Under a Southern Moon

Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom fireworks exploded in the sky, tinting the pure snow with vibrant colors. The report barely registered over the pounding of the drums and the horns and the flutes, now somewhat out of tune thanks to copious amounts of alcohol. The snow had finally stopped, and the revelers hardly seemed aware of the cold as they were drawn outside to dance in the snow. Their voices were loud and merry, cups raised high in the air as they laughed, liquor sometimes sloshing over the rim and crystallizing in the snow as they slapped each other on the back.

Perhaps Hakoda had gone overboard preparing the blessing ceremony, determined to make up for its lateness with a grander celebration. Zuko watched his father in law walk around, showing his ten month old grandson to everyone who would stand still long enough. The child was snuggled down in his furs, the hood practically obscuring his face. He'd fallen asleep hours ago, but that hadn't deterred Hakoda; he'd barely put the infant down long enough for anyone else to hold him.

Zuko smiled tiredly before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, releasing steam and tension from his body. The moon had been up for hours, full and bright in the sky. By now, he should be completely relaxed; he was ruled by the sun, and during days in the poles, he felt this tension and excitement thrumming through him. By night, it had always abated with the sun's descent. He was not ruled by the moon. It should not make him agitated like this. He clenched his fists, the tips of his fingers tingling.

The moon was in his blood. He could not help being ruled by the moon.

She was standing amongst a group of girls, laughing, her head thrown back, her long neck covered by the thick fur of her coat. Katara. He wondered if anyone noticed the changes the full moon wrought on her, changes rendered even more beautiful by being in her native South. She was glowing, as if she had her own inner fire, and it brought out faint golden tones in her skin. That same light danced behind her eyes, making them brighter and darker in turns, and her hair was thicker and curlier. Softer. The moon lent her grace that doubled what she had naturally. He wouldn't be surprised if she left no footprints in the snow, so light was her step. She'd surprised him too many times that day, drawing near only to dance out of his reach, laughing, when he turned to grasp her. To hold her. No one probably even noticed these subtle changes in her, the way her voice was more musical, and her body…

"Lighten up, nephew," Iroh said, placing a firm hand on Zuko's shoulder. "We're celebrating your son! I know you're still figuring out what fun is, but do try to have a little."

Zuko didn't take his eyes off her. Couldn't. His mind had already gone down that path, and it was practically impossible to retrace his steps. He swallowed thickly, was barely conscious of Iroh placing something in his hand. His whole body was going numb now, that prickling, tingling sensation blanketing him uncomfortably. She was dancing with the rest of those girls, their voices light as they sang some water tribe weaving song. Weaving. Like her hips were the thread, she moved them side to side, almost like a waterbending form, stitching the air together. The other girls were doing the same, moving their bodies to that same beat, but their actions were vulgar compared to hers. He could see the light blush on her cheeks, her eyes half lidded now, lips plump, slightly parted. Her tongue darted out, licked her bottom lip.

Zuko pounded back the drink, forcibly ripping his eyes away from her to turn his attention to his uncle.

"Despite what everyone thinks, I do know how to have fun," he said, his voice gravelly.

Iroh smiled, shoving his hands inside his pockets. "Even this is said in a serious tone."

A squeal of delight drew their attention to the group of women as the drums changed, became faster. A different girl led the dance this time, spinning in a circle, her arms tight against her body, but it was the one who followed her that drew Zuko's attention. He knew what the full moon tended to do to her; she'd told him of that surge of power she felt, how she'd become aware of every droplet of water. How she felt invincible. As she spun, her eyes caught his, and her movements became more exaggerated. She was putting on a show for him.

"Water Tribe women are quite…enthralling, aren't they?"

Zuko didn't respond. Hakoda floated by showing off little Kurzu to another group of people who were looking thoroughly harassed. Gran came up behind Hakoda, her hands on her hips, and scolded him. Firm instructions were given to take the child back inside and let him sleep in his crib.

"I quite enjoyed my time among the waterbenders."

"I'm sure you did."

Katara bent back, nearly double, her outstretched hand touching the snow behind her. The rise and fall of her chest was anything but subtle, and when she righted herself, it was with the slow, delicious grace of a predator. Iroh was saying something beside him, but he didn't care. It didn't matter. As she spun, her eyes again met his, and Zuko felt his own fire flare up in response to hers, and he turned his back on his uncle, ignoring that smug laugh, and headed back toward Hakoda's house. He couldn't take her anymore. She would drive him insane.

Every time they'd nearly found a moment alone, to hold a simple conversation, even if it was nothing more than to say good morning, they'd always been interrupted. There was no end to the stream of congratulations on a beautiful, healthy child and a strong relationship. People stopped to give them advice and words of encouragement, and suggest ways to find time for themselves—while interrupting the time they'd found for themselves.

"I've been waiting for you," she whispered, her voice low and husky.

Zuko didn't stop walking, knowing that she'd keep following him until they were alone, and he could always feel her just behind him, a vague ghostly presence and a soft sigh that floated past his ear. Once, she reached out, grasping the back of his parka, but whatever she'd intended to do was cut short when a small group of revelers walked up to them to offer congratulations again. Katara smiled, but when she gripped his arm, she gripped too tightly for the casual smile that graced her face, and the moment the group passed, she was bounding up the steps to her father's house dragging him behind her, making him stumble after her.

She giggled, a light, airy sound he hadn't heard from her since before their son was born, and when she shoved him back against the door, she was still giggling as she pressed her lips against his, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer against him. He slid his hands over hips widened by childbirth, held her tight even as she tried to pull away.

"Zuko," she complained trying to pull his hands away.

"I've always loved your curves," he whispered with his lips against her neck, undoing the buttons on her parka.

