Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar. That belongs to Mike and Bryan. I'm just borrowing.
A/N: Woah, it's a been a while. Long story short, I've been in school and life's been crazy. However, I have been catching up with Korra and I saw the eppy with adult!Aang!Toph!Sokka! and it about shocked my Gaang loving heart into stopping. Waaah! Couple that with my curiosity over how the Air Acolytes came to be and the cuteness of Meelo sleeping with his parents and this headcanon was born.
Oh Avatar, why can't I quit you?
Aang shifted onto his side in bed with a drowsy grunt, intending to nestle more closely against his wife, perhaps even coax her into wakefulness with a few nibbling kisses, but his amorous efforts were summarily thwarted by the small, warm, and distinctly familiar barrier between them. With yet another lethargic grunt, this one laced with resigned consternation, Aang opened his eyes. Not surprisingly, the sleeping countenance of his five year old daughter filled his line of sight.
Kya's small face was situated mere inches from his own, tendrils of her dark, curling hair escaping her untidy ponytail and falling across her forehead and cheek, her tiny mouth slackened with sleep. In one fist she clutched her favorite doll while her free arm, as well as her leg, was thrown haphazardly across her father's torso. Adorable, almost inaudible snores escaped her as she dozed soundly beside him.
Biting back a smile that was part amusement, part annoyance, Aang carefully eased himself from beneath Kya's solid weight in order to reach over and nudge Katara. "Aang, I'm trying to sleep," she muttered crabbily.
"Wake up. We've been invaded," Aang answered in a sleep-roughened voice.
Moments later, lush, dark lashes fluttered upwards to reveal his wife's bleary, blue eyes. Katara blinked at her husband exhausted confusion. "What are you talking about? What time is it?"
Aang tipped an amused glance towards the sleeping child wedged between them. "She's back."
That singsong pronouncement was enough to chase away Katara's last clinging vestiges of slumber. She pushed her rumpled hair back from her face and rolled upright. "Again?" she sighed, propping up onto her elbow to smooth down the wild tendrils of Kya's hair, "I was so sure she'd make it through the night this time."
"Nope. I knew I should have made it a bet," Aang yawned good-naturedly. With a resigned sigh, he sat up and contorted his long, lean body in a bone-cracking stretch. "I guess I'll take her back to her room."
Katara reached out to touch his forearm, waylaying his intention to scoop up Kya from the rumpled blankets. "Don't, Aang. She's comfortable where she is right now. Just let her stay the night."
Although Aang didn't require much convincing on that score, he sighed in long-suffering as he repositioned their daughter and her doll and then settled back down beside her. "This can't go on forever, Katara," he reasoned softly, even as he smoothed an affectionate caress down the round slope of his daughter's cheek. "This bed is going to get awfully crowded once the new baby arrives." He smiled at Katara in the flickering candlelight, able to make out the rounded slope of her abdomen even beneath the thick blankets. "It's already getting tight."
That comment earned him a dangerous glare from his wife. "Is that your backhanded way of calling me fat?" she demanded in a dire tone.
"Of course not," he laughed, "I just like getting you riled up."
"Stop teasing me," she pouted, "It's too late…er early…well, you really shouldn't be doing it," she finally settled, "I'm very delicate right now."
"Aww. But I love it when your eyes do that flash and sparkle thing."
"Oh, I see what your real concern is now," Katara teased him airily, "A bed full of babies kind of puts a crimp in your plans to make more babies, doesn't it, Aang?" Katara batted her eyes at him sweetly. "Whatever will you do?"
Aang gasped in mock affront as he made a playful attempt to cover Kya's ears. "Katara! Such talk! Not in front of the innocents!"
She laughed at him before leaning forward to brush his lips with a soft kiss before dropping a glance down at her slumbering child. Though she was sure Kya was in a pretty deep sleep, Katara kept her tone at a hushed whisper nonetheless. "I think it's safe to say that she's out for the count, Aang. She looks pretty content right now, don't you think?"
"That's what we thought earlier when we put her to bed and now look at us," he whispered back wryly. "I don't understand it," he mused, "She was so excited to have her very own big girl bed. You remember how crazy she drove us when she found out that Sokka had carved that bed frame especially for her birthday. She couldn't wait for him to bring it. I was half afraid she'd steal Appa in the night and go get it herself, she was so impatient!"
