A/N: Merry Christmas! It's kinda ironic that I finally found time to update on today, of all day's...Anyway, thanks to all my reviewers, and I'll try to update soon--sooner than this time, anyway.
Also...will you tell my if the end's a little confusing? I'm not sure if I like it or not. And the incident Aang speaks of, is NOT, in fact, 'The Cave.' I think I might include a flashback...cookies to whoever guesses what it is (it's kind of mirrored in the show, like I'm sure you've guessed from the other incident taking place in a cave)!
And I'm considering giving a prize to the person that can tell me which anime uses the song (below) as an ending theme, since I'm sure not many people know it.
Everything about you, your smile, your anger If I just look up, I think you know what I mean.
Keeps me walking forward
Where the clouds start to break
I think you know what I mean.
If I just look up,
I think you know what I mean.
"How was school today?"
Katara Kuruk winced as her father's voice floated from the kitchen into the entry hall, sending waves of guilt crashing over her. Dumping her backpack on her chair, she called back, "It was fine, Dad." Why are you home so early? She added silently. Sokka could have told you, but…
"Oh, really? Fine, hmm? Well, I don't see how you could know, see as, according to Sokka, you missed half of it." Her father's voice became sharp as he appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, eyes alight with anger. "What's happening to you, Katara? I just don't understand. Why are you skipping school? Is it Jet?"
Oh no…Katara remained silent, striding past her father into the kitchen. Following her as she paused at the sink and began filling a glass of water, he admonished, "Now you talk to me, young lady. I don't want you skipping school anymore, and as of now, you're grounded."
"What?!?!" Katara yelped, spinning to face him and tossing the cup in the sink, the plastic ricocheting off the bottom with a loud 'plink.' "You can't be serious! Why, Dad? I can't be grounded!" Aang….Jet…Toph…oh sweet Agni, what have I done?
"So now you talk," Hakoda noted, arms crossing. "Katara, I can't let you go on with skipping. You're a good student and I don't want you going down the wrong path."
"But….but….Dad…" brain whirling, she tried to come up with an adequate excuse. "I have a boyfriend. I have a social life. Toph knows people, and there are parties –"
"Parties I don't want you going to," her father interrupted. "Obviously, you're under a bad influence. And I don't want you hanging out with Toph anymore without your brother or me there."
"But she's Sokka's own girlfriend!" Katara cried, outraged by the injustice of it all.
Hakoda let out a slow stream of air. "I know that, Katara. I think she's a fine girl, but that doesn't mean that everything she does is saintly."
"I--" she broke off, staring at the tiled floor. I guess... she admitted reluctantly to herself, I guess...I kind of deserve this... Drawing in a deep breath, Katara inquired softly, trying desperately to level out her anger with reason, "How long am I grounded?"
Hakoda raised his eyebrows, obviously surprised at his daughters sudden change of attitude towards her punishment. Observing her as if seeing her for the first time, her father stated, "two weeks. No dates, no parties, no friends, just home."
"Can my friends come here?" Waggling her eyebrow, Katara tried to look like she didn't care either way.
"Yes," he decided. "I don't see any harm in that. But only with either myself or your brother here as well."
Nodding, Katara trudged up the stairs. Throwing open the door to her room, she flopped down on her blue bedspread buried her face in her pillow, and groaned. "What is wrong with me?" If only I'd decided to wait and go tonight… Sighing, she reached lifted her head from her pillow and reached across the bed for the phone. I have to tell Jet that tonight is cancelled. But instead, she found herself dialing Aang's number.
Ring…ring…ring… then, a curious voice answered, "hello?"
"Aang?" Katara asked uncertainly, winding the phone cord around her fingers.
"I…well…wanted to tell you…"
"Tell me what?" his voice was tinged with suspicion, almost as if he expected her to say something further to hurt him.
"Well, first, I want to say thanks for coming with me…" Katara hesitated. "And I just wanted to tell you that if you want to see me, you need to come over here, because I got grounded for two weeks."
"Oh no!" Aang gasped, sounding truly concerned. "I feel so bad! I should have stopped you – now you're in trouble because of me!"
"It's not your fault, Aang," Katara assured, hugging her pillow to her chest. "I shouldn't have skipped. I should have waited…I guess I just felt like I needed my feelings sorted out, y'know?"
"Yeah," he replied softly, "I know."
There was a long pause. Finally, Katara asked, "Did you get in trouble?"
She could nearly see Aang shrug. "Gyatso never found out. And I don't think he would care. He knows I only skip if it's important."
"Aang…" Katara began, not really knowing what she was going to say. "Do you think...my father might let me go if it was you...would you like to go to the State Park this weekend?" She blinked. It had popped out before she even thought about it. I thought my feelings were supposed to be gone now! As in, not there! "I mean, as friends," she added quickly.
"The state park," he mused, pausing for a moment. "That was the place..." Aang trailed off, obviouslt uncertain.
"Just...just forget it, Aang," Katara squinted her eyes and buried herself deeper in the bed, uncomfortable despite the physical distance between them.
"I...alright." He hesitated. "So..this weekend...I guess we could just kayak or go caving. I'll bring my gear if you'll bring Sokka's boat with you."
"I'll ask him," Katara assured her friend, slightly troubled over what this meeting could mean--to herself and others--but unwilling to back out now when Aang was already so wary of her.
