Category: Avatar: Last Airbender
Author: Mrs Pettyfer
Title: Metamorphosis, origcally called To Keep a Butterfly
Pairing(s): Katara/Zuko, Katara/Aang, Toph/Aang, Suki/Sokka
A/N: Hey guys! So I was thinking about if the series had eventually led to a Zutara and how Aang would feel about it. I decided to write this one shot on how I think Aang would react and how I sort of imagined the ships to go. So this is told in Aang's POV, mainly through reflection. Sorry very little dialogue but we're diving into Aang's mind for this one. I'd love to hear your feedback..first time ever writing in Aang's perspective. Thank you for checking it out!
Note: The characters and world of Avatar belongs to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, not me.
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us." – Joseph Campbell
Chapter 1 - The Butterfly Effect
There would always be a place in his heart for Katara and his love for her would never change. But now he understood more.
Avatar Aang watched from the side of the balcony as the newly married Fire Lord and Lady waved to their cheering audience below. Never in a million years would he imagine himself standing right here in this moment, surrounded by these people, and watching the entire scene with a smile on his face.
It had been four years since the end of the war. Peace had taken its route, yes, but the aftermath of the war was far from easy. The three remaining nations were still tender, bruised and scarred from the war, but changes were happening: Earth Kingdom citizens were able to walk freely amongst Fire Nation cities. The Northern Water Tribe had rebuilt their sister tribe to its former glory. Sokka had become the first tribesmen of the Southern Water Tribe to marry into a different nation. Children in Fire Nation schools were able to be kids again, singing and dancing in their spare time. (And yes, still hosting parties in the caves.)
The nations were beginning to become whole again; each a separate piece in the circle of life. The Air Temples were slowly in a rebuilding stage. The late Fire Lord Sozin may have destroyed the people, but the temples would remain forever. Aang wanted the world to know the culture and history of the Air Nomads, letting their legacy will on. There was a small piece of hope buried inside him, hope that there might just be one more Airbender that had survived the war. He could not rest if he did not search for them. Impossible? Perhaps. But sometimes the impossible transformed into possible.
The newly wed Fire Lord and Lady were proof of that.
Aang brought his gaze to the waving couple. Here stood two prominent people in his life. Two people he had met along his journey to becoming a fully fledged Avatar. Two people that would forever hold a place in his heart.
Prince Zuko had started as an enemy in Aang's eyes. He had been selfish, stubborn, hot-tempered, and misguided. They had fought against each other on many occasions, each leaving a mark on the other, whether it be physically or emotionally. Zuko had always intrigued Aang because he never understood why this young man was out to get him so badly. The prince's eyes shone with a kind of desperation that could only lead to curiosity whenever he looked at Aang. It made the Avatar want to know more about him. Why did he want to capture him? What were his plans for Aang if he was captured?"
He remembered the time Zuko had dressed as the Blue Spirit and saved him from Zhao. He had spoken to the prince in the woods afterwards,
"If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends, too?"
Aang smiled at the memory, remembering how Zuko had then shot a blast of fire at him. The words probably surprised the prince as much as they surprised Aang. Even more surprising, Aang meant his words. Something in his heart that he couldn't place told him he was to befriend this boy. Maybe it was the same voice that convinced him that Zuko was the one to teach him Firebending all along. It was sort of funny, really, how inner voices could become so accurate.
Looking back those many years ago, that young man was completely different than the Fire Lord that stood in front of his citizens today. His maroon and gold robes fell to the floor. He was taller, more muscular, his dark hair still messy in the same style he had had when he joined their group four years ago. But now that hair was pulled up in a five pointed golden crown. Zuko had replaced his father as Fire Lord after Ozai's defeat at the young age of sixteen. He had doubts and insecurities like anyone but Aang had believed in him. Zuko had finally managed to face his own demons and embrace his inner struggles. He had restored his own honor himself and found his destiny. The man standing before the crowd radiated power, courage, loyalty, and most importantly, love.
The love Zuko shared for his country were as strong as the love he shared with the woman standing next to him. And for those reasons alone, Aang was able to say, "Yes, everything is as it should be."
