Illusions of Deception
Chapter One

Taking place in Ba Sing Se, the future rebel leaders against the Fire Nation are brought together by the Dai Lee. Manipulating their minds, they create bonds that may permanently change their true destinies. And let me tell you, meeting the future Fire Lady, Sokka just isn't happy.

Disclaimer: I own nothing except the children.

Well, this is perhaps one of the longest chapters I have ever written. I hope I continue to keep them longer. I really planned on making it even more so, but I am leaving for a trip this weekend so I wanted to be able to start fresh on new chapters without a computer.

"Daddy, Daddy!"

Little padded feet raced through the halls of the fire palace as a young boy, no older than five, leapt to give his father a hug. Laughing, Fire Lord Zuko held his son tightly to his chest. He had been away for three months, securing the treaty between the Earth Kingdom and his own country, and it felt great to be home.

"Oh, how I have missed you, my son," he murmured, closing his eyes to hold in the moment.

His words were filled with the longing he had held inside to be near his child. The last few years had been hard for them all. It had taken a long time for the country to become used to his presence as Fire Lord after the overthrow of his father, Ozai. A year later after changes, they were met with a new woman bearing the title of Fire Lady. Immediately polar opposites, the Fire Nation and Water Tribe worked to build their broken countries. Even the Earth Kingdom sustained the sudden peace, keeping their armies from touching Fire Nation immigrants out of respect for the change. It was still hard for anyone to outright forgive the Fire Nation's previous actions of destruction, but they would wait for them to prove their worthiness. It was better then plummeting into another war.

"Guess what!" the bright, blue eyed boy continued, not noticing his father's need to take everything in. To him, it was as if he had never been gone, and everything was back to the way it was.

After moments of silence, Zuko realized that young Lu Ten—whom had been named in honor of Iroh's son—really wished for him to guess. Blinking, he searched for any answer he could give. "Umm…you ran around in your mother's dress again?" That moment had been rather unforgettable.

Giggling, the child shook his head. "No!" he acted as if his father was the silliest creature in the whole Palace. "Uncle Sokka is here and he said that he's going to teach me how to fish!"

Before even questioning what his brother in law was doing inside the Fire Palace rather than being located in the South Pole, he found himself snorting in disbelief. An amused shot of smoke puffed from his nostrils. While Sokka was now tolerant of the Fire Lord—Zuko would even admit to being rather fond of his brother-in-law and all of his sarcasm—he couldn't help but find it amusing. It was hard to believe that the once clumsy Water Tribe peasant had transformed into a real warrior. The knowledge of that, however, didn't hold back any remarks he had about Sokka's competence.

"He couldn't catch a cold. How is he supposed to teach you how to catch a fish?" he mused to himself before leaning forward to his son's ear. "Well, make sure to push him in the water once for me."

The grin that had formed on both the Fire Lord and Fire Prince's faces were soon wiped off as a questioning voice entered the room.

"Oh really?"

Quickly standing up, setting his eldest child by his side, Zuko smiled innocently. "Honey, you know I was just…" trailing off before he could finished, the great Fire Lord nearly cowered before his Fire Lady as she took a step towards him. "Did you know that you look particularly lovely today?"

Smirking at his sudden change of subject, Lady Katara folded her arms in front of her, raising an eyebrow.

"And you didn't even come to see how I was doing. You immediately have to start picking on Sokka," she accused, dramatically pouting. "I guess I now know why you married me. You wanted my brother. Wait until Suki finds out." A grin quickly spread across her face as she raised an eyebrow, as if daring him.

Unable to resist any temptation, Zuko darted forward, the two of their lips connecting. Yet even with their long separation, the Spirits wouldn't allow them a moment of peace as a chorus of 'ews' rang out behind them. Pulling apart sheepishly, the two noticed that it was Sokka leading the pack with Lu Ten and his own six year old son, Kesuk.

"Oh yeah, very mature of you, Sokka," Katara rolled her eyes at her brother. He had just entered the room, arms wrapped around his very pregnant wife, Suki. He had sworn that if the child was a girl, he would name her Yue.

"Atleast I don't allow some Firebender maul me all the time."

