The camp was rather quiet, everyone having gone off to work on plans for the upcoming invasion. After all that happened with Hama, the Gaang was quick to leave the area. Sokka took over and led them, on Appa, to a field surrounded by cliffs where some koala sheep grazed. It was the rendezvous place for the invasion force that he and Hakoda planned out before they split up.
Not much was said the night they arrived, instead choosing to head to sleep. The same night Celina cried into Zuko's arms their whole time together, something that Celina was grateful for.
Upon waking up she had calmed down but decided to seclude herself from her friends and family, believing that everyone still needed space from her. So she went to work practicing her bending abilities in preparation for the invasion. She thought she'd be left alone for the whole day until Sokka and Toph came up to her. Sokka looked uncomfortable but stood there with Toph, having paused his work on Appa's armor to talk with her.
"Uh, hey, what's up?" Celina asked.
"We wanted to find out what exactly happened last night," Toph answered.
Celina shot a glance over at Sokka before averting her gaze in shame. "Celina, please. We just want to know," Sokka asked.
"Hama buttered Katara and I up, relating to us as a waterbender and showing us different techniques, all to get us on her side. Then she took us into the forest to teach us bloodbending… something I've known how to do for a while. Katara felt uncomfortable learning the technique and with Hama pushing her we soon figured out that she was the one responsible for taking the villagers.
"We refused to side with her and she retaliated by bloodbending us, taking it out mainly on Katara. She really took it out on Katara too. So when I looked over, seeing her forced onto her hands and knees, tears streaming down her face… I snapped."
Some of the tension in Sokka's body left. He understood what led his sister to that moment. Since their father left for the war he promised that he'd protect Celina and Katara. There'd been nights where his mind imagined the day where the Fire Nation invaded their tribe and how far he'd go to keep that promise. Of course Celina would have those same urges to protect her family. It was just hard to believe how easily she could kill someone.
But then again, it was easy to forget that she wasn't human.
Celina was a spirit and with the powers also came the black and white viewing of things when pushed to rage. Like Hei Bi with his forest, Tu with the death of La, and Wong Shi Tong with his library. But because Celina looked human and because she had been raised as one it was hard to look at her like those spirits.
"How long have you known how to… bloodbend?" Sokka asked.
"Ever since Zhao and the North Pole."
Another thing Sokka often pushed to the back of his mind. How Celina killed Zhao after what he did to the Moon Spirit. He hadn't been there to see that but could only imagine what it was like after seeing what she did to Hama.
"I'm sorry for scaring you," Celina apologized.
"Thanks. Though I think you should really apologize to Katara."
"I will. I'm just giving her some time."
"Well, you better get that done before Invasion Day. Don't need siblings feuding when we go defeat the Fire Lord," Toph said.
With their talk over Sokka and Toph went back to their work, leaving Celina to her practice once again. The rest of the day went by quickly with everyone focusing on their own things in order to get ready for the invasion. Aang was acting strangely, having trained by punching a tree all day, but the Gaang chalked it up to nerves.
Celina was just ready to head to bed, ready to see Zuko again, and hoping a new day will bring about the chance to apologize to her sister.
Arriving at the dream connection, Celina stopped to take notice of what Zuko created unlike the previous night before. A mosaic patio was decorated with paper lanterns and sheer fabric, cherry blossom petals floating in the wind from the nearby tree. She had vague memories of the dream connection looking like this the previous night before having changed to her mother's garden. Zuko stood in the center of the patio, waiting for her.
"Zuko, this is…"
"Do you like it?"
"It's gorgeous." The vague memories returned along with an inkling of guilt. "Did you have this planned for last night?"
"And then I went and ruined it."
Zuko took Celina in his arms, sensing how guilty she felt. "You didn't ruin it. You just delayed it." He got a chuckle out of her, causing him to smile. "You've been there during my bad nights, even when we were still fighting. I'll be there for yours."
If Zuko were to look closely into it he would see the bit of sadness in the smile Celina held. A sadness that came from knowing that this could only exist in their dream connection, away from the messiness of the war. But she didn't let him see that, instead Celina kissed him ever so softly, thanking him for what he'd done for her. Pulling away, Celina reached up and gently stroked Zuko's scar with her thumb. He sighed into her hand. Zuko wasn't sure he'd ever get used to someone touching his scar with such tenderness.
