DISCLAIMER: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender, nor am I in any way affiliated with Michael Dante DiMartino or Bryan Konietzko. This story is purely fan-made.
OTHER DISCLAIMER: All lyrics included in this fanfiction solely belong to the credited artist and, sadly, not myself.
Here she comes, rose again from the flames, my little phoenix. Eternity is set in her eyes, throwing sparks back at the world that'll never die. You've got to get close to the flames to see what you're made of.
"I sure got my feathers burned, but I'm stronger than the flames"
- My Little Phoenix by Tarja Turunen
It has long been said that there are some things that should not be combined. Powerful absolute opposites. Life and death. Love and hate. Moon and sun. Water and fire. Should their joining come to pass, it would throw the natural world and the spirit world out of balance. For it is their separation that keeps everything in check. So when two opposing forces fight to be together, it can either end in ruin or salvation.
"How's she doing?" Hakoda asked sympathetically, standing anxiously outside the room where his daughter was due to give birth two days ago.
"She's long overdue and her waters only broke three hours ago," Gran Gran replied, leaving Katara's side for a moment to refill the water jug. "So all in all, she's rather irritated."
"I can guess," Hakoda sighed, glancing quickly into the room before the door shut.
"You really, really can't," Gran Gran frowned. "And I suggest that you don't say that to Katara, she's distressed enough as it is."
"I heard crashing before," Hakoda said nervously.
"Yes," Gran Gran sighed. "That would be the water jug being thrown across the room. Katara is having slight difficulty concentrating on keeping her Waterbending under control as she is currently trying to push a small person out of her."
"And they say women can multi-task," Hakoda chuckled before his laugh was cut short by a sharp look from his mother. "Sorry. I joke when I'm anxious."
"Don't," Gran Gran advised. "Katara's having enough of that from Sokka and Zuko."
"When is it my turn to go in then?" Hakoda asked, impatient as a young boy.
"I don't want her to be too crowded," Gran Gran answered with a shrug. "She might get upset and explode us all."
Hakoda laughed slightly, only to be cut off again by his mother.
"We've got water in our bodies, haven't we?" she asked, her gray eyebrows raised. "Anyway, I'm sure you can go in in a minute or so. Zuko and Sokka are equally determined not to leave her side, so you might have to swap with Toph."
Hakoda nodded as his mother walked off. With a deep breath, he pushed open the already ajar door and stepped inside. Katara was determined that she wouldn't give birth in the bedroom that she and Zuko shared so the room next door was chosen instead, after much deliberation. Hakoda thought that this room would make a perfect bedroom for the child, but didn't voice his opinions. It wasn't fit for a child at this moment anyway; water had saturated parts of the carpet where Katara had accidentally made the water jugs tip over.
"Hey Dad." Katara smiled weakly as soon as she spotted him. She already looked tired and pieces of her mahogany hair stuck to her face, glued there by sweat. Despite this, Hakoda felt an overwhelming sense of pride for his daughter. As he perched on the side of her bed and brushed the strands of hair from her face, his mind drifted away…
"You'll have to accept this baby eventually," Iroh said softly as he and Hakoda watched their two intertwined families playing in the garden. The breeze around them was no more than a whisper and the fading sunlight was still fighting valiantly to shine.
Hakoda remained silent. Saying anything like 'No, I won't', would sound pathetic and childish. Instead, he watched Zuko and Katara sitting on the opposite side of the pond, smiling and laughing, away in their own private world. It hurt Hakoda that he couldn't deny the pair were in love. As Zuko tentatively placed his hand over Katara's ever-expanding bump, Hakoda looked away. Would they let him be a proper grandfather? Did he even want to be?
"I remember the day that Zuko was born," Iroh continued, evidently realizing that he wasn't about to get an answer from Hakoda. "His mother, Ursa, was so worried about him. He was a weak baby, his cries so plaintive. Ozai's initial joy at having a male heir soon faded and after three days he stopped visiting the newborn altogether. He was so sure that his son would just give up and die that he cancelled the celebration feasts."
Hakoda glanced at Iroh curiously, but the older man was lost in the past, his eyes misted over.
"But Ursa wouldn't allow her baby to die, even if her husband had lost faith. She watched over Zuko day and night for weeks until he eventually became stronger. By that time, Ozai had lost all interest in the baby, even resented him for making him look the fool for believing he would die. It was up to Ursa to give Zuko affection and even after Azula was born, he remained her favorite. When she disappeared, it hit Zuko very hard."
