2 am

Title: 2 am

Rating: K

Pairing(s): Zutara, Taang

Word Count: 1,971

Summary: Whoever set off the fire alarm at 2 in the morning is on Katara’s shit list. Even if he is hot and shirtless.

(Part one of the late nights/early mornings series) (Part 2: 11:45)

AN: A zutara college au (with added Taang thrown in for good measure) inspired by the tumblr prompt “the fire alarm goes off at 2am, and one of your otp is in their underwear when they leave their room.”

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I finally wrote a Zutara-story! Well, the end is Zutara, before that it’s mostly just Katara and friends. Honestly I don’t really know what this is, I guess it’s just sort of how I think Katara would react to the war ending (well, one of the ways, anyway. I have a lot of alternative perspective). But yeah, this is one of the ways I imagine Katara would feel/react to the end of the war.

I just love Katara so much, and I have a huge thing for Zutara. It’s not that I don’t like Aang, is just that I think he and Katara would grow apart after the war. I think they will always be friend, and they will always love each other, just not in that way.

When that’s said, I like the way Zuko treats Katara. From the very beginning he has treated her as an equal, even when she was just a child accompanying the avatar; he still treated her as his opponent, like a real threat, even though she was a small girl without any “real” fighting experience.

And since I’m already rambling about this ship, I just want to point out that in a alternative world where Zutara lives happily ever after – Zuko would totally be intimidated by Katara, like big time. I think he’s slightly afraid of what she could do to him, and I think that’s rather adorable and real. I also have this thing for Katara being sort of Zuko’s advisor (apart from Iroh, who totally ships them). I just think Katara would be really good at sort of leading the country, but indirectly. She’s kind of that menacing shadow behind Zuko that scares away any potential threat. (That does not mean she doesn’t think Zuko can’t take care of himself. It’s just that as the Fire Lord he has to be diplomatic and non-threatening, so Katara just sort of acts as his bodyguard because she’s badass and doesn’t take shit from anyone).

Now for the story: it’s just Katara travling after the war, visiting a few places before ending up in the Fire Nation and stumbling over Iroh who invites her to the Palace to distract Zuko. Or something like that anyway.

Read on AO3.


They didn’t want to let her travel alone, after the war ended. Sokka said that they were finally able to get some peace, and Aang reasoned that they could finally be together. Katara countered with the need to find herself, but really, she needed to get away.

The war had changed them all, she knew that, but looking at her small, broken family she couldn’t help but think about another life. The war might be over, but a new one had started inside of Katara and she found herself longing for those old days.

So she convinced them to let her go, because no matter how long she was gone, she would always — always — come home. Even though they said they would let her do what she needed, she knew that Sokka and Aang followed her the first couple of weeks. She didn’t know why they eventually stopped, nor who’s idea it was, but eventually they disappeared and Katara was left to herself.


It was lonely. Being home after the war had been lonely, too.

She didn’t fit in anymore, she’d realized. Sokka probably had nightmares too, but he also had Suki and they somehow made it work. Her father had fought wars long before they had been born, so this momentarily peace was normal to him; he would soon find another problem that needed his attention. Aang was a different story entirely. The war had changed him, too, but not the same way. He had woken up to the war having gone on for a long time. He hadn’t experienced it the way Katara had, and his view on everything was just so different from hers.

A small part of her was afraid of herself, and of how the others would look at her once they saw this ugliness inside of her. And most of all, she feared how peace would change their small, broken family.


Her first stop was in the Earth kingdom.

She’d decided to stop by her little earthbender friend, mostly out of curiosity (not because she missed the Blind Bandit or anything). The little rebel was brash and rude as always, and the familiarity squeezed Katara’s heart painfully. This was her Toph, this was the little girl who did whatever she wanted when she wanted it, and Katara would always have to worry about her because if she didn’t, who else would?

Even though she loved observing Toph, she moved on quickly. She had places to go after all, or so she said. Toph didn’t pay too much attention to it. She merely slapped Katara on the back and gave her a toothy grin, “See ya’, Sugar queen!”

