Title: Two Benders and a Baby

Author: SCWLC

Disclaimer: I own nothing in here. This includes anything you may have seen in other peoples' fics predating this one.

Summary: Zuko finds a baby and she leads him to redemption and a happy ending.

Notes: Okay, so this actually started with an image that must have been inspired by cactus juice, because well . . . you'll see that one at the end of the fic. Last line. This is going to be very scattershot, because I just want things to be the way I want them and I don't want to have to justify anything. My only concession to canon is really going to be that this is after the Northern Water Tribe because that's where Katara learns healing. Other than that, canon's not really a prime consideration. There is smut in the middle, comedy and a premise that could be done seriously, but I don't wanna. Yes, this is a continuation of my, "I'm having a bad week," fic writing.

Zuko hadn't known any Air Nomads had survived besides Aang. Apparently, his childish love of fair play and compassion meant that his sister had known about the continuing massacres, his uncle, and half the army. But not him.

It wasn't known outside the Fire Nation and it certainly wasn't common knowledge within it, but he was still pretty miffed when he and his uncle stumbled across a village burned and wrecked by a Fire Nation raid and his uncle easily identified it as another nomad massacre. "What are you talking about, uncle?" he demanded.

His uncle turned to him with a mild look very much like disappointment, and said, "What did you think the nomad massacres looked like?"

Zuko closed his eyes and searched for patience. He hated it when he didn't know something everyone else thought he should know. Usually it was because they had neglected to tell him or explain it to him, then had the gall to think he should have divined it by instinct. "I meant what are you talking about, 'nomad massacres'? They were killed off a century ago. How can anyone massacre people who are already dead?"

His uncle's jaw dropped. "You did not know? Your sister-"

"My sister got told everything because she's father's favourite," Zuko snapped. "I always found things out after they'd already happened. I found things out because people told me, thinking that someone else had already told me. What are you talking about?"

Eyes filled with sudden understanding, his uncle said, "I did not realise you did not know, Zuko. It . . . changes things." He went on to explain that the nomads had not died out as popularly believed, they had scattered and gone into hiding. The Fire Nation, aware of the difficulty of destroying such a scattered people, continued to hunt them down. Leaving ransacked and burned villages in their wake, it was one of the atrocities of the war that gained the most enmity from the Earth Kingdom, which never knew the reason this village or that had been razed to the ground.

It was a moment that changed everything about his understanding of his homeland. Zuko wandered through the village, ostensibly looking for supplies he and his uncle could use, but really looking for the evidence of air benders. That was how he found the child. A nearly newborn baby, having cried herself into exhaustion, was hidden in a box behind one of the houses. It was obvious she had no one, her clothes and diaper filthy and tear tracks visible on the little face. She woke when Zuko picked her up, staring at him.

He wasn't even sure why he didn't fetch his uncle. At least the man had some experience with babies, having had a son. Instead, he took her to the stream nearby with a handful of rags left behind at the house, and cleaned her up, washing and drying her little clothes and after some false starts, rediapering and dressing her.

That was when he saw the Avatar's bison whip overhead and go to land somewhere in the woods. Very close by. He was thinking about what to do, when the baby sneezed. A blast of windy force emerged from the tiny creature and struck a nearby sapling, knocking it down. Zuko felt his eyes widen dramatically. The child was an airbender.

His decision was made. With a bit of charcoal on parchment, he hastily scrawled a note, stuck it into the baby's shirt and crept over to the clearing where the Avatar and his friends had made camp. Easing carefully around a tree, he skulked about, finally laying the baby carefully in plain view, then hurried off to hide in a tree nearby.

Toph was the last to climb down from Appa, which was how she missed Zuko creeping about, climbing trees and just generally doing things that would otherwise have gotten him caught. She did, however, notice the baby. "Guys!" she called, marching over to where the child was lying on the ground, "Someone lost a baby!"

"What?" came the voices of the other three in a ragged chorus. Katara came over and stared for a moment before swooping in and snuggling the baby to her chest.

Sokka saw the parchment. "What's this?" he asked, picking it up.


This child's parents are victim to the Fire Nation's continued policy of extermination of the last of the Air Nomads. While I do not know how many there are left or where they are, your people were not utterly destroyed and have gone into hiding. The child, I am fairly certain, is an airbender, so I cannot think of a better person to leave her with than yourself.

I can offer you no more information than this, as I know no more.

