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24 July 2014
As a storm forces them to temporarily stop their trip home from vacation, Aang and Katara discuss other storms they have faced.
So wrapped another few days away from it all for the married couple, ready to head back to the South Pole and spirits knew what else. They had just spent a week in a quiet island village on the west coast of the Earth Kingdom, enjoying all the time they could to themselves with there being a lull in the constant United Republic meetings. It was a quiet week, and both Aang and Katara were disappointed to see it end, but so was life for them.
The two flew on the Avatar's always-trustworthy companion, traveling over the open water. The flight would be long, but the couple felt Appa had the strength to complete a flight in one day. While aging a bit, the bison certainly had the stamina.
The problem, however, would not be that.
The wind began to increase, much to the notice of Katara, who was sitting in the saddle while Aang commandeered Appa. She looked forward to see that, while the sun was still out on that afternoon, dark clouds were closing in on it in a hurry, as if they were a shirshu closing in on its prey. She looked in concern and signaled her husband. "Aang, are you seeing what I see in the distance?"
Stiffening up a bit, he affirmed what Katara was seeing. "Yeah, definitely got something bad incoming. Looks like we might have to stop after all." The clouds were now beginning to block the sun. "Do you see anything that looks like an island or somewhere close to land?"
The waterbender surveyed the waters around them, holding the tip of her hand to her forehead to shield against the wind. She looked in the same southerly direction they were traveling in and could soon slightly see a building in the distance. "All right, let's just stay in this direction. I can see something out there; we can reach it in just minutes. Maybe turn slightly to the left."
"Sounds good to me," the Avatar said, and nudged Appa in that direction with the reins. "Fly toward the building, buddy." At that point, Aang couldn't help but think about the times he had wound up trapped in storms when he was younger, each representing significant turning points in his life. Nonetheless, his goal for now was just to beat the weather and get everyone safe.
Moments later, as flashes of lightning within the clouds became visible, the two were getting over the island; Katara recognized it quickly. "Say...I know this place." The building she had seen was actually an aging Fire Nation port - she could not believe her eyes. It was Whaletail Island, where she and Zuko had tracked the since-disbanded Southern Raiders to just before the Hundred Year War ended. Filling in Aang, she said, "This is where the Southern Raiders formerly established their base of operations. Zuko and I sneaked into a Fire Navy tower, found the last commander there, and he pointed us to where we could find Yon Rha." That was all she would say, not wanting to recall what she actually did there.
Aang nodded, going back to all the hurt and anger Katara felt during that time. "That was quite a journey you two had...and as for here, I guess everything was abandoned when Zuko eliminated the Southern Raiders from the navy. Probably not the only abandoned military base we would find. For now, let's just land and get ourselves set up.
It was a somewhat difficult landing as they contended with wind, but they were ultimately able to set themselves. It was late afternoon, and they knew they would probably just have to say there for the rest of the night since the storm would likely last for several hours. Fortunately, the two had prepared for this possibility, knowing they had plenty of pure sea travel.
Katara got pieces of a tent off the saddle, but Aang put a hand on her shoulder and shook his head. "That won't do the trick, Sweetie. Not with what we're about to go up against. We'll need a page from Toph's book here." He took a step back and stomped on the ground while shooting his arms upward. As a result, two slabs of rock shot up from the island grounds and left a wide opening, the Avatar knowing it would need to hold both them and Appa.
Continuing preparations, Aang quickly gathered some wood to hold a fire while Katara filled a pot with water. She took some soup mix off and set it next to where the fire would go. Once Aang had come back with the firewood, the two sliced some spare vegetables within the tent on a small earthen table. As this was happening, rain began to beat down. Aang decided to take care of this matter, leading Appa into the tent. Once he had his animal companion secure, he made sure all was ready. "Do you need anything else from out there, Katara?"
She quickly surveyed their tent, checking all the vegetables and her soup mix. She thought about her water skin, but that was atop Appa, so no need to worry about that. "I'm all right, Aang. Go ahead and close that tent up."
The monk nodded and shot up one last slab of rock, sealing the tent's entryway and thus keeping the two safe from the developing tempest outside. They could hear the rain fall against the rocks, wind driving it directly in, as if the storm was trying to drive little pick-axes into the tent and break in. He also lit the fire in the gathering of wood, giving them some light.
"Glad we got here when we did," Aang remarked, using a small blade of air to cut some celery into small pieces. "Quite a close call."
Even though a storm was raging outside, Katara couldn't help but chuckle about one thing. "Well, it's an extra night of vacation, if we can look at the bright side of this in any way. Too bad there's no brightness outside to go with it."
"Heh, well," Aang replied, "Anything to get an extra day away from the meetings. They just get on your nerves after a while, you know?"
"I can imagine," the waterbender remarked. "There's also, well..." she grew saddened a bit as she completed the cutting of a couple tomatoes.
