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Chapter Forty-Eight: Childhood
"And there was this one kid—his name was Sonam, and he was pretty cool, my best friend, in fact—and he was great at bison polo," he explains, moving his hands appropriately.
She tilts her head. "Bison polo?"
"It's this awesome game. I mean, I could never get the hang of it, right buddy?" He strokes Appa's arrow, and the sky bison rumbles an agreement. He gets down on his knees, finds a stick, and begins to draw in the dirt to show her. "See, we would be on our bison, and we would all be carrying these nets. Then," he continues, tracing stick figures in the ground, "we had a hollow ball, and it would float pretty well through the air."
Giggling, she draws a circle in the earth, and he nods. "So how do you play?"
"There were two teams of four players each, and usually it was me, Sonam, Anil—that's Sonam's brother—and someone else, usually Pasang. Sometimes, if some of the nuns were visiting, there was this one girl named Syra who liked to play with us, but anyway, there were these giant goalposts, and the point was to hit the ball into the goals, right? This one time, the monks hosted a bison polo tournament. We lost, but we did hear that the prize," he reveals, grinning broadly, "was a fruit pie in the face!"
She laughed, long and loud. "You sound like you had an interesting childhood," she admits. "My childhood, on the other hand . . ." Her voice trails off dangerously, and he sucks in a sharp breath.
"Katara . . ." He leans over his drawing, blurring parts of it, to hug her. "Ssh, ssh. It's okay. You . . . you lost your mother, just like I lost my people."
She glances at him, and he notices the bright tears shining in her eyes. "You're right. I have no right to be sad. You lost everyone."
"I didn't lose you," he murmurs, and the tiniest smile flickers on her face. She grabs him and hugs him fiercely; after he is over the initial surprise, he returns the embrace, and the wetness of the tears on his shoulder makes him squeeze all the more tightly. "It's okay, Katara. You can cry. You do have a right. You lost just as much as I did. It's not the how many but the who."
"Thanks, Aang," she whispers. "I can always count on you."
He pulls away, just slightly, to gaze into her sky blue eyes and know that she, too, is gazing into his own dark gray, like the sea and the sky, like the water and the wind. He tilts his head, mesmerized; closing his eyes, he leans in, and they ki—
"So, tell me more about your childhood," she says brightly, and he stifles a groan of disappointment, but he laughs and resigns himself to the joy of the moment, here, with her, his love.
Shortly after writing this, I received a message from Vulmen. Apparently, he had written something set during 117 . . . about bison polo . . . on the same day that I had written this! It was so surprising. I couldn't believe it. Vulmen and I do share a brain, don't we?
I promised AF a kiss. There you go!
I actually didn't have an image for this one. Hm . . . [totters off to look for one]
Yes, just another reason Kataang is awe-inducing. They both lost people.
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