AN: This is the last official chapter for Quaking Passions. I may include an epilogue if I feel it's necessary. So, please, read and enjoy and review and thank you so so so much to everyone who has read this story loyally over the past two years. I can't believe how long its been.
Also, side note...my mircosoft work is bust...so everything I've been posting since I came back from my hiatus has been typed up on WordPad. So I apologize for typoes, mis-spellings, etc. I'm not perfect and often times after writing for so long my mind is tired and misses my mistakes.
So please enjoy the long awaited ending of Quaking Passions! And a little hint/spoiler/whatever-you-wanna-call-it... : ) There is going to be a story which will be the prequel AND the sequel to QP.
It's going to be called Quaking Rapture and its going to focus on Sokka's and Ty Lee's relationship and how Ty Lee came to betray Azula and join up with the good guys! So the story will be actually set about 15 or 16 years after the end of QP and Sokka will have flashbacks throughout the story which tells the before QP story of himself and Ty Lee. And of course, Toph and Zuko will have some story time too, to show how their happily ever after is going...
I hope you guys will like my upcoming Quaking Rapture...! Is anyone else excited?!
ZUKO'S EYES FLUTTERED open slowly, what with the lazy motes of sunlight tickling at his eyelids and the chirping of birds and cicadas droning in the backround. The grass beneath him was soft and plush, and the cherry blossom tree's trunk was hard against his back. The trickle of water in the turtle-duck pond, and the soft breeze carrying through the courtyard made him sigh with contentment. He was home.
Lu Ten, their mother, and their father all sat several paces away, watching with sad and remorseful eyes. He vaguely wondered where Iroh was, but belatedly realized that Iroh was still alive. And likely comforting Toph right now. A twinge of guilt fluttered in his chest. He'd promised to be there for her, to make her his queen...
"Zu-Zu." his sister's voice cooed sickeningly, sending chills down his spine. She was sitting several paces away from him, dressed in bloody armor. Her neck wound was present, her red blood trailing down her neck every so often. Her crimson mouth was set in that annoying smirk of hers. "How does it feel to be dead?"
Zuko looked towards his sister, unable to keep himself from scowling. "So now we're both dead, here to sit with our family for all eternity or whatever the case may be." he said crossly, as if blaming Azula personally for this outcome. Which, probably, wasn't far from the truth.
She nodded, looking rather amused. "I take it Zu-Zu isn't happy about this." she mocked, igniting his anger as she always did.
Zuko hugged his knees to his chest, taking note that his Earth Kingdom uniform was dirtied, torn, and stained with his blood. He sincerely hoped that he wouldn't have to be dressed like this for the rest of...whatever this was. "Leave it to a sociopath like you not to care that you're dead." he muttered darkly.
She laughed, her voice like the tinkling of little bells. He fought the urge to jump up and kill her again. "Oh, Zuko, you've always cared too much about the wrong things." she teased, rolling onto her belly to gaze lazily at the turtle-duck pond. They were diving for food, quacking every now and again, and wriggling happily.
Zuko grit his teeth and leaned back against the cherry blossom trunk. "Just shut up Azula." he hissed, closing his eyes. Perhaps he could slip into a dream, or wake up, or something...
"Always fighting." their mother remarked softly, coming to sit between the two of them. Zuko watched her from the corner of his gaze, but remained silent. Lu Ten and his father also came to sit closer.
"I told you that you'd be back." Lu Ten remarked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Zuko groaned, looking over to his cousin. "You knew all along that we'd be here, that this would happen. Why didn't any of you warn me? I could have prevented this..." he trailed off, his anger dissappating as he though of Iroh, Toph, and everyone else in the mortal realm. Now that Iroh was the last living royal, would they appoint him as Fire Lord?
And Toph...would she be okay? Could she live on without him and build a life for herself? Or would she also join him here... Zuko's brow furrowed. No, he'd rather have Toph live her life and die as an old lady, warm in her bed. Then they could be together here...when the time was right.
"Oh Zuko, there's no cheating fate. You, as well as I know that." Azula smirked, looking to their parents and their cousin. "It was fate that Mom would be banished, that Lu Ten would perish in warfare, that I would kill Father to take the throne for myself. And it was fate that you and I would kill one another. It is the natural order of things."
Zuko clasped his hands to his head. "Azula...just shut the fuck up. Seriously. I can't stand you." he groaned aloud, knocking his head again the cherry blossom tree, though it didn't hurt. Could this get any worse?
