Polar Days
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Ways of the Water


1-Polar Days

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"Katara..." She recognized the sound, though it did not register. "...up?" Her eyelids involuntarily half-opened and glimpsed something yellow. A nagging sense of pressure and stuffiness drugged her into further weariness. So much so, that she groaned in response to this pestering and rolled over in denial, hoping it would end.

Or at least, this is what her mind reminded her when she opened her aching eyes. Inhaling sharply, she found her breath came with difficulty. Not pain, but taking a deep breath simply required a strained effort when it shouldn't have.

Rolling forward to climb to her knees, her loose hair tumbled freely, startling her. Right...guess I never put my hair back. She rose to rest on her legs, rubbing her temple and heaving a sigh as her limbs slowly woke to a groggy self-awareness. Blinking the sleep and heavy-mindedness away, she glanced around the room, half-expecting to see Aang beside her since he had asked her to get up. But he was nowhere in sight.

"Aang?" Her voice cracked. Agh, not now. She covered her mouth with her hand, forcing a hard cough to help clear this out. It came raspy, churning up something in her throat that actually brought a moment of relief. However, followed by her struggle for a deep breath, her body sagged back in fatigue. Ugh...

He wouldn't leave without me, would he? But he had. Light was shining through the cracks of the hut's cloth doorway, and nobody was here. I can't believe he just left me here! She scowled and panted out an aggravated grunt.

Today was the day. This was her first waterbending lesson. Katara felt the spirits were surely entertaining a laugh at the irony of this situation. She had fought so vigorously and crossed great distances to enter a waterbending class, only to end up sick and late for her first day.

All three blankets still lay piled over her. Her eyebrows lifted curiously as she eyeballed them. Wait...I've been like this all day and night? Where did Aang and Sokka sleep? A quick survey of the room didn't turn up an immediate answer, simply a furry carpeted floor. She'd settle that later, now she had to prepare hastily for class.

Staring at each of her two Water Tribe fur coats, she found herself torn. Will it upset Aang if I don't wear the one he bought? I like my coat...gran gran made it... She ran her thumb fondly along its vertical lavender zig-zag pattern at its front. Besides, she wasn't sure she was ready to fully adopt her Northern Water Tribe heritage...and wearing the coat Aang purchased nearly felt like doing just that.

This decision played out in a matter of seconds however, primarily the time it took her to view each of the two then pull herself into her Southern Water Tribe coat. Yes, the choice mattered, but it didn't matter as much as getting to class that very moment.

She bolted out the door full-speed, despite her illness.

Bounding over the last step, she bolted headlong toward the group of boys standing before the elder master, Pakku. This short jaunt had taken the wind from her, pushing herself to her limits as her lungs fought to get air in them. She was here, but she was late. But I'm here and that's all that matters...I hope.

Her body resisted her will, forcing her to double over in exhaustion as she stopped beside Aang. Panting for each gasp of air, Pakku's harsh voice snapped out to her so briskly it took her mind a moment to register what he had said. "What do you think you're doing?!"

When his rebuke sank in, she controlled her breathing in horror and lifted her eyes to meet his, her mouth hanging slightly agape in silent fear he would rescind his promise to teach her. Yet instead, a sardonic smile overcame him as his tone settled to a gentle tease. "It's past sunrise, you're late." He finished, maintaining his good-humored expression while entering what she presumed to be a waterbending form, one arm high and one low as if holding a ball of energy between them.

You silly old man! A grin crept over her immediately, straightening to instinctively adopt the form he had taken. "Good to see ya here." Aang softly added by her side.

Her eyelids pressed tightly shut in stark pleasure, turning a beaming expression his direction. "You too."

"Now all of you hold position." Pakku straightened and began to walk toward the two standing ranks of students lined up before him. She stiffened, not daring to move from the memorized position for fear she'd not still be in it when he walked by her. Oh I wish I hadn't missed class... She felt as if she were terribly under the spotlight.

Her sapphire eyes followed the man as he trailed off to her left, hands clasped behind his back. "Not bad, Meske." Meske. She made a mental note, deciding this was as good a start to getting to know who she was studying with as any.

Thunk. Pakku slapped a young man's elbow briskly. "Your arms still weak? That form couldn't hold off a falling icicle." The young, pony-tailed man responded with a bemoaned groan as Pakku simply strode on.

