Okay, this story takes place four years after 'The Final Scar' and follows the events of that story. If you haven't read that one, you will probably have a really hard time understanding this one. For those of you not good at math, it's a total of seven years after season two the show ('The Final Scar' was started before season 3, so the final season of the show is completely disregarded. None of season 3s events come into play here.) You guys know the drill: Of course I don't own Avatar the Last Airbender or any of the characters except for Kelyin, Shaya, Ayash, Amana, Sanyo, Oniara, the Outcasts, and Ren. I'm going to list the ages from the previous story, and not the show; Zuko was 19, now 23, Katara 17/21, Sokka 18/22, Aang 15/19, Toph 15/19, Mai 18/22, Ty Lee 17/21, Kelyin is 17, Shaya and Ayash are both 23.
/. /. / SOUTHERN AIR TEMPLE
Aang propped himself up on one arm, running a finger softly over the skin of her shoulder, marveling at the way her tanned skin was able to smooth over such a horrible event, such a nightmarish memory. He placed a tender kiss where her arm once was. She smiled, her eyes still closed. "You need a shave." He pulled away running a hand over the bit of stubble that had grown on his jaw line overnight.
"Oh, I'm sorry…" She sat up, examining him, a grin playing on her lips.
"I think it's cute actually." She reached up and pinched his cheek. He smiled and kissed her softly, running his fingers through her long, wheat colored hair. A tiny wail was heard from the next room.
"Looks like someone doesn't want to be left out." He laughed.
"He's probably hungry." She stood, pulling on a robe as she moved toward the door.
"No, I'll get him and bring him to you, just relax." He kissed her cheek as he moved past her and into Tenzin's room. The baby gave a little wiggle as Aang looked down at him, lifting his tiny arms toward his father and giving another little cry. Aang obeyed the unspoken request and scooped his son up, holding him close as he carried him back into the bedroom he shared with Kelyin. Aang looked down at his small face, wide grey eyes staring up at him, brimming with tears. He lifted him, tossing him in the air and catching him with practiced hands. Tenzin laughed as Aang tossed him again and again, causing the babe to forget his woes.
"Alright you two, come on now, let me feed him." She sounded stern, but was unable to hide the smile from her face as she watched the two people she loved most in the world laughing together. Aang had had a bit of a growth spurt over the last few years, gaining five or six inches to his gangly frame. Though he was taller, he was still thin and a bit gawky. Having seen his bending though, she knew that his exterior shielded a powerful being, capable of bending all elements to his will and controlling them with incredible precision and accuracy. Such a sweet, caring individual, so mighty inside. He came to her as she summoned the small stones from the bag by the bed, reaching for her son with one arm of flesh, and one of stone. Aang leaned down, running tender fingers over Tenzin's dark hair as Kelyin pushed her robe to the side, and let the strap of the thin gown she wore for bed slip from her shoulder, exposing her breast, holding the baby to it.
"I'm going to clean up and get dressed. Is there anything you need?"
She looked down at her son, then back to Aang's kind face, her smile growing. "I have everything I need right here."
/. /. / FIRE NATION
"You have to be ready, and quick, like this." She made several quick jabs at him, unable to stifle her laugh as he crumpled to the floor, face first.
"Mmmhaass ice ahm mmaal, uf am oo off asseehin om mee owf?" Ty Lee kneeled down, lifting Shaya's face from the floor.
"What was that?" She asked sweetly.
"I said, that's nice and all, but can you stop practicing on me now?"
"Aw, I thought you wanted to learn." She grinned as she began massaging his numb body, slowly bringing feeling back into the frozen limbs.
"I do want to learn, but with all the cracks against the floor with my head, you're making me regret fixing your arm so long ago."
"Well, if you would really work on getting your reflexes up, you'd be quick enough to block me. You just stand there and I can get you every time." She helped him stand up, picking a bit of dust out of his long rust colored hair, collected from when it splayed out around his head as he had fallen for the umpteenth time.
"You have to go slow, Ty Lee. I'm a medic, not an acrobat…"
"Or any kind of a well balanced fighter, in any stretch of the imagination." He scowled at her, rubbing his temple, where he'd struck the wooden floor. "Hey, at least Ayash isn't here at the moment. He'd be way harder on you in the joke department than I am."
