Quite an Age Difference
Rated: Teen for romance (Tenzin/Pema, Kataang)
Summary: Tenzin was a grown man and she was just a child. The last thing he suspected was that he would one day fall in love with her.
Disclaimer: The Legend of Korra is owned by Bryke.
If there was one difference between the old Air Nomads and the new Air Acolytes, it would be their celebrations of new life. Of course, the Air Nomads revered all life, but they had never made parties out of things like births and birthdays. It was seen as selfish to devote a whole day to a person. Avatar Aang, the last of the Air Nomads, had no idea what day he was born. He had a general idea, because all Avatars were born within a week of the previous Avatar's death and he knew the date of Avatar Roku's death, but he did not know anything more specific than that. He marked his age by the passing of the autumnal equinox each year.
But that had changed. Perhaps it was due to the mixed cultural heritage of the new Air Nomads, with both Katara's influence on her husband and the people of the other nations joining the growing ranks of the Air Acolytes, or maybe it was because Avatar Aang was a child at heart and loved any reason to celebrate; but births and birthdays were considered a big deal on Air Temple Island.
Tenzin, unlike the Air Nomads of old, knew his exact age down to the day. He was sixteen, and his last birthday would not let him forget that. This was because he was now considered a man in every nation in the world. Now there were two Master Airbenders in the world, and Tenzin was now old enough to marry.
He had many offers of marriage since he turned sixteen, many of them arranged more for political gain than any chemistry Tenzin may have had with the girls in question. Thankfully, his father and mother turned down all the offers.
"We will not force you into an arranged marriage." Aang told his son as the sun set on his birthday, and after at least five proposals of marriage. "If and when you marry, your mother and I want it to be for love."
Tenzin appreciated his father's thoughtfulness, but it was not surprising. Before Aang had married Katara, he had to endure hundreds of proposals for political marriage from every noble family in the nations: from girls he'd never met before, to girls who thought him in love with them because he'd given them a passing glance, to relatives of his friends, and (most terrifying) to Toph. It only really died down once his father proposed to Katara, his mother, and didn't stop completely until they said their vows.
He had every intention of getting married and starting a family. It was something that he needed to do. The Air Nomads would be rebuilt in earnest through the Air Acolytes, but that would take generations. Tenzin needed to have Airbending children to maintain the knowledge of Airbending until the Air Acolytes started producing those with Bending ability. But he wanted it to be with a woman that he loved, not just any girl whose best qualification was wealth and a nice family pedigree.
Anyway, today was another celebration of new life on the island. A pregnant woman who had arrived with her family some time ago had given birth in the early hours of the morning, and Avatar Aang would insist on seeing the child.
His father loved babies, and it had been years since he had one of his own, but that didn't mean he couldn't dote on the new little ones. And, of course, Tenzin was dragged along. It wasn't that he didn't like meeting each new child like his father did because each new life was a new hope for the Air Nation, it was just that he didn't know why he couldn't simply join in the rest of the celebrations like everyone else. Why did he have to be pushed into the birthing room? He was sixteen years old and not at all interested in the painful and, frankly, disgusting process of making a baby. Well… he wasn't interested in the part about birth, but he was a little more interested about the beginning part. He was sixteen years old, after all, and definitely not cold blooded.
His father swept into the room, all smiles and cheer as he moved to the woman's side, complementing her on her beautiful baby. The woman blushed slightly and thanked the Avatar for his kind words.
Tenzin glanced at his mother and saw that she was smiling too. She was the official midwife for every birth on the island, except for the births of her own children, but she took just as much pride in midwifery as she did in the births of her own children.
Katara smiled at her youngest son and moved over to him. "It's a girl."
Tenzin nodded, moving a step closer.
"We need a name to start the celebrations." Aang reminded the new parents.
Their eyes met over their new daughter and they answered without a doubt. "Pema." They said.
Tenzin was now close enough to see her, a pudgy little thing. She looked just like any other newborn to him, but he didn't have the eyes of a parent like the others in the room did.
On that day, he honestly did not see anything special about her.
