Summary: Katara's pregnant, but Zuko's not so sure he's ready to be a father.
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be cannon. The quote belongs to be Cosby and the definition at the bottom comes from TheFreeDictonary online. Fic inspired off of yesterdayschild4's Draco/Hermione fic "A Piece of Normalcy".
AU Note: I made Iroh Fire Lord instead of Zuko, because I don't think Zuko was prepared enough to run the Nation when the show ended.
Parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. – Bill Cosby
Fire Lord Iroh had somehow gotten it into his head that Zuko and Katara worked far too hard and needed a vacation. Zuko, on the other hand, was thoroughly convinced that the old man had lost his mind, because there was far too much to be done and not enough time. Then Uncle threatened to disinherit him and hand the Fire Nation over to the Avatar (or something stupid like that). And Zuko sighed, because he had known it was a lost cause from the start.
He really should have seen it coming the moment the arrangements were made though, because they were headed to Ember Island.
And something always happened at Ember Island.
He had just finished his morning training when a grinning Katara had come to him. Apparently she had been looking through the attic again ("Cooking pots, Zuko, cooking pots") and had stumbled upon his baby blanket. His fucking baby blanket. Sometimes Zuko swore that if he didn't love the waterbender so much, he could kill her.
"Oh stop being so moody, it's cute." She grinned.
Zuko glared. He did not get moody.
"Alright, alright," She laughed. "I'll put it back where no one else will ever find it." But as Katara turned, a tiny piece of clothing fell from the bundle.
The prince's eyes widened as she picked up the sock - it was small, about big enough for a baby only a couple of months old, dyed in a dark crimson color, with a little flame on its side – and his heart suddenly stopped.
Every logical part of his mind told him to calm down, that it was just a sock, a baby sock. It wasn't surprising that it would be near his baby things. It meant nothing. But a voice in the back of Zuko's mind (one that sounded annoyingly similar to his uncle) remembered the old superstition – every Fire Lady for the past six generations had found a pair of baby socks only weeks before they ended up pregnant.
He forgot to breathe.
"Are you okay? Zuko?"
Eyes still glued to the sock, he mumbled "Yeah, I'm fine."
"Are you sure? You look pale…well, paler."
Katara's (lame) attempt at a joke snapped him back to reality, and he finally acknowledged his body's need for oxygen. Breaking his gaze from the sock, he gave her the best smile he could manage. "I'm fine." He repeated.
She didn't believe him, he could already tell. She gave him that look that said she would let it go, but knew she knew he was lying. "Alright…" She glanced back down at the blanket and sock in her arms. "I'll go ahead and put this back. Do you want to get some breakfast after that?"
Food was the last thing on the Fire Prince's mind, but he nodded.
He waited until she had disappeared behind a door, before he let out a frustrated groan. Falling back first on the grass, Zuko ran his hands through his hair and realized that nothing was going to be right now.
He was not ready to be a father, sometime between their trip to Ember Island and the weeks that followed, Zuko had decided this.
He was too selfish, too rash, and damn it, too unprepared! All of his life, until he was nearly seventeen, he had only been concerned with himself - as long as he was okay, everything else could wait. There was a reason he had asked Iroh to come back and rule the Fire Nation – Zuko wasn't ready to take charge yet (he had too much of that teenager from all those years ago in him).
So how in the hell was he supposed to get his act together in order raise a child?!
He shouldn't be allowed to reproduce. His blood was way too screwed up - his sister was in a mental ward, his father had tried to destroy an entire kingdom full of people, and Agni only knew what all was wrong Azulon and Sozin. It was already a miracle that he wasn't insane, how was he supposed to make sure that his child wouldn't be the same?!
Oh dear Agni, he was going to produce a little Azula.
He could just imagine explaining to the little girl that it was, in fact, not okay to light people on fire. Then, being the little Azula that she was, she would give him an innocent look and the sweetest "yes daddy!" she could muster, before skipping off. And then the next day he would find a family of burnt turtleducks ("technically daddy, they're not peoples") hidden in her room.
They were all doomed.
He had just decided that he was going to get up and inform Katara that he would not be responsible for bringing another Azula to the world, when the waterbender appeared. She didn't move from the entrance, however, and her eyes remained downcast. And suddenly Zuko forgot why he was going to her, because he knew why she came to see him.
"I went to see the healers today."
"What's wrong? Are you alright?"
She nodded. "I…I missed my last cycle."
And even though he seen it coming, it suddenly felt as if the floor had shifted beneath him.
He stared at her for a moment, letting the words sink in. "Are you sure?" He knew she was, but he had to ask.
