By: Light-Eco-Sage

Rated: Mature for Kataang romance/sexuality.

Summary: Prompt fic/Challenge Fic. AU No war. After Mastering Airbending, Avatar Aang is sent to the Southern Water Tribe to learn Waterbending from the renowned Master Katara. Sparks fly. Air plus water plus heat equals steam.

Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender is owned by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Nickelodeon, and Viacom. The prompt comes from the Tumblr "Kataang Prompts".

LES: This is a challenge fic from an anonymous person on Tumblr. They simply asked me to go on Kataang prompts, pick a prompt, and do it. And to be sure to include Kataang, because it is necessary. (I agree!) So, this one popped out at me, because I like AU's and don't get to write them as often as I would like. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy!

Part I

Everyone watched in awe as Katara whipped a stream of water around her body, effortlessly blocking the icy shards that were launched at her by her one-time teacher and Waterbending Master. Everyone applauded the move, but Katara did not allow herself to become distracted. This was, perhaps, the most important sparring match she'd ever been in since the day she achieved the rank of Master Waterbender at the age of sixteen.

Word had spread like wildfire over the past few weeks. The Avatar had recently come of age and his identity was revealed. It turned out that the newest Air Nomad Avatar was a young man from the Southern Air Temple, an Airbender whose skills were said to be nothing short of the level of a prodigy. And now that he was sixteen years old, it was time for him to begin his journey to Master the other elements.

Because of the close proximity of the Southern Air Temple to the South Pole, the Avatar's guardians had decided that he was to be sent to the South Pole to begin his Waterbending training, which in turn lead to these sparring matches.

Every Master Waterbender in the entire South Pole had been locked in weeks of competition for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be the one to train the Avatar in Waterbending. Whoever got the honor needed to be the most powerful Bender in the South Pole, and they needed to have the time to devote to the Avatar's training.

The average Waterbender learned by joining the Waterbending lessons that took place every few days. But that sort of schedule was much too slow for the Avatar. He needed to focus on Mastering Water every day, not every few days. The instructor needed to devote himself or herself to the Avatar's training completely.

Katara had been competing just like the others, but now it was just one more match left, between her and her old teacher. She greatly respected Master Pakku, but she knew in her heart that she was more powerful than him, and that it was her calling to aid the Avatar on his quest to Master the elements.

The fight dragged on, highlighting Katara's ability to shift effortlessly from offense to defense and back again with ease. Master Pakku, though he was a supremely gifted Waterbender, soon began to tire in the face of Katara's youthful energy and her steady attacks.

Katara drew a tendril of water up to her hand and froze it into an ice spear, leaping into attack range and thrusting the spear towards Master Pakku's neck. Master Pakku was unable to defend himself in time, but it didn't matter. Katara stopped her attack before the spear made contact with his skin, but it was still obvious to all those watching that if Katara hadn't stopped, Master Pakku would be dead.

Master Pakku held still for several moments until Katara pulled the spear back and stepped away, the clear victor of the sparring match. Master Pakku smiled at her, as proud of her now as he was when she became a Master and surpassed him. To tell the truth, he was looking forward to teaching the Avatar just as much as Katara was, but he was glad that the Avatar would be able to learn from such a talented Waterbender. The Avatar's training came secondary to his pride. "Well done, Master Katara, well done. You've certainly proved yourself worthy of the honor of teaching the Avatar." He said, smiling at her. "It's been a long time since someone beat me in a spar, let alone as effortlessly as you did."

Katara bowed respectfully. "You honor me, Master Pakku."

Katara's family, who had been watching the whole thing, beamed in pride that their daughter had won such a prize. Chief Hakoda, her father, stepped forward and pulled his daughter into an embrace. "Congratulations, Katara, we are so proud of you."

"Thanks, Dad." Katara said, smiling.

"Good job, Katara." Her older brother, Sokka, said, clapping her on the shoulder.

"The sparring matches ended just on time." Hakoda said thoughtfully. "We just received word from the Southern Air Temple that the Avatar has departed and would be here in a few days."

