Title- Her Mother's Eyes
Characters/Pairings- Pema, Ikki, references to Teo Lee
Summary- Everyone always said Ikki had inherited Avatar Aang's eyes. Maybe that was true, but Pema thought a little differently.
A/N- So... I have a whole elaborate headcanon built around Pema. As you will shortly see.
Pema was always a momma's girl.
She had been a late child for her parents. After her two older brothers, twins conceived when her parents were still only in their twenties, there had been a gap of almost twenty years. She herself had been a very unexpected surprise when her mother was in her late forties. Everyone counted it fortunate that her mother, once an accomplished acrobat, was still in such peak physical condition that allowed her to carry a pregnancy to term even at that age (though the fact that her parents were such good friends with Master Katara, the greatest healer in the world, certainly didn't hurt).
And so it had been that legendary Kyoshi warrior Ty Lee, unlikely heroine of the Battle of Bandar, gave her inventor husband a daughter. A daughter, incidentally, that took after her father rather a lot, inheriting both his even temper and his boundless enthusiasm for life in general. And, like her father, Pema loved her mother fiercely.
Throughout her childhood, Ty Lee had been Pema's hero. To the little hazel-eyed girl she had been, nothing could be grander than the sight of her mother painting her face in the style of an Avatar long gone, sheathing her fans and preparing to fly away to protect the innocent. Her mother had been her protector, her confidante, her playmate. Years later, as an adult, Pema learned that the only time Teo regretted losing the use of his legs was when he realized that he would never be able to play with his children the way he wanted to, but it had never bothered her that her father didn't play with her. Her mother, exceptionally energetic even well into her middle years, was more than able to keep up with her. She had lavished her attention on her young daughter and Pema had adored her in response.
Ty Lee had loved her sons deeply, but she and Pema had always shared a special bond such as can only be experienced between mother and daughter. She had been the one to help her plait her hair as a girl, the one to dry her tears when a boy pushed her down in the dirt, the one to teach her how to protect herself from bullies, even benders, with frightening effectiveness. And it had been Ty Lee who, when the question of Pema's education came up, had protested vehemently against her daughter being sent away to Air Temple Island to study with the Air Acolytes. She had only relented when she realized how much Pema really wanted to join the Acolytes, and even then, she only allowed it once she had secured a promise from Avatar Aang that he would personally look after the little girl.
Surely her mother could never have envisioned, when she extracted that vow from her old friend, what it would eventually lead to. Surely Ty Lee had no idea that, as a tender young child of not-quite-thirteen, she would fall in love with such intensity.
Aang was to Pema, as he was to all the Air Acolytes, something of a favored uncle and certainly a good friend. He was the only adult Pema had ever known who was as energetic and bright as her mother, and she adored him for that. But his promise to her mother brought her particularly close to his family, and that was how Pema met Master Tenzin, the son of the Avatar. He was more than twice her age, he had been dating the fierce daughter of the Chief of Police for over five years before she met him, and Pema couldn't have cared in the slightest. He fascinated her.
It started out innocently. Tenzin was her sifu, teaching her the airbending forms as he taught all the Acolytes, and Pema found him interesting. But, as these things sometimes will, it blossomed into something more, and by the time she was 19, she could bear it no longer. She loved him, and she very seriously considered leaving the society of the Acolytes to return home.
Once again, it was Ty Lee who safeguarded her daughter's happiness. A series of conversations between mother and daughter buoyed Pema's spirits and restored her faltering heart. She had been Tenzin's friend through the rocky times in his relationship with Lin, she had mourned by his side through the recent passing of his father not even a year prior, and she had long since come to understand that her feelings for him were not the fleeting infatuations of a young girl any longer.
"Sometimes," her mother told her, "You have to just put yourself out there. If you don't, you'll never get anywhere, see? Like the-"
"-Like the first step out on the tightrope," Pema finished for her.
Ty Lee smiled and ruffled her daughter's mop of soft brown hair. "Sure thing. You'll figure it out, I know. You're too much like your father not to."
And she'd been right. It took some time but with a little patience and courage on her part she had won the heart of the last airbender, and on their wedding night she had promised him, so sincerely, that through their love he would not be the last for very long.
She had kept her promise, and not five years later they were blessed with a daughter. Beautiful Jinora. The whole family doted on the little girl, who was precocious almost from day one, and Pema was ecstatic.
But where there is joy, there must also be a measure of sadness. Not even a year after the birth of her grandchild, Ty Lee passed away in her sleep. No one was quite sure why, as she hadn't been ill and she was still a vibrant, lively woman despite being well into her seventies. The healers hypothesized that there might have been hemorrhaging in her brain, but there was no way to know for sure.
Pema was devastated by the loss of her mother. Although she was a steady, enduring woman as her father had raised her to be, she had never suffered such a deeply personal loss before. She missed her mother terribly, and for a time she felt very lost. She even began to doubt her skills as a parent without her own to guide her further. But with the help of her husband, and with her tiny daughter's large brown eyes looking at her with such trust and adoration, she was able to move on from the personal tragedy and go forward with her life. And after all, she thought Ty Lee would have wanted that for her. The grey-eyed woman had always been a firm believer in the power of a positive attitude.
There was still a gaping hole in her heart that nothing seemed to fill, however.
Nothing, that was, until a little over two years later, when she gave birth to her and Tenzin's second child.
From the moment she was born, Ikki was a striking contrast to her placid and contemplative sister. She was an energetic, extremely attentive (and attention-seeking) baby, who grew into a bouncy, effusive toddler. The only thing that it could honestly be said the sisters had in common- aside from having inherited their grandfather's airbending and, according to Katara, his hair- was that they were both immediately lovable children. Ikki in particular was adored by the Acolytes from the moment she learned to walk and talk.
It was often said that she had inherited Avatar Aang's striking grey eyes, and maybe that was true, but Pema thought a little differently. She had known someone else with eyes just exactly that shade of storm-cloud silver.
As far as Pema was concerned, Ikki had inherited her grandmother's eyes.