“Gran-Gran, I think you’re the only person in this entire tribe who hasn’t tried to shove sea prunes down my throat,” Aang said, happily chowing down on Kanna’s five-flavor soup. “Everyone else is always Oh come on Avatar, you’re a vegetarian and the Southern Water Tribe doesn’t have many vegetarian dishes, you should like this! And I have to be like, look, just because I’m a vegetarian, it doesn’t mean I’ll eat every plant I meet!”
Kanna laughed and poured him a cup of labrador tea. “To be honest, Aang,” she said, “I wasn’t at all fond of southern sea prunes when I first moved down here. They’re different enough from the northern kind that I just couldn’t like the taste. Both tribes prepare them differently, too. It was just strange.”
“I don’t like the northern kind much, either,” Aang said cheerily. “Or the Fire Nation’s ocean kumquats.”
“Katara brought me some of those,” Kanna said. “I didn’t like them much, either.”
“Next time we go to the Northern Water Tribe, we’ll bring you some northern sea prunes,” Aang said. “I can promise I won’t eat a single one on the way back.”
“Cheeky,” Kanna smiled. “Bring them to me for your wedding. I’ll prepare them in the Southern style. It’ll completely scandalize Pakku.”
Aang laughed and sipped his tea. “You really like scandalizing him, don’t you?”
“It’s a lifelong habit,” she said. “One that you and Katara are carrying on, too. You know he’s still miffed that you haven’t carved her a betrothal necklace? He wanted to give you tips.”
“Uh, yeah, because his first betrothal necklace worked out so well,” Aang snorted. “Besides, that’s a Northern tradition, and Katara loves her mom’s necklace. Your necklace. Her necklace.” He had some more tea. “But, uh... you’re not miffed, are you? That I’m not courting Katara in the proper Southern way?”
Kanna gave him a dull look. “Aang, you’re talking to a woman who, when presented with a proper courtship, took a hike across the Earth Kingdom to the other side of the world.”
“Besides, Hakoda and I understand you wouldn’t want to go on a traditional hunting trip.”
Aang’s eyes lit up. “Maybe we could change it to a non-traditional animal-riding trip!”
Kanna laughed. “Oh, I would love to see my son handle that.”
“So what have we learned from this experience?” Bato asked, wrapping the splint around Aang’s arm.
“That I should never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, attempt to ride a polar bear-dog.”
“That’s right,” Bato sighed. On the other side of the sitting room, Hakoda and Sokka were regaling Kanna with an unfortunately-not-embellished tale of the entire ridiculous event. Kanna looked mostly amused, though the way she was eyeing her son and grandson’s bandages meant she was at least a little worried about their apparent lack of self-preservation.
“Sorry Bato,” Aang said. “I didn’t think it’d get that out of hand! But at least we all had fun?”
“I’ll definitely be talking about this one until I’m old and gray,” Hakoda said.
“Yeah!” Sokka shouted. “Best hunting trip ever! Even if we didn’t get anything to eat out of it!”
Bato gave them a flat stare. “Sometimes I think I’m the only person in this entire tribe with any sense.”
“I hate to break it to you, Bato,” Sokka said, “but you don’t have a sense. Of adventure.”
Bato closed his eyes. “Definitely your father’s son.”
“Why are you saying that like it’s a bad thing?” Hakoda asked.
Bato waved him off. “Alright,” he said to Aang, finishing with the splint. “I think you’ll live.”
“Great!” Aang grinned. “Though bending is going to be really awkward for a while. How do you guys manage to go hunting without bending? That was wild!”
“Very carefully,” Bato said. “And not always without casualties.”
Aang grimaced. “I’m just glad I managed to get you guys out in one piece.”
“I do appreciate not being dead,” Bato said. He glanced around the room and paused when his gaze fell on the writing supplies Pakku kept on a nearby table. He must have written a letter recently - the inkstone was still wet. Bato dipped a finger into the bit of remaining ink and, before Aang could react, swiped it right over the Airbender’s arrow tattoo.
Aang blinked twice and reached up, his fingers pausing just shy of the ink on his forehead. “The...Mark of the Trusted?”
“You denied it last time I tried to give it to you,” Bato said. “But you just saved Hakoda, Sokka, and I from a ravenous polar bear-dog, so I’d say you’ve definitely re-earned it.”
Aang smiled. “Okay,” he said. “Thank you. I won’t wipe it off this time.” Pause. “But...is there a chance we can not tell Katara that we almost got eaten by a polar bear-dog?”
“She’d find out anyway,” Bato said somberly. “We’ll just have to face our doom like men.”
“Oh my moon you’re married,” Sokka slurred. “I can’t believe it.”
“I can’t believe it either,” Aang giggled.
Most of the other wedding guests had already stumbled away to sleep off the alcohol, but Team Avatar had retreated to a private room, drinking to Aang and Katara’s happiness and enjoying their increasingly-rare time together. They were as deep into the night as they were into the bottles of fine Fire Nation wine Zuko and Mai had brought as a wedding gift.
“We’re brothers,” Sokka said.
“Thought we were always brothers.”