Katara bit back a smile. "I remember. The week he and Suki were supposed to come, she would sit high up in the temple parapets every day just so she would be sure to catch the first glimpse of them as they came over the mountain ridge. I thought she was going to break her neck up there."
"Appa was with her. He would have never let her fall. You know that."
"Yeah, I know," Katara whispered, "But I think that's when I realized that she's an adventurer…" She cut a meaningful look at Aang. "…just like her father." He actually blushed at the comment and ducked his head. "It doesn't matter that she's not technically an airbender. She is definitely one in spirit."
It had taken quite a bit of time to convince Kya that, while her father had been gifted with the ability to bend all four elements, it unfortunately wasn't a skill she could master herself. So, no matter how much she might wish to do so, Kya would never be able to bend air. However, despite the lengthy explanations on the reason why she could not, Katara suspected, even now, that her little daughter hadn't given up the notion of one day commanding that elusive element at her fingertips and she told Aang so.
"She has her heart set on flying and she's determined to do it. She's always eager to try something new and daring."
"So what happened to all that? She couldn't wait to start sleeping on her own and now she's right back in our bed again."
At his confused grumbling, Katara reached across Kya and caught hold of his hand. She placed it against the swell of her belly, her mouth curving in a smile as their child gave a solid kick beneath his fingers. She and Aang exchanged a loving look. "This is why," she declared knowingly.
Aang sputtered a laugh. "The baby?" Katara nodded, but the idea seemed rather preposterous to Aang. "Come on! Are you saying that she's jealous? The baby isn't even here yet and won't be for months! Why would she be jealous?"
"Jealous?" Katara considered. "Maybe not. Threatened? Yes. Definitely."
"Threatened by what? The baby isn't even born yet!"
"Doesn't matter," Katara reasoned, "Competition is competition."
"What…are you're saying that Kya sees this new baby as competition? Do you think she's afraid we won't love her as much when the baby comes?" Aang fretted, "That couldn't be further from the truth! Tell me I didn't do something to give her that impression, Katara! I don't want her to feel that way. Not ever! You and Kya are my entire world. This child is only going to be an expansion of that world."
"No, Aang, no," Katara laughed, amused and endeared by his concerns, "I don't think Kya fears losing our love at all. You've never made her feel like anything besides the center of your attention and that's exactly the issue. This is all about sharing us…more specifically sharing you."
His brows drew together in a puzzled frown. "Sharing me?"
"Kya is 100% daddy's little girl. You dote on her all the time, Aang," Katara said, "There's no one who trumps her when it comes to having your attention and she's well aware of that fact."
"No one except you," Aang interjected sweetly.
Katara giggled. "Except me," she conceded. "But that is all going to change once the baby arrives. We're going to have our hands full with a newborn. The uncontested reign of Queen Kya will come to an abrupt end."
"You act like I spoil her rotten. I'm not that bad," Aang denied weakly.
"Whatever you need to tell yourself, Airbender," Katara laughed. "I just know our little girl is in for a rude awakening, that's all."
"I don't think you're giving her enough credit, Katara. We sat her down and talked to her about it, remember? She knows we'll be busy with the new baby in the beginning and she understood when we explained it. She was fine."
"There is a big difference between understanding something and accepting it, Aang, and Kya is not there yet. Why do you think the minute we mentioned the baby would be sleeping in here with us that having her own room and bed suddenly didn't seem so appealing anymore?"
He glanced down at Kya uneasily. "So what should we do about it?" Aang wondered aloud in a hushed whisper. "Have another talk with her? Reassure her that no one will ever take her place?"
"I don't think that's going to help. Kya isn't going to feel comfortable until the baby gets here and she realizes that he—,"
"—or she—," Aang interjected.
"…isn't a threat to the relationship she has with us," Katara finished wryly. "In the meantime, you can expect her to be stuck between us for a while." As Aang groaned over that, she favored him with a devilish, sideways smile. "And, just so you know, we're having a son this time. I know it. Keep in mind that I'm never wrong about these things."
