A/N: Well, I don't really know how to introduce this one except to say that I've found that I really enjoy writing Avatar. Aang's character is really fun to write, and I've been playing with the idea of what he would be like as an adult. This is what came out of that…
To Make her Smile
She was always beautiful.
Closing his eyes, he could still see the way her skin glistened in the sun and glowed the moonlight. Her eyes were always kind and sincere, but determined and strong. Mahogany hair was always soft under his fingers and he could still remember how the breeze would catch it and carry her scent wherever she went. Her presence was always comforting and loving, and her absence disheartening and empty.
He loved the way she bit her lip and crinkled her nose whenever she was deep in thought and how her ears would get pink whenever she felt particularly passionate about something… which was usually everything. He had always admired her passion. It ignited her eyes, flames of ardor dancing in seas of ocean blue.
But what he missed the most was her smile… the way the light would travel to her eyes, casting a natural glow all around her. Her entire body seemed to be happy whenever she smiled and he was sure that her laughter would melt the coldest heart.
He loved making Katara smile…
Which is why Aang had spent over two hours staring at the thin roll of parchment, rolling it in between his hands, and rereading it dozens of times… trying to decide how he could honor his best friend's wish.
I have wonderful news! I can't tell you everything because of a certain promise I made… but I can tell you that there is going to be a wedding soon! Next month in fact. I know that you are busy with Avatar duties and bringing democracy back to the Fire Nation, but it just wouldn't be the same without you. It's been too long. I hope to see you soon. I'll be watching the skies with a hopeful eye.
Aang sighed for the millionth time that evening as he again rolled the letter back up and then unrolled it again. The sun was sinking low on the horizon, casting the hillside in colors that rivaled the Nation's element. He had long-since decided that the Fire Nation was most beautiful at sunset. He leaned over the thin railing of the balcony, his back to the room in the palace that he was currently calling home.
"There's going to be a wedding soon…" He mumbled the words out loud as his fingers traced over the worn out sentence. He groaned and rolled the parchment up yet again, "What wedding?! Whose wedding?!" Frustrated he rubbed at his temples as a certain faithful lemur pounced onto his shoulder.
"What am I going to do Momo?" he moaned.
Momo chirped to himself as he flicked his tail.
"Well of course I want to see her!" Aang answered defensively. "It's just… It's been six years. I've changed a lot you know…" he trailed off as he looked back down at the letter.
"Six years is a long time," he said absentmindedly, recalling the promise he had made to Katara the last time he had seen her…
The palace was ablaze.
…Ablaze with people, food, dancing, fireworks, music… all in celebration of the commencement of the new Fire Lord. The night was filled with hope, joy, love, and pure excitement. It had only been three weeks since the fall of Fire Lord Ozai, and the Fire Nation had seemingly forgotten his years of tyranny and warfare as they celebrated the rise of his very own son in his place.
Aang and his friends were utterly exhausted, glad to enjoy a night without political conferences or arresting Ozai's still-faithful followers. It reminded Aang of his dance for the schoolchildren before the invasion. He felt like a normal kid at a normal party. And of course he danced…
Whirling Katara around the dance floor, laughing and blushing and honestly having the times of their lives, was all he intended on focusing on that night. How they got on the subject of returning home… he had no idea…
Katara laughed lightly as the song ended, her breath coming in short puffs and her brow glistening under the party lights. Aang smiled at her warmly, "You want to go sit down for a while? You seem a little out of breath…"
Her energy didn't seem to match her desire to stay on the dance floor, so she nodded in agreement and allowed Aang to lead her over to a set of tables on the other side of the room as a new song started to drift around them.
She sighed contently as she sat down, Aang taking his seat across from her. Katara smiled at him as she wiped her brow, "You know… Once we get back to the Southern Water Tribe maybe you can have parties like this all the time!"
"What do you mean?" Aang asked.
"Well, I mean once we get all this political stuff wrapped up… Then we can go back home. I really miss Gran Gran and I know that Sokka is dying to show Dad what all he's done with the village since he left."