Tenzin honestly did not notice anything that set little Pema apart from the rest until she was ten years old. Up until that age, she had been content to play with the other children her age on the island.
Of course, playing with the other children meant playing with Avatar Aang. All of the children, every single one of them, viewed Aang as a fun uncle and he more than welcomed their company, and they adored him. After all, no one could toss them as high as Aang could. Well, no one except Master Tenzin, if they could get him to play.
Play was something that Tenzin had never really been good with. He had been born with the weight of the Air Nomads on his shoulders and took his responsibilities very seriously, even from a young age. Some of the children had begged and begged, but Tenzin had always calmly referred them to his father. Pretty soon, the children stopped asking.
But Pema was different. It was not long after she turned ten years old that she started to follow Tenzin around everywhere like a turtle-duck following its mother. Tenzin was uncharacteristically tolerate of his little shadow because she was quiet and did not interfere with his training.
She watched quietly as he meditated, looked over his shoulder as he read Airbending scrolls, followed his graceful movements as he expertly wove his way through the Airbending gates used in his earliest training, and even refrained from laughing when his older brother, Bumi (who was visiting at the time) got the jump on him and scared him back into the spinning gates for a painful beating.
Everyone on the island knew that Pema was quite taken with the Airbending Master and had a crush on him, but no one knew if Tenzin was aware of it.
It only took five more years for the whole situation to explode.
Pema had stopped following Tenzin's every waking move, so many assumed that her crush on the older man had ended. Only she knew that it hadn't. She was older now, nearly an adult, and with the passions of a woman. But Tenzin… he wouldn't look twice at her, and who could really blame him? When she was a baby, he had all ready been a man. He was twice as old as she was, for crying out loud!
Sure, age differences were not considered a big deal. Almost every couple that she knew of had differing ages, but how could you overcome a sixteen year age difference?
That was the sort of thought that lead Pema to seek solitude in the night. She would travel down to the lake, stare up at the moon, and think. Her heart was heavy with unrequited love. When she looked at Tenzin, she didn't see a man twice as old as she was, she saw a man that she loved with every fiber of her being. She knew it, she knew her heart because of her mediation, and she knew that it was Tenzin who resided there.
The young woman was overwhelmed with emotion and began to weep.
She had barely even begun to get her tears out when a voice spoke up behind her. "Pema, what's wrong?"
Pema gasped and turned around at her waist. It was one of the last people that she wanted to see: Tenzin's mother, Master Katara. The Waterbender was past her prime now, but still considered one of the world's greatest masters. She was respected everywhere, both as a Waterbender and the Avatar's wife.
Pema ducked her head in embarrassment, wiping at her tears. "I'm fine." She lied.
"Pema, I know that you are not being truthful." Katara said, moving closer to the young woman. "I've known you since you were a baby, and something is obviously troubling you."
Pema rocked slowly, her arms wrapped around herself as she continued to gaze up at the moon. It was full. She should have realized that the full moon would draw the Avatar's wife down to the water. It always had. Most of the time, Avatar Aang joined her, but he didn't seem to be there tonight. "Where's Avatar Aang?" She asked in a desperate attempt to change the subject.
Katara sighed and gazed back up at the Temple. "He's not coming tonight." She said simply. "But I know that you are trying to change the subject."
"I am." Pema admitted. "But I really don't want to talk about it, so…"
"If there is one thing that I learned from my husband, it's that the things that one needs to talk about are most often those things that you don't want to talk about." Katara said with a knowing smile. "I promise that I'm a good listener." Still, Pema hesitated. "I promise that everything will say just between us."
Pema glanced at her. "Do you mean it?"
"Even Avatar Aang?"
"Even Aang." Katara confirmed.
Pema took a deep breath and sighed. "I'm in love." She said.
For a moment, Katara didn't respond. "My first instinct would be to congratulate you, but judging by the fact that you're out here crying under the moonlight, I'd say that there's some problem between you and your love."
"You could say that." Pema said.
