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Xiao Qiao sits serenely beside her pot. Shangxiang cocks an eyebrow at the tiny fire, but Xiao Qiao refuses the nudge. Good tea takes patience, and as a waterbender, she finds the shift between states- ice and liquid and steam- is a meditative process.

Shangxiang shrugs and extends her hand. A lick of flame leaps into her palm. The restless pulse of it makes Xiao Qiao smile; surely there is no truer match to the element of fire than Shangxiang's bright and ferocious heart. A sudden shout of laughter disrupts her thoughts- across the room with her husband, Zhuge Liang throws back his head. Another fine match, Xiao Qiao thinks. Flexibility and good humor and a philosophical nature.

Shangxiang snorts affectionately. "That flighty windbag," she says. "I should have guessed he was an airbender from the first." Rising, she walks toward the two men, presumably to incite another round of bickering and teasing. Xiao Qiao laughs to herself.

Her husband, turning, catches her eye. Warmth rises through her as it always has, firm and steady as the earth beneath them. Zhou Yu is the bedrock on which they all stand; without him, this indefinable relationship between them would have no anchor. Despite the complicated political allegiances that might shift and fracture at any moment, when she looks at Zhou Yu, she can't help but think that it will last.

Beside her, the water boils at last. Unhurried, Xiao Qiao brews tea for four.