Avatar: The Comet's Wake
((AN: That's right, another new Avatar fanfic...and this time, it's more of a proper story, but one with a plot that kinda writes itself as I go. A more leisurely take on what happens right after the war ends. There'll be some adventure, lots of humor, emotion, and romance. All canon pairings...but mostly lots and lots of Kataang fluff mixed right in for those who enjoy it. :3 I hope it's liked, and don't worry, I'll also still work on my To Muse on Parenthood one-shot collection whenever I get hit by inspiration. ^^ Just the prologue and the first chapter shall be uploaded for now, and the rest will follow probably once a week if I can.
As always, everyone and everything here belongs to Mike and Bryan...all I'm doing is playing around with 'em. ))
It seemed like it inched across the sky. But really, it was rocketing through the atmosphere with speed more intense than anything could have matched, powered by friction fire and energy to give Firebenders the ultimate advantage over the world.
But for the moment, things seemed deceptively peaceful. Its light had been broken not moments ago by another, strong enough to turn the sky a pale blue for a short time. It was a pillar of brightness that seemed like a beacon, and shone into the heavens.
A prince recognized that light instantly. It was what first drew him to the being that he once hunted, and now had hopefully proven to be the greatest hope for the world.
As Sozin's Comet disappeared over the other side of the horizon, its fiery influence waned. The entire world watched it pass, and the people of the Earth Kingdom at that moment never knew how close they all were to being sent to a fiery grave. So many lives were saved. So much suffering had ended. All in the span of moments.
From the courtyard of the Fire Nation Palace, surrounded by the flickering remnants of the epic Agni Kai battle, Katara watched as the night sky returned to its soothing indigo colors. The stars became visible again. The comet was gone and another 100 years would pass without fear. They'd just defeated and secured an insane princess, whose frantic cries had finally worn down and who now was being held at bay with intense care by the Fire Sages.
But still, the Water Tribe girl's eyes were kept on the point of sky where the glowing pillar had breached the clouds before. She too had recognized it and was mesmerized at how it came to be. She didn't even have to guess…she knew. It had come from the Avatar.
"Hey," she heard a grunt from behind her. "I guess it's over."
She turned to glance at Prince—and soon Fire Lord—Zuko, who was still barely able to stand. He wobbled on his legs as he walked to where the Waterbender kept herself.
"Yeah…I think so…" she said, looking back to the sky in wonder. "I hope so. We took back the palace from Azula…now we just have to hear from the others."
Zuko could tell exactly how worried she was. She was holding on to her upper arms, clenching her fingers.
"We should soon, I'm sure," he replied, sitting hard on the ground. "Ugh."
Katara turned back to him with a quirked eyebrow. "Quit walking around; you took a lightning shot to the chest."
"I'll be fine," Zuko sighed with a smile. "Thanks to you. Anyway, it's you I'm more concerned about. You look pale."
The Waterbender turned her back, letting out a light laugh. "I guess I'm just worried sick. I'm wondering if my brother, Suki and Toph managed to stop the fleet. If the Order of the White Lotus took back Ba Sing Se. And what's more…" she paused, looking down to the ground. She couldn't bring herself to say it.
Zuko said it for her. "You're worried about Aang." He glanced to the side. "So am I. After all this time, after all this struggling…I can only hope that he came through. That light had to have come from him. Maybe it means he won."
"I hope so…" Katara murmured, almost starting to cry. "Because I wouldn't be able to live with myself, if…" she breathed out forcefully, trying to keep her composure. "If he didn't, it means we're waiting for our deaths."
Zuko's eyes narrowed. "If my father comes back alive, then I'll finish him. Uncle was right before, about history seeing it as a grab for power…but if it comes to that, the politics of it won't matter. He's an evil man and he needs to be dealt with."
Out of his sight, Katara's mouth formed a deadly scowl. "I'll help," she seemed to hiss. "If it comes to that…for what he'd have done to Aang…I'll gladly end him myself."
The Fire Prince said nothing to that…but he silently agreed with her sentiment. And he knew that she'd do it, too. What she once threatened to do to him if he'd hurt the Avatar would have been a mild punishment compared to what she would have done to Ozai.
The night wore on, and Zuko fell asleep on a bench nearby after another cautionary healing session from Katara. But afterward she still remained in the same spot, looking to that same point in the night sky. So many thoughts were flooding through her mind. Whether everyone had succeeded and made it out alive. Whether Aang was alive.
And whether he'd forgive her.
The last time she'd seen him, before his mysterious disappearance, he was arguing with everyone about having to kill the Fire Lord to end the world's suffering. And he had only ever used that tone of voice against her once: when stranded in the desert, angered over the loss of his bison, Appa.
And before that, he'd confronted her about their feelings for each other. He wasn't afraid to show her how he felt…but she had been.
Her eyes closed, and she looked within herself. He loved me and I turned him down because of this war. Now I don't know if I'll ever see him again.
I have to. I have to tell him that…I…never meant to hurt him. That I think I love him too…that I think I always did.
It was hard for her to believe, but it was the truth, staring her in the eye. She cared about him, more than was believable for a friend. It had grown into something more, and it took his potential death for her to realize it.
I'm such an idiot.
