My arms burn, but I still raise my sword.
Zuko looks at me appreciatively, and I note the way the balances on his back leg, only using the front to move forward to strike.
Grinning internally, I decide to face him out, and use that to my advantage.
I let my arms and body sag slightly, and a small look of triumph flashes over his face.
He shifts to come forward, but I dart my foot out to upset his back leg, knocking him off balance and onto his butt. Hard.
I flip my sword to face hilt down, and pounce on him as he's still trying to catch his breath.
My hilt meets with the base of his throat, and he smiles up at me.
"Good job, Kat. You've only been training for three days, and you're already finding sneaky ways to win." He sticks out his tongue at me, and I growl at him playfully.
My sword gets tossed aside as he rolls us over and pins me to the ground, amusement sparkling in his amber eyes.
"Of course, you'd learn anything perfectly, wouldn't you?" A blush creeps over my cheeks, and I'm suddenly very aware of the strength in my Fire Bender's arms.
I glance down to his chest, his skin peaking through the small slices I've made in our sparring matches.
My eyes hungrily trace up his body to his shoulder, strong and wide.
I continue up his jawline, to his hair swishing into his face, dark black and shiny, covering his eyes.
My gaze slips over his left eye, where his scar used to be, and I notice the way the new skin is starting to tan slightly, like the rest of his body.
Finally, I find his lips. Full and soft looking, a softness that is not at all an allusion.
I watch them curve into words, and I snap back into reality swiftly.
"What did you say?" My voice shakes, but he doesn't seem to realize what he's doing to me.
"You were staring at my lips. Is there something you'd like to share?" One of his dark black eyebrows curve up, and a thousand answers rush through my mind.
Every day with you for the rest of my life.
I hope he can't see the desperation and need in my face, and just give him a coy smile.
"Nope. Nothing at all."
He smiles my favorite crooked smile, and my breathing hitches when he lowers his lips to mine. We kiss slowly, but soon my desperation leaks into the connection.
His body pulls back, but he doesn't break the kiss. He sits and pulls me to his lap, and I straddle him happily.
His fingers knot in my hair, and I run my hands over his shoulders.
All too soon, he breaks the kiss, but I can see he is breathing heavily, just like I am.
"We should get back. If Sokka has to cook again, we're all doomed."
I laugh, and he pushes me gently to the ground, then pulls me up as he stands.
We walk back to camp hand in hand, and I think about everything that's happened since he gave me my necklace.
My nightmares have disappeared, I'm getting much better at swordplay, and he's almost mastered healing.
Not everything is going well, though. Suki and Sokka have been really distant lately, and no one knows why.
"Hey, Zuko?" I stop walking, and he halts with me.
"Are you thinking about Sukes and Sokka too?" His nickname for Suki makes me smile, and I nod.
"I think you should talk to her tonight, and I'll talk to him. We need to find a way to get rid of this stress that's been going on in the group." It amazes me how well he has helped me take charge in the group since he's gotten here, and I smile as I answer.
"I agree. We need to take care of this now before it gets worse. Should we try to get them alone after dinner?" Worry flashes through me as I wonder how we'll get them by themselves, but he eases it.
"I'll ask Toph and Aang to go to bed early, then I'll see if I can't get Sokka to help me go get fire wood. That should leave you and Suki to talk." His brows furrow and unfurrow as he speaks.
We finish our journey to camp, and see that everyone is already eating.
"Hey guys. Who cooked?" I release Zuko's hand, taking the empty seat and full bowl next to Suki.
"I did. I hope you like it." Aang looks up to me, beaming smile alleviating the last of my worries. He'll help us get the two alone.
I take a bite, and moan at the savory taste. "This is great, Aang. What is it?"
"Its a type of root that you can find at the bottom of an long sleek grass. Its like an onion but sweet."
After we all eat, I get up to wash dishes, then motion for Aang to come with me.
"What is it, Katara?"
His voice is concerned and welcoming.
"I need to talk to Suki, and Zuko needs to talk to Sokka. Alone. SO I was wondering if you could get Toph and Boulder to go to sleep early.
"Of course. What are you going to talk to them about?" His voice and face is shielded, and I am surprised at his reaction.
"How they've been so pulled back lately. It's worrying us."
"Yeah. Okay. We'll go to bed. I'll talk to them now. Goodnight Katara."