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Vote for your favorite holiday story by midnight 30 December (3 am east coast US)

Entry 1
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Entry 2
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Entry 3
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Entry 4
2 (25%)
Entry 5
1 (12.5%)
Entry 6
2 (25%)
Entry 7
1 (12.5%)

Total Members Voted: 8

Voting closed: December 30, 2012, 01:19:50 PM

Author Topic: Holiday Writing Contest Voting  (Read 1378 times)

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Offline A6

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Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« on: December 29, 2012, 01:15:40 PM »
Time to vote for your favorite of all these great entries in the Holiday Writing Contest!

We  vote by anonymous poll - you must vote to win, but cannot vote for yourself.  Voting closes at midnight 30 December (3 AM Sunday morning Eastern Time US). (Ignore the time/date at the bottom of the poll.)

ENTRY 1

Title: “The Gift Exchange”
Author: A6
Rating: T – Kataang, flashback to the Air Nomad genocide
Summary: The Four Nations’ leaders have just approved the creation of the Air Nation, and a celebration is planned, using their world’s tradition of gift-giving to celebrate building the new Nation like a family  ‘house-raising’.  Aang and Katara are faced with important decisions on what is the perfect gift for the other, leading to each have secret trips unknown to the other.
Author’s Notes:  Gift gifting of just the right present is an important tradition in my family, and sometimes extra ordinary measures are taken, so I wanted to apply that to Kataang.  I was also inspired by O Henry’s famous story, from which I drew some thoughts, though from a happier perspective than that classic.

Accompanying Art:  Once again my dear friend team-megan has created an art piece for the pivotal scene in my story. I hope you enjoy it, done on her new 'bamboo' app: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/363/3/a/the_joy_of_gifting_by_awkwardsauce-d5pg9lv.jpg
"The Joy of Giving" by team-megan (click to show/hide)

The Gift Exchange (click to show/hide)
Aang ran out of the meeting chambers at a dead run. In fact he was running with air bending enhancements.  He was in that kind of hurry.

He made it back to the residence wing of the Fire Nation Summer Palace and into Katara’s waiting arms in a heartbeat. For once he was breathless – not from running, but because of the news.

He kissed her enthusiastically and twirled her around in a circle aided by his air bending. He was so tall and strong that he really didn’t need air bending to lift her, but wanted to do something extra special to celebrate.

Katara laughed, “Aang! Haha! Wow!  You’re always excited to see me, but never this eager.  This must be good news!”

“Better than good news, Katara. It’s great news!” announced Aang.

“They agreed?” inquired Katara.

“Every one of them.  Whole heartedly.  Especially your dad. He was inspirational. The Air Nation is born!”

She chuckled, “Some ‘Nation’ Aang. One air bender and his new Water Tribe bride, and about 500 non-bending Air Acolytes.”

The newlyweds laughed as the said in unison, “Well, you gotta start somewhere!”

“More air benders soon,” Aang whispered into her ear, which tickled and thrilled her, and he gave her his typical look of desire. Katara blushed but drew Aang closer.

“Yeah…” she sighed contentedly.

Aang was still excited and explained, “They’re going to throw a big formal tent party at Air Temple Island where the Nation will have its capital.  They want to treat our new Nation just like a ‘house raising’!  We’re so lucky. They want to give us lots of gifts to get the new Nation started on the right path.”

Katara was ecstatic, “Since we are starting from nothing, Aang, that will be wonderful!”

They hugged and she buried her head into his chest to savor the moment.

They both knew Air Temple Island was little more than a pristine grass and tree-covered spot of land in the middle of Yue Bay where the lost herd of sky bison had been discovered.  For the past year or so, the “capital” of the Air Nation was simply Aang’s study room Zuko had given him in the mayor’s building in Yu Dao. Piles of plans for the temple tower, the garden, their home, the Air Acolyte dorms, eating area, and classrooms littered the top of his desk. Aang worked on them constantly, in between teaching the Air Acolytes, who continued to grow in number at the old Fire Nation colony, now a member of the United Republic of Nations like the other colonies.

But as Katara started to think harder about the big celebration, her happiness was replaced with fretting, “Aang… um… normally I don’t worry about such things, but I don’t have a thing to wear for a ceremony honoring the start the new Nation.”

Aang shrugged, “Well you can wear your formal Water Tribe dress. You are the daughter of the tribal Chief. They are coming with gifts, too.”

Katara frowned, “Let’s get this straight - one more time.  Despite the ‘airs’ that the Northern tribe has about ‘royalty’, we never went for that. I’m no ‘princess’. I’m still and always will be a simple peasant girl.”

Aang rolled his eyes with the familiar lecture, “Yeah, I know.  I think your dad should reconsider that.  You’re royalty to me, Katara.  I married the sweetest girl in the World.”

She blushed, “As long as we’re gonna stand by titles then, here’s mine: I am the wife and spiritual partner of the Avatar and a citizen of the Air Nation. No way am I going to wear my old tribal colors for this. Dad and Sokka will represent the Southern Water Tribe.”

Aang loved the sound of the word ‘wife’, and answered her with a smile, “Oh…OK.  That’s really sweet of you.  So, then. You can wear that wonderful Air Nomad replica wedding dress that Suki made for you.”

“This is isn’t our wedding Aang. People have already seen me in that.  The attention needs to be on you and the Air Nation, not me.”

“I’m the Avatar, Katara, I don’t need the attention.  You know Terrik is going to be the Air Nation Councilman.”

Katara rolled her eyes, “Like it or not, Mr. ‘Last Air bender’, you are the focus of attention for now. And I have to look the part. Neither one of us goes for that protocol stuff, but just this once we have to.”

Aang sighed, “But I’m just a simple air bender. Everything we have is handmade or has been given to us. I don’t think any of our friends have female Air Nomad Elder formal robes lying around in their attic.”

Katara noted cheerfully, “Well, I made patterns of all the old styles.”

While pleased with that nice little surprise, Aang admitted sheepishly, “The Air Nation inaugural celebration is in a week.”

She gulped, “Oh…”

Then it hit Aang exactly what Katara needed as her gift, and realized there was only one place in the world he might find it. He had to fabricate something fast to make it a surprise.

“Um…Katara…another thing.  I’m not done with all the formal Air Nation organization stuff yet.  I gotta run off to some official business with Zuko in the Fire Nation capital, but I will be back well before the festivities.”

Katara was reeling with all the news, now further complicated by Aang’s unexpected departure to tend to nation-building, but she was a good sport about it, “Well, the Acolytes have already been preparing for this, so we’ll both be in their way.  I’ll be sewing my brains out while you’re gone.”

They hugged and kissed, he grabbed his trusted blue-winged glider, popped it open, and started to take off.

A wing drooped.

“Darn it, not again,” he complained.

Katara was worried, “Aang, is that safe to fly?”

Aang tried to stop her worry, “Yeah.  I just gotta tighten it up here and there, and it will be good as new. It was a gift from the Mechanist.  I need to keep using it.  There aren’t any authentic Air Nomad gliders left, and goodness knows I haven’t had a minute to spare to even try to make a replica.  I’m not Sonam.  He was the master glider maker.  I’d give anything to have another one of his creations. It would last forever.”

“Unless you just happen to set fire to it!”  Katara quipped.

They both laughed at the bittersweet remembrance of those hard days.  It was during those first few days after Aang came out of the coma that the stirrings of their emerging but unspoken love began.

But then Katara got very serious, “Aang, I worry about what would happen if your glider would ever come apart in the air.”

Aang scoffed, “Oh I would fall to my death screaming like a girl all the way to the large splat at the end.”

Katara grimaced and punched him, “Not funny, Mr. Avatar.  Who says I’d even think about cleaning up the mess? Just like all the other messes you leave…”

They laughed and hugged.

Assured that his repair was safe, he assumed a takeoff position again, pecked her on the lips and said, “Well, Katara, this time for sure!”

He blasted off toward the western horizon. Katara knew it was only a short flight from the Summer Palace to the Fire Nation capital to conduct the endless affairs of politics and government he had to finish with Zuko.

“Better him than me!” She chuckled to herself.

Katara had no idea that he was going somewhere else.

As he flew out of sight, Katara continued to worry about the integrity of the well-worn glider he used constantly for the past several years. They often flew in tandem, with each held in the other’s grasp. That glider was never built for constant use by two grown young adults.  Only an authentic Air Nomad glider could handle the loads and last the years. She knew that from all her study of Air Nomad history and from Aang directly.

Aang was always impressed at how much she studied his culture. She didn’t have to, but she took being his spouse and spiritual partner seriously, so her studies were a self-imposed discipline of cultural immersion.  She was already a vegetarian, and only ate the meaty Water Tribe cuisine around her father, in respect to him and the family.  Sokka used to give her a hard time about adopting Aang’s ways, but rarely joked about it anymore.  Katara nearly always had her way once her mind was set.  Aang loved her all the more for it.

As she watched Aang fly off to the west to the Fire Nation Capital, she smiled and knew exactly the right gift to give Aang ,

She thought, “Won’t he be surprised when I give him an authentic Air Nomad glider to ‘launch’ the new nation.”

She rushed to the library, and studied her Air Nomad history again to be sure.  She had learned from the scrolls and from Aang that there was a Master glider maker – Sonam – who made the sturdiest gliders for decades in the days of Yangchen, and stored them at the aviary and his flying school in the safety and seclusion of the Western Air Temple. 

It was a perfect surprise.  The Air Acolytes could handle the preparations while she made a 3 day trip to the Western Air Temple and back.  She knew Aang and Zuko would be working day and night for several days to get things right, and so she’d never be missed, and would return long before Aang would come back.

She walked from their Summer Palace guest quarters to the quarters of Air Acolyte Chief of Staff Terrik hard at work, already getting things prepared for the celebration at  Air Temple Island.  Terrik was a Water Bender who changed his ways to become an Air Acolyte with his young wife Yuèliàng liáng.  She was seven months pregnant and Katara was going to be her midwife when her time came.

“Terrik, I could use a favor.”

“Of course Master Katara.”

Katara asked, “I need to go on a quick journey to get a special gift for my husband.”

“I understand Master Katara.  We can handle everything here, at Yu Dao, and the Island just fine while you are gone. All your master plans are under way right now. You and Avatar Aang don’t need to worry about all the heavy duty work. That’s for us to do.”

“That’s wonderful! If Aang comes back early, tell him I am getting something special to honor the big celebration.”

“Of course Master Katara.  We can take care of things here and over at Air Temple Island. In fact we already are.”

“Thank you Terrik, you always make everything so easy.”

“All part of being an Air Acolyte, Master Katara.”

They exchanged bows, and as she walked off, she thought how amazing the Air Acolytes were - so much like the Air Nomads of old. They were always so eager and ready to serve, and so supportive of Aang and her, always making things easier for them.

She went to the temporary sky bison stable at the Summer Palace, where Appa and two female sky bison were quartered, who had carried the Air Nation entourage to the Palace. And just happened to also be Appa's mates.

“C’mon Appa, we’re going for a little trip. You can get back to your girl friends later,” she smirked.

The giant sky bison grunted, but was ready to go for a flight. It had been weeks since either Katara or Aang had flown him anywhere other than the short trip from Yu Dao to the Summer Palace.  She placed a sturdy, long canvas bag in the passenger saddle, and took off.

“Yip, yip, Appa!”

The smaller, younger sky bison cows looked up and lowed their unhappiness at Appa leaving, but they were too uncomfortable from being several months pregnant to want to fly with him.

+++

From high above a deep gorge on an island to the north of the Fire Nation, a special image came into view for Aang, tired from his non-stop 36 hour solo flight. But it was worth it. Distracting Katara into thinking his flight on the glider was simply from the Fire Nation Summer Palace to the Fire Nation Capital was crucial. Flying off on Appa would have been suspicious.   But he didn’t have time to be prideful of his subterfuge with Katara.  In fact he felt a little guilty at lying to her so easily.

But it was no matter either way now.  There it was:  the Western Air Temple.

The Western Air Temple was an all female Temple, and by design it was extremely well hidden, having been built underneath the cliffs of a deep gorge.  It had been the last to fall in the genocide.  It was considered a secret location and thereby considered nearly impregnable by the Elders. They never considered there would be a betrayer, and underestimated the attacks by the Fire Nation’s Dragon Riders, who systematically took out the Air Nomad Master defenders riding sky bison. Once thedefenses were eliminated,  it was easy to invade and murder the elderly instructors, students, novices, children, and infants.

The temple was not as decimated as the other Temples. The fire storms that gutted the other Temples were hard to sustain in a stone city built upside down, particularly with so much of it built into rocky caverns that the Gaang discovered and played in during the War. Aang hoped that there was one place undiscovered and left untouched by the destruction and pillaging.  Aang alighted, folded his glider, and kneeled, knowing he was on sacred ground. He gave the Temple’s deceased a prayer and a blessing.

He was seized by a vision.

“Greetings Aang,” called out a familiar blue gray spirit.

“Avatar Yangchen!” Aang said as he bowed.

The gentle spirit of Avatar Yangchen smiled kindly, “I know what you are here for.  Blessings on what you have achieved in the world by creating the new Air Nation and the Air Acolytes.  We will all live again through you and your disciples, their families, and your children.”

Aang admitted ashamedly, “Only by my own insecurity and selfishness am I here alive.  I failed the Air Nomads.”

Yangchen chided, “You would have perished with them then, Aang, so that does not matter.  Never think of that again. The spirits willed what happened, and you survived. And so do we, as a result.”

