Yo! Now that I'm in the military, I'm a Zutarian, and the holidays are coming up, I decided to give another whack at a Zutarian Christmas Song-fic! I should warn you, though, it's pretty long. It's funny, I normally don't really like song-fics, but just like others who write them, I come across a song that just seems to speak to me, and Josh Grobin's "Believe" did just that. I think my version of song-fic, though, has kind of translated into a small story. You'll see what I mean. Now, on to the fic!
Disclaimer: Yeah, sure, I own ATLA and "Believe" …I just work for the heck of it. Me no owny deese tingy's or speakee proper grammer…ee. :P
"Touch lamps, a gift from above," Katara thought to herself as she lightly tapped the metal stand of the lamp. "That and coffee."
The corners of her mouth crinkled as she grinned to herself and tapped the last lamp in the living room, dousing her in semi-darkness. The moon's soft glow offered partial light into the humble space. Taking a slow breathe she pulled the blanket tighter around herself to try and ward off the cold that seemed to leak underneath the front door. "Darn heater must have went out again. I thought Zuko had…"
She abruptly stopped her train of thought and shook her head, pulling the blanket closer around her shoulders. "I guess I'll just call the repairman. Of course I'll have to wait until after Christmas…" Another pang shot through her and she gripped the blanket even tighter. Neatly securing it over her shoulders she moved to the loveseat in the corner of the room and gently lifted the rough leather bound book from the cushions. She smiled as she placed "A Christmas Carol" firmly between the other classic novels.
"That book's older than Gran-Gran…and Pakku." Her mind drifted to her loving grandparents, successfully distracting her from her previous thoughts. "They're so wonderful…and great with the kids, too."
With that in mind, Katara shuffled down the darkened corridors of the house to room she had earlier visited to place two energized children to bed. So eager were they to greet Christmas morn. As her hand pressed to push open the door, she realized, despite the circumstances, so was she.
Two beds. The little darlings had absolutely REFUSED to sleep next to each other. Twins though they may be, "A growing boy needs his space," as quoted by the ever rambunctious Ryzin. And of course, a 5 year olds just couldn't be on the same side of the room with his sister. That would be just…impossible! A light giggle escaped the 26 year-old woman as she strode over to her son's bed. His small (still pinkish) lips burbled as he breathed in and out, deep in innocent slumber. He and his sister, Lua, had the same light mocha skin, about two shades lighter than their own dark-skinned mother, and the same shock blue eyes, but there the physical similarities ended. The twins had their fathers jet black hair, something Katara knew he boasted about to his friends.
"My hair on the crown of their heads, their minds, the most resourceful tool," He crowed one particular day as they watched them play in the front yard, his arm tenderly placed around her hip. Katara arched a brow and moved from his touch. "Really? Don't they need eyes to see? To learn?" "Ah," he said and tapped his own noggin'. "True, but the world is full of negatives as positives. Some things are better left unseen…" "As well as unknown," Katara interjected, shoving (playfully) against his hard chest. He shrugged, not willing to let her win. His gaze moved to the children. Lua was squealing merrily as Ryzin chased her with his plastic sword, her own forgotten. "You have to see before you know." "So you ARE admitting that the eyes are the most important?" It was his turn to arch a brow. "I didn't say that." Katara tried to fight the grin, and lost. "Hmmm…you might as well have." His golden moves shifted to her victorious face. "You always have to have the last word, huh?" Katara tilted her head and moved back within reach. "Only when you speak before me." He chuckled, the sound sending pleasant shivers down her spine. He pulled her closer to his form, his nose burying within her dark brown hair. She could feel the smile on his face. "If you say so."
The gentle moment had been interrupted as Ryzin, none too gently, attempted to tie his frustrated sister to a tree. Katara shook her head as she brushed his smooth black hair from his closed eyes. "Now where did he get THAT idea??"
Lua suddenly grumbled and the bed creaked with her frantic movements. Katara frowned. Nightmare. Third time that month. She swiftly traveled to her daughter's side of the room and sat upon the bed. Her face was creased in fear and her lips pulled in and out of her mouth as she struggled to say something. Lua's right arm flailed and Katara caught it before she would have had to nurse a sore jaw. The girl suddenly went rigid and Katara quickly leaned down and stroked her daughter's face, trying to calm her from whatever nightmare plagued her. It seemed to work and her mother could sense her muscles relaxing, though her face still flickered with tension. A murmer. Katara frowned again, this time in curiousity. She turned her ear to catch the words her daughter uttered. "Daddy…I miss daddy." If there were strings connected her heart, they were surely ripped from the organ right then. Katara struggled her own inner battle and fought the rising tears. It hurt to think about where Zuko was, but, from the mouth of her daughter, it seemed all the more real, all the more…painful.
