Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar, but my imagination owns this story :)
A/N: The finale was awesome, the Gaang all survived and the beautiful relationship we all knew would happen, happened. I began writing this story a little before the finale, and tweaked it afterwards so the details matched. I still had a couple of questions about some things when the show ended, and this story is in response to that, for closure I suppose. :) It will include tid bits from the finale and some extra, and then will go beyond the war to the stuff that we won't get to see but that we all want. Rated for later lemony goodness and Kataang fluffiness. So...without further ado...
Ch 1. The Morning After
Katara stirred when the sun shone on her face. She stretched, yawned and opened her eyes, looking at the red canopy above her, remembering yesterday's events. It had been such a long day, with Aang, Sokka, Suki and Toph returning on an airship late last night from the Earth Kingdom.
Finally, finally the war was over. All of their hard work and perseverance had paid off. Upon their return, Katara had learned that Aang had somehow mastered the Avatar State, and was now a fully-realized Avatar. He had accomplished his seemingly impossible task of defeating Ozai, without killing him. Aang had stripped the Fire Lord of his fire bending, and he was imprisoned along with Azula, who had gone completely insane. Katara had been glad of the fact that Aang didn't have to kill Ozai, because she knew Aang couldn't handle causing the death of another person. His respect for life included all life, even if it was the Fire Lord who wreaked death and destruction all over the world. After all, how can you initiate a period of peace beginning with death? Sokka, Toph, and Suki saw the whole thing, but hearing Sokka recount an epic battle was a little comedic and lacking in details, so Katara wanted to hear about it from Aang. She hadn't had much time to talk with him last night due to all the excitement. Then there was a coronation this afternoon and….
"Zuko", she whispered, wrinkling her brow when she said his name.
Zuko would carry a new scar now, from having saved Katara from Azula's lightning strike. She would be eternally grateful to him for that, and they would all surely be lifelong friends. Aang had expressed his gratitude to Zuko when he was told about what Zuko had done for her. She noticed Aang's eyes glinted with tears, as he firmly shook his friend's hand, then hugged him, thanking him for his self-sacrifice.
Zuko had arranged for the Gaang to stay in the Palace City for a few days while he assumed the throne to help ward off any insurgents who may want to overthrow the newly appointed Fire Lord. There were still a few loose ends to tie up: the Fire Nation soldiers, the Dai Li, the War Ministers, and others who may still be loyal to Ozai or Azula.
But now, another challenge faced them. A more tedious challenge: to rectify the damage done by the Fire Nation and help the world to begin recovering. There was much to do, beginning with meetings of councils and world leaders. The group was going to rest and take a much deserved break while waiting for word to get out and for all of the world's political leaders to travel to the Fire Nation. Aang, no doubt, was going to be pulled in a million different directions over the next few years, with leaders of provinces requesting an audience with him and needing his help with peace treaties and trade agreements and so on and so on.
"Ugh." Katara grumbled at that thought. She wondered if they all would ever have a normal, or, somewhat normal life after this, one not filled with politics.
She sat up and dangled her feet over the side of the bed. It was actually a very comfortable room, despite the shades of red with black flames that decorated almost everything. She stood and pulled her robe on and walked toward the door.
"A bath would be nice, I wonder where the bathroom is."
She opened the door and walked out into the hallway. She looked at Aang's door which was directly across from hers and blushed slightly, thinking of him. She knew now without a doubt how he felt about her, and she did have feelings for him, now she just needed to find the right time to let him know.
'I need to apologize to him', she thought, remembering their conversation at the theater. She felt horrible for walking away from him that night, leaving him unanswered and hurt. He seemed to have instantly forgiven her though. The next day it wasn't mentioned at all, and their interaction was the same as always; except when the group's conversation had turned to his killing the Fire Lord. He had gotten frustrated with everyone, and then disappeared, yet another instance she wanted to ask him about. It had only been a couple of days, but with all that had happened she felt as if she hadn't spoken with her friend in months.
She walked down the hall to her right peeking in the doors as she went along. The palace was a huge place, it was going to take a while to find where everything was. Sokka had already found where the kitchen was the night before and was ecstatic to find out there was always someone on duty to prepare food at any hour. Katara giggled.
'He's going to enjoy our time here a little too much', she thought. When she rounded the corner, she saw a large doorway with thick red velvet curtains hanging to cover the opening. She moved the fabric aside with two fingers and peeked inside. She saw a large dressing area, and a bathing area was just beyond a smaller doorway.
"Wow. This is the biggest bathroom I've ever seen," she said stepping through the curtains. Suddenly two women appeared through a doorway on the left side of the dressing area, one of them setting a tray with tea and fruit on a table in the corner to her right.
"Good morning. Would you be requiring any assistance, Master Katara?" the other woman asked bowing.
"Oh, no, thank you," Katara replied. "Just here for a bath."
"Of course, ma'am. Please allow us to draw it for you."