“I guess…” said a still-guilty Aang.

Yangchen continued, “But that is not what you are here for, on the very eve of the birth of the new Nation.  Your life mate is precious to all of us, and she will be the mother of the new Nation.  She seeks to honor you and us. We will find her the proper gift.”

“I know. Sometimes I wonder how I deserve her.  Show me where to find what I seek, Avatar Yangchen, that I might honor her too.”

Yangchen nodded and explained, “Deep in the catacombs, there was a tailoring room.  It was untouched by the devastation.  I will guide you there.”   

She reached out a ghostly hand and touched his forehead.

“I understand now,”  he said quietly.

He remained in deep meditation in communion with Yangchen, as she mapped out the pathway to the tailoring room.  Still in the spirit journey, he got up from his kneeling position, and followed Yangchen’s guidance.  Soon he was deep inside the Western Air Temple.  He illuminated his path with a palm-held flame.

He found the room. It was inauspicious and well concealed, and had a miniature, undamaged air lock, which he quickly activated. He entered. The air within the room was dry and crisp.  He turned up the intensity of his hand flame.

Aang smiled as he found himself surrounded by hundreds of Air Nomad garments of every shape and description – children’s, teens, and young adults.  And Elders.  He went straight to that rack.  There were several outfits.  The most striking one was a long and beautiful ensemble, still bright saffron with an earthy orange and tan trim, and was complete with a matching cape and wrap.  It was exactly Katara’s size.  He gathered the hundred year old outfit, folded it carefully, and placed it in a large bag he had brought for the purpose.  He also took some everyday saffron, brown, and tan pantsuits for her, including a maternity outfit for those special days in the future. She expressed many times to Aang her desire to dress more in Air Nomad clan colors. 

It was the perfect gift for her.

His task was done and so he could get back to meet with Zuko, and then return home with a couple of days to spare before the celebration begun.  He gave a prayer of thanks to Yangchen for her help.  His trip had worn him out, and he needed a rest, so he climbed up from the catacombs and sought to find the residence hall for a good night’s rest.

+++

Katara overflew the Fire Nation capital at high altitude on a moonless night, and prided herself in her stealthiness, thinking of her husband now far below her, no doubt working hard side by side with Zuko in the still brightly lit palace below.

She narrowed her eyes in determination, urged Appa to fly north, and mentally reviewed the rolled up map in her tunic to find the Western Air Temple’s aviary and its treasure trove of Air Nomad gliders that may have survived the onslaught.  It was worth the chance.

In the morning, she saw the island and the gorge which concealed the Western Air Temple.  She decided to follow the gorge to the site. It worked for Azula’s air ship armada; it should work again for her and Appa.

She alighted on the main plaza, or at least what was left of it from Combustion Man’s battle to try to destroy Aang.  She winced with the still-fresh memory of the incredible power that the mutant bender possessed, and said a prayer of thankfulness again for her brother’s unerring boomerang throw that saved them all. She prayed even more that he didn’t have a vengeful twin brother.

Fortunately for Katara, she arrived at the Western Air Temple while Aang was deep in his spirit journey to the tailor room, or he would have seen her flying into the plaza area.  From Appa’s silent flight, she could see the expanse of the ghostly deserted Temple.  She shed a tear for all the women who were first tortured or worse, and then either stabbed or burned alive by the merciless Fire nation raiders of Sozin’s time. She could never imagine what would compel warriors to harm helpless women and girls.  And infants.  But those were unspeakably terrible days.

But those days were long gone. Aang had consecrated the dead and their souls were at peace, as he had done at each of the other Air Temples.  This visit by Katara was to prepare for the happiness of a resurrected race, much the same, but different than its predecessor in many good ways.

Appa sat quietly and lapped the sweet, cool spring water of the damaged fountain while Katara opened and reviewed the map of the Temple.

“That way,” she muttered to herself.

She descended into the darkness of the catacombs, lighted by one of several torches she’d packed. Within the cave tunnels, had a sweet memory of her and Aang’s time in the Cave of Two Lovers. She smiled, thinking of their awkward beginning steps toward being together, and knew that if she was successful, the kiss he’d give her would thrill her to her soul just as much as that first tiny kiss.

The distraction from that wonderful recollection caused her to take a wrong turn, and she rolled her eyes, having to backtrack. 

“Funny how just thinking of him does that to me,” she mused.

Katara stopped suddenly. She was faced with a vault.  This had to be the right place. But it was secured with a complex air lock that only air benders could open. She could not summon enough water to break the lock.  She felt it would be sacrilege to do so anyway. But she had another tool.

Steam was like humid air.

She spread her arms with her palms open, with her legs in a wide stance, and created an enormous vapor cloud that hovered above her, drawn from the damp cave air.  Next, she leaned toward the door and thrust one arm forward, fingers pointed, directly at the air lock’s opening funnel.  The steam cloud rushed through the locking mechanism with a hiss, and she could hear clicks and snaps.  Finally the lock unlatched, and the door popped ajar. Aang would have been impressed. The Mechanist had told them both air and water were fluids.  This was undeniable proof.

She lit another torch and eased the vault door open, disturbing a belfry of dragonfly-bats from their roosts, and entered in. 

From floor to ceiling, tucked in every corner, there was an incredible expanse of gliders of all shapes and sizes.  She fell to her knees in awe and relief.

“Thank the spirits!” she whispered, and started to browse.

She found the perfect adult-sized glider for her very tall air bender.

She was about to turn and leave, but got a gleam in her eye. She thought about the future, and grabbed several more child-sized gliders and a couple of gliders built for young adults. 

“Just in case!” she said happily. 

They were all light as a feather and easy to carry, though bulky.

Katara was tired and needed a rest. She knew where the residence dorms were. She’d slept in one while watching Zuko like a hawk in their early, testy days of ‘welcoming’ him into the Gaang when he finally made the fateful decision to join their cause. She headed for the room she stayed in on the far end of the dorm.  She’d stayed there then to better avoid speaking to Aang about that kiss on the sub he was so desperate to discuss.  Why he stayed with her - given how she was avoiding him then - was something she was ever grateful for now.

She walked the halls with her bag full of gliders, but heard a noise.

She crouched defensively, and thought, “Who could possibly be here? Or what?”

Her heart raced. Every species of bear loved caves - especially this time of year - to hibernate at the peak of winter at the solstice.  She inched around a corner, steeled herself for conflict with what might be beast or human, and held her breath. 

Just as she was about to water bend, her jaw dropped. It was Aang, who was also in a defensive stance. He was equally stunned at seeing her as he stood up and dropped his guard.

“Hehe. Fancy meeting you here, Katara,” he kidded.

“What are you doing here, Aang?” Katara asked in shock.

Aang smirked, “I was going to ask you the very same question.”

They were not sure whether to be mad or happy, each caught in a lie about their whereabouts.

Katara stared at Aang’s bulky bag as Aang gave Katara’s long canvas cover a suspicious look.

They both started to speak, interrupted each other, and laughed.

“Katara, you go first,” invited Aang.

“Umm, OK.  Aang I have a gift for you.  A special present for the Air Nation.”

“Funny, I do too, Katara.”

They relaxed enough to smile at each other. Aang offered his hand to her, and she took it affectionately.

“Wanna go out by the fountain?” he asked softly.

“It’s about sunset. So yeah,” Katara answered, still eyeing his big bag.

“No peeking,” Aang teased.

“I promise…” she grinned.

They sat near the fountain together, with their mysterious bags next to them, in an awkward silence.

Aang broke the silence, “Umm, Katara I’m sorry I lied to you. I had a special idea for a surprise for your gift, and I couldn’t tell you. You would have told me not to bother.”

“That’s OK Aang. I had the same idea. And yeah, you would have said the same thing to me.” Katara admitted.

They laughed and held hands.

Simultaneously they said, “You’re sweet.”

And they laughed again.

“Sooo, what’s in your bag, Katara?” Aang inquired.

Katara blushed, “Something really special I hope.”

She reached and pulled out the long, tall glider staff.  Aang’s eyes grew huge, and a grin formed from ear to ear. She saw the twelve year old still in him as she presented it to him. He stood and popped open the glider. She could see his imagination of flying with it in his expression, and she smiled.

“Where did you get this?”  he asked excitedly.

Katara just shook her head, “Aang, someday you have to learn how to read a map.”

They laughed and hugged, and he kissed her long and deep.  Her head spun, like it usually did in his embrace.

She then showed him the other, smaller gliders.  Aang knew immediately the implications of those, and hugged her enthusiastically.

“Katara, truly, you are the mother of a new race. Only you would think of this.”

She blushed deeply, and they kissed tenderly.

When they broke, Aang said lovingly, “And now, Katara, I have something that is just as special for you.”

He pulled out the female Elder’s robe, and she took it gently and held it up against her everyday blue pantsuit. It was like the Elder’s outfit had been made a century ago just for her.

“This is perfect, Aang!”

She cried tears of joy, and threw her arms around him.

“Oh, Aang I love you so much. Now I will truly look like your spiritual partner.”

“No matter what you wear Katara, you will always be that to me.”

“Wait, what’s this?”  she discovered the other outfits deeper in the bag for her.

“Aang, I am overwhelmed.  Everything - just everything – is just so amazing.”

She found the maternity tunic, and her eyes teared again and hugged him tightly. 

“That time will come soon, husband. You are so thoughtful! A pregnant Air Acolyte will bring hope to the world again.”

“I thought so too, Katara….”

She didn’t know where to start, and exclaimed, “I want to go try the robe on!”

So they rushed hand in hand to the nearest spartan room for spiritual partners.  Ironically, they picked one reserved for conjugal visits between spiritual partners to keep the race going in the otherwise mostly celibate society of the Air Nomads.

Aang asked anxiously, “Peeking?”

“Yes, all you want to,” she blushed, well aware that Aang preferred her wearing no clothes at all.

Soon, with a few affectionate moments which interrupted her trying on the robes, she stood before him. She was beautiful in the robes, and looked every bit of a female Air Nomad Elder.

“Wow. You look amazing,” said Aang dreamily as she modeled the Elder’s outfit before him.

“And I feel amazing too.”

She thought for a moment, and then said, “I have another surprise for you Aang.”

“Oh? What would that be, Katara,” half knowing the answer.

She gave him an intense, sultry look, and posed provocatively, baring one shoulder, “Now, Aang, you get to unwrap your favorite present.”

Her giggle was all it took for him to sweep her up in his arms and embrace. The echoes of their lovemaking filled the empty halls of the Temple with happiness.

In the peaceful, quiet time in the bed after their time together, snuggled closely, Katara observed, “Aren’t you glad to not have to live to the old standards?”

She demurred while tracing his arrows, looking fondly into his eyes.

“That’s one mistake my people I am glad to change, Katara. You showed me how much people need to be in permanent relations and have real families.” 

“You’d already pretty much come to that conclusion yourself, Aang,” she smiled.

Aang admitted, “Yeah, that’s so true.  If we’d wed a hundred years ago, I could see it in the news: ‘Avatar Aang excommunicated from the Air Nomads over marriage scandal to Water Tribe Woman.’”

She laughed and rolled her eyes, but changed the subject, “We need to get back, Aang.”

Aang dismissed her comment and reached for her, “In the morning, Katara. There’s plenty of time. Y’know, there were a couple of things we did that I didn’t get quite right.”

“You!” she shouted.

He tickled her all over until the giggles became the gentle murmurings of their next embrace.

+++

Less than a week later, Aang and Katara stood in the early morning light of Air Temple Island in excited anticipation of the day’s events, surrounded by the Gaang, other international dignitaries, and the Air Acolytes. The Acolytes  were of every age, though most were young couples and older adults with families and children, all standing hand-in-hand, punctuating Aang’s teachings that spirit and family can coexist.

It was an impressive sight.

The pair representing the future of the Air Nation stood closely together, as Shamans and Sages blessed them and the Air Acolytes.  Zuko read the proclamation establishing the Air Nation, and together with Aang, swore in Terrik as the Air Nation’s first Councilman. Aang looked very distinguished his long, formal Elder’s robe, grasping his new glider staff that dated back more than a century. Katara stood resplendent in the robes of a Sister Elder.  No one challenged her right to wear the Air Nation clan colors as the spiritual partner and wife of the Avatar. Moreover she a bending Master herself. 

She had accentuated her look as an Air Acolyte by pulling her hair back over her forehead and letting it cascade down her back.  Except for her mocha skin and lack of air bending cranial tattoos, she could have been an ancient Air Nomad. Everyone thought she was stunning. Ever thoughtful of her Water Tribe heritage, Aang insisted that Katara wear a special inverse crescent moon symbol of the Southern Water Tribe.  Its inscription said it all: “The Union of Air and Water”. She never took it off after that day.

The reception and party in the gigantic tent that followed the formal ceremonies honored the new Nation, with many gifts showered on Aang and Katara.  Many presents were the furnishings and tools of government, but some were just personal. Aang was ever the consummate host, and the party went on all night.  The dancing was fabulous.

When at last the last partygoer departed, Katara and Aang strolled arm-in-arm to the easternmost point on the Island, they sat and watched the sun rise behind the mountains of the new Republic City under construction.

For a moment, it was quiet but for the sounds of birds, the gentle sky bison mooing overhead, and the lapping of waves in Yue Bay against the Island’s beach and cliffs.

“What an amazing day, Katara!” Aang observed as Katara snuggled up against his side for warmth.