Good luck, Avatar

Aang zipped over to stare at the baby, who was getting very restless and trying to latch her mouth onto Katara's top. "An airbender?" he asked, staring.

"I don't know about that," Katara said, "But I do know she's too young for anything but milk." She hurried to their supplies and collected a blanket to wrap the baby in.

"Where are we gonna find a cow pig around here?" Toph asked sceptically.

Katara sighed. "We're not, and we certainly can't be lugging milk around with us."

"Then it's settled," Sokka said. "The next place we go to with people, we'll stop and hand the kid over."

Aang looked scandalised. "Sokka! If she's really an airbender-" The baby sneezed, managing to knock Sokka over in the process, "She is an airbender," Aang said in wonder.

"So?" Sokka said. "Katara said it. We can't keep baby supplies on hand while we travel . . . What are you doing!" he squawked as he noticed Katara starting to take her top off.

"The baby has to be fed," Katara explained patiently. "Yugoda showed me how to make a woman's breasts produce milk for wetnursing."


She ignored him, slipping round to the far side of Appa, pulling out her waterskin and bending in the way Yugodah had shown her. Soon enough, she felt her breasts swelling. Then she carefully took the baby and placed her toothless little mouth on a nipple. There was a pause, then the little girl latched on, suckling eagerly, even making small grunting noises as she had her first meal in who knew how long.

Sokka rounded Appa and let out a loud cry of dismay. "Katara!"

"Shh! You'll upset her!"

And that was how the Avatar and his friends wound up taking a baby everywhere with them.

Zuko found himself worried about the little girl and started following the Avatar, not to capture the boy and restore his honour, but to check on the baby. After a few close calls, he figured out that the blind girl could sense him when he was on the ground near her, and started regularly strategising to avoid being caught.

He'd left his uncle behind, determined to keep his actions a secret from the man. It wasn't so much that he begrudged his uncle the truth, as that he was sick of having nothing of his own, no secrets from anyone, and tired about his uncle always being totally right about everything he did. He hated being so predictable that he could decide, entirely off-the-cuff, to go for a walk, and have his uncle meet him halfway along his chosen path because the man knew exactly where Zuko had chosen to walk without being informed of the perambulations in the slightest.

In the end, all his precautions weren't enough, and Zuko was caught by the earthbender. "So . . . who are you, and why are you following us everywhere?"

"I . . . uh . . ." Zuko froze as the two Water Tribe teens and the Avatar came into the clearing.

They froze, staring at him. "Zuko!" said the Water boy, and assumed a sloppy fighting stance.

Zuko was distracted, however. "Where is she?" he asked.

"What?" the Avatar asked, sounding confused.

"The baby. The little girl," Zuko said impatiently. "Where is she? Did you just drop her off somewhere?"

The Water boy looked at him suspiciously. "Why? So you can toss her off a cliff or something?"

Zuko hissed in annoyance. "I didn't give her to you people so you could hand her over to someone and cause another village to be destroyed by Fire Nation troops killing airbenders!"

"You gave her to us?" the Water boy asked sceptically.

The earthbending girl spoke up. "Actually, he's telling the truth."

"What?" chorused the other three.

Annoyed, with everyone in the whole world right then, Zuko snapped. "Look. My uncle and I came across a village, and he told me about the Fire Nation persecution, okay? Apparently it was something I was supposed to have been told years ago, but no one did. Probably because everyone knew I would think it was sick and wrong. Instead, my uncle who knows everything about me, including things about what I'm going to do when I don't even know I'm going to do them assumed I was totally okay with it." He took a deep breath, furious. "I thought we were on the right side of this war!" he finished. Suddenly he deflated. "I just . . . what did you do with her?"

After the earthbender indicated he was telling the truth, the Water girl – what was her name? – stepped forward, and pulled a bundle off her back, that he could now see was the baby in a sort of sling. "Here. You can take a look at her."

Zuko walked over, and somewhat to his surprise, the girl reached for him. "Hey, there," he said softly, holding out a hand. Her tiny little fingers grasped onto his much larger one, and clung tightly.

For the next half hour, they sat and talked. Zuko explained his childhood of hearing Fire Nation propaganda, and all his reasons for doing what he'd done. Conversation seemed to flow surprisingly easily. Zuko discovered he had things in common with each of them. It was when he tried to leave, little baby Yangchen (named for the avatar) cried loudly, reaching for Zuko. He came back, and the moment she had his finger in her grasp, she stopped crying.

With that, Zuko became a part of the family.