She nodded. "Positive." She took a breath. "I'm pregnant, Zuko."
His Inner Uncle yelled at him. He was supposed to be comforting her at this point – assuring her that everything would be alright, that their child would be fine, and nothing like the rest of his screwed up family. But Zuko wasn't so sure if he could do that, because didn't know that everything would be alright and he was fairly certain that the world was going to end at the hands of a little Azula.
So he didn't say anything except, "I see."
And Inner Uncle was not happy. He was lecturing the prince with some stupid metaphor, but Zuko wasn't paying attention to him, because Katara was smiling at him. Despite his lack of manners (and the fact that he had been a complete and total asshole),
She was smiling at him.
It wasn't one of those big, heartfelt ones that make his heart skip. No, it was the soft, gentle kind; the one that said she understood and was okay with his panic. It was the reassuring smile – the one that made him fall in love with her all over again - and the very one he was supposed to be giving her.
But before he had a chance to, she crept out of the room as gently as she had first come, and Zuko was alone with his thoughts.
It was late by the time he returned to their chamber and he fully expected her to be asleep. So, of course, she wasn't. But she was curled up in the blankets, staring up at the ceiling. Zuko let down his top knot and removed his armor and the outer parts of his robe, before crawling in the bed beside her.
She turned to face him. "Hey." Her blue eyes sparkled.
He mentally cursed – she wanted this. No, she needed this. Katara was a natural mother, so of course the idea of having her own child was perfect for her. And now that the thought was in her mind, she needed this child like she needed air. She was ready. He stiffened.
Katara was ready to be a mother.
But Zuko wasn't ready to be father.
And he felt like even more of an asshole for it.
"Hey." He managed to find his voice.
No. "Yeah," he lied and, for once, Katara believed him. She smiled at him – the big, heartfelt one that made his heart skip this time – before resting her head against his chest and falling asleep. Resting his head on hers, he closed his eyes and he let out a soft sigh.
It wasn't that Zuko didn't want to be a father. He did. Despite what people thought of him, he actually did like children. They were pure, innocent, and represented all that was right with the world. Children didn't worry about what society thought of them; they didn't have to. Their only concern was making sure they weren't caught sneaking sweets before dinner. Sometimes he thought the world would be better if there were more children.
Just as long as none of them were his, because anything that came from him or his crazy family just couldn't be right.
What about Katara? His Inner Uncle chimed. How can anything that comes from her be wrong?
Zuko's eyes snapped open. His gaze flickered down to his sleeping wife, who was curled up against him smiling.
Compared to him, Katara was sweet, innocent, and pure. Even when she lost her temper and raised hell (and dear Agni, she could raise hell), it was never really without a just cause. She was always ready to defend, to take care, to nature. Katara saw the good in people in a way that rivaled the Avatar's – she had seen the good in him before even he had.
And suddenly Zuko wasn't so worried about bringing another Azula into the world, because nothing that was part Katara could be bad, even if it was also part him.
When he returned from his morning training, he found Katara standing in front of a mirror, her hand rested on her stomach. And despite all the fears from the last night, Zuko couldn't help but smile.
"Can you feel him?" His smile turned into a smirk when she jumped and pulled the water out of a nearby vase on instinct.
"Zuko!" She hissed. "Don't sneak up on me like that. I could have attacked you!"
"I didn't sneak up on you, Katara. You're the one so out of it you didn't notice me clearly walk into the room." He replied as he walked closer to her.
"I…I was thinking…" A tint of pink brushed against her cheeks and he smiled – it had been a while since the last time she had blushed like that.
"I know." He mumbled, wrapping his arms around her. "Can you feel him yet?" He repeated.
She shook her head. "Of course not – that's impossible, it's too soon."
He was supposed to be terrified. He was supposed to be running to Uncle and asking him what to do, because frankly, he has no idea how to be a father. It made no sense what so ever, but in that exact moment,
Zuko kinda, sorta, almost felt ready.
But just a little.
Months passed and Katara had started her second trimester, when it finally hit Zuko that hehad no idea how to be a father. He had known this before, but it hadn't really occurred to him how much he had no idea (and he realized that didn't really make sense, but at the moment he really didn't give a damn).
Uncle hadn't really been around much when he was younger. As the eldest of the two brothers, he had to be trained to become the Fire Lord, and thus had to know the way of war. He had been in the army long before Zuko had been born (hell, Lu-Ten had already gone off to battle before Zuko was born). He hadn't really seen much of Uncle until after his father had become Fire Lord. So while Uncle had been a great father for him, there just hadn't been enough of him around when Zuko was younger.
So the only father he had known growing up was Ozai.
Zuko's stomach dropped.