"So, Mr. Romantic, what do you have planned for tonight?"
"Well, I was thinking about our time at the beach." Celina arched an eyebrow in amusement. A faint blush spread across Zuko's face gathering what she thought he was insinuating. He let out a nervous laugh. "Not that. I was thinking more so of when we were at the party and you mentioned how much you enjoy dancing and thought we could see how much of my dance lessons stuck."
Upon seeing her eyes light up at the idea of dancing Zuko knew he chose well.
"Well, if that's the case I think a costume change is in order."
Spinning out of his arms once Celina stopped Zuko saw that she changed. Her hair went partially up in a small bun, ornamented with purple pearls that match the jewelry which hung from her neck and ears. Her short purple dress elongated into a sweet evening dress, her corset and skirt switching shades while silvery white sleeves adorned with the same purple pearls flowed down her arms. She was beautiful. Taking her cue Zuko changed into formal robes. With them both changed Zuko unconsciously started the phantom band, playing music he'd overhear during his uncle's music nights. Nerves set in as Celina took his hand and pulled herself into him. In that moment his mind blanked on his dance lessons. Sensing his nerves Celina took his hand and placed it on her waist, set her hand on his shoulder, and then took his remaining hand in his. In position, the two started to dance.
Their movements were wobbly, mainly because of Zuko's nerves trying to remember his dance lessons, though Celina didn't say anything. The only thing she did was tilt his chin back up so that he was looking at her instead of focusing on his feet. Her eyes held a bit of initial teasing but were overall filled with what Zuko could only describe as love. Something that was impossible to look away from. There were a few more stumbled steps before the two glided across the mosaic floor. Feeling a boost of confidence Zuko twirled Celina around, causing her to let out a laugh in delight. Laughter that became contagious as the two whirled around, not caring about any missteps. The two lost in each other.
As they calmed, the atmosphere faded to a dusty pink fading into the deep purple blues of night. The lights contained magic as they highlighted features on Celina and Zuko's faces. They stared at each other, sun and moon eyes meeting in the dead of night. Celina brought her arms up around his neck, burying herself in him. Zuko welcomed it, holding a tight grip around her waist. The two stood in the center, swaying to the music.
"This has been wonderful, Zuko."
"Even though my dancing skills were rusty?"
"Yes, even though you were rusty." Her small chuckle ended in a soft, long kiss, that reminded her of something the two discussed earlier. "You know, perhaps we can finish this night off like we have in the past."
"What with us staring at each other awkwardly?"
"I was thinking more so of our night at the beach."
Zuko's eyes widened in surprise at her forwardness at first before darkening in anticipation. Celina couldn't help but let out a giggle as his grip on her hips tightened.
"I can get behind that."
Mouths collided in a hungry kiss, wanting nothing more than to repeat their steamy night together. How both of them wanted to go back to exploring each other. But unfortunately, morning came far too soon for their liking.
Waking up early put Celina on edge, especially when she discovered that it was Aang who caused everyone to wake up early. But the frustration morphed into worry upon seeing the anxiety ridden airbender.
"I need to know what day it is!"
"What?! Who's talking?!" Sokka exclaimed thrusting his sword but hitting a rock thanks to the grogginess of just being woken up.
"Relax, it's still two days before the invasion," Toph answered.
Not satisfied with the information Aang grabbed hold of a still sleepy Sokka and tugged him up. "Sokka, you've got to get up and drill your rock climbing exercises."
"In one of my dreams, you were running from Fire Nation soldiers, trying to climb this cliff, but you were too slow and they got you."
"But that was just a dream, I'm a great climber."
"Then climb that cliff. Climb it fast!" Aang told him, pointing directly at the cliff nearby. Sokka grumbled about it but slinked off towards the cliff, only doing so to quell his friend's concerns. The airbender was momentarily satisfied before turning to see Toph just about to drink some water. "Don't drink that!"
