Author’s note: In which nothing much happens but the author needed a break from all the emotional and action-packed scenes.
Previous chapter: link
Next chapter: link
***Daddy’s Little Girl***
Fire and lightning were raining from the sky as two armies clashed. Lia could only watch from afar as lighting tore through the air towards her dream-self, when a man jumped in front of her, taking the hit. She fell on her knees next to him, heedless of the fighting that still raged around them.
“Not you too!” she sobbed as she turned him around so she could see his face…
-End of dream-
Lia’s eyes snapped open, tearing her from the dream she could not remember anymore. Raising a hand she absently noted that she was still crying. Burying her face into the pillow she closed her eyes and continued sobbing over the feeling of loss that she could not understand.
Taking Lia’s advice, Hakoda made sure to be the first to wake up. The previous night he had watched over his daughter and the prince, but they had just seemed friendly to him. There was hardly any indication of their affection, and Katara always made sure that everyone was asleep before sneaking to Zuko’s room, so Hakoda was still reluctant to believe his son. Nevertheless he made sure to be the first at the courtyard-turned-kitchen, hiding behind a pillar to wait for the children to wake up.
The sun had just risen when Zuko walked in. He quickly lighted the fire and started preparing breakfast. Once everything was going Katara walked in. Hakoda watched as she knelt next to the young man, kissing him lightly on the cheek. Suddenly Sokka’s words sounded much more reasonable. Zuko looked at her with a light smile.
“You prepared breakfast?” she whispered spying the pot that was sitting on the fire.
“I told you I’d help out,” he answered smiling. “You want me to wake everyone?” he asked. Katara nodded no.
“They’ll wake up soon enough.” The two teens ate breakfast, enjoying the silence.
Soon everyone was walking up to the courtyard. Hakoda was among the first to come by the fire. There was no point in hiding. Amazingly, Lia was the last to wake up. Usually she would be an early-riser, going around cheerfully from sunrise to sundown. Today though, she looked around hostilely as if daring anyone to talk to her. Zuko wondered if it had to do with the fact that she had sported Mai’s appearance for so long the previous day.
“What do you usually do here?” Suki asked curiously.
“Practice,” Katara said. “Toph, Zuko and I take turns with Aang. And every afternoon we spar.”
“Now that you’re here, I can get some actual practice too!” Sokka told his girlfriend excited. Suki smiled at the challenge.
“I’m taking Twinkle-Toes for today,” Toph announced.
“He needs to practice his firebending too,” Zuko reminded her.
“Not today,” Lia said suddenly. She was still glaring at the fire. “You’re having a lesson with me today.” Zuko looked at her worried. He hadn’t seen her moody like this before. It made him feel uneasy.
They walked up to one of the furthest courtyards of the Temple, where no one would be around to see them. Lia came to stand rigidly in front of her student, who was watching her nervously.
“I believe it’s time you tried lightning again,” she said simply. Zuko gaped at her.
“Are you sure?” he asked nervously. He could remember all too clearly what had happened the last time he had tried that technique. Lia nodded.
“You are much more mature than you were back then,” she explained. “I’m not saying you’ll master it from the first try, but at least we’ll know where you stand.” She motioned for him to turn and face the cliff. “Take your time,” she said softly. “There is no need to push yourself with this one.”
Zuko closed his eyes and concentrated. Feeling the energy flowing through him he slowly repeated the movement, without daring to open his eyes. A low rumble rewarded him. Zuko opened his eyes in disbelief to see a small smoking spot on the other side of the cliff.
“I did it?” he asked incredulously. Lia smiled and nodded.
“You did.” She watched as the boy sat down and wiped the sweat off his brow. “Take a break,” she told him. “Separating the energies can be strenuous the first few times.” Zuko didn’t need further encouragement. He plopped to the ground and turned to look at the Spirit who was still standing away.
“What is it with you today?” he asked her with a frown. “You’re never this moody.” Lia sighed.
