No one had asked yet, so they didn’t say anything. Though they knew eventually Hakoda or Sokka or Gran-Gran would take notice of the red band around her throat that carried her mother’s pendant.
They had decided to wait to tell them though, they thought that she should be the first to know.
As they trekked up the hill, where she was laid to rest, Zuko couldn’t help but feel anxiety rising in him. He had visited Kya before, but he wasn’t just offering his prayers and condolences this time. He was going to tell her he was going to marry her daughter who she had died for.
He looked over at Katara, She had a small smile on her face and her hair was tied back into a braid, reminicianste of how she had once kept it. Though much had changed since then.
If you had told him then what would come of him and the Avatars nuisance of a Waterbending Master, he would never have believed it.
“You shouldn’t be nervous about this, it's not like she’ll rise out of her grave and release her wrath.” Katara said, breaking him out of his worry.
“You don't know that, I've heard water-spirits aren't to be messed with,” Zuko laughed, tension leaving at Katara's quip. Katara joined in on the laughter, remembering when Zuko had presented her with a report from the war time detailing a “water-spirit’s” destruction of a factory.
They spent the rest of the hike in relative silence, hands locked together and enjoying the peace they felt as the sun's last few rays reflected onto the fresh snow. When they approached the burial site, Zuko stood back to let Katara have a moment alone with her mother. He never asked Katara what she would talk about with Kya, whatever went on in the moments between them acted as a form of therapy to her. He guessed it was similar to having a conversation with Uncle, whatever was said in those moments would always lead to a sense of calm.
He stood there in the snow, far enough away that he couldn't make out her hushed words but close enough to see her light blue parka in the snow, watching her in this private moment that she had let him intrude on.
“Zuko?” he snapped back into reality at her gentle call. She sat in the snow and out-reached a hand for him to sit beside her, he took her hand and sat before the snow covered grave.
Kya’s grave was nothing special. The simple rock with her name carved into it didn’t resemble the large and luxurious tombs his family were laid to rest in, but it felt much more imposing. As Katara gazed upon it with sadness and warmth, the fear of the most important woman to his lover washed away. Kya loved Katara and had died for her happiness, why should he be worried? Hakado had once told him that Kya would love him, that she would be grateful for the support and protection he had offered to her daughter during the war-time.
“Hello chieftess,” Zuko offered awkwardly to the unmoving stone before him.
Katara turned from the stone to offer him a soft smile at his attempt to greet her Mother.
“Mom, I know you two met before, but..” Katara paused “Not like this, I guess.”
“I know that this is so weird, a-and you might not get it -especially after what the fire nation did to us- but I wanted to let you be the first to know.” She gulped, and old fear of the afterlife resurfacing in her eyes. “Even if you aren't listening.”
She pulled down the high neck of her collar to present the necklace around her throat. Zuko felt a rush of pride as the newly-woven band was presented to the world- even if no one living was there to see it. He had asked the palace seamstress to teach him embroidery, who gladly taught him how to embroider his peoples dragons in golden thread onto the red silk that now hung around her throat.
“It’s still your pendant- well Gran-Gran’s pendant I guess- but he made a new band for it.” She sat there for a moment as she tried to fight back the tears. Zuko reached an arm around her, and she sank into the warmth he provided as she struggled out the words.
“I think you would’ve liked him, Mom.”
Together they sat there in silence for a few more minutes, before saying their goodbyes to go and tell their family in this world of their news.
Zuko had just left his meeting with the minister of agriculture, who was asking for something or another for the incoming dry season. Zuko hadn’t been paying much attention to whatever his minister was trying to persuade him on, instead thinking of his mother who would be visiting this afternoon and his wife who he left in their bed at sun-rise.
As he walked down the halls, in hopes of finding Katara before his mother arrived to ask for her opinion on something or another, he heard joyful voices coming from the garden.
“... Spirits, it was horrible! I love Zuko, but I have no idea how he thought that was a good idea! I mean-” Katara’s rant was cut off by the laugh of his Mother, who seemed to have already arrived.
As he reached the doorway overlooking the garden, He saw Ursa, Kiyi (who was napping in her mother's lap at the moment), and his wife sprawled out on a blanket in front of the pond.
Ursa was dressed in a much-less extravagant style then she did in his youth, sporting floral embroidery on a red dress. Across from her, Katara gave a stark contrast. While not necessarily lavish, her dress did reflect her position as a wife of a Fire Lord and as an Ambassador of the Southern Water Tribe. The dress was made up of a combination of polar bear-dog fur and Ember Island silk, all given a painted print that she had commissioned from an artist in the south pole.
As he looked upon the scene, the women did not take notice of their onlooker. Instead continuing to drag Zuko for his previous hair choices.
“Ursa, I don't think you understand, it was bad.” Katara emphasized to her mother-in-law.
“Oh, I believe you,” Ursa said through her laughter, “but it’s very possible you're over-exaggerating how bad his phoenix-tail looked.”
“She’s not lying, Mother.” Both women looked up from their conversation and gave the new-comer a smile and a greeting.
“Zuko! I’m so glad to see you!” Ursa said as she began to stand, doing her best to not rustle Kiyi, “Though Katara has been doing her best in attempting to update me on your lives.” She gave a smile to Katara, suggesting to Zuko that they didn't just talk about his old phoenix-tail.
Zuko embraced his mother and went to sit beside his wife.
“I’m sure you’ve told her more than just the phoenix-tail phase?” he asked the woman he still couldn't believe returned his affections.
“Hmm, well there is an awful amount of amusing stories that I’m sure you were too embarrassed to tell her” Katara smiled mischievously, raising a thick eyebrow, “and I'm more than happy to fill her in.”
Zuko smiled at her, in another life he would’ve covered his face at being reminded of his poor choices, but not in this life. Not when he had her at his side, and his mother across from him.
He began to catch up with his mother, asking her how Noren was, how Kiyi’s friends were, and how long she was planning on staying for the upcoming solstice. Hours seemed to trickle on as they laughed and caught up with one another. Their odd little normalcy could not last forever though, and it was broken by the arrival of a letter addressed to Katara.
“Who is it from?” Zuko asked as he refilled his mother’s teacup.
“Sokka and Suki.” Katara said, skimming the page, “Something about their kids having a flu, nothing serious, just in need of advice from their ‘most trusted sister, healer, and advisor’. Which just means that Gran-Gran must’ve gotten tired of answering their barrage of questions and sent them my way.” Katara excused herself to return an answer to her brother and promised to return as soon as she was finished.
Zuko and Ursa watched her go, mumbling to herself as she began to read the letter in detail.
“I’m glad you two found each other.” Ursa said, turning to her son with a look of pride that went unmatched.
“Me too,” Zuko said, glancing back at the spot where Katara had disappeared in the doorway, “I knew you’d like her.” He looked back at his mother and smiled at her.