Having grown up in the South Pole and traveled to the other side of the earth with her brother and the Avatar had not changed Katara's love for the more tropic locations where she could feel the sand between her toes and listen to the sound of the salty waves lapping at the beach's edge. Having spent the last five years in the more northern parts of the earth she had almost forgotten how good the salty air smelled or the sun seeping into her dark skin making her entire being warm.
Since the Fire Lord Ozai's reign had fallen at the hands of Avatar Aang the world had slowly begun the process of healing. At Aang's recommendation, Zuko took the fire throne and swore that he would help rebuild the world and all of its peoples despite his past generations yearning to crush and enslave all non-fire peoples.
To help Aang keep peace around the world he had named Katara, Sokka, and Toph his representatives so that they could be in multiple places helping the people rebuild their homes and lives. And so five years ago tomorrow Sokka left for the South Pole to help rebuild a great city that at one time existed, just not in their time. Toph traveled between Earth cities and helped everyone in between and Katara spent the majority of her time around the North Pole and the colder northern regions. Aang traveled around to help here and there but had not stopped at the Northern tribe since their long term departure. She had just assumed that he was too busy and her portion of the earth was in relative peace having been well defended through out the 100 years of war. From the letters she had received from Toph (who had an apprentice who helped her with the few things she couldn't do), Aang spent most of his time in the Fire Nation territory helping the people come to terms and helping douse squabbles that erupted quite frequently at first.
Oh how she missed her delinquent family that she had grown so fond of, but now they were all meeting on Kyoshi Island for a reunion and celebration of the Anniversary of their big victory. Katara wondered to herself how much her friends had changed since she last saw them. Had Sokka grown taller? Has Toph's earth bending become even more powerful? Has Aang kept his jovial sense of humor? Grinning from ear to ear at the thought of her childhood crush she fought to not giggle. She had been so smitten with him it was a wonder that they hadn't kissed each other on the lips even once. But times have changed and they have been apart for so long. Those feelings for the boy tattooed with arrows were long gone. Smiling again she spurred her eagle-horse on to a faster pace as she was the top of Avatar Kyoshi's fan-hat.
"Almost home, Chuah." Home was where her family was and it was as if she could sense them, because her heart began to sore like she did when flying on Chuah's back. The hoof beats echoed her heart's dance and the wind whipped at the wisps of hair that fell from her hasty morning bun. The sandy beach sped under her in a blur and the water washed away the prints left behind. Her riding uniform clung to her body tightly conforming to every curve she had developed. Her top was a similar wrap than her old water bending practice outfit but covered her torso from the harsh elements. She now just wore tight pants with a shorter half skirt to cover her pelvis and back end and had slits at her sides like her old long skirt for mobility (all in whites and light blues).
In the distance Katara could see a green and yellow spec with black on the top. TOPH! Her mid shouted in glee. When she was closer she could tell that Toph was taking a fighting stance and with a look of happy determination Katara leapt of her steed and in midair summoned a thick trail of water that forced her sand attack to fall back to the ground and left Katara with an open opportunity to tackle her friend.
"Toph!" Katara squealed and bear hugged her best female friend.
"Katara?" Toph gasped in disbelief having got the wind knocked out of her.
"Of course it's me, who else can get with in a foot of you with out having a boulder taking them out!"
Katara stood and dusted herself off while Toph bent the sand so that she was standing eye to eye with her best friend.
"It's been too long," Katara smiled weakly.
Toph countered her with a giant hug, "life just hasn't been as interesting with out you around Sugar Queen." Toph grinned wickedly at her.
"You've gotten so tall!" Katara exclaimed.
"I'm still shorter than you," she bantered back.
"Just by an inch," Katara held out her fingers to an inch apart before she realized that Toph wouldn't be able to see it and she giggled. "So, who else has arrived?"
"Zuko and Twinkle Toes are here but I'm pretty sure they're busy talking business."
Katara nodded, slightly put out that she wouldn't get to see another friend.
