Alright then, let's get this show on the road! I don't know if this one's going to be as long and in depth as the first chapter. Probably so. Yep. Oh! Just a suggestion: Once you finish reading the story, what I did, was pull up a tab and listened to the soundtrack version of "Believe" and then played it while I read just the words to the song…and every other line or so of the fic. For some reason it sounded, right. At least to me it did. On to the fic! :P
Disclaimer: I can't believe I once again have to mention that I don't own ATLA or "Believe" by Josh Grobin. It's like…a sweet sweet burn.
"Get up, momma! Get up ,get up, get up!!!"
Katara grumbled and buried deeper into her pillows. "Hurgerflurgersnurf…."
Lua turned to her twin. "Ry Ry, weeze got's to get momma up, or she's gonna miss Chwrismus."
Her brother nodded in agreement. "Yuh." His eyes opened wide as an idea struck him. "IIIIII knooooooww!" He grabbed on to the side of his parent's bed and tried to jump up, with little success. His sister tottered forward. "Here. Let me help you." Lua licked her lips, skimming over the vacant space where her two front teeth had once resided. She grabbed her brother's waist and pushed with all her five year old might. Ryzin practically flew up on the bed and scrambled wildly for purchase, lest he land right on his dozing mother. He sent her a scathing look, one his father had given him plenty of times whenever he was home. It wasn't his fault that Lua always ended up at the end of one of his pranks.
Lua looked up apologetically and waved at him to get on with his idea. She wanted to open her presents!
Ryzin gently pushed his mother's shoulders, but she didn't budge. Her steady breathing reached his ears. Hmmm…seems like momma wasn't going to try and wake up any time soon. His cute tiny features scrunched up. Well, that just wouldn't do.
Without another thought, the brazen young boy leaned over his mother's shoulder…
And licked her ear.
Just as he suspected, his mother came flying out of the bed with a sharp yell. Ryzin squeaked and fell off the bed, surprised as to the extent of her reaction.
Katara looked around wildly, her dark brown hair flying all around her. Her sharp blue eyes landed on her children. Lua looked up at her, equally blue eyes wide from shock. Ryzin was planted on his butt , his black hair in a massive state of disarray.
Katara tried to catch her breath. "What…in the world…were you doing!?!?"
Ryzin didn't like that voice, neither did Lua…but it wasn't directed at her so it wasn't that bad. She moved an inch away from her brother…just to be safe.
Ryzin gave a one shoulder shrug and looked away ashamedly while rubbing his hair…a tiny replica of his father. "I'm sorry, momma. I wanted you to get up, 's all."
Katara touched the violated ear. "That's okay, honey, mommy needed to get up, but WHY in the WORLD did you lick mommy's ear!?!?"
Her son frowned, blue eyes squinted in confusion. "But daddy does'it all da time, and you always wake up for that."
Despite the winter air, the room couldn't get any warmer. Heat stung the young woman's face and neck. "Uhhh…."
"Uhhuh…and and, that one time, you even told daddy to do it again and…,"
"OOOOKAY! WHO WANTS TO OPEN SOME PRESENTS!"
At first the young ones stared at their mother's over exuberance, but that was quickly forgotten over the topic within the exclamation. "I do! I do!" They shouted in unison.
Katara reached for the nightstand and grabbed a hair tie, swirling her mass of chocolate tresses into a ponytail. "Go brush your teeth and meet me downstairs, 'kay?"
The young mother chuckled as her children went flying out of the room at a speed only those at the early stages of life could ever hope to achieve. "AND MAKE SURE YOU BRUSH 'EM GOOD! I'LL BE CHECKING!!" A sound she took as affirmation greeted her from way down the hall.
Katara swung her legs over the side of the bed, yawned and stretched, relieving her tired muscles. Her bare feet touched the carpet and her toes flexed, feeling the rough spread underneath. She tried to rub the sleep from her eyes, but opted to make a quick trip to the bathroom to wash it out instead.