The master stood silent before a pupil who seemed to be shivering, unable to keep his limbs still. The old man merely lifted an eyebrow, staring dead-on as if they had engaged in an art of war known as the staring contest. The boy was losing horribly. Pakku simply closed his eyes, having won the apparent battle, and shook his head briefly before walking on without a word.

Katara cringed, but held her position firm, feeling Pakku's judgment heavy in the air. He paused before a young man with thick, brown hair tied at the back in a knot to spike directly upwards. "Very good, Dolvek."

It was down to just her and Aang. Her gaze whipped off of Pakku, training directly ahead of her toward nothing at all. Her entire focus went into holding her position to get it right. "If you think this is a game then perhaps we should relocate you to the ice falls behind the city." Pakku quipped to the young airbender, meeting his gaze with a somber frown.

Aang dropped his form entirely, standing upright to huff resistantly. She observed his expression change to a sudden interested grin out of the corner of her eye. "Can our next class be there?"

"No." Pakku turned and took two straightforward steps and she found herself under his judgment. She felt immediately harrowed, her limbs tensing reflexively as she quickly attempted to relax and keep an acceptable posture.

"If you believe you have something to prove, think again." What? Her sapphire eyes locked on his. He seemed to show little expression, simply honing his sky blue eyes upon her as if this were completely in the norm. "You're trying too hard." He spun on his heel, stepping back to the front of the class.

I'm trying too hard? Her lip puckered in silent aggravation, declining from her form resultantly. Just what do you want me to do, not try too hard? "Perhaps I was wrong to throw you straight into the basic waterbending forms." Pakku uttered aloud, sweeping his judgmental gaze over his assorted class. "The average level appears to be amateur at best."

"At least a couple of us." A boy muttered under his breath, barely noticeable by Katara. Katara's eyes shot wide open; glancing to the culprit in disbelief he'd say such a thing. Meske. His hair was knotted back in a series of beaded threads over his fur coat. But who did he mean? Her?

"Water is flowing, ever changing. It can adapt to its surroundings wherever you place it. Whatever form you take, you should respect this quality and attempt to model it yourselves." He shifted his right foot, rotating his left in a circular pattern behind him as he spun, keeping his upper body straight while his posture and circular formation of his hands remained in complete control.

Every time he spun around, he shifted which foot was pointed forward. And as he did so, he switched which arm he kept higher and lower, rotating them in synch according to the location of his feet. "The battlefield will continuously change. If you cannot adapt to it, you will fail."

"Class will resume in fifteen minutes. That is all." Pakku turned away and strode meaningfully toward a bowl awaiting him on a nearby rail. A collective phew escaped most of the six students present.

The day's lesson on basic waterbending forms wasn't particularly strenuous, yet she had still broken out in a cold sweat. The reason why was obvious - to her, at least. Holding held her hand level in front of her face, she watched intently as it gently shook without her approval. She frowned.

A disgruntled breath of air escaped her friend. "When do we get to do the advanced stuff? I can already do all these simple forms. Pakku's just never happy with them."

So I noticed. "I'm sure we'll get to it eventually." She crossed her arms, lowering her eyebrows to level her interrogative gaze upon Aang suddenly. Before she had a chance to state what she was thinking, Aang returned her stare worriedly.

"What's wrong Katara?"

"Why didn't you wake me up earlier? I thought we were going to go together. You made me late for class!"

"I tried!" He claimed in swift desperation. You did, did you? She quirked an eyebrow as he continued. "I tried to wake you but you ignored me. When I reminded you of our class, you told me to just go. I didn't know what else to do..."

Her look was one of wild wonder. I did what? She struggled with this, perhaps she had been sicker than she had realized. Her wonder shifted slowly to mild guilt, wondering just how spiteful she may have been to chase Aang off. "Um...I don't remember any of it."

He smiled. That smile was disarming and genuine every time. "That's okay...are you feeling any better?"

"I think so." She felt rather sheepish, averting her eyes from him from a guilty conscience. She couldn't imagine that she had ranted at Aang this morning, but she believed him. "I'm sorry for the things I said."

Aang's soft voice filled the air as he chuckled dismissively. "Don't worry about it. Come on, let's make some friends." A meek smile now formed on her lips; every time she saw that beaming expression it lightened her spirits.