"Listen, Pema, I do know that love can be made a lot more complicated than it should be when you add external problems to it." Katara said. "You know… Aang and I loved each other for months before we said anything to each other, but we did have a war standing in the way between us."
"Well… there's no war between me and the man I love… more like an age difference." Pema said.
"Age differences don't matter." Katara said. "Aang and I…"
"The age difference is quite a bit larger than yours and Avatar Aang's two year age difference." Pema said.
"Really? How big?" Katara asked.
"Um…" Pema paused. She knew, without a doubt, that Katara would know who she was talking about when she answered, and she had no idea how Katara would react. It was, after all, her youngest son. "Sixteen years." Pema finished.
"Oh… oh…" Katara trailed off. She knew, right away, who Pema was talking about. She remembered, just like everyone else, the months that Pema had spent trailing Tenzin. "Everyone thought that ended years ago."
"It… didn't end." Pema confessed. "It just matured and I got better at hiding it."
"Pema… that is quite an age difference." Katara said factually. "After all, he was all ready a grown man when you were born."
"I think I know that all ready." Pema said. "That's the whole reason I'm out here, crying."
"I know, and I'm sorry." Katara said. "It's just something that you need to hear. Whether you like it or not, that age difference will affect your… relationship. The first and foremost thing that you have to understand is that, even if he does return your feelings, he cannot make his move right now."
Pema glanced at Katara in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"You are very near to your sixteenth birthday, the age when you'll become an adult." Katara told her. "But, until that day, you are still legally a child. If a grown man were to start a relationship with you while you were still a child, it would be viewed as inappropriate. If you had a suitor closer to your age, he would be able to court you now so that you could marry when you turn sixteen. But a man does not have that luxury. He has to wait until after your sixteenth birthday before he could approach you without it being improper. Even then, people will still look down on it. What I'm telling you, Pema, is to give Tenzin a little more time. If he has feelings for you, he will approach you after your sixteenth birthday, but no sooner. Can you be patient with him?"
"I can be, I promise, Master Katara." Pema said, nodding. She was feeling better now, so she began to leave, but then she stopped in her tracks, turning back to the Waterbender. "Um, Master Katara? Did you or Avatar Aang have to be patient when you were courting? He is two years younger than you."
"We were patient." Katara said, smiling softly. "At least, we were patient in public." Pema blushed at the implications and excused herself.
It was improper and highly immoral!
His father once told him that the Air Nomads were considered to be the ultimate moral contradiction. There was no doubt that they were the most moral of the four nations, but there were other fields were the Air Nomads were considerably less moral than the other nations. Love was one of those fields.
Back when the old Air Nomads were still alive, they were the only nation that legally recognized a marriage between two people of the same sex. The Air Nomads also found lovers, husbands, and wives among the other nations; another thing that was mostly looked down upon at the time. Age differences were hardly worth thinking about.
But even the old Air Nomads drew lines in some places: incest and pedophilia were looked down upon universally.
Thankfully, incest was never a problem for Tenzin. He loved his siblings, but he didn't like them. He hardly saw them anymore anyway, both of them having left Air Temple Island years ago to begin their own lives and their own families. In this, Tenzin was eternally grateful that they were not here to see him taking such an interest in a mere child.
Sure, she was nearly a woman now, but he could not get the fact out of his mind that he was thirty-one years old, over twice her age! She should have been taking an interest in young men her own age, and there were a few on the island. But he'd seen the way she behaved around him: the longing glances, the subtle positioning of her body to show off her developing curves, the way she had tripped directly in front of him and tore open… well… she was much too graceful for it to be an accident.
When he was around her, he felt like a dirty old man and it made him sick.
Everything had been going fine until she hit puberty and began the transformation from girl to woman. It used to be that she could trail a few steps behind him constantly and he wouldn't notice; now his eyes followed her wherever she went.
He sat up in bed, realizing that he would be getting no sleep tonight. If he wasn't going to get some sleep, then he might as well mediate. He didn't bother to get into his standard mediation position: just legs crossed and his hands resting on his knees.
