A/N: This was one of my pieces for Zutara Week (momentous), and since it seemed like the most successful out of the seven, I'm sticking it here. Ever since that picture of the older Gaang happened, I can't get older Zuko out of my head because he's just so lsdfjks perfect. I have nothing more to add so thank you for reading and being awesomesauce in general!
Understandably, Zuko was nervous. An inclination for madness was naturally inherent in his family, it seemed, and whether that inclination came from bending or just blood, he wasn't sure. Katara had told him again and again that their daughter wasn't going to end up crazy, but every time, he replied with an emphatic all the female firebenders I know were to-tally insane. Reminding him that Azula wasn't a proper basis for all firebenders, especially female ones, Katara would just stroke his arm until he calmed down.
It was the best defense for Zuko's more emotional moments.
For the sole purpose of humoring her husband, Katara had taken Ursa outside to take her through some waterbending forms, just in case.
Ursa was only four years old, but since Zuko insisted, Katara complied. Hopping as she walked, Ursa clung to her mothers skirt, kicking piles of snow.
"It's cold," she commented happily, stretching her arms out. Having spent most of her short life in the Fire Nation, Ursa had never seen snow before, and she was altogether fascinated by it. "It's cold," she said again, this time extremely displeased. "Can we go inside?"
"I thought we could try and play with water," Katara said, bending down and pushing her daughter gently to a small pool in the ice. Ursa, as a general rule, wasn't comfortable in the cold, and being in the South Pole had really taken her for a loop.
"It's too cold," she insisted, still stuck on the temperature. "I like the palace better. It's not as cold."
"I know, sweetie," Katara pulled her little hood up to cover her ears. "But don't you like seeing Gramp Gramp? And Uncle Sokka?"
"Yeah," she smiled and nodded. "He's funny."
Naturally, Sokka was a huge hit with children, and with especially Ursa, whom he told over and over again that she was his favorite niece. She wasn't quite old enough to grasp that joke yet (she was his only niece), so she just giggled and told him he was dumb but funny, which Sokka insisted was huge praise (no matter how many times Katara told him that wasn't necessarily a good thing).
Of course, if there was one person who hated the South Pole more than Ursa, it was Zuko. Zuko complained nightly about how it was too cold and how am I supposed to sleep in an igloo and the general gloominess of it.
"Can you do what I do?" Katara asked, lifting her arms and streaming the water in small circles around her. "Don't worry about the water, just move your arms."
"I can do magic water?" Ursa asked, her eyes wide. "Like you?"
"I don't know yet," Katara said, although she did know. Ursa had the black hair and golden eyes of her father; there was no way she was a waterbender. She nodded, and screwing her face into one of complete concentration, began to mimic Katara's motions. She seemed to be frustrated with the way her thick parka was interfering with her elbows, and in perfect imitation of her father, she huffed, scowled, and stomped her foot.
"It's not working," she said.
"You have to keep trying," Katara urged. "Here." She knelt down behind her and took her hands, operating them as one would a puppet. "Just get used to the motion."
Ursa complied, but complained. "Can we go inside?" she asked again. "I'm cold."
"Honey," Katara pushed a stray piece of hair out of Ursa's angry eyes. "Look at the snow. Isn't it beautiful?"
"I guess," she sniffed, unimpressed. Katara took a handful and balled it up into a snowball. She showed Ursa, and she took it, examining it thoughtfully. As if she were on the edge of some magnificent, tremendous conclusion, she lifted it to the air slowly and threw it. This elicited a giggle, and she clapped happily. "I want another one!"
"Here," Katara encouraged, and moving her hands again, helped her make her own. Ursa giggled, her laugh echoing across the icy ground. "See, it's not so bad down here, is it?"
"No," she agreed, shaking her head. Her pale cheeks were flushed with red, wet with snowflakes. It seemed to Katara like the rushes of affection she had for her daughter were constant, like everything she did was the most precious and adorable thing on the planet. Even her stomping was adorable, because her stomping was so Zuko she couldn't even stand it. Every word, every little scowl and smile Ursa gave made Katara want to swoop her up and kiss her face, but Zuko said that was mollycoddling and she couldn't do it (although he did the exact same thing, so she didn't see what the difference was, really.)
They played like that for a while; Ursa would throw a snowball at Katara, and Katara would throw one back at her feet, enough to elicit a delighted laugh from the small girl.
"This doesn't look like bending," Zuko came up behind her, a hint of amusement cloaked behind the tone of disapproval. His arms were crossed, but he was smiling. Katara stuck her bottom lip out at him as if to say 'shut up we're having fun ok.'
"Daddy!" Ursa spun around, and promptly threw a snowball at his face. He spluttered, unmoving.
"Taught her that one, did you?" he asked, and Katara laughed before she stood up and wiped his face off with her sleeve. Zuko gave her an anxious look. "Has she...has she bent?"
"No," Katara said back, her voice hushed. "But she's a distracted student. I don't think she's old enough, she's just..."
Ursa yelped at that moment, and both Zuko and Katara fell to her attention, swarming her with worry as parents are like to do.
"What, honey?" Katara stroked her hair as she sniffed. Did she bend? Did she firebend, and hurt herself? Is she...