"How many are coming with him?" Katara's mother, Kya, asked. After all, she needed to know how many guests would be staying in her family's palace for the foreseeable future in order to be a good hostess.

"Just the Avatar and his sky bison." Hakoda said. "You know that the Avatar makes his journey alone."

"Well, then I suppose we should make ready." Kya said. "Congratulations, Katara." She said to her daughter. "We all know that you'll be a fine teacher for the Avatar."

Katara smiled, both exhilarated and nervous about the fact that she, the daughter of the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, would gain the honor of being the Avatar's teacher.

In the days that it took for the Avatar to arrive in the South Pole, Katara spent a majority of her time studying old scrolls from previous teachers of the Avatar. When the Avatar was learning an element that was not their native element, they had to be taught differently from someone who was a native in that element. Each of the Bending arts were subtly different, and that Avatar had to gain a connection to the element before he could Bend it… a connection that was often natural for the average Bender.

Katara was grateful to see, however, that air and water seemed to be remarkably compatible. She didn't think that there would be too much trouble helping the Avatar gain a spiritual connection to water.

It only took a few days for the Avatar to arrive, and everyone was aware of it when it happened. It was not every day a Sky Bison landed in the middle of the Southern Water Tribe.

The Bison was allowed past the sentries without challenge, not only because they were expecting him, but because the Air Nomads were famous the world over for their non-violence. He was not a threat to them.

Katara, who had been eagerly awaiting this moment, rushed out to meet him first, followed by her father. It was only as the Bison landed that she remembered that it was only polite that her father be the one to welcome the Avatar to the Southern Water Tribe.

The young man on the Bison jumped down from the Bison's head, floating down in a way that could only come from those who could Bend the air to their will. At first glance, he looked like your average Air Nomad: pale skinned, bald, tall, lean, grey eyes, a large blue arrow tattooed on his forehead, and wearing the robes of a Master Airbender Monk. But there was something utterly different that distinguished him from the others that Katara had seen of his order. A subtle power that dwelled within, just beneath the surface, that when unleashed could accomplish feats of Bending that even a Master couldn't dream of. Katara knew, just from looking at him, that he was the Avatar.

He gazed around at the gathered villagers, looking slightly nervous as he bowed. Hakoda bowed in return. "Welcome to the South Pole." He said. "I am Chief Hakoda, the leader of the Southern Water Tribe."

"The honor is mine, Chief Hakoda." The Avatar said in a rich, pleasant voice. "I am Aa…" He paused. "I mean… Avatar Aang."

Hakoda ignored the Avatar's stutter. He had, after all, only learned of his identity a little more than a few weeks ago. He was probably still unused to being called the Avatar or calling himself the Avatar. That was another thing that Katara read about: that Avatars rarely believed that they were the one until they Bent another element for the first time.

"Welcome, Avatar Aang, it is my hope that you will feel welcome here for however long you will be staying to train with us. If you have need of anything, just ask me or my wife, Kya, and we will see it done."

"I will. Thanks for your hospitality." Avatar Aang said.

"Allow me to introduce my daughter, Katara…" Hakoda gestured to Katara, who bowed respectfully. "She will be your Waterbending instructor."

Avatar Aang glanced at her, his eyes lingering on her features for a moment, only long enough for Katara to grow nervous under the scrutiny. "I look forward to learning from you, Master Katara." He said.

"Th—thank you." Katara stuttered.

"If you'll follow me, I'll show you to your room." Hakoda said, and Avatar Aang followed after him. Katara hesitated for just a moment, but then followed after him.

As Aang sat in the room that would be his for the duration of his stay at the Southern Water Tribe, he couldn't help but marvel at the circumstances that he now found himself in.

A little more than a week ago, on his sixteenth birthday, he thought that he would be going through the final rites to become a full monk of the Air Nomad order at the Southern Air Temple, free to travel where he wanted, perhaps choose a wife, and spend the rest of his life teaching Airbending just like the monks who came before him.

However, when he came before the Elders to make his final vows, he had instead been told that he would not, and could not; take those final vows because he had a much bigger destiny ahead of him rather than being a monk at the Southern Air Temple. He was the Avatar, and he would have to spend the next several years making his journey to the other nations… not to simply see the sights, but to learn their Bending disciplines.

