perfect places





( from the beginning )
( previously )

Everything he had done had been in vain. He felt her wriggle her legs a bit and had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself steady. The vodka he’d drank–a bit too quickly–seemed to be catching up to him, because he felt like he was teetering on the cusp of doing something he really, really oughtn’t.

Especially when he could feel the ghost of her breath against his mouth. When had she gotten so close? he thought frantically. The staccato of his heart filled his ears and thudded in his chest. She wet her lips and it was all Zuko could do to remember to breathe. He let out a ragged breath and watched her eyes fall to his mouth.

The mattress will function just fine.

It’d been a long while since he’d found someone he wanted to do anything with, but his eyes fell again to the shadow along her collarbone. His lips parted slightly as he raised his hand to her shoulder, lightly brushing the bare skin there with callused fingers and watching the spread of goosebumps that followed his wake.

“I’m sure it does,” he heard himself murmuring, his focus now intently on where he placed his thumb at the juncture of her clavicle. He could feel the echo of her pulse beneath the pad of his thumb–or maybe it was his? He didn’t know for sure, but the soft intake of her breath at his touch emboldened him. Even as his cheeks burned with their own heat, he turned to face her more, his other hand remaining on her bare calf. It slid up, feather-light, as he moved, but stopped just below the knee with a shaky sort of trepidation. The very tips of his long fingers just barely brushed the beginning of the back of her knee.

Though he had no conscious thought to do so, he leaned closer to her; she was a flame and he but a doomed moth. Her back mirrored the curve of his spine and they maintained a tremulous distance with his thumb skimming along her collarbone and one of her hands now come up to press lightly against his ribcage. He would have stopped if she had put any real kind of resistance against him, and as it was he hesitated even still; the rush of his blood demanded he keep going, but he exhaled and forced patience upon himself.

All thoughts of sleep or putting a bed frame together were completely gone from his mind, with Katara as his sole focus. He spared no thoughts for seams on the ceiling now. The alcohol in his system made him braver, the way her head had fallen against his shoulder earlier made him breathless, and the blue blaze of her eyes made him ache. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this attracted to someone this quickly. Turned now as he was to face her better, he could easily press her back into the cushions on the couch, and if the heat coming from the juncture of her hips was any indication, he thought she just might let him. His hand drifted up to encapsulate her knee, fingers now finding her thigh and the muscles beneath her skin. His grip tightened a little, just to see, just to test–and when she flexed her leg back against his hand, he bit back a pleased growl when he found it strong. He immediately wondered if she would wrap them around his waist or if he could sling one up onto his shoulder.

Her hand fisted in his shirt where it lay on his ribs, and he thought for sure she would feel the thunder of his heart beneath. His only saving grace from bearing down flush against her was the twist of his hips and the sweep of both her legs still collected in his lap.

moment he brushed her shoulder, she knew she was doomed.

sparked across her skin. Her heart beat so wildly, Katara swore he could see it:
the fast, hard rhythm beneath her breast. Her breath, too, slipped from her
control— so quick, so shallow. If he couldn’t see it, he could feel it in her
pulse. It thundered, almost painfully, when his fingertips brushed the curve of her neck. It set a tremor in her limbs, muscles shaking and tensing under his

was a mess. She was falling apart so quickly. He tickled behind her knee, pulling a sharp
sigh from her, a little exhalation that accompanied fresh tension in her hips.
Katara squeezed her legs again, her eyes flicking to his. Maybe that’s what
melted her, ignited her— watching gold come alive as his hand settled on the
muscular curve of her thigh.

stopped. Right there. Far enough from the damp heat between her legs to feign propriety, yet close enough that there was no mistaking his caress for innocence. She flexed,
eyes begging him. His body was a taut line; hers was on edge. He was fire, eating up all the oxygen, and she
was lightheaded, dizzy.


wasn’t sure what she meant by it, by that desperate whisper of his name. A
warning? Possibly. If he didn’t stop looking
at her like that, she’d whither away. An invitation? Just as likely. If he didn’t keep looking at her like that, didn’t
her like that, she’d burst into flames.

that make his name a plea…?

said his name again, testing it, tempting him. “Zuko.”

a moment, just a moment, a thread of indecision stretched between them. She
didn’t wait for him to make up his mind.

