Hello! Phew I was able to finish the last chapter before the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you enjoy this chapter! Happy New Year!
This has not been beta'ed, so I apologize for any typos.
Avatar: the Last Airbender is not mine.
"I'm so hungry!" Toph complained as she rubbed her stomach.
"Dinner will be ready soon," Ursa replied with a kind smile while Katara took a sip of her tea to hide her amused grin.
"But I'm hungry now," the small earthbender whined as she dramatically shook her empty teacup.
"You sound so much like Sokka right now," Suki responded with a laugh which her twin daughters joined with quiet giggles.
"How dare you insult me in such a way!" Toph retorted heatedly, although the small grin on her face bellied her irritation.
Her words caused the group to laugh good-naturedly as they stared down at her protruding belly. Seven months pregnant, Toph's stomach seemed to be bigger than her smaller frame and her appetite could even rival that of Sokka's. They had even challenged each other to an eating competition before a horrified Aang had intervened.
Chuckling, Katara waved over a servant and asked her to bring them some light snacks. Dinner was still a few hours away and Katara knew firsthand how insistent food cravings were during pregnancy. With a smile and a bow, the maidservant went to follow her lady's request. Returning her attention to the women sitting around her, the Fire Lady smiled.
Wanting to enjoy the pleasant weather, Katara, Ursa, Toph, Suki and her daughters were sitting around a tea table beneath the cherry blossom tree in the Royal Palace Garden. Three days ago, Sokka, Aang, and Hakoda had gone with Zuko and Iroh to inspect several military bases and promised to return soon. Her family had come to visit the Fire Nation to be present for Zuko's 32nd birthday celebration that was to be held in a couple of days. Unfortunately, Gran-Gran and Pakku were unable to make it because long journeys wore her grandmother down nowadays. Katara and Zuko had agreed to take their family to visit the Southern Water Tribe in a couple of months.
Ten years had passed since that fiasco with Ozai and Jianguo. After taking care of Ozai, Jianguo, Mai, and Chen's bodies and finally defeating the rebels for good, life had been more peaceful and the Fire Nation's associations with the other countries were better than ever. The Fire Nation citizens had rejoiced at the prince's safe return and the defeat of the rebels. Toshiro had continued to spend his sentence in prison for his treachery until his death four years ago from natural causes. Lady Yoon Hee had visited him a couple of times, but his deceit had greatly affected her. She now lived with one of her daughters and her family.
Ashamed of what their daughter had done, Mai's parents had resigned from their position in Omashu and relocated with Tom-Tom to a different area in the Earth Kingdom, away from the judgement and sneers of the other Fire Nation noble families.
As for Wei, he continued as one of Zuko's advisors—much to the Fire Lord's displeasure—for two more years after the rebels were defeated before dying of a heart attack that was brought on during an argument with another advisor. Although the royal couple was grateful for Wei leading them to the real traitor, needless to say, not many were saddened by his death.
A year after Ozai's death, Ursa and Jee finally got married and had been happy ever since. Jee returned to his duties as admiral and Ursa agreed to become Katara's advisor. Zuko was glad to see how happy his mother was in her second marriage and he was glad that he had given Jee a chance. Although it did not compare to the relationship he shared with Iroh, Zuko and Jee had developed a strong bond.
"Ugh, I'm never getting pregnant ever again," Toph groused as she winced and rubbed one side of her belly.
"That's what you said last time," Suki teased with a light chuckle while everybody else laughed.
"I'm serious!" the earthbender retorted as she crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. "It better be a girl so Twinkletoes can finally stop bugging me about it. He should've been content that Tenchi turned out to be an airbender."
Aang had proposed marriage to Toph several times before she finally agreed, much to his relief and happiness. Although they had agreed to not start a family until much later, Toph unexpectedly got pregnant and several months later gave birth to Tenchi. Parenthood had not been easy since they were still young, but they had learned together and with the help of their friends. Aang had been ecstatic when they found out that their son was an airbender and he no longer had to fear that he would be the last airbender in the world.
"We know that you want the baby to be a girl too and an earthbender," Katara replied with a grin.
Toph let out a 'hmph!', but they watched as she gently caressed her large belly.
"At least I'm not the only that would be suffering through this," the small earthbender muttered under her breath.
"What was that, dear?" Ursa asked.
"Nothing," Toph responded with a sunny smile, although inwardly she was chuckling almost evilly as she cocked her head in the Fire Lady's direction.
However, none of the women noticed since they were distracted by the loud sound of children's laughter and a boy's indignant exclamation of "not fair!" They looked over to where their children had been playing to see Suki and Sokka's nine-year-old son, Tulok, stomp his foot and pout.