Ursa gave them both a mischievous smirk, and started laughing again.
"Hahahaha I got you!" she cried, pointing at each of them in turn. Zuko sighed with a smile, gave her hair a tousle, and gave Katara a weary look.
As a general rule, Zuko was just one big stress ball when it came to parenting. Every night, he would skooch up to Katara under the covers and ask am I a good father? I am, right? And Katara would always say of course you are, why would you ask that?
But Katara knew why.
Ursa smiled innocently and reached for her father, her arms stretching. Zuko took her in his arms and she nestled against his chest happily. A hand reached up for his face, and clumsy fingers grappled with his nose. He snorted in response, which delighted Ursa immensely.
Katara wanted to die from the general adorableness of the whole thing.
You aren't your father, she wanted to say to him, over and over again. You never were. But it didn't matter; Zuko put on the crown every morning and sat in his throne behind the wall of flames, despising everything about it because to him, that's what the epitome of fear was. And as he grew older, the fact became steadily undeniable; he looked so much like Ozai.
But Ursa looked so much like him, and that's what Katara would tell him every time he was being a stress ball about it. She loves you, she told him again and again, as well as she should.
Zuko blew a puff of air in her face, and Ursa's continuous laughter only kept continuing uproariously. Only when she started pulling on his hair did Zuko wince and hand her back over to Katara.
"Can we go back inside?" she asked again, trying to beguile Katara with her wide, shimmering eyes. "It's cold."
"I know, it's awful," Zuko agreed. Katara met this with narrowed eyes. He shrugged apologetically. Knowing she was beat, Katara stood up and ushered Ursa back to Sokka's house, following the sweeping and slightly stompy footsteps of her husband (Zuko liked wearing a parka as little as Ursa did).
Her small hand enclosed in Katara's, Ursa kicked at the snow, fascinated by how it flew up in flurries.
And suddenly, before she could even really process what had happened, Katara saw a tiny yet unmistakable lick of flame burn off Ursa's boot as she kicked.
Katara gasped, and clutched Zuko's arm.
"Zuko," she said in a hushed voice, stopping him.
"What?" his eyes turned to Ursa, who looked about halfway between confused and so excited she was about to explode.
"Dididothat?" she asked in a rush, her mittened hands clamped over her mouth.
Katara felt Zuko's deep inhale, one that shuddered over his entire body.
"Sweetie," Katara said, surprised that she was in such disbelief, because it was so obvious- "you're a firebender."
Slowly Ursa took in this information, her face slowly changing from confused/excited to absolutely elated dance around for hours because this is so awesome. Giving Zuko a nervous look, Katara saw that his mind was racing, surely presenting him with all the most horrifying outcomes this turn of events could produce. He bit at his lip and gave Katara the same nervous glance she was giving him.
But Ursa, as always seemed to know exactly what to say when it came to Zuko.
"Just like you, Daddy!" she cried, and crashed into his knees, hugging them fiercely.
Zuko reacted slowly, like he was still trying to process the turn of events. He looked down at his daughter, clinging to his knees. His face read so clearly, so painfully, she's proud to be like me, the disbelief drawing over his face. Katara hung back, because this was Zuko's moment, this was his chance to realize that he didn't have to be Ozai, and Ursa didn't have to be Azula.
"Yeah," he said softly, "just like me."
And like momentum finally building and crashing, he bent down and hugged her, gripping the back of her head fiercely, protectively. Katara bit her lip and smiled, feeling tears build in her eyes.
Zuko looked at her over Ursa's shoulder, and the sight of tears in his eyes made Katara's heart burst.
"I love you, Daddy," Ursa murmured into his parka, and he kissed the top of her head, his eyes squeezed shut.
"I love you too," he told her, and looked up at Katara. Katara's smile wobbled as she tried to hold it together, but it was too precious and there were major tears coming.
Not able to help it any longer, Katara fell forward, squeezing herself into the pile.
"Mommy, Mommy," Ursa exclaimed, latching onto her arm. "Did you see me bend? Did you see me? I made fire!"
"I'm so proud of you," Katara said, her voice muffled. Ursa nuzzled against both of them, and Katara felt Zuko squeeze her hand. "What did I tell you?" she murmured softly, resting her head against his shoulder. Zuko kissed her forehead; she could feel his stress ball melting away in blessed relief. Ursa got bored of hugging, as children always did, and ended up plodding away in the snow, trying to repeat her firebending display.
"You know what I think?" Katara asked Zuko, leaning against him in the snow.
"I think you're the best father," Katara told him, taking a strand of his hair in hers. He smiled softly.
"Yeah," she kissed him the cheek and gave his hand another squeeze, which he reciprocated.
"You're pretty great too," he said, a gentle smile on his face.
Katara smirked. "I know."
Zuko made a big show of rolling his eyes and stood up. He pulled Katara up with him, and together they walked with Ursa back to Sokka's house. A balloon had welled up inside Katara's chest, because just then she had seen Zuko happier and more at peace with himself than he had been in months; and all it took was a little firebending.
If you want to read my other Zutara Week stuff, it's on my tumblr (url is fire-lordzuzu) and everyone who reads it will be given many cookies and lolipops
Not really but you get my point