Takes place seven years after the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai. Aang sees Katara for the first time since that terrible day in an attempt to revive a broken frinedship, but while there he discovers a ...
.:Shades of Blue:.
Humbly Written by the.Ordinary
The entire world was painted in shades of blue. The crisp, cloudless sky, the ominous majesty of the ocean, even the jeweled ice caps and the impersonal metal of the ship flashed blue in the sun. A proud figure, clad in the Earth Kingdom's finest and warmest silks, stood at the bow of the ship. He was leaning forward earnestly, with his gloved hands clasping the rail on either side of him, as if urging the massive vessel toward its destination. There was a casual air about him, and although he was pent up with anxiety and nerves, his left foot found the time to curl up behind his other leg and rest itself on the toes of his moccasin. A cool, dry breeze blew, flapping the heavy material of the sail. The hood of the figure was blown off his head, revealing a blue tattooed arrow that ran from the base of his neck to the center of his forehead. Aang closed his slate gray eyes and smiled against the faint scent of snow and sea spray, relishing the memories this part of the world invoked.
Seven years. Has it really been so long?
Energy was a tangible force in the Southern Water Tribe, swirling in the air and flowing in the veins of all who had anticipated this long awaited day. The once small village of the Wolf People had slowly evolved over the years into an efficient city, stretching out endless miles across the once desolate area. Katara, daughter of Chief Hakoda and Waterbending Master, went over the never-ending list of tasks in her head. Ah! The sculptures! Turning, she could make out the face of her most dedicated student in the busy crowd of floundering people.
"Kala!" She was commanding without being haughty, earning her people's respect as well as their cooperation. Her voice carried easily over the bustling noise, and Kala, a shoulder-height girl from Katara's class, trotted over.
"Yes, Shifu Katara?" She asked after a quick bow of respect, her breath fogging in quick puffs.
"I need you to work on the sculptures in the East Gate. They look weathered down." It was a job that required much skill. Kala seemed overjoyed at the prospect; her devotion to the Waterbending arts reminded Katara of herself at that age.
"Of course, Shifu Katara." Another bow and she ran off, but not before shouting gleefully over her shoulder, "I won't let you down!"
Katara smiled after her, then turned back to her work.
"Tano! Lani! Relieve the guards!" Two lanky boys nodded once before jogging off to the East Gate, the main entrance to the city.
"Ronika!" A woman with a belly swell of 9 moons wobbled over to Katara, her breath was labored and she kept one hand firmly on her back to relieve the pressure.
"Master Katara?" Wise eyes that contained the patience only given to mothers peered up at her through a fringe of bangs, before she tucked them back as an after thought. Katara placed a concerned hand on the woman's shoulder. When she spoke next, her voice was that of a compassionate leader.
"Ronika, your baby is due any day now. I want you to go rest. If you over exert yourself-"
"Tsk, child. I'll be okay," Said Ronika, slapping Katara's hand away lightly. Katara opened her mouth to say otherwise when a firm hand on her arm caught her attention. She turned meet the gentle blue eyes of her friend, Tala. Many people remarked on their resemblance, but Katara failed to see any similarities. Tala was a master healer and had a way with people, whereas Katara was impatient and tactless--all terrible qualities when dealing with a pregnant woman.
"Ronika, you're looking beautiful," Tala's voice was soft, yet full of the energy of youth. Tala gave Katara a reassuring wink and took the flattered woman's arm, leading her away while discussing her other children and the trouble they manage to get into. Katara felt a wave of gratitude toward her friend. The last thing she needed tonight was a woman going into unexpected labor.
Aang's gaze was toward the distant ice burgs, but he failed to see their stately beauty. His mind was immersed in the life of years ago: the happy memories and laughable misunderstandings, the profound blue of her eyes, the cool whip of her rejection...
"Avatar Aang," The insistent voice pulled him back into the present. Aang pulled his hood back onto his baldhead, though he could just have easily raised his body temperature using Firebending; he liked the feel of silk against his skin. With a long exhale, Aang opened his eyes and turned to the sturdy man.
