A small procession consisting of Kuei, Sokka and Suki strode past. Suki was gesturing expansively to Kuei it what appeaed to be adetailed explanation. Mai and I were still in the gardens and I surreptiously doused our fire-starting attempts (as I wasn't sure how Kuei would feel about them. This is Ba Sing Se after all. There'd probably be a rule.)
I went over to Sokka to ask what was going on. He told me that after he'd explained to Kuei what he'd overheard, Kuei had decided to go and woo Song himself. Suki had helped them sneak out from the Earth Kingdom high tea using her stealthybadass powers. They had Aang remain behind to cover for them. Suki eyed the soaked embers of the fire me and Mai had made, made an exceptionally lame pun about steam, then gave me a big, sultry wink and thumbs up.
Oh spirits. It begins.
Sokka is the most indiscrete person in the entire world and I knew he wouldn't be able to resist telling Suki as soon as he saw her.
I tagged along with them – of course I did. I wanted to see what would happen. Mai declined to tag-a-long on the basis of it not being any of her business (she also indicated that she didn't think it was any of me or Sokka's business either). She wanted to practice all the knots I'd shown her.
So what happened after her talk with the Dowager was this: Song had run into Iroh when she was most upset. Iroh made a concerned face, espoused some wisdom and invited her home for tea. Song begged off and tried to find a polite excuse, because she much perfers to feel miserable on her own.
Iroh made that face of his and espostulated what he feels is the deepest truth in the universe; Tea makes everything better . Then he used that face again.
So Song went with Iroh.
We all came up to the Jasmine Dragon, with Kuei in the lead. Kuei had a small cowardly moment infront of the door, where he got nervous and seemed to think this was all a big mistake. However retreat would have been difficult at this stage, with Sokka and Suki flanking either side of him like a a pair of know-it-all, smugly coupled bouncers of love.
I could hear Toph from the front room as clear as a bell when she declared Guys, I'm not being funny here, but it feels like there's four-footed conjoined ball of smugness...and Katara and Kuei on the veranda. There was a long-suffering sigh (which I recognised oh so well) and then Zuko asked if she had been drinking adult drinks again. There was a small impact, a muffled ow and the sound of Toph demanding that he get up and check.
Kuei got exceptionally nervous then and muttered something to Suki, who had been giving him encourgaing prods forward towards the door. Whatever he said made Suki mutter oh for goodness sake, stride up to the door and knock loudly. Zuko opened the door and saw us.
I waved at him, but he made a grumpy face at me.
still mad then.
Suki pulled Kuei forward to stand with her at the door. There was an exchange of bemused greetings, until Suki cut to the chase and declared that Kuei was looking for Song. Zuko annouced that Song was right there and he'd get her.
Song was sitting in the front living room with Iroh, which was right by the door. We could all hear her say Oh no. Tell him I'm not here. I can't face him right now. I've been crying and my face is all splotchy. Zuko agreed thatit was at the same time that Iroh said it wasn't splotchy at all. Yes, my boyfriend is the sort of person who says to a crying girl the equivalent of gosh your face really is splotchy and gross right now.
There was some whispering and then Zuko reappeared at the door saying Song's not here. Kuei said he wasn't leaving until he got to talk to Song. Zuko ducked inside again and relayed this to Song. Song wanted to know why he wasn't going. Zuko came back to the door and said with an air of dramatic resignantion Song... who isn't here right now, wants to know why you aren't going. No attempt was spared at even pretending this was a real conversation.
Kuei, took at step forward and peered around Zuko and said loudly I'm not leaving because I love you. Zuko took a step back at the invasion of his space bubble. Even though everyone knew that Kuei was addressing Song, he still felt the need to clarify that, by saying not you Firelord Zuko. I don't love you...but I do hope that we can get along better in the future. Zuko didn't seem to know what to make of that so he just offered a curt excuse me and went back inside.
Then we heard a firm Song, I think you should come out the front. This is getting awkward. Toph was a bit indignant about that. According to Toph, this situation wasn't getting awkward. It had started out as awkward and descended into a weird, crazy mess. But Toph had just the solution.
Toph's solution in this case was simmilar to all her previous solutions, and involved breaking walls .
There was a flurry of earthbending and much ado. When the dust had settled Song and Kuei had been earthbended waist deep in the courtyard about arms length from each other. Iroh came out of the Jasmine Dragon and made a noise of dismay at the state of the western wall.
Toph seemed to think his noise of dismay was one of frustration with the current situation between Kuei and Song. She said "I know right! Now they can properly talk." When people overreact like complete drama lamas, sometimes the best thing to do is to confine them together until they've sorted it out, according to Toph. There was loud exclamation from Iroh followed by a small, restrained scolding about the current state of the Jasmine Dragon which involved several uses of the phrase "not angry – just dissappointed". Toph was made to feel suitably sheepish.
Kuei and Song were temporarily forgotten for the duration of the scolding. Kuei was coughing politely and trying to get Toph's attention. Song's face was all red from crying and looked like she just wanted the earth to oblige her by continuing to swallow her whole. Kuei reached out reassuringly towards her but he couldn't quite touch her – they were just slightly too far away. I heard him say Don't worry, I'll get us out of this.
