A/N: Thank you everyone for reading and reviewing. I can't say thank you enough for all the encouragement and joy you guys have given me. So here it is, the end. Please enjoy, and Julie, I hope this is enough of a change for you. )
Disclaimer: I don't won Avatar, but I can't wait to see the finale tonight!
Epilogue; 3 years later
Toph walked through the garden, pondering the past and the future. She knew it was uncharacteristic of her, but so much had happened and the next day was her wedding day. It was the perfect chance to reflect and think.
The days after the final battle, as it was called, were hectic and worrisome. Many soldiers and commanders were still under the impression that the Fire Nation was the above all, end all, and that they were better, even though they had been defeated. Many were imprisoned when they attacked after peace was announced and a cease fire ordered, but many more had escaped. The combined armies had spent the next six months tracking down and engaging the renegades, but it had all come to a head when Azula had returned home with her mother.
Azula had surprised everyone by publicly swearing fealty and loyalty to Fire Lord Iroh and Crown Prince Zuko. The princess had then made a speech, asking for all loyal Fire Nation citizens to embrace the peace and work towards rebuilding their country. Everyone was shocked, but Toph had heard some of Iroh and Ursa's influence in the princess. And surprisingly, most of the rebels had ceased their attacks and gone home. A few were just in it for the gains and turned to become brigands and pirates and some were still at large.
Toph sat next to the turtle duck pond and fed out a handful of breadcrumbs to the turtle ducks as little Spirit, her pet lemur tried to snatch a few breadcrumbs for herself. Toph smiled as the mother turtle duck quacked at the little lemur, causing the lemur to scramble onto Toph's shoulder for safety. Aang and Katara had given Toph the lemur as a birthday present after Momo and another lemur Aang had found had a litter. The earthbender thought about them, and all the other people that she had come to know and love during the war.
Everyone her age was now married, except for The Duke and Azula. Sokka and Suki had been the first, marrying not even a year after the final battle. Ty Lee and Haru had been a month behind them, followed by Aang and Katara a year later. Even though Jet had proposed to Mai after the final battle, they had waited another six months after Aang and Katara before finally tying the knot. Teo had surprised everyone by finding a nice quiet girl in the University of Ba Sing Sae and marrying her a month later. The girls name was Song, and Zuko had been startled and troubled when he heard about it and had to immediately explain it to Toph.
She smiled at the memory of him panicking, thinking she was angry. She was, but not over him caring for another girl. No, he had stolen from the girl after she had saved Iroh and taken care of them. But she forgave him when he told her he had repaid the girl with two pairs of beautiful ostrich horses once the war was over. The girl now bred prize ostrich horses while Teo worked on inventions with his father and Haru at the University of Ba Sing Sae.
Toph felt vibrations in the gardens and got up to walk the other way as she felt small feet heading towards the pond. Suki's two year old twins and Ty Lee's two year old daughter were pulling their nannies towards the pond to feed the turtle ducks. As much as she loved the kids, Toph didn't want to be bothered at the moment. Spirit peeped and Toph nodded, allowing the little lemur to go and play with the kids and the lemur's siblings. Moving further into the garden, Toph made her way to a stone statue. It was created by Bumi to commemorate the end of the war. The statue showed the five who were the core group of the Gaang in their individual bending stances.
Aang was in the center with his staff held in one hand. On the Avatar's right was Katara and Sokka, the stone showing a water whip as Sokka's likeness held a sword. On the Avatar's left was a younger likeness of Toph holding a boulder and next to that was Zuko holding a stone likeness of flaming swords. Toph ran a hand over the stone face of her soon to be husband. It showed his scar in vivid detail, but she didn't like to think of him as just the scar. He had moved past that.
"Not reminiscing, are you?" a voice asked behind Toph.
"No, just thinking," Toph answered before straightening her dress and turning to one of her closest friends and soon to be sister in law.
"May I join you then?" Azula asked.
Toph smiled and nodded and they walked further into the gardens.
"You know, it's funny," Toph said as they walked.
"What is?" Azula asked in her usual high and mighty tone, though Toph heard the curiosity underneath it. The princess was much easier to read now that she wasn't lying and scheming the entire time.
"My two greatest enemies, the ones who nearly succeeded in killing me are now two of my best friends."
Azula stopped, a small hint of astonishment coming through her vibrations. Toph stopped and turned to the princess.
"That is funny," Azula said, walking on, and trying to mask her emotions. "How did you survive that lightning anyways? You and Zuzu never like to talk about it."