Reverting back to the present, Iroh turned to Hakoda.
"Family is everything to my nephew, as I know it is for Katara. They both had to grow up with either physically or emotionally distant parents by force. You have the chance to be there for your grandchild like you never had the chance to be there for your own children. Why are you throwing that away?"
Again, Hakoda couldn't answer. His eyes drifted over to Zuko and Katara, the latter of whom had laced her finger through Zuko's so that both their hands rested on top of their unborn child. Zuko whispered something that made Katara smile and kiss him lightly on the cheek.
"They're happy," Hakoda said. It wasn't a question, more a resigned statement.
"Yes," Iroh replied simply. "They've fought so hard to become so."
"That's all I've ever wanted for her," Hakoda said suddenly. "Sokka too."
"She can be happy without you, she's already proved that, but why should that mean that you stay away?" Iroh asked. "Everyone needs their family."
"I want to be there for her, I really do I just…"
"Can't forgive her?" Iroh suggested.
"Exactly," Hakoda sighed. "And I don't even know why I feel like that anymore."
"Just try to remember that she hasn't done anything wrong, that she didn't betray you by falling for Zuko. She never meant to hurt you."
It had been two hours after Iroh had talked to him that day that Hakoda decided to tell Katara he was there for her and her baby. Her reaction had been to smile broadly and hug him. That had been months ago and Hakoda found himself truly at peace with the idea of becoming a grandfather.
"How long was mom in labor for with me?" Katara asked suddenly.
"Too long," Hakoda joked. "But we got something beautiful out of it. Just like you will."
"Promise you'll be around to see the baby grow up?" Katara asked, her wide azure eyes imploring.
"I promise," Hakoda nodded.
"I love you so much," Katara whispered, tears springing to her eyes.
"I love you too honey," Hakoda answered, his own emotion threatening to spill over. "Now let's get you some more water."
After four more hours, the magic of childbirth was beginning to wear thin and everyone - save for Katara - was starting to get bored. As for Katara, her contractions were slowly getting closer and closer together and she found herself wishing for this ordeal to be over.
"Can you not just go in there and get it out?" she asked the midwife desperately. "I'm sure it won't mind!"
"Don't call our baby 'it'," Zuko joked, repeating Katara's words from months ago.
Katara shot him an intense glare. "Shut up, this is all your fault!" she snarled, gesturing down at her enormous stomach. "I wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for you!"
"Well, that's a little harsh-" Zuko began with a frown before being cut off by a smack to the head. "Ouch!"
"What the hell's wrong with you?" Toph hissed. "Don't argue with Pregnant Katara!"
"Even I know that," Sokka said with a roll of his eyes.
"Can I have some alone time with Zuko?" Katara asked, all anger seemingly gone for the moment. She winced and breathed sharply as another pain shot across her abdomen.
Everyone left, some glancing at Zuko with pity, assuming that Katara would shortly be venting her wrath upon him.
"What's up?" Zuko asked gently, crouching beside Katara's bedside and holding her hand. "I mean, aside from the obvious."
Katara smiled slightly. "I just wanted to say that I love you. And I'm glad that we're having this baby, even though he or she seems intent on ripping apart my insides."
"Try not to take it personally," Zuko said with a grin. "And I love you too. Very much." He watched his wife with tenderness, stroking her forehead lightly. "You've never looked more beautiful."
"Liar," Katara said with a shaky laugh that quickly turned into a gasp of pain. "Can you go and bring the midwife back in? I'm pretty sure Baby's on his or her way."
Panic flashing through him, Zuko wrenched his hand away from Katara's and scrambled to his feet. The few feet to the door suddenly seemed like a thousand miles. His baby was on the way! Was he ready to be a father? Would he screw up the child's life? All the questions that he thought he had put to rest suddenly flared to life as his trembling hand found the door handle, turned it and flung the door open.
"Baby's coming," he said simply, not able to convey the urgency needed for the situation.
"Yes, we know that," Toph answered with a roll of her eyes. "We're not here for the good of our health."
Zuko looked at them all for a moment. "Right now," he added.
There was a small stampede to get to Katara and Zuko almost lost his balance as people shoved past him.
"Father of the child here," he muttered before closing the door and practically running to Katara's side.
"The baby's on its way," the midwife confirmed to those surrounding the bed. "If you'd all step back please."