He stared at her for a silent moment. Her smile was sweet and genuine, her wide grey eyes bright. Her light brown hair was pulled into the old familiar braid while her long bangs framed her face. When her arm was broken, he had become close to her as he helped her with everyday things, like washing dishes and folding clothes, and even more intimate things like buttoning her clothing closed and braiding her long rope of hair. He'd developed a strong attraction to her. He couldn't help it. She never seemed to return the feelings though, treating him more as a brother, the same way she treated his twin, Ayash. "You're skilled at what you do, Ty Lee. You were raised on it, trained for years, since you were a child. I didn't have that luxury. I want to learn, but it's going to take me a while. Be patient and go slow…" He looked away, embarrassed. "I'm really tired of falling down."
She sighed, smiling softly, as she took his hand, guiding his fingers into the correct chi blocking position. "Alright, one more time today, shall we?"
/. /. / BA SING SE; JASMINE DRAGON
"Folded bliss to table three." She took the plate with her free hand, softly running her fingers over his as the exchange was made before making her way through the small but crowded tea shop. It was strange to think that four years had gone by since that awful day when she'd sat with Iroh on the beach, watching the smoke pyre far off in the distance. Everything seemed so bleak then, but here she was, completely content. She'd never have the life she'd wanted, taking over a leadership position among the Outcasts and eventually leading them to overthrow and destroy Azula, returning peace to her old nation. Those dreams of great responsibility and respect were far gone. Instead she worked in Iroh's tea shop, along with her daughter, and the person that she still couldn't help but stare at in awe from time to time, Zuko.
They'd returned to the Southern Air Temple after a few days disguised in Kyoshi Village, greeted by the news, and Jet's guilt, over the death of Ren. Mai's reluctance to follow the orders to search for him with Jet and the others was heavily questioned by the council members and she was temporarily stripped of all authority among other members. She stayed away from Jet, leery of another argument with would lead to a fight and eager to hide her slowly growing stomach. She kept to herself most of the time, only speaking to Iroh and a few others around camp. The days went by slowly, each filled with her guilt and grief over Zuko's death, until three months had passed and Iroh found her, a letter in hand, his face pale, his hands shaking. He couldn't even speak, he just handed her the letter. She read it slowly with lifeless eyes. Her face went slack as she read the carefully written words. Her eyes shot up to Iroh.
"Is this real? They're alive? Both of them? You know where she is?"
"Yes, I've been speaking with Ursa through coded notes since she left so many years ago, using a handmaiden, Sanyo, that went with her. In the events of Azulon's death, and Ursa's disappearance, no one noticed that Sanyo was missing, so she was able to sneak back into the palace to deliver the notes to me until the Agni Kai. Until I was taken by the Outcasts, communication with her has been impossible. But now here it is. She lives on an uncharted island somewhere near Kyoshi… and he's with her. The gods have finally granted him a relief and he's there, not a burn or even a scratch." He laughed, crying at the same time. "He's alive and no one knows it." Mai threw her arms around him, both enraptured in a private moment of bliss."
"There's nothing for me here, Iroh… please… we have to go there. We have to see them."
She placed the plate on the table between the couple, and refilled their tea cups. She turned and caught a glimpse of him working in the kitchen in the back. His black hair had grown long, tied back in a knot at the nape of his neck and he wore a bandage over his left eye, hiding the easily recognizable scar. He looked up, a smile curling up the corners of his mouth, before he looked away again, returning to his work.
Sanyo helped Iroh and Mai drag the small boat up the beach. After a month of exchanging letters to Ursa, and much encouragement from both sides, Sanyo had agreed to come in the night to the Air Temple in order to take them to Ursa's island, so long as no one else was told of the plan or the location.
"Uncle!" Mai's blood ran cold as she heard that familiar, raspy voice call out. She turned slowly, afraid that he wouldn't really be there, just a figment of her imagination. Her heart beat sped up as she saw him, so tall, thin, and very much alive and unharmed. His face was pale as he looked at the man he'd been told was executed. He approached his uncle slowly, unaware of either Mai or Sanyo's presence. The older man threw his arms around his nephew, pulling him close, tears running down his cheeks. Zuko buried his face in Iroh's shoulder. "Azula said…"
"Azula always lies, Zuko." He rubbed the young mans back. "She even lied to us, making us think she'd killed you twice." Zuko stood up, wiping at his cheeks, embarrassed by his tears. Iroh smiled at him through his own tears. "I'm so happy you ended up here of all places, Zuko. Your mother has missed you for so long." Zuko gave a small laugh.