“More than that, Aang.  What an amazing several days.  Thank you for being you, and for your gifts to me. Today I do feel like an Air Acolyte.”

Aang reflected, “You were the first one, my dear. You believed when even I doubted.”

They clung to each other closely as the sun rose higher, thinking of the gifts they exchanged, both physical and spiritual. Unknown to either, the dozens of Avatar air benders within him and the collective spirits  of the long-dead Air Nomads rejoiced in this couple’s love and for the new Nation - none more emphatically than Avatar Yangchen.

Aang stood, popped open his new much larger glider, and held out his hand to Katara as he invited, “Let’s go flying!”

“I thought you’d never ask,” kidded Katara.

They leaped into the air together as Katara let out a whoop of joy.

Air Acolytes and distinguished world leaders and guests looked out from their tents as they awoke to see the miracle of Aang and Katara flying high over Air Tempe Island, firmly holding each other and the glider.

The laughter of the loving couple in the crisp, crystal clear skies above charmed those below, as they soared, dove, looped, and climbed.

The gift to the World of the new Air Nation truly took flight on that early dawn.

ENTRY 2

Title: Winter Horizon
Author: Noodles Aang Colbert
Rating: K+
Author's Notes: Well for those who don't know I ship Meng x Shoji and this is a peek into that.  This is only the second time writing a story regarding that ship so I hope you enjoy!  The story takes place six years after "the fortuneteller" episode. 

Winter Horizon (click to show/hide)     Meng kicks some stones that lie randomly on the street.  It has been a frustrating few weeks for her.  She is not even sure herself what is frustrating her the most or if it is a combination of many things that are the culprit.  Whatever the case may be Meng finds herself distraught even more so over one particular thing.  The holiday season is coming and she has no idea what to get Shoji as a gift.  The majority of the problem stems from the fact that this is something new for her having to actually come up with a gift idea.  Sure she wanted to go out with Aang but that was six years ago and she has grown up a bit since then.
   
     Aunt Wu has not been the greatest of help in the matter.  Every person Meng asks for advice they go into some elaborate explanation that completely pecks at Meng’s mind.  Not only that not a single suggestion was duplicated by two people so there are no patters or common ideas.  Meng lets out a loud sigh as she leans back against the walls of one of the shop buildings. 
   
     There are so many people walking around.  Some people are smiling and seem to have a care free demeanor while others seem to be stressed out and frantically moving about.  All of this for one holiday seems to be quite silly Meng thinks to herself.  Perhaps this is something that she should just ignore and continue on like it is any other day.  Still she doesn’t want to ignore the holiday it’s just that she has no idea what to get as a gift.
   
     Sure there are so many gifts all around and so many shops and so many amazing things to get but nothing is what Meng is looking for. 
   
     “My head is starting to hurt.” Meng sighs as she flops herself on top of a bench just outside one of the shops.
   
     There happens to be a family sitting on the bench right next to her.  They are laughing at something that Meng cannot see.  Without realizing it Meng leans forwards a little stretching herself to see what the family is laughing at.
   
     “Are you okay?” one of the women asks Meng.
   
     Meng’s face flusters a little as she embarrassingly sits back once again.
   
     The woman walks over and assures Meng “It’s quite alright.  We were just making some funny faces at each other.”
   
      Meng looks down almost wishing that she could partake in an event like that.  “That sounds fun.” Meng smiles adding “My hair used to stick out to the sides in the air like this.” Meng lifts her hair to demonstrate.
   
     The woman chuckles commenting “That must have been a fun hair style!”
   
     “Not when walking through doorways.” Meng laughs.
   
     “If you don’t mind me asking why are you out here all by yourself?”
   
      Meng is glad that she asked but it feels awkward talking to a stranger about something personal, but on the other hand a stranger would most likely give an unbiased answer.
   
      Meng asks “I have to buy a gift for someone and I have no idea what to get.  We’ve been going out for a little while now.”
   
     The woman strikes a pondering pose for a minute and then asks “I know that this might not help, but you shouldn’t ask other people what you should get as a gift for someone.  A gift should come from the heart and that is all that should matter.”

      Meng thanks the woman and enthusiastically walks down the street and stops by one shop and enters the store.  The store is not one of the fancy stores however this store sells something that is new to the world.  Inside there are these small machines that capture a moment and print out a copy of the image.  Meng looks at the shelf where these machines are located.
   
     The shop owner is curious seeing Meng looking at these items and so he approaches her and asks “May I help you?”
   
     Meng looks at the shop owner and answers “I would like to buy one of these but I’m not sure which one to get.”   
   
     The man is not sure if she can afford this item so he questions Meng “These are cameras.”
   
    “Oh so that is what they are called!”
   
     “May I ask if this is for yourself?”
   
     “Oh no it’s for a gift.”
   
     “Ah I see.  You know these are not very fancy things and they are not that expensive mainly because not too many people want something like that.  Are you sure this is an appropriate gift for someone?”
   
      “Shoji always wanted one of these!”
   
      “I see so this is a friend of yours?”
   
      “Yes!”
   
      The store owner takes the item to the counter and rings up the sale.  The man looks at Meng while she counts out her coins to gain the proper amount needs to purchase the camera.  The man thinks back to when he was her age and what she must be feeling right now.  The shop owner discounts the camera for Meng as she places the coins on the counter and the store owner wraps the package and returns some of the coins to Meng.
   
      Then asks “Hold on a moment please.”
   
      “Okay.” Meng curiously wonders what could be going on.
   
      The man returns with another small box.  The man instructs “Now this is paper that the images can be printed on.”
   
      “I can’t afford that” Meng admits.
   
      “It’s a gift from me to you.”
   
      Meng smiles, accepts the gift, thanks the man, and sprints home.  A coupld of days later the holiday arrives and Meng nervously gives Shoji the package.  When Shoji sees the camera and the paper he is ecstatic over the gift as he and Meng hug.  Meng and Shoji are both glowing as they each hold their gifts that received from each other.  Meanwhile their families can sense their joy as they celebrate the holiday.
   
       After the holiday the shop owner is opening his shop when he sees an envelope there on the floor as he opens the door.  The man is intrigued by what this could be.  So he bends down and opens the envelope and there is a note that reads ‘words cannot express my thanks’ and was signed by Meng.  The man then sees there is a photo.  When the man looks at the photo he sees that it is a photo of Meng and Shoji smiling for a picture.  A tear of joy comes to the man’s eye as this made his mood better than it was just a couple minutes ago.
   
      The announces to the empty shop “This is the best gift I ever received.”

ENTRY 3   

Title: A Love Forever Cherished
Author: Water Lily
Rating: T [Romance-three shot]
Word Count: 7,784
Pairings: Kataang, Tokka, Maiko
Summary: The Avatar universe is always blanketed with the spirit of giving, whether during the winter or among any other means of personal satisfaction. Some memories are short and sweet, others bitter and stable, and the rest lasting for lifetimes. But in the end, all comes out as a love that's forever cherished.

Chapter 1: Blue Moon's Smile (click to show/hide)“Katara, do you have a map?”

The water tribe beauty didn’t answer him due to the fact that she already knew what he was going to say. Instead, she only widened her eyes and lowered her gaze, desperately trying to stop herself from blushing madly. And of course, Avatar Aang couldn’t resist the urge to tease her with cheesy love quotes. Instead of a romantic evening, the couple had endured what seemed to be a whole lifetime of laughter and love.

Today was the day…the day that usually paved the way to one of the most important holidays in the universe… the Winter Moon Festival. To his astonishment and delight, Katara had suggested celebrating the event at the Southern Air Temple, perfectly complimenting Aang’s preparations for her surprise. Of course, he could never say no to her wishes.

Although this holiday’s significance dated back to thousands of years among the Air Nomads, it had been one of the most beautiful additions to the entire world. From the Water Tribes to the Earth Kingdom colonies, every inch of the globe always looked forward to this tradition.

Ever since the fall of Ozai, even the Fire Nation didn’t hesitate to take part of such a sacred event. It was always the most awaited day in Aang’s lifetime as far as his cultural aspects. However, the connotation beyond this specialty was the fact that it was a blue moon this year.

The Air Nomads had always honored the blue moon, considering it as a way of “purification” towards the spirit of the earth. For Aang, the blue moon had definitely served its purpose in his life, marking his waterbender’s most favorite day. Personally, it didn’t fail to convince him in providing her the best of the world’s gifts. It was far beyond the most important essence in the planet. As Katara’s musical laughter rang through his ears, he felt Monk Gyatso’s words lingering in his mind.

“If you firmly believe in something, then all the forces of the universe will strive to make it true.”

Hence, he didn’t waste any moment to decide Katara’s present. There was no doubt that she was truly going to love it! And it could only be possible within the blue moon’s powerful presence. Not that Katara didn’t have plans of her own.

“Well, I keep getting lost in your eyes.” He finished, smirking as he gradually descended from his musings.

“Aang please!”

“Who told you that you aren’t royalty, my dear Katara?” he chuckled.  He knelt before her and held his arms out in an exaggerated manner. “You’re the queen of my heart!”

Katara giggled, clasping her hands over her mouth and hiding her embarrassment. “Sokka is so going to get it!”

The mischievous airbender laughed at her reactions as he leaped up. It definitely didn’t help that he took Sokka’s suggestions to impress his lover (to this moment, he still wondered why he asked him in the first place), but it did turn out to be the perfect way in getting her to laugh. The water tribe warrior’s suggestion was never the answer, and he learned that from experience. Frankly, it wasn’t so surprising that Aang would willingly use it to tease his former waterbending teacher.

“Wait, I got another good one-“

“Please, no more!” Katara stopped him in between gasps of laughter. But the Avatar knew that she wasn’t ready for mercy just yet.

“Explaining how much I love you is like describing how water tastes like-impossible.“

“Shhh!!” Katara squealed, leaning into his shoulder. “By the way, that one was too cheesy.”

“What?” Aang asked with fake innocence. “That fits you perfectly! You are a waterbender…”

“But I’m also Katara.“

“Are you sure your name is Katara, beautiful maiden?” He leaned forward and swept her into his arms in a bridal style position. “Or could it possibly be ‘Angel’?”

Indeed, it was true, considering the angelic presence she possessed. Her attire consisted of traditional Air Nomad clothing, ranging from a long orange dress to golden accessories. Her glimmering pearl earrings dangled freely in the balleting wind, contrasting her graceful stride and her emerald jewelry. Her dress easily gripped her curves and her short, but decorative sleeves. Bangle-like bracelets encased her wrists, jingling with her every move, and gold anklets embraced her feet.

She squealed again, masking her face with the winter tulips he had given her at the beginning of their romantic endeavor. “That’s enough, Mr. Avatar!”

He smiled. “Why, I’m only trying to be a romantic person Miss Katara.” He replied as if it was the most obvious fact in the world.

~*~*~

After another hour of sudden expectations and humorous memories the airbender granted her, both came to the easternmost part of the temple. The sight had instantly struck Katara with beauty when a silent gasp barely escaped her lips.

Towering before the courtyard of the Southern Air Temple were four intricate pillars that so accurately depicted the four directions- north, south, east, and west. They were aligned perfectly in a circular ring and bordered by gusts of engulfing winds. Long, sash-like silks danced from the top of the pillars, pigmented from air nomad to water tribe colors. The cool breezes shifted so skillfully through the spaces in between the evenly spaced pillars, as if nature seemed to conduct a ritual of its own.

The mountainous terrain continued to uplift the elevation, at the same time providing a spotlight of its own towards the drastically increasing vegetation. It gave way to a huge platform ranging more than a thousand feet, finally ledging its way to form an aspect so similar to that of a royal balcony.

The flora was almost indescribable, especially the way it crept eagerly over the pillars and greeting her with winter blooms. It paved a flowery path that waited just for the waterbender’s feet to grace its petals, ascending towards the steps that led to the beautiful encasement of pillars. And to top it all, a large fountain loomed at the heart of the pillars’ circular placement, springing into the air as high as it could possibly soar. Crystalline droplets of water sprayed from the fountain, gracing the gushing bender and taunting her wish to play under its supervision. Everything was too sudden and beautiful for Katara that it provoked an eager sparkle that glistened in her never-ending pools of ocean blue and icy cerulean.

That was not the only significance of the lavish landscape, however, when Aang glided before her with a knowing smile.

“A-Aang…this is…”

Aang placed a finger on her lips to quiet her, grasping her palms. The look in his eyes delightfully invited her to join him in the celebration, one arm outstretched to welcome her to the most beautiful courtyard in the entire temple. He knelt before her and held his other hand out, his intentions clearly inviting her to dance.

“N-now?”

Aang winked with a twinkle in his stormy eyes, assuring her uncertain expression. “Why not? We danced infinite times before.”

He leaned before her and whispered gently in her ear. “I could never have a better dance partner.”

Softly, he traced her cheeks with a cherry blossom petal. She smiled at his cautious whisper and ticklish touch that sent a tingling chill through her spine. She blushed harder as he twirled her around in a dance position and wrapped one arm around her waist, lacing his other hand with hers.

Aang took her into his arms as Katara stepped forward, one arm draped over his shoulders. And after a long pause, the avatar suddenly leaped forward.

Katara ducked enthusiastically, gracefully spinning and catching herself in his arms. He soared through the air temple and twirled her around, rhythmically whooshing past her. With a simultaneous spin, they encircled the other, kneeling low to the ground.

He smiled as they cartwheeled through the petal pavement in excitement. He attempted another series of flips and cartwheels, grinning knowingly. His arms shot up in the air, mirroring her position.

