Hello, everyone. :) After reading a fanfic on Avatar Wiki by User FrodoTheHutt, I was inspired to write a fanfic of my own. I love this show so much, and it gave me great pleasure to write this. I wrote this prologue as a way of portraying my thoughts as to what happened after Aang and Katara's epic kiss in the finale. Everytime I saw that scene, it nearly brought a tear to my eye it was so beautiful. :) That being said, I am a major Kataang fan and dislike Zutara with a passion. I have no problem with fans who are for Zutara, but the idea of Zutara is one I cannot accept. So if you're a big Zutarian, this is not the read for you. :P

I already have seven chapters written up and am currently working on Chapter Eight. So read and enjoy, my fellow fans! Your reviews and comments are always appreciated.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show and its characters belong to Mike and Bryan, the brillant geniuses behind one of the greatest cartoon shows in the history of cartoons. Their work is legendary, and I salute them for it. I do own Ryu, the main villain of my series.

Prologue: A New Beginning

Aang and Katara remained locked in their passionate kiss for what seemed like an eternity as the orange sun set over the Earth Kingdom Capital of Ba Sing Se. There seemed to be a blissful peace in the air that the world had not experienced in 100 years of war with the Fire Nation. After a long while, Aang and Katara separated themselves from their kiss and stood holding each other in their arms as they watched the setting sun.

After a brief pause, Aang said, "Things are going to be different from now on, aren't they?" So much had changed in the world over the course of one year, from the return of the Avatar to the defeat of the Fire Nation. Peace had finally returned to the world after a century long respite, and the future seemed bright indeed.

"Yes, they are," said Katara, "and I'm going to be there by your side to see it all happen. Getting the world back to the way it was isn't going to be easy, but I have faith in you. You saved the world from the Fire Nation; now you're going to work with Zuko to restore balance to the world. After all, who better to restore peace than the Avatar and the new Fire Lord?" She then looked to Aang and smiled warmly at him, feeling happier than she had ever been in her whole life now that she was with the one who truly cared for her. She was so proud of him, having grown up from the little, goofy, oddball kid she and Sokka had found frozen in an iceberg a year ago to the powerful and fully-realized Avatar who saved the world from a fiery end at the hands of the Fire Nation.

Aang returned the look and blushed. Then they lightly kissed each other on the lips. After they had kissed, Aang asked, "Do you think we should tell the others about us? I figured now would be a good time to tell them since everyone is gathered here." He looked into Katara's eyes, waiting for an answer while she thought over the idea in her head.

After a long silence, she said, "Yes, I think we should tell them. After all, since we're finally together and the war is over, what's to stop us from doing so?" She smiled once again at Aang, letting nothing but the most pure of positive emotions flow between them. After all they had been through together, how hard could it be to announce to everyone that they had finally come together as a romantic couple?

Aang chuckled and said, "Yeah. The only thing that would stop us would be another war." But after seeing the stern look on Katara's face, he quickly said, "Hey, I was just kidding. Lighten up will you?" He smiled, for he knew his teasing always made Katara happy.

Katara laughed and said, "Oh, you're telling me to lighten up? Remember when we were at the invasion rendezvous point four days ahead of schedule and you were so stressed out about fighting Fire Lord Ozai you had nightmares and you couldn't sleep at all? You should take your own advice every once in a while." She smiled again at Aang, feeling the warm summer air drifting around them as they held each other.

Aang then said with a sigh, "I guess you're right. But it was because of the invasion that I showed my true feelings for you when I kissed you." Both of them blushed, fondly remembering that day when everything between them changed with that one kiss. "But enough standing out here, let's go tell them!" Aang then walked inside with Katara, hand in hand. The evening sun glinted off of Katara's light green kimono, magnifying her beauty ten fold. Aang had never felt happier in his entire life than he was at that moment. Everything was indeed going to change, and hopefully for the better. He had fought so hard and suffered so much to end the war, and he was determined to make the world a better place, not only for the people of the world but also for his friends and Katara.

Inside of the Jasmine Dragon was the rest of the gang. They were all still standing around Sokka and his "painting" of them, teasing him about how each of them was comically portrayed in his art. No one had seemed to notice that Aang and Katara had gone outside until they had come back in. Actually, Toph was the first to notice because she could sense them walking back in. As she turned in their direction, Aang and Katara let go of each other's hand. She finished turning to them and said, "Hey, Twinkle Toes and Sugar Queen. Where have you two been?" Then she jokingly added, "I thought you guys would want to stick around and tell Sokka what a great job he did painting all of us. I mean it's the best thing I've ever laid eyes on!"