The Southern Water Tribe was simply the first long stop. He would remain here until he mastered Waterbending completely. He was still unconvinced that he could do it. He had tried to Bend the other elements after he found out, but no matter what he tried they simply would not respond to him. He'd told his guardian that the monks probably made a mistake, but Gyatso had simply told him that he needed training before he could Bend the other elements.

At least the people were friendly and welcoming. Chief Hakoda's wife, Kya, had all ready provided him with some 'cold weather' clothes. Aang gazed at them. They were clothes very similar to what the people of the Water Tribe wore. He was still trying to come to terms with the no-doubt dead animals that had provided the fur lining, but he knew he'd have to get over it to survive the upcoming winter. But he was grateful for the gift, none the less.

And then there was Master Katara, the young woman that he would be learning from. His first thought upon seeing her was that she was very beautiful. He'd almost never had the opportunity to meet or be with women his age. She seemed to be one or two years older than he was, but he could not deny the way his heart sped up when he gazed at her beauty.

But, beautiful or not, he knew that there was nothing for him to do. She was his Waterbending teacher until he either mastered the element or proved that he wasn't the Avatar through his inability to Waterbend.

He gazed out the window from his room in the Southern Palace, a place that he'd never imagined himself staying before. It was starting to grow dark and cold, and the full moon was rising. He shivered, turning his gaze towards the fur palette where he was expected to sleep.

He hovered by the window, torn between his desire to be warm and his unwillingness to lie down on the skins. The temperature continued to drop and soon his desire to be warm won over. He gingerly climbed under the furs and felt instant relief. The skins were surprisingly warm. He had just come to the conclusion that the animals were all ready dead and that there was nothing for him to do about it now except not let their deaths be in vain when there was a soft knock at the door.

He knew that it was still relatively early and that it was only getting dark now because of the drastically short days at the South Pole, so he reluctantly got out from under the warmth of the furs and made his way over to the door. He opened it and stared in shock.

It was Master Katara, gazing at him expectantly. "You haven't changed into the parka yet?" She asked.

Aang gazed at the fur clothes that were still laid out for him. "I, uh… don't mean any disrespect, but the Air Nomads taught me to never take a life, even an animal's life, for any reason. I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that the fur lining came from a once living and breathing animal."

Rather than being offended, Katara nodded. "I'd heard that the Air Nomads living a life of non-violence and meditation. But you also have to understand that we don't live a life like that at the Poles. The harsh environment makes our survival the most important thing. We cannot let any of our resources go to waste, not even the animals."

"It was not my intention to insult…" Aang began.

"I know. I'm just concerned about you. You can't go out into the night dressed in those thin clothes. You'll freeze in minutes."

"I… wait… did you say that we are going out? Now?" Aang asked.

"To begin your training." Katara nodded.

"And the reason that we cannot wait until morning is…?" Aang began leadingly.

"Because before you are able to Waterbend, you'll need to make a spiritual connection to the water." Katara said. "There is no better way to do that than at night, under the full moon, which happens to be tonight. Tonight will be our best chance… unless you want to wait another month for an opportunity like this?"

"No. Of course, I'll go out with you." Aang said.

"Good." Katara said. "Put the parka on and meet me outside the Palace." And, just like that, she was gone.

Aang stayed where he was, staring blankly at the closed door. It took several moments, but he finally gained control of himself and moved over to where the parka was laid out. He removed the robes that marked him as an Air Nomad monk and instantly started shivering. He put on the layered parka as quickly as he could and felt almost instant relief. Just like the fur palette, the fur lining made the parka warm enough to stand up to the bitter cold of the polar night.

Before he stepped out, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror in the room. He may be wearing a Water Tribe parka, but there was no mistaking him for a member of the Water Tribe. His pale skin, grey eyes, and bold tattoo gave him away as an Air Nomad instantly.

It was at that moment that he knew he didn't belong there.

With a heavy sigh, he turned his gaze away from the mirror and headed out to meet Master Katara in front of the palace.