Ozai sighed softly, looking to the turtle-duck pond. "I wish I had raised you two better. To think that a brother and sister have killed each other..." he murmured thoughtfully.
Ursa shot her husband a look. "You're one to talk." It seemed that past wrong-doings were not easily forgotten, even in the past life.
Zuko groaned. Apparently, this could get worse. He ran his hands through his hair, watching his mother and father bicker, though he wasn't really listening. Grudges ran pretty deep, it seemed. Though it was not surprising considering it was this family.
Zuko's mind wandered as he thought of Mai, Sokka, Aang, Toph, and everyone else. He wondered if maybe he would see Mai, Haru, and Katara down here. How exactly did death work anyway? Why didn't anyone in the mortal realm seem to know what the deal was either?
He rubbed at his temples. All of this was too much. He didn't want this life, err... afterlife...or whatever this was. Not like this. Not strange, warped, and completely miserable. Zuko lifted his head to look upon the people who had been his greatest source of happiness and despair in his life and he sighed softly.
"Zuko?" his mother, leaning in to gaze into his eyes, murmured his name. His features softened as he locked eyes with his mother. He'd tried so hard to make everything right, to make her proud, to save Iroh, to stop Azula...
"I'm sorry Mom." he whispered, reaching to touch Ursa's cheek.
Her face, resigned and remorseful, leaned into his touch. "You've done the best you could with what you've had, Zuko." she answered.
The deceased Prince smiled wryly, but before he could reply the courtyard seemed to shift and warp slightly. Iroh appeared from seemingly no where, causing Zuko and Azula to jump in surprise, but Lu Ten, Ursa, and Ozai did not seem the least bit perturbed.
"Uncle Iroh!" Zuko exclaimed as he scrambled to his feet. Azula remained seated, however, having never been fond of Iroh in her mortal life. She watched the two men with obvious distaste.
"What are you doing here?! Have you died too!?! What happened?!" Zuko hurriedly questioned, gripping his beloved Uncle's shoulders tightly.
Iroh smiled softly, though sadly as he regarded his nephew. "No, Zuko, I haven't died. I'm here to make an exchange." he informed the younger royal gently. When his nephew's brows furrowed with confusion, he cleared his throat uncomfortably, knowing Zuko would resist him. "You are needed in the mortal realm. Not only your Nation and your people, but a certain Earthbender needs you as well."
Zuko blinked, his features twisting in pain. "Toph...I promised her I'd make her my queen..." he whispered, pained. He felt overwhelmed by his mistakes, by the people that he had let down...
This caught Ursa's attention. "Zuko's getting married?!" she interrupted, not caring that Iroh and Zuko's conversation was veering on the serious side. Mothers had a right to know who their future daughter-in-laws were, after all.
Azula scowled. "Mai's probably dead too. There's no way Zuko's going to marry her if he comes back to life." she commented sourly. Ozai and Lu Ten wisely remained silent, knowing better than to speak their opinion, thought Lu Ten seemed happy to see his father once more.
Zuko sighed, slapping himself in the forehead. "Mom, there's a warrior named Toph who I'm...involved with. She's a Bender of the Earth Kingdom. I'm not marrying Mai." he explained exasperatedly.
Iroh cleared his throat, gaining Zuko's attention once more. "Nephew, I am an old man. I have lived my life. I should have been here long before any of you who are here now." he gazed upon his brother, his son, his niece, and his sister-in-law before locking eyes with Zuko. "As I said before, I am here to make an exchange. A life for a life. You are needed back in the mortal realm. You and I will meet again only once you have completed all that you are destined to in this often confusing and slippery life."
Zuko felt his eyes sting with unshed tears. "Uncle, I can't let you do this..." he murmured, realizing that once again, his Uncle was making a sacrafice on his part.
Iroh shook his head. "You are young. With only 21 years, you still have many left to experience." he patted Zuko's cheek warmly. "If you feel that badly about it, have many children. That will truly spite me." he winked, causing Zuko to grin despite the bleak situation.
Zuko regarded the man who had been more of a father to him than Ozai had ever been. "Uncle." he murmured harshly, pulling the old man into a hug. They embraced for a short moment before Zuko looked to his other relatives.
Ursa smiled gently. "Go on. We will meet again." She made a shooing motion, as if to hurry him along.
