Chapter 10/Final: Coldest Shoulders

It was the hardest decision for Katara to make. A lot harder on her than it was for her than it was for Ash to plan an escape. Of course, that was preplanned and altered by Team Rocket's poor attempt to double-capture him for Pikachu. It was pitted between going with Aang or going with Ash. Sticking with the Avatar or traveling with the Pokémon Trainer. Fighting the villainy of the Fire Nation or fighting the organization of Team Rocket. Staying by a boy able to control the elements with his hands or going with a boy able to use monsters by command. Aiding her home world or traveling the Pokémon World. Aang addressed the question to his friend. Now was time for what seemed like the most important choice of Katara's life. Ash, Aang, Delia, Sokka, Suki, Toph, Pikachu and Wobbuffet...yes, you read it right, Wobbuffet, Jessie's Pokémon, one Ash stole from her after that botched attempt. Anyway, they awaited Katara's option. Her eyes opened, confident about her choice. "Well?" asked her brother.

"I can't leave," she finally answered. "I still have business here with the Fire Nation." She chose to stay in this world. It didn't come down to who she favored most but to what she needed to do. Ash and Delia weren't wanting to argue with why she chose to stay here and not return to a more prominent, peaceful setting. In fact, Ash smiled in respect to the decision.

"Aw!" Toph groaned loudly in objection. "I was hoping that you'd go with Ash! Aang's already mastered water bending and earth bending!" That left out fire bending which Ash provided some help.

"I want to teach that witch, Azula, a few lessons." It was a vengeance for prior attacks. In understanding, Ash was ready to head back and be with Max, May and Brock to finish the Hoenn Region.

"Let's not forget a few others like Zuko," Sokka pointed out. That's when Toph approached Ash.

"Hey, kiddo," she called. Ash gave a quick twist to the blind one. "I know you'll be going far in your journey and just want to say that we're supporting you in your upcoming battles." A nice gesture.

"That's really nice, Toph," Ash softly replied. "You know, if you came to our world, there are professional surgeons who could give you eyesight." Another nice gesture, but one Toph scoffed.

"Seeing is overrated. I like my Earth Bending the way it is without eyes." To her, lack of eyesight was nothing more than an obstacle. Something Wobbuffet would disagree with.

("You don't know what you're missing,") it blubbered. Toph didn't want backtalk from a Pokémon.

"Hey, Wobby!" she shouted as she pointed...away from Wobbuffet. Way away. "You have no right to make Ash's claim!" All watched at how poorly she tried to scold Wobbuffet.

("Case in point...") Yeah... Ash got up and handed Wobbuffet's Pokéball to Aang. Why him?

"Anyway, when you beat the Fire Nation and free Team Rocket, make sure they get Wobbuffet back," he explained. Yeah, he told a lie on how he escaped with Team Rocket's help.

"I will," he accepted. "Now, I'm sure you know which vessel carries Appa, right?"

"Yeah, as well as our equipment when we came over." Katara stepped forward as well.

"Ash, thank you for all you've done to get me back with Aang and the others," she praised. "Not to mention how you crippled the soldiers." That's a feat that Aang might not be able to top.

"It's something my mom wished she never taught me." Delia giggled, opposing the saying.

"Well, now that I've seen how you used it to escape from the Fire Nation, I might wanna reconsider that regret." As Ash and Delia shared a laugh like family members should, Katara sneaked in a little peck on Ash's cheek. Aw! That was sweet of her. If Ty Lee was watching- Oh, there she was and she wasn't too happy with that peck. She liked Ash. Hadoka was ready to excuse the mother and son.

"Well, you two," he voiced. "Hopefully you can share this information with your friends back home. We wish you the best of luck." With a final nod, mother, son and mouse broke away from the Avatar team, fully trusting that Aang and his friends will accomplish their mission. Despite not knowing of Ty Lee's presence, the Ketchums reached the town within a couple of hours and reached the vessel with Appa on the ship. Sneaking on board, the soldiers stationed to watch the port never suspected the two outsiders of hijacking one of their fleet boats. They knew even less that Ty Lee was hanging on starboard. Uh, guys? Your boat! Finally, one turned around and spotted the vessel leaving.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Stop that ship!" Pikachu watched as soldiers boarded boats, a chance to chase down the stolen vessel.

("They're coming!") Pikachu warned. Ash saw the soldiers getting on board as well, making him use an underhanded attack.

