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Summary: This is my first fan fiction. It's about all the members of Team Avatar meeting up one year after the end of the war, and how things have changed, and continue to change. It's also kind of a ZuTara ship--sorry, KatAangers! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Please, tell me what you think! I welcome all advice, critique, and suggestions!
Katara stood outside the gate of the courtyard to the Fire Nation palace, both nervous and excited again about going in. The members of Team Avatar had agreed to meet up every year after the war ended. Zuko had offered them lodging in the palace. She hadn't been here at all in the year since Zuko had become Firelord, and was looking forward to seeing his progress in rebuilding the Fire Nation.
Even now, it felt strange to think of him as "Firelord". It had happened so fast...it all still seemed like one minute, she was encouraging a remorseful, scared young man to talk to his uncle, to makes things right. Then, the next thing she knew, a strong young prince was finally crowned Firelord and given a chance to really make things right.
She turned to Sokka, standing beside her. "You ready?"
"Yeah, I'm ready! Let's do this!"
Clearly, the feeling of apprehension was not mutual.
She took a deep breath, and together they entered the gates.
As soon as she arrived in the courtyard, she saw Zuko waiting on the entry steps to the palace. Upon seeing them again, his face lit up and he ran to them. "Katara! Sokka!" He embraced each of them in turn.
"Hey, Zuko," Sokka said. "How goes the rebuilding of the Fire Nation?"
"Everything seems to be going quite well. What took you two so long getting here? Everyone else arrived about a week ago!"
"Well, you know. The Fire Nation and the Southern Water Tribe aren't exactly next door neighbors."
"True. Well, come in, and I'll show you where you'll be staying."
Upon being shown to her room, Katara took her time in unpacking her things. It gave her extra time to unpack her thoughts. She hadn't seen any of the members of Team Avatar since the end of the war. The only one she had seen was Sokka, with whom she went back home to the village, and they rebuilt their life with their dad. Suki had duties to the Kyoshi Warriors. Sokka hadn't taken that goodbye well. Toph had been reconciled with her parents, who now gave her the freedom she needed. Zuko had to stay in the Fire Nation to "restore its honor", as he had said. That only left...
Aang. His duties as the Avatar had required him to travel all over the ruined nations, helping to restore them. She hadn't seem him since he had explained to her why he felt he needed to leave. He had promised her they would be together when the world was healed. She could still remember it so vividly. He had kissed her goodbye, and flown off on his glider, leaving her feeling utterly empty and alone.
She was so ready to see Aang again. He had sworn to do everything he could he to be here at the reunion of the GAang. She only hoped he could make it.
Katara got everything taken care of and went downstairs, to the room where Zuko had told them to meet after they all got situated.
It appeared to be a lounge--three big, fluffy couches, arranged in a circle--upon one of which Sokka was sprawled out, his tongue hanging out of his mouth and spittle making its way down his chin, asleep. There was a table in the middle of the circle formed by the couches, and against one wall, a huge stone fireplace in which a fire blazed. Above the fireplace, the Fire Nation emblem was painted in black upon the wall. It all looked very cozy.
But what made her heart sing were the people on the couches. There were the dear friends she hadn't seen in so long! Toph sat on the couch opposite Sokka, picking her nose; and next to her was Suki. Katara noted that this was one of the few times she had seen Suki without her makeup.
And on the couch to the left of Toph and Suki, was Aang.
It took Katara a moment to take it all in. He was here--Aang! She was so excited!
"Aang!" She rushed to him and grabbed him in her arms, tears running down her face at the joy of seeing him again.
"Hi, Katara!" Aang returned the hug, holding her tightly, and they shared a kiss.
It was a sensation she had missed so badly. Aang holding her in his arms. His lips against hers. She realized, now, how much she had missed him. Oh, it had been so long--far too long since they had been together! But now, everything seemed to fade. The outside world blurred and vanished completely, wiped away by the joy of their kiss.
"Um, do you think you two are about done smooching? Because I want to see Katara too!" Toph interjected.
