Soundtrack: Somewhere – Within Temptation
Her hair is as silver as the moon now, but the hair loopies are still the same, threaded with blue-painted ivory just as he remembers. Fingers can trace lines on once smooth skin, discovering footprints of hundreds of smiles and frowns, but the ocean-blue eyes have not changed; they are still so warm, still so reassuring. She places her mending down on the table when she catches sight of him, and he sees that her hands have become gnarled like an old oak's skin, spotted with age, yet there is strength whispered in the bones—the strength of a Master waterbender; of a woman who had dared to defy a world that insisted she could not fight.
"You're late," she says, meeting his pale gold eyes.
A faint smile curves his lips. "Would you believe me if I said I tried to get here as fast as possible?"
"Not fast enough."
He is about to protest, but then she pulls him into her arms, holding him close. It is only a second before he returns the gesture, closing his eyes as he breathes in her scent, so comforting and familiar.
"I've missed you," she whispers, burying her face into his shoulder.
His arms tighten around her waist. "I've missed you, too."
For a moment they just stand there, clutching at each other as if the embrace can make up for all the lost years, all the missed opportunities. It has been so long; he had almost forgot just how much he cares for this woman, but then she gently pulls back, not quite breaking his hold as she looks up into his face.
"We're the last ones left, you know," she says quietly. "Sokka, Toph, Suki, Aang—they're all gone."
She curls her fingers into his tunic, lowering her gaze to the golden sash tied around his middle. "I don't want to do this alone, Zuko."
"I know," he repeats, and then he pulls her closer, cradling her against his chest. "You won't have to."
Because they both know that their time is coming; that eve will soon turn to dawn, seeing their souls leave for the next great adventure. But that time is not yet, and there is no one he would rather spend the rest of his mortal life with than her.
Yay, we've reached the end!
Thanks so much to everyone who read and reviewed this collection. You have all been awesome and have made completing this challenge much more enjoyable for me (because I can tell you that there were many times where I just felt like giving up on writing these things), so thank you! I have greatly appreciated your comments and support.
I will be expanding upon these one-shots to make them into chaptered stories: 'Festival', 'Stranger' and 'Forbidden'. If there are any others you would like to see expanded upon, do let me know and I will see what I can do. I can't promise that I will get around to all of them, but it never hurts to ask. ^_~
Until next time,