"And I better not find anything like that, or my thoughts may be confirmed," the waterbender smirked towards Zuko as if daring him to argue with her. Instead he gaped in disbelief, wondering how the topic kept coming up.

Sokka exchanged a confused look with his wife before leaning over to whisper in her ear. "See? I told you we shouldn't come. They're acting weird again, like last time."

Rolling her eyes, Suki shook her head. "Like last time? Sokka, you ran in on Zuko during a meeting, accusing him of sending a servant to assassinate you."

"She was trying to attack me!"

Blinking, wondering to the depths of the earth how she had been 'blessed' to have him as a brother, Katara found herself staring at him in disbelief. "She had a fish."

"Hey, it was a ten pound fish. I don't know if you know this, but they can be very dangerous." Pausing, Sokka turned a glare toward his sister. "What was she doing with a fish in my room, any ways? She was going to poison me!"

Slapping her forehead, Suki sighed before pinching his ear and pulling him away. "I'm sorry. I'll be right back."

"Oh, no need. Take all the time you feel necessary," Zuko insisted before muttering something about the Water Tribe and it's insanity, only to receive a stream of water shot in his face, his shock droned out by Lu Ten, who clapped cheerfully.

"Great job, Twinkle Toes. We're going to be late."

Toph didn't need sight to see that it was getting late. She could feel the air getting cooler, and she was getting hungry. It had obviously been hours since they had had their breakfast. Worst of all, it had been nearly two days since she had managed to feel the Earth beneath her feet.

Aang pulled a look of horror onto his face at the Earthbender's accusation, defensively pointing at himself. "And it's my fault?"

"Yes," she declared matter-of-factly. "You just had to take that detour through the Dusty Caverns to see the cheetah-camels. That cost us nearly eight hours of flying time. We'll never make it to the Fire capitol before dark!"

"Like it would really matter to you. You wouldn't be able to see whether it was light out or not," the Avatar muttered in response. They had been rebuilding throughout the Earth Kingdom, using their bending skills to create homes and to create peace between the Earth and Fire people who now inhabited the land. The progress was slow, and they had been at it for four years, with few breaks. It was still incomplete, but the two had decided to visit Katara and Zuko at the Fire Palace before seeking out Sokka and his family in the South.

While the two were on land, Aang and Toph were left with nothing but being leaders of their land. They had to represent themselves as disciplined as possible, proving to be completely adequate adults. So when they were alone, their frustration came out in childish rants—the two were now adults at the age of nineteen, and still they argued as if they were four.

Rather responding this time, however, Toph merely grunted before flopping down. Had she been able to see, she would have appeared to be staring up at the sky. Slowly she found herself questioning why she had agreed to go along. She missed solid ground so much, it was too much of a bother now to even argue about it. Sure, she adored the Sugar Queen as much as Aang and the rest of them, but she couldn't help but be wistful for her only way of sight. When she rode on Appa, it was like being in an eternal night, without the moon or the stars to guide her. It was times like those that made her feel useless, something that she feared the most.

Sitting up again, this time straight, she pulled her knees to her chest. Resting her chin, she found herself sighing. Toph wasn't the little girl she had been those years ago. Even if she was as self reliant as ever, she had become dependant on something else.

"Aang," she whispered softly, to be met with his hands on her shoulder. "I don't know how much longer I can do this."

Allowing her to lean on him, he whispered encouragingly into her ear. "Don't worry. We'll get through this."

The two laid silently against each other, taking in comfort from one another. Their secret was their dependency for each other. Traveling companions for years had lead the two polar opposites to become attracted in a way that they themselves couldn't allow. But moments like these were what they needed to get by. And they would, because they had each other.

Iroh laughed as his two great nieces, Ursa and Kinapak, raced after each other inside their playroom. While he would admit to getting older, the Dragon of the West was not one to give in to defeat. He would spend most of his time with his nephew's children, finding solace in their innocence—something that brought peace to his heart after years of journeying in trouble and fear.

The young girls were twins at the age of three, both named after their parent's mothers. Identical with their gold eyes and darker skin, the only matter that separated them was their abilities. From birth each had had an obvious attraction to their element, deeming them to have the respective name of their grandmothers.

