I Need to Find Myself
*Resurrected for one final go. This chapter has been sitting on my laptop for over a year, the last time I worked on it was April 2011. Having just now gotten the opportunity, I decided to finally flesh it out as it was merely scattered ideas and scenes only a week ago, now completed for your enjoyment. I took extra care of this particular chapter as it was one of a few I've been anxious to write since I first came up with the concept back in Nov. of '10. Sit back and immerse yourself as I did in the final installment of 'I Need To Find Myself', dedicated to my faithful readers.*
SWV- Use Me (From Katara's perspective)
Jodeci- Forever My Lady (From Aang's perspective)
Counting Crows- Colorblind
George Michael & Mary J Blige- As
I couldn't think of a more perfect name for this chapter and perfect songs to end this story. Enjoy.
Six months have passed since Aang and Katara professed their love for one another, and six months since they shared their first kiss as a reconciled couple in a small Fire Nation clinic. Since that day, things between them couldn't have been better; still, that's not to say their rectified union's been smooth sailing. During that same time lapse, Aang's former bride Onji was ultimately tried and convicted for her crimes against the Avatar and the four Nations. Justice didn't hesitate to level her hand on the conspirator, and despite her cooperation with the authorities and countless plea bargains, she was given the maximum sentence of 30+ years in prison. A victory well deserved in the young Avatar's eyes, yet it seemed that it was he that drew the short end of the stick when that final gavel struck down. Since he and Katara went public, they were met with much adversity because of the enormous scandal behind Aang's situation. Having been unfaithful to what the commoners called an 'unsuspecting bride' was all the gossip in the streets for many months; seemingly all of the sympathy went to the duped bride. Word quickly spread about how she was supposedly driven to madness and forced to take desperate measures because she 'keenly sensed' the Avatar's wandering heart and he was quickly scrutinized for his actions. No matter how many public apologies Aang made only seemed to exacerbate the people's anger.
Fire Lord Zuko, Mai, Sokka, Toph, and many of the Avatar's family and friends tried to do damage control by making public appearances, trying to antagonize Onji for her involvement in a murder plot against the Avatar's new woman. Yet facts and evidence weren't enough, because underlying all of the explanations remained the fact that the Avatar while with partner impregnated another, and such a blemish now ran so deep in the young Avatar's reputation that he couldn't mend it at the moment no matter how hard he or anyone else tried to justify his sins. Trying to set things right was no longer a viable option for him, men hated him, and women despised him. 'Avatar Aang the womanizer', and 'The water tribe harlot' were but a few of the names heard wherever they went since their first public outing, along with the occasional toss of tomatoes and heads of cabbage Aang would swat away from Katara, while he took the blows thrown directly at him.
During these six months, for the safety of the mother-to-be and her unborn child, Aang and Katara arranged that she remain out of the public eye until all of the animosity finally died down. Aang however knew his posthumous duty was to the public and didn't avoid the ridicule even if he wanted to.
"Aang, you can take temporary leave; at least until most people have forgotten about all of this. We can continue rebuilding on the hush. You don't have to show your face at every site." Zuko suggested, pouring his old friend a blended cocktail of synthesized cactus juice and black tea.
With a distraught look in his eyes, he nodded disagreeably, "This is my job Zuko, and I have no choice." He answered as he sipped the warm brew, "I can't just kick up my heels and take a break from being the Avatar because of some misunderstanding."
"Major misunderstanding." Scolded the Fire Lord as he punched the roundtable, "I swear these people act as though their lives are immaculate, and even if it is, your private matters are business, not theirs."
Aang watched the hazed smoke rise from his cup, patiently waiting for some sort of answer to rise from his head in a similar fashion, but nothing. He sighed, "I made my bed, now I have to lay in it." He whispered, his expression valiant, "All I care about right now is her safety and the safety of that baby. If I have to endure more of this…hate, then that's fine, whatever; crucify me, so long as my family is protected from it all."
And endure he did. Every day was a public relations nightmare him, making routine peace missions anything but its intended purpose. He was constantly reminded of his scandal at every point and turn. Fathering a baby while in courtship with another woman? Unheard of apparently, and the general public wasn't letting Aang live it down.
"Cheater! Adulterer! How can you live with yourself?" An old woman screamed from the edge of the cobblestone curb, waving around a wooden cane in her lonesome. Her voice seemed to possess the power of attraction though, because after her continuous shouts, a few bystanders joined hubbub. After that, more and more people caught wind that the Avatar was once again in the town of Hakai, a remote location on the outskirts of Ba Sing Se where World Council meetings were temporarily being held.
"Hey Avatar, you like loose girls? Why don't you take me AND your girl? Double the fun!" A random whore with raven curls teased as she cupped and jiggled her breasts.
Aang ignored the cackles, boos and cruel words thrown at him and continued meekly towards his planned meeting with the other members of the Council. Bothered by the verbal assaults, but overall unphased, his concentration was solely on the task of making it to the roundtable in one piece. Yet just as he was about to enter the small hut where the gathering normally takes place, he spotted a copper haired man with a crooked posture, sitting next to a town guard by the entrance cradling a small child.
"You call yourself a savior? Bah!" Yelled the man as the toddler wept. "Typical cheater always playing the victim, yeah, ok. Where have I heard that before? All the power of the cosmos at your disposal, but even that doesn't exempt you from committing the same carnal sin as the rest of the bastards and bitches that roam around town for cheap thrills now does it? And yet you expect our sympathy because you're the Avatar? What a joke. You're no different than any of them." The instability in his voice was apparent as he struggled to console the child wailing in his arms.
The sight tugged at Aang's heartstrings. He was so young, 20 years old at the most and already tainted by life's cruelty, and the sad reality was that he was just one of many. They looked homeless, he and the child wearing old, raggedy clothes dusted with soot and soil. His skin was pasty white as was the child he was holding, with the exception of what appeared to be rashes on his neck and shoulders, and dry streaks that connected his lower eyelids and jaw. His humanity seemed absent in his deathly, dark glare. Aang approached him, crouched and lent him a sympathetic hand.
"I'm sorry." He said softly, "Is there any way I can help you?"
He bit his lip and clutched the child close; both his eyes and the little one's glistening as tears ran down their cheeks, yet it was only the child who gave Aang the honor of his glance. The man refused to look at him.
"Can you tell me your name?" asked the Avatar.
The man's head tilted to its side as if dumbfounded by the question. He scoffed, "My name is of no importance to you, Avatar. But how about you give me my wife?" He asked sarcastically, a wicked smile formed on his lips, "She passed away from consumption several months ago and left everything, our trust funds, our home, everything to the POS I once called a cousin; leaving me and our son to fend for ourselves in the streets!" He struggled to contain his sobs as his bottom lip trembled, "She was the breadwinner you know; a topnotch healer. It was easy for her to find work, yet the odd jobs are left for those who aren't as gifted as people like her are. Do you people discuss possible solutions for the lack of jobs all over the Earth Kingdom during your 'random meetings', or are you all too engrossed in your domestic life to notice the economic slippage our Nation is nose-diving into?"
The awkwardness was overwhelming. Aang wanted to turn away from the pitiful sight, but he knew the desolate looking man deserved his full attention. He deserved to see this.
"Import prices have skyrocketed since the fall of Fire Nation rule. Despite how much I hate those Fire bending bastards, they still maintained us fat and happy. The effects of our cutting ties are still rippling across the world. And as a result, cost of living has gone up in astronomical proportions, buying a measly loaf of bread is now triple the cost it was before Ozai's rule was subverted. He may have had a twisted view of what a perfect society ought to have been, but at least he was cooperative when it came to supply and demand. That was years ago, yet inflation is still steadily climbing, less jobs are being created and we, the little people have yet to see any relief from all this mess while those born with a silver spoon in their mouths reap the benefits of the post-war." He sneezed as he scratched his rashes, the little boy imitating his actions, "I lost my job as a bus boy at the restaurant down this very street. I struggled to keep myself and my son afloat everyday with the measly pieces of silver I earned for tips, but people are too caught up pinching their copper ones in order to keep a roof over their heads and eventually, my cousin kicked us out because I couldn't keep up with our payments. It all boils down to simple economics, Avatar, and perhaps we'd already have had a solution to this problem if you weren't so preoccupied in your smutty affairs."
That last sentence made Aang's skin crawl. Despite his personal issues at the time, he still did his very best to resolve the quietly growing financial crisis. He even proposed an idea to the council in his previous meeting; a world center point where every Nation can somehow be tied together both culturally and financially, a city that can be the tether of wealth and prosperity to the Nations, with the potential to redistribute and receive from one another, like the heart pumps and recycles much needed blood and oxygen through a living organism. It's an outlandish proposal, but still plausible. He wanted so badly to reassure to this man that the economy would improve and that he had a plan, but he couldn't force himself to speak a lie for the sake of comfort, and he was almost certain the last thing this guy needed was empty promises.
"Isn't that your job Avatar, to keep balance? Where's the 'balance' in all of this? Enlighten us all with you unfathomable wisdom, because too many promises are being made by our government officials and yet too little is being shown for it."
The young Avatar bit his lower lip and lowered his vision away from the homeless man. He understood that there's little that he could do about the current crisis, but witnessing the aftermath of a hundred-year war that could've possibly been prevented by his own past life was something he felt solely responsible for.
"I assure you sir that we are doing the best that we can. Untangling and reweaving entire societies is no small measure. It will take years before the economy will truly have recovered, but I promise you that it will not always be this way. Things may look bleak, but well begun is half done. All you need is hope to be your beginning, and the rest will follow."
The child giggled at the young Avatar's wisdom, cheeks blushed below the moist streaks when his tears fell. His father however wasn't as easily swayed by the Avatar's reassuring words, swatting his hand to repel Aang, "Bah! Save me your proverbs Avatar. Admit it; you have no clue what you're doing."
Aang now realized that this man was far more scorned than he had previously assumed. Nothing in the world will make him believe in better times ahead, only action will. He stared at the little boy's dewy brown eyes, moved by his unconditional love for the people of the planet including those who abhor him to make a change, even if it's one family at a time.
"Please come with me." He insisted, re-extending his hand, "After my obligation, I will take you and your child to a family refuge in Ba Sing Se. You don't need to worry about cost, it will all be taken care of just please…let me help you." The sincerity in his voice apparent, and a deep concern embedded in his stern stare.
The young man shook his head as if he were face-to-face with his worst fear, despite Aang's airily comforting voice.
"N-no, I don't want your charity." He hissed.
Aang chuckled gingerly, "It's no charity, I'd be more than glad to help you and your little one." He said as he reached out to grab his arm, "Just come with me and I-"
Before Aang was able to brush his dusty coat with his fingertips, the man made a sound as though he were trying to scratch the back of his throat and before he knew it; a wad of his own spit flew out of his mouth and into the Avatar's face. He didn't even know what hit him until he jerked back and laid his fingers on the slobbery mucous that was trailing from his left eye, stunned, while the man wiped his lips dry with blazing eyes.
Aang stood his ground, frozen by what just occurred to him. Meanwhile the man stood up from the cobblestones and readjusted his child over his hip; staring daggers at Aang as though he were the focus of all his hate, he walked away and said-
"Burn in hell, you insidious hypocrite."
It was then that Aang understood the hostility. Everyone's hatred towards him was no longer in direct correlation to his unfaithfulness anymore. Somewhere along the lines he had become the embodiment of unfaithfulness, love lost, and pain for people everywhere; he had become a symbol of ultimate betrayal and deceit. And it was that way wherever he went; no matter where he headed or whoever he met, he always came across as a fraud and a liar, despite his best efforts to be humble in the peoples' eyes.
In retrospect, he wore the scars of his past blunders proudly, and he carried the burden of his sins with his chin held high which accompanied every slip, kick, hit and jab the public gave him. He wiped the spit off his face with his sleeve and watched the man stagger away grasping his little one in hand that day, pondering over the animosity felt towards him and how he wished he could regain the love of the people he has sworn with his life to protect. He knows that only with time he will win them back and respects it. Yet all of the hate in the world only paled in comparison to the love that he has gained. He gained the love and support of his family and friends, but most importantly, he has won the heart of the woman he loved and now as a result of that love, a new baby and the future of the Air Nomad race was on the way. All the abuse Aang endured those months was more than worth it.
During the time after their reconciliation, Aang and Katara sought refuge in the Fire Lord's Palace where the moral guidelines of the Southern Water Tribe couldn't follow and scrutinize them. During the course of their stay, they decided on the location for their new home…
"Tell you what, the next place my finger lands on is the place you'll build our house; no questions, no speculations, and definitely no excuses." said Katara.
Aang's expression lit up, "Ok." said Aang as he raised his hand and spun the globe.
Round and round the globe spun on its tilted axis; circulating at a constant speed from to the small current being produced with a fancy flick of Aang's hand. Katara's eyes followed the spin attentively, watching the colors and wording on its surface stretch and blend together with every rotation until her finger finally landed at a random point on its glossy surface.
Anxiety swam in the young Avatar's gut as he anticipated learning which place the young water bender picked. Katara lifted her finger, both nervous and anticipating the name of the area he and Katara will build the foundation of their new life in. The spot picked revealed a small island near the southern coast of the Earth Kingdom.