Katara leaned backwards, flowing in movement in cooperation with the avatar’s dance steps. He followed with a flawless spin and touches of elaborate moves. He pressed towards her, grinning when he reunited with his dance partner.

They swayed this way and that, perfectly weaving through the performance. They moved in utter precision, stepping to the beat of the love symphony they had created. They could feel a spark of delight as nature encouraged them on. The wind increased, flowing in each direction the couple took and carrying hints of fallen petals and fluttering flora.

With an exhilarated rush, they both entered the rapid phase of their dance. Turn after turn, spin after spin, each move mirrored the other. One partner’s was swift and steady while the other’s was patient and flexible.

Aang extended his left arm, pulling it back in again with Katara in his arm. Katara swayed back and forth, facing him and loosely escaping his grasp as she continued to dance. There were flips and spins, all of which none were even rehearsed.

He followed simultaneously, facing her on the alternating side. To add to the final finishing touch, Aang grabbed her hand. And with a burst of energy, he caught her in his arms again. And just before the natural symphony died down, he dipped her low and loomed over her, almost contacting her smiling lips with his determined ones. He let himself escape into the world of dance and slowly emerge from its spell, holding her close.

Their performance ended in its usual gentleness, but that wasn’t the only surprise in store for Katara. However, fate had other plans when she was the one smiling knowingly.

“I have something for you, Aang.” Katara said, breaking the silence between the two.

The airbender widened his eyes. Wasn’t he supposed to be the one to surprise her?

Katara’s smile widened as she placed a small, flat box in his arms. The box consisted of the symbol for air and was surrounded with a white ribbon. Embroidered creatively on the plain, but appealing box was the name, ‘Aang’ in large calligraphy. The writing was so familiar to him, although he knew it wasn’t close to being Katara’s. Where had he seen this before?

“Happy Winter Moon, Aang!” she murmured excitedly.

Aang, at once, felt attached to the box itself before he even got to see what was inside of it. Something about it tugged at his heart painfully. He traced the rim of its surface as he looked at Katara, who continued smiling eagerly.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

The airbender smiled back and carefully extricated the ribbon from the box. He took a deep breath before slowly taking the lid off. His eyes softened as they took in the content of the box. It was so familiar. It was almost like…could it actually be…?

Waiting for him inside the box was a pendant. Not just any pendant…the pendant. It was the Air Nomad pendant that Monk Gyatso made for him so long ago. The airbender felt tears in his glazed eyes. He reached into the box and carefully touched it. It was so….real. And it was still the same all these years.

It was another long moment before Aang finally whispered. “He…He made this….” He said softly. He flashed a shocked look at the water tribe beauty before him, his eyes glazing even more.

“Monk Gyats-so….” He finished.

Katara sadly contemplated his words. “I know.” Her smile transformed into one of concern. She placed her hand on his cheek.

Before she was given any reply, she was tackled by the airbender’s strong arms. He sighed heavily and instantly melted in her arms, holding back his tears as he buried himself in her long hair. He tightened his grip on her, closing his eyes. Katara sighed, returning the favor of the embrace.

After a moment of silence, Aang pulled away, blinking away the moistness of his eyes.  He gestured to the pendant. “Can you...?”

She nodded, comforting him. “Of course.”

She took the pendant into her arms, glancing deeply into his eyes. And with a sense of pride and love, she draped the pendant over his neck. The airbender grinned from ear to ear, wiping the tears from his eyes hastily.

“Katara, I got my gift. Now, it’s your turn.”

She frowned. “Aang, you’ve already given me a lot.”

“It’s not enough.” He stopped her playfully as his sorrow withered away and his mood entered back into mischief.

He spread one arm across the sky’s view in a swift bending move. The entire sky, which seemed to be so still until now, suddenly grew darker. Katara’s smile diminished in surprise as she glanced into the air. The hidden clouds suddenly parted, glowing in the light of the blue moon.

Just when Katara thought things couldn’t get any more complicated, she felt the clouds changing in position. Aang stepped before the blue moon and took a deep breath, bending the clouds from ground level. He swayed his arms this way and that, lost in thought. Within moments, Katara’s eyes widened in realization.

From the parting clouds came a soft, blue tinge of light. And before she could make out what the clouds’ message was, she felt her eyes getting moist.

“Aang, what is this?” she managed to say.

He took a glimpse at her from the concentration of the parting clouds. “You’ll find out.” He said lovingly as he squeezed her hands reassuringly.

Before the two benders’ eyes shone a face so familiar to the waterbender alone. Her pupils dilated from the astonishment. Tears raced down her cheeks as she stared endlessly into the sky and saw the smiling face of her mother.

“M-mom?”

Kya smiled downwards at her daughter, as if expressing her motherly pride and love. The mother herself was stuck between taking her daughter into her arms and returning to the world of spirits.

The haze of the blue moon made the vision glow brighter with undeniable radiance, catching Katara’s eyes. She didn’t know what overcame her as she refused the need to blink. She only cried hysterically, looking into the sky.

“Mom!”

The vision, as quickly as it came, suddenly disappeared. And all that was left was the parting of clouds once again, returning to their normal state.

Aang’s eyes brimmed with happiness and loving tears as he observed Katara’s reaction. He stepped forward to hold her close, but he only received her melancholy expression.

“How did you do it?” she asked, choking back sobs and breathing hard.

He shrugged and pulled her into his arms. “I just did.” He said. “Happy Winter Moon, Katara.”

She looked at him. She didn’t say anything. She simply laughed and cried at the same time, looking downwards. She sunk gratefully into his arms, blinking her tears back. She didn’t feel the need to let it go, but still remain holding onto it. She simply waited as she ceased her sobs.  Katara sighed, leaning onto his shoulder. She simply snuggled closer to him, commanding her mind to let go of the silent misery.

Her mother was a part of her that no one could ever replace. She was to be there as long as her heart kept beating. But this time, she didn’t feel the pain as intensely as she had expected to feel. What mostly stood out among this very blue moon night was merely the fact that Aang went through so much to grant this to her. She let the tears fall and listened to his heartbeat, remaining silent.

After many moments of slowing down her slamming heartbeat, she broke the silence. "Aang…" she breathed.

The airbender looked at her with concern. He wiped his tears away. “Y-yes, Katara?”

She smiled hopefully, nuzzling deeper into his shoulder. “If I had to choose between loving you and breathing, I would use my last breath to say ‘I love you’.”

Aang didn’t laugh at the saying. He knew what she meant by that, but he didn’t care that it was cheesy. He found it as the best thing anyone could ever say to him. And he only cherished it.

“That was really cheesy, wasn’t it?” Katara asked, chuckling sadly on the verge of sorrow.

“No.” Aang said sincerely. And under the softening breezes and the strengthening hazes of silver moonlight, he hugged her closer and smiled through his teary vision. He scooted closer to her and paced a tender peck on her lips.

“That’s what I would say, too.”

Chapter 2: Of Meat Lovers and Pretty Ladies (click to show/hide)The universe is full of surprises. It so perfectly weaves the fates of two lives, whether they were similar or completely different. It can also change even the most stubborn of subjects. How skillful it can be! However, one would not give into this philosophy regarding our favorite warrior and earthbending prodigy- Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe and Toph Bei Fong. Why? Because Sokka was Sokka. And Toph was Toph. Period.

The blind earthbender lazily slouched against the hard, engulfing brutality of a nearby boulder. Her concentration rested upon listening to the heartbeat of a certain warrior tackling the air with his swordsman skills. That was it, right? No… What really caught the warrior’s eyes were her jade green dress and heavy makeup.

Of course, no one can deny the fact that feeling heartbeats was one of the blind earthbender’s precocious talents. Then again, no one could disagree to the fact that she hesitated whenever it was Twinkletoes or Sugar Queen. But what if it came to her own heartbeat? Surely she could hear her pulse pounding as well. Her milky green, sightless eyes had gotten so used to staring into darkness that they didn’t crave for anything so out of the ordinary. She was independent, and that was what mattered the most to her. But she was still a girl. And that was that.

Sokka let out another battle cry as he sliced the atmosphere with his midnight-hued blade. His mind was elsewhere, only not nearly as close to the range of Toph’s concentration. Yes, he was practicing. Yes, he was thinking. And yes, he was noticing the earthbender’s makeup and making a fool of himself by not steadying his heartbeat. But he didn’t say anything. He actually didn’t feel the need to say anything. Instead, he was smiling. Not “funny ha-ha smiling”, but just smiling. And frankly, he felt glad that she couldn’t notice him watching her.

He raged on with serenity, an unusual feeling especially for someone so sarcastic. It wasn’t a normal thing for him. Sokka wasn’t supposed to be serene, right? Even you, my friend, can definitely not see him in a meditation position or anything. But the irony was…he wasn’t born for sarcasm. He was born with it. That was just a part of his nature.
Toph, herself, wasn’t as oblivious as he was. It had only been a few seconds ago when she asked him for the second time that day, “Are you looking at me?”

The question kind of astonished him as he shook his head and answered, “Why?”

And she replied with, “Just curious.” Technically she could feel him hesitating, but for once she avoided her instincts and trusted in ignoring him. She climbed further up the boulder and collapsed onto it, groaning.

He was training, and she was watching…err...feeling. That was all. But it seemed the opposite when Sokka was the one watching her lie on the boulder, and she was just listening to the flustering of his chest. Again, why? Because Sokka was Sokka. And Toph was Toph.

Toph moaned in boredom, jamming her foot into the mud-caked earth and sending groups of rocks flying into the air.

“Can’t you hurry up already?” she muttered towards him in her usual, Toph-like manner. “I’ve had enough of your dance steps.”

Sokka snapped out of his thoughts. “Dance steps?!” he muttered. But somehow, he didn’t seem to notice it quite as often as he should have. “Umm... yeah ...but it will take me…a while.” He said bluntly.

He released his potential energy with the whip of his blade, this time letting out a squeaked hyyyaaaa! instead of the usual grunt.

“I never knew you could imitate dead parrots.” Toph remarked, stifling a snort as she fiddled with her meteor bracelet.

“I wasn’t!” he answered in his Sokka-like tone of voice. “I was just-“

“Yeah yeah, you and your shenanigans. Dream on.”

The warrior made an expression of injustice. “You know perfectly well of my “shenanigans,” and you know you were the one who came with me in the first place!”

She turned her face away from him, fighting the urge to tint her complexion with pink hues. She had obviously seen…felt… his capability with Master Piandao. But then again, she was wasn’t the one to point out positivity very often.

She smirked. “Yeah. Since when? Your girly performance with Suki that Twinkletoes told me about?”

“Toph!”

She dashed her face in his direction. “Fine, leave it. But just answer this question….I mean, are you sure you’re not watching me?”

“Yes!” he said quickly. “The only thing I’m actually watching is…”

He fiddled around, searching for an excuse before holding up his blade. “…my trusty sword!”

“Seriously, I can feel your grin from here to the other end of the world, Snoozles. It’s kind of annoying.”

The warrior stopped widening his grin. “I wasn’t grinning!” he exclaimed, shaking his head. “A warrior has no time for grinning!”

She jumped off the boulder and pounded her feet onto the earth, observing his heart rate solemnly. “Right, but he does have time to annoy the universe. What do you say now, Mr. Ponytail?”

Sokka looked dejectedly at her, unable to convince her reasoning. “Fine, I was smiling, okay? But what’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong?” She snapped, shifting her milky eyes in his direction. She marched up to him and pointed an accusing finger at his chest. “Why is your heart rate speeding up then?”

He looked away, somewhat flustered. “No it wasn’t!”

“Yes it was!”

“Nuh-uh!”

“Not working, Snoozles. Don’t forget I’m an earthbender.”

He sighed, frowning. “It’s a free world, Toph. My heart rate can speed up. And besides, why are you so concerned?”

“Whatever.” She said, starting to get angry. It didn’t feel so right to answer that question, especially in front of him. And that was another surprise, coming from someone like her. “Just go back to your dancing.”

The warrior was about to protest, but he stopped in mid-thought. He honestly didn’t feel it necessary to argue with his comrade. He just took in her image, still somewhat shocked at seeing her this way. Toph Bei Fong was never the one to dress up, let alone in a dress and heavy makeup. And yes, he knew he was about to ramble in his head again. But it was true. Not that he didn’t like it or anything.

The oblivious Sokka, as oblivious as he was, had obviously seen her in makeup twice in his entire lifetime. Instance one: The Earth King’s party during their endeavor in Ba Sing Se. After all, how could he not forget the avatar’s goofy blush when his sister was all dressed up? Instance two: the day when Katara and Toph went to the Fancy Lady Day Spa in Ba Sing Se. He had to admit that she wasn’t the same Toph he always knew when she wore makeup.

Her usually plain skin was now pale white as far as complexion. Her lips were actually painted with (gasp) pink, and her eyelids were blanketed with purple hues. Even her cheeks seemed to stand out as far as blush. Her long, jade dress perfectly matched her fancy appearance. There were pearl-like designs on the dress itself, coated in leafy green and autumn yellow. A white sash was draped around her, the embroidery of cherry blossoms embedded into its snow-colored surface. Last but not least, little pearly studs stuck to her earlobes, adding the final touch of surprise to her attire.

Now, it was the third strike. He was supposed to be training, even if it was by himself. But he wasn’t. He was watching Toph Bei Fong. What’s next, another flying bat attack? One of the other million things in the world he didn’t understand was why she was so concerned with sitting in front of him like this.

