Chapter One

fandom: Avatar: the Last Airbender
POV: Katara
wordcount: ~5802


Post-war. There’s a celebration to be had and the GAang’s all there. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen-not everything falls into place after a war the way everyone would like.

Just a Dance

She stopped to gaze at the water.

The last time Katara had been within the ring around the royal palace of Ba Sing Se, she hadn’t really been able to appreciate the scenery as it should have been. It was immaculate, of course, the grounds shaped by only the best earthbenders the city had, and maintained by what she was sure was a small army of groundskeepers. There were gently curving stone pathways that meandered back into gardens she couldn’t see the entirety of, guiding the land around the palace building itself. Bridges arched over manicured streams, and ponds were strategically placed throughout. The one she stood before was filled with brightly dappled koi and lily pads, with small blooms of some plant she couldn’t identify floating along the soft current. The water was dusted with pinks and purples, reflecting the darkening sky across its surface.

The last time she’d been here there’d been no time for any sightseeing—she and the others were too busy forcing their way into the palace. That all felt like so long ago, when in reality it wasn’t even a full cycle of seasons since then. The spring equinox had only been celebrated a little over two weeks ago, and the Qingming festival just wrapped up yesterday; ghost papers still fluttered by many graves and willow branches still hung over doorways. There were perhaps some who deemed it inauspicious for the Earth King to be wed so quickly after Qingming, but Katara knew that the timing was very intentional.

“Honor those who gave their lives by celebrating the start of new life,” she said quietly to the water.

They had all arrived in Ba Sing Se a week ago in order to participate in the festival as well as be present for the wedding—indeed, Katara felt that Qingming was the more important of the two. All the war heroes were there, including the young Fire Lord, to honor everyone who’d given their lives during the last year of the Hundred Year War. That itself was a contentious point; the war had been long and brutal, and sixteen seasons (by the Earth Kingdom píngqì calendar) was hardly enough time for everyone to truly start the healing process. In those long months that she’d been accompanying Aang after both the war’s end and Zuko’s coronation, Katara saw first hand that old prejudices refused to die easily. There was still a lot of resentment and hate fostered throughout the Earth Kingdom, though Aang and she had done what they could to stop it from festering. Sometimes, Katara wasn’t sure if they’d ever really succeeded.

But, now they were all here to make a statement of cross-nationally celebrating in the Earth Kingdom. Lifting her gaze from the swimming koi and drifting blossoms, Katara hoped that it wouldn’t all fall on deaf ears.

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