"Wait a minute, I know this area! It's near the providence of Tongli. It's a bit far from the Southern Water Tribe, but the area is close enough for me to attend my meetings. I'd be able to come home to you every day Katara." His eyes lit up, "Nice and quiet, away from civilization yet not too far from the nearest town and Ba Sing Se. There's so much territory to explore, a perfect place to train and spar while having the opportunity to travel to and fro. Not to mention mountainous, we'll be living like Air Nomads, Katara!"
Katara couldn't contain her chuckle. Seeing Aang so enthusiastic to form a life with her was enough to make her feel like a giddy child. She couldn't have been more pleased with the location she picked. Despite it being a bit far from home, the place somehow felt right to her; to raise a family in a secluded area away from the limelight with Aang was more than perfect, but a dream come true. "I couldn't be happier about this place." she said as she gripped his hand, "Here is where we'll live."
Aang's gaze was alight with joy. He cupped her hand in return, "You'd better get used to seeing my mug Katara, because I'm not going anywhere, not ever."
Aang stood true to his word. He remained by her side despite the heavy amount of criticism that followed the events after that fateful day. He pushed the envelope further; proving to Katara that he was in this for the long haul by constructing from the ground up their new home, a labor of love which served as his own personal testament of his love for her, just as he promised he would. But Aang didn't finish there. He was ready to honor his woman and child with his life…
The corridor was dim, the only source of light coming from the sunlight gleaming from the identical row of windows symmetrically aligned from both sides of the hall. The young Avatar made sure that he and Katara wouldn't be disturbed. He informed Zuko of his plans in advance, and Zuko rearranged everything accordingly. No maids, no meetings, no one to pester them; just him and Katara alone in the Fire Lord's Palace, perfect.
Aang cupped either side of Katara's cheeks, fly-aways her long locks gracefully falling from the gaps in between his fingers. The ball of nerves writhing in his stomach was making him feel sick, but he was determined to make the leap of faith and take the chance to do what he's been carefully preparing to do for the past couple of months.
"I feel so fortunate to have been found by you Katara, and even more fortunate to have you by my side. We've journeyed together and with the help of our friends and countless others saved the world together. So much history surrounds us Katara, and it's such a beautiful thing. There was peace in the world, but somewhere along the line we lost ourselves in the midst of this worldwide change, and our love life took a turn for the worst soon after."
She nodded agreeably, yet couldn't contain the depression formed in her demeanor, struggling to block the painful memories resurfacing from that dark area in her subconscious. The soft grip that traveled down to her shoulders broke her from her own thought-spell and brought her back to reality.
"I know our relationship hasn't been perfect, but I feel it's those rough times we endured that conditioned and solidified the bond we have now." he whispered, lightly circling her skin with his thumbs.
Katara's fingers lightly brushed the Avatar's cheeks, "It's only through trials that anyone is able to truly appreciate the good in everything, and that includes partnerships." Her ocean blue eyes staring longingly at him as a soft smile togged from the corners of her lips.
Aang returned her pleased gesture with a grin of his own, forcing his eyes to crease sweetly, "You're right." He whispered as he descended onto his left knee, "But I want to take what we have even further." he declared, his expression both eager and guarded.
Katara's watched Aang curiously as he reached for her hand, his fingers gently intertwining with hers as he cupped their joined grip with his free hand. He watched her intently, while she raised a questionable eyebrow. Then it suddenly dawned on her what he was trying to impose, her heart pumped full throttle and her smile quickly dropped as her eyes swelled and glistened with tears.
"I don't have a betrothal necklace crafted for you right now, but I give you my word that I will make an honest woman out of you and give you the absolute best necklace I can provide. However at this moment I am here, kneeling to you and offering you my entire self. I can't imagine my life anywhere else or with anyone else. The idea of you not being with me alone is maddening which is why I'm asking you, Katara, to be my wife."
Her eyes widened as she gently laid her hand on her abdomen, feeling the jolt and quickening jumps from the child inside of her. Tears were now spilling onto her flushed cheeks and onto her royal blue dress. She was sure of her decision before Aang even asked her, and always knew what she would say when this day came. Without giving it a second thought, Katara got down on her knees and stared longingly at those stone gray pools she's loved for so long. She pressed her lips on his forehead and rested hers on his.
"I will." Her voice was dreamy and for the first time in a long time, certain.
The young Avatar savored the bit of happiness he could obtain during these tumultuous six months, but things had already begun to look up. Slowly everything has been returning to normal; the people of the Nations were no longer scrutinizing Aang, some even allowing the Avatar to help rebuild their villages and towns and attend local festivals. His image within the Nations was still a bit marred, but the situation was getting better. Now is the time to prove that he is the savior the people of the world need and that in itself is a task that will probably take many years to accomplish, if ever. But at the moment, the focal point of his attention is to place the finishing touches to the home he built for his family, just in time for a very pregnant Katara to move in before their wedding, which was ready to take place just several nights from then. The young Avatar's brother-in-law-to-be was busy hauling enormous bags of rice near the door or the newly constructed dwelling, his hands and underarms dusted in talcum powder. Despite being near winter, the weather was unseasonably warm, leaving him, his father and Aang to feel the full effects of fluctuating atmospheric conditions. It didn't necessarily help that the island itself sat very high above sea level, leaving them to feel every bit of the direct pounds of the sun on their bare backs.
"Hahh, you know, it's times like this which makes me wish that Toph was around." huffed the out-of-breath warrior as heat radiated from his sweat riddled ebony skin, the laborious work forcing glistening droplets to secrete and fall from even edge of his exposed body.
Hakoda chuckled, "Now, now Sokka; you know it's tradition that the males and only the males of the family assist one another when it comes to this type of work. The process of building a house is just as sacred as exchanging vows, and should be kept so." Hakoda explained.
Sokka's face contorted as if repulsed by his father's answer, "Well, she might as well be! She has the strength to prove it, not to mention the fact that she acts like one, and she's attracted to women so that would sort of count her as a man, am I right?" he snorted.
Hakoda rolled his eyes, embarrassed by his son's naivety, "You know, it's not like we're working with wood and nails here Sokka. Aang was the one who did all of the grueling work; we're just helping him bring in the furniture." he answered while gesturing towards Aang, who was busy finishing painting the outer exterior of the ranch-styled house with a white coat.
And what a lovely sight it was; the only symbol of modern society in the midst of the wildflowers, tall trees coupled with long blades of green grass and rocky hills that bordered the northern edge of the island. Listening to the waves crashing onto the harbor below added to the charm of the locale; it truly felt peaceful and serene, just how Katara would like it.
"What do you mean we're not working with wood? Pretty much everything we've been hauling inside is made of wood, heavy wood. I almost broke my back trying to carry that stinkin' bureau into the house earlier. And what's with all the heavy bags of food? You need a wheelbarrow to get those things off the ground." exclaimed Sokka as he struggled to lift a small wooden drawer from a pile of assorted furnishing.
"Yet you were able to lift them?" the chief asked slyly, rubbing the sweat accumulated above the smirk formed on his lips.
"Well yeah, but that's just because I'm a solider, and I'm that awesome." answered Sokka as he flexed his muscles, kissing his biceps as he self-admired his toned physique.
His son's conceitedness forced Hakoda to glower with a pout formed on his lips, once again his focus temporarily shifting towards the sky as he continued to bring in more furniture, while leaving his son to finish adoring himself in the sweltering heat. Once that was out of the way, Sokka joined his father and brought in the last of the heavy belongings into the house. As soon as they were finished, both men picked up the final piece of home decor while Aang moved on to work on the tall, wooden gate that would expand and surround the parameters of the island and sub sequentially the property within it; protecting the entire area from wildlife, potential marauders and any physical, visible threat.
Sokka lifted a very large, round vessel by its rims and his father followed suit as he lifted the other side and rested it on his plump shoulder. The object was made of wood, each plank aligned perfectly with one another and coated a midnight blue with a dark brown base attached below, making an enormous cavity from one side, "Where do you want the pool, Aang?" yelled Sokka.
The Avatar, sweat dripping from his sinewy figure, lifted the arm holding his hammer over his brow and wiped the accumulated moisture as the sunset's hues of dark orange, violet and blue reflected on his bare skin, "Put it in the bedroom." he yelled back, pointing to the house with the head of the hammer as he diligently continued his work.
Sokka nodded and gestured his father to take the pool inside, while Hakoda begrudgingly did so with a sneer. Sokka has been near intolerable to Hakoda since he found out he was expecting, making him more frustrating to deal with, which to Hakoda was a real feat. The heat was playing games with their heads, making both of them paranoid, and neither was in the mood to argue with one another. Despite the pool being rather bulky looking, it felt very airy beneath their grip, making it easy for Hakoda to carry in without his second help, or as Hakoda was thinking from the back of his mind, the annoying help. While the chief carried the wooden pool inside, Sokka casually walked towards the young Avatar's direction.
Aang put down his hammer and bent a whirlwind current below him, allowing himself to fall gracefully on his feet and onto the perfectly leveled ground he personally manipulated to form the sturdy foundation needed for construction. When Sokka was within arm's reach, the young Avatar gripped his old friend's shoulder as they both aimlessly strolled around the property and past the newly built pier below, both admiring the breathtaking nature surrounding them.
"This place is awesome, Aang."
The Avatar snickered, "Yeah thank Katara's keen pointing senses for this place." he said.
Sokka crossed his arms and chuckled, "True, so are you guys planning on expanding? You know, get a pool somewhere around here or a restaurant, stuff like that?"
Aang pouted, "Maybe not all of that fancy stuff you mentioned, but I'll definitely put more thought into it when the time calls for it. I'd be nice to put an Air Temple around those clearings over there, or a small lake, who knows?" He seemed thrilled by his own ideas.
"That would be nice" said the young warrior, followed by a couple of silent moments.
"So, Suki didn't look so good the last time I saw her." Aang pointed out.
Sokka chuckled as he wrapped his arm around the young Avatar's neck, "Heh, yeah well, that's what happens when you're pregnant." he beamingly answered, a warm wind brushing loose strands of dark hair over his face.
The young Avatar grinned in return; the sunset's colors illuminating the side of his face, "Yeah, I went through that with Katara about a month after we got back together, but it subsided. She said it would; usually morning sickness goes away after the fourth month, but she told me that some women experience it throughout the whole pregnancy, so I guess-."
"Whoa, whoa whoa" Sokka halted the young Avatar as he pressed his palm on his chest, "Are you telling me that she might have to go through this the rest of her pregnancy?"
The young Avatar shrugged his shoulders, "Errr, she might." He rubbed the back of his head bashfully, sounding unsure of himself.
"Great, just when I thought I was going to see the light at the end of this constant worrying of when she's going to hurl next. Heh, let's hope that last little tad bit of information you gave me doesn't happen 'cause I don't know how much more constant sounds of torture I can take, you know what I'm sayin'?" He said comically, only for his humor to drain away moments later as another troubling thought passed through his mind, "Speaking of pregnancy, you're both sure this is what you want? You know you can always have Yugoda or any of the Northern Water Tribe healers to supervise you guys when it happens." He suggested.
Aang could only smile as he placed his comforting grasp on his brother-in-law's shoulder. He suspected Sokka was worried about their decision, but they were confident in their capabilities of handling the situation, "Yeah, we're definitely sure about this." he answered.
But Sokka viewed their decision as reckless rather than noble, and was above all worried for his sister's safety, "But what if something happens to her? What if all of a sudden something goes wrong and no one is within reach of help? You're both going to be here by yourselves. Who will be able to get here in time in case something goes awry?" he asked.
Aang placed his free hand on his other shoulder; intently exchanging gazes with the Water Tribe Warrior as he gripped him reassuringly, "Everything's going to be alright Sokka. I'm going to be there, and I'll make sure that nothing happens to your sister. I give you my word." he responded smoothly.
Sokka took a few seconds to control his anxiety, then inhaled a deep breath and timidly nodded his head in agreement, "Alright Aang, I trust you…but promise me if anything's even slightly not right, you'll do whatever it takes to get her the help she needs." he pleaded.
Aang believed there was nothing to worry about. Couples have been giving birth alone since the beginning of man, and most importantly, this was the way Katara wanted it to happen. However, unlike many people in their world who opt for an unassisted birth, Aang and Katara have decided to bring their child into this world in the most natural way she could implement, in her element…water.
He gently shook Sokka, "I promise." He reiterated.
The young warrior couldn't resist the tug coming from the corners of his lips, and a wave of relaxation emerged from his seemingly uncomfortable demeanor, "Better, it's been hard keeping this a secret from dad and Gran-Gran. The whole idea seems almost random if you ask me, well, not really. I mean, it does make sense, she's a water bender, and you're part water bender so maybe you guys have that whole spirituality thing going on with this, maybe I just wouldn't personally get it even if I tried to understand the concept behind it. How did the idea of having a water birth come about anyway?" He asked as they both continued their casual stroll.
Aang suddenly felt abashed; his hand once again timidly finding its place on the back of his neck, "U-uh…well I err…"
Sokka gave the young Avatar a puzzling look at first, his eyebrow lifted as if trying to read between the lines of his stammer and the sudden flush on his cheeks. His fingers fiddled with the handle of the blade tucked in his sheath before his expression suddenly cringed, and the answer to the Avatar's unusualness came to him swiftly and unapologetically. He knew something obscene was about to spill from Aang's lips.
