A/N: Welcome to my very first Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfiction! Just so you know, this is set shortly after the end of the series. Also, please don't expect any super-drama or drawn-out plot; this urge was entirely short & simple. A big part of the point of this is just to dip my toes into the proverbial water of this particular fandom, so I hope you understand the reason behind the lack of drama! Other than that, please enjoy, and forgive any minor errors or OOCness, I'm certainly not perfect!
Pairings: Aang/Katara, Sokka/Suki, Zuko/Mai
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender in any way; I only seek to entertain myself and others by taking a trip to their world for a short while.
"As nice as this vacation's been," Firelord Zuko began, "I really should get back to the Fire Nation. There's still a lot for me to do if we're going to clean up the messes my family has made."
Everyone was resting in the comfortable living room of Iroh's home in Ba Sing Se. The group had mostly grown silent, and remained that way for a moment after Zuko had spoken.
After Zuko had put an end to the war, everyone had returned to Ba Sing Se for some much-needed, and well-deserved, down-time. But now that the city had been restored, and the Jasmine Dragon was officially open for business, their responsibilities were calling to them again. They had already been in the city for nearly a month.
Iroh inclined his head after a moment's reflection. "You are right, Nephew," he declared. "Though I do wish you could stay."
Zuko smiled at his uncle. "Don't worry, Uncle, I'm sure we'll visit often. And of course you could come visit me once in a while, too."
"What about us?" Sokka questioned lightly from where he sat opposite Zuko. "Can we come visit sometimes?"
Zuko paused thoughtfully, before smirking and saying, "No; I don't think I can handle being around you any longer."
Sokka leaned back against the wall, draping an arm loosely over Suki's shoulders as he replied, "That's just too bad, 'cause I volunteered to organize your next birthday party."
"Thanks for the warning," Zuko replied easily.
"You're welcome," Sokka said, feigning seriousness.
Everyone chuckled for a moment, and as the humor died, Katara spoke up from where she sat beside Aang. "When are you and Mai planning on leaving?"
"The day after tomorrow," Zuko replied. "First thing."
"Gee, if you leave that early, Sokka won't get to say goodbye," Toph teased with a grin.
Sokka looked sideways at his friend. "Very funny."
Katara sat in her room a few hours later, unable to sleep. Zuko's announcement had made her realize that, sooner rather than later, she and Sokka would be returning to the Southern Water Tribe. What was keeping her up, however, was a different realization. What if going home…means saying goodbye to Aang? She had no idea where her boyfriend, the Avatar, the world's only remaining Air Nomad, intended to live. She wasn't entirely sure it was even something he'd thought about yet.
Sighing, Katara sat up and pushed aside her covers. She moved silently, hoping not to disturb Toph or Suki, and gently leaned her elbows on the ledge of the window. Her gaze swept outward, unseeing, as her mind wandered. Her thoughts caught up with her eyes, however, when her eyes landed on an unexpected sight.
Up in the branches of a nearby tree, a figure sat, leaning back against its thick trunk. This figure, partially bathed in the faint moonlight, looked a lot like Aang.
Eyes wide, Katara pushed off the window ledge and tip-toed out of the room. What's he doing up there? As soon as she was a few feet from the door, she broke into a quiet jog. In no time, she slipped out of the house.
"Aang?" Katara called softly as she stopped beneath the tree. "Is everything alright?"
Aang, who had been deep in thought, started at the unexpected interruption. Redirecting his attention, Aang shifted and looked down, into Katara's concerned blue eyes. "Katara," he breathed, before smiling softly and leaping to the ground. "Everything's fine, I was just thinking," he paused, curiosity and concern settling on his face. "What about you? Why aren't you sleeping?"
Katara looked away and shrugged faintly. "I couldn't sleep…guess I have a lot on my mind."
Gesturing to the grass beneath the tree, Aang asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
She chewed her bottom lip for a moment, internally debating her options, before she said, "Actually, yeah, I do."
Aang smiled and slipped his hand in hers, guiding her to a comfortable spot. They sat down together, releasing the other's hand so that they could face each other. Aang sat cross-legged, patiently waiting for her to begin.
Katara clenched her hands tightly, trying to keep from fiddling with her hair. "I've been thinking…I mean, it's been over a year now since we left the South Pole, and I'd really love to see Gran Gran again, but…I don't know what you're going to do, and I really don't want to say goodbye."
"Goodbye?" Aang repeated, his eyes widening. "Why would you going home mean we have to say goodbye?"