"We'll wait outside," Toph said, taking Sokka by his sleeve and dragging him away. "I don't think Snoozles' delicate stomach will be able to handle this."
"Thanks," Katara muttered in between painful gasps.
"No problem," Toph grinned cheerfully. "I would say 'have fun' but it's kind of the wrong sentiment."
"How about 'good luck'?" Sokka wondered.
"Why would she need luck? I don't think she needs luck for this."
"I hope…that one day…you have plenty of…children," Katara snarled to Toph, breathing heavily.
"We'll just leave," Iroh said, quickly exiting and followed Toph, Sokka and Hakoda.
"Zuko? Gran Gran?" Katara called, checking.
"We're here, honey," Gran Gran whispered soothingly. "Just keep breathing." She glanced to the other side of the bed. "Zuko, take her hand."
Zuko obliged but soon winced. "Ouch!"
"What?" Katara puffed as the midwife urged her to push.
"You're squeezing my hand pretty tightly," Zuko explained feebly.
"Oh, I'm sorry, are you in pain?!" Katara screamed, gripping the bed tightly with her free hand.
"You're such an idiot," Gran Gran muttered to Zuko, her low voice barely decipherable over Katara.
"I really can't help it," Zuko shrugged. To Katara, "That's it, you're doing great!"
It's odd how slow time seems to pass when you're in absolute agony, but eventually a small, shrill cry pierced the room. Even through the haze of pain, Katara recognized it as the cry of her baby. She managed a weak smile and tried to sit up but exhaustion overcame her and all she could do was slump back on the pillows.
"Congratulations," the midwife said as she wiped down something small and impossibly fragile and wrapped a blanket around the bundle. "You have a beautiful baby girl."
"A girl?" Katara repeated, a brilliant smile lighting up her tired face.
"A girl," Zuko confirmed with an equal smile, clutching Katara's hand tightly.
"Would you like to hold her?" the midwife asked.
Katara could only nod as tears constricted her throat. Zuko let go of her hand and she held out her arms. They were barely weighted down as the wailing baby girl was placed into them. Katara stared down into the perfect face, the face of her daughter. Mesmerized, she barely noticed as Zuko sat down on the edge of the bed and put his arm around her shoulders. He kissed her head before looking down on his baby. Slowly, the newborn's crying subsided and her eyes stared up at her first proper look at the world. Her cerulean eyes seemed to shine like sapphires.
"She's perfect," Zuko breathed, moving his free hand to stroke the baby's minute tufts of raven hair. "Look what we made."
Enchanted, the new parents watched their daughter as the minutes passed, unaware that Gran Gran and the midwife had left as soon as Katara held the newborn, wishing to give the family some peace. A fierce protectiveness ran through Katara's veins and she knew that Zuko felt the same. Each would die before letting any harm come to this baby.
"I'm so proud of you," Zuko murmured after a while to Katara.
"Who would've thought this would have happened when I first came here?" Katara asked with a quiet laugh.
"I did," Zuko answered. At Katara's skeptic look he smiled. "Well, alright, maybe not when you first came. When you first came, you annoyed the hell out of me. But soon I knew that I wanted you to be the mother of my children and that I would spend the rest of my life with you."
"Lucky guess," Katara dismissed, but she laughed again to show her jest. She leaned up to kiss Zuko, trying not to jostle the baby who had drifted off to sleep, apparently bored by her parents' adoration of her.
A knock on the door interrupted the couple. Zuko disentangled himself from Katara's shoulders and walked across the room. He opened the door to almost a dozen faces peering in excitedly.
"We have a girl," Zuko grinned after a moment of keeping those waiting in suspense.
Toph whooped loudly, before remembering the baby inside and settling for punching the air instead. Iroh embraced Zuko and Hakoda and Sokka embraced each other, as did Toph and Gran Gran.
"I want hugs too!" Katara called from inside the room, pouting slightly. She cradled her baby to her chest as the space around her bed filled up with her smiling family. They congratulated Katara and cooed at the newest addition. Sokka swore that the newborn's eyes were the exact same color as his and that his new niece would grow up as a female version of himself. This got Katara so worked up that everyone left the room to give her time to calm down.
"Way to go," Toph hissed sarcastically to the young Water Tribe warrior as they all left the room.
"How was I supposed to know she wouldn't take it so well?" Sokka asked with a shrug, letting the situation wash over him unconcernedly.