"Oh, Ew Ew Ew! Ok, If it has anything to do with you or my sister doing inappropriate things then I don't want to hear any of it!" he yelled as he covered his ears.
A bashful smile formed on Aang's lips. Sokka was right, the details were very explicit and making him uncomfortable if only for a moment was a bit tempting, but he refrained from getting elaborate with the specifics of how the intimate encounter he had with Katara came to inspire the idea of a water birth, "O-kay then." he answered with a wicked grin and eyes dimmed, "I won't say how it happened, I'll only say that she came up with the idea."
Sokka scowled at the young Avatar, eying him evilly, "Alrighty then. My ears don't need to be tainted by gritty details. Well, did she say why?" asked Sokka, "I mean it's not like all women demand a water birth out of the blue. There had to have been some discussion in the midst of your…whatever it was that you guys did to come up with the idea." His face was now hardened, trying and failing miserably to keep up the oblivious façade.
Aang couldn't resist a chuckle as he tucked his hands into his pockets, "Well, yeah. Being in the water would be soothing for her, but it's like you mentioned before Sokka. It's her element, and mine too considering I'm the Avatar, so she decided to make it as intimate as possible, to be around something that connects the both of us and the baby, just us. " There was a sense of sweet delight in his tone of voice.
"Wow…that's pretty deep Aang." said Sokka.
He nodded, his vision intently on the ground in front of him as his fingers slipped from Sokka's shoulder, "Yeah. We wanted this experience to have some sort of meaning and keep it within our circle of friends and family for the time being, instead of making a whole media circus around it like too many social hierarchy do when they have kids. I don't care how much I want everyone's approval and blessing, stuff like this should be kept personal, and I would never stand for exploiting my family for the sake of gaining some sympathy from a few people that couldn't give two cents about them." He said, his glare absentmindedly shifting to the vast orange and violet-bathed ocean on the horizon.
Sokka stood proudly next to the young Avatar, more than pleased with Aang's response to the recent media speculations. "So, did you finish her betrothal necklace?" He asked, attempting to divert the conversation to a more pleasant topic.
Aang's face lit up, "Yeah, dusk's setting anyway, why don't we head back and I'll show you?" he suggested.
Sokka followed Aang's lead as they both jogged towards the newly constructed house, where Hakoda was waiting for them inside, lounging on the new furniture with his limbs sprawled and staring intently at the ceiling while he chewed on a rope of what was believed to be jerky.
Sokka's nostrils expanded furiously as he scowled when he caught his father resting like a sloth, "Come on dad, Aang's going to show us the betrothal necklace he made for Katara." His annoyance was distinct in his voice as he gestured his father to follow them.
Hakoda was upright as soon as Sokka finished his sentence; completely dismissing his son's irked attitude as another one of his many bossy, child-like tantrums, "What are we standing around here for? Let's go see it!"
The three men walked down the hall to the farthest door to their left and entered the room behind it. The first thing that greeted them was the scent of fresh pine and lavender, followed by the wide open windows drenched the room in the evening sky's light. Beneath the magnificent display of violets, reds and oranges was a simply furnished bed, its headboard arched upward with a simple bow carving on top and tall bed posts on every corner; the mattress adorned with two large, white pillows and red sheets. There was a small dresser on each side of the headboard, and both drawers were decorated with small cream vases filled with panda lilies. A large, dark-stained bureau sat on the other side of the room, complete with a mirror mounted on top taller than any of the three men, and another door stood on the far corner which led to a personal restroom, an amenity considered as a luxury in their society. Aang was very careful to arrange their bedroom to her liking, not that she'd mind how their room was decorated, but he wanted to make sure the room was comfortable enough for her. He however couldn't care less. Just give him a pillow and blanket and he'd be happy sleeping next to a crevice.
And there it was, placed on top of the bureau sat the exquisite piece of jewelry handcrafted by the young Avatar for his bride-to-be. Aang walked towards it and picked it up by the chain, delicately dangling it by the ends as he showcased it to Sokka and Hakoda. There was a similarity between Katara's and her mother's betrothal necklaces. The chain was the same navy blue color and the aqua stone-sculpted medallion bore the symbol of the Water Tribe in its middle, but unlike her mother's, the Water Tribe symbol was surrounded by the carved wind symbols of the Air Nomads, and its brace was not just a flat tie, but an elaborately woven masterpiece of threads.
"Wow Aang." His sharp blue eyes twinkled as if mesmerized by it, "You know I always said you could go into the jewelry business." He said as he and his father continued ogling the young Avatar's fine craftsmanship.
"Thanks." said Aang bashfully.
Hakoda analyzed and admired the piece of work in front of him, knowing well how difficult it is to make a necklace by hand, "Yes, yes, it's very beautiful Aang, did you tangle this yourself?" asked Hakoda with speculation etched on his face, rubbing his chin with the middle crease of his index finger and thumb.
The young Avatar's eyes hooded and lips pursed, sighing as he gave his father-in-law-to-be a dazed look. It seemed as though the apple didn't fall far from the tree, "No, not tangled…wo-ven." he answered, "It's kind of like a tangle, except it's intricately designed instead of a discombobulated mess." he answered.
"Ahh I see." answered Hakoda, still appreciating the complexity of the necklace.
"When Sokka, Katara and I were still traveling around the world to help me master the four elements, Katara's necklace went missing. So in order to make up for it, I took Sokka's fishing line and wove it into a necklace for her to wear for that time being." said Aang in reminiscence, "She really liked it, so I decided to make her something that was symbolic to her culture, while at the same time containing a piece of my own creativity, my personal token of endearment for her; this betrothal necklace was the result." he boasted, a cheesy grin wearing heavy on his lips and chest pumped out.
Hakoda and Sokka were a bit blown away by Aang's complex explanations; gawking at him and then at each other, wondering how someone as young as 17 could be so insightful and so deep. But then again he was the Avatar, he's had thousands of lifetime experiences to learn from when it came to love of all things, but somehow they knew that this sentiment came from him personally, not from his previous incarnations. He was truly wise beyond his years.
Sokka then turned his attention to the young Avatar, "Aang, are you sure that you want to marry Katara? I mean, I'm not saying that you don't love her, but are you certain that you want to tie the knot now? You don't think it's too soon?" he asked.
Aang's grin dropped as quickly as he heard the words 'are you sure?' He paused for a moment with his chin slightly raised, looking at both men fervently. This conversation was long overdue, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"No, I don't think it's too soon." He answered, "Sokka, Hakoda, there's nothing I want more than to marry Katara. I know that it's disgraceful within your culture to have a child out of wedlock, which is why I want to honor her and our baby. The last thing I want is to make a mockery of her, our family and yours." the subtlety in his tone was both calming and reassuring.
Sokka and Hakoda agreed with the Avatar. They're well aware of their no-tolerance tribal traditions, and although they're not as rigid as their tribal counterpart, they still take their own sacred practices rather seriously. They understood his reasoning and gladly supported it, even if the events prior which led to Aang's decision weren't exactly the best ways he could've realized what he really wanted.
"I didn't propose to her the way I would've liked to. You guys know how spontaneous it was, heck I didn't even have her betrothal necklace prepared in time when I got down on my knee and popped the question. But I did it anyway because my heart wanted me to, because I would like for her to bring our child into this world with integrity. I have no doubt in my mind that I want to be with Katara for the rest of my life, and I know she feels the same way, so why wait? This is the perfect time for the both of us to get married." explained Aang.
"Are you really sure?" asked Hakoda.
"Would I be here doing all of this for her if I wasn't?" pointed out Aang.
Relief was an understatement when it came to what Hakoda was feeling. He knew the young Avatar loved Katara very much, and was certain that Katara was just as sure about this decision as he was. Yet he was aware that regardless of it all, Aang was still a young man who had yet to taste what life had to offer. Cold feet are heard of way too often in young marriages, and hearing Aang explain his feelings towards Katara made him feel better in knowing that there really isn't anything to worry about, that she and his grandchild will be well taken care of. They were already together; nothing was going to change that, so they decided to make it official, in a noble way. What more could a father ask for?
"Hakoda, dad, sir, I know I did a lot of things wrong, but I'm doing my best to make this right. I'd take my own life before hurting Katara again. There's still work being done in the world, and I'm aware that I haven't been as available to her lately because of the constant demands, but I can assure you that my life is primarily dedicated to your daughter" He turned his attention to Sokka, "Your sister." his focus quickly returned to the Chief, "You have nothing to worry about, Hakoda. Above all else, above my call of duty to the council and the Nations, Katara and our family will always be my number one priority."
The joy within Hakoda was so overwhelming that he couldn't contain himself from launching at the Avatar and embraced him firmly. He's been waiting for the Avatar to tell him this for a while, "And there's nothing that we want more than for our sister to be happy, and for you to finally be a part of our family…son."
Aang returned his embrace just as strongly. The last time he and Hakoda held each other this way was back when Katara was gravely ill in the Fire Nation infirmary. It's not a memory he likes to dwell on for too long. Soon after they pulled back from each other's hold, he walked towards the bureau and placed the necklace on its glossy surface, his fingers still gently laid on the medallion as he gazed at it with a feeling of accomplishment embedded in his heart.
Sokka awkwardly stood his ground, his face dumb while he twiddled his fingers and waited for the sappy moment to end. However he didn't hesitate to hasten the moment himself.
"Well, the big day's fast approaching gents; we better get some shut-eye and finish the rest of the unpacking tomorrow." said Sokka as he forced a yawn and stretched his arms into the air.
The young Avatar and Chief nodded agreeably, "Did you bring our ceremonial outfits, Sokka? I don't want to have to send your messenger hawk back to Suki and force the women to haul those things back here. They're pretty heavy, you know." said Hakoda.
Sokka dismissed his father's worry casually, "Yeah, yeah, they're in the living room. Honestly dad, do you really take me for an imbecile who would force his pregnant wife, pregnant sister and grandmother to bring fancy, ample weight clothing from 10,000 miles away?"
"I wouldn't doubt it."
Aang chuckled at the oddly funny father-son moment, separating the fuming, balled fisted men from their emerging quarrel, "Alright, alright come on guys, chill out. It's obvious that we're all very tired, let's get some sleep and we'll talk about our outfits in the morning." He suggested as he attempted to diffuse the situation.
Hakoda and Sokka glared at each other for a few moments, but even they couldn't keep a straight face much longer and soon after, both burst out laughing at one another, both perplexed as to why they were so upset in the first place. Aang nodded at their silliness as Hakoda and Sokka exchanged high fives and hugged briefly. With a cheeky grin plastered on his face, the young Avatar rested his hands on their backs and led them out of the bedroom.
On the other side of the world, a ship was sailing across the vast ocean not too far from the coast of the Fire Nation. On board, a very tired and very pregnant Southern Water Tribe woman stood alongside her sister-in-law and robust Kyoshi warrior as they watched the brilliance of the near full moon illuminate the horizon, both enwrapped in their winter wear and surrounded by endless miles of ice and water with the icy chill apparent in their smoky breath.
"Hahh...I love when the moon is full. It's just feels so, invigorating." said Katara as she breathed in the cool evening air, gazing longingly at the heavenly body.
The Kyoshi warrior snugged her head deeper in her furry hood while trying to find relief from the frigid weather, frozen in place and not looking so strong anymore, "Yeah, it is beautiful, but it obviously has a more direct effect on you than it does to me. Being a water bender, you're just drawn to it huh?" asked Suki, tucking her hands deeper in her pockets as she tried to combat the frigidness of the air.
"Yeah, not like I can use its effects at the moment." The water bender answered, referring to her current inability to bend any form of liquid. She turned her attention to her sister-in-law; her focus now darting from her dark brown eyes to her concealed tummy, "So how are you feeling today?"
Suki sighed as she stuck out her tongue and a repulsed expression settled on her face, gripping her abdomen as sounds of churning guts emanated from her belly, "Mwwwughhh, alright I guess, at least better than yesterday. But I have to admit, the swaying of this boat in the ocean isn't helping much either." she answered with puffed cheeks, looking like she was ready to regurgitate at any moment.
The water bender chuckled as she rubbed Suki's back, "I know, it's awful, but it'll go away in due time. Trust me." said Katara, "Just keep sucking on those sweet candies I gave you and you'll feel some relief from the morning sickness." she advised with a cheer.
Suki chuckled weakly, "Alright, but will you give me some more? I kinda ate all the ones you gave me already. Anything lemon flavored is pretty much my weakness." she said with flushed cheeks.
Katara giggled at the expectant mother, "Of course. I have some in my pocket right now if you need it." answered Katara as she went to reach for her pocket, but suddenly, her face twisted with grimace and she was forced to hunch over, gripping her large belly as small pants escaped her breath.
Suki immediately took notice of her discomfort and grabbed hold of Katara, "Katara, Katara are you alright?" she asked, almost frightened by what she was seeing.
Katara struggled to breathe while trying to re-gather her composure, "I-I'm fine, just spontaneous contractions is all." she answered, a smile struggling to form over her winced expression as her hands trembled from the sudden tight pain in her belly.
