Disclaimer: I don't own ATLA and considering the stuff I've been writing lately, Mike and Bryan are probably grateful for that, lol.

Summary: This is pure, plotless citrusy fun. That's it. Nothing deep here.

So I saw this beautiful fanart of Aang and Katara playing in the river and I recently rewatched The Painted Lady and this...um...weirdness was born. Basically, Aang and Katara discover that their secrets aren't so secret after all.


Katara waded carefully into the cool river with cat-like grace, almost as if she had become an extension of the river herself. With the aid of her waterbending, she was able to mitigate any suspicious splashing she might have made as she crept up behind Aang. The odds were in her favor. Her fiancé seemed entirely focused on his bending forms and his preoccupation with that task definitely worked to her advantage. He was so absorbed in the motion of pushing and pulling the water that he didn't even seem aware that Katara had moved away from the bank where she had been napping before and was now closing the distance between them in stealthy increments.

The corner of her mouth tilted up in an impish smile. Aang was about to get the soaking of his life and, being the incurable prankster that he was, he more than deserved it. Having been on the receiving end of his mischief more than once, Katara relished finally being in the position to dish it out for a change. She brought up her hands, quietly commanding two towering pillars of water from the river's surface as she did so. Poor Aang. He would never see it coming…

Unfortunately, her certainty on the matter proved to be Katara's downfall. Her watery sneak attack was abruptly aborted when she found herself the unhappy beneficiary of her own mischievous plans and was unexpectedly overwhelmed from behind by a crashing tidal wave. Her breath was snatched from her chest in an incredulous shriek as the frigid wave swept over her in a jarring rush, leaving her looking like a drowned rabbit lemur in the aftermath.

Aang dissolved into a fit of helpless laughter. Not even the sight of Katara standing there shivering and glowering at him in righteous indignation could quell his mirth. Instead, he continued to choke out chortles of amusement even as he lifted his lean shoulders in an unrepentant shrug.

"That was uncalled for," Katara intoned as haughtily as she could manage.

"Oh no…you can't pout just because I got to you first," he cajoled with an easy smile, "Come on, Katara! After all this time, you know better than to try and sneak up on me! What were you thinking?"

"I can't believe you just did that to me!" she gasped. She poked the center of his bare chest with an accusing finger. "You set me up! You knew what I was planning the whole time and you lured me into a trap!"

"No, I wasn't trying to lure you into anything," Aang replied though his shameless laughter made his denial a bit suspect, "I knew what you were up to and I couldn't deny that it was a really good idea! So I'm actually paying you a compliment in a way. I never would have come up with it without you. It's just bad luck for you that I was faster on the execution."

She fixed him with a narrowed glare. "Oh shush up! I don't like you very much right now."

"Hey, you can't be upset with me. We were supposed to be out here practicing, remember? That way our longstanding lie isn't a complete lie… I'm the innocent party here! You were the one who was planning to ambush me. I'm the one who should be mad."

Unwilling to acknowledge the veracity of his laughing argument, Katara huffed and spun around in the water with the apparent intention of sloshing back to shore to bend herself dry, but Aang caught her around the waist and dragged her back against him before she could do so. She went rigid in his loose embrace, crossing her arms in disgruntled mutiny. Aang was undeterred by her proud response and determined to charm her nonetheless.

"If it will make you feel better, you can splash me back," he offered, "I won't even block you."

"It's not the same," she pouted, "I never get to play tricks on you and you ruined it for me."

"I'm sorry, Katara…" he coaxed in a whisper, dipping his head to nuzzle her neck in a disarming caress, "…forgive me…please?" She grunted in response as he began trailing tiny kisses down the delicate arch of her neck. "You have to admit that this whole thing is a little ridiculous," he cajoled, "After all, you were the one who started this little competition but I'm the one apologizing to you. What's wrong with this picture?"

"You had it coming," Katara maintained, though her words had lost quite a bit of their bluster by this point.

"Well, if that's the case," he mumbled into the hollow of her neck, "I should definitely make amends."

