Butterflies and Hurricanes
The first few months after the battle were an odd affair. The world carried on, but there was a distinct feeling of confusion and vulnerability.
The Royal Family had been almost entirely decimated. Ozai had been imprisoned in the palace dungeons, his legs useless, balance shot and Firebending suppressed by the very drug he had used at the peace summit. Princess Azula's body had been taken from the shadow of the Royal Tower and had been placed in the burial crypts – not cremated but placed in an unmarked tomb as punishment for her crimes. Those that had supported Ozai and Azula had scattered. Some had been rounded up and were held in the cells alongside Ozai, where they would have to pay penance for their actions. Others had slipped from the city and could not be found. It was not a huge worry that they were missing. As long as they did not cause trouble they would most likely remain undetected.
Word had spread across the city, and then the Nations, of Zuko, the disgraced Prince who had stood against his father and saved the world. His story was tinged with sadness in that it ended with his body being carried from the roof and laid in state in his room, embalmed and wrapped in a delicately embroidered shroud as per tradition.
The people of the Fire Nation had looked to Iroh as the last member of the royal family and the man had been forced to step up and take charge. There would be a memorial service for those who had lost their lives in the battle with Ozai, but counting who was missing was taking some time.
As for one particular loss to the Fire Nation... well that was to be a grander affair. Nine days after the battle, as Fire Nation tradition dictated, the body of Prince Zuko was be laid to rest. His body was taken from his room, wrapped in another shroud (richest crimson silk this time) and his funeral pyre lit for the whole city to see and remember the young man who had defied his father and saved the world.
Katara was not there to see it. Instead she stayed in Zuko's chambers and listened to the prayers and proclamations coming from the pavilion outside.
That had been almost three months ago. How unusual time could be…
Katara currently stood at the docks, watching as her kinsmen gently moved Renshu's body onto their ship. As Katara had promised, she was taking Renshu's body back to the Earth Kingdom where she would organise a burial for him. Her friend had been embalmed to preserve his body – three months was a long time to wait to bury him. Embalming was most definitely a Fire nation tradition, but Katara would soon lay him to rest in the earth as he would have liked.
The Earthbender who had so grated on her nerves, Yong, had offered the use of his town as Renshu's final resting place and, with no idea where Renshu hailed from, she agreed. It was only when Katara sat down and pondered the best course for her own future, that she had a change of heart, and politely declined Yong's offer. No, she had a much better idea…
A strong hand touched her shoulder and Katara turned to find Iroh smiling at her gently.
"I will miss you, Katara."
The girl offered a small smile back. "I will see you soon, Iroh. You know where I will be if you decide to visit."
Iroh nodded and placed his hands inside his sleeves. "How did your family take it when you told them you would be staying in the Earth Kingdom?"
Katara smiled and glanced at her father and brother as they loaded the ship. "They were surprisingly fine with it. Kyoshi is not too far from the Water Tribe, and I think Sokka will be making many trips there in the future."
Iroh laughed as he saw Sokka's gaze flit constantly to the young Kyoshi warrior. Suki and her father were to sail alongside the Water Tribe convoy. "I feel you are right." His gaze softened. "You would be more than welcome to stay here."
"I know," Katara sighed. "But I don't think it would be prudent to do so, all things considered." Her hand drifted to rest on her stomach and Iroh's eyes sparked with happiness.
The time after the battle had been filled with so much pain and sadness, but his nephew had built a legacy.
"I will be coming to visit you more often than you would imagine. It has been so long since I have had the joy of a child." Katara smiled at him gently and nodded. "Speaking of which, what did your father say about this little turn of events?"
"He was angry," she conceded. "But he couldn't really complain after all Zuko did."
"This is true. Katara, please do not think me forward, but would you permit me to also build a new life on Kyoshi with my family?" His eyes travelled to her middle again. "There is little left here for me."
Katara took his hand and the pair began a leisurely walk along the water front. "I would love nothing more. And I'm sure Zuko would agree. But won't being the Fire Lord keep you tied here?"
"I have no plans to become Fire Lord, my dear."
Katara glanced up at him questioningly and Iroh smiled.
"The Fire Nation royal family would have ended with me with Zuko not here to take the throne, and I am sure that you would prefer to have a quiet life rather than your... gift... becoming the next ruler of this state." Katara nodded. "I have been meeting with the councillors and we are making arrangements to turn the power over to the people. Too long has the seat of power in the Fire Nation been above the people rather than among them. We are going to turn the Fire Nation into a democracy."
Katara was surprised. "Do you think it will work?"
"I honestly believe so. We have seen what happens when a man is corrupted by the thought of total power. The people are smart and have now seen how they would not wish to live. I think there is no greater incentive for them to care for one another."
Iroh glanced at the water and sighed. "I must stay here for a while and help the transition of power in to the people's hands, but as soon as I am able I will come find you in Kyoshi. You and the rest of the family."
Katara kissed the man on the cheek. "I look forward to that day, Iroh."
Footsteps approaching the pair ended their conversation and Katara turned to see her father and brother stood there. "We are almost ready to ship out. Are you finished, Katara?"