Toph smiled. "And you're gone the few times we have. Zuko saved me, by hitting me with his own sword and redirecting the lightning through the sword."
Azula felt shocked again, but nodded solemnly. "He loved you even then, didn't he?"
Toph nodded. "I think he just figured it out that night, but yeah, and I loved him to. I was just too young to admit it. So, are you going to ask Chen before he asks you?"
Azula turned to Toph as they walked on, and Toph was sure the princess was giving her a penetrating look. Smiling, Toph turned her face to Azula and waved a hand over her useless eyes.
Azula sighed. "What are you talking about?" the princess asked, trying to sound innocent.
"Oh come on Platypus," Toph stated, stopping and placing her hands on her hips as she frowned up at Azula. "You've been going out with that guy for two years and he even moved to Omashu to be with you since you're there as ambassador now. Now, when are you going to ask him to marry you? I know you love him. Sure, he has his faults, everyone does, but he's the only guy you've let in. So tell."
"It should be him asking," Azula stated, a frown in her voice.
"I asked Zuko, you can ask Chen. Now get over yourself and he will too. Just ask him. The worst he can say is no."
"You…asked Zuko?" Azula asked, astonishment and a held back laugh in her voice. "But I thought…"
"No, he asked my father and gave me the headpiece, but I asked him," Toph said before smiling wryly. "Where do you think he got the ring?"
"Fine," Azula growled, but a smile was in her tone. "I'll ask. Now that you've solved my dilemma, how may I assist you?"
"I'm just remembering," Toph said, sinking onto a bench. "It's weird how all of us split up after and we're still so close. I mean, Aang and Katara travel, doing the Avatar thing, but mostly stay at the temples. Sokka and Suki are in the South Pole. You, Jet and Mai are in Omashu and Haru and Ty Lee are in Ba Sing Sae, but it's not like we're that far from each other."
"I don't understand it myself," Azula said as she sat down on the bench. "You guys are so close and see each other so often. How do you find the time?"
"We made a pact before we split up," Toph said, laughing at the memory. "We decided to meet twice a year in a different place, excluding weddings and births. Just to see each other and catch up on old times. And since Haru and Teo developed that ink I can see, I can read their letters and actually write to them without having Hothead do it for me."
"You really should stop calling Zuzu that," Azula said, a smile in her voice. "He's not as hot headed as he used to be."
"He has his moments, as do I," Toph said with a grin.
She thought about the second day of peace talks. She had been excluded because of her age, though Sokka had gone to assist his father. Zuko was stuck in the talks because he was the crown prince and he wanted to repair his country. Aang was stuck in them because he was the Avatar and last airbender. The talks went on all day and well into the night. Frustrated that Zuko was stuck in them late, Toph had stormed into them on the second night and fortunately Iroh and Bumi had come to the rescue of the leaders and politely asked Toph to join the peace talks.
She found she loved them and loved being a diplomat. All those years of acting the perfect daughter as well as her traveling time and actually seeing how the world worked gave her an insight into people and made her the perfect politician. Her being able to tell when lies were said came in handy as well. The earth kingdom leaders loved her because they thought she was a loyal citizen. The water tribe leaders loved her because they thought her neutral as her element and the fire nation leaders loved her because they knew she would be fair. And because she was Zuko's fiancée.
There had been many heated discussions during the talks, about who would have what, how fast the armies would be disbanded and what of the colonists. The talks had lasted three months, and ended with the Fire Nation pulling out of all Earth Kingdom territories, but the colonists who wished to stay could. The Fire Nation would send workers and resources to help repair the cities while earthbenders and waterbenders stayed in the Fire Nation to help rebuild and heal. Most of the armies were disbanded immediately, the soldiers sent home with a bonus to help them get back on their feet. Only a token of each army remained to chase the brigands and keep the peace.
"Oh look," Azula said dully, startling Toph out of her memories. "The newest bride cometh."
"You mean besides the one you're sitting next to," Mai said with a small smile in her dull tone.
Toph rose and moved to hug Mai. "Oh, there's something different about you," Toph said, smirking as she pulled away from the hug.
She felt Mai blush and Azula became interested as well.
"I'm pregnant," Mai said.
Azula was shocked, but Toph just continued to smile. "Well, this sucks," the earthbender said sarcastically. "I was the first to get engaged, and now I'll be the last married and the last to have kids."
"Oh please," Azula sighed. "There's always me."
"You don't count, you're family," Toph said, grinning at the princess.