The young Water Tribe warrior, beaming with pride, said, "Thank you, Toph. It's nice to know that someone-" but he stopped when he remembered the fact that Toph was blind and he said critically, "Do you really feel the need to do that all the time? I mean it's hard enough to get compliments around here without you pulling stuff like that." But everyone else was too busy laughing to notice his reaction to Toph's comment.

Suki, standing nearby, said, "Well I think it looks wonderful Sokka. You're truly a budding artist as well as a brave and resourceful warrior." She and Sokka locked eyes as an affectionate understanding passed silently between them.

Katara and Aang looked at each other in a similar fashion, indicating that it was time for their announcement. Aang cleared his throat to get everyone's attention and said, "Katara and I have an announcement to make." There was a tense yet excited atmosphere as the inquisitive faces of Sokka, Suki, Toph, Zuko, Mai, and Iroh looked at the Avatar and the Waterbender. Even Appa and Momo seemed to look on the scene in eager anticipation. Finally, Aang said, "Katara and I have decided to start a relationship." As he said this he reached over and took hold of Katara's hand, causing her to blush. "We decided, more or less, to wait until the end of the war to do this because we weren't sure about how things would turn out." He looked over at Katara with a smile on his face, and she returned the look. He then he looked back to his audience and said, "But now that the world is in peace again and things have calmed down a bit, we decided it was time for us to be together."

After the announcement everyone except Sokka had joyous smiles on their faces. Even Mai seemed to have a slight hint of a grin on her face. Sokka, with a dumbfounded look on his face, was stunned at the revelation and blurted out, "Wait- so what you're saying is that my sister is the Avatar's girlfriend now?"

"That's exactly what he means to say, you blockhead. How long did it take you to figure that out?" said Mai bluntly, who was next to Zuko. Zuko looked down at his sometimes-gloomy girlfriend with a smile on his face.

"Yeah," Toph chipped in, "I pretty much knew that they liked each other for a while now. I could sense it anytime they were near each other, especially after the invasion." Sokka then looked at Toph with an expression of disbelief. What could have possibly happened at the invasion that led to what he was seeing in front of him right now? But the blind Earthbender's face betrayed nothing to the Water Tribe Warrior, and his irritation at his ignorance grew to a fever pitch.

"Well, why didn't you say anything?" irritably asked a blushing Sokka, trying to make up for his embarrassment. He felt responsible for whatever happened to Katara, and the fact that he knew nothing about the feelings of affection that had developed between her and his best friend infuriated him to no end.

"Hey, I didn't want to spoil the surprise," Toph countered defensively. "Plus, they both seemed unsure of what to do concerning a romantic relationship during the time after the invasion and before Sozin's Comet. I look out for my friends, except not in this case for you, Sokka, and because you were too involved with your own girlfriend to even notice what was happening with your little sister. You brought this upon yourself." laughed Toph as she shrugged her shoulders. Sokka's face was still bright red as he fumed at the blind Earthbender.

After the joking was over, all the girls went to congratulate Katara and all the men went over to do the same with Aang. The girls hugged Katara while the men clapped Aang on the back. They were all so happy and ecstatic at the news that even Mai seemed brighter than usual.

"Seriously man, congratulations. You two will make a great couple." said Sokka proudly, having finally composed himself. "Always knew you were a ladies' man," he jokingly added as he gave the Avatar a friendly noogie on his bald head. Zuko stood nearby with a smile on his half-scarred face as he patted Aang on the back.

Toph said gleefully to Katara, "I knew you two would end up together!" Suki gave Katara a hug while Mai stood off at a distance, a slight smile on her face. Both Aang and Katara were blushing bright red around this time.

Iroh just stood where he was and smiled, glad to see that something good had been born out of the end of this horrible war. It warmed his old heart to see young love in such a beautiful bloom like that of the white dragon bush, and he knew that they would have a good future together. For he knew that today was the start of a new beginning for all of them, and whatever the future had in store for them, they would face it all together.

During the following week, the gang enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation. Aang spent most of his time with Katara, conversing affectionately with her. Sokka spent most of his time with Suki, and the same was true for Zuko and Mai. Toph spent most of her time practicing her Earthbending and relaxing at the tea shop. Iroh did just as he said he would do after the war; tend his tea shop and play Pai Sho every night. In the evenings, they all gathered for parties and fun times.