Her hand tightened in his shirt. Her other found Zuko’s where it dug into her
thigh, and Katara followed his arm up to
his neck. She twisted her fingers into his dark hair, tilting her head, holding the back his. They were so close… close enough, now, that her nose nudged his. Her breath
tickled his lips.

that was all it took. If there was any, any resistance at all — There wasn’t.
She gave him just a beat to pull back, but he was rushing into it all the same.
— It vanished.

lips collided like they’d been starved of each other. Katara closed her eyes,
humming approval from low in her chest.  She was immediately pliant, following
his lead. His mouth was soft and insistent; warm and demanding. She let her
lips open partway, granting Zuko the access he seemed to want. His tongue found
hers and suddenly, Katara was overwhelmed by the lingering taste of vodka, the
taste of lust. She moaned— moaned,
when the fingers on her collarbone ghosted up her neck, when the hand on her
thigh slid further up, gripping the thick of the muscle right at the junction
of her leg and hip.

he feel it? The energy beneath her skin? Could he sense it? Surely, he could
smell it on her, the smell of sweat and the scent of sex. Her blood thrummed
with the unrelenting need to feel his weight on her, to have his hips flush
with hers.

wasn’t sure who did it. If Katara had to guess, the answer would be her. She
was… greedy. For this. For him.

leg closest to Zuko’s waist, the one barring him from coming closer, from
bearing down on her, hips-to-hips, shifted. Katara pulled it from his lap, gave
him the space he needed. Her fingers tugged his hair and his shirt, tugged him
down with her as she fell back on the couch.

moan. Louder this time. And, swallowed by him.

kiss turned feverish as her legs parted for him. She’d found that friction she
wanted, the feel of calloused palms on her hips, the rough scrape of denim
against sensitive skin. She whimpered with it, the sounds in her throat hungry.
Zuko drank them in. Zuko made sounds of his own.

if Katara had to guess again— Though, was it really a guess? When she knew? When she could feel him, the hard, thick length pressing against her through tight
jeans and wet satin? — She’d guess that he wanted her as much as she did him. 

Zuko was going to lose his mind.

That was it. It was a simple as that.

Katara tasted of vodka and something a little sour, and it was an intoxicating mix that drove him careening to the edge of rational thought. Then, he tasted his name in her mouth and decided losing his mind was worth it.

Her hips rolled beneath his hand and he was flush against her, the only barriers between them agonizingly, frustratingly thin. The throb of his heart dropped to nestle itself between her legs, driving his need, his want to a singular head. Zuko rolled his own hips in automatic response against her, acutely able to feel her damp even through the thickness of his jeans. Some distant part of his mind registered that he couldn’t do much more clothed as he was, but a more prominent instinct kept him succumbing to a daringly slow rhythm against her.

Her camisole rode up beneath the spread of his fingers, and her side shuddered warm and smooth beneath them. The desire to snag the bones of her hips bruisingly tight flashed through his mind, but Zuko somehow kept his hands under control; gripping but not clutching, strong but not quite gentle.

She sighed against his mouth again and he captured it, forgetting for a moment everything else but the focal point of how her lips felt and tasted against his own. Katara made him feel like he was drowning mouthful by mouthful, and happily, he gasped for more.

Somehow he dragged his lips from hers and buried his nose against the hinge of her jaw. Sweat and the sea and her skin’s own scent engulfed him and made his breath flare out hot against her throat. He heard her suck in a sharp breath and he tested his lips against her skin there. She shuddered beneath him, prompting another small roll of his hips and a soft groan against her neck. His skin burned wherever her hands roamed over him, even when they weren’t directly touching it. The hand that had lingered on her collarbone skated down her side, his thumb tracing the outer curve of her breast. Where his fingers came to rest just beneath, on her ribs, he could feel the shaking beat of her heart. Zuko was going to come undone with no virtually no effort on her part.

It’d been too long, some part of his mind suddenly hissed. She was going to unzip his jeans and would only have to run a single stroke along him before he came. Zuko was plunging headfirst and he was going to embarrass himself and leave her woefully unsatisfied. He had to pull back, make sure this was drawn out as long as she wanted it–it would take so very little to get him ready again, and he desperately wanted to explore her before letting himself unravel.

