The Avatar Returns - Never thought I'd see you again
返回的頭像 - 從沒想過我會再次見到你
The turtle ducklings swam gleefully through the water after their mother, quaking as Katara lightly bent the water bubbles floating around them. Their tiny bills snapping at the air. It was seven years ago today that he left her behind. She was even wading in the water as she had being before. The ducklings back then were now the adult ducklings guiding their children through the water.
Time had passed so quickly for them, but for her it felt as if every day had being weighed down by heavy stones of anger, sadness and betrayal.
"Katara," Aang's voice startled her, the water she'd had suspended in the air falling with a splash.
"Yes Aang?" she asked turning to face the young airbender, a few months shy of his thirteenth birthday. Aang remained at the entrance to the garden looking at the ground grimly.
"Katara, I have to go away for a while" he said.
Katara took a step forward, "Where are we going-" but Aang held up his hand. Katara stopped, her heart thumping against her chest, did he mean what she thought he meant? "I have to go alone Katara" he said.
"But…" she couldn't think of what to say.
The weight of his words crushed her making her feel weak and hurt.
"I'm not sure how long I'll be gone, but please know, I love you and I always will." he said.
Aang snapped his glider open, "I thought…" Katara knew Aang would know what she was talking about.
It had only being a few months since there intimate kiss on the balcony but since then...she thought they'd be together. Always. Aang turned and looked into her eyes. She soaked up his storm grey eyes before he looked away.
"I'm sorry Katara…What I have to do, I have to do alone." he left leaving Katara standing shocked and on the brink of tears.
Katara shook her head, the water droplets long gone and the ducklings at the other end of the pond weaving amongst the reeds. She needed to forget Aang; she needed to move on with her life. Eight long years she'd waited, but he'd never returned. No more waiting, in a week she'd be twenty-one. Well passed marrying age, but as a Water Tribe Ambassador she'd managed to put off marriage for far longer than she expected, alas her luck had run dry. In just a few weeks, she'd be married and become a council member of the Water Tribes, travelling only a few times a year between the two tribes.
His contagious laughter and that cheeky grin flashed in her mind. She'd always thought she'd marry him, even Aunt Wu had made the prediction and Aunt Wu was never wrong...or so she'd thought. Perhaps the man she was going to marry was a powerful water bender?
Sighing she sank down onto the bank of the pond. A single duckling came forward and she rubbed it's soft head. She'd heard about him from time to time, for awhile he'd almost completely disappeared again but a few years ago his name started popping up again. Helping in villages, mostly in the Earth Kingdom.
"Katara," Katara quickly wiped away her tears and stood.
Zuko walked calmly through the gardens, as Fire Lord he'd being working tirelessly to turn around the Fire Nation as a people and to repair it's image. Not many trusted the Fire Nation however. Some scars would take far longer too heal, but in time the anger over the war would fade. After months of being in the Fire Nation, Zuko had become accustomed to Katara's presence and had watched as her usually sunny disposition had faded into a dark somber mood as this day approached. He hated seeing her so down, she beaten. This wasn't the Katara he knew and considered his friend. This was not the master water bender than many knew and revered.
Zuko smiled sadly, knowingly and embraced her. Her tears stained his shirt. Together they sat on the bank of the pond and watched the ducks, letting their calming quiet of the garden, "I know this has being hard for you, but perhaps this new shift in your life will be for the better."
Katar twirled some water around her finger, "Perhaps," She sighed, "I hope it does. I hate feeling this way Zuko."
"I know, I know how much it aches, but it's time to let him go. He's the Avatar and if he wants to continue his journey alone we need to respect that."
Katara nodded, "You're right."
"I know you've been down lately, but there are two very important people here that will make you feel better." he said smiling. Katara looked questioningly at Zuko, "They are eager to talk with you about wedding planes."
Katara grinned, "They're here?"
"Yes, they were on their way back from the Earth Kingdom and dropped in to accompany us to the Water Tribe."
She hadn't seen Sokka or Suki for almost a full year. Being an ambassadors for the water tribe meant they'd all being travelling between the four nations almost exclusively for the better part of eight years. She and Sokka rarely crossed paths much anymore what with her remaining mostly in the Northern Tribe and the Fire Nation and he in the South and in the Earth Kingdom. She'd only briefly being home for a few months two years ago when her father had talked to her of marriage.