"Don't try to butter me up, Aang…" she admonished him halfheartedly, already beginning to relax in his hold as his kisses began descending down the smooth hollow of her shoulder. She bit her lip to stifle her responsive moan when his tongue darted out to taste her skin. But when he began to suck lightly, Katara arched her neck in an unconscious gesture of invitation. "This doesn't change anything," she told him a little breathlessly, "I'm still mad at you…"

His breath stirred warmly against her ear as he drew her closer, his hands sliding from her hips to the bare, wet skin of her belly. "You don't feel mad to me…" he whispered hoarsely, "…you feel soft…and warm…and so good…" His hands meandered higher then, sweeping upwards to cup her heaving breasts. He caressed them through the sodden material of her underwear, coaxing her nipples into hardened buds with the tips of his fingers. She could feel his arousal beginning to rise against her backside, his desire for her prominent long before he murmured the words, "I want you again, Katara," against her ear.

She gasped his name, her thoughts beginning to scatter with his touch. "Didn't you get enough of that earlier?"

He swept aside her hair and pressed a moist kiss to the base of her neck. "Nope."

"But we…we said we would go back to camp soon," she reminded him somewhat hazily, "What if Sokka comes looking for us? Or worse…what if Toph comes looking for us?"

He peeled away the linen bindings of her undergarments, exposing her breasts to his questing hands and the bright afternoon sun. Katara groaned, twisting around to meet his lips in a seeking kiss. "Don't worry about Sokka. He won't come and neither will Toph," Aang reassured her as he continued his deliberate seduction, "First of all, Toph doesn't care. Second of all, it's lunch time. You know Sokka would never skip that. And, after that you know he likes to write to Suki so we've got at least another half hour."

Katara tipped a wry glance back at him. "You've got this all figured out, don't you?"

Her answer to that was a wide grin. "I'm highly motivated."

"You know we're pushing it, right?" she protested as he kissed his way around to the front of her body, "We're going to get caught…"

Aang brushed a fleeting kiss across her nipple before straightening to regard her with a somber look. "Do you really want to go back?" Katara met his darkened stare, swallowed thickly and then very slowly and very deliberately shook her head. Aang smiled. "Good," he whispered as he bent his head to taste her skin, "I don't either…"

They had been lovers only a few short months. The timing of that profound step in their relationship had been awkward to say the least. In hindsight, it probably hadn't been the most ideal time to shake up the dynamic between them.

Aang and Zuko were still in the midst of reconstructing the former Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom into the United Republic of Nations. Negotiations with King Kuei and other Earth Kingdom high officials hadn't exactly progressed smoothly since the dismal failure of the Harmony Restoration project. There was still some lingering resentment on both sides which left Aang in the middle as a neutral mediator. It was due to the tentative political climate that Aang and Katara had decided to put off getting married until matters became less hostile between Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation.

But the decision hadn't been easy for either of them. Both Aang and Katara had known since their early teens that they wanted to make a lifetime commitment to each other. Unfortunately, it always seemed that some worldly crisis managed to assert itself before they could complete their plans to wed. Matters were progressing with the United Republic, but the change had been fraught with debate on both sides. Under the circumstances, getting married in the middle of such instability hadn't seemed like the most prudent idea. Still, the desire to do so never left Aang or Katara completely.

Finally after several years and numerous frustrated attempts to wed, the young couple decided to take matters into their own hands. In an intimate, yet informal ceremony that had included only the two of them, Aang and Katara had made pledges to one another as husband and wife. As far as they were concerned, they were married even if their union wouldn't be officially recognized for another eight months when they finally had a true ceremony.

However, personal feelings aside, they realized that they had to keep up the appearance of propriety because it was unlikely that others, particularly Katara's father, would see the matter as simplistically as they did. Therefore, not wanting to offend the sensibilities of any conservative Earth Kingdom officials and, most especially Hakoda, who was already somewhat leery of his twenty year old daughter spending so much unsupervised alone time with her eighteen year old fiancé, Aang and Katara carefully maintained the façade of a typical unmarried couple while in the company of others. However, once they were alone all pretenses were dropped. They conducted themselves as husband and wife.

