It had been an accident. An accident, she repeated to herself as she stared at the happy little face. That happy little Aang smile she knew so well. She hadn't meant to go looking.
"Mom, are you crying?" A soft hand came out and gently squeezed her shoulder.
Katara turned to look at her daughter who was staring back with concern in her eyes. It had been three years since her father had died and still her mother seemed broken.
Katara smiled back and pulled her daughter into an embrace. "Yes, just a little."
They continued to walk arm and arm through the market toward the girl. The little girl was pulling on her mothers arm, though her mother didn't seem to notice much. She was busy filling her basket with dried fish and chatting pleasantly with the man behind the counter.
"Gran-gran! It's so cold here! My toes are froze," the little dark haired boy trailing after them began to stamp his feet through the snow. He promptly slipped on the ice and fell flat on his back. Katara and Kya couldn't help but laugh.
"Come here, Paku," Kya reached down and lifted up the five year old and swung him onto her back.
"Remember when you used to carry me like this?" Kya smiled at her mother as she bent down to pick up their basket. "He's right, you know. It is way too cold here. I can't believe this is where you grew up," Kya shivered.
"Yeah," Paku confirmed as he grabbed onto his mother's dreadlocks and gave a little tug. "Yip yip."
"Do I look like a sky bison you little twerp?" Kya asked with a grin.
"Ummm," Paku shifted a bit.
"Don't answer that Paku, " Katara replied with a shake of her head.
They continued to walk through the market. Katara watched as the woman loaded her wares onto a small sled that she was dragging behind her.
"Mom, mom, mom!" the little girl called, "Watch!" The girl took a run at her mother and swirled her arms beneath her. The snow and water picked up off the ground formed itself into a ball beneath her. It propelled her along for about six feet before it disintegrated beneath her. She tumbled onto the snow and jumped up laughing. And there it was; that Aang smile. And the laughter. It broke her heart just as much as it filled it.
The woman let go of the sled and, instead of rushing to her daughter's side or scolding her, she simply clapped her hands and smiled. "That was amazing, Korra."
The little girl rushed back to her mother and grabbed onto her legs in a tight hug.
Both Kya and Katara had stopped.
"Mom," Kya said slowly. Their mitten covered hands clutched at each other tightly.
Katara closed her eyes for a moment. "I know, Kya," she replied softly.
They watched as the mother and daughter boarded their sled. The girl, Korra, sat on the back and propelled the sled through the snow out toward the empty horizon.
Kya glanced over at her mother. Katara's blue eyes were shinning over with unshed tears.
"Should we tell them?" Kya asked.
"Tell who what? Why did we stop, ostrich horsey?" Paku whined and pushed his cold little face into his mother's warm neck.
Katara just shook her head. "She's only three. That's too young. Who knows how much longer her parents will have with her. As soon as they find out, the white lotus will come for her. And who knows, it may be years before she manifests."
Kya looked at her doubtfully. "She's already waterbending at three years old. I'd say it probably won't be too long."
Katara faced her daughter and set down the basket of dried grass she had been carrying. "How would you feel if they came to take Paku? Even if they told you it was for the good of the world, they would still be taking your child away. We should let them have as much time as they can."
Paku slid off of his mothers back. "Who's taking me?" He demanded as he approached his grandmother and tugged at her arm.
Katara reached down and rubbed at her grandson's dark hair. "Nobody, sweetie. Nobody is taking you. "
Kya nodded and watched the little sled disappear. She then picked up her basket and her mothers and walked once more toward the end of the market.
"Did you come here looking for her?" Kya asked as they watched Paku race out in front of them.
"No, " Katara answered with a shake of her head," It was an accident."
"Fate, destiny, not an accident," Kya smiled.
"That's what your father would say."
"It certainly is," Kya answered as she shifted both baskets into one arm and hugged them against her body. With her other arm, she embraced her mother, never breaking stride as they walked out of the village and out toward the water.
They watched Paku slide across the ice, bending the snow behind him to propel himself further. Little wisps of snow rose up around him.
"You know she'll need a waterbending teacher. She already needs one," Kya said as they headed toward the men constructing kayaks by the edge of the water.
"Do you think it will be too hard for you," Kya asked, looking down at their feet. Her mother always seemed so strong, she held up everybody around her. But in the years after her father had died, Kya was worried that she had taken on too much.
Katara smiled and shook her head. She closed her eyes and thought back to that little dark, smiling face with the bright blue eyes. So much like Aang and so much different too.
"It was meant to be."
And Kya smiled. Knowing that after the last three years of despair, her mother finally had a purpose that would drive her for years to come. Katara was never as strong as when the light of hope filled her eyes. That's what Kya saw in her mother's eyes now.
Kya stopped and set down her baskets. A huge grin lit up her face. "Mom, mom, mom, watch me!" She called as she raced forward and gathered the same ball of snow and water beneath her, larger and stronger of course. It propelled her forward and to her son who she scooped up squealing into her arms. They tumbled into the snow together giggling.
Katara looked on fondly at her family and glanced once more over the horizon where she could still barely make out the dot of the disappearing sled.