Who Are You?
After Azula disappears down the rocky cliff, an eerie quiet settles over those still remaining on the plateau. Everyone turns to look expectantly at the woman Kaori had previously possessed, waiting in silence for Kaori to once again revisit the body, but nothing about the disoriented girl changes.
"What?" she asks, confused as to why everyone is staring at her.
"Where's Kaori?" Takashi asks warily.
"She is dead," an ethereal voice suddenly echoes in the air around them. Kudokuten appears in the midst of the small gathering and begins to explain Kaori's absence. "Dead in human terms, that is. She has finally passed on from this world and onto the next. What did you think you were agreeing to, Takashi? Kaori owed two lives; Hana and the baby. In order to repair the balance, two lives needed to be sacrificed; Kaori and Azula. How is it that none of you comprehend the simplicity of the matter?"
"Wait, what? Did I just kill a spirit?" Toph asks, horrified at the revelation.
"In principal, you aided in her suicide, but their blood is not on your hands, Earthbender," Kudokuten answers dismissively in Toph's direction. "You, however..." Kudokuten begins pointedly as she walks over and stands defiantly in front of Takashi. "You have the blood of many on your hands, and much to atone for before you receive the reward Kaori's death has won for you. So I propose a pact," she voices solemnly as she looks down her nose at him.
"I'm listening," Takashi replies cautiously.
"You are charged with the mission to dissolve Azula's empire and to undo the plans she had in place to assassinate her brother Zuko. Also, for every life you have ruined and ended before their time, you will bring two more together to find happiness, starting with the Warrior and the Earthbender. You will make sure they get home safely, with no reproach or loss of honor on either side. In accordance, every time you succeed in bringing two people together, you will have one day and one night with Hana until you have completely atoned for the evils you have committed. When you are finished, you and Hana will be together, and you will be blessed with more children than you had ever imagined possible. When the time comes, the two of you will die old and gray and sleeping peacefully in each other's embrace and you will return to each other in every lifetime afterward. Those are my terms. You are free to agree to them or not. You've tried countless times to get Hana back, only to be met with failure at every attempt. At least with my offer, you are guaranteed of her return should you comply with my conditions."
Kudokuten smiles haughtily as she holds out her hand for him to shake. "Do we have a deal?" she asks as she arches an eyebrow.
"We have a deal," Takashi responds firmly as he shakes her hand.
As their palms touch, a blinding light flashes from within their clasped hands and he feels an indefinable force leave him. An odd pain spreads through him, leaving him feeling hollow and empty.
"What the hell just happened?" Takashi demands as he wrenches his hand from her hold.
"Your soul, your spirit, your life force - is no longer your own. It belongs to me now. You will get it back when you've finished your tasks. Think of it as my assurance that you will not waver from our arrangement," Kudokuten explains as she watches the glow in her palm seep into her skin with mild amusement.
"I see..." Takashi replies as he eyes her suspiciously.
"Well my work here is done..." Kudokuten proclaims as she begins walking away and mists into nothing.
"Anyone else creeped out?" Sokka divulges suddenly.
Layla just shakes her head and takes Takashi by the arm. "You're coming with me," she informs him stiffly before turning her attention to Sokka again.
"Son, get Toph inside and to a healer. I believe she has a few burns that need attention."
"I'm fine, but I can feel the damage Azula has done to Hotaru from here. You're going to need my help in the rebuilding before you leave," Toph tells Sokka as they both limp back to the half burned-down town.
"Before I leave?" Sokka repeats as he puts his arm around her waist to steady her.
"Well, duh, why do you think Azula did what she did? She wanted to separate us, but Layla's here to fix that. And you heard the creepy spirit, Takashi has to make sure we get home safely, and my home is in Republic City with you in it," Toph explains as if it was the clearest thing in the world. And people called her blind.
"But what about Hotaru? I really can't leave them now," Sokka argues.
"Ye of little faith," Toph retorts with a grin. "What would you say if Layla was able to get one of your female cousins to take over? Part of what made Azula so powerful is that her people embraced change. I'm sure if Hotaru did the same, they could only benefit," she adds, trying to sound encouraging.
"We'll see," Sokka answers while pondering her words.
Two weeks later Sokka and Toph are setting sail back to Republic City. After Toph had recovered from the majority of her injuries, she helped rebuild Hotaru, which was significantly benefited by her incomparable earthbending. Layla assisted Takashi in undoing Azula's empire as well as foil Azula's plot to murder her brother. Layla also took Sokka's female cousins under her proverbial wing to show them how to navigate and succeed in the political arena.
One night, after the couple had returned to Republic City and had settled down again, Sokka finds himself rubbing Toph's feet after a particularly rough day.
"You are no longer my boyfriend; I think you are some wonderful, benevolent god that has come and taken over Sokka's hands because this shouldn't feel this good," Toph praises as she stretches out further on the couch.
Sokka just chuckles at her antics and continues to rub away.
"Seriously, who are you and what have you done with Snoozles?" Toph asks with a grin before she feels Sokka shift and put her feet down. She frowns and prepares to whine in protest when suddenly she feels his soft breath on her face.
"I'm yours," Sokka whispers before he kisses her again, as if to assure her against any doubt she could possibly ever have.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDDD DDD we're done. Puffs or Kleenex?
Big thanks to my girl Alaburn for being my beta. You amazing woman you. Because not only do you beta my story, you add your amazingness to it AND THEN you review it once I post it, I die of happiness from your feedback alone.
Thanks to tissine for allowing me to use her wonderful art as my cover image, it is also what inspired this fic to begin with.
But the biggest thanks goes to you readers. The faves, the follows and especially the reviews, it was my fuel to keep going. If it wasn't for you guys, this would still only be a one shot, nothing more then the prologue.
So I would like to thank each of you that have done so-
Da'Ink, TokkawhoinventBeastlyRavens, ArtisAnExplosion 27, carolin. brenholdt, feliipsun, PrincessRae 1230, P. Rose205, MarCo03, Fruipit, emcateer90, justcallmehermione, PurpleFluffCloudOfDoom, bennica lover45, MrJanzz, fearless forever 98, NeverendingDaydreams, LadyleFreak, Labundidaciega, Thunderthighs, cliniquehappy, KrRcksmySx, reinachrist, Roovialk253, Zonna, lexiibri, Kerriss-Singer-of-Light, Anbu-chan, Bloodshot111, boomeranggirl, and the 'guests' one and Funny Bunny.
If I misspelled your name, sorry, if I added a space in the wrong place, that was on purpose because FFN is weird.
So again, thank you to everyone for everything. Could not have done it without you.
Goodbye my friends.