Taking a deep breath, Katara replied, "It's just that…I don't think you'd be happy there."
His expression softening, Aang replied, "I'll be happy as long as I'm with you, Katara."
"That's really sweet, Aang," Katara said with an appreciative smile, "but I know you prefer a slightly warmer climate. Besides, you wouldn't be able to earthbend."
"I could always earthbend whenever we went to visit the others," Aang assured her. "It's not like I'll need to earthbend in the South Pole."
"It's not just the earthbending, Aang," Katara reminded softly, her eyes downcast as she fought down a sudden surge of tears.
Aang looked down as well, suddenly unsure, and asked hesitantly, "Do you want me to go back with you?"
Katara's head snapped up, and a slim stream of tears slipped free. "Of course I do! It's just that I'm concerned that you'd get sick of living in ice and…I don't want to lose you."
When she'd finished, trailing off again, Aang stood silently and moved closer, settling himself beside her. As he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, he said softly, "Katara, I love you more than I love dirt and grass. I would give up anything to spend my life with you, and I would do it happily."
Wiping away her tears, Katara smiled at her boyfriend and leaned into him, letting her head rest in the crook of his neck. He tightened his arm around her, letting his hand dip down until it was curved around her waist. With his free hand, he reached out and covered both of hers, squeezing gently. Neither of them spoke for several minutes, simply enjoying each others' presence.
Then, with a gentle giggle, Katara said, "You know, this would never have worked six months ago."
Caught off-guard by her comment, Aang made a confused sound. "What wouldn't?"
"This," Katara replied, shifting and nudging his chin with her forehead. "You were still shorter than me six months ago. In another couple of months, I'm probably going to have to lean up just to kiss you properly."
Aang chuckled, leaning his cheek against her head. "In my defense, I'm like two years younger than you." Pausing, he said, "Well, physically, anyway."
Katara laughed softly, lacing her fingers through his. "I suppose you might have a point," she allowed teasingly.
Smiling half into her hair, Aang drew a deep breath before saying, "It's late; we should probably both try to get a little sleep."
"Yeah," Katara relinquished, "you're probably right. Walk me to my room?"
"I'd love to," he replied honestly, adjusting his hold on her hand as a gentle breeze helped them find their feet.
Exchanging a brief smile, they walked hand-in-hand into the house.
The following day, like the days before it, was peaceful, and before they knew it, everyone was gathered at the harbor outside of the city to say farewell to Zuko and Mai. The newly-engaged couple had a lot to do once they got home.
"Travel safe," Aang said as he and Zuko exchanged a brief hug. "And good luck."
"Thanks," Zuko replied. "We'll see you before the wedding, won't we?"
Aang smiled exuberantly. "Of course!"
"Your Majesty," the captain of the ship declared, bowing deeply as he spoke. "The ship is ready, sir."
"Thank you, Captain," Zuko replied, before returning his attention to his friends. "Thanks for everything – all of you."
"Eh, don't mention it," Sokka said, clapping Zuko on the shoulder.
After exchanging hugs and temporary farewells they stepped back to watch in silence as Zuko's ship set sail.
"It really is amazing how much has changed in just a year," Sokka declared somberly after a moment.
"Yeah," Toph agreed.
"Tell me about it," Aang said, absently reaching up to scratch Momo's head. The flying lemur-monkey chirped as if in agreement.
Iroh sniffed and wiped a single tear from his face. "I'm so proud of him…come on, we could all use a good cup of tea."
"I've been thinking," Toph declared later that night. "I haven't been home in a while now, and I have a lot that I need to talk to my parents about. Now that we've saved the world, I should go back home…at least for a little while."
"That's a good idea, Toph," Katara said.
"Well, then I guess we're gonna be heading out soon," Sokka declared, stretching exaggeratedly.
"Actually," Toph began, "I really think this is something I need to do by myself. But, if it's okay, I wouldn't be opposed to a lift."
Aang smiled. "I'm sure Appa won't mind."
"We could always drop you off on our way back to the South Pole," Sokka suggested, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. "It's about time we go home, too. Besides," he added, grinning and pulling Suki against him, "I want to introduce Gran to Suki!"
Aang's lips twitched and he looked over at Katara. "Are you ready to go home?"
Katara smiled and nodded. "I think so."
It was several days before they reached Toph's village, and when they did, Appa landed on the same hillside that they had departed from. Everyone jumped off and gathered around their blind friend.
"Are you sure you want to do this alone?" Suki asked.