"I'll miss all of you and will think of you always." The young Prince said. He ignored the glare of his sister and offered a small smile to his father. "Goodbye." He finally said. Iroh waved his arms, a portal of sorts opening.
"Go now. The Avatar will guide you back to your body. Farewell, nephew." And with that, Zuko turned from his family and left them, entering the portal to return to the mortal realm. Iroh sighed softly, watching the portal close as Zuko dissappeared from view. "He will do great things, I know this much." he commented to no one in particular. He turned to his family.
"It's been a while, father." Lu Ten finally murmured, rising to greet his father.
Iroh pulled his son into a hearty hug. "Yes, my son, it has."
SOKKA SAT AND observed as Iroh and Aang slipped into the conscious-unconsciousness that was the meditative journey to the Spirit World. As much as he hated to see Iroh make this sacrafice, he knew it was necessary for the Fire Nation, for the world, that Zuko live and become the next Fire Lord. He had grown fond of the old man.
Ty Lee sat beside him, attempting to stifle her sobs. The Water Tribesman turned to his lady love, watching as she feebly wiped at her tears. "Ty Lee..." he whispered her name, tucking an errant lock of chestnut hair behind her ear.
"Oh Sokka..." she sobbed mournfully, leaning into his stronger frame. His arms automatically wrapped about her, his fingers stroking soothing circles into her back. She cried bitterly, her tears wetting his neck and soiled tunic. But he did not mind.
"Are you hurt?" he questioned mildly, hoping he wouldn't cause her any alarm.
She sniffled, pulling away to study her burn wounds. "Not badly. I'll be alright. It's just..." she trailed off, fresh tears gliding down her lovely face. "Mai...and Zuko...and Iroh...it's not fair." she finished in between hiccuping sobs.
"Life seldom is." he remarked wryly, brushing her tears with the pad of his thumb. Strange, this battle, despite their victory, had left him feeling strangely calm, numb even...
Her round, hazel eyes bored into his. "Can't you feel any compassion?" she questioned, an angry tone coloring her voice. She wiped angrily at her remaining tears, her gaze fixed on his.
He sighed softly. "I've lost too much to have any tears left, Ty Lee." he answered, looking away from those dissappointed eyes of hers. Ty Lee, more than anyone, should know how much he'd lost because of this useless war. His mother, his father, the remnants of the Southern Water Tribe, his sister, his comrades, his hope...
He looked upon the collective warriors, sighing with the weariness a young man such as himself shouldn't possibly know. It was a small relief that the Fire Nation had ceased their attack when they realized both potential Fire Lords were dead. They had instead knelt and kept vigil, hoping that Iroh's attempts to bring Zuko back to life would be successful.
"I'm sorry." Ty Lee's voice brought his aqua gaze back to his lover's, and he saw only sadness. The acrobat smoothed her battle-mussed hair from her face nervously and she pursed her lips. "I sometimes forget that for most of the war I was on the winning side and didn't see or experience the horrors you all did..." she trailed off, her own guilt silencing her.
Sokka's own guilt flared up and he pulled this beautiful woman, who loved him for reasons unfathomable to him, into his arms. "I have caused you some of the pain that ails you now, my love." he admitted softly in her ear.
"We all do what we must." she replied sadly, hugging him with the strength she had left. For she loved this man, despite his transgressions, despite his shortcomings, despite his dark past. She loved him completely and wholly and without condition.
He kissed her gently, on her cheeks, her forehead, her eyelids, her chin, her lips. "I love you." the warrior told her intensely.
She smiled shyly, looking down. "I need to tell you something...I-I've been meaning to tell you for time..." she murmured. Ty Lee pressed a protective hand to her stomach, looking into her lover's gaze, feeling suddenly that here, now, despite everything, would be the best time. "I'm pregnant." she informed him giddily.
Sokka's jaw dropped, for he suspected that it was possible that Ty Lee was pregnant, for she had been behaving strangely for the last few weeks, but in the blur and rush of pre-battle planning he had ignored her sypmtoms, brushing them off as a possibility, but not a definitely. Something that could be asked about and dealt with later.
He gazed upon this woman, amazed once again that she, so lovely and pure, loved and wanted him. Was carrying his unborn child. The last thing, other than his young niece, that he could claim to be his blood. He wanted her, wanted this baby, wanted this life, wanted it all.