“Take care, Toph,” Katara replied and hugged the small earthbender. The hug lasted longer than usual, and Katara might have squeezed a little too hard. Toph didn’t pull away, in fact she hugged her back, her frame suddenly so much smaller.

Then Katara walked away.


Kiyoshi Island was much like she remembered it, yet completely different.

She just thought about passing through, not actually staying, but when two familiar faces turned up, she changed her mind.

Ty Lee and Mai looked stunning. They were wearing Kiyoshi Warrior outfits, face-paint and all. Somehow it fitted them, and they looked much more at home here then anywhere else Katara had seen them.

They spent several long nights together, just talking about everything that had happened since the war ended. Ty Lee was the one who did most of the talking.

On the fourth night, Katara directed a question to Mai, one that had struck her some time ago. “How come you’re not in the Fire Nation?”

Mai’s face didn’t change, it never did after all. Ty Lee looked at her friend, as if she didn’t know the answer either (though considering how close they were, she probably did). Katara observed them; she noticed the soft smile on Ty Lee’s face, and how the back of her hand gently brushed against Mai’s thigh. She didn’t really need an answer, she kind of already knew.


“We’ll miss you, Katara!”

Ty Lee hugged her, and it felt good. It was different from the hug with Toph, where she’d choked on her own tears and clung as if she were never going to see her again; this was the kind of hug that spelled friendship across boarders. The kind of hug that promised another meeting in the future; of long lasting friendship.

“I’ll miss you, too, Ty Lee.” Katara gave the other girl a great smile, then she gave one to Mai. “It was really great seeing the both of you.”

Something about the way Mai looked at her made Katara think the other girl could see right through her. Perhaps she knew how Katara was feeling, or perhaps she was just speculating. She didn’t know, and she wasn’t sure it actually mattered.

“I’ll come visit again,” Katara promised, then she left.


Four months later she somehow ended up in the Fire Nation.

It hadn’t been planned, much like nothing about this journey had been planned. She just went where the current lead her, and so she was here.

On the outside, it hadn’t changed at all. The air was still thick with heat and water, almost touchable. The weather here was like its own being.

It wasn’t as uncomfortable as she remembered.

For the first couple of days she wandered the streets aimlessly. She observed the people at the streets, watched the children play. It was so peaceful, so normal (and she could remember a time when such moments as children playing in the streets had been foreign, dangerous, but almost sacred — when it first happened, it brought so much happiness to the people around, so much joy and hope. It scared her a little how normal it had become at such rapid speed; they were almost taking this sort of happiness and freedom for granted; already forgetting the dread and fear of the past).

She met General Iroh at a place serving tea.

Honestly, she wasn’t surprised. The man sometimes loved tea more than anything else in this world. He’d spotted her and walked over, taking a seat over her as if they were old friends. She didn’t mind, Iroh was one of the few people she genuinely liked.

“Master Katara,” he greeted. “What a pleasurable surprise to meet you here.”

Katara nodded to him, the softest of smiles playing on her lips. Her chest was blossoming with familiar warmth. “General Iroh,” she greeted back.

“Just Iroh, child, or uncle will do to.” He smiled at her, patting his big tea-belly. “May I ask what you are doing here?”

Katara sipped on her tea. “Visiting. Just… visiting.”

Iroh nodded, and his eyes were too knowing for comfort. Katara fidgeted in her seat, suddenly nervous. “Have you visited the palace already?”

She shook her head. “No, not yet. I wasn’t sure… I thought maybe you would be too busy.” You and your nephew both, she thought and suppressed the memories that tried to resurface.

Iroh clapped his hands together. “Nonsense!” he said. “We will always have time for the Lady Katara.” His smile changed into something that Katara couldn’t interpret. “I am sure the young Fire Lord would be grateful for the distraction.”

Katara smiled. “Then I’ll be sure to come visit.”

“Why don’t you come with me after this?” Iroh sipped his tea around a big smile. Katara did the same.

“Are you perhaps ignoring your duties to drink tea, uncle Iroh?” Katara bit into the cup to keep herself from laughing.

