"Good. Now, lift your arms slowly, smoothly. Mimic the natural movement of the water."
Rekka frowned as she did as her Master instructed. A thin stream of water lifted from the pond and circled around her body, forming a snake-like tendril that whipped out and snapped at a nearby tree before returning to the pond with a splash. The ten-year-old beamed with pure joy.
"I did it, Aunt Katara! I made a waterwhip!" she squealed.
Katara chuckled lightly as she straightened from her Waterbending position, smoothing her blue silk robes with the movement. "I better watch out- another Waterbending Master is in the making!"
Rekka's smile dimmed somewhat. "…I wish Dad were here."
Reaching out and touching the girl's shoulder, Katara opened her mouth to reply, only to be cut short by a thud and shouts of protests. She turned her attention to the other side of the courtyard gardens, narrowing her eyes at the upturned earth, burnt foliage, and frozen patches scattered all over the place.
"Toph," Katara called to the woman lounging comfortably in a nest of her element near the courtyard wall, sipping a cup of tea and chortling with Suki, who sat at a table nearby. "I thought you were watching the kids."
"How many times do I have to remind you people? I'm blind. Not exactly the best person to be 'watching' anyone."
"You know what I mean!"
"I am, Sweetness," came the bored reply with a nonchalant wave of her hand. "They're fine."
A boulder the size of a koala-sheep flew towards the Master Earthbender and crashed against the wall. Toph didn't move so much as an eyelash. "See? Tao is giving as good as he's getting."
Katara crossed her arms, clearly not happy with the situation. "Zhen! Liu!"
Abruptly two children appeared, their faces blank but eyes worried. "Yes, Mother?" the black-haired boy in red robes asked hesitantly.
"What did we tell you about burning and freezing things?"
Eight-year-old Zhen, Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, winced. "Not to do it?" he said, his gold eyes reflecting the mid-day sun.
Liu sniffled, tears forming in her cerulean eyes. "We're sorry," the seven-year-old sobbed.
"Sorry isn't going to fix the garden!"
"But they started it!" Zhen insisted, pointed behind him. "Father says to never back down from a challenge!"
"Is a matter of honor," Liu added, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her ocean blue robe.
Katara rolled her eyes. "Toph," she said again, this time with a bit more irritation.
The shorter woman sighed before standing up. "Fine, fine. I'll deal with the little snots." She stomped her foot and her earth-chair sunk back level with the ground around it. "Chi! Tao!"
Without a sound, the two identical boys snapped to attention in front of their mother. "At your service, Mother, dear," they said in one voice, oozing innocence.
"Don't give me that, you weasel-foxes. How many times have I told you: I may be blind, but I can still see everything you do?"
One of the boys smirked. "Not everything," he observed, bending an air sphere under his body and balancing on top of it with one toe.
"Listen, you little smartass…" Toph warned the nine-year-old.
"But what she can't sense, I can see," Aang reminded his son as he plucked him out of the air by the collar of his orange robe. "And the next time you sass your mother, I'm grounding you. Literally."
Chi scowled. "Awww…"
Tao chuckled. "Busted…"
"As are you, young man," Aang reminded him without loosening his hold on his Airbending son. "It's disrespectful to decimate another person's property, especially when that person happens to be the Fire Lord."
Tao peered around his father at Katara, who was still frowning at him, arms crossed over her chest and maternal disapproval radiating from her entire being. "I think I'm more scared of the Fire Lady, Dad," he confessed, his grey-green eyes wide.
Suki chuckled as she walked over, carrying Toph and Aang's six-month-old daughter, Jiao. "Children will be children, Aang," she reminded her friend. "And believe me when I tell you that this garden has seen much worse damage from the sparring sessions between Katara and Zuko than what these kids can do."
Katara glanced at Aang, who let his eldest son down with a thump. "Where's Deshi? Weren't you taking him to see the new ostrich-horse foals in the stables?"
Aang turned to look behind him, aware that his little six-year-old shadow… wasn't there. "Deshi?"
His wife sighed. "Lost him again, did you?"
"He was right behind me! I swear!"
