“I wanna hear the story!” comes the little voice of their 5-year-old daughter, sleepy but insistent. There will be no bargaining with her. There never is, not when she crosses her little arms over her chest, and sticks out her lip in that adorable grumpy way.
“Which story? The time I captured the Avatar, or when I hatched a dragon’s egg?” her husband replies with a smile in his voice that she can hear but not see through the half-open door of the nursery. Suki smiles and leans in to the door, not wanting to disturb the two of them. Duties keep her husband busy all day, but bedtime is father-daughter time and the both of them thoroughly enjoyed their time together. She was content to listen to her favorite people in the world, basking in the love that they had created.
It is her guilty pleasure, listening to her husband drop his royal mask and play with their daughter. Sometimes he reads her stories or retells his adventures. Sometimes they play with her newest toy. Sometimes she just sits in his lap and goes on and on about her day, while he gasps at all the right moments and says silly things to make his daughter laugh.
She listens, content in her heart. Tonight is a story night. Those are her daughter’s favorite nights, and they’re her favorite too.
“Noooo, Daddy! I wanna hear the story about when you met Mommy! Aunt Azula told me you stoleded Mommy!”
“Uhh…” Zuko starts as Suki pulls a grimace on the other side of the door. What in the world had Azula told their daughter?
I’m going to kill that woman one of these days.
“Well, that’s a long story. Aren’t you getting sleepy?” he said warningly, but their daughter grumps at him again, no doubt sticking out her bottom lip with a glare that can only be described as adorable.
“No! I wanna hear it! Please?”
“Okay, okay! But only if you agree to lay to down,” he says as he sits down in a chair beside the bed. Their daughter climbs into her little bed and pulls the covers up to her chin eagerly.
“Alright,” he says and clears his throat. “I met Mommy a loooong time ago while we were both in prison!”
“Nu-uh! You burneded down her village first!” their daughter interrupts in a know-it-all voice, and Suki fights down a laugh, pressing her fist to her lips to stifle the sound.
“Well… Yes, I did, but I didn’t actually really meet Mommy that day. Daddy wasn’t very nice back then, and all I saw were a bunch of girls with painted faces, so I didn’t really notice her,” he says and then sighs. “We really met in prison, when Uncle Sokka and I went to break out his and Aunt Katara’s dad, and found Mommy there instead.”
“Uncle Sokka was in looo-ooove with Mommy! Aunt Azula said!”
“Ahh, yes, he was. At the time,” Zuko says uncomfortably. Suki wonders if she should rescue him. She isn’t entirely sure if the story of their romance is fit for a 5-year-old’s ears, but spirits knew what Azula had told her. It was better to hear the truth from one of her parents.
“What did you think of Mommy?”
Her husband hesitates and then says slowly, “I thought Mommy was a very strong young woman for enduring prison the way she had. And I apologized for burning down her village, once I realized she was one of the girls with the fans. She seemed to forgive me pretty quickly, and we got along well from then on out. I liked her very much.”
“Did you think she was preeeeetty?”
“Very. But I was also very in love with Aunt Mai at the time and I wasn’t very interested in other girls, especially girls that were sort of dating a friend of mine. A friend I’d only just made and whom I didn’t want to anger. Your Mommy and I got along well, but it wasn’t love at first sight like in the stories. Sometimes it happens that way.”
“How did you fall in love?”
“Oh, it took years! She and the Kyoshi Warriors came to be my bodyguards. Pretty soon I found myself confiding in her and we grew a really close friendship.”
“You and Aunt Mai broke up! I know that cuz I heard her talking with Aunt Azula!”
“Yes, we did, and I was very sad about it for a long time. I didn’t think I’d ever fall in love again. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, I realized I was in love with Mommy. I don’t know how it happened. It was like lightning!” Suki hears him make a zap noise, followed by her daughter’s high-pitched giggle as he tickles her.
“Yeah, but Mommy was going to marry Uncle Sokka!”
“Yes, she was! I didn’t know what to do! I was in love with her and I thought she didn’t feel the same way. What could I do?”
“Aunt Azula said you did a bad thing!”
Suki winces from the other side of the door. Trust Azula’s big mouth. The woman took absolute glee out of filling their daughter’s head with ideas.
“She did, did she? Well… Aunt Azula was right. You see, a few weeks before the wedding, I kissed Mommy.” Their daughter giggles again, but then grows serious.
“Yeah,” her husband admits. “I was being not very nice again. Mommy was rightly angry with me. We had a big fight and she left. I didn’t think I’d ever see her again and it broke my heart.”
“Then what happened?” her daughter asks in a hush, as Suki opens the door. Her husband and child turn to look at her as she stands framed in the doorway, a soft smile on her lips.
“Mommy came back, sweetheart,” Suki says softly as Zuko’s eyes meet hers. “I realized that I was in love with Daddy.”
“You broked up with Uncle Sokka.”
“Mmmhmmm. He was very sad and very angry for a long time, but we’re friends now, aren’t we? And he adoresyou!”
“Yep! I love Uncle Sokka! He takes me for boat rides and he taught me how to spit!”
Suki’s smile is a little frozen. She was going to have to have a talk with him next time he was in town. “Of course he did.”
“And me and Mommy got married and then we had you,” Zuko says, and kisses their daughter on her forehead.
“And you lived happily ever after!” she exclaims happily as her father stands.
Zuko glances at Suki, who smiles back at him, feeling warm and content and loved. “Yes, we did.”