“Hey, Toph?”

She hardened her sightless eyes. “What?” she asked bitterly with a flushed face.

“How do you feel?”

“Wow, Sokka. Really?”

“No, I’m serious.” He said. He looked over her outfit that greatly differed from her personality. “I mean, you don’t
look comfortable.”

The earthbender glared with such ferocity that the warrior knew now was the time to take off. But he found himself even more astonished when she was the one flustered. She battled with her words. “Oh, do I?” she retorted back, fiddling harder with her bracelet.

“Well-“

“To answer your question, Snoozles, I am perfectly fine. When have you ever seen this tough earthbender-“

She plunged her fingers into the boulder, breaking it apart into millions of debris. He gulped.

“-feel so helpless?” she finished, flashing a small smile in pride.

“Never.” He admitted. “Then-“

“Then what?” she asked louder, clenching her fist.

He raised his eyebrow. “Then why do you keep wondering if I was watching you?”

She gawked at the earth beneath her, fidgeting with her sash. “I have every right in the world to do so.” She said vaguely, her temper rising.

“Exactly!” He rushed forward defiantly. “Why would you care if my heart rate is going up?”

Toph frowned deeper. “You don’t need to know.” She firmly stated.

He smirked evilly. “Oh really?” He leaned forward, strapping his sword back to his belt. “Miss Toph Bei Fong, are you self-conscious?”

And that was it. She couldn’t take it. She widened her eyes as large as possible, fuming with embarrassment and fury. “WHAT!?”

With a blistering bending move, she sent the warrior flying into the air. She wasn’t done with him just yet when he landed before her and gagged between his broken screams.

“Toph!”

“You made a big mistake, Meathead!” she exploded, lifting him up and grabbing his shirt. “Don’t you dare-“

“I will say it!” he defended, regaining his posture. “It’s not like I’m the one wearing makeup and accusing the other with my looks!”

She was about to take a step further in attacking him by pinning him down when she suddenly stopped. And that was what stood out to him in the midst of his danger. Toph Bei Fong had stopped.

Her frown softened dementedly when she let him go, still sending him through waves of pain by tripping him flatly on the ground, but the same ferocity in her eyes vanished. Sokka’s mischievous glint escaped from his ocean hues, a melancholy essence replacing their momentary victory. Something inside of him tugged at his heavy heart as he replayed his words in his head. He didn’t understand.

“H-Hey, Toph?”

She glared at his direction as still and silent as the suffocating tensions crawling over them. He didn’t avoid the thought of facing her stare, himself giving into the fact that he was a bit too harsh on her. But Sokka was Sokka…and Toph was Toph. Right?

“T-Toph?” he repeated louder as he grabbed her hands.

To his surprise, they were shaking so hard that they were trembling. Trembling. He glanced worriedly at her quivering lips and frozen eyelashes, solely depending upon her bangs to cover them. But the warrior wasn’t that oblivious at the moment. What was he supposed to do now? And who knew trying to leave Miss Bei Fong speechless turned out to be something so ironically wrong? It was like all-powerful earthbending prodigy feared even standing next to him. She was his comrade. His best friend. It just didn’t feel like it was supposed to feel when he saw her speechless expression. And he didn’t like it.

“Just go away, Sokka.” She whispered gravely, devoting her attention to the creases and folds in the hardening mud.

“Wait, Toph-“

“Fine! I’ll go!” she sighed, cutting him off. However, she didn’t fail to send an ocean of rocks behind her as she earthbended herself away from him, refusing the need to look back.

“Toph! Listen to me!” the warrior called out.

The bits and pieces of crushed rocks blew into his face, but it didn’t feel so right for him to notice it. He felt his stomach churning harder than ever. Sweat raced down his tan-complexioned face despite the chilly conditions of the weather. The next thing he knew, he was the one trembling. Was this what people call ‘guilt’? Because in reality, he hated it.

~*~*~

It took the warrior a very long while to find her yanking rocks from the earth and splashing them into the water of a nearby pond. The sharp-edged pieces plunged into the water headfirst, rippling the reflection in front of her eyes that she could never see. It made him feel pained to see her reflection obliterate from the attack of stones.
The air was cooler now. Much cooler. It seemed to prepare itself for the upcoming winter, despite  the fact that it still felt fairly too warm. Autumn was supposed to be a cold season. But the warrior could tell that right now, Toph’s attitude was way colder than a mere seasonal wind.

Despite her harsh appearance that definitely didn’t suit her personality, it was as if her eyes spoke a language of their own. They clearly didn’t express the loss of their ability to see, but only seemed to catch the warrior’s attention more than possible. Speaking of our favorite soldier, here he was standing in a clueless manner. Where should he start? He was never good with apologies.

“There you are.”

At once, she perked up at the sound of his voice. She could have greeted him in her usual way when she faltered for a minute. She frowned, recalling the incident from earlier. “I’m not in the mood to strangle you right now.”

He looked up to see her standing defiantly, her fist still clenched. His first reaction was a nervous laugh as he descended from the hilltop and joined her downwards. “I honestly don’t mind if you still want to.”

He stared at her blank expression. Slowly, it began to unfold, although not moved at all by his comment. “Sure.”

“I’m serious.” He then noticed one of her silk sashes fallen next to the water. Besides being the one for perfectionism, he swooped down and gently caressed it in his hands and placed it in hers.

“It was about to get wet.” he protested before she was given the chance to comment.

She seemed startled by the gesture but yanked it away from him. She started to walk away from him when he stepped in front of her.

“I won’t let you leave until you listen to me.” He squeaked, holding his arms out to prevent her. She crossed her arms, waiting for him to begin.

“Okay…well..I just want to say..”

“Any day now, Snoozles.” She retorted impatiently.

“Fine.” He said. He took a deep breath. “Look, I know that I might have been an idiot earlier-“

“Yeah, you were.” She agreed, still angry.

“Thanks.” He answered sarcastically. “But I just want to say-“ He stopped, slouching his shoulders. “I don’t know how to say it.”

She extricated her arms from their position. “You know what? I don’t think-“

“I’m sorry, okay?!” he said. “Truly and honestly sorry.”

She didn’t answer him as he studied her expression. It was still unchanged. “Like you care.”

“I do!” he said. “I shouldn’t have said that. To tell you the truth, I-“

“It doesn’t matter! Save it for later.” She interrupted.

He shook his head. “You don’t get it, do you? I’m trying to apologize.”

“Why are you even attempting this?”

She turned away from him. “You’re Sokka.” She continued, murmuring softly. “The ladies’ man. The fearsome swordsman. The most sarcastic, oblivious-minded meathead I ever met.”

He glanced at her trembling form again, not sure how to proceed. He never expected to hear something like this, coming from Toph. He grinned goofily, however, as he realized what she meant. “Was that a compliment?”

“Whatever.” She said icily. “You get the point.”

There was silence. For once, Toph was again struck speechless at her confession. She looked away, maintaining the angry glow on her face.

“But you’re Toph.” Sokka encouraged. “The toughest earthbender in the world. The number one person to come up with nicknames.”

He slowly turned to face her. “Are you trying to say that no one notices you?”

“Are you trying to kill me?” she grumbled back. “Besides, who would anyway? It’s not like I’m trying to-”

“Well, I do.” He interrupted.

Again, she was left speechless. He stared at her expression again, her sightless eyes softening from a defiant seaweed hue to a milky, hazel sea green. They tried desperately to express the ability to frown, but for the first time in Sokka’s presence, they failed to do so.

“I still don’t know why you don’t want me to smile at you.”

She raised her eyebrow. “Why would you even want to?”

He stumbled over his words, his cheeks turning crimson. “B-because you’re in a dress.”
“S-so?” she stuttered.

He smiled wider. “You look nice.”

“More like a clown.” She muttered sarcastically and held her hands up dejectedly in the air. “Toph Bei Fong, the prettiest girl in the world.”

He sighed, frustrated. “You’re not a clown!”

“Says who?”

“Says me!”

Again, there was dead silence. Toph’s eyes widened, and her bare feet cupped the earth beneath her as she felt his slamming heartbeat again. Did he just say…?

“I-I meant that you look p-pretty in a dress.” He said quickly, gulping. “Even beautiful.”

“Oh.”

The awkward silence continued to creep over them, but it didn’t successfully accomplish its mission when Sokka came closer to her. He took a deep breath before whispering, “You know, something’s missing.”

She faltered again with her words, letting go of her frown at last. “What now?”

He slowly grasped her hand and placed a small, beaded artifact in her hands.

“What’s this?”

“A bracelet.”

She stopped in mid-thought. “Who’s it for?”

“Who do you think it’s for?” he exclaimed. “Why would I give it to you if it wasn’t for you?”

“Oh.” She said. She ran her fingers over the tiny beads. They seemed irregular in pattern. One large one, one rough one, two soft ones, and then a rough one again. It was all jumbled up.

“These don’t feel like beads.”

“Cause they’re not. They’re sort of like metal.”

She felt a small smile peeking at her lips, but she still wasn’t ready to let him go. “What gave you that idea?”

He didn’t answer, but waited patiently. “Aren’t you gonna put it on?”

“You didn’t answer my question, Snoozles.”

“Put it on!”

She obeyed, strapping the metal to her wrist. It felt…nice…the first thing that was closest to a jewelry artifact she had ever worn with enthusiasm. “Will you tell me now?” she demanded.

He leaned forward and gave her a quick peck on her cheek. “Happy Birthday, Toph Bei Fong.”

And for the third time in her life, she was left speechless. “W-who t-told you?”

“You did.” He said, smiling. “Just now.”

Because as far as friendship and stubborn love, Toph was Sokka… and Sokka was Toph.

Chapter 3: Rose Petals On Top (click to show/hide)He couldn’t believe this. He really couldn’t believe this. What was he supposed to be doing, and what was he doing? He was watching Mai sleep. Definitely not the characteristic one would expect out of Firelord Zuko.

He was to be crowned as Fire Lord the next day early in the morning. He still had technically a few more hours left before the servants of the palace plunged into their own beds, but he didn’t seem so convinced in the idea of sleeping. He needed sleep, but if it was the last time he would see Mai…his Mai…again…then what was the significance of sleep?

He especially didn’t feel the need to be called ‘Firelord’, considering how tiring it had been for him to reach that position after battling his crazed sister, but the others had already continued to get into the habit of calling him that. Honestly, he wasn’t in the mood.

He didn’t feel the need to ponder why he would stare at the woman he loved. It wasn’t rare. It wasn’t unusual. It wasn’t like he would rather be doing something else. It just wasn’t so….likely, considering how he betrayed her.

Yes, they let her out of prison. Yes, she had seen him among the midst of such chaos. And yes, she flashed a small smile towards him. But would she still agree to be with him after…everything?

The former fire prince didn’t blink, fearing the thought of letting this moment slip away so easily from his grasp. However, it didn’t appeal to him that he felt so alone in the dim room, sitting on the floor next to her bed and watching her with such intense concentration. It was something that he wasn’t so used to doing, but he knew he was in no position to hold back now.

She stirred slowly as her long hair fell over the side of her face. Zuko’s heartbeat stopped for a split second as she turned to face his direction, her arm draped effortlessly over his. The firebender widened his eyes, mentally battling with the options of whether he should hide or remain where he was.

If he had the opportunity, he would willingly give himself up to getting stuck in glue, sitting and thinking about his place in the universe again. Anything to avoid getting caught by Mai. But he couldn’t help not leaving his eyes away from her. She was asleep…and he actually thought it was kind of cute.

She slouched deeper into her pillow, wincing in sleep as she felt a light presence on her arm. Now that he received the chance to notice, he could make out slight traces of bruises on her arm. He gently reached over to her arm, fingering over the bruises and tracing the creases in her fingers.

She then let go as quickly as she hung it over the side of the bed, draping it over her blanket. Zuko felt heat rushing up to his cheeks as she barely opened her eyes, tossing the other way among the sheets. Nevertheless, she continued her rhythmic pattern of breathing.

“So you’re just going to ignore me…. aren’t you?”

Great. He was starting to go crazy now. The Firelord was going crazy. But he didn’t care.

“Well?” he asked out of the blue. He received no response. And that was just how he expected it to be…no
response whatsoever.

He sighed, slumping down next to the bed. “This isn’t fair, Mai.”

The Fire Nation beauty shifted uncomfortably as he spoke her name. He didn’t notice, frowning. “I did what I had to do.”

He glanced at her sleeping expression. Somehow, it seemed to have changed, as if contemplating the darkness. Again, he felt glue to watching her.

“Ugh!” he whispered, irritant. “This wasn’t about you, Mai. You had no idea how hard it was for me to leave you.”

Zuko wearily lingered over the edge of the bed, running his fingers rapidly though his hair. He took a deep breath.

“I know it was so hard on you. But it was just as hard, if not harder, on me."

A look of apology crossed his expression as he continued staring at the bruises on her arms. He shifted his direction from the folds in her palms to her weary expression, craving for sleep. He softened his harsh, glazed contemplations. He felt something slam into his chest, not quite sure if it was supposed to be his racing heartbeat. The guilt was back.

“I’m….I’m sorry….”

He knew very well of the situation he found himself in. He had hurt her, and it was, whether intentionally or not, his fault. She stood up for him in front of his sister, the Fire Nation, herself….for him! And how did he answer her? By betraying her.

“I love you, Mai.” He murmured dejectedly in his gruff, Zuko-like voice.

