A/N: Just a short note at the beginning here to give a huge THANK YOU to everybody who has reviewed/favorited/given me feedback on this story! Your comments help me keep progressing as a writer, both through Sparks and other stories. Do read the larger author's note at the end of the chapter for more information on Sparks-but first, enjoy Chapter 4!
Asami wanted sea prunes.
It didn't matter that she was currently one thousand miles from the nearest trading post that brought in Water Tribe cuisine. It didn't matter that she was supposed to be restructuring a power grid for Ba Sing Se that would harness power from both technology and benders. And it certainly didn't matter that it was currently the middle of the night, when all civilized company was supposed to be in bed.
She wanted sea prunes, and by the spirits she wasn't going to be able to rest until she got them.
She sat up, slipping out from underneath the almost too warm covers that her husband also occupied. That was the thing about sharing a bed with a firebender, you were never lacking heat. In the winter months it was glorious, but in the summer months it could sometimes be unbearable.
Iroh let out a soft snore, turning over in his sleep and throwing his arm haphazardly across the bed into the indent that marked where Asami had been resting. She giggled softly, carefully standing up and exiting the room to not disturb the slumbering general. Once she closed the door with only a soft click, she let out a sigh.
She wasn't exactly sure why she had been so restless lately, but she didn't want to disturb Iroh from his much needed sleep. Ba Sing Se was a city deeply entrenched in tradition, and trying to bring them up to date with both the current technology for both benders and non-benders had been tiring. At least Asami was able to take charge of designing the new power grid, spending her time with people who spoke her language and were interested in what she had to say. Iroh had been stuck with stuffy old politicians, trying to explain how moving forward from a tiered, closed off society to a more integrated one would be beneficial to everybody involved.
So far, he had only been partly successful. That was the reason for their continued presence in Ba Sing Se-a trip that was only supposed to last two weeks.
It's not like she could complain, Asami thought to herself as she wandered down the halls of the rented townhouse. Ba Sing Se was a lively city, full of old history and culture, as well as a constantly celebratory younger generation. Even at this late hour, she could hear the cheers and whistles from one of the establishments down the street. If she were eighteen instead of twenty eight, she may have even joined them.
And it wasn't like she was keen to get back to sea. The awful autumn currents had made their ride to Ba Sing Se nearly unbearable. Asami shuddered at the memory as she slid open the patio door, stepping out onto a small roof deck. Going back on board to spend half of her time seasick over the side of the barge did not sound appealing either.
A sharp bout of laughter pierced the still night air and Asami smiled, leaning on the railing and listening to the sounds of celebration. After the Equalist scare, rebuilding efforts had dramatically lessened the tension of bending and non-bending citizens, and in most places they now lived in harmony. In times of peace such harmony generally lead to a large amount of dancing and drinking, but there had also been great strides in narrowing the class distinctions that had been so stark in the larger cities.
The sound of the patio door sliding open startled Asami out of her reverie. "'Sami," the sleepy voice of the general greeted her ear. "What are you doing out here?"
She turned, trying not to giggle at the disheveled firebender in front of her. His hair stuck up in all different directions, one eye still drooping dangerously low. He had only succeeded at getting one arm through the sleeve of his undershirt, the other side flapping carelessly in the wind. Asami thoroughly enjoyed seeing him like this-most likely because, more often than not, it was her fault. She kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"I just couldn't sleep. I didn't mean to wake you."
Iroh ran a hand through his hair and joined her against the railing, looking out over the quiet city. "You've been having trouble sleeping a lot recently," he mused, placing a hand on her back and running it softly up and down her spine. "Is everything okay?"
"I'm fine," was the tired response. "I'm just thinking about the work we've been doing, what I'm going to do down at the plant tomorrow." She sighed, leaning over the railing into a gust of oncoming wind. Her hair was tied back, and she shivered as the cool breeze passed over the back of her neck.
"Is that it?" Iroh paused in his backrub, and Asami wiggled back into his hand to urge him to continue.
"Well," she was almost embarrassed to give the response, but he would wheedle it out of her anyway. He always did. "I kind of have a craving for sea prunes."
"Sea prunes?" Iroh gained a pinched look on his face, halfway between amusement and disgust. "But you hate sea prunes."
"I do not!"