Approaching a fellow student, the boy laid down a sandwich he had been busying himself with and turned to them, silently staring at one then the other as he swallowed hard. "Nice to meet you. I'm Aang, and this is my friend Katara." She flashed a courteous smile toward the obviously timid boy.

He hesitated. "Sangok." His blue eyes wandered slowly to Katara in a manner of curiosity that unsettled her. "Are you...really going to train with us?"

She stared in disbelief. However, his expression and tone seemed genuinely curious so she gave it her best to not take offense. "Yes, of course. Maybe your classes would be bigger if you let girls in." She idly waved her hand toward the vast, open and empty space around them.

"Just wondered. I don't mind." He mildly responded, avoiding her eyes immediately. "There are other students too, but they joined the Winnowing."

The what? This sparked her interest. What Water Tribe rite was this that she had no clue over? Aang was apparently just as curious. "What's a winnowing?" He asked.

"It's basically a hunt." Sangok suddenly appeared to shrink, his voice growing softer as he eyed his waiting baked seaweed sandwich. "I don't know the details...never been on one."

Ah. It's like Sokka and I used to do probably. A knowing smile crept upon her unawares. She actually found comfort and pleasure in understanding the customs and culture between each tribe. Then a thought struck her. Were women allowed on these hunts? Her smile vanished, deciding she would find out later for curiosity's sake.

Their break was running short now. "Excuse me." Leaving Aang with Sangok, she turned to walk over to the remaining three students.

A sense of dread overcame her as the three students each turned toward her as she approached. The looks she received weren't exactly inviting. "What do you want?" Oh great... He clearly wanted her to leave.

She idly glanced to her side, returning a gentle shrug. "I just thought I'd say hi..."

"Yeah well, you just did." She bristled and locked her eyes back to Meske, feeling his challenge thick in the air.

Meske gave a curt nod to Dolvek, seeming to issue him his cue. "Buh-bye now, girlie." Dolvek jeered.

"What!?" An impulsive shock overtook her expression. She spared a moment to adjust a glare from Meske to Dolvek. "What's your problem? Don't tell me there's also a custom of 'not talking to girls.'"

Meske took a step forward, stepping slightly to the side to cut in front of Dolvek and confront her directly. "No, see, you're the one with the problem." She narrowed her eyes, expressing her newfound disdain for the boy. "Don't shove your way in here and expect to be one of the guys. It's not going to happen." Meske straightened, intentionally standing as tall as he could so as to stare down to Katara while crossing his arms. "Soon as you understand that, then there's no problem. Just like that. We clear?"

She was fuming. "Crystal." Her single word hissed out through her teeth, sharp as ice. Right now, during class break, was not a good time to address this. Meske was wrong, and she wouldn't let it die just like that. She'd just have to think of what to do about it later.

Stomping back toward Aang, she froze when Pakku called out to her. "Katara, one moment." Oh great, now what? Pacing steadily toward her, he slipped his hands idly behind his back. The infamous trio she had just spoken with stood a short distance behind him and just to the side, watching intently. "I've noticed your bending style has been subpar." And just like that, the bullies behind him unashamedly began to snicker. "I suggest you consider taking leave of today's lesson."

Oh yeah, because that's just what I need. She scowled furiously at Pakku, causing him to raise an eyebrow toward her dumbfoundedly. "Are you trying to make me look bad?"

"If that were my goal; you would know it." He stated straight and to the point, settling his lifted eyebrow purposefully. "I simply noticed you seem ill. You shouldn't push yourself."

She took a breath before forcing her scowl away; which she found was no easy feat with the bullies still snickering out of Pakku's sight. "Sorry. I'll be fine; I'm going to stay for the rest of class..."

"Very well." The old man bobbed his head in agreement and turned to take a few steps away, speaking much more audibly. "Form up! Play time is over."

As she joined Aang's side once again, he whispered with exasperation. "What happened? Are you alright, Katara?" She caught his worried eyes taking her frustrated expression in.

"It's nothing, they're just jerks. I'll tell you later." She attempted to dismiss this, adopting one of the bending forms Pakku had been drilling into them all morning. Though, her addled mind remained distracted throughout the last half of class.

Waterbending training had ended, leaving her to immediately head for her following healing class. She had started to worry the two classes would overlap as training continued, but the two conveniently left just enough time for her to walk from one to the other. The troublesome note was that she had to skip lunch to attend both.

