The airbender took off on his air scooter, racing back to the hill where the otter-penguins congregated. Realizing she hadn't had so much fun in years, his new friend ran after him, calling, "Wait for me!"

When she got to the top of the hill, he was standing there with an expectant smile, holding out his hands for more minnows to bribe the birds with.

As they practiced the new moves from the waterbending scroll, the two friends reminisced about their recent run-in with the pirates.

"Hey, Katara, next time you have an urge to steal something, why don't you wait for me to tell you whether or not it's a good idea?" His eyes twinkled, letting her know he was joking.

Her face screwed up with humorous chagrin, she pulled water out of her pouch, holding it threateningly over his head. "Oh, I'll wait for you, all right. If you wait for this!" She let her water fall, but he was faster than gravity.

Laughing, he hopped on his air scooter and floated away.

"So let me get this straight," she addressed him, her voice skeptical and a bit stern. "You felt left out when we were talking with Bato about our dad, and our village, so you snuck out. That was when you met the messenger with the map from Dad, and decided to hide it, because you didn't want us to go our own way."

"Yeah," he looked down into his empty hands. "I know, it was pretty dumb."

"You know, if you had stuck around in Bato's tent, you would have heard us saying that no matter how much we wanted to see our dad, we didn't want to leave you," she informed him wryly.

"Really?" He brightened, sitting up straighter.

"Really," she took his hand, her voice softening. "Before you decide you're not wanted, why don't you wait for me to tell you how important you are to me?"

"I figured I can't beat out your dad…." He protested sheepishly.

"We're your family now, remember?" Her words brought him back to his devastation at the Southern Air Temple, and the way her arms had comforted him. "I meant that. You mean just as much to me as my dad, but you need me more than he does."

"Thanks, Katara," he whispered, his throat sore with emotion.

She put an arm around him, and he leaned into her gratefully.

In a cave, she made a marvelous suggestion, and in his fear of seeming overeager, he flubbed his reaction, unintentionally offending her.

But despite his mistake, when the torchlight sputtered out, she leaned into him, her lips meeting his in the soft wonder of love's first kiss. The crystals surrounding them lit up, as if their colors expressed the ardent bloom inside their hearts.

She gestured to the lights, explaining why they had worked; his mind still fuzzy with elation, he barely heard her. Then she took off down the cavern's newly revealed hallway, keen to find the tunnel's end.

He shook his head to clear it, grinning after his beautiful, impetuous, affectionate, faithful best friend. If he hadn't been in love before, he sure was now.

Not realizing how far behind he was, she turned a corner, disappearing from his sight.

"Wait for me!" he called after her.

They found him on a volcanic island, his glider ruined, bandages ripped off, his limited strength depleted.

She healed his cuts and bruises, spending a couple hours on the wound on his back. She nursed him for a whole day before voicing her disapproval of his unexpected, dangerous flight.

"You know, we were really worried about you," she said in an offhand way that belied how serious she felt.

"I know."

"You're not recovered yet, and—"

"I know," he interrupted, annoyed.

She pressed her lips together, stifling her criticisms. "I'm sorry that you have to hide your arrows, and pretend that you've been killed."

"It's just like what happened the last time I disappeared," he mumbled, his head dropping in shame.

"It might feel that way, but the difference is that you're not stuck in an iceberg now," she argued, channeling her brother. "You're strategically waiting to reveal yourself until the time is right. Neutral jing, remember?"

"I know," he sighed.

He didn't need logical arguments, she realized. He needed to be supported. She changed tactics. "What we're asking of you is a lot. Concealing your identity, growing your hair, wearing Fire Nation colors. Letting the world lose the hope you represent. Accepting defeat, even just temporarily. It's enough to make anyone want to fly off into a storm."

He looked up into her eyes, surprised to find that she really did understand him.

His forlorn look pulled even more empathy out of her heart, and she reached out for him, cupping his cheek in her hand. "The part that bothers me the most is that you were alone. Next time you need to fly away, will you wait for me to come along?"

Tears filling his eyes, he nodded. She wrapped her arms around him as he began to sob.

Katara sulked in her room in the Western Air Temple, upset that her best friend was determined to endanger himself, going alone into unknown territory with that firebender.

Aang found her there, and decided to try to allay her doubts before he said good-bye. "I know you don't trust Zuko, but you also know I'm a better fighter than he is. He's never come close to beating me."

"That's true. But the trip will take at least two whole days, and you'll have to sleep," She fretted about his vulnerability, recalling how the firebender had knocked her out and abducted his meditating body.

His face fell as he realized the extent of his best friend's distrust of their new companion. She saw his dismay and rallied. She pursed her lips and swallowed her anxiety. "But you've decided that you need to do this, and the important thing is that I trust you."

"Thanks." He grinned and touched her arm in gratitude. Then his eagerness for the journey came out. "Just you wait for me to come back. We'll be flying over that cliff before you know it, and maybe I'll even have some new tricks to show you!"