Miss Bei Fong I command you to release us right this moment! Kuei bellowed in a loud regal voice. Toph looked at her feet and then stood up a little straighter, and declared that she would...as soon as they had a honest talk about stuff. They loved each other, Toph could tell...and they were being ridiculous right now. Kuei looked quite indignant at this. He started to shout about how Toph was disobeying her king and high treason and whatnot.
But at that moment, Song reached out and took his outstreatched hand and murmured She's right. I do love you and he stilled. Well I love you too. Kuei declared, making such big words seem so simple. Then he turned to Toph and said There Miss Bei Fong, we have spoken honestly and not ridiculously. Now you must release us. Toph obliged them.
Kuei gave Song a huge hug and said that she had worried him so much when he got her note and when Sokka had told him what had happened between his mother and her this morning. He was so glad she had changed her mind about leaving. Song pulled away at that, and said sadly that she hadn't changed her mind. She was still going to leave. It was for the best.
Kuei seemed a bit gobsmacked by this, while Song continued on saying Your mother is right. I'm a little person with a little life. I wont ever be a good queen. Kuei took her hands and said that she loved him when he was pretending to be a peasant who had nothing and that made her Queen enough to him. Song tried to pull away again and said that she'd always love him – but some things were not meant to be. They had to be sensible now.
Boo being sensible! Sokka espostulated loudly next to me– because he thinks that comments from the peanut gallery always help in these sort of tense situations. I eblowed him and hissed Don't boo Song. Kuei held his hand up to silence us and turned back to Song and said I don't expect you to be a foolish as I am. You've always been more sensible. He smiled at her then like they had a little in-joke between them. Song smiled back despite herself. Those little smiles seemed like they were only for each other. I hoped right then that they could build a life on that.
Kuei took her hands and said Allow me to very foolishly say that you are the only person I want for my queen. I know my mother can be difficult – but she doesn't get to choose who I love for me. And I choose you. I feel like you make me a better person, and I feel less lonely...I feel less alone when I am with you... and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, if you'll have me.
Song got a bit moist around the eyes and nodded her assent. There was much hugging and tasteful kissing. Sokka and Iroh also got a bit most around the eyes (those two are just both huge romantics.) Even more surprisingly, Suki also got a bit moist around the eyes too. I gave her shoulder a quick rub, but she waved me off and said she just had a bit of dirt in her eyes. Toph ruined the moment by loudly exclaiming Oh isn't that so romantic!
Kuei and Song broke apart and seemed to remember that they were surrounded by a very enthusiastic cluster of people. Kuei looked a bit sheepish and said apologetically to Song I would have done that much better if we didn't have all these people watching . We all strategically turned away, so as not to be creepy.
Kuei and Song waltzed off into the metaphorical sunset. Really they waltzed off towards the Earth Kingdom Palace together to have a serious word to the Dowager as a couple. Iroh thought we should all partake of a cup of celebratory tea and congratulate ourselves on our role in making a royal match. Certain people (like Toph and Sokka) were very keen on congratulating themselves (as usual). Sokka has, inexplicably, become absolutely sure that they will name their first born son after him. I tried to catch Zuko's eye the whole time but it seemed like he was aggressively pretending to be invisible around me. But he can't avoid talking to me forever. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
When everyone else was getting ready to return to our regular schedule ( Aang had been left unsupervised at the party for far too long), Zuko got up to put the tea cups and everything away. I followed him discreetly. He was in the pantry when I cleared my throat and annouced that I really needed to talk to him. He gave me a cross look and muttered, no I really think you've said enough last night.
He was still pissed off.
Look I know you're mad at me right now, but will you just let me explain, you'll... I implored, but he cut me off with a curt. No, you don't need to explain. I totally get it. He was staring at the shelf in front of him with a baleful look on his face. I knew he was probably thinking the worst possible thoughts and dwelling on all the horrible ways to interpret what I had said last night. I moved away from the door and closer to him. I placed my arm on his shoulder and he didn't shrug me off for a then the door closed with a loud bang and we both jumped. I do need to explain because you just jump to the worst conclusions. I said softly. He snapped oh, so everything's my fault again? A bit indignantly.
Oh this wasn't going very well.
Zuko eyed off the door and said quickly I don't like the sound of this, I'm leaving and strode away. He turned the handle, but nothing happened. He jiggled it angrily and then we heard at ka-thunking sound on the other side of the door. It sounded like the doorknob had fallen off.
Zuko made the most frustrated noise and muttered I can't believe this under his breath. The noise alerted Iroh to our predicament and we heard the sound of his shuffling feat. Zuko is that you in there? He enquired pleasantly. Zuko affirmed that it was, and he felt like the doorknob had come off. Indeed it has. Iroh replied, still pleasantly.
There was a pause.
Well can you try and fix it and open this door so I can get out? Zuko said after a beat. There was the sound of metal rattling on the other side, and then a faintly amused no, I can't from Iroh. Zuko made another frustrated noise. I piped up that Iroh should just be able to jiggle the handle and the door should open. Zuko made a grumbly noise at that, and said something about his Uncle knowing how to open a door.
There was the sound humming and then metal scraping and then a distinctive snap from the otherside of the door. Then we could hear Iroh say, You know Zuko, in absence of a brass key...a silver key will not work. Zuko grumbled that he didn't have time for his Uncle's proverbs right now.