"I wan'him back," Lua sniffed as a teardrop escaped her eyelids. Katara tightly closed her own eyes and let out a pained sigh. She leaned down once more. "Don't worry, love," Her mother whispered through the locks of black hair Lua had gained from the father she yearned for. "Daddy's going to be alright. He's gonna be home soon, and bring you those sweet rocks you like so much."
Still asleep, her face relaxed. Katara gave a soft grin. "But he's only going to do it for good little girls who go to SleepyTown and dream sweet happy dreams." A grin played at the smaller girl's mouth at the reference her and her father shared. "SleepyTown?" She murmured dreamily. Her mother nodded, though she couldn't see her. "SleepyTown." The young girl yawned and turned, her face pressing into her pillows. She smacked her lips, then made not another sound, as she too, drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Katara let out a relieved breathe and kissed her daughter's forehead. "Night, starfish."
Her eyes moved to the window that lay just between the two beds, in almost the center of the room. She watched the gentle fall of the snowflakes as some landed on the glass, making almost a decorative collage of ice creations.
Snow is softly, falling
Katara slowly strolled to the window and touched the icy pane, her finger tracing a flake as it gradually disappeared.
Zuko, I miss you…
Dreams are calling,
Like bells in the distance…
Ryzin shivered. Katara's eyes shifted to his form. She pulled the still present blanket from around her and placed it on her son. He yawned cutely, almost as if in gratitude. She smiled.
"I remember when you were like this….Zuko…"
Not so long ago…
"Will you marry me?" Her eyes snapped up, her hair almost whipping wildly into his face. "What?" The boy gave an audible gulp and comically pulled at his shirt collar. His eyes weren't on her, but on the fireplace in front of them. "Me. Will you…will you marry…me?" Katara felt as if her heart was on fire…a wondrous burn. She let her finger twirl the errant strand of carpet near her bare foot as she pretended to contemplate her answer. She could almost hear him sweatdrop.
She looked at his face, still turned away from hers, as his pale complexion reflected the firelight. "What do you want to do?"
He blinked furiously, but refused to meet her gaze. "What?"
She gestured with her hand, accidentally throwing off the comforter they had surrounded their bodies with. "When we marry. What do you want to do?"
Zuko finally looked at her, his golden eyes shimmering. "You…you mean…?" Katara shrugged, trying to fight the smile. "Well that depends on your answer, mister."
Zuko shifted uncomfortably. "Well, uh, I…you know I want to stay in the military…" Katara nodded absently. She already knew his passionate dream of being a highly-respected, and loved, General…like his adopted father, Iroh. A born pacifist, she didn't really see the appeal, but she respected his choice.
"Um…yeah…as for, you? I guess you mean you…and the family, of course. But, if you don't want a family, that's fine! But, I've heard you talk about a family so I guess you do want one. Unless you've changed your mind, which I understand. We can play with other things for fun! Wait, that didn't come out right. We can play with other children for fun. Ugh, that sounded wrong, too. I just meant your body. Holy crap, I'm diggin' a hole…"
Katara quietly snorted and Zuko frowned at her obvious enjoyment of his desperate attempts at removing the firmly placed foot from his mouth. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then exhaled. He turned to face her, his eyes hardened with determination.
" I want to be a General. I want to have a family. I want a house, steady income, and friends who love us. I want to live in a safe neighborhood where our kids can grow up and be happy. And Katara, I want you."
Her heart swelled with emotion that she felt as if she were about to burst. Her face must have shown it, for Zuko quickly turned away as if embarrassed. He coughed into his tightly clenched fist. "If…you want me, that is."
The fire crackled in the thick silence. "Yes."
Zuko blinked and turned to face her again. "What?"
Katara almost bounced in excitement. "Yes. Yes I'll marry you."
Zuko's eyes lit up. "Really?"
