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Deep Burn

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Katara had always liked kissing.

She was quite a tactile person, and kissing was likely the most versatile form of human contact: A kiss on the cheek as a greeting, a kiss on the forehead to reassure—a kiss on the lips alone could be chaste, or tender, or passionate.

Kissing Azula, however, scrapped her previous notions of what a kiss could mean or feel. 

She knew Azula’s kisses would be fiery; she had expected that. But the past few months they had been together was filled with kisses that surprised and beguiled and charmed her in ways she never knew. She thought of her kisses as uncharted lands she would willingly wander. 

There were times when Azula was diligent and careful—lips moving deliberately, every flick of her tongue measured—as calculating as her brilliant whetted mind. She could be eager, too, and sometimes this made her intoxicatingly sloppy in a way that only Katara could make her act. When she got nervous, she would show a side of her that was both awkward and determined to please.

She would never tire of Azula’s kisses, and that thought felt almost terrifying in its certitude.

Now they were inside Azula’s royal bedchamber. By some miracle, they both had an afternoon off, but instead of going outside to indulge in some outdoor activity together they chose to lounge in Azula’s pleasantly ventilated and spacious room. Katara was sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor, eyes poring over an initial draft of a royal proclamation.

“Thoughts?” Azula demanded. She was splayed on her side in the bed, her head propped up on her elbow.

“Hush, I’m not done yet.”

It was the proclamation to officially cease the tradition of hunting dragons. No one had dared to go near Lan, but Ran and Shaw’s other offsprings would appear above the skies as soon as they were deemed ready and Azula was determined to make it safe for them to do so.

Katara looked up at Azula when she finished reading the draft. The way the silk robe clung to her figure was a tempting sight she tried not to be distracted by. “It’s… meticulously composed. You definitely made it thorough enough. I didn’t notice any possible loopholes.”

“But…?”

“...but don’t you think ‘punishable by death’ is a bit… too much?”

“It affirms our conviction in an absolute way.” Azula said without missing a beat. “The lives of dragons are sacred, Katara. I would even go as far as to say harming one in any way is equivalent to the desecration of a god.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Katara conceded. She placed the draft on top of the desk beside Azula’s bed.

“You’re not convinced.”

I am.” She truly was. It was perfectly reasonable, and the Fire Nation people strongly respond to a show of force or conviction. Besides, if anyone so much as scraped a scale off Lan, she would definitely wish the worst for the culprit.

With the speed of a combat-ready soldier, Azula toppled forward off her bed and towards Katara, pinning her down on the floor. Despite her surprise, Katara maneuvered herself so Azula was lying on top of her comfortably, her legs stretching and arms finding purchase on Azula’s lean back. Their lips were close enough for their breaths to mingle, and Azula curved hers in a wicked smirk. Her face had been wiped off of her makeup and Katara’s eyes flittered across every inch. She was beautiful in a way that almost hurt.

“Will a kiss persuade you that I’m right?” she murmured and her warm breath licked at Katara’s skin.

“I already agreed, didn’t I? But kiss me anyway.”

Azula dipped her head and their lips met. Colors burst forth behind Katara’s eyelids as Azula explored her mouth, a whimper escaping from deep beneath her throat. Azula pulled away for breath after a while, and when she leaned back down again her pace was slower—so dizzyingly tender—with a hand ghosting above Katara’s collarbone. Azula tasted of warm days, a marriage of spice and sweetness in her tongue. Katara raked her hands through Azula’s jet black hair and loosened it into waves down her back like bending water.

Before the kiss could turn into something more, Azula broke it off, prompting a soft whine from Katara. She was ready to be utterly consumed by her, but her lover had different ideas. Azula snuggled against Katara’s chest, her ear resting right above her thrumming heart. A long silence followed, long enough for Katara’s desire to ease down and for her mind to wander.

Deciding to word out her thoughts, she said, “Who was the first person you ever kissed?”

Azula’s immediate reaction was to chuckle, a soft vibration against her chest. Then, “It was Ty Lee.”

