Katara loved sitting in Zuko’s lap as they read old scrolls. It felt so good to be surrounded by strength and tenderness. She was a seasoned warrior and didn’t need protection - which was exactly why she enjoyed it from time to time. She and Zuko had long ago fine-tuned their dynamic, flowing into the empty spaces left by the other. They took turns being fierce so the other could rest, as Tui and La circled endlessly through the mutual transformations of Yin and Yang.
She nuzzled the soft skin behind his neck and blew in his ear. He leaned into her touch, turning his head to rest their foreheads together.
“Yes, ᑕᑯᑦᓱᒍᓱᑉᐳᖅ?” They were studying Old Water Tribe together, as part of the linguistic reparations project the Fire Nation and Water Tribes had embarked upon. The common tongue facilitated communication between countries, but it had come as a result of decades of Fire Nation cultural imperialism.
Katara closed her eyes and touched their noses together in kunik, a traditional Water Tribe show of affection. She breathed in, heart full, and brushed their lips together. “I’m so grateful, dear one.”
Zuko put down the scroll and pulled her close, tracing his fingers gently along her skin the way she liked. “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
Katara smiled and snuggled closer, a panther-cat by a hearth. Ty Lee said Zuko’s aura was golden now, and Katara could feel it - the glow of the goodness he chose and practiced, day in and day out. “Promise this won’t change after we get married? You won’t leave all the parenting and housework to me? We’ll still have us-time for cuddling and learning and traveling and adult fun?”
Zuko pulled back to peer into her eyes. “Of course I promise. Could you tell me more about what you’re concerned about? I want to understand.”
Katara took a deep breath and stayed with the feelings of discomfort and fear of abandonment, then let it go. “I don’t want being a mother to be my whole life. I do want it, just, I started mothering people way too young, and I’m afraid of losing myself. I don’t want a traditional Water Tribe woman’s life. It’s beautiful and honorable to care for the home and teach human beings how to live, I do believe that, but I’m afraid of losing my freedom and individuality. I know that when I love people I tend to take care of them a little too much, and I know that I’ll love our kids more than anything in the world. And I feel guilty about feeling this way.”
Zuko took her hand solemnly. “I don’t ever want you to lose yourself putting others first ever again. How about this - we tell Suki, Mai, Ty Lee and Toph that if I ever start neglecting my part of our family responsibilities, they have permission to kick my butt? After you do, of course. And, I always say that you’re more important to the world than I am, Katara. I can stay at home with the kids while you go and teach waterbending.”
“I’d like that, Zuko.” Katara kissed his scar gently. “But what about our sex life? We waited so long to be together, and what if kids take up all of our time and we barely get to kiss? What if we’re so tired all we want to do is sleep?”
Zuko’s eyes darkened and he traced his fingers along her ribcage. “That is an unacceptable outcome. We’ll hire someone trustworthy to take the kids a couple times a week, or trade off weekends with Suki and Sokka. I am never giving up on this.” He kissed her neck, collarbone, and mouth. “We need to show our children that it’s important to take care of ourselves first. They need to see us happy and in love. We’ll show them what a good relationship looks like, so they know what to look for when they grow up.”
Katara bit her lip and looked into golden eyes bright with determination. She nodded and pressed closer, wrapping her arms around his neck. “And when my body changes? I’m not going to look like this forever. Things are going to sag and stretch and wrinkle. I’m literally becoming a house for a miniature person. Everything gets rearranged and it doesn’t snap back after. Do you get that? You’re still going to have suitors throwing themselves at you when your hair is white. But after we have children, a lot of women become invisible in men’s eyes. Will you love the me inside, even when my outsides change?”
Zuko’s eyes grew sad and he took her face in his hands. “Always. I love your stubbornness, your loyalty, your compassion, your generosity, your intelligence, your honor, your fierceness, your bossiness, your temper, your hope, all of it. You’ve seen the worst of me and the best of me, and you understand it better than anyone. You know who I’ve been and you always push me towards who I need to become. You’re my best friend. You’re not afraid of me and you don’t enable me. You’re strong enough to beat me in combat and heal me after. I was foolish enough to betray you once. I will never, ever do that again.”
Katara placed one hand on the starburst scar Zuko bore on his abdomen, the other on his heart. “You’ve proven that many times over, my love.” She wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him deep. “Take me to bed, Zuko.”
She didn’t have to tell him twice.