"I'd just love to see their reaction when I do this," he sneered. Delia was wondering what tactic her son was about to perform. "Corphish, I choose you!" Ash's Pokéball opened where a red crawfish with giant pincers emerged.

("Ready!") it roared.

"Use Crab Hammer to disable their boats!" Corphish obeyed and leaped into the water. Multiple boats left the dock to go into the pursuit of their runaway vessel. Only a minute after the first boat left for the pursuit, the boats were starting to submerge. One after another after another, Fire Nation vessels were beginning to sink...and it took another minute for the soldiers to realize they were going to help themselves out of the drink to worry about the one floating away.

"Abandon ships!" a crew member yelled out. The ships sunk pretty fast. Back on the original, fleeing boat. Corphish emerged via rear of the boat where Delia was back in her wetsuit that she wore on her way over here.

"I get your intention, honey, but isn't it dangerous to sink their vessels out in the ocean?" she questioned her son's strategy. Ash wasn't worried.

"Tried to tag them as close to shore as possible," he shrugged. Well, his timing could have been better. "Way to go, Corphish!" Corphish cracked a chuckle when it sensed something and dove back under. "Corphish?" Appa, who had been asleep for such a long time, woke to the splashing and the cheering of Ash. It would turn out to be a pretty magnificent timing. THWACK! Ty Lee was bashed in the butt out of hiding by Corphish and flew onto the deck with a pretty loud yelp. She hit the deck, bruised butt first. Ash and Pikachu turned to see their addition to the S.S. Stowaway. "Ty Lee?" Appa also saw the Fire Nation's circus girl but not as chipper as Ash or Delia. Just the growling from the air bison made Ty Lee ready to jump ship. "Appa, down!" Appa and Ty Lee were stunned that Ash wanted resolve between the two. Corphish hopped back on board and viewed the situation. Ty Lee figured that she was now a prisoner in Ash's trap. Appa, Pikachu, Corphish and whatever else Ash had, he would use it on her. "You were following us?" Ty Lee bowed, seemingly acting in defeat.

"Okay, I was curious," she confessed. "I wanted to see what your world is and thought if I had you as my prisoner-"

"Whoa, Whoa! I didn't ask for a full confession! What am I, some man in the cloth who atones sins?" No, you've committed sins yourself. Ty Lee thought differently.

"Well, you did look like an honest young man." Finally, she got her bearings straight. "Listen, I was wondering if maybe I could join you and see what your world looks like." Ash had to be thinking that this was a bad move on the part that the Fire Nation could use someone like her around.

"Aren't you worried about Mai, Azula or Zuko?" Ty Lee just smiled and giggled.

"They can take care of themselves." Well, that's dutifully noted. Convinced, Ash surrendered to her desire to see his world of Pokémon.

"Okay, then. You don't mind if I change, do you?" Ty Lee shook no. Going beneath the deck, Ash switched from the undercover Fire Nation garb to his trainer's clothing...but wrapped his sweat-tee around his waist. Everyone was set and Ty Lee didn't really mind the top Ash had. "Corphish, you don't mind throwing one more Crab Hammer under here, do you?" Corphish didn't mind at all and dove right back under. The group began to board the air bison but Appa wasn't about to let Ty Lee on his back.

"Oh, please, Appa!" Delia begged. "At least it's one way with her." Appa...needed a second. He succumbed and allowed her on board. "Thank you." Petting the giant fur, Appa was at ease.

"Okay, Appa. Back to the cave."

("Yip Yip!") Pikachu called for Appa to move. Appa...didn't. ("I said Yip Yip!") Nope. Nothing still. Delia had a good idea why.

"Guess Appa's used to having humans call him to move," she theorized. "So...Yip Yip!" Finally, Appa took off and in time. The ship was going down. As it sunk, Ash looked down to find Corphish. He hoped it wasn't caught in the wreckage.

("How's that?") it croaked as it reemerged.

"Perfect, Corphish," he praised as he readied his Pokéball. "Return!" Corphish morphed into light and entered the ball once more. "Now, the cave under Ba Sing Se." For an hour, Appa flew high to reach their destination. Finally, they saw the cavern and Appa landed by the entrance. All hopped off and Ash grabbed the stash of items, pulling out those air capsules. Ty Lee looked confused as to what the capsules were. "Thanks a lot, Appa." Appa responded with a giant tongue lick. Ash was covered in the bison's saliva. He'll be smelling pretty fresh on the return home. "Okay! You can head on back. Yip Yip!" Appa flew off to rejoin Aang and his friends. Seeing him leave was a sign of good things. What they were would wait. He rejoined with the ladies and Pikachu and ready to leap into the chasm.