It seemed that Yangchen had picked her new daddy, because she was only happy if she could see either Katara or Zuko at all times. Katara joked that Yangchen only wanted her there because she knew Katara was where the food was.

Sokka had commented that, "I know that's the reason I want you around," and had been told he was getting his own dinner that night, then.

Zuko had left his uncle a note, and simply fallen in with the Avatar and his friends. Everything he'd believed about the Fire Nation and the rightness of the war had been upended when he learned of the raids on an already defeated and dying people. The whole war was a smear on the honour of the Fire Nation, and Zuko couldn't stand to lose his honour in his own eyes, even more than he hated seeming without honour to his own people.

A couple days later, they were in a small village, collecting supplies, when it happened for the first time. "Oh, isn't your little girl darling! It's so wonderful when a young couple is able to have children right away," cooed the lady at the vegetable stand.

The pair exchanged a brief panicked look, but silently agreed to play along, rather than trying to come up with any sort of other feasible explanation. They were hiding from the Fire Nation, after all, so explaining Yangchen's origins was not possible. "Uh . . . thank you," Zuko told her. "K . . . uh . . . Tara and I were surprised ourselves. We'd just barely begun living together when Yangchen happened."

It was sort of true.

"Well, a nursing mother needs some things, so here," the lady said, piling a bunch of other vegetables into their bag.

Katara's eyes widened a little more, "Oh no! We can't afford-"

"Tch," the woman tisked her. "I won't accept it anyhow. It's people like you, a Fire Nation boy and a Water girl, who'll make this war stop. If fire and water can get along like you two, there's hope yet for the world." They protested a little more, but the woman insisted, and they walked off with a far heavier bag than expected.

"Married, huh?" Zuko asked dryly.

She shot him a sideways look. "Are you upset they mistook a Water peasant for someone you would marry?" she asked, just as dryly.

"No," Zuko said. "I was worried you were offended someone mistook the evil Fire Nation prince for someone you'd marry."

"You were never evil, Zuko," Katara told him. "Just misguided." She smiled at him, and he smiled back, almost involuntarily. Then Yangchen burbled between them, and they both were distracted by her antics.

Back at camp, Toph said, "Wow. Sparky, you must be one heckuva negotiator. 'Cause I know Sugar Queen there can't bargain to save her life."

"Actually," Zuko started, and told them the story of the woman at the stand. When he was finished, Aang piped up.

"That's a great idea," he told them.

Sokka blinked, confused. "What's a great idea?"

"Zuko and Katara pretending to be married," Aang explained. "It'll explain why Yangchen is with us, and why Katara and Zuko are the ones taking care of her."

Toph nodded. "Not to mention," she added, "The Fire Nation isn't looking for a couple with a baby. They can go into town and get us stuff, maybe even for cheap, and it'll throw anyone looking for us off."

"That's a bad idea," Sokka declared.

Katara raised an eyebrow. "Why?" she asked. "I think it makes sense. I mean, we don't have to explain Yangchen to anyone that way, and Toph's right too about it keeping people from thinking of us in the first place."

"Well . . . I . . . you just . . ."

Now her eyes narrowed. "I'm just not supposed to go near boys?" she asked, dangerously.

"Yes!" Sokka declared with a happy grin that she understood his position. "And who'd think you were old enough to be married?" he asked.

"Yugoda at the Northern Water Tribe?" Katara offered. "She asked me who I was engaged to when she saw Mom's betrothal necklace."

"That's different."

"The woman at the vegetable cart seemed pretty sure," Zuko said with a small smile.

"Besides," Toph said. "Sugar Queen and Sparky make a pretty couple."

"What?" Sokka gasped. "How can you say that? He's all pale and funny-looking!" he exclaimed. "And Katara's . . . is . . ." He trailed off as his sister sent him a Look of Death if he even thought about finishing that sentence. Then he suddenly turned to a grinning Toph. "Stop doing that!"

"I'll stop when you stop making it that easy," she told him.

Zuko, however, had latched onto a different part of Sokka's rant. "Right. Funny-looking," he said bitterly, one hand going to his scar.

"Wha-? Oh." Sokka stopped dead. "I didn't mean that," he told the firebender. "I kinda forgot it was there, anyhow. I just meant you're all pale and . . . stuff." He added in a conciliatory tone of voice, "Your hair's better now than when we first met."

"You do look better with hair," Katara told him.

From then on, they were Tara and Lee, a couple that married less than a year ago, travelling with their new daughter whenever they stopped for supplies.

