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A lone man walks through an empty world. It was a land of vanishing day and growing hills of white. No helpful moon in the sky to lead his way home. Only the faint glow of distant lanterns. Once he met his destination, he paused. His eyes lose focus and he lets out an exasperated sigh. Resolute, the man enters his tiny dwelling.

Hakoda dropped his bags on the ground. His children gazed up at him as he shook off the snow. He gives his daughter a half-smile. She tries her best to return the gesture. Her eyes were swollen and red from days of mourning. Hakoda did his best to console his children. The truth was, he didn't know what to tell them, or how to handle being a widower.

"Fish for dinner tonight!" Hakoda spews in an unconvincing cheery tone.  

Sokka moves closer to his father. "Fish sounds good."

The man took out his spark-rocks and lit a fire. He grabbed a cooking pot filled with snow. He had watch his wife cook many times, and attempted to mimic her methods. He took the fish and dropped the carefully into the boil.

"Dad, you aren't supposed to put them in yet" Katara corrected her father's blunder. "That's not the way mom does it..."

"..did it" Sokka corrects his sister. "Mom is gone, so is her fish stew... Now it's Dad's fish stew."

The little girl let out a whimper. "It's still Mom's stew if you follow her recipe."

Hakoda could feel a lump building up in his throat. He simply ignores the conversation and continues to work on the meal. Stumbling over the pot, tossing in familiar ingredients. When it's done, he ladles the concoction into three bowls.  

The boys delve in as Katara watched. Their expressions turn sour. Hakoda lowers his head in disappointment.

Sokka continues to eat, managing to stomach the meal. "It's not that bad.."

The girl hovers over her bowl, taking a small bite. Her nose crinkles as she frowns. She pushes the bowl away. In a small voice, remarks, "..Mom's fish stew is better."

Her brother corrects her again. "..was better."

Hakoda hunches over, covering his face. At first, the kids think he's laughing. Then, he picks up his bowl and throws it. The man proceeded to kick and throw anything near by. In one final act, he tips the cooking pot, tearing his sleeve. He eyes full of anger and tears, he falls to his knees. Frozen in place.

Katara had never seen her father broken before. He was always so strong and capable. But now, he looked lost. Her heart ached watching his display of agony and rage. Her brother sat quietly, staring at the ground with a vacuous expression on his face. She could see her family was drowning. It would take a miracle to keep their heads above water.  

She grabbed her brothers hand, urging him to his feet. "Sokka, help me clean up."

The boy silently nodded. He walked over the wreckage and began straightening up. Katara used her faint knowledge of Waterbending to clean up the stew. She glance over at her dad. He was still occupying the same position he collapsed in. The same distraught look in his eyes. The young girl tossed a blanket over her fathers shoulders.

Hugging his neck, she consoles him. "It's okay Daddy..."

She walks back over and sits her mother's cooking pot upright. For the first time since her mother died, she smiled. The girl had a plan. She toiled over a steaming pot as she recalled each step of her mother's recipe. The girl had watched her mother cook this meal dozens of times. After all the ingredients were added, she collected the remaining uncooked fish. The girl recalled her mothers words.

"..and the fish goes in last, that way it can soak up all that wonderful flavor!" Kya smiled at little girl. "Now that you know all the steps.. Someday I'll let you make it."

Katara stirred the pot. Lifting her head, she grins. "Looks like someday is today."    

Her brother caught the familiar whiff of his mother's famous dish. His eye's lit up as he approached his sister. "When did you learn to cook?"

"When you learned to hunt." She poked her older brother. "It's almost done. Want some?"

"Yeah!" he answered in a delighted tone.

She put her hand on her hip and pointed at him with the spoon. "You better finish cleaning up first!"

Katara grabbed her mother's sewing box and sat down in front of her comatose father. His eyes sealed shut. The girl took her father's hand and began to mend his torn sleeve. Finished up, she bit down on the the thread. Hakoda opened his eyes and gave his sleeve a curious look. Katara look pleased with her work. She returned to the cooking pot and filled 3 bowls with her fresh batch of fish stew.

Sokka sat down with his bowl and greedily consumed the meal. He ran back up for seconds before Katara had time to offer her father his bowl.

"Are you hungry?" she inquired, placing the offering in front of her father.

Hakoda looked around the dwelling. No trace remained of the mess he had made. The stew smelled familiar and delicious. The man took a bite and smiled at his daughter. "How... how did you do this Katara?"

"I just did what mom taught me." She stated while glowing.

He grabbed his daughter and hugged her tightly. "You did so much more. This is beyond what either of us taught you..." Hakoda sighed. "You have a strength that's all your own Katara."  

Sokka joined the hug. Grateful from a full belly. "Katara.... I'm sorry about what I said.."

She smirked at her brother, "Which time?"

The boy chuckled, "You can pick."
In the wake of crisis, a young Waterbender(Katara) must grow-up quickly.
divsalley Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I absolutely love this story, hon! glad you posted this here, too! :)
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Submitted on
January 23, 2012
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