Consequently, consummating their symbolic union had been a natural conclusion. In the beginning, of course, it had been a bit strange and awkward. In addition to contending with the natural embarrassment and clumsiness that accompanied first times between lovers, Aang and Katara were also traveling with Sokka and Toph across the Earth Kingdom countryside. The annoying lack of privacy as well Sokka's uncanny knack for ferreting out deception had forced the young couple to become rather creative with their excuses to find time to be alone together without arousing suspicion.

Most often they used the pretext of waterbending practice in order to slip away. That seemed feasible especially since Aang spent a good amount of his time training with Toph as well. Now, after nearly three months of sneaking around with each other, the young lovers were sure that Sokka and Toph probably believed them to be the most dedicated benders alive as much as they "practiced." And, of course, that was the exact explanation Aang and Katara had given for their most recent excursion as well. However, it hadn't been a complete lie. They had practiced waterbending…a least a little bit…though not necessarily in the most traditional sense…

They kissed their way back to the marshy shoreline, peeling away soaked articles of clothing along the way. There wasn't much to dispense with given that they had been half-naked to start. Once they had rid themselves of Katara's undergarments and Aang's trousers, they rose together on their knees at the edge of the river to kiss one another with unrestrained fervor. They wrapped themselves in each other's arms, pressing their bodies together so that they were flush, skin to skin and heart to heart.

In gradual movements, Katara nudged Aang back into the ground, never breaking contact with his mouth as she angled herself to straddle him, trapping his throbbing sex between their gliding bodies. As he became aware of their position, Aang broke off the kiss to regard Katara with a heavy lidded stare full of question. Suddenly self-conscious under his scrutiny, Katara dropped her eyes and blushed, surveying Aang through the very tips of her eyelashes.

"I want to be on top this time," she confessed in a timid whisper, "Can we do it that way?"

Aang appeared both speechless and intrigued by the idea. "You do?"

Katara chanced a quick glance at him, the color in her cheeks deepening considerably. "Yeah…I do. Is…Is that okay, Aang?" His flustered reaction and inability to respond left her feeling silly and uncertain. She started to shift away from him, belatedly deciding that the entire thing was a bad idea. "Forget about it. If you don't want to—,"

He held her fast with a whimper of protest. Katara pinned him with a startled look. "I want to," he whispered, "I want you to be on top."

Reassured by his words as well as the unconcealed desire swirling in the gray depths of his eyes, Katara bit back a shy smile and reached between their bodies to gently grasp hold of his erection, placing the burning tip against the moist center of her body. Aang groaned with the sensation of sliding against her so intimately. "Are you sure it's okay?" she moaned, "I don't know if I'm doing it right…"

"Yeah, I'm sure…" he encouraged, lifting his hips to penetrate her body by the barest inch, "Trust me, Katara…you're doing it right…" Aang framed her hips with his hands, forcing himself not to move any further as he wanted Katara to be the one to take control this time. "Whatever you want…" he managed around a rough swallow, "Whatever you want to do, Katara…"

Her movements were understandably tentative at first, driven more by instinct than any real expertise as she sank down on his length in painstaking inches. The intimacy between them was still relatively new. They hadn't yet experimented with any real variation in sexual positions before that moment though they had been quite adventurous in the past with their chosen venues. Having had months to grow accustomed to one another, however, the initial discomfiture between them had finally faded. Now that they had become more comfortable with each other, Aang and Katara naturally became more brazen in their desire as well.

Spurred on by that boldness, Katara braced her hands against Aang's chest, grimacing slightly at the unexpected fullness she felt as she took him completely into her body. She hadn't anticipated feeling so much of him or having him penetrate her so deeply. She could literally feel him pulsing at her core, touching her in places that had previously been unexplored. It was an unexpected sensation, but not an unpleasant one.

However, Aang noticed her wince of discomfort and immediately tensed beneath her. He frowned in concern. "Am I hurting you? Do you want to stop?"

