I'll Follow You Home – A Zutara Story.
Summary : Sequel to 'Eventualities Are Inevitable'. After being captured by a group of Fire Nation radicals and uncovering a secret plot to destroy the Avatar Cycle, Zuko and Katara must work together to find a way to stop the Sila Vatra before Sozin's Comet arrives.
Spoilers : Puppet Master, Day Of Black Sun part 1 and 2, Western Air Temple, Fire Bending Masters and Boiling Rock part 1 and 2.
Author's Notes : Well, here it is. You've been waiting for it – the epilogue and the official end of 'I'll Follow You Home'. I got it out as quickly as I could to make up for the long wait for chapter 26.
This is weird, seeing it go. But I loved every single second of it! :D
This chapter is set five years after the final battle. Katara is 19, Zuko is 21. Sokka and Suki are 20. Toph and Aang are 17. Just to clear things up! :)
And anyone who guessed that the Sun Warrior Zuko was related to was Agni – you were correct! Nicely done! You guys have a good memory lol.
Hopefully this chapter will clear up some things. But mostly, it's going to be Zutara fuzzies. This is, after all, a Zutara fic.
Katara felt nervous.
Letting out a sigh, she tried to concentrate as the palace maids fussed around her, tugging at her hair and putting make-up on her face. Was all this fuss really necessary? She was going to marry Zuko, not enter a beauty contest!
Marry Zuko....I'm going to marry Zuko...
It had been five years since the day she and Zuko had fallen back through the portal and into their own worlds. Katara could still remember it like it happened yesterday. Toph instantly ran up to them and knocked them both over and Suki burst into tears. It had been strange back in their own worlds, the exhaustion they hadn't felt back in the Spirit World all came flooding back as they landed through the gates and they immediately fell head first into the dirt, asleep.
Toph had eventually gotten over the shock and had spent years teasing them about it.
"Princess Katara, your gown is ready."
Katara smiled to the servant beside her and tried to look as calm as possible. It wouldn't do any good to yell at them. After all, she was just nervous and needed to vent.
Although her nerves were shot and her heart was running at a mile a minute, Katara felt it speed up even further when she saw the dress. It was beautiful! Exactly what she had asked for!
The blue silk hung delicately against her skin as she tried it on and she looked at herself in front of the mirror, aghast.
Just like the Southern Water Tribe, but with a difference. The gown trailed slightly at the back and the neckline hugged at her shoulders nicely, the arms draping slightly over her fingertips. In place of the furred cuffs and neckline of the Water Tribe, Katara had asked for something white. The dressmakers had gone all out, draping the small strands of silk over the blue and embroidering tiny little white beads into the glistening silk. It was symbolic, after all. She was getting married during the Festival of the Life Spirit! White was customary on this day.
It wasn't much, but it was her own tribute. Katara thought back to the ruthless Fire Princess who had given her life to save the rest of the world. It had taken time, but she had finally gotten used to the idea of a 'good Azula'. Today was the day that she gave her life, and the day that Katara would finally marry Fire Lord Zuko.
"Fire Lady Katara..." she chewed the words around in her mouth, trying to get used to the sensation.
She found it didn't quite feel right. She had had this discussion with Zuko before and they had finally come to a conclusion. During the summer and autumn months, Katara would stay at the Fire Nation palace with him, so that he could govern his country at its heart. And in the Spring and Winter months, he would follow her to the South Pole, where she would govern hers.
"Honorary Chieftain Zuko." Katara giggled, thinking that it sounded almost as strange as her own new title.
Not that her father wasn't still doing a great job. Katara wasn't the Tribe Chief, after all. One day that responsibility would fall to Sokka. She was simply their ambassador. And as time wore on, it was getting harder for Hakoda to manage. He was getting older and there was only so much he could do in his condition.
Katara felt herself sadden a little as her thoughts turned to her father. It was difficult for him to adjust, she could see that much. He wasn't used to being so restricted. He'd always been so adventurous and full of life.
