is that llama or a sheep

answering asks!!


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takaska  asked:

ok this is a really weird question and im not totally sure youll know the answer, but maybe youll know someone who does??? do hippos have feet or hooves. me and my significant other are going back and forth both providing conflicting articles that call them different things. i dont know why this happened but i would like to know if they are referred to as hooves or paws or feet or what please help

They have feet! 

While hippos are members of the Order Artiodacyla, the even-toed ungulates, the closest living relatives of hippos are actually cetaceans. Like hippos, the oldest known ancestors of cetaceans have also been described as having feet

Species in Artiodacyla are characterized by having feet with an “astragalus (a bone in the ankle joint) and an even number of functional toes (two or four), with the main limb axis passing between the middle two digits.” Artiodacyla includes “pigs, peccaries, hippopotamuses, cetaceans, camels, llamas, alpacas, mouse deer, deer, giraffes, antelopes, sheep, goats, and cattle” (Source). 

The interior structure of a hippo’s foot is more similar to that of a pig than that of a hoofed mammal in the same order. 

(Hippo foot. Source)

(Left to Right - the feet of a pig, a red deer, and a camel. Source). 

This is a great image from the cenozoic life blogspot that illustrates the foot anatomy of the same modern ariodactyls whose skeletal structures are shown above:

“Illustration showing the foot anatomy of modern artiodactyls: (1) the foot with four functional toes as demonstrated by the hippo, (2) the more common cloven-hoofed foot in which there are always have two functional toes with reduced or absent lateral toes, and (3) the padded foot which is found only among camels. In all cases, the central third and fourth digits support the main body weight and the first digits are always absent, resulting in an even number of toes.”

And here’s some baby Fiona feet to round out the post, because I can’t help myself. (source)

anonymous asked:

Do you think Bendy & his friends would enjoy going to the zoo?

I do indeed! I also picture shenanigans galore that may or may not get all of them banned from the zoo by the day’s end:

-Boris goes to see the wolf exhibit and gets into a very pointed staring contest with one of the alpha males. After half an hour straight of staring, Boris tearfully proclaims he’s found his long lost brother (for the sake of comedy, the poor dolt literally can’t help himself), and tries to climb the fence to “reunite” with him.

-Alice explores the avian sanctuary, where all of the doves and robins and other smaller birds flock to her like they would a Disney Princess. At first it’s almost sickeningly adorable, but things get a little out of hand pretty quickly when she starts attracting bigger, scarier birds. Like birds of prey.

-Bendy jumps into the monkey exhibit and the chimps mistake him as one of their own. He enjoys monkeying around at first, but then one of the older female chimps claims him as her “baby” and Henry has to jump in to the rescue. Note: mama chimps put up pretty good fights and Henry almost loses a finger.

After that, Henry just brings everyone to the small, tame petting zoo, thinking that there’s no way the Toons could cause trouble there…

Now. Picture, if you will, Bendy leading a large stampede of goats and llamas and sheep down a hill (like the Wildebeest stampede in The Lion King), charging at Henry (like Simba).

Wilson Video

- Patrick’s hand

- Patrick in a cap

- ‘The Take Over, The Break Over’ vibe

- Andy’s crossbow from ybc

- “It’s An Arms Race” while holding Pete’s arm

- HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T purple skull head

- ‘Free Fedora’

- Llamas

- ‘Champagne for my real friends, Real pain for my shrimp friends’

- Karate Patrick

- ‘Pet Wents’

- Joe’s guitar

- Pete’s bass-sword from ybc

- Pete dressed from ybc

- Pete’s nut shot

- Infinity On High sheep

- Fidget Spinners

- More llamas

- ‘Editable Trash’

- Wilson (Patrick’s new friend apparently)

- More hand jokes

- Patrick’s Dance, Dance suit

- ‘Sell Out Boys’

- Llama’s fighting

- Andy and Joe’s cool hug

- ‘Pete Wentz and his special llama friend’

Basically this whole video is a commercial to people who call them ‘sell outs’ and making one big memes with old references.