The next stage was only a couple days later. Zuko had been sleeping outside, not having a tent of his own and Sokka refusing to share with him. But it was raining, and even Sokka wasn't mean enough to make Zuko sleep outside in the downpour.

After the fourth time Katara called across the camp for Zuko to join her because Yangchen wanted Zuko to help settle her down, Aang and Toph put their feet down and insisted Zuko and Katara share the tent so everyone else could get some sleep. Sokka put on a sort of form protest, but it was the middle of the night and he wanted to get some sleep too.

So that was the status quo for three weeks. Zuko and Katara pretended to be married in public, they shared a tent at night, took care of the baby, and firmly tried to ignore their growing attraction for each other. It only worked so well, and one night, after getting Yangchen to sleep, Katara had been reaching across Zuko for her comb, so she could finish getting ready for bed, when she slipped a little. He caught her, and their faces were inches apart.

It only seemed natural to kiss.

It was a really good kiss.

Finally, they broke apart, staring into each other's eyes. Suddenly, Katara pulled away. "Oh! I'm sorry!" she exclaimed. "I mean, I didn't-"

"It's okay," Zuko hastily assured her. "It only natural that we'd . . . I mean, you're," he paused, backtracked and said, "The only other boys you're seeing a lot are your brother and the Avatar. And Aang's twelve. So obviously you're uh . . . I mean, I'm just kind of here."

"Right, right," Katara said. "Not that you're not . . . um . . . good-looking, or anything," she said hastily. "And I'm the only girl your age here, too. It's just a sort of . . ."

"Default," Zuko finished.


"Not that you're not really pretty," Zuko assured her.

She smiled. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. And thank you too," Zuko said. Then he grabbed her comb. "You wanted this, didn't you?"

"Uh . . . yeah."

It was decided, and they didn't speak of it again. After all, it was just . . . convenience and hormones.

One week after that, Katara woke up bleeding and cramping and started muttering the various bad words she'd learned from Toph as she set to cleaning herself up. It woke Zuko and Yangchen, who immediately started crying. "Oh, not now," moaned Katara.

"Here," Zuko said, and pulled the little girl close, then pushed her away. "Oh. She needs changing," he said. "Where are the diapers?"

"He-" Katara was reaching for them when a fresh wave of pain crawled into her belly and made her want to curl into a ball and die. She did the first, anyhow, since dying wasn't really an option.

Zuko's eyes went wide. "What's wrong?" he demanded. "Should I get Sokka?"

"No!" Katara said. "I'm . . . ow . . . fine. It's just my monthly bleeding."

Zuko's face flushed, and he said, "I'll just go and get Yangchen changed and settled." Which he duly did, keeping his back turned while Katara dealt with her own issues. Once the baby was sleeping again and Katara was balled up and miserable in her sleeping bag, Zuko gathered his courage and asked, "How . . . um . . . how does that work?"

"What?" Katara said.

"The . . . um . . . the bleeding thing," Zuko said. "I mean, uncle never talked about it, I only know because when I was seven I walked into my mother's room and there were all these bloody rags and I panicked, so she had to explain." He paused, "But she only said that she bled from somewhere private once a month and that it was okay."

Katara flipped around, winced when she landed, but pushed through to stare at him a moment. "I can't believe I'm going to have this conversation with you."

"It's just that you seem to be hurting," Zuko said. "Is that . . . normal?"

And that was how Katara wound up having to give Zuko The Talk. Luckily, his uncle had covered most things that Zuko needed to know not to make an idiot of himself, just not the inner workings of a girl's body.

She may have waxed a little eloquent on the topic of blood, pain, bloating and monthly recurrence.

"Isn't there anything you can do?" Zuko asked. He sounded worried, and Katara thought how it was a pleasant change from Sokka and Aang who seemed to have decided that, because it was gross, clearly it wasn't their problem. "You're a healer, right?"

"Since there's nothing wrong," she told him, "There's nothing to heal."

"Oh." Zuko sounded rather horrified. "Nothing?"

She shrugged a little. "Well, Gran-gran used to take a bladder of water and heat it by the fire. Then I'd put it on the cramping spot. That helped." Suddenly she was being manhandled into his chest. "What are you do- Oh!" Katara gasped and felt herself just melt as a hand at just the perfect hot temperature settled against the spot on her belly she'd been clutching. It was perfect.

