DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, NOR DO I CLAIM ANY RIGHTS TO IT, ANY OF THE CHARCTERS, OR LOCATIONS IN THIS FAN FICTION STORY. I ONLY OWN THE PLOT.
Fire Lord Zuko looked out onto the world from his balcony and sighed deeply. A lot had changed in the last few years.
The Avatar, had fulfilled prophecy and his duty and brought peace to the four nations. How long had it been since he had travelled with the group of five, on a mission to destroy the Fire Lord Ozai, his father? He counted them mentally.
Ten years! Ten long years. It seemed like a lifetime. His whole life had changed in more ways than he could count.
His sister, Azula, had escaped from where she was being held and had not been heard from in almost six of those ten years. The Avatar, now his closest friend and ally had begun his own family. Toph had returned to her parents and was now a great earth bending master, sought after by many a student, mostly because of her metal-bending abilities.
Sokka had agreed to become the chief of the Southern Water tribe, had married Suki, and the village had become quite prosperous. They had grown significantly in number and from the latest reports, had been growing ever since. Now there were close to two hundred families living there. The damage Zuko's great grandfather Sozin had begun was slowly being repaired.
His beloved Mai had agreed to marry him when he turned twenty one and he had been so happy. Even she had showed emotion for once. It was a very big deal! Things had begun to look up for him.
He smiled at the memory. That was all he had left; a mere memory of happiness. He hadn't seen his former friends since the birth of Aang and Katara's first child, a little girl whom they named Kya, after Katara's mother.
Before that, it was for the birth of Sokka and Suki's first child, named Paku, after Sokka's grandfather.
Before that, they had all come for Mai's funeral.
It had been a dark day in Fire Nation History. It was meant to be the happiest day of his life... but Mai had died in childbirth and Zuko had lost his first child as well.
He had gone into a rage and almost turned back to his old ways. For a few days, he was sure he had, but he had recovered... In a manner of speaking.
The memories still hurt. He had not been able to fully express his grief, had never really allowed himself to express it, and so, had buried himself in his work. Even now he had a dozen reports to look over and several crises to resolve. Sighing again, he turned from the window and sat back down at his desk. He reached for his cup of Jasmine tea and smiled slightly. At least his uncle had offered some comfort in that troubling time.
"Destiny is a funny thing," his uncle had simply said. He had understood his uncle, for once, but even in his grief, he'd had an entire nation to run. He couldn't let things get out of hand. His uncle had moved back to the Fire Nation, having established another tea shop nearby, and stopped by quite often. Zuko sipped his tea. His uncle always did know how to make good tea. He would have to remember to stop by his new shop later that day.
The Fire Lord shook his head, smiling slightly again, picked up his brush, and began a letter to one of his generals.
"Mother, I am not going to embarrass you, I promise. I just want to take a few days off, a holiday. I'm sure I'll be welcome. I won't bother anyone..."
Toph felt her mother's indecision. Her father was getting upset. She could tell. She had left home once, and when she had finally returned, her father had allowed her some liberties on condition that they knew where she was going. It was the least he could do to keep hold of the only teacher of the few metal benders who now existed. Once the king of Ba Sing Se had leaned of her abilities, she had been ordered to teach some of the earth bending guards how to metal bend, a skill which, all had agreed could come in very handy during a war.
Of course this brought more honour to the household and her father could not hold her back any longer. But now she wanted to go to the Fire Nation to visit Fire Lord Zuko for the summer. That was too far away and too long a time. He would lose her again, he just knew it.
Lao Bei Fong looked at his blind daughter and then at his wife who pleaded with him. Toph had a quick temper and no matter what he did, he knew she would find a way to leave anyway. It was better to give in and salvage his pride than have it shattered again. The fact that two highly paid bounty hunters couldn't get one blind girl to cooperate had been the source of many a joke since and he was often jeered for it. He shut his eyes and sighed pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Very well Toph. You are a young woman now and I know you can take care of yourself, but I just want you to be careful. Maybe you should take one of the guards with you?"
"I will be careful father, thank you. I can take care of myself," she began to say, but noted the slight rise in his heartbeat and smiled adding, "but if you think I should be escorted, so be it."
"Good. It's settled then. How soon will you leave?" Toph smirked and sat up straighter.
"As soon as you can arrange an escort."