First, I had no idea that the back of Seth’s Kingslayer shirt says “burn it down” but like woah is that a perfect tag line for Seth vs Triple H. it has such a connotation of just reckless destruction at any cost…

and now for some screaming about seth and dean…



(aka: ‘oh god are you here to fight me?’)


(what a nervous trying-to-be-Good-but-not-sure-how-to-actually-do-that thing for him to do. aw sethhh)

And as soon as Seth is starting to feel like he maybe understands what’s going on and is trying to get ready for the situation, Dean zags on him and starts to have a friendly side convo about his Journalistic Ambitions.

(CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE ANXIOUS/*FOCUSED* WAY SETH LOOKS AT DEAN???????? and then he hears the actual words dean is saying and his reaction is just that “hmmmmmm” answer you give people when you don’t want to disagree with them but you also don’t want to lie?)

AND THIS. Seth’s UTTER WILLINGNESS TO GET DRAGGED ALONG WHEREVER DEAN’S BRAIN WANTS TO TAKE THIS CONVERSATION??? Seth is confused but still completely willing to dive into this discussion. Idk how to explain it. One of my favorite things about one of my best friends is the way i can come at her with a question out of nowhere with no explanation or backstory and instead of being like ‘where did that come from that’s not what we were talking about’ or anything like that she’ll just jump in. I think it shows how long Seth and Dean have been friends, and how used to Dean Seth really is.

For a moment they kind of fall back into their old pattern of Seth being the informed voice of reason (the wyatts wear SHEEP MASKS not camel or llama masks what are you talking about??)

Like with all Dean Ambrose things I can’t tell if this diversion from his main goal of interviewing Seth was him feeling friendly and at ease with Seth, or him making sure Seth feels off-balance

Dean referring to himself in the third person is silly but also seems like a deliberate choice to separate himself from a situation that he’s got to have a lot of feelings about. Seth is the only one Dean really interviews this episode. Because Seth is the only one Dean has real questions for. Framing it inside of this device makes it easier for him.

I think this question might also have a double meaning. Not just “do you think you can beat me” but “now that you’re a Reformed Man, will you still give me your all? will you fight me as hard as you can?”

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I’m not going to be able to post this tomorrow, but I wanted to get in my  sole contribution to Zutara Month 2017 before the new year. Enjoy! @zutaramonth

             When Zuko walked into his office and saw Katara seated at his desk scribbling in a notepad, his immediate instinct was to turn around and leave. She had a look on her face that never boded well for the Fire Lord. Unfortunately for him, she saw him before he could make his retreat.

               “Zuko!” she greeted him happily. “Where’ve you been? I’ve been waiting for you for over an hour.”

               “I had to sit in on a meeting,” he explained. At Katara’s questioning look, he further clarified. “Agriculture.” Katara made a face. Of all the minutiae of Fire Nation, agriculture was her least favorite. She was grateful that Zuko largely left her out of it.  It wasn’t as difficult as foreign affairs or public policy, but it was unspeakably boring.

               “How is the llama sheep wool harvest this year?” she asked. Her smile was overly bright. Zuko smirked at her and dug around the hidden pockets of his robes.

               “If you really want to know, I have a copy of the meeting minutes on me somewhere,” he told her. Katara hurried to his side and grabbed his hands.

               “I was just asking to be polite, honey,” she said. “No need to be nasty.”  Zuko laughed outright.

               “Where’s Lu Ten?” he asked.

               “In the nursery. It’s naptime, thank the spirits,” Katara sighed.

               “Long morning?” Zuko asked. Katara nodded and went back to the desk.

               “Lu Ten’s governess is out sick,” she told him. “It turns out, our son is a handful, and we need to give her a raise.” Zuko nodded.

               “Duly noted.” He took a seat in the guest chair and folded his hands. “So, what brings you by? Not that I’m complaining, but you don’t usually wait around this long for me.”  The corner of Katara’s mouth quirked up slightly.

               “You always get straight to the point,” she observed.