"How about we get you settled in then we can help prepare dinner tonight. I doubt the guys would appreciate it if I cooked again." Pink tinged the earth bender's cheeks at the memory of Aang choking down her food and Zuko down right refusing claiming that he would rather starve than eat the pile of rhino dung in front of him. With out a waterbender on the island yet he had yet to get rid of the slight limp caused by an accidental earthquake under his chair.
Katara took Chuah's reigns and pulled her down the bustling street and to a medium size hut at the top of a rocky hill. Opening a gate into a giant fenced in area, Katara took the harness and reigns off of her eagle-horse and gently pushed her into the fenced in field for an all she could eat buffet of grass. The girls continued up the rocky stairs and through the sliding screen doors.
The doors opened up to the main room where two long padded seats sat facing each other and a simple kitchen past the seating area. To their left and right were slightly transparent screens that you could only see outlines through. Katara knew that behind those screens were the rooms they'd be sleeping in and she wondered if Toph had unknowingly given Aang or Zuko a free show.
Katara was about to walk over to the room on the right to put her bags when Toph tugged on her arm and redirected her to the left.
"Boys to the right, girls to the left."
Aang watched on silently from a tree top by the shore as a seemingly wild creature sped by on the eagle-horse he had given Katara before parting with her. The ethereal picture of beauty that was flying at high speeds down the beach just couldn't be the Katara he had sent away for his own sanity. This woman had wild and untamed chocolate hair that fell in wisps across her dark face that was lit with such obvious joy that it looked as if she could hardily contain it. Her lithe body moved in sync with the beast she rode in an almost sinfully exotic manner and he could see every sinewy muscle work under the ministrations that riding required. But when he saw her flip off the steed and summon the water from the ocean with the most graceful and beautiful maneuvers he knew it had to be her.
His waterbending teacher.
His very attractive waterbending teacher.
The girl who had occupied every fantasy since waking in the icy chamber.
And seeing her now he knew that she would be the woman to test his forced celibacy. He was eighteen now and although he thought other girls were pretty this woman before him was a Goddess in rare form. Sending her away for so long did nothing but increase his feelings for her and it scared him terribly.
The news that Avatar Roku had given him last summer did not bode well for him. That was the main reason why he had called for a reunion with the gang. They would help him solve the next part of his life long quest as the Avatar and the last airbender.
Toph and Katara occupied their time by preparing a tasty meal for themselves and roommates who had yet to show their faces and catching up on the last five years apart, often reminiscing about the old days when they all traveled together. Just as Katara began to cook the fish on the buttered pan the front door slid open followed by a dark nose and tall well toned body of Sokka.
"I smell meat, where is it??" He stuck his nose higher in the air and inhaled noisily to emphasize the urgency of his request and all with out opening his eyes.
"Sokka!!" Katara squealed as she took a running leap at her brother just as he recovered and caught his sister in his strong arms. Spinning around he allowed himself to burry his head into her soft hair and inhale deeply. The scent making his eyes well up because he knew that his sister was absolutely safe now. Being apart from her for so long went against everything he had sworn his dad, but she was a waterbending warrior and he had to let her go sooner or later. Try as he might he could not convince his arms to let her go. Only when he heard someone clearing their throat from behind him did he let Katara go to look over his shoulder.
A young woman with green loose pants that just barely went past her knees and skin tight wrap around top that had three-quarter length sleeves stood before him. She was just a foot shorter than him and had long straight black hair with a silky green ribbon to keep the majority of her free flowing hair back but the locks of black still dangled in her face despite.
"Don't look so shocked Snoozles," she quipped dryly in perfect Toph fashion.
"T-Toph??" Sokka choked.
"Last I checked."
His mouth stayed gaping open until the front door slid open again to reveal Zuko and Aang.
"Hey guys," Aang tried casually and waved slightly, glancing to each of his friends, trying his darndest to not stare too long at Katara. It didn't matter of course, because the water tribe siblings had already tackled him in a bone crushing hug. Both Toph and Zuko stood to the side smirking at their antics. When they did finally pull back Katara let her eyes wonder where she wouldn't let them before.