Zuko heard her moan, and then she put her hands over his own and said, "You can just keep doing that for the next five days."

"Better?" he asked her, cautiously.

She smiled up at him, and pressed a kiss to his jaw, where she could reach from her spot against his chest. "Much. I may actually be able to sleep tonight."

"I'll handle Yangchen for the next couple days," he told her. "I mean, you'll have to feed her, I can't do that, but-"

Katara told him, "You are going to make some girl an amazing husband, you know that?" She wriggled a little against him, which felt rather nice to both of them, and added, "Thank you. Sokka just seems to think I'm cranky for no reason, and Aang . . . I'm not sure the monks told him much about girls at all."

"You're very welcome," Zuko told her, and they went to sleep, curled up together.

Somehow, when Katara's monthly bleeding ended, they just . . . didn't stop.

After Ba Sing Se, they'd been separated for a few weeks, the craziness of everything leaving Zuko with sole custody of Yangchen as he searched for the others, and the others didn't tell Hakoda, or any of the other Tribesmen, about Yangchen. Sokka forgot in the excitement of planning an invasion, Aang and Toph both figured it was none of their business to tell the Tribesmen, and Katara . . . knew her father would pitch a fit and was angry enough to hold back the information out of spite.

It took a couple weeks, but when they all met up it was an ecstatic reunion. Zuko walked into their camp to Toph shouting, "Everyone! Sparky and Dribbles are back!"

Katara reached him first, engulfing him in an enthusiastic hug. Aang followed, to Zuko's chagrin, as hugging the little bald kid wasn't nearly as pleasant as hugging Katara. He clasped arms with Sokka and punched Toph back when she hit him.

Then, as Katara cooed happily at Yangchen, who cooed back, he told Aang, "Look at what I taught her." He turned to Katara and said, "Okay, hold her out like this," he demonstrated the way he wanted the baby's head and body supported. "Okay, watch this," he instructed the others. "Yangchen, fist!"

The baby thrust a hand out, and a strong, if unfocussed blast of wind swept outward, nearly knocking Sokka off his feet. It wasn't a proper bending move of any kind, but the wind was as strong as on a windy day when a person could almost literally lean on the wind while walking. Aang was suitably impressed and carted her off to see if he could teach her other interesting things.

After a while, Sokka left to hunt for something 'small and meaty', and Toph, who wasn't much for mushy stuff, retreated to wander about and practice her earthbending. Katara and Zuko were left alone together.

"It's not just convenience," they blurted at the same time.

Zuko gestured for Katara to go first. "When you vanished, I realised I really missed you. I mean, more than just . . . just like I'd miss Toph," she told him, "Or Aang. I missed sleeping with you and talking to you and everything."

"Me too," Zuko told her, sighing in relief as he got to wrap his arms around her again. "I was worried about you, but I was also so worried you didn't feel the same."

When the others came back, Zuko and Katara were, as Sokka put it, "Trying to eat each other's mouths off." Sokka also put in a vehement protest of Katara and Zuko continuing to share a tent, but was outvoted by Toph and Aang, who both still recalled the upset of having Zuko being called into Katara's tent over and over. However, Yangchen was clinging interestedly to Aang, so the airbender got to keep the child for the night, since she fell asleep, clinging to Aang and refused to be pried off in her sleep.

When Katara and Zuko retired to their tent, they spent half that night kissing as they held each other, but in the end agreed they weren't quite ready to take that final step. Something that changed about a month later.

Katara had been having a wonderful dream. She and Zuko were on a beach together. They went swimming, and kissed each other underwater. Somehow, the bindings she always wore underwater disappeared, as did his loincloth, and they were still kissing, pressing closer and closer. Zuko's mouth was travelling up and down her body and Katara felt positively weightless.

The transition between sleep and waking was seamless, and Katara only noted the shift from water to a warm position beneath Zuko in an absent sort of way, because the feel of his hands and mouth on her was just so good.

Zuko hadn't been dreaming. He'd actually been trying to sleep with his girlfriend entwined with him and pressed against him in all sorts of tormentingly excellent ways. When she'd started to move, making small noises, he'd frozen, eyes wide as he struggled not to take advantage of her in her sleep.

It was when she started to molest him, moaning his name, pressing small kisses along his jawline and undulating against him in the most delicious way that Zuko gave in to temptation. He kissed her back, carefully trying to coax her awake. Soon he was on top of her, feeling her move under him, her eyes sleepily opening to reveal the dark blue that absolutely entranced him.

