I shift in my sleeping bag, restless after a perfect day.
My mind wanders to the way I felt when Katara said yes. The memory of my happiness floods me again, and I smile wider.
I cherish the golden warmth in my chest, until a muffled cry sounds in the silence, and I jump out of my tent.
I recognize the sound of Katara's voice, and in two bounds I am at her tent.
Terrified of what I may find, I throw open the tent opening.
She's in her sleeping bag, crying and shaking violently.
When she sees me, she throws her body into my arms.
I pull her closer, carrying her to the fire pit.
She shivers and I flick a small flame into the pit, trying to make sure she's warm enough.
"What happened, Sweetness?" My voice is quiet and soothing.
She buries her head into my shoulder and sobs, "It was horrible. He had Aang and Sokka and-and ...you.", her voice trembles, and I pull her flush against my chest.
She curls up into a ball, her head tucked under mine.
She doesn't answer for some time, but I just wait for her to be ready to tell me.
Her shaking slowly stops, but she doesn't move from my arms.
It takes many moments, but she finally pulls away enough to look into my eyes.
"Fire Lord Ozai."
Understanding flows through me, and I smile down to her.
"I will keep Aang safe, but as I will keep you safe."
Her face scrunches up, and I cock an eyebrow.
"If you're protecting everyone else, who will protect you?"
I chuckle and whistle loudly.
Appa raises his head and groans loudly, and Momo runs straight to him, hiding in his fur.
Katara looks at me, obviously confused, and when my pet, Casi, comes barreling out of the woods, she screams quietly and hides behind me. I stand, pulling her up with me.
Casi slides, tumbling to a stop right in front of me.
"Hey pretty baby, who's daddy's gorgeous little Devil-Dog?"
I scratch behind her ears, and her fur starts to blaze.
Katara peaks around my shoulder, "What is that thing?"
I throw my head back and laugh, "This is Casi, my Devil-Dog. Every first born Prince, and the Queen, is given one when he's born. They live just about as long as humans do.", a wistful tone enters my voice, "She'd die protecting me if she needed to."
I turn to Katara, wanting to explain everything, but needing to calculate her reaction.
"If we marry, on our wedding day she'll bond to you. When and if we have children, she'll birth one pup for you, and one for our first born son."
"Does it burn?", Katara seems distracted, and I notice her staring at Casi.
"Her fur?" Katara nods, "No. It's like a cold fire."
She comes out from behind me hesitantly, and reaches her hand out to Casi.
The huge beast looks to me for permission, and I nod minutely.
Casi steps forward and nuzzles her muzzle against Katara's outstretched fingers, making the short water bender freeze and a small gasp slips out of her mouth.
My Devil Dog laughs her growling chuckle, and bumps her full body to Katara. The girl giggles and snuggles her face into Casi's side, and I think to myself, "It's a good sign that Casi likes her enough to let her touch her like this."
Katara looks up to me, a question obviously in her eyes, but she seems hesitant to ask it.
"What is it, Love?" I laugh inwardly at the blush that covers her face, and she stammers out to me.
"If...when...what if we aren't married but I get pregnant?" Her blush deepens, and I'm amazed one doesn't turn my cheeks pink as well.
"Well...you see...it's not exactly the marriage part that makes you two bond...it's kind of my...well...my feelings for you."
Relief splashes in her pool blue eyes, and I suddenly have a question of my own.
"Why do you ask?" The blush deepens on her face once more, and she doesn't meet my eyes when she answers.
"Just like...if the war goes on for a while...we may not be able to be wed...but...umm..."
Understanding shocks through me, and all I can mutter is a small, "Oh."
"Just forget I ever said anything. It's stupid." She looks at Casi's fur, intently twisting her fingers into the red mass.
"No, it was a good question. I mean...like...even Sokka and Suki...and I'm sure Boulder and his girlfriend did." At the mention of our friends, the pink in her cheeks subsides a little, and I'm glad I can ease the awkwardness for her.
"Okay. Thanks, Zuko. For telling me, I mean." She smiles up to me, a beautiful smile that tugs at my insides and twists them in knots.
"Of course, Sweetness. Anything you want to know, I'll tell you."
I lean down and kiss her nose, and chuckle when Casi growls softly.
"It would seem she's a bit fond of you already."
Katara gives me a mischievous look, "Wouldn't that tell me you already have feelings for me?"
She sticks her tongue out at me, and I return the favor.
Tapping at her betrothal necklace, I answer, "This should tell you how I feel for you, darling."