The Best Gifts
Rated: Teen for romance. (Kataang)
Summary: Aang gets snowed in while visiting Katara's family at the Southern Water Tribe. Katara tells him how her people pass the time, and shows Aang that the best gifts are the ones given in love.
Disclaimer: A:TLA is owned by Bryke.
LES: This holiday is kind of a mixture between Christmas and Winter Solstice celebrations. Except it will technically be the Summer Solstice since this story takes place in the South Pole. Uh… whatever, it's the South Pole winter and Aang gets snowed in.
If there was one thing that Aang didn't want to do while visiting Katara's family in the South Pole, it was get snowed into the hut. Aang knew that it had been over a year since Katara had seen the family that she left behind in the South Pole, so he was more than happy to consent when she asked if they could make a trip there. Unfortunately, Aang had timed it all wrong.
It had been very late spring in the Earth Kingdom when Katara had asked, and Aang had forgotten that seasons were opposite on the other side of the world. So, while the Earth Kingdom was starting to heat up with summer, the South Pole would be losing daylight and the endless night of winter was about to begin.
If that wasn't bad enough, Aang and Katara had arrived about a few hours before the first big storm of the season that made it absolutely impossible to step outside the huts.
Aang always suspected that he had terrible luck all the way back from when he was in the womb, because he had the supreme bad luck of being born the Avatar… but this bout of bad luck was just pushing it!
He could not go outside. He could not play in the snow. He could not visit the other families. He couldn't go penguin sledding or exploring or any of the hundreds of things he had wanted to do while in the South Pole. Pretty much the only thing they could do was sit and talk.
It wasn't that Aang didn't enjoy talking with his girlfriend and her family and learning about their culture… it was just that he was a born-nomad. He wasn't made to sit in a house like this day in and day out.
A week later, he was starting to go a little stir-crazy.
The young Avatar had taken to pacing endless circles around the hut's main area, which he could not seem to stop no matter how many times the others told him to sit down and calm down.
Katara watched, feeling guilty, as her boyfriend suffered. She had always known that Aang had a problem staying still, and she knew that he probably considered being stuck in the hut like this close to hell. She hadn't meant for them to get snowed in like this. After all, she should have known better than anyone that it was almost winter at the South Pole, and that they would probably be stuck in this situation, but she had forgotten. She had lived and traveled on the other side of the world for so long that she had completely forgotten about the mixed up seasons.
For the first time in hours, Aang stopped pacing. "I have to get out of here." He said suddenly. "I have to do something. I have to Bend." He took a Waterbending stance and Katara recognized the move. He was going to Bend the snow away from the door so he could go outside.
Katara jumped up and grabbed his hand, stopping his motion. "Wait, Aang. You can't. Do you hear that?" They fell silent, allowing the sound of the blistering wind outside to reach them. "It's a blizzard out there right now. If you go outside, you'll freeze to death in minutes."
"I don't care." Aang said impulsively. "I can't stand being trapped in here any longer. I'm going crazy, Katara." Katara met his eyes and felt guilt eat at her once again as she saw the pain in his eyes.
"Aang…" Katara whispered, leaning up on her toes and pressing a soft kiss to his lips. It was the first time that she had kissed Aang since he started losing his mind to the confinement; but it wasn't her choice. This was the first time since they got here that her father and brother were both asleep while she and Aang were awake.
Aang was glad for both the distraction and being allowed to kiss his girlfriend, and eagerly returned her kiss with enthusiasm; wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her flush against his body as their lips moved together in a sweet dance they were both familiar with.
They only stopped when Katara began to grow breathless. (Aang was an Airbender and could hold his breath much longer than non-Airbenders.) They slowly separated, but were still holding onto each other, resting their foreheads together.
"Aang… come sit with me." Katara said, pulling him over to a small pile of furs. Aang was so enamored with Katara that he sat down on them without a thought of the animals they had come from. She took his hands in hers, her fingers lightly tracing the tattoo on his hand. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I got you into this mess. Not everyone can handle being snowed in for long periods of time."