“In law,” Sokka elaborated, thumping a hand against the table. “It’s official! The law says it’s so!” He faceplanted on the table.
“Snoozles needs to hold his alcohol better,” Toph hiccupped.
“Snoozles’s had more’n you,” Sokka mumbled into the tabletop.
Katara was giggling helplessly. “You all - need to drink - more water,” she managed, and then she attempted to bend the water out of their table’s pitcher and into their empty glasses. She only succeeded in soaking everyone’s faces, which made the others sputter indignantly while she broke down into more giggles.
“You see that?” Sokka asked the table at large, turning his head a bit so his face wasn’t mashed against the table. “Every time she plays with magic water I get wet. Every. Time.”
“I dunno,” Toph drawled. “Saves you the trouble of washing your face.”
Sokka raised a finger. “That... is a good point. You can keep it.”
“You’re too generous.”
“Oh!” Sokka said. “Aang’s my brother-in-law!”
“We know, Snoozles - ”
“But do you know what that means?” Sokka asked.
“Means Suki’s my sister-in-law?” Aang mumbled.
“That too. But Zuko!” Sokka slung an arm around the Firebender’s shoulders before Zuko could contemplate escaping. “Zuko! You’re my sister’s...great-grandson...in-law, through...marriage. And reincarnation.”
“Huh,” said Zuko.
“Huh,” said Katara.
“I don’t know if Roku’s laughing or if I’m just drunk,” said Aang.
“Which makes me your…” Sokka stared at his fingers. “Great-great...uncle-in-law?”
Suki snorted into her cup. “You’re all ridiculous.”
Katara peered at her. “How’re you still so sober?”
“M’not,” Suki admitted. “Just less drunk than you. I haven’t had people toasting to my good fortune all evening long and expecting me to drink with them.” She patted Katara’s shoulder.
“How’s Sparky still sober?” Toph asked. “You drank as much as Sokka.”
“Firebender,” Zuko said from where he was cuddled against Mai, Sokka still leaning on his other side. “Higher metabolism. It’s super useful.”
“I wonder if any of my past lives have any tips for hangovers,” Aang mused.
“If you find out, share,” Katara said, leaning into his side and kissing his cheek.
“Do you two need privacy?” Zuko asked.
“Yeah,” Toph said. “Should we clear out so Sweetness and Twinkletoes can get horizontal and do the do?”
“I am too drunk to do the do,” Katara said sadly.
“We can do the do on the honeymoon,” Aang said. “Right now I just wanna hang out with all you guys.”
“Adorable,” Mai deadpanned. “Frankly, all of you are precious when you’re drunk.”
Suki peered at her. “You actually are sober, aren’t you?”
Mai smiled into her cup. “We have a saying in the Fire Nation. Fear the one who drinks water, for they will remember this night.”
“Ooooooooh,” said Sokka.
At some point they all finally drooped off to sleep where they sat, only to be violently woken up ten seconds later by the sun shining through the windows and Ty Lee slamming the door open to announce “Rise and shine, sleepyheads! I brought Kohimori-blend coffee to perk you all up!”
Aang stumbled into Hakoda’s office with an armful of squirming, wailing baby. “Help.”
“Is that my grandson?” Hakoda asked, getting up from his desk. “He’s gotten bigger.”
“He won’t stop crying!” Aang said, bouncing Bumi up and down. “He was like this the entire bison ride here. I think Katara’s gone deaf. He’s not hungry, his diaper’s fine, he’s had his nap, he just won’t stop crying!”
Hakoda laughed. “You’re not used to babies, are you?”
“No! I mean, I like babies, I’ve seen babies, but - agh! I was raised by monks! I was twelve! I wasn’t responsible for babies! I don’t know how to dad!”
“No one ever does, when they start,” Hakoda reassured him. He waved his fingers in front of Bumi’s face, and the baby paused his wailing to stare at them.
Aang blinked. “Did you just - ”
Bumi started crying again.
“ - nevermind,” Aang sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Here,” Hakoda said, “gimme.”
Aang handed his son over, and Hakoda started rocking the baby back and forth to an old tempo that came back to him as easily as though he’d last done it yesterday. “Sokka and Katara had their own crying phases. I’m sure he’ll be over it in a month.”
Hakoda smirked. “It’ll feel like longer.”
Aang groaned. “And it’s normal?”
Hakoda shrugged. “I hate to break it to you, but babies are not convenient things.” He patted Bumi’s back in a gentle rhythm. The baby’s wails were coming down in volume.
“I know they’re not convenient,” Aang said, running his hands over his arrow. “I just - if I can’t get it right now, what am I going to do when he’s older?”
“The best you can,” Hakoda shrugged.
“I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“No one ever does,” Hakoda said. “You just have to keep trying.”
Aang took a few deep breaths. In Hakoda’s arms, Bumi was slowly quieting, staring up at his grandfather sleepily. All the crying had apparently tired him out. “It’s just - there’s one of him and two of me and Katara, and it still feels like we’re outnumbered.”
Hakoda gave him a reassuring smile. “That’s why we say it takes a village.”