Suki was now officially worried, her mouth slightly gaped and brow creased, "Katara, I don't think this baby's going to wait until after tomorrow's ceremony." she insisted.
Katara suddenly felt her contractions subside while she struggled to straighten her posture, "To be honest with you, I don't think he or she's going to wait either." answered Katara as she struggled to straighten her posture. "But I really want to do this Suki, I want to marry him before this baby comes." there was a sense of urgency in her voice.
Suki nodded disappointingly as she wrapped her arm around her conflicted sister-in-law, "That's not for you to decide, Katara. You know that." she answered affectionately.
"You don't understand, Suki. I really need to make sure this baby comes after I marry Aang." she restated.
Suki humphed, frustrated by her friends seeming act of desperation, "Katara, you know both Water Tribes have silly, old school traditions. Remember when you told me about how you were prohibited from learning water bending in the Northern Water Tribe simply because you were a girl? So what if you became pregnant before you and Aang were married, who cares?"
Katara stared at Suki like a lost polar-bear puppy, absentmindedly biting her lip, "Yes, I remember that, and I can sort of see where you're going with this Suki, but I really want to try and have this baby after the ceremony. It has nothing to do with the traditions of the Southern Water Tribe, Northern Water Tribe; it's pretty much my own personal reason."
'Oh? And what reason is that?"
Katara felt regretful for having mentioned anything in the first place and felt herself cower away from Suki's hold, "Could we not talk about this right now?"
"If not now, then when? No, uh uh, because it'll bug me throughout the rest of our trip to the island if I don't find out what's going on in that head of yours, Katara." she demanded. Suki wasn't ready to let Katara get away without talking about this supposed inner turmoil she was having.
Katara knows how persistent Suki can be and she still didn't feel entirely comfortable talking about this with her, but she desperately needed someone to listen to her too. She might as well give in, who knows? Maybe something good would come out of her honesty, or better yet, someone who agrees with her. She knelt down and gathered the will to explain to Suki everything.
"We'll it's just one reason, pretty much a silly reason" she shrugged her shoulders, "But it's still important to me. I really don't know what's making me feel all of these intense emotions. Usually I'm very good with controlling my thoughts, but these pregnancy hormones have pretty much warped the way I think too." she chuckled modestly, "You see Suki, I want to be able to tell this child when he or she gets older that mommy and daddy were married when they were born. I want to be able to say, 'mommy and daddy had you after marriage'. I want to set a good example for my child, I want my child to know that I did things right so that they'll know how to make the right choices in the future." explained Katara.
A great sense of pity took over Suki and hastily got down on her knees and attempted to console her, "You're thinking impractically Katara, technically you didn't do everything right. You conceived out of wedlock." Suki pointed out.
"I know, but the baby never needs to know that." said Katara, "Marriage is universal, everyone knows what its purpose is. I'm just so stressed out and afraid that this baby will take from our example and end up going through the same heartache I did, and even though Aang and I reconciled it was a heart-wrenching road to take, and it's not always guaranteed a happy ending."
Suki sympathy towards Katara embedded itself in her heart. She understood her worry because she too has worst case scenarios running rampant through her mind, even though she and Sokka did everything right from the beginning, "I know you're scared Katara, but you have to remember that this is just one of many matters that your child will have to face at some point in their lives. He or she's not going to be some emotionally depraved, confused person that won't know how to make their own decisions, they'll be perfectly capable of handling itself because you're going to teach them how. Your job is to be there and be supportive as a parent, and if they decide to take that road and end up messing up, then they'll get back up and move forward…just like you did." Suki took Katara's hand into her own and grasped her gently, "Your decisions and mistakes are not a reflection of what your child will become."
Katara fought back the urge to cry, "You're right. I guess messing up is just part of the never ending cycle of nature. That's how you learn from your mistakes, otherwise how would one know for sure what's good and what isn't?" she said as she wiped a stray tear from her cheek, "So my baby's not doomed?" Her soft sobs stifled her breath as she coughed out a laugh.
Suki shook her head as she stood from her crouch, "Of course not. Your baby's going to be fine, just like you and Aang are. Look at the two of you, both happy, about to get married and move into a new home…and about to receive the most precious gift nature can give. There's nothing 'doom and gloom' about any of it." she said with her hands stretched out towards her affectionately.
A sweet grin emanated from her lips as she fondly rubbed her belly, and both women continued to admire the stars that decorated the nighttime sky while listening to the waves crashing on the lower bow of the ship.
"I spoke to my father and grandmother about it, which raised concerns for them. They misinterpreted everything I said and assumed I was marrying Aang for the wrong reasons and vice versa. He knows how I feel about it too, he's sees how much this hurts me and tries to reassure me that it's all in my head, or that they'll eventually come to see that's not the case. But these thoughts Suki, they're making me restless. I just can't be ok with my family thinking we've only agreed to get married because we got pregnant."
"But you're not, and neither is he. You're justified in your actions Katara; just remember that what's most important right now is what you want to do, because at the end of the day you're the one who has to live with your choices, no one else. Now for a few seconds put the thought of your baby to the side and ask yourself this to be sure Katara, what do you really want to do? Are you certain about this giant leap of faith you're taking with him?"
The strong wind blew beneath the water bender's long brown locks, lifting them as the glow of the moon left a twinkle in her eye, "I love him Suki, there's no doubt in my mind that I to marry him…which is why we're going to make this right."
Suki beamed at her pleasantly, in outward appearance unphased by her sister-in-law's answer, but within her succumbing to the urge to object to the issue irking her, "And the baby, do you think it will wait until after the wedding to make its appearance?"
The water bender smiled contently with her head lifted with pride, "I have a feeling it will." she answered confidently, while Suki tucked a couple of flowing strands of the water bender's hair behind her ear, both exchanging cheerful glances.
Katara once again reached into her pocket and pulled out a small, transparent bag of assorted sweet balls, "We should be heading into our sleeping quarters in a few, but do you still want those lemon candies? I'm pretty sure I have some left in here." She held it in front of her face and jiggled the bag filled with a wide variety of sugary confections.
A very cheesy Suki held her hand open as she cocked her head to the side like a kid in the candy store, "Please!"
There was a cool breeze in the air that evening. It flurried earlier in the day, yet besides the blanket of white that lightly dusted the premises, there was no visible sign of winter to be found. The unusual winter weather maintained the island in its summer state, everything on it seemed frozen in time. Lush flowers of all shapes and colors were still in bloom and the grass still green and tall; even a few birds and crickets were heard chirping away as the orange glow of the sun descended from a distance, scattering and blending its light with the incoming darkness of night.
Finally twilight had set in, and following the obscurity was the white orb of the moon and glints spreading across the heavens. The moment they have been waiting for had arrived. The setting was simple, yet elegant; surrounded by nothing but nature. The ceremony was to be held in the spacious backyard, a very intimate occasion with only their personal friends and family present. No massive group of spectators present, no council members, just those who are closest to them. Even Guru Pathik, who prefers his reclusive way of life away from people, was present, even though he opted to watch from the farthest seating available.
The setting for the garden wedding was impeccable, spacious, and the scenery was magnificent. Every attendant could see the mountains rising from coast of the Earth Kingdom, each one very much visible on the horizon by the light of the blazing full moon and sister stars. The altar, standing with a curved roof supported by flat-ended oblong pillars, was constructed, painted a pearl white and glossed to perfection by workers of a local carpentry residing in the capitol of Ba Sing Se; given to the Avatar as a congratulatory gift for helping the owner's daughter acquire the hard fought position of district Architect.
And the seating was unlike anything anyone had ever seen; each row of what resembled to be bleachers was actually grassy and floral land lifted and contoured from the ground, from an aerial view they resembled ripples expanding from the altar outward towards the back entrance of the house, it's design and formation courtesy of the groom himself. Small lanterns made with metal frames hung from each side of the seats that resembled waves, illuminating both the outer court and the midst of it all: the isle. Carpeted the color and brightness of the moon and bordered by red roses and lavender, it stretched from the backdoor of the house to the front of the altar, connecting them in velvet white. The scent of the countryside wafted throughout the area, filling it with its sweetness.
Katara opted for a wedding during the day, but Aang insisted they exchange their vows in witness to the ocean and moon spirits, the sacred deities of the Water Tribe People and share the moment in respect to her cultural tradition. To him it, the event was all about her, and he wanted to plan it as so. He also wanted to make sure the wedding went on with no interruptions as well; so on the plus side, a very low risk of outside intruders would dare try to sneak onto the island to get the inside scoop of the Avatar's wedding let alone in the darkness of night, not that Toph would stand back and do nothing about it anyway if she copped a sense of trouble from her hyper-sensitive feet.
"Don't worry Aang; I'll willingly give the business to anyone who steps even a toe out of line. If there's even a whiff of danger, I'll smell it from a mile away." said Toph wickedly, punching her fist with a loud smack into her free palm as the frills of her sea-green dress and worn-down, jet black hair swished in response.
Aang, who was standing on the Altar as the attendants found their seats, wasn't used to seeing her look 'pretty', it just wasn't in her personality to willingly put a dress on, but it meant a lot to Katara if she did which is why she grinned and bared it. Unfortunately, it was making her edgy. He was a bit intimidated by the extra brashness coming from her; he doesn't think he'd ever get used to seeing her nervy all the time, and looking like a girl on top of it. Odd and scary doesn't even cover it.
"Uh, thanks Toph, but I don't think anything crazy's going to be happening tonight. However it does give me comfort that you're willing to take care of things if anything gets too out of hand." He surveyed her suspiciously.
"Ha! Best believe I will Twinkletoes. This dress won't keep me away from a challenge." She stuck out her tongue in disgust, sluggishly tugging the corners of the spiffy, spaghetti-strapped dress hanging from her sculpted shoulders. "Ugh, I hate this thing so much. Why couldn't Katara have me wear some fancy pants instead? I have plenty of those in my closet! Bet you look mighty nice and comfortable in your outfit Twinkletoes, and not like some weirdo trying to fit in with the rest of the crowd. And don't even think about patronizing me, I know I look awkward." she said begrudgingly, her teeth clenched, nostrils flaring and empty eyes staring menacingly into nothing.
Now Aang was really afraid. She looked like a maniac who was ready to strike and murder the closest person to her, and that person was him. He chuckled nervously as his hands waved in a cease-and-desist motion; he had no way of calming her down and wasn't sure if he should stay and continue to try and help her relax or leave her alone in her paranoia and let her cool herself down, leaving some poor, unsuspecting bystander in her wrath. Just then, his wild thoughts were interrupted by a soothing voice coming from behind him.
"Are you behaving over there?"
Those dark eyes and long, chestnut hair were pleasantly familiar. Wearing a flattering ensemble that was easily recognizable of Earth Kingdom fancy wear, the woman eyed Toph with worry.
"Toph, you look tense. Come here." said Mana as she walked towards her with open arms.
Aang watched as she grabbed and interlaced the earth bender's twitchy fingers and laid her head on her shoulder, "Its ok honey. It won't be long before you can take off this thing and switch to those overalls I love so much." She purred and caressed her head in the curve of her lover's neck. "And remember, you're doing this for Katara, not your mom, not your dad, Katara." she reassured.
Toph took a couple of deep breaths while trying hard to regain her levelheadedness, still disgruntled but nearing stability, "You're right, Mana. For Katara." she said as she shifted her void glare towards Aang and pointed to his chest, "And if you, Zuko, Sokka or any of the other dunderheads ever even think of vocalizing that I don't care enough about any of you, I'll kindly remind all of you of this day…before punching each and every one of you in the gut, with the exception of anyone who's pregnant." she threatened with a fierce glare.
Mana chuckled nervously, "Don't mind her, Aang. She's a bit uncomfortable." she explained as she skimmed the young Avatar's attire, "You look very nice by the way, Aang. Katara's going to go bonkers when she lays eyes on you." Mana chuckled.
Aang poised himself and blushed, "You think so?" he asked, elated at the prospect of Katara being pleased with the ensemble he chose.
The young maid analyzed his garments even further. It looked very much like the clothes he wore when he was a child; pastel yellow collar split in the middle and the familiar crimson sash wrapped around his waist. The exception now was that his shoulders were draped with a long, red cape, and beneath the split of his long shirt was what resembled the lower rims of a crimson robe. Around his neck he wore the medallion of the Air Nomads, the centerpiece of the entire ensemble. He represented his race's core roots well with his outfit and very handsomely at that.
Mana couldn't help but roll her eyes and smile crookedly, "Don't be coy, Aang. She's going to love you in this and you know it."
"Don't flatter him Mana; he'll never leave us alone." There was that all-too-common menacing grin of Toph's again.
Aang laughed in relief. It was good to see Toph lighten up a bit, and unbeknownst to Mana, he truly was worried that Katara wouldn't think much of what he was wearing. It's always more than good to get a second opinion and he was glad it was from someone outside his circle rather than someone who could potentially lie to him to spare his feelings.
"Why don't we go sit down honey?" suggested Mana as she led Toph to one of the empty seats near the altar.