He gently kissed his way down her neck, reaching her bare shoulders, where he gave her a sharp, but gentle, nip. Katara yelped, her eyes suddenly wide open. "Zuko?" she said, sounding startled.

When she felt that nip, the slightest hint of pain, instantly soothed by his tongue, Katara realised she wasn't dreaming. The moment she said his name, Zuko pulled away. "I'm sorry," he said. "I just . . . you were sleeping, but you kept . . . touching me and it felt so good. I should have woken you up instead," he finished in a rush.

Katara looked at him, saw his rapid breathing and the clear bulge at the front of his loincloth. He looked ashamed, but at the same time, so beautiful. Katara realised how quickly she was breathing and how badly she wanted to finish what she'd started in her dream. She reached up and undid the first of the three knots that held her bindings in place.

Zuko was startled out of his wits when Katara said nothing to him, just stared, then suddenly tugged on something in her bindings that sent the top half falling down, revealing a lot of dark skin, and her pert breasts. He couldn't move. "Katara – are you sure?"

She smiled serenely, then reached out and placed his hand on her breast. The move shocked Zuko out of his immobility, and he found himself absorbed in testing the weight and feel of her in his hands. He stretched out his other hand, and started exploring. Stroking and rubbing small circles, he examined every bit of them, hearing Katara's breathing speed up as he did. It was as he started gently playing with her nipples that he felt one of her hands grab his wrist. "Wait," she said.

The look on Zuko's face was so worried, Katara smiled at him. "It feels good," she explained, but I need to keep the milk there for Yangchen."

"Oh," he replied. "Should I-"

"Don't stop," she told him. "Just . . . not there right now. Okay?"

He looked very relieved as he went back to exploring her upper body. But that brief pause made Katara very aware that, as curious as Zuko was about her, she was equally interested in how his skin felt under her hands. So she reached up and pushed his shirt off his shoulders, beginning to run her hands over his torso, stroking and tickling and feeling his hands become slightly rougher on her body. Not hurting her, just . . . like he felt impatient.

The feeling of Katara's hands all over his chest sent a bolt of excitement through the firebender that made him want her all the more. As her sweat began to dew her skin, he leaned forward curiously, and gently licked. That sparked a response in Katara.

She lunged forward and suddenly her hands were touching him all over, and her mouth was licking, kissing and sucking its way about his chest. Well, two could play that game, and Zuko rolled her back under him and began to explore all that territory over again with his mouth, feeling Katara touching any part of him she could reach as he did so. It wasn't enough though, so he started exploring the bottom half of her bindings, finding another knot, and quickly undoing it to be granted a different expanse of skin along her legs.

Gasping, Katara felt her arms go a little weak as Zuko nipped and sucked his way along her now-bare inner thighs. The only part of him she could reach now was his hair, and she desperately combed her fingers through the short, silky locks, trying to convince him to come back up where she could get her hands on him. It didn't so much work, and her voice was rather taken up with soft whimpers and moans, so she couldn't exactly order him around.

Zuko was practically purring as he felt her warm hands slipping through his hair, nails lightly scratching at his scalp. He was torn between pressing his head into her hands and continuing his explorations. That was when he found the last knot. A quick unravelling, and Katara was entirely bare before him. Her skin was flushed and practically glowing, and something glistening on that hypnotising place between her legs. Zuko leaned back to admire the view.

That was when Katara pounced. Suddenly he was on his back and she was scrabbling to get his loincloth off, revealing his erection, which was throbbing rather insistently, now that she was bringing his attention to it. He opened his mouth to say something, but any thought of that flew out of his mind when he felt Katara's breath against his sex followed by the teasing sensation of her lips on his inner thigh. "Gnnnngh!"

Katara couldn't stop the giggle that escaped her. But she wanted more. She'd touched herself, knew what she liked to feel down there, but this was totally new territory. Knowing Zuko was likely to switch their positions if she didn't hurry, Katara wrapped a hand around his swollen member and squeezed. Another noise escaped his mouth. She grinned at him, feeling rather smug for some reason, and began to experiment, changing her grip, the tightness, the way she moved her hand over him. Curiously, she also used her other hand to caress and lightly squeeze his balls, fascinated by everything there.

It was maddening, Zuko thought. She was tormenting him. Every time she started to get a rhythm going, she'd stop change and do something else. Feather-light touches alternated with strong, hard strokes but everything felt good, and the sight of a naked Katara playing with him like he was some sort of new toy just intensified how good it was. Finally, though, he forced a few words out between his desperate whimpers and moans. "Hard! Please 'Tara!"