Katara exploded into laughter and tried to remain upright as Zuko fought the blush that rose up his neck and into his cheeks. "Not that I blame you," he muttered, trying to save his manhood. Katara frowned and the corner of her lip twitched into a semi-grin. "Now don't get all cocky on me, Zu Zu. I want to marry the sweet, exciting, slightly brooding man I've come to know and love. Not, said man's ego."
Zuko ignored the pet name his "ever-so-gracious" sister had bestowed upon him and passed to Kata…his fiancée.
He would never admit it aloud, but his heart pumped even faster at the thought of that title.
"So…you'll become Mrs. Drayson?"
Zuko frowned and he opened his mouth to say something, but Katara stopped him with finger to his almost parted lips. She grinned mischievously. "Well, I'll be her…and the missing piece to your heart." Zuko grinned as well. "Now who's got the ego?" Katara giggled.
Zuko gently grabbed her arm and pulled her closer. "Now give it back." It was her turn for confusion. "Give what back?" His eyes flickered.
A full blown smile appeared on the dark-skinned woman's face. She nestled is neck. "Never."
Zuko tenderly grabbed her chin and pulled her face to his, a mere hairsbreadth away. "Good."
The fire crackled and popped as the two shared a fervent kiss. As they pulled away, Zuko brushed her bangs from her face and smiled. "Merry Christmas, Katara." The smile was eagerly returned. "Merry Christmas Zuko."
Katara felt her heart and stomach clench at the memory. Wonderful , amazing, and downright glorious though it was, she should have known there would be events that would happen, most that couldn't be controlled…
But one by one we,
All had to grow up…
"The children, Zuko!"
"It's Christmas Eve!!"
His voice had escalated to her level. Katara tried to temper her emotions, anger and confusion writhing throughout her, and she turned away from him to prevent a violent scene when their children were only meters away.
Zuko sighed and tried to pull her to him but she quickly jerked away. He frowned. "You've always understood before."
"You know I can't control when I have to leave. It's part of my job."
It was starting to suffocate him, that void.
"Katara, we'll spend other holidays together, just you, me, and the kids…,"
"But YOU should be here for Christmas, Zuko!!" Katara exploded, and her fearful husband stepped back lest he be hit by her flailing arms. She had turned to face him and she marched right into his space, punctuating her words with a poke to his chest. "YOU should know THAT!"
Zuko sighed once again and checked behind him to see if the kids had awoken. The door remained closed.
He turned back to his stricken wife. "Yes, Kat, this Christmas is important…"
"It's their first, Zuko," Katara whispered.
"Yes. It is."
There was nothing either could do about it. They both knew that, and yet…
"You can't control," Katara's voice shook as she closed her eyes to try and push back the tears that was forcing their way out. "What other people…what the world…does…violence…is everywhere….and hate…and you…you have to…"
She lost the battle.
Katara flung herself on to him and cried. She couldn't even finish her mantra that she chanted every time Zuko was taken from her or something didn't go their way. Zuko wrapped his arms around her and rocked her back and forth.
"I know, love. I wish I could…"
"But you can't," Katara finished for him, finally gaining her bearing and leaning off of him. She sniffed and wiped the trails from off her cheeks. She blinked and tried to regain her normal character…her more positive character. "Besides, it's only a year. It could shorten down to six months, huh?"
Zuko tried hard not to crush his wife's positive view. There was no way a First Lieutenant was going home early. Not with what was going on overseas. "Perhaps."
Katara leaned on him and shut her eyes. "You'll be home soon, right?"
Zuko kissed her forehead. "Of course. Believe me."
A year had turned into a year and six months, a four month reprieve, a two year tour, a six month TDY to…somewhere (she always tried to forget),another four month reprieve, and recently, another six month tour.
None of which allowed him Christmas.
Katara frowned to herself as she absently stroked the icy window, taking no notice of the ever growing stream of flakes that fell from the dark night air. She was naturally acclimated to colder climates and the snow often times reminded her of home. But not tonight. Not on…Christmas Eve. Not when her husband couldn't be here to share in the sight.
Her mind jumped to the last Christmas. She and the children were watching the video Zuko had sent them in the living room. She would never forget the kid's excited faces as they looked upon the strong build of their father sitting on a cot, a smile on his face, and a wave to the camera.
