Authors Note: Hi my dear readers! Wow this one took a really, really long time. I don't really know where the idea came from, but all of a sudden: poof! It was there and I had to write it. CotH will be updated soon, but since I have been writing this, it may take just a little longer so y'all bear with me. Anyway, enjoy!
Disclaimer: … can we please just ponder this for two seconds and then see where we are… one… two… umm nope, I don't won anything
The ways we've changed
Aang, the 20 year old Avatar, sat quietly by himself in the patch of sunlight that filtered down from the late afternoon sun. Leaning his back against the tree under which he sat, he gently ran his worn fingers over Momos fur. The flying lemur who currently dozing in his lap after eating his fill at lunch, gave a little sigh and nuzzled closer to his hand.
Around him, the sounds of the day where slowly quieting down, birds chirps sounding less frequently, and Apas huffs from the stable had finally ceased. It was so much more peaceful than it was in the old days, and for Aang that was somewhat a relief. Sighing, he gently rubbed his bad arm, which had been burned severally in battle with the Fire Lord.
"Aang? Where are you?" Glancing up, the Avatar caught sight of the pretty young waterbender who had just recently accepted to be his wife. Her long hair was bound up simply in a bun, and she wore the garb of everyday Earth Kingdom citizen. She had also grown taller since when he had first met her eight whole years ago. But no matter how much time passed she would always possess a bad temper and an automatic impulse for doing what she believed to be right, she. Grinning, Aang remembered one of the more amusing moments he had experienced with Katara which had come from the latter quality while in an Earth village…
… "Yeah? Well your ears are so large that animals take shade under them while they drink." Katara chided her brother of fifteen years in front of a Fire Nation Guard. She spoke loudly and though her tone could have been mistaken for angry, her eyes sparkled with laughed at what she was doing.
"Well you should watch where you're going." Sokka yelled back at his sister, though he could be seen glancing back at his ears with a worried expression on his face as he did so.
"Back off," Sokka said as he grew to his full height to yell at his sister before whispering to her so that only she could hear. "No really, back off."
Katara seemed not to care continued on. "We shall have to fight this out with my…Earth Bending Skills!" Shouting, Katara lifted her fist as if to call forth the boulder in front of her and struck a heroic pose… only to realize that her cue had not been picked up on. There was a moment of awkward silence which was finally broke uncertainly. "Ahem, I said my Earth Bending Skills!" Aang finally catching the cue, pushed air through airshaft which led to underneath the boulder Katara had tried to summon.
As Katara had been led away, Sokka pulled unhappily at his ears before turning to Momo and chiding, "Momo, you seriously have big ears."…
"There you are. Geeze I've been looking all over for you. Do you know how long it took me to simply get Sokka out of here? Have you ever tried persuading him when he's being stubborn? Especially when he's insisting about telling me more wonderful facts about 'his Suki'? I can tell you, not pleasant!" No matter how old Katara got, Aang was willing to bet she would always be her stoic, fiery self.
"Sorry Katara, I was just… reminiscing." He moved over slightly, silently inviting Katara to sit next to him. Taking his cue, she plopped down beside him and leaned her head against the tree, glancing quietly over at him, and noticing as he rubbed his arm again.
"Hey, you okay? Is your arm bothering you?" she asked worriedly and scooted closer to him. Her ocean blue eyes studying his face and expressions carefully, looking for any discomfort or pain. Over the eight year time period she had come to know him in, Katara had become apt at reading any kind of hint he gave about what he wanted. She remembered the first time she had really become aware of the need for it. That had been on a night long ago, somewhere in the middle of nowhere…
Pushing through the bushes, fifteen year old Katara searched for the Avatar. Why did he always have to wander off by himself in a place they knew nothing about? All she really wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. It had been a very tiring day for all of them; after all it was never easy to fight off Prince Zuko when he happened to come upon them. "Aang! Where did you go? C'mon it's late, I wanna go to bed." Katara whined childishly. Huffing to herself about annoying young airbenders who didn't know what was good for them, Katara managed to push her way out of the dense jungle/the-perfect-place-to-get-lost-when-one-is-hungery-and/or-tired… she found herself on a cliff overlooking the island valley below her, no them.