               “Yeah, well, dealing with nobles who like to talk around the issues for hours has given me an appreciation of our straightforward relationship. So, talk to me. Is this really about giving Min Ju a raise?”

               “Let’s put a pin in that for now,” Katara said. She walked around to the front of the desk and perched on top of it. “No, dear, I want to throw a ball.” Zuko blinked once. Then again. Then one more time.


               “A ball!” she repeated. Zuko stared at her in confusion.

               “You hate balls,” he said. “The last one we had, you tried to get out of it by saying you were going into labor.”

               “Okay,” Katara held her hands up. “That was one time. You can’t bring that up any time you want.” An incredulous laugh bubbled out of Zuko.

               “It four months ago,” he reminded her. “You weren’t even pregnant! There are still rumors going around about that.”  Katara sniffed haughtily.

               “That’s the kindest rumor going around about me,” she said. “And this is going to be different. I’m not inviting anyone who irritates me. This is going to be a proper party. Just people we actually like.” Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose. He was certain that after nearly eight years of being the Fire Lady, Katara knew exactly why that was a bad idea, but he felt he should tell her anyway.

               “Love, if we throw a ball, we have to invite at least some of the nobles, or they’ll feel snubbed.”  

               “Like I care,” Katara muttered. “Let them stay mad. This isn’t about them.”  Zuko chuckled at his wife, despite himself.

               “What is this about then?”

               “Toph.” Zuko leaned forward and squinted at Katara.

               “Excuse me?”

               “Well, really about Toph and Xei,” Katara explained. That just confused Zuko further.

               “Xei?” he repeated. “The captain of the palace guard? What’s he got to do with anything?” Katara clapped her hands excitedly.

               “They’ve been flirting!” she whispered, for reasons Zuko couldn’t begin to fathom.  

               “…So?” Zuko asked. “Toph flirts a lot. Usually with guys who don’t realize she’s flirting.” Katara let out a frustrated huff and threw her arms up.

               “This time the guy does realize she’s flirting and he’s flirting back!” Zuko still felt lost. Nothing Katara was saying seemed to be connected to each other.

               “And you want to throw a ball because…”

               ‘For such a smart man, you sure can be so slow!” Katara leaned forward on the edge of the desk. “The ball is to get them together. A little music, a little dancing. And of course Toph will be in something stunning! Before you know it, Xei and Toph are joining the rest of us for date night!”

               Zuko’s jaw hung open. Katara had lost her mind. There was no other explanation for it. Perhaps the heat of the Fire Nation had finally gotten to her. Or maybe she had gotten too familiar with the wine cellar.

               “Are you on cactus juice?” he asked her. To his surprise, Katara threw her head back and laughed.

               “Don’t be silly,” she said. “I’m not drunk. I just want to see Toph happy.”              

               “What do you mean?” Zuko almost shouted. “When has she ever needed any of us to see to her happiness?”  Katara hopped off the desk and paced around the desk.

“Toph is … well, she’s…” Katara tried to explain. “Toph’s a strong woman. She’s got so much going for her with her metal bending school and everything she’s done for the Earth Kingdom’s army. And she’s a phenomenal mom…” Zuko motioned for her to continue.

“But…?” Katara leaned against the desk.

“She’s kind of crap at relationships,” she admitted. “Look at her last two serious relationships. They both left as soon as she told them she was pregnant! What kind of creep does that?” Zuko shrugged, but that was all. The Gaang had all discussed ad nauseam how they’d dispose of Toph’s ex-boyfriends if they had a chance. Katara refused to even speak their names.

“Toph is fine, though,” Zuko said instead. “She was really young and rebelling. She’s more mature now.”

“And I think that it’s the perfect time to help her see how good Xei would be for her,” Katara  held firm.  

“Isn’t Xei a bit old for her?” Zuko sighed and sank into his chair.

“What do you mean?” Katara asked. “He’s 33.”

“Toph’s only 24.” Katara shrugged.

“My mom was eleven years younger than my dad,” she told Zuko. “Besides, I think an older man would be great for Toph.”