He still was, of course. It was just a little harder for him to go Ice Dodging with his tribesmen with only one leg.
"You look truly beautiful, my dear. It does an old heart good to see such things."
Feeling herself smiling, Katara spun around.
"Iroh! You made it!"
Wrapping her arms around him in a big hug, Katara felt some of the nervousness wash away. It had been so long since she'd seen Iroh and she'd missed his comforting words, innuendo's and silly tea jokes.
"Why of course I made it." Iroh beamed, hugging her close. "I would not miss my own sons wedding. Especially to one as beautiful as you."
Pulling apart from him, Katara couldn't help but smirk. Nope, he hadn't changed a bit!
"How are you?" she asked, unable to remove the smile from her face. "How's the Jasmine Dragon? Did you get those special herbs Zuko sent you? Have you heard much from Toph and Aang? Is she alright? How far along is she now?"
Chuckling, Iroh held up a hand.
"All in good time, my girl, all in good time. But now is not the time to speak of others. Today is about you and Zuko."
A little of the nervousness returned and Katara clutched at her stomach, feeling it sink into her feet. Iroh laughed, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"It is natural to feel a little nervous, Katara. But do not fret. When it is all over, then you can let loose and enjoy yourself. This is, after all the Festival of the...Life Spirit."
Iroh hadn't quite adjusted either. When they had arrived to find Aang, Sokka and Iroh at the palace after the battle, he hadn't been able to take it all in. For almost a week, he had remained in complete silence, not joining the rest of them to rejoice in the end of the war. He had taken it hard. Azula might have once been crazy and murderous, but she was also his niece. It had just been a reminder of his own experiences in the Spirit World and the loss of his son. It wasn't one he wanted to relive.
Clearing his throat, Iroh changed the topic, taking Katara's hand and leading her towards the door.
"Your father wished to send me up to get you. He said he wasn't quite up to tackling the stairs himself."
Iroh chuckled again, half-heartedly. Since Iroh and her father had teamed up to save them from Ozai's prisons, Hakoda and Iroh had become firm friends. It saddened Iroh to see him the way he was. The trauma was all in his head, but there wasn't much anyone could do to convince him of that.
"Do we have to go now?" Katara moaned, already feeling the nerves kick in. "I mean, can't they just wait a little?"
Shaking his head, Iroh smiled as he led her down the stairs.
"I am afraid not, my dear. If anything, you are a little late. It would not do to keep your new husband-to-be waiting now, would it?"
There was a twinkle in his eye that Katara saw immediately. She laughed through her nose, trying not to scuff the dress as she walked.
"None of that, Iroh." she smirked. "I know exactly what you're after."
Lacing his arm through hers, Iroh let out a bellowing laugh.
"Lots and lots of grand-babies!" he laughed. "I'm not getting any younger you know and you have already made me wait five years."
Katara laughed along with him, but a little nervously. Babies sounded a little....too much. Or at least, for the moment.
"What about Sokka and Suki?" she joked. "I think they've given you more than enough grandchildren."
Iroh looked a little uncomfortable, biting down on his lip to keep from laughing. Last time Sokka and Suki had come to visit Iroh, he had really had his hands full. Keeping up with three young, rambunctious Water Tribe kids (all equipped with boomerangs) had seemed more like a quest than an hour of babysitting.
"I tell you," Iroh shook his head, grinning. "those twins really are quite aggressive. Just taking them to feed the turtle-ducks was bad enough. A whole tidal wave destroyed the garden!"
The two eldest, Hima and Cho had really given Sokka a shock when he'd discovered that both of them were Water Bender's. Especially since he had only discovered by having Cho's broth sneezed half way across the house!
"Do you...do you think I'll make a good Fire Lady, Iroh?"
Katara tried to keep herself busy. They weren't far from the palace's entrance now and it was on the dais that she would have to walk out in front of hundreds of people! The only thing that kept her from hitching up her skirt and running right back up the stairs was the thought that Zuko was outside, waiting to marry her.
