This part of the epilogue could stand on its own as a separate piece, and to be honest it's probably not the type of ending you all were expecting. Even still, it's as much a part of the Forty Weeks universe as the other chapters, so I hope you all still enjoy it.
Please make sure to review and let me know what you thought.
Tenzin's first word was Daddy.
"Look!" Tenzin exclaimed, rushing over to his father and showing him the tiny turtle duck sitting in both of his hands. He'd finally managed to coax one out of the pond.
Zuko, who was sitting down and leaning against a tree trunk, eyed the animal for a moment before turning his gaze away. "Be careful not to hurt it."
"Okay," Tenzin promised, running a finger over the turtle duck's downy feathered head.
Suddenly they both heard a scream come from the palace. The color drained out of Zuko's face and he stuck his head between his legs in an attempt to take deep breaths.
Tenzin placed the turtle duck gently back down into the grass, and the tiny thing made its way back to the pond.
"It's okay." Ten put a reassuring hand on Zuko's knee. "Mommy said the baby's comin' out of her tummy today. "
"That's right, kiddo," Zuko said weakly, pulling his head up in order to look at his son. He looked green.
"Mommy said I'm getting a baby brother!" Tenzin couldn't quite contain his excitement. It'd be nice to have someone to play with.
"Mommy has guessed wrong before," Zuko said, a faint smile on his face.
Tenzin was about to open his mouth and say something else when he sneezed. His feet lifted off the ground for a brief moment before falling back down. The whoosh of hitting the earth knocked the breath out of him, but a moment later he was laughing. Sneezing was fun.
When he stood back up Zuko was regarding him with a curious expression. He opened his mouth but no sound came out. Finally, "Did you…did you just—"
"Fire Lord Zuko!" A servant sprinted into the garden before stopping in front of them. "Your wife…has had…a girl," he gasped, out of breath.
Tenzin felt panic sink into his bones.
But Uncle Sokka had said that sisters were crazy!
Zuko was grinning and shaking his head, pulling his son in for a hug. But Tenzin couldn't bring himself to feel as excited as his father.
But…but girls were no fun!
He sighed. This wouldn't bode well.
Tenzin wasn't sure whether he liked or despised visiting the House of Xin Jai.
On one hand, there were toys, candies, and other kids his age to play with. It was a relief to get away from his eight month old baby sister. Yakone' liked to bite. And scream. And drool. And other baby things that were gross.
On the other hand, the women there liked to coo over him, and some of them went so far as to pinch his cheeks.
On this occasion Tenzin had just turned four, and he tried to stand a little straighter and be less clumsy, like a big boy. When his mother sat on one of the chairs and started talking animatedly with the other women, Tenzin made his way to the top floor.
There he sees her.
Her hair is pulled back and she has dirt on her cheeks, but she has the prettiest green eyes in the world. She's standing in front of the desks telling a story, and all the children are either sitting at a desk or sitting on the floor, listening to her with rapt attention.
There's a half eaten orange in her right hand.
She's one of the big kids that Tenzin doesn't normally play with, which was probably why he had never noticed her before.
He stared openly at her as she told her story. A feeling of adoration overwhelmed him. He began to move forward, glancing around for an open space where he could just sit and watch, when another big kid, a boy this time, turned his head and gave him a menacing look. "You shouldn't stare."
Tenzin shakes his head before taking a step back. "I'm not—"
Tenzin had no idea what he'd done to make this boy angry, which was why when the boy picked up a toy wooden dragon and threw it at him he understandably started to panic.
He moved his hand in front of his face in order to protect himself, but when the toy should've struck him…it didn't.
Instead it hit the older boy squarely in the forehead. It was as if Tenzin had magically sent the wooden dragon back to him.
Everyone in the room had gone silent. They stared at him with wide eyes, and Tenzin had to fight the sudden urge to cry.
What had he done?
The older boy got up from his desk and stumbled away, frightened. The other children quickly followed his lead, backing away into the other side of the room, as far away from him as they can get.
Except for the green eyed girl. At one point she had dropped the orange she had been eating, and was watching him with shock.
Then she bolted toward the staircase and rushed down it screaming, "MOM! TENZIN DID SOMETHING FUNNY WITH THE AIR, I THINK HE BENT IT!"
