Looks like I have finally broken my unintentional writing hiatus by getting this done! Huzzah! Anyway, this fic was born after getting to see Kya in the newest Korra episodes and realizing that she's way too sassy and awesome to have come from Aang's loins. I made a joke about this on tumblr and a couple of people asked me to actually write a story around that idea. So, here we are. I have yet to watch the third episode of the second season, so this one-shot is only canon compliant through then.
Hope everyone enjoys. :)
She's sweaty and yet she still pushes her body forward, still seeks the peak that she's trying to reach, despite her sticky limbs and her shallow breathes. And she's pretty sure that his body is even hotter than hers, that his body is even sweatier then hers.
It's over soon—too soon, even though she feels sated and her eyes slip closed lazily. She would have liked to stay forever trapped in this moment, in this room with this young man, with these red sheets soaked in both of their sweat.
The body next to her is shuddering. There's scruff on his face from where he needs to shave. There's a scorch mark running through the middle of his chest. He has more muscle then what she's used to. There's black hair on his head.
And he can breathe fire if he so wishes.
This man is not her husband.
Katara knows that she's fucked up.
Katara finds herself standing still as her life passes her by—a life filled with colors and catching breaths and thoughts that she quickly brushes away. She finds happiness in her surroundings, in the humorous things that her toddler says, in the letters that she gets from her brother and father and friends, in the way that the climate of this island isn't too hot or too cold.
The man she's married to is planning another trip. They need me for this and that, he'll say. And he'll be correct.
She's ashamed that she can no longer find happiness in him.
Katara has already vomited twice, and twice has Zuko been next to her, holding her hair and rubbing her back.
"Everything is all right," he lies, and for a brief time she decides to believe him, slumping down onto the floor of his bathroom and hugging her knees to her chest. He hands her a cool washcloth and she holds it to her face, sighing.
"Everything isn't all right," she finally says, feeling his arm brush hers as he moves to sit beside her. "I'm a terrible human being." She swallows thickly and forces herself to breathe evenly and deeply so as not to get sick again.
"Then that makes two of us," Zuko states sharply, golden eyes fixated against the wall.
"You're not married," Katara points out gently. Neither of them say the word "widower." That's a heartache left for a different day.
The planes of Fire Lord Zuko's face have hardened and his eyes squeeze shut, as if he can lock out all the harsh memories of death and loving feelings never lost. And Katara watches him and wishes that she could take away some of pain.
And then she looks away, because wanting to take away some of his pain was one of the reasons that she got herself into this situation.
That, and him wanting to take away hers.
The signs make her nervous. She's been pregnant before, so she knows how it feels. She's tired and achy and she keeps getting up in the morning in order to puke up whatever her body has to offer.
Avatar Aang is thrilled. Do you think this one will bend, he asks. Do you think it'll be…like me?
And a vindictive part of her sincerely hopes not.
Katara manages to confirm that she's with child a week or so later. She can feel it's heartbeat through her healing palms.
Bumi bursts into tears when they tell him. And when they manage to calm him down, he asks if he'll be getting a brother. Aang says perhaps but Katara says no.
She says that he'll be getting a little sister. And when Aang asks how she could possibly know she simply shrugs her shoulders.
An airbending daughter! Wouldn't that be amazing, Katara?
And she nods and thinks to herself that all she wants is a daughter of water.
Zuko hides some of the evidence by disposing of the two bottles of wine that they'd managed to work their way through.
When that's done he dresses, looking politely away as she does the same, and then sits on the edge of her bed. Katara chooses to lean against the bedpost and cross her arms across her chest. They cannot look at each other.
"I'm sorry." His words are sincere and plain, and she finds her bottom lip quivering. "This was my fault."
She shakes her head. How does he always find a way to take the fall for her? "I'm just as responsible."
And then he laughs. Zuko laughs. "This wasn't really how I pictured our first night together. And I've been picturing it for a long time."
Katara is startled, and then all the breath whooshes out of her body and she returns his laugh. "Same."
They finally catch each other in the eye, and in their depths is nothing but nothingness.
"I'm tired," she whispers. And he leaves, closing the door softly behind him.
This pain is terrible and a part of her can't believe she's voluntarily going through it again.
But when all is done and over with, a baby girl is placed in her arms. And she has blue eyes and brown skin and brown hair and she is beautiful and Katara wonders if this is how her mother felt when she held her for the first time.
Which is why the name pops out before she can stop it. "Kya."
And her little girl tilts her head and sighs, snuggling into her mother's arms. Tears slip down Katara's cheeks, tears of joy and pride. And loneliness.
She wishes her husband could've been here to see this.
The next morning she eats her breakfast and bounces Bumi against her knee. She's told the servants to please get her things prepared, because her and Bumi's visit to Uncle Zuko is going to have to be cut short.
