When Katara opens the door, Toph emerges from the nursery, looking tired. She has Lin on her shoulder, the baby's head supported with her other hand, and Katara has never seen her look so exhausted. The baby is making the little whiny noises that babies make before they start bawling.
"Thank the badgermole you're back," Toph says in a scratchy voice, holding out the baby to Katara. Katara takes the baby carefully, putting her bag down. Lin smells like sour milk, and just a little like dirt.
Katara doesn't want to know what Toph smells like up close. "Go take a bath," she says to Toph.
Toph sighs but she doesn't protest. When they began this relationship all those years ago, after Katara and Aang broke up, they had established a number of rules that made it work, and one of those rules involved Toph and regular bathing. She shuffles off to the bathroom.
Katara sits down on the tatami tries to soothe the baby, who waves her tiny fists in frustration. Luckily Katara has handled more than a few babies in her time, so she has a few tricks up her sleeve. Lin isn't entirely happy when Toph finally comes back from the bath, completely naked and looking like she feels at least a little better. Her hair is a mess, her breasts are heavy, and her body still looks like a battlefield. Of course, it mostly looked like that before.
"All this time and your heartbeat still speeds up when you see me," Toph says, sounding satisfied. She sits down beside Katara, takes Lin, and puts her to her breast.
"Motherhood is beautiful," Katara says, and she means it.
"Tell me again why we decided to reproduce," Toph says. "Oww, not so hard!" she says to Lin.
She adjusts the baby and Katara kisses her on the cheek.
"We decided that being the cool aunts wasn't enough," Katara says.
"I did want to train up an earthbender from birth," Toph says. She pats Lin on the head.
"She could be a waterbender. Or a non-bender," Katara says, as if they haven't already talked about this a number of times. They had carefully arranged this scenario after all.
"She came out of my body, she'll be an earthbender. It's definitely your time next, though," Toph says, wincing as Lin pinches her again.
"I brought food if that will help," Katara says. The bag is still sitting by the door where she left it.
"Definitely," Toph says, so Katara gets up. Toph pats her butt. Katara startles in surprise.
"What? I'm not dead," she says. "Just hungry and tired."
Katara comes back with the box and takes Lin while Toph eats. They've been on shifts like this for almost a week now, although Toph has the worst of it, since the baby needs her milk. Everyone has been by to visit, and Suki has been invaluable, since she's already had one of her own. From what Katara remembers of the village, they aren't doing any worse than any other young mothers.
"She's so strong," Toph says. She's offered Lin a finger and Lin is squeezing it. It's something all babies do, but it's still delightful.
"The strongest," Katara agrees, resting her head on Toph's shoulder. Toph still hasn't bothered to put on any clothes, but neither of them are feeling particularly lustful at the moment.
"You want to see how long we can sleep uninterrupted?" Toph asks. She gets to her feet and stretches. She leans down and offers Katara a hand up. Lin is blessedly quiet.
They put the baby in her bed and collapse into theirs, curling up with their legs tangled, and they get a full hour and a half before Lin wakes them up.