A low rumbling that sounded mysteriously like muffled chortling reached their ears and everyone turned to see Zuko strolling into the courtyard, a child on each hip and a skeptical smirk on his face. "I was minding my own business and trying to catch up on some very important royal matters," he intoned, using his "Fire Lord" voice, "and suddenly these two little runts popped up in front of my desk, demanding a snack!"
Katara smothered a chuckle at his obvious lack of real irritation. "Huo," she began, walking over to take the black-haired Princess from her father's grasp, "were you hiding in Daddy's office again?"
Fire Princess Huo, barely five years old, nodded sagely, her blue eyes serious.
"You know you're not allowed to play in there. Why were you in there again?"
"Miss Daddy," little Huo whispered, her voice feather-soft.
Suki made an "isn't that so cuuuuuute" face. "Awwww…"
Toph snorted. "Sucker. She's got you wrapped too."
"Like you're any more resistant just because you can't see her. You adore her just as much as the rest of us."
"I refuse to respond to that comment."
Aang took his son from Zuko's other arm. "And what were you doing in the Fire Lord's private chambers, young man?"
Deshi held up a rather large red flower. "Wanted t' give Huo this."
Arching a thin brown eyebrow, the Fire Lady leaned closer to the young boy, the child in question clinging tightly to her neck. "A firelily?"
Deshi blushed furiously and looked away, his black bangs covering dark green eyes. "'Cause it's almost as pretty as she is."
Another "Awwwww!" sounded from Suki's vicinity.
"Jeez, Jerkbender- isn't your kid a little young to be making all the guys fall for her?"
Several pairs of ears perked up at the familiar voice. "I have no control over how beautiful and sweet my daughter is," Zuko replied, unperturbed. "It's not my fault she takes after her father."
Katara gave a rather unlady-like snort before enveloping her brother in a tight one-armed hug. "Long time, no see," she murmured. "Where have you been?"
"Earth Kingdom. Northern Water Tribe. Just left Dad at home, though, before coming here." Sokka grinned as his children came running over to welcome him back, Liu tackling him first around the knees with Rekka attacking his chest. He let out a grunt of minor pain, holding the "old war wound" at his side. "Careful, girls. I'm delicate in my old age, you know."
Suki smiled with unshed tears in her eyes as she gave her husband a kiss. He smiled softly, privately, until his eyes rested on little Jiao. "That's not mine." He paused for a moment, a look of worry on his face as he met the Kyoshi Warrior's gaze. "…Is it?" He groaned. "Why is it whenever I come home, somebody's had another kid?"
Toph smacked the Southern Water Tribe Chief in the arm before taking Jiao from Suki. "This one is mine, Snoozles. So far you're still behind the rest of us in terms of quantity."
Sokka waved his hand in a negligent manner at her, forgetting, of course, that she couldn't see it. "Quality over quantity, Toph."
"Some of us are capable of both," the Earthbender replied with a smirk. "After all, I'm responsible for helping to rebuild the Air Nomads and creating the best Earthbenders in the world."
"That's right!" Chi hollered, punching a fist into the air.
"You tell 'im, Mom!" Tao echoed, mimicking his twin.
"Excuse me," Zuko interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a nearby column, "but in terms of 'quantity' Boomerang Boy and I are tied. We both have two kids."
"Sorry, Sparky. Denied."
Toph pointed in Katara's direction. "Sugar Queen is knocked up again. Nice work, Fire Lord."
Katara stared at the tiny Earthbender, her face pure disbelief. "You… you're joking, right?"
"My vibes never lie."
In the stunned silence that followed, Zhen decided to whisper (rather loudly) to the twins as they nodded in agreement, "I hope this time it's not another stupid sister."
True to Toph's announcement, the Fire Lord and Lady found themselves in the unprecedented circumstance of having a third child. Never before had this situation arisen, unless a Fire Lord was unfortunate enough to be unable to conceive a male heir on his first two tries.
Of course, since the Royal Family was considered the descendents of Agni Himself, such a disgraceful situation had never once fallen upon any of the Fire Lords in recorded history.