Again, he noticed her shift towards his direction again. He stopped in dead silence, gawking at her and shutting his eyes close. After a few moments, he blinked one eye open and slowly steadied his short, sudden breaths.

“I know you’re ready to kill me.” He said in a matter-of-fact way.

Sometimes, he couldn’t help but compare his lover to a black velvet rose. The qualities she possessed tallied so perfectly with those of this mysterious flower. Even though she wasn’t the one for flowers, she was still a woman… beautiful one if you asked him.

“And I don’t care if you do.”

She was a thorn less rose, leaving no room for complications even in midst of such pandemonium. She was the tone of velvet…smooth and graceful despite the darkened connotation behind her motives. But the black rose part? It was her attitude.

She may not be the one to express herself in any given situation, but she possessed a heart. A heart of fire. She was quiet, agile, flexible…not to mention faster than the speed of her own knives. Why, she was perfect for him.

“Just, uh, promise me that we’ll be together. Again.” He said awkwardly.

~*~*~

It wasn’t long before he heard a soft gasp of surprise escape from under the covers of the bed sheets. Zuko then found himself staring face to face into the questioning eyes of the Fire Nation beauty.

At once, he remained silent. It seemed to be one of the most intensely awkward moments in his entire life, considering the reason he was here and the way she looked at him. He frantically confiscated with a nearby candlestick, cupping his hands around the tiny flame to keep himself occupied.

Mai’s first reaction could have been a groggy, yet bitter, “What?” instead of the unusual turning of her head and glowering of her slit-black eyes. She sat up on her bed, hastily brushing her bangs away from her eyes and crossing her arms demandingly.

“I-I can exp-plain…”

However, she was quiet.

“M-Mai, please listen-”

She didn’t answer him.

“Mai…” he started again, slightly more impatient.

This time, she graced him with a merciful glare. “What now, Zuko?” she asked bitterly. Her voice caused a frown to deepen on his face. It wasn’t helpless, but it was one of annoyance rather than curiosity. He didn’t like it.
He stood up (or stumbled his way up, you can say) at her glare. His cheeks heated up again as he looked downwards. “Um-“

“Whatever you’re planning on asking me, you won’t get an answer.” She warned, stopping him.

“I wasn’t-“

“I’m not in the mood to get my heart broken again, either.”

“That’s not what I-“

“And no, I don’t need your pointless explanations.”

For the first time in his life, Zuko noticed something in her eyes. Were they really so moist?

“I’m sorry Mai.” He repeated again. “I-‘

She angrily stomped up to him, forcibly piercing her accusing finger on his chest. “Why are you even here?” she asked. “Shouldn’t you be writing another break-up letter like a coward?”

“Mai, please! I already feel like a complete idiot for hurting you.”

“Oh yeah?” she glared, shoving him backwards. “That’s probably your calling. I was the one who suffered in the aftermath. You have no right to apologize, Zuzu."

“But-“

She grabbed him by the collar of his robe, sending her hands swooping across his cheek. “You destroyed every good memory I could think of you.”

“Maybe it’s because I want you back, Mai!” he retorted, grasping her hands. “Maybe it’s because I can’t live without you not looking at me every day!”

She let him go, frowning deeper.

“I don’t want to go a single day without discussing my reason to be with you. I hate not talking to you . I want to be next to you all the time. I want to redeem myself!”

Mai didn’t really know what came over her as she stared into his golden eyes. She could see the familiar spark of sincerity within him. “Like that’s true.”

He dropped dementedly in front of her, landing on his knees and yanking out his small Earth Kingdom blade. He held it determinedly up to her, gesturing to the fateful scar on his chest from the lightning strike.

“You do realize this pain is nothing close to the one when I hurt you.” He said, beckoning her with his blade before slitting it up to his chest. She stared incredulously at his actions, gritting her teeth angrily.

“Never give up without a fight, Mai.”

She felt the tears waiting at the verge of her closed eyelids, giving away the last of the strength she possessed. She leaned before him, snatching the blade from him and sending it flying to the other end of the room.
“Don’t you dare do that again, you hear me?!” she yelled.

He inched closer to her, cupping her cheek longingly. “Do you believe me?” he asked hopefully.

“It doesn’t matter.” She answered, securing his robe over his bandaged chest. “I just don’t…hate you.”

He reached into the folds of his robe and pulled out what was supposed to be a small, crimson chain. The poor Firelord seemed embarrassed, but he avoided his flustered thoughts and placed it in her hands. It was a fairly simple and dull chain, but it only made her stand out more.

“Oh great, you got me something.” She said bluntly, not at all surprised.

“I know you never liked jewelry.” He said. “But this was the closest thing I could get right now.”

She hid her smirk, tracing the simple threads and running her hands over the silky bead-like structures dangling down from it. “You know, you have a lot of catching up to do.”

“And I’ll do whatever it takes.” He said determinedly. “Even if it takes a million fruit tarts.”

She glanced annoyingly up at him, still scowling as she fingered the chain. “With rose petals on top?”

Zuko chuckled nervously, running his hands through his hair as the last flicker of the flame died away. “With rose petals on top.” He assured her while closing the gap between their eager lips.

ENTRY 4

All right, I got it. Had to revamp the idea down to a two-(wo)man conversation, but it still works (hopefully).

Title: The Gift of Friendship
Author: PSUKFB92
Rating: K
Word count: 1,400
Summary: Ty Lee is in Team Avatar, but the past still weighs on her. One of her new friends brings her a reassurance of the new life to come in a special gift.

This story is also dedicated to one of my best friends - she's not on this forum, but she's been really special for me this year. She has helped me out of some tough spots and kept me from falling into a proverbial abyss. She's like a sister to me, and with all she has done for me, I couldn't help but dedicate a story like this to her.

The Gift of Friendship (click to show/hide)The sun fell behind the colorful, brightened statue of Avatar Kyoshi as a light sea breeze rustled through the trees and open valley of the island. The newest resident and member of the Kyoshi Warriors, Ty Lee, took a deep breath and sucked in the air of the autumn evening. She was long away from the days of being with Azula and chasing down Team Avatar - now, she was a part of the global team of friends. Some of them were actually visiting the island for a few days.

Still, though the days of being forced to follow Azula's command were over, they stung at Ty Lee. It wasn't hard for her to remember when she threatened her life at the circus in a successful attempt to get her to join her mission. From there on, she still tried to view the princess as a friend, but harbored great fear for her - carrying out her movements lock step with what Azula ordered - lest she get hurt. Only when her true friend's life was threatened could she finally work up the courage to go against Azula.

So, she did.

She became imprisoned and, as destiny would have it, found the Kyoshi Warriors in the same prison as her. Over time, she befriended the group and was soon accepted to their ranks.

After the War, she spoke with all the members of Team Avatar, who all forgave her for her past actions. It was not easy explaining all that happened, but the group accepted her in to their ranks, and now she was able to join all her friends, old and new, in a true, close-knit group.

Nonetheless, the memories hurt her.

She recalled one night where she tried to cry silent tears over the circus threat, but only Azula found her.

"Ty Lee, what are you doing?"

Amber eyes more looking like ice glared on the acrobat with sharp anger.

''Ty Lee sniffled and looked toward her believed friend. "Azula...just, the night at the circus -"

"What about it!?" Azula demanded. "That's none of your concern. We have an Avatar and his friends to track. Get up, and let's go!"

"Azula, can I -"

"Let's go, now! No questions. Need I remind you what did happen that night? Would be a shame if that happened again."

Ty Lee shuddered as Azula continued to give an icy, angry glare. She knew the princess had her under her control. Valuing her life, she got up and wiped away her tears, avoiding Azula's gaze. Those fears were enough to keep her going in the mission, but she couldn't help but wonder...

Just like in the flashback, tears dripped down the warrior's face as she gripped the armor near her heart. She soon felt herself shaking, holding her hands over her eyes. A choked sob came from her mouth as the flashbacks played out before her.

"Ty Lee?"

Slowly, the warrior turned around, and saw another girl standing before her. She was decorated in a blue dress, dark blue pants, brown boots, and had long brown hair flowing from her, framed with two small strands held by beads. Her skin was toned darker, blue eyes which quickly turned worried when she saw Ty Lee's face.

"Oh, hey, Katara..." Ty Lee whispered, trying to wipe some tears from her face.

"What's wrong?" Katara asked. "You've been out here for quite a while, and Aang and I are worried."

"It's nothing," Ty Lee tried to shake the waterbender off.

"Tears down your face, a look of sadness, and nervous shaking doesn't mean 'nothing,'" Katara replied with tones of concern still in her voice. "Talk to me..."

She tried to turn away, but no matter what, her new friend was going to remain there until she talked. She had to come out with it at some point or the fears would just eat away at her.

Finally, the Kyoshi Warrior turned back to Katara. "I'm still hurt..."

It didn't take long for things to register with the Water Tribe girl. After her apology a few weeks ago, Katara knew right then and there just what Ty Lee meant. "Oh...but, you know it's over...right? Azula's gone. She'll never hurt you again."

"It doesn't take away the pain..." Ty Lee spoke in a broken voice. "The fear she inspired, the attempt she made on my life for not joining her...having her imprisoned doesn't remove that, Katara! It just doesn't!" More tears escaped down her face as she sobbed vocally and covered her tear-stained face.

Slowly, the waterbender approached her friend. She got Ty Lee to remove her hands from her own face, and soon, Katara was wiping Ty Lee's tears away with her thumbs. "I can only imagine...living under that for so long. Having to live in constant fear..."

"All this time I thought she was a real friend..." Ty Lee said, still hurting inside. "All she was just someone who used Mai and I and forced her will on us...lest we get hurt...she had me bent to her will. I wish I knew real friendship...like one time, when I was crying over what happened at the circus, how much that scared me...Azula just...she yelled at me! She told me just to get going to continue the mission, and "Need I remind you what did happen that night? Would be a shame if that happened again."

A silent gasp left Katara's mouth. She never knew just how bad things really were between Ty Lee and Azula, now, she came to realize just what fear the princess had left in her new friend's mind. The waterbender pulled the Kyoshi Warrior into a tight hug. "I'm sorry..." she whispered.

Though wondering what her friend could even be sorry for, Ty Lee did not resist, reciprocating the hug and burying her head into Katara's shoulder. Her tears moistened Katara's dress. "How could she do that to us? I thought we were her friends! I thought she actually cared about us more than to use us as her...weapons! And more than just to throw away if they stopped working! How...how could she..."

"It's all over..." Katara tried to assure her in a whisper-quiet done. "It's in the past...Azula is gone. She'll never be able to do this to you again. We're your friends now, Ty Lee. We care about you...and we certainly won't control you. We're all here for you..."

"Really?" Ty Lee said with a sniffle, trying to pull Katara closer.

"Yes," the waterbender replied, chancing another smile. "Of course. That's how our group is. Ever since it was just Aang, Sokka, and myself, we always have looked out for one another. You're part of our group now, so, you'll be getting that treatment. We're not about controlling others for our missions."

Ty Lee felt more assured and at home around Katara, standing in her embrace still. She could tell in her tones that she meant every word she said about their care and respect for one another. Being a part of it meant a lot to the warrior who had felt isolated from her family and then used by her former best friend. Her tears stopped flowing as a smile lit up her face.

After a few moments, the two girls separated. Ty Lee left her hands over Katara's, a bright smile dotting her face. "Thank you, Katara. It really means a lot to feel accepted and among real friends. Things won't heal immediately, but, I'm really glad to be a part of your group. I promise, I'll do everything I can to maintain the friendship. It's a blessing, really."

Katara smiled back just as brilliantly. "Well, we're glad you're here too. I can tell you're a great person at heart, and you'll fit in perfectly. You're definitely a real friend from what I can see. I hope you stick around for as long as you can."

"Absolutely," Ty Lee answered. "I know it hasn't been long, but, I can already say that you guys are the best."

"Thanks," the waterbender replied. "And just remember...if this ever comes up again, if there's anything you need to say...you can come to any of us, at any time. We're here for you."

The warrior happily sighed, taking in the accepting warmth Team Avatar offered her. "Thank you, Katara...and send my thanks to everyone else as well." She then hugged her waterbending friend again as the sun set behind them as she began to think of her future with all her new friends.

Was it Ty Lee's birthday?

No.

But she had gotten herself a nice gift.

The gift of friendship.

ENTRY 5

Title: Nightmares and Daydreams
Author: Saxy
Rating: K
Word Count: 878
Pairings: Bora
Summary: After Korra and Mako rescued Bolin from "The Revelation" equalist rally, Bolin has nightmares of Amon and Korra probably thinking he's a wimp. Thanks to Pabu and a random fangirl, he decides to give Korra a thank-you gift that secretly doubles as a way back to her heart.
Nightmares and Daydreams (click to show/hide)“AHHH!”

Bolin bolted upright in his bed. Long streams of sweat dripped down his face. His entire body felt like it was on fire, yet a chill ran up and down the young earth bender’s spine. He was panting harder than he usually did in the heat of a probending match.

Pabu awoke from his owner’s scream and let out a yelp of his own. Pabu’s hair stood on edge as if he got too close to Mako after he practiced some bending lightning. He ran from the foot of Bolin’s bed to sit on his best friend’s lap. Bolin pet his fire ferret, stroking it up and down to smooth its fur while he caught his breath. Pabu chirped at him as if to say, “Hey, what’s the big idea?”

