Z-K Underground Prompt for the month of June. I swear this was all I could come up with.
Yup. It was official. Katara hated summer in the Fire Nation. Everything was too freaking hot! Her clothes were too hot, her bed was too hot, her skin, her hair, her water, everything! Any attempts at making ice were quickly melted away leaving an unbearably uncomfortable waterbender.
Zuko tried his best to make her comfortable, adding a crystal clear pool for her to swim or relax in, having extra attendants to fan her, and having the tailors make her outfits as light as possible. But none of it worked. She was still too hot.
Of course, carrying around the added weight of the child that grew within her was not helping whatsoever. The midwives predicted her due date at the end of summer, less than two weeks away, and the sages (and Zuko too) rejoiced at the auspicious timing of the new heir to the throne. Of course it didn't help any either that it was the hottest summer in Fire Nation memory. Of all the seasons to be pregnant, it just had to be this one.
Dusk was falling on the palace. The day's brutal warmth settled atop the land like a thick blanket. It was making Katara crazy. Sitting on her stool, Katara's attendants carefully plaited her hair up off her neck while another fanned her giving the Fire Lady some much needed cool air and passed the bowl of water for their Lady to drink from. Pulling away suddenly from her, the attendants bowed before the Fire Lord and stepped away leaving the couple in private.
He lowered his head and gave a kiss to her full cheek and rested his hand on the pronounced belly where his child grew. "You look beautiful."
Katara sighed heavily, "No, I don't. I'm bigger than Appa and my face is all puffy and my feet are swollen and this dress makes me look like I'm wearing a tent and ugh! Oh and evidently my ribs are the perfect place for your child to rest its feet."
"That's part of being pregnant, Katara. How are you feeling though?" he asked, watching as she bent the water from the pitcher into ice and ran it along her neck and cheeks.
"I'm boiling up. I'm drained. And I can't believe you're actually making me go to this party tonight. Have you no consideration for your poor little wife?"
"I thought you said you were huge?" A swift slap to the arm and an exasperated sigh was all the answer he got.
Zuko laughed gently, taking his wife's hand to help her rise from her seat, guiding her out of their private chambers towards the courtyard. "It's a traditional summer festivity that as the Fire Lord and Lady we must be present for."
"Yeah, right," she groaned, "It's the way for your citizens to torture the waterbender."
"Our people love you and I doubt they would want to hurt you." While there had been attempts early on in their courtship, in recent years the Fire Nation citizens had in fact grown to love their waterbending Lady.
Waddling like the mama turtleduck in the pond ever so slowly down the long corridor, Katara and Zuko made their way to the festival outdoors where fireworks exploded in the night air, food and music flowed. Katara ate all the frozen fruits as she watched her adopted homeland celebrate their season. Normally she would be ecstatic and dancing along with everyone else, but this year she sat to the side and watched. Zuko, not one for the festivities himself, much rather one for quiet celebrations, sat by his wife's side offering her more ice water when she requested or the berry ice cream topped with fire flakes and imported pickled sea prunes. Several hours in and not even remotely close to being over, Katara started feeling anxious and uncomfortable. She wriggled in her seat, finally excusing herself to go lie down.
Worry plastered over Zuko's face as he asked if he should come with. She gave him a tired smile, a gentle kiss, and patted his cheek, "No, no. I'll be fine. You stay and enjoy." Making her way from the covered area, she heard her dear husband order the guards to make sure that she was not left alone. Katara smiled despite herself at his concern for her well being.
Walking back to their rooms was a slow process, what with all the stops to stretch out her back and one when she felt an uncomfortable tightening or two in her belly. By the time she made it back, the attendants helped their Lady remove her robes, tying a thin silk one around her swollen body. Waving her hand at them and giving a bright smile and a "thanks", she crawled into bed. But the sheets were too hot and she was too uncomfortable and her back! Her back was killing her. And there were the twinges in her belly that seemed to be gradually increasing at a steady pace. Sleep came in spurts. At one point she noticed Zuko laying in bed with her, snuggled up close. She blamed it on the heat from her husband's body and the warm summer air. She blamed it on the added weight she had gained, the noise from the fireworks, the fire flakes giving her indigestion (even though they tasted so good on the ice cream). Finally having enough of this she rose from the bed and began pacing, arching her back every so often and riding the wave as a twinge came. After one powerful one, she felt Zuko behind her, his hand landing on the small of her back kneading gently.
"Are you okay?" he whispered, concern flooding his voice.
She smiled as best she could, until another powerful surge washed over her. Breathing in the way she had been taught by her grandmother all those years ago, she felt the trickle between her legs and her wide blue eyes caught his amber ones. "It's time."
"I thought there were two more weeks?" Apprehension, fear, excitement, joy filled both of them as the realization that soon they would officially be parents.
With a flurry, he was out the door barking at the guards to bring the midwives, bring more water, towels, bring something! Attempting to lead Katara to the bed proved to be more difficult, "I just want to walk."
The labor was smooth, the midwives gently teased that watertribe birthing customs must be her advantage because compared to the screaming women of the Fire Nation, she hardly made a sound other than asking for more ice chips, a bowl to throw up in, more ice chips and a cold towel on her forehead, and finally hours later announcing she needed to push. The midwives across the room barely glanced over when they said go ahead, thinking like most first time mothers this stage would take awhile. Gripping Zuko's hand tightly, Katara pushed when she felt it was time and then gave another, then lay back panting hard. Zuko happened to glance between her legs and his eyes bugged out. "There- There's a head! Here. A head!" Despite himself, he reached down and touched the slick black hair, joyful tears already forming in his eyes.
The midwives whipped around, their eyes wide in shock, that indeed there was a head. Racing over, Katara hardly noticed the women as she felt another surge then, at one candle mark past the noon day's sun, that amazingly incredible feel of their child slipping from her body and into this world and soon after the hearty cries of the newborn.
"It's a boy!"
Quickly wiping the child, the midwives passed the child to its mother where instinctively she brought the child to her breast. Tears flowed down both new parents' faces, taking in the little prince that laid in her arms. He was perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes. A shock of black hair adorned the top of his pale mocha skin. Lids opened to show bright blue, the regal nose of his father laid above the thick bow of his mother's lips. Katara tore her eyes away from this little creature long enough to catch Zuko's eyes and then his lips as he kissed her in appreciation for this blessing she gave him.
Yup, it was official. Katara really didn't mind summers here after all. The heat of the surroundings paled in comparison to this joy in her heart. This little prince was worth all the heated discomfort that she endured in the hottest summer of her life.
Although maybe next she'd plan better for a winter birth. Just to be safe.
Aww. I wanted to do a pregnancy/birth ficlet again and this is what spawned from my brain. I'm not terribly happy with it but then again I'm my own worst critic.