Startled by Aang's exclamation Sokka lost his grip and slipped down the cliff face. Toph responded by throwing the water satchel away and spitting the water out right on Celina and Katara. The sisters shot the earthbender and annoyed glance before bending the water off themselves.
"Why, is it poisoned?"
"In my dream, we were right in the middle of the invasion, and you had to stop to use the bathroom. We died because of your tiny bladder. And Celina, you need to get as far away from Zuko as possible, otherwise, you're gonna make him fall in love with you and you two will be too busy making out during the invasion."
"Uh…" She didn't know how to respond to that. Especially considering it was something that was already happening between them in the dream connection. Her face remained one of confusion to keep her secret hidden from those with seeing eyes, she just hoped her heart rate held fast to keep it from their resident truth seeker.
"And you," Aang continued on, this time pointing at Katara. "You need to start wearing your hair up. In my dream, your hair got caught in a train, and -"
"Aang, I know you're just trying to help but you really need to get a grip. You're unraveling," Katara interrupted.
The airbender let out a sigh. "You're right. I'm losing my mind."
At Aang's admittance Sokka, who was just about to reach the top of the cliff, slid down once again. Hearing him land Celina couldn't help but wince.
"I'll go get him," Celina volunteered.
As Celina went to retrieve her brother Katara focused on trying to calm Aang down once again, Sokka's fall having revived his fear. Sokka himself was just lying on the ground trying to regain his senses. Luckily for him, he wasn't hurt that bad but Celina pulled out her water to help with the aches in his back. Once he regained his bearings Sokka glared at the cliffside before heading off to work on the armor for Appa. For a while, things were fine as Celina went to work on breakfast while Katara watched over a pacing Aang. The airbender's anxiety getting worse with each step he took.
"It's like every time I think about how stressed I am, I just end up more stressed. I'm like a big growing snowball of nerves," Aang explained.
"Of course you are. That's 'cause you've got to fight the Fire Lord, the baddest man on the planet. And you better win, or we're all done for," Sokka piped in.
"You're not helping," Celina pointed out.
"What? It's true. That's the deal, he knows it."
Seeing Aang chatter with fear Katara approached him, placing her arms around Aang's shoulder. "You know what? I've got just the thing. Get ready to be de-stress-i-fied."
The remaining group watched as Katara led Aang off somewhere on the island, hoping that Katara's plan would help him relax. While she did that everyone else went back to what they were doing, only pausing once Celina finished breakfast. Sokka was quick to scarf down his portion and tried to go for Aang and Katara's bowls that Celina set aside, before heading back to work on Appa's armor. Leaving Toph hanging around Celina as she cleaned up after breakfast.
"So, you and His-Royal-Pain-In-The-Butt, huh?"
Celina tensed, mentally cursing. Of course her heart rate betrayed her. There was no use hiding things from Toph.
"It's nothing, just a fling."
"Your heart says otherwise."
"You're worried this is gonna affect the invasion?"
"I'd be stupid to think otherwise. I just happen to trust you enough to hope it won't affect you too much in case we encounter him."
It was an aspect Celina didn't like to think about. She knew it was a possibility that during the invasion her and Zuko would come face to face. It just harder to picture them fighting with each new night they spent together. But she also had so much at stake.
"We've been at war for a hundred years. Too many people have died because of the Fire Nation's cruelty. Both the world and my father won't be able to hold out much longer. If we do end up face to face come invasion day, I'll make sure Aang's able to do what he must. Even if it does end in heartbreak."
Toph didn't sense any lies, but she did pick up on the subtle hurt in Celina's voice as the waterbender admitted the harsh reality of a situation she would possibly be facing.
The conversation ended after that, Toph heading off to do some training just as Katara and Aang returned. Aang still looking as tense before he left. It looked like he wanted to go right into training again but Celina sat him down and forced the airbender to get some food in his system. Katara headed off to talk to Sokka about something before coming back to eat her breakfast. After a few minutes, Sokka came over, wearing his fake beard, and ushered Aang off for his own attempt to help.
Leaving Celina and Katara alone for the first time since Hama. In the tense atmosphere, Celina looked over at her sister, who was determined to focus only on her breakfast.