Once Aang met Katara outside the palace, she led him away into the darkness with only the light of the moon and stars to guide them. Thankfully, it was a full moon, so light was plentiful enough to navigate the icy fields around the village.

Katara led him right up to the edge of the ocean, where the ice gave away suddenly to the deadly fathoms-deep water.

She sat down on the edge of the water, all the while taking care that the ice was thick enough to support the weight of two people. Once she was seated, she gestured for Aang to sit next to her, which he did, folding his long legs easily into a meditative pose that he was very familiar with.

Katara sat more casually, her face upturned to the moon with a smile on her lips. Aang waited patiently for her to tell him why she brought him out here in the dark. She'd said that that needed the full moon, but hadn't explained why yet.

Finally she sighed. "I brought you out here to teach you the origins of Waterbending, and to help you make a spiritual connection to water. This is an essential step needed before you are able to Bend it. It's also new to me because I've only taught natural Waterbenders before, and they don't need to be taught this stuff. I'm sure you didn't need any help with this sort of thing, when you were learning Airbending."

Aang shook his head. "Airbenders are always aware of the air and its movements, like a sixth sense."

"That's the same sort of feeling that you need to develop with water and the powers that command it." Katara said.

"Command it?" Aang asked.

"All Bending comes from the Spirits. The other nations, however, used a form of Bending that was derived from creatures of the earth, air, and fire to gain their powers. The Earthbenders and the Badgermoles, the Firebenders and the dragons, and the Air Nomads and the Sky Bison." Aang nodded, he knew the story of how the Air Nomads learned Airbending from the Sky Bison, their sacred animal. "The Water Tribe is a little different. We gain our power directly from the Spirits, one spirit in particular."

"The Ocean Spirit?" Aang guessed.

"Very close, but no." Katara said. "There is another spirit with power over the waves, one who showed the ancient Waterbenders that they didn't need to be the ocean spirit to command the water."

Aang thought for a moment, and then it hit him. "The moon, pulling on the tides." He said. "So… that's why you wanted me to come out here during the full moon."

Katara nodded. "Waterbenders gain their power from the moon, and our Bending is always strongest during night, especially on the nights of the full moon. The energy required for Waterbending is all around us right now, and at the peak of its strength. The very foundations of Waterbending is the concept of Tui and La, Yin and Yang, Push and Pull, offense and defense. Airbending is a largely defensive form of Bending, but Waterbenders use offense and defense in equal measures, transforming their defense into offense." She stood up, faced the ocean, and moved her arms in a slow horizontal circle. The water obeyed her motions, lapping up against the shore when she pulled her arms close to her body, and retreating from the shore when she pushed her arms away from her body. "Try it. Feel the energy moving around you, tap into it, and immerse yourself into the water."

Aang nodded and stood. He watched Katara's movements for a while before he began to copy her movements perfectly. He closed his eyes, feeling for the energy around him. For several minutes, he felt nothing. And then he slowly began to be lulled into a trance-like state from the repetitive movements. He could feel the muscles in his arms contracting and releasing in time with his smooth movements, pushing and pulling against the resistance of his own muscles. It was very soothing, and very natural. It occurred to Aang how well the human body must work for something as simple as this movement to take place. Even a single poorly timed muscle movement would break the form and send a spasm up his arm.

And yet, inexplicably, everything worked as it should. The human body could flow through such movements, and the steps required to make such movements, like water.

Aang barely even noticed when Katara stepped up behind him, wrapped her arms around his body, and placed her hands on top of his, guiding his motions and making sure that he was doing it correctly. She could feel his energy pushing and pulling correctly. "Yes." She whispered. "Now focus your chi in the water in front of you. Allow your spirit and your will to guide the water. It will follow the course of your energy."

Aang heard her voice as if from a distance, but he followed her instructions, focusing his being on the water that he knew was right in front of him.

Katara gazed around his body, smiling. "Don't stop, and open your eyes." She whispered.

Aang did, and stared in wonder. Katara was no longer standing beside him, Bending the water. Instead she was behind him, her arms wrapped around his body as she guided his movements. But her energy was not flowing. Aang's energy was the only one flowing, and the water was responding to his commands! It moved just as it had for Katara, Bending under his hand!

