A/N: I'm still getting the vibe that you all are not digging this story like you did Wolf Moon. Eh, I happen to love this story because Zuko's character is so naturally angst-y. =P Anyway, this is it everybody, the final installment. Hopefully I get inspired to write in this fandom again sometime.

Day of the Dragon

Chapter Three

Zuko felt like an absolute bastard.

Night had fallen over the Capital, and with the setting of the sun came a welcome calm for Firebenders everywhere. The comet had passed and was far enough out of range that its effects on them were no longer felt. The Avatar—or someone, Zuko still wasn't sure—had taken care of the volcano a couple hours ago, and with it the lightning storm had also receded. The abundance of energy that had plagued Zuko's body and mind for almost an entire day was finally gone.

Zuko lay awake in his bed, staring at the slumbering Waterbender next to him and tormenting himself with his guilt.

The two benders had been sequestered in his chambers for nearly ten hours, the Fire Lord taking advantage of his seemingly infinite stamina from the events to punish the Waterbender's body continuously. She had found pleasure from him, that much he was grateful for, but her many orgasms had drained her body and she had drifted off to sleep several times in between without meaning to, quietly muttering to him, "Go on, I just need to shut my eyes."

Zuko had refused to sully his good name further by taking advantage of the sleeping woman, instead leaving her to sleep for an hour while he trained rigorously on his balcony, expending as much fire and energy as he could before his rage overwhelmed him and he forced her awake to continue his assault on her body.

It pained him that he could not even relish in the joy of having the woman he loved in his bed next to him, something he had desired for longer than he cared to admit. He had been brutal to her, a raging, mindless animal and he was finding it difficult to excuse his actions based upon the events. He had wanted to punish her, to make sure she understood clearly how tormented he felt because of her.

He was a bastard, but a brokenhearted one at that.

He flinched when the Waterbender began to stir next to him, swallowing down the startled yelp that would have shredded the last of his dignity. Crystal blue eyes peeked open, meeting his golden ones. To further floor and confuse him, Katara offered him a sweet smile, stretching languidly with a yawn before curling closer to him, her head resting on his outstretched arm.

"Hey," she whispered, poking him in the chest lightly when he continued to stare at her.

Uh… "Hey," he said back, agonizing over the conversation he knew they were about to have.

"How are you feeling? Has the comet passed?"

He nodded dumbly, "Yeah," before shaking himself and attempting to contribute more to the conversation, clearing his throat, "the volcano has been taken care of as well…I'm just not sure how."

She smiled at him, "That's good. Seems kind of unlucky, huh? So many sources of Firebending energy all at once? I think the rest of the world just sighed in relief," she said with a laugh, absently placing a kiss on his shoulder that made his heart flip in his chest.

Her kiss reminded the Fire Lord that she seemed to be dancing around the one subject that had sparked his behavior toward her, and he felt the familiar tendrils of rage creeping into his mind. Able to control his anger with a breath, Zuko decided he could no longer avoid the subject any longer.

Katara frowned, seeing him deep in thought, "Zuko, what's wrong?"

He sighed, grateful that the action didn't bathe the Waterbender in flames, "Katara, I can't pretend to ignore how I feel anymore. I sent you countless messages for the past year telling you how I felt about you and then outright screamed it in your face earlier today. I can't pretend that didn't happen anymore. And…and it's still so damn…infuriating that you seem to be doing just that, pretending it never happened."

Katara sighed, which made him nervous, before sitting up in his bed and leaning against the headboard. She laced her fingers with his, his thumb immediately smoothing the skin of her hand in a constant rhythm. Her gaze fixated on their joined hands before she smiled, seemingly to herself, "I'm not pretending it didn't happen, Zuko, I couldn't. I just…preferred to address those things when your mind was more…together."

He didn't answer that.

Biting her lip, Katara continued, "I don't have a good excuse for why I ignored you all year except that I was…I still am afraid."

His thumb stilled and his gaze remained leveled on her face.

Katara sighed, looking away from him, "Zuko, you're the Fire Lord of the Fire Nation and I'm the Envoy of the Southern Water Tribe. Our feelings don't matter in this scenario, can't you see that? We would never be able to be together and we're only setting ourselves up for heartache if we even try."

"So you do love me?"

Katara flinched, almost hating how good Zuko was at picking out what she meant to say from what she actually said. Her bottom lip disappeared again, her teeth nibbling on it as her nerves got the better of her. It didn't matter, could he not understand that? She feared their love was not sustainable with their political obligations.