"Katara, we need to talk." The younger waterbender refused to look up from her breakfast. Celina knelt in front of her sister, her presence almost forcing Katara to look up at her. "Katara, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for scaring you and causing you to learn a technique you didn't want to learn."
"How could you have ever learned such a…" The disgusted look on Katara's face finished her sentence.
"It just happened -."
"Something like that doesn't just happen, Celina! You had to learn it from somewhere!"
The waterbender stopped herself from sinking down in shame.
"... my dad."
"Back at the North Pole when my dad overtook me like the Ocean Spirit overtook Aang. He became protective of me like I did with you. That's when I first… performed the technique. I just didn't realize what it was until we visited the swamp."
"That night wasn't your dad. Your eyes weren't glowing then it was all you."
"I'm sorry. I'm a spirit, and even though I try hard to see things in shades of gray sometimes anger makes things black and white."
"So you don't regret killing Hama then?"
"No. The only thing I regret is how my actions affected you."
The two fell quiet, the apology turned argument having hit a head. Celina let out a frustrated sigh as Katara glared down at her food. They needed to get back to the apology part.
"I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused you. And if you want to be angry with me that's fine, I get it. With the invasion coming up we just need to trust each other as a team so that it can be as successful as possible," Celina said.
Still, Katara remained quiet.
Sensing the conversation was over Celina walked away. She hurriedly wiped away a few tears as she made her way somewhere private and away from everyone so that she could calm down. She would have made it without anyone seeing her if Sokka hadn't been coming back, no longer wearing his fake beard. One look and he could see that his sister was distressed but when he went to try and comfort her Celina just waved him off.
After finding a quiet place to herself and letting a few more tears fall Celina calmed down enough to continue with her training. The previous day was focused on her different forms of bending, today she was determined to work on her spirit abilities outside of healing. Her mind would go back to the few times she used her powers in battle and each time it ended with her passing out. There was a high possibility that she'd be using those abilities during the invasion and she couldn't afford to pass out during so.
Starting small and simple Celina went to work using her spirit abilities to levitate different items in the air. At first she started with one object, building up the time she kept it floating. One minute. Break. Two minutes. Break. Five minutes. Break. And so on and so forth, making sure to take longer breaks whenever the beginnings of headaches started to make their appearance. Once Celina was satisfied with the amount of time she was able to keep the object levitating without getting the start of a headache, she moved onto working with multiple objects at once. She was up to three floating objects for about five minutes when Aang made an appearance.
"Uh, hey Celina."
She was surprised to see him. Besides Katara, Aang was the only other person in the Gaang who kept his distance from her after what happened with Hama. Celina wondered what caused him to finally approach her. The airbender didn't look much better than the last time she saw him. If anything he looked more stressed out than before. Obviously whatever the others tried to help him relax hadn't worked.
"Hi, Aang. What, uh, brings you over here?"
"Katara thought you might have a good idea to help me relax."
That shocked Celina the most. Aang shifted uncomfortably as Celina took the time to process what he said.
"Oh, uh, okay. Let's, um, head down to the water."
It was a silent, awkward walk down. Both too much in their heads to make the small talk. Luckily though it was a quick trip and soon both had to focus on helping Aang relax. A task that was proving to be almost impossible as the day went on. The airbender had no problem getting in the water. It was once Celina went to place her hands on Aang's temples and saw him tense that she paused.
Some of the other team members would probably chalk it up to him being on edge about the invasion. But Celina also knew what Aang saw her do a couple nights ago. Taking a deep breath she slowly placed her hands on Aang's temples, beginning the soothing session. She could feel him tense upon contact, but the soothing waters practically forced his body to relax just a little bit. Still, he was tense.
"It's hard to trust me after what you saw me do, huh?" Celina asked. Aang responded by closing his eyes. "I've used bloodbending on practically everyone on the team you know."
That made him look at her. Aang went to get out of the water but Celina moved one of her hands to his chest, keeping him in place. Dipping into her bloodbending Celina began to massage the worst of Aang's tense muscles.