As Fire Lord Zuko and his lovely Waterbender Lady had already provided the Fire Nation with the required male heir when Zhen was born, they were under no obligation to have another child- except that Katara wished for another. And Zuko readily agreed, knowing what a patient and wonderful mother she was. And thus, Huo was born.
But now… now they found themselves at the center of a political drama that threatened the next page of their happiness.
The old Sages at the Fire Temple were horrified, saying that it was a sign from Agni that the Fire Nation was growing too weak from having Waterbender blood mixed with His descendants' pure blood. Otherwise, why would another possible heir be needed? Perhaps Crown Prince Zhen was not strong enough to become Fire Lord, being that his mother was a lowly Water Tribe peasant.
This comment ended with quite a bit of ice and water damage to the Temple (and its Sages) from the "lowly peasant" in question.
Fire Lord Zuko merely shook his head, warning the Sages against future… outspokenness against his chosen bride. With a white-hot blast of fire aimed at their pointy little hats.
Regardless of the blatant disapproval from the Fire Sages (and more than a few of the older, more hard-headed Fire Nation citizens), Katara found herself thoroughly enjoying her pregnancy. With Suki and Toph visiting frequently with their brood, Zhen and Huo constantly had cousins and friends to play with, so Zuko and Katara could focus on their impending arrival- and the dissent amongst those who viewed the coming child with fear and, sometimes, outright hatred.
The months passed, and as Katara approached her time, the "Agni faithful" grew bolder. More than one stone or brick had shattered windows in the palace, bearing notes that the "Water Tribe whore" was carrying the devil's spawn and it was Lord Zuko's responsibility to "cast out" his wife and strengthen his rule with a Fire Nation bride.
At first, Zuko grew into a rage that threatened to burn the whole palace to the ground with his ire, but Katara pointed out that it was only a few old-school loyalists that were causing the disturbances, and that the majority of the nation was happy about their new addition. Zuko accepted this, and fought to keep his temper whenever the random window was broken, believing in his wife's theory about his people.
Until the raid.
A small group of Ozai loyalists broke into the Fire Palace late one night, intent on dealing with the evil Waterbender and her unborn themselves. They stormed the royal chambers, weapons and flames at the ready.
They weren't expecting to find one severely pissed off Master Earthbender and her Avatar husband waiting for them in the darkness.
"I told you, Twinkletoes," Toph murmured, cracking her fingers as she moved away from the huge draped bed. "They're like vermin, infesting everything no matter how much you try to get rid of them."
Aang sighed. "The Fire Lord and Lady are not here, gentlemen," he announced, in case the loyalists were not aware. "I highly suggest you leave the way you came in."
Murmurs and some cursing followed this statement. "That cursed Water witch will bring the downfall of our nation!" one voice called out. "We will find her and the demon child she carries and sacrifice them both to Agni! Then the Fire Nation will be strong once again!"
Toph grunted. "Are you deaf, or just plain stupid? They aren't here. And even if they were, the Fire Lord would roast you in an instant for daring to threaten his wife."
Aang rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment. "Actually, I think Katara would probably thrash them before Zuko could get to them…"
"Point taken. Don't mess with a pregnant bender."
"I personally agree, having experienced it firsthand three times now."
One older man shook his sword at the couple. "Where are they?" he hollered. "We must rid our country of this abomination before it is born!"
Aang swung his arms and a mighty wind blasted their faces, knocking weapons down and blowing out the torches they held. "Life is life," he said, a multitude of voices coming from his mouth as his eyes and tattoos began to glow a near-blinding bluish-white in the darkness of the room. "Who are you to judge who should and should not live? If this child was yours, and others came with the intent to destroy that which you had made with your body, your soul, would you be so eager to take an innocent life?" His body began to float above the plush green and gold rug covering the floor of the massive bedchamber, hurricane-like winds whipping the wall coverings and drapes. "If you are determined to hate, hate yourselves, for those who would destroy a life before it has begun should not be worthy of love."
And with that final testimony, he shot out one hand and encased the invading group in a chunk of ice.