She flinched, mistakening his surprise for dismay. "I didn't want to tell you until after the battle, because I know you had a lot of stress upon you and I didn't want to possibly affect your psyki for the upcoming battle-"
He kissed her, passionately and hard, hugging her fiercely, causing the others around them to start with surprise. "It's fine. It's over now. I understand." he answered hurriedly, pressing his hands to her toned, flat stomach, scarcely believing that his unborn son or daughter laid safetly within.
She watched his carefully, hardly believing that her desired outcome had indeed come true. "You're not mad..?" she questioned.
Sokka shook his head. "No. I'm happy. This is good." he smiled, aware that his face could possibly crack from his wide grin. Their private, happy moment was disrupted, however, when Zuko began to stir.
THE JOURNEY BACK to the mortal realm was a blur, and though Aang's spirit self was there to guide him, Zuko felt incredibly alone. Perhaps it was because only moments before he had been surrounded by his family and he knew that going back to the living world would permanently separate him from them until it was his own dying day. From this day forward, Zuko would be able to rely upon Iroh's counsel, nor would he continue his sibling rivalry with Azula. He was truly alone...
Except for Toph. She would be there with him every step of the way as they paved the road towards equality and peace among the remaining people of each element. She would be by his side, be his wife, be the mother to the family they would make together. This thought caused Zuko to smile warmly. Everything would be alright, so long as Toph was there with him.
A sensation that Zuko could only describe as fitting oneself into a space that they were long accustomed to overcame him, and any whisps of the Spirit World, Aang, or himself vanished. It was dark, though he could hear the various noises and sounds of an army restlessly waiting. He opened his eyes, focusing and adjusting to the bright light, and he saw Toph. He smiled.
"Zuko?" his lover's small hand was pressed his chest, as if to feel for his heartbeat, and he rumbled with a chuckle, pulling her into his arms. "Zuko!" the Earthbender cried with glee, tears of joy slipping down her ivory face.
"I'll never leave you again." Zuko promised into Toph's ebony locks, his arms holding her close to him.
The others; Sokka, Ty Lee, Suki, and Aang, sighed with relief, embracing one another as they saw fit. The troops, now a mix of the Waterbenders, the Earthbenders, the rogue Firebenders, the non-Benders, and Azula's defeated army, all began to cheer with delight. It seemed that this outcome had gladdened them all.
Zuko pulled away slightly, gazing into Toph's beautiful countenance. "Iroh came to me-"
She hushed him, her long fingers combing through his mussed hair. "I know. He gave his life so you could live yours." she spoke softly, her own grief mingling with his.
Zuko looked to Iroh's fallen form, which Aang had taken care to lay down comfortably. He appeared peaceful, asleep even. Zuko knew, that even though the circumstances were probably not what anyone expected, Iroh was at peace and happy to be with his son again.
Zuko reached out, touching his uncle's face, so serene in his eternal sleep. "He told me that to spite him you and I would have to have many children." Zuko finally commented aloud, gazing at Toph. Leave it to Iroh to not-so-subtley hint about great nieces and nephews.
She blinked in surprise, turning from Iroh's prone form, and laughed. "I think we should then, don't you?" she suggested coyly.
Zuko grinned despite himself. "Nothing would be better." he admitted. And a thought occured to him. "So this means you'll be my queen, right?" he queried slyly.
She kissed him then, soft and sweet. "Only if you'll be my king." she retorted.
"That, Toph, I can do." he answered. She laughed, her voice like a tinkling bell, and he kissed her, not caring that everyone was looking.
EVERYTHING THAT CAME thereafter seemed to be a whirlwind and flurry of motion and events. The battle had ended, the rebel army being victorious, and Azula's army surrendering without fight. Sokka dismantled the rebel army, as it was no longer necessary to be active. All of the warriors who had fought tirelessly for over four years were awarded for their efforts and given the highest honors.
Sokka vowed to make the Southern Water Tribe anew, and was crowned the new Cheif of the Southern Water Tribe. The refugees from the Southern Water Tribe who had gone to live in the Northern Water Tribe all returned home, and many members of the Northern Water Tribe also joined them, hoping to start a new life in the South Pole.
Sokka and Ty Lee married in a modest ceremony, for neither had family members that could attend. Sokka's family had all died in the war, and Ty Lee had not had contact with her family since she had run away and joined the circus when she was fourteen. They formally announced Ty Lee's pregnancy soon after they had married, and the Southern Water Tribe rejoiced.