I really am the Avatar! Aang realized as he stopped Bending and the water settled into its natural course.

Katara's hands relaxed against his. "Avatar Aang, what's wrong?" She asked.

"I… I can't believe I'm really the one." Aang gasped. "The monks said they hadn't made a mistake, but I didn't believe them, and now…" He trailed off.

Katara nodded in understanding and pulled away from him. Aang turned to face her. "I think that's enough for one night. You are now a novice Waterbender, and we will resume your training in the morning." She walked away, and Aang followed after her wordlessly.

The next several months passed almost in the blink of an eye. A majority of Aang's time was spent with Katara learning Waterbending. Once he made the spiritual connection with water, he quickly proved that he was a Bending prodigy in water as well as air and advanced quickly.

It only took a few days for Aang and Katara to get on 'titleless' terms with each other. At first, Katara always referred to him as 'Avatar Aang' and he would refer to her as 'Princess Katara'. One week after his arrival, in the middle of a Bending lesson, Aang asked her if she could just call him by his name.

"I will if you stop calling me a Princess." Katara said.

And, just like that, they became simply Aang and Katara to each other.

Despite the fact that she was on a first-name basis with the Avatar, she could never forget his awesome power. He mastered moves quickly, and they were almost always much more powerful than the versions that she could create. It wasn't something that he could help. As the Avatar, he was naturally more powerful than other Benders, but she sometimes had to restrain him, remind him to take it easy and focus more on control rather than power.

As the weeks passed, they began to talk more during their training, trading life stories because there was little else to do. Aang told Katara everything: about never knowing his parents, about growing up in the Southern Air Temple, about his friend and mentor, Monk Gyatso who was like a father to him, his friends, and the shocking discovery that he was the Avatar.

"You didn't have even the vaguest suspicion that you were the Avatar?" Katara asked, a little shocked. "But the Avatar is always someone who is born into the next nation in the cycle within one week of the previous Avatar's death. There couldn't have been many Air Nomads who were born in that window of opportunity."

"The Air Nomads don't keep track of personal birthdays." Aang said, shrugging. "The Air Nomads keep track of their age by the passing of the Autumnal equinox. Ever since I found out I was the Avatar, I do know that my true birthday is within a week of Avatar Roku's death, but I can't say which of those seven days is my true birthday. I honestly had no idea that it would be me."

Katara did not ask anymore about him being the Avatar after that.

In return, Katara told him many stories about growing up in the Southern Water Tribe with her family and extended family all around her. It was an upbringing about as different from Aang's as you could get, but he listened with interest as she told him about her family, silly stories about her brother, and her training to become a Master Waterbender.

In time, they became friends and began to innocently toe the line between friends and lovers. A little harmless flirting here and there, disguised just enough that it would not be overtly obvious. Aang definitely flirted more heavily than Katara.

In the time that he grew to know her, he also grew to like her… maybe even love her. He may not have had much experience with women, let alone relationships, but he knew what he felt. He cared about her deeper than he'd ever cared for someone before. His Waterbending lessons were the high point of his day, every single day, because it was his time to spend with her. Recently, he'd found himself daydreaming during lessons, nodding his head as Katara explained some new move, but not hearing a word she said because he was too entranced by her beauty.

He knew he was falling in love with her, or that he all ready had fallen in love with her. It was just too easy to do so. She was the most amazing woman that he'd ever met.

As for Katara, she knew that she felt something for Aang that went beyond friendship as the months passed. He was not just a strong Bender, but a strong person as well. He carried his beliefs with him always, and when challenged he never backed down from them. He was a kind and gentle soul, and he surprised her constantly with the depths of his compassion and forgiveness.

Every time her brother made fun of him for being a vegetarian, he would just smile and shrug, saying that he loved animals and couldn't bear to eat them. He forgave Sokka even though the teasing attacked the very heart of his pacifist beliefs. The animals of the South Pole, long grown wary of the presence of man because of the constant hunting, flocked to him. Even the most dangerous of animals allowed him close and even let him touch them, as if his peaceful spirit was so strong that even wild animals knew he would not hurt them. She would find him surrounded by a pack of Polar Wolves, petting them as if they were average dogs; or playing with a pair of Polar Bear Dog cubs while their mother watched quietly. It was amazing.