"Will Zuko make a good Water Tribesman?" Iroh smiled, also unnerved by the thought. "It is all very different for you both. It will be a little difficult at first, but when you know what you need to do, you shall each bloom as brilliantly as the brightest Fire Lily."
Katara sighed, knowing that Iroh's words were true. But was that a good thing or a bad thing? What if she did something wrong as Fire Lady?
"Maybe I shouldn't have waited so long to do this." she replied. "Maybe I should have done it sooner."
Iroh cocked an eyebrow.
"There should be nothing that changes your mind, Katara. There is no rush. You have waited, you have thought and trained. And now you are ready. It is something that you must be ready to do."
Katara shrugged, elated at the fact that her dress still stayed up.
"I know, but I feel like I've been missing out. I mean, Sokka and Suki got married three days after the war! Toph and Aang got married last year. And Sokka's already got three children! Even Toph has a baby on the way!"
Katara sighed, wondering whether or not she was just using the chance to vent.
"I just feel like I've been missing something."
Iroh patted her arm, his smile still present. It looked like he was taking it light-heartedly, like he always did. But Katara felt like a silly child, just by bringing it up.
"Katara, you must understand. The others have done these things because they were ready. Because it felt right to them. And this has to feel right to you. Do not feel as if you have been missing anything, my dear."
Iroh looked up at her, more serious now. He still smiled, but Katara could see in her eyes that his words went deep.
"You are young and beautiful! You must take the time to enjoy your life and experience it. I did not do so until many many years had passed and I missed many things. Do not make the same mistake because you feel that you are behind."
They came to a halt. They'd reached the door. Cheering came from outside, only muffled by the drape that hung over the entrance. The only thing that kept Katara obscured from view was that single, flimsy red drape. It didn't seem like much at all and Katara wondered if this was how Appa must have felt whenever they had tried to hide him behind trees.
Oh, for the love of La! Come on Katara! You've faced worse than public appearances before! Get a grip on yourself!
Taking in a deep breath through her nose and swallowing the lump in her throat, Katara turned to Iroh. He was beaming, clearly aware of her discomfort. He looked a little reluctant when he let go of her arm.
"Thank you, Iroh." Katara smiled. "Really. You've been a big help."
"It is the least I could do, my desert flower." he smiled. "You are, after all, making my son the happiest man on earth."
Unable to stop herself from smiling, Katara reached up and gave Iroh a kiss on the cheek. He blushed a fierce red and coughed awkwardly, which made her giggle into the sleeves of her wedding dress.
"Wish me luck, Iroh."
Turning back towards the drape, Katara took in a deep breath and moved it aside. The sound of cheering was almost deafening and the sunlight filtered down into the courtyard, illuminating all the people below. Katara stopped breathing for a second before remembering how again. She smiled, seeing Zuko, who was waiting for her in the centre of the dais.
He looked so handsome! Katara completely forgot about the hundreds of cheering people, the ceremony, or her family and friends all cheering at her below. All she saw was Zuko. He had grown his hair a little longer, which was fastened above his head in a top knot by the Fire Lord's crown. His scar, as he suspected, had returned, but that didn't bother her one bit. It never had. He had grown into himself a lot more now and his broad shoulders and muscled arms stood out underneath his robe, making her just the slightest bit dizzy.
In the centre of his breastplate, sitting inside the Fire nation's flame insignia, was her mother's necklace. Since he had carved her her own betrothal necklace, he had carried her own with him every day.
Katara thought of her own and fought the instinctive urge to reach to her neck and touch it. Zuko had tried several times to finish one that he thought she deserved. She had loved them all, just because he had made it, but carving was one thing that Zuko wasn't very good at.
Probably the only thing he's not good at.