What if he ended up just like Ozai? Zuko always had a problem with his temper - it was something he had once heard a soldier say he must have inherited from his father. Could he really get angry enough to burn and banish his child? And what about Katara? She would protect the child no matter what – would he get frustrated enough to banish her as well? Zuko didn't think so, but that was the problem with having a temper –
He never thought things through when he got mad.
She stood leaning against the doorway, one hand rested on her hip and the other on the stone of her necklace. She was dressed in simple Water Tribe clothing – not much unlike the one she had worn as a teenager – something he loved seeing her in, but something she rarely had a chance to wear in the Fire Nation. Her hair was open and flowing over her shoulders, opposed to the traditional top-knots of the royal family. And perhaps it was because they were at sea and she was completely surrounded her element, but she had that glint in her eyes – the mischievous one she got when she knew she was about to get what she wanted – and she was smirking. Agni, she was smirking.
And it was very hard for Zuko to concentrate on his work when Katara did that.
"Don't you think you should take a break?" She said in that voice that he absolutely hated, because she could get him to do anything with it, and she knew it.
"Can't." He grumbled, trying his best not to look back up at her, because he was screwed if he did. "Promised Uncle I'd finish it before we got back."
His Inner Uncle was lecturing him again. The prince had been told by Real Uncle not to worry about it and enjoy the break.
Zuko knew Katara knew, too. She very rarely came to pull him away from his work. In fact, she was usually too busy working on her own pile to stop him. When the war had ended, she had become the Ambassador between the Water Tribes and the Fire Nation, and would remain so until she became Fire Lady. But until then, she had plenty to do between Ambassador Work and Fire Nation Princess. It amazed Zuko that she could handle both as easily as she did.
Perhaps it is because she is willing to accept breaks. Inner Uncle explained. So, naturally, Zuko ignored him.
Katara, on the other hand, was not so easy to ignore.
Somewhere in his attempt to overlook her, she had found her away behind his chair. "Zuko…" There was that damn voice again. "I," she wrapped her arms around his neck, the coolness of her skin against the warmth of his was almost enough to make him shudder. "Think," her hair was brushing against the back of his neck. "You," she kissed his temple, "should," his eye, "take," his cheek, "a break," the corner of his mouth.
Zuko decided that working really was overrated.
However, his break didn't last nearly as long as he would have liked. Someone knocked at the door to his study and Zuko resisted the urge to growl - Katara had just found her way onto his lap and he rather liked it that way. But since the fates were against him, the knocking refused to cease, and Katara crawled off.
"What?!" He snapped upon opening the door.
"Uh, Your Highness…" The soldier clearly had not expected his prince to be in such a bad mood. "The captain, uh, wanted you to know that Kyoshi Island is visible. We should be landing soon."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, sir." The guard didn't even get the chance to finish his bow before Zuko slammed the door shut and turned back to his wife.
Katara frowned. "That was rude."
"The way you treated the guard - that was incredibly rude, Zuko."
He stared at her. She waltzed into his room, seduced him out of his work, and was upset because he got mad when someone interrupted them?!
Apparently his silenced confusion was even more frustrating, because the next thing he knew, Katara had straightened her clothes, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and stormed out of the study, all before Zuko even had a chance to open his mouth. He blinked twice at the slammed door, and wondered how long it took for the mood swings to start kicking in.
Inner Uncle just laughed.
Suki was pregnant, not that this had really surprised Zuko. This would be the third time in the six years she and Sokka had been married. Their oldest was a girl, Kaya, who was already old enough to begin her basic training with the Kyoshi warriors. And then the twins – one boy, Mako, and one girl, Miko (or was it Maka and Mika?) – were three years old now.
(Zuko was nervous enough about have one kid – he had no idea how Sokka planned to manage four.)
It had almost become a kind of tradition – Suki got pregnant and the week or so before she was due, and they would all come to Kyoshi Island. It was the only time the whole group could really get together, since their post-war duties kept them busy otherwise. Sokka split his time between rebuilding the Southern Water Tribe and working on his inventions; Suki had retired as captain, but still helped with training the Kyoshi warriors when she could. Aang, of course, had all of his Avatar duties to maintain; and Toph, well, Zuko wasn't exactly sure what Toph did, all he knew was that it involved her tagging along wherever Aang went.
Traditionally Zuko and Katara arrived a day or two before Aang and Toph, but before their ship even had the chance to dock, the Avatar landed in front of them. "No time to explain!" He cried before either of them had a chance to even open their mouths. "Suki's gone into labor!"
The next thing he knew, Katara had frozen a chunk of ice and they were surfing to the shore.