Katara couldn't say she was expecting that… but it made perfect sense. 

“She tried to teach me how to do it right and a demonstration seemed like the most effective way to do so.” Azula added. Her voice was unadorned, an emotion trying yet failing to break through the surface. “I couldn’t admit it to myself back then, but it meant something. To me, at least.”

Katara let Azula’s words hang between them, aware that there was buried pain there. She ran her fingers along Azula’s spine, drawing out a slight shiver.

“I assume yours is the Avatar.” said Azula.

Katara grinned. “Duh.”

“I bet he fumbled right through it.”

Katara swatted at her lightly. “Give him some credit. He wasn’t terrible. It was actually quite sweet how it happened.”

“Was he the only other person you’ve ever kissed?”

Katara pushed Azula's shoulders up so she could look at her in the eye. “I can’t believe you just asked me that question.”

Azula shrugged then settled right back against Katara, nuzzling at her once. “My bad. That was a foolish thing to presume, given how irresistible you are.”

“Flatterer,” Katara rolled her eyes. “I was definitely not irresistible enough to get anyone to stay past the second date.”

“Tch,” Azula said, like this offended her personally. “That’s outrageous. They were likely intimidated by you and realized you were way too good for them. I assume these fools were men?”

“Actually, there had been a couple of women who asked me out,” she admitted, “but it was mostly men.” A lot of them had been the sons and grandsons of Gran-Gran’s friends that she set her up with. The memory made her cringe.

“How about you? Any lucky girl back in the island?” prodded Katara, eager to steer the conversation away from herself lest her brain unearthed some embarrassing memories from a few disaster dates.

“There were a few. But it took me a while to feel comfortable enough to be… intimate with someone.” she whispered. Katara knew the reason why and the knowledge came with a death grip of pain in her chest. She was starting to regret even asking when Azula went on, “Ome and the healers helped and I overcame my fears… but sometimes I'm convinced that I’m forever damaged.” A pause. “I always feel safe when I’m with you but I was scared you wouldn’t want me at first.”

This, too, she knew.

Azula’s back turned as rigid as a tree trunk. Katara tried to ease her back by draping her arms around Azula’s shoulders. She pressed her lips on the top of her head.

“I’m sorry you’re stuck with me.” 

Katara felt her soul crack. She softened her voice as soothingly as she could. “Don’t say that.”

I love you, Katara’s heart screamed. She didn’t give voice to it, afraid that it would startle Azula with the intensity of the emotion—the finality of those words—and she housed a few insecurities of her own. But Katara tried her best to show it. She lifted her lover’s head gently to meet her eyes. Her hands traced the cut of her jaw. “I want you, okay? Every beautiful part of you.”

She told her the same thing on their first night together. They had been in a fight before it happened, but the annoyance molded into something else as soon as their problems had resolved, and Azula had eagerly dragged Katara to bed. Yet as soon as all the layers of clothing slipped from Azula she suddenly folded in on herself. She mumbled something about being broken, that Katara deserved better than what her body could offer. Katara had fought through the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes and approached Azula carefully, her healer’s instinct guiding her through. She whispered words that soothed and reassured; she waited for Azula herself to touch her first, let her know that they could stop if she wanted, let her lead the way and set the pace. Katara gave her as much control and space as she needed, and made sure she knew she was wanted and desired. 

“I know you do.” Azula murmured with her face just inches from Katara’s. Azula looked at her with a rare and familiar expression, vulnerable affection in her amber eyes. It was the same look she gave her that first night: Azula on top of her—sated and spent, her chest flushed red and panting—staring down at Katara like she had hung the moon in the sky and bent the light of the stars to glow.

Katara loved her fire lily. She loved her stubborn heart, the resilience that made her bloom proudly amongst the ashes of her dark, painful past. She loved how she made her feel, like Katara could take on the entire world as long as Azula was by her side.

“Kiss me,” she rasped. It was almost like a demand. A need rather than a want. When Azula grinned with renewed confidence, she knew she did something right. Katara met her halfway as she bent her head down.