Sokka knew Katara was fourteen. He knew she was two years away from the age where she would be old enough to marry. He also knew that her emotions were running high; she was likely to have a crush on a couple guys. But he hadn't expected… this.
This had no name, really. It was just something Sokka had noticed, which Katara was doing at the present moment.
He was her brother; he was supposed to know when she had a crush on a guy. And yet it had caught him completely off guard.
Oh, yeah, a few little glances at Aang, gazes that lasted longer then they really had to, a slight blush when her hand—or any part of her, for that matter—brushed the young Avatar's… Sokka wasn't blind, he saw them. And yet it made him realize…
Katara liked Aang. More then a friend.
The thought didn't throw him nearly as off balance as the realization itself. Sokka had known for some time that Aang harbored feelings for his little sister, but he had never suspected that, at some point in the future, she would return those feelings. Looking up from polishing his boomerang, he watched them now. Aang was playing with Momo, creating little balls of air and sending them off for the lemur to chase and pounce on. Katara stood off to the side, practicing her Waterbending, occasionally looking up to watch the young monk.
Sokka noticed how her looks would last much longer then the normal few seconds; then a small shudder would shake her, and she would look away, blushing.
Oh, she's got it real bad.
Sokka smirked, pleased with himself for having figured it out. Slowly, however, that smirk faded as Katara looked up once again, gazing at Aang longingly.
A part of him knew he couldn't judge Katara's feelings, mostly because she and Aang were so close. He couldn't judge her based on his past with Yue. And yet, he couldn't help it.
She was his little sister. He didn't want to see her get hurt. Their father had always said it was better to love and risk the pain of losing then never loving at all. Despite the ache in his chest, Sokka couldn't help agreeing with his father. Although the black hole of grief hadn't shrank since Yue's death, some of Sokka's best memories were of her. He missed her, he always would, but he didn't regret loving her.
Deciding to take a chance, Sokka rose, leaving his boomerang on the rock, walking over to Katara, pausing to snag the fishing pole to give him a good excuse for invading her personal space. He walked past her, close enough so his shoulder just brushed hers, and in a soft voice said, "Remember what Dad used to say."
Katara jumped, her eyes wide as she stared at her brother. How much do you know? Her eyes seemed to ask. Sokka smirked, jerking his head at Aang, taking a slight step towards him. Katara's eyes widened, and she blanched, quite an accomplishment considering her skin tone; she looked at him pleadingly, imploringly. Her eyes made a plea on her behalf.
Not yet, they seemed to beg. Please, not yet. I know what you think, but I need time to figure this out. I need to figure this out myself.
Sokka gazed at his sister for a long time; after a moment, he lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. It's your decision, not mine. He walked past her, wading into the water. He felt her gaze on him, but when he looked up she was glancing once again at Aang. Uncertainty flickering in the depths of her ice-blue eyes.
Sokka couldn't help her. She had made that much clear, without saying a word. He knew she was growing up, and this was something she had to figure out herself. Katara was his little sister… knowing she wanted to do something like this on her own pained him, even if he stepped down to let her follow the path she had started down. He just wanted to protect her, though he was becoming more and more aware that she could protect herself. He knew, someday, that she might not even need him.
Sokka looked up, watching Katara. The Waterbender had slipped from her place next to the river, walking to sit next to Aang. They were talking now, in quiet tones, and Katara giggled at something Aang said. Momo chirped, leaping between them, pushing his head into Katara's hand, demanding to be petted. Katara gently scratched him behind the ears, saying something to Aang that made him grin.
Sokka shook his head wearily, turning back to the water.
Katara was his little sister. She always would be. But he understood that there were things she had to do on her own, without him. Her feelings for Aang was one of them. He had told her what he thought, what he thought she should do, but in the end it was her decision. Sokka cast his pole into the water, listening to the laughter of Katara and Aang behind him, and a small smile tugged at the corners of his lips.
Oh, she's got it real bad.
This is the second story of my Watching series. The next will be from Aang's point of view, The Third Time. Be on the look-out for it!