Disclaimer: Avatar: the Last Airbender and its characters belong to Bryan, Mike, and Nickelodeon. Please don't sue.
WARNING THIS HAS BEEN REVISED TO CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR KORRA! One big one, and one that is still speculative. But if you haven't seen the leaks that were floating around it's probably still safe to read this fic if you didn't already. You would have no idea what changes I made and it would all be speculative to you.
This one is for Amy Raine! Her wonderfully inspiring Tenzin fics as well as her review comments on "Call Down the Heavens"got me thinking of things that would lead to this sequel. I highly recommend people go read her stuff on livejournal.
And for those wondering about the next chapter of Crown Prince Chronicles, it is coming. It's being written, edited, and revised. Sorry to leave you on a cliffhanger for so long but I haven't abandoned it. I've just had bad writer's block.
More Than One Lifetime
"Do you really think friendships can last more than one lifetime?"
"I don't see why not."
Toph and Aang, "The Avatar and the Firelord"
Tenzin was there the day his father died. He heard the sound of the gunshot explode louder than a fireworks cannon. He witnessed his mother's storm of anger and his "Uncle" Zuko's lightning fury. He saw the Firelord fall. He watched his mother and Lady Mai run to the platform in the square, but he couldn't follow. He was frozen like ice. Rooted to his spot in the crowd next to Pema like rock as images of his father's murder burned into his mind like white fire. All he could think was he should have been able to do something to stop it. Yet, how could he when his father had been killed by something faster than the wind?
But what Tenzin remembered most in the immediate aftermath was Lady Mai. He'd always called her "aunt," however, in those moments following, her elegant combination of grace and steel could only make him see her as a creature of the most noble born. She knew that Zuko's final words were as much for her as for Aang, as he'd mouthed them to her with his last breath, the final ember of life in his golden eyes.
The Firelady locked those words deep inside her, clamping down on her emotions so hard they would only surface at a time of her choosing. She would not let anyone see her cry. Tenzin's mother was just the opposite. Aang hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye. Katara's tears freely flowed. She'd reached the platform first wanting to do nothing more than cradle her husband's body. But Firelady Mai was right behind her and slipped her hand into her friend's, not about to let her crumple. Both squeezed hard in a gesture of comfort and resolve. As one, they raised their intertwined hands high to the sky for the entire crowd to see. In each woman's other hand, knife gleamed and water glowed. And when the Firelady spoke, people listened.
"This is our solidarity! This violence has not gone unanswered!" The charred bodies of the assassination group, evidence of Zuko's handiwork, lay as a testament to Mai's words. "We will not give into fear and terror. Bender. Non-bender. We are one! These events will not stop this republic from standing united. It will not shatter the dream of peace of the two great men who founded her!"
"The Avatar is our greatest symbol of hope!" Katara took up the banner. Tear tracks lined her face. Her voice shook not with sobs, but with conviction. "The Firelord believed in that hope! We will not let that hope die!"
"WHO'S WITH US?" the women chorused.
The crowd of United Republic citizens erupted in unison. Tenzin found himself yelling the loudest. Thunder boomed in approval. Lightning flashed lighting the two women soaked with rain for all to see showing off the wind gusting through Katara and Mai's hair and clothes like a hugging caress. Tenzin knew his father and "uncle" were sending their own message from beyond. They were still watching over them and they were proud of what they saw.
Fire: Ashes to ashes…
Earth: Dust to dust…
Air: To your scattered bodies go…
Water: Back to the briny deep...
It was decided a dual funeral would be held in the Fire Nation. There was some initial debate about holding it in the United Republic. The Fire Nation was adamant though that the Firelord be returned to them and receive last rites on his home soil as tradition demanded as there was also a coronation to follow. As for the Avatar, despite having a mixed family that included many Water Tribe members, Katara refused to allow Aang to be buried at sea. Comforting as the sea's embrace would have been to her, she knew her husband would have hated his earthly remains to be left for eternity in the same place that had been his prison for one hundred years. The only thing worse would have been a suffocating Earth Kingdom grave six feet underground. It was the Fire Nation then whose funeral customs were the most complementary to the Air Nomads from what little Katara knew on the subject from Aang.