"I don't blame you, Katara." Aang said. "Remember, I grew up at the Southern Air Temple, so I should have known that it was winter down here."
"But you never got snowed in at the Temple, did you?"
Aang shook his head. "No."
They fell silent from a few moments, and then Katara spoke. "I know you really hate being trapped in the hut like this, but for my people… winter is the best time of the year."
"Why?" Aang asked, surprised. "You can't go out and do all the things you normally do… visiting other families, fishing… hunting."
"Exactly." Katara said. "Families are normally so busy that they almost never see each other. The men are always off hunting, the women are always doing various chores around the village, and the children run off to play their own games. But, winter… it forces the families back together. Winter is a time of family and reconnection. As a child, I almost never saw my father or brother. It was only times like this when we really came together as a family."
"I guess… I can understand." Aang said.
"Winter's a time for celebrating love as well." Katara said shyly. "There's an old Wives' Tale in the Water Tribe that says that if a couple can survive the winter together and still love each other, then they are destined to be together forever."
"Oh." Aang said flatly. "I guess I'm starting off pretty bad with the whole 'surviving' thing, aren't I?"
Katara playfully slapped her boyfriend. "Don't say that. I know that you just want to move around again, and that has nothing to do with me. And I still love you."
"I love you too, Katara." Aang whispered, giving her another kiss.
When they finally pulled apart, Katara smiled at him. "I have something for you." She reached behind the furs and pulled out a small box wrapped with string. "Happy Solstice. And Happy First Snow In."
Aang grinned at her playfully before accepting the box. It was rather light and plain, but Aang didn't care because he knew he would love whatever Katara gave him. He paused before opening it. "You give gifts on the Solstice? I don't have anything for you."
"You give me enough, Aang." Katara said matter-of-factly.
So without any further ado, Aang tugged the string lose and opened the lid of the box, gazing inside. In the bottom of the box was a single piece of paper with the word 'Heart' written on it. Aang gazed at Katara in confusion. "Um…"
"It's my heart, Aang. I'm giving it to you." Katara said, pulling out the paper and placing it in his hand. "You're the only person I would ever give this to. Treat it well."
Aang gazed down at the paper in his hand, his eyes growing moist with tears of happiness. He looked over at Katara and grinned happily. "I'll cherish it forever."
Katara scooted closer into him, so that their sides were touching. She reached up, running her fingers along his jaw line. Aang met her eyes, and they held each others gaze for several moments, before Katara leaned up and pressed her lips to his.
Aang returned her kiss, his hands finding their way to her waist, rubbing up and down along her curves. Katara moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.
As if by an unspoken signal, they both opened their mouths against each other and allowed their tongues to meet. Aang twisted his head slightly to a different angle to allow a better fit of their lips as they moved passionately against each other.
In time, Katara grew breathless and they were forced to separate in order to allow her to breath.
"I love you." Katara whispered, pulling him into another kiss.
It was then that Aang became resolved: he no longer cared how bored and restless he got; he resolved that he would handle himself during this snow in better. If the Water Tribe considered these snow ins a test of a couple's compatibility, then he resolved that he would handle himself better for Katara's sake. He would prove his ability to devote himself entirely to her and her happiness.
And then, maybe in the years to come when it came for him to finally propose to the love of his life, her family and her people would accept her betrothal.
It was many years later when one of Avatar Aang's many grandchildren was snooping around his grandfather's possessions, driven by a sense of curiosity when he came across a ratty piece of paper that must've been a hundred years old, with the faded word 'Heart' written on it.
"Ah, my boy…" The young child froze and spun around on his heel, coming face to face with his grandfather. The child could barely manage to meet the older man's stern gaze. "When are you going to learn that it isn't proper to snoop through other people's things?"
"I'm sorry, Grandpa Aang." The child said, trying to sound more contrite than he actually felt. He held up the piece of paper for his grandfather to see. "Why do you have this old junk? This paper has to be over a hundred years old, and can't be any good to write on."
"Ah. That." Aang said, taking the paper and staring down at it with misty eyes. "You see, this piece of paper is my greatest treasure."
"Yes." Aang said. "It was the best present my wife ever gave me."