Tenzin froze. On one hand, it seemed like all the other kids where too terrified to talk to him now. On the other hand, the pretty green eyed girl knew his name.
When Tenzin was five Zuko gave him a small wooden sword to practice (but really just play) with. He spent quite a few of his days running with it over his head and shouting nonsense about vanquishing evil bumblebees.
Meanwhile, Yakone' had learned to walk and spent the majority of her time following him around as best she could. She was the spitting image of Katara, from her dark skin to her wild head of brown curls. The golden eyes that peered out under full eyelashes were the only real physical difference. Personality wise, she wasn't like either of her parents.
Yakone' was clever for someone so young, almost irritatingly so. Despite her limited vocabulary she knew just what to do to get her way, and sported a cunning smile whenever she did.
Zuko would look at her funny sometimes, as if she reminded him of someone. But then he would shake his head and give her a hug, whispering something into her ear that would make her giggle.
Tenzin liked her well enough, except for when she got black ink all over his carefully hand painted wooden soldiers. Then it was war.
The Avatar came to visit when he was six. Tenzin thought he looked funny (he wasn't used to seeing bald men who were under the age of fifty). Plus, the Avatar sported blue arrow tattoos that apparently marked his mastery of airbending.
They first met in the practice arena. Tenzin held out his hand for the Avatar to shake, but instead the funny looking bald man pulled him into a tight embrace. When he finally let go he gave him a big smile. "Hi, Tenzin. You can call me Aang."
Tenzin blinked up at him in surprise. "Okay."
"Your parents told me you're an airbender, which is really amazing! You and I are currently the only two airbenders in the world, so it's really important that you learn. This is so exciting, don't you think?"
Tenzin could only nod, deciding not to mention that he was bitterly disappointed that he could bend air. He had wanted to bend fire, like his dad.
When he had asked Zuko about the situation his dad had only said, "You were meant to be an airbender, kiddo. That makes you special."
In this case, Tenzin didn't want to be special.
He spent the rest of the day working through the basic breathing exercises and forms with Aang. Surprisingly enough, he found he actually enjoyed working with his intended element. There was a sort of escape in bending. Controlling the air brought him freedom, brought him peace, and made him feel strong.
By the end of their first session Tenzin couldn't stop smiling and neither could Aang.
"You did really great for your first day!" Aang exclaimed, grinning down at him.
Tenzin beamed at the praise, already looking forward to another training session tomorrow.
A week of training sessions passed by in the same manner. At the end of his seventh session, Aang looked almost distracted.
"Why don't you go and cool down," Aang instructed. "I need to talk to your parents about something."
"Tenny, play with me!" Yakone' squealed, latching herself onto Tenzin's side. Parchment and ink brushes were scattered all over the playroom (or the nursery, as his mother called it). His sister had painted something that resembled an eggplant onto the wall. Tenzin would not be the one to scrub it off.
"No, I have to find dad."He couldn't wait to tell Zuko about the awesome training session that he'd had that afternoon. Zuko would be happy to hear about it. He gently extracted himself from Yakone's embrace and began the trek from the playroom to Zuko's office. When he finally got there he heard raised voices.
"—will receive a more authentic training if I take him to one of the Air Temples. Every airbender for centuries has been trained at an Air Temple—"
"Look Aang," Tenzin recognized his father's voice, "that's nice and all, but he's not going."
"But you haven't even heard me out yet!"
"You are not uprooting him from his life here in the Fire Nation."
"Zuko," Tenzin heard Katara speak up, "Aang has a point."
"You can't possibly be agreeing with him, Katara."
"I didn't say I agreed with him, I'm just saying he's brought up a valid point." There was a brief moment of silence before she continued. "Aang, how long would Tenzin be gone?"
"Until he mastered it," Aang said. "So probably about six years. Maybe longer."
"Six years? No. Absolutely not," Zuko snapped.
"Zuko," Katara said in a soothing voice. "Tenzin is an airbender; maybe it's best that he embraces that culture."
"There is absolutely no way you're taking my son away from me." Zuko sounded furious.