"So, down there is where you guys came from, right?" Ty Lee asked. Ash nodded as he put his capsule in his mouth before he and Pikachu jumped in, heightening Delia's fear.

"Ash!" she yelled. SPLASH! Dead center. Thinking that Ash's jump was awesome, Ty Lee jumped down as well. SPLASH! Two for two! Delia could believe the audacity that the two younger ones performed. She sighed, knowing that she was getting down there one way or another. "I'm getting too old for this." Finally, she leaped. SPLASH! Perfect! The two swam down underwater. Ty Lee's world was about to turn upside-down. Emerging from where the group entered before, Ty Lee saw sea creatures she never dreamed about. There were so many of them. Some came to greet her to this world. Suddenly, there was a shadow over them. Oh, boy. After about minutes of straight down...or up swimming, the group front of the boat they dove off. Removing the capsule from their mouths, Ash and Pikachu breathed in that familiar air they missed.

"That feels great!" Ash cheered. Pikachu agreed.

"Ash!" Brock called from the boat. Looking up as the women surfaced, Ash reached out to Brock who helped him up onto the modern day vessel. "How did it go?" Swell, but he could explain it to May and Max who joined.

"Aang's back on his feet and Katara's back with him." On the wood, Ash turned around and helped Ty Lee and his mother. May and Max were a little surprised to see someone other than Katara. What, it wasn't like they were expecting Aang or Zuko. Even Brock had a disbelieving glare.

"Hey, Ash!" Max spoke up. "Who's she?" Ash knew he was referring to Ty Lee. However, there was a challenge. How to explain without revealing her as a member of the Fire Nation? Suddenly, he thought back to when the two wrangled Team Rocket in Azula's fortress.

"Well, she helped me when Team Rocket came after me in order to get Pikachu. She's Ty Lee." With a childish smirk, Ty Lee playfully waived to the siblings. May shyly wove back while Max began to wonder about Ash's luck with girls. It's when Delia questioned her son's first story and this story.

"Hold on!" she recognized. "Didn't you just say that Team Rocket aided your escape?" Whoops! Caught in his own lie, Ash felt the pressure of trouble from his own mother.

"Oh, boy!" Max grinned, waiting for Ash's punishment. "This is gonna be good!" How was Ash going to squirm out of here? Ty Lee's nose, that's how! Wait...what? Ty Lee smelled something good.

"Something smells delicious~" she noticed. Brock realized that his food was about ready.

"Almost forgot about the stew boiling below deck," Brock mentioned. He's busy cooking while Ash and Delia explored Katara's world. Interested in his stew, Ty Lee followed Brock below deck to try the stew. That left the siblings and the mom and son.

"Anyway, what was Team Rocket doing in Katara's world?" Max asked.

"A more interesting question is how did they get there in the first place?" May wondered. They were there for Pikachu but using Ty Lee was a great move and decoy for Ash.

"It is Team Rocket we're talking about. I could be in Katara's homeland and they still would strike." That was a scary concept. Suddenly, there was moaning. It sounded rather odd. Ash had an idea but wasn't too sure about it.

"Is it coming from below?" Max guessed. They were about to get the answer.

"Oh, Brock!" Ty Lee swooned. "This is the best cooking that I've tasted! Lemme be with you! I wanna die in your pots and pans!" Wow! What could you say after hearing that? This would be Max's moment where he'd pull Brock away...but it's usually when he made the propositions. How about the other way around?

"Ah, Max?" Ash called. "Isn't this your line to remove Brock?" Maybe Max was aware of her abilities of paralyzing her enemy despite meeting her for the first time.

"Yeah, Max..." May murmured. "Every time, you whisk from some pretty cute girl." Max heard the catcalls but remained stiff. What's wrong?

"Yeah, but that's when Brock makes the move!" he proclaimed. "Not when the girl makes it!" In stressed frustration, he gritted a headache and squatted. "AH! What am I suppose to do?" Let him and Ty Lee go dating?

"I think we'll let Ty Lee warm up with this world," Delia suggested. "She's already warmed up with our breeder." It was an offer the kids fumed sighs in dismay. Delia smiled before taking the helm and driving the boat to shore where they allowed Katara to rest...only their journey would continue.