Katara's eyes sank closed as she shook her head and began slowly rocking against him. "No…it feels different…" she gasped brokenly as the slippery friction she created with each downward stroke began to overwhelm her, "I can feel all of you, Aang…it feels good…" Her lashes fluttered up in a brief moment of eye contact as she leaned forward to link her hands with his. "Move with me…"

It took a few tries to find their perfect rhythm together. Much like their first time together there was some awkward uncertainty but they talked their way through it, quite unreserved in telling one another what felt good and what didn't. Aang eagerly followed Katara's whispered instructions to thrust deeper, stroke faster, push higher… Soon all words between them ceased altogether and were replaced with fitful groans of satisfaction instead. They pumped against each other slowly at first, basking in the satisfaction they found in the newly discovered sexual position but as the pleasure escalated their tempo quickened. Aang cupped her bottom, guiding the rolling motions of Katara's hips as he sought out her lips in a wet, open mouthed kiss. At that point, primal lust and pure instinct took over.

Aang thrust inside her, hard and fast and deep, each pounding foray into her body causing a gratifying scrap against her swollen opening, pushing her closer to the brink. Katara's slick inner muscles seemed to shrink around his length, growing tighter, hotter, wetter… Their harsh cries of ecstasy reverberated through the treetops but in that moment neither of them cared if they were overheard. The instant Katara felt Aang's arousal expand within her, hardening even more in signal of his impending orgasm, Katara climaxed as well, her slippery center convulsing around him again and again as he emptied himself inside her with a low, ragged moan.

She collapsed atop of him in the aftermath, shaking and spent and gasping for air. "Well, that was new," she panted into his throat when she found her voice again.

Aang's rumble of laughter vibrated against her cheek. "Did you like it?"

"Mmm-hmm." She tucked her face into his chest shyly when she asked, "Did you?"

He smiled into her hair. "Yeah, I did." And then it was his turn to be timid when he added, "Do you think you might want to try something else?"

The odd combination of seduction and shyness in his tone had Katara lifting her head to regard him with an interested smile. "What exactly did you have in mind?" she asked as he began to scoot from beneath her.

"Well, you kind of have to trust me because it might seem a little weird at first…" he murmured, deftly reversing their positions so that he was behind her. He tenderly framed her hips and drew her back against him, smoothing his thumb across the slick, swollen folds between her legs as he did so. "…and it might help if you got on your knees…"

Twenty minutes later they were wilting against each other again, still trembling with the pleasurable currents of their latest discovery. "I liked that one," Katara decided after a few breathless moments, "That felt amazing. It was really good after I got over the awkward positioning of it all." She tucked herself back into the crook of Aang's body, laughing a little when she wiggled against him suggestively and he emitted a tiny grunt of exhaustion. "What's the matter, Aang? Need a break?" she teased.

"Yeah. Give me ten minutes," he yawned tiredly, flipping their positions yet again so that he was beneath her once more, "and then we'll do it again with you on top. That's the one I like best…"

Katara's last bit of cognizant awareness before she began drifting off was the soothing sensation of Aang's fingers lazily drifting up and down the line of her back and his drowsily whispered, "I love you." She mumbled the words back to him an instant before she fell asleep herself. When she opened her eyes again, nudged awake by the cool wind stirring against her bare flesh, it became instantly clear that more than ten minutes had elapsed. Katara realized that they were no longer bathed in the brilliant mid-day sun but were instead cast in the hazy orange glow of approaching dusk.

That awareness brought with it dawning horror. Katara bolted upright with a startled yelp, jostling Aang from his slumber as she rolled off of him and scrambled to her feet. "Oh no…oh no…oh no…oh no…we're dead! We're so dead!" she muttered in a panicked litany as she raced frenetically from one end of the shore to the other to collect their discarded clothing.

Still half asleep, Aang shifted onto his side and propped himself up onto his elbow to squint at her with a befuddled frown. "What are you doing?" he wondered huskily.