She fought the urge to laugh, remembering his frustrated face, cheeks reddened by the effort. But finally, he had carved her one that he thought was good enough. A flame and wave of water, intertwined as they crashed down, one set in red stone and the other in had taken him months to locate a stone that had both colours locked inside, but when he had presented it to Katara just under a year ago, she had flung herself on him and showered him with kisses.
It hung on her neck now and bounced slightly as she walked slowly towards him. It was so difficult not to simply run the rest of the way towards him and throw her arms around him, but Katara held steady. She was an acknowledged princess now – there were certain things that she was expected to do!
Zuko's appearance took her breath away, and apparently, she had the same effect on him. As Katar walked finally into the centre of the dais, with her hands inside her robe, his gaze never left her. They grinned stupidly at each other, nervous and elated at the same time. The Fire Sage's stood before Zuko, looking impatient.
Well too bad. Katara laughed to herself. This is our day!
Katara came to a stop beside him, smiling up at him before turning to face the Fire Sage. His foot stopped tapping and she fought the urge again to laugh. Holding his hands out high before him, the Fire Sage turned to address the entire crowd.
"We have gathered here, before the sun crest of the Fire Nation, to bind these two people together. Princess Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, Master Water Bender. And Fire Lord Zuko, Master Fire Bender and Prophet."
Katara hadn't really liked that part. Why did everybody have to know about Zuko's special 'gift'? He hadn't had a single bad dream in five years now! That meant peace and prosperity, so why did people continually have to ask him to look for death and terror?
"We give thanks on this day," the Fire Sage boomed "to the Spirit of Life, Azula! We witness her sacrifice and pray for her good grace. The festival of the Life Spirit and the matrimony of this man and this women are intertwined. May peace and prosperity shine upon them and their children."
A murmur of agreement swept through the crowd and Katara tried not to cringe at the word 'children'.
Finally turning back to face both Zuko and Katara, the Fire Sage held his hands forwards towards them.
"Daughter of Water and son of Fire, your elements define you. May you declare yourselves now."
Turning to face each other, Zuko and Katara looked into each others eyes. Katara could see flames dancing behind Zuko's smile and her heart seemed to melt inside of her. He looked down at her in happiness, as if the whole world had lifted away.
Bowing down onto one knee, Zuko looked up at her from the floor. His eyes sparkled like fireflies in the sunlight as he spoke.
"I, Fire Lord Zuko do declare my love for this woman, as the fire burns in my heart."
Katara tried to keep her heart in her chest as she watched him rise. Lowering down onto her own knee (which was done with some difficulty), she looked up at him in turn. His smile warmed her from head to toe and she had to remind herself how to breathe.
"I, Princess Katara of the Southern Water Tribe do declare my love for this man, as the water runs through my veins."
She rose back onto her feet. Her attention was focused on solely on Zuko. Zuko. Wonderful, crazy, angry Zuko. The man she loved. Her nodded his head at her slightly to remind her to turn back towards the Fire Sage and she followed his lead, trying not to blush. She was forgetting an awful lot of things.
It's his fault for looking like that.
Tilting his head slightly, the Fire Sage smiled the smallest possible smile. He had seen her folly, but nobody else had. Reaching behind him, the sage unravelled a something from his belt and held out a red cloth in front of him.
"With the blessing of the spirits and the harmony of your hearts, I will bind you together as one. Do you agree to such terms, as to live and die for one another? To love one another? And to prosper in the life that you will make?"
Zuko's hand came upwards beside her, where it lay suspended in the air.
"I do." he said, smiling down at her.
She almost forgot her part. Running through the marriage rituals in her head, Katara's brain kicked into gear and she too raised her own hand, to place it on top of Zuko's.
"I do." she croaked, looking up at Zuko's eyes and smiling.
Nodding, the Fire Sage placed the red cloth over her hand, winding it around both Zuko's and her own, making them one. Binding them together.
Turning back towards the crowd, the Fire Sage raised his hands in the air once more.
"We as one have witnessed the binding of these two people, with the blessing of the Spirit of Life. May their ties be strong and their bond never break."