"Um, sure, thanks." They bowed to each other and Katara sat down on one of the pillows in the corner and helped herself to some tea. It was weird having people to wait on her. It wasn't something she was used to. She glanced across the room, catching a glimpse of the sun rising over the edge of the caldera through a large window over the tub. It really was beautiful here, but it had such a dark history. Katara wondered what drove people to become so hungry for power.
"Excuse me, Katara, your bath is ready," one of the women stated.
"Oh, thank you."
"Would you be requiring anything else, Mistress?"
"No, thank you, just some privacy please," Katara said with a nod.
The women left the room, closing the door behind them. She walked through the door and behind a large white screen painted with images of bonsai trees and cranes, the sun and a river.
'At least it's not red and black', Katara thought. She removed her clothes and slipped into the steaming water, noticing the scent of lavender as she sank down into the water. "Ahh, I could get used to this," she said as she relaxed.
"You are too weak! Just like the rest of your people! They did not deserve to exist in this world, in my world. Prepare to join them…prepare to die! …Come on out Avatar! You can't hide in there forever!" Aang felt the heat becoming unbearable and the energy leaving his body, suddenly, there was a white flash.
Aang blinked his eyes, and pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead. He sat up in the bed and shook his head, as if doing that would rid him of the icky feeling the nightmare left him with. He took in and let out a deep breath.
"It was just a dream." He stood and walked toward the window of his room, taking in a grand view of the beautiful city and the ocean in the distance. "It's finally over," he said smiling. His stomach growled, and he clutched at it. "When was the last time I ate? I wonder what everyone is doing for breakfast. Come on Momo!" The still sleeping lemur jumped at the word "breakfast" and leapt onto Aang's shoulder. He opened his door and stepped into the hallway. He looked across the hall at Katara's door. "I wonder if she's awake yet." He knocked on the door first, when he didn't get a response he quietly cracked the door open and looked inside. When he saw she wasn't there he closed the door with a disappointed look on his face. "Oh well, maybe she is already downstairs. I wonder where the bathroom is." He turned to his left and walked down the hall, rounded the corner and came upon the same doorway with the thick red curtains. He pushed the curtain aside and peeked in. He didn't see anyone and walked through the door. Momo squeaked and jumped from his shoulder and ran through the doorway and behind the large white screen.
"Who's there!?" Aang jumped when he heard the voice, but it was familiar. He then heard a splash and a dripping wet Momo ran back to where he was standing.
"Katara, it's just me! I'm sorry I didn't know anyone was in here. I'll just find another bathroom and--"
"No! Aang wait! Just wait in the dressing area over there on those pillows." He bended the water from Momo and turned to the table and pillows in the corner, sitting with his back to the bathing area. He blushed a little, thinking about what was just on the other side of the screen, a little astonished at her level of comfort with him being in the same room while she was…
"I'll be out in a minute," she called out.
"Um, okay," Aang said, handing Momo a piece of fruit from the table, which he stuffed into his mouth whole. Katara let the water drain and emerged from the tub, bended the water from her body, grabbed her robe and wrapped herself in it.
"Good morning," she said as she joined Aang on the pillows.
"Good morning," Aang returned, smiling.
"Sorry Momo," she said as she scratched him behind his ear. She toweled her hair dry and looked at Aang, a smile crossing her lips. "It's weird isn't it? Being able to make ourselves at home in the Fire Nation palace, having people wait on us?" she asked.
"Yeah. But what's great is waking up and realizing that the war is over and we can finally relax and have some fun for a couple of days," he said leaning back on the pillows. He tossed Momo another piece of fruit, and took some for himself.
"Ha! I see nothing has changed."
He beamed at her and raised an eyebrow, "did you expect it to?"
"No," Katara smiled at him. No longer was he the boy she stumbled upon in the South Pole. No, now he was different. Not yet a man, but more mature from their ordeal, and she saw him in a different light. She quite liked this light though, and she admired him so much for coming through that overwhelming experience while still holding onto his true self. Aang's voice brought her out of her thoughts.
"I'm starving. You wanna go get some breakfast?"
"Um, sure. I just need to go change first," she stood up from the pillows.
"Alright, I'll meet you at your room," Aang said. Katara nodded and headed out of the bathroom. Aang sighed, and shook his head, grinning widely.
"Good morning, Avatar Aang." He turned to see two women standing in the dressing area, their hands clasped, and bowing. He returned the gesture.
"Is there anything we can do for you?"
"No, thank you," Aang replied.
"Very well. Good day," the women said, bowing. He again returned the gesture and walked into the rest room.
He stood outside Katara's room waiting for her to get dressed.
"It's a new day Momo," he said petting him. "Everything is gonna be great from here on out," he said smiling. He heard Katara's door open, and turned to greet her.
"Hey, Aang," she said as she emerged from her room. "You ready?"