“I don’t understand why we have to get involved,” Zuko grumbled. He crossed his arms and hunched his shoulders irritably, but Katara was unmoved.

               “They have been dancing around each other for almost three months now,” she said with exaggerated patience. “Yet for some reason neither of them will make a move. I’m shocked at Toph, to be honest, but maybe Xei is just shy.”

               “Or maybe they’re just not as into each other as you think,” Zuko suggested. “This could all be in your head.”  Katara waved him off.

               “They’re perfect for each other,” she insisted. “He’s funny, patient, he’s not afraid of her-“

               “Toph hates that in a man,” Zuko pointed out.

               “-he’s terrific with the girls,” Katara continued as if Zuko hadn’t spoken. “Don’t you want Lin and Suyin to have a father?” Zuko arched his brow at her.

               “What do you mean?” he asked. “They have three fathers.” Katara crossed her arms and huffed.

               “That was incredibly sweet,” she admitted, grumpily. “And I’d kiss you for it, but you are being so very unhelpful right now.” Zuko let his head roll back and rolled his eyes.

               “You’ve got to be joking!’ he groaned. He stood up and wrapped his arms around Katara’s waist and nuzzled her hair. She sucked her teeth and pushed him off of her.

               ‘Are you really mad at me?” Zuko asked with something like a pout. Katara turned slightly, so she wasn’t looking him in the eye.

               “Very,” she replied shortly. Zuko moved around her desk slightly, trying to establish eye contact.

               “But you still think I’m cute, though, right?” he pressed. Katara bit the inside of her cheek, trying, and failing to keep a severe look on her face.

               “Very,” she said grudgingly. Zuko pulled her into his arms again. This time Katara didn’t fight it.

               “So, about that kiss,” Zuko said. Katara’s mouth slid into a slow smile and she wrapped her arms around Zuko’s neck.

               “Will you let me throw my party?” she asked.

               “Do we have to?” Zuko sighed and rested his forehead against hers. Katara held up a hand and brought her pointer and thumb together.

               “Just a small, teeny-tiny party,” she offered. “Too small for even our members of court to possibly care about.  I’ll throw a little dinner party so I can make Toph and Xei sit together and they can talk and he’ll make her laugh, and then, once they realize how perfect they are for each other, I can start planning their wedding.”  Zuko rolled his eyes again and rested his forehead against his wife’s.

               “Do I actually have a choice in this?” Katara chuckled and gave Zuko a quick kiss.

               “Sure you do,” she told him. “Red wine or white?”

“Cactus juice,” Zuko said drily. He kissed Katara again, and relented. “Fine. Have your party. I’m telling you, it’s not going to work. And when Toph finds out what you’re up to, I will absolutely leave you out to dry.” Now Katara rolled her eyes.

               “How did I wind up married to the world’s biggest pessimist?” she huffed. Zuko grinned as he watched her leave his office.

               “You keep telling me it’s because of my hair!” he called after her. Katara glanced back over her shoulder and winked at him.


               True to her word, Katara downgraded the ball she was planning to a dinner party.  It was a fairly simple affair, too. If Zuko hadn’t been there when Katara first had the idea, he would have thought she was just gathering their friends together for a nice dinner before they were scattered across the world again.

               “I’m really going to need you to give me a crate of these fruit tarts before we leave,” Aang said. He took another large bite out of his tart. Meng, his very pregnant wife narrowed her eyes at him.

               “How do you manage to eat so much and stay so slim?” she demanded. Aang grinned at her.

               “Don’th wurree, swees’ie,” he said around a mouth full of tart, “you’re naw fa’; you’re pre’nant!” Katara and Suki spun round on Aang before Meng could reply.

“Did you really just say that?” Katara asked, incredulously. Zuko snickered and moved over towards Sokka on the other side of the room.

“Honestly, Aang,” Suki chided. “The things you let come out of your mouth!” Aang turned to Meng both in apology and in supplication. She folded her arms mercilessly.

“You’re going to pay for that later,” she promised him. Aang swallowed the mouthful of tart in his mouth.