She tossed an armful of his clothing at him before beginning a frazzled attempt to wiggle back into her own. "Get dressed! Have you looked at the sun? It's already dusk, Aang!"

"So what?" In a clear indication that he had obviously failed to grasp the gravity of their situation or simply wasn't interested in making the attempt, Aang grabbed his trousers and bunched them beneath his head in a makeshift pillow. He contorted his lean frame in a languorous stretch before patting the empty ground next to him. "I'm cold. Why don't you come back over here and lie down with me?" he invited with a disarming smile.

Katara gaped at him. "Have you lost your mind? We've been gone for hours! Sokka is going to kill us!"

"Sokka's not an idiot, Katara," Aang yawned, "I'm sure he knows what we've been doing. There's no point in hiding it anymore."

An uneasy expression flickered across Katara's face before she shook her head in denial of that charge. "No, maybe he doesn't know. We can still salvage this, Aang."

Aang responded to that with a low grunt. "What if I don't want to 'salvage' it?" He frowned at her. "Aren't you sick of sneaking around?"

Detecting the note of frustration in his tone, Katara dropped her leggings and closed the distance between them to kneel at his side. "I thought that's what we agreed to do, Aang," she reminded him gently, "Otherwise people would start to talk."

"We did agree…but I still think it sucks. I can't even remember why we thought this was a good idea. It's not like anybody else hides it." He reached out to finger a lock of her hair. "I'm not ashamed of what's between us, Katara. I don't like acting like I'm ashamed."

"You know it's not about that," Katara sighed, "I'm not ashamed either. But we're not just 'anybody else.' You're the Avatar and everything you do…everything I do is scrutinized very closely. We can't pretend like we live in a bubble, Aang, or that what we're doing won't matter to people because it will."

"You mean people like your father?" he inferred glumly.

"I mean people like everyone, but yeah…my dad too."

Aang lapsed into a few moments of pensive silence. Finally, he asked, "Do you think what we're doing is disrespectful to him?"

"I don't guess it's disrespectful," Katara considered carefully, "but I know it isn't what he expected either." When Aang winced at the admission, she rushed to add, "I don't want you to think that I'm hiding what we are from him, Aang. He knows that I love you. He knows that I'm going to marry you. Our relationship and how deeply we feel about each other isn't a secret from him at all."

"Except the part about us sleeping together you mean."

Katara ducked her head, unable to meet his eyes as she confessed in a miserable whisper, "I don't know how he'll react. I don't want him to be disappointed in me."

"I don't want him to be disappointed in me either," Aang replied fervently, "He trusts me with you and I don't want to abuse that, Katara. You know that if I had my way, we would be 'officially' married already." He lifted his hand to caress her cheek with the tips of his fingers. "I didn't know everything would get so screwed up with the Harmony Restoration and I'd be put in this weird position between the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation. I didn't realize it would eat our lives this way." He dropped his forearm over his eyes with a heavy groan. "I should have married you when I was 13."

"Let's not get too extreme," Katara laughed, "In eight months none of this is going to matter because all this political mess should finally be behind us and we'll be married and all of this will be a moot point."

"I don't want to sneak around with you for another eight months," Aang balked, "That's not going to be fun for either of us. I want to be able to go to bed with you at night and wake up with you the next morning. I want to hold you in my arms and have you sleep next to me."

She stroked her index finger along the pale line of the tattoo on his forearm. "I want that too, Aang."

"So then we should stop being so afraid and tell your father and Sokka the truth," he decided, "This is no one else's business so I'm okay with keeping this quiet from everyone else, but I do think your family should know. I'm not saying we need to make a big announcement or anything, but we should definitely stop hiding it from them. If they flip out about it then they flip out about it. We'll deal with it."

"What if my dad says he doesn't want us seeing each other anymore?" Katara considered gloomily.

"I would hate that," Aang whispered, "and I'd completely respect his right to feel that way, but…I couldn't stay away from you, Katara. Not ever." He regarded Katara with an anxious look. "Do you think he will? What if we explained to him that we did sorta/kinda get married?"