It's not a proverb. I just noticed the lock had snapped shut. I tried the silver key but I think I broke it in the lock. Iroh actually sounded rather pleased at this. Zuko ran his hands through his hair and made a frustrated rumbling noise at that. Don't worry, I'll go get Toph, she can help. Iroh offered through the door and then we heard him wandering off and humming to himself.
We were stuck.
Zuko was not at all impressed with this development.
There was an ill-advised attempt at kicking down the door – but that was solid, hand-carved mahogany right there, so it didn't budge. I kept trying to start up the conversation that I really wanted to have with him, but he kept shutting down all my requests to talk by saying things like I don't think it's talking o'clock right now. I think it is half past let's get the hell out of here.
After a few minutes I got stroppy with him and told him he was being ridiculous and we'd only be in here for a little bit. He muttered something under his breath and stalked to the corner and started what looked to be an uber-sulking session. I sat close to him, but not right on top of him. He was acting like being stuck in a room with me was the worst thing that every happened to him, and that stung a bit. But I wasn't going to be a drama-llama about that (I can't believe Sokka and Suki call us Drama llamas!) I was going to be the bigger person here.
I started by softly saying I'm so sorry about last night. I didn't mean it. I just didn't want to tell anyone because... Zuko's head snapped up as soon as I started talking, but he rolled his eyes as soon as I started trying to explain why I hadn't wanted to tell anyone. look, if this is the part where you tell me you're not ashamed – you just don't want anyone in your family to ever know about me– we can really skip it.
I was a bit gobsmacked that he was being so obtuse. I was trying to explain and he was just pushing me away and not listening. He'd hardly ever been like this with me before. I'd always been able to talk to him, even when I felt like no one else would ever understand. He'd only ever been like this when it came to talking about his dad or his scar – the things that had cut really deep.
It was like a dam had burst all of a sudden. After spending the afternoon agressively pretending to be invisible and avoiding me, now he suddenly had a lot of feelings he wanted to share. It was like as soon as he started talking he couldn't stop himself from saying You know – this is exactly why I never wanted anything to happen with us. He made an angry gesture between the two of us here. I always thought this would happen and this was impossible. But you made me think we could actually... You just jump right into things...but I'm not going to be your bloody swimming pool...he cut himself off turned away abruptly here.
He took a deep breath before saying more firmly No, we should have just stayed friends. but then you were all la-la-la let's make out He did the face he does when he's impersonating me – and in a different conversation I would have pointed out that I have never once said "La la la let's make out" and he had kissed me back quite enthusiastically, so it isnot all me here.
But we weren't in a playful, fun conversation. We were in a very serious conversation. The sort of conversation where you realise how much you have hurt someone you really care about. I felt awful – but then I think I deserved to feel awful about this.
I scooted a bit closer and put a hand on his arm again and asked him to just listen to me. I wanted him to listen to me so I could start to make things better, but he wasn't giving me the chance. He turned his head then and looked me right in the eye. He was trying his best to seem so angry, but his eyes gave him away. He looked so sad and dissappointed as he said Why should I listen to you? huh? Why should I trust anything you say?
And then I got indignant.
How could he trust me?
How could he even ask me that?
How could he not know the answer.
Well I ended up blurting it out in a big, indignant, cross blurt of feelings. I said something I have been trying to say to him forages, and I said it mid-fight,without any ceremony or build-up. I blurted How can you trust me? Because of everything we've been through together! Because I love you, you big idiot!
He looked so shocked and vulnerable right then, right before he turned away abruptly from me and stared at the wall. He muttered You can't just...you can't just say that and have everything be fine and dandy again. I scooted closer until I was right next to him and I tried to hug him, but he flinched away again. He still wasn't looking at me as he said it doesn't count if you still act like you're ashamed of me and you don't trust me.
I had a lot of justifications in my head. A lot of reasons and intentions that I could have blathered on about, to try and make him see it from my point of view. But I didn't want to say any of those right then. I was well and truly in the wrong, and sometimes there isn't anything else to do but just say you're sorry.
So I said, with as much sincerity as I have in me You're right. I'm sorry. What I did was wrong. I broke your trust and I broke a promise to you. I know your right to be really mad at me now – but I just want you to know that I'll never do it again...and I really am sorry. He turned around slowly then and we were practically nose to nose, staring at each other intently. Neither of us said anything for a long moment. And then he moved forward slightly and kissed me.
It was a very very good, toe tingling kiss.
It was even better because I knew it was his way of saying he was going to forgive me.
I told him I loved him (again). See I hadn't been able to say it for the longest time, even though I felt it. I think a part of me felt that he should just know. It should have been obvious. It felt like it was unnecessary to say the words. But from the way he smiled every time I said it, the way that guarded expression of his just melted away. I knew that it was always necessary. I should've been telling him I loved him every day.
I had been holding off on saying it. I was waiting until an important moment would come along make the words more...I don't know...serious and heavy. I thought waiting would make them mean more – but it didn't. I love you would've always meant the same thing whenever I said it to him. The timing didn't make those words mean anything more or anything less.
I told him I was so sorry I had made such mistake and said such stupid things. And he ssshhed me and said we didn't have to talk about it now (that was mostly because he seemed pretty keen to get back to our groping session I think). But I really did want to talk about it – because I'd had a bit of an ephiphany that I wanted to share.
My epiphany was this – I can be a bit of an idiot sometimes.