"It's not my fault you're bad at this," Kazuhiko responded in an almost Zuko-like cool manner as he relaxed from his stance. They had been mock-sparring, although without any bending since Tulok was a non-bender.
"Kazu, be nice to your cousin," Katara chided her son.
"Yes, Mom," the golden-eyed prince replied smoothly, even as he shot the other boy a small smirk.
"I'm not bad!" Tulok growled and shook his fist dramatically. "It's 'cause…you're older than me!" he continued as he rubbed his chin and gave an assured nod of his head that reminded the women of his father.
"He's only a year older than you," the 8-year-old Tenchi responded innocently, his gray eyes wide, although a smirk similar to his mother's curled his lips.
"Shut up, Tenchi!" Tulok growled as he glared at the young airbender.
"Tulok," Suki admonished, raising an eyebrow when her son slowly turned to look at her.
"Sorry," he apologized to the other boy sheepishly.
With a grin, Katara watched as her nieces giggled at their younger brother's pout before rolling their eyes when he stuck out his tongue at them. At thirteen years of age, the twins were more well-behaved from their boisterous toddler years, although they sometimes still caused mischief. They were training in both their parents' fighting styles and they especially enjoyed dressing up in their mother's Kyoshi warrior armor. The girls already had several Southern Water Tribe teenage boys besotted with them and it drove Sokka insane, much to Suki's exasperated amusement.
Speaking of which, Katara turned her attention to her daughter, Amaya, who had been contentedly feeding the turtle-ducklings in the pond before the boys' commotion caught her attention. An amused smile curled the little girl's lips at Tulok's antics before all the children were distracted when several servants appeared with more tea and some light refreshments. Tulok and Tenchi let out a loud whoop at the sight of cookies before they raced to sit around the table. Walking at a more sedate pace, Kazu and Amaya followed after the boys before sitting in between their mother and grandmother, who smiled at them.
At eight years of age, Amaya was a beautiful child. Just like Kazu looked like his father, Amaya resembled her mother, except her skin was a lighter tan and her chestnut hair was straight like her father's instead of wavy. Katara and Zuko had been overjoyed when they found out she was pregnant again and they were ecstatic when she gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. Amaya had been born on a rainy night, hence her name, and the labor had been less difficult than her older brother's had been.
Unlike Kazu's more calm personality, Amaya had a fiery temper like both her parents, but she was very outgoing and kindhearted. She had both her father and her older brother wrapped around her finger, Katara mused with a mental chuckle.
To the Royal Council's relief, Kazuhiko began to show sign of his firebending abilities at the age of two, much to Zuko's pride. Katara had been happy as well, because she loved her son no matter what and she would have felt the same if Amaya had also turned out to be a firebender. But to Katara's pride, Amaya had inherited her mother's waterbending abilities and the two of them spent many hours training in both combat and healing. At first, Katara had been a bit worried at the Royal Court's reaction to having another waterbender in the royal family, but she shouldn't have worried. Not only had Zuko made it clear to everyone that the princess was to be shown respect or suffer the consequences, but Amaya had been able to win everybody's affection just like Kazu had ever since he learned to talk. Everyone in the palace adored the young prince and princess.
Katara gazed down fondly at her children and watched as Kazu snatched the last almond cookie before Tulok could grab it and casually placed it on his younger sister's plate, knowing it was her favorite. Amaya looked up to smile brightly at her brother who pretended not to notice as he grinned at a scowling Tulok. Katara smiled at Ursa as she took another sip of her tea. She had two wonderful children and an amazing, loving husband. Life was great.
"Jiao and her brats are here," Toph's announcement interrupted the Fire Lady from her thoughts.
At her words, both royal siblings straightened up. Kazu ran his hand through his wavy, dark hair while Amaya straightened her dress. A minute later, Jiao appeared with Ichiro and her nine-year-old and four-year-old daughters, Hanami and Meili. Jiao wasn't wearing a servant's uniform, but a formal robe and her hair was coiled artfully on her head.
Years ago, with Toshiro in prison, they had been left with no head physician or apprentice for several months until they finally found a replacement, a serious but loyal older physician who had taught medicine at the royal academy. Zuko had been wary of the man for a long time after everything Toshiro had done, but eventually came to trust him. A year after the man had been appointed Palace Physician, Jiao had asked if she could be given the position of assistant, wanting to contribute to the royal family's well-being after everything they had done for her and her family. The old physician had been skeptical at first since she had no previous training, but had ultimately agreed to train her after the Fire Lady's insistence, which paid off since Jiao was a quick learner. Lady Yoon Hee had even trained Jiao in midwifery and Jiao had since then delivered the royal couple's daughter and would do so for any future children.