"I don't think he's going to see it our way, Aang," she sighed.

"No. Probably not."

"I don't know how he's going to feel. I guess I'm playing out the worst case scenarios in my head."

"We'll probably know better about what to expect after we talk to Sokka," Aang concluded glumly, "If he has a meltdown then we likely don't have good things to look forward to."

Katara groaned under her breath. "I can't believe we're having this completely serious discussion when we're both half naked. It seems a little wrong, don't you think?"

Aang favored her with a crooked smile. "Well, you're half-naked. I'm actually all naked." He plucked at the open flaps of her tunic. "But if you took this off then we'd be on an even playing field."

She nudged his hip with her knee. "I'm being serious."

"So am I," he whispered, drawing her down against him, "Let's tell them the truth, Katara. No matter what happens, we can handle it. We'll do it together."

Another hour passed before Aang and Katara made it back to camp and by that time night had fallen completely. They weren't surprised to discover that Sokka and Toph had already set up camp for the evening, complete with unfurled sleeping bags and a crackling fire. Both of their companions were also wide awake and awaiting their return too.

However, in a rare show of consideration and decorum, Toph discreetly excused herself from the camp to provide Aang, Sokka and Katara with privacy to talk. Somehow the earthbender's magnanimous gesture wasn't entirely reassuring for the young couple however. Acutely conscious of Sokka's trenchant stare, Aang and Katara deliberately situated themselves on the other side of the flickering fire and waited with baited breaths for Sokka to ream them out.

"Sooo," he drawled casually after an extended beat of silence, "…that must have been some kind of bending practice you guys had today, huh? You've been gone…what…nearly seven hours now?"

Aang and Katara exchanged a discomfited look before Aang stammered, "Sokka, we…um…I mean Katara and I…we…we wanted to tell you that…"

"No, let me go first," his friend interrupted smoothly, "that way I can put us all out of our misery pretty quickly." He angled around to grab the small canvas bag that had been tucked at his side and then tossed it over to Aang.

Frowning in bewilderment, Aang turned the bag over in his hands and gave its fragrant contents a furtive sniff before passing it to Katara. "What is that?" he asked Sokka.

"It's tea."

Katara's brows snapped together in a dubious frown. "You're giving us tea? Why are you giving us tea?"

"It's not just any tea," Sokka explained patiently, "It's a very special blend of tea…something General Iroh mixed up for me and Suki a couple of years back. Basically, you should drink a cup of it every day, Katara…that is if you don't want to get pregnant." He made the statement so dryly, so matter-of-factly that Katara and Aang couldn't help but groan in mutual humiliation, their cheeks filling with warm color. "Now before you guys try to launch into lengthy denials and all that, please keep in mind that I'm not stupid," Sokka sighed, "Don't insult my intelligence. I've suspected what was up for a while now."

"You have?" Katara uttered in soft incredulity, "Why didn't you say anything?"

"What did you want me to say? What brother wants to have that conversation with his sister? Eww!"

Katara conceded that with a low murmur of agreement. "I guess you have a point."

"And I'm not saying that it thrills me, okay," Sokka replied. He leveled Aang with a woebegone glower. "It does not thrill me at all. I don't think you guys realize what an awkward position you've put me in here."

"You're in an awkward position?" Katara scoffed, "Hah! Aang and I are the ones being humiliated right now!"

"Would you stop thinking about yourself for two seconds? This isn't pleasant for me, Katara! In fact, if I'm completely honest, frankly this whole conversation is making me extremely queasy but I know it needs to happen and since Gran isn't here and our parents aren't here, I guess that leaves me…Sokka-coming of age guru."

His sister swallowed back her snort of laughter. "Oh please. I know all about where babies come from, Sokka," she retorted dryly, "I knew before you did. So save us both the pain and don't trouble yourself with giving me 'the talk.'"

"Yeah," he mumbled with another pointed glare towards Aang. Until that moment, the airbender didn't think it was possibly to blush any hotter than he already was, but he did. He squirmed uncomfortably beneath Sokka's steady blue stare as the WaterTribe warrior concluded ironically, "I'm sure you and Aang have learned plenty together on your own.

