CHAPTER 12 : FRESH AIR
The day after the first ceremonial half of the festival came the second, more social half. Katara had taken Kya and Bumi penguin sledding as she had promised and Aang had stayed home with Tenzin as he had promised. After the ceremony where Kya had water bended during the lunar eclipse, Aang had hardly spoken three words to her. He claimed to have had a headache and he went to bed immediately after they returned home. Katara tried her best to pretend nothing was happening. (K) Maybe it'll just blow over if I ignore it...but I doubt that. Either way, until Aang came forward with an accusation, there was no reason to say anything. Distantly, she could hear her boots crunching the snow and her children chattering to each other excitedly as they headed back to the festivities. In her mind she saw her baby, Tenzin. When they left he had a runny nose. He had apparently caught a cold the night before. She wanted to go home and check on him.
"Mommy I wanna see the puppet show!", said Kya tugging at Katara's sleeve. Katara looked down at her for a moment, unseeing. She shook her head to snap herself out of it. "Of course honey, we'll go see it". "But I wanna see the duel!", protested Bumi. "Yes sweetheart, we'll do that too". "They're at the same time!". Katara sighed. "Okay, why don't you two explore the festival on your own? Just be back at Gran-Gran's by sundown". "Alright!" "Sure", they exclaimed in unison, running off. Katara decided she would go back to the house after all. When she arrived Aang was sitting next to Tenzin's crib, telling him what must have been an old Air Nomad story. He quieted when he noticed Katara in the doorway. "Hey", said Katara, as nonchalantly as she could. "Hey", he replied. There was no emotion in his voice. "I came to check on Tenzin", said Katara quickly. She looked down in the crib. A pair of bright ice blue eyes started back up at her. She smiled and picked him up and held him to her. "Hellooo! How are you?", she asked in a baby voice. Tenzin giggled and Katara frowned. His nose was extremely runny! She wiped it with her sleeve. Tenzin's nose started twitching and he sneezed. Not an ordinary sneeze. He sneezed himself right into the air out of Katara's arms. "Ohhh!", Katara threw her arms out to catch him but instead of him falling bodily into arms, he floated back down gently.
Katara was shocked. Aang was on his feet. "Aang did you see that?!". He nodded and reached out for his son. Katara handed him over. Aang was studying Tenzin as if he had never seen him before. Then a smile spread across his face. That was probably more shocking to Katara than the fact that her little boy had risen several feet above them. "Katara", said Aang beaming. "He's an airbender!". It took a moment to register. "Well that would explain that sneeze". Come to think of it, it should've been obvious when he sneezed and came down so gently. She had immediately known Aang was an airbender when she first met him because of his sneeze. Maybe it was different when your child unexpectedly sneezed themselves into the air. You didn't automatically think: bending ability. "Katara...there's another airbender in the world, I'm not the last anymore. We're finally on our way to restoring balance!". Katara smiled. It was true. Suddenly, Aang kissed her full on the lips. She almost didn't know how to react but she quickly fell into his rhythm. He pulled back and smiled warmly at her. "Together, we've resurrected airbending".
Katara gently caressed her son's dark hair. "It was lucky to name him Tenzin", she murmured to herself. Aang nodded. "It's a fitting name. It means the keeper of the teachings. When I'm gone, Tenzin will be the one to train the next Avatar in airbending". Katara frowned. She didn't like thinking of the idea of Aang being gone from the world. "That won't be for years...decades!". Aang gave Katara a serious look. "That's probably true. But I have to pass on not only the knowledge of airbending, but the knowledge of our culture. That's something that could take decades". Katara touched his arm. "It's not like Air Nomad culture will die away. The Air Acolytes have made sure of that. And there are plenty of ancient books and scrolls on Air Nomads". Aang shook his head. "It's not the same as experiencing it firsthand". Katara sighed. Aang looked down at Tenzin and bounced him gently.
