could think of was that she still looked pretty even when drunk. "Really, really pretty."
"Did you juss call me pretty?"
"I said that out loud?" He really hadn't meant to do that.
"Yeah. How long have you thought I was pretty?" She had wanted to know what he thought about her for a while now.
There was no going back now and he figured if she didn't like what he was about to say he could just ignore it and play any recollection of this night off as a drunk memory. "Since I tied you to that tree."
She had been taking a sip of her drink right when he said that and he ended up with liquor sprayed on his face. "WHAT?" She yelled.
"Quiet down and yes, since I was sixteen and tying you to trees I thought you were pretty. In the time I've known you, really known you, you've only grown more alluring." Really, he was digging himself in deep here.
"But, you hated me then! I hated you! Your ponytail was stupid!"
He decided to ignore the last part of that. "Yeah, I did hate you. I also saw you as an obstacle I had to over come to get what I wanted. That doesn't stop the fact that I was sixteen and you're a girl and I had been living on a ship full of men. Trust me, at the time it wasn't a welcomed distraction."
"An unwelcomed distraction! Well that's a nice thing to say. Sorry my presence made you feel all tingly when you obviously had more important things to do." She was being a little more sarcastic than he thought he deserved but he was going to let it slide. She looked rather good right now. "Wait, if it was since you tied me to a tree, that means you thought I looked pretty in the caves and after you joined us. Did you want t-," she had been talking way too much for him, so he leaned across the table and kissed her. While this wasn't how he had imaged this would happen (there had been one point where this fantasy had involved a captured Avatar and her being so willing to please him because she saw the error of his ways) it was better than he imagined. She may have been surprised but she caught on quickly and was moving her mouth in this really fantastic way. He finally began to pull away only to find her biting lightly on his lower lip to slow his retreat. Yes, reality was defiantly much better than fantasy had ever been.
"You talk too much sometimes," was all he said.
"Sparks," was her reply. She leaned across the table, he anticipated another kiss (he really wanted one) but instead she moved to the side of face to whisper "I've found you attractive for a while too. We should be kissing more."
He wasn't one to say no to her, especially not right now.
After they had managed to stumble back to the Upper Ring, stopping every so often because a drunk Katara was apparently a very forward Katara and her hands managed to get onto parts of his body faster than he thought possible, they somehow found their rooms and they miraculously slept in their own rooms (Zuko while drunk was also very forward, especially at the door to Katara's room, but her sudden urge to be sick killed the mood); they met for a very late, very quiet lunch where Katara softly informed Zuko she was going to be staying in the Fire Nation for awhile after leaving Ba Sing Se. He asked her, without so many words and as hushed as possible, if she wanted to do an activity. She said yes and that he should stop talking to Sokka about pick up lines.
A/N 2: Reviews are awesome and make me squee like I have been over all the new Korra stuff that's been announced (I understand canon…I just chose to reject it).