"I wouldn't be taking him away! I would be teaching him airbending!" Aang interjected. "We're the last two left! Don't you respect that?"
"Tenzin can master airbending right here in the palace!"
"It's not the same!"
"Sure it is!"
"Zuko, maybe we should talk to Tenzin about it. I think it should be his decision."
"No, Katara. I will fight you on this."
There was another moment of silence before Aang spoke up again. "If he does decide to come with me, we'll need to leave the day after tomorrow."
"No!" Both Zuko and Tenzin screamed at the same time. No longer capable of listening to their conversation about his future, Tenzin threw open the door and staggered into the room. Aang and Katara gave him shocked looks, but Tenzin didn't care. He quickly ran around Zuko's desk and wrapped his arms around his father. He was shaking.
"Please don't let them take me away! I don't want to leave! I want to stay here, I want to stay home!" he sobbed, burying his face into his father's chest. Funny, how earlier he had felt so big and grown up while he was bending, but now he felt so small. But he was safe here, in his father's arms, because he knew Zuko would always protect him.
"I won't let them take you anywhere you don't want to go," Zuko said firmly, his grip tightening around him. "I promise."
Eventually Tenzin looked up at his mother and Aang. Tears were falling down Katara's cheeks, and she gave him a strained smile. Aang just looked disappointed.
Aang stayed within the Fire Nation after that. He didn't live with them in the palace, but he did turn up every day for their training session. He never mentioned taking Tenzin to the Air Temples again.
Tenzin was a month shy of turning seven when Katara gave birth to a baby boy.
Everyone was excited. Everyone except Yakone'.
"More boys?" she shrieked, clearly offended. She grabbed her doll and tore its head off in frustration. Tenzin snickered at this; Yakone' had never been careful with her dolls. But all the blood drained out of Zuko's face.
The three year old girl had started to show signs of firebending the month before.
Shen, Tenzin's new brother, toddled all over the place. And he laughed. All. The. Time.
They were all playing in the garden with the turtle duck pond. Shen was two, Yakone' was five, and Tenzin himself was eight.
Shen stood up, waddled a couple of steps forward before tripping and falling onto the ground.
Any normal child would have cried or made sounds of discomfort, but not Shen. The toddler burst out laughing, finding his lack of coordination hilarious.
Zuko heaved a sigh before glancing at his wife, who was watching their son with curious eyes. "Katara, I'm terrified you gave birth to Sokka 2.0."
"Dad!" Tenzin screamed, barreling down the hallway. "DAD, IT'S YAKONE'! IT'S YAKONE'!"
Zuko burst out of the office, causing the guards to scatter. "What's wrong?" he asked, eyes wild.
Tenzin tried not to panic. He was failing. "She's just letting it burn! I don't know what to do! She's just letting it burn!"
Zuko sprinted through the hallways that lead towards the palace gardens, Tenzin right on his heels. When they finally reached the garden smoke was started to create a haze.
A tree was engulfed in fire, and right under it was Yakone', quietly watching the tree turn into ash.
Zuko rushed forward and grabbed his daughter, yanking her out of the way. The servants must have heard the commotion and seen the smoke, because Katara came into the garden from the other side, an orb of water between her hands. A moment later the fire had been put out, only a blackened and twisted tree left in its wake.
"Do you realize how quickly that fire could have spread? YOU COULD HAVE BURNED DOWN THE WHOLE PALACE!" Zuko shouted.
Tears formed in Yakone's eyes and she shook her head. "I'm s-sorry."
"Why would you do that?"
The little girl let out a shaky breath, trying very hard not to sob. "I just…I just wanted to see it burn."
Katara quickly wrapped her arms around the child, shielding her from view. Zuko just stared down at her in grim resolve. "Katara…"
Tenzin's mother glanced up at Zuko and glared. "She's not like her, Zuko," she spat. "Don't even think that."
Zuko didn't say anything else. Instead, he turned and walked back into the palace, jaw set in grim determination.
Zuko and Katara fought for a solid month, longer then Tenzin had ever seen them fight before.
Finally all the arguing abruptly stopped, and one day Tenzin and Yakone' found themselves on a palanquin headed out of the palace along with their parents.