The day of the gang's departure finally came, and Aang was fast asleep in his room while Appa and Momo slept in the spare warehouse just behind the tea shop. Since it was still early morning and the sun had not risen yet, it gave the room a dark and foreboding atmosphere to it. But this darkness was disrupted when the door to Aang's room opened, light streaming in, and a figure slipped in and closed the door, cutting off the light again. The dark figure made its way over to Aang's bedside and, reaching out a hand, shook him awake. Aang was up in an instant and, looking upon the visitor, smiled at Katara. "Good morning," he said quietly. She said the same in return and kissed him lightly upon the lips, reaffirming again that now they were together and that nothing was ever going to separate them again. She crawled into the bed with him, and they lay facing each other.

"Today's the day," she said softly "the day we all split up. Are you ready for it?" She looked upon Aang's face with the gentleness and kindness that he had come to love ever since he met her. Aang loved everything about her, including her kind and loving nature as well as her fierce compassion and magnificent Waterbending abilities. In his eyes, she had grown up as much as he did in the one year that they traveled the world together during the war.

"As long as I'm with you, I'm ready for anything." replied Aang. They smiled at one another and gave each other a hug. As they separated, he said, "It's going to be weird at first not seeing everyone everyday like we're used to, but we all have our own paths to follow, and I know that mine is with you." Katara blushed fiercely but still smiled sweetly all the same. Aang and Katara laid in each others arms for a long time, silently enjoying each other's company while waiting for the morning sun to peek over the horizon.

"You know, Aang," said Katara thoughtfully, "the day Sokka and I left the Southern Water Tribe to go rescue you from Zuko after you had surrendered yourself, my Gran Gran came by to see us off. She said that since you were the Avatar and we had discovered you, our destinies were intertwined with yours. But only now do I realize how much closer my destiny is intertwined with yours, Aang. Maybe we were meant to be together." After she finished talking she was quiet, letting Aang process what she had said. Her blue eyes shined in the dark, providing a faint light for Aang to focus on as he thought.

After a while, Aang said, "I think you're right Katara. Maybe we are meant to be together. We've been through so much together and suffered and learned so much during our travels. I grew to care about you not only as a friend, but also on a more personal level. I had tried a couple of times to tell you how I had felt about you, but every time I just couldn't do it or I was interrupted by something. But on the day of the invasion, the thought of me not coming back to you gave me the courage to kiss you so I could reveal my true feelings. While I was fighting with Fire Lord Ozai during Sozin's Comet, I thought about you and how I had to win so I could come back and we could be together. When I was losing in my Energybending battle with Ozai, I realized that I had to win at all costs so I could return to you. You gave me the strength to prevail against Ozai and save the world. You're the reason why I'm still alive, even after what happened in the catacombs with Azula." At this, Katara blushed and her heart started fluttering like she had never experienced before.

Aang sighed contentedly and said, "You are special to me like no one else has ever been in my entire life, and I knew it from the moment when I first saw your face. You always know how to make me feel better and give me encouragement when I'm feeling down. You make everything seem so right when it seems the whole world is against me. You are my resolute light in this swirling vortex of darkness and confusion. Perhaps it was fate that brought us together, but I believe that we were destined to be together." He leaned in closer to her and said, "I love you Katara." He then kissed her lightly on the lips. But after the kiss, Katara seemed to have a sad and guilty look on her face.

"What's wrong?" asked Aang with a look of concern on his young face. He suddenly gasped, causing Katara to jump slightly. "Don't tell me that you've fallen for Zuko," he whispered in mock horror with widened eyes, as if what he was saying was a fate worse than death itself. Katara realized that Aang was only joking, and she burst out laughing. She muffled her laugh with a hand over her mouth, her body rattling with the force of her merriment. Aang smiled, for he knew his trick had worked in cheering up Katara.

After her laughing fit was over, she happily said, "No, Aang, I haven't fallen for Zuko." She raised an eyebrow inquisitively and asked, "What on earth made you think that I ever had feelings for Zuko? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?" Aang's only answer was a sheepish grin and innocent shrug. She smiled at him, for her Aang could still that mischievous little boy she had first met just over a year ago. But her sad look returned to her face, and Aang's face became full of concern once more. The Avatar could tell that she had something on her mind, something that had been eating away at her for a long time.

