This story was commissioned by a customer who would like to remain anonymous.
Zuko disembarked the small boat and was immediately enveloped in the crowd of injured and destitute. They gave him a wide berth, either because they recognized him or because they recognized what he was carrying in his arms.
He made his way to the largest of the white lotus tents, his eyes to the horizon where the fiery red ash cloud filled the sky from the impact. A sky he had been watching for the entire two day boat ride yet had barely changed. If anything it was slightly less red and yellow.
Reaching the white tent he ducked under, take extra care to mind Katara's head, as if the tent flap could hurt her... as if anything could hurt her any longer.
He froze as soon as he entered the tent and saw who was there.
Sokka was sat at a large table with suki rubbing his back as he mindlessly waxed and sharpened his boomerang. All of his other weapons, from his spear to his black sword, lay out on the table as well. Being serviced in the hopes of keeping their master's mind busy and away from the world as it was now. And Zuko had come here today to ruin in. Jung, the ancient Pai Sho master, stood at the back of the tent and stood up a bit straighter at Zuko's entrance, and if it were possible, his expression turned all the sadder.
Sokka still hadn't noticed his entrance. Zuko had never seen the usual upbeat man so devoid of life, so... angry. Even when they had first met and he had shown his bravery in spades by trying to fight off him and his entire crew.
When they both looked up at him he knew that jovial man was gone. The battle must have been hard on them too, because instead of the horror or denial or any other emotional reaction Zuko had expected, Sokka's face was despondent acceptance. As if he fully expected to hear the news Zuko had come carrying bridal style in his arms.
He brought the white-sheeted corpse over to the table and placed it down as gently as he could manage on a section of the table without weapons covering it.
"Did you get her too?" Sokka asked.
It was such an unexpected, but somehow understandable question, that Zuko merely nodded. He had to clear his throat to say his next words.
"Yes. I'm all that remains of the royal family." He said. "Unless..."
He trailed off, unable to even think of the possibility of Aang failing too.
"Your father is dead." Sokka confirmed, assuaging his concerns. "As is Aang."
"How did it happen?" Zuko asked.
Jung came over with a chair in one hand and a tray with fresh pot of tea in the other. Zuko accepted the former as the kindly man poured them each a cup.
"Well, skipping the airships and devastation they caused, Aang defeated your father." Sokka explained. "And then stopped just shy of killing him. He tried to do something to your father, I don't know what. It looked almost like waterbender healing but... more. There were brilliant lights, like the energy of their souls exploding, blue versus red. Then the red won, and all was fire."
Zuko swallowed hard. They'd all seen the kinds of power at play when it came to the avatar, seen but not understood. The battle at the north pole, the ocean and moon spirits. He still lacked the words to describe what happened that day, and understood Sokka's inability to describe what happened with Aan and his father.
"What of Ba Sing Se?" Zuko asked, hoping the news he had received from every other person to date had been wrong.
They all shook their heads pitifully.
"Sozin's comet made impact very near to Ba Sing Se." Jung said. "Somewhere between the city's outer walls and the great eastern bay. There is nothing left. The entire city and a quarter of the continent is gone. Vaporized. Reports of the rain and mud storms falling to the ground from the vaporized earth and sea are continuous. Still hot and near boiling by the time it reaches the ground."
He didn't need Jung to spell the rest out to him. There would be no survivors from the impact area. The entire city, and everything in it, was no more than ash and dust now. The white lotus, the bulk of the fire nation army, most of the earth kingdom.
Katara's funeral was a quiet affair the next day.
The damage from Azula's burns and killing lightning Stright was all below the neck, so she was given an open casket. So they could all see her peaceful face as she was set out to sea on her little canoe. They watched for hours as the ocean retook her, slowly drawing her further and further out to see until the speck on the horizon was no more.
No sooner did she fade from sight than did Sokka get up.
"I'll see you both around." He said by way of goodbye.
"Excuse you?!" Suki demanded.
"You better sit back down and explain yourself ten seconds ago or Suki will be treating you for burns and broken bones until next autumn." Zuko threatened without hesitation.
Sokka snickered, smiling for the first time since the end of the war, but did as instructed.
"We all have a job to do." Sokka explained. "For me, that job is to find the new avatar.
Okay, that made slightly more sense. Didn't explain where he got off ditching them though.
"Okay, what makes you think you can and why would you need to do that without us?" Suki pressed, rubbing her man's shoulder.
"Let me list the reasons." Sokka said, his sarcasm finally seeping back in. "The next avatar is going to be of the water tribe, and with the southern water tribe having no men nor new pregnancies in the last couple years, that means he will be born in the northern tribe. You can't come with me because you both have other responsibilities. Suki to helping with the Earth Kingdom refugees and Zuko has to return to the fire kingdom."
Suki commiserated at that explanation, as they all knew being a Kyoshi Warrior required her to go out and help wherever she could until this crisis was over. Honestly, Zuko was surprised her superiors hadn't delivered her new orders already. But...
"Why would I have to go back to the fire nation?" Zuko asked, confused.
Sokka looked at him with similar confusion.
"Shouldn't you be heading back to the fire nation? Take up your throne?" Soka asked.
"My becoming the new fire lord was predicated on the Avatar and the White Lotus being there, alive, to support me and help. I am not suited to rule as I am now, I would do more harm than good." Zuko explained. "Besides, it's probably best to let the fire nation flounder for now. All of their armies are destroyed. All of the volcanoes making up our peninsula practically exploded when Sozin's comet struck, the entire nation is just as wrecked as the earth kingdom. It will take decades for them to rebuild and by then I will be ready, as will the new Avatar."
"I am so pleased to see you all have grown into such fine men and women."
They all stood up at the ancient woman's approach. she had grown tired of watching her grand-daughter float away. Or so she had said, clearly she'd been fibbing because the woman carried with her three travel sacks.
Sokka looked at him and mouthed "she always knows" as a genuine, full-bodied smile finally reappeared on his face.
"Now, if I heard correctly, it sounds like each of you have your own journeys to go on." Gran Gran said as she put down the bags she had clearly spent the last hour preparing for them. "Journeys of healing, each in your own way. I too, like Sokka, wish to spend some time alone to mourn. And that was his real reasoning dears."
Sokka actually blushed at his grandmother exposing his internal struggle to them.
"And I think that may be best for you too Zuko, Suki. And unlike me, you are allowed that privilege." She went on. "I am needed, and I am old, so I can sacrifice my personal happiness to help others. But you three should not. Go, and remember, I am here."
Sokka hugged his grandmother. Sokka's grandmother hugged Zuko. Suki hugged Sokka. It was great.
"When I find the Avatar, I'll come back for you both. Maybe even before then." Sokka promised.
And with that, Sokka began his long walk north. Suki decided to walk with him to the edge of the now tent city, leaving Zuko alone with GranGran.
"And where will you go, young man?" She asked.
"I have no idea." He said honestly. "I think... I'll just start walking. See where my feet take me."
The following day, he did exactly that.
Once again, this story was a commission by an anonymous customer. It was a strange one because he just asked for a Zuko X Toph story and the first story idea I threw out he said "That one!". If anybody else tries that I'll charge double. I require a proper outline to write your stories for oyu.
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