She walked in on another one of these scenes. He was sitting in the snow, surrounded on all sides by the deadly Polar Wolves. But they did not attack the human intruding on their territory. Instead, they volleyed for his attention. Aang scratched one behind the ears while rubbing another's belly, speaking calmly to all.

As Katara approached, the wolves saw her and scattered, leaving Aang sitting in the snow alone and smiling at her. "I'll never understand how you do that." She said.

"Do what?"

"Get the animals to like you so easily." Katara continued, sitting next to him while the wolves watched warily from a short distance. "All of these animals are normally skittish around humans because we hunt them, but they approach you with no reservations. How do you do it?"

Aang laughed. "It's simply because I'm not going to hurt them." He turned his attention back to the Polar Wolves. "Animals are not stupid; they know when a human is aiming to hurt them. I'm not a threat to them, and so they are not a threat to me… even the carnivores."

"I've never hurt an animal in my life." Katara said.

"They know that." Aang said. "But they don't trust you yet because they don't know if you will suddenly turn on them. You must have patience with animals. Don't go to them… let them come to you."

They sat in the snow for what seemed an hour. The Polar Wolves curiously moved closer to the two people sitting in the snow, slowly getting closer every time Katara did not make a threatening move towards them.

Katara sat still, trying to immolate Aang's calmness. Finally, the wolves were in petting distance, and she almost reached for the closest one when Aang's hand found hers and stilled it. "Wait. Just a little longer." He whispered.

Katara nodded. It took a few more minutes, but the lead Polar Wolf sniffed her hand and nuzzled his snout against it. Aang smiled, letting Katara know that it was now safe for her to pet the wild, but calm animal.

She did so, completely amazed. She never thought that she would ever be able to get this close to a living Polar Wolf. But Aang had shown her that even these animals had a gentle side that she never would have guessed possible.

For a while, they calmly sat and played with the Polar Wolves, until a howl in the distance from the rest of the pack drew their wolves away. They gave Aang and Katara one last lick of gratitude before sprinting away to rejoin the pack.

Aang helped Katara up off the snow, since she was a little stiff from sitting still for so long. "Aang, that was amazing!" She gasped. "Thank you for giving me this gift."

"It was my pleasure, Katara." Aang said sincerely.

Their eyes met and locked. For a while, time slowed down and neither one had any idea how much time had passed while they stared at each other. He was so handsome, another incredible perk. Aang was not very good husband material to the normal standards of the Water Tribe, because most Water Tribe women wanted a strong hunter who could provide for her family, and Aang could not and would not hunt. But Katara had never really been one for following tradition.

He seemed to be equally entranced. His gloved hand made soft contact with her cheek, holding her gaze steady on him. There was an intensity in his eyes that was very rare, even among the few times that they had playfully flirted with each other.

"Aang, I…" Katara began breathlessly, but was quickly silenced when Aang lowered his lips to hers and pulled her into a breathtaking kiss.

They both sighed, as if releasing the tension that had built between them the past few months with a single action. Katara wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her body as close to his as they could get with their thick parkas. His kiss was every bit as good as she imagined it would be.

Their lips and tongues moved against each other without restraint, soft groans rising from their throats at the pleasure they provided each other. Aang wrapped his arms around her waist and hoisted her against his body. He was younger than her, but still taller.

They separated in stages, their kiss slowly losing passion and becoming more intimate. When they finally managed to fully separate, they stared at each other with flushed faces. Of course, it was easier to see the flush on his face rather than hers.

"Katara… I didn't mean… I don't know what came over me…" Aang quickly stuttered, and Katara pressed her finger to his lips to silence him before she lost her courage and they both back-pedaled from what just happened.

"You only did something that I've wanted to do for weeks now." Katara told him, her heart beating nervously. "Aang… over the last few months that I've got to know you… I've really come to admire you and… I'm going to say this before I lose my courage. I really care about you and I think… I think I'm falling in love with you."