Katara's eyes slid shut, tears threatening to fall. She had to believe that.

Zuko squeezed her hand, then gently grabbed her chin and forcing her watery gaze to meet his stern one.

"Katara, you never told me you loved me and my heart had already begun to ache. What has become of my fearless friend that she would deny herself a chance at happiness over a possibility?"

The Waterbender shook her head, "You're the Fire Lord," she whispered again, "there is no way we could remain true to our obligations and make this work. Please understand, Zuko."

Zuko's guilt reared its ugly head when he saw how pained the woman he loved was. He had wanted her to feel his heartache, to feel his agony, and she did. The pain was evident on her face; her words were true.

Flinging himself away from her, Zuko stalked from his bed to a desk in his room where his crown sat. He snatched the metal from its perch and stomped back to Katara, climbing into the bed on his knees and thrusting the object in her face.

"I have an entire nation dependent upon me, Katara. I serve the Fire Nation as its Lord and protector and have done so for over a year now. I would sacrifice everything—my crown, my country, my people, my birthright…for you. I love you," she flinched at his words, "and I would do anything to be with you."

Katara shook her head as if to silence his words, the tears beginning to stream down her cheeks, "You can't, Zuko! You know you can't! You're the Fire Lord and you have an obligation to your people. You can no more give that up than Aang could step away from his duties as the Avatar."

Zuko wondered if that had been the final dagger slice that had split the Airbender and Waterbender apart. He scowled at the thought, "I am not Aang and I do not care. If this is what it takes to be with you, then you need only ask and I am yours forever. I love you."

The heels of her palms flew to her eyes, cutting off the sight of his crown before her, "I can't ask you do that," she sobbed, "you know I can't!"

He tossed his crown away somewhere to his left and gripped her arms, forcing her to meet his gaze, "Than what if I asked you, hmm? Would you allow me that much? Or would you hate me for asking you to sacrifice your…obligations just to be with me?"

Her eyes frantically searched his, hoping he was not serious, hoping he had not really asked her such a thing. She had refused to ask Zuko to sacrifice his crown because it was unrealistic and selfish; he was the ruler of an entire nation and as much as it pained her to be altruistic, that was how it had to be.

So could she really fault him for wanting to be selfish for once in his life?

Her tears continued down her cheeks unheeded, and he gently pulled her to him until their bodies touched, his arms wrapping around her body, his damaged cheek resting against hers.

"Tell me you love me," he whispered, his breath on her ear causing her to shiver.

"Y-you know I do, Zuko," she cried.

He gently kissed the outer shell of her ear, "Tell me."

Her grip on his sides tightened as she wept, "I love you. I love you so mu—"

Zuko gently silenced her with a kiss, their first in over a year. She pressed herself to him, her lips parting on a sob. She welcomed his tongue with hers, their bodies pressing together until no space existed between them. The kiss made Katara feel weak; all of Zuko's passion, his fire, his strength, his love, poured into their kiss. It reminded her of why she had been fearful in the first place; his love…their love was overwhelming and she feared what she could give up to be with him.

Zuko gently broke the kiss, his scarred cheek nuzzling her flawless one as he held her close to him, their bodies still touching.

"Marry me," he whispered suddenly.

Katara flinched, her eyes flying open as she pushed away to meet his gaze. He was smirking at her, his scarred eye seeming to twinkle at her. She gaped at him, "Zuko, I can't—"

"I want you by my side for the rest of my life and I want to be by yours. I don't care where you go in this world or how long you are there. As long as I know that someday you will come home to me, that is all I ask."

She shook her head, knowing it could not be as easy as he made it sound. He wasn't the only one who had been tormented in the past year, but she knew her duties to the Southern Water Tribe would make a relationship impossible.

Zuko leaned in, kissing her again, a short, sweet peck on her lips before whispering, "I want to be the one you come home to. Keep your position with the Southern Water Tribe if it means that much to you, but come home to me…please?"

In that moment, Katara had to reconcile with a fact she had fought to ignore since the end of the war. Zuko was the Fire Lord, and there were few, if any, that could take his place. Iroh had already refused, but was the obvious choice in a dire situation. Yet, the older Firebender Royal was without an heir, as was Zuko at the moment, and that would leave the Fire Nation in a crisis to search for their next leader should anything befall the last remaining members of the Fire Nation Royalty.

Yet…

Katara was a simple envoy for the Southern Water Tribe…a position granted to her for her efforts during the war, not by any entitlement.