She padded over to her and her husband's bathroom, still rubbing her eyes all the same. She nudged open the door with her foot and placed herself in front of the wall long mirror. Looking up, she met her gaze with almost haunted eyes. She licked her slightly chapped lips and popped her neck, a habit Zuko detested.
She smirked as she thought of her husband, but soon frowned upon realizing that once again, he would not be here for Christmas.
Katara sighed as she reached for her toothpaste. She really shouldn't be all that upset. He had made it to other special occasions, such as the children's birthday and their anniversary. Lucky they were so close together. Katara smiled as she oozed the paste on to the brush. Yes. She could remember those special two weeks her, Zuko, and the children had spent together for their 4th birthday.
"We have to take them somewhere special, Katara. Someplace, they'll never forget…"
To their journey's end…
"DISNEY WORLD!! DISNEY WORLD!!! DISNEY WORLD!! DISNEY WORLD!!"
Zuko lifted Lua on to his lap and laugh as the train bounced an jostled the small family and passengers. "Yes, sweetheart, I know, we're going to Disney World!" "I tink da whole train knows, now…," Ryzin muttered under his breath as he pretended to nurse his sore ears.
Katara lightly flicked his ear and he yelped. "Ryzin, don't be mean to your sister." Ryzin sniffed. "Sorry, Lua."
Lua could have cared less. She was jumping excitedly up and down on her father's leg while he attempted to keep her there instead of on the floor. "Papa, papa!!"
Lua tried to control her breathing which had become more and more erratic as she put a permanent dent on her dad's poor leg. "I wuz, I wuz wonderin'…um…um...," Lua struggled to remember her question, her bright eyes squinting in concentration. They shot open. "Oh yeah!" She suddenly turned to her mother, still precariously placed on her father's leg. "Is Aireal, going to be dair?"
Katara smiled gently at her daughter as she moved to sit beside Zuko. "Of course, sweetheart, Ariel will be there."
Her eyes sparkled. "Guweat!" She turned to face her brother. Katara swore that girl was going to have a permanent crick in her neck. "Ry Ry! You hear dat? Aireal's gonna be dair!"
Ryzin scoffed. "So?"
He glanced away for a brief second. "Is….is Goofy gonna be there?"
Zuko repressed the smile. He winked at the boy and ruffled his hair. "Wouldn't be Disney World without him."
Ryzin grinned cockily. Oh he acted so much like his father. "I might like Disney World."
Zuko kept one arm around his daughter and lifted his son to his free leg and sunk lower into the plush red seat. "He won't be able to walk by the time we get there," Katara thought to herself.
"You just might, son. You just might."
Are where we begin again
Katara gargled quickly and spit, then reached for a towel and wiped her mouth. She looked back at the mirror. There. That's better. She adjusted her blue tank top while she made her way to her closet to put on some loose fitting pajama bottoms instead of the shorts she now wore.
Katara smiled to herself as she pulled on the pajama bottoms she had located in the top clothes drawer. Why it was with her leotards, she'd never know.
Hmmm…she hadn't worn her dancing outfits for quite some time. Her former career required her to travel all around the world at all times of the year, times that, after having a family, proved unachievable. Instead, she settled into her fall back career as a history professor. It paid well enough and the hours were more understandable. Besides, the chronicle of her own family was interesting, why not others?
As Katara raced down the stairs to her awaiting children, her mind once again settled on their Disney vacation. When they took the ferry to another Disney island…
Far across the sea…
"Daddy, I'm scared."
Zuko wrapped his arm around his shaking daughter. "Ah, don't be scared, baby girl. It's just a ferry. Like a...like a ship."
"On da water." Ryzin's head was buried in his mother's shirt, trying to distract himself from the undulating waves. Katara stroked his hair in an effort to soothe him. Poor baby. What a way to find out he gets sea sick.
Zuko lightly tapped Lua's back then tilted her chin to look up at him. Her blue orbs met his golden ones.
"Starfish, you don't have to be scared of no ship. It's just like mommy or daddy rocking you to sleep and tucking you in bed."