               “What?” He looked from his wife to his friends. “What did I say? Guys! Back me up!” He turned to Sokka and Zuko, who suddenly found the view from the window incredibly interesting.

               “I wasn’t saying that I’m fat,” Meng told him, jabbing a well-manicured nail into his chest. “I was wondering how you stay so slim. They are not the same thing.” Aang’s shoulders slumped forward in dismay.

               “How does your foot taste?” Suki teased him.  Katara and Meng laughed, not unkindly. Meng shook her head and kissed her husband’s cheek.

               “You’re excited about the baby, so I’ll let this slide,” she said, magnanimously. “But don’t let it happen again.”

               “Deal!” Aang agreed eagerly. He swept Meng into a hug, being gentle with her midsection.  At the window, Zuko and Sokka shook their heads.

               “How’s it so easy for him?” Sokka wondered out loud.

               “It’s those big ewe-doe eyes,” Zuko told him. “It’s impossible to be mad at a kewpie doll.”  A kiwi slice hit the side of his face and he spun round to see Aang smirking at him triumphantly with his arm around Meng, who was licking kiwi juice from her fingers. Katara and Suki nearly doubled over laughing.

               “Mature, Meng,” Zuko sneered. “Real mature.”  He pulled his sleeve down and wiped at the wet spot on his face.

               “Stop picking on my husband,” Meng retorted. She made a face at the Fire Lord.

               “What’s Sparky and/or Snoozles doing now?” Toph entered the dining room with Suyin strapped to her chest.

               “Oh! You brought the baby!” Katara said, surprised, but not unhappy, to see her youngest niece. She helped Toph undo the carrier and took Suyin in her arms, cooing at her.

               “Remember when Lu Ten was that small?” Zuko asked, waving at Suyin over Katara’s shoulder.

               “Hmm,” Katara nodded. She inhaled Suyin’s baby smell with a contented smile. “We should have another.”

               “What?” Katara ignored her sputtering husband and turned to Toph.

               “Why didn’t you leave her in the nursery?” Katara asked. Toph shrugged.

               “She was being fussy,” she explained. “Her teeth are coming in and she’s being a real moose-lion about it. I didn’t want to leave her behind, because Lin would feel obligated to take care of her. She does too much for an eight year old. I’d rather she play with Lu Ten and Yue.” Toph sat down at the table and propped her foot up on a chair. It’s okay she’s here, right?”

               “It’s fine,” Katara assured her. “We’re just waiting on one more person and then we can have dinner.”

               “Who are we waiting on?” Toph asked.


               “The captain of the guard?” Toph’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “Why’d you invite him to a family dinner?” Sokka snorted.

               “Katara’s got it in her head-oof!” his sister cut him off with an elbow in his side.

               “I invited him because I like him,” Katara said. She passed Suyin to Suki’s waiting arms. “There are so few people who I click with here at the palace that I like to befriend anyone who I do click with.” Toph raised an eyebrow at that and turned to Zuko.

               “You hear that, Sparky?” she said. “I’d keep an eye on that situation if I were you.” Zuko rolled his eyes.

               “Believe me,” he told her. “If I could put a stop to this, I would.” Toph frowned. There was a knock at the door before she could ask any more questions, and a couple of servants pushing food laden carts entered. Once they set the table, Katara thanked them and dismissed them. Xei arrived not long after that.

               “I’m sorry I’m late, Your Majesty,” he said. He bowed to Zuko, then to Katara, then to Zuko once more. He stood up and looked around the room nervously. Suddenly he found himself in the presence of some of the most powerful people in the world, as situation that left him feeling out of his depth, despite working at the palace. He hadn’t been in the Fire Lord’s presence outside of an official meeting since he began working at the head of the palace guard nearly two years earlier. The Fire Lady had only recently begun a cordial acquaintance with him a few months ago. Xei had been surprised at first, but he realized that it was most likely because of his friendship with General Toph.

               Xei’s eyes darted over towards the young woman seated at the table and flushed lightly. He missed the smug look Katara shot at Zuko.

               “Well,” Sokka said, clasping his hands, “looks like everyone’s here. Can we eat now?”