Both considered cremation important. But whereas the Fire Nation kept and stored the ashes which they considered sacred in elaborate urns, the Air Nomads would use a simple jar to transport the ashes to the highest summit. Then they would wait for a great wind to release the ashes to and scatter the remains as far and as freely as they could travel. The Fire Nation had willingly agreed to provide Katara with an urn of Aang's ashes to do with as she and the family pleased in a more private ceremony of their own on Air Temple Island later.
There was also the symbolic quotient involved in the dual funeral. The Firelord and the Avatar's lives had been intertwined for so long. It was in the palace square that Zuko had been crowned, but he'd made it a dual celebration to honor Aang as the hero who ended the war. Now with Zuko's eldest about to be crowned in turn, Mai and Katara agreed this was something Aang and Zuko would have wanted.
When Tenzin saw the crown prince in his fine, white robes, the two of them embraced in a fierce and consoling hug as the tears flowed and they sobbed together. The scope of Tenzin's family had always gone beyond his immediate parents and siblings and Uncle Sokka and Aunt Suki's kids. There was the whole Southern Water Tribe, and beyond that were "aunts," "uncles," and "cousins" from the rest of Team Avatar. As his father had often told him growing up, being the Avatar made him a citizen of many nations and Tenzin with his big "family" had certainly felt that way as well. Tenzin had the kind of friendship with the new Firelord their own fathers had shared, or "Lu" and "Zee" as they had been nicknamed long ago and called each other.
Zee's nickname came from the character in his name that as heir to the throne all four of his predecessors had shared and probably even more before. The royal "Z" as it came to be known. Zuko had carried on that tradition with his eldest son. In fact, Tenzin's own name was considered to be a very Fire Nation sounding name by some. The truth was that it was an old airbender name, perhaps even of a previous Avatar, meaning "defender of the faith." But the combination of the royal "Z" and its similar sounds to both Firelord Sozin and ill-fated Prince Lu Ten kept people believing as they wanted. According to his parents, it had been "Uncle" Iroh who had first commented on all the connections. Tenzin didn't really remember Uncle Iroh beyond his gray bushy beard, his lullabies, and that he always smelled like tea herbs, but Uncle Zuko had picked up on the connections and given Tenzin the same nickname he'd given his own cousin – Lute or Lutey. Zee and the rest of his siblings had liked it well and eventually shortened it to just "Lu."
Nicknames were a tradition among Tenzin's extended family. Aunt Toph excelled at it. However, it was the ones Avatar and Firelord had exchanged that had interested Tenzin the most. The first time Tenzin called Zuko "Hotman," Aang had laughed like crazy, especially since Tenzin's pronunciation had made it come out as "Ha'man." Zuko hadn't found it so funny.
Zuko's bewildered face changed to mock anger and a sly smile as he shot back with, "Such language! If you want him to be cool, you'd better not teach Lute to call me that, Great-Grandpa."
"Well, I guess he could call you Zuzu if you prefer."
At that, Zuko had lunged for Aang who dodged with ease. "Hey, no fighting in front of my son, Sparky," the Avatar said.
But Tenzin ignored the other nicknames his father had suggested, much to Zuko's relief. His young mind was more curious about the one he'd heard the Firelord use for his father.
"Why do you call my Dad, Great-Gran'pa?"
The two grown-up stopped their antics to look at Tenzin. Tenzin looked back from his father to Zuko trying to see any resemblance between the two. They looked nothing alike. His father had gray eyes and a round, open face. Zuko had golden eyes and a longer, oval face. Both were tall. Yet, whereas Zuko was above average and somewhat muscular, Aang, even with his trim body, would always be a lean bean in comparison. He even had an inch or two on the Firelord in height. The Avatar had a beard but remained bald and tattooed whereas the cleanshaven Firelord's currently unbound hair flowed halfway down his back. Nor would Tenzin's father, despite his shared ability to firebend, ever obtain Zuko's natural tan. (And while not biological, the Firelord also had that scary facial scar that Tenzin had feared as a baby. But now he was starting to wonder if he really had dragon sight as some of the stories went.) So Tenzin had to wonder how the two could possibly be related unless it had something to do with his father's odd age of being over a hundred. And in a way it did. Sort of.