Toph applauded as she walked over to the frozen men. "Nice work, Twinkletoes. Now all we need is an extra large glass of lemonade."
The Avatar slowly returned to the floor, his glowing tattoos fading as his anger did. "I just… don't understand… how they can talk of taking a life, especially one not even born yet, just because they aren't happy it happened. Every life is precious, before and after it's born."
"Some people just don't think the same way we do," his wife replied, her voice soft in the darkness. "It doesn't necessarily make them wrong, just… different. And as the Avatar, it is your responsibility to make sure that everything balances out, right? So in order to keep that balance, people like these guys here have to exist and keep us on our toes, to remind us why we hold these values so dear."
Two faces appeared outside the doorway to the giant bedchamber. "Nice work, Dad," Chi observed, echoing his mother's previous statement.
"Don't you mean 'ice' work?" Tao said, a smirk on his face.
Toph groaned. "Save me from pre-teen humor."
Aang frowned as he walked out of the royal chambers, leaving the men frozen for the moment. "Why are you here? I thought you were helping Rekka watch the kids while Katara and Zuko were in the birthing room."
The two boys nodded together. "They're all asleep," Chi informed him.
"So we came to let you know what happened," Tao added.
Walking to Aang's side, Toph folded her arms over her chest. "What happened?"
Before the twins could reply, the four turned to see Zuko walking down the hallway, a bundle in his arms and a weary but proud smile on his face. "I see you've been busy as well, Avatar," he said, noticing the frozen men just inside the bedroom door.
"We'll have to thaw them out soon, but for now they can wait." He shook the Fire Lord's hand gently, offering congratulations for the new arrival in his arms. "What was it?"
"That's what we were trying to tell you!" Chi protested.
"But Lord Sparky here interrupted!" Tao agreed.
Toph hit the twin closest to her with a fist to the top of his head. "'Lord Sparky'?"
"Ow!" Chi yelped. "I didn't say it- Tao did!"
"Well, you were closer."
Zuko chuckled before pulling the cover back to reveal…
…Two tiny little faces, snuggled together in the warm blanket.
Aang blinked in surprise. Toph merely smirked. "Two? Twins?"
"Apparently Chi and Tao were not a rare occurrence," Zuko said with a smile.
The Avatar's face broke into a wide smile. "Congratulations! To Katara as well! Boys? Girls?"
Zuko looked down at his two precious newborns. He pointed to the one closest to his chest. "I'd like you to meet Kya," he murmured, before indicating the other child, "…and Iroh."
"One of each, eh?" Toph chuckled. "Congrats, Sparky. How's Sugar Queen?"
"Exhausted. She's sleeping now. But I wanted to see how the two of you were enjoying your new guest chamber." His gold eyes narrowed. "I wasn't expecting to find this mess."
"They thought this was still your bedroom," Toph explained. "They didn't realize that you'd built a new wing closer to the nursery on the other end of the palace and made this wing into private chambers for personal guests and family when they visit."
"Fortunate for us," Zuko muttered, the spark of anger evident in his eyes, "but fatal for them. This will be the last mistake they ever make."
"Zuko," Aang interrupted, "I must disagree. You can't kill them- that would make you just as wrong as they were. You need to confront them, yes, but you can't sink to their level. Be a righteous Fire Lord- not a vengeful father. Think of little Iroh and Kya."
The Avatar's words reminded Zuko of his own father's brutal behavior- and he sighed. "Very well. For now, I will leave them in your care. I must return before these two wake up for their next meal. "
The Avatar family stood quietly as the Fire Lord returned the way he came, all the while whispering sweet words to the sleeping children in his arms.
There would always be a few bumps in the road to peace, but whenever any of Aang's friends and family would look back at their lives, remembering the good and the bad along the paths they've made, they would always say the same thing:
Smile… because it happened.
Zuko & Katara's kids:
Kya- Katara's mother's name
Iroh- well, duh
Suki and Sokka's kids:
Rekka- totally stolen from "Fushigi Yuugi"
Aang and Toph's kids:
Tao- "large waves"
Jiao- "pretty & gentle"