The old physician had passed away three years ago and Jiao had been appointed the first female Palace Physician. Her husband had also elevated in status throughout the years thanks to his loyalty and actions. Kuo joined Admiral Jee's fleet two years after Ozai and Jianguo's deaths and quickly rose through the ranks until he became captain. Jee was sure that by the time he retired, Kuo would likely take his position as admiral.
Shen had continued to remain one of Zuko's personal guards until he decided to retire after suffering from a broken leg that never quite healed right even after Katara's used her healing skills. However, he was enjoying life with the seamstress he had loved for years and had finally married several years ago.
Ty Lee and Haru had also married and were parents to five children. They had sent word that they would be present for Zuko's celebration. They had also heard that Jet and the rest of his group had visited Ba Sing Se once again where Jet had gotten injured during a drunken bar brawl. Longshot and Smellerbee took him to a young healer who nursed him to life. The young woman's pretty features and kindness stole Jet's heart, much to his surprise. A few years later, Jet asked Song to marry him and she happily agreed. The couple now lived happily in the city of walls.
"I'm glad you came," Katara greeted Jiao with a smile as she motioned for the newcomers to sit while everybody else greeted them. She had invited Jiao and her family to dine with them. After all the things they had gone through together, Jiao and Katara had become close friends and often met for lunch or went out on outings with their children.
Kazu and Ichiro grinned at each other from across the table. They had become best friends since they had been the only children in the palace for some years. They had been playmates as toddlers and were now sparring partners as they honed their firebending skills. It was the same for Amaya and Hanami who smiled at each other. The boys then surreptitiously looked at the girls they respectively had a crush on, but the girls had also looked at them at the same time and their eyes met. The four of them blushed and smiled sheepishly at each other before looking away.
The adults smothered their grins at the adorable display. Tulok, Tenchi, and Meili could only frown in confusion when Jing and Ting started to giggle as they waggled their eyebrows at their younger cousins.
"My, my, what do we have here?" the sound of Iroh's amused voice interrupted everyone's thoughts.
The women gasped as they looked up to see the men in their family smiling at them.
"You're back early!" Ursa exclaimed happily as she smiled at Jee.
Jiao smiled at Kuo as he approached his family.
"Just in time for dinner," Sokka responded with a grin as he winked at his wife.
"Dinner is still too far away," Toph moaned at the reminder even as she stuffed a cookie into her mouth.
"Just an hour or two," Aang replied with an amused chuckle as he sat next to his wife and their son.
The royal couple ignored everyone's antics as they smiled at each other. From his position next to a grinning Hakoda and Iroh, Zuko smiled fondly at his family, thinking how lucky he was to have them. A small grin curled his lips when his children jumped up and raced toward him.
"Papa!" Amaya yelled excitedly as she jumped into his arms.
Zuko chuckled as he swung her up, causing her to giggle happily as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his left cheek, uncaring of the scarred flesh. When she pulled away to smile at him, Zuko looked affectionately at his daughter. She was a tenderhearted girl and he was sure she would be as intelligent and beautiful as her mother when she grew up. The Fire Lord then looked at his son who was standing in front of him with a large smile.
"Welcome home, Father," Kazu greeted in a more respectful manner.
Zuko suppressed at frown. He missed the days when his son called him "Papa" and raced toward him for a hug or a piggyback ride, but as Kazu got older and his studies and training intensified, he was trying to imitate his father's more dignified mien. Even so, they were very close, especially since Zuko took the time to train his son himself and spent quality time with him.
Grinning, Zuko playfully ruffled his son's dark, wavy hair, causing his crown that signaled him as the crown prince to become slightly askew.
"Father!" Kazu exclaimed in mortification, causing everyone to chuckle and the boy to scowl.
"Thank you, Kazu," Zuko said instead as he settled his daughter back on her feet and took her hand before looking at his son. "I trust you looked after your mother and sister while in my absence?"
"Yes, sir!" Kazu replied with a grin and began telling him about his training and how he had help Amaya with her studies.
Zuko felt pride swell in his chest as he listened to his son. He glanced briefly in his wife's direction and they smiled warmly at each other while everyone else continued their conversation.