"You do to." He touched the very tip of her nose with his finger, a teasing gesture that caused her to smile. "Don't you remember what happened at our wedding?"
Asami did remember. The two representatives from the Northern Water Tribe had brought in some traditionally stewed sea prunes as a contribution to the large array of food offered. Asami had barely been able to stomach one, hoping the smile she gave to the representatives was appropriately thankful and not too pained. Beside her Korra had snickered and, once the elder waterbenders had turned around, snatched the offending vegetables (fruits? Asami wasn't sure) off her plate and consumed them in record time.
Since then, Asami hadn't touched the things. In fact, she had avoided them like the plague, staying in the safe territory of noodles when consuming water tribe food.
That is, until tonight.
"Fine." Asami gave what she hoped was an impressive pout, but the snort of laughter from her husband didn't give her much confidence. "I don't know why, but I really want them."
Iroh chuckled, wrapping a long arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his side. "You really are ridiculous, 'Sami." His personal, lazy nickname for her made her smile. "I don't know what's been up with you lately. After that bout of seasickness on the way to Ba Sing Se, you've been all over the place."
Asami leaned into his side, looking down at the dark rooftops of the city. He was right, she hadn't quite recovered from that disastrous ship ride over. She had still been feeling rather ill, had been annoyingly restless during the middle of the night, and now had this odd craving for sea prunes of all things...
She stilled, heart rate picking up to match her racing mind. Stomach sickness, restlessness, strange cravings. She absentmindedly placed a hand on her stomach. It couldn't be.
She frantically thought back over the last few months. They had been so busy with traveling and rebuilding that it was difficult to remember any details. But she would remember, especially when they were on the ship. She hated dealing with feminine problems on the ship. She would have remembered that.
Three months. It had been three months since she last bled.
Spirits, it couldn't be. Could it?
It wasn't that they hadn't been trying. Quite the opposite, really. After a scare about a year ago, they had come to the realization that being parents wouldn't be so bad. It would require some changes in their jobs-less traveling, more paperwork-but nothing too drastic. Asami had quite liked the idea, after the initial terrifying moments of realization.
And so they had gotten some necessary changes in order and planned on starting a family. But after six months, there were no new scares and an uprising in one of the Fire Nation cities required their attention. Since then they hadn't given it much effort.
Well, not exactly. Asami blushed. They had been giving it plenty of that kind of effort. They just hadn't been thinking about it. They still weren't, which was why it had taken her so long to sort out the obvious clues that were being shoved in her face.
Asami opened her mouth to tell the news to her husband and paused. Last time he had been so heartbroken when it had turned out to be a false alarm. They both had. He had spent two months asking her if she was alright and treating her like a porcelain doll, until she finally snapped and informed him that, if he asked her one more time, she was going to use him as a punching bag.
This time, she didn't want to tell him until she was absolutely certain. And for her to be absolutely certain, she needed one thing.
"Do you know how long it would take for Korra to get here?"
Korra, luckily, was not very far away.
"I can't believe you brought the avatar all this way for sea prunes," Iroh teased, shaking his head as his wife dashed forward to meet her friend. Asami ignored him, instead opening her arms and engulfing the smaller water tribe woman in a hug.
"Korra! Thank you so much for coming!"
Korra laughed, blue eyes twinkling with amusement. "Good thing I was already passing through Ba Sing Se on my way to the Eastern Air Temple. Jinora is starting her own temple there, but you know how Tenzin gets. He figured she'd be more accepting of me checking up on her." She held up a cloth bag, wiggling her eyebrows above a lopsided grin. "And good thing I had packed extra sea prunes for the journey. Didn't know you were a fan."
Asami giggled, still slightly embarrassed. The sea prunes were much appreciated, but what she really needed from Korra was her healing abilities. If she weren't married to the Fire Prince, second in line to the throne after his brother, she would have gone to one of the doctors in the city. But gossip traveled fast in Ba Sing Se, so she wanted to keep her possible pregnancy a secret until she was sure. Then she would tell Iroh, and together they would figure out how and when to break the news.
That is, if she was really pregnant.
"The sea prunes were secondary," she confessed, lowering her voice. "I mostly have something I wanted to talk to you about."