Katara pulled away from Aang, terribly embarrassed. "Oh..." she said, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. She saw Aang blush too. "Sorry, Toph."
"It's okay," laughed Toph, affectionately punching Katara on the arm. "Ah, what the heck!" And she hugged Katara, squeezing her tightly.
Katara exhaled sharply, but returned the hug.
"I missed you, Katara," Toph said.
"I missed you too, To--hey. How did you know Aang and I were kissing?"
Toph ended the hug, laughing. "It wasn't that hard to guess."
Katara laughed at that, still slightly embarrassed. While Toph greeted Aang, Katara said hi to Suki.
"Well, this is a new look!" Katara noticed. "What happened to your face paint?"
"Eh, I don't really need it when I'm not fighting. I'm among friends."
Katara looked at Sokka, lying spread-eagle on his back, and scoffed. "Only Sokka could fall asleep at a time like this. Has he even greeted you yet?"
"Yes," Suki laughed. "After he greeted me, he sat down on the couch, started talking about how tiring the journey from the South Pole was, and then layed down and fell asleep." She giggled. "You know Sokka."
"That I do," Katara agreed. Then she sat down next to Aang.
"Well," said Toph, "we're all here. Where's Zuko?"
"I ran into him in the hallway on the way here," Suki replied. "He said he had some Fire Lord business to attend to, and he should be here shortly."
"Well then," said Aang, "it looks like we have some time to catch up. How have your lives been in the year since we last saw each other?"
They then spent the next fifteen minutes discussing all of their lives since they had left the Fire Nation. Their conversation was occasionally interrupted by a particularly loud snore from Sokka, but other than that it was quite pleasant. Fortunately, it seemed as though they had all been pretty happy. Toph was repairing her relationship with her parents. Suki was teaching some new Kyoshi Warriors the way of the fan. And Aang said that the world seemed to be healing well, though it was rather hard to tell in the first year of peace after one hundred years of war.
Finally, the door opened, and Zuko entered the room, his hair pinned up in the hairpiece of the Fire Lord. Katara briefly wished he had worn his hair down, then admonished herself for the thought. Her heart skipped a beat at seeing him, but she assured herself it was just happiness at seeing him again--it had, after all, been a whole year.
Zuko walked in and, seeing everyone here, smiled. "I am so glad you're all here! I'm sorry you had to wait--the work of the Fire Lord never seems to end."
They all assured him that it was all right, and Zuko began to look for a place to sit. He noticed that the only place to sit was the couch which was currently being occupied by Sokka. "I see Sokka is very excited to be here," he joked. "I guess I'll just have to stand up."
"Oh, don't worry, Zuko," Aang said. "I got it." Then he used airbending to stand up, and tiptoed quietly over to where Sokka was sleeping, the devious look on his face matched by that of Momo, who was perched on Aang's right shoulder. Cautiously, the twosome made their way to where Sokka was, the leaned over him. Aang looked at Momo and whispered, "Ya ready, buddy?" Momo chattered his confirmation. Aang then counted on his hand as he mouthed, one...two...three! Then Momo screeched at his loudest while Aang yelled in Sokka's face, "HI, SOKKA! LONG TIME NO SEE!!!"
"WAAAAAHH!!" Sokka sat up way too fast, lost his balance, and fell onto the floor, tripping Aang, who flailed his arms wildly, trying not to fall. Momo was thrown off of Aang's shoulder, and barely caught himself and flew to safety just before landing on Toph's face. Meanwhile, Aang, who was still struggling to maintain balance, used airbending to affirm his stance, just roughly staying afoot. After watching the whole episode, everyone else in the room burst into mirthful laughter.
"Aang!" yelled Sokka, as he picked himself up off his face. "What did you do that for? I was sleeping so peacefully!"
"Because, Sokka," said Aang, struggling to catch his breath, "everyone else is awake, enjoying a reunion of friends. I just didn't want you to miss out!" He cracked a devilish grin. "Besides, Zuko needs a place to sit."