"It's helped me deal with the more difficult injuries you've all received. Allows me to dive deeper into the body, take care of stuff much faster and more efficiently. Repair torn muscles and damaged organs, stop internal bleeding. It was a mixture of that and my spirit abilities that helped bring you back after what happened down in those catacombs. I've used it in all my healing sessions to help you recover from that night."
Celina nodded, continuing on with her work. With the knots massaged out, she ended the soothing session. As the water returned to its normal state Aang sat up, really looking at his friend.
They remained silent as Aang got out of the water and airbended himself dry. It was only when he went to walk away that Celina decided to speak up.
"You don't have to forgive me for what I've done. I just hope I can earn your trust again."
And with that, Aang headed back towards the campsite. Celina stayed down by the water for a while with her familiar element. Once again she needed time to herself to calm her nerves and currently that was done with playful waterbending. It had been an exhausting day and what she needed was something to kill time.
Turning around Celina was startled to see that it was her sister who came to get her. And this time around she kept her gaze with Celina. Her eyes didn't hold the anger as it had earlier. Celina didn't know what caused Katara's gaze to soften in that time from their last conversation, but she was thankful for the small weight it lifted off her shoulders.
"You coming?" With a quick nod, Celina began to follow Katara back to the campsite. Only four more words were spoken between the two. "Thanks for helping Aang."
Going into her evening with Zuko Celina was in a much better mood than she had been in a few days. And after the previous night of dancing, Celina was itching to treat him for all that he prepared for her. Luckily she arrived before he did, giving her time to prepare.
Celina set the space up with two wooden platforms in the middle of the ocean. The sun and moon frozen in time on opposite sides of the horizon, one waiting to set with the other waiting to rise. On one of the platforms sat a table garnished with some of Celina's favorite Water Tribe food and cups of lychee tea. The other platform was framed, white curtains hiding what was inside.
Not even ten minutes after she put the final touches on Zuko made his entrance. He looked around at the scenery in awe before his gaze landed on Celina, noticing how much happier she looked compared to the past couple days. That thought was confirmed even more as Celina greeted him with a long, deep kiss. Breaking from the kiss both parties had goofy smiles on their faces.
"Hi, that was a nice greeting."
"Just nice?" Celina teased, causing both of them to break out into a short laughing fit. When the laughter died down the two just held each other for a moment before returning to the table that Celina set up for them.
"So what's this?"
"I promised you dinner, didn't I? Like you, I've picked out some of my favorite Water Tribe dishes to share."
"And the other platform?"
"That's what I'm calling dessert." A promise Celina sealed with a quick kiss. "But that's for later. For now, let's enjoy dinner."
Sitting down the two toasted to a wonderful night with the tea Celina provided. Zuko was pleasantly surprised to find that Celina remembered his favorite tea. He gave her a look to which she returned with a sly smirk before digging into dinner. The meal mainly consisted of different meats, fish, and stews since the Water Tribe wasn't exactly a great place for growing plants. Their food source came from the ocean and the few animals that roamed the arctic landscape. Though Celina was sure to leave out the stewed sea prunes. There was no way she'd subject Zuko to what she thought was nasty, be it a staple dish of the Water Tribe or not.
Zuko was familiar with the fish dishes, having traveled through the Southern waters beforehand. That and fish dishes seemed to be popular amongst the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, and Fire Nation. Though those of the Water Tribe were known to be excellent fishers. Celina mentioned that catching fish was a great way to practice her bending abilities, especially since it ended in getting food. That got Zuko telling her about his attempt at fishing when he and his uncle were on the run, sending Celina into a small fit of giggles. Even watching her almost choke on a spoonful of soup in laughter Zuko couldn't help but stare at her in awe. He couldn't believe what he did or what spirit he pleased to get to spend this time with her. The bit in his heart that begged him for more time with her growing bigger and bigger with each night together.
As dinner continued Celina answered all the questions Zuko had about Water Tribe cuisine, like what dishes were native to the South and what dishes she experienced up in the North. He learned that her favorite of the dishes was the seaweed noodles, which wasn't a surprise after his Fire Nation food dinner. Zuko in turn, after trying everything from the spread, decided that his favorites were the dishes that featured squid and crab. Teacups were refilled and drained as the night went on, the sun and moon slowly sinking below the horizon as the two lovers chatted away. Soon enough the sky darkened to reveal thousands of shining stars filling the sky. Soft candlelight flickered, setting a mood that both Celina and Zuko were interested in diving into.