He slid his hands down her back, felt her simultaneously move closer and push him away, but he wouldn't let her out of his touch. Their lives had been consumed by their baby, and he knew Katara was still self conscious about her body. But he loved it. He loved her. He'd always loved her hips and her thighs, the muscle in her arms. He loved her breasts and the way her clothing clung to them. He loved her long neck, and he ran his lips over that beautiful neck as he shrugged out of his parka, his wife's shaking hands guiding the furs away from his body.

When he started on the ties that held her shirt closed, she shuddered, and Zuko heated his body because he wanted her to be surrounded by his warmth.

"Please," she begged, her head thrown back and her eyes closed as she fisted his hair in his hands.

When her shirt was nothing more than useless fabric on the floor, Katara did pull away, wrapping her arms around herself and turning her back to him. She was hunched into herself, hiding from him in ways that she never hid before.

"Maybe… Maybe we should find Dad and check on Kurzu."

As if he was approaching a wild animal that was easily spooked, Zuko stepped close to her. He put a hand, first on her shoulder, the other at her elbow, and he drew his body flush against hers. Involuntarily, Katara relaxed against him, and he kissed her neck and her shoulders, sweet pecks on bare gooseprickled flesh. She gave a little sigh, half pained and half expectant, but Zuko would move no lower than her shoulders.

"No children tonight," he whispered with his cheek pressed next to hers. "Just us. We haven't had a night to ourselves in a long time."

She chuckled, relaxed a little more into him, arching her back slightly so that she rolled against him.

"It's different for you," she finally said as Zuko moved to the sash at her waist. "I sag now in places that didn't sag before."

"Then you want a good workout, yes?"

At this, she outright laughed, and Zuko felt so light, so in love again, just to be able to keep that light in her eyes. The spark of joy and happiness. Hesitantly, she turned in his arms, biting her lips with a young girl's blush. She was again that shy fourteen year old that had captured his heart; again that same girl who was loud and bossy during the day, but exuded sweet innocence at night.

"Promise you won't laugh, ok?"

Zuko raised his eyebrow, but refrained from crossing his own arms, instead choosing to cup her bottom and pull his wife close again. When he kissed her, there was no resistance, no pushing away as he slid his tongue in her mouth, exploring all the familiar places. Her hands moved swiftly and with care over the buttons of his shirt, and she gasped as he pulled her pants down past her hips, leaving her standing before him in her wrappings, the perfect picture of celestial beauty. She was mother and wife. She was his equal and his lover. She was everything.

She was the moon, and she was in his blood, and there was no part of him that could find any reason to laugh.

The heat was a slow build in his veins, and Zuko didn't fight that rising tide, kissing Katara again, this time more forceful than the last, and her fingers wound in his hair, while she undid his own sash, forcing his pants down. He kissed her pulse, and Katara moaned lightly, her hand clawing at his back in a way that he missed more than he would ever admit. She surprised him by wrapping her legs around his waist, and Zuko was quick to catch on, supporting her weight, and he didn't protest as Katara guided his kisses lower until he was flicking his tongue over her fabric covered nipples, and she was rolling her hips against his.

A year ago, he would have slammed her against the wall and made her scream until someone came running, thinking she needed help. Now, he wanted to be gentle, to remind her of the pleasure, to make her feel that pleasure, not only with her body, but with a deeper sense that stored memories for safekeeping.

They'd been given a room downstairs closer to the kitchen, and Zuko carried Katara there, gently setting her on the bed. She undid her upper bindings as he slid off her bottoms, and she lay before him, naked and beautiful and shy, and Zuko repeated what he'd done earlier, taking her nipple into his mouth. Katara responded almost immediately, moaning softly and giving whispered instructions to touch and to stroke. Beneath the insecurity, she knew what she wanted, and where and how, and Zuko obliged, knowing she needed this empowerment, this control.

"Be gentle," she pleaded, looking into his eyes, as he slid into her.

He moved slowly, heating a hand and laying it on her lower stomach, his thumb moving in slow circles, and Katara squirmed under him, her eyes closed now, a slight smile on her face. She didn't want him to stop, or to rest, just guiding his hips in a slow rhythm, and Zuko buried his face in her neck, drinking in the scent of her.

"Just like that," she whispered before wrapping her arms around his waist.

Her gentle encouragement was its own reward, and for her, to please her, to love her, Zuko held back. He couldn't take his eyes off her face, the way she looked so content and pleased, and when she guided him to a slightly faster pace, Zuko didn't question her, knowing she would do what was best for her.

The sounds she made were private sounds, delivered directly to his ear as she moaned and mewled, took deep breaths, and exhaled hints of his name. When she increased their pace for the third time, Zuko knew that she was close, and he licked and sucked, determined that these last moments be her best, even as his own muscles shook. He let himself sink completely into the moment, remembering how beautiful she'd been when she danced in the moonlight, and it was that image he had of her as she jerked suddenly, her breath leaving her. She arched into him, and it was like finally unlocking a door, and her grip on him tightened, and his name was so much more than a whisper on her lips this time. It was a chant and a promise of love, and as Zuko sank down on top of Katara, they laughed, tiredly, excitedly.

Zuko rolled off, scooping his wife on top of him and hugging her tightly. They rested in comfortable silence, neither feeling pressured to say anything. Katara sighed, and they lay together, a tangle of limbs, and Zuko kissed her forehead.

"I'm glad we made the journey," Katara said, idly running her hands over his chest.

When she smiled at him, Zuko couldn't help but smile back.

"I told you we would. Even if we are a bit late."

They laid together in silence until they fell asleep.

Written for the Zutarotica LJ Winter Challenge.