"I'm sure," Toph said with a nod. A genuine smile curved her lips and she added, "Thanks, though."
"We'll miss you, Toph," Katara declared, wrapping the shorter girl in a tight hug.
"Yeah," Sokka said with a sniffle. "Group hug!"
Toph laughed, pushing back her own tears, as Sokka, Suki, Aang, and Momo joined the hug. Appa grumbled and turned, nuzzling the group. They all stepped apart and Toph rested a hand in Appa's thick fur. "Yeah, Appa," she said, "I'll miss you, too."
Appa responded by licking her.
As his laughter subsided, Aang asked, "Do you want us to come pick you up in a couple of months or what?"
"No offense, but if you're going to be living on a big island of ice, I probably won't really feel comfortable," Toph replied. "Come get me whenever you go to visit someone, and I'll send a message your way if I need anything."
"That sounds fair," Suki stated.
Katara stepped up to hug her friend one more time. "Good luck," she said.
"Thanks, Katara," Toph replied. Stepping back from the waterbender, she turned in Aang's direction and added, "And ice or no ice, you better not slack off on your practicing, Twinkle Toes!"
"I won't," Aang promised with a grin.
"Good. Alright, I'd better go. Take care, guys," Toph said, slipping her new pack over her shoulder and turning toward the bushes.
Everyone called out their goodbyes as the young earthbender disappeared into the foliage. Momo jumped down from Aang's shoulders and followed her for several feet before landing and turning back to them, ears down and chirping sadly.
Aang walked forward and knelt beside Momo. "She had some things she had to do, Momo. We'll see her again soon."
Momo cooed and climbed back onto Aang's shoulder. Aang stood and returned to the group.
"Well," Sokka said, "I guess it's time to go."
"It feels wrong to just leave her here," Katara said softly, wiping a tear off her cheek.
"I know what you mean," Aang agreed, looking out, toward the Bei Fong estate, "but she'll be alright. And we'll see her again."
Suki silently wiped away a tear as he spoke.
After a long moment, the group turned and climbed back onto Appa's back. "Come on, buddy," Aang said quietly. "Yip yip."
"Look, there it is!" Sokka declared excitedly four days later. He was leaning forward, over the edge of the saddle, pointing just slightly to Aang's right. "We made it!"
"We're really home?" Katara asked, her own excitement seeping into her voice. She and Suki gathered around Sokka eagerly.
"We should be there in just a few minutes," Aang called, guiding Appa's course toward the frozen village.
Suki pulled back and looked down at her clothes. "Am I dressed okay? Would it be appropriate if I put my uniform on?"
The Water Tribe siblings sat back and looked over at her curiously. Briefly exchanging a look, Sokka leaned forward and rested his hands on his girlfriend's shoulders. "Suki, relax," he said. "You don't have anything to be nervous about; Gran's going to love you."
Suki bit her lip in hesitation. "Are you sure?"
"I am," he promised.
"Sokka's right," Katara added. "You'll be fine."
"Hey," Aang called as Appa began his descent, "I'm not still exiled, am I?"
Katara turned to face him and smiled. "Of course not."
"Wait," Suki said, looking over at Aang before looking back to Sokka, "Aang was exiled?"
Sokka laughed awkwardly. "Yeah, I guess that wasn't exactly my best moment."
"Gee, you don't say?" Katara teased, leaning back against the side of the saddle.
Sokka opened his mouth to comment, but cut himself off as Appa touched down on the ice. Excitement bubbling up within him, he met his sister's equally excited gaze, and they chorused, "We're home!"
As the siblings celebrated, Aang turned his gaze outward, and he felt his stomach tighten at the numerous pairs of eyes that were watching them. He recognized several faces, including waterbenders from the North Pole. Standing foremost in the crowd, of course, were Katara and Sokka's father, grandmother, and new grandfather. Awkwardly, Aang said, "Hi, everyone."
"Gran Gran!" Katara exclaimed, leaping from the saddle and racing to greet the elderly woman. Katara embraced her grandmother in a crushing hug, and they were both quickly joined by Sokka.
Aang and Suki, with Momo on her shoulder, quietly let themselves down, being sure to stand back and give them their space. As they watched, Hakoda and Pakku stepped toward them.
"It's good to see you both again," Hakoda stated. "I'm glad you came back with them. Will you be staying at all?"
"If that's alright, yes," Aang replied, bowing respectfully.
Hakoda smiled. " Excellent."
"I hear you've kept up with your lessons, Aang," Pakku declared with a small, knowing smile.
