A/N: Welcome to Zutara Week 2013! That, at least, begins this story. I decided when going through the prompts that I was going to try to write all of the most used Zutara themes for each prompt. Since I ended up with more than seven ideas this will continue after Zutara week but without the same daily upates. You've been warned. Today's is arranged political marriage!
Disclaimer: I don't own.
Royal weddings usually take months to plan and are announced even before that. Sometimes the engagement can last up to a year.
That was not the case with the most recent royal wedding in the Fire Nation. The 'months of planning' were actually months of heated negotiations that were preceded by months of arguing. It all came down to the issue of how to make sure Fire Lord Zuko didn't try to take over the colonies again (people were still angry about Yu Dao). Even after Zuko repeatedly vowed never to do it again and had Aang back him up on this the representatives of the Earth Kingdom and Northern Water Tribe were still not appeased (the Southern Water Tribe was still thankful that Zuko had helped break their chief out of prison).
Finally Sokka made an off handed snarky comment about how if Zuko was married to someone from one of the other nations then he'd be less likely to conquer them (the 'isn't that right, jerkbender' wasn't part of the official record). Thus began the debate of whom Zuko should marry (luckily he and Mai had broken up again so he didn't have to deal with knives being thrown at him). Then came the endless back and forth about who was the best candidate: Bumi's great niece or Kuei's second cousin. Both were a minimum of fifteen years older than Zuko. At least he got to step out of the talks to squash an uprising in the lower islands. By the time he'd come back, however, they'd moved on to the merits of infant Northern Water Tribe princess. He'd almost agreed because maybe in the sixteen years until he could marry her he'd prove himself to be competent and could marry the girl he wanted to (whoever that was...Mai wasn't answering his letters at the moment).
Again it was Sokka's big mouth that changed everything. He got up and began his speech that was never finished with "as son of Chief Hakoda of the Southern Water Tribe" which made four different people interrupt him. All of a sudden there was a new candidate and in an hour Zuko and Katara (still trying to get over her break up with Aang three months ago) went from being friends to being engaged without either of them saying more than five words.
Treaties were drafted and signed. The date was set for a month after the decision was made (luckily they had argued into the summer) and preparations began. The bride and groom became so swept up in everything that they barely spoke or even saw each other.
When they did try to speak to each other there was someone there to make sure nothing "inappropriate" happened. Needless to say there was only so much they could talk about with an audience. Instead they awkwardly discussed the wedding preparations and tried not to cringe too much at the words. Luckily their chaperone assumed it was all just nerves.
The big day arrived, as did the heat. During the four hours of preparations Katara went through everyone commented on how lucky she was to be married on the hottest day of the summer. Surely it meant she would give Zuko many firebender babies. By the end Katara's cheeks hurt from forced smiling and she was certain she was going to melt by the end of the day.
Everything passed in a blur until finally she and Zuko could escape the party and catcalls.
Katara had hoped that being out of her finery would make the heat bearable. It hadn't and now she was kicking the sheets off and trying to get comfortable because she was exhausted and uncomfortable and cranky.
"Will you stop moving?" Her husband (her husband) asked as he yanked the covers from her and threw them off the bed.
"No I won't! It's too hot and I'm too tired and how are you not drenched in sweat?" She grumbled.
He sat up and looked down at her prone form. "I grew up here."
She sat up to glare at him. "So? I grew up in the South Pole but that doesn't mean I didn't complain the first really cold day we had."
He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "Look I'm tired, you're tired, we're both in this situation that neither of us could help and cranky because of all of these things. Just try to go to sleep and I'll think of someway for you to cool off in the morning." He slumped back down and rolled away from her.
Katara opened and closed her mouth trying to find the right words. "This is how you were told to treat your wife?" She sneered. "Just dismiss and ignore her and-" Zuko bolted up right and looked her right in the eye.
Before she could start again he cut her off. "Which advice do you want to hear first: Ozai's or Uncle's? I can tell you right now you wouldn't like Ozai's." His deathly quiet tone unnerved her but she stood her ground.
"Why wouldn't I like it?" She asked defiantly.
"First of all you wouldn't be able to see your brother or father unless it was a matter of political importance. We would have already consummated the marriage with or without your consent. You probably would be forbidden to waterbend too, but I was never expected to marry anyone outside the Fire Nation," he sighed again. "Look I'm not going to do any of that so just please try to sleep and in the morning hopefully the heat will break or I'll figure out something." He lay back down and turned away from her muttering "good night."
Katara stared at his back before huffing and flopping down and rolling over to face away from him.
Katara awoke the next morning drenched in sweat and feeling like she hadn't really slept at all. She groaned and rolled over, not surprised when she saw that the other half of the bed was empty.