Drawing in a ragged breath, he could not find the immediate motivation to separate himself from her; she was supple and firm in ways and places that were driving him wild, why would he ever want to drag himself away from that?

Katara threaded her fingers through his hair again and pulled him back to kiss him. Unbidden, unwanted, her dark hands trembling against the white of her apartment door flashed through his mind. Zuko tasted vodka on her tongue and the reason why it flooded his senses made his own mouth suddenly become bitter. His lungs protested as he peeled back, bracing himself up with arms on either side of her, his heart still pounding at the apex of her thighs.

“Katara,” he said, nearly breathless. The syllables of her name made him want to taste more of her, but he bit that thought back. He’d just learned it not more than a handful of hours ago, and here he was, ready to fuck her like he didn’t even care who she was? Especially after how they met in the first place, why he didn’t learn her name from the get-go, it felt more than a little disingenuous to keep with his current trajectory.

With a great deal of effort and self control, Zuko forced himself to back away from her, to sit with the small of his back jammed hard against the arm of her couch. The skin down to his chest was hot, and he only stopped himself from dragging her against him now by scrubbing a hand roughly over his face. Even then he couldn’t dismiss the sight of her from his memory (and wagered he wouldn’t be able to for quite some time): both straps of her camisole were hanging off her shoulders, her lips were swollen from kissing him, her eyes dark and hooded with desire. It was almost enough to send him crashing back into her, but he bit down on his tongue to distract himself from the insistent pulse in his cock honing in on her like a dowsing rod.

“Katara,” he tried again, swallowing thickly and feeling like his mouth was full of sandpaper. “I… I don’t…” God it was difficult to think when he could still smell her, so close to him even still, when he wanted her so badly.

Confusion warred with arousal across her face, and it was enough to send a lump of despair plummeting into his stomach. An entirely different kind of desperation clawed at his insides. “I just… fuck. I don’t feel so well.” He unfolded himself from the couch, blurting the first thing that came to his head, and bolted to her bathroom. With any luck, she would think he was going to go throw up or something from the alcohol.

Zuko hoped he had a sliver of luck, for once in his life.

Shutting the door a little too quickly behind him, he pressed his back and tipped his head against it, unsuccessfully trying to will away the throb against the fly of his jeans. He’d nearly just blithely fucked a girl he barely knew, and he never did that. She’d trusted him, a complete stranger, enough to step in-between her and Jet, and he’d nearly just fucked her, wham-bam-thank you-ma’am, without so much as a flyaway thought spared. Zuko clenched his teeth even as the thought well now you may never get to flit through his mind, and he hated that he gave it weight. He wanted to, oh he had wanted to sink himself deep into that dampness of her until he forgot his own name, but was that really worth taking advantage of her in an arguably compromised state? Adrenaline and alcohol were dangerous bedfellows, this he knew, and more than he wanted her, Zuko knew he would have never forgiven himself if he would have ignored that combination and continued.

“Shit,” he said softly to her bathroom ceiling.

She couldn’t
imagine what she must look like to him.

Well… she
probably looked similar him: wide-eyed and panting, a pink flush on her cheeks, pulse thundering. Her gaze tracked him to the other end of the couch;
Katara lifted her head to look at him, confused by the sudden shift and half
expecting Zuko to invite her into his lap. She’d go so willingly, unzip his
pants and pull them past his hips; his boxers, too. She’d sink down on him
slowly, whining his name again. She’d wait for him to beg, then she’d—

His eyes left her,
darkening with… disgust? He looked sick. Then, he said he was sick.

Abandoning her
on the couch, Zuko was up and bolting across her little apartment before Katara
could blink. The bathroom door closed fast and hard, rattling in its frame. In
his absence, the room went dead silent, a
stark contrast to the hot, heavy breaths he’d moaned into her neck.

bulldozed her, made her shaky, and not in a good way. 

Katara fell back on the
cushions, drawing her knees together and covering her mouth with both her
hands. What the fuck was she thinking? What the fuck was she doing? Zuko had… god, she’d only known him as Zuko for a few
hours and she was ready, willing, to
fuck him? She studied the ceiling like it had the answers for her, because she
had none of her own. She’d never been the type to—  

‘Hey, bro! I hit it first!’