"So..." he cleared his throat. "I broke up with Meng."
"W-what?" Katara stammered, finger nails digging into her palm and her grip on the phone tightening.
"Yeah. It, err, wasn't working. And then, today..." Aang paused, and asked her daringly, "What did you think of her?"
"What do you mean?" Katara countered, still stunned and slightly confused.
"I never found out...how you felt about Meng and my relationship," he pointed out, voice crackling--from phone static or perhaps even the tension between them Katara didn't know.
"I..I never thought she was..right for you...Aang," she mumbled, eyes closing briefly as she fought back the memories of the jealousy that had so often overcome her when near her old friend's girlfriend.
"Oh...well...then...then that's good, isn't it?" he laughed nervously.
There was a long silence.
"Goodbye, I guess," Katara said awkwardly, still unsure of what all of this could mean. Everything's just getting so...messed up...
"W-wait!" Aang cried. "Katara...how are you and Jet doing?"
She felt her mouth drop open. What...the...hell... "Okay. Why do you want to know?" Katara tacked on, determined to find out.
"Just curious." He replied easily, obviously trying to lighten the atmosphere. "Well...g'bye."
There was the click that signaled the end of the call, then…silence.
"Goodbye," Katara whispered, even though only the ring dial and the empty of her of her bedroom were left to hear it.
Lying down on her back and staring at the ceiling, Katara closed her eyes briefly. There was nothing to do….no one to talk to….she couldn't leave the house...
Sighing, she got up from the bed and stretched, glancing towards the window surreptitiously. "Oh, well," she muttered to herself, sitting back down on the bed gently, smoothing the comforter beneath her. Slowly lying back, her hair splayed across the pillow, for a moment as her vision shut against the bright sunlight falling in shafts on her bedspread, everything was so peaceful - so without the confusion and indecision that she had learned to live with - Katara felt she could stay there forever, without having to come out and face the harsh and bitter truth that was reality.
Suddenly, a sharp, piercing ring echoed throughout the room.
"Arrgh!" Leaping up, alarmed, Katara let out a breath she'd been holding as she realized that it was only the phone. "H-hello?" she spoke into it, still shaken.
"Katara!" Aang sounded breathless. "I almost forgot--the mall!"
"The...mall?" Katara's brow furrowed. Wait...oh, that mall! "What about it?"
"We have to organize a meeting!" he told her. "I'll put up posters or talk to the student council or--or something! And...and the animals--yes, this has got to work!"
"Right," she agreed quickly. "I'll talk to Sokka and see if Jet can ask the hockey team about it. I'll...I'll do whatever I can, Aang."
There was a moment where neither of them spoke. Then, her oldest friend asked quietly, "You will?"
Heart beating wildly for a reason she could not name, Katara reassured him, "Yes, Aang. Yes I will."
Yet another period of quiet followed, but this one was far more comfortable and friendly then the last. It warmed Katara's heart to know that she and Aang were still capable of such a thing, even after the events that had strained their friendship nearly to its breaking point.
"Okay, well, I'll see you tommorrow, I guess," Aang told her. Katara could here the smile in his voice, and felt a sudden rush of affection for the boy.
Once again the dial tone reverbrated through the phone, and, feeling better than she had before the call, Katara hung the phone up on its hook.
Normally she would have fought off any feelings of happiness unusual to her directly after talking to Aang, but she was in too good a mood to throw it away now. Besides, Katara smiled to herself, it wasn't wrong to be happy, was it? She would be fine staying with Jet and just hanging out with Aang as a friend...right? Katara groaned, holding her head in her hands. No, no, no! She was second guessing herself again! It just wouldn't do to keep brooding over this, it was fine, fine, fine, fine, fine!
"Damn," Katara growled under her breath, all joy evaporated. Everything seemed to trace back to the issue of Jet vs. Aang. She had to figure this out soon. And my fortune, Katara remembered. Normally she'd never believe in fortune telling or anything of the sort--she had lived with her concrete brother long enough for his skeptical attitude to at least somewhat sneak in--but she couldn't shake the feeling that this 'Aunt Wu' was the real thing. What about the harm that was coming to her? Who could possibly want to hurt her?
Katara counted off the people inside her head. Azula...Meng...hardly any at all, now that I think of it.
But as for potential threats...Katara hesitated, resolve wavering. Could one of them be, well...Jet? If, by some miracle, Aang won over (and she was not in love with him, she told herself firmly) then he could get mad at her, and when Jet was angry...
Katara chose not to finish that thought. But one thing was certain--regardless of whether or not she chose Aang or Jet, there was going to be trouble.
Katara slowly walked over to the window and stared out across the yard, brow furrowed in concentration as she finally allowed herself to think deeply about everything that was happening. She tried to tell herself it was normal to feel the way she did about Aang, that it was just friendly affection, and not love. She pretended, for a moment, that it didn't matter at all, and asked herself: Who would you choose then?
Aprubtly, she swiveled around, and, without even putting on her pajamas, crawled into bed. She lay there for hours, wide awake, staring at the ceiling.
The problem was, that, even after giving herself an honest answer, Katara couldn't seem to tell if it was the wrong one after all.
In the end, she fell into an uneasy sleep, with a small voice in the back of her head still forcing her to wonder if she could any longer tell the difference.