Hope's Blessing

An Avatar: The Last Airbender Fanfiction

Obligatory Disclaimer: I obviously do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender, nor the characters. It belongs to Michael Dante Dimartino , Bryan Konietzco, and Nickelodeon. The character of baby Ashka does not belong to me either. This was written on the request of a friend. It is a complete standalone from my other works.

Dedicated to Red Topaz on LiveJournal. I hope you like this!

As always, reviews are welcomed and appreciated.


Today was the most nerve-wracking day of Zuko's life, for it was on this day that he was going to become a father for the first time.

Nine months of preparation hadn't been nearly enough.

The young Fire Lord paced anxiously in front of their bedroom, back and forth, back and forth in an endless cycle, pausing on occasion whenever he'd hear a particularly heartrending from his beloved wife. It took every ounce of self-restraint he had not to break down the door and rush to her side. When he'd heard her time had come, he'd cancelled every appointment that he'd had for that day.

Now, they were well into the night, and Katara still hadn't delivered. He didn't mind if Iroh and Ursa went to bed, but he'd be damned if he was leaving his wife's side. Not even a herd of wild ostrich horses could have dragged him away.

Of course, he'd been reluctant to leave her side in the beginning. When Katara's labor had started intensifying, Katara's Gran-Gran (her name was Kana, if he remembered correctly) Yugoda, Ursa, had all but physically dragged him away from Katara's side, and shut him out, much to his dismay. Iroh physically blocked him from re-entering.

Zuko, of course, had not been happy about this. He felt he should have been there with Katara. At least he wasn't alone-Iroh and Ursa were with him as well to offer moral support-and to keep him from bursting in and scaring the ever-loving daylights out of the midwives.

However, at long last, after several hours of waiting, all three heard a cry that wasn't Katara's-it was the unmistakable cry of a newborn.

Iroh beamed and clapped Zuko on the back. "Congratulations, nephew."

The door opened, and out stepped a young Water Tribe woman; she was an apprentice to Yugoda. He hadn't caught her name.

She bowed deeply to Zuko and spoke. "My Lord, your wife has given birth to a baby girl."

"My wife, is everything all right?" asked Zuko, anxiously, his heart hammering in his chest.

At this, the young woman smiled warmly at him. "All is well. She wants to see you. Come in."

Zuko nodded, relief flooding him. He stepped into the room hesitantly, and was stopped dead by the sight before him.

There was Katara-looking utterly exhausted but triumphant. Sweat dampened her chestnut hair but her eyes were bright and she had a serene smile on her face. And in her arms, she held a tiny bundle-Zuko could just see a patch of dark hair peeking out from the blue silk blanket.

Katara looked up, and her smile widened at the sight of him. "We have a girl," she said, her voice a mixture of joy and wonder.

Zuko smiled back at her. "I heard."

She reached a hand out to him. "Come see, Zuzu. Meet our daughter."

Zuko closed the distance between them and kissed her forehead. "How are you feeling?" He asked, touching her cheek tenderly, his golden eyes full of worry and love.

"I'm fine." She reassured him. "But Zuko, look at her."

Zuko looked down and literally felt his heart skip a beat. There, in his wife's arms slept their newborn daughter. The baby stirred in her sleep, a frown marring her small features and then dissipating like a rain cloud. The baby was perfect.

"She's beautiful," breathed Zuko as he stared transfixed.

"Isn't she?" smiled Katara as she carefully held the baby up to him. "Hold her."

Zuko stared at her, a sudden fear gripping him. What if he messed up and dropped the baby? That was a truly terrifying thought.

As if she were reading his mind, Katara sighed. "You're not going to drop her, Zuko. I trust you. Please. Just take her." She implored with a loving, patient smile.

Exercising infinite care, Zuko took the precious, fragile bundle from Katara's arms, making sure to support the infant's head-the young monarch may not have ever held a baby in his entire life, but he at least knew that much.

The baby stirred and whimpered in his arms, and he cradled her against his chest, and an overwhelming feeling of love and fierce protectiveness washed over him for this little being that had just come into their lives after so many months of anticipation.

The baby let out a squeaky yawn and her eyes came open for the first time, and Zuko felt his breath catch in awe as he looked into a pair of wide golden orbs that perfectly mirrored his own.

Zuko looked up at Katara, who was leaning back against the pillows and smiling tiredly, but beatifically. "What are we going to name her?"

Katara tilted her head thoughtfully. "Well, I've been looking through the archives in the library lately, and I researched your family tree for ideas. There was one that caught my attention that I loved. I'd like to name our daughter Ashka."

Zuko felt his chest swell with pride, and nodded in approval. "Ashka. That's a good name." Fire Lady Ashka had been a one of the first Fire Ladies. Her firebending talents had been legendary, and she had ruled at the side of her husband with justice, compassion, and wisdom.

Zuko adjusted his hold on her and brushed his finger across one of her impossibly small hands-the infant reflexively wrapped a hand around his forefinger, her grip surprisingly strong. Well, that was it. Although she didn't know it, from that day forward baby Ashka would have her father wrapped around her finger.

The new family was suddenly interrupted by a servant, who peeked in and spoke up. "My Lord, your uncle and mother are waiting outside. Is the Lady Katara strong enough to receive more visitors?"

Zuko looked to his wife questioningly, and Katara nodded. "Sure, let them in. I'm sure Ursa is eager to meet her first grandchild."

At that, the servant nodded and stepped aside, allowing Iroh and Ursa to enter. The former Fire Lady and the old General were both beaming widely.

Zuko straightened proudly. "Mother, I'd like you to meet your granddaughter-her name is Ashka."

Ursa took the baby, tears of joy in her eyes. "Oh Zuko, she's perfect." She looked down at the baby. "Hello there, sweetheart." She crooned, memories of when she'd first held her own children flooding her.

Afterwards, the baby was passed to Iroh, who declared that she was going to be a heartbreaker when she grew up.

"It's almost dawn," declared Ursa as she peered out the window.

"You know what to do, nephew," said Iroh as he handed Ashka back to her father.

Zuko nodded as turned and walked to the balcony to wait for the sun to rise.

Ursa saw the confusion in Katara's features and explained. "In the Fire Nation, it's tradition to bring a child into the sunlight on their first sunrise, in the hopes that they'll be blessed by Lord Agni and Lady Amaterasu, and become a powerful bender."

Katara nodded in understanding, and watched as the first rays of dawn began to bathe the room in morning light.

The baby squinted and instinctively turned her head away from the bright light and began to fuss a bit. Zuko sent a silent prayer to the Spirits, asking for his daughter's protection and guidance. He prayed about how he hoped she would become a great bender, and how he vowed to teach her the ways of justice, honor, respect, loyalty and kindness, and vowed to teach her to never abuse the gift of being able to command fire-unlike his forebears, who had broken and corrupted those vows in the past. He would be different. He swore it.

"I promise that I will be the best father I can be," he whispered to the child before giving her back to her mother.

Katara kissed him softly. "I know you'll be a wonderful father."

"You have such faith in me."

"I always will."

It was at that moment Zuko counted his blessings-for now he had not one, but two to be grateful for.


FIN

Author's Notes: Amaterasu is technically the Shinto Sun Goddess, but I thought I'd tweak the mythology to suit my own purposes. Just call me a mythbender. XD I hope I don't offend any mythology buffs out there. Fun fact: up until the 1940's in Japan, it was believed that all the Emperors were directly descended from Amaterasu.

The title is kind of a play on words, because Ashka means either "Hope" or "Blessing" in ancient Sanskrit.

As always, reviews are love. Thanks for reading!