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Old Children

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It’s taken a little time to get to this point. A point where Katara feels ready to talk to Sokka about what she said. About what she shouldn’t have said.

And usually they don’t need to say these things to each other, the ‘sorry’s and ‘I didn’t mean it’s. Really, she knows she doesn’t need to say it now, because Sokka will already know, will always assume that she doesn’t really mean any hurt she causes him. She doesn’t. Mostly.

But this time she feels like she has to. She touches her mother’s necklace before stepping into the room he’s using. (An entire house on Ember Island that the Fire Lord’s family never uses, the sheer waste is… something that’s not at all important right now, but she can still find it all so foreign out in the wide world.) 

Sokka is halfway into his bed and stops, looks at her, hair down and ruffled like he does before bed. It’s been a while, he’s taken to leaving it tied up as they travelled, to be ready at a moment’s notice (where is the line between idiot-for-comedy and straight-up-idiot? She’s never been able to tell. She hopes there is one). “Katara?” He asks when she doesn’t say anything (she’s just staring, good start). “What’s up?”

She kneels in the centre of the room, brushes the creases out of her dress before she says, “I’m here to say I’m sorry,” she starts, stilted, because this isn’t what they do. “I didn’t mean to—I don’t think you loved Mom less than I do.”

Subtle tension leaves Sokka’s body in a breath. “Yeah, Katara,” he says softly, “I know.”

It’s good, to hear that he knows, but still, “I shouldn’t have said it.”

Sokka frowns. “Yeah, well,” his gaze flickers away, “I always knew—” he moves to sit on the edge of the bed and stares at his feet. He’s only wearing shorts, it’s so warm and so different from their home. “It was harder on you, wasn’t it,” he states, “Back then. And I—”

She waits for the end of the sentence, but it doesn’t come. “You could’ve,” Katara shakes her head. “I should’ve asked you to come with us.”

Sokka looks back up at her, frowning harder in confusion. “What? No. It was your—I mean, if you’d wanted me to, of course I would, but it was your, y’know, Zuko fieldtrip. You two had… I trust him, and you, you’re both able to, well, look after yourselves, obviously, because you’re here—”

“Didn’t you want to?” Katara asks over the top of his rambling.

Sokka stops rambling and looks at her. “No, I didn’t.”

“Why not?” she asks, sharper than she means to. They could have had a mother, both of them, all these years. She would never have had to take on so much as a child, and neither of them would have had to know just how cruel the world can be when they were so young. One man’s action caused so much pain to their family and that man is pathetic and miserable and she doesn’t wish she’d gone through with it, but she still burns with the injustice. That they, her and Sokka, both of them, all of them, had to know what a life without their mother was.

Sokka is silent, watching her. She could back off and let him not answer but now, she wants to know. He’s always been so eager about his ‘warrior’ responsibilities, and certain he’ll take down the Fire Nation. So why not the one who killed their mom? Why not the man who caused them so much pain, personally?

“Because it wouldn’t bring her back,” says Sokka quietly, seriously. “Nothing will. And I don’t—” He sighs and shifts, uncomfortable. “There are men, people, in the Fire Nation, who ordered that raid, who ordered all the raids. People who never in their lives set foot in the South Pole, never saw what they did to our home, and they’re still there, still ordering soldiers to kill and tear families apart. That’s why we have to stop the Fire Nation, that’s why I have to stop the Fire Nation.” Sokka looks away again. “Mom’s… Mom’s dead, and it sucks, but I can’t change it.”

It makes sense. If Katara ignores the years of pain caused by one man’s action. If she forgets the choice that each soldier made before they invaded her home and took her warmth and safety and left an entire village of her people watching the horizon and eying every too-dark cloud. If she doesn’t think like herself, the angry sea rising in retaliation and letting itself known through sheer power of will. If she thinks like her brother, a river with his eyes on the end goal, his route never straight, dodging obstacles, always finding a way even if it wasn’t what he expected. They are different, but they are both water.

Katara wipes her eyes. “She’d be proud of us, wouldn’t she.”

“Yeah,” Sokka agrees, meeting Katara’s eyes. “You’re training the freakin’ avatar, I don’t see how she couldn’t be.”

Katara sniffs and chuckles. “I said us, dummy. You’re out here to save the world from the Fire Nation because you can’t not help when someone needs you.”

“What?” Sokka’s voice leaps an octave. “No, no, no, that’s your thing.”

“I don’t know,” Katara sing-songs, “It kinda sounded like it was your thing too. And Mom would be proud of you, of us both, for that.”

Sokka’s eyes narrow, and for all his crafty thinking, he can’t think of a way to deny that. “Fine,” he says.

Katara grins and Sokka’s eyes widen but he doesn’t have a chance to dodge before Katara has tackled him onto the bed in a hug. He squawks under her offensive, but settles and wraps his arms around her with a lot less flailing than she expected. Even though she had been trying to lighten the mood, tears still come to her eyes. They haven’t hugged, well, snuggled like this in a long time. Not since they were still thought too young to have a say in their own lives. Not since their age became irrelevant because everyone bar Gran Gran had left them.

“It still hurts.” She presses her face into his shoulder, unfortunately bare due to the heat of Ember Island so there’s nothing to soak up her tears.

“Yeah,” Sokka agrees, his voice cracking. She doesn’t look up, knows that if there’s anything Sokka hates it’s people seeing the cracks in his façade. She’ll give him this, for now.