"I have, Master Pakku," Aang assured, shifting his attention to his former waterbending master.
Pakku inclined his head, saying, "You no longer need to refer to me as 'Master,' Aang. Now, who is this young woman?"
Before Aang or Suki could respond, Hakoda said, "This is Sokka's girlfriend, Suki. Suki, this is Pakku, Sokka and Katara's new grandfather."
Suki bowed politely. "It's an honor to meet you, sir."
"Likewise," Pakku replied.
"Suki!" Sokka called, pushing past Pakku. "Come here; you need to meet Gran." Without waiting for a reply, Sokka grabbed Suki's hand and dragged her away.
Katara stepped up to their group a moment later, Momo in her arms. He leapt almost immediately to Aang, curling into his usual place and chirping.
"I thought they needed a couple of minutes," Katara said, gesturing towards Sokka.
"Welcome home, Katara," Hakoda said warmly, giving his daughter a tight hug.
"It's good to be home, isn't it, Dad?" Katara replied, smiling up at her father after he released her.
"It is," Hakoda responded with a nod.
A moment of calm silence descended over the group, and, in fact, it was none of them who broke it. The voice that spoke next belonged to Kanna.
"Avatar Aang," Kanna called as she, Sokka, and Suki approached. When Aang, and the others, had looked over at her, she continued. A warm, grateful smile curving her lips, she said, "Thank you for bringing my family home. And for ending the war."
Aang bowed respectfully. "You're welcome."
"Why don't you kids get yourselves settled," Hakoda began, adding loudly, "and tonight, we feast!"
The village cheered, and Hakoda and Pakku volunteered to help them unload Appa's saddle.
Hakoda sat down beside Aang the following afternoon, settling himself calmly before he spoke. "Can I ask you something, Aang?"
Aang looked over at him, one eyebrow arched curiously. "Of course," he replied.
"Tell me, please, what's going on between you and my daughter?"
Aang paled at the question. He certainly couldn't lie, but he hadn't wanted to bring that particular subject up quite this way. Taking a deep breath, he swallowed and replied, "Katara and I are together."
Hakoda inclined his head, seeming unsurprised by Aang's answer. "I see," he said. His brow furrowed marginally and he added, "I hope you realize that, as a father, I cannot approve of this simply because you happen to be the Avatar."
It was Aang's turn to incline his head. "I understand."
"Then tell me truthfully, Aang," Hakoda began, "do you love my daughter? When you imagine your future, do you see your lives intertwined?"
"Yes," Aang replied honestly. "I love Katara, and I would be completely lost without her. I'm hoping, when we're old enough, to make her my wife; because I can't imagine my future without her."
Hakoda watched Aang carefully while he spoke, and when he had finished, Hakoda smiled warmly. Dropping a hand solidly on Aang's shoulder, he said, "I know you're barely a teenager, but you're a good man, Aang. I would be proud, and honored, to have you in my family."
Aang smiled and shifted, bringing his hands together and leaning slightly forward. "Thank you," he said.
"Am I interrupting?" Katara asked as she approached them.
"Not at all," Hakoda assured her with a smile.
She returned the smile before shifting her focus to Aang. "I need to borrow you. Pakku wants to see a demonstration, and I think he wants to use us to inspire a few of his students, too."
"Sounds fun," Aang stated, standing easily.
"Mind having an audience?" Hakoda asked as he, too, stood.
"You'll just be one of many, Dad," Katara replied with a laugh. "Come on."
Aang grinned and quickly caught up to her, fully aware of Hakoda following a few paces behind them.
"I should warn you," Katara called teasingly as she and Aang took their positions, "I do have home-field advantage."
Aang grinned, not breaking eye contact. "I think I'll manage."
"Begin!" Pakku, standing again at the front of the crowd, commanded.
Katara immediately pulled up a water whip and snapped it in Aang's direction. Aang blocked with a shield of ice before swinging one hand out and spinning, sending a stream of water at his sparring opponent. Expertly bracing her hands in front of herself, Katara bent the water around her, and then, with a sparse few gestures, the water twisted mid-air and transformed into a dozen ice spears. Yanking her hands down and forward, the spears raced toward Aang.
Aang grinned, holding his hands out at his sides. He watched the spears patiently, and suddenly he leapt into motion, spinning rapidly. Water and snow swirled into a funnel and propelled him up, into the air. The spears passed harmlessly through the swirling snow.
