Think of this as an early Christmas present, my darling readers. This is the real final chapter of this story (or this part of it, anyway). I didn't intend to put it up until I'd finished the sequel, but those of you who are reading that can just think of it as an introduction to characters that will be coming in later. Or you can consider it a spoiler and not read it until Shaping the World is finished. The choice is yours. Enjoy!
I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Sense and Sensibility
--Ten Years Later--
Katara laughed to herself as she read Sokka's latest letter. Her brother, Suki, and their family were supposed to have come to the Fire Nation for a visit, but Suki had just given birth to their seventh child: a son. After six girls, Sokka was overjoyed and had probably written to everyone they'd ever met to announce the good news. The baby boy was named Koda, in honor of Sokka and Katara's father, who was still in the South Pole. Hakoda received letters from both his children, but that didn't stop him from missing them.
Tomorrow Toph and Aang were due to arrive with their son Shin. Though barely two years old, the boy had all of his father's energy and his mother's attitude, making him hard to handle. Aang's last letter, in addition to confirming their visit, had expressed Toph's amusement (actually, Aang had said she grinned) when a Ba Sing Se noble called Shin "an unholy terror" at the Earth King's birthday party. Aang also claimed his son had been on his best behavior that night. Katara only laughed harder.
Vana was also supposed to be visiting soon. About a year after Zuko and Katara were married she met the Earth King again at a party he was holding (Kuei liked parties). She treated the guest of honor, Bosco the Bear, with such kindness and respect that the Earth King asked to see her again. Though he was roughly ten years her senior, Vana enjoyed the Earth King's company immensely. They were married not long after that and now had a five-year-old son named Yutaka. Her most recent letter had mentioned seeing Lady Ming-Ming, who was still unmarried. Vana had politely not commented on the irony of the situation… to Ming-Ming's face.
In Katara's letters, she told her friends of the progress that the twins, Hakaru and Inka, were making in firebending, taught by their father. She wrote how six-year-old Kira spends a great deal of time drinking tea with "Grandpa Iroh" and the girl's new desire to become the Fire Nation's representative in the World Council when she grew up. She mentioned that her youngest, Shizuku, fell into the turtleduck pond while trying- and almost managing- to waterbend. Katara loved her life and wouldn't trade any aspect, be it trying to get Zuko to relax after a particularly difficult day of meetings or telling bedtime stories to their four children, for anything in the world.
Zuko decided that his favorite thing to see when he walked into the royal chambers late at night was his wife and children sitting on the bed, Katara in the middle of telling a story and all four children listening to her. They never fell asleep during their mother's stories, even little Shizuku.
The youngest of the royal family of the Fire Nation claimed the exclusive privilege of sitting in Katara's lap, the blue eyes that only he had inherited from her wide as he hung on her every word. Kira sat next to Katara, curled up close. Her golden eyes would half-close as she absorbed the story, committing each character name and plot nuance to memory. Katara would alternately stroke Shizuku's black curls and Kira's straight brown hair as she spoke.
The eight-year-old twins were too big to sit in anyone's lap, but they stayed nearby. Hakaru, older than his sister by a few minutes, would sit on their mother's right, Inka on her left. Hakaru paid close attention and sat stiffly, his golden eyes as serious as the tight ponytail his dark brown hair was pulled into. Inka would rest her head on Katara's shoulder, her long black hair draping down both their backs. Her eyes would, like her twin's, stay completely open. All four children had skin in shades somewhere between their father's pale complexion and their mother's natural tan; the twins had the lightest skin and Shizuku the darkest.
Zuko would smile every time he found them this way. He would then join them on the bed, and Kira would move to lean against her father. He almost never got to hear the beginning of the stories, but if he really wanted to know what he had missed, he could just ask Katara after the children had gone to bed.
On this night Zuko and Katara had come into the bedroom at the same time, only for the children to appear several minutes later. The parents just laughed as the four arranged themselves. Katara wrapped her arms around three-year-old Shizuku as she began.