Iroh squeezed her hands once more and let her go. "I will see you soon my dear."
They waved at Iroh from the deck of ship as they slowly glided from port. Katara kept her eyes on the city until it faded to a small dot on the horizon. She doubted she would ever see the city again.
She placed her hand on her stomach again and smiled. She would never have seen this coming when she accompanied her father back to the Fire Nation but she was happy. Her life, and Zuko's life, in the Fire Nation was over, but there was something to look forward to. She shivered and her mind flashed up the memory of that day, now three long months ago. Zuko's wounds and his pained plea to Iroh to let him go. The palace had brought him nothing but pain through the years, and Katara could understand that he had had enough.
Though those who had been caught in the middle of the battle had wanted nothing more than to run for home when Ozai was defeated, most had stayed behind and helped the Fire Nation rebuild their ruined city and prove that all Nations could live together in peace. Hakoda had been keeping in touch with the Tribe via messenger hawk over the months, and they had all been relieved to discover that Ozai had sent no pre-emptive strike; Sokka's messages had been the only hawks that had made it to their homes, and their people had been prepared for an attack that thankfully never come.
Those who had helped in the rebellion had been honoured in a ceremony in the city. People had celebrated a brighter, hopefully peaceful, future and paid tribute to Toph, Pakku and the Earthbenders, as well as Sokka, Piandao and the other warriors. Jeong-Jeong and the councillors had been reserved about attending the celebrations and Iroh had confided in Katara that they felt a little guilty about letting Ozai go unchecked for so long.
Katara focused her gaze back on the horizon, nothing but blue ocean as far as the eye could see and let her shoulders relax. It felt freeing just to be on the move again. No one watching them, no formal events to attend… not being in the same country as Ozai.
Sokka sidled up to Katara and nudged her shoulder, rolling his eyes. "Go on, we all know what you're waiting for."
Katara smiled at him and her father and hurried below deck.
The journey south to Kyoshi Island was pleasant, wide open waters calm as they proceeded south. Katara spent quite a lot of time on deck, as did almost all the others, just happy to be heading away from the Fire Nation. They did not come close to the Earth Kingdom on their way home, wanting the trip to be as short as possible. The fourth day of their journey however, did bring some land in to view. The islands amidst which Southern Air Temple lay were a spectacular sight. Katara gazed at them in the distance, sad to know that no life bloomed there anymore, and yet she thought that the peaceful monks that lived there would be happy with how the world was now.
Kyoshi Island was pretty and quiet. The townspeople gathered at the docks to great their Chief and Suki. Some cast curious glances at the Water Tribe ship that docked alongside them but they smiled welcomingly nonetheless.
Everyone was very curious about the events in the Fire Nation. The letters of correspondence not really sating their need for answers. Suki's father explained patiently to the crowd as they followed him up to the village. Katara stayed behind and watched as they carried Renshu's covered body from the ship on a makeshift stretcher. His body was carried towards the town, the villagers bowing their heads in respect as he was carried past . The other men were helping the injured from the boat. No one was beyond repair, but were walking with limps or burns that Katara had not been around to heal.
Sokka appeared from below deck, supporting a weary figure. Katara smiled gently at the pair and fell in to step beside them. The man had suffered the worse injuries and was still weak from the battle. A thick Water Tribe coat was bundled around him, the temperature in Kyoshi quite mild and yet his body could do with the extra warmth.
Suki spotted them as they approached the village and broke away from the crowd to meet them. "Katara, my father has explained to everyone what has happened. There are going to be so many people who want to meet you and thank you for what you did. Both of you." She looked at Katara pointedly. "But they've prepared the house for you like my father asked in his letter. It's just over there." She pointed to a house near the coastline, the front leading on to the sand, the rear speckled with wild flowers and rough grass.
Katara smiled happily. "It's lovely. May we-?" She gestured towards the house.
Suki nodded. "Of course, take your time. We're going to bury Renshu at sunset."
Katara breathed deeply and nodded. She moved towards her new home, Sokka and his charge following.
Katara prayed as the earth covered Renshu's body. She prayed to Agni, she prayed to Tui and La – she prayed to the gods in general. She had never really spoken to Renshu about his beliefs and she wanted to make sure she covered all her bases. The Kyoshi people were gathered behind those who had known Renshu, paper lanterns held carefully in their hands. The rush of the ocean kept time with in time with the words of blessing the chief said.
Katara thought Renshu would be happy with his final resting place. Out in the open, in the Kingdom where he was born and people who loved him... who would never forget him, gathered around.
When the burial was finished people began to place flowers on the freshly dug earth. Suki had told her that they would sprinkle seeds on the grave soon so that Renshu's grave would be a place of life and not just of death.
Katara like that idea. Renshu, so full of life, blossoming for many years to come.
The crowd started to drift off towards the village proper where a feast was taking place. Both to celebrate the end of Ozai and remember those who lost their lives.
Katara remained alone at the grave for a moment before turning and heading towards her house. She didn't feel much like celebrating.