An hour had passed and Katara, the Island healer, and Sokka were still locked away with Suki.
Zuko sat outside Sokka and Suki's home with Toph and Aang. The latter of the three had somehow become a babysitter for their three other children. And usually Aang had a way with children, but it seemed that the great Avatar had finally met his match – three kids with the energy of Sokka and the strength of Suki.
It actually was kind of amusing to watch.
"Uncle Aang, watch this!" Kaya called out, before cart wheeling three times. "Aunt Ty Lee taught me that one – you didn't watch!" She cried when she noticed Aang had been too busy trying to calm down a crying Mika (Miko?) and Maka (Mako?) to pay attention to her act.
"I'm sorry, Kaya. I could watch if your siblings would stop crying."
"But they never stop crying!"
Aang stiffened. "They…don't?"
"Not if you're hold them both at once. They don't like to share attention."
"Well, can you take one of them, then?"
"NO!" Kaya shrieked in a way that was too much like Sokka for Zuko's liking. "Then I won't be able to do my trick and that's the whole point!"
"Toph?" He turned to the girl who was leaning against the house.
"Don't even think about it, Twinkle-toes."
"What?!" He stared at Aang with wide eyes. He couldn't really expect him to do anything, could he? The firebender didn't have the first idea about how to deal with a little kid.
"Please, Zuko! It'll be the only way to get them to stop crying! You don't want them to keep crying do you? Please! You can have Mika, she's the quieter one, I think." The Avatar begged.
"But - "
And the next thing he knew, the Fire Prince had thirty-five pounds of a crying toddler on his lap, and never in his life had he been so terrified. "Uh, no. Don't cry!" So, of course, she cried ever harder. "Uh, please don't cry? Come on, Miko!"
The girl's howling suddenly slowed down. "My name is Mika." She sniffled slightly and attempted to glare at him.
"Uh, sorry, Mika." For the first time Zuko took a look at the girl. She had a natural tan that looked even darker next to his pale skin, her hair shoulder length hair was dark and wavy, and her green eyes were narrowed at him. Despite the Earth Kingdom clothing and the eyes she had inherited from her mother, Mika clearly took after her Water Tribe family.
And when she glared at him like that, she looked eerily like her aunt.
"I heard Mommy scream." She explained, her eyes once again glistening with tears. "Is Mommy hurt?"
Zuko thought about the screaming Suki in labor. "Uh, no?" He hoped the girl didn't see through his lie. "Your mommy will be fine – she's getting you a new baby brother or sister."
"Where is it coming from?"
He stiffened. "Uh, ask your daddy."
"He won't tell me."
"Then I can't tell you."
He shook his head. "Sorry, kid."
"My name is Mika!"
"Okay, okay! Sorry, Mika."
She stared at him for a moment, as if debating whether or not to try and get the answer out of him. Zuko attempted to give her a stern look, but in a way that would not scare the child. Apparently it didn't work, because the only response he got was laughter.
"What's your name?" She giggled.
He didn't know whether or not to be offended that she found his expression funny. "Zuko. I'm your uncle." He decided to just be grateful that she dropped the whole baby subject.
"Uncle Zu." She grinned.
"Zuko." He corrected.
She ignored him (for a girl who was so serious about her name, she didn't seem to care much about getting his right). "I like your face, Uncle Zu." She announced, standing up on his lap.
His breath hitched. "W-what?"
"It looks cool!" She said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Zuko froze when she lifted her little hand to the left side of his face. No one except Katara had ever actually felt his scar, so the touch was warmer than he was used to. And when the waterbender had done it, it seemed so natural that he didn't really think anything of it. But never in a million lifetimes would he have thought that the little Earth Kingdom child would dare to do such a thing. He had seen countless grown men flinch at the sight, yet this little girl touched it as if it were the most logical thing to do.
His breath hitched.
Was she not scared of him?
"Daddy!" Mika hopped out of Zuko's lap at Sokka's appearance.
The Fire Prince watched as the three children climbed on their father – one on his back, one on his right leg, and the third holding onto his left hand – who took them to meet their new sibling. Toph and Aang followed, teasing their friend. But when Zuko stood from his spot, he noticed a very smug Katara standing at the doorway (what was with her and doors?).
"So…" She grinned as he walked over.
"So…" Had she been anyone else, he wouldn't have played along as well.
"You're smiling." Was he? His fingers brushed against his lips; he hadn't even noticed. "And I saw you with Mika."
Zuko was not blushing - it just so happened to get very hot at that exact moment, that's all. "You did?" (And why was he suddenly so damn inarticulate?!)
She laughed. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about, Zuko. You were great."
