Alright, my lovely readers... The masses have spoken and I'm posting some deleted scenes at the end here.
This is what would have happened if they hadn't gone to the Fire Nation. Obviously it's pretty rough, but I do hope you enjoy. You'll notice that some of the parts I actually did wind up using but for the most part this is just gathering virtual dust in my computer. Time to share.
A Daughter's Journey
My name is Aani. I am the eldest daughter of Zuko of the Fire Nation and Katara of the Water Tribe. I have been named after their friend, Aang, and like him, I am the Avatar. It is my destiny to defeat those who have hurt my family and the world.
"I made this for you," he held out the necklace for her to see. She gasped as she saw the stone hanging from the choker. She squealed in delight as she threw her arms around his neck. She planted kiss after kiss on his lips and face.
"Is that a yes?" he asked.
"yes! Yes! Yes! Oh, Kato, I love you!" Aani burst as happy tears fell down her cheeks. He held her close and kissed her back.
"when are you going to ask them?" Aani asked as she fingered the necklace snuggling into boyfriend. She couldn't put it on yet since they had not gone through the proper ceremonies to make it official but this was certainly good enough.
The family of five sat in their igloo eating the evening meal. As they were finishing up, Zuko made the announcement. "Aani, as you know your 16th birthday is next month and your mother and I have decided."
This was it. This must mean Kato had asked them permission and her parents were announcing her betrothal. She was very excited. The butterflies turned in her stomach.
that you will go to Gaoling to live with your aunt and uncle," he finished.
The spoon was almost to her lips as he said this. She stared at him in disbelief, and then looked to her mother, whose head was lowered. Aani could see the tears in her mother's eyes. Leaving? No, this can't be right.
"What do you mean, Dad?" Kazue spoke up, "she can't just leave by herself. She's a girl."
"Yeah, Dad," Kyrsa said.
"There are things that Aunt Toph needs to teach her and the only way is for Aani to go to live with them," Katara tried to explain.
"So you're just sending me away? Like I'm some kind of _?" Aani stood up and felt her anger boiling to the surface. "Well, I refuse! I'm not going! This is my home. My family is here. My friends."
"Her boyfriend," Kazue teased. Aani snapped her head and would have shot a fire ball at him if she could have. Zuko's good eyebrow shot up. "Boyfriend?" he wondered, then suddenly pictured Tarnook's eighteen-year-old son, Kato.
"Not now, stupid," Kyrsa nudged her twin brother to shut up.
"How could you do this to me? I hate you!" she shouted as she grabbed her parka and ran out the door. She ran not seeing where she was going while the tears streamed down her face. How could they do this to her? Didn't they love her? They were just sending her away like she was nothing.
Eventually she stopped. Looking around she realized she went to the spot that she and her father would go to practice firebending. In her anger and frustration, she bent fire then water realizing that the fire seemed more appropriate to express her anger. After a while she collapsed to the ground in tears.
She then felt a presence. She did not turn to see who walked up to her. She refused to acknowledge them as they sat in the snow next to her. The person was silent as if allowing her to be the one to break the silence.
"Why are you making me go?" she finally asked, her face hidden by her arms.
He sighed, "There are a lot of things that your mother and I haven't told you, Aani. Our pasts, well mostly my past, that we've kept from you. And we've been waiting for the right time. I guess now is as good as any."
She looked at him funny as he continued, "Do you know how your mother and I met?"
"Well, yeah. She said you met in the war. You were a soldier fighting for the Fire Nation, and you taught the Avatar, then you got in a fight or battle or something and then you came to the South Pole where you got married and had us kids. Duh."
He smiled. "Well that's not exactly how it happened. I did fight for the Fire Nation but I was more than just some soldier. I was very important in the Fire Nation. When I was 13, Uncle allowed me to attend a war meeting where I spoke out against a plan. My speaking out was disrespectful of the general which was ultimately disrespectful of the Fire Lord. Your grandfather gave this to me as punishment," he pointed to his scar. "He said I needed to learn respect
She gasped in shock. "That's awful! Why would he care if you spoke out though?"
"Because Aani, your grandfather was the Fire Lord."
"What? Wait, that would mean that you…that I…we're royalty? The Phoenix King is your father? My grandfather?" She pinched the bridge of her nose, just like her father does.
"there's more," he continued. How could there be more? she wondered. "
"they're sending me away," she told Kato.
"What? Why? You can't leave," he burst. She couldn't leave. She was his girlfriend and they were going to get married. He was going to ask her parents today. This made no sense. Didn't they like him? He was their godson for La's sake!
"It's something I have to do. I can't say why though." She buried her face in his parka as the tears fell down her cheeks.
"You can't even tell me?" he pled, looking down on his girlfriend. He hated to see her cry. It broke his heart every time.
"No. I can't. It's very important though."
"what's more important than us?" he fought the lump in his throat, gripping and ungripping the charm held in his pocket.
"the world," she managed to whisper.
Zuko was taking a break at the training grounds. Kato came up to him. "Excuse me, Master Zuko," he said bowing his head slightly out of respect, "I need to speak to you, please."
Zuko nodded his head. He had a good suspicion what this was about. "C'mon," he motioned for the young man to follow him as they walked to the edge of town. They stood at the edge of the wall looking out onto the ocean.
Fishing something out of his pocket, Kato held out the necklace in his palm. "I made this. For Aani. I was going to ask your permission to give it to her, but then she told me she's being sent away."
Zuko glanced down at the necklace. So this young man wanted to marry his daughter. He snorted in understanding. Part of him felt jealousy that no man would be good enough for her, but the other part was glad it was this young man whom he had known since birth. Zuko felt his hair go grey. Wasn't he too young for this? Wasn't she? Sure he was only 37, but still. It was his baby girl.
"Kato. You are a good boy and I'm glad that you would do this, but she has a more important destiny than to be a wife right now." Zuko looked out over the water not once looking at the boy.
"Sir, if I may. I love Aani more than anything, and if she has to leave, I ask that I be allowed to go with her." He stood boldly before his girlfriend's father as he made this request.
"Kato, where she is going is much too risky. I can't in good conscious allow you to follow."
"Please, Zuko, sir. I beg you," the young man pled. Zuko saw the look in his eyes. He knew that if he tore this man away from his daughter it would break him. He understood, but still he couldn't risk the young man's life. He had enough deaths on his head he would not add this young man to the list.