The last line was repeated by the crowd. Katara thought that she heard somebody wolf whistling, but she barely thought about it. It was probably just Toph, anyway. Staring up at Zuko, Katara felt her eyes beginning to prick. He looked down at her, the warmest and most tender smile on his face. Katara scolded herself then, as a tear leaked down her face. She was going to ruin that stupid make-up!
"You look so beautiful, Katara." Zuko murmured into her hair, smiling. "You always do."
Katara bit down on her lip to stop herself from bursting into happy tears. With their hands still bound together, Katara wounded her fingers into his own and smiled back up at him, her voice barely a whisper.
"You've made me so happy, Zuko."
The sage threw his arms up into the air, this time in triumph. Katara barely noticed. She was too busy smiling.
"I now declare before this court and the spirits as my witness that you are now man and wife!"
"All hail!" the Sage called, bowing low "Fire Lady Katara!"
An enormous cheer echoed through the court, with people shouting and whistling. Some people bowed low to her, whilst others jumped about in the air, smiling. Sokka was in the front row, brandishing his sword like an idiot and howling.
"That's my sister up there! Yeah! Wooo!"
Something exploded and a shower of fireworks flew out over the crowd. Katara laughed. Iroh's doing, no doubt. Zuko's fingers curled around her own inside the red cloth and she turned to him. He looked at her and the corner of his mouth crept up in a grin. She stared at him and did the same, following him as she stared into his eyes, lost to everything but his love. He laughed, leaning down towards her as he did. His free hand cupped her face and she stared up into his eyes, stunned, until he leant in to kiss her.
The cheers exploded afresh and Katara closed her eyes. Wrapping her arm around his neck she smiled into his kiss, pulling herself into him. His chest crashed against hers and he held her close, his lips moving softly against hers. Warmth exploded through her veins and her head swam. She felt herself sinking into him, becoming one, as the sage had said. He was hers and she was his. Forever. Eternally.
"Hey buddy, watch it! That's my sister!"
Katara barely even registered her brother's comment. Bringing their joined hands in between them, nestled against their hearts, Katara couldn't stop smiling, even as he kissed her.
Fireworks continued to explode and pop above them and showers of golds, reds, green and blue's lit up the courtyard in a burst of joy. Couples in the crowd held each other's hand or shared their own kiss. Nobody could look upon the Fire Lord and Lady that day and doubt the love that they shared.
"Hey, buddy! I've got a bone to pick with you!"
Zuko smirked, despite Sokka's threat. His friend had been less than pleased by Katara and Zuko's kiss in front of the entire court. But of course, nobody was listening to him. Suki smacked him over the head, grinning.
"Sokka, will you stop it! She's a grown woman now, after all."
Sokka raised his eyebrows at her and his mouth fell open in a disbelieving scowl.
"No she's not! She's my sister! She's not allowed to be a woman!"
"Oh yeah?" Katara stated dryly over the table. "And why not?"
Caught a little off guard, Sokka played with a grape on his plate and pushed it around. He avoided eye contact, but blushed fiercely. Katara felt herself cringing, she knew what he was thinking.
"Uh, because..I-I mean you, you can't...you're too young for uh..."
Toph made a gagging noise, her pregnant belly swelling over the table. Everybody snickered, having already had a little bit to drink, except Aang and Toph, who laughed with them regardless. Picking up a crouton, Toph flicked it over to where Sokka was sitting. Instead, it ended up hitting Iroh in the face, who just shrugged and popped it into his mouth.
"Can it, Snoozles." Toph snorted. "You had two kids before you were her age! Now shut up and enjoy the festivities!"
Everyone laughed. Katara was only glad that Hakoda had left the table – who knew what he would have said if he'd been present! The festivities had lightened his spirits immensely and he had asked a rather pretty looking Northern Water Tribe woman to dance with him. He was having a little difficulty, as he kept smacking other dancers with his stick by accident, but he looked like he was having fun. And so did she.