"Keep in mind that I'm never wrong about these things," Aang mimicked in a sardonic falsetto. Katara rewarded him with a narrowed look that was tempered with amused mirth. "There's a first time for everything," he persisted stubbornly, "You had the last one. This one is mine. I call girl."
"You call wrong," Katara retorted in a sing-song voice.
"We will see," he sang back. While Katara was still chuckling over his adamant assurance, Aang reclined back into the pillows with a frown, his thoughts returning to their daughter and her sudden regression back into their bed. "I still don't get it, Katara. I thought Kya wanted to be a big sister. She's been begging us for a sibling since she was three."
Katara shrugged as she bit back an impish smile. "She's a girl. Sometimes we change our minds."
Aang couldn't refute the true facts of that statement, still he argued, "But why? When I was a kid, I always wished I could have a traditional family…with a mom and a dad and lots and lots of brothers and sisters. I always envied the relationship you and Sokka have."
"You mean seeing Zuko interact with Azula didn't kill that desire for you?"
"Har, har," Aang grumped, "I'm being serious right now. I think having a sister or brother would have been pretty great. What's the downside?"
"Spoken like an only child," Katara interjected dryly.
"What's that supposed to mean? Don't tell me you don't like having an older brother because I know better! You and Sokka get along great and you always have!" Katara shot him a look that clearly refuted that assertion. "Okay, okay," Aang relented with a chuckle, "but it wasn't horrible between you two!"
"I'm not saying that it was. I'm saying that it's difficult being an only child and getting all the attention and love from your parents only to have a younger sibling come along and muck all that up for you."
"That's an interesting take on things. But seeing as how you're the youngest…I'm thinking this is Sokka's unique perspective on things, huh?" Aang teased.
Katara shrugged noncommittally, but the small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth gave her away. "He might have given me a little advice on what to expect from Kya once the baby comes…from an older brother's perspective."
"Oh really?" Aang shifted onto his side to face her fully. "So what else did my oh so wise brother-in-law tell you?"
"He might have made a comment about how being sheltered up here at the Southern Air Temple must get lonely for us on occasion," Katara recounted in careful reply, peeking at him meekly from beneath her lashes before she added, "and how Kya and the baby are going to need more than just each other to play with someday. He thought that maybe we should do something about that."
Aang instantly tensed at the suggestion. It wasn't a subject that hadn't come up between them numerous times in the past, yet countless deliberations hadn't served to make discussing it any easier. Back when he and Katara had first married, there had been an unspoken decision between them to remain at the Southern Air Temple and live out their life together there. However, following Kya's birth, Katara naturally began to feel homesick and yearn for her family's proximity.
It was difficult being a new parent and being so far away from home with no one close enough to assist in the transition. He and Katara had gone through quite a bit of trial and error while raising their only daughter. The three had survived that rocky time to become a very close-knit family, but Katara had sometimes wondered how much easier the evolution from childless newlyweds to young parents would have been had she been closer to her grandmother, father and brother.
Aang completely understood and sympathized with her desire to be with her family…to be home. Yet, at the same time…the Southern Air Temple was his home. As much as Katara yearned to be back in the South Pole, surrounded by the familiar sights and sounds and faces in her village, Aang yearned to be at the Temple, surrounded by the familiar sights and edifices of his childhood and culture.
For some years, as a means of compromise, they had traveled back and forth between the South Pole and the Temple, spending their winters in the latter and their summers in the former. The constant back and forth travel hadn't been especially difficult for Aang, especially considering his nomadic roots and persistent avatar duties which tended to take him all around the world. Yet, in spite of the constant travel, the desire to return to the Temple always remained strong in him and, eventually, no matter where they were, he and Katara would always return there. Still, the concept of making the Temple their permanent residence had not been something the young couple had managed to agree upon.
Consequently, given that glaring fact, Aang sighed heavily at Katara's question, dreading the prospect of another round of fruitless arguing with her. "Is that what you want, Katara?" he asked, "Do you want to go back home to the South Pole?"
He was surprised when she shook her head. "That's not what I meant. The Southern Air Temple is our home, Aang, and it always has been. We belong here and I know how important it is to you that our children be surrounded by your culture and experience the world you knew as a child…or at least something close to it." Kya snuffled softly between them, as if adding her unspoken agreement even while she slept deeply.