Standing next to the Fire Lord was the newly acclaimed Fire Lady. Dressed in robes of gold and white, the tanned skin woman with dark flowing hair was a beauty unlike anything Aang had ever seen. She was as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside. Her golden flamed crown glistened in the morning sun, and although he couldn't see her eyes, Aang had the exact shade of the ocean pinned in his mind.
Katara, without a doubt, held a place tightly in his heart that could never be replaced. She had been the first real girl he ever seen, outside of the female Airbending mentors. Her bright eyes, her genuine smile…he remembered the day she had found him in the ice as if it were yesterday. She had been so open, so trusting from the moment he met her. She had been his ray of hope and strength, the glue that held him together through all those months of pain he had suffered.
She was his first true friend after his 'rebirth' and his first bending teacher. Katara had a fierceness in her that could be bested by no one; her husband, perhaps. She had been patient with him; always listening, always catering to his needs or wants. She had always been there for him; no questions asked. It was as simple as that.
And for so long, Aang had believed he was in love with her. That she belonged with him. He had been saved by her, wasn't that a sign of some sort? She was destined to marry a powerful bender, but wasn't he rather powerful? Small little things had stuck in his young mind through the months they traveled together. Things that had implanted themselves in his mind without question.
The Guru once told him that he must gain balance within himself before he can bring balance to the world. He hadn't really understood that completely until years later. Aang's choices and thoughts had been outbalanced by his love for Katara. He had put her above everything else. Every choice, every thought, every decision. They had reflected the effect it would have with Katara. He was unable to remain neutral, keeping a level head and making a choice for the greater good of the world. Everything had been about Katara. Not him, not the world.
And the world had almost suffered for it. Looking back, Aang thought he had been a little selfish. Katara had not even been his at the time, and yet he was willing to sacrifice the entire world for a love he may or may not receive. He had been young, and sheepishly admitted youth sometimes made rash decisions without truly thinking them through. Yes, Aang definitely loved Katara. But he now realized it wasn't the love he spoke of before.
After the war, Katara and Aang had gotten together as a couple, and soon the aftermath meant they had to return to everyday life. She returned to the South Pole, and he was to travel the world in the hopes of rebuilding the nations. Sokka started traveling back in forth between the South Pole and Kyoshi Island. Zuko became the Fire Lord, under the wing of Iroh. Toph went to see her parents before packing for good and traveling with Aang. No questions were asked.
Everything was fine except the truth of the matter was that after awhile Katara and Aang grew apart. There was no bitterness. No anger with one another. It was a mutual understanding on both parts. Romantically they weren't around each other enough to really kindle any feelings, and the distance apart wedged a wall between them. During Aang's travels, he saw more of the world and more women for the matter.
Not that he was unfaithful to Katara; only that he was now able to see there were more women out there than just her. For so long he only saw her. He didn't even consider other girls during their year of travel, his mind already set. But now, his mind had opened to the possibilities around him. He was still a kid, and there was no reason he had to tie the knot just yet. He wanted freedom to meet new people, to attend schools and festivals he had missed out on. To mature and learn, not rush into anything head on. Relationships were hard, and given the situation of his duty to the world they had to come up with some sort of agreement.
And so the Avatar and the Waterbender had split a mere eight months after their kiss at the Jasmine Dragon, but they remained dear friends. There would always be a place in Aang's heart for Katara and his love for her would never change. But now he understood what that love really was. Monk Gyatso had once told him there were many forms of love, and so often we misinterpret them.
Aang smiled wistfully, clutching his staff and remembering a moment he shared with his former mentor.
"I don't understand why I can't keep this butterfly," an eight year old Aang pouted, cupping the delicate creature in his tiny hands.
Monk Gyatso smiled warmly with eyes full of knowledge as he bent down to the young Airbender's level. "Do you remember when you first found this creature, Aang?"
"Of course I do."
Gyatso chuckled. "Yes, you thought it was the prettiest creature you'd ever seen. But I told you someday you would have to let it go."
"Yeah, and?" Aang shuffled his feet.