I can be really stupid about somethings – and that's okay because everyone has moments where they get stupid about things. And I'd have to be incredibly pig-headed to think that I was the only sensible person in the world who didn't have idiot moments.
And see the thing is, I can be an idiot, and make mistakes and Zuko can be an idiot and make mistakes – and we'll still find a way to love each other anyway. Because loving someone means loving all of them, even the stupid bits.
I loved Zuko, with all his moody, spiky bits. And I guess I just wanted reassurance that he loved me too, even though I could be a huge, self-righteous dolt at times. I wasn't ever going to be perfect and I was going to make mistakes and we'd probably have other fights but that wouldn't mean that I loved him any less. I felt it was very important that he understand that right then.
I told him my ephipany and how I couldn't garantuee that I wouldn't mess up in the future, because I would sometimes be afflicted with a case of the dolts. And he smiled ruefully at me and said I'll definitely mess up. I don't know what I'm doing.
He'd be doing a pretty good job a few moments perviously. Mmmmmhhhhh. So I couldn't resist the urge to make a cheeky face and say I think you've got a pretty good idea with a big wink. I was trying to lighten us up and make a joke, and Zuko did that back of the throat rumble he does when he's trying to surpress a laugh.
But then his face got serious and said but if you don't know what you're doing and I don't know what I'm doing...then maybe we should just...maybe it would be easier if...Maybe we shouldn't... there was some fruitless gesturing. He was having a bit of a hard time framing what he wanted to say. I was having a bit of a hard time hearing this because I knew what he was getting at.
I cupped his face my hands and leaned my forehead against his and told him I didn't think there'd be anything easier about not being with him.
He wrapped his arms around me tighter and pulled me closer while at the same time asking, with a quiet unsure voice but what if they're right about us...and we'll just implode eventually anyway?
I told him that couldn't say that we wouldn't implode, because I can't. No one gets to now their own future. Not even Aunt Wu could say for sure what was going to happen tomorrow. I told him that we might implode. But then again, we might not. And I couldn't say anything for sure but I think that maybe, just maybe everything will be great... and maybe we'll never know if we don't try. We both don't know what we're doing – so maybe we just have to find out together. And maybe, together, we'll be extrodinary.
That was as honest as I could possibly be. All that I wanted for us together was laid out. I couldn't promise him forever, always and perfect. But I could promise him that I would love him and always be willing to try if he was. And he didn't turn away from me, or talk anymore about what would be easier.
Lets face it, if either of us were the sort of people who prefered the easier option, we wouldn't have even started making out in the first place.
He kissed me softly and deeply and said maybe you're right.
We were interrupted by Aang not long afterwards. He was looking for us actually. Apparently he'd come up with a brilliant plan and he needed our input. So he had snuck out of his own birthday party to find us.
We heard his voice calling out our names in the kitchen and much yelling brought him to the pantry door. He stood on the otherside and said with some bemusement Are you guys in there?We replied that yes we were. There was a pause before Aang said hey, if you're busy...if this is a bad time – I can totally come back later.
Oh gods, there were so many layers to the way Aang said bad time. Either suki or Toph had taught him how to pack as much sexy insuination as possible into seemingly innocous words.
Zuko seemed to miss the sneaky inisinuated layers and just said of course this isn't a bad time. The lock's jammed. We got stuck in here and Uncle went to get Toph. There was a pause and then Aang asked if we were sure Iroh was coming back? Because your uncle's playing pai sho with Bumi right now. Aang added quickly. Zuko's face looked beyond frustrated for a second. Then he shook his head and muttered unbelievable to himself.
I suggested that in absence of Iroh or Toph, Aang could try and metal bend us out, then we could help him with whatever his brilliant plan was. There was another pause from Aang's side of the door, before he piped up with an alarmed metal bend – me?
I know Toph's been teaching you – she set you making spoon bouquets as homework. I chided through the door, but I had a sinking feeling that I already knew the answer. yes, about that... Aang started to say, before he suddenly interrupted himself and said Oh wait – I have an idea. There was some scraping noises from the door hinges and a few grunting noises from Aang before he exclaimed there now – try pushing. We pushed at the door and it opened up on the other side. Aang had removed the bolt from both the hinges so it swung neatly out. It was a clever, if unusual idea. Aang's think-outside-the-box mentality can be really handy sometimes.
Aang explained his plan to us on the walk up to some other function for Aang's birthday. It had followed on from the high tea – which we had missed on account of excessive snogging/being trapped in a pantry. Aang wants to give a speech about how the four nations can work well in harmony together – even nations that were once bitter enemies can find things they like about each other.
Okay – during this whole explanantion, and the way that Aang would really pointedly look between us when he went on about nations finding things they liked about each other, it was really obvious to me that Aang knew. It was also obvious that Aang knew he wasn't meant to know.Sokka probably told him, but then said but-don't-tell-anyone-else-and-they-don't-know-tha t-you-know-so-don't-say-anything-to-them...maybe-t ry-acting-surprised-if-they-do-tell-you-because-yo u-didn't-hear-this-from-me. Etc etc.
So Aang was being really awkwardly polite with his whole not-mentioning-it-but-still-kind-of-mentioning-it- all-the-time thing that he was doing.