The young Avatar stood in his place next to the Priest, both of them gallant and antsy to get started. The Priest looked comfortable and confident, with his silver hair sleeked back into a long braid away from his wrinkled, tanned face. Aang however looked very nervous, unable to control the fidget of his feet and his eyes darted aimlessly around the island. He hadn't seen his bride-to-be since the night she arrived several days before. Apparently it was also considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride at least two nights before the ceremony in not just the Water Tribe circle but the other Nations as well, so Aang had to grin and bear the torture of being unable to see her, despite having been just a hallway away from her the whole time. The Priest took notice of his distraught demeanor and reached into his heavy robes, pulling out a small, violet vial and handed it to the Avatar.
"Here, drink up Aang."
He eyed the Priest suspiciously, but took the vial anyway, "What is it?"
"Just some tonic mixed with a bit of ginseng, and a tiny bit of cactus juice. It'll calm your nerves. Ah, oh don't look at me like that. You'd need at least 20 of those things before the room starts to spin so don't fret. I've given this same concoction to many grooms and more than a handful of brides. Always does the trick." said the Priest with a cheer.
He opened the vial and took a whiff, eying the Priest dubiously, "Hmm…doesn't smell funny." he thought before he swallowed the contents down with one gulp, still keeping direct eye contact with him, "Doesn't taste funny. This tastes pretty good."
The Priest was unphased by Aang's distrust; on the contrary, he seemed quite cheerful. "Do you feel a bit better?" asked the Priest.
Sure enough, the old man had something going with that tonic of his. He immediately felt the effects and his nerves seemed to relax. He blinked the tiredness from his eyes as he handed the vial back to the priest, "Yes, I do. Thank you."
A cackle very similar to Bumi's blurted out of him, "Don't mention it." said the Priest before once again returning to his position.
Now reminded of his old friend, he searched the crowd for Bumi. He quickly spotted him on the other side of the court, having a chat with the members of the White Lotus; it's difficult to miss a hairstyle like that even from a distance. Amongst the group he saw Piandao, holding up delicately what Aang assumed to be a freshly forged sword to the rest of the men. The shine of the moon accentuated its newness; no unused blade is that flawless. Jeong Jeong admired the piece of craftsmanship, creating a small flame so as to light up the metal and get a better look at it. Pakku however was nowhere to be found.
He then spotted Pakku sitting next to his wife Kanna a couple of spaces away from Toph and Mana. He wore his White Lotus robes while Kanna dressed in an elegant long sleeved dress with a fur shawl draped over her shoulders and her bun in a higher position than usual. They both also sported the doleful expression that was typical from them. One would think they despised each other, but right in between them their hands joined, his thumb tracing the back of her wrinkled hand as a smile emerged and just as quickly fleeted from both of their lips. Right in between the couples he saw Suki, looking healthier than the last time he saw her. She wore the ocean-blue, long –sleeved kimono that was typical of Kyoshi natives and her hair twisted up in a bun. He could tell she was flustered by the heat, on account of her constant wiping of sweat from her flushed cheeks and flapping of her golden fan over her face. Besides that, she looked very happy to be there; exchanging aerial kisses with Sokka who was now making his way down the aisle with Hakoda. "Hopefully the chill of the night will help cool her down."
He saw several familiar faces from his previous wedding ceremony as well, except this time he doesn't feel like such a heel for having invited people for what he was feeling at the time to be no reason. The same members of the Freedom Fighters from last time were present, as well as Haru with his mother and father. He also spotted a few familiar faces from the Northern Air Temple making their way to the empty row behind Toph and Suki, including the Mechanist and his son, Teo. Teo was wearing an eccentric form of leg braces which allowed him to walk upright with the assistance of crutches. An invention made by his equally eccentric father Aang assumed. Amongst them sat a few acquaintances from every Nation, natives of the Water Tribe being the most prominent including the healer Yugoda and a few of her assistants. And on the farthest row to the right he spotted Xin, this time alone and not as distraught as she was that day. She looked different with her hair cut so short, but in a good way; it suited her well. But in the midst of the growing crowd of family and friends, one familiar face didn't stand out.
"Where's Zuko? and Iroh?"
Aang turned towards his beloved sky bison, who was lounging next to the altar lethargically with braids elegantly woven on his fur and yellow tulips hanging from the ends. Aang looked at his animal companion curiously, questioning where the feminine getup came from until he spotted a couple of Water Tribe children hanging over his back, laughing and decorating him before their mothers scowled at them to 'leave the nice bison alone' and return to their seats. Aang smiled and approached Appa's cold, wet nose, rubbing it as he leaned towards his left ear and whispered.
"Don't worry buddy, I'll take all of that stuff out of you later, just sit tight until the after the ceremony's over, ok?"
Appa groaned as if agreeing with his master. His massive, callous tongue found its way towards Aang's face as it lapped it affectionately, making Aang chuckle. But their moment was abruptly cut short when an unexpected interruption was spotted jogging desperately towards him.
A stout, balding man in Fire Nation military clothing approached Aang, panting and holding on to his knees with a rolled piece of parchment in his grasp as he struggled to bow.
"I send *sigh* word from the Fire Lord, *sigh* Avatar sir."
Aang gently but sternly told the messenger to rise, eying Toph who was about ready to jump out of her seat and devour the shaking guy like a hungry animal. Aang frantically nodded towards Mana with a frightened look in his eye while he inaudibly whispered the word 'no', hoping she would understand the gesture. Thankfully she did; she ducked her head in approval and whispered something to Toph that prompted her to sit back down before Mana consoled her with an arm rub.
He watched as the messenger readjusted his shirt and struggled to tuck it back into his pants. His bulbous nose was a bright red and secreting liquid, indicating that he had caught a chill. With a couple of deep sighs and a few sniffles, he regained his posture and unraveled the piece of parchment. He then balled his fist over his mouth before he cleared his throat and spoke aloud in a posh voice.
"Avatar, It is with great regret to inform you that the Fire Lord and his wife will not be present tonight. I report on behalf of Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lady Mai their apologies for their inability to attend due to the birth of their daughter. Fire Lady Mai is only a few days post-partum and is unable to travel at this time; thus, the Fire Lord has stayed behind to be with his wife and child. He hopes that you can understand this is a sensitive time for them, and has assured that he and I quote, "Will make it up to you and your family as soon as possible." explained the messenger.
He was suddenly ecstatic with joy for his old friend, "A girl, huh?" he thought, "I can already see Zuko being overprotective with her, 'don't do this', don't touch that' heh, he'll never let her out of his sight." He thought humorously to himself, and then another thought passed through his mind, "Hmm…what if Katara and I have a girl? Will I be the same way?" he questioned himself. He then chuckled at the thought and shook his head as he bowed respectfully to his messenger.
"Thank you." he answered charmingly, "And of Grand Lotus Iroh? He was supposed to be here as well."
"He chose to stay behind and help his nephew with the child, sir. He hoped you would understand." the man rubbed slimy, clear mucus dripping from his nostrils onto his sleeve.
Of course he understood. Aang was many things, but spiteful and selfish weren't amongst the list. Unfazed by the grotesque sight of him, he then pulled out a small satin bag that jingled from his trouser pocket, tossing it to the fatigued messenger, "For your trouble, use it to get some cold medicine. And please tell the Fire Lord and Iroh to take all the time they need. We'll plan something when the timing's appropriate."
The messenger looked at Aang speculatively, and then jingled the bag next to his ear before his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. He seemed so deeply moved by the Avatar's kind gesture and bowed frantically in return, "I-It was my pleasure, young Avatar, t-truly it was. I will deliver the message to the Fire Lord post-haste." his voice stammering and hoarse, combing the loose strands of dark hair back to their place with his fingers before he jogged back towards the dark wilderness and disappeared from sight, his head still slightly ducked in submission.
He heard what sounded like a motor collide with water from a distance, and slowly the sound became garbled in the air before it completely dissipated. "Must've used a motor boat, no wonder he got here so fast." Just as Aang's mind began to wander towards the mundane, he felt a sharp tug on his robes.
"Aang! Get your head out of the clouds, the ceremony's about to start." whispered a grouchy Sokka.
Startled, Aang blurted out involuntarily, "Oh, right!" His reaction was followed by a straightened posture as his hands balled behind his back as Sokka, wearing his best warrior outfit, followed suit and did the same. He observed the crowd, not even having noticed beforehand that everyone was already seated and all eyes were already directly on him. One could hear a pin drop, it was that quiet. His nerves were controlled thanks to the tonic the Priest gave him earlier; otherwise the need to vomit would've been too powerful for him to hold back. With a big, loud gulp, he did his best to look as presentable as possible, but his discomfort was already etched on his face and he was unable to shake it off. Next to him and Sokka, Hakoda, dressed similarly to his son but with bulkier armor, and the Priest were already waiting for the two young men to get with the program.
"Everything's settled over there?" asked Hakoda quietly, his stance still.
Sokka nodded as he whispered, "Yes" to Hakoda, his pose just as frozen as his father's.
Aang continued the low-pitched conversation, unable to move even if he wanted to, "Yeah; Zuko and his wife won't be joining us today. She gave birth to a little girl a couple of days ago so it's too soon for them to travel. I told the messenger to tell them that we'd think of something else to do, since he wants to make it up to us for not having made it tonight." he explained.
Hakoda chuckled softly, "Ahh I see; please give them my felicitations when you get the chance Aang." he insisted wamly.
Aang grinned; "I'll be sure to do that." he said, a bit louder than he wanted to be.
"Will you all be quiet already?" hissed the grumpy Priest as he shuffled through the pages of his aged, violet book of Hymns and Rights.
They all whispered their apology to the Priest before once again becoming as silent and still as statues. The harmonious strings of a zither began to sound, and everyone followed the rise of its song as they stood on their feet and looked back towards the doors of the house, waiting for the honored bride to come forth.
But there was a bit of a delay in her appearance. A couple of seconds passed, then another couple of seconds; still no bride. Everyone began to wonder where she was after a whole minute passed, and soon the whispers began to echo through the crowd. The groom grew more anxious, keen and panicky to see his bride.
"Is she all of a sudden having cold feet?" The worry was becoming too much for him to bear.
But just as he was about to plummet deeper into his worst fears, the doors expanded, drifting out of the obscurity a scent of the most heavenly honey and lemon perfume. And finally, after all these many months of waiting, she stepped out of the shadow. And there she stood, clothed in the finest ceremonial Water Tribe dress and adorned in the finest jewelry, stunning couldn't even describe her at that moment, no, she far beyond that, and her enormous belly only added to her splendor. She looked like the grand spirit of Mother Nature herself, adorned in the glory of her creation. The frills of her sleeves cascaded past her arms and flowed with her sway, while the looseness of her pearl and sky-blue colored, medieval halter dress created ripples beyond the drop of her belly down to her bare feet with every gracious motion. Her chandelier earrings hung gracefully down towards her chest, crafted in a complex design of loops with gold and sapphire stones. A moon flower was tucked above her ear, while her dark locks twisted intricately on the crown of her head and loosely joined together into a single braid that ended on the small of her exposed back. Her neck was also bare, ready to wear his token of ultimate devotion.
The attendants remained standing in witness to her, idolizing her magnificence, but their 'oohs' and 'aahs' were muffled in his hearing while the object of his affection drew nearer. He was literally struck dumb. Unable to pry his eyes off of her, he pleasingly drank in the sight of her contently as she locked his gaze to those ocean blue pools he adored so much, each one dusted lightly with silver shadow. His cheeks blushed while his heart pounded at speeds that rivaled the fiercest animal stalking its prey, and he felt as though it was just about to jump out of its throat with every step she took.
Katara too was feeling the same way, subtly ogling her husband-to-be in his dashing monk robes as she gripped her bouquet of assorted moon flowers and white lotuses tighter. She felt her child move inside her belly, stretching and kicking her insides as it once again nestled right above the left side of her hipbone. She grunted softly under her breath; the feeling was uncomfortable, but she was able to bear it and not let it show on her face, especially since she was now everyone's sole focus of attention.
As Katara continued her fated walk down the aisle, Sokka whispered in Aang's ear, breaking him temporarily from Katara's spell, "Hey, speaking of 'giving birth', my sister looks like she'll be ready to pop any day soon." whispered the young Warrior.
Aang puckered his lips towards Sokka's direction, while his gaze remained transfixed on Katara, "Yeah, but Yugoda assured us that she wouldn't be due until a couple of days after today at the earliest. No worries." he answered silently.
"Oh, alright then, but just remember the promise we made the other day. Anything wrong and you get help. I mean it Aang, Avatar or no Avatar I'll kick you were the sun don't shine if you don't exhaust all of your resources." he hissed in a low voice, his sharp blue eyes glued menacingly at the young Avatar.
"Alright, alright, exhaust all my options, I get it! Geez." growled Aang.
As quickly as Aang said those words, Katara finally made her way to his side on the altar. Sokka's frustrating comments quickly evaporated from his thoughts, and he was once again bewitched by her presence. She looked even more breathtaking up close, and as they came face to face with one another and locked gazes, all he was thinking about was how he could be so lucky to have such a beautiful being love him as much as he loves her, and how he wished he could take her to the bedroom right at that very moment and make her his. Katara however was much more distracted by the constant pains coming and leaving her, But she couldn't help but feel slightly at ease and comforted by his presence. How she loved him so.
The wedding truly stuck to her Tribal roots very well. Since his people hold no marital practices of their own, it's not like he could have put an input based off of his own cultural beliefs, not that he'd want to anyway. This moment was all about her, and rightfully so. The night was peaceful and serene, coupled with the rustle of the trees and the chirp of crickets while being surrounded by those closest to them. Everything was perfect.
