Zuko raised an eyebrow at her as she passed his room that morning. "Blue today?" She jumped at the sound of his voice and whirled around to see him leaning in the doorframe, grinning boyishly.
Katara put her hands on her hips. "Something wrong with that?"
"Of course not," Zuko said moving forward to pull her close to him. "You know that I love you in blue. But you've been wearing a lot more red lately, so I was just wondering."
She stood on her toes and swiftly stole a kiss from him. "Well, if you must know, today is sort of a…" she trailed off for a moment, flooded with bittersweet memories. "Today's a holiday in Akvo."
Zuko's eyes widened sadly. "Katara, why didn't you tell me? We could've stayed there longer or gone back a few days ago…"
"Well, you were needed here so I thought…I thought that this would be better. So I wrote my family and told them that I wouldn't be coming home."
After experiencing the place for himself, it no longer saddened him to hear Katara continue to call Akvo her home. "I'll never be too busy to take you there," he said thumbing across her cheek. "Even if I was, you could always go…by yourself…if it means that much to you." It hurt him to think of letting Katara go to Akvo alone; part of him feared that she would never come back.
Katara snuggled against his chest. "No, it's fine. I can't stay home all the time, can I?" He felt her cheeks move as she gave a small smile.
"Still…I feel bad that you're missing out on a holiday with your family for me…" At this, she did not respond. He kissed the top of her head. "What is this holiday, anyway?"
She looked up and smiled at his interest. "Well, we call it Potelatch. It's a holiday celebrating the birth of waterbending—when the first people learned it from the moon. There's a feast and dancing, as usual, but my favorite part is at the end when you give your most valuable possessions to people you love." Katara bit her lip, reminiscing. "Since no one really had a lot in Akvo, the gifts were always really meaningful… I once saw a man give the woman he was courting the necklace he was wearing the day he met her. His grandmother had made it for him and passed away a few years before." She stroked the pendant held by a red ribbon at her neck. "Gran-gran gave me my mother's necklace on Potelatch… I've always felt like I should give it away, since it's my dearest treasure, but…it never felt right to give it to anyone else." Zuko's eyes began to sparkle and his lips curled into a nearly hidden smirk as an idea began to form in his mind. "What?" he distantly heard Katara say.
"Nothing—it's nothing," he stuttered, suddenly snapped back into reality. When she clearly didn't buy it, he tilted her head back and kissed her slowly, deeply, pulling her body close to his and feeling every inch of her relax in his embrace. "I have a meeting to go to. But I'll see you later, okay?" he told her softly.
"Okay…" she whispered.
He gave her one more short kiss, then another, and another, each time intending to break away and leave her and each time wanting more. Finally, he pecked her forehead and said a hurried farewell before his heart and body made him change his mind.
That night, Zuko led a very excited Katara outside to the turtleduck pond. "What is wrong with you?" he had asked at her excessive enthusiasm.
"Well, every time you bring me out here at night, something wonderful happens…"
"Don't set your expectations too high…" Zuko said as they reached the door to the courtyard. Katara stopped and glared at him. He took her hands and smiled "Come on," he urged.
When they walked outside, nothing was different. The torches were lit, as they always were at night, and there was no table, no flowers, no setup as she had become accustomed to on these late night jaunts. The barely contained joy on Zuko's face only made Katara even more confused. "Zuko, what's going on?" she asked finally.
"Potelatch, love." Katara crossed her arms and squinted at him. "I know there was no feast or dancing, but that was kind of hard to put together on such short notice, but…" he was beginning to blush, "you said this is your favorite part anyway, so…here," he finished quickly, holding out a small, awkwardly shaped package toward her.
Katara took it from him very carefully. It was relatively heavy for its small size. "Oh, Zuko…"
She pulled at the ribbons and wrappings to reveal—a crown. It wasn't like the golden flame ornament she was used to wearing that matched his exactly and simply stuck into her hair. This one had a smaller flame design that reminded her of the crescent moon and a gold band and pin that must have been used to pin it around a topknot. "What…"
"It was my mother's," he blurted out, answering her question before she had even finished forming it. Katara looked up at him, her eyes wide and sad. "It's the same one she wore when she was Queen. You've been wearing a different one because I've kept this one very close ever since she died." He gripped her hands and looked deep into her eyes. "But now, I want you to have it." He looked so earnest, so happy, and yet so sad, that she thought she might cry. She stood there, immobilized. So he took the crown from her, placed it over her topknot, and pinned it into place. It didn't feel as heavy as she thought it would.
"Zuko…thank you…" She spoke so softly that she wasn't even sure if she'd really made any sound until he smiled at her. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "But wait! I—I didn't get you anything!"
Zuko chuckled. "It's alright, Katara. I didn't give you that expecting anything for it—only because I wanted to."
"And now I want to give you something, too…" she protested. Katara looked around the courtyard as if something there would give her an idea. Then her eyes fell to the turtleducks and her eyes shined and a peaceful smile transformed her entire aspect. "And I know exactly what it is…" She reached into the folds of her dress and produced the old, familiar necklace.
Zuko's eyes shot open. "No," he said quietly looking down at the piece of jewelry. "Katara--" he shifted his gaze to her and tried to protest, but she simply held a finger to his lips and shushed him gently.
"It's just like your mother's crown, Zuko. I kept this with me because it didn't feel right to let anyone else have it." She smiled with happiness beyond joy—complete serenity. "I've always wanted to find someone that I could give this to…and now I have," she said as she tied the necklace around his wrist.
She looked up at him, then, straight into his eyes. And in that moment, they both knew that none of this—their meeting at Matka's stand, his choice, her cooperation—had never been chance; this was fate.