“God did not build the world in one day,” Iroh hummed, then gave her a wink. Katara laughed and some of the tension in her shoulders left. She gave him a heartfelt smile, feeling like she’d finally come home.


“Katara?” The current Fire Lord looked struck by lightning, only he was more surprised by seeing the waterbender than anyone trying to kill him. Katara tried to hide her smile as she sent him a glare, placing her hands on her hips.

“Hello to you, too, Zuko,” she teased, before musing aloud, “or perhaps I should call you Fire Lord Zuko now, hmm?”

“Zuko is fine,” he huffed, still with that amazement in his eyes. “I thought you were still… traveling?”

She shrugged and plucked at one of the curtains, red just like the rest of the Fire Nation. “I was, then I figured I might visit, see how things are going. So how are you, Zuko?”

The young Fire Lord shuddered, not sure how to interpret the look Katara was sending him. He shook his shoulders and turned halfway away from her, looking out at the gardens. “It’s going better, considering how chaotic it was before.”

“General Iroh told me you’ve had quite the accomplishments.”

Zuko snorted. “Yeah, I’m finally acknowledge as the Fire Lord and it only took me half a year. Great accomplishment.”

Katara chuckled. “Maybe it’s a small victory for you, but I imagine it’s quite a lot more for your people — they have finally someone they can believe in, someone they can trust. That’s something the world have needed for a long time, you know. And now they finally have it, they have you.”

Zuko was still brooding (some things just never changed, and Katara found herself loving it; loving the fact that she still knew him). “I don’t feel very trustworthy; I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Katara skipped around so that she stood beside him, falling into the wall and watching the turtleducks play around in the pond. Zuko didn’t move away from her and that as well was a small victory, though she didn’t know exactly why. “No one really knows what they’re doing. We do what we think is right, and if it’s not, we try to make it right. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s what you do about it that matters. You’re people trust you, not because you saved the world, but because you redeemed yourself. You’ve made mistakes — a lot of them — but you still tried, and that took courage. They see you, Zuko, they see all of you.”

He was quite for such a long time Katara thought she might have said something wrong, but then he spoke up, “I don’t know if that’s really so reassuring…”

Katara laughed. “It’s probably not.” His glare was like a physical touch; a warmth caressing her cheek, she patted his arm. “Relax, they have already seen you at your worst. We all have — so you can’t really do anything worse, only better! That has to be reassuring.”

He was still grumbling when she turned away from the pond to look at him; those golden eyes staring at her as if she held all the answers. She doubted she had them, but as she met his gaze, she decided that she wanted to. She wanted to help him find the answers he sought; she wanted to help him.

“I have no idea what they want from me, Katara,” he told her, eyes wide and gold and terrified. They were asking her to help, and she relished in the feeling of being needed, of being of help. She squeezed his shoulder and gave him her warmest, most reassuring smile she could muster — so wide it made her cheeks hurt — and said, “Good thing I came in time to save you, then!”


He was pouting again, just like a little child. And she was laughing, eyes twinkling with mirth and happiness — pure happiness. “They listen more to you than they do me,” he complained.

Katara gave a hearty laugh. “I don’t give them a choice,” she said, stroking circles in his shirt. One of the turtcleducks quacked at them. “I give them an ultimatum, and you… well, you just listen to me.”

“Perhaps uncle is right,” Zuko mumbled, absentmindedly stoking the waterbenders hand. They lay beside the pond in the garden, the turtleducks playing in the water with stomachs full of bread and sunshine shining down on them from the sunset.

“And whatever has your uncle told you this time,” Katara smiled.

One of his hands started to fiddle with his pocket and then he produced a leather collar embedded with cobalt moonstones and one empty socket.

Katara held her breath, too afraid what would come out of her mouth if she opened it. Hundred of thoughts raced through her mind in the matter of seconds until she managed to push them away. No, Katara, she thought, he might not even be aware of the Water Tribes customs Yet, this was Zuko she was talking about, and he was aware of a lot of things she wouldn’t have guessed. Plus the comment about Iroh, and Iroh certainly knew a lot of things no one would guess.