But when Zuko walks in with bags underneath his eyes she makes sure to smile at him. She makes sure to laugh at all his half-hearted jokes. She makes sure to eat plenty of the fruit that he has brought out for her. She makes sure to thank him for being so hospitable during her and her son's stay. She makes sure to say that she'll have to visit again soon, but perhaps with the Avatar this time.
And when she says farewell, she makes sure not to kiss him goodbye.
It has been two years.
Her husband isn't away. Their home is clean. The kids are being fairly well behaved. Her brother and her heavily pregnant sister-in-law are here. And so is Zuko.
The Fire Lord sits across from her at their breakfast table, hair neat and beard trimmed and sans crown. And when Katara asks him where it is he merely gestures to the side with a jerk of his head.
Kya is on the floor, blue eyes narrowed and curious, with Zuko's crown clutched between her chubby toddler hands.
"I could tell that she wanted to play with it," Zuko explains with a shrug of one shoulder. He smiles at Kya fondly before gently reaching down, picking her up and placing her in his lap. He offers her some of his eggs, but the little girl is much too fascinated with the crown. It's shiny and golden and smooth and Katara cannot blame her.
Zuko pats Kya's head before turning his attention back to his food while keeping one hand on Kya in order to keep her steady.
And Katara blinks.
And then stares.
Their noses are the same. The aristocratic slope of them, the hint of royal blood, the way they look strong and fitting for the faces that they sit upon—they're the same.
Neither Katara or Aang had given much thought to Kya's mystery nose, figuring that it could have come from anywhere in their combined gene pool.
And then Kya reaches out and snatches some of Zuko's eggs without bothering to ask and the Fire Lord shoots her a look and Kya sends him the exact same look back.
Katara does the math in her head and nearly slides out of her chair. It's entirely impossible…
Aang sits down into the chair next to her and smiles and she forces herself to smile back.
The night before Zuko leaves she finally gets a moment to speak to him alone. He stands next to her outside and they both watch the moon.
"Sorry my stay was so brief," he says and she shakes her head, brushing off his apology. She eyes his body, watches the way his pale fists clench, as if he's trying valiantly to keep them from touching something. Or someone.
"Don't worry about it," she returns. "You have a country to run and a daughter to raise. We understand. It's not like we've had a lot of time to come visit you either."
Her hip brushes against his arm purposely and he glances up at her.
"Your kids are great." Zuko's smile is only a little fake. "Really, they are. I think Kya's my favorite out of the two. I hope that doesn't make me a bad Uncle figure, picking favorite." He moves his arm away from her hip.
She smiles and lets out a laugh that is only a little fake. "It doesn't. Well, maybe a little."
Katara hopes that he thinks that the shininess of her eyes is only a trick of the light.
Katara watches Aang escort Tenzin onto the sky bison. Both father and son look excited, and before they take off they both wave enthusiastically to the rest of the family.
The rest of the family returns their waves half heartedly.
"Why are dad and Tenzin getting to go on another trip?" Kya asks, lower lip pouting. Katara wonders what kind of hell her daughter will put her through once she officially becomes a teenager.
Bumi makes a scoffing noise under his breath and walks back inside, leaving mother and daughter alone.
And Katara is so tired of trying to explain away her husband's mistakes. "They're just going to do some airbending training, that's all. They won't be going anywhere important."
Kya glances up at her mother with the biggest, bluest eyes. "But Tenzin said that dad was taking him to the Southern Air Temple. I thought that dad said we could all go there one day, together."
"I'm sure we will." Katara pulls her daughter into a tight one armed hug. "In the meantime, it's a nice day, don't you think? Wanna go down to the river?"
She watches as her daughter tries to hide it, but soon enough the smile that she had been waiting for spreads across Kya's face. "Okay," the younger waterbender says. "But only because you asked so nicely."
Her daughter has a healer's touch. Katara tells Zuko about this in her letters to him.
She tells him how her daughter likes finding sick animals and taking them home. She tells him how when they're unfortunate to be caught with an angry Kya in a rainstorm, that the droplets tremble even more with her rage. She tells him that Kya adores her little brother, even though she wishes that Aang would look at her with the same pride that he looks at his youngest son with.
And sometimes it hurts because Zuko, a child whose sibling was cherished more than he was, understands more than anyone else.
She wishes that his wife hadn't died in childbirth. If there was anyone who would've made a fantastic family man, it would've been Zuko.
She wishes that she had the courage to tell him that he has two daughters, not one.
"So, do you like him?"
"He'll do." Zuko looks grouchy and irritated and beyond exasperated with everything around him. Katara wouldn't expect anything else from him on his daughter's wedding day. "I mean, he isn't a complete idiot."
Katara snorts and gives Zuko's grey bearded cheek a loving pat. "But he makes her happy."