She waved at the two boys as they disappeared into the distant sky.

She was ready to go on her revenge mission, but there was one thing she needed to say first.

Aang stood among the others, ready to wave them off, but she pulled him aside. "I'm sorry. We shouldn't have tried to take Appa without talking to you about it. And what Zuko said was really mean."

"Yeah. He's not the most sensitive guy."

"Thanks for understanding that this is something I need to do."

He nodded, and voiced his only fear about his friend's plan. "Just….don't lose yourself."

"I'll try. Wait for me?" She felt that as long as he was here to anchor her, she would be safe from the void inside her that she was really going to confront, along with her mother's killer.

"I will," he promised. "I trust you."

The echo of her own words lifted the corner of her mouth in a tough, reluctant smile.

They hugged, a quick, businesslike embrace, and then she turned and left.

The Fire prince had taken his new friends to his family's beach resort for a break before the comet's arrival. It felt like a holiday: they were building sand castles, trying tropical drinks, and swimming in the crystal clear water.

The waterbender had taken to the waves as naturally as the sea creature she was. She had discovered how to freeze some water into a slab of ice and use it like a surfboard, bending the waves to keep her balance and perform tricks.

Her friend watched her, excited by her virtuosic performance. His waterbending wasn't quite up to her level, but he sure wanted to try that cutback! He froze his own board and paddled out to join her. "Wait for me, Katara!"

The night after the terrible play, he sought out his best friend. The awkward distance and stiffness between them had become unbearable. So he knocked on her bedroom door, and braced himself to start a difficult conversation.

She opened the door, but didn't invite him in. She stood in the doorway, arms wrapped defensively around herself.

"I'm sorry for kissing you," he began. "It was a really dumb move, and I've been kicking myself ever since. I thought I was helping you make up your mind, but I should have let you make that decision in your own time."

"It's ok," she murmured, forgiving him instantly. "I appreciate you saying that. I'm sorry too."

He shook his head. "You don't need to apologize."

"Maybe not, but I know the situation has been confusing for you. I could have been honest with you earlier, but I put it off, and that made things harder on you." She took a deep breath, dropping her protective posture. "I think what I meant to say last night is that I'm not ready. And I know that's frustrating for you because you're afraid it means I'll never be ready. To be honest, I can't make you any promises right now. But at the same time, I really believe that when everything is less crazy, when the war is over and things are safe, then there will be a time when we can be together." She looked down, thinking of the little groupies who had fawned over him on Kyoshi Island, and more recently, the Fire Nation girls who had giggled over his dancing. She knew she would hate it if someone like that swooped in while she was still deliberating. "I just hope that in the meantime, you'll wait for me."

"Of course!" He grinned, relief and elation filling his entire countenance. Her explanation had given him all that he had really needed: a bit of hope. He opened his arms for her, not imposing his embrace on her, but offering one.

She returned his smile and stepped into his hug, her hands reaching around his back. The hug could have been awkward, but it wasn't. It was just like all of the other friendly squeezes they had shared over the course of the past year: simple, comforting, and honest.

After an afternoon of failed training exercises, Aang meditated on the balcony of his Ember Island beach house bedroom. Katara found him there, and steeled herself to interrupt his contemplation with apologies, for a second time in only a few days. She touched him on the shoulder, so that he opened his eyes and turned to her.

"I'm sorry for not understanding your ethics," she began, "I know how important it is to you to avoid killing. We shouldn't have pushed you so hard about it."

"I understand why you did," he admitted. "It was kind of silly that I couldn't even destroy a melonhead dummy."

She laughed softly, thinking to herself, It wasn't silly, it was adorable. But she couldn't say that. Instead she told him, "I believe that when the moment comes, you'll find a way to defeat Fire Lord Ozai, while staying true to yourself."

"Thanks. That means a lot to me." He looked away from her, out to sea. "I need to meditate now, and I don't know where it will take me. Will you wait for me?"

She smiled and nodded. Her lips kissed his cheek, so close to his own lips that they touched at the very corners. "Good night, Aang."

There was much left unsaid, but even more that they were both taking on faith. They knew their connection could handle the stress of whatever came next.

In the morning, he was not there.

The comet had come and gone, the Fire Lord and his daughter were defeated. The victors gathered in Iroh's cozy room above the Jasmine Dragon. They shared tea and music, joking with each other to distract themselves from the fact that their time together was ending.

"Wait for me on the balcony," she whispered in his ear.

Wondering if this was finally the moment, he slipped away from the group, and looked out over the brilliant sunset. It would be fine if it wasn't now, he thought to himself. He could wait as long as necessary.

He felt her presence next to him and looked over at her. She was blushing, and it made her even prettier. He felt his own cheeks heat up in response, and wasn't embarrassed about it.

She opened her arms for a hug, and they squeezed each other tightly. Something was new, he realized, looking sidelong into her hair.