"Katara?" Aang gently posed as he took the steps descending from the outer steppe by her side. "You haven't been the same since our break...did they say something?"

She shrugged, staring ahead of them, lost in thought. "They don't like me being there. Pakku only made it worse."

Aang scurried a quick step down ahead of her, glancing back to see her face. Reactively, her eyes met his. "What do you mean; they don't like you being there? Is there a problem?"

She snorted, casting her attention away from him. Yeah; apparently I'm the problem. "I don't know what their problem is." She turned back to him, easing her expression with a soft breath. "Thanks, Aang, but don't worry about it. I'm sure everything will be just fine." I hope.

They paused in front of the healing hut's door, standing idly for a moment without a word. She couldn't figure it out, but there was something else to be said lingering in the air. Neither of the two was looking at the other, simply staring idly at the heavy-trodden snow surrounding their boots. "It's really great that you can learn waterbending with me..." Aang trailed off.

She smiled faintly, lifting her eyes to her friend's. "Yeah, I almost didn't think it was going to happen." She heard Yugoda's voice, inaudible words being given for her students inside. She breathed a second sigh, feeling unsettled even though she knew she should be happy. What's wrong with me? "I have to go. See you tonight Aang."

Slipping through the doors; Yugoda turned to meet her new student with a beaming smile. "Welcome back, Katara. It's so wonderful you've decided to stay with us."

Katara smiled in return, approaching to sit down and readily participate in today's lesson. Affording a glance to the other female students, they exchanged flighty glimpses toward her, then one another, before diverting their eyes either to the floor or to their teacher. They were avoiding Katara's face.

She nearly imagined feeling her heart drop into her stomach, a moment of bewilderment overcoming her. What's going on...why is everyone so against me all of a sudden? "Today's class is review for tomorrow." Yugoda grabbed her attention again, almost apologetically. "I'm sorry; I know you've just joined us so this may be difficult for you. Tomorrow is a test. If you would like, I can give you the test later once you've caught up with us."

Oh gosh. Her eyelids fell shut; enveloping her world in darkness. Can today even get any worse, seriously? But right now, getting another advantage over the local Water Tribe students was something she really didn't want to do. "That's okay...I'll try my hardest."

"Oh. Well, if that's what you want." Yugoda seemed genuinely surprised. Even a few classmates now dared to peek her way, though she felt even more sheepish than before under their scrutiny.

Folding her legs beneath her, she frowned thoughtfully while Yugoda continued her lecture. Staring passively to her Sifu, Katara realized what it was that had been eating at her: a sense of belonging. Nobody wanted her here, or so it felt.

How can they ignore me like this, too? I just...I don't get it. If anything I've done them a favor, girls can be just as good as guys. Her eyes drifted over the class. Not a single girl would as much as glance at her now. Granted, Yugoda was speaking, but it still was obvious she was being avoided. She felt nothing short of abandoned, even among girls that should have been her support.

"When attempting to heal, the untrained will see nothing but darkness." Yugoda explained, moving the discussion forward to vision through healing. "In other words, they see the back of their eyelids." She let out a small laugh at her own joke. "This is similar to attempting to see through your eyes when you don't have any. The user hasn't learned how to see through their healing water. If you see this, this should tell you that you need to improve your focus."

Katara sat upon her folded legs quietly, keeping her attention settled upon her Sifu. She kept still, trying her best not to let her mind wander to her situation. She had enough problems as it was, adding failing a test to that list wasn't something she wanted to do. Even so; she felt overwhelmed. Yugoda had been pouring out information. Maybe I need to ask for that extension...

"Once the healer is able to get past the darkness, they're able to see a lot of confusing shapes and colors that can be difficult to understand. We will now discuss what it is that a healer could see, and what those shapes and colors mean. Can anyone tell me what a series of chords of pure white are?"

Kina was quick to respond. "Strings of white light are the person's chi lines."

"Very good, Kina! Yes, they are a person's chi lines. Those lines reach across their entire body, centering into their heart, and lead to their head. Chi lines are responsible for very much, particularly allowing the individual to focus energy where it is needed. Next is a very confusing thing; purple haze. Your dark view of their body could be shrouded in this strange mist; does anyone remember what that is?"

