Zutara Week 2011: History. I've been listening to nursery rhyme songs for the last couple of months or so, and that's where this came from.
Drawn to the raspy and slightly lilting singing voice in their baby's nursery, Katara peeked her head through the door to listen. Zuko was standing over the crib, singing to their three-month-old son.
"One little, two little, three little Water Tribe…"
Katara raised an eyebrow.
"…Four little, five little, six little Water Tribe…"
The previously-raised eyebrow now lowered, and knit together with its mate in consternation.
"…Seven little, eight little, nine little Water Tribe…"
Slowly she eased through the doorway into the room, being careful not to make a sound despite her long royal robes.
"…Ten little Water Tribe boys."
Katara cleared her throat, crossing her arms as she did. Zuko nearly leapt out of his skin in surprise, and she barely repressed a smirk. He was so unaware at times. "…What was that?"
"What was what?" the Firelord asked, when he'd calmed himself.
"What was that song you were just singing to him?"
Zuko looked as though he'd been caught with his hand in the lychee nut jar. "…Ten…Little…Water Tribe…Boys."
Katara wanted to snort in amusement, but held herself in check. "Yes, I got at least that much out of it." She paused. "And where did you hear this…'Ten Little Water Tribe Boys' song?"
Zuko fidgeted. "Um," he replied inelegantly, "it's a song I heard growing up, from one of my nursemaids. She used to sing it to me when I was a young child." A frown laced his features. "Is there something wrong with it?"
She pursed her lips and shrugged. "…I just find it surprising that young Fire Nation children would grow up with such a song."
"Well, for one thing, it makes it sound like the 'ten little Water Tribe boys' are all lined up and on display, or something. You know, like Water Tribe war prisoners on display for their Fire Nation captors?"
His eyes widened with something that resembled horror. "…What?"
"Well, come on! You know that historically your people have called my people savages and barbarians…"
Zuko was quiet as he looked down again at their son Rokoda, with his golden eyes, brown curls and skin just a shade darker than his own, and Katara saw his rarely-displayed humility peek through. "…I hadn't thought about that," he said honestly. "It was just something I'd heard growing up. But you're right," he left the cribside and crossed the room to her, his regal robes fluttering, "we shouldn't be singing something with connotations such as those. We should be leading by example."
His willingness to set aside his pride and listen placated her, and the gentle smirk reappeared at her lips as he came to her side. "In fact, I even seem to recall a certain Fire Prince who used to refer to me as a peasant," she reminded him playfully.
She saw the scowl flit briefly across his features as he remembered. It was replaced by a look of soft amusement once he spied her smile.
"…Are you sure about that? I'm not so certain I remember that too clearly," he replied, his grin turning a bit lecherous as he encircled her in his arms from behind. He tucked his face into her neck. "Maybe I should tie you to a tree to see if it'll jog my memory."
"Ha-ha." She grinned against his scarred cheek. "Not likely. It's a full moon tonight; you know what that means."
"Oh?" Zuko chuckled low and harsh in his throat—the laugh that had always inwardly made her shiver, even as a fourteen-year-old—and turned his voice into a slightly-rasping growl against her ear. She felt him nudge her from behind suggestively. "Then tell me, what do you want, my little Peasant?"
She turned in his embrace, all yielding and softness and pliant as water, and whispered to him—and felt him melt into her when he heard her words.
"A little Water Tribe girl."