"Something to talk about?" Korra twisted her lips into a frown, and turned towards her friend with a concerned gaze. "Is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine!" Asami threw her hands up in the air, quelling Korra's concerns before the girl could get too worked up. Having the avatar as a friend had plenty of perks, but she was very protective. "It's more of a favor to ask."
"What sort of favor?"
Asami blew long bangs out of her eyes. Oh well, she thought. Moment of truth. "I was hoping that I could employ your...healing skills briefly."
Eyebrows rose. "Healing skills? Asami, are you sure everything is okay? Because if not, you know you can..."
"Korra." The older woman had long ago learned that cutting the avatar off was an effective way at stopping these conversations, as long as she had an explanation. "You know I'd tell you if something was wrong. It's nothing bad, I just think...I mean, don't you think it's odd that I all of a sudden got a huge craving for sea prunes?"
"It's not odd! Sea prunes are delicious, it's about time you grew to enjoy them!"
Asami fought the urge to pinch her nose in exasperation. Avatar? Yes. Spiritual link between the two worlds? Yes. But the quickest at catching subtleties she was not.
"I also have been feeling ill lately, especially in the morning..." She trailed off, hoping that the other girl would get the hint.
She didn't. "Then it's a good thing sea prunes are good for digestion!"
This time, Asami did let herself bury her face in her hand in frustration. "Korra," she said, voice flat. "I think I'm pregnant."
"Oh. OH!" Korra's eyes grew wide. "Why didn't you say so, let's go inside right away!"
Korra, to her credit, rushed through the necessary pleasantries of meeting with General Iroh. The girl was terrible at lying, but she had long ago learned to make up for that fact by becoming fantastic at avoiding topics. So when Iroh brought up sea prunes, she had a ready reply.
"Sea prunes! Of course!" She brought a hand to her face, looking for all the world completely surprised. It was only because Asami knew she was lying that she could notice her tell. Her right foot tapped impatiently, usually a sign that the younger girl was anxious. "I left them upstairs, but they should really be chilled," she continued. "Asami, let's go make sure they haven't gone bad."
Iroh chuckled, dismissing the two women and walking back towards the office to continue his work. Asami spared him a quick smile before following Korra up the stairs.
"Here," Korra said, sliding open a door and motioning for Asami to sit on the bed. "This should only take a second."
Asami sat down, heart hammering in her ribcage. What if she was wrong? What if she wasn't pregnant? She didn't want to have to go through that disappointment again.
Across from her, Korra pulled out a water pouch and uncorked it, swirling the water out in front of her. It started to glow. "Just relax and keep your breathing steady. This won't hurt, but it may be a little cold."
Asami shivered as she felt the cool water settle over her stomach. Korra's waterbending kept the moisture from spreading, but the wet front of her shirt stuck to her skin. Korra moved her hands in a slow circle, the glowing water pulsing with her movements. Asami felt a slight tickle in her abdomen as Korra worked over her.
Not a minute later, Korra pulled the water away and stepped back. Asami looked up at her expectantly.
Her heart nearly stopped when the girl smiled. "Congratulations! You're definitely pregnant!" When she didn't immediately answer, Korra faltered. "Wait...it is congratulations, right? This is a good thing?"
Asami breathed out a sigh of relief, her flood of feelings finally catching up to her. She stood up off the bed, heart expanding in her chest and convinced that she was floating. "Yes! Yes, it is a good thing. Korra, thank you so much!"
"Oh Asami, I'm so happy for you." Her tone was warm, and almost wistful. "I wish I could stay, but I have to meet Jinora in two days, and then I do need to get home to Mako..."
"Don't worry about it," Asami interrupted. "I'm just happy you were able to stop by. Once Iroh and I are done in Ba Sing Se, we're going to try and move back to Republic City. Hopefully I'll be able to see you soon!"
Korra smiled. "I would like that a lot. Really, just having the boys to entertain me has been driving me nuts!" The younger girl rolled her eyes. "Anyway, don't you have somebody who needs to hear the news?" She playfully shoved her friend out the door. "Go! And try not to give Iroh a heart attack!"
Asami giggled, sticking her tongue out before sliding out the door and down the hallway. It was time to find her husband.
