"I love you."
It was spring when Aang died, sixty years after the defeat of Ozai. The flowers had been blooming then, filling the air with their sweet fragrance. He had died with a smile on his face, free of worries. Only Katara had been with him—all their children were grown and gone, living their own lives.
At his funeral, Katara remembered how she had held his hand and smiled back at him until long after he had gone. No words had been said, then—no words had been needed. Their lives had been blessed. No one could say otherwise.
As the ceremony went on around her, Katara observed everything from afar. It was as though she were miles, ages distanced from the people surrounding her. As though everything were happening to someone else.
Her mind was on the past, not the present.
Dimly, she heard the speeches being made by friends and family who wanted to tell of how he had touched their lives. Each of their children had something to say, as did Sokka, and Toph, and so many more. Their faces blurred. They all said the same thing, only in different words, different voices.
Katara had heard all these words before.
Finally, the crowd grew hushed as the Fire Lord made his way to stand in front of all of them. His gait was slowed by age, but no less confident. Before he spoke, he let his eyes wander the crowd until they found what he was searching for. His eyes met hers, and Zuko smiled.
Even after all this time, Katara still felt a warmth begin to burn inside her, felt her heart ache with longing. How many times, these past sixty years, had she awakened from a dream of him, wondering how their lives would've been different if only...
Katara did not allow such thoughts to linger.
Zuko began to speak, and Katara listened to every word he spoke—not really hearing the words, but listening to the sound of his voice. It had changed over the years, as everything had—it was an old man's voice now, but no less powerful. It still resonated within her, somewhere, like no other voice ever did.
As he finished his speech, Katara closed her eyes.
It was her turn to speak next.
As she walked past Zuko and his family, her eyes fell first on him, then on the others. Mai stood quietly beside her husband, her eyes sympathetic.
Katara remembered, then, how close Zuko had come to death on that day when they had fought Azula—how close Mai had come to losing him. Her sympathy was real. She knew the pain of losing a loved one.
Before Katara spoke, her eyes went back to Zuko once more. Zuko alone. His face was still, his eyes the same as ever—they were the one thing that had not changed one bit since his youth. He still held the same fire within him, and it gleamed bright and true in his golden eyes.
Later, Katara could never remember the words she herself said there. They were not important. All she could recall was the smell of the flowers, strong and sweet—a lingering scent. All she could recall later was the smell of the flowers and the sight of the petals falling from the overhanging branches like snow. The petals covered Aang's grave gently, and Katara turned away, silent, her vision blurred by tears that she did not allow to fall.
Katara lingered there, by his grave, long after all the other mourners had gone. Even their children left before she did, with silent glances back or none at all. It seemed fitting, somehow. That she lingered there. It was only after they had all gone, and she was sure that she was alone, that Katara let the tears fall at last.
She had not expected comfort in her sorrow, yet when she felt a warm hand on her shoulder, she accepted it. She let herself fall against him, let her tears wet his shoulder. She knew who he was before she turned to face him, before he spoke in whispered tones beside her ear as she wept. His words held no meaning to her, not any longer. Nothing did. It was enough that he was there to hold her, share in her sorrows.
It was spring when Aang died, and the flowers had been blooming. The petals fell when stirred by the slightest breeze, landing all around the two of them as Katara reached up to clasp hold of Zuko's hand in the twilight.
No words had been said, then—no words had been needed.
"Now, and Forever."
Author: So, I return to the realms of Avatar to write this story. The trailer for Legend of Korra somehow gave me the idea. It was something about the snow that made me think of sakura trees and cherry blossoms... And Zutara. Ah.
My next Avatar project is Rising Dragon, about a rebel Firebender at the start of the war, but once that's done I will probably do something with Zutara.
Anyway, reviews are appreciated. Thank you for reading, regardless!