Then Aang rolled forward, flipping to the ground and bending the funnel towards Katara. Katara braced herself and swung her arms forward. The moment Aang's feet touched the ice, the ice surged up and wrapped around him, trapping him. Simultaneously, the swirling snow descended on Katara, forming a solid ice sheath around her.
As their spectators cheered and applauded the performance, the ice around them liquefied, freeing them.
Pakku stepped forward as they gathered themselves. "Very good," he complimented, "you've both accomplished much in a very short time."
Katara and Aang bowed respectfully, chorusing, "Thank you."
"Momo, that tickles," Aang said with a laugh as Momo's tail flicked against the back of his head.
Momo clicked and purred in response, continuing to lick his paw.
Aang laughed and shook his head, returning his attention to Appa and lightly running his hand through the bison's fur. "How are you doing, buddy?"
Appa made a soft, half-asleep sound and let his eyes drift shut.
"Good," Aang replied with a smile. He turned and sat down, leaning back against Appa's front leg. Momo climbed down and curled up in Aang's lap.
Appa made a sound of greeting and Aang looked over to see Katara gently rubbing the bison's nose.
"Hey," Aang said, smiling. "Have you come to keep us company?"
"Something like that," Katara replied, moving to sit beside her boyfriend.
"You should know," Aang began, absently stroking Momo's fur, "when your dad and I were talking, I kind of told him about us."
Katara raised a curious eyebrow. "I thought we were going to tell them together?"
Aang nodded. "He asked, and I couldn't lie."
After a moment, Katara replied, "I can't believe he asked…"
Chuckling, Aang said, "Yeah, I wasn't exactly expecting it. But he said he was okay with it."
"Good," Katara stated, leaning in and kissing his cheek, "'cause I'm not about to change my mind about you."
Aang smiled at her and said, "That's good to know."
Katara returned the smile and reached up, lightly trailing her fingertips across his jaw before she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. Aang returned the kiss, reaching up and burying his hands in her loose hair even as the kiss deepened.
Momo let out a startled noise and began squirming, slipping out from between them.
The couple parted, laughing softly. "Come on," Katara said, "we should head back before Sokka sends out a search party."
Gran Gran took the news of Aang and Katara's romance with a nod and a knowing smile. For the rest of the week the Southern Water Tribe celebrated the safe return of their war heroes. Aang and Katara helped Pakku and the other waterbenders rebuild and reinforce the structures, and Sokka got to go on official hunting trips with the other soldiers.
The family was gathered in Kanna and Pakku's home, sitting around a fire shortly after dinner. Sokka glanced briefly at Suki before looking forward again. Blue eyes focused on orange flame, Sokka said, "There's something I need to tell all of you."
"What is it, Sokka?" Katara asked, looking over at her brother curiously.
"Suki and I have been talking, and I've given this a lot of thought," Sokka paused, lifting his gaze from the fire and looking around. "I'm going to leave the village."
Everyone's eyes went wide, and after a long moment Kanna said, "You'll be living in the Earth Kingdom, then?"
Sokka nodded. "Yes. And it's not like we'll never come visit; I could never turn my back on this place. It's just that…a long time ago, Dad told me that a man knows where he's needed most. And, for a long time, that was here, and with Katara, but everyone's home now. And Katara has Aang."
He cut himself off, swallowing, and Suki silently reached over and squeezed his hand. Taking a deep breath, he added, "And now, I need to be with Suki. But Suki's place is with the other Kyoshi Warriors, so we'll be living on Kyoshi Island."
Hakoda smiled at his son from across the fire. "That must have been a very difficult decision for you to make. I understand, and I couldn't be more proud of you, Sokka."
"Your father's right," Kanna agreed. "You, and Suki, will always be welcome here."
Wiping a tear from her eye, Katara moved forward and embraced her brother. "I'll miss you, Sokka."
Sokka smiled, tears brimming in his eyes, and pulled back, saying, "Save the goodbyes for when we're leaving, Katara."
Reclaiming her seat beside Aang, Katara asked, "When are you leaving?"
"Actually, we were thinking of going to Kyoshi Island at the end of the week," Sokka replied. "But I'll come back after a couple of days. Suki won't be sixteen for a few more weeks, and it'll be easier if I don't move until after her birthday, so I'll probably stay here for about two months."
"Appa and I would be happy to give you a lift if you want," Aang offered.
"That'd be great, Aang, thanks," Sokka said with a smile.
"Is that everything?" Aang asked as Sokka climbed into Appa's saddle, carrying a small pack.
"I think so," Sokka replied, handing the pack to Suki so that she could tie it down.