When they reached their destination Tenzin wasn't sure where they were. They walked into a large building, and as they walked through the opening room and towards the stairs, the people inside greeted Zuko like they knew him.
When they had finally climbed all the way to the top floor, Zuko opened the door without knocking and stepped through, the rest of the family coming in behind him.
The room was huge. It was a bedroom and a living room, with one large window and a set of shelves that were filled with scrolls. A woman sat by the window, and when they walked in she looked over at them with a curious expression. Then she stood to greet them.
She was tall and lean, wearing a regular tunic and leggings, with her hair cropped extremely short. She was beautiful, but her expression was cold, Tenzin noticed, and her eyes held something deadly within them.
"Well, well, big brother, I'm honored." The woman dipped into a mocking bow, a menacing look on her face.
"Azula," Zuko said, giving her a slight nod. "It's been awhile."
The woman, Azula, snorted at that. "I got all you letters."
Zuko perked up slightly. "Did you read them?"
Azula's face darkened. "No. I burned them."
Her eyes settled on Katara for a second, and Tenzin was surprised to see a brief flicker of respect flash across her face. Then her gaze moved on to both him and Yakone'.
"I see you and the Water Tribe peasant spawned," she remarked drily.
Zuko put a hand on Tenzin's shoulder. "This is Tenzin, my son. And this is Yakone', my daughter. They're your niece and nephew."
Azula looked at Tenzin for a second before she settled her gaze onto Yakone'. "Just this one. The other isn't blood."
Tenzin shrank back against Zuko, feeling absolutely terrified of this woman.
Yakone', however, stared up at Azula with a defiance that surprised both Tenzin and his new found aunt.
"This one is a firebender," Azula observed. "She's got our eyes." She crouched down in front of Yakone', holding her hand out. A blue flame appeared in her outstretched palm, and Yakone's eyes widened in awe. The flame cast an eerie bluish light onto both of their faces.
"Why did you bring your kid her, Zuzu? You always said you didn't trust me enough to visit with your family, but here's your daughter, you've brought her right into my own cage. That's not very smart, considering I'm dangerous."
"They think I'm like you," Yakone' spoke up. She brought up her own palm and ignited her own small, orange flame.
"That so?" Azula stared at the child with curiosity.
"I set a tree on fire."
"Did you? Now why would you do that?"
"I like to watch things burn."
Azula glances up at Zuko. She looks sad, but only for a split second.
"You enjoy destroying things? Killing things?"
Yakone' panicked, and quickly shook her head. "I didn't kill anything! I just…I just—"
Azula hold up a finger to silence her. "What's your favorite part about firebending?"
Yakone' wavered for a moment. "It makes me feel warm," she offered half heartedly.
"Of course it makes you feel warm, idiot, you're firebending."
Yakone' looked offended, she opened her mouth to retort, but Azula spoke first.
"Firebending makes you feel powerful, doesn't it?"
Yakone' looked up at her, suddenly fearful, before nodding slowly. "Like…nothing can stop me," the child added. "Like I could do anything and nobody could stop me."
Azula looked at her for a long time before snapping her hand closed and eliminating her flame. "I understand exactly."
She straightened up and looked Zuko in the eye. "So she's like me. What do you want me to do about it? Apologize? Technically it's yours, Zuzu. It's your gene pool she got it from."
"I don't want her to end up like you," Zuko said softly. There was a sharp intake of breath that came from Katara, and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to lean forward and snatch up her daughter.
For a flash Azula looked stricken, miserable. But then it was gone, replaced by anger and pain.
"I'll only do it because she's my blood too," she growled. "I'll talk her through her thoughts; help her control herself when the time comes. I'll help her, despite the fact that no one helped me."
"The other isn't blood."
Out of the whole meeting with Azula, this stuck out the most.
Tenzin was ten when he finally connected the dots. At first he was in denial. Why would no one have told him that his biological father was his airbending teacher?
It wasn't fair.
He didn't want to be Aang's son. But he was.
He dropped hints that he knew to his Zuko and Katara for months but neither of them told him. They didn't even act like they knew. They acted like everything was the same, even though it wasn't.
It was why Tenzin snapped.
