A/N. Yeah, you thought I was dead. To everyone who has messaged me or something in the past 2 years, I'm sorry for not answering. No matter how much time passes (and it's been almost 10 years) I can never seem to get away from Avatar. Somehow I always find my way back. On that note, I'm not watching Korra for several reasons, the most important of which is probably just that I was so emotionally invested in A:TLA that the thought of Aang being dead gets me all depressed and I just can't take it :p. So I'm pretending it's fanfiction on the big screen, and my alternate theory is that the whole thing is a nightmare Katara's having a-la Wizard of Oz. And that makes me feel better. I do read the post A:TLA comics, however. Anyways, I'm marking this story complete as of this chapter because I don't know how much I'll be writing (like, I literally have no idea. I might start putting stuff out regularly again or I might not come back for another eternity, who knows!) and because it's like 7 years old and that's crazy. If I do write more, I'll be posting individual oneshots or start another series. I may even write a multichap (waaat?). But keep your eyes open. I'm feelin' it right now. To everyone who's ever read this and reviewed it, I can't thank you enough. You've boosted my confidence, helped me improve my writing (fanfiction and otherwise) and helped me through my teenage years into adulthood. I'm dead serious, this has been a huge part of my emotional life/development, probably more so than I can even explain. If you've only ever read one chapter, or if you've followed the whole thing from the beginning, thank you. It means a lot.
They were on their way back to their rural camping spot. It had been a relatively calm day, they'd gotten to sleep in before Aang's training and had just now finished shopping, or in Aang's case, exploring the city. Katara could tell he was still rather sad at having to hide who he was everywhere they went, but he was handling it much better than he initially had and it was nice to see his spirits returning.
"You do want to know your future, don't you? What is to become of you and the man you love? This will help you. Only three yuans for your whole future!"
"If she takes it, will you leave us alone?" Katara, along with the rest of her friends, stopped in their tracks to see where the argument was coming from. There was a small, elderly woman in a stall on the side of the road, holding a firm grip on a girl who looked to be just a bit older than Katara, accompanied by a young man.
"It is important that you-" The young man cut her off, slapping down several coins on the counter in exchange for a leather-bound pocket sized book. The woman released the girl from her grip and the couple walked off down the street.
"You shouldn't have, Riku. There's no point wasting money on grumpy old fortunetellers."
"I just wanted her to let you go. Besides, it's my father's money, and he'll never miss a few yuans."
"Well, I won't miss this, either." The girl dropped the book and it landed with a soft sound on the dusty road.
"Stay away from that lady, Katara. We don't want another fortune teller incident." Sokka warned. Katara scoffed.
"Shut up, Sokka. I'm not about to spend real money on something like that, especially not right now. How selfish do you think I am?" Sokka opened his mouth to reply, but Aang intervened.
"Can we not fight right now, guys?" Then, in a lower voice, "We're supposed to be lying low, remember?" The siblings both pursed their lips shut and Toph sighed a sarcastic "Thank you." They continued on, but Katara hung back a few paces, stooping to pick up the book while none of her friends were looking and tucking it into her bag before continuing on. Toph however, hung back with her.
"I saw that." She said under her breath. Katara groaned.
"Look, just don't tell Aang and Sokka, alright?" Toph looked amused.
"Why should I? What's in it for me if I stay quiet about it?" Katara huffed. She should've known it wouldn't be that easy.
"I...I won't nag you about taking a bath for two whole weeks." Toph pretended to think for a minute.
"Till the end of the war." She negotiated.
"Fine." Katara snapped. "But don't blame me when we get caught because Fire Nation soldiers can smell you from miles away."
"Whatever. I'm not the one who wears perfume." Katara tightened her jaw.
"It's not perfume. It's just some scented lotion that I...ugh, forget it." She knew she wouldn't get anywhere with Toph, and that she should be grateful for what she had gotten away with.
Katara wanted to open the book as soon as they got back to camp, but there wasn't really any privacy in the open clearing and she liked to spend the rare moments of free time she had with Aang. Her feelings for him had always been on the tender side, but recently it seemed they were getting softer and softer and...she shook her head. He was still right there, and she'd found that it was often dangerous to think about him this way when he was near, as it made the inevitable conversations between them awkward.
She spent the afternoon swimming and bending with him in the stream near their campsite, Toph keeping watch not too far from them, but not too close, either. She knew that the time would perhaps be best spent training for battle, but fighting was something Aang did only out of necessity and she knew it tired him and it often dampened his spirits when all he could show towards his friends was aggression, even if it was only practice. So instead, they played together and laughed and joked and enjoyed the refreshing coolness of the stream, deciding to leave sparring for another day.
Afterwards, Aang helped her prepare dinner and they took turns bathing (except for Toph) before bed. When Katara was sure that her friends were asleep, she crept a short distance away from their circle and fished the book out of her bag. The pages were a little dusty from being thrown on the road, but there was no real damage and upon opening it, Katara noticed the familiar symbols of the twelve astrological signs. She knew she was year of the sheep, and she knew what traits were supposedly associated with her sign, all of that was laid out in the first two pages of the book. But then, what about the rest? How could they possibly fill a whole book, albeit a small one, with this? Before she could turn the page to find out, however, another thought occurred to her. What sign was Aang? He'd never told her himself. She'd heard in passing that powerful people were often born under powerful signs. It made sense. He was probably dragon or something, he was the avatar after all. She flipped through the pages to the back of the book, where the past one hundred years were listed with their signs next to them. But Aang was over a hundred, as impossible as it was for her to believe when she thought about it. The closest was year of the ox. Katara noted the order in which the signs appeared and deduced, to her surprise, that Aang was not dragon, nor ox, not even horse. No, Aang, her Aang, was year of the rabbit. Interest piqued, she flipped back to the first pages to read the description of the sign. "Rabbits are understanding, gentle, and unfailingly kind. They make excellent companions for almost all signs, but must not be underestimated because they are also extremely intelligent. They cannot bear living a dull life and are love humor and mischief. They are soft-spoken, welcoming, romantic and peaceful by nature. They hate arguing and have the capacity to turn enemies into friends. However, rabbit are also impulsive and often have difficulty focusing. They run from things that they find unpleasant or difficult to face, which can push others away."