“It’s alright, Pabu. It was only a nightmare,” Bolin rationalized. But was he trying to reassure his pet, or himself? Pabu cocked his cute little triangular head to the side like a therapist encouraging his patient to continue. Bolin let out a deep sigh. “That weird old creepy mask dude was stalking my dream. I swear Pabu, that red dot on his head could stare into my soul! It was creep to the eee!” he said loudly and dramatically. Pabu shrunk back; terror filled his little black eyes.

“Sorry for waking you, bro,” Bolin said in the general direction of the bed across the attic. There was no answer. Bolin turned and saw that Mako’s bed was empty; his sheets and comforter were at the edge of the bed. Sunlight was starting to peak out over the horizon. “Mr. Tough Guy probably went to the gym. He’s even more uptight now that we have a chance at the winnings, eh Pabu?” The fire ferret nodded his red furry head in agreement. “Well, I need my beauty rest. I can’t take a face like this for granted. ‘Night.” Bolin wrapped himself in the covers again and rest his head on his old pillow. The silence in the attic lasted all of one minute before Bolin sat back up and said, “nope, not gonna happen.”

Pabu picked his head up and let out a little sound to say, “speak for yourself.” The fire ferret curled up and put his head down. Just when he shut his eyes, Bolin scooped him up. The earth bender stood next to the window and put Pabu on his shoulder. The fire ferret ran up to the top of his head. The dynamic duo gazed out the window, facing Airbender Island. Bolin thought about the beautiful Korra’s face sleeping peacefully. Pabu thought about his next meal.

After thoughts of the young Avatar swirled through his mind, like they often did, Bolin realized he had a problem. The love-struck teen let out a deep sigh. Pabu peered at him from on top of his head, hanging his face in front of Bolin’s. “Uhh Pabu, what am I going to do? Korra had to save me from that equalist rally of doom. Not cool. I’m supposed to be the one rescuing damsels from distress, not the other way around. She probably thinks I’m king of the chumps.”

Pabu leaped from atop his owner’s head and landed on the windowsill. He faced Bolin while he stood on his hindquarters. The fire ferret flexed like Bolin trained him to do so they could have posing contests. “Eh, I’m not in the mood for one today, buddy.”
Pabu chittered back to say, “Suit yourself.” The little fire ferret jumped off the windowsill into the apartment and made a beeline for a box under Bolin’s bed. Pabu struggled to pull it out with his teeth; the white box was three times his size. Bolin bent over and helped the little guy take out the box. Pabu opened it. The box contained twelve miniature cakes. The night before, one of Bolin’s crazy fangirls gave it to him as a token of admiration. Originally there were thirty-six treats, but Bolin and Pabu treated themselves the night before.

Pabu had his mouth opened wide, ready to bite into a delicate treat, when he was interrupted by Bolin yelling, “You’re a genius!” He turned his head to Bolin and gave him a little glare. Bolin took no notice and cuddled his pet while Pabu chirped in protest. “I’ll give a cake to Korra as a thank you gift for saving me! Girls like that stuff, right? Of course they do! And I can bring her  a flower and be my adorable self and she’ll fall in love with me and we’ll go on a date and have beautiful probending children together- it’s perfect!”

Bolin set Pabu back on the floor. Pabu went directly back to the box and began calculating which one would be tastiest so he could eat it first. By the time he decided, Bolin had already thrown a shirt on and he picked up Pabu again. The fire ferret let out a little cry. “No time for snacks, Pabu. We gotta go pick out some flowers. Once I hop on the love train, there’s no stopping me.” As they walked out the door, Bolin hummed a jazzy love song he heard on the radio while Pabu gazed longingly at the cakes.

ENTRY 6

Title: Precious
Author: Cassidy Alice
Rating: T
Summary: Gifts come in all different shapes, sizes, and forms but sometimes, the best gifts are the simplest ones or the ones that come from the heart.

Well, as usual I've cut it close. I hope this isn't too rushed and is decent. And, regretabbly, I don't own anything. ^^'

Precious (click to show/hide)Katara awoke to a warm, golden sunlight spilling into the bedroom. Turning over onto her side, she buried her face in her pillow and wrapped the mass of thick blankets tightly around herself to ward off the chilly autumn air that seemed to seep in from the cracks. The other side of the bed was empty as usual and, sighing to herself, Katara threw back the covers and stood up, with the intention of finding her husband. Normally, Katara loved this time of year, for the flurry of activity kept her busy and occupied, and there was nothing quite as fun as celebrating a string of holidays, starting with their anniversary, one after another. In years past, their celebrations had been grand; there was always some party to attend or some gathering to host. But this year was different. With the construction of Air Temple Island and Republic City underway, Katara doubted there would be much celebrating going on. Aang was under a lot of pressure to get several things done before winter set in and Katara herself hadn’t been feeling well, lately. Both of them had been far too tired to really think about the upcoming festivities, but now that she had a moment to herself, Katara wondered what they would do.
   
I don’t suppose Aang would want to do much of anything other than sleep, she mused, throwing back the blankets and stumbling out of bed to get ready. It was true the airbender had been working rather hard lately. Even though plans for Republic City were coming along smoothly, there was still quite a bit of work to be done and, Katara noted rather ruefully, Aang was looking rather frazzled and stressed out.
   
By the time Katara had finished her morning routine and wandered to the kitchen for breakfast, Aang was clearing away the remnants of his meal. Already dressed and with a bundle of papers in one hand, the airbender seemed ready to leave and Katara suppressed a sigh, recalling that the airbender had mentioned something about a three day journey to the Fire Nation to discuss something with Zuko. She’d completely forgotten about that until now.
   
“Leaving so soon?” She asked, smiling sadly at Aang.
   
He nodded, smiling apologetically. “The sooner I leave, the sooner I’ll come back,” he reminded her, gently kissing her forehead.
   
Katara sighed. “I suppose so. I just wish you wouldn’t work so hard.”
   
“It’s only for a little while longer,” he pointed out, grinning. Katara couldn’t resist smiling along with him. “Things will settle down soon. You’ll see.”
   
“I know,” the waterbender said, wrapping her arms around him. “But this place is so boring without you. I’ll have nothing to do but chores and watching the construction crew build the temple. It’s not much fun.”
   
“I can imagine,” Aang said, hugging her close. “But I promise I’ll be back in time for our anniversary and we can do something fun the day after.”

“Goodness knows we need it,” Katara laughed. “We haven’t done anything exciting since the summer solstice, when we travelled to Kyoshi, and that was months ago.”

Aang chuckled. “I know. Maybe we could go back to the South Pole or Ba Sing Se, or perhaps…”

“Why don’t you get this meeting over with first?” Katara suggested, laughing softly. “Then we can worry about where we go.”

“Good idea. I suppose I’d better get going, huh?”

Katara nodded. “Yeah, I guess so, if you ever want to come back on time.”

“You’re sure you’ll be okay by yourself? You don’t look so good.”

Katara playfully stuck her tongue out at him. “I’ll be fine. I’m a healer; I’ll live. If anything happens, I’ll be sure to ask the Acolytes for help.”

The Avatar leaned down to kiss his wife. “I’ll be back soon. Try and stay out of trouble,” he teased.

Katara grinned. “I’ll try, but no promises,” she retorted. Aang’s musical laugh echoed in her ears as he airbent himself on Appa. And, with a wave and a gust of wind, he was gone.

Katara wandered slowly back into the house, feeling rather lonely and dejected all of a sudden. She would have gone with Aang in a heartbeat, but the way she was feeling, she didn’t know if she could last half the flight to the Fire Nation. Besides, she’d have been of no use on the trip and, in any case, she had a better reason for staying behind: their anniversary. It was but three days away and she’d yet to find something suitable to give Aang. Although it was their second anniversary and neither of them really felt the need to make a big deal about it, Katara wanted to give Aang something special. What that something special was, she hadn’t quite figured out yet.

Somewhere among the clouds, speeding over the azure waters of the ocean, a certain airbender was doing the same thing. With their anniversary only three days away, Aang knew he had little time to get Katara a gift. It certainly didn’t help that he had very little time to look for something special and that he had no idea what that special something would be. Accordingly, when he found some free time between meetings to wander to the market, he had no idea where to begin looking for a suitable present. There was always jewelry, but Katara didn’t wear much and didn’t seem to care for it. There were plenty of fancy dresses to choose from, but Aang didn’t want rely on his taste; he knew nothing of dresses and the latest styles and much rather preferred Katara to pick out something she liked. So, after an hour of wandering about, he returned to Zuko’s palace empty handed and unwillingly to sit through more tedious meetings regarding the construction of the new city.

The meeting was a long, drawn out affair in which nearly every type of official under the sun had gathered to voice concerns regarding construction. Aang had never been involved with building a city before, so he was slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of people involved in the project, but was glad for the help nonetheless. He and Zuko weren’t very knowledgeable about the subject despite doing some reading, so it certainly helped having numerous others to advise them. Of course, with so many officials, it was always a chore to get anything done and what little time the airbender had to look for a gift for his wife was cut even shorter.

Admittedly, it wasn’t until the day of his departure that Aang found time to return to the market to find something suitable for Katara. He still hadn’t the faintest idea what to give her, so he spent a good two hours wandering around and glancing at items in shops and stalls. He had all but given up getting something for her when a something caught his eye. Making his way to a small shop tucked between two fruit vendors, the airbender ducked into the entryway to inspect a small glass figurine of the Painted Lady, no doubt sculpted by firebending. The glass was stained to resemble her outfit and her face was painted with familiar designs. Smiling softly to himself, the airbender purchased it without a second thought, feeling rather pleased with himself. He couldn’t wait to see Katara’s reaction and spent the entire flight back picturing just how happy she’d be to see the familiar figurine.

Back on Air Temple Island, Katara herself was feeling rather cheerful. The past three days had been spent conversing with the Acolytes and pouring over the few old and incomplete books Aang had managed to salvage from the Air Temples, to perfect a fruit pie. After hours spent in the kitchen each day, she was pleased to note she could make a decent fruit pie. Smiling to herself, Katara set to work, making a new pie. This one, unlike the others she had baked previously, would be her gift to Aang and she worked tirelessly to make sure it was perfect. Thus, when Aang finally landed on Air Temple Island, he was quite surprised Katara wasn’t there to greet him. It wasn’t until she had set the pie in the oven to bake and when she heard Aang call her name that she rushed out to greet him.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she laughed, smiling up at him. “Happy anniversary!”

Aang simply laughed in response and kissed her.

“I brought you a present,” he said, smiling at her.

“It’ll have to wait until after dinner,” Katara said. “You look like you could use a good meal.”

Aang chuckled. “Yeah, I probably could.”

Their dinner was a quick, simple meal. Katara admitted that after working so long on her present, she hadn’t been up to making an extravagant meal, but Aang reassured her that he much rather preferred a small, simple meal than something grand that required a lot of work and left Katara exhausted.

“Besides,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “The sooner we finish, the sooner I can give you your present.”

Katara simply laughed and allowed him to help her clear the table.

When their meal was finally finished, Aang presented her with an oddly shaped package. Katara stared at it quizzically before her gaze flicked back up to meet her husband’s.

“I found it in the Fire Nation,” he said, grinning at her. Katara slowly undid the wrappings and was shocked at what she found. Resting against the wrapping paper, were shards of broken glass, some stained and others painted. The only recognizable feature was the smiling face of the Painted Lady, staring back at her.

“It was supposed to be a statue of the Painted Lady,” Aang said dejectedly, once he had gotten over the shock of finding his gift shattered into a hundred different pieces. “I should have taken better care of it. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Katara said, hugging him. “I’m sure it wasn’t your fault. All the same, I really appreciate.”

Aang gave her a sad smile.

“I have something that might cheer you up,” the waterbender said, disappearing into the kitchen. Aang heard the clanging of several utensils and a groan of frustration from Katara before she walked back into the room with something dark brown in her hands.

“What is it?” Aang wondered, staring quizzically at the dish she had placed before him.

Katara looked glum. “It was supposed to be a fruit pie, but I burnt it,” she sighed, burying her face in her hands. “I was so glad you were back, I guess I forgot about taking it out of the oven on time. I’m sorry.”

The airbender gently removed her hands from her face and offered her a comforting smile. “Don’t be. They’re not easy to get right, but I’m sure it was delicious. I’m just sorry I have nothing to give you for our anniversary.”

Katara blinked. “But you have, Aang.”

“I know, but it was broken.”

“No, silly. Not the statue,” she said. “You’ve given me so much more.”

“What do you mean?” Aang asked.

Katara laughed softly. “When I was little, I remember watching my mom and dad and wondering if anyone could and would ever love me the way they loved each other. It wasn’t until after we won the war that I realized maybe someone could. As cheesy as it sounds, your love is the greatest gift of all and, when I have that, some silly little figurine hardly matters at all.”

Aang chuckled and wrapped his arms around her. “You’ve always had it.”

“You know,” Katara said, looking rather thoughtful all of a sudden. “There’s more.”

“Is there?” Aang wondered.

Katara nodded. “If we’re going to be all cheesy and sentimental, there is.”

“And what is it?”

“Sokka’s actually pointed it out to me. He says you make me laugh more than I ever did before. He thinks I’m too chipper now.”

“Well, I’m glad. Seeing you smile and laugh is much better than anything else.”

Katara grinned. “There’s one other thing.”

“And what would that be?”

“The gift of life.”

The waterbender wriggled out of his grasp and hurried off to their room, with Aang following close behind. He was trying to make sense of what she had meant, but its significance wasn’t revealed until she placed something soft in his hands. It was a partially sown little frock, the kind mothers generally used on young infants and the airbender’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Is this…do you mean…are you…are we really…?” He stammered.