"Yeah, but, do you remember where the kitchen is?" he asked.
"No, but I'm sure if we find Sokka, we find the kitchen." They both giggled and walked toward Sokka's room to find his door was open and his room was empty. "Oh well," Katara said. "Look's like we're on our own."
Sokka walked into the royal kitchen with his eyes wide.
"Oooh…" he said as he opened a pantry full of goodies for him to choose from. He rubbed his hands together, and right as he was about to dive in…
"I see you've found our stash."
"Huh?" Sokka turned around to find Zuko walking into the kitchen. "Hey there Mr. Fire Lord Zuko Sir. How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess. I'm still a little sore, but it's not anything I can't handle. And please don't call me that," he smirked and sat at the island in the center of the kitchen. "You know you can just go sit in the dining room and someone will get you whatever you want."
"Riiiight…didn't think about that. Not really something I'm used to," Sokka said shrugging his shoulders, turning back to the food and grabbing some fire flakes from the shelf. He had actually started to like those things. "There's nothing wrong with a little pre-breakfast snack," he said grinning.
"I see. Well get used to it. You all are my honored guests. My home is your home. You're welcome to anything I have," Zuko winced and put his hand to his chest.
"Are you alright?" Sokka rushed over to him, dropping the fire flakes, his voice concern laden.
"Yeah, I could use a few days to rest. I don't think I'm going to be able to take any time off though. There's so much to be done."
"Well, let me know if there's anything I can do to help. I can go get Katara for you, for a healing session. She should be awake by now." Sokka started for the door, but Zuko stopped him.
"No Sokka, it's okay. I'll be alright. Besides, if I need to, I can postpone any meetings if it gets where I can't, um, sit," he said slightly smiling.
"Yeah, being the Fire Lord requires a lot of sitting doesn't it?" Sokka chuckled.
"Well it used to. But I intend to be more involved in running the country. I don't want my people to see me as an untouchable deity who runs things from behind a curtain of fire. In fact, I intend to do a lot of remodeling to the entire palace. No more curtain of fire, no more darkness. I want a throne room with a view," he smiled. "Come on, let's go in here and get some breakfast." He stood and put his arm around Sokka, and they walked into the dining area.
"You got any meat?" Sokka asked. Zuko just laughed at him.
Aang and Katara ventured through the hallways and grand rooms of the palace. They still hadn't found the kitchen.
"Man, Zuko really needs to redecorate this place. There's scary pictures of the past Fire Lords everywhere," Aang said.
"Yeah. Plus there aren't enough windows. This place feels like a sauna," Katara added while pulling her hair up into a bun. "At least he already started removing all of those Fire Nation insignia banners." Aang nodded in agreement.
"So what do you want to do after the coronation?" he asked.
"I guess we can see what everyone else feels like doing," she replied.
"We could. But I would kind of like to spend the day with you," Aang raised his eyebrows and shot Katara a sideways glance in anticipation of her response to his invite.
"Okay. Sounds good to me," she said. "You wanna take Appa and see what we can find to get into?"
"Yeah!" Aang said, trying not to sound over-excited. "Oh look here's the dining room." They walked in to find everyone else already seated, with servants taking orders. Toph and Suki had made their way to the dining area as well, with Suki seated next to Sokka, and Toph seated next to Mai. Zuko was at the head of the table. Katara sat next to Toph, and Aang sat at the other end of the table next to her.
"There you two are," Zuko said. "We were beginning to wonder."
"We got lost," Katara said. "This place is huge."
"Actually, you probably just walked in the wrong direction and ended up in the wrong wing. The hallway where your rooms are is just on the other side of that courtyard," Zuko said pointing toward a window opposite his seat at the table. "You'll figure it out soon enough."
Aang smiled. "I appreciate all of your hospitality, Zuko."
"I'm glad to do it. I owe all of you so much. I'm not sure that I could ever repay you," Zuko said. "I want all of you to make yourselves at home here. Not just in the palace, but the Fire Nation as a whole. Everyone here will treat you with the utmost respect. The people are very grateful for all that you've done, and so am I." Zuko raised his glass, "here's to all of you, my friends, for accepting me and for your assistance now, and in the future, in righting the wrongs of my family."
"And here's to you Zuko, our friend. For your resolve to do what was right. We couldn't have completed our mission without you." Aang said raising his glass.
"Here, here," everyone said in unison.
"There's still much work to do," Zuko said.
"But we'll see it through, all of us, together. Until balance has been restored," Aang said.
Everyone smiled and looked at each other. Here they were, all together, the hard part of their mission accomplished, the war over and peaceful times ahead. But for now, it was time for breakfast.
This is my first story so go easy on me ;) Please R&R lemme know what you think. I appreciate all comments and constructive criticism. I never really considered myself a writer but I kinda enjoy it, but anyways. Not sure how often I'll update considering I don't own a computer, but will do asap. Hope you like :)