Aang stared at her, shocked and amazed. "Really?" He gasped. Katara nodded mutely. "Because, Katara… I think I'm falling in love with you too." He whispered before they pulled each other into a second kiss.

Overall, it had been a good day for Sokka, who had been out hunting most of the day. He had managed to make quite the catch. He had just finished dropping off his meat to the kitchens so that they could be cut, cleaned, and prepared for storage when he turned a corner in the palace's private residences and came upon a scene that he had seen many times, but took on a new unknown quality that had him stopping in this tracks.

His sister and Avatar Aang were standing in front of his room. Judging by the fact that they were still dressed in their heavy parkas, they had just come in from Waterbending training. Sokka had seen a few of their training sessions and could appreciate the Avatar's skill, but being a non-Bender found him lacking in appreciation for the finer aspects of Bending and he often commented that the Avatar would be better off learning how to really fight rather than make fancy splashes. (That is, until the Avatar challenged Sokka to a friendly sparring match with swords and beat him quite easily. He had laughed and explained that the Monks of the Southern Air Temple had taught him more styles of combat than just Airbending. Airbending was all about exploring the angles to gain the advantage in combat, and sometimes that advantage was gained with a sword.)

They stood in the hallway, facing each other. Sokka was sure that they must've noticed him because it's not like he was hiding, but if they did; they gave no sign that they'd seen him.

"I really did have a good time out there with you today." Katara said, smiling. Sokka's eyes narrowed. That didn't sound like normal. She usually ended her training sessions by saying 'Nice work today, Pupil Aang.'

"I did too." Avatar Aang replied. "I'm always happy to share my knowledge." That didn't sound good at all!

For a few seconds, neither of them spoke and Sokka could feel the tension in the air. Finally, Katara met his eyes again. "I'm so glad that I met you, Aang."

"You know… for the first time, I'm glad that I'm the Avatar." Aang said. "Because it has given me the chance to meet you… to learn from you and get to know you…" They pulled each other into an embrace. "To start falling in love with you." Aang whispered, almost too quietly for Sokka to hear, but not quite enough.

Sokka's mouth dropped open when Katara pulled him into an obvious kiss. There was no way for Sokka to mistake what was happening because he saw the whole thing in profile. Aang tightened his arms around her waist and she made no objections, only tightening her grip around his neck in return, and deepening her kiss.

Sokka's first reaction was to yell in horror. This was his sister kissing the Avatar! How many times could that be expected to happen in a lifetime? But then he stopped himself. Despite his misgivings about Katara having a relationship with Avatar Aang because him being the Avatar would complicate things, he couldn't be upset about the fact that his sister was starting to really feel for someone. While beautiful, Katara was considered less-than-prime bride material to a majority of the men in the Water Tribe who considered her too spirited to make a good wife. Unlike the Northern Water Tribe, the Southern Tribe had removed the law that made it forbidden for women to learn combat Waterbending, but that decision was only a few decades old and it would take some more years for the men of the Tribe to grow used to the fact that Katara represented the new Water Tribe woman. Now, however, she was just seen as a troublemaker. Perhaps it was for the best for her to take an interest in someone outside the tribe, who came from a race that treated women just as highly as the men, and who cared about her for her spiritedness.

Instead of yelling, Sokka just smirked and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention.

That caught their attention and they sprang apart from each other, both of them blushing madly when they saw who caught them. "Sokka!" Katara gasped. "This isn't what it…"

"Don't give me that, Katara; it's exactly what it looks like. You two have the hots for each other."

Katara blushed deeper while Aang only looked confused, repeating the word "Hots?" under his breath.

Katara wasn't surprised that he wasn't familiar with the phrase. Being raised as a monk, Aang was highly educated, but his understanding of modern slang was somewhat… lacking, especially crude language. She'd seen enough of Sokka trying to get him to laugh by cracking a dirty joke, but only getting a look of confusion in return because the innuendo sailed right over his head.

"It's just a crude way of saying that we are physically attracted to each other." Katara quickly explained to Aang.