"I…have a confession to make, Aang," she said. "While we did become the best of friends on our travels together around the world, something changed inside of me as well. As our journey continued, I began seeing you in a different light." She sighed shakily and said, "I guess at the time I had started developing feelings for you, but I was too afraid to say anything to you." Aang's heart suddenly skipped a beat, for he had no idea before the invasion that she felt the same way about him as he did her. "But after Azula shot you down in the catacombs," continued the Waterbender, "I barely ate and slept during the few weeks that you were unconscious. I cared for you day and night, and I hardly ever left your side. I knew that I cared about you with all my heart, and I wanted to ensure that you would wake up and come back to me."

She paused as she carefully chose the next words of her confession. "When we were talking outside during the play on Ember Island, I told you that we couldn't have been together at that time because of the war. But I also told you that I was confused." She looked lovingly into Aang's eyes and said, "I wasn't confused about my feelings for you, for I knew that I loved you with all my being. I'm sorry if what I said that night hurt you, but I just…didn't want to lose you." Tears began to appear in her azure eyes as the memories of her concern and worry for Aang during the events of Sozin's Comet came rushing back into her mind. "If we were together before the Comet and you died in your battle with Ozai, it would have been far worse than when my mother died. I never want to experience that type of loss again for as long as I live, for if I did it would destroy me." She tightened her grip on Aang and said, "But now the war is over, and I'm no longer confused. I know what my path in life is now, and that path is with you." She leaned in towards Aang, their lips just inches apart from caressing each other. "I love you too, Aang," whispered the young Waterbender, returning the kiss she had received earlier. They then lay in each other's embrace for another hour, quietly talking about many things before getting out of bed.

When the time came for their departures, they all found it hard to say good-bye. They had fought so many battles together, suffered so many tragedies, and even saved the world from a doomsday inferno. Now they were going their separate ways, each following their own path. But they all knew that they would see each other again, and that they would all keep in touch with whatever developments come along in their lives.

Toph was the first to speak. "I've decided to head back home and see my parents. It's been months since I last saw them and I think I can patch things up between us." Everyone knew that despite the rocky relationship between Toph and her parents, she still loved them with all of her heart and that she wanted to prove herself to them.

Katara gave Toph a warm hug and said, "Take care of yourself, Toph, and good luck with your parents. Things won't be the same without you around." She smiled at the blind Earthbender, for the little girl had become like a little sister to her over the course of their travels.

Toph smiled and said in reply, "You take care too, Sugar Queen, although you might have your hands full with Twinkle Toes from now on." At this Aang blushed, but he was still smiling at his new girlfriend who was the love of his life. "I'm only kidding, Aang." Putting on a serious demeanor, she said, "But seriously, you treat Katara right or I'll have to hunt you down and straighten you out myself with a thorough rock beating. Is that clear?" As she was saying this, she got up into Aang's face and pointed a threatening finger at him. Katara couldn't help but smile at the sight of this diminutive yet powerful girl stand up against the Avatar.

"Crystal, Toph," said the young Avatar to the blind Earthbender. He knew that Toph was deadly serious, but in his mind he knew that he would never, ever do anything to hurt Katara. He loved her too much to even think of wronging her in any way.

"Mai and I are heading back to the Fire Nation." stated Fire Lord Zuko. "There is still so much for us to do in the effort to restore peace to the world and as relaxing as this vacation has been, I cannot neglect my duty to my nation."

"Not that politics are all that fun anyway. Ugh." said Mai dryly, but she and Zuko shared a small smile between them. Zuko knew that despite the fact that Mai could be gloomy sometimes, she was still fun for him to be around.

Sokka said, "Suki and I are going to head to Kyoshi Island so we can do some more warrior training and see how Ty Lee's doing. Maybe after that we'll track down Master Piandao and fashion myself a new sword and boomerang. And maybe after that we'll head back to the Southern Water Tribe and start rebuilding our village."

"Anywhere else you want to go on your grand tour of the world, O Wise and Powerful Sokka?" said Suki in a mocking tone. But Sokka only smiled at her, and she did the same.

"Katara and I are going to travel the world with Appa and Momo for a while and help out wherever we can," said Aang as drew next to Katara and put an arm around her waist, "as well as spend some time together now that the war is over and we don't have to worry about anyone trying to capture and/or kill us constantly." With this he looked at the Fire Lord with a mock look of seriousness on his face as Katara smiled and leaned against the Airbender's shoulder as she eyed the Firebender as well.