Lua smiled up at her father, eyes glowing. "I'…I' does feel like dat!" She wrapped her small arms around his middle, only reaching half-way. "Tank you, daddy!!"
Katara watched her daughter practically squeal at her father's attention as he flipped her upside down and rasperried her tummy. "Stop i', daddy!! Dat tickuls!"
Zuko's eyebrow arched. "Oh? What does? This??" He rasberried her again. Another squel.
Ryzin groaned. Katara cooed and brushed her fingers gently down his back. "Don't worry, we'll get you some medicine when we get to the island, 'kay, Sparks?" Katara rarely used the pet name since Ryzin insisted that soon he would be too old for them, like his daddy. She shook her head. Little did he know that "dear old dad" still had terms of endearments of his own.
He only pulled himself deeper into her shirt. It rustled as he nodded his head. " 'Kay, mommy."
Katara looked back at her husband and daughter to see that they had stopped their play and Lua was leaning contentedly on her father's broad chest. She snuggled against him. "I luv you, daddy."
Zuko looked up to catch Katara's eye as she tilted her head towards them. He smiled. "I love you, too, my little Starfish."
Trust in starlight,
To get where they need to be
"Mommy, mommy!! Looka wha' Sana brough' me!!!"
Katara took the talking Barbie from her daughter and twisted it around as though observing it. "Hmmm…Santa sure knew what you wanted this Christmas, didn't he?"
Something seemed to flicker in her daughter's eyes, but it soon passed as she nodded frantically. "Yuh!"
Katara knew what that was. What she really wanted was to celebrate this joyous time with her father. She sighed. She couldn't help but feel guilty. If only she could somehow…
"Mommy, mommy!!! Did'ja see?! Did'ja see!? 'Ja see what I got!! 'Ja see what I got!!!"
Katara shifted to face her son as he bounced elatedly up and down, a black remote controller in his hand. She tilted her head and as if pondering what contraption he now held clutched within his adolescent hands.
Ryzin sighed as if exhausted by her lack of knowledge. "I's a wemote control!! I control da car, see!? See!?" His pink tongue darted out the side of his mouth as pressed down a knob and pulled back. The tiny black silver striped monster truck zoomed forward and ran circles around the middle of living room amidst the piles of gift-wrapping paper.
"Now, watch dis, mommy!! Watch dis!" He quickly jerked back this thumb and the truck did a back-flip…at least a semi back flip. The truck landed on its top, its tires spinning wildly in the air, the high-pitched squealing not helping Katara's slight headache. Ryzin grunted and flipped the truck over with his foot, but Katara caught it before it went any further. "Maybe you should wait until you unwrap ALL your gifts before focusing on just this one, huh, Ry?"
Her son uttered a sigh, but relented. "Yuh 'mam."
Katara shifted once again on her knees to face her daughter. "What is it, Lua?"
The five year old smiled brightly, her jet black hair a wiry mess, making her all the more adorable, as she held out a red package tied with a green bow for her mother. " 'Dis one is yours!"
Puzzled, Katara took the present from her youthfully chubby fingers and inspected the box.
Funny. I don't remember this one at all. Huh, no tag.
She shrugged it off. Perhaps a friend gave it to her at work and she forgot about it. Was it Toph? No, she had already opened her gift, and Aang's, for that matter. Hmmm…
Katara started pulling tape off the package to preserve the ribbon and paper. It was a habit her own mother had pressed upon her. No reason in letting anything go to waste. As she began to peel back the layers she was even more perplexed as she came across a box. Just a simple shoe box. Adidas.
Her children had by this time, gathered around her to see what was inside.
She flipped open the lid…and blinked.
Katara pushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear and pulled out the electronic contraption. She knew how to work this brand. Kind of an older version. She pressed a blue button and it popped open to reveal there was tape already inside.
"Wha's dat, mommy?" Lua spoke over her shoulder as she flicked her hair out of her eyes. Her brother was on the opposite shoulder with the same puzzled expression.
"I don't know, sweety," she mumbled as she popped it close again then moved the slide lever to on. Her children leaned forward to get a better look.