"Got room for one more?" Katara called, standing patiently beside Appa.
Aang, Sokka, and Suki popped their heads over the side and Aang smiled. "Always," he replied.
Katara grinned back at them and quickly joined them. "You didn't really think you'd get away without me, did you?"
Momo cooed and leapt into Katara's arms.
Sokka grinned and said, "Well, clearly Momo did, but the rest of us knew better."
Smiling, Aang said, "If we're all ready to go then we should get moving." When everyone nodded, Aang turned and propelled himself into his usual seat. Picking up the reigns, he called, "Yip yip!"
The village gathered to greet them as Appa landed near the statue of Avatar Kyoshi. The newly-returned Kyoshi Warriors, standing foremost in the crowd, bowed low as soon as the bison touched down. Aang smiled at the crowd and waved as he stood.
By the time the group set foot on the ground the warriors were standing again. The girls started forward, to greet them, and one broke free, flipping easily over the others. She pulled all four of them into a hug when she landed before them, exclaiming, "Hey guys!"
"Hey, Ty Lee," Katara replied with a half-laugh.
Ty Lee pulled back and smiled brightly. "What brings you by?"
Suki laughed and propped a fist on her hip. "I live here, remember?"
Ty Lee shrugged. "We all just figured you'd be staying at the South Pole."
Before anyone could comment, the village headman stepped up. "Avatar Aang, Katara, and Sokka, welcome back to Kyoshi Island. And Suki, welcome home."
The four of them bowed briefly and Suki said, "Thank you. It's good to be home."
Katara found Aang checking on Appa a short while later. The sky bison was lazily chewing on the remnants of a bale of hay while Aang gently stroked his fur. "Well he certainly looks happy," Katara declared as she walked up.
Aang looked up at her and smiled. "I guess it's good hay," he replied with a half-shrug.
Sitting down beside Aang and lightly leaning into him, Katara said, "The headman says our house is ready."
One eyebrow arched curiously, Aang asked, "Our house?"
Katara laughed softly and nodded. "I suppose technically it's your house," she began. "Do you remember the house we stayed in before?"
"Yeah," Aang replied slowly.
"Well," Katara said, "apparently that house is now officially considered the Avatar's house. They've been reserving it for you, and whoever comes with you. The headman said it's clean and ready for use now."
Aang sighed and leaned a little more into Katara, lightly resting his head against hers. "I'm still not really used to being celebrated."
Chuckling softly, Katara reached over and laced their fingers together as she said, "Maybe you should get out more, you know, travel the world a little."
Aang laughed. "Yeah, you might be on to something."
They sat in silence for several minutes, their joined hands resting on the edge of Aang's knee, leaning into each other and half-listening to Appa as he finished his meal.
After a little while, Aang asked quietly, "How are you handling all this?"
It was several seconds before Katara softly replied, "I'm really happy for him – for both of them. But I know it'll be hard to get used to not having my brother around. He's the only part of my family that's been with me, been there for me, through everything, you know? It'll be hard to get used to not having that rock."
Giving her hand a squeeze, Aang said, "For what it's worth, I promise to do what I can to help you adjust."
Katara smiled sadly and returned the squeeze, saying, "I know. And I really appreciate it."
Another short stretch of silence passed, before Aang suddenly said, "Wanna go see our house?"
Katara choked on a short burst of laughter and sat upright, grinning. "Sure."
The following morning Katara was sitting on the back porch, leaning up against the wall, watching Aang refresh his bending skills when Sokka sat down beside her. He leaned back against the wall, legs crossed, and let his hands rest lightly in his lap. After a moment of silently watching Aang bend the earth around himself, Sokka said, "You look like you've got a lot on your mind."
"I do," Katara replied softly.
"I'm sorry," Sokka said after a moment. "It'll be really hard, leaving you behind, I mean. I know it'll be hard for you, too, and I'm really sorry about that."
"Don't be," Katara said, turning to offer him a reassuring smile. "I completely understand why you're doing it, and to be honest, I'm really proud of you. I know how much you love our tribe."
"Yeah," Sokka agreed with a nod. "I just love Suki more."
"Won't you miss home?" Katara asked.
"Of course I will, but I'll be close enough to visit when I want," he replied.
Katara nodded and turned her gaze forward again. "Do you think you'll be happy here?"
Smiling now, Sokka said, "Oh yeah."
Shifting, Katara pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I'm concerned about Aang. He said he doesn't mind living in the South Pole, but he'll have to give up earthbending almost entirely. And I'm not sure Appa and Momo are all that happy living in snow and ice."
