Little Blue Beads

"Come here; let me put these in your hair."

Her voice was mischievous, full of laughter and with that slightly deeper tone that hinted at arousal. The children giggled and watched with wide blue eyes as their mother put simple blue beads in two strands of their father's brown hair. Kya sat back on her haunches and examined her handiwork.

"What do you think, children? Does your Daddy look handsome? I certainly think so."

They nodded and agreed with loud exclamations that Daddy was indeed the most handsome man in the whole world.

"But you haven't seen the whole world."

His voice was soothing and melodious, always a comfort. Large hands reached out to tickle the little boy and the little girl. They curled up defensively, wrapping arms around their middles, trying to evade the hands. It was no use, though. Strong fingers found their way by the defenses and attacked mercilessly. The children broke out into peals of laughter that sounded very, very loud inside the skin tent.

"One day I will."

When the tickling hands retreated, the daughter spoke with a surety that surprised her parents. Her pretty face was scrunched up with concentration as she tried to imagine what the 'whole world' might be like.

"I believe you."

The father, his name was Hakoda, smiled at his little girl.

"Why don't you go out and play now. Daddy and I have some things to talk about."

Kya and Hakoda watched as their children lifted the flap of the tent and went out into the bright sunshine of a beautiful winter day. When the boy and girl were gone they turned to each other.

"So, I like the beads."

"Good, now come over here."

They kissed then. Her fingers found the two bits of hair and gave them a gentle tug.

Hakoda didn't believe in putting value on objects. People were what mattered, especially the ones you loved and had sworn to protect. Things could be repaired or replaced, people could not. The tragic death of his beloved wife, Kya, had taught him that all too well. She was gone forever, perhaps waiting in the Spirit World, perhaps not. He still hadn't made his mind up about all that. He jokingly told his best and truest friend, Bato, that he would find out soon enough, upon his own death.

Still, there were certain things in the Water Tribe warrior's possession that meant a lot, despite his beliefs. Objects did have a certain power. They could evoke a memory, good or bad, treasured or best forgotten, and they sometimes provided a link of sorts to someone lost. Hakoda's heart would constrict with both pain and pride every time he watched his daughter, Katara, reverently touch the necklace she wore proudly around her neck. It had been Kya's once, a symbol of the powerful love between him and his wife. Now it was the girl's way of remembering a mother she lost far too soon, a mother she adored and missed fiercely. The intensity of Katara's grief sometimes overwhelmed Hakoda and he was unsure just how to comfort her. He would push his own pain down and try to help his little girl, his little piece of Kya. And he would touch the beads that decorated his hair; simple circles of blue that Kya had playfully slipped on one day, not long before her death.

Hakoda had never taken them out and when he reached up and felt their reassuring presence, somehow Kya was closer.