Author's Note: Blame the Box Set. No seriously, do. Because I watched "Boy in the Iceburg" again, and Katara noticing Aang's tattoos made me think about what happened when he actually got the tattoos. I also recalled that before the days of electric needles, tattoos were inked into the skin in a very long and painful process.

And I'm rusty at this fanfiction thing too, XP I'm 17, and still writing this stuff. But i can't hold my own past a one-shot anymore, haha.
Yes, I'll put up some more Smellershot soon. It's such a cute and pure pairing, like Kataang. .

Setting; Before losing Appa, I suppose. I love the fuzzball, and he gets to be part of this story.
And a little Kataang. For flavor. As well as a bit of Toph crushing on Sokka in the OMAKE. (I have one this time!XD)

Enjoy, and remember; Nickelodeon, by proxy of Mike DiMartino, Brian Koneitzko, and all the loverlies at Avatar.


She hadn't asked.

Aang sighed, Appa's reigns slack in his hands. The others were asleep; sound asleep. Toph was curled up against the side wall of the saddle, close to a snoring Sokka. She shifted in her sleep and turned.

Aang smiled softly; it was nice to watch them sleep for once. They really didn't have much of an opportunity to anymore. Not with that crazy firebender chasing them.

What was her name? Oh right, Azula. Zuko's sister.

He'd never heard about the Fire Lord having children. Of course, he reasoned, that was well before him. Or well after, really. He still had moments where it wasn't as if he'd been gone for a century.

Aang stared down at his hands; the blue arrows still looked the same. He ran one hand over the other, remembering when he had recieved the marks.

They meant that he had mastered Airbending.

That's what the monks had said. Gyatso pulled Aang aside, away from the other children. The monk's usual playful tone softened, seemed almost pained.

"Come, Aang."

He would never object to Gyatso. Aang knew he had parents--once, a long time before the Air Temple. But they were foggy ideas in his mind. So Gyatso was his family. Gyatso and the rest of the monks.

You are a master, Aang. That's what they had told him. You are the youngest one ever to do such a thing. We want to commemorate that.

Aang had agreed, and Gyatso sighed. A smile played across the monk's eyes.

"Are you sure, Aang?"

Yes, he was sure. He was sure.

Gyatso told him what that meant. Later, away from the rest.

Aang had wondered if that was true. Gyatso told him it was so, with a pained voice. He told Aang to think about it. Aang did. He sat near the bison stables, and Appa lowed nearby. Aang looked at the bison; the bison blew a puff of air at the young boy. Aang laughed.

"What do you think, Appa? Should I?"

But Aang knew he really didn't have a choice. Gyatso knew that. The other boys didn't. Aang was still young; it was years before they'd told him he was the Avatar. He was young.

And he stood at the door of the sanctuary, waiting. He was scared, and he knew what would happen.

It was slow. It was tedious. It hurt.

It hurt alot; all it was was just puncturing skin and putting in ink. The blue was nice, he'd think; then he'd feel the tatau hit his skin again. And he'd try not to cry.

But he did, eventually. When the monk reached his wrist. Gyatso sat by his side, and gave him something to bite on. That was probably for the best; Aang would have bitten through his finger if he hadn't had anything else.

The monk still went on. It was painful, they all knew. It hurt them all to put a child through such pain.

By the end of the first day, the arrow had trailed its way up his right arm. The end of the week saw it reach around his back; he couldn't sleep for a few days because of the pain any pressure on the fresh tattoos. Two weeks later (taking breaks to allow the wounds to heal over) it wound down around the top of his legs. Three weeks later, they were done. All but for the one he knew would hurt most.

He had meditated for a week before that. Aang was tired of this; especially when he still had to practice. After they had put more of the tattoos on, each time, he'd go and talk to Appa. Lemurs would sometimes come up, but he would shoo them away.

The arrow on his head hurt. Even years later, it would still hurt. But he hadn't cried. Not that time.

Aang laughed; oh, what the others would say to see him bandaged up, and hobbling around.It had taken weeks to heal, but the arrows turned out fine. There was only minimal work to touch up.

Katara pushed up from her spot, and looked at Aang. He was quiet.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Why?"

She paused, looking at him through sleepy eyes.

"You look...distant. You remembering something from the Air Temple?"

Aang looked off to the side. He didn't always like it when she was right.

"A little"

"What about?"

He didn't answer. Katara smiled, and rubbed Aang's head, which sent a flare of a blush across the young Avatar's cheeks.

"Uh uh..just.." he rubbed his head, blushing. Katara sat up, and slid down over the bison's forehead. She tapped his head.

"You never told me what these meant."

"Well..."

"Did they hurt?"

Aang thought for a moment.

"No, not really"

----omake----

Sokka woke up and peered over his sleeping bag. Toph growled quietly and glared at Sokka.

"What?"

"You kicked me. Stop kicki-"

"SHH!"

"What?"

"Katara and Aang are talking"

Toph waited a moment before quietly responding.

"Shut up and go to sleep."

Sokka shrugged and tried to do just so, but for a swift kick to the leg.

"Getting you back. Don't kick me"

Sokka rolled his eyes.

"Whatever."

Toph waited for a moment, then pulled herself closer to Sokka. If he asked any questions, she'd say she was cold. It was worth it, especially when she knew that Sokka seemed to forget that he no longer had a fluffy stuffed bear. But she liked the hug anyway.


tatau- meaning to mark or strike (the latter referring to traditional methods of applying the designs; Here used to describe the tool used to insert the ink.