Sokka inclined his head, acknowledging her point. "Yeah, I can see that." Pausing, he watched Aang spin and shatter a large boulder with a kick. "Honestly, Katara, I think Aang would be fine in the South Pole. But if you're really concerned, maybe you should consider other options. I mean, Aang already has a house here, and you're probably right about Appa and Momo. Plus, if you move here, we wouldn't have to say goodbye!" As he said the last part he grinned and bumped her with his elbow. Then his grin faded and he dropped a hand on her shoulder. "Seriously, Katara, you have to do what's best for you. Aang would follow you anywhere, you have to know that."
Katara lifted her head and smiled at her brother. "Thanks, Sokka."
Looping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her in for a sideways hug, Sokka replied, "Anytime, little sister."
"We look forward to seeing you again, Avatar Aang," the headman said with a bow as the group, minus Suki, prepared to leave.
Aang bowed as well, saying, "We'll be back soon. Thank you so much for your hospitality."
"We're all packed," Katara declared, coming to stand beside Aang.
"Then we might as well be going," Sokka stated as he walked up with Suki at his side.
Katara moved forward and embraced the slightly older woman. "We'll see you in a couple of months," she said.
"I look forward to it," Suki replied, returning the hug.
As they stepped apart Aang stepped up with a smile. "Thanks for everything, Suki," he said.
Suki smiled. "It's the ultimate duty of all Kyoshi Warriors to help the Avatar however we can," she began. "Besides, I was glad to help. You guys are my family."
Aang's smile broadened and he hugged her briefly. When he stepped back he swept his gaze over all of the Kyoshi Warriors and said, "Kyoshi would be proud of all of you."
The girls all smiled and Suki said, "Thank you, Aang. You guys travel safely, okay?"
"We will," Katara assured her.
As they turned toward Appa, Sokka paused and said, "I'll see you in a little while, Suki."
"I know," Suki replied with a half nod.
Everyone watched in silence as they settled onto Appa's back, and the bison lifted easily into the air.
A little over two weeks went by before Katara finally made her decision. She had had a long conversation with her father and grandmother, and as she headed toward the outcropping of ice where Aang was meditating she realized that she already felt a lot lighter. She knew in her heart that she'd made the right decision.
When she was close enough, she called softly, "Aang."
Aang released a breath and opened his eyes. "Yes?"
"Can we talk for a minute?" she asked.
Loosening his arms and letting them fall into his lap, Aang smiled and nodded. "Of course. What's on your mind?"
Settling herself in the snow beside him, Katara said, "I've been thinking about things lately, and…I've decided something," she paused and turned sideways to face him. "Do you remember that conversation we had in Ba Sing Se, about you living here?"
Curiosity settling on his face, Aang replied, "Yeah. Have you changed your mind…about me being here?"
Katara's eyes widened and she threw her hands up, shaking them side-to-side. "Oh no! No, what I'm trying to say is, I'm not sure that the Southern Water Tribe is where we belong. I know you're willing to sacrifice 'dirt and grass' for my sake, but I don't want you to."
"But," Aang interrupted, "I thought you wanted to be close to your family."
"I do," Katara replied. "But there's a difference between 'close to' and 'with,' and that's what I'm getting at, only, I don't think I'm doing a very good job of it." Pausing, Katara reached out and wrapped one of his hands in hers, pulling it into her lap. "Aang, I want to live on Kyoshi Island."
Eyes wide, a mixture of surprise and confusion settled over Aang's face.
Before he could voice the questions that she could see building in his eyes, she continued. "I won't be happy knowing how much you've sacrificed to stay here, and Sokka had a good point; we'd still be close enough to visit whenever we want. Besides, you have to know Appa and Momo are suffering."
"Katara," Aang began, "I appreciate how concerned you are about this, I really do, but, are you absolutely positive that that's what you want to do? I really can be happy here."
"I know," Katara promised, squeezing his hand. "I've given this a lot of thought, and I've talked it over with Dad, Gran Gran, and even Sokka – sort of. And I realized that I know how to live apart from Dad, and Gran Gran, and the tribe. As long as I have you, I know I'll have a place to call home."
Aang smiled and gently pulled his hand free before shifting to kneel in front of her, leaning close and cupping the side of her face with his hands. "You're right; Appa and Momo would probably prefer Kyoshi Island. And I certainly have no problem with it, but there is one thing I want you to understand," he paused to dip his head down and capture her lips in a gentle kiss. Then he softly added, "You are my home."