He froze, his eyes searching Katara's for any sign that she was joking. "Really?"
She gave him that reassuring smile, and his heart skipped a beat – she hadn't had that effect on him in years – as she stepped closer to him. "You're going to be good father, Zuko." She stood on the tips of her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck. "You're nothing like Ozai." Katara mumbled into his scarred ear.
Zuko remained frozen as she pulled back. She gave him another smile before taking his hand, giving him a comforting squeeze, and leading him into the house.
The room wasn't incredibly large and half of Kyoshi seemed to be crammed into it. At the far end of the room, Suki lay resting on a bed, surrounded by their friends and several other Kyoshi Warriors (none of which he could tell apart), who were cooing at the baby boy, Jiro. Zuko leaned against a wall near the entrance, his eyes watching as Katara joined the other girls.
It shouldn't have surprised him that she knew, because she always knew. She had some damn instinct that always told her when he was keeping something from her (which wasn't often) or when something was bothering him (which was slightly more than often). She didn't always have the right thing to say (there were times when she was way off), but she was always there and always doing what she thought would be best for him.
A smile tugged at the corner of his lips as he watched her among the other girls. Her hair was pulled back, her clothes were slightly array, and she was sweating from being in such a small, crowded area. But somehow the scene seemed right. She was laughing with the others, grinning like crazy, and her eyes were shining brightly, because it was her turn to hold the baby.
And in that exact moment, Zuko knew she was right.
He waited until Katara had passed baby Jiro on and almost everyone had left. Crossing the room to get to her, he wrapped his arms around her stomach from behind, and rested his head on her shoulder. Her breath hitched when his lips brushed against a spot on her neck above her ribbon. A soft smile tugged at her lips, and he knew she had figured out his epiphany.
"Did you tell them?"
She shook her head. "Not yet."
"Tell us what?" Sokka.
"What's up?" Toph.
"Did something happen?" Suki.
"Is everything okay?" Aang.
"Everything is fine." Katara assured them. "We just thought it would be better to tell you guys in person before we announced it publically…"
In that moment, Zuko was happy. His wife loved him, despite all the times he could be an asshole, all the things he had done in the past, and even despite everything that proved she could do better. But no one had forced their relationship - she had come to him out of her own free will. She chose him because she was in love with him. They weren't his parents and he wasn't like his father – he was happy with what he had. He wanted this child – he needed it.
He loved Katara and he would love his child, no matter what.
Zuko was not Ozai.
It had taken Katara a while to adapt to the way things worked in the Fire Nation. She was a waterbender, a child of the moon, living in a land of people who worshipped the sun. In the Fire Nation it was custom that everyone rose and set with the sun. The Water Tribes, however, was completely different. Just as his people drew their energy from the sun, hers drew theirs from the moon. If she wanted to, he was sure that Katara could stay awake the whole night and sleep well into the day. It was remarkable that she adjusted so well.
But every once and a while, when the moon was at its fullest, Katara would remain awake, unable to find sleep once again.
Zuko knew this because there were nights when he would wake and find her missing from the bed. Some nights she would lock herself in her study and bury herself in paperwork; some nights she would wonder to the pound where the turtleducks lived and practice her bending; but most nights she would remain in their chambers, content with enjoying the peace and quiet.
That night, however, Zuko awoke to find Katara examining herself in the mirror, her night top hiked up and her hand on her bulging stomach.
A soft smile graced his lips and he rested his face on his palm as he watched her. "How is he doing?"
She didn't face him, but he could see her grin in the mirror. "What makes you think that it's a boy?" She asked, unaffected by his watching her (had she heard him wake?).
He shrugged. "I just kind of assumed…"
She lowered her shirt and turned to face him, the grin never leaving her lips. "I wouldn't if I were you, because he's a she."
"How do you know?"
"Call it a mother's instinct." Katara explained. "It's going to be a girl."
For the first time, he didn't imagine a mini Azula this time, but instead a tan little girl with her mother's eyes and her father's hair, one who would sit and play with turtleducks and not try to burn them to a crisp. He pictured her crawling onto his lap - dressed in red clothing designed like those of the Water Tribes, or blue ones that resembled the ones the Fire Nation royalty wore - when he was busy at work, and asking him to play a game with her, or carry her on his shoulders, or even just sit there and watch him work.
She would drink tea with Uncle and listen to his silly stories. She would inherit her mother's intelligence and excel at her schooling. It would, however, be his luck that she would get his knack for getting in trouble, and Katara would have to scold her for not eating her vegetables or stealing sweets from the kitchen before dinner. But then, when her parents weren't looking, Uncle would probably take the greens off her plate or sneak her an extra teacake, because no one could really scold the Fire Lord into eating his vegetables or tell him not to stealing sweets.