Aang sat quietly staring down off into space. Momo sitting beside him, ears alert and coping the same expression his master had, only once in awhile breaking it to take a bit of the apple he held in his front paws. Of what Katara could see of Aangs face, he had not sensed she had found him. Usually when he was around her, he wore a huge smile, his eyes dancing, and he was always asking her if he had shown her his new trick. He was always ready to show off in front of her, always ready to make her laugh, but what she saw now was so different. His eyes held the loneliest expression, his mouth just a thin line across his face, and instead of him holding his head high, it rested in a defeated position on his hands.
"Aang…" Katara breathed as she saw a lone silver tear slide down his cheek.
The boy turned to see her, the sad expression never leaving his face. His blue orbs filled with unshed tears, everything about him was so alone. "Hey Katara," he gave his usual greeting for the young waterbender, but his voice was shaky and she watched as he gulped several times to clear his throat.
"Aang," Katara said again her heart seeming to break at how sad the airbender was. "Aang, what's wrong, please tell me." She sat gently down next to him, wondering if it was better to touch him or simply leave him alone.
"…" No reply came and Katara watched helplessly as the airbender, normally so happy and cheerful, began to really cry. Not knowing what else to do, Katara hesitantly reached out and hugged her friend tightly to her.
"It's okay, Aang," she had repeatedly whispered into the fresh night air, "It's going to be okay." And eventually, after a time, everything was.
Ever since that evening, when she had sat and watched as the sky darkened into the soft velvets of night, that evening when she realized how much her own touch helped her dearest friend, Katara had started to notice when Aang needed a hug, or maybe simply an encouraging smile, and she gladly gave it to him. It had become like a second nature to her, she read his expressions and learned how he would act when he was stressed or unhappy.
Sighing happily, she relaxed a bit more against the tree, everything was calmer now. Sokka no longer bugged everyone about moving at the first light of day, they no longer had nightmares about Firebenders attacking them in the dead of night. Firebenders…
"Aang?" Katara asked softly, not wanting to disturb the stillness of the moment. On her right, her friend rolled on his side to face her and gently reached up to play with the strands of hair that had escaped the bun on her head.
"Hmm?" he replied as he carefully fingered her hair.
"Don't you ever wonder what happened to Prince Zuko? I mean, he did end up turning against his own nation and helped us defeat it. Couldn't he be in trouble?" Katara asked worriedly, turning her icy blue orbs towards her fiancé.
Sighing, Aang let the hair fall back in place at the base of her neck and gently moved himself to hug his best friend slash lover from behind. "Yeah, I do wonder, but his father is dead, Commander Zhao is in prison, and he has his uncle, not to mention that earthbender he picked up… what was her name?" He asked sleepily, letting his forehead rest against her shoulder, he let his eyes drift close again. Maybe it was that recent encounter with the cat demon that made him like this, but something about the mixture of the sun light dappling through the leaves and comfortable quiet at the end of the day was really getting to him.
"I'm not sure, but they seemed very close, I hope they'll both be okay."
"Look out!" a young girl of roughly 23 shouted at the three warriors as a huge ball of flame flew at them from the simple gesture of the Fire Lords hand. Thinking quickly, Katara who stood by the girl jerked up water from the imperial fountain to shield her friend, her own brother and recently acquired ally from the fiery blast sent at them.
"Heh, this is pathetic, the Avatar who is barley past 19 is challenging me along with a banished prince and a simple boy from the Water nation who can not even control his own element, plus they all have to be protected by a little girl, this is just disgraceful for my honor." The Fire Lord spat and then turned to his son.
"And you," he said his voice full of malice. "How can you even show your face here? After what I did to you, you're a disgrace to the Fire Nation." Prince Zuko looked away, unable, even for his prides sake, to look his father in the face. The father he had worked so hard to win trust and love from as a little kid, only to be overshadowed always by his brother.
"Enough," the voice rang out from the figure in the center of the floor. He had grown a lot over the years of training and traveling. "I don't have time for you to make speeches about your pride and non-existent glory being disgraced by us showing up here. Come on, fight like a real man, not some cheap imitation who hides behind a wall of fire." The Fire Lords eyes narrowed dangerously at Aangs bold statement.