               “I agree!” Meng exclaimed. She moved forward as fast as her heavy belly would allow. “I am eating for two, after all.” Aang followed his wife close behind.

               “Can you try to eat vegetarian food tonight?” he pleaded. Meng pinched her husband’s cheek.

               “Sorry, babe,” she said. “The baby wants steak.” Aang sighed unhappily.

               “She’s not wrong,” Katara said. “Pregnant women tend to crave what they need. Don’t bother Meng about what she eats unless a physician says otherwise.”

               “Yes, Master Katara,” Aang grumbled unhappily. Toph and Sokka turned to him in surprise.

               “Was that sass, Twinkletoes?” Toph gasped. Sokka shook his head.

               “Wow! You think you know a guy.” The rest of Aang’s friends laughed as he settled into the chair next to Meng’s and tried to ignore the decidedly omnivorous plate she was preparing for herself.

               “Xei,” Katara turned to her guest of honor and pointed out an empty chair. “You can sit right there next to General Toph.” Xei flushed again and took the seat, carefully avoiding Toph’s gaze.

               “Good evening, General,” he greeted her quietly.

               “It’s nice to see you again, Captain Xei.” Toph was polite, but indifferent to his presence. Zuko watched the exchange, carefully avoiding Katara’s eyes. He knew he wouldn’t be able to muster up enough encouragement to appease her. He turned and started a conversation with Suki, who still had Suyin in her lap.

               “Will General Iroh be joining us this visit?” Suki asked. Suyin babbled happily, reaching for a piece of fruit on the table.

               “Not this trip,” Zuko answered Suki. He reached over and pinched off a bit of kiwi for the baby girl. She took it and squished it between the small white teeth beginning to push their way through her gums. Zuko smiled at her and wiped a bit of dribble off her chin. “He’s been really busy with the Jasmine Dragon. He just won an award for his tea, and the shop has been really popular lately. He wants to train someone to manage for him so he can get away, but he hasn’t had the time yet.”

               “That’s a shame.” Suki shook her head. “I wanted to get his advice on a training program Toph and I are trying to put together. Plus, we’ve all been missing him.”

               “I know,” Zuko agreed. “It feels weird all of us here without him.” Suki nodded.

               “Besides, I know Katara would love to have a co-conspirator in this,” she whispered with a pointed look at Toph and Xei. Zuko followed her gaze to the couple. They weren’t really talking. Occasionally one would say something to the other, but it seemed to be out of a compulsion to be civil. Otherwise Toph was engrossed in conversation with Aang and Meng, and Xei was chatting with Sokka.  Zuko turned to Katara, who met his gaze with excited eyes and leaned towards him.

               “It’s going so well,” she whispered to him. Zuko looked over at Toph and Xei again. Toph had just asked Xei to pass her the fire flakes, and Xei obliged silently. Zuko wasn’t sure what Katara was seeing. It didn’t seem to be going well at all. Still, he found a smile and patted Katara’s hand. It wasn’t for him to dash her hopes, Zuko figured. Katara winked at Zuko, then turned her attention back to Toph and Xei. Zuko sighed and said to Suki,

               “I think it’s best that we keep Uncle and Katara separated for now.” Suki snickered. Suyin reached up for Zuko, and he took her from Suki so she could eat.


               Suyin made the rounds between her aunts and uncles for the rest of dinner. By the time the meal was over three hours later, she had ended up back in Zuko’s arms, and fast asleep. Toph offered to take her up to the nursery, but Katara quickly declined the offer on his behalf. Zuko arched his eyebrow at her.

               “Don’t worry about it,” Zuko said. “I want to check on Lu Ten anyway.”  Toph smiled at him gratefully. It must be difficult, Zuko reflected, raising the two girls on her own, even with the nannies she sporadically employed. He was glad to help give her a small break, even if it meant subjecting her to his wife’s matchmaking efforts. As he left the informal dining room, Zuko saw Katara was working on slowly isolating Xei and Toph. He chuckled to himself and shook his head.  Suyin stirred in his arms, reminding Zuko of what he was supposed to be doing.