And when she got older she would come to him and ask him about how he met her mother. He would admit that they had once been on opposite sides, but she had seen the good in him when no one else had and she had believed in him. That he had eventually joined the right side and fallen in love with her, but had been too scared to do anything. Then years after the war had ended, they had met up and he fell for her all over again, and that time he had told her.
Zuko couldn't help but grin.
They were having a little girl.
And he loved her already.
Zuko remembered the first time Suki had been pregnant.
It had been a couple of years after the war had ended and he hadn't seen anyone in the group since. They were all too busy with their lives to see each other; they had wrote to each other though, that was how he had heard of her pregnancy. And once Uncle had found out, he had sent the Fire Prince to Kyoshi to visit his old friends.
The first thing Zuko had seen when he walked into the room was Katara.
She had been standing by the very pregnant Suki, with a hand on her stomach. He remembered seeing the waterbender almost squeal with delight when she felt what must have been the baby kicking. Suki had laughed and said something, which had made Katara grin even more.
It had been the first time in the two years he had seen any of the group, but for the rest of the night, he hadn't kept his gaze away from the waterbender for long.
There was something about the look in her eyes that had drawn him in. When she had been with her friends, they had sparkled with so much joy. But during those rare moments when she had been alone, there was something off. Zuko had never seen someone so happy, but so upset at the same time. It hadn't been until well into the evening that he had figured it out.
She had been jealous.
Out of everyone, he had always imagined Katara to be the first one to have a child. She was so nurturing that it was hard to imagine her not mothering someone. But everyone in the group had grown up too much for her to continue watching over them, so it was only natural that Katara had her own child.
Yet it had been Suki's pregnancy they celebrated that night, not Katara's.
"Prince Zuko, Princess Katara." A noblewoman approached the couple and bowed before them. "Princess Katara, may I borrow you for a moment?"
He fought the urge to grin at the noblewoman's request. The first time someone had asked his permission at a party to see her had not gone over well with Katara. After that, everyone had made sure to get her request, not his.
"Of course, Noblewoman Ming." The waterbender smiled, before excusing herself from the group and following the woman.
Out of the corner of his eyes (never turning away from the group of noblemen he was before), Zuko saw Katara join a group of noblewoman. One of them must have asked her a question, because the princess laughed and nodded. The noble woman rested her hand against Katara's stomach and it took all of his will not to smirk.
Zuko had never really thought much about that night with the pregnant Suki after his relationship with Katara had developed. In fact, it had never actually crossed his mind until that night when he watched his wife mingle with the noblewomen. But at that exact moment, he couldn't help but remember it, because Katara had that same sparkle in her eyes, only this time it wasn't clouded with the envy she had possessed all those years ago.
And that in itself was enough to bring a shine to Zuko's eyes.
It had been in the dead of the night the first time it happened.
After a long a day of paperwork and boring meetings, Zuko was more exhausted than he had ever been in his life. Training the youngest known Avatar ever? Piece of cake. Running from a psychotic-fire-throwing-little-sister who was dead set on killing him? Not a problem. But a whole day of complaining nobles? He'd rather jump into the water at the Boiling Rock.
"Zuko, wake up." So when Katara shook him awake in the middle of night, he wasn't exactly in the best of moods.
"Ugh." He moaned, rolling away from her and covering his head with a pillow, hoping that it would stop her.
"What?!" He cried in a voice that probably sounded very childish, but, damn it, he was tired!
"The baby is kicking."
Zuko shot up, suddenly very awake. "She is?"
Katara was sitting up on the bed with her back against the headboard, a reading scroll abandoned beside her. "Feel."
She took his hand and pressed it against the center of her stomach. A moment later he felt a gentle, quick push against her stomach. His eyes widened and he looked up to find a smiling Katara watching him.
"It's a full moon tonight," she explained. "I couldn't sleep. Apparently, she couldn't either."
He pretended to groan. "Two women who stay awake all night long? Agni save me."
"Zuko!" She laughed, and playfully smacked him with her reading scroll.
He smirked and rested his ear against her bulging stomach. He could practically feel Katara smiling at him, as her fingers stroked his hair. Zuko finally fell asleep again to the sound of his daughter moving.
It was all his fault. He should have seen it coming.
Inner Uncle was trying to calm him down, explain that it wasn't his fault, because he had no way of knowing what was going to happen, but Zuko wouldn't hear any of it.
At least from the moment he and Katara had gotten engaged (probably even sooner knowing the waterbender), she had known that she was to one day become Fire Lady. There had never been a Fire Lady that had not come from noble blood, much less one who had come from an entirely different nation. But Katara had been determined to make it somehow work.