Nobody answered. Katara didn't turn her head, hoping to not draw attention and have her name called, but simply allowed her eyes to drift over the others. No...she wouldn't pick me, no way she would. I haven't even been here to hear this before...

"Nobody?" Yugoda sounded genuinely distressed. "Don't forget the test is tomorrow. If you're not sure you know the answers, now is the best time to speak up." She waited another moment, but the girls seemed to only rock slightly side to side. "Okay. This lavender mist, or a cloud if that helps, usually means the area you're looking at has been harmed. What is happening is that the body is trying to heal the area, countering the pain it's feeling. So you're watching the healing process."

Oh boy, so much to take in. I've never even been in a class before... Katara closed her eyes, trying to remind herself of all she'd heard up to this point for her time here.

"So, Selka, what does it mean if these lines are pulsing or shaking rapidly?"

"Uh..." She hesitated, lifting her eyes to the ice platform Yugoda sat upon. "They're in pain?"

"Hm..." Their teacher pondered for a moment, gripping her chin in her gloved hand contemplatively. "Sometimes, yes, but not always. These lines shaking and pulsing means they're transferring energy. In other words; the lines you're looking at are active. You see, these lines feed the mist, they're what make it possible for your body to heal itself."

Yugoda bobbed her head slightly to one side, smiling gleefully again. "But yes you're also right that they could be in pain. Depending on how the chi lines are reacting you can sometimes determine just how much pain they are in, such as whether they have been cut or burned, how severely...not always, but sometimes. That topic is for another time however; today we're just covering what is typically seen."

"Tissue..." Another classmate spoke timidly. "Then you see tissue..."

Yugoda smiled warmheartedly, gently approaching the subject. "Yes, last time we discussed body tissue, muscles and the like, next. Do you remember what they look like?"

The girl's lips pressed together tightly, screwing her eyebrows up into her forehead. The pressure was on. "...cream?"

"Yes dear." She chuckled softly. "Don't be afraid to say it. I know it sounds odd, but that's the best way to explain what it looks like, you're right. Don't be alarmed by how strange it may appear, all bumpy or twisting and misshapen. Remember that what you are seeing is not with your eyes. You're seeing through the water you're using to heal you can only see through it into the person's body."

The girl didn't say anything, but she did return her eyes to lock on Yugoda's. She flashed a brief smile, clearly proud to have got that right, and nodded. Nicely done... Katara agreed, instantly realizing she was out of her league. I'm going to fail to a bunch of little girls. Her eyelids fell shut; wanting nothing more than to bury her head in her hands. Little girls that are ignoring me.

"Sometimes; your vision may start to fade, but only in places. Does anyone remember why your vision might become fuzzy?"

"You need to focus more." Kina stated reactively.

"No, I'm referring to once you know you can see and it starts to fade. Not having difficulty seeing in the first place." Kina dipped her head, so embarrassed her cheeks slightly changed color. "What I mean is; let's say that you're looking at some tissue; cream-like walls. Then you notice that your vision of one part of the wall is changing. You're having a harder time making out its features, the bumps and outline of its shape. It's distorting out of your eyesight."

Yugoda waited another moment, but nobody stepped forward to say anything. "Internal bleeding." She calmly added. "Blood is mixing with your water, making it harder for you to see through it. As this continues; you will find it harder to move your water where you need it, and you will eventually lose control of your water and your vision will fade to darkness again. It's not that you need to focus more, it's simply that the blood has mixed with your water and you no longer can control it."

Yugoda's voice suddenly grew more vigorous, drawing those who weren't looking at her to do so. "This is why we use our own water to heal others. Yes, they have water in their body already, but they need that water. You have to be very careful not to bend the fluids inside of them, but only the water you put into them. Otherwise you can cause severe pain; and for someone who already is in pain, the results could be disastrous...if not fatal."

Katara swallowed hard. How is this healing, if fatal keeps coming up so much? Wow. The tension in the air could be tasted, she noticed now that every other student was also paralyzed, listening full-on to their sifu. "Blood however is different. It's composed mostly of water yes, but there are other elements as well. Any attempt to bend it will very likely result in severe, fatal injury. You could accidentally strip the water from the blood, leaving behind its contents...for example. So do not play with this, for fear of death."