"I got you!" Kinapak's cheerful voice echoed through the room before she burst into another fit of giggles. Running from where her sister stood, she took to her sheltering spot on Iroh's lap, where he in turn extended his laughter to booming chuckles. Pinning the young girl to him, he attacked her with tickles on her bare feet.

Her shrieks of laughter continued as she struggled against his fingers. "Uncle Iroh, stop it!" she begged in a childish voice. Waiting a moment before caving in, he set her down to the floor where she giggled once more. Ursa joined with her before waiting for an unsuspecting moment and then reaching forward again.

"You're it!"

The two girls continued in their game, occasionally reaching each other before turning around in their endless circle. Almost like that of Yin and Yang, Iroh mused.

Only much more…hyper.

The two girls were practically an endless sort of energy, something he missed. And yet as he watched them, he noticed another figure running through the hall. All he had to catch was the streak of a royal marking to realize that it was indeed Katara racing towards the Foyer. Smirking to himself, he couldn't help but note that his nephew was most likely arriving. Looking towards his children, he debated whether or not to tell them that their daddy was home. Taking note of Katara's enthusiasm, however, he made a mental note to give them a few moments to catch up.

"Suki, make sure that Sokka doesn't let him fall in the water," Katara was giving her sister-in-law some last instructions for her son's wellbeing. Sure, she knew that Sokka wouldn't do anything to hurt Lu Ten on purpose. But he was rather clumsy and absentminded.

"I promise," the Kyoshi Warrior grinned understandingly before ushering her husband out the door, the two young boys at their heels while they chattered about how much fun fishing was going to be. Sokka, however, was rather distracted as he looked between the Fire Lord and Lady.

Raising an eyebrow at her brother's actions, Katara didn't even need to ask before he gave his warning. "You two better behave. I saw enough of the mauling earlier."

Groaning in embarrassment, the Fire Lady smacked her forehead while Zuko turned a light shade of red. Honestly, what did his brother-in-law think he was? A platypus bear? Honestly. No answer was needed, however, as Suki pulled him out by his ear as if he was one of the children that stood between them. His objections could be heard throughout the many courtyards.

Turning now to his wife, however, he wrapped his arms around her waist. "So, how were things while I was away?" he asked, raising a curious eyebrow as he placed a kiss on her cheek.

Shrugging, Katara searched for an answer before finding the most honest one she could give. "It wasn't anything special without you. The kids missed you…and I guess I did too," she added as an after thought, sticking her tongue out at him playfully. Grinning, he leaned in.

"Well, I guess I'll just have to make up for that, won't I?" his lips had almost met with her before the door to the hall was opened. Pulling away from each other, a voice could be heard stammering in embarrassment.

"Umm…well, that's not something you see every day," Jet snickered slightly as he looked between the two before pulling a quick, official expression on his face. "Fire Lord, the Avatar's bison has been spotted two miles away."

Muttering about how he needed to have the guests schedule their arrivals, Zuko thanked his top Commander. "Very well. Once they have arrived, please show them in. The Royal family will be here to greet him."

Nodding in comprehension, Jet turned to leave the room before Katara interrupted him.

"Commander Jet. Why don't you and your family join us these evening for dinner? It seems like a reunion is in order," she suggested. It was more than obvious that the old gang that led the rebellion was all coming together once more, something that hadn't happened in years.

Grinning at the invitation, he quickly agreed. "I would love to."

Taking his leave now, Zuko turned back to his wife as if he didn't care that in a few moments the Avatar would be landing in the Fire Capitol. "Now, where were we?"

Only murmuring softly in response, the two brushed lips.


Groaning once more as a chorus of greetings came from his two daughters who were thudding through the corridor, Zuko pulled away once more from his wife. He reached for the twins without regret, however, as Katara could only laugh at her husband's two failed attempts.

One never had much time for anything when they were the Fire Lord.

Well, obviously I haven't gotten into the main plot yet. One more chapter and we'll be there I think. I just need something to go off of, if you know what I mean. And, just to warn most of you, I can be a review Nazi. Haha, so please let me know what you think--but no "Zutara isn't going to happen, Kataang rules!". I did warn you it would be Zutara.