"Yes, captain Tzonu?" His voice was a deep tenor, filled with a calm wisdom beyond his years. He inclined his head to meet the captain's eyes, which disappeared for a few moments as he bent in an obligatory bow.
"It's your bison, sir. It has been...anxious...ever since we crossed the boundary line. We tried calming it, but-" Aang silenced him with a slight raise of his open hand and smiling eyes.
"Of course. I'll fly him down to the city. Thank you for your kind hospitality, Captain." Aang bowed his compliments before trotting to the back of the Earth Kingdom ship. Appa was shifting from foot to foot to foot, rocking the ship with his colossal weight, and when he spotted Aang he gave a loud roar, his brown eyes sparkling with excitement. Aang smiled and took a running jump, landing perfectly behind the reins. A clear voice pierced through the frigid, dry air of the arctic,
With a slap of his tail, Appa took to the air in a great gust of wind. The pair was above the clouds in seconds, the wind billowing around them, ruffling Appa's thick fur. With an embellished sweep of his arms, the clouds cleared, giving him a beautiful view of the white landscape below him. Aang shielded the sun from his eyes, squinting toward the west, where the Southern Water Tribe lay. It was as hard as finding a tiny ruby gem in a pile of embers, and when he finally saw it, the scene brought another round of nerves to his middle. He was now within eyesight of his greatest friend, who simultaneously happened to be the same person who caused the greatest hurt he had ever had to endured, something that no medicine could ever heal. Appa gave a murmured growl, feeling his malcontent. Aang forced the painful recollections back and focused on the Water Tribe city, drawing nearer with every nervous breath Aang took. The artfully sculptured walls lining the perimeter served as protection, all carved carefully from the surrounding snow, standing in subtle contrast to the undisciplined and treacherous arctic. Aang, suddenly struck by an epiphany, smiled mischievously.
"Ready to make an entrance, boy?"
It was not as if she was unprepared for his arrival; she had been glancing at the skies every chance she was given. Nevertheless, when Katara actually caught sight of the flying, six-legged ball of fluff soaring toward the city, her heart gave a leap, sending a wave of adrenaline throughout her body. Why was she so nervous?
Only because I have kept an enormous secret from him for the past seven years... Rather sooner than later, right?
Unsurprisingly, this did nothing to settle the rabid butterflies in her stomach. Squinting, Katara fixed her gaze to the sky above her. Appa was nearing the Southern Water Tribe, and with every whoosh of his tail more people stopped in the middle of what they were doing to stand, mouth agape and eyes transfixed, at the Avatar's spirit guide. A majority of the people who lived in her tribe had only heard of the flying bison in bedtime stories, half of which took the descriptions as over exaggerations. Katara was embarrassed to find herself just as awe inspired as the people around her, but she stared at her old, furry friend all the same, until he was circling the heart of the city, where most of the civilians were gathered.
What is he doing...?
A deceivingly simple staff shot into the clear air like a spear, then sprung open unexpectedly, revealing the delicate orange fabric of a glider. The Avatar was nowhere in sight. Curious murmurs flitted through the now tightly packed crowd. The seconds stretched as each unblinking pair of eyes stared from the suspicious glider to the empty saddle adorning Appa's back.
All of a sudden, Aang was falling-no, diving off of his bison's head. With a carefree grace achieved only by master Airbenders, Aang gripped his glider firmly, guiding it in sweeping circles around his astonished audience.
Katara turned her head toward Tala's voice. Her friend was hopping up and down enthusiastically, her hands clasped together and her eyes sparkling with admiration. Katara rolled her eyes, smiling.