Sokka, wanting his young niece near him, suggested that Aang move to, and live in the Southern Water Tribe. Aang reluctantly agreed, though announced that he could possibly leave at any given moment for his Avatar duties such as helping the Earth Kingdom rebuild all that they had lost, or going to the Fire Nation to settle any civil unrest that could occur.
Suki and her Kyoshi Warriors returned to Kyoshi Island to start a peaceful life. There were rumors of an Earth Kingdom Warrior who had taken a liking to Suki during the war, and that he had begun courting her. But nothing was confirmed...yet.
Jeong Jeong and the rogue Firebenders remained in the Earth Kingdom, for it had been their home for so long they could not imagine going back to the Fire Nation to start all over. They became Earth Kingdom citizens, formally revoking their Fire Nation ties.
As for the Fire Nation colonies that had been formed throughout the Earth Kigndom, they remained standing. Some Fire Nation citizens chose to return to the Fire Nation, and others chose to stay. Some of the Fire Nation's soldiers who had been stationed in certain Earth Kingdom towns had found love with citizens of the Earth Kingdom, and had families of mixed elements. Strict agreements were drawn up between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation that any Fire Nation citizens dwelling in the Earth Kingdom were bound by it's laws and governing powers.
The Fire Nation, for the most part, had accepted Zuko as their new and permanent Fire Lord. Ozai's sudden, unexpected death had caused uncertainty and chaos throughout the Fire Nation, and Azula's somewhat illegal ascension to the throne also had caused worry. But the Fire Nation had tired of war, and tired of losing their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and other loved ones to casualties.
Of course, certain lines of nobility held true to the old cause of world domination and a true heir to the throne, but they were outnumbered by the citizens who merely wanted peace and quiet in their lives. Zuko had informants keep a close eyes on any dissenters.
As for Zuko and Toph...they were married and crowned Fire Lord and Fire Lady on the same day. It was a joyous day for the Fire Nation, for the citizens knew that there would be no more uncertainty and that the two young rulers would make right all the wrongs that had occured throughout the wretched war. There was some talk about how appropriate an Earthbending bride was for Zuko, but Toph's noble birth and lineage was her saving grace on that matter and the talk was quieted.
And so, a time of peace spread through the Kingdoms and people breathed a collective sigh of relief. There would be no more warring, no more loved ones lost, no more tears to be shed, or fear to be felt. Little things could instead be big issues, such as not purchasing enough food for a recipe, or that your husband was quarreling with your neighbor, or your child was struggling in his or her studies, or that your daughter was lovesick over a boy from the next village over.
ON THE EVE of their coronation and wedding, Toph and Zuko left the festivities for a quiet walk throughout the royal palace's courtyard. The sun had set some time ago, but the courtyard was lit sparingly with lanterns, giving it a romantic ambiance. The newlywed couple paused in their stroll to sit on an ornate carved bench.
"Are you cold?" Zuko questioned lovingly, though he doubted Toph would be while dressed in such ornate ceremonial robes.
"No, not at all." she murmured, leaning into her husband's strong body. The Earthbender pressed an errant kiss to Zuko's exposed neck, smirking to herself when he shivered. "Cold?" she teased.
He pulled her close, kissing the top of her head, carefull not to disturb her ornate hairstyle. "You brat." he mockingly scolded her. Zuko smiled as he held his wife, reveling in the wonderful evening, enjoying her so close to him. And, he smiled as he thought of what the night would bring...
"Zuko?" Toph's voice had adopted that soft feminine tone that Zuko knew if she were aware of she would go out of her way to never sound like again.
"Hmm?" he vocalized, pulling his new bride closer, reveling in her sweet scent. Whatever perfume her chambermaids had forced her to wear was driving him insane with want.
She leaned up, kissing his strong jawline, her breath mere inches from his ear. "Isn't it strange how everything worked out?"
He idly touched one of her hair ornaments, a bright red flower in stark contrast against her oiled ebony hair. "You rescued Iroh, rescued me, and he rescued us." he murmured softly. He still felt so sad when he thought of his uncle, his family, of Mai... Mai's funeral had been especially hard for him, with the guilt her harbored regarding his relationship with her.
She smiled. "You rescued us both too, you know." she gently reminded him.
Zuko eyes trailed over Toph's petite features, taking in her lovliness. "You're right. Now, can't we go 'rescue' one another...?" he questioned suggestively.
Toph laughed. "Why, my King, I thought you'd never ask!"