Once upon a time, I created a series called "Til Death Do Us Part" about the nuptial proceedings of a certain Firebender and a certain Waterbender. It wasn't canon, but this is fanfiction, and the word "canon" gives Zuko nosebleeds.
But life doesn't end with marriage...
(Insert standard "I don't own Avatar obviously--I just do this for kicks" disclaimer here.)
Prologue --OR -- Reap What You Sow
A year has passed since Fire Lord Zuko's magnificent wedding to Master Waterbender and hero of the realm, the Mighty Katara of the Southern Water Tribe. Scribes, scholars and historians are still penning descriptions of the fantastic opulence of the nuptial event, and it continues to be the talk in every town across the globe.
It was a ceremony to remember, one which ended with the pardoning of Ozai and the family's reunion with the estranged Fire Matron Ursa. To the great surprise of the world, and the agony of the royal family, Ozai and Ursa decided to renew their own vows and go on their second honeymoon, traveling the world the ex-Fire Lord had once been bent on conquering. His reception at each port was… lukewarm, to say the least.
It had been a miraculously auspicious year. The economies of the four kingdoms were up; trade had opened among the nations; and with such wide-spread prosperity, the last vestiges of the war and bitterness were finally (and again, miraculously) beginning to fade. Everyone was happy. It was a year of bliss, of growth and harmony and—
"Don't ever touch me again, you lech!" The ear-piercing shriek came—as usual—from the Fire Lord and Lady's suite.
Zuko, a little older but not a whole lot wiser, skittered out of his quarters, robes and top-knot askew. His exit was closely followed by an icy knife-edged wave of water that just sheared the silk cuff off his billowing sleeve.
He growled as he righted his slovenly appearance, his emotions twisting in the gale-force of his lovely wife's fickle moods.
"Trouble again, my nephew?" General Iroh asked archly. He was leaning against one wall, observing Zuko with a sage, dispassionate look. Somehow, he managed to appear every time the royal couple had an argument.
In typical Zuko-esque fashion, the Fire Lord snorted.
"Ah, so it's that time of the month, is it? And here I was losing track of the days in my old age…" Iroh grinned and sighed. "It's nice to have a routine, don't you think?"
Zuko shot his uncle a menacing look. "It's been a year, Uncle. They might look happy, but the people are starting to get restless. They want to see the royal line continued. All I said to Katara was—"
"We're all waiting, Zuko. Be patient. These things take time." He sipped his tea. A potter in town had recently developed a large insulated tea cup with a handle and an air-tight lid. He called his invention a "travel mug." The old man now took his annoying tea-toting habit with him wherever he went.
"In any case," Iroh went on, "Katara may not be…er, ready yet."
"I know she's ripe, Uncle. I can smell it." Zuko licked his lips.
The old man's brow furrowed. "Perhaps if you were a little more tactful about—"
"There isn't time!" he shouted. He leaned in and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial hiss. "If I don't have a baby before Azula spawns her own illegitimate brood of psychopathic demons with one of those…thosemoochers—"
"Are you talking about Jet, Sokka, Haru, or the Avatar?"
"—I will lose face in front of my people, and I could lose my hold on the throne!" He paced.
"I hope you didn't say that to your wife," Iroh admonished him with a raise brow. "Such political talk is not…er, conducive to romantic afternoon interludes."
"I have to seed my wife, Uncle, or she will not produce!" Zuko roared.
In a flurry of movement that Sokka would describe as "a Dragon-of-the-West display of awesome," Iroh had his nephew pinned face-first to the floor in the blink of an eye. One of the Fire Lord's legs was twisted backwards so his heel ground into his groin. Zuko had no idea he could bend that way.
"First off," the old general said tiredly, "stop reading those damned ladies' pillow books and using flowery euphemisms. I may be a dirty old man, but I do not want you using language like that again. Ever."
"You don't 'plough' or 'seed' or 'plant' or use any other farming terms to describe sex. And your wife is not a piece of fruit. She is not 'ripe' or 'flowering' or whatever other greenhouse terms you may be tempted to use. Do you understand?"
"I said, do you understand?" He ground Zuko's own heel into the V of his legs and the young Fire Lord squeaked and nodded as vigorously as his position would allow.
Iroh released his hold and Zuko got to his feet, glowering.
"Second," Iroh continued, "you are a complete idiot. Where has your sense of romance and your uncanny ability to seduce any breathing woman gone? I remember a time when you couldn't escape those damn fangirls…"
The young Fire Lord wrinkled his nose. "I had guard-dog-bees installed at the palace gates," he explained. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, fidgeting. "I don't know what's happened between us… Things just haven't been…" He shrugged helplessly, sighing. "Just after we got married, Katara and I used to rut like—"
"Say no more," Iroh held up a hand.
"No, really, say no more," the old man insisted. He paced a short distance, tugging on his beard, mulling over his thoughts. Zuko could practically hear the old man riffling through his years of acquired wisdom and experience for just the right thing to say, just the right solution to solve his problem.
And just as he predicted, Iroh suddenly slapped a palm against his thigh. "I know what your problem is!" he declared.
He enunciated it sharply, building up the suspense in that old-wise-man way Zuko hated. Not everything Iroh had to say was so fascinating that it warranted a drawn-out introduction. It made simple small-talk with the old man torturous. "A long time ago," Iroh had begun languidly this morning over breakfast, "I met a woman in the mountains. She made me eggs cooked just like this…" and the meandering tale had gone on for forty more minutes.
"The romance is gone from your life," the old man said rather succinctly. "You need to reinvigorate your marriage and inspire Katara to want to bear your children."
Zuko stared. "I'm her husband and the Fire Lord. Bearing my children, the future rulers of the Fire Nation, is a privilege. And it doesn't take much to invigorate me. If she would just hold still for five minutes—"
Zuko was suddenly facefirst on the floor again.
"What we need," Iroh said, squatting on top of his nephew's prone form, "is some reeducation. A refresher course, shall we say, on romance." He beamed down at the Fire Lord, a happy gold light warming in his eyes. "Zuko, you are going to court your wife."
"What?" The indignity came out on a plume of smoke. "You mean, again?"
"It's for the good of your people and for the future of the Fire Nation," Iroh insisted, patting Zuko's bottom avuncularly. "If you want to see your wife produce an heir, you are going to need all the help you can get to lay her."
"Did I just hear my name?" Jet popped his head around a corner. "Oh, hey, General Iroh. Zuko." He winked at them roguishly. "Still hate you guys, but I gotta love your pad." He added, "And your sister."
"Who's touching my sister?" Sokka barreled down the hallway, machete in hand. "Zuko, if you're—"
"Oh, hey, a party!" Aang, buoyant and gangly as ever, scooted in. "Look, Momo, we're playing jump on Zuko's back!" The flying lemur chattered, leapt onto the back Zuko's head, then proceeded to hop up and down, hammering the Fire Lord's nose into the cold, hard marble floor.
Stifling a smile, Iroh rested more of his weight onto the young, seething Fire Lord's back. "Yes, I think we could use your advice and help. And I'm sure the delegates coming to the peace summit next week will have their two cents to put in, as well. Won't that be wonderful, nephew? A big, happy reunion!
"Zuko? Zuko, are you crying…?"
Short note: I might not be able to update this as often as I'd like. Comments and suggestions are welcome as always.