Aang is brave, though. She thought to herself. He had stopped running ages ago. She felt an irrational anger at the book for essentially calling Aang cowardly. Whoa. She caught herself. When had she gotten so protective of him? This wasn't Aang's personality profile, it was just a silly description of his sign. That just so happens to fit him pretty well. A small voice in the back of her head told her. Yes, Aang had overcome his flaws exceptionally well, but that didn't mean they had never existed, and one did have to take the good with the bad in anyone's case. What stuck out more to her though, was the word romantic. Was Aang romantic? She supposed so...now that she stopped to think about it. He had made her that necklace that one time and he had called her beautiful and there was that dance in the cave...she blushed at the memory. She could only begin to imagine what a few years and more experience would do for him. Not wanting to get too absorbed in this fantasy of an older Aang. Aang however, she turned the page, still curious about what filled the rest of the little book. Compatibility. Read the characters at the top of the page. Katara blushed, but was instantly intrigued, brushing off the nagging thought that Sokka had hit upon some truth with his comment earlier. She skimmed to her sign and was about to begin reading when a familiar, round face with gray eyes appeared before her, peering curiously at her over the top of the book. She jumped in surprise, and Aang smiled at her.
"Watcha doing?" He asked in a whisper. Katara pulled the book closer to her.
"Nothing." She hissed.
"You're reading something." Aang observed as if he hadn't heard her. "Can I see?" He touched the pages with his fingers and without thinking, Katara slammed it shut on them.
"Ow!" he exclaimed. "Forget mastering the elements. Apparently someone just needs to get Ozai to interrupt you when you're reading." Katara almost smiled. It was amazing how quickly Aang could get her to let her guard down.
"Sorry." She muttered, but kept the book tightly closed. To her dismay, he sat next to her, not at all put off by her rudeness.
"I'm fine." He assured with a chuckle. "Just a few broken fingers is all." Katara smirked and elbowed him playfully.
"Really, though." He said after a minute. "What's in it?" Katara hugged her knees to her chest, effectively trapping the book between her lap and torso.
"It's silly. It's just…about you know…the star signs and stuff." She mumbled. Aang brightened.
"Cool! What sign are you?" He asked. Eager to distract Aang with conversation, she answered him.
"I'm sheep." Aang nodded.
"I think I'm rabbit, but I'm not sure. It was really just an Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation thing a hundred years ago."
"Oh." Katara said simply, unsure of where else to go. "I'm um…going to bed, Aang. I'll see you in the morning?" She offered him an uneasy smile, mentally kicking herself. Aang didn't deserve to be shut out or blown off just because she was embarrassed. His shoulders slumped and she felt a pang of guilt.
"Oh, alright." He said quietly. Katara wanted to say something to comfort him, but nothing came to her. She turned away, but before she could retreat, Aang said her name in a hushed whisper. She turned back to him.
"What?" She asked. Aang rubbed the back of his neck nervously
"I don't know if this is it, but you don't have to be embarrassed about reading zodiacs and stuff. I don't think it makes you any less smart or helpful or…or anything." Katara gave him a small smile.
"Thanks, Aang. I'm sorry I snapped at you." He shrugged.
"It's alright." He murmured. "Well…goodnight." Katara nodded.
"Sweet dreams, Aang." She lay down again and waited till she heard him do the same before looking over at him, pleased to find him facing away from her. She turned away from him as well and silently as a mouse, opened her book again, wishing she was a firebender so that she wouldn't have to read by moonlight. She could barely make out the letters. Fortunately, there were many stars out and it was almost a full moon (which was perhaps part of the reason she felt so agitated), so it wasn't impossible. She flipped to where she'd left off, at the descriptions of compatibility for her sign. She skimmed over some of them absently, heart fluttering oddly when she came across rabbit. She traced the characters shakily and squinted to read the description.
"A perfect match. Rabbit is sensitive to sheep's pride and is able to work its way easily into sheep's affections through kindness and romantic gestures. It helps its partner relax and enjoy itself, while sheep keeps rabbit focused by rewarding it with the care and affection it needs to feel adequate and confident. Rabbit does not suffocate sheep and more often than not allows it to lead, making it feel comfortable and at ease. Rabbits get attached very quickly and easily, and are excellent life partners for the loyalty seeking sheep."
Katara closed the book, her hands trembling and let out a shaky breath. She got to her feet and placed the book, still open to the page she'd been reading, face down next to Aang's sleeping form before creeping back to her spot.
The first rays of morning came, as they had since late Spring, long before any of their little group actually rose. But this time, Katara opened her eyes and, remembering the night before, risked a peek over her shoulder. With a jolt, she noticed that Aang was not asleep on the ground as she'd thought him to be, but rather sitting up against Appa, wide awake and…reading the book. She had a fleeting urge to grab it from him and tell him she'd placed it next to him by accident, but restrained herself. It was no use, and something told her it had been the right thing to do. So she watched him silently, relieved that he seemed to be too absorbed to look anywhere else but the book. He was blushing, she noticed, from his neck to the tip of his arrow. After a minute, he flopped down on Appa's tail with a sigh, folding the book over his chest. Appa groaned and Katara quickly closed her eyes, not wanting Aang to know she was awake.
"I know buddy." She heard him say. "I'll tell her soon."