She loved what she did for her tribe, and for the world, and try as she might, Katara could no longer lie to herself and pretend that she was the only person capable of serving the Southern Water Tribe. Her father had offered—more than once—to find someone to replace her so she could do something else with her life, whatever she wanted. She had turned him down, convinced that after so much time apart, her father needed her to help rebuild the world.

She never considered what she truly wanted.

Because…she did want to be with Zuko. She had always wanted to be with him and knew that, between the two of them, she would be the one forced to sacrifice what was beginning to look like a career in Water Tribe politics. That reality frightened her then, and it amazed her how…how relieved she felt when Zuko gave her a choice. It made the idea of choosing Zuko seem all the more genuine, and that sacrificing her position as envoy not so much of a sacrifice, and more of the end to a good chapter in her life. The chapters to come would offer her so much joy and happiness, that much she knew.

A part of Katara was mentally berating her, something obnoxious along the lines of 'Duh you idiot!' being shouted at her from her subconscious, but she would settle that part of her guilt later. She had not been entirely foolish in her wants and dreams, and she had not been too noble in wanting to continue to serve the world as a guide on its journey to everlasting peace. Mentally shrugging, she couldn't help that Zuko made her see what she wanted more in her young life.

Blinking the tears from her eyes, the Waterbender met Zuko's gaze shyly, nibbling on her lip again before simply nodding at him, a slow smile creeping onto her face.

Zuko started, disbelieving what that simple nod really meant. "Katara?"

An incredibly beautiful blush crept up the Waterbender's cheeks and she glanced away from him before whispering, "I accept."

Zuko's face split into a grin, probably the broadest of his life, before he attacked the woman in his arms with his lips, capturing hers in a fierce, yet joyous kiss. He didn't care if the damn volcano erupted again with the comet returning for an encore appearance, nothing could step on his life that he could not face with Katara by his side.

He laughed. A genuine, face-splitting laugh; he grabbed Katara into his arms and rolled her to the bed, holding her close to him and relishing in her squeals from his attack. The thought crossed Zuko's mind to summon a Fire Sage immediately, so that he could greet the approaching day with Katara as his wife, but there were too many people in their lives who would be affronted by such a hasty marriage (as well as several nations, unfortunately).

Zuko started, removing himself from the bed with a quick peck to Katara's lips before darting to one of his bureau's, removing something from the top drawer before slowly approaching the bed again, his step not as sure as it was before. Katara shot him a queer look, glancing at the linen bundle in his hands.

"Um," Zuko felt ridiculous, she had already accepted his offer of marriage, this should not have been any different.

But it was. Zuko wanted to show her how much he cared for her and everything about her. He felt as if the last vestiges of his heart were wrapped in the little piece of linen in his hands.

Katara smiled at the blush that crept up Zuko's cheeks, "It's nice to see that you didn't forget to visit anxiety in your spectrum of emotions today," she grinned cheekily when the Fire Lord shot her a pointed look before he climbed into the bed with her.

"Well, I…I wanted to give this to you so that we could make this engagement official by your people's standards."

Katara frowned, not understanding what he meant until he unwrapped the linen, presenting to her the most beautiful betrothal necklace she had ever seen. Her eyes went wide, her voice lost as she gazed at the incredible detail of the necklace.

The ribbon was the softest silk, probably the finest in the Fire Nation, and of a deep, rich, red hue that Katara had only ever seen in Fire Nation Royal garments. The clasps were gold in color, were probably real gold as well. The pendant…Katara felt the tears return to her eyes, not believing the masterpiece she was seeing, rich in detail and color.

It was a field of fire lilies, the reds, yellows and golds of the petals seeming to glisten in the light. There seemed to be hundreds of little fire lilies on the pendant, swaying in an eternal breeze. In the background stood the silhouette of a cliff; atop it, a wolf howling to the deep blue night, a large, glittering full moon hanging in the sky.

Katara gaped at the pendant, "Zuko…h-how…this is the most incredible thing I have ever seen! It's a masterpiece…how did…how did you do this?"

Zuko smiled, his anxiety waning with her ever-rising appreciation for the necklace, "Your father was a lot of help to me actually. He—"

Katara felt as if her mind had left to take a powder as she stared in a dumb stupor at the Fire Lord, "Wait, my father. My father. You spoke to my father?!"