He did this for all of five minutes before he realized that it wasn't working. For the first time, his method of calming down had failed him. No matter how many times he tried to clear his head, it always returned to Pema and how she'd be sixteen in a few weeks.
What does it matter if she's sixteen? Tenzin asked himself. That still won't change the fact that I was sixteen and an adult when she was a newborn.
Someone walked past the door and his poor mediation was broken easily. He sighed, his head dropping forward onto his chest. Then he turned around. "Father? What are you still doing up?" Tenzin asked, getting up.
"Oh, you know… a little of this and a little of that." Aang said, pausing by his son's room. They both knew what he meant: Avatar business… it never ended. "So, that's my excuse. What is your excuse?"
At first, Tenzin wanted to make up some excuse for his sleeplessness, but he couldn't bear to lie to his father. He sighed, and prepared to confess. If anyone could offer him wisdom, it was his father, and he desperately needed it. "I think… I'm starting to develop feelings for someone." He said.
"Really?" Aang asked with a smile. "That's great, Tenzin!" He trailed off when she saw the troubling look on his son's face. "It… is a good thing, isn't it?" Aang moved closer and sat down next to his son.
Tenzin sighed, gazing down at his interlaced fingers. "There is a bit of a problem."
"Tenzin, you know that the Air Nomads were the nation that gave the most freedom when it came to love. No matter who you love, you know that your mother and I will support you."
"But even the Air Nomads had reservations when it came to love." Tenzin countered. "The woman I… no… not quite a woman. She's still a girl. She's so much younger than I am! Almost a woman but still a child. Dad…" Tenzin gazed hopelessly at his father, and Aang knew it was serious. Tenzin called him 'father' almost exclusively now. He hadn't called him 'dad' since he was a child. "There is a sixteen year age difference between us."
For a few moments, Aang did not respond. He took a while to gather his thoughts. He had experience dealing with people who made a big deal about even the slightest age difference. When he was young, there were people who looked down on his relationship with Katara because she was two years older than him. People were uncomfortable seeing a fifteen year old dating a thirteen year old. But they both ignored it, as it didn't matter to them what people thought of them, and it didn't matter in the long run. They were in love, and they both knew it, even at a young age. But, still, sixteen years was quite a bit larger than two years.
"Tenzin, I told you that I'd support you in love no matter what, and I do." Aang said. "Love is a beautiful thing, and the Air Nomads knew not to poison it with worldly concerns. But, in this case, you do have to proceed carefully. Pema is going to turn sixteen soon…"
"Pema? Who said anything about Pema?" Tenzin balked.
Aang smiled knowingly. "I know you, and I know her. And I know that she's just as interested in you as you are in her. But you have to wait to approach her until she turns sixteen. Once she becomes an adult, age won't matter and you'll be free to pursue her. Some people will still look down on it, but there will be nothing wrong with it. Who knows, they may not say anything at all… people have been waiting for you to find a wife for ages."
Tenzin chuckled a little. "That's true."
"Just wait until she turns sixteen, and then follow your heart. It will not lead you astray." Aang said, standing up and stepping out of the room, leaving Tenzin to his thoughts.
No matter which nation you lived in, your sixteenth birthday party was always a big deal. Pema graciously accepted every one of her well-wishers congratulations on reaching sixteen, but there was only one person (besides her parents) who mattered to her and he was yet to step up to her.
It was true that Tenzin seemed to be a lot more nervous around her than usual today. But she remembered the conversation that she had with his mother months ago. If he was willing to give this a shot, today would be the perfect day to approach her.
It hadn't escaped anyone's notice that several young men her age had all ready approached her, asking for her hand in marriage. She had given each of them a bemused grin and turned them down as gently as possible.
It wasn't until most of the other party-goers had cleared away that Tenzin dared to step closer to her. "Pema?" He asked.
She turned to face him, an encouraging smile on her face. It gave him courage. "Yes?"
"Could I speak to you… privately?" He asked, lowering his voice.
Pema's grin widened. She couldn't resist teasing him one more time. "A young woman just turned sixteen walking into the night alone with a man? Are you sure that's proper, Master Tenzin?"