We had to seperate when we got there – I mean a few people know now, but we still can't be lovely dovey in public. Zuko went off to scold his Uncle. I went to go find Sokka and extract from him several promises that he would stop telling everyone he met. I also needed to find out how many people he told, because really now!
Sokka swears that he is not an idiot. He knows he can't tell people tell people. But he only told Suki and Aang... and only because they were in the Earth Kingdom high tea when he went to get Keui, …..and only because it came up in conversation... and only because he knew that we could trust them. So therefore, I was being unreasonably worried. He declared that he was a) on my side, b) not an idiot and c) not even that much of a gossip to begin with. I told Sokka he should keep telling himself that...and I still gave him a solid berating about not telling anyone else anything.
Then he gave me a solid berating about not telling dad.
You know – dad is the one person that I wish Sokka HAD told, because I do not want to have this conversation with him. But in typical Sokka fashion, he has decided to be obtuse about this and has declared that I have to be the one to tell Dad because it is my "big secret". He said big secret most sarcastically and then swaggered off like he thinks he knows everything in the world.
At that point Zuko came over to me looking a bit worried. He pulled me aside and said that he needed to talk to me. He was most anxious because he had just had the most bizzare conversation with Suki and she kept making lame puns about the steamed broccoli and it wasn't because she wanted more broccoli, it was because she was insinuating things.
She was insinuating that she knew...about us.
Ah yes – there were a few things which I had neglected to tell him in that pantry. But in my defense, I had been rather distracted at that point. So it was definitely time to tell him, but first I had to get him a some crab-balls from the snack table – just because he likes those, and I have noted that he's less likely to freak out if he's eating.
So I handed him the placating crab-balls and said that I had something to tell him, but he had to promise not to get angry. Zuko took them and gave me an unsure look before he said can't promise that. I, in a fit of maturity, said I can't tell you, if you don't promise. He countered that if he promised, he's just be lying to get me to tell him. Okay, well just promise you wont...get shouty. I replied (and I think that's quite a good compromise).
Zuko nodded and made a bit of a constipated face. It was too distracting for me, so I asked why are you making that constipated face? He actually got a bit grumpy at that (and I hadn't even gotten to my news yet) and said this isn't a consitpated face! This is my preparing for bad news face. I just know this is going to be bad. So then I said that it wasn't even BAD, it was what he had wanted. He raised his good eyebrow at me skeptically.
I told Sokka about us this morning okay...and then he might have told Aang and Suki...and I accidentally told Mai too. I whispered to him quickly, decided that a speedy approach was the best in this case. So if Suki's been making lame puns about steamed broccoli – it is probably because she knows...also because she thinks we're both total drama llamas who will react in entertaining ways.
Zuko made an absolutely incredulous face, like he didn't quite know what his feelings were doing. Eventually he said Drama llamas? with a confused titlt of his head. I nodded as said I know right? Where'd she get that from, we aren't even that dramatic. Zuko agreed with me and said that if anyone was a drama-llama in our group, it was Sokka, the big gossip face. I smiled at him widely then, but I wasn't completely off the hook yet.
He tried for a neutral expression and then said flatly so everybody...already knows? I nodded, but then ammended that not everyone knew. Only Sokka, Suki, Aang and Mai knew for sure. He'd still have to tell his Uncle and Toph, and I hadn't told my dad yet.
So, just for clarification, after making a big song and dance about not telling anyone last night, you went and told a whole bunch of people today. He made a stern face at me and I nodded forlornly. I started feeling a bit hopeless, because I didn't want us to have another disagreement again so soon after our last one, despite how fun the making up portion of it was.
But suddenly his stern face broke into a big, affectionate smile. He'd been messing with me (this is possibly a result of him spending too much time with Toph, who loves to do stiff like that). You're really not mad? I asked, a bit delighted.
Zuko shrugged and said No, course not. I wanted them to know... and now that conversation with Suki makes a lot more sense. He made a face as he rememebered his conversation with Suki. He turned to me and said right, they can say we're drama-llamas, but they've both got to be big perverts. I nodded in agreement. And then we were both smiling widely at each other, like big dorks who are in love.
Zuko is definitely a bit dramatic though, because he still wanted to milk the fact that I had told people. He couldn't help but huff in an exagerrated fashion and say I can't believe you told Sokka without me. I smiled at him and said we could tell my Dad together. He looked alarmed at that and immediately dropped that act and said No, it's cool. I don't want to be there when you tell your dad. really quickly.
I asked him why not. Zuko explained that he was sure that Dad would make the Sir-Hakoda-Stink-Eye at him and then plot his demise in a dastardly and extremely wily fashion. I said that he wouldn't do that. I could handle my dad after all, and it was high time I told him. Zuko's eyes widened incredulously then. I thought he was trying to show the confidence he felt in my dad-handling abilities – but no. it is because my Dad had come up right behind me.
Speak of Koh and he do appear.
Speak of my Dad and he saunters over with a drink in his hand and a smug look on his face.
He nodded at both of us and said do you two have something you want to tell me. I decided at that point, that we should swing back around the snack table and procure more crab balls. My Dad also reacts to things better when he's eating.
I took my Dad and Zuko out to the balcony over looking the garden. Zuko was looking like he thought imminent disaster on par with Sozin's coment was approaching. My Dad was munching away on crab balls and going on about how good they were and acting determindly casual. He was trying to make small talk like it was what he was born to do. He went on about how we had to try the sweet dipping sauce, how nice was what they did with the lanterns etc etc.