Zuko rolled his eyes, smirking at her, "Of course I did! Do you really think I would propose without speaking to your father? I'm pretty sure that's a custom in every nation, Katara, and I would be an idiot not to. In fact I spoke to your whole family," he said, another deviant smirk lighting his too handsome features.

"When did you do this exactly?"

"The day the war ended. Your father taught me how to make the betrothal necklace after I asked for your hand and I started on it immediately. So…sorry if it's a little dusty, but I've been holding on to it for about a year, you know," he said, shooting her another pointed look.

Katara would seethe later about the fact that her entire family had known about the Fire Lord's plans and had not thought to step in on her behalf and help her see reason. Instead she shyly pulled her hair away from her neck, looping the mass into a ball in one hand.

Zuko took the pendant and placed it around her neck, kissing the spot where he clasped it together on the back of her neck. Leaning back, he swallowed thickly, seeing Katara with the majority of her hair up and away from her body, and proudly displaying his handiwork.

Stark naked.

Katara felt the heat of Zuko's arousal on her bare body, and blushed prettily, a coy smile lighting her features. Reaching forward she tenderly placed a palm on the scarred side of Zuko's face, his head turning into her palm and nuzzling the soft skin there.

"I love the necklace, Zuko. And I'm impressed that you managed to create something that is almost as handsome and stunning as you are," her voice seemed to thicken as she raked her gaze down his body, worshiping the hard planes and curves of his body with her sight.

Zuko snorted, "That's mean."

She smirked at him, backing away and falling into the lush den of pillows and blankets behind her, "Is not, you just haven't learned to appreciate how handsome you are. But…I have been so bad lately. I think you need to punish me some more," Zuko wasn't sure if she was directly addressing his manhood or still holding the conversation with him, but he didn't care.

"I intend to," he muttered with a growl, pouncing on her, her legs spread wide and accepting him close to her body. He devoured her lips with his own, his grip on her waist pulling her hips closer to his until they collided, causing the pair to see stars, gasping as pleasure flitted through their bodies.

She was wet for him, and Agni knew he wanted her so badly right then, but Zuko wanted to take his time and savor his reward. It had been a long year without her, and he wanted to start off the rest of his life with becoming properly reacquainted with his new wife's body without the added annoyance of being an overwhelmed berserker.

He parted his lips from hers, and began the delicious journey down her body with his tongue and lips as his guide. Her neck smelled delicious and heady, and he loved the noisy moans and writhes he earned from her when his tongue danced along the juncture of her neck and shoulders. Kissing the spot just beneath where her betrothal necklace lay, Zuko lathed his tongue in between her breasts, relishing in the taste of sweat and the heady aroma of something sweet and floral and so very Katara.

The Waterbender arched her back off the bed in a beautiful display when his lips circled her left nipple, his hand brushing against the underside of her other breast. The throaty moan he earned when his teeth closed around the bud made his cock jump and his sacs ache—Agni he wanted her so badly.

Nipping the underside of her breast, the Fire Lord grazed his teeth along the delicate skin of her side, biting her hip as he settled between her legs. He gripped each thigh, moving her legs apart and pushing his shoulders under them, loving the feel of her weight resting on his back, feeling wrapped inside her body.

"Zuko-oo," she whispered, pushing her hips closer to his face. He wasted no more time, immediately closing his lips over hers, inhaling the musky scent of her arousal as he kissed her. Zuko could now, with a conscious frame of mind, thoroughly enjoy the bare skin of his lover's sex. However, seeing her hairless skin brought to mind his earlier insecurities, and he could not stop himself from questioning her.

"So when did this," he licked up one side of her labia, and down the other before dragging his tongue along the length of her slit, his cock jumping when she moaned aloud and pushed against his lips, her fingers clenching in his short hair, "become a part of your regular grooming?"

Zuko distracted himself by nuzzling one of her lips with his nose, peppering kisses along her wet opening. He was afraid of what her answer would be.

He felt her body quake with her laughter, "Earlier this week."

The Fire Lord lifted his head, quirking his brow at her, "And am I correct in assuming you did this for…my benefit?"

She nodded at him with a smile, obviously amused by his incredulity.

Both brows were now raised, "So you were anticipating having sex with me?"

Another nod.

Zuko leveled her with a heated gaze, growling, "Minx," before attacking her lips once more with his tongue and teeth. Katara fell back onto the pillows, writhing and moaning aloud, her hands gripping the Fire Lord's shoulders, causing him to moan against her slit.

Katara cried out when his tongue plunged into her opening, her back arching off the bed. She felt her body grow tight, the familiar tingling sensation building in her groin becoming more and more focused on her clit.