Jet’s snide
remark flickered through her head. Did that… was that part of Zuko’s motivation
to come up with her? Maybe he didn’t feel protective; maybe he assumed she’d be
an easy lay if he stepped in as her hero. Or was that comment, the ease with
which Zuko found her under him, what made him pull back? Maybe his mind jumped
to how many other men she’d let hit it just like that—just Jet–-but then
again, Jet always said she was a stupid slut.

Tears burned in
her eyes, blurring the lines she searched on the ceiling. Her breath hissed out
through her nose, carrying a small whimper that she tried to bury, and Katara
bit the inside of her lip hard enough to taste iron. The pain did nothing for
the insistent ache between her legs, and as she slipped to her feet (she couldn’t
very well be in the same spot when he returned)
it’s made obvious by the wet warmth
inside her shorts, the damp arousal on her thighs, how badly she wanted him.

And she just… laid
there, frozen in confusion, legs spread for him as he stared at her. Like a stupid slut. No wonder Zuko
darted off, muttering about being sick.

Dragging her
fingers through her hair, Katara shoved aside the boiling insecurities and turned
the TV off. She collected their empty glasses, taking them to the kitchen, and
dumped them in the sink. As she put the vodka back in the fridge, her eyes slid
over a bottle of Pepto Bismol and Katara had the immediate that that she was
being selfish. Zuko could actually be sick, having had three doubles on an
empty stomach. It was unfair of her to assume otherwise, to assume it was solely
her, no matter how Jet made her feel in the past. She would never–-ever—be the
type of woman to guilt a man for withdrawing consent. Katara knew what that
felt like; Jet did it to her all the time, ‘til she eventually stopped putting
a fight and just found the mood.

She couldn’t, absolutely
could not, make Zuko feel bad if, even though he seemed willing physically,
something had changed internally. It was probably best they stopped, anyway.
They hadn’t had a single discussion about birth control or condoms or STD
testing, so maybe… yeah, it was better.

A sigh came up
with another bubble of uncertainty, but Katara ignored it. She took the Pepto
Bismol from the fridge and rummaged through her shelves some more, finding what
she wanted: a pack of crackers and some ginger ale. Katara left the items on
the counter where Zuko could easily see them, assuming he ventured out of her bathroom.

Maybe he’s so
turned off now, that he’s planning to stay in— No. No.

With a shake of
her head, Katara dispelled the depreciating thought. There was no reason to
worry. She… was attracted to him, obviously. She liked his company. But, it didn’t
mean anything was specifically wrong with her if the whole night went to shit.
She had to keep telling herself that.

Besides, she
was in the bathroom for twenty minutes herself and Zuko didn’t complain. His delay
gave her time to strip the bed of its sheets and throw on a clean set. Katara smoothed
the edges before laying the comforter over the mattress, again. She hesitated,
though, when the chore was done and the bathroom door was still closed. Light
from inside outlined the frame, and she thought she could make out Zuko’s
shadow on the floor, but Katara wasn’t sure.

Hoping it wasn’t
weird, she decided to make the invitation to sleep beside her obvious, without
putting any pressure on him to actually do so. Katara folded the comforter down
on one side, then fluffed his pillow, too. She made sure the couch was tidied
up, with the blanket they’d used during the movie, just in case he wanted to
sleep there. After, she clicked off the lamp by the couch, leaving the kitchen light
on for him, and settled on her side of the mattress with her phone, flipping
through missed notifications to kill time.

Zuko couldn’t hear much through the bathroom door, which he counted as a blessing, since that meant she couldn’t hear much through it either.

Not that he was being particularly loud, taking deep, steady breaths to try and calm down. Every time he thought he was making progress, he’d remember the hooded looks Katara gave him ten minutes ago, or the feel of her bare side beneath his palm, or the smell of her infiltrating his nose, or the taste of her mouth–

A frustrated exhale marked the rise in his arousal–again. This was becoming an annoyance.

It was time for his failsafe.