When it seems the magic's slipped away,
We find it all again on Christmas Day…
Katara giggled and her children gave her strange looks from their positions on the floor. Mommy had never made that high-pitched sound before. "Hey, Zuko."
"Ryzin, Lua! You good? You been good for mommy?"
The children nodded their heads emphatically. Ryzin was the one who answered verbally. "Yeah, da!"
Zuko chuckled as if he heard. And maybe, he did. "That's good. I hope you got the gifts I sent you." He sighed and adjusted his tan t-shirt that seemed to stick to his skin. "I wish I could talk to you live, but…" Zuko trailed off and rolled his eyes. "I'll settle for the video. I'm doing pretty good. They guy's here are pretty cool and all." And though it was just pixels, his eyes seemed to twinkle for a second. "Of course they don't compare to my little man." There was laughter behind him and Zuko pretended as if he were shooing them away. He turned back to the camera and jerked his chin as if he were talking to a comrade. "You holdin' down the fort, buddy??"
Ryzin nodded, his head jerking so hard Katara thought he might get whiplash. "Aye, aye sir!"
Zuko laughed again and leaned his elbows on his knees. "I'm sure you are. I want to ask you how your day went, but…" He shrugged, "I probably wouldn't time it right." Zuko laughed uncomfortably, realizing that probably shouldn't have been said. Katara smiled. "Just like my Zuko. Impulsive to a fault. But it also makes you bold."
That's why I love you…
Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing,
There's no time to waste,
There's so much to celebrate…
"I guess I'll let you go, then." Zuko ran his fingers through his regulated hair-cut and glanced away for a second. Double-take. "Lieutenant, cut that out! No one wants to see that, nevertheless your wife." The background filled with laughter and one voice in particular shot out something crude and Katara jumped forward to clasp one hand over each child's ear.
"Momma, I ca' hear oud muh uther ear," Lua said innocently.
Zuko seemed to have the same idea as he slapped his hand over where Katara assumed the mike was. She could still hear him. "Carnegie!! My family's getting this! G-rated, please!"
The children giggled.
Zuko removed his hands and shook his hands as if ashamed, though good-natured humor was plastered all over his face. "Forgive me for that. Anyway, I want you to have a wonderful Christmas. Remember guys, I'm there. Riiiiiight….." Zuko leaned forward and poked the camera lens. The camera suddenly began to slide back, but Zuko jumped forward and caught it before impact. He gave a sheepish grin. "Uh huh…yeah. That was supposed to be your heart." He lifted the camera and brought it close-up on his clean-shaven face. His voice grew serious. "Really though, I love you, all of you." His eyes seemed to search and find his wife's.
"I love you."
Believe in what you feel inside,
And give your dreams the wings to fly
Katara let her fingers slide from the window and backed away from its glow. It surely was a winter wonderland. The snow had risen to at least two feet. The children would want to play in it, she knew. And she would let them…all proper winter gear included, of course. Zuko would love to see that. Maybe she would record it and send it to him…like all the other Christmas moments he missed. Something burning and bitter rose in her throat and she swallowed it away. Katara ran her fingers through her hair. She was still a little sore that he didn't send a video this time. She would have to talk to him about it.
She looked back at her children as they slept. She moved to each bed and kissed them both, stroking their hair at the same time. These precious gifts. That's what connected them. Made them stronger than they ever thought they could be. And she loved him for being a part of them. Of each other.
You have everything you need…
Katara closed her eyes as she settled into her own bed, pulling the sheets higher about her. She gazed out through her own window and watched the dancing snowflakes until she too began to drift. "You better keep your promise soon, Zuko," she murmured, slowly slipping into slumber's embrace. "I know you will. I believe in you."
If you just, Believe!
Holy crap, that was longer than expected…and still not done! I decided to make this into two chapters. It would make it a lot easier and a little bit shorter. Better for you, better for me. Anywho, I'm going to take a quick dinner break and get right back to the story. If you have any questions you can ask me. BTW, the military doesn't normally (as far as I know) do tours like that back to back to back for FIVE years. I just needed it to fit my timeline. Also, the SleepyTown reference is from MY parents. They used to say it to me and my brother whenever we were little. And to whoever's still reading, you should definitely check out the song if you haven't heard it before. Smooth and sweet. Originally from the Polar Express. Josh Grobin sang it there, too. Anyway, quick dinner break! 'Til then! ;)