There is much talk of tattoos over at DH. It's kind of hilarious and it gave me an idea. I know it's been done, you know, Katara asks Aang about his tattoos. But I'm hoping this one will be a little different. Because those are usually serious, and as we all know, I suck at being serious.
This takes place after BITTER WORK and like... right before THE LIBRARY.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
Aang glanced up in surprise. Katara was smiling down at him, one hand shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight directly above. They had just reached the edge of the Whistling Prairie, named for the unusual singing groundhogs Aang wanted to see. The dry season was about to end, but the plains were still very hot during the day, so Sokka had elected to camp at the edge of the forest until the next morning. Aang had agreed, so they had a day to relax. After all, it was Aang's mini vacation.
"Stranger?" Aang repeated in confusion. Katara sat down beside him on the ground, soft from centuries of fallen pine needles. Aang had been sitting in the cool shadows of the trees for nearly an hour, staring thoughtfully at the sunlit plains.
"We haven't really talked in ages," Katara replied lightly, following his gaze out to the windswept prairie. She smiled at the sight, reveling in the warm wind sliding over them and into the forest.
"You're right, we haven't," Aang agreed, leaning back on his hands. "We should try to avoid that in the future."
Katara laughed lightly. "Okay," she said. "I'm glad you picked this place, Aang. It's kind of… perfect."
"For what?" he asked, smiling comfortably. He had missed this.
"Talking," she replied lightly, shrugging. They shared a laugh, further relaxing the atmosphere.
"Okay, what's on your mind?" Aang asked at length. Katara looked at him, her eyes traveling over him with enough scrutiny to make him more than a little nervous.
"Your tattoos," she finally replied, taking one of his hands in hers and studying it curiously. "I've been wondering about them since the day we met."
Aang smiled at her, feeling just a little self-satisfied that he had caught her attention so quickly. "What are you wondering?"
She pushed his sleeve up to his elbow, fingertips tracing the blue line up his forearm. He laughed a little, and she smiled.
"I don't know… I don't want to ask about your personal tattoos," she said quietly. "That would feel kind of… disrespectful."
Aang nodded a little. "The tattooing ritual is pretty personal… I don't think I could tell you much about it," he confirmed for her. He smiled then, impressed. "You seem to know a lot about Air Nomads."
She laughed a little, still focused on his hand and arm. "No, I just know a lot about common courtesy," she replied, giving his hand a squeeze that passed so quickly he might have imagined it. "I just wonder about them in general. What do they mean?"
Aang smiled fondly. He had no idea she was so interested.
"Well… you get the tattoos when you become a master airbender," Aang explained lightly. "The arrows symbolize the path of spiritual energy flowing through the body."
Katara smiled. "It does make it easier to heal you if I can map the channels of chi with your arrows," she joked.
"Glad to be of assistance," he laughed.
"Is that all?" she wondered aloud, glancing at him.
He looked thoughtfully forward, gaze settling again on the golden prairie. "I was eleven years old, almost twelve. One of the youngest airbending masters in a very long time," he said quietly. He fell silent, mind falling back a hundred years to his people. She recognized the look and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze he was sure he hadn't imagined. He smiled faintly, silently indicating his thanks for the gesture. "I don't know if they took my age into account when I got my tattoos."
"What do you mean?" she asked, puzzled. He glanced back at her and gave the hand she was holding a shrewd look.
"Well… airbenders usually didn't become masters until they were around sixteen," he began cautiously. "So they uh… had more time to build up a tolerance to pain."
Katara's eyes widened in realization. "Oh…" she muttered. She looked at him. "That must have been terrible. Were you okay?"
Aang smiled, but turned it into a rather exaggerated grimace that made Katara laugh. "Well… the details are kind of fuzzy," he admitted. "It took a couple weeks to heal completely. I mean… it's a lot of tattoos. I won't pretend I wasn't in a lot of pain, but after the first week, something changed." He stopped, frowning thoughtfully. "I can't remember what it was. There was something that made it much more bearable."
The two of them lapsed into silence as Aang wracked his memory. There had been one defining moment that had changed everything. What was it?
"A dream," he muttered. Katara glanced at him. "I had a dream, and it made me feel better."
"A good dream, then?" Katara asked quietly, smiling.
He laughed a little. "Yeah… I just wish I could remember what it was about…"
They fell silent again. Katara seemed rather content to just sit with him, so he felt free to think about it.
"I was sitting somewhere…" he began slowly. "No specific place, everything was just kind of… blank. Like I was in a fog, maybe…" Katara listened silently, smiling out at the prairie to give him space to remember.
"But there was someone else there," he said suddenly. "A girl… not much older than me, I guess. I'd never seen her before. But she sat in front of me, and she took my hand, and she said… something… I can't remember. Her hands were warm… but they felt like water, and I started feeling better."
Katara was frowning just a little, but he couldn't imagine why. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he registered that it was because he was talking about another girl, but he was too focused on remembering her to figure it out.
"She was wearing a white dress," he said slowly. "Yeah… because she kind of blended in with everything else. Except she didn't, because she was really pretty. She had this dark skin and these bright blue eyes, and such a beautiful voice…" Aang sighed, smiling fondly at the memory. Katara didn't respond, still frowning slightly until Aang sat bolt upright.
"What?" she asked, startled. He stared at her, wide-eyed.
"It was you!" he gasped.
"What?" she repeated after a long pause.
"You, you were the girl in my dream!" he continued, pointing wildly at her and then waving his arms to indicate the dream.
"Aang, that's impossible," she said calmly. "I wouldn't even be born for like… eighty-some years when you had that dream."
"No no, I'm positive," he rambled on. "It was you, I know it. She was wearing your mother's necklace! And the girl in my dream spoke to me, you know what she said?"
Katara shook her head, mystified.
Aang grinned. "Hey, Stranger."
Her eyes widened. "You're joking."
"No! Can you believe it?" he laughed out loud in sheer amazement. "I really was meant to be frozen for a hundred years. So I could thank you for healing me in person."
Katara laughed a little herself, not quite ready to talk yet. Aang had known her before she even existed. But then… he had been close by when she was born. He had been close by all her life. All her mother's life. All her grandmother's life. He had been there, the whole time, waiting for her.
"Wow," she finally said.
"Yeah," Aang replied, breathless. "So… thank you, Katara."
"Don't mention it," she replied faintly. Then, very suddenly, she sat up a little straighter, a blush spreading over her cheeks, and smirked at him. "You think my voice is beautiful?"
The smile fell from Aang's face instantly and his mouth dropped open. "Uh…" he began, blushing.
"And you think I'm pretty?" she continued, grinning at him. "You like my skin and my eyes?"
"Well, you sure know how to sweet talk a girl," she said lightly, leaning over and kissing his cheek. "Calling me your Dream Girl and all."
Aang's mouth dropped open again, and she laughed a little as she got to her feet.
"We should talk like this more often," she said quietly, smile never leaving her face.
Aang sighed as she walked back toward the campsite. "Dream Girl…" he muttered to himself. "More like Forever Girl." He laughed a little. "That's not too bad, I'll have to remember that one…"