(Two Months later/Viridian Forest)

Ash and Pikachu were on their way back from their journeys in the Hoenn Region. After their encounter with an outworlder like Katara, understanding bending, going to her world and breaking out of the iron grasp of Azula thanks to the bumbling feat of Team Rocket, Ash and his extended group...Ty Lee joined them on their way from Mossdeep City to the Evergrand Tournament...broke for their homes. Believe it or not, Ty Lee switched admiration and interest from Ash to Brock. It left Ash, May and Max unsure about forcing separation, especially since Brock wasn't the one who incited it. Later on, May finished in the Top 8 in the Grand Festival, losing to a snot-shot named Drew. Ash finished in the Top 8 of the Evergrand Tournament, losing to a skilled trainer known as Tyson. Cutting through the Viridian Forest on their way home, Ash and Pikachu stopped by a lake to enjoy a lunch from Brock who left for Pewter City. "So, Pikachu," he opened. "Getting back, should we plan on another journey?" For Pikachu, this wasn't a hard question.

("Come on, Ash,") Pikachu joked. ("We're not stopping until we reach Pokémon Master!") Ash smiled at his partner. He was showing more determination than his human counterpart. Before they realized it, a large yellowish porcupine mole came up and snatched a few sandwiches. Pikachu spotted the creature and called for Ash to turn around. ("Sandslash! It's stealing the food!") Hearing the trouble, Ash spun to see the Sandslash who turned to see them. It rose it's claws but not to attack. Sandslash was friendly.

"Sandslash, what's up?" Sandslash pointed back to the opening where it came from. Looking...nothing there. Sandslash carried the sandwiches back wince it came and allowed Ash and Pikachu to follow. When they entered the clearing, Ash was in for a big surprise. Sandslash handed a sandwich to a familiar tanned female.

"Thanks, Sandslash," she praised. To Ash's astonishment, it was Katara in new threads. Instead of the blue robe she wore when they first met, she was in a blue blouse and jean shorts. Talk about a new side to knowing someone. Eying each other, Katara smiled at her young friend from this world. Realizing the smile, Ash believed that Aang was successful in stopping the Fire Nation. "Hey, Ash!" He totally wasn't expecting a return visit, let alone in his home region.

"Kat! This is unexpected. What brings you here?" Shyly, Katara darted their eyes to the side.

"Oh, nothing better to do. Got a little bored and wanted to get back." Ash's instincts began to kick in, thinking she's fearing some sort of retaliation from hiding something.

"Kat?" Figuring the innocent act wasn't working, she removed the poker face and walked to Ash. Something had to have gone wrong. Reaching out, she clung a hug onto Ash like a mother to her son. To Ash's opinion, Aang broke Katara's heart in some form or another. It was possible that Aang died trying to stop the Fire Nation. It was possible that it was another family member like Sokka or Toph who perished.

"I can't face Aang now!" she blubbered. Okay, she's possibly okaying that Aang's alive. "I...I let my anger get the best of me!" Anger? At a friend or family?

"Kat, calm down. It's okay." What's okay about someone getting so angry that- Hold on... "I won't get upset." Relaxing, the two humans sat down and began to enjoy Brock's sandwiches. "So, did Aang lose?" Katara shook a negative. Aang was victorious.

"It was away from Aang...which may have been a good thing. It involved Azula." It was a member of the Fire Nation? "While Aang was fighting Fire Lord Ozai, Zuko and Azula battled in a fire duel known as Agni Kai. IF you haven't figured it out, Zuko joined our side and helped Aang with fire bending. Anyway, brother and sister fought a rather even match. That's when Azula chose to force Zuko's hand when Azula shot that same lightning bolt at me. That same lightning bolt that she attacked Aang to try and kill him. Zuko stepped in front of me, taking the bolt. Zuko was incapacitated. Azula pulled out a knife, breaking the rule of Agni Kai. I used my bending to freeze Azula but she broke free. I used my bending and didn't look but I launched icicles at her. When I looked again, icicles were embedded in her chest. It was so instant... I mean, I was trying to stop her..." Her memories of what happened began to give her regret. She whimpered so badly that Ash got up and began to comfort her. Ash now knew that Katara did a horrendous thing...but Ash believed it wasn't her fault.