Katara nodded, beaming up at him.

“Katara, that’s wonderful!” He exclaimed, picking her up and twirling her around. The waterbender’s musical laugh echoed throughout the chamber.

“You’ve already given me so much,” Katara said, smiling sincerely. “I don’t need anything else, so please don’t feel bad about the broken statue.”

“Only if you don’t feel bad about the fruit pie,” he replied. “Honestly, this is a better gift. How long have you known?”

“Only recently,” she admitted. “I guess it took me a while to realize it. I wasn’t really ill; just suffering from morning sickness.”

“I’m glad it wasn’t something more severe.”

Katara smiled. For a while, the two of them lapsed into a comfortable silence, punctuated only by the sound of broken glass clinking. Katara watched the airbender fiddle with a few pieces he’d found and suppressed a laugh.

“Don’t worry about that,” she said, taking the pieces away from him. “I honestly don’t mind that it’s broken. Like I said, you’ve already given me so much. I couldn’t possibly need anything more when everyday with you is a gift.”

“You really feel that way?”

Katara nodded. “I do,” she said, sincerely.

“I thought I was the only one,” the Avatar admitted. “I’m convinced I’m the luckiest person alive.”

“You can’t be. I am.”

Aang playfully stuck out his tongue. “Are not.”

“Am too.”

Aang pretended to pout and Katara laughed.

“In all seriousness though,” she said. “I really do believe I am. Sometimes, I think I wouldn’t even mind not having a roof over my head or food in my stomach as long as I have you. It sounds so cheesy when I say it, but I believe it all the same.”

“The feeling’s mutual then,” the airbender said, lacing his fingers with hers. “I don’t suppose anything would really matter as long as we have each other. But, for the sake of our baby, I’d like to keep a roof over our heads, if it’s all the same to you.”

Katara giggled. “A wise idea,” she murmured, yawning softly. “I’m glad you’re back, Aang.”

“Me too.”

Again, a comfortable silence descended upon them and Katara, feeling rather tired suddenly, crawled into bed. Aang, who had followed suit, realized she was probably exhausted after all she had done for their anniversary and thought about finishing some of the chores for her, but he didn’t really feel like getting up at the moment. In any case, Katara looked rather pensive and the airbender was curious as to what she was thinking about.

“Something wrong?” he wondered.

Katara shook her head. “Not at all. I was just marveling how presents come in all sorts of forms. When I was little, I dreamed of living in giant house and marrying some waterbender who was devoted to me and having lots of little waterbending kids. None of it came true, but I don’t care.”

“What does that have to do with presents?” Aang asked, slightly confused.

“None of it came true, because of a gift I got.”

Aang raised an eyebrow. “Who gave you this gift and what was it?”

She shrugged. “The spirits perhaps? Fate? Who knows? But it was the greatest gift of all: a strange boy in an iceberg.”

“I don’t know whether I should be flattered that you consider me your greatest gift or insulted that you called me strange,” Aang teased.

“Either way, it was the greatest gift I’ve gotten,” Katara said, nestling against him. “I wouldn’t trade you for the world.”

Aang simply smiled. It was funny how gifts came in all sorts of forms. Growing up, the only gifts he’d seen had been of the wrapped variety, the kind given to loved ones on special occasions. But, as Katara had said, life was a gift. Every day he spent with her, every memory they made and every moment they shared was special, a treasure to be cherished forever. Aang had gotten a lot of gifts in his lifetime, but each and every one paled in comparison to Katara’s love. There had never been and never would be any gift more valuable to him that that and he knew Katara felt the same. And, as he watched her drift into a peaceful slumber beside him, he knew it would always be so.

ENTRY 7

Title: The Greatest Gift Of All
Author: Spruce
Rating: K
Word Count: 1,645
Pairings: The Doph
Summary: On their first anniversary, Toph and The Duke attempt to exchange gifts...and end up exchanging more than few feelings about gift exchanges.

The Greatest Gift of All (click to show/hide)“Well…I have to be honest.”

   Toph stopped, let go of his hand, and allowed the words to hang in the air for a breathless moment. Maybe two. She got a kick out of feeling his nervous heart flutters beating down into the ground.

   “I never actually thought we’d make it this far. As a couple, or whatever you want to call it, I mean,” she blurted. The Duke rolled his eyes, pulling his whole head around in a familiar mixture of relief and exasperation. After a full year of dating this goddess among benders, he’d almost gotten used to it.

   “I know I could have just received worse news to close out a first anniversary date, but really, Toph? That’s your best romantic reveal?” The Duke jibbed. Toph set her jaw and came as close to “huffing” as one would ever see her come.

   “What’s wrong with it?” she quipped, hands on her hips and striding over to her boyfriend. “It can’t be that surprising that I thought you’d get sick of a..a…a pig like me!”

   “Aw come on, Toph…you aren’t-“

   “Yeah, yeah, you think I’m the hottest babe you’ve ever seen,” Toph said, now standing right before him and looking up into his chocolate brown stare. She immediately began to feel herself back at ease. The Duke thought he could see faint glimmers of dew in her pale gaze.

   “And you’re right about that,” she said as she wrapped her arms around his waist. Her face buried into his chest with a vulnerability she’d rather die than indulge outside of the forest glade they found themselves in, with only each other and the birds to bear witness. “I just…really wasn’t sure if you’d stick around that long with a girl so-“

   “Brusque? Brash? Exasperating?” The Duke offered with a cheeky smirk in his voice. Toph punched his ribs, but it only made the joyful rumbling she felt in his chest grow.

   “Something like that,” she murmured into his tunic. “And all of that is why…I thought I owed you an explanation.” His arms wrapped around her just as the twilight hour consumed the last remnants of the day’s sunbeams.

   “Explanation for what, exactly? You aren’t usually one for apologies.”

   “That’s why I’m not apologizing, Iron Skull.”

   She pulled away, rubbing her arms in a decidedly nervous manner. “I’m just prepping you for how this might go. That’s why I wanted to come back here, after dinner in the city. I didn’t want those rich old farts…and young farts, come to think of it…I didn’t want them to see this, either. Because it might be kind of lame.”

   The Duke smiled gently. “Toph,” he said, “you’re either asking me to marry you, or you’re giving me a gift. Neither is anything to be embarrassed about, especially not with ‘old farts’.”

   “Don’t flatter yourself, Helmet Hair! You have a lot more proving to do before you get to even think about marrying me on a good day,” Toph shot back. “I’m not embarrassed, I’m just concerned is all. I have a reputation to keep as a world class bender…and I have you to think about now…” She shuffled her feet as the wind rustled the leaves. “But yeah, I guess you could call it a gift,” she said, with her voice greatly softened.

   The Duke grinned. “Must mean I’m still in the running for a long term plan, then!”

   Toph smirked out of the corner of her mouth, and socked him in the shoulder. The Duke could swear he saw a nod to go with it.

   “You know,” he said, “I have a little something for you , too. To mark the occasion.”

   The Duke was as aware as the next person close to Toph (outside of Sokka’s occasional moments of buffoonery) that his darling girlfriend was as blind as a badgermole. Still, she had no limit to the depth of expression her eyes could still convey. The mere mention of a gift shocked her vestigial eyes into growing wider than he’d seen since the day he told her it was more than one-off kiss that he was interested in from her.

   “Why…why would you bother to do that? You don’t exactly have an abundance of money…”

   The Duke silenced her protests with a tender kiss, before pulling out an ancient but ornate dagger. The gilded sections had long ago given up their luster, but the piece was clearly worth a great deal at some point in its life.

   “This used to be Jet’s, but he passed it along to Longshot as a sign of trust to his second-in-command,” The Duke said. “Longshot gave it to Smellerbee after Jet…left us. And then she gave it to me after they settled down,” he continued. His voice was beginning to catch. “Now I want to give it to you…because, I trust you, Toph.” He thumbed along Toph’s cheek as he pressed the dagger hilt into her tiny hand. She refused to tremble at the touch, that was beneath the great Toph Bei Fong. But he could make out the little twitches in her expression that told him all he needed to know about how she felt about the gift.

   “Trust me with…what, exactly?” she asked, seemingly aware of the answer but nervous to find out for sure.

   “With…my heart I guess. My life. You’re…kind of my ‘second-in-command’ now, if I pretend I’m still some kind of spiritual leader of the old Freedom Fighters,” The Duke explained. Toph breathed in deeply. She clutched the dagger tightly as she sighed out a long stream of emotions, culminating in her sheathing the dagger into her sleeve and drawing The Duke into her snug embrace.

   “Thank you,” she said, only a shade above a whisper. The Duke smiled a lopsided grin and rubbed her back. He kissed the crown of her head and swayed with her.

   “I’m the one who should be thanking you,” he answered back. Another quick shot to his ribs told him what she thought of the idea, for the moment.

   “Not just yet, lover boy.”

   Toph broke free of his arms with a wicked smirk. She tapped the earth between them twice with her foot, and up shot a glimmering curve of metal. The ends spiked at the top in a baroque flair, and the rapidly strengthening glow from the moon revealed a dizzying blend of metals, all depending on the way the light caught it.

   “It isn’t much, but-“ Toph chatted as she began to bend the metal onto the young man’s helmet. “-it’s just something I thought you deserved.” She finished almost as soon as she began, stepping back to admire her handiwork. “There, now you look as good as any of those high-society type generals with a piece of trash sitting on their heads…”

Her pleased demeanor cooled off into an annoyed glare.

“…or you would, if you’d wipe that dumb look of shock off your face. Act like you’ve been there before, Dukey!”

Her use of the one name only she could ever get away with calling him snapped him back to reality.  He let the slight go, still too dumbfounded to care.

“Toph…how did you-how long did it take you to-where-why did you-“

“Shh. My turn to blow you off with a kiss.”

Her lips brushed his, but pulled back teasingly. She chuckled in his face.

“Sorry, can’t get over how you looked just now,” she giggled menacingly. There was none of the delicate softness of a gentler girl’s laugh in Toph, and The Duke still thought it was far prettier.

“Well, it is pretty amazing, Toph. I don’t know why you were at all nervous. Thank you, really,” The Duke lauded, soft brown eyes melting down her cold, hard emotional walls yet again.

“It’s nothing,” she insisted, turning her cheek to him but remaining close. “I just wanted to show that I cared…that I felt good about things. About us, I mean. About you,” She prattled. It was a rather unusual sight, to see her look unconfident or off-guard like this. The Duke swaddled her in his arms again and kissed her cheek.

“That’s why it means so much to me,” he said, nuzzling her with his nose. “It’s why you mean so much to me. Don’t you get it yet?”

Toph nodded and made a brief noise of acknowledgement, but kept herself very still. The Duke took it as a hesitant sign to continue.

“Toph…the greatest gift you gave me…that I can hope to give you…is the gift of giving someone worth giving to at all. And you gave that to me a long time ago.”

He turned her face back toward his.

“That’s why I was so happy to be able to give you that dagger…because I’ve never had someone I cared so much about, that I could care so much about giving them anything so important.”

Toph drew her face in closer, noses touching and lips hovering near each other.

“I’ve never had anyone like that, either,” she said. “I mean, I could’ve…probably should’ve given more nice things to Katara and Aang and...Sokka,” she said, treating the final name like the emotional landmine it was. The Duke tried not to wince. “But this is the first time I can remember doing something like this…like I’m giving someone a piece of myself. It’s weird.”

She finally pressed her mouth to his.

“But I think I like it.”

The Duke smiled.

“Couldn’t agree more.” They sealed their epiphany with a kiss, followed by another, and many more following that.

The night would come and go, and many more seasons would rise and fall for the both of them. But they would never forget the pureness of the spirit of giving that they learned that day. Their gift to each other, of each other, would carry on through and past their lifetimes.

« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 02:13:38 AM by A6 »
signatures - gift from my talented friends Water Lily and Honey Badger :3

Offline Cowboy Colt

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2012, 04:33:01 PM »
All wonderful entry's.  It was so hard to choose!

keeps and quotes (click to show/hide)
 ATLA keeps: Kataang lovemaking, "MY CABBAGES " line, Aangs quiet badassness
Main theme (click to show/hide)
[
Elevation requires separation.

Be thankful for each day that you have.

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Offline Cassidy Alice

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2012, 07:07:35 PM »
Voting is always so tough. And, I think Spruce's entry is missing from the list. ^^'

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Offline Cowboy Colt

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2012, 07:16:47 PM »
Voting is always so tough. And, I think Spruce's entry is missing from the list. ^^'
I just noticed that!

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Elevation requires separation.

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Offline A6

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2012, 08:48:17 PM »
Spruce's entry is added now. My apologies.
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Offline Saxy

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2012, 12:30:20 AM »
A6, can the mods see who voted? If so, you should send a PM to all who voted and let them know Spruce's entry was added.


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Offline A6

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2012, 01:33:20 AM »
Its anonymous to everyone. Its all trust.
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Offline Saxy

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2012, 01:42:06 AM »
Gotcha


ATLA Keeper of: On Ji's bangs, Ty Lee's love of pink, Ty Lee's aura, Ty Lee's flirting skills, and Ty Lee's eyes
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Offline divsalley

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2012, 01:27:34 PM »
Voting and topic unlocked since this is a tie. Voting will continue until the tie is broken.

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Offline A6

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Re: Holiday Writing Contest Voting
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2012, 03:51:53 PM »
^what divs said. We need a tie breaker.
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