Her house was warm and pretty on the inside. Comfortable cushions and neutral colours so typical of the Earth Kingdom, and she had added furs that her father had given her, and Water Tribe ornaments were already hanging from the ceiling. She looked over at the corner where someone was sitting, a row of red candles lighting him from the back.
He had been here since Sokka had helped him to the house, although he had now discarded the Water Tribe coat, unneeded in the warmth of the room.
Katara approached him, her eyes caught in his golden depths and sat before him.
He held her hands and chased away the chill that evening air had put there.
"How did it go?" Zuko asked.
"It was lovely," she murmured. "I think he would have been pleased with it."
Zuko regarded her carefully. "Are you okay?"
Katara nodded looking at his handsome face. She had saved him from more burns like the one on his face, although there were a few silvery scars on his bare forearms, not unlike the ones he often got from training.
"I'm fine." She looked deeply in to his eyes. "Will you be happy here?"
Zuko rolled his eyes. "Again? I 've told you, and I mean it when I say, that I have no desire to be Fire Lord. That life was not me, Katara. The only times I really felt alive were when we left the palace and explored." He breathed deeply and his face relaxed in to a truly happy expression. "I spoke with Uncle and he sincerely believes that the Fire Nation will do better as a republic.
"Besides, I know you wouldn't have wanted to stay in that palace forever. We can start our family here, or anywhere else you would like."
His knuckles brushed over her flat tummy. "It's better that the Fire Nation thinks I'm dead. I won't have to fight the laws to break my ties with them. They'll be more accepting of Iroh dissolving the monarchy if there is no heir to take the throne. They will learn not to turn to royalty for answers and trust themselves. This way we can have a clean start."
Katara smiled back sincerely. "A fresh start sounds perfect." She twisted herself around and tucked in to Zuko's side, mindful of the injury that still had a tendency to flare up.
She looked around the room at the Earth Kingdom décor and laughed suddenly.
Zuko looked down at her in confusion and Katara shook her head, amusement still evident in her face.
"I've just realised that this is the first time you've been outside of the Fire Nation." She narrowed her eyes playfully. "If only I'd known what that festival would lead to."
Zuko rolled his eyes, grasping Katara's chin gently and placing a kiss on her lips. "One boat ride and one island to add to my short list of places visited. There's a lot of world out there to discover."
"You've really come a long way since we first met." She smoothed her hands down Zuko's cheeks. "The bad-tempered, sulky Prince that glared at me from across the room… well mostly."
Zuko growled playfully and nudged Katara to the floor. She laughed as he came to rest next to her, both on them on their sides facing one another. Zuko brushed back the hair that had fallen in to Katara's eyes. He stared at her large, sapphire eyes and felt the happiness inside him swell.
It was odd to feel blissful all the time, content with his life. Not that Zuko was complaining of course. A life away from the one he had known, the one that had been forced upon him by birth, was more than he ever thought he could have. Until he had met Katara, he had never really questioned his life, how he was treated and what he deserved. Now however, he knew that he had been right to turn his back on all that.
His family had never been that. His mother had loved him, and his Uncle still did, but now away from the Fire Nation, an anonymous face in the crowd, he could raise his own family.
Both he and Katara had lived the majority of their lives in bondage – now they were free. No expectations, no duties and no fear of what might happen. Nothing stopping them from living their lives as they desired, friends and family alongside them.
Zuko tucked Katara closer to him, pressing his lips to her hair.
"Hmm… we've got a lot of life to live together, Katara." He let a smile curve his lips. "And a bright new world to do it in."
Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead
You've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now
Butterflies and Hurricanes
That's all folks…
I'm actually quite sad about this. I started this story when I was 16 and though I think my writing has come on in that time, the plot has remained largely unchanged. So to get to put this ending up, almost 6 years after it was formed in my head, is quite bittersweet.
I have to applaud all of you who guessed in some form or another what was coming with chapter. I know I sent a lot of you in to mild panic by 'killing' off Zuko, but others picked up on Zuko's choice of words when asking Iroh to 'let him go', and knew I'd never do that to our poor Zuzu… I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
Thank you to all of you that have reviewed, favourite-ed or just read the story, it's reminded me just why I love writing so much.
Thank you for being forgiving about my erratic updating. This story has had to work its way around college, university and so many other things that it's only down to you guys that I was pushed to really finish it.
I'm not sure what my writing holds in terms of A:TLA fanfiction – I haven't been actively following the fandom for a long while now.
I may post under different fandoms, I have several stories sitting on my computer for different shows and franchises, but I hope at some point I can find time to go re-watch Avatar, remind myself why Zutara was my first OTP, and post some more writing on it…
Ah, who am I kidding? As soon as I post this I'll probably be struck by a dozen new ideas.
I've also been focused on my original writing lately. I'd love to find time to sit down and get all my thoughts down on paper. You guys have given me the confidence to pursue my dreams of being a writer.
Enough with the warm fuzzies!
At some point I'll go through and edit this story, because I know there are typos and other mistakes littered around.
Thank you to those who have reviewed, and those who will review in the future. You've made this my most popular story and honestly I'm quite proud of it.
Thanks for coming along for the ride. Hope to see you next story!