He sputtered nervously. "I assure you that I would never do anything to dishonor…"
"I know, Tenzin, I know." Pema said quickly, calming him down. "I was just teasing, you know that. I'll follow you. I do feel safest when I'm with you."
After hesitating a moment, Tenzin offered her his arm and she accepted it. Without a word to anyone, he led her away from the party. They did not manage to slip away entirely unnoticed. Both Aang and Katara noticed their sudden departure. Neither one had spoken to their spouse about the budding feelings between the two, but they both knew what was going on.
They caught each other watching and smiling and, realizing that they both understood the situation perfectly, shared a quiet laugh together.
Tenzin took Pema to a deserted part of the island, deserted, but still as beautiful as any other location on the island. They were on an outcropping of rock that overlooked the whole island, and they could see the glow of Republic City across the bay. The clean air, the moonlight, and the glow of the city made everything absolutely beautiful. Pema could not appreciate the calm serenity of the air at that moment like Tenzin could, but as an Air Acolyte, she was still aware of it.
Pema smiled at the scenery. "It's beautiful." She sighed.
Tenzin nodded in agreement. "I remember… as a child… coming to hide here on these cliffs when I needed time away from Kya and Bumi. It's always been calming."
Pema listened quietly. She had never really met Tenzin's older brother and sister. They visited every once in a while, but had never stayed long. But she did understand that there was the typical sibling rivalry between the three siblings.
Tenzin sighed. "I need to speak with you, Pema, about something that has been on my mind for some time now."
"I think I know what you want to talk about." Pema interrupted gently. "You want to speak to me for the same reason that every man was seeking me out today. But, do you want to know what the difference is between those men and you, Tenzin? The difference is that I'm not going to say no to you."
"Pema, I'm not going to deny that there is something happening between us. It's there, and it's growing every day." Tenzin told her earnestly. "But you also have to understand that there are certain… complications to be expected."
"Only from the close-minded." Pema said. "I'm an adult now, able to make adult decisions, and choose the man that I want to court and marry." She smiled at him. "I want that man to be you, Tenzin. I've wanted that since I was ten years old and you let me follow you around."
Tenzin smiled briefly with nostalgia. "I remember that. Back then, I let you follow me around because you were quiet and didn't disturb me."
"Well, I knew that you didn't like the other children bothering you to play with them. I just found what worked." Pema said. "I've…" She trailed off, blushing with embarrassment. "I've always liked watching you."
"Pema…" Tenzin reached forward slowly, hesitating slightly before touching his hands to her waist. Pema froze slightly, staring up at him in shock, but her smile said she was pleased with how forward he was being at that moment. "I can't promise that things will be easy for you… for me… for us, but I do want to try. May I have your permission to court you?" He bowed slightly.
Pema smiled. "You may, Tenzin." She gave a little hop into his arms and, before Tenzin could react beyond wrapping his arms around her waist, she was kissing him. It was their first kiss after dreaming and hoping for it for months, so it was not a surprise that it quickly escalated in passion until neither one could breathe.
A year passed. It was not a shock to anyone that, once they began publicly courting, there were some nay-sayers denouncing their relationship. But there was nothing they could do besides complain, for no laws were being broken, and the couple was happy together.
Indeed, Katara wouldn't have had it any other way. Tenzin had always had a serious personality, and for the first time, she saw him bursting with a happiness to match Aang's. It only took knowing them to realize that Pema made him happy, happier than many people had ever seen him.
Of course, they were quickly approaching a new milestone in their lives. Marriage. It had not taken them very long to decide that they wanted to spend their lives together. In fact, their engagement had lasted longer than their courting period for no other reason than taking a long time to get a wedding all set up. Having it be the son of the Avatar's wedding only made the whole thing a hundred times more complicated than it needed to be.