"So… about dessert?"
"Well, the Water Tribe doesn't really do desserts because of limited resources but…" With a simple wave of her hands, the swaying curtains on the other platform opened up to reveal a soft bed. "I thought I might be sweet enough."
A hungry smile spread across Zuko's face. "Well, I have been craving a specific sweetness."
Celina smirked before climbing onto the now cleared table and slowly crawled over to him. Their eyes locked together as she got teasingly closer, stopping right in front of his face. No longer wanting to wait Zuko grabbed the back of Celina's neck and smashed her lips to his. Celina couldn't help but smile into the kiss before falling into it herself. She let out an excited squeal as Zuko lifted her off the table and carried her to the bed, never removing his mouth from hers. The kiss didn't even end as they tumbled onto the bed. But eventually, they broke away for air. Celina was quick to recover, moving her mouth to Zuko's jawline and moving down his neck, leaving nips as she went along. Not getting enough skin she desired, Celina vanished Zuko's clothes and then dived into leaving kisses and bites along his collarbones.
Zuko let out a moan, feeling her hands travel down his chest and abs. Unsatisfied with the amount of skin Celina was showing he instead grabbed hold of the bottom of her dress and tugged it up. She stopped her motions to allow him to pull the garment off her, leaving Celina in her undergarments. Neither was bothered when he threw her dress to the side and accidentally into the water. No, they were too focused on other things. Instead, her hands tangled themselves in his hair as Zuko trailed his mouth all over Celina's torso, coming up to suck and tease the skin above her breasts. Over her undergarments Zuko's hands easily found her erect nipples, greedily fondling them. A simple twist of one sent Celina to let out a sharp gasp. Her body arched and hips gridded against Zuko's, desperate for more.
Zuko moaned at the friction, muttering Celina's name. He broke away, pausing to just stare at the person below him. A thin layer of sweat had formed on her skin and her breathing was steadily increasing in excitement as they continued. Celina looked at him with eyes hazed with longing, lips parted and ready for him to kiss her. Looking as beautiful as she ever was. And he was lucky enough to be with her. All of her. The beauty, the brains, and the strength that was Celina. She took the chance to open herself up to the banished, damaged prince and saw something that only his uncle had seen in him before. Someone better than what his father convinced him he was. At that moment he realized...
"I love you."
Celina took in a breath of surprise.
And then they woke up.
Frustrated. Just like Aang was clearly delusional because of his lack of sleep Celina was clearly frustrated. That's what the Gaang decided after waking up, believing it must have been something regarding Zuko. They were right, but not for the reasons they thought for two reasons. First, she was sexually frustrated. Two nights straight, she and Zuko were going at it before being interrupted by the morning before they could get to the best parts. And then there was the bigger issue.
Zuko told her he loved her. The invasion was happening the next day. The day that Aang would take down the Fire Lord and end the Hundred Year War, inevitably resulting in many deaths. A day she had to be battle ready for. And he went and told her he loved her. Celina's heart and mind were as jumbled as when she first discovered Zuko was her soulmate. So Celina hurried off to the water and dove underneath the surface, settling herself at the bottle to peacefully meditate.
Entering the Spirit World Celina didn't stop and say hi to any of the followers hanging around the temple. No, she booked it straight to her parents' room. Like always Ai was at her husband's bedside, doting over the ill Spirit of War. Celina paused in the doorway. There were times she felt guilty about bringing all her problems to her parents. They were dealing with their own emergency, one that was costing her father his life. And she was there to talk about boys. She was about to turn around and head to the garden to try and deal with it herself when her parents noticed she was there.
"Celina," Ai smiled.
"Hi, Mom." Finally entering the room Celina hugged her mom before leaning down to hug her father. "Hi, Daddy."
"It's wonderful to see you, turtle duck. Been so long since your last visit."
"Things have been hectic between traveling through the Fire Nation and everyone preparing for the invasion tomorrow."