"Unfortunately," he grumbles. Katara has to choke down her laugh.
The ceremony is beautiful. Katara doesn't get to sit next to the Fire Lord. Today that's an honor reserved for the Avatar. There is red everywhere and Zuko's daughter, crowned in shimmering gold, marries the young man who will rule beside her when she eventually becomes Fire Lady.
And Katara knows that she'll make one hell of a Fire Lady, if her parentage has anything to say about it.
During the after party she catches Kya standing by herself in one of the many balconies, eyes deep and calculating as they scope out the city unraveled before them.
"I haven't gotten to see this city much," Kya says, knowing her mother is behind her before even turning around. "I haven't gotten to see many cities, actually."
Katara lays a hand on Kya's shoulder. "We could go out and do some exploring tomorrow afternoon, if you want."
And Kya sighs. "That's not really want I want." She turns around sharply, brown hair catching a bit in the wind. "Mom, I feel restless. I… I don't think I'll be coming home with you and dad this time."
Katara can't say that she's surprised, so she simply hugs her daughter and forces herself not to think about being left behind.
That night in the library she and Zuko share a bottle of wine. Neither of them speak of what happened the last time they shared a bottle of wine, and Katara thinks that's probably for the best.
"Aang asleep?" Zuko asks and Katara nods.
"He has to be up early tomorrow morning."
She and her friend sit in silence for some time, both enjoying the companionship that the other provides.
And finally Zuko lets out a breath, eyebrows furrowed with something that's clearly keeping him awake. "You know, I'm starting to understand why Uncle Iroh spent his last days running a tea shop."
He continues before Katara can open her mouth.
"I feel restless, I suppose. I've been all over the world but I haven't truly seen the world. I've always traveled as the Fire Lord. I wonder what it'd be like to travel as just Zuko."
He looks up at her, catches her eye, and brushes his fingers across hers. "Do you ever feel that way?"
Every day. "Not really. I guess I just usually have other things on my mind."
Zuko gives her half a smile. "You're lucky with the life you have."
"So are you."
"I know." And then he squeezes her hand.
The day her husband dies she doesn't speak to anyone. She simply lies alone in the dark.
Avatar Aang's funeral is less of a funeral and more of a memorial service. Hundreds of people from across the world gather to mourn and to celebrate and to look back.
And Katara takes it all in with dull eyes and aching joints.
Sokka makes a speech. He talks about what it was like to be best friends with, the brother-in-law, and the uncle to the kids of the Avatar. And for a moment Katara longs for a younger time, when she was so hopelessly in love with her husband that she set aside everything for him, including her culture and family.
She misses him.
She leans against her daughter as more and more people stand in front of everyone in order to say something, and when the Avatar's ashes are scattered into the wind she catches golden eyes watching her from a little ways away.
There is a twinge of guilt before she releases a heavy breath and looks away.
After it is all over, she doesn't speak to him. And the Fire Lord doesn't speak to her.
The letter telling her that Toph is gone breaks her heart.
The funeral for Sokka breaks her soul.
Every day Kya leaves their home in the Southern Water Tribe for the city and returns with news and letters and packages. And every day Katara waits and wonders if Kya will come back with a letter telling her that the old Fire Lord has left her too.
And every day Kya shows up without that letter.
And every day Katara feels a small sense of relief that he's still somewhere out there.
Time passes this way, with Kya caring for her mother. Katara would like to think that she can still take care of herself.
But it's nice not to be alone.
"What's wrong, Mom? You've been quiet today." Kya's hair has turned white.
"Nothing." Katara looks out the window and watches the bustling city around her.
"Whatever it is, it's not nothing." Kya places her hand on her mother's shoulder. She is silent for a brief moment before standing up. "You know, I feel like having a hot cup of tea. Would you like some?"
Katara nearly winces. Kya is as bad at making tea as—
She swallows thickly. "I just miss your father, sweetie. That's all."
Kya gives her mother a sad smile. "I miss him too."
And all Katara can do is smile back.
Kya has left with Bumi and Tenzin and Tenzin's family, and Katara hopes that they finally bond and grow past their differences.
Tension is everywhere. She can feel it in the air. The North and the South have finally reached an impasse and the new Avatar is doing everything to try to keep the peace. And Katara makes it a point to be right there on the sidelines in case anyone needs the help of a healing hand.
This particular afternoon she is returning home from the market, having picked up some fresh seaweed, seal meat, and the latest news.
And when she walks in she smells tea. Tea that she already knows will be bitter and way too strong.
But it is not Kya at her kitchen table, but someone else.
He looks a little abashed. "I was told that you live here and I… I hope you don't think that I'm intruding."
She puts down her purchases, pulls up a chair and smiles at Zuko. "I don't."