People were starting to travel to Air Temple island to witness the youngest son of the Avatar begin married life, and to meet the woman who was to take over Master Katara's role of providing new hope for the Air Nation. And that meant…
"Hey, little bro!" Tenzin froze and rolled his eyes as he turned to face his older siblings. Both Bumi and Kya had left their childhood home on Air Temple island years ago. Both of them had spouses and children, but they'd never really lost the playful nature that they got from their father. Bumi put his arm around Tenzin's shoulders, pulling the Airbender into his side. "So, you've finally decided to man up and get yourself a wife? About time. I was starting to hear rumors that the leaders of the other three nations were going to write a decree and force you to get married. Way to be proactive."
"So, where is the lucky lady?" Kya asked, taking up Tenzin's other side. "Is she as much a stick in the mud as you? Because I can't imagine you attracting someone with a sense of humor."
"Of, you know, eyes." Bumi finished with a laugh.
Tenzin pulled away from them. "I'll have you know that Pema…"
"Wait… Pema?" Kya gasped. "The Pema? The same Pema that used to follow you around all the time?"
"Yes, that Pema." Tenzin said stiffly.
"Um… wow." Bumi looked, for the first time in his life, utterly without words. A few seconds later, he managed to shake it off. He'd never been able to keep quiet for long. "So, how big, exactly, is that age difference? Fifteen years?"
"Sixteen." Tenzin replied.
"Are you sure that's… wise?" Kya asked. "I mean, even if she is seventeen…"
"Kya? Bumi? Is that you?" A voice interrupted them. It was Aang, and Tenzin was pleased at his father for the timely interruption.
"Dad!" They both greeted, running over to embrace their father. You'd never know that Kya and Bumi were Aang's son and daughter just by looking at them, but once they started interacting, it became readily apparent.
Bumi pulled away from Aang first, staring at his father in confusion. "Is Tenzin really getting married to that Pema girl?"
"Yes, he is." Aang replied.
"But, Dad… isn't that a little bit… extreme?" Kya asked.
"There is nothing wrong with it." Aang said, giving his two eldest The Look. "Tenzin and Pema did not start courting until she was sixteen years old, and Pema is most certainly mature enough to make the decision of who she wants to marry. Besides… wait until you see how happy she makes him. He's like a whole other person, honestly."
"Really?" Kya asked. "Well, in that case, let's go meet the lucky bride!"
"The lucky bride is right here." Tenzin smiled as he turned his gaze on her. There was no denying how beautiful she was, dressed in Air Nomad fashions. "Good morning, Aang, how are you doing this morning?"
"Better." Aang replied. "Getting old sucks."
Kya and Bumi leaned closer towards each other. "She just called him 'Aang'." Kya whispered. "It took my husband years to do that."
"My wife still calls him Avatar Aang." Bumi replied. "And my children call him Grandpa Avatar Aang."
"Only because I grew up here." Pema said, smiling, having overheard their conversation. "He's always been like an uncle to me. Now he's just going to be my father-in-law."
"But still the Avatar."
Pema shrugged. "Not that special."
"Oi!" Aang said.
Bumi and Kya stared as Pema moved over towards Tenzin and pulled him into a long and through kiss. When she pulled away, Tenzin smiled at her. For several moments, they actually could believe that Tenzin was Aang's son and didn't just look like him.
So, the next day, when Tenzin and Pema pledged their lives together before the whole world, Bumi and Kya were among those that cheered and clapped the loudest.
Kya and Bumi were weeping openly, but Tenzin had so far managed to restrain the tears that he could feel burning at the corners of his eyes. He longed to join them, to allow his older siblings to give him what comfort they could, even if they lacked any for themselves.
I am the last. Tenzin realized. His father had lived over twenty years of his life knowing that he was the last Airbender in the world. That had changed when Tenzin was born. Aang had loved his first two children, but there was always something special between Aang and Tenzin, the only two Airbenders in existence. And, now, at thirty-four years old, he knew the sort of strife that his father had felt. His father was dead now, and he was the only Airbender in the world.
His father was dead. It was true that Aang had not been in the best of health for the last few months, and that he started thinking about 'the next Avatar' much more often, but he still couldn't believe that he was gone. He had been so full of life until the end.