"I think dad's got a crush." Katara smiled, pointing down to the display of people who had made a large circle around them, cheering him on.
"He's loving all this attention." Sokka laughed. "He likes to think himself a ladies man. Guess it runs in the family, huh, Suki?"
He nudged her with his elbow and she laughed, pursing her lips.
"Yeah, Katara's a real man-eater."
The table burst into laughter again, all throwing croutons simultaneously at Sokka, who stuck out his lip and began prodding the grape again.
"I can't believe you guys are really married!" Aang smirked, popping a lichi nut into his mouth. "Katara's Fire Lady and everything!"
Katara blushed, smiling into her plate of food. Fire Lady Katara – there it was again. The crown on top of her head felt a little strange. She'd never worn a top knot before and it took some getting used to. After the ceremony, she had been presented with the crown of the Fire Lady.
Zuko scooted slightly closer to her, winding his hand into hers underneath the table. She looked over at him and blushed. All the talk of babies and....well, how to make babies was starting to embarrass her.
It seems like everybody has a baby these days. Must be the baby boom.
"Well, no offence, Princess," Toph smirked, planting her feet up on the table. "but Twinkle Toes and I had a way better wedding than this!"
Zuko laughed, picking up his goblet and taking a drink.
"You both got married on top of the old Air Temples and had your vows read by Avatar Roku! Then you sailed off into the distance on handgliders! You had over three thousand people there and you get everything paid for you. Of course your wedding was better than ours!"
The table burst into laughter again. Everyone's spirits were high, and Katara felt as if she was floating on a giant cloud. Everything was just so...right. So perfect! They hadn't all been together like this since Aang and Toph's wedding and it felt so good to see them all again.
"I still don't know how you got Roku to do that, by the way." Sokka piped up, picking at his teeth. "You'd think he'd have better things to do."
Toph kicked him under the table and Sokka winced, gritting his teeth together. A little squeaking noise came out of his mouth and Suki giggled into her hand. The kids were all up at the palace, being entertained by the royal nursemaids. Katara felt sorry for the people who were put in charge of them. They'd be sore (and probably very wet) in the morning.
"Have you been successful in locating any of the dormant Air Benders, Avatar Aang?" Iroh asked, stretching out in his chair. "There were rumours of such things in the East."
"Yeah." Aang's smile didn't reach his eyes. "We checked there. We've only found one so far. His name is Kiko, but he's well, uh..."
"He sucks." Toph interjected.
Aang looked a little put off by her comment, but he eventually shrugged his shoulders and sighed.
"We can't expect too much out of him, you know. He had no idea that he was an Air Bender until we met him. He could hold his breath for a really long time, but that was about it. He's around here somewhere, actually."
"I am sure that you will be more successful in future." Iroh smiled kindly. "Katara and Zuko assured me that they saw at least a hundred Air Bender's in their travels to the Spirit World. It is just a matter of time until you find them."
Aang perked up and his smile grew a little larger. Iroh was always good at things like that, he always knew the right thing to say. Katara was frankly amazed that Zuko had managed to be unaffected by his cheery disposition for so many years. Or at least, until he found his way to them.
"Ooh hey! Look at Jeong Jeong!" Sokka laughed, pointing into the crowd. "Aunt Wu made him smooth his hair back!"
Katara could feel the laughter building up behind her lips.
"Wait, that's Jeong Jeong? What happened to his moustache?"
The whole table exploded again in laughter. Sokka rocked backwards and forwards in his chair, pointing and laughing down at Jeong Jeong who, despite looking ridiculous, looked very happy.
"I guess everyone has found somebody since the war was declared over." Zuko looked out into the crowd, looking thoughtful. "That means a big baby boom."
"Do you have enough provisions?" Iroh asked, looking over at him. "We haven't recovered enough from the war to feed such an extensive amount of mouths."
