I am sitting in the garden feeding the turtle ducks-little chunks of bread as they swim across the pond. The wind is blowing softly through the trees and the shade offers a pleasant relief from the never ending heat of summer in the fire nation. I reach up to wipe sweat from my brow and look up at the blazing sun. I have lived here for over a year now and I am still not accustomed to the heavy heat. I move my hand and watch as the water bends to my command. I move my hand in circles making the water move gently into spiraling swirls on the surface.
"I wonder if Zuko is done with his meeting." I murmur quietly to myself. Zuko and I were married a little over a year ago and it was the happiest day of my life. I finally had my happily ever after, the world was at peace and our friends were all happy. Truly I have nothing to complain about. I just wish my husband would make more time for me. I miss him dearly. We haven't even been intimate in weeks. Zuko has been so busy with rebuilding villages ravaged by war and helping people rebuild their lives that he hasn't had a scant of time available for me. He has been so tired that at end of each day he collapses into bed, gives me a sleepy kiss and succumbs to sleep. I am so proud of his hard work and dedication that I feel guilty for being lonely and if I am being honest with myself-a little angry that he hasn't had time for me. Not that I would ever say such things to Zuko. He is already far to stretched that he would feel appalled at neglecting me. I never wish to cause him unrest. I wish to support him in all things. I close my eyes and remember the last time we were intimate. The way his hands roamed over my body, teasing and caressing my skin until I withered beneath him and cried out his name. His heavy delicious weight upon me. How Zuko leaned low to whisper his love and craving for me into my ear. His warm breath fanning over my moist flesh. I shudder and jump a little when I hear a voice clearing.
"Pardon the intrusion Milady but Miss Suki and Miss Toph are here to see you." The maid bows and I give her my thanks before tossing the rest of the bread into the water. The turtle ducks race to devour it. I follow the maid into the palace and into the sitting room where Suki sits her hands folded in front of her, while Toph lounges back in her chair with her feet propped up in front of her. I order some tea and hot cakes to be brought in and smile and thank the maid as she sets them on the table before departing.
"Katara it's been so long. I feel like we haven't seen you in forever!" Suki gathers me into a hug. I hug her back and then move to sit down.
"It's only been a few months." Toph says with a hint of amusement in her voice. Suki waves her hand as if to clear away Toph's remark.
Suki chatters about their trip as I pour tea and divvy up some hot cakes for them. We eat in comfortable silence for a moment before Toph breaks the quiet.
"So what's going on sugar queen?" Toph asks as she munches away on her cake. I jump a little and my heart does a little patter in my chest.
"Oh nothing really. Just everyday business." I calmly sip my tea. Sitting in fire lady meetings has made me a pro at my poker face. Toph frowns slightly and I quickly move to look at Suki.
"How are you and my brother doing?" Suki's face takes on a dreamy stare. I smile softly and sip more of my tea.
"Great actually." Suki sighs happily and after a moment breaks into a huge smile.
"So good in fact we have started talking about having children." Suki lets out a delighted little squeal and I grasp her hands tightly in mine and smile brightly at her.
"Suki that's wonderful. I can't wait to be an aunt." Suki grins at me.
"Yeah way to go Suki. You and snoozles will make great parents." Suki looks at Toph with shinning eyes. She stands up and quickly hugs Toph before the other woman can wave her away.
"Thanks Toph." Suki smiles shakily at her and moves to sit down once again. Suki looks over at me.
"What about you and Zuko?" Suki sips her tea. "Any little fire babies soon?" I feel my heart squeeze painfully in my chest but plaster a smile on my face nonetheless.
"Hmm sometime soon I'm sure." That is if Zuko can ever make time for me. As it is we don't even touch anymore. Toph frowns once more.
"What about you and Aang, Toph?" I nibble halfheartedly on a hot cake. Suki and I both look over at Toph and notice for the first time ever that the other woman actually seems to be blushing. Her usually pale complexion is flushed red.
"Well actually I was going to tell you girls something." Toph pauses to take a big swig of her tea. Suki and I both wait patiently, our curiosity piqued.
"Well it would seem that I am pregnant. Tinkle toes and I are going to be parents." Toph shrugs as if its not big deal. Joy consumes me and I stare wide eyed at Suki and see her with the same stunned look on her face.
We both suddenly envelope Toph into a bear hug. Toph squirms but finally relents to let us hug her. She sighs and pats us both on the back.
"Congratulations Toph!" I exclaim as Suki also offers her congratulations.
"What kind of bender do you think it will be?" Suki asks curiously. Toph shrugs and eats another hot cake.
"Honestly I don't really care if its a bender or not. Just as long as its healthy." I smile warmly at Toph and Suki nods and squeezes her hand.
We eat is relative silence once more, until Toph breaks the silence.
"Katara." I look at Toph startled to hear her say my real name.
"Yes Toph?" I sip my tea.
"Something is going on between you and sparky isn't it?" I freeze unsure how to answer her question.
"Don't even try to deny it either. I can feel if you are lying, remember?" I frown and sit my cup down on the table. Suki frowns and does the same. Concern shining in her dark eyes.
"Katara what's going on?" Suki gazes at me, her brows furrowed. I sigh and interlace my fingers in my lap.
"Well Zuko has been very busy lately. There is so much to do to rebuild the world after the end of the war." I pause and think about how to phrase my next words.
"So busy that Zuko is wearing himself thin trying to help everyone." I pick up my cup and take a deep drink of the slightly spicy tea.
"So basically he is to busy to spend time with you." Toph guesses correctly. I sign once more and nod.
"I know its selfish to be feeling this way, but I can't help it." I close my eyes to try and fight off the tears. "I feel so lonely. Zuko has been so tired he barely has the energy to give me a kiss before falling asleep."
"Not to mention lovemaking?" Toph cocks her head as if she can actually hear my thoughts. I flush and look down at my hands.
"Yes. I miss spending time alone with Zuko. I miss him holding me." I feel my eyes moisten. "It's not his fault of course but still I can't help but feel hurt."
"When was the last time you guys made love?" Suki questions. I flush again and look away.
"That long huh?" Suki frowns and grasps my hand. "Have you talked to him about it?" I shake my head.
"Of course not. It's not his fault he is so busy and if I were to say something It would just distress him." My eyes fill with tears. "I never want to do anything to cause him more stress. Things will get better I just have to be patient and continue to support him."
"Oh Katara." Suki gathers me into a hug and I lay my head on her shoulder.
"I love him. I just need to push my selfishness away and focus on being the support and love he needs." Suki pats my back and even Toph moves to my side to hold my hand.
"It will be ok sugar queen. Sparky loves you." I smile through my watery vision at Toph.
Suki release's me and we go back to talking as if nothing happened.
Unknown to the women inside, Zuko stands quietly outside the door listening to his wife's deep sadness. Zuko clenches his hands into fists at his sides. His eyes narrowed and his teeth clenched. The fire lord stalks down the hall, silently vowing to make sure his wife never again sounds so downtrodden.