"I didn't think I'd ever see either one of you again. Yue told me that you were both alive and that fate wanted me to come to this island, but I never thought I'd be granted such forgiveness as to see both you again in one place."
"Fate has finally smiled on you, Nephew." Iroh laughed, looking up at Zuko's face. He placed a hand on his shoulder. "You have neglected your guest, Zuko. She has been just as worried about you as I was." Zuko turned to Mai and his face lit up. She felt as if her heart had stopped.
"Gods, Mai, it's been so long." He wrapped his arms around her, but she pulled away, reaching up to touch his throat, where a thick scar should have been. Her fingers met soft, unblemished skin.
"Zuko… I'm so sorry for what I did to you." She almost whispered the words. Only Zuko could hear the gentle apology, carrying so many years of grief and regret. He tenderly pushed her bangs to the side, kissing her forehead.
"What's done is done, Mai. I know that you were trying to save me from the pain I endured. It is the past though, Mai… leave it there." He smiled, embracing her once more. She felt as though a lifetime of agony had just slipped away from her, leaving only warmth behind. Her body folded into his as she wrapped her arms around him, her face against his shoulder. He pulled away suddenly, his good eye wide as he pressed his hands to her stomach, hidden beneath loose fitting robes. "What is this?" A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
"That is my bastard child." She laid her hand against her own stomach. "Fatherless by my own decision." His face softened.
"Jet. He doesn't know."
"If you stay here, with us… he'll never have to." Zuko turned as Ursa approached them. The years had been kind to her. Her waist length dark brown hair was divided into half and half, the upper half pulled into a loose braid. Her golden eyes were full of warmth and kindness as she smiled softly at the newcomers. "Iroh…" She hugged her brother-in-law. "I have missed your company," she laughed, "and your tea." She turned to Mai, gently cupping the girls cheek. "I am well aware of the harshness that some relationships invoke. You are more than welcome to stay here with us."
"Even after what I've done….what I've taken part in in the torture of your son?"
"Zuko and I spoke deeply about what happened between himself and Azula. He told me of your intentions to kill him to save him from her rage. As awful as your act was… it was with the best intentions." She looked away. "I am well versed in the cruelty and heartlessness that my daughter possesses. Even though his flesh has been healed, I can clearly see in my mind what she did to him… her own flesh and blood. If I didn't know there was someone capable of healing him, knowing the pain he was destined for… I cannot deny that I would not have at least considered your method of peace for him…" Zuko put an arm around his mothers shoulders. "Come into our home, make yourselves comfortable." She smiled at Mai and Iroh, forcing away the feelings of loss and sadness at her son and daughters awful relationship.
And that's how it started. Mai and Iroh took residence in Ursa's beautiful island home with Zuko. Oniara was born there five months later, Ursa and Sanyo delivering her while Zuko and Iroh waited outside, both too nervous and jittery to be allowed to take part. Shortly after, they moved to Ba Sing Se, returning to Iroh's tea shop. Oniara had grown up, referring to Zuko as her Uncle, and Iroh and Ursa as her grandparents. While at work, Ursa took care of Mai's daughter in the modest home they shared in Ba Sing Se. Iroh passed by, carrying a tray of tea, smiling contentedly at the business his shop was bringing. This is the way it was supposed to be, she thought to herself. All of them together in peace. Mai couldn't ask for anything more.
/. /. / POST SCRIPT AUTHORS NOTE:
P.S.A.N. : First off, I did not intend to write about Zuko in this first chapter. I wanted to leave you guys hanging about his fate and whereabouts just a bit longer. But, due to the fact that Aang and Ty Lee's sections took part during the day, while Toph's took part at night, I thought it best to switch her and Zuko in Chap 1 and 2 for timing purposes. So here you go, Zuko's happy fate. While I loved writing Mai's perspective on things and their complete change of location, Toph's part is actually my favorite in the story, so I'm really looking forward to showing her life since Ren's death in the next chapter. Also, for you die hard fans out there, do you recognize Aang's sons name? I couldn't help but steal it as an ode to development… even though I changed the mother. Till next time… review?