"I guess there's really no right age to get married," Aang murmurs, answering my most recent question. "But the most common age I've seen is…nineteen…probably." He trails off, thinking. "I've seen people as young as fifteen, and that's acceptable, and as old at ninety," he grins, remembering some charming and sure to be lovely couple who must have died long, long ago.
We were lying here in our bed, relishing in the glow of the newfound physical boundaries we've crossed. After we'd been passionate enough we cuddled, and a long while later we became comfy in our own separate bubbles again. Aang was lying next to me on his back; hand on his chest and other holding mine while I gazed at him, lying on my side. I was asking him question after question about air nomad customs and traditions.
"So it's acceptable to get married at fifteen?" I question. It's so different to how things are now.
"Fairly normal, yes," he nods. "We'd only just abolished arranged marriage," he adds, "If you and I were to be married…it may be the first time in history there was a marriage outside our own element." He grins. "I mean I'm sure there were rebellious lovers, but none as famous as us."
I take a deep breath. "We're not famous yet," I protest. He chuckles.
"I came back from a hundred year disappearance and saved the world with you by my side, we're pretty famous," he says confidently. I recognize his voice the same I've heard since I first met him. I heard him not as my boyfriend, but as my best friend.
"Touché," I say.
He sighs, thinking. "This is all so…"
"Fast? New?" I question, trying to pinpoint where his thoughts lie.
"Yeah, it is moving really fast," he murmurs, taking his hand out of mine and running his fingers over his head, rubbing his eyes in the process. This worries me.
"Too fast…?" I whisper, wondering if maybe the boundaries we crossed were too much for him.
He nods thoughtfully, looking at the ceiling and crossing his hands on his chest, "yeah." My heart sinks.
"I knew there'd be complications with the age difference…things I'd want physically that you weren't ready for…but I didn't think…" I don't know how I'm supposed to say what I'm trying to say, but thankfully Aang cuts in frantically.
"No no no Katara it's not that at all! It's not the physical stuff or the age difference I promise," he laughs nervously, taking my hand in both of his while sitting up to face me. I sit up too and look at him with a confused look on my face. How were we moving too fast if that wasn't what he was referring to?
"I'm the avatar Katara." It's as simple as that, one statement, and suddenly the pieces came together. "When I met with Guru Pathik and Avatar Yangchen I knew it was nearly impossible for me to get married… Even though past avatars had done it, it was not a wise choice." He seems so old, so full of knowledge, and yet he still speaks with an adolescent voice. But still, even that was changing too...
"Are you saying it's illegal?" I wonder.
"No. I'm saying that to master the avatar state I'd have to detach myself from all worldly attachments…meaning you. I won't ever live up to my fullest potential if I'm tied down." He shrugs, like it's as simple as that. No, it's not fair. I can't be so selfish, the world needs an avatar.
"I guess we shouldn't go any further with this then," I say, my sacrifice like acid on my tongue. He looks up at me, hurt eyes surprised and curious. He just looks at me for a minute, searching for something. I can't contemplate what he's thinking.
"I didn't master the avatar state. I gave that up for you. I'm strong enough without it." He has a hurt look on his face, like he cannot believe I suggest he do otherwise. Like it was unthinkable. "Avatar Yangchen said that I couldn't reach spiritual enlightenment because my sole duty was to the world… If I can't reach physical enlightenment either then what's the point? If I'm worthy of this gift then I should be able to control it without support from the spirit world." Then he's silent. His words rang in the silence still, having such a large impact on my view of the air nomads, and past avatars, and Aang…
"So…you're basically setting new limits," I say, trying to find an understanding. He was going against what his mentors have told him and is doing something that he thinks is right. He's thinking like a true avatar now.
"Exactly, I don't think that it's fair or okay for us to have to live life the way chosen for us. We saved the world, we can do what we damn please," he says hurriedly, suddenly pressing his lips against mine and pinning me against the bed in a violent attack of passion and spilled emotion.
I woke up on Aangs chest. The steady rise and fall of his breath was soothing, and I could feel the heaviness of my eyelids, fighting to return to sleep. I fought the urge so that I could find out what time it was.
I sat up gently, careful not to wake him. The room was dark and a loud crack of thunder made me aware of the rain splattering against the roof. With the darkness and the clouds in the sky it could be any time of day, but judging how unconscious Aang is I would guess that it's probably a few hours before dawn. Why had I woken? The window!
It was open! I jumped up from the bed and ran to force the shutters closed. The chill of the night had sneaked under the blankets. The rain and thunder was so loud! This was a massive storm, I hope Zukos ship was okay; I can only imagine how violent the seas must be.