"Oh…" Aang's eyes fell to the table as he suddenly realized that he had no home to go to once he was done saving the world. He had no family to welcome him back and congratulate him on a job well done. The Air Temple he grew up in was painfully empty and just thinking about it caused his chest to ache. "Yeah… I'm sure your Gran Gran misses you too…" he forced a weak smile as he lifted his gaze.
"Aang…" Katara suddenly dropped the tone of her voice, somewhere between that of a mother and a friend, as she grabbed his hand comfortingly, "You know that you have a home with us. Sokka and I… we're your family."
His heart skipped a beat at her physical contact and he smiled sadly as he met her eyes, "I know Katara…"
As she returned his smile warmly, Aang suddenly realized how much he missed the Air Nomads. He sighed as he reminded himself that their love was not lost… just born anew in the eyes he was currently locked into. He decided that if he felt this much pain and loss, Katara must feel just as homesick. The only difference, of course, being that she still had a home to go to.
Without him realizing it, Aang made a very mature and selfless decision, "Katara… go home."
Katara's confusion was evident in the wrinkle in her brow, "What?"
Aang smiled genuinely at her and clasped her hand in between his own, "Go home Katara. You and Sokka… go see your family and your home. I'll meet you there when I'm through here!"
Realizing Katara's nature, he awaited her defensiveness and arguments with ease.
"But Aang…" was all she managed to come up with.
Aang was more than surprised at her lack of words, reasoning her desire to see her family must be more than he originally anticipated. "Go home Katara," he encouraged over the dull roar of the music, "It will only take a few weeks. I'll meet you there. I promise."
Katara sighed, unable or unwilling to argue. Suddenly a smile spread its way across her face, and Aang swore the entire room lit up as she leaned across the table, kissed him on the cheek and wrapped him up in a tight embrace. "Thanks Aang," she whispered.
'Anything to make you smile,' Aang thought as he hugged her back.
Momo squawked loudly, bringing Aang back from his memories…
"It will only take a few weeks…" he said softly. "What happened to those 'few weeks'?" he asked out loud.
Weeks had turned to months. Months turned to years and before Aang knew it, he had turned 18 and hadn't seen his friends since that night in the Fire Nation Palace.
Although, not a day went by that he didn't think of her. Countless letters had kept him informed of all the improvements that the Northern Water Tribe had helped implement in Katara's village. She told stories of how Sokka had really grown into his role as one of the village's prominent leaders. Aang made sure to tell her of all his adventures and all the prestigious people he had met along the way. He and Zuko had eventually been forced to resign their differences and work towards a new free Fire Nation. His uncle had gladly accepted Aang's proposal for a Firebending teacher, and he had spent the first several months learning his final element and perfecting his craft. That's what had started the past six years for him…
He had built Ba Sing Se back from the ashes, banishing the Dai Lei and helping the Earth King resume his place on the throne. New Ozai went back to being Omashu with the help of King Bumi. Somewhere along the way, Aang had somehow convinced himself that if he looked hard enough, he might find some Air Nomads hiding in the mountainous terrain somewhere in the Earth Kingdom. He had looked fervently for over two years with no such luck, but his hopes remained high. He had already done so much.
And it all happened so fast… yet not so fast at all.
It had been six long years and there was still so much to do… When the Avatar has been gone for 100 years, Aang figured that it's only natural that he would have some "catching up to do".
"A wedding…" he muttered, hoping against all odds that Katara hadn't finally found someone who could give her everything she deserved: a marriage, a family, a normal life.
He scolded himself mentally at his sudden selfish thought, feeling even more miserable. "She deserves that and so much more… More than what the Avatar can give her," he mumbled tirelessly as he ran his fingers along his brow, the sun finally disappearing behind the Palace walls.
Momo chirped to life beside him, jumping up on his shoulder. "But if she's found someone who can make her happy… Well… I guess that's good enough for me."
He sighed heavily as he grabbed the rolled up parchment and stuffed in his tunic, "Well Momo," he said suddenly, "Maybe I should find some warmer clothes before we leave, huh?"
Momo chirped loudly in agreement as Aang let a small smile emerge at the thought of seeing Katara smile again.