Disclaimer: Aha to the lawyers! Aha, I say!
Author's Note: Yes. The Last Chapter. It includes (gasp) action! I apologize for any lack in this action scene, as action is not my forte.
Pakku was halfway down the steps in front of the council chamber when he vaguely heard Katara say, "Someone needs to slap some sense into that guy!" He couldn't help but smirk; he could only assume that "that guy" was him. This conceited girl wasn't worth his time.
She noticed him as he descended. "So you decided to show up?" she challenged. He walked right past her. "Aren't you going to fight?"
"Go back to the healing huts with the other women where you belong," he said derisively. A moment later, he felt a sharp sting on the back of his head, and he stopped. That was it. This girl had pushed him far enough. It was time to teach her a lesson. "Fine. You want to learn to fight so bad? Study closely!" He bent the water from two nearby pools to him. Of course, the first thing the girl did was run at him. He easily stopped her by merely shooting the mass of water at her. Before she could get up, he flung the water around them, creating a boundary of swiftly moving water.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you," he said. She was stumbling around, trying to keep within the tightening circle. With a quick movement of her hand, she broke the circle and came at him with a water whip twirling in her hand. He tried to block her with a shield of ice, but she simply ran up it and jumped over. She landed unsteadily on the end of the handrail for the stairs. Pakku melted his ice shield and threw it at her. She rooted her stance with ice and dispersed the wave.
"You can't knock me down!" she shouted at him. Such theatrics, he thought. She rushed at him, melting through his ice shield with ease. She tried to punch at him several times, but her hand-to-hand was horrible. Just as she tried a round kick, he bent water from under her and launched her into one of the twin pools. She landed with a splash.
Katara summoned a mesa of ice and began firing ice discs. Pakku blocked the first few easily with his hands and barely dodged the last, which flashed bare millimeters from his face. When he looked up, a torpedo of water was speeding toward him. He pulled it around behind him and began a form, charging up the bending energy. Katara didn't intend to wait for him to finish; she dashed at him, but was too late. Two identical streams of water shot at her, knocking her off her feet and flipping her over onto her stomach. She got up onto her knees and breathed deeply.
Suddenly, she leapt up into some semblance of a cat stance, hands raised above her head. Pakku didn't understand what she was doing until he heard rumbling above and behind him. Two columns were collapsing on him! He quickly disintegrated them into a light snow.
"Well, I'm impressed," he said, and meant it. He had actually been tempted to train her just for her sheer potential. Customs, however, were customs. He would not go against them. "You are an excellent water bender."
"But you still won't teach me, will you?" It was almost more statement than question.
In response to that, a wave of ice and water rolled at him. He ascended on a column of ice, melting it a moment later and racing forward. She tried to hinder him with a sweep of water. However, he froze it and used it to slide by her, pushing her over in the process. He jumped onto the rim of a pool as Katara landed heavily in the snow, panting. While she was still vulnerable, he tried out his latest invention. He bent the water high into the air, swirled it, and drove it back down in the form of long, sharp icicles.
Katara was stunned at first, but it didn't take her long to start struggling. "This fight is over," he said sharply as he walked away.
"Come back here! I'm not finished yet!"
"Yes, you are," he said, radiating contempt. That abruptly changed when he noticed what he had almost stepped on, lying innocently in the snow. He picked it up. It couldn't be! "This… is my necklace!" he said in recognition. He picked it up by both sides to examine it more closely. How in the world did that get here?
"No, it's not! It's mine! Give it back!" he heard the girl shouting behind him.
"I made this sixty years ago… for the love of my life," he continued, almost to himself. Then he added, softly, "For Kanna."
"My Gran-Gran was supposed to marry you?" Katara asked in disbelief. The words should have been important to Pakku, but he was absorbed in his own world as he stared at the necklace.
At the time, the popular design for betrothal necklaces was, obviously, the symbol for the Northern Water Tribe. It included a crescent moon and three small waves. Occasionally, a more artistic man would attempt a calm pool of water with ripples in it. Pakku didn't like either of these. They wouldn't fit on Kanna. Her stubbornness, dry sense of humor, and temper couldn't be reflected by a moon or calm water. Instead, Pakku decided that her necklace would be waves; not the small waves, but the big, crashing waves on the side of the ice cliffs surrounding the tribe. Pakku thought they were beautiful… beautiful, but not without danger. They were wild and untamable. They reminded him of Kanna, so he carved them onto her necklace. As he inspected his final work, one night, he decided that she would love it.
Much later, though, Pakku sat on the outer wall, watching the waves. Apparently, Kanna had loved the necklace; she took it with her… when she left. He counted up the days, scratching out the numbers on the snow-covered rail. Two days, and they would have been married. His shoulders tensed as he fought another urge; he wouldnot cry, not now. So he concentrated on his favorite waves crashing up against the wall below him, the steady rhythm of the water doing little to sooth him that night.
Pakku stood with his back to Katara, giving her the explanation she probably deserved. "I carved this necklace for your grandmother when we got engaged. I thought we would have a long, happy life together." He returned his gaze to the necklace. "I loved her."
"But she didn't love you, did she?" The girl caught on quickly, but that was no excuse to remind him of it. "It was an arranged marriage." How did the girl know that? "Gran-Gran wouldn't let your tribe's stupid customs run her life. That's why she left." He turned away. "It must have taken a lot of courage."
Pakku closed his eyes and clutched the necklace even more tightly. Katara was bringing up more questions than she knew. For all of his life, Pakku had firmly adhered to the customs of his tribe. As far as he was concerned, they were the principles of morality. If these customs had forced Kanna to run away, though, maybe not everything was so set in stone. Of course, accepting that would mean accepting the grim reality that he himself had driven Kanna away. It was hard, though, to lose the only love of your life and then realize it was your fault. So he pushed the thoughts to the back of his mind and continued to study the necklace.
Katara was patient, but eventually he had to return the necklace to her. He handed it over reluctantly, watching wistfully as she clasped it back on with a smile. He wished with all of his heart that Kanna's expression had been like Katara's as she put that necklace on.
Awkwardly, she said, "Thank you."
Pakku nodded. "Thank you." Still smiling, she left. When she was gone, he sighed and settled down to contemplate these most recent revelations.
The next day, Pakku was refreshed and back to his normal, intolerable self. He had started class by making the Avatar demonstrate his newest move. "Not bad, not bad," he chortled. "Keep practicing and maybe you'll get it by the time you're my age."
The Avatar looked less than amused at this assessment, but cheered up when he saw Katara running toward them. "Hey, Katara!" he said as she stopped beside him, out of breath.
"What do you think you're doing?" Pakku demanded. She looked up at him, shocked. "It's past sunrise," he elaborated with a smile. "You're late." She grinned and imitated his stance. As his two newest students exchanged friendly greetings, Pakku decided that, for this once, he could let custom slide.
Huzzah! It is finished! And (gasp) it actually has an ending that I'm satisfied with? So, if you haven't reviewed before (or even if you have), then "Now's your chance!" Let me know what a wonderful, horrible, or mediocre writer I am!