It didn't take much for Aang to know what his wife was referring to as her voice trailed off. "I know...I mean, we write plenty of letters, but it's not quite the same as being right in front of you, being by your side like this. That's why I am especially glad for the meetings to slow..." He perked up a bit, however, thinking about the positives. "At least we got this time together, and who knows? Maybe we can move closer to the city as it gets constructed."
She smiled, though the thought of leaving her South Pole home wasn't all that comfortable. However, that was all just future speculation for now. It was better to just enjoy the present, at least to the extent one could enjoy a storm right outside a tent.
It wasn't too much longer before they both finished chopping the vegetables and the soup mix was added, getting their little meal going. They added the veggies and Katara stirred the mix with a spoon, waiting for its readiness. She walked over to Appa and pulled two dishes and spoons each off the saddle's little storage compartment.
"You know, I was thinking before," Aang began. "When I first saw the storm starting to develop, I couldn't help but think of our first real deep conversation during the storm early in our journey. Remember?"
Katara thought back to that night, remembering him running after that old fisherman's bitter words. Once she found him, it wasn't long before he was learning the story of his entire past. "I do. That was a really important moment for us, looking back on it."
"It was at that point that I really felt like I could share anything with you," the airbender explained. "You heard me out and gave me some important reassurance on that night, and you never used that against me."
Katara smiled warmly. "Oh, Aang, I would never use anything against you, Sweetie. You've been through a lot...we all have. There was so much with that war, so many stories, emotions...goes on and on. Seems we've been through many a storm, and not just these physical ones either...I'm glad I've had you by my side to weather them."
Aang nodded and smiled back. "Well, I can say just the same. I would have wanted no one else by my side in those trying times. Another time I can think of is back after the fall of Ba Sing Se...that was tough on all of us, wasn't it?"
The waterbender thought back to some of the immediate aftermath of that awful night. "Tough is an understatement...for days, we all just hoped you would awaken, that we could get away from the swarming Fire Nation...we really didn't know what to do exactly...and of course I've told you in the past about trying to heal you all throughout that time. You want to talk about a storm..."
"I wish I could have helped in some way," Aang remarked. "Losing Ba Sing Se was a difficult time for everyone. Being together then was vital...and I'm proud of you and everyone else for holding as such during that time."
"Thanks," Katara replied, but shook her head. "It wasn't all perfect though...I was really isolated from everyone else. I was cold at points to my dad, Sokka, Toph, everyone. I was so closed off, scared, hurt, wondering why I couldn't bring you back."
"I can only imagine," the Avatar said in a somewhat-saddened response, turning his head away. "But the fact is, we survived it...only for me to attempt something completely foolish, and in a storm like this one."
The Water Tribeswoman recalled back to when she found Aang missing that night. "Yeah, I won't sugarcoat that one, Aang. Not one of your best moves, especially in the physical state you were in. Sokka, Toph, and I were just beyond grateful we found you on Crescent Island afterward still safe and sound." She also thought about one more aspect. "Wasn't it Yue who saved you?"
"Yes," he answered. "Yue's spirit appeared before me and helped bend the waves so I could ride them to the island and get settled...well, at least to what extent you could describe it." He chuckled.
"I wouldn't want to be laying on rocks either," she said, also chuckling. Her tone though quickly dropped to one more serious. "Regardless, yes, we were so happy that morning when we got you back."
He smiled, a bit of a twinkle in his eyes as he remembered Katara running up and hugging him. "And I was glad to see you all. Coming for me in both real life just as you have in spirit time and time again, Katara."
She returned the grin before noticing their soup was about ready. After another bit of stirring, Katara bent some up and shot it into Appa's mouth before pouring two bowls for Aang and herself. The two began to eat it after Aang used his airbending to cool their bowls off somewhat.
"It has definitely not just been these physical storms we've gone through together, huh?" Katara asked, finishing the first little bit of her soup. "Think about all those things in our head we have had to sort out...for me, one thing that comes to mind is facing Yon Rha, and the lead-up to that. I was so bent on taking him down, so...boiling I guess when I learned he could be found...I said some really awful things and did others." She looked away for the slightest moment.
Aang put his bowl of soup down and reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Don't dwell on the past; that's what those moments were, the past. You weathered that storm, and you didn't do that unspeakable action. You saved yourself, and in the end, you did apologize to Sokka and I."
"I couldn't have held back without your help," Katara replied. "As I got to that vile man, I just remembered what you had said about revenge being like a two-headed rat viper. That voice echoed in me all throughout that little journey." She looked up and gave him a loving smile. "Thank you for that."
"Ah, anytime...anything for you, Sweetie," Aang said back, once again returning the grin. "That was definitely an important storm to navigate through together, proving we could stay up even when our darker sides became exposed. I knew that wasn't you, and I hoped that in some way, I could prevent you from carrying out that act of vengeance."
"Your hopes were well-placed in the end," Katara said, rubbing his shoulder.