"It's okay. We're here." Icicles skewering through Azula from Katara, the only thing that made sense was that Azula was Katara's hands. This was something Katara didn't want to be known as: a killer. She did all to stop Azula from killing Zuko, but overexerted and ended the life who tried to murder to rise the ranks.

"After that, there was no way I could wash my hands of the blood tainted from the death! No way I could face Aang and tell him what happened! No way I could tell anyone!" So much to bear... Ash heard the details and wondered how to comfort her. Yet, how does someone comfort another who has taken another's life?

"Kat, look at me once." Katara reduced the tear flow and looked at Ash. "I don't see you as someone who ended someone else's life. I see someone who would do anything to protect those who've done nothing wrong to you. Pokémon are the same way. No matter how harsh they battle, no Pokémon is evil and will kill for anything." That was rather heartwarming to say. That's when Katara opted to drop a major bombshell.

"I don't know if this would make it any easier but when Azula learned about your escape, she executed Team Rocket, the ones she underhandedly convicted them." Ash's heart skipped a beat. Jessie and James were killed by the same person Katara killed. Apparently, Ash had to have noticed that Team Rocket wasn't showing up and trying to take Pikachu.

"That would explain why I haven't seen them lately." He had no clue about Team Rocket's fate. Now, he felt as guilty as Katara. It was his actions of switching with Team Rocket that doomed the group. "And they've helped me at times, too." No wonder he felt bad. In a sense, Katara and Ash felt related in guilt and sorrow. Pikachu and Sandslash were obligated to help Katara and Ash recuperate from the harrowing news. Pikachu was forever free from being a target of Team Rocket but wished there was a different method than death.

("You know, you two,") Pikachu started. ("If Aang understands you, he won't get mad.") He may have a point. If Katara did tell Aang why Azula's dead, he would forgive her.

"I know that but...I don't wanna go back," Katara exhausted. Why not? Didn't she love Aang? "I wanna stay here! Stay with you forever!" Ash was rather amazed that Katara would want to stay in the more futuristic world instead of the world where she was born. "I'm sure Aang will understand why I'm not coming back." Ash wanted to acknowledge Katara's decision. He just had the urge to confront the choice with a consequence.

"Have you really thought this through?" he scorned. "Because I'm worried that you'll regret it soon." Katara believed him. She needed to think this through. Giving up on Aang to be with Ash would be costly in more ways than a little money. Finally, one item weighed the difference.

"We're both...moral fugitives. Team Rocket's dead from your abandonment, Azula's dead from my actions. We're murderers on the run." A link that even Sandslash and Pikachu weren't aware of. Pikachu vocally argued that Ash was no murderer. He could also point out that Katara acted out of vigilance in stopping Azula. It was a bond that seemed to have emerged out of nowhere.

"I see your point." That's when the odd really revealed itself. Ash's arms were glowing. It was blue veil. Katara and the Pokémon saw it, unsure of what to make of it.

("Katy, what's wrong?") Sandslash wondered. Even Sandslash had a shortened name for Katara? Speaking of, Katara undressed Ash's hand and placed one of her's on him. She felt a power that might have rivaled Aang.

"This is it!" she snapped. "This is the same power that I felt with Aang!" Power of the Avatar? "I was right about you! You are the real Avatar I was meant to be with!" did she come up with that decision? Popping off the cap, Katara dove onto Ash, locking lips. The glowing hands wrapped around Katara's back...against Ash's will. Leaving the two humans to their settlement, Pikachu and Sandslash got back to the lunch site and proceeded on eating the sandwiches.

("So, how did you and Katara meet?") Pikachu asked.

("She treated my infected foot,") Sandslash answered. So that was the Sandshrew that Katara aided back at the Pokémon Center with Nurse Joy as a witness. ("We met back up and on the way here, I evolved from Sandshrew to who I am right now.")

("That's pretty cool.") Right? Ash and Katara were together, something she would've wanted. As they got up, there was a question that was on his mind in regard to Azula's death.

"I don't know if it's any inconvenience but you think we should tell Ty Lee about this?" Ash wondered. Katara was a little surprised that Ty Lee was brought up.

"Wait!" she hiccuped. "She's here?"

"Yeah, actually dating Brock." Katara was taken aback with the news about one member of the Fire Nation in this world.

"So, that's where she's been this whole time." A few pausing seconds later...

"Nah!" they laughed together. Better to let the bad news go unnoticed. Now it was onto Pallet Town and the rest of their lives full of adventures ahead with Pikachu and Sandslash in tow.