The door swings open before Zuko can raise his fist to knock.
And there stands his girlfriend, all decked out in formal attire that's bordering on the ridiculous.
Zuko gulps and glances around her apartment. He'd given it to her over a year ago, when she'd come to the Fire Nation to be an ambassador for the Southern Water Tribe. It's currently cleaner than he's ever seen it before.
"Hi!" Katara exclaims, her smile way too bright and cheery. She stands there and stares at him for a moment, before squeaking and quickly moving out of the way. Zuko steps into her apartment and casts her a suspicious look over his shoulder.
His girlfriend is acting weird.
She's in a floor length blue gown with elegant lace trim. Zuko glances down at his boots, regular black pants, shirt, and worn out vest and wonders if he missed a memo.
Katara grabs his elbow and steers him toward her dining table. She's lit candles and the thick smell of them hit him in the face and make his eyes water. She's cooked some kind of elaborate Fire Nation dinner. Usually Katara is a simple cook, sticking to noodles, dumplings, and dishes from the Water Tribe.
He's pretty sure he spies a roasted chicken-duck sitting on the center of the table, along with steamed vegetables, rice, and what he thought looked like seahorse.
She grabs his shoulders and forces him to sit down. She quickly takes the seat across from him and it's then that Zuko notices the light sheen of sweat coating her body. He furrows his eyebrows and tries to think of a reason for why his girlfriend is acting so anxious.
"I know that we were just going to have noodles and hang out tonight, but, um, I thought maybe we should mix things up a little."
Zuko blinks at her. "Okay, spill. Did I forget something?"
Katara gives him an innocent look. "Hmm?"
"Is this an occasion or a celebration I should be aware of?"
All the blood drains out of her face. "What, an occasion? Of course not!"
Before Zuko can ask any more questions she places a heaping amount of chicken-duck onto his plate. "I hope you're hungry." She smiles and places her hands in her lap.
Zuko cautiously bites into the meat. It's chewy and overcooked, but because he loves this girl more than anything, he swallows and nods at her. "This is great," he lies, nearly choking on his own words.
She's biting her bottom lip anxiously. "Good. That's good."
Zuko gestures to her empty plate with his chopsticks. "Aren't you going to eat anything?"
She rapidly shakes her head. "Uh, nope! I'm not hungry."
Zuko's eyes narrow, but he decides not to say anything else. He pushes the chicken-duck off to the side and starts to concentrate on the vegetables and rice.
It's the most awkward meal of his life. He can feel her gaze burning into him every time he takes a bite of anything. Eventually he can't take it anymore. He places his chopsticks onto his plate and glares up at her. "What's going on? This is the strangest I've ever seen you act."
Katara stands up so quickly that she knocks her chair backward. "I have wine!" And then she darts off to the kitchen and is back in seconds with a wine bottle and two glasses clutched in her hands.
He watches as her trembling hands pour them each a glass. She sits back down and Zuko picks up his glass slowly before taking a sip. It burns a little in his mouth, but the flavor is nice and earthy.
When he looks back up at Katara he notices that half her glass is already gone.
"You don't even like wine."
Her smile is so fake that it's off-putting. "I'm trying to broaden my tastes."
"Is that so?"
She looks away from him, a blush staining her cheeks.
And then there is silence. This is so unlike them. Usually they're on her couch, eating fruit and discussing politics or laughing about something stupid Sokka wrote about in his newest letter. They've never had trouble finding something to talk about. Until now.
Zuko sighs and sets his glass off to the side. "Listen, Katara—"
She stands up once again and Zuko feels himself growing frustrated. Katara is wearing a determined expression, as if she's just made up her mind. And then her face suddenly softens. "I'm going to go change." Her voice comes out lower than usual and she winks at him.
Zuko gapes at his girlfriend's retreating back. Is she trying to seduce him? He glances around the fancy dinner set up and realizes that perhaps Katara was planning something all along.
Zuko's fingers curl along the edge of his chair and he realizes that he might have to get out of here before things spiral out of control. Abort mission, his mind screams at him.
When she walks back into the room he nearly dies.
Katara is in nothing but underwear, skimpy underwear at that. She must have gotten that from the red light district. He can't think of any other place that would sell something that revealing and sexy.
He opens his mouth to say something but ends up snapping it shut.
It's just… His girlfriend is basically naked in front of him. The head between his shoulders is telling him to look away and try to be modest. The head between his legs is telling him to strip down and take her back to her bed.
Zuko isn't sure which head to listen to, so he ends up just sitting in the chair and staring at Katara with wide eyes.
Katara puts her hands onto her hips and clears her throat. "Do you like it?"
"Erm. I. Um."
And before he can suck in a breath, Zuko's practically naked girlfriend is in his lap. She crashes her mouth down onto his and takes his bottom lip between her teeth.
Normally Zuko likes it when Katara takes the lead when they make out. It's nice not to have to be in control all the time, plus he thinks it's really, really hot.
This, however, is different. This feels forced. But as Katara's deft fingers curl along the waistband of his pants, Zuko's mind starts to melt into Fire Lord mush. It's hard to push your girlfriend away when she's basically ripping your pants off.
But then she yanks herself away, her eyes wide with panic. "Spirits, I can't do this!"
Zuko throws his hands up into the air and tries very valiantly not to stare at Katara's chest. "What is even happening?"
She climbs off of him and grabs a robe. Once she's not nearly naked, Zuko finds that his thoughts are clearer. "Katara," he begins, "care to enlighten me?"
"We were supposed to have sex!" she cries out, looking extremely irritated. "I've been planning this for weeks! We were supposed to have a nice dinner, then have some wine, and then I'd bring out my sexy clothes and then we'd make love! This night was supposed to be a big deal!"
Zuko lets out a whooshing breath. "I thought we were going to wait until you were one hundred percent ready?"
There are tears in Katara's eyes and Zuko feels his heart break a little. "But sex is supposed to be…amazing, and a part of a healthy relationship. And I really want to be with you, Zuko, I do."
"But I'm still feeling kind of unsure. I want to be ready, though. Now. This is so frustrating."
Zuko gets up from his chair and pulls his girlfriend into his arms. "I don't want you to be the least bit unsure during our first time. Sex is really important for a natural, healthy relationship, but I'm not going to force you into anything you're uncomfortable doing."
She relaxes against his embrace. "I just don't want you to think I'm a prude."
Zuko forces back laughter. "Considering what you have on underneath your robe, I definitely don't think you're a prude."
He pulls back a little and cups her face with his warm hands. "No more planning, okay? It'll happen when it happens. And, trust me, I'm not going anywhere." He gives her shoulder a playful squeeze. "Just don't make me wait until our wedding night—not that I wouldn't, of course. But—"
"I'm not that mean, Zuko!" Katara laughs. And then she tilts her head to the side and peers up at him mischievously. "Did you just indirectly propose?"
He balks, mind going blank. "Uh—"
"I'll go and get the pai sho board and tiles." And then she's walking away, a slight sway to her hips. Zuko grins to himself. His girlfriend is pretty amazing.
Yay Zutara Week! My first entry that I didn't plan on doing, heh. Now back to work on the entry I've been planning for ages.
Hope you all liked! Leave me your thoughts. :)