The Priest leaned towards them, "I've been informed to cut the ceremony short due to Miss Katara's advancing condition. Tonight I will be performing your rights briefly, with a few changes here and there. All for your comfort Miss Katara." he confided.
Aang was confused, "What?" his eyebrows curved upward as his focus shifted towards his bride. "What's wrong, Katara?"
Her stomach growled, craving the egg custards she smelled from the inside of the house baked by Suki for the reception, while at the same time feeling the ever-returning-and-fleeting cramps around her abdomen. "Nothing, just feeling a bit more tired than usual, and hungrier." she sounded bothered.
He didn't believe her, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong and she wasn't telling him. He then he noticed a fellow brother and father-in-law trying to eavesdrop into their conversation, then whistling nonchalantly when they caught Aang scowling back back at them. He leaned closer to her for privacy and tilted his head towards her ear, "Are you sure?" he asked while gazing fervently back at her, his palms placed on her cheeks. "We can halt this if you're not feeling well Katara. You need to rest your body for the baby, honey." he whispered as he grazed his left thumb over her bottom lip.
Something primal was awakening deep within her belly and she found herself getting lost in his sensual voice, but immediately discarded those thoughts. She had to focus on the matter at hand, "No, Aang. And tell all of these people to head back to wherever they come from and hope they come back to the next one? No, no I'm fine. I really want to do this with you, Aang. Right here, right now." she answered just as silently, but irritated as well.
Aang wanted to interrogate her further. She was hiding something from him, but this wasn't the time or the place to discuss the matter, so he patiently waited for the Priest to begin and hoped that she was alright.
The holy man took her bouquet and lightly spread the flowers around the couple, enclosing them in the floral ringlet crafted on the ground. He then placed his velvet scriptures on top of the oak podium and grabbed their hands. Katara noticed how soft his hands were as he began to hum a rhythmic tune, almost melancholy sounding, yet serene and beautiful as he joined their hands together. From the moment her grasp made contact with his, she seemed to have forgotten her suffering. "Everything was going to be alright" she reminded herself as she stared intently at her groom, and the Priest's palms remained below their hold as he began to recite the sacrament.
While the Priest spoke their spiritual rights aloud, inaudible words passed Aang's lips, words that only Katara could distinguish.
"I love you."
She imagined his sultry voice speaking back to her instead of nothingness; returning the gesture as she squeezed her grip on his hands.
"I love you too." Her eyes twinkled back at him before they winced in pain.
Aang's expression did a 180 in less than a second as he went from looking placid to looking nearly furious, helpless and in the dark about what was happening to his future wife, "Katara, are you okay?" he asked desperately as he analyzed her subtle, yet painful demeanor.
"Hahh, hahh, yeah, hahh, I'm alright, j-just having some light cramping." she answered.
"Cramping? You mean contractions!" he whispered hoarsely.
She couldn't bare the worrisome look on his face, fighting to avoid eye contact, "I'm fine Aang; l-let's just enjoy the ceremony, please." she begged in a weary voice and a trace of her already familiar, hormonal attitude.
Aang wasn't at all happy with the response he received. Gawking at her intensely he tried to read her demeanor, unable to pay attention to the Priest's closing statement because he was genuinely worried about his bride. "Here? Now?"
"You are no longer Avatar Aang and Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, but one entity, one in the eyes of Spirits, and one in the eyes of all."
The familiar quote he heard the night Suki and Sokka were married grasped his attention and brought Aang back to reality. He glanced at the Priest, fright still apparent in his expression, before he once again focused on her, who was now looking deathly ill and moaning quietly.
He gasped softly before he rested his forehead on hers, praying that the ceremony be over and done with, ."It's okay baby, this is almost over. Just hold on for a little bit longer." he cooed fearfully to Katara, who's moans were gradually becoming louder. She unfortunately grabbed the attention of both Sokka and Hakoda, the same frightful gaze Aang bore was now reflecting in their eyes. Aang exchanged glances with them, then speedily turned his attention back to his woman, who was now tightening her grip on his as if trying to hold on for dear life.
"Come on Priest, hurry it up..." he muttered under his breath, scared out of his wits because he now realized Katara was on the verge of going into labor. Finally, the Priest nimbly released them from his grasp, spreading his arms wide open and with a tender voice declared in the presence of all:
"Avatar Aang and Katara of the Water Tribe, before all of the Spirits standing in witness to this glorious day, I pronounce thee wed."
Both the bride and groom gazed at one another for a moment. Aang and Katara, both their eyes hooded and hungrily waiting for each other's embrace, slowly closed the gap between their lips and tangled their tongues in a spectacular kiss. The crowd cheered in celebration, followed by their thunderous claps as the newly wed couple grabbed hold of each other, still in a fierce lip lock as her hands found their way to the back of his neck. But the celebration didn't last long, because as soon as their lips barely parted from their first kiss as husband and wife, her contractions became more than she could bear. With her lips still millimeters away from Aang's, she dug her nails deep into his neck as her small yelp transformed into a scream.
Flinching from the sudden pinch, Aang became suddenly alarmed by the site of his wife hunching over, screaming as she gripped her belly in pain until her knees finally buckled and gave way to the enormous contraction rippling through her. He drew in a sharp gasp before he wrapped his arms underneath her own, holding her tightly as they both collapsed from their combined weight on his knees onto the altar.
Shockwaves surged through the crowd. Everyone was petrified on their feet, gawking and horrified by what they were witnessing.
"Oh my goodness, Katara!" yelled Kanna as she leaped from her seat and ran down the isle to her granddaughter's side, who was followed by Suki, Toph and Mana, who all jumped up in unison as soon as they saw Katara collapse. Toph knelt down and began to rub the area on her back where she sensed the most tension. Kanna and Suki were now gripping each of her hands while Mana ran her fingers through the water bender's loose strands of hair, her weak, shivering body still leaning on Aang, who was for the life of him afraid to let her go.
"Katara, it's ok, everything's going to be alright. Just breathe." Suki advised with a shaky voice, imitating the breathing exercises she was taught by the Northern Water Tribe healer Yugoda, who was already frantically running towards the altar alongside one of her assistants, holding her bag of medicinal herbs, oasis liquids and syrups in her grip.
Katara was exhausted and engulfed in stabbing pain that radiated through her belly and centered on her lower back, her eyes heavy lidded as sweat began to glimmer from her flushed face, but she managed to find the strength to imitate Suki and she too began to breathe. Aang watched helplessly as his wife endured the most difficult human experience possible, and there was nothing he could do about it. He wished he could just sap the pain away from her that very moment and for the first time in a long time, he felt useless.
The sweat accumulated from the sides of her forehead began to trickle down, moistening the roots of hair that hung from the crown of her head as they stuck like glue to her face. Their family and friends tried to do their very best to console her, but she had already reached beyond that point. She then looked up not at Kanna, not Suki or even Yugoda. She looked up at him with a stare that desperately pleaded him for his response.
Staring back at her, he suddenly realized that she didn't want all of this, all she wanted was him, and he was tired of sitting back looking like a clueless coward. A determined look in his stone grays and eyebrows creased, he gently slid his hand below the ailing water bender and cradled her in his arms.
"Are you ready to do this, Katara?"
The question sounded silly to everyone else, it's not like she had a choice in the matter. But she knew what he was referring to, "Yes." she answered in an intense, but frail voice.
Aang forced a smile as he lifted her up and stood, Katara still in his arms as she turned to everyone and said:
"Thank you all for trying to help me, but I really want to do this on my own. Please don't worry about us, we'll be fine.", and without thinking twice about his actions, he kissed her forehead and turned towards the house, walking as gently as possible but fast enough to get her inside and leaving everyone in the dark about what they had planned to do for many months.
Yugoda exchanged glances with her assistant, both scratching their heads and equally perplexed by the events unfolded before them, "Where are they going? What did she mean when she said they 'wanted to be on their own'?" she asked.
"She meant it exactly as they implied. They decided to give birth on their own." Suki didn't hesitate to answer the question, hoping someone can give her some reassurance that Katara didn't choose to do anything that was beyond her league. She's seen a few births in her lifetime including the birth of a little girl named Hope during a short expedition with the Avatar and her friends, but she was utterly spooked beyond belief by what she had just beheld.
"What! No one told me about this!" exclaimed a very terrified Hakoda with his fists balled on his hips.
"No one told you? I'm the grandmother, I should at least be notified about these sort of things ahead of time. I was planning on being there, you know, ugh! I'm so mad I can't even see straight." Kanna yelled with her arms crossed and a scowl formed in her aged eyes, forcing even her own son to cringe at her out-of-character boldness.
Hakoda and Kanna 's fiery glare was then aimed towards Sokka, whom they already suspected was withholding onto the crucial information and failed to mention it to any of them. He wished he remained oblivious to their glower, which forced him to involuntarily flinch as if he were about to get spanked.
"I'm sorry ok! It's just that this is the way they wanted it to be and they didn't want any of us to say something because they were afraid you'd all act this way and they didn't want you guys to worry about it because they got it covered! And did I mention that I'm truly, very sorry?" His run-on sentence left the young warrior's voice cracked and breathless, pleading with the wave of his hands and an awkward grin for mercy.
A certain earth bender decided she had listened to enough. Her hands were still shaking from the amount of tension she sensed in Katara's body before she lifted her bare foot and slammed it onto the ground so hard the entire island quaked, putting a stop to their bickering.
"Will you all be quiet! Listen, Katara and Aang had this entire thing planned from the beginning, so what? And for the first time in a very long time, I finally agree with something ponytail over there said." she gestured with her thumb towards Sokka, who was groveling at his grandmother's feet.
"Thank you." he squawked.
"Sokka is right. They didn't want to really say anything about it because they were afraid of how you would all react. I mean look at all of you; you're going on as if she's on the brink of death in there. All she wants to do is make this happen on her own and make it as intimate for her and Aang as possible. Believe in him, he will not let anything happen to her, and admire and support her strength rather than scrutinize it."
She stood her ground with pride while the rest of them looked on defeatedly, no one could argue such a patronizing speech, and quite frankly everyone was too deathly afraid of her to implore her to see reason anyway. Hakoda, Sokka, Mana, Kanna and Suki along with the rest of the still-shocked crowd watched helplessly as Aang's cloak disappeared into the darkness of his house; the doors by their own will closing and locking behind them. Katara's grandmother held the Chief of the Water Tribe close, who was using every bit of strength in him to not burst into that house and comfort his little girl.
Sokka stood as he brushed the dirt from his uniform, "Did anyone ever tell you that you have such a way with words, Toph?" the sarcasm was evident in his voice.
Toph followed his lead, "I may have heard it more than once." she grinned devilishly.
The Kioshi Warrior however was fighting back her tears, her teeth pressing down on to her lower lip as the sound of Katara's loud moans repeated from the house, "Katara, for the love of all the benevolent Spirits in the heavens, please be ok."
The young Avatar turned on the faucet in the bathroom and forced the water to come out in a geyser-type pressure with a swift, delicate motion of his hand. There was no time to wait for it to fill the pool in normal power, he needed to fill it to the rim and quickly. Katara sat upright on their bed with her dress risen past her thighs, panting heavily and her legs dripping wet as she gripped her belly. On the glossy floor next to the door laid a large puddle of amniotic fluid, her water had broken the minute they both stepped foot into their room.
While the pool continued to fill with warm water, he sat on the bed, careful not to make any sudden movements that would cause her more pain. Spreading his legs as he sat behind her, his fingers grabbed hold of her braid and laid it on her shoulder before they found their way onto the knot of the back tie of her dress. He waited for her objection, but instead was met with her kind, fatigued eyes, nodding at him weakly with approval. Without thinking twice, he did as he was told and quickly undid her tie. Her arms then lifted in the air correspondingly as he slipped the dress up over her head and tossed it towards the other side of the room, leaving her covered only by her bindings.
He used the time to gently massage her while they waited for the pool to reach its capacity, kneading her soft but tense shoulder muscles while his stone grays continued to drift from the filling pool back to her; trying his hardest to make her as comfortable as he possibly could while attempting to ignore the way her fingers dug clean holes through their bedsheets.
He gulped at the sound of her last moan. He couldn't even remember a time when he was as nervous as he was at that moment, even facing Ozai was looking more like a stroll in the park compared to the pure dread imbedding itself deep in his chest at that point. Afraid even of his own thoughts, he cast them forcefully to the depths of his subconscious and fought to regain his confidence. Struggling to contain his tears trying to flow due to her unbearable suffering, his lips then found their way to the back of her head as he kissed her sweetly while he took the liberty of untangling her braid; each dark, chestnut lock cascading down as the ones below became damp with her perspiration.
Once again retrieving his senses, he leaned towards her left ear and removed her chandelier earrings, "Do you want me to take off your lower bindings now?" He asked sternly as he tossed her adornments onto the bureau.
Not even his calm, soft voice could pull her out of the excruciating pain rippling through her. Her sighs quivering, she found her hands mindlessly trailing his thighs, "Yes" she forcefully approved.