"You told her that her baby would turn out exactly like you, how could she not take it badly?" Toph asked, punching Sokka lightly on his arm.
The group stood outside the door for a few minutes, each feeling drained as though they had gone through childbirth. Feeling his eyelids begin to droop, Zuko cleared his throat and stood up off the wall he was leaning against.
"Think she's had time to deal?" he asked, stifling a yawn.
"There's nothing to deal with!" Sokka protested. No one listened.
"Yeah," Toph nodded. "I want to see SteamBaby again."
Everyone stared at her, not that she could see it.
"I'll ask," Hakoda sighed to the others, before turning to Toph. "SteamBaby?"
"What do you get when you mix fire and water?" Toph asked resignedly. "Seriously guys, do you even think these nicknames through? They're not just a spur of the moment thing, I work really hard on them!"
"Right," Sokka said, deadpanned. "It all makes perfect sense now."
He pushed open the door. "Hey Kata-"
But his little sister was asleep, her newborn nuzzled safely in her arms. He smiled and gently shut the door behind him, gesturing to the others that Katara was asleep. They all smiled fondly and left without another word. Only Zuko stayed behind, slipping into the room to watch over his little family. He sat down in the soft chair next to Katara's bed and watched his daughter, the way her little chest rose and fell ever so slightly and how she looked so familiar even though he had only known her for less than an hour.
Before he knew it, his own eyes had drifted shut and he fell into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
"What do you think her name should be?" Katara asked as she and Zuko leant over the baby's crib. Even after three days, they couldn't tear their eyes from her.
"Actually, I have a couple of ideas," Zuko admitted.
Katara stood up straight and looked at her husband with a smile.
"Really?" she asked, curious. "What?"
"I was thinking…maybe…Mizuki. In honor of her mommy."
Katara considered the name for a moment before smiling widely and nodding. "I think it's perfect." She looked down at the sleeping child. "Hi Mizuki."
"I think she looks like you," Zuko commented.
"Her skin is like porcelain and her hair's the same color as yours," Katara answered with a slight laugh. "The only indication that I'm her mother is her eyes."
"And what beautiful eyes they are." Zuko kissed his wife lightly before taking her hand and holding it as they both watched over their newly-named baby.
The year and a half that followed Mizuki's birth was something that Zuko and Katara never could have prepared for. Although Mizuki was a strong baby who slept through most nights, the young parents still found it difficult to adjust. Many times they found themselves arguing over the most pointless of things but a swift reconciliation always followed. Well, the reconciliation may not always have been swift, both too stubborn to admit they were wrong, but it always occurred.
Hakoda, Sokka and Gran Gran had left as soon as Gran Gran could be certain that Katara could manage a baby by herself (refusing to acknowledge Zuko, Iroh or all the servants in the palace). Toph stayed with them for a further week before going back to the Earth Kingdom. Katara found that she didn't miss her family nearly as much as she thought she would've; Mizuki took up most of her time these days. Sometimes she would arrange play dates with Aika and baby Kuzon, which Zuko would almost always disapprove of.
"She's six months old and you're already trying to marry her off!" he had accused Katara on one occasion.
Katara had responded with a torrent of water hurled in her husband's direction.
Mizuki always enjoyed her parents displaying their bending techniques and, when she was one year old, would throw her arms about clumsily in an attempt to copy. It wasn't until one beautifully sunny day in the gardens that she successfully managed to imitate, half a year after her first attempt.
"Honey, stop that, you'll frighten the turtle ducks," Katara scolded her daughter absently as the toddler sat near the pond, waving her arms about frantically.
But Mizuki, equally determined as her parents, glared into the glassy water and moved her hands, her small mind conjuring up the image of her mother controlling liquid. There was a tiny ripple in the pond.
"Mommy!" Mizuki called, her azure eyes lighting up. "Mommy!"
Katara smiled at the memory of Mizuki saying her first word. The fuss that had been made that day hadn't been seen since the end of the war.
"Just a minute Mizuki, Mommy's trying to think of a way to get back at Daddy for beating her in a sparring match!" Katara called from her spot under her and Zuko's tree. Her plans so far included ambushes and teaching Mizuki to say something offensive to Zuko. Neither plan held much merit.
"Mommy!" Mizuki repeated insistently. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"
"Alright," Katara muttered, heaving herself up. "You've certainly got Sokka's mouth." She ambled over to the small girl and knelt beside her. "Are you showing Mommy the turtle ducks again?"