Later that night found Zuko standing on the balcony outside the royal chamber, staring silently at the starry sky, lost in contemplation. Once they had bid good night to their family and friends, Katara and he had tucked in their son and daughter in their respective beds and wished them sweet dreams. It seemed like it had only been yesterday when Katara had given birth to them and he had cradled them protectively to his chest. And to think he could have missed all of that if he had not turned his back on his father and joined the Avatar's group.
He could not believe it had been ten years since Ozai and Jianguo's demise. His father and Jianguo could never hurt his family ever again. However, more importantly, ten years ago he became Kazuhiko's father and he now had a lovely daughter. He had commissioned a family portrait a few months ago that now hung in one of the palace royal halls. Kazu would inherit the throne once Zuko was gone and, fortunately, there were no more wars or rebellions that his son would have to deal with. At least, that was his hope. His mother was extremely happy with Jee, although Zuko knew it still pained her that Azula's state of mind seemed to become worse with the years. Uncle Iroh was enjoying life and his teashop and being mentor to his nephew's children. And Zuko's marriage to Katara was happier and stronger than ever.
Years ago he had believed that he had no use for a wife or a family and had thought of just doing his duty to his nation of eventually marrying a noblewoman in order to produce an heir. He had believed himself incapable of truly loving someone and did not raise his hopes of ever being truly happy, so he had closed his heart to safeguard himself, unwilling to place his complete trust in anybody. But Katara had come along, destroyed the walls he had built around himself, and buried herself deep in his heart. Now he could only thank the gods that he had been proven wrong. He was so glad that he had ignored what tradition dictated and had decided to pursue Katara—whom his heart truly burned and yearned for—despite all obstacles. Now he could not even imagine being able to live without Katara and their children.
"Zuko?" Katara's soft voice brought him out of his thoughts and the Fire Lord turned around to look at his wife, the beautiful woman he had fallen in love with so many years ago and who continued to capture his heart completely every day. Their marriage was not certainly without its quarrels, but they had learned to work though their problems as they watched their children grow and the world become more peaceful.
His waterbender was standing in the doorway, a questioning smile on her face. She was wearing a flowing light blue nightgown, her chocolate tresses falling around her in loose waves. Even after all these years, she grew more and more beautiful to him.
"Are you alright?" she asked him as she cocked her head to the side. "I called your name a few times, but you wouldn't answer."
"Ah, yes, sorry," he responded with a quick shake of his head to clear his mind. Then with a small smile, he walked up to her and kissed her softly before pulling back.
"I was just thinking about the many things that have occurred in the last few years," he added almost wistfully as he reached up to caress the smooth, onyx pendant of the betrothal necklace he had given her years before. "The war seems like it was a lifetime ago."
The waterbender smiled as she reached up to caress his scarred cheek with her thumb before she stood on the tips of her toes to plant a kiss on his lips.
"I was just thinking the same thing earlier today," she confessed before she wrapped her arms around him and placed her head on his chest. "I know you were gone a few days, but I missed you."
Zuko wrapped her in his arms and brought her closer to him as he whispered against her soft and sweet-smelling hair, "I missed you too, love. And our children."
Katara pulled back slightly to smile at him. "They missed you, too." Then with a small grin, she added, "Although, he didn't say it out loud, I think Kazu was a bit upset that he couldn't go with you and the others."
Zuko let out a low chuckle, thinking on how much he had wanted to prove himself at that age.
"Well, he is ten-years-old now," the firebender contemplated as he ran his hands along his wife's back. "He'll accompany me on my next inspections so he can begin having some outside experience. Once Amaya is old enough, she can come with us as well, if she so wishes."
"I'm sure they'll both like that," the Fire Lady said with a smile as she played with a strand of her husband's long, black hair while she stared into his golden eyes and enjoyed his caressing touch.
In his early thirties, her husband seemed even more handsome to her and she could not seem to stop craving the hard planes of his masculine body and the pleasures it brought her. As if sensing her thoughts, Zuko's eyes darkened and he grinned almost predatorily at her as his hands squeezed her hips before he swooped down to kiss her. Katara moaned into his kiss, her hands clutching onto his biceps, as she pressed herself against him. The feeling of his erection pressing against her stomach brought her out of her lust-filled thoughts as she remembered what she wanted to talk to him about earlier.
"Zuko, w-wait," she rasped out as she pulled back slightly and weakly pushed against his chest.
Zuko let out a small, frustrated groan, but did as she wanted and pulled away, although he kept his hands on her hips. He raised a questioning eyebrow when she smiled shyly at him.
"Um…I wanted to talk to you about something…" she began as she cleared her throat, "Just as we were heading to our room after dinner, Toph pulled me aside and…gave me some wonderful news…which confirmed the suspicions I was beginning to have the past several weeks…"
A small frown appeared on the Fire Lord's brow at his wife's cryptic words.
