I'm not a huge fan of the Zutara pairing, but I would be remiss if I didn't address the obvious curiousity. Enjoy and please review!

Disclaimer: If I owned Avatar: The Last Airbender, this wouldn't be fanfiction, now would it?

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Maybe it was the fireworks, or the strong wine that made me think of her. Maybe it was the way her pale eyes caught the flickering light of the bonfire, so effectively concealing the element I detested. I tried to put my finger on it, to rationalize this new consideration. My attempts were fruitless.

I watched her for a moment, letting the shadows veil my intent stare. Uncle sat beside me, swaying back and forth to the festive music. People were celebrating, releasing their long-held tensions into the balmy night air.

My father, the man I'd feared and respected for so long, was effectively neutered, his cruel ambitions cut off at the knees. The Avatar had won.

I was still trying to sift through my feelings on the matter. I should be glad, and as far as I let everyone else see, I was. But, as always, things were more complicated than that.

I was the new Fire Lord; the thought was still new and rather astounding. I did notice that the dancers gave us a wide berth. My kingdom was now peaceful in theory but people were still obviously a bit edgy. Years of resentment didn't just evaporate in a day. That was fine. I needed time to adjust to the concept being liked rather than detested anyway.

A laugh drifted over the fire. I watched her mouth move. The words were lost to me, but that was okay. I preferred to be the observer, a temporary unnoticed admirer. The flames licked higher and I used my firebending to part them so as to not obscure my view. Her brother, the surprisingly competent clown, was sitting beside her. He was making some odd gestures with his hands. When she was amused, her cheeks dimpled pleasantly.

Katara was a beautiful girl. Foreign, exotic, but with a warmth of expression that was vaguely familiar and comforting. She wore some kind of beaded dress, different from her usual attire. It clung to her hips. She was what, 14? 15? Not much younger than myself. I could see her becoming a very attractive woman.

And so, for a moment, I considered her. Not with any degree of seriousness, but still. I felt no small amount of guilt at the line of thought, especially with my girlfriend just across the courtyard, talking to the blind earthbender.

Mai was a great girl. Irritable, perhaps, but I was no stranger to mood swings myself. I forced myself to relax, let my thoughts, soaked in wine, go hazy for a moment. A little silent contemplation wouldn't hurt our relationship. They were only thoughts, after all.

Mai would make an aloof, indomitable wife; Katara, an intensely moral, argumentative Fire Lady. To be honest, we'd probably kill each other. I tried to picture a waterbender monarch in the Fire Nation. The irony of the thought made me smile slightly.

Uncle must have noticed my expression, because he leaned towards me.

"And where is your head tonight, Zuko? You seem to be in good spirits." He took a long, slow sip from his cup. Uncle did everything with an irritating amount of patience.

I shrugged.

"Just considering things, Uncle. I have a lot on my mind."

He nodded sagely. "That is to be expected. You are Fire Lord now."


"There is much to think about." He followed my line of sight. "Ah. Planning some diplomatic relations, are you?"

"Something like that."

"That endeavor might prove a bit tricky, nephew. There are... complications."

A boy approached the fire: short, bald, with an exuberant grin. He took the empty place beside Katara as if it had been reserved for him alone. For all I knew, it probably was.

I pressed my lips together and nodded as I watched their hands entwine and their lips come together ever so briefly. Her smile was beyond dimples; it was sheer brilliance, all-consuming.

"It was a great victory today," Uncle said, as if in consolation.