He marched into Zuko's office, where he and his mother were looking at maps that had been nailed into the wall.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?" he shouted.
"Tell you what?" Katara answered calmly. Too calmly.
"THAT AANG IS MY BIOLOGICAL FATHER?" There was a crazy part of them that hoped his parents would deny it, that hoped that Zuko's blood really did run through his veins, that this was all just a misunderstanding.
Instead Katara looked like she was about to cry, and Zuko couldn't bring himself to meet Tenzin's gaze.
Tenzin didn't know why this felt like such a nightmare. But it did. He bolted from the office, suddenly too angry to even look at his parents. He ran into the gardens, ignoring Yakone' and Shen when they called out to him, and quickly found the turtle duck pond. In his hurry he tripped and fell, cutting his knee against a rock. He ignored the pain, and ignored the blood that was now streaming down his leg. He slumped down into the grass, trying valiantly to fight off the tears that were threatening to pour from his eyes. He hated crying. He hated being upset.
Sometime later he heard Zuko quietly tell his siblings (half siblings now, weren't they?) to leave him and Tenzin be for the moment.
He felt Zuko sit down beside him and he turned his head away, refusing to look at him.
"I know you're upset," Zuko began. "But…blood…means nothing. I love you no more and no less than I love Shen and Yakone'. In fact, some days, when Shen and Yakone' are acting up, you're my favorite child."
This made Tenzin turn his head. "You're not supposed to say stuff like that."
Zuko shrugged. "I believe I just did, kiddo."
Tenzin shook his head, feeling teary again. "But we're not the same blood. That's supposed to be important."
Zuko picked up a sharp edged rock and sliced open his palm without even flinching. Red blood dribbled down his fingers as he held his hand up next to Tenzin's bleeding leg. "Funny, looks the same to me."
Tenzin stared at his father, not sure if he was crazy or awesome.
He watched Zuko for a long time, debating. Finally, he leaned forward and embraced Zuko, who patted his back awkwardly, cradling his injured hand away from the both of them.
"Has anything changed?" he asked quietly.
He could feel Zuko shaking his head. "Nothing."
When Tenzin was twelve he woke himself up scratching his forehead.
Boy, did it really itch.
He clamored out of his bed and stumbled into his bathroom, paused to light the sconce, and then looked at himself in the mirror.
There on his forehead, peaking out behind his messy brown hair, was the beginnings of a blue arrow.
Twelve year old Shen is one of a kind. He's witty, sarcastic, considerably popular among the local kids, and can hold his own against his Auntie Toph and Uncle Sokka in a round of poker.
He's also a good waterbender when he sets his mind to it.
Today, however, he is not setting his mind to it.
"Twenty ice daggers, Shen! That's all I want!" Katara cried in exasperation. Tenzin was watching her waterbending session with Shen and he kept having to cover his mouth to stifle his laughing.
"Okay, mom, I get it." Shen moved through the attack forms with ease. He looked a lot like Zuko, with light skin and unruly black hair. But blue eyes peered out from under his bangs.
Tenzin was surprised. For once Shen isn't going to offer up a sarcastic remark?
Shen suddenly stops and then crosses his arms. "Okay, now here's what I don't understand."
Nope. Tenzin thought too soon. Katara groaned.
"Ice daggers are fancy and everything, but wouldn't I be able to inflict the same damage if I just threw knives?"
Katara looked like she was ready to pull her hair out. "You are a waterbender. I am teaching you a waterbending technique."
Shen shrugged. "I'm just saying that there's an easier way to go about this whole 'throwing sharp objects' thing." He paused, tapping a finger against his chin. "Actually, the easiest thing to do is not throw anything at all since you know, peace and love and all that."
"Create the daggers Shen!"
Twenty perfect ice daggers instantly imbed themselves into a nearby tree.
Katara's mouth fell open and Tenzin rolled over onto his side, howling with laughter.
Shen offered his flabbergasted mother a grin. "Looks like my work here is done." He turned and strutted out of the training area that had been set up for waterbending ages ago.
Katara stared after him for a moment before snapping back into reality. "I'm telling your father!" she shouted after them, somewhat pathetically.
