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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Actin/Adventure, Drama||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
If there was any possible level of annoyance higher than the level of which everyone on Air Temple Island felt now, then they all prayed they would never know the feeling.
Aang dashed back and forth between rooms, nearly running into Katara several times. This was the fourth time today that Bumi had to be changed and the Avatar's patience, as well as his wife's, was nearly exhausted.
The smell, the crying, and the lack of a single moment of peace were all taking it's toll on the couple. Luckily, they had hired a good friend to help.
Yukio walked into the baby's room, clean diaper in hand, and finished changing him just as Katara came running in with the formula for it to drink.
The lightbender's calm, relaxed presence and clear knowledge of what she was doing was a monumentally large help and both Aang and Katara thanked their lucky stars that she was around to help them.
"Well, that was exciting," Katara said, a playful, light-hearted sarcasm in her voice. "Let's do this again in a couple of hours."
Just a moment later, Aang came back into the room. Seeing the dormant child lying in his cradle made him smile. "Look at him," he said, softly. "Isn't he beautiful?"
"He is," said Katara. "He really is."
"Alright, I'm supposed to help Ling and Rong move today, but I can stay here if you want," Aang said.
"Go ahead," Katara replied. "We'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" Aang replied.
"We've got this," Katara insisted. "You may be the world's greatest hope for peace, but believe it or not, we don't need you for this," she added, playfully teasing her husband.
Aang smiled, showing off that boyish smirk he'd had since the day Katara met him, and kissed his wife on the cheek as he left.
"Do you want to sit outside while he is asleep?" asked Yukio.
"That would be great," said Katara. "I could really use some sunlight and I know you probably could, too."
"What does that mean?" Yukio questioned.
"Oh, nothing, I just thought since, you know, you're a lightbender you would, uh, need some sunlight," Katara said, awkwardly stumbling through her explanation.
"Oh, yes," Yukio laughed, trying to make Katara feel better. "Sunlight always does me good."
The two walked outside, sitting on the steps leading to the women's dormitory where the female Air Acolytes resided.
"It is tough, isn't it?" Katara asked.
"Helping us with all of this. I know it's a lot to just thrust on you, but we really appreciate your help."
"It is alright, Katara. I have dealt with this before," said Yukio.
"What do you mean?" asked Katara. "You've watched someone else's kids before?"
"I have had several children before, actually," Yukio replied.
"You have kids?" asked Katara.
"I had kids, but as I went on throughout the years, never aging a single day, my children aged year after year and died while I still looked the same. Some died of old age while some were... murdered." It was becoming increasingly difficult to talk about this. Tears were welling up in the lightbender's eyes and she began weeping.
"I'm sorry," said Katara. "I had no idea. I never would have asked if I knew."
"No, no, it is alright," said Yukio. "It is not your fault. I just... can you imagine what it is like to love a man, bear a child, cradle it, nurture it, watch it grow with your husband and watch as they all grow old and die while you are left with the curse of eternal youth? To watch your whole life and everyone you love slip away from you while you remain the same and then watch it happen all over again and again for centuries?" The woman was now bawling.
Katara pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and handed it to Yukio, allowing the lightbender to wipe the tears from her eyes. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I want you to know that we appreciate everything you've done for us so much since you got here. We never would have defeated the Light Clan without your help."
"You assume they are defeated?" Yukio asked. "You underestimate Bai Lung."
"Yukio, there hasn't been a sign of any lightbender other than you for a year and a half now. They're gone," Katara insisted.
"One thing you must know about the Light Clan: we never give up."
Hundreds of people stood at the threshold of City Hall: the place where Republic City's leaders met to discuss what was best for the people. Four months ago, Council Chairman Sokka would have been able to leave a council meeting in peace, but that was nearly impossible with the current state of the world.
He and his four fellow council members stood atop the steps, exasperated at the sight of the countless reporters begging for questions.
It was like this all the time now. In the four months that had followed Mayor Qian's removal from office, the leaders of the world's nations of the world had been at each other's throats.
