Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender
Author's Note: I'd been hearing rumors about Aang growing his hair to cover his tattoo so that he could disguise himself more easily in the third season, and then I saw that confirmed with the cover artwork for the first DVD of the season. I realized that he wouldn't really know how to deal with it, so this seemed like a natural scene that could happen.
"Ugh! What are you supposed to do with this stuff?" Aang complained, frustratedly running his fingers through his newly grown hair and trying to get a good view of himself in their cooking water. His hair was perfectly straight and pure black, standing in stark contrast to his pale skin.
"Let me see if I can help you with it," Katara offered, stifling a giggle as she got up to rummage in one of their bags. Aang's hair was about an inch long now, which meant that it was too short to do much with but long enough to give him a mild to moderate case of "bed head" if he slept on it wrong, and it was this problem with which he was currently wrestling.
"It feels funny," Aang continued. "And it's hot."
"You get used to it," Sokka informed him, punctuating his statement by shaking out his own kinky mass before tying it back up into what Katara still privately called a ponytail. He'd also been growing out the sides, but it wasn't anywhere near long enough to pull back yet.
Meanwhile, Katara triumphantly raised her hand, grasping the polished wooden comb she'd been seeking. She'd bought it in Ba Sing Se as a replacement for the bone comb she'd lost when Appa was stolen. She missed the old comb, since she felt it connected her to her tribe, but this new one worked perfectly well.
"So you've never had hair, Twinkle-toes?" asked Toph curiously. "I can't even imagine that." The blind earthbender was eating peanuts in a highly unique way. She'd put an entire peanut in her mouth, open and separate it with her teeth and tongue, and then spit out the shell before chewing and swallowing the nuts. Katara found the practice faintly disgusting, and as she walked back to the group, she wondered irritably if she would be expected to clean up the shells that were accumulating on the ground around Toph.
"Not since I was about three," Aang answered Toph's question. "I wasn't paying much attention back then."
"Sit down," Katara ordered, surveying Aang's head critically. Aang complied, and Katara knelt behind him and ran her fingers through his short locks, something she'd admittedly been itching to do ever since he started growing it out in preparation for their infiltration of the Fire Nation. His hair was quite fine and very soft. Katara would have liked to just keep enjoying the feel of it for a while, but she forced herself to return to her task.
"Maybe I should chop my hair off," mused Toph, patting her bun thoughtfully. "My hair's never been cut."
"Mine either," Katara added. This was true of most women she knew. Only some of the Kyoshi warriors seemed to keep their hair short. She addressed Aang again. "Let's start by wetting it down. Close your eyes." She bended some fresh water and poured it over Aang's head. Some of it spilled onto his shoulders, but she could always take care of that later.
"No more experiments," Sokka rejected Toph's idea. "Aang and I are only growing our hair because we have to. You girls both need long hair to blend in."
Katara worked the water into the roots of Aang's hair with her fingers, making sure it got everywhere.
"That feels nice," Aang remarked. "How come you never did this when I was bald?"
"You never asked," Katara tossed back without missing a beat.
"Is that all it takes? I'll have to remember that."
Katara smiled and held his head steady with one hand as she ran the comb through his dark locks with the other. This kind of playful banter had become even more prevalent between the members of their little group, a necessary release of the tension they were all feeling.
Aang's hair wasn't really long enough to tangle much, of course, but the comb did help to get the strands to go where Katara wanted them to. She tried parting it in the middle and directing it evenly down the sides. She wasn't sure she liked the look, but she turned Aang toward Sokka to get his opinion. He didn't mince words.
"Are you kidding? He looks ridiculous!" Sokka exclaimed incredulously.
"Oh, you should talk," snapped Katara, even as she tried something else. "Have you checked your reflection lately?"
"It's a work in progress," he retorted haughtily. "Besides, I don't think it's that bad."
"I think Sokka looks very handsome like that," Toph put in, smirking a little.
"Thanks, Toph, I – hey, wait!" Sokka interrupted himself when he recalled that Toph was blind. She laughed outright while he scowled. "Why do you always do that to me?"
"Hey, I'm just saying that you look pretty much the same to me whether your hair is short or long," Toph replied innocently. Katara grinned slyly, finding it impossible to pass up an opening like that.
"You mean you've always found Sokka handsome?" she asked smoothly.
"What? I didn't say that!" Toph protested, but she was blushing vibrantly.
"Actually, Toph, I think you kind of did," Aang contributed, backing Katara up, as usual. He turned his head to smile at her, and when their eyes met, Katara felt her heart pause and her stomach flip at the same time. She abruptly broke the gaze and busied herself with some finishing touches to his hairstyle. This time, she'd tried to follow the growth pattern of his hair. Most of the top was combed forward, giving him short bangs, while the sides fell naturally around his ears and the back simply went down. There was a small cowlick standing up near the top, but Katara didn't think it spoiled the overall effect.
"Now you're all just getting silly," Toph declared, standing up and brushing peanut shells off her skirt. "I'm going for a walk." Sokka looked after her speculatively for a moment as she departed.
"I think I'll go, too," he said, following the direction she'd taken. "You know, to make sure Toph's okay. That's much better, by the way." This last part was tossed over his shoulder and presumably referred to Aang's hair.
Katara finally let Aang see her handiwork, filling a shallow basin with water so he could view his reflection. He turned his head this way and that to get an idea of how the whole thing looked.
"Yeah, that's pretty good," he decided, even as Katara ran her fingers through a few sections one final time. "I'm still not used to it, but that's my problem. Thanks, Katara."
"Anytime." Katara started to stand up, but Aang took hold of her wrist and held here there. She looked at him in surprise, suddenly very aware that they were alone.
"Do you really mean that?" Aang asked her, with an earnestness that seemed out of proportion with the question he was asking. "Anytime?"
"Yes, of course," Katara responded, confused. He released her, and she quickly pulled out the stray water that had soaked into his clothing. When that was done, she went to put her comb away. As she did so, Aang's voice was carried to her on the breeze, although he sounded like he was talking to himself:
"I guess having hair isn't so bad, after all."
Author's Note: I know it was kind of an unsatisfactory ending, but coming up with good ending lines is one of the most challenging things about writing. Anyway, I thought it was a cute idea, and I could see a scene something like this happening in maybe the second episode, The Headband. This is really soon after my last post, but it was already written, so I figured, what the heck? Hope you enjoyed it!