The front door opened and a tiny bit of chill entered the bedroom. Little footsteps were hurrying towards them. "Mom!" "Dad!" Bumi and Kya were yelling excitedly. "You're back early", remarked Katara, surprised. "What is it?", asked Aang smiling at the delight emanating from his children. "Mom, Dad you won't believe it", exclaimed Bumi. "There's a play about Kya!". Kya was nodding furiously. "Yeah! They added a last minute scene to The Four Spirits!". The Four Spirits was a play that told the story of the beginnings of the four water spirits and how Sedna and Akna came to renew the spirituality of the Water Tribe. Great waterbending masters were often depicted in the play. "They had what Kya did last night! Waterbending during a lunar eclipse!". "They did!", squealed Kya. "Oh honey that's wonderful!", said Katara scooping her daughter in her arms. She squeezed her in a tight hug. "My little waterbending master", Katara cooed. Kya giggled and looked over at her father. Aang was wearing a weak smile. Katara's stomach dropped. She had nearly forgotten his suspicion after his elation of discovering Tenzin was an airbender.
"Dad isn't that cool?!", exclaimed Bumi. Aang nodded and cleared his throat. "Of course son". He looked at Kya and gingerly put his hand on her head. There was no warmth in the gesture. "That's great Kya". Kya frowned and leaned closer to her mother. Silence. It hung so heavily in the air Katara thought she could see it. Aang shifted his weight and then put Tenzin back in his crib for a moment. "I'm going to take Tenzin out for some fresh air". Katara opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. Aang was busy finding Tenzin's little parka. She tried again. "Aang, Tenzin still has a cold. Maybe he should stay inside". Aang waved the idea away. "It'll be fine. I'll bundle him up nice and warm. He won't even feel the cold". He put Tenzin's mittens on. Bumi was frowning at his father with a puzzled look on his face. "It'll be good for Tenzin to see the festival too", said Aang. Katara put Kya down gently. "That would be nice but maybe he should still stay in. I don't want his cold to get worse". Aang lifted Tenzin out of the crib. "Katara, Tenzin is my son. I'll take good care of him". Katara flinched at his emphasis on "Tenzin". Whether or not he suspected Kya wasn't his, it was obvious he knew something was off with her. But was he suspicious of Bumi now too?
Without another word, Aang turned and left. Kya reached up for Katara's hand and Katara absentmindedly grabbed on. She was staring after Aang. So were Bumi and Kya. Of course the children could have no idea what was going on but they had obviously felt the coolness in Aang's demeanor. "What's wrong with dad?", asked Bumi quietly. Kya just stared silently at the doorway. Katara shook her head. "Nothing sweetheart. He's just...tired from taking care of Tenzin and being cooped up inside", she answered reassuringly. Kya never eased her stare but Katara could see her frown deepen. Bumi looked doubtful too although he said nothing. "Why don't we all get back to the festival too? I'm sure your father will be in better spirits after getting outside". The children hesitated. Katara stifled a sigh and then smiled down at Kya. "I really want to see you in The Four Spirits". Kya brightened at that. Katara and the children made their way out to the festivities but did not see Aang and Tenzin anywhere. Of course, it was very crowded.
Katara had been sure that she would find Aang at the Four Spirits play, but he wasn't there either. They watched the play from beginning to end with no sign of him. Kya had been excited to watch the play and was elated when she saw herself depicted in it. She jumped up and down and pointed up at the stage. But when it ended she looked around and didn't see her father. She frowned. "Mom, where's dad? And Tenzin? They didn't watch my part in the play!". Katara gently patted her daughter on the head. "Now sweetie, I'm sure they saw. They just weren't sitting near us". Kya nodded, but looed unconvinced. Suddenly she smiled. "Granpakku!". She ran and jumped into his open arms. "Hello my little master waterbender!". Gran-gran was smiling beside him. "We ran into Aang. He told us Tenzin is an airbender! Congratulations!". She took Katara into her arms. "You must be so excited!". Katara smiled brightly. She was excited. There could be a future for air bending now. Gran-gran held Katara's mitted hands in her own. "Never did I think I would see an airbender again in my lifetime, let alone see one brought into this world. And by my own granddaughter!". "It was a surprise, but a welcome one", said Katara truthfully. "Mom, I'm hungry", complained Bumi. Gran-gran smiled down at him. "Why don't we all go and get something to eat". There were food stalls everywhere and sumptuous aromas filled the air. "Yes", agreed Katara. "Let's do that".