I cleared my throat to get his attention and interrupt the slow of chatter, but that was kind of superfluous, because his clever eyes had been fixed on me the whole time. As soon as I took a step towards him, he shut and just looked at me...and waited.
What I ended up saying was some bizzare combination of speaking too slowly and too quickly simultaenously. It sounded a little something like this Dad...err...welll...you see...ummm...okay... I brought you out here to tell you that...IloveZukoandI'vebeensecretlyseeinghimforlik eweeksnow.
Dad nodded and said Okay. I'm glad you told me.
And nothing else.
It was weird.
Wait...that's it? Aren't you furious with me? I couldn't help but splutter out a bit baffled.
I mean, I had been expecting...more of a reaction to be honest. I was expecting you know, that we'd have a small dramatic fight, during which I may or may not get forbidden from seeing Zuko. And then I'd give a whole speech about how the heart wants what the heart wants and my Dad couldn't change that and I made my own choices and rah-rah-rah...but no. My dad was just...glad I had told him. He didn't seem to feel any of the over-protective, ill-informed and irrational dad!rage that I had been expecting.
It was a little anti-climatic to be honest.
Dad looked at me fondly and said no, I'm not furious with you. I was a bit put-out when Iroh told me, because I don't like you keeping secrets from me...but you've told me now...and I'm glad.
My uncle told you? My Uncle knows? Zuko asked, sounding a bit alarmed. Dad gave him a look that said yes – you dolt. Of course you're uncle knows, thensaid that Iroh had told him a couple of days ago. Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered This explains so much about these past few days. Zuko excused himself politely to go and talk to his Uncle. He still calls my dad Sir Hakoda, which I think is something my dad secretly relishes now.
Dad and I were alone, and I couldn't help but ask (because I never can) That's really it? Dad took a sip of his drink and look away for a second before saying Does there have to be any more? I am glad that you are happy. That is the most important thing to me. He pulled me into a nice, big snuggly hug. I thanked him for being so calm and good about Zuko and I. He shrugged and said he hadn't been so calm when Iroh first told him him, but now he'd had a few days to get used to the idea. Also, according to my dad, Zuko was a good lad, and that made the idea easier to get used to. According to dad, Zuko might be firenation, but as boyfriends for you go - he's a big improvement on Han and Jet. I knew he was teasing me, but I couldn't help but smile in relief. I was just so glad that my Dad liked him and was going to be reasonable about this. All of Zuko's fears that my Dad is going to do something horrendously wily and awful to him are completely unfounded. Dad grinned his oh-so-wily-grin and said don't count your penguins. I'm still going to have to take him for A Talk at one point.
Oh no – not A Talk!
I tried to discourage him from this course of action, but he was unmoved. It is apparently his right, as a father, to take my boyfriend aside and make vaguely threatening statements while he sharpens a bone knife and looks suitably menancing. Father's always have to do stuff like this, apparently. It is not only a dad thing -It is the way things have always been done in my tribe.
Zuko went to talk to Iroh, and Iroh has known for aaages. But he is nice about the fact that he has known for ages and just nods – smugly and knowingly. He also frenquently spouts vague pearls of wisdom.
Toph has also known for aaaages, but she is awful about it and will be forever stupidly smug about it. She went on about how she "called it from the beginning" and we "are both idiots" and we should "be grateful that she locked us in the pantry this afternoon – otherwise we would have dragged out this fight for ages because we are both idiots."*
*that it was Toph who locked us in was brand new information. Zuko and Toph had a small squabble about her little trick which resulted in them going outside to "settle it like benders." Really there was just some indignant name-calling, then Zuko just gave her the noogie of her life and now her hair is all askew and she is vowing revenge at a later date.
Jee only just found out tonight but is very pleased and surprised. He keeps going on about how surprised he is and accidentally insulting Zuko with his effusive suprise (by saying things like he never thought Zuko would get a girlfriend in the forseeable future). This is causing Zuko to say things like I'm not a leper for Agni's sake! Jee also started making jokes that are much better suited to a navy ship than a polite dinner (One of these jokes was about that time that Zuko tied me to a tree. Jee has just figured out that was the first time he met me. It's been bugging him for ages apparently). Toph would laugh like a hyena-crow at these, while Zuko looked like he wanted to die of embarrassment – until Iroh stepped in and had a quiet word with Toph and Jee. About keeping their voices low and not discussing the secret in public.
Iroh also took the liberty of having a quick word to everyone I had told, about how best to keep the secret on the downlow for the greater good. Iroh is no stranger to courtly-intrigue and secretive shenanigans and he was very convinving. He even convinced Sokka do kept it to himself from now on, which is no small feat. He was able to get everyone to act cool about knowing the secret and convinced them all to keep their teasing/comments/well-meant-advice/puns to themselves until later, when we are out of the Earth Kingdom public eye.
I tried to find time to thank him when no one eslse was around. When he had a odd minute to get a drink, I came up next to him and whispered my thanks. He smiled as he handed me a wine and told me that no thanks was necessary. I inisited it was. He smiled, and then asked me if he had ever told me of the time when he found living dragons. He had not. I had heard about the story from Zuko and Aang when they first got back from the sun warriors – but right then I had been more focussed on the fact that neither of them been eaten.