Tenzin snorted, and Katara whirled around and glared. "You wipe that smile off your face young man!" She turned and marched out of the training area, head held high.
Tenzin just bursts out laughing again.
When Tenzin was eighteen he told his father that Yakone' was better suited to be Fire Lord one day, not him. She was driven and passionate and cared more about the Fire Nation then she did about her own well being. And sometimes, when her mood started to darken, she'd go off for a day or so and then come back with a strong sense of determination. She'd be better after those mysterious days.
They all knew who she visited.
The marketplace was bustling. Tenzin greeted everyone he walked by, and Katara was ahead of him, chatting happily away to vendors and customers alike. Zuko walked behind both of them reluctantly, wearing the same cloak with the hood pulled up in order to "disguise" himself.
Katara moved out of sight for a moment, and just like that Zuko had quickly caught up to Tenzin and was intent on passing him.
"I don't like it when I can't see her," Zuko mumbled. He was in his forties now and there were streaks of gray in his hair.
They rounded the corner and spotted Katara standing in the middle of the street talking amiably to someone.
Tenzin heard Zuko breathe a sigh of relief. After all this time, he was still overly protective.
Tenzin turned his focus to the women his mother was talking to. She looked vaguely familiar.
As he and Zuko approached the pair, the woman turned her head towards them.
It felt like Tenzin's heart had stopped. Green eyes.
He remembered that last day at the House of Xin Jai. He had been too scared to go back there after all of the kids had looked at him like he was some kind of monster.
But he still remembered the pretty girl with the green eyes.
"Hey Tenzin," she called out cheerfully. "I remember you from when you were little." Her eyes brightened. "You're not so little anymore."
"I'm 20," he blurted out. "I'm not four anymore. So that makes me not little. Yep."
Zuko's palm met his face and Katara bit her lip and turned away so Tenzin wouldn't see her laughing.
But the girl (no, woman) just smiled. She held out her hand. "I'm Tian. Our moms are friends."
"Yeah." Tenzin awkwardly gripped her hand and shook it a little harder than necessary. He couldn't look away.
Katara quickly stepped in. "I was just telling Tian that she and her mother should come have dinner at the palace sometime."
Tenzin nodded stupidly. "Yeah. You guys should definitely come have dinner or something."
"Dinner or something?" Tian repeated with a mischievous smile.
"Well I mean…yeah."
She grinned at him. "Okay. Sure. That sounds like fun."
"Really?" he perked up hopefully.
The girl shrugged and playfully hit his shoulder. "Sure." She stepped away. "I have to go," she told all three of them. "I'll see you all real soon for dinner or something!"
She turned and walked away. Tenzin let out a sigh.
"Well," Katara said, brushing the marketplace dust off of her shoulder. "You're still smoother with the ladies than your father was."
Zuko looked affronted. "Hey!"
Three years later, the night before Tenzin and Tian's wedding, Tenzin told his parents that he knew a happy marriage was possible because of them.
They'd shown him that love not only exists, but that it can last as well.
Korra asks him questions about Aang. He can't really blame her, after all, since Aang was the past Avatar and everything.
He answers them as best he can. He'd known Aang pretty well. Aang had mentored him and taught him how to airbend. He'd remained a family friend for a long time. He'd attended Tenzin's wedding. He'd babysat Tenzin's own daughter on a couple of occasions.
"But he was your father," Korra points out as she digs shapes into the dirt with a stick.
"Well, yes and no."
Korra looks up at him and narrows her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"I mean Aang was my father, but Fire Lord Zuko was my dad."
Well, it's over now. I'm a little sad. I had a lot of fun writing this story. It made me laugh, cry, and most importantly it made me think. I'm not particularly fond of babies, and to be honest pregnancy (while fascinating and beautiful) kind of freaks me out. So to write a story that revolves around both of those things was kind of a challenge for me. But like I said, I had fun (and definitely learned a lot)!
To all of you who reviewed—whether it was positive or negative—I can't thank you enough. I can't say for sure whether or not this story would have been completed if it hadn't been for the constant support from you guys, the readers. Thank you all so so so so so much!
I don't have plans for a sequel, but I do have plans for more Zuko/Katara stories, so stick around!
Once again for good measure—THANK YOU!