Perhaps there was a small chance…

Katara sat with her heart in her throat and waited, still seated in Zuko’s lap and watching his hands — they were slightly shaking, but not clenched like they usually were when he got worked up. He was holding the collar ever so gently in his hands, a finger twitching every now and again.

She felt him more than she heard him take in a shuddering breath. His chest expanded and sank beneath her, his free hand clamping around hers suddenly. He was too anxious not to know, she briefly thought, then shut it down. This may just be his way of thanking her, his way of telling her how much he’d appreciated her help the last year, his way of—

“I-I know,” Zuko stuttered, “that we’ve had problems in the past.”

Katara pressed her lips together to not grin. “We fought just some hours ago, Zuko,” she reminded him — not that she thought he’d forgotten, it was how they’d ended up laying by the pond in the first place. She heard him sigh.

“Right. I know, but… I’ve really liked having you here, Katara. I like having you around…”

Her chest expanded with warmth and giddiness. “I’ve really liked being here, too,” she whispered, squeezing his hand which were still clamped around hers.

“Good,” he grunted, sidetracked for a moment — she knew he was sidetracked by the way his grip loosened around her hand, and then clamped around it again, as he remembered his quest, whatever that was. “Right. So we both like being here.” He stopped, realizing that wasn’t what he wanted to say. “I mean, we both like… we both like being in the Fire Nation—together. We…”

He was self-destructing. That sometimes happened. He wasn’t someone who enjoyed holding speeches, he rehearsed too much, clamped up, just like he clamped up around her hand. She leaned more into him, dragging his arm around her with their joined hands and cuddling into him. “Relax,” she whispered, and he took a deep breath before sinking into the tree behind them. “Now, don’t think about whatever you had planned to say, just say it.”

She had been here for over a year now. She knew how to handle both Zuko and the Fire Lord. He clamped up like these before other speeches, too, and Katara had gotten the hang of it to calm him down. They worked good together.

“Marry me,” Zuko all but blurted out.

So he did know, Katara thought smugly, then her brain caught up with his words and she sprang up from his lap, turning around to look at him. His golden eyes were staring her down, his eyebrow twitching despite his proudly puffed out chest. He had that posture again, as if he was trying to show her that he was strong, that he could handle anything. It always cracked her up, even now she found herself smiling softly, but it was dimmed by his question.

“Y-you are serious?” She asked, a little out of breath.

He nodded briskly. “Marry me, Katara.” Her lip wobbled. If this was some kind of prank, she would kill— “I want you to stay here, Katara. I don’t want you to leave. I l-like having you around.”

Katara let her hair fall around her face like a curtain.

This time, Zuko’s leg twitched. “I-I know about the Water Tribes custom,” he babbled. “But I know how much you love your mother’s necklace, but the collar is a little— not that it’s anything wrong with that— I just thought— Maybe it was a bad idea— I’m sorry, I—”

Katara fell face first into his chest. “You idiot,” she breathed.

Zuko lost it. “It was stupid, okay! I know! Sorry! I just thought—”

“It’s perfect,” she said, finally looking up and beaming.

“Y-you like it?” Zuko asked, eyes wide and so, so hopeful.

Katara nodded and let out a laugh. “Honestly, I was kind of hoping for this, but I was scared that you might not know…” She let the rest of the sentence drift off into nothing, then she blushed and said, “I really like being around you, too, Zuko.”

This time, Zuko also laughed; the sound was made up of pure joy and victory, and it was so ridiculous that Katara had to laugh, too, and then she was wrapped in his arms and she wrapped her arms around him in return and they were just this bundle of utter happiness.

They let go at the same time, drifting just enough apart for Zuko to bring the new collar forward and for Katara to remove her old one. She looked at it for a long time: the battered leather collar, worn out from time and weather. She fingered the pendant, carefully loosening it before handing it over to Zuko. He handed it with the utmost care and gentleness. It was as if she was giving him her soul and he was terrified of hurting it, even the tiniest bit. It made Katara’s chest swell even more with love for the young Fire Lord.