I couldn't force the shutters closed, the wind was too strong. Suddenly Aang was behind me, airbending a force stronger that the natural. It gave me a chance to waterbend the wetness that had spilled into the room outside. It was finally dry after I'd gotten everything, so I closed the window and Aang stopped bending.
He sighed heavily. "That was intense."
I chuckled. "We've encountered a little bit more intense."
"True. But at least now we can go back to bed…," he says, pulling me into his arms and scooping me up. I squealed, still not used to his brute strength. I was never going to grow accustomed to being in love with an avatar.
He sets me on the bed while he rummages through the chest in the corner, pulling out several more blankets to warm us up and help us to recover from the freezing cold air that had seeped into the room. He tried to bend most of it out but there was only so much he could do.
He blows fire into this hands, somehow managing not to burn himself. He rubs his fingers together and repeats the action. I had almost forgotten he could firebend after all of the air nomad talk. It stuns me how sometimes I cannot wrap my head around the fact that he can do everything. The boy in front of me is the one person in the world who can do everything. It was beyond incredible.
"Here," he says softly, handing me a few blankets and climbing under them with me, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me tightly to his chest. I'm surprised by his boldness, but then again what else should I expect. I liked being held this way.
Another breath of fire, I squeeze my eyes shut, caught off guard by the sudden heat and light. It didn't occur to me that he knew how to control it; I just saw fire and assumed it would burn me.
"Sorry," his voice is warm, and his breath tickles my ear. "Just trying to warm you up. I won't hurt you," he adds, kissing the back of my neck lovingly.
"I know sweetheart," I murmur, and I feel him smile at the pet name.
"I could get used to you calling me that."
"And I could get used to you holding me like this," I murmur, but instead of staying the way we were I turn around and face him. He strokes my cheek and gazes at me lovingly, a warm, tired smile plastered on his face. I mirror him for a moment before realizing how warm his bare body is. I stroke his chest down to his abdomen, marveling at how rock hard he was despite the softness of his skin, like clay stone wrapped in velvet. He shudders.
"This is so weird. This has been in my head for a year now," he takes a deep breath and strokes my shoulder softly, hugging me tightly to him. His grip is so strong, his body so hard and yet so comfortable. We fit together like yin and yang.
Sokka came home at noon. Aang was out in the back of the apartment meditating when I woke, and since I chose not to disturb him we had very little alone time before Sokka arrived. Only about five minutes to recap last nights' events. We came to notice that despite how it seemed as though a million things had happened, we really hadn't done very much.
"Nasty storm last night, huh you guys? Or did you not notice it while you were face battling," Sokka grimaces, uttering words in mock horror. Aang chose to ignore him, but he did smile slightly once Sokka had passed and couldn't see his face.
"Windows blew open, we noticed," I murmur, focusing on the searing vegetables I was cooking. Our brunch, in a way. "Aang?" I call. He stands, knowing that what I need was another spark of heat. I could only waterbend the water in the pot, not the heat of it.
"Do we have any nuts?" Sokka asks, his voice cracking a bit like it always has. He leans in a little too close to my shoulder to get a sniff of the food.
"I don't know," I respond, nudging him out of my way. He sticks his tongue out and plops down next to Aang in the living room, deciding to look over his shoulder instead.
"Whatcha readin'?" I hear him say playfully, then after a moment of silence his tone changes. "That's Chameleon Bay, where my dad is stationed, why are you looking at that?"
The vegetables are done boiling for now so I pour them from the pot into individual bowls. I wander over to where they're sitting and take a peek at the map in Aangs lap.
"We're trying to figure out where they're going to be next," Aang murmurs more to himself than to us. I sit next to him, Sokka on his other side.
"What do you mean?" I question, "I thought that dad was going back home."
"That was the original plan, but," Aang sets the map down and rubs his face tiredly. He hadn't gotten enough sleep last night. "The war only just ended a few days ago, it's not like every firebender in the world is going to be ok with it. There's bound to be rebellions, and we need protection for at least the first couple months at the mouth of the bay," he sighs, lying on his back and looking at the ceiling. Sokka glances at me worriedly. "But there's also been talk that, since he's the leader, he needs to return to the South Pole and help with reconstruction."
"Reconstruction?" Sokka stutters. "What's wrong with it?!"
"Nothing Sokka, but it's nothing compared to the sheer size of the North Pole. It's time for me to start being the avatar in other ways, which means building a strong world. The South Pole isn't safe to any foreign attacks, if the firenation wants to take its anger out on you all they have to do is just waltz in and you're helpless. I mean come on, Sokka; you were the only warrior without Hakoda."
Sokka humphs in defeat, he couldn't argue because Aangs point was valid. He grumbles something about being the oldest before stomping out of the house.
To that, Aang and I both have to laugh.