               The children were already in bed when Zuko got to the nursery. Min Ju was quietly tucking some stray toys back into their place. She bowed quickly and offered to take the baby from his arms.

               “Don’t worry about it,” Zuko whispered. He crossed the room and set Suyin in the crib. She fussed a little, but fell back into her deep sleep. Zuko checked on the rest of the children. Lin and Yue, the oldest of the bunch, had fallen asleep on the same bed, with a scroll opened across their laps.

               “They were taking turns reading to Lu Ten,” Min Ju explained. Zuko smirked and looked at his four year old son, asleep in his own bed.

               “Did he listen?” he asked. Min Ju covered her mouth with her hand to hide a smile.

               “For a few minutes, but he was more interested in playing soldier.” Zuko took the scroll from the girls’ hands and rolled it up. Then he went to Lu Ten and pulled the covers up around him.

               “Thank you for taking care of all the kids tonight,” Zuko said to Min Ju. “I hope they weren’t too much.”                

               “Not at all, Your Majesty.” Min Ju bowed her head again. “They were very well behaved.”

               “Good.” Zuko was genuinely relieved. Lu Ten on his own was a lot, but Lu Ten with his cousin Yue could be difficult for the most seasoned caregiver. Lin, Zuko supposed, was a balance to the rambunctiousness of the other two.

“Well, they’re asleep now,” Zuko said. “And we’re all done with dinner. You’re free to go. I can finish up in here.”

“Thank you, Lord Zuko.” Min Ju bowed once more and left the room. Zuko stayed behind and put the last few toys away. He lingered for a while longer, watching the children sleep, and his thoughts turned back to what Katara had said earlier. It would be nice, he told himself, to have the nursery this full all the time.  Katara had suggested having another baby, but Zuko wondered if she’d be willing to discuss a few more than that.

Zuko walked slowly down the hall away from the nursery towards where he had left his friends.  The dining room was empty, so he figured that they had all gone to bed.  Zuko wasn’t feeling tired just yet, though. He continued his aimless wandering through the royal family’s wing. He and Katara had had it renovated the year before to accommodate their close friends and family when they visit. Zuko couldn’t help but imagine the halls being filled with the sounds of small feet running through the halls.

               He paused at that thought and took a good look around the marble hall. He’d have to remember to speak to the palace designers about carpeting the floors. Zuko continued his walk. He passed the balcony overlooking the gardens and then froze.

               “No!” he gasped. He spun back around and poked his head around the side of the glass doors leading outside. On the balcony, Toph sat with Xei locked in a passionate embrace. Zuko’s jaw dropped in shock. Toph pulled away from Xei and sighed.

               “I know you’re there, Zuko,” she said. Xei gasped and leapt to his feet. He began bowing several times in succession in Zuko’s general direction. Toph reached up and shook his arm impatiently.

               “Stop that!” she ordered. The captain of the guard obeyed with a deep flush on his face. Zuko stepped out of the shadows and stood awkwardly in the doorway.

               “I didn’t mean to interrupt…” he assured the pair.

               “I’m sorry, my Lord,” Xei apologized. “I meant no disrespect.” Zuko wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Fortunately, Toph had plenty to say for all of them.

               “Have a little dignity, Xei. For spirits sake, man. Do you know how many times I’ve stumbled on him and Sugar Queen making out?” Xei looked away from Zuko uncomfortably. Zuko felt he should say something to make him more comfortable.

               “So…” he said. “I guess Katara’s plan worked.” That was not the right thing to say. If possible, Xei’s face got even redder. Toph groaned. Her head rolled backwards.            

               “You have got to do something about your wife’s meddling,” she told Zuko. The Fire Lord snorted and folded his arms.

               “Yeah, sure,” he scoffed. “What do you suggest?”

               “Wimp,’ Toph said. Xei shot her a quick, horrified glance. Toph couldn’t see it, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she could. She stood up and stretched her spine. “I figured this whole dinner was one of her schemes. No offense, Xei, but there’s no real reason for her to have invited you to dinner tonight unless she had something in the works.”  Xei held his hands up and shook his head.