Katara quickly stood and sat on the couch. "Oh no. I want to check this out first before you see."
Both children sighed exasperatedly but stepped back and began to play with their respective toys.
Once she was satisfied that they were fully distracted, Katara opened the side viewing panel and pressed play.
There was static for a second, then jumbled motions as someone adjusted the camera. A long arm extended from the camera, but then moved to reveal…
"Hey, babe! Betcha weren't expecting me, huh!?" His smiling, though not as cleanly shaven, face beamed out at her, a black jacket covering his lean form.
Katara snorted but smiled. "Well aren't you a little late?" She softly murmured to the camera.
Zuko held up his hands as if in apology. "I know, I know, this is a little later than normal. I'm sorry about that, really." He sighed and scratched his head. "That must have been really upsetting for the kids, I bet."
Katara couldn't help but blink in bewilderment. Why as was he talking…as if she was the only listening? Didn't he always address the kids as well?
"Look, I'm sorry about that this being a little late and all, but I promise," His face broke out into a smile. "I WILL, make it up to you." He winked and the screen went black
The doorbell rang.
Both kids turned from their play to look up at the door, then to their mother. Katara frowned. What was this? Someone get their car caught in the snow? She stood, laid down the video camera (she could puzzle over his cryptic words later) and made her way to the door. Might as well help the poor soul out. It was Christmas, after all.
When it seems that we have lost our way…
Katara was almost to the door when she heard a soft *click*. She paused. "What the…!?" The front door swung open.
The stunned woman stepped back and clasped her hands over her mouth, every limb shaking, her eyes tearing at the sight in front of her.
"Oh my God…"
We find ourselves again on Christmas Day
"Hey, babe." Zuko smiled and removed the black cap from his head, all the while scratching the pieces of snow that had clung to sparse beard .
Katara took another step back, her mouth and form still quivering. Oh…My….God….
Zuko chuckled as he set down his bags, his dark bangs falling over his eyes. "Now, don't tell me Mrs. Drayson, THE, Mrs. Drayson...is shocked speechless?"
Somewhere, in the back of her mind, Katara wondered, "Why is his hair so long? Isn't it out of regulations?
But that part dwarfed by the presence of her husband…in THEIR house…on CHRISTMAS day…
Zuko tilted his head, his smile ever growing as his eyes reflected his wife's less than composed disposition.
"And here I thought," he dragged his booted feet over the welcome mat. "You always had to have the last word." The corner of his lip twitched as he smiled. "Isn't that right?"
At last, Katara seemed to recover her stupor enough to launch herself into his awaiting arms.
"Only when you speak before me," she whispered into his ear, tears of joy trailing down her face to pool across the back of his neck.
Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing….
"Come on, Kat," Zuko said as he held his wife at arm's length. "Let's go say hi to the kids."
Katara reached forward and touched her cool hand to the left side of his face. "Of course."
There's no time to waste,
There's so much to celebrate
The twins flung themselves at their father who gathered them up into his strong embrace and pulled them close.
"How're my Terror Twins, eh?"
They both began to jabber at once, neither one getting a full word in edge-wise. Zuko just nodded his head while he held them both, as if catching everything.
Katara stayed back, content with watching the wondrous, and she had once thought impossible, scene before her. Her husband, clutching their two small children against him, one in each arm, looking from one to the other while nodding his head, his legs shifting back and forth. She knew he was itching to get out of his overly warm clothing, but, like her, he was unwilling to ruin the moment he had fought so hard to achieve.
No…not now…it could wait…
Believe in what you feel inside,
And give your dreams the wings to fly
"Daddy! You saw wha' Sana broug' me!!!"
Zuko shook his head as he sat down beside his wife. "No, sweety. Show daddy what you got."
As Lua went to grab her doll along with other miscellaneous gifts, Ryzin jumped forward, blue eyes blazing. "Nuh uh! Me first! Me first!"
Lua gaped at him. "Nuh uh!! Daddy wanna see muh stuff, right daddy??"
