Katara sat back against Appa's saddle, anticipation buzzing through her veins as frosty air nipped at her tanned cheeks. It was the first time in over a year she was heading back to her homeland, spending most of her time in the Earth Kingdom during the war, and the Fire Nation for months after, so she kept her eyes on the horizon in front of Appa's massive head. Her father had written them explaining that the small village had expanded quite rapidly thanks to the Northern Water Tribe.
"Katara, are you ready to see dad again?" Sokka chirped from across the saddle, blue eyes burning bright like little blue flames. Katara nodded vigorously, lips parting to present a manic smile. Her brother laughed before turning to scan the horizon.
"I can't believe it's been only a year and a half. It feels like it's been so much longer. Like decades!" The water tribe warrior nodded, eyes rimmed in tears.
"I can't believe you stayed in the Fire Nation Palace so long. I know it was for our tribe, but how could you stand that heat?!" She chuckled as the ice-clad nation finally appeared. Maybe she'd tell Sokka of her adventures in the Fire Nation another time. He surely had things to share about the Earth Kingdom, after all.
The day had been spent exploring the new structures and being introduced to the warriors from the sister tribe. Sokka exclaimed multiple times his appreciation for the fine details in the buildings, while Katara gasped happily at the massive fountain before the new Town Hall. Their village wasn't much like the North Pole, but she still couldn't help but be impressed.
"Dad, this whole place is amazing. How does everyone feel about the sudden changes after so many years?" Dinner was set before them, bowls of thick Seaprune stew and warm soft rolls on plates, Sokka digging in immediately while Aang nervously looked around the table. Katara pointed her spoon at her father as she asked, knowing the people of her tribe could be stubborn at times.
Hakoda only smiled, ripping a piece of bread free and dipping it in the stew.
"They were uncertain at first, as you can probably imagine, but your grandmother was a real strong voice behind their change. Kanna was all for the help of the northern tribe." Sokka mumbled something around a mouth-full of food, eyes glittering in the dim light of the room. She rolled her eyes at him.
"Sokka, chew your food before you speak." her brother shot her a glare before swallowing.
"I said, go grandma! So dad, what's next?" Hakoda arched a brow at Sokka before chuckling. Katara still couldn't see how she and her brother were related.
After the meal was finished, Katara announced she was going to bed, the days of travel and the energy spent learning about the changes to her old home exhausting her. Her drooping eyelids and heavy limbs threatened to stop working if she didn't get to a bed soon. Her father and brother bid her goodnight, still lightly discussing plans and passing jokes back and forth, but Aang stood with her and quietly asked to join her.
For the walk, he quickly amended. Things had been weird with the Avatar after Zuko's coronation. Katara couldn't put her finger on it, motioning for him to follow her, but there was a heavy weight on her chest whenever she looked at him. A weird sense of anxiety would come over her every time they crossed paths at the Palace and she wasn't with someone else. She was always on her toes around him, and she hated it.
Snowflakes had begun to fall while they were occupied with dinner, so Katara pulled up the hood of her parka smiling when the thick furs tickled her cheeks. She'd missed all the pelts and furs back in the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, though the silks of the Fire Nation were extremely soothing to her skin, much like water. Such contrasting nations, and she sort of loved them both.
"Katara?" She tilted her face towards the wide grey eyes and pinked cheeks of the young Avatar. Since the war's end, Aang had been extremely busy traveling between the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, trying to help both with the tentatively won peace. There were many issues in the colonies, where earth and fire mixed, but otherwise things had been going very well thanks to Aang and Zuko. The King was back on the throne, generals grumbling during the first peace meeting she'd attended, so communication was much easier for the leaders of the other nations.
"Yes, Aang?" There it was: the anxiety stirring in her stomach, threatening to expel her dinner despite her feeling just fine. her heart picked up speed in her rib cage, flooding her body with a strange uncertainty. Usually she wasn't so unsure around the young Avatar, but she guessed certain moments during the war trained her to be slightly wary of alone time with Aang.
"It's such a peaceful evening, isn't it? So different than the noises of the Fire Nation." She smiled at that, though she actually found the stark silence weird now. The snow and cutting air of the arctic was quelling a sickness in her heart, but she missed the chatter of people talking happily with one another, the sizzling of flames through the air, and the rumbling laughter of Zuko's uncle, Iroh.
"I suppose. I kind of miss it, though. Maybe I won't stay here as long as I had first thought." Aang looked at her curiously, his eyes searching her face and his lips turning down slightly, so she shrugged. Katara didn't expect Aang to really understand her conflicted feelings since she hardly did herself.
"Anyway, Sokka was saying he wanted to bring Suki here soon! Show her around." Katara wasn't surprised by that at all. Her brother was in love with the Kyoshi warrior through and through. Aang seemed to shuffle closer, though she didn't think much of it since it was cold and he refused to wear furs on his parka. Still, her skin buzzed uncomfortably.
"Um, yeah! He really cares about her, so I hope she's able to join him in his element. I wonder how she'll feel about the cold, though." Aang laughed quietly, eyes reflecting the full moon above her when she looked at him again. Was this a sign from Yue?
Katara knew how Aang felt about her, pulling her aside at the celebration of Zuko's coronation to try and talk about their feelings. She had begged him him off, explaining that she was taking ill from some bad food before escaping to her room. The idea of talking about feelings when she had no idea what hers even were did make her sick to her stomach, so she had told herself it was only a half lie.
Now, under the moonlight and surrounded by ice, she wondered if they were really destined to fall together. Things just seemed to keep them together no matter what was happening or where they were, and he's respected her wishes to have space and time after the incident at Ember Island. Plus, didn't that fortune teller say she'd fall for a powerful bender? Obviously Aang was the most powerful in the world, having nearly mastered all four elements at the ripe age of thirteen. She hesitated for a moment before pushing forward, ignoring the way her stomach twisted and her heart screamed at her to wait longer.
If this was destiny, and her job was to support Aang as a girlfriend, and eventually a wife, she'd obviously learn to love him with her whole being. That's how it worked, right?
"Aang, I've really thought about things since the Coronation. I know how you feel, and I appreciate how patient and kind you have been as I figured things out." At her words, the Avatar drew in a sharp breath, eyes widening even further as she shuffled her booted feet and looked away for a moment. She was doing what she felt was right, so why did she feel so...empty?
After walking her to her home, Aang shyly asked her if he could kiss her goodnight, which she accepted with a smile and then a tight hug. And when he was walking away, a certain swagger in his step that Sokka had donned once he'd gotten with Suki officially, Katara hardened her resolve to learn to love him like she should. This was obviously the right way.