               “No offense taken,” he said. “I was wondering why I was invited myself.” He turned to Zuko with wide eyes. “Not that I wasn’t honored to receive an invitation. You and the Fire Lady were gracious hosts…”

               “Xei if you don’t stop kissing Zuko’s behind, this’ll be the last time I kiss you.” Toph prodded Xei  in the side. “You’re a grown man! Show a little backbone, why don’t ya.” Zuko reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose.

               “What’s going on, Toph?” he asked. Toph linked her arm through Xei’s and grinned at Zuko.

               “Xei and I got together a few weeks ago,” she told him. “It’s still pretty new and we didn’t want to go public just yet. I’ve got the girls to think about and, well…Xei’s got these crazy notions in his head about me being above his station and it being improper for us to date and blah, blah, blah.”            

               “It’s nice to know that’s how you feel about my opinions,” Xei grumbled. He had the beginnings of a scowl on his brow. Zuko fought down a snicker. He knew that look too well.

               “If it makes you feel any better,” he told Xei, “the Fire Lady thought that you two would be good together.” That did seem to make the guard feel better. Toph gave Zuko and arch look.

               “And what about you?” she asked. “Do you approve?” Zuko shrugged.

               “It’s not my business,” he said. Toph nodded her head in agreement.  Zuko fixed Xei with a warning look. “Besides, I know that what Toph and my wife can and will do to you if you mess up is way worse than anything I could come up with.” Xei gulped and tuned to Toph for assurance.

               “Got that right,” she muttered.  She straightened up and raised a finger in Zuko’s face. “Do not tell Katara about us. She’ll think this was all her doing.” Zuko threw his arms out helplessly.              

               “I’ll keep my mouth shut,” he promised. “But she’s bound to figure it out eventually.”

               “Ugh!” Toph groaned. “I know! She’s been trying to get us together for weeks. But Xei and I were already on our way before she stuck her nose in.”

               “Well, almost,” Xei admitted. “I mean, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to make my move if she hadn’t hinted that you might not turn me down.”

               “Hint! Right,” Toph replied sarcastically. “What did she do, give you a list of places to take me on our first date?” Xei’s face flushed again, and he shifted uncomfortably on his feet. Both Zuko and Toph gaped at him.

               “Did she really do that?” Zuko’s laughter echoed through the gardens.

               “I mean it, Zuko,” Toph demanded. “Control your wife!” Zuko laughed harder.

               “Get real,” he retorted. “Who could control the ocean? You’re just upset because Katara’s got you pegged.”  Toph crossed her arms and grumbled to herself.

               “You’d think Sugar Queen would find enough between running a country and having a family to keep her too busy to mind my business.”

               “You shouldn’t be so disrespectful of the Fire Lady,” Xei said mildly. Toph shrugged carelessly.

               “Well, she’s not my queen.”  Xei’s horrified expression almost made Zuko laugh again. He shook his head at Xei.

               “Don’t bother,” he said. “Those two are going to bump heads until the day they die.”

               “Only because she won’t keep her nose out of my affairs,” Toph insisted. Zuko shrugged.

               “Consider it payback for telling everyone that she was pregnant before she got a chance.”

               “I thought she had already told you at least!” Toph insisted. “It was one time, almost five years ago! Katara’s been meddling in my life since I met her! She’s worse than my mother!”

               “She cares about you,” Zuko said. “She just wants you to be happy.”  Toph let out a disgusted sigh.

               “Ugh! That’s the worst thing about her.”

               “That and the fact that she’s right all the time,” Zuko retorted. Toph scowled at him.

               “She’s not right all the time.” Zuko shrugged again.

               “Seems like she’s right all the time.” He sighed and turned to go back inside. When he glanced back, Xei had taken Toph’s hand in his and he was whispering something that made Toph grin. Zuko smiled to himself and headed back to his room, thinking that if Katara ever decided to retire from being a head of state, she would make an amazing matchmaker.