Katara stared in blank abandon. This coming from the light-hearted Yugoda was a shock, as she seemed so stern at the switch of a single word. "Yes Sifu."A few of the girls responded. Katara contemplated whether continuing to learn healing was worth it; if it had such great potential to screw up. Would she be able to live with the consequences of accidentally killing someone she wanted to help?

The old lady cleared her throat, loosing a gentle chuckle which did wonders for lifting the mood. "Ah there I've done it, went off on another tangent again. Goodness; just listen to me ramble on!" Katara found herself let out a little chuckle at the same time the rest of the class did, a clearly nervous reaction. "Back to business. What about cream-colored, or white, surfaces? Usually very smooth, unlike tissue, and often can appear slightly curved or structured."

"Bones." The same girl that had mentioned tissues spoke back up again.

"Very good! I see you were paying attention to that. Yes, they're likely bones. On rare occasion I have heard others say they were a very different color; that they saw them as black, or grey, or silver...but there are always a few individuals who see things differently, just like there are people who see different colors than us with their eyes."

Suddenly her forehead scrunched up, as if she'd just realized something. "Come to think of it, those people did have issues with eyesight. I know for a fact one did have trouble picking out simple colors. Now I'm curious." By now, the old lady seemed to be talking to herself again, rubbing at her chin and staring forward in lost thought. "Oh! As I was saying..." Katara laughed softly, Kina and Selka also giggled.

Okay, she really does have problems staying on track. Katara shook her head, loosing a breath with a humored expression. "Don't try to do anything to bones." Yugoda waved her gloved mitt out. "Chances are you won't get anywhere with it, they're very strong and quite firmly in place. But if you do succeed doing something to it...well, just don't."

"Think of it like this," Yugoda continued. "Body tissue is pliable, able to react to your bending efforts. Bone however is not and takes much more force or minute attention to do anything with it. We'll talk more about this later, or I'll get off track again."

Sokka, Aang and Katara sat respectively with their legs tucked into their fur-lined sleeping bags, lined up on the thick fur carpet that served as their hut's living quarters. Candlelight danced along the icy walls, emitting a warm, peaceful glow that spoke of safety and of home. However, the frantic mood in the air overpowered the scene's general calm.

"What is wrong with you Katara?" Sokka adamantly fired out, eyes locked directly on her. Crossing her eyebrows in quick fury, her sapphire eyes slipped contemptuously to their corners, away from him. "What made you choose to take that test tomorrow? You just got here!"

This was a twist, and not just the one in her stomach. She felt completely put off and angered that Sokka was chastising her over this. Ugh. More like what on earth made me tell you. "Look, it's my choice. If I want to do this to be a part of the class then I will. That's none of your concern!"

"If by part of the class you mean failing it, then yeah sure, okay." Sokka hiked his arms up against his chest, staring questionably to her with a smug, tight-lipped disapproval. Aang sat well enough away from the two quarreling siblings, not daring to say a word: out of sight, out of mind.

Her fury only strengthened. Just as she opened her mouth to bite back at him, he threw his hand up, momentarily closed his eyes and interrupted her. "Look, I'm just looking out for you, alright? I know you've got it in you, but you need to ask Yugoda for that extension."

"And you need to get a job!" She spat out hastily. He was acting like her big brother, and she hated it. True, he really was older than her by one year, but the role usually seemed to be reversed.

"Come again?" He simply raised an eyebrow in quiet disbelief.

Agh; I didn't mean to say that so fast. Her mind raced with how to make this argument turn to her favor. Her eyes betrayed her, losing focus from her brother as she pondered what would be best to say. "We're low on money and we're going to be here for some time. So we need you to get a job so we can actually eat while we're here. No money, no food. Understand?"

Okay; that last bit was a bit much. She faintly exhaled in dismay, terribly frustrated at the entire day and found herself borderline ready to take it out on Sokka. "Wait a sec, nobody else has to work? Why me?"

"You said so yourself like, nearly two weeks ago. Or a month, I don't know. You're the oldest; you should be the most responsible here." Well, it wasn't exactly what he meant when he was demanding to be leader. No matter. A wicked thought just inched its way into her mind that she simply couldn't resist. "Besides, I thought you said you'd look out for us."

"Oh now you're okay with that." Sokka loudly proclaimed, making a show of rolling his eyes at her.