Katara was in distress, but that was only to be expected. Even now, a week later, she still could barely respond to the outside world. Her son-in-law and daughters-in-law were all with her, leaving the Avatar's sons and daughter to grieve on their own.
A week. The date stayed in Tenzin's mind. That was the accepted time after the Avatar's death that it took for the next Avatar to be born. Somewhere, in the Northern or Southern Water Tribe, an infant was carrying to Avatar Spirit within it, unaware that it was only made possible by the death of another.
Tenzin hung his head, his shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs. Kya noticed and wordlessly reached out to her younger brother. Tenzin wordlessly accepted her invitation and moved into the hug. Bumi put his arms around both of them, and they remained like this for many uncounted minutes. For just a moment, they were children again, missing their father with every ounce of their beings.
The moment was interrupted by a soft voice calling to them. The three siblings pulled out of their long embrace and turned towards the source. The speaker was Pema. With her were Kya's husband and Bumi's wife, and Katara. Every one of them had tears in their eyes.
Without any conscious decision, the three siblings went to their mother and embraced her just as they'd done each other. Katara clutched onto Tenzin as she sobbed onto his shoulder. It was understandable as Tenzin bore the greatest resemblance to Aang.
"It's okay, Mom." Kya whispered to her. "It's gonna be okay."
It wasn't until later, when Tenzin was alone in his room that he began to cry in earnest. Everything hurt from the effort of holding it in, and he could not stand it any longer.
Pema came into the room, her eyes filled with tears, both for her own sorrow because she had loved Aang, but also for her husband's pain. Losing a parent was never easy, whether you were a child or an adult. She moved closer to him, crawled onto the bed, and wrapped her arms around him.
Tenzin turned towards her, now unleashing everything on her shoulder. Pema did not shy away from him, but held him, letting him know wordlessly that she was there for him.
"I can't believe he's gone." Tenzin whispered to her at last. "I can't believe that I'm the last."
"You are not the last." Pema whispered in reply. "You may be the only Airbender, but you are not the only member of the Air Nation. We are all here to help you. That's what being an Acolyte means. And that's what being your wife means."
"One of…" Tenzin paused, swallowing past the lump in his throat. "One of the last things my father said to me was to never let you think that you had to bare children sorely for the sake of the Air Nation."
"I've never thought that." Pema said. "But you know that I do want children. Even if it takes years, you won't be the last. I won't let it."
Neither one of them slept that night, bringing comfort to each other in every way they could imagine.
It would take many years for Tenzin and Pema to fulfill their silent promise, to have children. Tenzin, of course, was pretty old to be having his first child, but he put it off for his young wife's sake. His own parents hadn't started having children until their mid-twenties, so he felt that he owed Pema the same.
It happened right on the dot. Pema was twenty-five years old when she went into labor with their first child. Many hours of pain, cursing, and death threats later, and they finally hand a child: a daughter.
They were not at the Air Temple. Katara had moved back to the Southern Water Tribe a few years after Aang's death, and Pema insisted on having the Waterbender as her midwife. So they were in the Southern Water Tribe.
Tenzin smiled down at his wife. She looked exhausted: her hair was damp with sweat, there were dark circles under her eyes, and she was frightfully pale, but he'd never seen her look more beautiful, especially when she held their daughter cuddled to her breast.
Katara smiled at her son and wife as she set about clearing up. It had been a hard delivery, as first times usually are, but Pema had handled herself just fine.
"She's beautiful." Tenzin whispered.
Pema sighed happily. "She still needs a name." She paused thoughtfully. "I was thinking of Jinora."
"Jinora, it is." Tenzin confirmed.
As he gazed at his firstborn daughter, he couldn't help but think of another newborn that he'd met many, many years ago. At the time, he had not been impressed with the pudgy little girl.
How times change. That same pudgy girl had grown up into the beautiful woman that he loved and had vowed to spend his whole life with. And now, they had their own pudgy little girl.
He was more than impressed this time. He had the eyes of a father now, and he felt that there was no more beautiful girl on the whole planet.