Of which, seeing her home mostly rebuilt and back operating under a structured front she felt it time she, like Yue all those years ago, showed her people that she was ready to take her place as a chief member of the Southern Water Tribe and her first action in becoming that role model was to marry.
Zuko and Mai had already agreed to accompany her back to the Water Tribe and attend the wedding which would all be finished with in the week of her birthday. By the time of her third day of marriage, she would be back in the Fire Nation helping plan more peace and reconstruction policies and by the fifth she would be in a boat heading to the Earth Kingdom to assist in the restoration of the colonies and after that, she'd return to the South.
Katara and Zuko walked through the palace; the west wing was kept for important guests. The rooms were large, with private bathing rooms and easy access to the palace gardens. Being friends with the Fire Lord definitely had it's perks.
"It's hard to believe sometimes" Zuko muttered.
Katara looked over at him. "What is hard to believe?" she asked.
Zuko smiled, "That the world is free" he said making Katara smile. She and Zuko had come to level footing with each other over the past eight years. Learning to navigate the world of military and politics had made them firm friends and neither particularly liked being in those stuffy meetings without the other's support.
As soon as she stepped inside her brother's room, she was instantly embraced by her brother. "It's good to see you Sokka" she said a tear running down her cheek.
Sokka stepped back, "Look at you, you're a lady!" indeed she had.
She had gotten taller and filled out in areas. Her curves had become more defined and her face less child-like.
She grinned, "Look at you, you're all grown up, you're man!" she said.
Blushing Sokka grinned, approaching twenty-one and had really grown into a handsome fellow. He lifted his arms and bulged his muscles, "I've being known to work out from time to time, do a few chin-ups if there's a branch handy."
He still kept his hair in a wolfs tail and still wore the same outfit but he was taller and more muscular, his face more angular and masculine. That teenager goofball that she'd saved the world with had turned into a man. He suddenly started fanning himself, "Can we crack a window in here cause I am flaming." Sokka grinned, "Get it, cause we're in the Fire Nation." He laughed.
Katara and Suki shared a look as he cackled. "Forget what I said about grown-up."
Suki's short hair brushed the shoulders of her green dress. "So, how are you?"
Everyone paused and stared.
Suki mentioning the topic again made Katara want to burst into tears. But she had learned enough self control not to loose it publicly.
"I'm fine, just dandy. Shall we have lunch?"
Sokka slapped his hands together, "As long as there's meat!"
As Zuko and Sokka lead the way Suki leant into Katara, squeezing her hand.
"Don't worry your dad would never pick anyone less than perfect." she said reassuringly.
Katara shrugged, "As long as he's not a jerk, it should be fine." Sokka appeared beside her, his arm wrapping around Katara's shoulders.
"Come on we have loads to catch up on" he said guiding them all over to a table set with tea and spicy food.
For hours they caught up on everything that had being going on, always avoiding mentioning the Avatar. Katara knew they'd all seen and met with him at various points but they knew she didn't want to know. It was worse knowing he'd seen them while purposefully avoiding her. "We plan to visit the southern Water Tribe for the winter." Sokka said.
"Isn't that when the baby is due?" Zuko asked. Suki and Sokka nodded. "Sokka wants the first child to be born in the Water Tribe," Suki said and looked lovingly at Sokka. It made Katara fill with joy and jealousy and several other emotions.
As the food was cleared, Mai joined them a wriggling toddler, Ursa, named after Zuko's mother on her hip. The little girl was a tyrant in the best ways and had already begun to display fire bending abilities. The group chatted and discussed the plan for Katara's wedding, all of which would be sent via messenger hawk so preparations could begin.
"Katara, which design for your ceremonial dress do you prefer" Suki asked, displaying three sketches.
Katara shrugged, "I don't know, whichever, I don't really mind." Everyone groaned, including Mai. "Katara you have to at least give us some kind of clue, it is your wedding after all" Suki said.
"Yeah, you need to at least act excited" Mai said.
It took all of Katara's self control not to mumble a discourteous comment to the otherwise blasé Fire Lady.
"Katara you know your father wouldn't choose just anybody, you have to trust that he's made a good choice." Zuko said.
Not being from the water tribes, Zuko and Mai hadn't fully understood Katara's choice to agree to the arranged marriage. It'd taken them both weeks to come around to the idea, even now Katara could see that if given the chance, Zuko and Mai would appose it. A part of her considered apposing it as well, but the Southern Tribe needed her and she needed to show them that she is someone worth following and by following Water Tribe customs she would do just that.