When he swirled to a landing, Katara felt herself running to him with the rest of the crowd. "Excuse me..." She heard herself saying, when the throng of people densed, all pushing toward the Avatar, wanting to get a closer look. To her surprise, a path opened for her, and the crowd grew silent. Only the wind remained, but even it seemed to slow in reverence. Katara met the cheerful gray eyes of the peacemaker of the world, the defeater of Fire Lord Ozai, the master of all four elements: The Avatar. Despite all else, Katara felt her breath catch. I don't think I can do this...
To her immense surprise, the legendary figure put his hands together and bowed.
"It is an honor to be welcomed into your city, Shifu Katara." He said courteously. Katara could hear the uncertainty in his voice, and berated herself for being such a coward. With three strides, she broke the distance between them until he was only an arm's reach away. He straightened, letting his arms fall to his sides, and Katara let herself embrace him, before she had a chance to change her mind. It was the most natural thing she could do, and although she had to stretch on the tip of her toes to accommodate his height, it was as if they were kids again.
Seeing Katara again was more painful than he had anticipated. She had seemingly appeared out of thin air from the crowd, catching him off guard. He tried to ignore the fact that she had grown into a beautiful young woman, complete with those.../curves/. He bowed respectfully, trying to hide his blush. /I'm over her now/, he kept telling himself. She broke his heart long ago, there's no use going back to that. It would be the closest thing to suicide.
"It is an honor to be welcomed into your city, Shifu Katara." His words came out in a steady tone, but inside he was in turmoil. Why hasn't she said anything, yet? She's just standing there! Do I have something in my teeth? Or maybe my sash isn't tied tight enough/...Before he could worry any further, however, he glanced up to find her close. Very close. He felt himself straightening, prepared to say something-/anything/, before this became too awkward. /"I see you still have those hair loopey things" or, "Nice city you've got here," or maybe even a, "Golly, Katara, I can't believe you hid the fact that you were in love with Zuko all that time until I saw the two of you all over each other on Appa's (/my flying bison! Mine!) tail..."/
And then she did something that completely caught him off guard. Taking a step closer, her arms wrapped themselves around his neck loosely, her cheek resting on his chest... a hug. Katara was giving him a hug. Suddenly, Aang felt that he could forget everything she had done to him. Well, it was not that big a deal. So she fell for Zuko, who cares? All of that is over now. Relaxing into her warmth, Aang returned the hug, and for a moment, all was good in the world.
Katara was beginning to rethink her rash decision, but all doubt faded away without a trace when she felt his arms wrap around her waist loosely. The embrace lasted only a few seconds, though when they parted, Katara could not help but feel the imprint of his arms on her back. It was hard not to notice that Aang was not a 12-year-old boy anymore.
Her musings were interrupted as she felt someone behind her. A small boy, no taller than Katara's hip, clung to her legs, peering shyly at the foreigner before him. Unbidden, a rush of panic iced through Katara's body.
Oh please. Not now!
Power. A fierce, raw power of incredible force entered Aang's conscious, the ferocity of it giving him a dull headache. Distractedly, Aang followed the source until he was staring straight into the bold blue eyes of a little boy. Aang furrowed his brow contemplatively, trying to place where he had sensed this chi before.
Katara bent down so she was eye level with the boy, talking to him in whispered tones. The child whispered back to her, his gaze dragging undecidedly from him to look at Katara. Aang absently heard the mention of sweets, and the boy nodded, turning to leave.
Why would he be asking Katara for sweets?
Before the curious child squeezed past the throng of people, he turned back to Katara, smiling, his voice still a whisper,
The meaning of those last words took a long moment to register fully in Aang's mind, and when they did, he turned sharply to Katara, stilled kneeled on the snow, for an answer.
She said nothing, but her expression told him enough.
"Aang..." Her voice was scared, uncertain, earnest. She wanted to explain everything to him; he could hear it, see it in her eyes. But what was there to explain?
Looking back at his short encounter with the child, he realized his skin was not dark like Katara's, but pale, paler than his own. And under his hood was a messy mop of glossy black hair.
Katara had a son.
Moreover, Katara had a son with /Zuko/.
To Be Continued...