“Nightmares,” she explained. “They’ve been more frequent lately and the worse thing is that I cannot remember what they are about. Only that they are bad enough to have me crying in my sleep.” She threw herself to the ground, next to Zuko and huffed. “It’s really annoying.” Then she turned to her brother with an apologetic smile. “Sorry I made you worry. I’m okay now.” Zuko gave her a suspicious look but let it slide, choosing instead to continue practicing his lightning.
Later that day, and after he had got lost a few times, Hakoda finally found the “arena” (which in reality was just a big, flat surface). He had expected to find everyone there, but he saw only Sokka, Zuko and Aang.
“Where are Katara and the other girls?” he asked surprised. Sokka just shrugged.
“Gone to get ready,” he said exasperated.
“We’re here,” Suki’s voice was heard. She and Toph were still in their previous clothes. Lia was wearing tight pants and a tank top on various shades of red and Katara was on her usual white training outfit. Hakoda frowned as he realized that the boys were also dressed lighter.
“Okay…”Lia began rubbing her hands together. Her mood had lightened significantly after witnessing Zuko’s growing familiarity with handling lightning.
“Wait!” Hakoda stopped her, looking sternly at his daughter. “You’re not going to practice like this?” Katara looked at him questioningly.
“Why not?” she asked confused. “I always do so.” Her father looked at her helplessly. How could he explain to her that he didn’t want her to go around like this on the chance Sokka was right? He couldn’t of course.
“It’s not proper,” he tried, with all the ease of a father just realizing his daughter had reached her teenage years.
“Nonsense!” Lia exclaimed. “It’s practical and that is what counts. So let’s just get over with it and started.” She sent an annoyed look at the Water Tribe chief. “It’s everybody against everybody.”
Everybody against everybody was an understatement. Within minutes everyone was ganging up on Aang, much to the airbender’s annoyance.
“It’s not fair!” he said dodging a boulder and a firewhip at the same time. “What are the odds of being attacked by both earth and firebenders at the same time?”
“Two words Aang,” Lia said as she pulled back to avoid a redirected waterwhip, “Dai Li.”
“She’s got a point there Twinkle-Toes,” Toph called, before surprising everyone and turning against the Spirit. Lia jumped out of the way unfazed and sent a series of blasts to the earthbender. Zuko and Katara were fighting a little further away; content to perfectly block each other’s moves as did Sokka and Suki. Everyone stopped when the sun began to come close to the horizon, taking a break before dinner.
The teens had all gone on their own business afterwards, leaving Hakoda once again wandering on his own. When they had been preparing for the invasion, he had been so happy to have his children near him; he hadn’t paid attention to how much they had changed. Now he felt as if reality had slapped him across the face. Even from a simple practice it was obvious that both his son and daughter, but their friends too, were much more experienced in combat than what he had witnessed during the invasion suggested. They did not need his protection anymore. Also, much to his displeasure, his children didn’t consider it necessary to listen to him. Hakoda was willing to understand them, after all they had grown up on their own, but his father’s frame of mind refused to believe that his baby daughter was old enough to have a boyfriend.
He was so absorbed by his musings that he didn’t realize he had reached a small garden, at the lowest parts of the Temple. He stopped dead on his tracks when he heard a giggle. He quickly hid behind a pillar, half-expecting to see the girls of the team sitting together, talking. He had recognized his daughter’s laugh. Instead he saw Katara laughing softly as she leaned her back on Zuko’s chest. The prince was whispering something in her ear that made her giggle again. Hakoda felt his stomach tighten as Katara turned to face the young man that was, quite obviously now, her boyfriend. They were standing far too close for his liking, a feeling that only strengthened as the two teens shared kiss after kiss.
When Katara had been born, Hakoda had decided to be reasonable, and when the time came for his daughter to fall in love, he wouldn’t react like all those over-protective fathers (his own father-in-law being foremost in his mind). He would watch his daughter closely of course, so that he would be the first to understand it when this happened. Then why, he wondered as he left the garden unnoticed, had it taken him spying on her making out with Zuko to understand that his baby girl had grown up?