Mizuki shook her head solemnly, her shoulder length raven hair swishing after her. She moved her hands again erratically and pointed her chubby fingers towards the perfectly smooth pond.
"What am I looking at?" Katara asked, confused.
Mizuki, frowning now, slapped the air that hung over the pond. When nothing happened, she tried again and again but to no avail. Her lower lip jutted out and began to tremble.
"I know that look," Katara said. "Someone needs a nap."
"No!" Mizuki cried. "Mommy, water!"
She sliced her hand through the air again, frustration growing. There was another small ripple in the pond. She grinned and turned to Katara, expecting praise.
But Katara was rooted to the spot, her eyes wide.
"Mizuki, copy Mommy and try to make the water move," she instructed faintly, moving her hand in a simple sideways movement.
Mizuki turned her gaze back to the water and copied her mother's movement, although nowhere near as gracefully. Again, the water rippled.
Katara ran through all the possibilities in her mind before she became excited. Was it a windy day? No, there was no wind at all. Did the turtle ducks disturb the water? No, the turtle ducks were happily resting at the other side of the lake.
"You're a Waterbender," she breathed to her daughter. "You're a Waterbender!"
Grinning like mad, she picked up Mizuki and whirled her around, overjoyed. Mizuki giggled, her crimson dress and white petticoat fluttering outwards.
"Well done!" Katara squealed. "Mommy's so proud of you!"
Settling Mizuki on her hip, Katara began to walk as quickly as she could to the corridor adjacent to the gardens. She waited impatiently until a servant walked past.
"Get the Fire Lord as quickly as you can, please!" she half-shouted at the startled young woman. "Tell him to come to the gardens and that it's urgent!"
Murmuring words of encouragement to Mizuki the whole time, Katara bounced back to her previous sitting place and set her daughter down on the grass. Wearing a brilliant smile, she paced up and down, waiting for Zuko to arrive. When he did, she flung herself into his arms.
"Are you okay?" Zuko asked immediately, hugging Katara firmly to him. "Is Mizuki? The servant said it was urgent and I was worried."
"Everything's perfect," Katara gushed, stepping out of the embrace. She turned to Mizuki, who was playing innocently with grass. "Show Daddy what you just showed Mommy."
Mizuki wobbled uncertainly on her fast little legs before plunking herself down in front of the pond and staring intently at it. She waved her arms more or less in the way Katara showed her.
"Watch closely," Katara whispered to Zuko, gripping his hand.
"What am I-?"
Mizuki continued swaying her arms about and after a moment, the section of pond in front of her shivered slightly.
"Is she…?" Zuko whispered, his eyes shining with pride and confusion.
"Yeah," Katara confirmed excitedly. "She's a Waterbender."
Zuko scooped up his little girl and hugged her to his chest. She squealed at all the attention and praise, particularly as her mother joined in the embrace. She placed Mizuki back onto her hip so the toddler was in between her parents. All three of them faced the pond, until Mizuki began to squirm for freedom. She was carefully placed onto the ground and ran off, eager to experience more.
"To be honest, I thought you'd be a little disappointed," Katara admitted to Zuko as he put his arm around her shoulders.
"Well, don't you want another Firebender in the family?" she asked, confused.
"Of course I do," Zuko nodded, turning his head towards his wife, a smile on his lips. "I'm just assuming our next baby will be one."
Katara glanced at him, her own smile forming. "You want another baby?"
"Yeah," Zuko replied, his golden eyes twinkling. "A boy. We need to balance out this family."
"Balance seems to be a theme of our lives," Katara teased.
"Where would we be without it?" Zuko asked with a small laugh.
Katara looked at him, considering the opposites that had somehow managed to work through balance.
"Very unhappy," she answered, before kissing him.
And there, my friends, we have a finale.
Mizuki means 'beautiful moon' in Japanese for those who wondered.
I just want to let you all know how grateful I am for your reviews, favorites and alerts, they mean so much to me. If you've been with Sanctuary from the start, came in halfway or started after this last update, then thank you for sticking with me this far. I really hope that you've enjoyed this fanfic as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Avatar may not be on air anymore but we'll always have the power of fanfiction! -goofy grin-.
I'm thinking of writing a Harry Potter fic next, so maybe I'll see some of you there.
Once again, thanks so much for reading and if you'd like to review one last time, I'd be very appreciative (: