Time marches on.
Night skies into fiery orange.
A comet glides on.
It's not there yet...
It will be soon.
There they were, gathered at what a crazy king referred to as "old people camp", short one vital ally, but given reassurance that he would be there.
No, not the pet said crazy king wanted to know about, for whatever reason.
The central figure of saving the world.
Where was Aang? The heck if any of them knew. The bounty huntress told them that he was gone, but not dead. No one had any clue what that could have meant.
So on they went to outside a fallen and former mighty capital, and there, inspired by a meeting with the firebender's wise uncle, they decided to go their separate ways and help Aang in any way they possibly could.
Now, after 14 years of being together, the siblings were going to split.
Katara had one thing on her mind with confronting the princess. The waterbender's head was still tainted with the memory of watching her best friend fall to his death at the hands of that young but vicious firebender. She wanted desperately to get back at her for that. So, when Zuko offered her the opportunity to travel to the Fire Nation and bring on her downfall, Katara was more-than-willing to take it on the spot.
Sokka decided to go a more strategic way, leading his Kyoshi Warrior girlfriend and the blind but powerful earthbending master - stop the Fire Lord's mighty airship fleet from turning an entire nation into ashes. Any way they could help their mutual ally was vital.
Both the waterbender and warrior knew that any one or more of them may not return. They were dealing with a force that would increase their to-be-opponents' attacks to levels they had never seen in their lives.
They had already lost so much.
Words could not even begin to muster what they would felt if one of them were to lose their lives.
They lost their mom.
For all they know, they nearly lost their dad.
They almost lost their mutual close friend.
Taking one from the other would be the equivalent of ripping the heart of the still-living's body and stepping on it, squishing it like a nuisance ant.
It just could not happen.
There he was, donned in the battle gear of their people, his sword sheathed in a case he strapped to his back, his wolf helmet in-hand.
There she was, in her blue dress, her arms protected by two small protectors, two water skins strapped to her back for her to easily reach her element.
They stood before each other, their own moment of truth.
Katara crossed her hands in front of her and took a deep breath, looking straight up at her brother worriedly.
Sokka looked just as worriedly at his sister, hoping for her safety.
After a moment of this silent pleading toward one another, and/or toward the spirits, the conversation began.
"So...I guess this is it..." Katara said quietly. "The world's fate in our hands."
"I know..." Sokka mused. "Who would have thought, in less than a year, we would go from living in our small tribe to aiding in the battle for the entire world?"
"Things have gone so fast," Katara replied.
"Sometimes, I think just a bit too fast..." Sokka again mused, looking back at the past year in his memories as he turned his head slightly away from his sister for a moment.
"You know, Sokka..." the waterbender spoke as if in a deep state of reminiscence herself. "Think about it. Fourteen years have gone by, and...well...we've never really been apart, have we?"
"It's true," the warrior answered, turning his gaze back to his younger sibling. "We've lived everything together...our mom dying..." he tensed up for a short moment - "...Dad leaving to fight in the War..." he again stopped, breathing deeply. "...finding Aang...the journey to the North, back to the Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se..." once more, Sokka had to stop and catch himself, knowing full well what had happened that time. "We've gone our separate ways on occasion, yes..."
Katara filled in the last blank. "But never have we...fought our own battles...and now..."
"I guess we are..." Sokka returned the previous favor.
Brother and sister took a step closer to one another, before looking down and away. The thought was scary, but very real. They feared this day was inevitable from the moment their world journey began, but tried to brush it off.
There was no running now.
It was like being forced to confront a pack of mad wolves, surrounding them at all corners.
Katara shook her head, trying to fight off the thought of losing her brother, knowing what he was about to confront.
Sokka did the very same, the threat Katara was about to face was likely to be even scarier. The two siblings were certainly in sync with the other, something that did not happen very much in their journey.
"Anything on your mind?" Katara finally shattered the silence with a verbal water whip, though remaining quiet in her speaking. As if there's nothing on my mind, she chastised herself.
"I..." Sokka began, cutting himself off. What was he supposed to say? What idle hint was he to drop that would indicate how much he feared Katara not returning? What would she think if he said such a thing?
"You can say anything you wish," the waterbender assured her brother, smiling weakly. "You know I'm always open to talk."
"Okay..." the elder sibling began again, taking a deep breath. "Katara...I have to be honest." His face dropped toward the ground. "I'm scared," he finally said, as clear and quiet as he could.
"Scared?" Katara wondered out loud. She never knew Sokka to be scared of much of anything when it came to combat. "What scares you?"
"This is going to be the hardest battle we have ever faced," he answered, the first hints of his train of thought leaving the proverbial station. "Sozin's Comet...the most powerful firebenders...I just hope..." another pause preceded his follow-up "...you know, that everything works out." His face curled up in something of a self-anger. Wonderful, great dodge there, Sokka.
"Works out?" Katara asked, somewhat concerned as to what he could have meant.
"You know...Aang shows up and fights Ozai...we take down the airships...you and Zuko beat Azula...that stuff," Sokka continued. Come on, just say it...she said you could say anything. She's always open...she's your sister!
"Well, yes," the young waterbender replied. "I hope it does work out that way...and I know Aang will be there to fight Ozai. Keep your faith in him strong, Sokka, and remember what Iroh told us." She rubbed the back of her hair. You know he cares so much about you, Katara...you can tell him.
"Right," Sokka added with a nod. He had one more door to open though - looked as if the burden to admit it fell on him. "Katara...I won't lie." The young man placed his wolf helmet on the ground, reached his arms out, and placed his hands on his sister's shoulders. "I'm scared, well, because..."
Katara looked up right into his eyes, smiling weakly once more, trying to be as assuring as she could. "Say what you need to say."
"...I'm scared of you not coming back."
That hit right at Katara in her heart as her own thoughts flooded to her, like the tip of a sharp knife piercing her. Her eyes began to well up with a mist of tears. "Oh, Sokka..." she said softly. "I...I guess I should say too..." her head quickly shifted downward for a moment before she looked back up at him. "I'm scared of the very same..." her voice dropped to a whisper, a low breeze of words.
Sokka's look shifted toward one of worry for her, his hands still locked on Katara's shoulders. "Really? I would've thought fearing for your life would be silly...knowing how strong a fighter you are."
Katara wiped away the coating of tears and laid her hands over Sokka's. "It's not at all," she said. "I know you yourself are an incredible fighter...and yet...I fear for you life all the same...as much as I do Aang, Toph, Suki, Zuko...any of them."
The young Tribesman nodded at her words before continuing. "It's simple, really..I don't know what I'd do without you. I can't even imagine what life would be like without you...you, my sister, a someone I could always turn to no matter what the time." He briefly averted his eyes from her in that time of thought before quickly looking back to her. "For all my years, you've been that constant in my life...someone I can always rely on..."
"Oh..." Katara whispered, a stronger smile appearing on her face. "Oh, Sokka...gosh, I can't tell you how happy I am to hear those words." She removed her hands from his and now placed them on his shoulders. "And I have to tell you the very same. We've lost a lot...but you're right, we have had each other all along...both in the times of light and dark. Even though you have annoyed me at times," she chuckled before continuing, those moments being merely funny memories now, "you too have always been that someone always having my back."
The two siblings were now in warm smiles at the other, just gazing silently for a moment as memories came rushing back. There were many moments in their life at the South Pole before they found Aang. If there was one thing that popped into Katara's mind at that moment, it was the endless hours the two spent in silent comfort and tears in the aftermath of their mother's death. It was little talks the two had, keeping each other assurance when their father left to join the war effort. Sokka thought about how Katara returned the favor to keep him close comfort after that day, telling him that his chance would come. One final moment for Katara was right after that unfortunate night in Ba Sing Se, it was Sokka who came to her side while attempting to restore Aang to consciousness...
She sat there, next to his comatose form, in tears for what seemed like the millionth time in the hours since that fateful lightning strike. She continued to feel helpless, not knowing what to do about her close friend.
She felt very much alone.
At that moment, he came in to the tent, hoping to say something comforting to her, anything. He knew she needed something right there and then...
He just didn't know the words.
Maybe it was time to just forget the words. Actions in and of themselves could say so much...and there were certainly plenty of actions to be had throughout their lives when words couldn't express what had happened.
He walked over to her agonized form, noticing tears streaming down her eyes. Resting his hand on her shoulder, she granted him her teary-eyed look.
After watching him gaze over her state, the next thing she knew, she was in a tight embrace, her head buried into his shoulder. She returned this motion, grasping to him as much as she could, needing someone, anyone she could find in that darkness.
And brother and sister simply sat there, without word, in that tight embrace for several moments...
Still gazing at the other, promises were to be made for these two as the battle drew near. They knew that living without the other would be a great challenge.
Katara made the first move.
"Listen to me, big brother," she said, her face becoming more urging and her hands tightening on his shoulders as she looked at him. "Please...I'm not sure where I'd be without you. You've done so much for me, meant so much to me...I can't lose you." With tears beginning to glisten in her eyes, she quietly spoke, "Promise me, Sokka. Promise me that you will return...we've lost too much to this war already. I don't want you to be next..."
Sokka laid an assuring hand on Katara's shoulder once again. "I will...but only if you do one thing for me." The tone of his voice dropped, but he made his words clear enough for the waterbender to hear. "Likewise, I don't know what I'd do without you...not without your watchful eye these past several years. You're right, we have lost far too much...I promise, I won't be next...but little sister, can you promise me the same?"
Without a moment's hesitation, she said "Yes, Sokka. I promise. I will never leave you on your own."
He smiled once more. "Thank you, Katara. You certainly never have." Showing confidence in his master waterbending sister, he added, "and I know you won't start now."
Katara followed the same train of actions. "I know you won't either. You're an incredible warrior, and I know you all will stop those airships."
Sokka put his hand back on her shoulder. "And I know you and Zuko will kick Azula's butt. She has it coming."
Katara thought back to that awful night once again, reminding her of how much it made her so desiring to fight and beat the Fire Princess. "It will be done."
Knowing departure time was now on the doorstep, the two spent just another moment gazing at the other, ready for what was to come, but still needing to do one more thing.
Katara instigated it, moving her arms around his shoulders and pulling him in.
As soon as Sokka caught on to these movements, he quickly threw his around her.
The two now stood in a tight hug, as they had done quite a few times before. All throughout their lives, through times of both dark and light, they shared their love throughout this small token gesture, reminding them in action that they were there for the other, no matter what times befell them, no matter what happened.
Four words remained for her.
Closing her eyes and tightening the embrace, she whispered, for his ears only. "I love you, Sokka."
Smiling brighter and mimicking those actions, he whispered five more words. "I love you too, Katara."
For several moments, there they were, brother and sister, preparing to embark on the fights of their lives, making sure they got those last minutes of love and assurance in before it was time to go. They held each other tight, letting it all sink in as the time came upon them. They rocked back and forth a bit as they stood, refusing to let go...they just didn't want to.
They didn't want to be the one to let go...possibly for good.
They would be damned if that happened.
Continually tightening the embrace as needed, their actions spoke for themselves, trying to tell the other desperately to not let this be their final common moment.
Ultimately, neither of them released their hug.
It was Suki who came up to them and tapped their shoulders, giving them the final signal to separate.
"Hey you two," the Kyoshi Warrior said. "It's about time to go. The White Lotus just wants to see us off and give us a couple of things. So, yeah, as much as I hate to break up the moment..." she added with a small laugh.
Katara just chuckled back. "It's okay," she said. "I think we said and did what we needed." She shot her brother another comforting look.
"I can agree with that," Sokka replied. "Let's go win this war...and let's hope for Aang's return as well."
Katara nodded and added, "Right, and forget about 'hope' there, Sokka. He will return, and we will both be seeing him soon."
"I can agree with that too," the warrior said.
They had one more thing to say to the other.
"Good luck, sis," Sokka added. "I'll be thinking of you along the way. I love you."
Katara subsequently answered, "Good luck to you too, bro. Likewise, I'll be sure to think of you as well. I love you, too."
The two gave each other another quick hug as they prepared to head off, though Suki wanted to make sure she got her own words in. She'd be seeing Sokka all throughout this fight, but not Katara.
"I wish you good luck as well," Suki said to her close friend. "I look forward to seeing you afterward."
"I wish the very same for you, Suki," Katara answered. "Likewise, I will be seeing you soon enough."
The two friends shared a quick embrace of their own before another round of smiles sent them on their way.
Thus, it was now time.
Katara and Sokka spared one more smile to the other, a silent third "I love you" permeating the air as they made the last preparations for this final battle.
Very little separation.
Now the moments of truth.
But deep down, they knew it would work out.
They knew they'd be before each other again.
Just like they always were, still were even then...
and always would be.