He blushed. "Well… I…" He began, looking very nervous. The truth was he was extremely physically attracted to Katara. But with their relationship being only a few hours old, he was nowhere near ready to confront those feelings or admit them out loud. He was therefore equal parts nervous and relieved when Katara's father came down the hall and noticed their impromptu gathering.

"Are you kids having fun?" He asked casually.

"They certainly are." Sokka answered, gesturing towards Aang and Katara. "I just walked in on them kissing." He said that last word like it was the most disgusting curse word imaginable, but Katara saw the smile on his face. He was really just pretending to be disgusted because it was his 'big brother duty' to be sick at the thought of his little sister dating anyone.

"Kissing?" Hakoda asked, glancing between the two blushing young adults. "Really? My daughter kissing the Avatar?" He didn't seem upset or grossed out about it, just shocked.

Aang managed to regain control of himself. He knew that some fathers wanted young men who wanted to court their daughters to ask permission to do so. Perhaps Katara's father was one of them? "Chief Hakoda, sir, we only just realized a few hours ago that we really care about each other. I really care about your daughter."

"Daddy." Katara interrupted. Aang respectfully stopped talking for her. "I really like Aang a great deal." She wrapped her arms around his arm, standing close to his side. "I want to give this a try, and see how far it goes."

"That's what I want to." Aang finished, sharing a glance with Katara. "If I could have your permission, sir, I'd like to court your daughter."

Hakoda did not answer for a few moments, and then he gazed at Aang. "You are sure? You would not rather have an Air Nomad woman?"

"I have no prior romantic commitments to any Air Nomad woman. The heart simply wants what it wants." Aang replied. "Besides, it is not all that uncommon for the Avatar to marry outside their birth nation, or even marry their teachers."

Hakoda nodded in agreement. Because of their importance to the world, scholars knew a great deal about the life of every Avatar, because all those details were recorded, even romances. Out of all the Avatar's relationships, a slight more than half had been where the Avatar fell in love with someone of a different nation.

"You'll respect each other in all things? Taking this relationship at your own pace; you won't rush into things that you are not ready for, nor will you allow it to grow stagnant?"

"I won't, sir, I swear." Aang said firmly.

"I promise." Katara said just as firmly.

"Then you do have my permission to court." Hakoda said with a smile. Katara smiled widely and leapt into her father's arms, hugging him firmly. Hakoda laughed and returned her embrace.

"Thank you, Daddy." Katara whispered to him.

"Only the best for you, sweetheart." Hakoda replied.

Katara let go of Hakoda and turned towards Aang. He had such a smile on his face, and she couldn't help but mirror his happiness. He pulled her into his arms, his hands resting gently on her waist, and her hands wrapped around his neck. And for the second time in the last few minutes, they pulled each other into a soft kiss.

Hakoda smiled, glad that his daughter had found someone who could begin to show her the wonders and joy of love. Sokka just shook his head, a little bemused at the fact that they'd suddenly turned into big piles of lovey-dovey mush. Katara was probably still badass enough to kick his ass from here to the North Pole with her Waterbending, but he did notice that she became softer around Aang, more like herself rather than just a girl who identified herself as a Waterbending Master.

I all honesty, he supported their relationship one hundred percent. But what kind of big brother would he be if he didn't tease them a little because of it?

LES: Well, that's the end of Part One. Part Two should be written soon. There was one thing of interest in this chapter. When I began to write the part about Sokka walking in on them kissing, I was about to, frankly, making him have a much louder reaction. I was about to do it, too, before I sat down, thought about it, and realized that this isn't the same Sokka. He's never had any reason to distrust Aang, Aang's never hurt Katara with any out of control Bending, and since Hakoda is around, Sokka doesn't feel personally responsible to protect his sister.

Therefore, I changed his reaction to "I support this relationship, but I'm going to tease the hell out of you because of it". It's less mean of Sokka, and it better fits his 'non-war' personality.

Another thing. This was a challenge fic, so technically it was supposed to be a one-shot. But it just ballooned out of control. Therefore, the person is not going to be punished for my writing style, turning this into a larger story. Therefore, this story is now a two-shot without penalty.