Iroh grinned like he does when he has a particularly poignant ancedote to tell people and told me all about how he had discovered the two dragons, still alive. He felt awe at such a sight. He knew if the world was aware of their existence – there would be a flood of people in that valley trying to destroy them. In Sozin's time, hunting the dragons was said to bring glory. They had forgotten the old ways which said that killing a dragon only resulted in the deepest shame. Iroh told the world that he himself had destroyed the very last of the dragons – a lie to protect them from certain death and the firenation from the everlasting tragedy of driving such a magnificent species to existence. He had kept secret all these years. Some lies, according to Iroh, are necessary – at that time, the world was not ready for two dragons and would not have reacted well. According to Iroh, sometimes the truth just has to wait until the world is ready.
So today was the last day of the East Wind Festival and it marks the day when Aang would have officially become of age, according to the Air Nomads. But this party was about more than Aang coming of age, it was the first time he really commanded the respect of everyone. He got up infront of everyone, and spoke so eloquently. Just looking around the room at everyone's faces, while they listened to him, I could tell that his words were having a huge impact. When he'd told us he was going to do this speech this afternnon – he wasn't asking for permission or advice. He said he knew what he had to say now and he'd come up with this speech all on his own. And his little speech ...well it was really, incredibly effective. It really united people together. For the first time in this entire peace conference, I felt like a lasting, meaningful peace is finally going to happen. I am just so incredibly proud of Aang. I always believed that Aang could save the world, and he's finally starting to grow into the Avatar I always knew he could be deep down.
He started by saying that normally, on the last day of the East wind festival, one of the monks would give a stirring speech about the circluar nature of life – but Aang wasn't going to do that. Yes the world and the seasons turned – but they were always spinning forward. Aang had grown up in a very different time, and for a long time he hoped he could restore the world to how it was before. But now he realised that he could never do that. We, as nations, could not ever go back. Instead of going backwards, we had to move forward together. If we hoped to repair, rejuventate and recreate the world as a better and fairer place – then we had to start working together. Working together might seem hard right now – because from what he had seen, there is still much fighting in the world even though the war is over. The Water Tribes fight eachother, the Earth Kingdom fights itself and the firenation fights everybody. It seemed all to easy to let our differences divide us – rather than seeing all the good things that we could learn from each other. The Air Nomads had always taught him that the world was full of love – and Aang still believed this was so, because, accofrding to him :Humanity is like the ocean – just because a few drops in the ocean are dirty it does not mean the whole ocean is dirty.
He got us the six of us to stand up with him then, and talked about each of our nations amd what he had learned from each of us. He said that he knew that the people from the earth kingdom were sensible, resilent and steadfast. From Toph he had learned how to stand his ground and be strong and enduring. From Suki he had learned that a leader has to be more than brave and capable – they have to be patient and listen even better that they fight. The Water Tribes were kind, clever and loving. He learned all about what family really means – from being around Sokka and I. We had taken him into our family, with open hearts and open minds. Sokka had shown him how to look closer at the world, and find alternative solutions. I had shown him my unfailingly loyalty. I had always had his back – no matter how dire the situation. From me, Aang had seen what it really meant to stand for something – even if it was hard. The people of the firenation were passionate and determined, but it was only through knowing Zuko that Aang had discovered that having a responsibility meant that you didn't get to throw in the towel and take the easy way out when things were tough. You had to perservere and keep trying – no matter what.
Aang said that he wouldn't be the avatar that he was today without us. The war would not have been won without us. He said, in this proud, solem voice that I rarely hear from Aang, I've learned so much from all my friends – and don't you see that is what the world should be like? All of us learning from each other? Our differences don't have to divide us – they can make us stronger and better. And I'm not saying it was perfect all the time. Of course it wasn't. We disagreed over heaps of things – but you know what we did then? we worked it out, we compromised, we co-operated, we listened. He said that we had worked together and between the six of us, we end a 100 years war. What an extrodinary feat! And we're just kids, and we were able to work together and do something extrodianry. Imagine the incredible things that could happen if the whole world worked together. What brilliant feats? What extrordinary endeavours we could accomplish if the entire world started working together?
Aang said that rather that simply celebrating his coming of age – he wanted to celebrate the six of us, and our incredible acheivement. He wanted everyone to feel like they could join us in striving for a better future, because the time for peace had come.
The was such a thunderous applause following this little speech. I used to worry that Aang's determination to love everyone and see the best in them was a bit naïve and would get him into trouble, but only someone like Aang could have delivered a speech like that with such sincerity. It was his sincerity which made people really belive him. There was such a feeling of hope and possiblity hanging in the air. If six teenagers could end one hundred years of war, simply by working together – then surely anything could be possible. Aang said that the festival of the east wind is meant to mark when things begin, and I feel like something extrodinary began tonight. Something really amazing just happened. Something that will be talked about in history books for years to come.
So I've decided that this will be my last entry. I'm going to stop trying to keep track of everything and writing every little conversation down. Life keeps happening so fast and I can't keep up. Also I think if I stop, it will prevent me from falling into "old habits". I've made a promise and I'm not going to relapse again. It's kind of funny that I started writing these because I didn't think I could trust Zuko as far as I coul throw him, and I'm stopping now because I love him.