"For crying out loud! We're engaged to be married, Sokka!" Katara snapped in irritation, "We're not doing anything wrong!"

"Did I say that you were?" he retorted, "You're a grown woman, Katara! I'm not trying to tell you what to do! But obviously something was off with this whole deal otherwise why were you guys be sneaking around and lying about it?"

Aang dropped his head forward with a longsuffering groan. "It's complicated. The point is that Katara and I were going to tell you tonight. We weren't trying to hide anything from you. Not really anyway." He traded a nervous glance with Katara. "We're sorry we lied to you, Sokka. I'm sorry I lied to you. You gotta know that I would nev—,"

Sokka held up his hand for silence. "Aang, please. Don't apologize to me. I know you love my sister. Katara's right. You're engaged to be married. What happens between you guys really isn't any of my business. I'm not trying to put myself in the middle. All I want is for you and Katara to be careful because…if you get my sister pregnant before you marry her, that's not going to go over well with my dad…or with me for that matter."

"Understood," Aang mumbled with an audible gulp.

"And Katara," Sokka sighed, turning his attention towards his grumbling sister then, "far be it from me to give you advice on your personal life, but… You might want to give Dad a heads up. He knows that you and Aang are in love with each other. He's not oblivious or stupid. Sneaking around isn't doing you or Aang any favors."

"I already know that. I have every intention of telling him."

Nodding in satisfaction, Sokka squared his shoulders shifted to his feet. "Good. Okay then. Now that we have that out in the open, we should set some ground rules."

"Ground rules?" Aang and Katara echoed in unison, frowning up at him, "What kind of ground rules?"

"Well," Sokka began in an almost conversational tone, "while it's beautiful and special that you two have transcended to that higher plane in your relationship, blah, blah, blah, spiritual mumbo jumbo, blah blah...the bottom line is...I don't want to see it. I don't want hear it. I don't want to know that it's happening. So when you guys sneak off to do…whatever it is that you're going to do, I would appreciate it if you don't make your intentions so obvious."

"Oh good grief, Sokka," Katara muttered impatiently, "Is this really necessary? It's not like you showed us any consideration when you and Suki were going at it!"

"This isn't about me! This is about you! If you want me to be okay with this then this is what I need you to do, Katara! Because you're still my baby sister and the thought of some guy…" He trailed off, pinning Aang with a narrowed look before his features furrowed into a disgusted grimace. "The point is it doesn't matter that it's Aang. It still freaks me out. Actually, it freaks me out even more because it is Aang. Just follow the ground rules, drink the tea and we'll do fine."

Katara compressed her lips into a tight line. "Is there anything else?"

"Nope. I think I'm good."

"Are you sure you're not angry with me, Sokka?" Aang wondered as Sokka started to exit the camp circle, "If you want to yell at me I completely understand. I deserve it."

Sokka paused mid-step. "Aang, I get it. You're in love with my sister and I think that's great. You're not doing anything wrong. It's fine. It's just…the oogies…there are so many and I can't. I just can't! Let me stay in denial and I won't have to throttle you. Deal?"


"Good," Sokka replied with a terse nod of discomfiture, "I'm going to go let Toph know she can come back now and then we can all have some dinner, turn in for the night and put this awkward conversation behind us."

"Wow," Katara remarked softly when Sokka disappeared into the trees and out of earshot, "I'm surprised. Aside from all the insane stipulations, I think he took it pretty well. I was so sure he'd have a total meltdown but instead he was completely calm, rational, mature and totally un-Sokka-like. Maybe I've misjudged him. It seems like my big brother is finally growing up."

Just as Aang opened his mouth to echo similar sentiments, however, the quiet evening was shattered by Sokka's lamenting refrain of "Oh why Universe, why do you hate me so much? I've been a good Sokka! I can't live with the oogies!" Katara and Aang traded a wry glance before she dropped her head forward with a chagrined sigh. "And perhaps I spoke a little too soon…"