AN: Another Avatar One-Shot.
Oh, and DISCLAIMER: I don't own Avatar: the Last Airbender or any of its characters.
Sometimes life isn't fair. War is one of those times. And sometimes life takes something important from you, nearly destroying you, and leaves you as only a shell of who you once were and your aspirations scattered and forgotten, an innocent's childish dreams. But there are laws that govern what life can and can't take, and life isn't allowed to leave a person completely shattered. So, by the laws that be, life is required to leave you at least something to put you on the right track to where you need to be. Life must leave us at least a metaphorical participant ribbon, a consolation prize, you could say.
And it is a person's consolation prize that keeps the optimists saying "at least..." and the pessimists holding tightly to what they have because, hey, with their luck they'll probably lose that too. A consolation prize is never the optimal solution, but it is workable. That is, if the receiver is willing to work.
At least she had friends. Her father, Lao Beifong, saw her as weak and helpless, a fragile doll that could not, under no circumstances, make her own decisions. He always talked about her as if she wasn't there, like she was blind and deaf. Her mother was not much different. Poppy Beifong, while she did talk to her almost like she was an actual person sometimes, also saw her as ready to crumble at any moment, in addition to trying to arrange marriages for her.
Toph didn't have much of a family- they usually disregarded her completely and knew next to nothing of her true personality or power- but at least she had friends. Sokka, Katara, Aang, and Zuko were the best. They knew her personality, and while she had a few clashes with Katara and even one with Aang (she still marvels that she managed to make peace-lover Aang mad), they loved her for who she was. And they definitely knew her power, even to the point of sometimes forgetting her disability altogether, which, while she pretended to be annoyed at it, she loved.
And for having a might-as-well-be-non-existent family, Toph Beifong's consolation prize was spectacular friends.
He had the opposite problem she did. While her parents didn't really know who she was, his (remaining) parent knew and hated who he was. He was the weak link, the weak spot in a line of royal firebenders as strong as the element itself. While she purposely hid her power from her parents, he worked day in and out to improve his power to impress his father. His mother, on the other hand, was spectacular but no longer in the picture. His sister was nearly as bad as his father. While his father was often busy, she was often not, and he was often her source of entertainment. Showing him up, putting him down, and beating him all over (they had different definitions of the word "spar" it seemed) were some of her favorite hobbies.
Zuko no longer had an immediate family- his father branded and disowned him and his sister watched with a sick smile on her face- but at least he had his uncle. Uncle Iroh was the best. The old general knew his strengths and weaknesses and loved him in times of both, and encouraged him in everything. Even when Zuko was not being the nicest person ever (and that's putting it really lightly), Uncle Iroh was always there, and for the three and a half years until Zuko found his own path, Iroh was the one keeping him from going down the wrong one.
For having a terrible immediate family, Zuko's consolation was a caring uncle.
Unlike Zuko, he had a wonderful father. When his mother died, he was left in an understandable despair. He tried being strong, more for his little sister than anything else, but sometimes he just couldn't do it. His sister had been the one to see his mother last, and he knew, after being told by her, that his mother had died protecting his sister. His little sister, his eight year old sister, had the guilt of knowing that their mother would have never died if they hadn't been looking for the last waterbender of the Southern Tribe. He did not blame his sister at all, but he knew that she must be feeling worse off than he. So, being the oldest, the male, and the least mentally effected of the two, he had to be the strong one.
Sokka, from then on, had no mother, and his sister was nearly lost to grief. But his father was a balance, strong yet kind, trying to push is feelings aside and comforting Sokka and his sister at other times. He was the reason Sokka kept going those two years between his mother's passing and his father's leaving. He was strong along with Sokka, and when his son could not be strong, Hakoda was strong enough for the two of them, and Katara. And when Katara passed her grieving stage and became strong too, the southern chief was the one to keep the two from becoming emotionless robots by making sure their lives as fun as possible considering the circumstances.
While he did lose his mother, Sokka did get the consolation prize of a great father.
She stayed in the grieving stage for about a year and a half before abruptly returning to normal (she never truly got over her mother's death, however). It was nice to feel almost normal again. Nothing would ever be the same again, but at least she could be happy again and at least she had her father, grandmother and brother. Then her father left. And it was just her, Gran-Gran and Sokka. But Gran-Gran was often busy, being the tribe elder and all, and often times it was just her and Sokka. And with the war looking bleaker by the minute, both parents being gone, Sokka's unintentional comic relief was much needed. Between building a wall around the tribe, him teaching her boomerang, and watching over the younger kids, she could almost forget the war was even happening sometimes.
Katara, had lost her mother, recovered from said loss, then almost right after, lost her father. Gran-Gran was busy most of the time and could only talk at times. But throughout all her life, from being born to losing her parents to finding Aang to traveling the world to winning the war, Sokka was there. He was a constant in an ever-changing life. Katara helped Sokka become kinder sometimes, and he helped her see logic at others. Sometimes she helped him be realistic, and he helped her lighten up. Their roles weren't always the same- sometimes he was the mature one, sometimes she was- but they were always brother and sister. And when hard times came their way, she could always count on him to help her through.
After her father left to fight the war, Katara was left with Sokka as sort of a consolation prize.
Toph never had a close or caring family, and left her home. Zuko never had a close or caring father, and his mother was gone. Sokka and Katara lost their mom, and were separated from their father.
Aang had a caring family of sorts (Monk Gyatso was just like a father, and the other Air Nomads at the temple were like his brothers), and he had a nice home. But one mistake, what usually would have been a tiny little mistake, and he's waking up in world without his family, without his people, and where his home is practically an abandoned ruins. It was just him and Appa. For all of about two seconds. Then Katara came in, and with her Sokka. And when he learned of his loss of family, they were the ones who comforted him, telling him that just because he lost one family didn't mean he didn't have a family. They were his family. And later, that family grew. And Bumi was family, and Toph was family, and Zuko was family, and Suki was family. And when he ended up marrying Katara, Hakoda and Kanna were family too.
He had lost his family, his home, his people, but that didn't mean he couldn't rebuild. He would rebuild the Air Nation, he joined a second family, and he would restore his home, and create a new one with Katara. Aang would not forget Monk Gyatso or his friends from before he left (how could he forget? If he forgot one thing about his culture, it would be lost forever), but now he had new friends, and a new family, and a new home.
With everything he loved gone, Aang was left with the consolation prize of the chance to rebuild.
He took it.
Everyone gets a consolation prize. It never seems like the optimal situation, but it is workable. And for those who do work at it, it can create a future better and brighter than the original future was going to be.
Pretending to be someone she wasn't, Toph never expected to find people who knew and accepted her for who she was.
Trying to please his father, Zuko never dreamed of unconditional love ever becoming his.
Fighting just to stay strong enough, Sokka never thought that he was the main thing holding his sister together.
Desiring nothing but things becoming at least somewhat normal again, Katara never knew she'd end up finding and helping the world's last hope.
Realizing everything he once knew was gone, Aang never hoped that he could save the world and rebuild all he had lost.