Also because Toph came in here to bother me and took to mocking me in this falsetto voice and saying all the things she thinks I'm writing in here. According to Toph, this book is filled with love sick blitherings like dear diary, Zuko was looking hot today. His eyes are blazing and his arse is smoking. She chortled to herself at that – because she thinks she's so clever. What's in hear isn't as embarrassing as all that, but I would still prefer if no one else ever got to read these. I have been mocked enough already.
Now that everyone knows, it is possible that I will never live this down.
But that is fine.
The others are good about not telling anyone and keeping our secret. They are better than good actually. Teasing, terrible puns and jokes aside – they are all actually being really supportive. They seem really happy for us, if a little exasperated that it look us so long to get together. It was apparently super obvious to everyone that we fancied each other – and all my protestations about not liking Zuko like that back on Ember Island were for naught. And here I was thinking I was so sneaky and wily.
I was so worried about how everyone would react and now I realise that there really was no point to all that worry in the first place. They've all been so supportive and Zuko is so much happier now that everyone knows and we don't have to sneak around so much. Dad told me, (after his requisitie Talk with Zuko and my ensuing worry) that there would be hundreds of different things against us as a couple – but he was never going to be one of those things. Sure he was going to be a totally embarrassing Dad, and at a later date he is going to regale Zuko with stories about what happened when I was four and thought that eating sea prunes raw was a great idea, but he's always going to support me and just wants me to be happy. However supporting me and wanting me to be happy is going to come with a great deal of teasing. This is also Sokka's attitude exactly. But Sokka's way of showing how much he loves someone has always been to make lots of jokes. He has taking to making lots of jokes about how he and Zuko really will be brothers now and calling Zuko his future brother-in-law.
It's a bit early to be teasing us about all that, I think. I mean, I have hopes for the future where we get married and have lots of sex and babies... I don't know what the future will bring. Its like I said the other day; maybe we will implode, I can't say for sure that we wont.
But I think we'll be extraodinary.
I know I love him. We have been through hell and back together and I don't think anything can sink us. Sure we have to be together in secret now, but that wont be forever. I'm not ashamed of our love, and one day the world will be ready. The world only spins forward.
It's definitely love for me. Zuko hasn't said he loves me back yet – but I am going to be cool about that and not needle him about it. He's not ready to say it yet, and I am going to be patient with him. I'm sure he loves me too, even though he hasn't said it. As Sokka pointed out, he jumped in front of lightning for me after all...and put up with all my stalking. But it's more than that. He smiles whenever he sees and I think we can build strong something on that.
He loves me, even though I can be such an idiot sometimes.
Wonderful, brilliant glorious readers! If you are reading this and have stuck with me through thousands and thousands of words, then I have nothing but love for you! Thank you for reading and thank you for all your wonderful reviews and feedback. I've had such a great time writing this series and meeting the lot of you. So sorry that this update has taken me ages and ages (but not as long as it took Zuko and Katara to get together). Teaching full-time has eaten up nearly all my free time. But thank you all for being so patient for the final installment.
So that's all she wrote, and we have reached the end of this wacky journey together. Please leave all thoughts, suggestions and/or requests for refunds in the review box.
One of my pet peeves in fiction is having Sokka/Hakoda go all crazy-protective over Katara going out with Zuko. I can see them being crazy embarrassing, but I just don't see them getting all up in Zuko's grill. Mostly because there seems to be a lot of mutual respect there, unless there is an in-story reason for them to think Zuko's not a good bet for Katara. So I tried to avert that trope. I think Hakoda likes Zuko well enough, but more importantly he can see how much Zuko likes and respects Katara. I think he would trust Katara to make her own choices (even if they are not the choices he would've made for her). He just wants her to be happy, and if Zuko makes her so, then he'll adapt to that.
Aang – oh Aang! I love Aang, but boy does his characterisation suffer from being creator's pet. I wanted so much more for Aang than we got in canon. Aang's like humanity is like the ocean...is from Ghandi, another amazing pacifist. See this is where Aang's pacifist and non-confrontational attitude would really open acknowledgement of the collaborative nature of the victory at the end of Sozin's Comet is a great step because it shows 1) that amazing things are possible when the four nations get together 2) its not ALL ABOUT AANG anymore. Sharing the war ending glory with the Gaang rather than just taking all the credit its a great step for him, both personally and politically. He is showing his ability to work with all the nations in friendship and respect. In the post war re-construction era, he would have more reason to hate the firenatiuon than anyone, but he would be able to lead by example and extend friendship and forgiveness to the firenation. I have many feelings about Aang's behaviour in-series and especially during Sozin's comet, but I actually think that he would be really good at the post-war stuff. Peace has to come from all sides – it can't be created by Aang telling people to stop fighting (a la the great divide). But it can be encourgaed by Aang showing people a peaceful way forward and how working together is possible.
Anyway, I know I've been a bit hard on Aang in this series, but that is mostly because the narrative of ATLA never pushed Aang to learn and gosh did I want him to learn so many things. But I've tried to have Aang grow as a person in this series. He has out-grown his childish crush on Katara during his time in Ba Sing Se, and that is a good thing. That is why Aang is so Zen about finding out about Zuko and Katara. (Even Aang figured it out, once he took his Katara-crush-blinders off).
As for the future?
I'll post my rambly head canons in the next chapter.