"Once upon a time, there was a girl named Hai. When she was quite young her mother died and her father remarried."
"Papa, if Mama died would you remarry?" Kira asked Zuko suddenly. She didn't normally interrupt, but the momentary thought had disturbed her enough that she felt she had to.
The Fire Lord laughed. "No, Kira. I could never love anyone but your mother."
The young princess leaned back, reassured. "Good."
Katara gave her husband a smile before continuing. "Now, Hai's father's new wife had two daughters named Uso and Sagi. The two of them were very spoiled and mean, while Hai had always been a kind and gentle young girl. The stepmother did not take very well to her new daughter and started to make her do small chores. Hai generally liked housework and didn't complain. And then a most terrible thing happened." Katara paused for dramatic effect. The members of her audience held their breath. "Hai's father died. She was an orphan now, and her stepmother said that she could only stay in the house if she became their maid. Now it was Hai's job to do all of the cooking and cleaning every day. But still she didn't complain, because if she did she would have no place to live."
"We've heard this story before, Mom," Inka said. She'd kept quiet until now, but she just couldn't any longer. Her twin elbowed her, and she shot a glare back at him.
Katara blinked. "Have you?"
Inka nodded. "It was a few years ago, when Shizuku was just a baby. Remember when Kira was sick? That's when you told us the story."
Zuko chuckled at Katara's horrified expression. Never before had she repeated a story; an impressive feat considering she told one every night.
Katara was already thinking of an alternative.
"All right then. Once upon a time," she began (it was tradition, after all), "there was a woman named Oma and a man named Shu. They met on top of the mountain that divided their two villages and they fell in love at first sight."
Hakaru snorted. "They can't have fallen in love that fast." His twin, ever the romantic of the pair, shot him a dirty look. Hakaru stuck out his tongue.
Katara laughed. "Stop it, you two. Sometimes people do fall in love that fast, Hakaru."
He didn't look convinced. "Did you and Dad?"
"No," Katara admitted. "Your father and I took a bit longer. It does often depend on how a couple meets, and your father and I did not meet under the most pleasant of circumstances. But that is a story for another time. May I continue this one now?"
"Yes," Hakaru said, now feeling guilty for his interruption.
Zuko fought to hide his laughter, while Katara gave her husband a good-natured glare before continuing.
"The villages were enemies, so Oma and Shu could not be together. But their love was strong and they found a way."
The children held their breath, anticipating something good. "The two lovers learned earthbending from the badger moles. They became the first earthbenders. They built elaborate tunnels so they could meet secretly. Anyone who tried to follow them would be lost forever in the labyrinth."
"That's amazing," Inka breathed.
Katara smiled. "It is. But one day Shu didn't come."
The children gasped. "He died in the war between their two villages."
"How awful," Kira murmured. Katara's voice was softer now. "Devastated, Oma unleashed a terrible display of her earthbending power. She could have destroyed them all. But instead she declared the war over. Both villages helped her build a new city where they would live together in peace. The great city was named Omashu as a monument to their love."
Shizuku yawned, and Katara smiled down at her youngest son. "And now, I think it's time for bed."
"But Mama," Inka complained, "that wasn't like any of the other love stories you've told us. Shouldn't Oma and Shu have gotten married and lived happily ever after, like everyone else?"
Zuko ruffled his oldest daughter's hair. "I'm afraid life doesn't work that way, Inka. Not everyone is lucky enough to get a happy ending."
Inka pouted. "Well, I still think they should."
Katara laughed. "So do we, darling, so do we."
So… yeah. The story of Oma and Shu is mostly copied from the episode "The Cave of Two Lovers" with a few additions/adjustments. I hope you enjoyed that, and thanks for reading! The list of reviewers is very long and I don't have much time today, so just know that I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to review my little work. Celebrate with me, everyone, for this is now officially my first completed (non-one-shot) story!