The two continued on their dinner, conversating about much of their past, both recent and further back, many things that had happened. It was a mostly pleasant back and forth, spending their time together, riding out the storm. A nice little moment for husband and wife, best friends as well, idly passing the time as rain continued to beat against the earthen tent. As they finished, the topic changed to more about mental storms.
"Is it just me, or have we also been arguing quite a bit lately?" The Avatar lamented. "We didn't do so during the vacation, but lately, when I have been home...we have fought. Don't take this as me not wanting to be around you...it just seems we've had a few rather unpleasant arguments."
Katara sighed; he was right. About a week before, a discussion over their future had erupted into several minutes of shouting, resulting in them not talking for the rest of the night, sleeping in separate rooms of their home. "I hate to admit it, but you are right. Seems this weather is not the only thing stormy these days...we never used to fight the way we have been the past few months. Do you think we're just having trouble adjusting to married life?"
"I don't see why that would be it," Aang answered. "We've basically lived together for the last eight years, whether it's been as friends, boyfriend and girlfriend, or now husband and wife. It's not like being married is anything different, at least as of now. We have no kids, we're still living at the Southern Water Tribe...I mean, nothing has really changed. Maybe it's just that things are getting to us..."
"It could be," the waterbender mused. "Between you dealing with those meetings, the delegates, the citizens...you've been under a lot of pressure to basically do everything. I'm probably not helping, am I?" She turned away again. "I ask for a lot of you to do around the house, while talking about family, moving..."
"It definitely is not you," the airbender tried to assure her. "But you could be right about why we fight. I will admit to being stressed out, and you said it yourself, you feel lonely, upset, probably abandoned...and I don't exactly believe I'm helping you out much in those departments."
Katara looked back up and tried her best to assure her husband. "Aang, don't beat yourself up for what's happening. You're only doing what you need to do. I can only imagine what all this mess must mean for you, and instead of starting fights, we should just be talking it out more...that's what we did in the past, why not now? What's wrong with us? We're supposed to ward off these storms, not create them. I don't want this to keep happening...lest we drift apart."
Was a storm developing in the middle of them and doing as such? Did they and others indeed detect as such? Aang could almost feel like the physical reality was mental, too. All that darkness trying to get into their light, working to end what a beautiful life they had made together. He knew neither he nor his wife wanted that...and neither would anyone else in their family. They just had to get back what made them so fit for each other in the first place.
"We just have to work to keep ourselves under control, Katara," he finally said. "We have to find other ways to vent our frustrations...lately, we've found each other to be convenient targets, it seems. We've let anger take over where our more rational sides should be. We've taken our problems out on the one we're always around. We've just been both under duress from one thing or another."
"And we don't have to make it that way," Katara responded. "We faced a lot of unpleasantries during the war, and we got through those. It's just a matter of getting back to what works for us. We have a big storm to weather now...the storm of separation, of stress, of contending with big changes in the world - being who we are, that's at our forefront. If we're going to have a family, we just have to deal."
Aang was still concerned. "But as I've said, we have dealt with it, so why not now? Why is there suddenly this coldness between us?"
"But perhaps it's not just the world," Katara continued. "We're thinking about that family too...and that would be a significant change in our relationship, a new set of challenges to contend with. All this in mind and it just adds up to..." she heard a crack of thunder. "...like what's going on outside right now, but in our minds."
The Avatar continued to shake his head and lament the negative developments in their relationship. He sighed and agreed. "You're right, Katara. We've got changes all around us, and things are moving quickly. We have trials coming from those changes, and we're thinking about a lot...maybe just too much at once. Maybe we need to just slow down and take things one day at a time...one meeting, one vacation, one whatever. Let's just slow things down and appreciate our lives, enjoy what we have."
The waterbender's look warmed. "I couldn't agree more with that. I want to be a mom, but we can't just force things along, otherwise, this is what we get. We can't rush time, it goes its own path and speed. We have each other, and that should be all that's important. Let's not lose that."
"No, let us never give this up," Aang replied, going over to her and taking her hands in his. "We've weathered plenty of storms, together...and we always will. We can get through the one between us and the one that's outside now. It's always been us, and it always will be. We just have to learn to talk it out instead of resorting to yelling. Nothing good comes of that."
"Yeah, just like before that time I went after Yon Rha..." she sighed sadly again, but knowing that Aang was still in front of her, quickly lifted her head and smiled back. "But yes. We've done it always and I know we will in the future. Let's continue to just be us...what made us who we are today."
"I won't argue with that," he said with a bit of a chuckle, before moving in and planting a light kiss on her lips. "I love you, Katara, and that's definitely something else that won't get an argument."
She laughed before smiling warmly again. "I love you too, Aang. Definitely not a point of argument for me, either."
And so the two settled, Katara resting her head on his shoulder as the storm raged on outside. But while things may have been stormy out there, the only that mattered was inside between them...
And no storm could penetrate their love, nor blow it away.
That was all they could ask for in those trying times.
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