Katara was drowning on dry land.
She couldn't sleep in the Fire Lord's abandoned summer home. Aang was sleeping with Appa in the courtyard, where Toph had camped out in her usual stone tent. Sokka and Suki had disappeared, and Zuko was in the room next door.
Zuko had given everyone a choice of rooms when he gave them a tour of the guest wing. They were all similar in furnishings, but each was decorated in its own theme. Katara had chosen a room decorated in gold. Real gold. More gold than she had ever seen in her life.
There was no linen in the bathroom, but she had found a clean silk robe, and bent the water off her skin and hair before returning to her bedroom.
She had been surprised to find Zuko making her bed. She was not surprised to find Aang helping him.
The bed was enormous. Six people could sleep comfortably in it and never touch each other. It was draped with insect netting, embroidered with gold thread and covered with pillows. After months of camping, followed by the sparse furnishings of the abandoned temple, a real bed in a private room was a treasure. Katara had burrowed down into its depths expecting to fall into deep, luxurious sleep.
Now she was watching the moonlight illuminate blood-red sheets, and no amount of decadence could bring comfort. Zuko and Aang had worked together to make this bed for her, and she began to believe that she could feel the difference between the cool, airy spaces and the hot, smooth ones.
Katara knew that they had done this as an innocent act of courtesy. Zuko was trying to be a good host, and Aang was just being good. They had no idea that Water Tribe tradition gave great significance to the making of a young woman's bed.
As a child, her mother made her bed. Then Gran-gran made her bed. On the road, she made it herself. Someday, she would be a bride, and her new husband would make her bed in a ritual of dressing and undressing that added new pelts to a pile as it removed layers of fabric and fur from her body.
She could not breathe; the sheets would smother her.
Katara slept on the floor.