"I am Zuko's great-grandfather," Aang said. "Sort of."
However, trying to explain the Avatar's reincarnation cycle to five-year-old Tenzin was not the easiest thing in the world. Instead, Zuko and Aang showed Tenzin a statue of Avatar Roku in one of the palace courtyards. There seemed to be many such monuments around the capital that had been erected under Zuko's reign. From Roku, Tenzin was able to see more of a connection. Zuko's patriarchal line tended to be on the short side. It was from Roku's line that Zuko inherited the height and length of his features, plus the unique slant of Roku's warm, smiling eyes.
"So…if my dad was Roku. Does this mean I'm your gran'pa?" Tenzin asked Zuko. His young brow furrowed not sure he was going to like the answer if it were true.
"No, Lute," Zuko shook his head with a smile, and the boy was relieved.
"But what should I call you?"
"Just stick with Uncle," Aang advised, in a whisper loud enough for Zuko to hear. "He likes being called that."
"Okay, Uncle Zu."
The bond between Avatar and Firelord was strong in ways beyond friendship. They were family. And being fellow descendants of the Avatar was something Zuko and Tenzin had in common. In a way, the dual funeral was a chance for the Fire Nation to have a sense of closure and a goodbye to Roku too since no ashes for a funeral had existed for the previous Avatar.
Many of them openly wept at the funeral. Firelady Mai still refused to crack her mask, though she comforted her children with love. Zee adopted his mother's steely resolve for his coronation. It was only after when Firelord Zuko's urn was handed over to the sages and Mai was back in the palace quarters she'd shared with her husband that she finally allowed herself to grieve alone with her family. She wept as many tears as Katara as the two women hugged and cried just as Zee and Lu had.
There were some that feared Mai might take her own life to speed her reunion in the afterlife with her husband, but she lived to see her eldest establish himself as the new Firelord and not leave her children orphan so soon. Mai lived to see the completion of the twin statues of the United Republic's founders. That night, her work done, Mai quietly passed on in her sleep to the Spirit World.
Katara, meanwhile, lived a long life. It saddened Tenzin to know his father never lived to see any of his grandchildren. Yet, his mother had promised one day to tell Aang all about them when she saw him in the Spirit World. It was strange though for Tenzin to know his father had already been reborn in a way on the same day he'd died. What exactly would his mother find in the Spirit World? Would it be the incarnation of the Avatar that was Aang there waiting for her?
It hadn't been too hard as a child for Tenzin to imagine his father might have once been a white-haired old man in red fire robes riding a dragon in a previous life. But the statue of Avatar Kyoshi at Aunt Suki's ancestral home had always given him the creeps. Imagining his dad as a girl was just too weird.
And then, seventeen years after his father's murder, Avatar Korra came into his life and nothing would ever be the same.
Tenzin watched his pupil thunder up the stairs. He swore that girl could make more noise than all three of his children put together. When he'd told her that they were all going out to eat that night and she might want to dress up, Korra had scowled at the idea. She was much like his late Aunt Toph when it came to her desire to be tough and shun all things "ladylike." Yet, when Tenzin mentioned her best friends Mako and Bolin could join them, he could swear he saw her blush and hurry up the stairs faster than usual. Teenagers. Go figure! He was already half-dreading the day Jinora turned thirteen. Though he suspected Ikki was going to be the one he'd really have to worry about.
"Korra, we're going to be late!" Tenzin called back up the stairs twenty minutes later. A short time passed, then feet pounding like a rhino-elephant descended and the new Avatar presented herself for inspection.
"Satisfied?" she asked and folded her arms over her chest.
Tenzin looked her over. Korra hadn't dressed up so much as changed out of her smelly workout uniform and into the blue, tribal clothes she seemed to wear everyday. At least they were clean thanks to Pema doing the laundry earlier that day. What was impressively different was Korra's hairstyle, which made him blink in surprise.
Two locks of hair framed her face as usual. However, instead of her usual ponytail, most of the rest hung loose around her shoulders. A portion on top had been fashioned into a Fire Nation style topknot of old. It was secured in place by none other than Avatar Roku's ornamental hairpiece.
"Impressive, from the neck up anyway. How did you come into that?"