"Hard?" she asked, looking far too mischievous for his liking. "Like this?" The delicate strokes firmed up again.

"Harder," Zuko gasped, bucking into her hands.

She tightened her grip more, stroking up and down, and Zuko felt his hips jackknifing out of his control. "Good?" she asked.

"Nnnngh! Yes!" Zuko exclaimed. "Just . . . keep going . . . don't stop . . . so good . . ." He was so close . . .

It was like his brain exploded. He'd done this for himself before, but the sight of the object of so many of his fantasies, doing it for him, along with the long and intense buildup she'd put him through, made it just the most intense release of his life. He felt quite flattened by the experience. As he watched, Katara experimentally twisted a wrist, and he saw his seed go from being splattered everywhere to flying up into a ball, which she froze with a flick of her wrist, then – if the sound was anything to go by – tossed it out the tent flap and onto the fire. The smug look on her face couldn't be abided by, though. So he gathered his strength and dragged her down.

Katara was startled when Zuko went from boneless satiation to tackling her and slipping his fingers down into the wetness between her legs. "Oh!" she exclaimed. Zuko was determinedly looming over her, stroking, playing, testing and generally making her crazy. Katara was suddenly in some sympathy for what she'd done to Zuko. It was fairly evident that he was exploring just as she had. Then he found her clitoris. Katara felt her whole body jerk, but it just felt so good. Zuko clearly decided that he had to test out the little knob of flesh, because the next thing she knew, he was poking and twisting and driving her wild.

The sight of his handsome face and gorgeous body leaning over her as he played with her was incredibly hot, too.

Zuko looked down at Katara, who seemed to be like putty in his hands now and decided he was going to leave that one finger gently rubbing that little nubbin that seemed to do so much for her. He started sliding a finger from his other hand around, then decided to see what the reaction was when he slipped it inside of her. "Zuko!"

Her hips snapped forward, and she twisted sharply. "More," she pleaded.

Two fingers later she was writhing, and it was all Zuko could do to keep her steady enough to keep his hands where he wanted them. She bucked and writhed, then stiffened and Zuko watched her come with a fascinated gaze.

She collapsed next to him, panting. "Wow."

"Yeah," he said, and then they curled up together.

The next morning was very embarrassing for them both because Toph wouldn't stop talking about everything she'd 'seen', Aang was looking reproachful and repeating that they were going to corrupt Yangchen, while Sokka was just foaming at the mouth.

In time, he forgave them, but they had to confine their affection to trysts in the water or up trees so as to avoid Toph's all-knowing feet.

As they travelled, the pair soon had a variety of paraphernalia relating to their public personae as a married couple. Zuko had gotten Katara matched combs, like the ones a married woman in the Fire Nation wore, while she had made the beaded, decorative armbands worn by married men of the Water Tribes for him. They both now carried matching Earth Kingdom wedding bands. Katara had also simply taken to doing her hair in the style worn by married women in the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation.

Zuko thought it suited her, though not as well as when her hair was down and flying everywhere while he made love to her. But that second one was a private sort of thing.

It was the eve of the eclipse, and his warnings that the Fire Nation royalty certainly knew of the eclipse, even if the rank and file did not, had made them choose to combine their forces to take back Ba Sing Se and Omashu in one fell swoop, Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe forces combining with resistance inside the cities to take the Fire Nation troops inside by surprise.

They were going to meet up with Katara and Sokka's father before launching the attack on Ba Sing Se during the eclipse. Unfortunately, they had to stop a little short of getting to the camp, because Yangchen was hungry. So Aang directed Appa to land, and Katara slipped behind a tree to nurse the baby.

She'd been gone a while, long enough to have mostly finished feeding Yangchen, when Toph sat bolt upright, Katara shrieked and an adult male voice shouted, "What is going on, here!"

They all hurtled around to see a river with a just-landed boat on the shore, a wide-eyed Katara clutching Yangchen to her bare chest and several Water Tribesmen standing around looking perturbed. "Dad!" Katara said.

"What is going on here?" demanded Hakoda.

"Dada!" Yangchen squealed, pulling her mouth away from Katara's breast and reaching for Zuko.