"Very well, but wouldn't you agree Avatar, that fighting is no thing to do before women?" Flicking his hand he sent a wave of fire unable to be dodged straight at Katara and the young earthbender beside her.
"Katara!" Aang shouted watching as fire consumed the place where his friend and the earthbender stood. About to race over and beat the fire down with water, he felt a calm hand on his shoulder holding him back. Turning to his long time friend and companion, Aang shouted angrily at him. "What are you doing, that's your sister over there, are you just going to let her die?"
The once over protective brother tightened his grip on the Avatars shoulder. "Aang, listen to me! The Fire Lord wants you to be angry and distracted, if you go over and help them, he will kill you. Katara can waterbend, Prince Zukos friend can earthbend, let them for at least right now take care of themselves!" Sokka gently shook his shoulder and then released him. "Just concentrate on winning, Katara will be fine, I promise."
Growling at his friend but none the less turning back to face the Fire Lord, Aang called forth a ball of air. "Alright," he said tensing, "Alright, I'm ready."
The rest of what happened that day was mostly a blur of all the elements mixed together along with heavy breathing from the warriors who were beyond their strength yet refused to give up. One moment it seemed that the Fire Lord had the upper hand, but the next Sokka or Zuko managed to draw his attention away and give Aang a chance to get back up again. Katara and the earthbender helped anyway they could, here throwing water or earth in the way of one of their friends who couldn't block themselves, there protecting Sokka or Zuko when they were resting.
Near the end of the day, when the sun began to pull on its beautiful robes of fire and cloud, four figures could be seen limping out of the Fire nation's imperial palace. Supported between two of them was carried a fifth. Aang had beaten the Fire Lord, but at a price. His left arm was badly burned, it probably would never fully recover, and his body was beyond exhaustion, after winning, he had simply collapsed to the floor, no longer able to move.
Watching the sunset gently steal the sky away from the normal sea blue color that reminded her so much of her own home, Katara snuggled closer to Aang as a cool wind swept through the courtyard. He gently tightened his arms around her protectively as he felt her shiver, and laced his fingers through hers. "Yeah, I'm sure they will be. Do you remember when she put herself at risk when Zukos father very nearly killed him?" Aang asked quietly.
Smiling slightly at the small interlude of protectiveness Katara had seen from the once stuck up and sullen prince, she nodded her head. "Of course I remember that was the first time I have ever seen him really care about something, besides catching you when we were younger."
As a ball of flame was sent at the weary prince who seemed unable to summon up his own flame or dodge the ones in front of him, a flash a brown darted before him the moment before the flames tried to consume him. As the fiery blast cleared, an earthen wall was erected before the crouching prince and young earthbender. For both there was a short silence before the suddenly angry prince interrupted it.
"Nara, you idiot! I told you not to get in the way of fighting. What if you got hurt? I don't want you to come running to me complaining, 'cause if you act this way you won't get any sympathy from me!" The prince snapped as he contradicted himself by pulling the girl into his arms and carefully inspecting her for injury. After finding none, he gave her a small hug. "Thank you." He breathed quietly before letting her go and returning to help the Avatar with defeating his father.
"Nara, that's what her name was." Katara said sleepily cuddling under the blanket Aang had aribended over to them as the night got colder. She leaned her head back against his shoulder and yawned softly. Night air enveloped the young couple as fireflies let the darkness around them.
"Yeah, now I remember." Aang replied, and once more gently stroked her hair. Noticing her yawn he grinned slightly and whispered into her ear. "Looks like somebody's tired, did they have a long day?" He teased gently before picking her up and setting her back down on the ground.
The two headed back to the house, and as they went, born on the gentle wind, a voice could be heard. It asked the question that had been asked so much a long time ago.
"Katara, have you seen my new airbending trick?" And with the question came a swoosh of air carrying droplets of water from the near by well. Together, air and water, they formed a heart the drifted for simple moments in the courtyard, before being carried away by the wind.
"That's great Aang" Came the soft, sincere reply.
Ok, sorry if Aang was a bit OOC, but I was eight years older and he has been through a lot, so I thought that this version of him could be rather fitting. And yes, I had to use Nara in here, Zuko needs someone more than his uncle all the time, so I gave him Nara. Well, until next time!