Putting on an offended air, Zuko said, "Hey, that's all in the past now. I'm a different person then I was back then. You all know I've changed for the better." He chuckled and said, "Besides, you didn't think it was fun constantly running for your lives?" At this everyone laughed and the situation was resolved rather happily. "But what about you Uncle? What do you plan on doing?" asked the Fire Lord to the Dragon of the West.

"I will stay in Ba Sing Se and run my tea shop during my retirement," said Iroh in his gravelly voice. "My days of adventuring are behind me now. I'm far too old to be gallivanting around the world anymore, but you are all so young with a bright future ahead of you. I wish for you all to find happiness and love in your lives and to live the rest of your lives in peace with the families you will undoubtedly start up with the person you marry." At this, the three couples looked into the eyes of their partners, possibilities running their young yet hardened minds.

Sokka turned to Aang and Katara and said, "Now while you're on your travels, don't be getting too cozy with one another or I might just have to tell Dad about it. I've got my eye on the two of you." To emphasize his point, he closed his left eye and widened his right eye menacingly at the young couple. Behind him, Suki shook her head at her boyfriend.

Katara rolled her eyes at her older brother and said, "Sokka, nothing like that is going to happen between Aang and me. We're both people of virtue and would never consider doing such a thing that should be saved for after marriage. Am I right Aang?" She looked lovingly into her soul mate's eyes and smiled.

Aang smiled kindly in return and said to Sokka, "She's absolutely right. If it makes you feel any better, I'll personally make you an Avatar promise as well as a promise from a friend that nothing like that is going to happen between Katara and I. You have nothing to fear." He continued staring at Sokka, whose face seemed to relax a bit.

Sokka sighed and said, "I know that you two wouldn't do anything like that, but I guess that's just me being overprotective of my little sister again." He laughed timidly as he rubbed the back of his head, his face blushing. But the blush disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared as the warrior drew himself up and said, "But I'm serious, you two. No shenanigans or a certain big brother will have to get involved." This time both Aang and Katara rolled their eyes, but they knew he was only looking out for them.

After exchanging their final good-byes, Katara, Aang, and Momo left on Appa and Zuko and Mai left by airship. Toph, Sokka, and Suki walked out of Ba Sing Se together and then went their separate ways. During all of this, the retired, old Fire Nation General looked on in contented silence. He knew that this group of youngsters would remain friends for life. With this knowledge in mind, Iroh began humming a familiar tune from his youth and went inside his tea shop to brew up some Jasmine tea.

Somewhere hidden in a remote cave deep in the wilderness of the Earth Kingdom, a resentful general plotted out his revenge against the new Fire Lord and the Avatar. This man's name was Ryu, a powerful Firebending general in the Fire Nation Army now on the run for war crimes committed against the world. Ryu was a middle-aged man with jet black hair and amber eyes that almost looked as if they were burning with the flames of hatred and revenge. He had long sideburns and a regal goatee that extended three inches from his pointed chin. His face was hard like a rock from engaging in many deadly battles. Some would dare say that Ryu was a handsome individual, but most feared him because of his cold, calculating tactics, and his destructively powerful Firebending abilities. He had led the army into Ba Sing Se shortly after it fell to Princess Azula's coup, and he also led the Fire Nation garrison in the defense of the occupied Earth Kingdom Capital when the Order of the White Lotus liberated Ba Sing Se during Sozin's Comet. When the battle appeared to be lost, Ryu fled the city in order to save himself.

Now an outcast, he began formulating a plan that he was sure would make the Fire Lord and the Avatar experience a great deal of personal suffering and public disgrace. He had no love for either of the two, for they were both responsible for the defeat of the Fire Nation at the end of the war. But he knew his plan would take many years and many followers in order for it to succeed. Ryu was aware of this and was willing to do so, allowing the Avatar and the Fire Lord to fall into a false sense of security before he struck. "Let them have their time of peace," said Ryu with an icy edge in his fiery voice, "and when the time is right I will take from them what they love most and the world will once again be in Fire Nation hands!" Once he had said this, flames erupted from his mouth and hands and went out in jets of scorching fire. The burning light illuminated the cave briefly then died as the flames dissipated. A sinister smile appeared on the cruel face of Ryu; he will have his revenge!