note. avatar: the last airbender © michael dimartino and bryan konietzko.
— the war is over
by breakable bird
The first time Katara touches the pale and rough but oh-so-soft skin of Zuko with freedom—
(because I let you go, he'd said, the little boy with too many years and too thin bones, hollow bones, maybe, like a bird with wide wings)
—she is shaking.
"The war is over," she says, and he kisses her shoulder, the point where bones meet, and a little lower and she thinks overoverover, and Aang shouldn't— I let you go, but how's going he to do that if Aang never ever owned her? She never, never belonged to him —not Aang with cheerful laugh and the precious memories of a child's smile, a warm caress and a happy joke, not Aang, old, young Aang, because when Katara was a little girl she heard the fire burning her mother alive, and Sokka didn't and he doesn't understand, either, but she cried and cried and cried and that, she knows, is a wound that is never going to really heal.
And Aang is—
(the war is over i love you don't you ever dare to leave me stupid boy with too much pain and a too kind smile i love you do you understand? zuko i love you)
—never going to really really really change.
It's not suddenly better.
The whole world is mourning, for a person or a home or a lost war (because Hakoda says no one ever wins a battle), and the tears and the shame and the sadness are walking in the streets with a tired air that makes you want to sit under a tree and sleep forever. The soldiers are coming back and the families are what they were a thousand of years ago, with more scars and something sharp on the edges—
Katara sees the looks in the mothers or the wives or the girlfriends or the daughters. There is a harsh point because the girls tend to know about losing and waiting and crying in the middle of the night and never knowing, always praying wishing hoping demanding to God i want him back. And now—
(this is mine to take care of, to love, to keep until the sun stops shining)
Katara lives in a palace, like the one she used to dream as a little girl, except that smells like smoke and fire and melancholy. She sleeps in a bed made of feathers, so different of the furs in the South Pole, with a man that was once her enemy, her friend—
and they watch the moon with their hands barley touching but ever feeling, keeping the calm peace of the life they deserve, like Sokka and Suki can't because Sokka remembers the ice and the way a girl with the spirit of a true princess walked, there was a killer water and the princess left behind a boy with too many hopes and so lonely without her. They walk to the shore of the ridiculous lake Zuko has in his freaking garden and she plays with the drops and waves, and he calls little brilliant bugs called fireflies with fireballs, and when she looks at him to laugh, he's already watching her—
Aang is blind, and Toph is waiting.
It takes her a while to notice.
"The war is over," she still says it, time on time, with shaky hands and weak wrists and a tired mouth, but Zuko kisses her, he holds her—
The war is not over, she thinks and he knows and the clothes fall like raindrops, or like the fireflies in the daybreak, his fingers are a mess searching in her ways, her paths, the girl that is the mother of the world or the Fire Nation or the Avatar (i can't let you go i can't can't can't), or whatever because she's there, with him and (you never had me aang and i'm sorry sorry sorry) it's like an echo.
Do you think we will met in the next life? —she asks after they're done, but not really, because his body is a warm line against her and she half-closes her eyes, and only sees himhimhim.
The wars are never over. They just grow quiet.
"And every one after that," he says, "I don't make the same mistake every time, Katara. I learn."
(i'll always be here, no matter what) so she believes him, because they're just waiting until someone's pain is too unbearable. The mother of the world with the flame of the spirit in her throat, preparing herself for talk in a singsong voice and teach a broken heart a lesson.
She healed him —healed the cracks in his skin and bones, in his flesh and soul, and then they are together in what truly matters and she loveslovesloves him, and I'm not made for this, to fight. I'm barely a child—
But not really.
The sun appears languidly in the dark sky, and the world breathes.