Zuko kept quiet, knowing his role in the twin's constant, yet amusing, sibling spats. Spectator. Not a player.
"Daddy wanna see my stuff, 'cause I'm duh firsborn!"
"By two sexsonds, Ry Ry!" Lua exclaimed, her arms flailing, resembling their mother the most at that moment.
Ryzin crossed his arms and smirked. "Two sexsonds is two sexonds, Lua."
Like father like son.
Lua shot him an icy glare that she had learned from their mother as Ryzin sent her their father's.
Ryzin grumbled as he handed his sister her doll. "Only 'cause I wanna be nice, you know…on Chrismas."
Lua grinned victoriously.
Zuko removed his jacket and set it on the side of the couch during this show, then wrapped his arm around his wife's waist as they watched their children bicker. Katara leaned into his comforting warmth and placed her own arm around his waist.
"Zuko? How'd you get here?"
Zuko nuzzled his chin against the top of her head. "Not now, Kat." He breathed in her soft scent. Cool Water. His favorite. "Maybe later."
She nodded. He was right. As they moved their sights back to their children who were displaying their gifts, she smiled, and this time, she could feel it reach her heart.
You have everything you need….
This was perfect.
If you just, Believe!
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."
I love you
If you just, Believe!
"Give what back?" His eyes flickered.
A full blown smile appeared on the dark-skinned woman's face. She nestled his neck. "Never."
Zuko tenderly grabbed her chin and pulled her face to his, a mere hairsbreadth away. "Good."
If you just, Believe!
Katara leaned on him and shut her eyes. "You'll be home soon, right?"
Zuko kissed her forehead. "Of course. Believe me."
If you just, Believe!
Zuko gently kissed his son and daughter's head and pulled the blankets higher up their bodies. Somehow, they had fallen asleep, toys still in hand, on not Ryzin's, but Lua's bed. Ryzin shifted and accidentally snuggled closer to his sister. Neither seemed to mind.
Katara watched him from the doorway as he ruffled both their heads. He turned towards her with something akin to unrivaled joy as he crept from their room.
Zuko touched his wife's slim shoulder and she leaned into him once more, just to make sure this day was real, that he, was real.
"They didn't even go outside today," Katara murmured.
"They'll want to tomorrow, trust me," Zuko assured as he guided his wife back to their room.
Katara pulled his hand from her shoulder into her own palm. "I can't believe you're here."
Zuko squeezed her shoulders as they made the final turn into their room. "Sometimes, neither can I."
"So what now, Major Zuko?" Katara whispered as she lay in the crook of his arm in their bed. Her husband lazily dragging his fingertips up and down her arm.
Zuko, surprisingly, frowned a little. Not two minutes ago had they climbed into their bed. He hadn't seen his wife in over four months, what else should they do??
"I…I just…I just want to hold you." He looked down at her. His golden orbs begging not to be taunted. Not this time. "Is that, okay?"
Katara, surprised by the gentle, and beyond romantic gesture, paused.
She closed her eyes and nodded slowly. "Of course, love."
Zuko shifted so that she could wrap her arms around his middle. His eyes moved to the ceiling and gazed at the whirling fan long after his wife had drifted off to sleep.
He remembered that promise he had made five years ago. And somehow, some way, he had found a way to keep it.
Katara moved and Zuko tenderly tightened his grip. He knew why, too.
It was because of them. Their hope, their prayers, it had brought him home.
He closed his own eyes and welcomed the blissful night sleep he had been waiting for for almost five years.
Thank you, for believing in me
Oh, my goodness I am tired! It's 1:00am in the morning over here and I've been typing for, well, quite awhile now. I know I had a lot on my mind to put down here, but I'm tired as crap so I think I'm just going to call it a day. As I said before, this is an AU, Zutara, two-shot. If you don't like the military, well, this fic shouldn't have offended you as far as I could tell. I tried to remain unbiased, that's why I didn't make too many references to it. If there are any questions, just ask. Anyway, enjoy the holidays!! Merry Christmas and God bless!! ;)