His arms hooked her from her underarms as he forced her to stand. Katara did her best to comply as she held on to his shoulders for support, her posture rickety and feeling lightheaded, while Aang got on his knees as he slowly unraveled her lower bindings, revealing her swollen womanhood. He observed the enlarged lips of her lower nudity and remembered one of the many labor signs Yugoda told him about the last time they spoke, "She's just about ready."
He then stood up once again as he helped her ease back down to the edge of the bed. Now laying on her side, she groaned as she constantly rocked her body from side to side; trying to find a position that would give her comfort, but to no avail. He rested his head on her feet as he kissed their soles, trying his best to remain calm and strong for her, but inside of him was pure chaos. His mind was racing endlessly, his heart felt as though it would pop out of his chest, and he was finding it extremely difficult to think clearly through Katara's periodic screams. Though he would never fault her, he couldn't even begin to imagine the type of pain she must've been experiencing at that moment. The tears were once again threatening to fall from his eyelids, then he then overheard the sound of spilling water and garbled spray, and his feet suddenly felt wet. He then looked up to see the pool had overflowed.
"Oh, for the love of!..."
The hours came and went, and the night was now in the midst of witching hour. Every attendant was still present, anxiously waiting for any news as to what was happening. The blinds were drawn, rendering everyone unable to see what was happening inside. Hakoda and Kanna were busy making the painstaking task of speaking to each individual and family as to what was happening, while Sokka, Toph, Suki and Mana sat on the altar with the Priest, who seemed oddly at ease about the situation. Meanwhile clouds began to gather in the sky, blanketing the moon and stars with gray darkness. from a distance they could hear the the ominous weather being accompanied by thunder.
"Looks like there's going to be a downpour." said Mana.
The group looked up and sure enough, they began to feel the droplets of warm rain on their heads and shoulders.
"Be calm everyone, I got this." shouted Master Pakku from a distance and he bent the rainwater and created an enormous bubble, keeping everyone in the area dry while the sphere absorbed and released raindrops from outside its surface.
Everyone looked on in awe as droplets trickled down the sphere, seemingly made of glass but moist to the touch.
"Heh, gotta love grand-Pakku." snorted Sokka.
Toph cackled, "Don't let him hear you say that."
The young Warrior cackled, "I'm pretty sure it's too late for that. A couple of years back, we went fishing down deep in the Arctic. I accidentally called him that after I caught this ginormous cat-trout yay-big and he said he would gut me if I did it again. I don't know why it bugs him so much." poor Sokka forced a smile before it suddenly collapsed to a pout, "Now that we're talking about old people, I wish Iroh was here. He'd probably know exactly what to say about all of this." he reminisced, holding his troubled wife close to him.
Then there was a silence again, everyone now able to once again heart Katara's moans from within the house. There was an air of dismay hovering over them, and they were unable to shake it off.
"She's going to be alright, you know."
Everyone turned to find the fancy-spoken statement was boldly made by the Priest, who after all this time had chosen to remain silent about the situation until now. While most of them stared at the holy man dumbfoundedly, the Kyoshi warrior didn't hesitate to ask for answers.
"How do you know?" the hopelessness in her voice was difficult to conceal, and easy for the Priest to pick up. The corner of his eyes wrinkled into crow's feet as a grin emerged from his lips and a rumble burst from the heavens.
"Well my dear, unlike some of you, I have faith. And faith alone has the strength to move mountains."
The room was heavy with body heat, while her whimpers persisted to echo throughout.
"Shh...It's ok, Katara, it's just thunder." cooed Aang as he smoothly pawed her head.
"I *sigh* know" she swallowed, "It just scared me." she continued to pant and blow heavily.
The floor was dry with the exception of a few splashes of seeping water. He's been cradling the ailing water bender from the outside of the pool, having removed everything but the yellow trousers he wore beneath his robes while she nestled her head on his bare chest from inside, their hands intertwined and shaking. Both of them facing each other, he rubbed her back religiously, while the moisture of her tears made her green eyeshadow run. On her knees and crouched, she pinched her bottom lip with her teeth hard as her face twisted with grimace and she let out another muffled scream. Never did she expect this to be so difficult, and it was clear she underestimated the process. It didn't help that she also felt alone and far away from him, from everyone. Despite the fact that he was physically near to her, they were divided by the barrier of the pool. He wasn't oblivious to her sobs and the distress she wore on her face.
"Katara…are you sure you want to do this alone?" eying her with uncertainty he ran his fingers through her wet hair, willing to do whatever it took to make her as comfortable as he possibly could even if it meant abandoning their intended plan.
The young water bender furrowed her brow, "Of course I do…I've helped Gran-Gran do this plenty a times, I know we can manage to do this on our own." she was now finding it difficult to speak.
He couldn't stand to see her this way. Why can't her suffering end already and spare him the ever-going heartache? Surveying her, he rested his forehead on hers and caressed her flushed face, "Is there anything I can do for you Katara? Please, don't hesitate to tell me. I'll do anything to help ease your pain."
Her eyes brightened as she gave him an 'as-a-matter-of-fact smile. There was one thing she desperately wanted from him, his warmth. "Yes." she responded, "Could you please come in with me?"
He watched her for a few moments, hearing nothing but the water stirring in the pool. And with his stare still fixed on hers, his lips then formed a crescent as the corners of his mouth stretched towards his cheeks, "Yes, I will."
Before long, he had removed his marital robes and endeared medallion, leaving nothing on but his red undergarments as he lifted his feet and climbed in the pool with his wife. She shifted forward to make him an entrance, and as he dipped the lower half of his body, he pulled the his aching bride close to him, forcing him to sigh with relief as he allowed her body to snugly rest on his.
Katara couldn't explain this pleasing wave that engulfed her as her body made contact with Aang's, nor did she care. All she knew was that his touch was booth soothing and relaxing, which were two things she gravely needed. She felt his hands rub her arms as she proceeded to fight through her ever-growing contractions, watching attentively the gracefulness of his fingertips trail up her shoulder and back down to her own. She looked back sluggishly at the being she adored; the sky-blue arrows tatted on his skin looked so mesmerizing to her, entranced by them as if they were living, breathing artwork. And for that moment, she felt some of her pain slightly subside.
Yet as that happened, Aang began to feel a bit ill. His eyelids becoming heavy, he tried to ignore what he assumed to be his nerves playing tricks on him, caressing his face continuously in between the blades of her back as he fought to ignore it. Then for some strange reason he couldn't explain, a throbbing headache began to build, which was followed by twisting cramps around his abdomen before he was soon experiencing the same undeniable pain the water bender was feeling, equally strong, equally tormenting.
They had become one in her suffering. He gripped her lower belly and pulled her close as they rocked their bodies back and forth in unison; slow steady breaths were passing through her lips while Aang tried to brush off the awful spasms that were riveting around his toned middle. But he couldn't, and he found himself combating the need to writhe from ache. He squeezed her closer, his hands now delicately pressing over her belly button but careful not to embrace her too tight, both moving their bodies in unison within the water as if they were one entity, one being, one spirit, evoking every bit of might they could to combat the monstrous feelings.
Meanwhile, her contractions were getting worse, worse than the strongest menstrual cramp she'd ever experienced and multiplied hundredfold. Yet she remained in her meditative state and concentrated on her breathing patterns which to her dismay were becoming shallower and shallower.
Aang strained himself as he reached to her ear and whispered encouragingly, "You're beautiful, you're perfect, and I love you."
Just then, the illusion of smoke emanated from between her legs under the water, this new liquid tinted a dusty rose color as it fused with the clearness and transformed it to a dark coral.
Now her contractions were truly becoming unbearable as each excruciating convulsion spread down her back and thighs, consequently being mimicked in him as well. She ducked her head and held the rim of the pool tightly as a mega contraction surged through their bodies, forcing a heart-wrenching cry to escape her mouth while he cringed from the brutal feeling of agony.
"Aang" whispered the frail water bender, "I'm feeling pressure down there; I don't want to push too soon so can you please check and tell me if you see it?"
The young Avatar lifted her soaked, tousled hair from her cheek before he gave her a soft kiss, "Of course." his voice was just as exhausted and riddled with irritation as hers as he forced himself to move from her side and place his fingers around the opening of her birth canal. Now facing her with legs spread eagle, he checked her womanhood; looking down at her naked beauty as he reiterated what his wife instructed him to observe for. Positioning his fingers in between her lips, he cautiously pushed one fingertip in her, followed by another. He then slowly inserted himself, being extremely careful not to hurt her. She winced as she felt him go deeper, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle. He continued to gently feel around her until he unexpectedly halted, bug eyed and mouth gaped as he slowly pulled out of her.
"Baby, you're 10 centimeters, you're ready." His wife was now fully dilated.
The look on her face was not just pleasant, but swimming with relief, "It's almost over." she was that much closer to meeting who she and her husband had sacrificed so much for to bring into the world.
Her silent words were inaudible to the young Avatar who was hastily returning to her side, now giddy and splashing water in all directions as he took his place behind her, spread his legs wide and cradled her in his arms. The horrible spasms returned to him as soon as his body made contact with hers, but he could care less. This was the moment he and Katara had been waiting for, and he would be damned if it were spoiled by any grade of pain.
Katara inhaled a deep breath as soon as she felt Aang's arms caress her belly, her cheeks then bubbled as soon as she felt the aching impact before she let out an enormous push. She remembered instructing many women to push as soon as they felt the contraction coming, that the contraction itself helps move the baby's body down, and that is exactly what she did. Then she pushed again, and again, following the rhythm of her body as it instructed her when to do so. He placed his hands over her clenched ones and smoothed his thumb over her supple skin, harmoniously following her moans.
"You're doing beautifully, honey."
The minutes flew by and she continued to force the contractions out. Her face and hair were drenched with sweat and water as the pressure increased in between her legs; she felt as though she were trying to release an enormous mellow as her womanhood stretched to the point she felt a sharp, stinging tear down below, the water now tainted blood red.
She gasped exasperatingly, "Aang! Check me again!" she demanded ferociously with grit teeth and a menacing glare.
The startled Avatar jumped from his crouch and dove back to the center of the pool, except instead of checking her with his fingers, he took a deep breath and descended underneath the water. He forced his eyes open, making his vision both blurry, red and irritated, but was able to discern what was in front of him. And there is was, a full head of hair resting on her stretched opening. He gasped at the sight, forcing air bubbles to cloud his vision momentarily. When the bubbles cleared, he squinted his eyes to get a better look and saw that the baby's umbilical chord was wrapped around its neck. Horrified, he desperately dug around the skin of her opening, trying to grab the chord so that he can unwrap it from the neck, but it was still so stuck in there that he could barely pull without risking choking the baby. The most terrifying feeling sunk into him like lead before he involuntarily gasped once more, this time having forced him to reemerge.
Coughing out the mixture of blood and water that managed to get into his throat, his distorted vision readjusted to hers, who was now staring in alarm back at him.
"Aang, does everything look ok? What did you see?" she begged.
Now he knew that this was the moment she needed his guidance, now more than ever. He stared her down hard, brows furrowed and watching her sternly, "Okay Katara listen to me, the baby's head is already out. Everything's going to be fine, I just need you to push a little more baby. I promise this will all be over soon." He then placed one hand on her knee while the other positioned itself near the baby's neck.
She did as she was told. As soon as she felt the next contraction, she pushed out violently, groaning in the process. Aang watched her attentively, his stare still determined and rigid as she maneuvered his fingers over the chord around the baby's neck. With another push he was able to grab hold of it. He then curled his fingers around it before he stretched the chord over the baby's head and loosened the loop, the baby was now free from danger.
As soon as he felt the chord free, he exhaled as if he were holding his breath for the past couple of minutes. There was no time to wait, this baby was coming and quickly. He right away readjusted himself on his knees, his hands now placed underneath the child's protruding head, ready to catch it.
"Just a couple more, Katara!" he ordered.
She felt so tired and weak, but she did as the corrupt voice of Aang instructed, following the rhythm of her body once again as she inhaled deeply before forcing the violent cramps out. Over and over she did this with all the inner strength she could muster as the man standing in front of her became warped in her vision. She had absolutely no idea from what restores she had drawn all of this energy from, but her wonder was cut short when she felt an obstruction between her legs stretch her before it slid out of her. And for a moment she felt as if all her organs had expelled from her body as well, leaving her momentarily debilitated and unable to discern dream from reality.
The rain halted abruptly. Pakku divided the bubble dome from its middle as he cast the gathered water back into the ocean. The entire island fell into a dead silence, even the sounds of nature seemed to have taken a standstill. Katara's cries were no longer heard, and many were already dreading the worst.
Sokka, Suki, Toph, Kanna and Mana rose in unison, dolefully watching the window of Aang and Katara's room, the wedding attendants soon followed.
Hakoda was the last to join the rest of the onlookers as he anxiously looked towards the window of their room as if waiting for a sign, trying to remain hopeful but pestered by the thought that something grave had occurred. Then he heard it, tiny cries growing stronger and stronger. He looked around, all the babies present were fast asleep which only meant one thing: I was coming from inside the house.
His son's face gleamed with widened eyes and his mouth stretched out so far up his cheeks it threatened to reach his eyelids, the first to react to what everyone was bearing witness to.