She began taking Fire Nation etiquette classes, studying their history, learning about their economy. She probably knew more about the Fire Nation than any Fire Lady in the past, but that hadn't been enough. Katara was determined to win the people over as well. So for the first time in hundreds of years, the Fire Princess began to make regular visits to the markets of the Nation. She would mingle with the people, visit the shops, and even purchase items that she could have easily gotten for free.
And slowly, Katara was beginning to win the people over.
So she always insisted on making her regular visits, even when she was well into her third trimester. Zuko, on the other hand, had not been such a fan of the idea. As far along as she was, it wasn't wise for her to wonder from her chambers, much less the palace. And while she appreciated his concern, she was Katara and Katara being Katara, did not take well to someone telling her that she couldn't do something.
If only Zuko had not let her out of the palace.
If only he had insisted on going with her, rather than meeting with the noblemen.
The attack, if it could really be called that, had come out of nowhere. One moment Katara was talking a man, the next she was laying on the ground – stomach down. She had immediately been rushed back to the palace and to the healers by half of the guards. The other half, however, caught the attacker. From what they had told Zuko, the man was young, had claimed to have known Katara from before the war had ended, and (what infuriated him the most) was from the Water Tribes.
The Fire Prince slammed the prison door open. "Leave." He ordered the guard on duty.
"Y-Your Highness." He bowed instead.
"I said leave."
"But I have direct orders from - "
The guard jumped and scurried out of the room, (wisely) deciding that it was not a good idea to be on the prince's bad side at the moment. Once he had closed the door behind him, Zuko turned to the man behind the bars. He was paler than Katara or Sokka, which probably meant he was from the Northern Tribe, he was no older than Zuko, and was facing away from the firebender.
"How dare you come into my nation and attack my wife!"
The attacker glared up at him. "She was a Princess of the Water Tribes long before she was your wife."
"Then why attack her?!" He was practically breathing fire.
Inner Uncle was telling him not to let the man get control of him, to not let him infuriate Zuko so much. But it had been too late for that when he had attacked Katara.
"She does not deserve a child cursed with Fire Nation blood. I did her a favor!"
Zuko grabbed the man's shirt and pulled him forward, causing his head to hit against the metal bars. "A favor?!" The man winced from the impact of the bars. Good, he deserved to be in pain. "Your princess is in a critical condition – they won't even let me in to see her - and you claim to have done her a favor?!" He was far beyond the edge. "If anything - and I mean anything - has happened to my wife or my child you won't have to worry about defending yourself against my Uncle, Chief Arnook or even Chief Hakoda, because I will personally take care of you!" He tossed the man back onto the floor, before storming out of the prison.
He had no idea how long he had been sitting beside her bed.
Once the healers had been sure that both Katara and the baby were really alright, the princess had been moved out of the medical wing to their chambers. The healers had explained that while she was fine, she was in a vulnerable state and needed to rest. She would wake up on her own soon enough. So he pulled up a chair and held onto one of her hands.
Zuko would be there when she did wake.
It wasn't the first time he had watched her sleep, but somehow it was different this time. At first he thought it was because he wasn't lying next to her, but that wasn't it. She didn't even look like she had just been attacked, so he knew that wasn't it either. Finally he realized that it was her expression; that she wasn't smiling.
Just as Zuko was naturally an angry person, Katara was generally a happy person (that was actually one of the main reasons their relationship worked so well, they cancelled each other out). So when she wasn't smiling – and it wasn't because she was worried about somebody else – Zuko knew something was wrong. And he knew it was his fault this time.
Zuko and Katara's marriage was proof that even after a hundred year war, the different nations could co-exist. They showed the world that the prejudices didn't have to exist. But he wasn't stupid; he knew that there were many people waiting for their relationship to fail, just so that they could prove that the nations couldn't live in peace together - that the war had changed things too much. Those people wanted the nations to stay separated, and Katara and Zuko were the ones stopping that.
After their engagement, Katara had given up her life in the Water Tribes for another nation. She had packed up and moved to a place they had considered the enemy for so long, for him – the person who had tried to harm her so many times in the past – and many of her people probably hated her for it. That Water Tribe man hadn't attacked her because she was pregnant. He had done it because she was pregnant with Fire Prince Zuko's child –
A child that would be half Fire Nation.
"Are you planning on watching me all night? It's kind of creepy." Katara teased, but her eyes remained shut. The only sign that she had woken was that she was now smiling.
"How do you feel?" He ignored her tease.