Katara smiled, tears shimmering in her eyes, and threw herself into Aang's arms. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pressed her lips firmly against his, leaning bodily into him. His arms came around her waist, holding her tightly against him.
Lips parted, tongues danced; caressing and exploring in turn.
The kiss continued until a snowball collided with Aang's shoulder, startling them apart. They pulled back slightly, loosening their hold on each other, and turned to see the culprit rolling another snowball in his hands.
"You know, you're not allowed to do that until you're married," Sokka declared.
Katara gave her brother a pointed look. "You're such a hypocrite."
"You know, Sokka," Aang said before Sokka could comment, "you shouldn't pick a snowball fight with two waterbending masters."
Sokka paled and stopped rolling the snowball. "You wouldn't…."
Exchanging a mischievous grin, Aang and Katara stood together and held their hands out.
"Oh no," Sokka said, eyes wide. He hurled the snowball towards them and spun around, sprinting away even as the first snowball slammed into his back.
When the two Water Tribe ships pulled into the harbor at Kyoshi Island a couple of months later, the entire island stood patiently at the shoreline.
"Welcome to Kyoshi Island," the headman greeted as he approached Hakoda.
As they spoke, Aang and the others stepped onto solid ground, and it was another voice that greeted them. "I got your letter, Twinkle Toes."
Aang, Katara, and Sokka looked over and their eyes lit up at the sight of their friend standing only a few feet away. Simultaneously, they exclaimed, "Toph!" and ran toward her, enveloping her in a crushing group hug.
The Water Tribe men who'd come to help their people move left for home the following morning. They left behind a boat, a gift for Sokka, so that they could travel without necessarily exhausting Appa. Toph declared that she was staying indefinitely, and Sokka and Suki officially set the date for their wedding, coming up the following spring. Until then, Sokka would be living with Aang, Katara, and Toph in Aang's house.
The group quickly adjusted to life on Kyoshi Island, and the locals happily adjusted to being neighbors with the Avatar. And then it was off to the Fire Nation, to visit Zuko and Mai, whose wedding was a month and a half away.
~ Epilogue ~
Even in the three and a half years that Avatar Aang had been living there, Kyoshi Island had never known so many people. The entire Southern Water Tribe, the King of the Northern Water Tribe, and Head Priest Shiyu of the newly-rebuilt Fire Temple, were among the many that flooded the suddenly-small island for the wedding of the century.
Other familiar faces, like Teo and his father, Haru and his father, Pipsqueak, The Duke, Smellerbee, Longshot, and Bumi were among the crowd. Firelord Zuko brought his wife, their one year-old son, Uncle Iroh, and Zuko's mother – who had finally been found nearly two years prior.
"Wow," Katara said as she looked out over their back railing, "I don't think we even know that many people."
Curious, Aang stepped up beside his soon-to-be-wife, and his eyes went wide. "Whoa…I guess it's a good thing we're having an outside wedding."
Katara laughed and turned to face him. "Yeah, I'd say so. And we should probably start getting ready."
"Then I guess I'll see you in a couple of hours." Then he reached out and dipped his hand into her hair, leaning down slightly and capturing her lips in a gentle kiss. "I love you," he whispered when he pulled back.
"I love you, too," Katara replied, smiling. "I'll see you soon."
Aang smiled and nodded, before stepping back and leaping into the air.
Katara watched as he practically bounced from roof to roof, heading toward Sokka and Suki's. When he was out of sight she turned and headed inside. Her own guests would be over any minute to help her prepare.
The wedding was extraordinary. At Aang's request, King Bumi happily married them beneath the freshly-painted statue of Avatar Kyoshi. Momo and Appa watched from the side, and their family and close friends stood at the forefront of the crowd. The moment Aang's and Katara's lips touched the entire crowd erupted in cheers and applause. When they parted, smiling, and turned to face the crowd, the Kyoshi Warriors bowed low in respect. The crowd, even their friends and family, followed suit.
As everyone stood, Aang pulled Katara close and buried his face in her hair, whispering, "This is definitely worth the wait."
Katara smiled and leaned into him, curling her fingers in his robes. "It absolutely is."
A/N: There it is! My first ATLA story in all its glory! Please let me know what you thought of it! Helpful criticisms and tips are always welcome (especially when I'm starting a new fandom), but please do be gentle; all flames will be routed through my firebending muses LOL. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story, even in all of its practically-plotless-fluffiness, and thanks for reading!