"What sort of news?" he asked before pausing when Katara grabbed his hands and pressed them against her stomach.
Zuko's heart skipped a beat and his eyes widened at the similar action she had done twice already throughout their marriage.
"You're…pregnant?" he asked in awe as his gaze moved from their joined hands to her warm, blue eyes.
"Yes," she responded with a happy smile.
There was a small pause at her simple word before a large smile curled Zuko's lips at her confirmation. He wrapped her tightly in his arms before he pressed a quick yet loving kiss to her soft lips. He pulled back, but before he could say anything, she placed her hands protectively against her belly and glanced briefly away.
"There's one more thing, though," she said softly as she looked back at his amber eyes.
Zuko suppressed a frown at the slight hesitation he could detect in her movements and he felt his chest constrict. Was something wrong with their unborn child? Could there be complications during this pregnancy?
"What is it?" he asked her worriedly. "Is the baby all right?"
Katara rubbed her still flat belly and smiled to show nothing was wrong.
"Toph told me that she can detect…two heartbeats…"
Zuko blinked slowly as the meaning of her words struck him.
"Twins?" he asked with wide eyes.
"That's what Toph believes," Katara explained, "She said she detected the same thing when Suki was pregnant with Jing and Ting."
They had not planned on having more children after Amaya was born, but it was definitely not unexpected since she was still in her twenties. Katara just never imagined she would be pregnant with twins one day.
"Twins," the firebender repeated slowly as he let the information sink in.
Katara nodded as she looked hesitantly at her husband. She relaxed and felt her heart warm up when another large smile appeared on Zuko's face before he crushed her to him once again.
"This is the best birthday gift you could have given me," he said sincerely as he pressed his lips to her head and ran a soothing hand down her back. The news was certainly unexpected, but definitely most welcome. "You make me so happy, love."
Katara pulled back to smile tearfully at him before she pulled his head down and kissed him hard, pouring all her emotions of love and happiness behind it. Zuko responded to her kiss in the same manner and a moment later their joyous kiss turned passionate and heated. Without a word, the Fire Lord swept her in his arms and quickly carried her to their large bed where he gently deposited her.
A soft moan escaped the waterbender when her husband pressed his body on top of hers and kissed her hard. She loved his attentiveness as he caressed her hot skin with kisses and licks as he slowly removed her clothing before gazing at her as if she were a goddess once she was completely naked. It always made her happy that Zuko had not lost his wonder in her even after all this time.
Once he had his wife naked beneath him, Zuko moved back briefly to swiftly discard his own sleeping attire until he was as nude as her, the evidence of his arousal clearly visible to her hungry gaze. He reveled in the way she always looked at his body, with scars and all, as if it were the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. He could feel his blood rush down to his already painful erection. His need for his waterbending wife had not subsided, nor had it even lessened slightly in all the years that he had made love to her. He still wanted her with an intensity that no longer fazed him.
He pressed his entire body to hers and kissed her slow and gentle, his tongue sweeping through her mouth and wrapping around hers while his hand caressed the soft skin of her side as she tangled her fingers in his hair. Once he was fully immersed in her wet warmth, Zuko pressed his forehead against hers and let out a soft groan, hearing her own moan near his ear. The sensation was not unlike coming home after a long absence and it made the moment even more intense.
Katara opened her eyes when she felt Zuko lean back, feeling her breath hitch at the intensity of his dark, golden eyes as he looked down at her.
"I love you, Katara," he told her firmly, sincerity and emotions ringing in his voice.
A loving smile appeared on the waterbender's face as she reached up to place her hands on either side of his face.
"And I love you, Zuko," she replied with just as much heartfelt sincerity before she kissed him.
He made love to her like he always did—like she was something special, something extremely precious—and she reciprocated his lovemaking with her own passionate nature until a moment later they were both shouting out their euphoric release, chanting each other's names over and over again.
The curtains at the balcony swirled gently as a soft, night breezed blew in and the candles around the grand room flickered just as gently as the Fire Lord and his Fire Lady rested together, wrapped in each other's arms, still connected in the most intimate of ways, as they shared their excitement for what the future held and quietly professed their love for one another.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this last chapter!
Thank you so much for reading and for leaving reviews. I never thought it would take me a little over 10 years to finish this story! I want to give my thanks to those who stuck with me since the very beginning and of course to all new readers.
I am a little sad that this story is now over, but it was definitely time for me to finish it.
Thank you again!