He was now easily the same height as Sokka with lean muscles making up his entire body. He was wearing a grey and blue version of what his old earthbending outfit looked like except now he filled it out better with slightly broader shoulders and Agni only knows what was under that loose fitting garment. She found her mind imagining what he looked like with out the clothes but quickly stopped herself.
Aang was a friend.
Like a brother to her.
She should not want to do the list of dirty ideas forming in her head to this air monk.
That was it. She just had to remember that he was a monk. He probably didn't even know how to look at girls like a normal guy let alone do anything with them. She drew her eyes away from him long enough to look at the fire lord.
"Lord Zuko," she did a respectable half bow.
Zuko scoffed at her for formalities and shyly hugged her in greeting. When he pulled away he was blushing and looking everywhere but at her. Odd.
"Can we eat yet, I'm hungry!" Sokka whined. Just like the good old days Katara chortled silently.
"The fish!" Katara ran to the frying pan and began to scrape the fish off the bottom to flip it but she was too late. Their dinner was going to be black. At least nothing had happened to the rice and vegetables or the fruit mix. Blushing like mad, Katara began to bring the bowls of food to the table while Aang jumped up to set the table. When that was all done they sat down with Aang at the head of the table, Katara directly to his left and Zuko beside her and Toph to his right with Sokka beside her. They ate and through mouthfuls Sokka told them about how the South Pole was really coming along and how they almost didn't need him anymore, but he still liked it down there. Katara and Toph giggled when he occasionally dropped food back onto his plate from his mouth. Zuko just stared at him as if he grown three more heads and Aang remained quiet through the entire exchange.
Katara knew it had been awhile since they had been in the same room but she could still tell when there was something weighing on his mind. She silently pondered over a few ideas while she used her chopsticks to bring the vegetable rice to her mouth, but none of them told her why he was as quiet as he was. Never one for beating around the bush Katara cut into the current conversation and set her blue gaze on the top of Aang's arrowed head.
"What's wrong Aang?" She asked.
His eyes shot up and met hers with surprise but he quickly schooled his expression to one that said impassive.
So Katara continued, "you had another motive to invite us besides the reunion, didn't you Aang."
He nodded almost guiltily and finally spoke.
"We will discuss it later, but now is not a time for seriousness it is for catching up with old friends and laughing."
Everyone's eyes were glued to the airbender in astonishment. None of them had suspected an ulterior motive for the visit.
Katara held his gaze with a concerned one of her own before dropping it to her plate again to continue eating. Hesitantly everyone followed suit, but the conversation was more forced than before.
When they had all finished Aang offered that the guys would clean up while the girls could go relax.
"Thanks Twinkle-Toes," Toph grinned.
"You know I heard there were some hot springs a little ways down on the other side of this hill that are very private. I say we have a nice relaxing girl-time for an evening." Katara suggested.
"I've learned not to argue with you on these things so when do we go?" Toph grinned, remembering their time in Ba Sing Se.
"Let's just grab a couple towels and head out. Since its private we don't need any bathing clothes." Katara smiled brightly.
The guys' faces all blanched at the thought of the girls soaking in hot water naked. The girls never noticed this though because they were so excited about an opportunity to bathe in steaming water. Katara went out a door by the kitchen and came back with two thick white towels and the girls proceeded to exit out the back and to the hot springs.
When they were gone and the men had recovered their wits Sokka turned to Aang with a serious expression.
"Aang, from one man to another, what is this business that might ruin our meal?"
Aang's cheeks tinged pink and he held Sokka's stare.
"It's not so much a meal ruiner as it is a life ruiner, for me and I wanted your guys' opinions on it."
"If it is that important then we should be discussing it sooner. A solution must be found soon, whatever it is."
"I agree," Zuko added. "What is it that could possibly ruin your life?"
"Avatar Roku came to me last summer with the gravest of missions," Aang sighed. "I need to marry with in the week and I must try to re-establish the airbenders again, and that means; children."
A/N: Let me know what you think by hitting that magical button! As motivation I will update faster with more reviews, I promise! And I never make a promise I can't come through on. So… pleeeeeeease?!