Title: Nothing Soft Fandom: Avatar-The Last Airbender Author: devilinthedetails Genre: Romance; Mush; Drama Characters: Pakku; Kanna (Katara and Sokka's grandmother). Summary: Pakku and Kanna in the moments after their second betrothal. Author's Note: Written for the Springtime Meadow Event using the "Soft Epilogue" prompt. Thanks to @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for the continued inspiration in multiple fandoms! Nothing Soft “We deserve a soft epilogue, you and I.” Pakku stroked Kanna’s twin hair loops--once the rich brown of a canoe but now a snowstorm gray--still marveling that he had the chance to touch them after all these years of separation. That she permitted him to touch them with his fingers that never trembled except when reaching out to her. He had stolen the line from an old song chanted around fires in the Northern Water Tribe--and maybe in the Southern Water Tribe as well--because he had never been a bard himself but wanted to say something poetic. Something to mark and celebrate their second betrothal. Their having truly found one another again after all these years apart on other sides of the globe, discovering just how far the South was from the North. It seemed impossible to him that she had accepted his offer of marriage. His remade necklace of promise that she let him drape around her neck, the immaculately carved pennant slipping beneath her thick ocean-blue coat. So impossible in fact that he couldn’t think of anything to say except a line stolen from an old song he didn’t even like. An old song that hadn’t been popular in the Northern Water Tribe in decades, now that he thought about it. An old song that was probably out of style in the Southern Water Tribe as well. But what did that signify? What did old people with creaking bones care about the ever-shifting tides of fashion? They were more constant than that, clinging to their traditions and customs no matter how much the Fire Nation threatened to drown them all. “A soft epilogue?” Kanna’s gloved fingers knotted in the remnants of his gray hair as she tugged him down so that her warm forehead pressed against his in a gesture of affection or maybe a benediction. “Nonsense. There’s nothing soft about you.” “There’s nothing soft about you either.” Pakku grunted, thinking that was why she had left him and the entire Northern Water Tribe so many decades ago. Thinking that was why he had fallen in love with her, drawn to her as the waves were to the moon, when he was a boy. Why he had never been able to stop loving her or forget about her no matter how his own father, all the elders of the Northern Water Tribe, and two successive chiefs--son inheriting after father as was the custom in the Northern Water Tribe--had urged him with every passing year to marry and produce children who might be powerful waterbenders like him. Why she had always been the love of his life even when she was on the opposite pole from him and he hadn’t even known if she was still alive. “And an epilogue would mean our stories are over,” added Kanna, seeming to pick up the thread of his last thought and stitching it neatly into the comforting, enveloping blanket of their conversation. “Our stories aren’t over. You still have a war to fight against the Fire Nation.” The summons to fight the Fire Nation at Ba Sing Se had come to all the members of the White Lotus from Iroh, once General of the Fire Nation who had laid siege to Ba Sing Se himself for six hundred days. A siege that had resulted in ignominious failure for the Fire Nation and a still more personal loss--that of an only son--for Iroh. A siege that had caused Iroh to seek the spiritual sanctuary of the White Lotus that tried to create ties across the different, warring nations. Pakku had told Kanna it had come before he proposed to her. He didn’t know if that was because he had to be truthful with her--he didn’t want their relationship to be built on lies--or because loving her made him so scattered that he couldn’t do anything in the proper order even though he very much wished to love her properly and according to all the cherished customs of the Water Tribe he sought to preserve with his stern teachings. “I do.” He took her hands between his, acknowledging her words. “And you will have to lead here and take charge of the healing as you always do.” Kanna might not have been a waterbender, but she was a deft healer. She knew exactly what herbs to use to make medicines and pastes to heal the various sicknesses, injuries, and aches of the Southern Water Tribe. He had seen that as soon as he arrived in the Southern Water Tribe, watching her and hoping to reignite the fire that had once blazed between them. “I will.” Kanna nodded. “Then maybe after the war--when you are home again--we might write an epilogue, though not a soft one, together.” “For now, the necklace I made you will serve as a token of my promise to return to you from the war.” Pakku squeezed her hands with his own, wanting him to feel the firmness behind his words. He might have been old, but he wasn’t frail, as the Fire Nation was about to find out… “I will keep it close to my heart always. Even once you return from the war,” promised Kanna in her turn, and he knew that she would. It would hang close by her beating heart forever, and his own thudding heart could ask for no greater joy than that. It sang of endless joy and eternal love like a bard before a fire.