"I'm taking two classes Sokka; I don't have the time for it! And Aang shouldn't be distracted from this, so that leaves just you."

Sokka huffed, shaking his head in annoyance. "You want me to get a job? I'll get a job. Happy? But don't pretend that you can't just so you can get out of it."

"I could find things to do if it helps..." Aang's timid voice cut in quietly. She'd completely forgotten he was there for a moment, and then fretted at his suggestion. Seriously Aang, you had to go and say that? Ugh. But she couldn't find it in her to say anything, finding the realization that she was only being senselessly stubborn sinking in.

"I can always count on my good pal, Aang." Sokka's mood switched, suddenly uplifted at the revelation of the young airbender. Katara closed her eyes, mentally sighing to herself. It was taking effort to bring herself back down; this day was nothing but a mess and she'd lost complete track of where it had even began.

"Anything to help out. Don't worry; I can still focus on my studies, you'll see." Aang dropped his hands in his lap, bearing an obviously forced grin in light of the situation.

"Aang, you really don't have to." Her tone, also, had completely changed. A somber frown rested on her lips, staring abjectly toward her friend. "Alright, I'll ask around to see if I can find anything small after class, but you had better get a job, Sokka. We need that money."

She ended it then and there, dropping to her sleeping bag to roll her back toward the two of them. She had no idea what small meant, but she'd think on that then. So long as they had enough money to see them through, that would be enough.

She laid completely still; half tuning out her brother and Aang as they spoke quietly to each other. How did this happen? She pressed her eyelids shut tightly, turning just a fraction to bury the side of her head into her pillow. Today was supposed to be the best day of my life. How did it go so wrong! Her conscious nagged at her, reminding her half the reason was how she coped with it here and now. Or rather, how she didn't.

Did I even learn anything today? She paused to reflect on this, which caused her to remember a looming test for when she woke. She groaned. Quietly, yes, but she just couldn't help it. I can do this...I can be okay. Tomorrow will be better. I learned a lot from Yugoda today. Just keep my cool...

She kept stewing over her thoughts, until a hushed question from Aang caught her attention. "So what happened yesterday? You know, after you ran after Yue. You never said..." Her eyes slipped open, turning just enough to left her ear out of the pillow. If they spoke softly now, she wanted to hear it.

She heard a rustle. Sokka was fidgeting, uneasy with the question, she was certain. "Just don't worry about it. Nothing's gonna happen."

It didn't go well. She half laid her head back down, just as Aang pressed on. "What got her so upset though? Were you able to help her?"

"I only made it worse." He softly answered, leaving sudden dead silence in his wake. She blinked slowly, daring to shift her position slightly to hear better. The two were getting quieter as they went on. "I followed her, and found her alone by a bridge. She uh..." He hesitated. She could hear that slight catch in his breath, fighting something he didn't want to say. "Katara's right, this tribe isn't fair to women. She's...engaged...and I just know she's not happy about it."

Oh... Her head crashed into the pillow, finding herself utterly flat with the floor. I'm sorry Sokka, I'm so sorry. Regret lay thick upon her; she could nearly feel it as if it were breathing its hot breath in her face. If only she hadn't caused such a fuss because her day had gone badly. Yue, a girl who had just turned marrying age, had to marry someone she didn't love.

Yue's choice for her entire life had been removed. Katara had been angry at the injustice of this tribe just yesterday, but try as she might, she couldn't fathom the torture that such a burden would feel like to her.

She closed her eyes, trying to remember the girl: beautiful, elegant ivory hair and a cheerful expression. She had seemed so happy when she met her. Oh. Katara suddenly felt sick, and not only because she still was. She remembered clearly noticing that Yue liked her brother at the banquet. I wasn't just imagining that was I?

", she's getting married then." Aang added softly then paused. He spoke slowly, fumbling for something to say. "Sorry...I'm sure everything will be alright, though. You'll see."

"Night Aang." Sokka instantly returned. He was done with the topic, capping it then and there.

If she likes Sokka, and not who she's marrying...that...that just isn't right. What surprised her most was that she felt sorry for Sokka and Yue, of all things. Then realization struck her that she was still awake, eyes open unawares. It felt like ten or more minutes had passed, she had no way of knowing. Right, test. Tomorrow. One thing at a time... She would just have to think about this some other time, but for now she forced her eyes closed again.

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Polar Days

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