"And you grew an attachment to it anyway," said Gyatso, smiling. "You became dependent on such an innocent creature and it brought you more joy than you imagined."
Aang's expression softened. Truthfully, he had never seen a butterfly before and when its squishy body had transformed into a bright, glowing sight he had wanted to keep it forever. It was too beautiful to let go and meant so much to him.
Gyatso straightened up and carefully took the butterfly from Aang's hands and cupped it in his own. Slivers of blue escaped through the cracks and the young Airbender raised a brow to make sure it wasn't damaged.
"It is only human to want something of such beauty and grace." His expression softened and his eyes creased in minor sadness. "But sometimes in life, we must learn to let go of those things we cherish; things that are not ours to have."
Knowing his mentor was right, like always, Aang nodded sadly. Gyatso took this as confirmation and opened his hands, allowing the brilliant blue butterfly to spread its wings and fly off in the direction of the sun.
"Do not fear, Aang, for things we love and lost have a way of coming back to us in the end," Gyatso added. "If not always in the way we expect. But we must always be watching for when they do."
The memory brought a smile to the Avatar's lips. Gyatso had truly been one of the wisest men Aang knew. He had taught him so many lessons in such a short amount of time, lessons he would forever be grateful for.
A gentle hand rested on his forearm and he glanced in its direction.
Toph stood next to him, wearing a long crimson dress that Katara had forced her to wear with her typical golden headband. She had grown taller through the years, but still remained as stubborn and hard-headed as ever. She was unyielding, loyal, and every bit as tough as her name sounded. Her milky clouded eyes met Aang's and she smiled at him warmly. Even though she couldn't see him, he smiled back at her, knowing she'd feel it in his demeanor.
He glanced back to the golden couple and watched Zuko pull Katara into a kiss, hands laced through her wavy hair. Louder cheers erupted from the citizens below and Sokka gave a groan from behind, covering his eyes as well as his pregnant wife's. The sight that in the past would have caused Aang pain only enlightened the Avatar's mood.
Somewhere between the fights, acts of forgiveness, conversations, war, and disagreements, Katara and Zuko had fallen in love. Aang wasn't sure when it happened, or how it happened for the matter, only that it had happened. They argued, much more than what should be possible for a marriage, and sometimes Sokka or Iroh had to intervene if Aang wasn't there to step in as his Avatar role. They constantly pushed the other's boundaries and goals, challenging each other every day. They could flare up every bit as intensely as the flames controlled by Zuko. Their opposing elements and personalities had much reminded Aang of why the two shouldn't be together, for that was his belief when he first heard the news.
But now that he looked it at, he understood. Fire and water were opposites, just like air and earth. It wasn't because they opposed each other as enemies, but because they kept the other in balance. The sun could not rise without the moon, and the earth could not survive without the air. Katara and Zuko were just that: a balance. Their fighting and arguments were laced with calmness and understanding. They were able to keep the other in check, and offer words of kindness and motivation. They were essentially a team, both equals on so many levels.
They were meant for one another. Aang could see that now. And he was happy for them. Something caught his eye and he turned to find Toph waving her hand in front of her face.
"Hold still," Aang muttered, grinning as he caught the tiny winged creature that had fluttered on Toph's nose.
A magnificent colored butterfly rested in the Avatar's hands, opening and closing its wings slowly. Greens and golds and reds gleaming as the sun hit it.
"What was that?" Toph asked, huffing.
Aang smiled, glancing back to his blind companion.
Things we love and lost have a way of coming back to us in the end.
"Is it pretty?" Toph asked.
If not always in the way we expect.
Aang was staring at Toph when he replied, "More than pretty."
But we must always be watching for when they do.
Aang looked at the butterfly in his hands. This one, he knew, he didn't have to let go. It wouldn't fly away unless he asked it to. This one was where it belonged. Here, with him.
"Sometimes I wonder if I'm the one that's blind."
Toph smiled and put an arm around him. "Good thing we have each other, then."
A/N: Thanks for reading. I editted this and changed the title to something more befitting. I may eventually do chapters on the rest of the gang. Like Mai, and Sokka, maybe one in Zuko or Katara. We'll see. ;)