A/N: Chapter 30, prompt 25 – Brightness. Enjoy!
From this moment on, nothing would ever be the same.
She would be married. She would get older. She would go through the ups and downs of married life. Maybe she would have a child.
Hundreds of people were behind her, watching. One of the five Fire Sages was standing in front of her and Zuko. They were kneeling before him as he spoke, and doled out two glasses of some type of liquid. She had never been sure what it was, but she was told it was important.
Zuko's right hand clasped her left, and he didn't let go as the Fire Sage handed them a cup each.
"Drink to fertility, drink to marriage, but most of all, drink for love. This is a marriage blest by ancestors past, a bonding of two great nations. However, this marriage is not about politics, or making history. This marriage is about a man and a woman who love each other. Drink for a good relationship, a healthy reign, a good future. Drink."
Zuko and Katara did as they were told. Katara closed her eyes as the warm liquid rolled down her throat. It was a pleasant sensation, to match the love that was coursing through her veins. She glances over at Zuko as she set the cup down, and he winked.
Yes, he had been through this before, hadn't he?
"Rise, Fire Lord Zuko. Face your nation. Rise, Fire Lady Katara. Face your people."
Zuko released her hand as she stood and turned out to the crowd.
"People of the Fire Nation! I give you your new Fire Lady, Katara of the Southern Water Tribe!"
Everything she saw registered quickly in her mind; the brightness of the sun, the joy in the faces of the people (her people, now), the clapping of the crowd, and most importantly, the bursting of her own heart. Zuko clasped her hand, and, at the urging of the Sage, the newly wedded couple began their descent down the stairs and across the aisle. As they walked, Fire Nation citizens of every background, gender, shape, and size turned to watch them walk.
She smiled at the members of the Fire Nation, and gripped Zuko's hand tighter. He squeezed back, and looked down at her. He was smiling, as well, and she was glad that whatever the future would bring, Zuko would be here beside her.
They reached the end of the aisle, and were escorted to where a reception would be. Here, she was to meet and greet important people, moderately well known people, and anyone else who wanted to talk to her. The people of the kingdom would line up before them, Zuko had told her.
"Here you are, Fire Lord and Lady," the guard said. "Just wait here, and-"
"Katara," Zuko interrupted. "Would you like to dance?"
The guard started out with a small warning, saying they were expected to wait here. "No one has really met Lady Katara, sir," he said.
"If you don't mind, I think the people can wait. I want to dance with my new wife, if you don't mind. Tell the guards outside to wait before letting everyone come in. I want to be alone with her."
Zuko whisked Katara away, and asked the band to start playing a slow, beautiful song.
His arm slipped around her waist, and his other hand held hers. Her hand went immediately to his upper back. They began a slow and tranquil waltz around the large room.
"So, are you still happy? Happy with your choices?" he asked, looking straight into her eyes.
She nodded. "More happy that I ever have been. I love you, Zuko," she said.
"And what about the future? Are you nervous? Scared?"
Katara didn't respond for a long time. They continued to twirl around the room, moving in time to the music, moving in time with her thoughts.
The future was a scary thing.
How could anyone ever know what the future holds? It was dark and cloudy, and nothing was ever certain. Would she live to an old age? Would Zuko? Would the world remain at peace, or would a new threat rise?
Would they stay together? Would Aang and Toph get married?
Anything, she realized, could happen. Anything was possible. Azula could escape. Aang could die, and then the new Avatar could be a waterbender from the southern tribe. She could train this Avatar.
She could have a son or a daughter that would become a great warrior. She could have a child that was a scholar, or even an actor.
Katara could see herself old, with long gray-white hair and wrinkles, leaning into Zuko, just as old, as they watched a sunset. She could see Zuko leaving one day to face a new threat to the world, and never returning. She could see her grandchildren playing in the courtyards with their second cousins.
From this point, there were hundreds of unknown paths that led to many, many others, just as mysterious as the first.
Her mind jumped from place to place, and finally, she responded. "No, I'm not scared. I might get worried, but I can face it. What about you?"
Zuko smiled. "I'll always be able to face the future. It gives new beginnings. It gives hope. It gives love, just when you need it," he said, stopping their dance to kiss her.
When he pulled away, she was smiling again. "You speak from experience?"
"I do," he says. "I love you Katara."
He kissed her again, and then they resumed their waltz in silence.
Yes, the future could be a frightening thing. It was dark and infinite. No one knew what it held.
However, it was a little easier to handle with a burning bright flame at your side.
A/N: Well guys, this is it. It's been a real pleasure writing this story for all of you. I'm glad I finished it, and I'm so sad it's over. I'm proud and yet miserable at the same time. Thank you for all of the reviews, everyone! Thank you for all the favorites, alerts, hits, everything. I loved opening my email every day to see what had happened after I posted the chapter.
Wow. I can't believe it's over. Thanks, guys, for making this one of my most popular stories to date. I owe you for being so awesome. Farewell, for now.