"Oh, just look at her!" a Fire Nation noblewoman laughed, pointing at the current Fire Lady. "She's savage! She's only here because of her husband—which, personally, I think the Lord only married her because he felt sorry for her. For Agni's sake—she doesn't even know how to hold a teacup!"
Another particularly snobby noblewoman snickered. "Agreed!" she snorted. "Oh, Agni save us! Her offspring will be just as stupid!"
Meanwhile, as snotty rich women gossiped behind Katara's back, said Fire Lady fumbled with the teacup. There were two reasons the cup was giving her trouble—it was a Fire Nation tea-party and there was a way you were supposed to hold it and she couldn't manage it, and she could very clearly hear those snot-nosed noblewoman gossip. She hadn't survived, and saved the world without fine-tuned senses. It was annoying her; did they not know that she could cut them in half with a water-whip so should she choose. She was having a hard time not doing that right now.
Katara gave up. She held the damned cup like she would if it were a Water Tribe cup and took a deep swing of the sour tea before standing from the table. Like she said, she had given up—she was going to be the barbarian they wanted her to be, but of course she would rub a few things in their face.
"Ladies?" she said as calmly as she could. She had never really been good at keeping in her anger—it was one of the reasons Zuko loved her. The noblewomen looked shocked; one of them snickered as if a good joke had come to mind. "May I ask you something?" Of course she didn't wait for them to answer. "Do you think I got to be a war hero—to survive life on the road, life in the Earth Kingdom with King Bumi, life in hiding here in the Fire Nation, and traveling with the Avatar—without having sharp senses? No," she answered her own question. "I got to survive by fighting, having sharp senses, and knowing when to be kind. Keeping that in mind," she continued, "what makes you think that I can't hear you?"
To emphasize her earlier points, the ladies' tea started to shiver in their cups. It rose from to cup to float around the Fire Lady. She hadn't even been aware that she was bending. Anger did that to her.
"Lady Katara, I have no idea—"
Katara scoffed. "Please, don't give me that! I spent most of my life raising my older brother, helping my grandmother with midwife-ing, and watching out for Aang—I formally invented and perfected the 'It wasn't me' excuse." Anger burned like fire behind Katara's blue eyes, lighting them. She took a deep breath and rubbed her temples, a habit she picked up from her husband. "Now, I understand that it is hard to accept a Fire Lady from another country. What I don'tunderstand, however, is why you are so…cruel about it. Because, frankly my dears, it's called racism and I will not stand for it."
It was silent.
"Well?" Katara asked expectantly. "Anyone?"
Katara nodded. "That's what I thought. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm tiered; my husband and I were busy last night making some of our 'stupid' children."
And she stomped away, ready to walk home. But she didn't have to—Zuko was chatting animatedly with the hosting noblewoman's husband. Katara smiled broadly, walking to the Fire Lord's side happily.
Stunned by the sudden contact, Zuko jumped; he turned to his wife, smiling softly when he saw her. "Hello, Katara," he said, grinning. His lips brushed her tanned cheek lightly, causing a light blush to cover her cheeks. "We were just talking about you."
"Really?" Katara asked sourly, glaring over her shoulder at the noblemen in the teahouse. "So were they."
Zuko blinked, glaring briefly at the women behind him. He opened his mouth to say something, but the nobleman beat him to it. "I'll talk to her about it, my Lady," he said kindly. It was a genuine kindness; he didn't think anything less of her for being dark-skinned.
"That won't be necessary," Katara grinned. "I handled it."
Zuko rolled his eyes. "You didn't by chance—"
"Yes I did."
"Katara, they don't need to know what we do in bed," Zuko mumbled to her, trying to respect the man whose presence they were in.
Katara scowled. "They were insulting our future children!" she complained loudly. And then she lifted her hand behind her in a gesture known only to the Water Tribes and their people—the middle finger.
Zuko took a breath, thanking Agni that no one but his wife and he knew what that meant. "Do you want to go home?" he asked.
Katara shook her head. "I'm in the mood to show you off. I got you—amazing, kind, caring, short-tempered, loving you—and I'm proud of it."
The nobleman was looking uncomfortable. "Uh, my Lord," he said awkwardly. "We did not finish discussing trade."
This topic perked Katara. "Zuko, did you manage to stop the wine shortage? I told you someone was stealing from your boat. If you doubled the guard on the ship, it wouldn't happen."
Zuko listened to her with obvious pride; the nobleman looked at her with complete awe. He hadn't known a woman could do something like that. "Well, of course I did, Katara," Zuko said simply.
Katara and Zuko and his nobleman friend started talking about state affairs while snotty rich girls chattered on about how "barbaric" the new Fire Lady was. To Katara's ears, they sounded like little girls in a rich-kid school as they chattered on about who's cool and who's not. It was quite idiotic; there were more important things to do as rather than sit around.