In that little space in the courtyard, silently, her tears flowed. And sleep only fought to take her mind, for she wouldn't dare let herself take her eyes off of that sky.
Then…the eastern horizon started to lighten. Dawn was coming.
And with it, the terrifyingly familiar form of a Fire Nation airship.
Katara was fully awake in an instant, her heart racing. She jumped up and ran to where the Fire Prince slept, shoving his shoulder. "Zuko! Wake up!"
"Uh?" he groaned, turning his head so that his good eye regarded his friend. "What's up?"
"An airship," she said, pointing urgently to where the craft was rapidly approaching.
Jerking awake—and thus rapidly aware of his pain by doing so—Zuko rose and turned his gaze to the sky where the metal monster breached the rim of the Palace city. The two benders watched with a mix of fear and caution as it eventually found a landing spot in the courtyard. They feared the possibility of whoever was inside. It could be Sokka, having successfully captured a ship from the fleet after stopping it…or it could be Ozai flying back from the battle. In the possibility of the latter, Zuko and Katara readied themselves for a fight, tired though they were.
The engines died, and the bystanders approached the metal door as it opened. Their eyes wandered what they saw of the inside with their hearts in their throats.
But they were instantly relieved. Sokka poked his head out and waved with a grin. "Hey guys."
Katara let out a loud cry of elation and ran to her brother, taking him in a hug. "Sokka, you're okay! What happened? Where are the others? What…"
"Ow!" he interrupted her, nearly falling over on the one leg that he supported himself on. "Sorry…I broke my leg. Long story. But, we bring good news."
"What news?" Zuko inquired, coming up behind Katara. "Please tell me you guys won."
"Not just won," Sokka grinned. "We beat the heck out of 'em! And we have a souvenir. Guys, bring him out!"
Katara and Zuko watched with nothing less than amazement as Suki and Toph emerged from the airship, none the worse for wear, carrying between them a weakened and restrained former Phoenix King Ozai. He blinked his eyes up at his son, scowled, and turned his head, saying nothing.
"He's alive?" Katara gasped. "How…how did you guys…?"
"Long story short, this idiot's powerless now," Toph grinned, shoving Ozai to the ground outside of the ship. "He's no longer a Firebender. Twinkletoes actually did find a way to defeat him without killing him."
Sokka nodded enthusiastically. "The fight was just…amazing. And we saw the whole thing."
As her brother proceeded to tell the story, Katara wasn't listening. Her heart was pounding at what she'd just heard. "Wait…back up," she interrupted, her voice wavering. "Aang's alive? He's okay? And he won?"
"Yeah, he's resting back in the airship," Toph jerked a thumb behind her.
"And he won, alright," Suki smiled. "Looks like you guys did too."
Again, the talk turned away from the subject of Aang to the details of the Agni Kai duel with Azula and the story of the fall of the airship fleet. The Waterbender couldn't stick around to hear it…her mind raced, and she rushed up to the dirigible under the notice of the others with only one thing on her mind.
I. Must. Find. Him.
She didn't have to navigate the labyrinthine ship for long, however. He was there in the cockpit, resting with his back against a wall. His head was lowered to his chest, and his body was just covered with scrapes, bruises, and burns. But he breathed, ever so calmly; asleep and exhausted.
The Avatar—Aang, the last Airbender and her best friend in the world, the one she cared about more than anything—was alive.
"Aang…" Katara's breath caught in her throat, his name barely a whisper, and tears flowed down her cheeks upon seeing him. She wanted to approach him; to wake him, heal him, talk to him…anything to hear his voice and see his eyes look into hers. Because he was alive. The thought was too unbelievable to register.
The young monk stirred, having felt the presence nearby. Turning his head, he blinked focus back into his eyes and regarded the figure in the door that was crying at the sight of him.
Katara didn't know what to say to him. No amount of congratulations felt right. No words could be spoken. There were just her emotions to betray her elation. In turn, Aang's tired expression hadn't changed for a second. His head was still trying to sort out the turmoil. But she was there and okay; he had been worried, having heard about what his friends did after he disappeared and what they eventually did to help end the war. And he was relieved…because after everything that had happened, one of the things that he wanted most was to see Katara again. Even if he was unsure of how she felt about him in return, he had never given up the fact that he loved her so much. It was impossible to.
Looking up at her for what seemed like the longest time, he smiled wearily, but warmly. "Hey, Katara. I'm glad you're okay," he murmured.
The pent-up emotion was too much for the Waterbender. Just seconds after hearing his voice, seeing his smile, she ran and dropped herself to the floor beside him, hugging him fiercely. She said nothing back, but sobbed into his shoulder and refused to let go of him.
His heart racing, filled and swirling with warmth and love and relief and joy, he returned the embrace with as much strength as he could muster.
"I thought you were gone forever," Katara whispered in a sob, shaking her head and burying herself further into him.
Aang smiled, holding her tightly as he released a few tears of his own. "I'm not. I'm here." He pulled back and looked into her eyes, sniffing slightly. "And boy did I miss you."
Her reply was another choked-back sob as she embraced him again.
That the war was over…that they were alive…holding one another…neither of them could have felt happier.
Soon, the others had come into the airship looking for them, and together they supported their tired forms outside to greet the sun. A new day lay before them, the start of many more to come in a vastly changed world.