"Zuko, please…I'm—" she screamed, going rigid as her orgasm rushed through her body, her inner walls clenching and releasing, her juices lapped up greedily by Zuko. His attentions to her entrance were on the verge of spurring another climax, when he suddenly lifted himself and pulled her hips toward him, her legs still anchored on his shoulders as he plunged his cock inside her drenched opening. Katara hissed at the intrusion, overwhelmed with the pleasurable sensation of being filled by him and immediately began bucking her hips against him, encouraging him to thrust faster.

Zuko lost himself inside of her, his manhood wrapped tightly in her wet sheath and the musical litany of her pleas and demands drifting to his ears. He knew, despite his freakish stamina earlier today, that he would orgasm quickly, and was not surprised when he felt his release approaching. He gripped her waist tightly, slamming their hips together and shouting his release to the ceiling.

He collapsed onto the bed next to her, drawing her into his arms and sighing contently when she snuggled into his chest.

"Wow," she said, the amazement evident in her voice. Zuko snickered, noticing that her body was still twitching with lingering spasms from their activities. The thought crossed the Fire Lord's mind that he did not want to have sex for a while after the abuse his put his manhood through that day, but one glance at the naked woman in his arms and he felt his inner fire begin to roil once more. He snorted to himself, and would not be surprised if they were at each other again within a few short hours.

Whether he had anything left within him to produce an heir was another matter entirely.

Zuko caught Katara's gaze when he saw her hand near his face. She was touching him, or rather his scar—which he could not feel—and the old, lingering, self-conscious doubts began to creep forward. His scar was a part of him that he had come to accept while traveling with Aang and fighting for his nation. It was a difficult part of his past, but it was still his past, and he could no more run away from it than he could the color of his eyes. Yet, if he was the only one who no longer saw the mark as an eyesore…

"Stop that," Katara whispered, eyeing his suddenly miserable countenance.

Zuko sighed. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what she thought of his face, but she was his queen now. He did not want her to think she had to hide her feelings from him, even if those feelings would destroy his self-esteem.

Katara rolled her eyes before he had a chance to open his mouth. "Before you ask me something absurd and self-deprecating about your scar, it doesn't bother me. At all. In fact, I love how it makes your eyes seem a brighter color of gold," she gave him a look when he quirked a brow, obviously aware that he would be skeptical of her opinion of his face, "However, I was just trying to gauge the damage. I don't think I can fix a scar, but perhaps I can fix the nerves…?"

Zuko shook his head. "I'm sure there is a good reason why most scars have deadened nerves. I don't want to feel thick, heavy scar tissue. I can deal with it as it is."

Katara nodded, pressing her lips to his for a chaste kiss before nuzzling under his chin with a conspicuously happy sigh.

"So what now?" she whispered.

"Now? We're going to sleep right now. I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted from all the fuc—"

"I meant what happens tomorrow!" she yelled, shooting Zuko a dirty look when he smiled at the color rising in her cheeks.

"Well, I need to rein in the entire palace staff, and probably send off several letters to the other nations to see if any Firebenders were a problem," he glanced down at the fiery pendant resting above his queen's chest, watching it rise and fall with her every breath. He thumbed the pendant, admiring his handiwork and captured by how magnificent it looked against her bronze skin.

"I think, first, I need to send out invitations for a wedding, hmm?" She was blushing again, smiling happily into his chest. Agni, how he loved this woman. "How long will it take your father to get here?"

Katara was thoughtful for a moment, "It's a week's journey by boat."

"Two weeks from tomorrow then?"

"Sure."

Zuko pulled the covers over them and they settled more comfortably into the bed. They were both happy; the smile seeming to never waver from their faces as they lay together, thoughtful of what was to come.

Katara snickered quietly, "So, Fire Lord Zuko, tell me…are you ready for me to be your queen? You know I have absolutely no experience in royalty…"

Zuko kissed her temple, squeezing her closer to his body, "You've always been my queen," he whispered into her temple, "I live now to serve you, forever."

She smiled, pressing her lips to his and savoring the sweet kiss they shared. Perhaps now that she would be with him for the rest of her life, she would have the chance to show him how a king should be treated; with the love and devotion she had withheld from him for over a year.

A/N: Such a fluffy lemon! I love it; I'm not the biggest fan of mushy romance, so this is still tame enough that I can tolerate reading it. Hope you all enjoyed and I hope to see you all again in this fandom. That's all folks!