Zuko never questioned her motives; he already knew the answers. It was a cycle, unchanging and familiar. She would visit the fire nation when Aang was usually living up to his nomad's basic instincts. The fire bender would greet her with a warm, friendly smile, eyes shining knowingly. She would smile back and bow gracefully to the fire lord—her very dear friend. That's what he'd always been, her dear friend. It was an infamous title that Zuko had learned to accept through the years of their consistent routine. He was not opposed to Katara turning to him when Aang left her for long intervals of time. She was devoted to the avatar in mind and body, and the Fire Nation's pride and joy recognized this thoroughly without any sort of denial stemming within him. The Fire Nation could accept a once banished prince as their lord, but a water tribe woman, with eyes so blue and strong that they would render any man still, as a Fire Lady was simply unheard of and unacceptable.
Zuko can't quite remember the first time it had occurred, or maybe he did. But when Katara asked, he always said it was hazy, that the number of times seemed to blend together—always far too busy enjoying the moment of rapture to imprint the acts in his memory. He never admitted to searing it all—every time, every stroke and moan in his head, burning through his closed eyes when he lay in his bed. He never told her that he remembered the first time they indulged in delicious sin so vividly that it felt as though the act had been done the very night before—because if he couldn't love her freely then he would rather love her silently.
The first time she'd come to his arms was unexpected. He was not aware in the slightest by any sort of message that she would arrive. The palace was silent, minding the time of night. It was nearing dawn the first time she appeared at the door's of his palace, seeking sanctuary from a crumbling heart. She was crying, frustrated and confused. He was silent, calm and understanding. The water bender would curse the avatar for being an inadequate lover, for being far too immersed in his avatar duties to pay her the time of day. Of course she understood, she did—she knew what she was getting herself into when she'd accepted Aang's hand in marriage—in everything, but still, she yearned and ached and cried while he kept his adventures as she sat by the window in the desolate Air Temple, unable to recall the feel of the ocean slipping through her fingers. So Zuko did the only thing he could, he comforted her as best he could.
She'd knocked on his door that night, sniffling and avoiding eye contact, choosing instead to look at the tips of her feet as her evened breathing seemed to be the only thing disrupting silence. He stood confused at first, the thick fog of sleep still straining all of his senses. It wasn't until he caught her eyes glancing up at him in a silent plea that he understood. Without question he stepped aside to let her in. She needed a sense of protection and he was going to give her that sensation of being cared for because he loved her so much—platonically, or so she thought. And she smiled thankfully as he closed the door behind him, offering her his own smile, albeit a tired one. He watched her with interest as she scanned the room for a moment before she sat on the edge of his luxurious bed. She was wearing fire nation attire and he swore that she was the most tempting thing he'd ever seen, Eve's apple and he was Adam, wanting to fall for a taste of sin.
She felt lonely and looked vulnerable. Zuko couldn't remember ever seeing her so lost, even in the days of their adventures with the rest of their friends. The corners of her eyes prickled with fresh tears that tugged painfully at his heartstrings. In an instant he was kneeling at her feet, his warm hand cupping her cold cheek. "I'm here for you," he muttered, eyes burning through hers. She'd wrapped her arms around him, falling to her own knees, Zuko's arms gripping protectively around her waist.
The heat was unbearable. He'd never felt so hot before, having her pressed up so tightly and perfectly against him. "Let me help you feel better," it came out in a hushed tone before she pulled away in confusion until she looked into his ember eyes and she knew. She knew so well what his methods of cheering up would consist of and she gladly accepted by pressing her lips desperately against his.
They were gentle and rough, fast and slow. She matched up to his movements with such precision that it was as though she could tap into his own desires, connecting not only their bodies, but minds and souls, becoming one. His fingers would grip her thighs with bruising force, pulling her closer whilst pushing him deeper and she would arch into him, desperate to feel more of what he offered. Her lips would attach themselves to his neck and he'd growl as his animalistic instincts took route. He needed all aspects of her to quench his thirst—the thirst he'd harbored for such a long time and he took grim satisfaction knowing that she'd been suffering the same cruel fate.
Skin against skin in passion and anger—they reveled in the array of intense emotions that clung to their sweaty skins, both knowing this was only a temporary relief. And when they would reach their peak of ecstasy, he would moan loudly, head thrown back as he was engulfed in an ocean of pleasure and she would always follow, together choosing to drown. The way it should have been from the start.
It became routine. It was how they chose to alter their pathetic reality, when the crowds and cheers of the nations were gone, when they weren't master water benders or Fire Lords. There was never any guilt or remorse after, just silence, content to naively believe this lie could be a reality.
He would wrap a protective arm around her, pulling her closer to him because close was never close enough, uncaring of the sheets they'd just ruined despite her insistent pleas to change them herself. "I have nothing to hide," he would simply say and that usually ended the discussion, allowing herself to rest her head on his chest as she listened to the steadying rhythm of his heart. They wouldn't sleep. Even though exhaustion was always evident soon after, they chose to stay awake, letting silence speak for them. It was a painful silence.
But this time it was different. She was different. It was as though she'd reached a whole new level of sensitivity. Everything intensified, his touch, his kisses, the way he pressed himself into her, how his eyes softened when his name dripped from her lips so tenderly. Instead of going straight into his arms right after she sat at the edge of the bed silently, her finger's digging into the newly ruined sheets. Katara vaguely wondered just how much his maid hated her.
She was guilty and Zuko couldn't say that he was surprised. "I'm sorry," she uttered softly, sorrow caressing every curve of the syllables. "I know," he responded in turn with in a monotonous tone, arms reaching for what they ached for until she was rightfully nestled in them because he was unashamed to take whatever she was giving. Zuko did know. He knew just how apologetic Katara was—he felt it in the way she always carried herself around him whenever they were alone. She radiated remorse because she loved him just as he'd always loved her—from the very first moment they'd ever laid eyes on each other and she silently cursed the spirits for the paths they were both obliged to take. But Zuko had accepted his fate. This was the only way he could have her, the only way he could call her his—in the sanctuary of his room, sealing a grand love that should have been behind four walls. Because he knew that in reality, he would never truly have her—not like he wanted.
When the sun would rise high and hang proudly on the sky, she would go back home until she loathed Aang once more, only to leave once she began to loathe Zuko and miss Aang again—their steady routine. But the fire lord didn't really care at this moment in time. He didn't care because the sun was rising and she was in his arms.
A/N: It's sort of a dark one. I got the idea when I was driving home from work today and The Weeknd's Til Dawn (Here Comes the Sun) came on. Hope everyone enjoyed it. Feedback is always appreciated!
Update: I added a few things. It felt like it was too short from the first time I published it and raidersfan777 simply confirmed it!