"The visiting Fire Sages gifted it to me on the day I was told I was the Avatar. Firelord Zuko seemed to think I would appreciate it since my predecessor never had any use for it."
"Or me." Tenzin ran a hand over his own bald head and smiled at his own joke. He had worn a wolf's tail as a kid, but since he'd gotten his airbending tattoos he'd chosen to remain bald, opting to cultivate his bushy, brown beard instead.
"Did Firelord Zuko ever wear it? My firebending sifu didn't know when I asked him," Korra said. She was curious about the previous generation who'd saved the world. Aang was a sensitive subject she and Tenzin still danced around but the United Rebublic's other founder was fair game. It had been just the opposite tiptoeing with her firebending teacher, the current Firelord's Uncle Tom-Tom who had traveled as far as the South Pole specifically to train Korra.
"Possibly. Though I don't recall ever seeing him in it. His eldest son wore it on a few occasions, but not since he was crowned. As I recall, Uncle Zuko preferred ponytails like you when he could get away with it." Tenzin looked at his pupil approvingly. "Roku's hairpiece suits you well, Korra."
"Yes it does," echoed Pema. "Perhaps the children and I could take you shopping tomorrow to find a nice outfit to match it."
"That might be -" Korra started to say, but at the idea of shopping Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo all got excited. Ikki started chattering about away about her favorite stores while Meelo jumped up and down.
"Shop! Shop!" he yelled. Even at a young age, Meelo seemed to take after his late Uncle Sokka in that department.
Jinora meanwhile, felt more compelled to share what she'd read about Avatar Roku. "Did you know he used to ride a dragon or that he once manifested himself in Firelord Zuko's council room through Grandpa Aang early in Zuko's reign to acknowledge his support for the true heir to the throne?"
"No, I didn't," Korra said truly interested in that last part.
"Perhaps you can tell it to Korra at the restaurant, Jinora," Tenzin said. "We need to hurry or we'll lose our reservation." With that he began gently pushing his brood towards the door with a light wind.
"Where are we going?" Korra asked bringing up the rear.
"The Jasmine Dragon."
"You mean that fancy teahouse on Ilah Street? Ugh." Disappointment was in Korra voice. She made a face at the thought of tea. It was not a favorite drink of hers.
"Don't be so quick to judge, Korra. I think you and your friends will find this teahouse particularly special," Tenzin told her.
"It's because it -"
"Shh! Ikki." Tenzin held a finger to his lips. "Let it be a surprise."
The airbending family was quiet then as they hurried to catch a cab and pick up Bolin and Mako. Korra hoped that whatever this surprise was, it would be a good one. Of course, like many things about Korra and Tenzin, it was all relative.
Notes: Since the SDCC gave us more details, I've wanted to write more Korra related fic. As I said, Amy Raine has already made me a fan of these characters through her own fics making me want to try my own hand at writing them. The mention of Tenzin getting his tattoos is a brief reference to her story, "The Wind in the Sails" and I love her portrayal of Korra and Tenzin's kids in "Adventures in Babysitting." I hope she reposts them at some point. Please Amy!
But why I specifically chose to do a sequel the "Call Down the Heavens" surprised me since I honestly thought I'd never write anything that depressing again. Stiil, until we have even further details about Korra's world, it seemed to be ripe for a continuation. I had some ideas floating around of a scene involving young Tenzin and Zuko, plus some imaginings about the different burial practices of the four nations, as well as Amy Raine and Alabaster 86 both asking in their reviews of "Call Down the Heavens" about Mai's reaction to that story. I also realized a chance to tie this in with the end of "Hairbending" from Crown Prince Chronicles and it all just kind of came together. As usual I've tried to stick to as much cannon as we know, but this will still ultimately be AU – such as when the statues are built and my belief that there is a similar one of Zuko we haven't seen yet, who Zuko's kids are and who teaches Korra (though I'm trying not to name them yet), as well as if the Jasmine Dragon is a chain of restaurants by this point. Oh, and the story about Roku in the council room just might be a future chapter of Crown Prince Chronicles. Let me know if you want to see it. This story also went through several title changes from the boring "Legacy" to the somewhat corny "Relativity" before a rewatch of episodes gave me something much better.