Author's Note: I cannot thank you all enough for your support as I wrote this. It ended up being about three times as long as I had originally thought it would be, but I had so much fun writing it, and I hope you all have enjoyed reading it.
And a final thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter: Obscure Stranger, Sarah, hplo, jennyz, Avatar of Wurms, Aussie-Muggle, things24, Stonecreek, Generator X, FireChildSlytherin5, JFAPOI, Aristeia, Evanescences Angel, Kimjuni2, spellcoats, josimar, Lance Murdock, ShadowRess, DreamSprite, and Reader.
Additional note: This story got its title from the song "Guiding Me Home" by Kutless, from which this story got its title. I listened to this song countless times while writing this story. (Music greatly helps me write, and this song will forever go with this story for me.)
Epilogue - Guiding Me Home
It was nearly a year after the end of the war that Ursa stood with Hakoda in a gentle snowfall and reaffirmed to him, and everyone watching, that she would forever share her life with him.
Aside from the Water Tribe, there were many other familiar faces that had gathered at the South Pole to witness their wedding ceremony. A lot of them stood shivering in their layers of clothes, unused to the frigid temperatures. Zuko, Katara, and Sokka were all in the very front with all of their friends-and in some cases, future family: Aang, Suki, Mai, and several others, including Toph, who had come despite hating being made blind by all the snow and ice. ("Are you kidding me? How could I miss this? It gives me the chance to pick on Sokka and Zuko for being brothers now.")
Ran and Mila were there, their small baby swaddled in Ran's arms. Standing next to them was Iroh. The Duke had arrived with Longshot and Smellerbee, and they stood with Teo. And Misaki had made the journey from Huang. Hunched over and totally blind now, she had laughed when Ursa expressed concern that she would be well making the journey. "My dear Ursa, I made it through a Fire Nation prison. Do you think a little snow is going to stop me?"
Azula was not there. She was not well enough, or safe enough to others, to leave the asylum. But Ursa was still taking things step by step with her, and she saw progress as the weeks passed.
Ursa looked around at the faces of her friends and family, including all of the Water Tribe who had come to mean so much to her. Tamoru and his wife, Ronook holding the son who had been born while he was away at war, Ornu's widow and children, Mikko and his wife and their little daughter Halla, and all of the other men and their families. She didn't know where her life would have gone had she never met these people. She was glad that she never had to know.
The ceremony was a mix of some Water Tribe and some Fire Nation traditions, but it was very simple. There was an exchange of vows—vows that Hakoda and Ursa had long ago made to each other, but which they now professed in front of their loved ones.
"Just words," she had told Hakoda once, when she had been disillusioned and distrustful.
They were no longer just words. They were all of the promises that Hakoda had already proven he would keep. They were all of the spoken expressions of love that Ursa had for Hakoda. She knew, without any doubts, that this would last. Not because of words at a ceremony, but because of the commitments and choices they had made a long time ago and would continue to make for the rest of their lives.
Hakoda hadn't been kidding when he had once told Ursa that in the Southern Tribe, weddings were there so that everyone could acknowledge and celebrate the union between two people. Celebrate was the key word. During her time in the Southern Tribe, Ursa had seen the kind of festivities that they had. They were loud and joyous, and this was no exception.
After the ceremony, they all ate and talked and laughed together. The moment Ursa sat down, Mikko's daughter plopped herself in Ursa's lap and grinned up at her. "Congratulations, Aunt Ursa! Will you tell me a story now?"
Several of the other children within hearing range immediately perked up and looked over at Ursa.
Ursa laughed and Mikko picked Halla up off of her lap. He hung her upside down, bringing a squeal from Halla. "Not today, snowflake," Mikko told her. "Aunt Ursa should get her wedding day off from telling stories." He set her on her feet and shooed her over to the other children. "Go get into some mischief."
"Mikko!" his wife exclaimed.
"Uh, good mischief!" he called after the group of children as they raced away through the village.
It wasn't until late into the evening that Ursa and Hakoda retreated to their igloo and spent the rest of the night alone.
"So," Hakoda said when they were finally settling into sleep, "is there anything you want to do? Anything in life, I mean, that you haven't had a chance to do yet."
Ursa considered. "Well, maybe one thing."
Hakoda looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"Ice dodging," she said.
His eyebrows rose higher. "Ice dodging," he echoed.
Ursa shrugged. "It sounds adventurous."
Hakoda laughed. "Haven't you had enough adventure?"
"It sounds like fun adventure, which is a great deal different from a lot of the adventures I've had in my life."
Hakoda grinned. "You've just been listening to the older boys talking about going ice dodging with their fathers soon."
She returned his smile. "Maybe. Maybe you have, too."
"All right. Tomorrow we can go ice dodging, weather permitting."
The next morning was clear and bright, and they took their boat out into the ocean to go ice dodging. The cold air whipped across the parts of Ursa's face not covered up, and she breathed in the smell of the sea. She helped Hakoda maneuver the boat around the ice, exhilaration sweeping over her.
"…life is like riding an ocean wave. You can't control where it goes, and sometimes all you can do is steer your boat as best you can. And maybe sometimes you'll crash into an iceberg. Then you just have to pick up all the pieces you can, find a way home, and build another boat."
The words the Hakoda had spoken to her so long ago flooded her mind as they pulled around another chunk of ice. She knew if they weren't careful, their boat would end up smashed on a rock, but she wasn't afraid. When she glanced the expression on Hakoda's face, she knew he was just as elated as she was. They were still young, after all; surely they should get a chance to have some good thrills.
Besides, there was something liberating to her about doing this with Hakoda. It was fun, but it was also symbolic of her life with him. The trust, the way they worked so well together, a landmark of how far they had come. Her own words floated through her memory, like a ghost of the distant past.
"I don't know how to let go. I don't know how to forgive myself, and I've been wandering for so long that I don't know if I have any idea what home is, let alone how to get back to it."
And Hakoda's response. "That's when you have people you trust to help you find your way. Those are the people who will come find you even if you steal their boat and deliberately ram it into an iceberg."
She had found those people, too. She knew that if she and Hakoda were to make a mistake and crash their boat, they would have people coming to look for them.
She thought back through her life with Hakoda, all of the moments that had led her to where she was right then. He had shared so much with her. Laughter and sorrow, trust and kindness, patience and faith, and most of all, an unconditional love—first of a concerned stranger, then of a friend, then of a lover and husband.
When she hadn't known where she fit in, when she hadn't known how to find her way to a place of belonging, his love had been the light that had guided her home.
~ FIN ~