Aang bent forward to brush a kiss across her temple before regarding Katara once more. "The same thing goes for you too," he acknowledged, "It's just as important for our daughter and this new baby to learn your culture too, Katara. Kya is already showing signs of being a waterbender. It only makes sense that you'll eventually want her to train back at the South Pole. Besides, I think Kya would prefer life there. As much as she loves being in the sky, she loves being surrounded by snow and ice just as much. Plus, she needs playmates her own age, not just you and me."
"Are you kidding? No one is more fun than you."
"You can be honest with me, Katara," Aang insisted quietly, "I know you feel isolated here at the Air Temple. Who can blame you? It's just us, a few dozen sky bison and a mountain full of rabbit lemurs. There's no real sense of community here. Maybe I'm being selfish to expect you to want to raise our family in a place that's virtually abandoned just because I have a sentimental attachment to it."
"I don't think you're being selfish, Aang. Honestly, I like the world that we've created here for ourselves. This is a special place and not only because of the past, but also because of what you and I have shared here. We were married here. We made our children here. I gave birth to Kya here. This is our paradise…where we belong. But…" She reached out to cup his cheek, "…it can't go on this way forever."
Despite the argument he had made only seconds earlier, Aang countered, "Why can't it?"
"Because…this child I'm carrying could very well be an airbender," Katara told him softly, "and even if it's not, someday we will have an airbender child. You're not always going to be the last, sweetie…but you also can't rebuild the Air Nomad culture with just our family. You're going to need something more than us."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that you can have that sense of community right here. This place doesn't have to continue to be abandoned if you don't want it to. It's time you started thinking about rebuilding your nation." When it was clear that Aang didn't completely understand what she was implying and he seemed a little afraid to ask, Katara clarified, "I think you should maybe start some kind of school…a place where sincere people can come to learn about the Air Nomad culture and live here just as the monks did."
Aang gaped at her, caught somewhere between incredulity and amazement. "What? Are you serious?"
"Why not?" she considered, "You could teach them your beliefs, all the Air Nomad traditions, and how to care for the temple…the principles of airbending, your history…everything…whatever you want them to know. I'm saying that you don't have to be alone anymore, Aang."
"Katara, I haven't been alone or felt alone since the moment I met you," Aang whispered, "You, Kya, this baby and our family back in the Southern Water Tribe are all the family that I need."
"I'm not talking about family, Aang," Katara argued, "I'm talking about the Air Nomads as a nation. I'm talking about your duty as the Avatar to bring balance to the world…balance between the four nations. How can you do that if the Air Nation isn't in existence? You can't be a nation of one."
"I know what you're saying," he acknowledged with a sigh, "And I can't say it's not something I've considered before, but it seems so impos—,"
She pressed her fingers to his lips, silencing his arguments. "No buts. Nothing is impossible. You proved that a long time ago when you were barely thirteen years old. You have to do this for yourself. You have to do this for our children and their children and their children's children. And you have to do this for your race. The only way your culture will die is if you let it die."
"What you're suggesting is going to be a huge undertaking, Katara," Aang whispered, "I'm not sure I even know where to start. But, most importantly, a lot of things will change. This place won't be our private paradise anymore. It won't be just us."
"Well, that's the point, silly!"
"Are you sure about this?"
Katara nodded. "I've been thinking about it ever since you found that herd of sky bison a few months back. I saw your face, Aang. It…it was like you had truly come home in that moment. And I know, no matter what you say, that it meant everything to you to find them. I think it was a sign. You were meant to do this."
"That was one of the best moments of my life," he admitted softly, "When I found those bison that day…"
"I was glad Appa wouldn't be alone anymore because I wasn't alone." He ducked his head with a soft sigh. "But I never let myself imagine anything more than that."
Katara whispered his name, silently cajoling to look at her. "I know it won't be the same. You will never truly get back the things you lost. But you can build something new, Aang. You can create a new beginning for your people and it can be whatever you want it to be."
"Do you really think I can do it?"
There was uncertainly trembling in his question, but undeniable excitement as well. "I know you can do it," Katara replied, unwavering.
He reached over their daughter to grip her hand, his gray eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "Will you help me?"
She pressed an adoring kiss to his fingers and smiled at him fondly. "Yes. Of course, I will."