Mai and Azula stared at Toph before laughing. "Well, it never gets dull here, that's for sure," Azula said as she rose from the bench. "Now come on my almost sister, we've got a surprise for you."
"If you mean the bachelorette party Sweetness and Bubbles cooked up, lead on."
Toph grinned more as Mai and Azula's vibrations had surprise and shock in them before they both shrugged and smiled, knowing Toph. "No one can keep anything from you, can they?" Mai asked.
"Only Sunshine, and he has to work really hard to do it," Toph said with a smile as she followed the others.
"When?" Azula asked. "He's never been able to hide much from me."
"When he gave me the headpiece for my birthday," Toph stated as she reached up to touch the piece gently. "And he's hiding something right now, I just can't pry it out of him."
"Can I try?" Azula asked with an evil grin.
"No," Toph said, laughing.
The three women made their way inside and found Katara, Suki, Ty Lee, Ursa and Toph's mother waiting for them. The bachelorette party went underway with a lot of laughs as they all recounted all the times they had together and all the mess ups of their men. At the end, Katara announced that she was pregnant as well as Mai, but with her second child. Her first, one year old Gyatso, was being taken care of by the nanny along with Ty Lee and Suki's children.
"So you're going to repopulate the air nomads single handed?" Ty Lee asked Katara after the screams of joy had subsided from the news.
"Well, we're hoping to," Katara said, blushing. "But we should all get to bed now. We have a long day tomorrow."
"Yes Mom," Toph sighed, causing everyone to laugh, knowing Katara's motherly side.
The next morning was pure chaos, everyone working on Toph, making sure the gown was perfect, and that her hair and makeup was done perfectly. The other ladies were worked on as well, but before Toph could snap and yell at the maids, Katara came to the rescue and said Toph needed some air. Escorting Toph onto the balcony, they stood in companionable silence as a breeze from the ocean cooled them down in the autumn heat.
"You know you're the one who wanted to get married on the anniversary of the final battle," Katara said smugly.
"I know," Toph sighed. "I know this will be great, and I've been waiting three years for this day. But…why am I so nervous?"
"Everyone's nervous the day of their wedding," Katara said, laughing lightly. "Relax and enjoy it, it's just a ceremony, to finalize it."
"Thanks Sweetness," Toph said, smiling. Taking a deep breath, she went back inside to the ministrations of the maids.
Zuko couldn't help but smile. He was nervous, but as he watched Toph walking down the aisle on her father's arm, he grinned. She was gorgeous, more beautiful than she had ever been, and she was beaming at him. She was wearing a gown of light green with red lashes in the skirt and showing on the sleeves. The skirt was large, but it didn't hide the woman she had become. Everyone agreed that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Aang was the only one to dispute it openly, saying Katara was.
Zuko glanced away from Toph and saw the temple filled with people from every nation. The temple had seen many sad things, Ozai and Azulon's funerals as well as the funerals of many others, but today was different. The temple was seeing a joyous event, a wedding that would help unite the world.
The prince reflected on how so many from both the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation had opposed the union, but he and Toph had been adamant about it. They knew it was the right course, for them and their countries. Iroh and Bumi had worked hard and shown the people who opposed that it created a deeper peace, and unified the two countries. It had taken longer than the peace treaty to finally sort it out, and Toph had joked about eloping. But Zuko had stood his ground against her and insisted on a traditional wedding in the temple.
Toph passed their friends in the front, and turned to smile at them. Suki and Sokka each held one of their children, both parents beaming as the toddlers waved at Toph. Ty Lee and Haru held their daughter and Aang and Katara's son while Mai and Azula sat side by side, smiling, still rare for Mai, but Azula's smile was one of friendship, not malice. It still surprised him that Toph had befriended her two greatest enemies so quickly and now the three of them were practically inseparable whenever they got together.
Zuko glanced to his left at Jet, his best man. It had been a surprise to the freedom fighter when Zuko had asked him, but they understood each other and Jet had agreed. Jet twitched, still not used to standing before so many people, but with Bumi's coaching in Omashu as an up and coming governor, was getting used to it. As Toph and her father finished climbing the steps to the dais, Zuko took her hand and turned to her in front of Aang. Since the union was between an earthbender and a firebender and also between the crown prince and a lady, the fire sages and earth sages had argued who would conduct the ceremony. Aang had ceased the argument by claiming he would do it as the Avatar and friend.
Katara beamed behind Toph, as Toph's matron of honor and took the flowers that Toph had carried. As Aang started reciting the speech, Zuko became lost in Toph's beauty. He loved her and he knew that she loved him too. They still had arguments, but not as bad as the ones they had with the politicians.