Katara nodded, "This one" she said, pointing to one of the pictures, "Ah finally!" Sokka sighed, while Suki quickly slipped it onto the 'confirmed' pile.
The questions kept coming and Katara answered, not really thinking about them. As the sun began to set, Suki packed away the pile of papers and notes. "We'll continue this tomorrow, I think we've had enough for one afternoon."
Zuko shifted uneasily, "We should all probably leave to get ready for tonight." he said standing and taking Mai's hand.
Katara also stood agreeing. "Goodness it's almost five o'clock" she sighed.
"We ran over time, we'll see you guys at dinner." Sokka and Suki disappeared, lust and romance clearly on their mind.
Katara went round to her room and got dressed into her formal clothes. A dark blue silk shirt and pants with her blue robe over the top and a white belt. It was as formal as she could get in the water tribe fashions without suffocating from the heat. She slipped her shoes on and headed to the large dining chamber.
Nearing, she narrowed her eyes at the sound of the crowd. A small farewell party, that's what she'd being told a few days ago, more like an entire ballroom filled with stuffy political types and highborns.
As she entered she was announced and as she gazed over the room her suspicions were confirmed. It was more than just an intimate farewell. The entire room was packed with officials and formally dressed men and women. A sea of green and red dotted with blue. Seeing Toph, dressed in her usual green attire she hurried down to join her. As she approached Toph turned from the Fire Nation general smiling. "Sugar Queen!"
They hugged each other tightly, Katara missed Toph's bluntness especially in the stuffy meetings where a firm voice amongst was severely lacking.
Toph, who is the peace representative for the Earth Kingdom, smiled as Katara hugged her tightly. Toph had grown into a beautiful woman with long black hair and a face to envy, that didn't take away from the edge of grit that she carried. An earthy, toughness that made her the leader she was. The Fire Nation turned with a huff and disappeared.
"Thanks for saving me, not sure how much longer I could control myself from sinking him into the floor."
Katara grinned, "Always a pleasure, I didn't know you were in the Fire Nation."
Toph grinned, and said sarcastically "Trust me, I didn't think I would be either, but I heard you and Sokka were going to be here so I couldn't resist."
Katara hummed, knowing full well Toph didn't enjoy coming to the Fire Nation.
"Where is Ty Lee?" Katara asked. Ty Lee being the Fire Nation ambassador whom worked closely with Toph in the Earth Kingdom. At first Toph had absolutely detested the acrobat before discovering they both thoroughly enjoyed playing pranks. She'd proved her impassiveness and trustworthiness by remaining on Kyoshi for several years before assuming the role.
"She is caught up with business in Ba Sin Se." Toph said.
Something in the way she said it made Katara suspicious but she let it go. This was no place to begin discussing possible conflicts.
"Zuko and Mai are coming." Toph said.
Katara looked expectantly at the large double doors and sure enough Zuko and Mai appeared. The announcer tapped his stick and announced, "Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lady Mai." Zuko and Mai entered the room and were instantly surrounded by military leaders, politicians and people trying to get close to them.
Zuko greeted each in kind and listened intently to what each person had to say.
Toph and Katara joined Sokka and Suki, "I am starving." Sokka sighed as Suki yawned.
"Please let us be seated" Zuko declared.
The tables quickly fiilled with people, most scrambling to be seated at tables near the royal table. Katara and Toph sat across from each other at the top end of the table near the Fire Lord and Lady. Sokka and Suki sitting beside them. Mai sat next to Toph leaving a spare seat next to Katara. That seat is always left vacant in case he comes back. "Highly unlikely" Katara mumbled with relief. She didn't know how she'd hold it together if he walked in and sat right next to her.
As the second course was put before them Toph sucked in a sharp breath. "What?"
Toph glared at Zuko, "Did you know?" She hissed.
Zuko shrugged, "I promise I didn't think they'd attend?"
Zuko didn't look apologetic as he popped a grape into his mouth.
Toph smoothed her feet over the floor; her face fell into one of shock. "What? Who is it?" Katara asked.
Toph grabbed Katara's wrist and made to rise, "Katara I think we should…" the announcer tapped his stick and announced, "The Avatar has arrived!" he announced excitedly.