Sokka weaved his way through a sea of shouting reporters and blinding camera flashes, stumbling over several people's feet as he could hardly see. The Water Tribe warrior finally made it to his carriage and rode away, leaving the people in the crowd to harass the other council members.
He sat back in his seat, rapidly inhaling and exhaling as he slowly got his breath back. Sitting next to him was his wife who proceeded to speak with him.
"I can't believe how crazy things have gotten," Suki said.
"You would think removing a power-hungry maniac from office would make the people happy, but no!" Sokka complained. "Everyone wants to know what we're doing to stop the so-called 'eminent war' between the nations."
"I'd hardly call it a war," Suki agreed. "A falling out is more like it."
"I just don't understand what they're all so upset about," Sokka said.
"I've heard that each of the nation's higher ups have been bad-mouthing each other," said Suki.
"I've heard that too," said Sokka. "Just yesterday I heard Earth King Kuei called Chief Arnook a coward for hiding out in the Northern Water Tribe for so long during the Hundred Year War while the Earth Kingdom was at the forefront of the battle. But to go to war over that?"
"I know. It doesn't make sense," said Suki.
"And then there's that whole situation going on in the Fire Nation," Sokka added.
"Oh, I know. I can't believe the Daughters of Ozai could show their faces after they invaded Aang's home. Who could trust them after doing something like that?"
"Can you believe they're actually calling for not only the dethronement, but the exile of Zuko?" Sokka stated in disbelief.
"Spirits only know what they're going to do," Suki said. There was a brief silence in the carriage as the couple assessed the situation. "You know, we could be doing more to help," Suki added. "We know these people. Zuko is a good friend of ours and Hakoda is your father."
"Yeah, that'd be easy, wouldn't it?"
"I'm serious," Suki said. "Why don't we send a few people to talk to each of the world leaders and tell them to back down?"
"You really think they would listen to us?" Sokka asked.
"It's possible, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess it is."
"Then what's stopping us?"
Sokka briefly pondered this, wondering if it was worth the time and effort. "Alright, let's do it!" Sokka said.
"Great! We'll tell the others later today," Suki said. "Geez, it must be hard to have to deal with this crap all of the time. I don't know how your hair doesn't turn gray."
"Well, it's always refreshing to know that at the end of the day, I can leave all of this stuff at the office and come home to you," Sokka said, running a hand over Suki's belly. "How's the baby feel?"
"I can't really feel it yet," Suki said. "It's only been a month."
"Well, I'm sure we'll both start feeling it really soon," Sokka said, embracing his wife in a kiss.
Zuko sat in his room furrowing his brow as he sulked. The protests seemed endless. How long could Mai send her followers to harass him and his people? He lifted his head at the sound of a knock at his door. "Come in," he said.
Through the door came Jin, a tired look in both her eyes with bags underneath them. She had been managing this just as much – if not more than – Zuko. "You feeling okay?" she asked.
"Not really," said Zuko. "But I don't get to feel okay anymore now that I'm the Fire Lord. That's a fact I've accepted recently."
"It took you all these years to reach that conclusion?" Jin teased.
"I recall it took you a long time to come to the conclusion that the Sons of Ozai wasn't the right bunch for you to be with," Zuko teased back.
"Touché," Jin said. "By the way, I think I have something that will make you feel better."
"What is it?" Zuko inquired.
"Well, it seems my nephew is sitting in his room in the dark," said a large man entering the bedchamber. "Some things never change."
"Uncle!" Zuko said, excitedly.
Jin couldn't help but smile as the Fire Lord jumped up from the bed like he was a young boy again and embraced his uncle.
"How are you, my nephew?" asked Iroh. "I understand you've been having some trouble here at the palace."
"You could say that," Zuko replied.
"Well, there's no trouble I've ever known that can't be solved with tea!" Iroh said. "Come, let's have a cup."
"That sounds nice, uncle," said Zuko.
"I think you guys are really going to like it here," said Aang, gazing around Rong and Ling's new apartment.
"Yeah, you guys have a lot more space here," said Bo.
"I agree," said Rong. "It's much homier than that last place."
"Yeah, I guess so," said Ling. "Come on. Let's put our stuff in the bedroom."
The others sat and relaxed while Rong and Ling went into the bedroom.
After a bit of silence, Ai asked, "What are we doing, guys?"
Aang and Bo turned their heads to look at the waterbender. "What do you mean, honey?" asked Bo.
"I mean what are we doing just sitting on our asses while the Light Clan is still out there?" Ai said.
"You think they still pose a threat?" asked Bo.
"They're still out there, aren't they?" asked Ai.
"We haven't seen them in a year and a half," Aang said.
"Yeah, but they have to be planning some kind of surprise attack and we're just going to sit here and let it happen," Ai said. "They're going to catch us with our guards down and we won't even realize it until its too late."
"So, what do you want us to do? Go chasing them?" asked Aang. "We should all just drop what we're doing and go spend spirits knows how much time just scouring the globe for them? Katara and I have the baby, Sokka runs the council, Suki is pregnant, Zuko is dealing with all of that business in the Fire Nation, and you want all of us to just drop that to go chasing after a threat that may not even exist? Why can't things just be peaceful? Why must there always be conflict? Can't we just live our lives the way we want to for a change?"
Ai felt so embarrassed and guilty at the same time. She hadn't thought about it that way. "I'm sorry, Aang. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry I said anything."
"It's okay," said Aang. "I understand you feel worried, but believe me, everything will be alright."
As the tension in the room lifted and Ling and Rong came back, a knock befell the door. Ling went over and opened it, revealing Sokka, Suki, and Toph on the other side. "What are you guys doing here?" Ling asked.
"We've made a decision," said Sokka. "Who all is here?"
"Everyone except for Katara and Yukio," said Ling.
"Alright, we'll tell them later," said Sokka, entering the apartment with the others. "We've decided to talk to each of the world leaders about the growing tension between the nations."
"What do you mean?" asked Aang. "You want us all to go to each of the nation's capitals and convince the leaders not to go to war?"
"No, well, I mean yes, uh, I mean-"
"What my friend here is trying to say is that we'll each split up and talk to the leaders separately," said Toph.
"What about Bumi?" asked Aang.
"You can hire someone to watch him for a few days while we're gone," said Sokka.
Aang rubbed his bald head as he pondered this. "Well, I guess it's not a terrible idea. We know most of these people pretty well."
"Exactly!" said Sokka, excitedly. "So, are you all in?"
The others nodded in agreement.
"Flamio, hotman!" Sokka exclaimed.
The others stared at him weirdly, wondering why he just said that.
"What? I wanted to see how it felt to say that for once," said Sokka.
In the Royal Dining Hall, Zuko, Iroh, and Jin sat sipping cups of tea. "Do you ever wonder how it would have been?" asked Zuko.
"How what would have been?" asked Iroh.
"If you had been the Fire Lord instead of my fath-" Zuko stopped himself. "Instead of Ozai?"
"Back when he first became Fire Lord, I thought about it a lot," Iroh replied. "When I was in the prison, too. But I always reminded myself it is better this way. Things happen for a reason and the reason I did not become Fire Lord was because I was meant to be taught a lesson on what it means to know what is real in life. The power to rule is an illusion. An illusion that drove Ozai mad. I have learned that all I need from life is a nice place to sleep, a family that I love and that loves me, and a good pot of tea."
"That's really beautiful, General Iroh," said Jin.
"Thank you, Jin," said the Dragon of the West.
Zuko smiled and stood up to pour more tea into his cup. He turned back around and felt his smile shift as he saw the dart protruding from his uncle's back as he hit the table and watched Mai and three other women lift him out.
This is my early Christmas present to you all. Merry Christmas! And if you don't celebrate Christmas then.... have a nice day!
For the collective works of the author, go here.