"Sunshine, you there?" Toph whispered.
"Your turn," Toph said, grinning.
Zuko looked at Aang and repeated the vows. Once they were done, and rings exchanged as in the Earth Kingdom custom, Zuko pulled Toph in and kissed her soundly to the applause of the crowd. He still had to bend down to kiss her, but he didn't mind. She was still shorter than him by at least a foot, but at least he didn't have to pick her up to kiss her anymore.
The wedding banquet was a blast, everyone congratulating the couple and enjoying the food and fellowship. Iroh and Bumi both played with the kids, both giving knowing looks to Zuko. The prince ignored them and just enjoyed being with Toph, his friends and family. Towards the end of the evening, he saw Azula approach her boyfriend Chen, and then the two of them disappeared.
"Good, she's finally going to ask," Toph said as Zuko watched his sister disappear into the palace.
"For that boy to marry her," Toph replied with a smug look.
Zuko wanted to storm in after them, to protect his sister and confront Chen about it, but Toph held him back.
"This is our wedding and they're ready. He's just been too shy to do it himself. Now," she said with a sly smile as she reached up to touch his face gently. "What's the surprise you have in store for me?"
"You'll have to wait till tomorrow," Zuko replied with a grin.
Toph started to pout, so Zuko kissed her before leading her out onto the dance floor. The night and festivities went on till dawn, though the couple escaped around midnight. The next day found the newlyweds getting onto an airship. Zuko watched as Toph relaxed as the airship evened out. Although he had gotten better about it, he knew she still didn't like flying, but the balloons were calmer and made of metal so she could actually see some. She continued to question Zuko on his surprise, but he said she would have to wait and see. Toph gave him dark looks at those remarks, but he simply kissed her and said to wait. Halfway through the day, the ship descended.
"Now are you going to tell me?" Toph asked her husband as the ship set down and the crewmen ran a plank down.
"No, come on," Zuko said as he grinned down at his wife. He knew she would love the surprise. It had taken him a year to plan and get this ready for her. He led her down the plank, watching her as she stepped into the clearing. Her eyes widened as she took the first step onto solid ground before she started grinning. Quickening her pace, she led him out of the clearing they were in to the tree line and stopped abruptly.
"Here, it was right here," she said, turning to him and continuing to grin.
"Really? I thought it was a few feet away," Zuko said as he studied the spot of ground they were on.
"Ha! That's why I'm here," she said as she moved into him, standing up onto her toes to kiss him. "This is where we met."
"Yeah, and there's another surprise," Zuko replied, kissing her back.
Toph gave him an odd look, almost like she was going to question him, but shrugged it off and let him lead her. They got back into the airship and it took another half hour before the balloon landed again. When Zuko led her off again, she turned to him and he saw tears in her eyes.
"What's wrong?" he asked, moving in to wipe the tears away.
Toph just smiled and hugged him, not able to talk. Zuko looked over the calm beach. It was just as he remembered it, save for the stone house he had commissioned to be built just past where they had once set up camp. The house wasn't large, but it wasn't small either, just the perfect size for a retreat or for friends to gather.
"It's perfect," Toph whispered into his chest. "Thank you."
"No, thank you for believing in me all those years ago," Zuko said softly as he bent down and kissed her again. Smiling, he picked her up and took her into the house so they could start their honeymoon in the place that had brought them together.
A/N: Thank you to all my reviewers. Especially to those who have been with me from the beginning; Mysterywriter5775, Honors, Mrs. Aang, Paintbender, DeepAzulaEyes, ElementUchihaMaster. And then to Lioness's Heart, Miyiku, Katnaag, Colt321, Kataang412, Dreamer of Universes, oshnsoa shnedashn kiunepqli, pureangel86, MastaDrummer22.
And especially CRASHCooper, arizony, Kairi No Baka, JC, ChipFest, Allison, Ki Ai Sky, Princess Kya, flowerprincess538, heartslol, avatargirl92008, Osbi21, An Assasin's Violin, YumKiwiDelicious, Spike and Tabby, Vanille Strawberry, hewhoistomriddle, mlkoolc86, Julie95. Life is Like a Novel. I'm sorry if I missed anyone, but everyone who has read this, I have only my deepest thanks to you for reading my work.
And very special thank you to Juria for letting me adapt your story to mine and for all the inspiration you've given me. To all my fellow writers, you guys are such an inspiration and have helped this story so much just by creating such wonderful works of art that have inspired me to write. Thank you everyone!