"There's a cold bath waiting if you want it," Zuko said as he walked out of the bathroom. Katara jumped out of the bed and murmured thank you before disappearing into the bathroom herself.
She felt much more refreshed and almost normal afterwards and was thankful someone had left a change of clothes for her. Dressed she felt moderately ready to face her first day as Fire Lady (she still couldn't believe she had a title like that).
As soon as she entered the bedroom Zuko stopped pacing. "Come on, we have a formal breakfast and then the rest of the day is free."
"Don't you have to run a country?" She quipped as she followed him to the door.
"They're celebrating the Fire Lord's wedding for the week. We can pretty much do what we want."
"Pretty much?" She asked as they exited their room and headed for the formal dining room.
"Weren't you paying attention during all the planning?" Katara shook her head. In all honesty she'd mostly tuned it out. "We have breakfast today, tomorrow will be the presentation of gifts to the Fire Lady, and then the following night we have a fireworks display in our honor. After that there's nothing we have to do."
"Oh, right. So what are we doing the rest of the day?" She asked.
"It's a surprise," he replied.
"I'm not sure I like surprises," she grumbled before plastering a smile on her face as they entered the dining room together.
Katara tuned out most of the conversation as she pushed the room around her plate. She wasn't that hungry and almost everything had too much spice for the heat.
She tuned back in when Hakoda asked about their plans to visit the South Pole. Katara remembered what Zuko said last night as she held her breath.
"The summer is always a busy time in the Fire Nation," Zuko began. "But everything slows down in the fall. Weather permitting I was thinking we could go then." Katara beamed at her husband.
"As long as it's at the very beginning of fall you should miss the winter storms," Hakoda replied.
"I'll notify my council as soon as the festivities end and begin planning." Spirits lifted Katara tried to enjoy the rest of the breakfast.
After another hour of mindless conversation peppered with off color comments about their wedding night Zuko finally stood and offered his hand to Katara. "Thank you everyone for coming. Lady Katara and I both appreciate the support everyone here gave to our union. If you excuse us and join the rest of the festivities." Zuko gently tugged on Katara's arm as they made their way out of the dining room.
Once in the hall Katara whispered, "how long were you practicing that speech?"
"Since I woke up this morning," he admitted.
"You know I happen to be really good at inspirational speeches," she teased.
"I'll remember that the next time I have to give one."
They walked in silence for a few more minutes before Katara asked, "where exactly are we going? I haven't been to this part of the palace yet."
"Kitchens and then its a surprise."
"I'm not sure I like surprises."
"Trust me, you'll like this one." Once in the kitchen Zuko introduced Katara to the head chef. They discussed what she liked and didn't like and Katara tried to explain what five flavor soup and stewed sea prunes were while Zuko stood and watched. After a while the chef excused himself and Katara promised to show him how to make the Water Tribe dishes. Katara noticed Zuko now had a basket but didn't say anything as he led her away.
She became skeptical when he asked her to close her eyes. She did but nearly tripped down the stairs he was leading her on.
"Ok, open your eyes," he said. She did and the rush of water she'd been hearing suddenly made sense. They were obviously below ground in a roughly carved cave. A channel of water rushed past in front of them. The cool air felt amazing on her skin. "It's part of the irrigation system for the palace," Zuko explained. "Its where you can check to make sure the water is running clean."
"It's amazing," she said as she bent a tendril of water around herself.
"I was thinking you could come down here when it's too hot and use practicing your bending as an excuse. I'll actually show you how to get here but I wanted the first time to be a surprise." She flicked the water back into the stream before hugging Zuko.
"Thank you," she murmured into his neck. She could feel his face heat up as he mumbled, "I just want you to be comfortable." In response she kissed his cheek.
She pulled away from a startled Zuko who quickly held up the basket. "I, uh, I noticed you weren't really eating at breakfast so I asked for some spring rolls and green papaya salad because, well, they were the only non spicy foods I could think of."
She wrinkled her nose. "I hate papaya."
"I didn't know," he said lamely.
She took the basket out of his hand and sat down on the cold floor. She patted the spot next to her. "Well sit down and I'll tell you all about what I like and don't like and you can do the same thing."
"Kind of like a date?" He asked as he sat down.
She shrugged as she took a spring roll out of the basket. "I guess. I mean you're going to have to try to woo me if you ever want an heir."
He smirked. "Since currently Azula is next in line I'll try my best. I don't like ripe papaya either, but green papaya is different and doesn't taste the same at all."
"This is a good start," she said. It really was, she admitted to herself, and maybe this whole marriage thing might work out.
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