Zuko fastened the pendant on it’s new collar, then looked up at Katara. She smiled, leaned forward and lifted her hair out of the way. As his arms encircled her throat and neck, she could feel heat radiating from his skin and she shivered. As he fastened the clasp of the collar, he fingers lingered for just a second longer than necessary before they returned to their front and he took her hands.

He looked ridiculously happy.

“Katara…” He muttered, as if he wanted to say something, but had no idea how to put it into words.

Before he could start to babble again, Katara leaned forward and kissed him. His lips were warm and pleasant, his smell spicy and of warmth. All of him had come to feel like home, and she loved it. She loved him.

When they parted, she sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder, finally fully at peace with her place in the world.

Now that I’ve reread this piece of shit, I realize I got sidetracked somewhere along the way when I wrote this. And since I used like three days to write this (and since it’s my first time even writing a Zutara/atla fic) I’ve decided to post it anyway and rewrite it AFTER I’ve gotten some feedback.

But yeah, since this turned out to be somewhat of a failure I don’t know if the main idea behind this fic came through so I’ll just explain it simply because I’m paranoid and all (and because the title doesn’t really make sense, but alas I suck at titles anyway so…)

ANYWAY. The idea behind this fic was that Katara was born into the war, so it has just always been there since the beginning, and now that it’s over, she kinda feels lost. The South Pole has sort of become an outgrown pair of shoes (that favorite pair that you’ll always love and remember) but it just isn’t the same anymore because SHE isn’t the same and so I guess the logical thing for her would be to travel and just see how the world is dealing with the end of the war. She’s kind of looking for a “home” but doesn’t really know it herself I guess, and then Iroh comes along and he just makes everything better because that’s what he does.

Oh my god, I never stop talking. I’m sorry. I’m just leaving it here and God help me this is actually nerve wrecking.


(I’m really done talking now. Truly, so I’ll just go hide under a rock)

I’ve seen a bunch of people say that Katara overreacted to her mother’s death in the Southern Raiders and I’m just like,,, how? When she was four years old her village was invaded and her mother was killed. She met the man that killed her and then found her mother’s dead, probably burnt to a crisp, body. And in case y'all are forgetting: KATARA IS THE REASON SHE DIED. Kya died to protect her.

Fuck, Marry, or Kill?
  • Ty lee: Hey, guys! Let's play this game called 'Fuck, Marry, or Kill' and you can only name one person at each category! To make it more fun, you can only choose the people inside of this room right now!
  • Mai: That's stupid, Ty lee.
  • Azula: That's true.
  • Ty lee: Eeehhh!! You two are such a killjoy!
  • Zuko: I'll go first.
  • Others: !!!
  • Zuko: Fuck... Sokka. Marry would go to Mai. Kill... Azula.
  • Azula: you're welcome, Zuzu
  • Sokka: Then, I'll go next. Fuck... Zuko. Marry... Suki. Kill...
  • Azula: What? Why are you looking at me?
  • Sokka: My words are unspoken. You guys knew the answer already.
  • Azula: .....
  • Toph: Can't be helped.
  • Katara: ... No one forced you.
  • Toph: Fuck goes to Aang. Marry goes to Sokka. Kill goes to Sugar Queen.
  • Katara: WHY?!
  • Azula: My turn. Fuck is Zuko. Marry is Ty lee. Kill is Sokka.
  • Sokka: ...
  • Azula: You're the mastermind of the Avatar Team.
  • Sokka: Impressive.
  • Katara: My turn, huh... Fuck would be Zuko. Marry would be Aang. Kill would be Azula.
  • Azula: Hey, you peasant. Nice choice.
  • Katara: Your sarcasm hasn't improved.
  • Azula: What is that?!
  • Katara: Wanna go?!
  • Ty lee: It's my turn!! Hm, let's see... Fuck would be Azula. Marry would be Sokka. Kill would be-- Amm I really don't want to kill anyone!
  • Mai: It's my turn now.
  • Aang: Ah, wait, it's my turn...
  • Mai: Fuck would be Zuko. Marry would be Zuko. Kill would be the rest of you.
  • Others: WHY?!
  • Mai: I don't need a reason for that.