Sokka looked up, saw Zuko standing next to him, and gave his biggest, sheepish grin. "Oh! Sorry, Zuko. Here." He sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to him with his hand, signifying that Zuko could sit there.
"Thank you, Sokka." Zuko sat down, still laughing.
Toph, still doubled over with laughter, finally managed to get control of herself and wiped a tear out of her eye. "You crack me up, Twinkle Toes!"
After the whole episode with Aang scaring Sokka, the group sat down and talked for quite a while. They had a lot to catch up on. So much had happened in the previous year.
Zuko spent the majority of the time explaining how he, with some help from Aang, was working to repair the Fire Nation after the long war.
"How's that coming, Zuko?" Sokka had asked him.
Zuko looked down and let out a lengthy sigh. "I'm not sure. It seems to be going okay. But for generations, the children of the Fire Nation have been raised--in a sense, brainwashed--to believe that the war was a good thing--that we were somehow helping the world instead of destroying it. It's going to take a while for them to relearn life. It's not easy on them."
He paused, looking troubled. Obviously, there was more on his mind. Then, he took a breath, and continued speaking. "Some people, mostly the particularly bloodthirsty members of the Fire Navy, aren't happy with the idea of peace. They actually want more war and bloodshed. They're sick, and I don't think there's any way to get through to them. They've formed a kind of resistance. We have to deal with frequent attacks. They hurt the innocent just for the sake of blood."
Every face in the room expressed a mixture of shock, horror, and utter disgust at this news.
"Zuko," Aang gasped, "why didn't you tell me about this? I might have been able to stop it sooner!"
Zuko closed his eyes for a long moment. When he finally opened them again, they were clearly moist. "Aang, I'm the Fire Lord. It's my duty to rebuild the Fire Nation. And if I can't do it alone...if I turn to the Avatar whenever things get a little bit difficult, what good am I? These people need a strong leader, someone who can always be trusted to make things right. I don't want to be weak."
Aang was obviously angry, but he swallowed his anger. "Zuko, everyone needs help sometimes. I need help all the time! I never would have been able to defeat the Fire Lord without the help of Roku, Guru Pathik, or the lionturtle. Nobody's perfect. It's okay to ask for help. You're doing a great job taking care of your people. Really. But I really think you should let me help with the resistance. I'm sure if we work together, we can stop it. Please, I want to help you."
"I know that I need other people. Believe me. Can you imagine where I would be today if it weren't for my uncle? I would still be destroying villages and attacking innocent people." He hung his head as remorse overtook him, and his voice started to crack. "I would be no different from my father. I'd be just like every other Fire Lord. A tyrant." Zuko sighed heavily. "Maybe that's why I'm so determined to be perfect. I want to make things right."
Sokka set his hand on Zuko's shoulder. "Zuko..." he faltered, and looked around to the others for help.
Katara came over and crouched in front of Zuko. "Zuko," she said.
He didn't answer her. She noticed a tear fall from his face and onto the floor.
"Zuko, look at me."
Slowly, he lifted his head and made eye contact with her, tears running from his eyes.
"Zuko, you are a very strong, very noble young man. You don't need to worry about the past. Everyone does wrong things. I have. But you've changed. You've turned around and determined to live a new life."
Aang walked over and piped in. "Yeah. The person you are today and the person you were two years ago are two completely different people. You've changed drastically since then. You've come a really long way, and I'm proud to call you my friend." He smiled warmly.
"Do you really mean that?"
Sokka, whose hand was still on Zuko's shoulder, gave a reaffirming squeeze. "We've been through a lot together. We rescued my dad and Suki from The Boiling Rock together. I've seen what you're capable of, and I know there's a reason you've been trusted with the responsibilities of the Fire Lord. You can do this."
Everyone voiced their agreements.
Zuko smiled. "Thanks, guys. I really feel better. You guys mean a lot to me."
Katara said, "I think it's time to do a Team Avatar tradition we haven't done in a while."
Toph knew what she was thinking. "Group hug!"
With that, for the first time in a whole year, the friends all hugged each other, strengthening each other, holding each other up, just like they used to do.
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