The look on Hakoda's face would have been amusingly like Sokka's foaming at the mouth faces, if it weren't for the fact that he was armed with several sharp objects, outweighed Zuko by a fair amount, and was quite fit enough to match any warrior in combat. "Katara," he ground out. "Did you . . ." he couldn't seem to make himself say it, instead turning to Zuko. "How dare you dishonour my daughter like this!"

"Dad! Wait!" Katara said, having hastily yanked her top back into place. "Zuko's not her father. I mean, she sort of treats him like he is, but he found her."

Her father shot her a dark look. "Don't try to cover up your own indiscretions. You're breastfeeding."

"It's something I was taught how to do when I was learning how to use my bending to heal," Katara said, hastily. "It's to let a woman wetnurse without having to carry a child."

It was as though the tension in Hakoda slid away. Having been reassured his daughter had not borne a child in his absence did wonders. "Yeah," Sokka said. "But it's kind of amazing she's not carrying Zuko's spawn anyways with the way they go at it. Ow!" The 'ow' was valid, since Toph hit him in the back of the head with a rock, Aang got him from the side with his glider and Katara had water whipped him in the butt.

Zuko would have hit him, but he was too busy being petrified of his lover's father.

"I love her," Zuko said. Hoping that the statement would, at least, make Hokoda hesitate before killing him.

Hakoda paused, then gave Katara a long look. "Your hair," he said. "You're a married woman now." He gave Zuko a longer look, taking in the Earth Kingdom wedding band on a small chain around his neck, and the armband Zuko wore partially hidden under the sleeve of his outer robe. "I'm sorry I missed the wedding," he said, sadly.

"Actually," Aang commented, "There wasn't one, now that I think of it."

"Oh, yeah," Toph added. "Y'know, I totally forgot they hadn't gotten married."

Zuko and Katara blinked at each other. They'd been playing the role for so long in public, it had carried over into private and they didn't really think of themselves as unmarried either, but . . . "That was what I meant to ask the sage in that village we were in two weeks ago," Zuko said.

Yangchen was fussing in Katara's arms and reaching for Zuko. It was entirely habit that had him taking her from Katara's arms and cuddling her until she settled. "Dada," she declared.

Hakoda looked lost. He gathered himself though, and said, "Can I talk to you both privately a moment?"

Katara and Zuko followed him into a small clearing for privacy. "What do you want to know?" Zuko asked, pulling away from Katara before she could take Yangchen away from him. Hakoda wouldn't attack him if he was holding a baby.

The older man interpreted the move accurately and chuckled. "It's okay. I promise not to attack you, even without the child in your arms." Katara's father sighed. "I don't know you, I only know what I was told by my children, the Avatar and Toph."

Zuko winced. "What is that?" he asked.

"That you were once an enemy, but having someone show you the truth caused you to switch sides. That you are honourable and more concerned with being true to your code than most. That you are a fine warrior and one who will protect others at the cost of your own wellbeing," Hakoda told him.

Zuko closed his eyes and bowed. "They are very kind. Especially after everything I put them through."

"I just want to know when this happened," Hakoda said.

"That reminds me," Zuko turned to Katara suddenly. "You said you saw your father after Ba Sing Se."

She caught on to what he was asking, and blushed. "He was being a jerk. So I didn't . . . tell . . . him." She slowed down as she finished, seeing the incredulous looks on both their faces.

"You didn't tell your father about Yangchen?" Zuko asked, eyes wide.

Hakoda shook his head. "I thought you seemed . . . off," he said. "It would not have occurred to me that the reason you were reacting as you were, was because of sensitivity in . . ." he gestured in a general way at his daughter's chest, clearly not wanting to discuss the specifics of sensitivity due to breastfeeding.

Katara winced a little herself. Then she gathered her courage and told her father her side of the story, with Zuko putting in his comments where he felt his view needed to be heard. When they finished there was a pause.

"There's a sage travelling with the attacking force," Hakoda informed them. "You're both getting properly married. You have a child together, you are married in every way except in the eyes of your family and the spirits, which is something we're going to remedy as soon as possible."

He marched them back to the rest of the group, which had been making uncomfortable conversation in the meantime. While Aang chose to go on ahead on Appa, Toph chose to stay with Katara, Sokka, Zuko and Yangchen as they took the boat with the tribesmen back to the army's camp.

As they started down the river, Hakoda told his men a much-edited version of the story he'd learned from Katara and Zuko. When he'd finished, Toph spoke up. "So, did they tell you about the time we were in the desert and Sokka had cactus juice and tried to drink out of Katara's boobs because they were a safe source of water?"