Dragging himself away from the door, Zuko eyed her sink. It wasn’t quite large enough for him to fit his entire head under the faucet, but he also didn’t want to resort to using her tub. That… would probably come across as a touch odd. So, the sink it was.

Gripping the sides of the basin, Zuko leaned forward and stared at the drain for a while before looking up at the mirror at himself. The scar on the left side of his face seemed brighter red than usual, and it made him wonder if it flushed with color when his unmarred cheek did. The rest of him was in disarray. The top few buttons of his shirt were undone, and it was somewhat rumpled from the day in general, and from her hand fisting in it. His hair was disheveled, even short as it was, and there were faint red marks beneath his jaw from her mouth.

Thoughts of Katara beneath him swelled in his mind when his eyes alighted on the marks on his neck, and so he shut them and drew in another deep breath. He needed to be able to function like a normal person again before he could head back out there. What would she think if he went back out with a hard on still raging in his pants? Zuko was pretty damn sure he’d thoroughly killed whatever mood had been between them, so it’d be inappropriate at best, and disgusting at worst. He really didn’t want Katara disgusted at–or with–him if he wanted to get to know her more. And that was something he did want to do.

Raking fingers back through his hair, Zuko exhaled again. Turning the cold water on, he let it run for several seconds, occasionally testing the temperature with a few fingers. Once it got icy, he cupped his hands beneath it, sucking in a sharp breath at the chill, then leaned his face over the sink and unrepentantly doused his face with the water. Several times. It was so cold it made him gasp, and by the fourth time, though he was starting to adjust to the cold, his arousal finally began to go down.

“Thank god,” he muttered into the sink, water dripping down from his hair.

He turned the faucet off and scrubbed hands over his face again, keeping his breathing even and focusing on the chill of the air against his face. The few stray rivulets that snuck beneath his shirt and trailed down his chest and back after he straightened helped in regaining his composure. Once he felt normal again, he glanced at the singular towel she had, slung over a rung on the wall. He couldn’t use her towel to dry his hair, and he didn’t want to go back out with a wet head. That could lead down an embarrassing line of questions he didn’t particularly want to field at the moment.

Zuko ended up taking off his button-down, leaving him in his white undershirt, and dried his head and face as best he could with that. It wasn’t ideal, but he looked almost put together again. A few quick swipes of his hand to somewhat style his hair how it had once been, and he felt ready to face her again.

When he went to open the door and go back out, however, his hand hovered above the knob. Would she want to kick him out, after all that? He wouldn’t blame her in the least if she did. He’d never had any intention of overstepping boundaries, and then he’d fucking dove headfirst past them. A quiet groan slipped out of him, and his hand lifted to cover his eyes and scar in humiliation at himself. He’d really shown himself to be a fucking gentleman, hadn’t he? What must she think of him?

Steeling himself against her scorn, or admonishment–or even ridicule that he didn’t follow through when she’d obviously been wanting him–Zuko opened the door, for better or worse.

At first, he couldn’t find her. Christ, what if she’d used the time he’d panicked and fled to her bathroom to leave? No, no, his reason told him. That wouldn’t make any sense, her leaving him in her apartment. Resisting the urge to call out for her, instead he scanned the room and found her already on her mattress. The couch had been tidied, the blanket folded neatly and placed with a throw pillow placed beside it in a manner that was obvious was for him to use. Well–at least she wasn’t screaming at him to leave after his behavior. He stepped out further into the room and suddenly noticed that half the comforter was turned down, and a proper pillow sat next to its twin that she was using.

Did… had she left it turned down for… him? His mind reeled.

For several beats of his heart, he was rooted to the floor, struck dumb by not only the notion that she apparently still didn’t mind him staying like he had offered, but that she seemed like she wanted him to… get in bed next to her? Zuko didn’t understand.

Katara lay still where she was, and he briefly wondered if she had already fallen asleep. No–he hadn’t hid in the bathroom quite that long. Finally finding control over his legs again, he took a shaky step forward. His first instinct was to ask her if she still wanted him to stay, but he had the presence of mind enough to piece together the obvious evidence that she did. Then, he wanted to ask her if she wanted him to sleep with her, but those words wouldn’t quite form in his throat, with their secondary implications hitting too close to what he’d bolted from for comfort currently.

“Do you… still want company?”

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