"Yeaaaah! Wooooooo!" hollered an ecstatic Sokka as he did several fist pumps in the air before he grabbed his still-stunned wife by the shoulders and erratically shook her.
The wail of the newborn waved through the house and across the island. Everyone's worst fears have been put to rest, and the crowd finally followed Sokka's lead as their unified voices roared with cheer. Hugs and kisses were voraciously exchanged, random people from all walks of life celebrating the future of the Air Nomad race as well as the continuing lineage of the Avatar. Toph grabbed Mana by the waist and planted a solid kiss on her lips as Mana returned it with one of her own, while Sokka lovingly held Suki tightly, still holding back sobs that he deemed weren't 'manly' enough to be manifested in public. The Priest looked at everyone stupidly, shaking his head and wondering why there were doubts about this birth to begin with. And away from the hopping, jumping, screaming crowd, a new grandfather grabbed a hold of his mother and held her tight as he cried tears of insurmountable joy.
She felt as though she was the verge of fainting, but she repelled the feeling and was compelled to regain her stability. Her contractions have subsided, but her view was still warped and hazy, looking around aimlessly as her body unwillingly convulsed from the sudden cease of pressure. Little by little she was able to identify the little things, the bureau, the bed and drawers. And as her vision slowly returned to her, she found that her voice was now hoarse from the constant yelling, leaving her throat sore, but not as much as the soreness she was feeling around her womanhood. Then she heard the cries. Her eyes popped open, skimming the room for any sign of its source until she finally found them. He was kneeling over her, holding her body up from the water with his free grip, and holding their newborn with the other.
There was a longing in his eyes as he stared valiantly at his wife, "It's a girl."
She couldn't take her eyes off of her. She had her mother's skin tone, a deep caramel color she was with a head full of dark hair. Her arms a bit feeble but able to control, she reached for the babe, seemingly hypnotized by the big, dark dewy eyes staring back at her.
He drew closer to her, "Look at her, she's perfect." he said as he helped his wife readjust herself to a seated position before he delicately handed her their new bundle of joy, who was still attached to her mother through her umbilical cord.
Katara's attention momentarily shifted towards the window, noticing the frenzy occurring outside her window, figures of people dancing under the now-dimmed lights of the lanterns and the sounds of clapping and celebration.
He grinned at his wife affectionately, "Hear that? They're cheering for the two of you."
Katara, still gazing dumbfounded at the amazing being she possessed in her arms, nodded, "No, they're cheering for all of us." she then looked up and returned his grin, sobs mixed with chuckles as her eyes glistened with tears.
An unspeakable feeling of elation fluttered through him like butterflies taking flight. He grabbed his woman close and placed his firm grip of his forearm below the dainty arm that held their child, caressing her cheek with his free hand as his thumb brushed off the tears concealed in her lower eyelids. Submerged partially in the water, the new parents cradled their newborn baby close. The new father gave his newborn child a sweet kiss on her forehead before he tilted his wife's chin and pressed his lips on hers, kissing her passionately and lovingly as their baby continued to coo in their joined hold.
After they separated from their amorous lip lock, their heavy lidded eyes then became transfixed on the little girl before they realized they had a new dilemma: naming her.
"You come up with the name Aang." she suggested.
He tucked loose strands of hair behind her ear, eying her keenly, "No Katara."
"But you're the authority in this relationship, and it's up to the authority to choose the name of the baby."
"We BOTH have authority in this relationship Katara, your say is every bit as important as mine."
"It's ok Aang, you can choose." she insisted.
Despite her sweet plea, her self-inferiority complex was irking him. He doesn't blame her, as the small issue stemmed from living all of her life in a male-superior society and one he will continue to battle with all of his might to fix, "No Katara, you were the one who carried this baby in your womb for nearly ten months, and only you hold the honor to name our daughter."
She thought hard about what he just said to her. The sternness and sincerity in his voice was so genuine. Of course in Water Tribe customs, both parents talk about possible names for a new child and try to decide on it, but the decision to approve or dispute is always ultimately left to the father. Yet here he was, willing to give her the right to name their little girl without question. Why would she even think to dispute him after such an act of selflessness?
"Thank you Aang."
He tilted his head to its side and pecked her forehead, "No, thank you Katara...for making me the happiest man in the world." his delight apparent in his tender smile.
She blushed as she felt her own heart swell with glee, now cooing back playfully at her daughter as she tenderly tickled the babe's swollen cheeks with the tip of her finger, "I want her name to truly mean something to me."
His smile dropped as soon as his eyebrows bent and his gaze reached up, the crease between his index finger and thumb caressing his chin as he pondered in deep thought for possible names. He knows the letter 'K' is very prevalent in Water Tribe names, but he was having a hard time trying to come up with decent names that contained it, "How about Kimi?
Her mouth pouted and dropped as she stared at her husband with a dopey look on her face, "Uh, no."
She stuck out her tongue in disgust.
"Nakti? That's a pretty powerful name." A quirky smile emerged at the thought. He was having more fun with this than he thought.
She let out a heavy, disgruntled sigh as she rolled her eyes at that last suggestion, "Really, Aang?" Yet she couldn't help but crack a smile at the young Avatar. "I want her name to really mean something special, and at the same time hold ground to her personality. It's going to be her lifelong identity, a part of who she is, and I really want it to be a name that describes her perfectly." she blushed, suddenly feeling sheepish.
He chuckled sympathetically as the newborn continued to coo, "Katara, she's barely a few minutes old. There's no way that you or I could know anything about her personality or what she'll be like." he reassured.
She mocked herself with a scoff and nod, feeling corny, "Yeah, yeah I guess it's a little silly huh?" she felt disheartened as she ducked her face away from him.
But he tilted it right back up with a delicate push of his finger, "No, no not at all Katara. Your idea of giving our daughter a name that holds special meaning is fantastic, which is why I believe that you should give her a name that really speaks to you." he brushed her long, damp hair away from her shoulder, "We don't know what the future will bring, who knows? Maybe she will be a bender, maybe she won't. Maybe she'll be a world ambassador, maybe she won't. It doesn't matter because either way, she's special to us no matter what, which is why she's deserving of a name that reflects just that."
Inspired by her husband's words, she then looked down at the babe's dewy eyes and was abruptly brought back to a memory she had when she was a little girl. She was around 5 years of age at that time, just having a normal snowball fight with her older brother near an arctic seal breeding ground. Sokka flung a snow ball a little too hard into her face, leaving her squirming on the ground in pain from the impact. He gawked at her, shocked by what he had just done as he watched his sister writhe and cry.
Afraid he was in trouble, he began to wail himself and ran back home to tell their mother what happened. When she received word of what happened to Katara, she made a mad dash to her little girl's side and wrapped her arms around her, giving her soft kisses and whispering to her ear that everything was going to be alright as she placed a foul-smelling ointment on her bruised cheek. Before she knew it, she had her fixed up in no time. She'll never forget what she told her mother that day.
"Momma, you're so perfect. You're the most perfect person in the entire world."
She returned to reality, concentrating deep in the epiphany she just received.
"I know what I want to name her. Without question, this is the right name for our perfect, little girl."
He listened attentively, eagerly waiting, "What is it?"
She observed her daughter closely, from her movements down to her facial features. Then, she could've sworn her little girl smiled back at her. She truly was perfect, just like her.
"Kya." she answered bittersweetly.
Aang fell silent for a few moments, watching his wife softly twirl their little girl's hair. She then laid her hand on her small head and he followed suit, placing his hand over her own.
"Kya is a perfect name."
Katara's large Sapphires beamed back to him, savoring every bit of this wondrous moment, "Then that's what her name will be." she affirmed quietly.
"Then it's settled. Kya." he watched their baby endearingly, how her tiny arms and legs moved involuntarily, stretching and adorably retracting back to a curl while she murmured sweet sounds at them, like she really wanted to hold a conversation with her mommy and daddy. "My daughter, you are beyond comparison to anyone and anything. I love you so much."
"Alright then, let me get us some towels to dry off with, and get Kya a special blanket we can swaddle her in."
The Avatar's wife nodded compliantly before Aang stood up and and jumped out of the water towards the bathroom. Meanwhile Katara used the alone time she had to analyze her baby; her supple skin, her soft creases and chubby folds, she was magnificent.
"Little Kya." she sung, "Liiiitle Kya…daughter of the evening, child of mine…I…love…you…" she hummed in a melodious tune.
Just then, the newborn let out another coo as if responding to her mother's voice. The babe's, large round eyes gazed at her mother intently and her hands gripped her mother's warm skin, while the young mother continued her song and soft rock, soothing her in between her sweet whimpers and cries.
The young mother couldn't stop smiling at her baby, her world and life, how she loved her so and would do anything to protect her from this cruel world. But as an old friend reminded her once before, she knew he couldn't protect her from everything, but she was going to make sure that her daughter grew up to teach the message of love, kindness and tolerance her parents have always enforced.
"Yes Kya, your name definitely suits you." the young mother proclaimed before she noticed Aang returning to the room, rubbing the last bit of moisture from his sinewy body with a heavy, teal-colored towel as he approached his wife and child.
Katara grinned deviously as she watched her husband proceed to scuffle his head with the towel, "I hope that wasn't my towel." she hissed playfully.
He then lifted his other hand; revealing both another large, white towel and a smaller one in its grasp, "Nope." he said merrily as he bent down towards the small pool and draped the soft, cotton towel over her shoulder. He then playfully buried his face into her wet hair and shook into it, forcing her to laugh at the frisky gesture.
His used towel now hanging from his broad shoulders, a sphere of air formed from the twist of his wrist and transformed into a sharp blade before he used it to cut the baby's umbilical chord. He then pulled the small towel that hung from his shoulder and cloaked it over his arms, "Alright, give me that pretty, little girl." he said cutely as he leaned towards the pool with arms wide open.
She felt the corners of her lips tug outward once again, "Alright, but you immediately give her right back to me, you hear?" she demanded playfully as she gave her little one a small kiss on the forehead before she positioned herself to hand her over to her father.
But just as she was about to lift the baby from her comfortable snug on her mother's bosom, her sweet, little face began to contort.
Both parents looked on with sudden fright as the baby's nose started to wrinkle, leaving her mother on the verge of having a panic attack.
"Oh no, what's wrong with her, Aang!" she shrieked.
The young Avatar however remained as calm as he possibly could while watching his little girl intensely, his piercing stare overflowing with curiosity as her lips curled upward, almost as if she were preparing for an earth-shattering sneeze.
The young water bender turned to her husband, "Aang?" she insisted for his reply, but received none. Instead, he just kept watching his daughter's face twist farther and farther.
Then his own mouth parted, "I think she's…she's going to sneeze." he muttered.
Just as Aang's words slipped from his lips, young Kya's mouth gaped wide before she puckered her lips and let out a huge, thunderous sneeze, a sneeze so fierce that the water surrounding her and her mother blew out of the pool…and all over Aang.
Aang and Katara's jaws dropped as if they were being pulled by weights, and their bulging eyes laid focused on the little girl still in her mother's arms, once again cooing and whimpering away as if nothing happened.
"Wha-di-did she just-"
"I-I don't know what she just did Aang."
"That was NOT a regular sneeze." he insisted with a good humored scoff.
"I know, b-but what, what exactly did she-"
"I don't know; I wasn't able to tell if she 'blew' the water out, or if she bent the water itself out." he said, staring in awe at his extraordinary daughter.
Then they heard a knock on their window that startled them, and a voice that belonged to none other than the legendary metal bender herself.
"Hey, are you two done playing house in there? Let's see the baby!"
But she wasn't alone, accompanied by the annoyingly familiar voice of the young water bender's brother.
"Yeah, come on, don't be greedy!"
His call was then followed by her sister-in-law, and her best friend.
"Come out, you guys!"
Their shock soon subsided, replaced only by laughter. Aang then placed his palm over her cheek, hungrily gazing into her with a crooked smirk as he made his wife blush. She returned his deep focus with one of her own, her ocean blues hooded with devilish, pursed lips. Their affectionate stare continued until the young Avatar broke the spell they placed on one another with a hard pressed pucker to her forehead. His lips then traveled south before hovering just millimeters away from hers, leaving her unable to resist his tease as she lunged her face into his. Aang's stone grays widened briefly before they dreamily shut. He allowed her to enter as he excitedly explored the depths of her mouth, locking his lips with hers as they shared a fervent kiss while their baby cooed contently in her embrace.
When they parted from their heated kiss, their gaze trailed down to their daughter with pride etched in their faces. He then leaned towards her ear and whispered…
"Kya is the perfect name."
img689. imageshack. us/img689/7421/waterbirth. jpg (bring the spaces together)
I want to take the time to personally thank all of you for taking the time to read and review this story. I know it was probably a rough read, but you all stuck through it and I appreciate that very much. I've gotten so many supportive messages from many of you which have really touched my heart and drove me to finish this chapter and wrap up the story (a little over a year late, but better late than never. Nevertheless, I still apologize for making all of you wait this long). The story's plot has ban been resolved, so I thought it would be fitting to end it here.
So once again I thank you all for taking this literary journey with me. This is where I end my note, and I give you all a big virtual hug as a token of my appreciation for your patience. I may do a couple of one shots in the future, of continue my 'Severance' story, we'll see what the future brings, until then!
P.S., hope you all are watching LOK!