"Mm…fine." She tightened her grip on the hand he was holding and pulled it closer to her, taking advantage of the warmth. "Tired."
"I'm so sorry Katara - "
"Not your fault."
"No, it's not."
"You haven't even heard what I'm sorry about!"
"Doesn't matter." He swore she rolled her eyes beneath closed lids. "If you're apologizing, then it's probably not your fault."
"Katara, that man attacked you because of me!"
"Zuko, that man was Water Tribe, that's hardly your fault." She explained. "Now come lay down – it's cold and I'm tired."
He let out a frustrated sigh and bit back his temper. Why wouldn't she listen? "He attacked you because you're carrying my child!"
Her eyes snapped open and she glared at him. "Oh, it's your child now?" She dropped his hand. "And here I thought that she was our child. My mistake."
"That's not what I meant! Arg! You don't understand!" He groaned, pulling at his hair. "Katara, he pushed you because the baby isn't going to be pure Water Tribe – she's going to be part Fire Nation. He pushed you because the baby is half of me. He…he thinks you would be better off without me." He looked away. "This is my fault."
"You really think that?" He nodded and she sighed. "Zuko, you're the one who doesn't understand. I don't care what that man thinks, because anyone who thinks that it's alright to take away my child – no matter what the excuse be – obviously doesn't know me." She took hold of his hand again and he looked back at her. "I love you, even if you are an idiot sometimes and insist on blaming yourself for stupid things that obviously aren't your fault." She grinned at him. "And I love Ursa. And anyone who tries to take either of you away from me isn't doing me any favors."
There were a million thoughts running through Zuko's head and a million other things he wanted to say at that moment, but his voice refused to work. He opened his mouth and closed it several times, causing Katara to giggle. "Ursa?" He finally managed to get out.
The princess's eyes widened and he could have sworn she cursed under her breath. "I…uh, wanted to surprise you." She said. "It was your mother's name, wasn't it?"
He nodded. "Yeah, but are you sure? Don't you have some traditional Water Tribe name you want to give her?" Her family did have some weird habit of naming girls after Ka sounds…
A grin spread across her lips. "Oh, so now she's my daughter?"
She laughed. "She's not just Water Tribe, Zuko. She's also Fire Nation, and one day she's going to be Fire Lady." Her eyes sparkled at him. "And I happen to think that Ursa is a wonderful name for a Fire Lady, don't you?"
He leaned down and his lips crashed against hers before she had a chance to blink. She was startled, but responded never the less. When he finally pulled back, he rested his forehead against hers, and he was panting a little. "Thank you." He breathed, his eyes closed, because, damn it, he was not about to cry. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me; I wanted to do it." Katara brushed her lips against his. "She's ours, Zuko, and no one is going to take her away. Got it?" He nodded. "Good." She smiled, kissing him again. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Agni, did he love her.
And that night, for the first time in the past nine months, Zuko knew that everything really was going to be alright.
Surmount: To overcome or deal with (problems, obstacles, etc.) successfully.
Notes: I went back and did some cleaning up. I had to post it the night I finished the last scene or I knew I would have tried to continue it and it was getting too long. I know a lot of you wanted to see Zuko holding baby Ursa, but I couldn't think of something else for him to overcome and, come on, it's Zuko. He can't have something like that without more aangst. Besides, I kinda liked this as an ending - it seems too climatic to have anywhere else. Anyways,
I fell in love with "A Piece of Normalcy" by yesterdayschild4 the first time I read it, but I never had a couple that I thought would fit a similar concept. Then after the Avatar finale, I became obsessed with Zuko/Katara and one day (right before Hurricane Ike) I was sitting in my room going "hey, Zutara is kinda like Draco/Hermione" and thus Surmount was born.
I can't tell you how many drafts of this story I have gone through. Originally it was supposed to only be the first part and I was going to end with Katara not being pregnant, but the moment I wrote the first scene where Zuko watched Katara in the mirror, I knew I couldn't do it. But then ending it there just didn't feel complete enough so I was going to go up to where they tell their friends. But then I wanted to add a couple of more fluff moments, but you can't have Zuko and not have aangst, so the third part was born.
This is my first Avatar fic, so I'm pretty nervous about keeping them in character. Zuko, for some reason, was easier than anyone else to write, which is why I limited everyone else's interaction in the story. I hope is sounds alright.
This fic has not been beta-ed.
Special thanks to Muffintine for reading and reassuring me. You're amazing.
Note On Names:
Kaya - Sokka and Katara's mother.
Mako - Iroh's original voice actor.
Mika - A name that sounded close enough to Mako.
Jiro - Meaning "second son".
Ursa - Zuko's mother