The table fell silent. Matters had turned to a more serious matter. The Fire Nation was completely bankrupt and was still struggling to keep all of its people clothed and fed, even five years after the war. But everyone was surprised when Zuko smiled at them. Whenever it had been mentioned before, he had looked glum and refused to talk about it. He wouldn't let anybody help him.
"Actually, I think we've finally figured something out." Zuko took a long drink from his cup as everybody waited for him to reveal his newfound plans. "Ah – right."
"Ugh, just spit it out Sparky!" Toph grunted, flicking another crouton.
Zuko smirked. He was just drawing them out for the sake of it now. The Dragon's Breath Whiskey was obviously starting to kick in.
"Well, when the war was still going on, what was the Fire Nation's main export?"
"Uh...death?" Sokka mumbled.
Another shower of croutons hit him in the face.
"No." Zuko grunted, still feeling horribly guilty. His country was damaged beyond repair and many people still didn't trust them. It was difficult for him to see them suffer for his ancestor's mistakes.
Zuko smiled, pointing at Aang, who had made the right guess.
"Weapons. Now, when I realised that, I tried to figure out a way to sell these to people again, but without anybody getting hurt. It would be the same wealth, but we needed to find a way to sell turn those weapons into something else."
"Yeah?" Toph droned, balancing a plate of food on her baby bump. "Soo..."
"So, what did the Fire Nation once use as a weapon that can be changed into something profitable and won't be used only as a weapon?"
Zuko was smirking. He was enjoying every single second of this and he was going to lavish in it. Katara really hoped that he had come up with a good solution, so that Sokka wouldn't completely rub it in when it turned out to be something that they couldn't do.
"Do not keep us in suspense any longer, Zuko." Iroh grinned. "I wish to hear your plans."
Sighing with a smile on his face, Zuko finally gave in.
"The air balloons. They're the key!"
"Air balloons?" Suki asked. "But aren't war balloons, you know, for war?"
Something clicked in Katara's brain as she heard Suki's words. That was it! That was what he was planning to do! It must be.
"He's going to use the balloons to transport people across the four nations!" Katara beamed, pleased with herself. "Nobody can get hurt, it's faster that on foot or by boat and the Fire Nation can start to get back on its feet."
Zuko looked deflated. Katara laughed, she had clearly spoilt his fun by guessing it before he could tell them first.
"That's right, actually." Zuko replied, forcing the corner of his mouth into a half smile.
Katara tried not laugh any more, but she couldn't help it. His face was priceless! Why was it that men always threw a temper tantrum if they didn't get it their way? The rest of the table burst into laughter and eventually, Zuko joined in too. Luckily, at least Zuko could see when he was being childish, unlike Sokka, who often kept the charade up for hours.
"That is a very good idea, my boy." Iroh smiled. "It is easy to power the balloons with Fire Bender's and this way, many more young men will be offered work. When do you plan to begin?"
Zuko held his hand up, silencing his uncle.
"We can talk about it later, Uncle. And if you don't mind, I would like to enjoy the festivities for the moment and ask my wife to dance."
Katara blushed a deep red. They were all looking at her and smiling, it was a little unnerving. Iroh smiled and bowed his head graciously.
"Of course, Zuko. Let us not spoil your night." Iroh grabbed a cup and filled it to the brim with more Dragon's Breath. "This is a night for celebration, not planning. Now go and dance!"
Zuko smirked, thanking Iroh with a nod of the head. Rising from his chair and holding his hair out to Katara, he asked her to dance.
"I'd love to dance." Katara replied, trying not to concentrate on the staring faces.
Taking his hand and rising out of the chair, Katara let Zuko lead her down the steps of the platform and onto the dance floor. Looking behind her, Katara could see Iroh standing up with the goblet raised after them.
"But bring her back, Zuko! I would like a dance myself!"
Katara giggled and blushed. Zuko wound through the crowds of people, who parted before them so that they could move. The dance floor was packed, with people swaying and moving to the pulsing rhythm. Katara could just make out her father, who was still dancing with the Northern Water Tribe woman. A huge circle had been cleared around him. Apparently, people were beginning to realise that if they went near him, they were probably going to get hit with a stick.