Iroh had been pulled into an unexpected meeting, so Asami was forced to hold in her excitement until he returned. While he was gone, she busied herself with trying to plan out how she would tell him the news. Should she build up to it? Should she lead him into the announcement gently? Maybe she should just shout it out the minute he walks in the door, now that sounded like a good plan!
Besides the few minutes she took to say farewell to Korra, Asami spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the couch in their small living room. Her mind was racing with possibilities. Was she going to be a good mother? Was the child a girl or a boy? Would Republic City be a good place for them to start a family?
The slamming of the front door snapped her out of her thoughts. An exhausted expression on his face, Iroh carefully hung up his formal coat before toppling over onto the couch, head landing unceremoniously into his wife's lap.
"Long day?" Asami asked, lips curving into a smile.
"The longest," he affirmed, closing his eyes.
"What happened?" She ran slim fingers through his hair, still wondering how to tell him the news. She hadn't expected him return so upset!
"The council here can't agree on anything! When they finally start to see that moving away from such a class segregated city would be a good thing, they disagree on what to do with the ring structure. Some want to keep it and rebuild some of the lower rings, some want to get rid of it. And then they start fighting about zoning laws! Zoning laws, can you imagine anything more annoying? And then-" Iroh stopped mid sentence, inhaling deeply. "What is that smell?" he asked, eyes still closed.
"Um," Asami smiled sheepishly before finishing off the snack that she had been munching on. "Sea prune."
Iroh's eyes flickered open and he scrunched his nose. "They smell disgusting. I still don't understand how you like them now."
She shrugged. "Well it makes sense that I'm craving them, since I'm pregnant."
He froze and her heart stopped. The words had slipped out before she could stop them. In all of her planning, this was not how she intended to tell him!
"You're pregnant." He sat up, movements slow and precise. He turned to her, an unreadable expression in his amber eyes. "You're pregnant?" Asami nodded her head, heart racing too fast for her to form words.
And then, suddenly, "You're pregnant!" His mouth split into a wide grin, and he threw his arms around her to pull her close. She let out a giggle as he pressed his lips to her cheek, and then pulled up her shirt to kiss her stomach. "You're pregnant with my child!"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course it's your child you dolt. And it's probably a firebender, which is why I've been too hot to sleep lately."
He stroked the side of her stomach fondly. "And she will grow up to be a strong firebender too, stubborn and smart just like her mother."
Asami raised an eyebrow as her husband sat up, carefully pulling her shirt back down over her middle. "You know, already, that it's a she?"
A smirk crossed his face. "Of course. It's..." He paused, eyes darting to the side as he searched for the right word. "Masculine intuition."
She laughed. "I think you may have gotten it backwards, my dear."
Iroh shook his head adamantly. "No, I know these things. We know these things." He tapped the side of his head with a finger, and arranged his features to match the half stoic, half grouchy expressions the fire sages often wore. He pitched his voice higher to imitate the older sages. "She will be born under the summer solstice, a sign of prodigal firebending skills and prosperity..."
Asami doubled over, holding a hand in front of her mouth to stem the laughter. Who knew the General of the United Forces was so absurd when he wasn't on duty? Only her, and perhaps a handful of their closest friends.
And soon, their child.
When she stopped laughing, Asami moved over on the couch to lay her head on Iroh's shoulder. "Do you really think it will be a girl?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "But I also don't care. You know why?"
"Because you and I will love and cherish her-or him. We'll raise our child to be strong and independent, and will support them in whatever they chose to do. And no matter what," he paused to kiss his wife on the top of the head. "No matter what, we will do it together."
A/N: Sea prunes are totally the pickles of the Avatar world.
I have a love/hate relationship with this chapter. That's part of the reason why this took so long. Sorry about the wait, and I hope you enjoyed it!
The next chapter is giving me even more grief, so it will likely be a few weeks before it's posted. But in the meantime, I've been having so much fun writing Sparks that I want to open it up for prompts! I can't promise any update schedule since I do have a job (and, occasionally, a life), but I will try to keep you Irosami fans happy! And, try as I might, I can't really stomach posting a "last chapter" for this fic quite yet.
So, lovely fans, if you have any ideas do leave me prompts in the review section or shoot me a message!
Also I just posted a new Bolin romance/humor fic, so if you're a Bolin fan you should go check it out :)
Hugs and kisses,