"I'm sure that man of yours has been helping you relax," Ai teased.
"He's been nice." Her parents gave Celina a worried look, picking up on the nerves in her voice. "He has, I promise. It's just… Zuko told me he loved me last night."
"Celina, that's wonderful," Bishamon sighed.
"Why does that make you nervous?" Ai asked.
"Because he admitted it right before the invasion! Not that he'd know anything about that but it's screwed with my head. I mean, what happens tomorrow if we run into each other? Obviously I'm gonna do what I have to. I'm not gonna just let the war continue killing you just because I'm attracted to the bad boy. But, but…"
"Celina, dear, stand still and take a deep breath for me," Ai instructed. Celina stopped, she didn't even realize she'd begun to pace around the room. Trying to calm down she trusted her mother and took a deep breath. "There's no point freighting about events that might not even happen. Why don't you tell us what's really bothering you about this young man's declaration of love."
She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. Another look was passed between Ai and Bishamon.
"Did you like it when he told you he loved you?" Bishamon asked.
"Yeah, it was nice. My soulmate actually loves me without knowing we're soulmates. There was no pressure to say it. Just us alone in our own little world and… he loves me. Zuko loves me."
"But you feel that pressure."
It was a statement. Of course Ai would be able to pick up on that. "The universe made him for me and me for him. I should love him. Especially after he told me he does. But… I don't know." Taking Celina's hand, Ai ushered her daughter onto the bed, sitting her down beside Bishamon.
"Just because the two of you are soulmates doesn't mean you have to hurry up and fall in love. You yourself get to take your time and decide when that feeling happens. And just because he's in love with you doesn't mean you have to be in love with him. Some people fall fast, some slow, and some fall somewhere in between those. And whatever rate you reach that will be the right time for you. So try and take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the journey the two of you are on."
"Trust your mother, she knows what she's talking about," Bishamon smiled, taking his wife's hand.
Celina couldn't help but give them a small smile of relief. It was hard to argue with them, after all the Spirit of Love would know what she was talking about.
For now, Celina decided to let her mother's advice sink in. She took a deep breath and just enjoyed her time with her parents. They strayed away from worrisome talk for the rest of Celina's visit. Instead, Celina chose to talk to her parents about the sweetness that was her and Zuko's dates (leaving out the more intimate portions), which Ai swooned over, and the good parts of her travels through the Fire Nation. And for those few hours together all was good.
Upon returning from the Spirit World her siblings managed to find Celina and explain to her a plan to help Aang get a good night's sleep. So together with them and Toph they went and herded several koala sheep, shaving off their soft wool to create a bed. Of course, when the airbender first saw it he instantly thought that it was a hallucination, something that he'd been experiencing all day thanks to the lack of sleep.
"Oh look, another hallucination. An imaginary bed made out of clouds."
"Actually that's real," Celina informed him.
"Yeah we spent hours working on it," Toph added.
"We made it for you," Sokka told him. "A good night's sleep will probably take the crazy away… we hope."
"Look, you guys keep telling me I need to sleep, but I can't, the invasion's tomorrow."
"No, Katara, there's still so much I haven't learned. I don't need sleep. What I need is practice. Quick, hit me."
"I'm not going to hit you," Katara said.
"You want me to do it?" Toph asked eagerly.
"Hold off on that for now," Celina instructed.
"Listen to me," Katara said, grabbing hold of Aang's shoulders. "You've been training for this since the day we've met. I've seen your progress. You're smart, brave, and strong enough."
"You really think so?"
"We all do. You've got this, Aang," Celina said.
"You can do this. You're ready," Sokka added.
"You're the man, Twinkle-toes."
"Thanks, guys." The airbender let out a yawn, not able to keep his eyes open any longer. Katara helped him onto the bed before he could fall over. "You know what? I think I am ready."
Celina couldn't help but be a little nervous as she waited in the dream connection. The l bomb Zuko dropped on her the night before causing the most of the nerves. She didn't even know what she'd say to him. But it was the last night before the invasion, and she wasn't going to miss it for anything. Their last calm night together.
If only Zuko showed up.