Katara grinned, elated to see her father so happy again. She waved when he looked over and then moved back through the crowds with Zuko's hand to guide her. They kept on going. Where was Zuko taking her? There were plenty of places to dance, so why were they still moving?
"Zuko, where are we going?"
"You'll see." he smirked, dragging her through and off the dance floor.
"But the dancing is over there." Katara mumbled, feeling a little confused.
He didn't reply, but instead led her to the very end of the banquet room. There were two doors set into the back wall, which she hadn't noticed before. Opening the doors, Katara stepped through to find herself on a balcony overlooking the gardens of the palace.
She gasped. There were lights everywhere! Every tree, bush and fountain below were all strewn with tiny little tea lights. The balcony was no exception. It wasn't completely deserted though. In the corner stood three musicians, who bowed low and waved when they entered. Katara recognised them.
"Uh, Zuko, are those-?"
He nodded, drawing her into him with a single move.
"After you told me about the Cave of Two Lovers, I tracked them down."
Nodding to the musicians, Zuko bowed low in front of her and then held his hand out. The musicians struck up a melody, smooth and gentle. The sound of a flute carried over on the wind and Katara smiled at the floor, feeling herself blush. Reaching out her hand to take Zuko's, she moved into him.
He held her hand gently and wrapped the other around her waist. Katara moved her own to his shoulder, gently rubbing at his neck. His eyes sparkled and they began to move to the music. The slow, melodic singing melted away into the distance, leaving only sweet peace behind it.
They moved together as one. Twirling slowly in the gentle light, they had eyes only for each other. A breeze blew past them and Katara slid her hand up to his face, rubbing her thumb over his scarred cheek. He didn't flinch any more.
"I love you, Zuko."
He smiled gently, moving to a slower pace. He drew her a little closer with the hand around her waist, looking down into her eyes with a pure happiness.
"I love you, Katara."
Leaning into each other, they gave in to the same serenity that had gripped them before. They stopped dancing, wrapping their arms around each other and moulding into one entity. One person, whole only with each other. Their hearts hammered like fire, one burning with passionate heat and the other melting with liquid love.
The musicians continued to play, but looked away from the two lovers. The moment was for them alone, and not for the eyes of others. Fire Lord and Lay melded together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle long forgotten.
Through a gap in the door, Iroh looked on the two lovers, so lost within themselves and their love. He looked away too, wanting to leave them with their happiness. Smiling to himself as he silently closed the door, Iroh turned back into the banquet.
He walked on the outskirts, his smile never fading. Wiping a happy tear from his eye, Iroh sang to himself. Happiness, peace and love had prevailed.
"Destiny is a funny thing."
Indeed it is. He thought to himself. Indeed it is.
Passing through the hall and out into the air of the gardens, Zuko cast one last glance up at the balcony and smiled. Then he turned back and began to walk through the gardens, slowly extinguishing the tea lights as he went.
"Little soldier boy, comes marching home. Little soldier boy, comes marching home..."
Author's Note's : That's it. The end. Finito. Bingo. Yatzee.
Man, I wish it wasn't. :(
Thank you all so much. I can't say it any more plainly than that. Without all of you, my reviewers, readers, fan artists and friends, this fic probably wouldn't have happened. Although I took ages to update, this fic has been my baby since July. I've loved absolutely every second of it and I hope you all have too.
If it weren't for you all, it wouldn't be. So don't thank me, thank yourselves. Seriously. You guys are great. This was something really great for me.
This fiction has come pretty far from EAI. It's built and grown and I've gotten better at writing. And I am so happy that I started it! So, I'm afraid that's it, my friends. The end of 'I'll Follow You Home'.
I would like to close on a positive note though-
HAHAHAHA!!! Jeong Jeong is Aunt Wu's bitch! XD