They pulled away and looked into each others' eyes, smiling softly. Then she stepped forward, pressing her lips to his. His heart leapt to meet her; his insides turned to jelly as she pulled him up to her with her hand on his cheek. The touch of her lips–-and tongue! that was her tongue!-warm and wet and smooth and soft and Katara—was better than he'd ever imagined, and he'd imagined it quite a lot.

When the kiss finally ended, they rested their foreheads together and caught their breaths.

"Wow," he murmured. A part of him wanted to ask what this meant, but a bigger part felt that pushing for some kind of declaration from her would spoil everything. Better to simply appreciate the moment for what it was: the happiest minute of his life so far.

"Wow is right," she agreed. "I don't know how I resisted so long…" Her thumb touched his bottom lip gently.

"Well, um, I've wanted to do that for a while," he admitted.

"Since the cave?" she asked.

"Before the cave," he corrected.

"How did you hold back so long?" she wondered flirtatiously.

There had been that one time when he hadn't held back, and it had been a big mistake, but he didn't want to bring that up. "I wasn't sure how you felt…." he explained.

"Now you know," she said simply, then kissed him again, a short, fervent peck.

Overcome with the desire to ensure these kisses kept happening, he made her an offer, no strings attached. "Well, anytime you want to kiss, I'd be happy….."

"I'd like that," she answered coyly, then took it a step further. "I'd also like to be your girlfriend."

"I'd love that!" he burst out, squeezing her around the waist and lifting her off her feet in his delight. She laughed at his reaction, clinging to his shoulders.

When he set her back down, his gaze fell instantly to her mouth, and she noticed. She closed her eyes and moved her chin forward just an inch. He took her invitation and initiated another kiss, one even deeper and longer than the first.

Or at least it would have been, if Sokka hadn't interrupted them with a high-pitched shriek.

Katara climbed to the highest hill and looked around for Aang. She looked back down at the note he had left for her. Wait for me on our island at sunset. The colors in the sky were ripening into brilliant pink and orange. Surely he should come to meet her soon. She had powered a small boat across the sound, but she expected he would fly.

She saw him in the air on his glider, and waved excitedly. But he didn't swoop down in her direction. Puzzled, she watched as he began flying in complicated patterns, a trail of white smoke in his wake. He was making letters, spelling a message, she realized.


Before he finished the tail of the first R, she understood the message. Her knees came out from under her, and she began crying her joy.

When he finally landed, he knelt before her and offered her a new engagement necklace, and a handkerchief.

They had been married two years, and every time they went out in public together, there were whispers. When will there be an airbender baby? Republic City wondered.

When the newspaper's gossip column began speculating about her waistline, Katara had had enough. After ranting to her colleagues at the hospital, she went home to Air Temple Island in a huff.

She saw her husband leading a few acolytes in a meditation, and joined them quietly, hanging back unobtrusively.

It took only a few minutes of quiet contemplation before she understood what was really making her so upset. She was afraid Aang was just as eager as the speculators. They had wed assuming they would have children, but had never talked about a timeline. And now that they were married and settled, there was no reason to delay. No reason except her own restlessness and fear of being tied down. Sure, she wanted babies eventually, but they were so young! Everything within her cried out, not yet!

Alone in their bedroom that night, she burst out, "I know how eager you are to bring back your people, but I just feel like there are so many things I want to do before I get pregnant!"

"Like what?" He wondered. His tone was open and curious, without a bit of challenge.

"Finish the hospital expansion, visit Gran Gran again, arrange this house the way we want it, recruit some more Air Acolytes, train some waterbending healers to work in the hospital," she listed, feeling there was no end to the things she wanted to experience and accomplish. "I still haven't been to the Eastern Air Temple, and you haven't seen the southern aurora on the longest night of the year—"

"Sweetie, it's fine," he took her hand. "We have all the time in the world."

"That's not exactly true. And I'm sorry about that," she sighed and gave him a small smile. "Can you wait for me?"

"Sure," he answered with an easy shrug. Then his eyes twinkled mischievously at her. "After all, we can still do it for fun…."

She shoved him playfully, giggling, and he used the momentum to pull her onto the bed.

The Avatar was called away from his young, growing family by a sudden emergency: a landslide near Yu Dao.

He knelt to give little Bumi a hug. "I know you're going to be a big help to your mom." While he was bent down, he spoke directly to his wife's big, round belly, "You wait for me to get back home before you decide to come out, ok?" The bump jiggled with her laughter as he kissed it.

Katara had figured that there would be plenty of time for Aang to help the affected villages and return before she went into labor. After all, Bumi had arrived a full week after his due date, and this baby wasn't due for another two weeks.

But she hadn't anticipated the pull of the full moon on the baby. Katara's contractions intensified slowly all day, as anxiety filled her at the thought that Aang was still out of town. She held still, trying to hold them off and distract herself with hospital paperwork. It made no difference, though: when the tides went out, she could resist the pains no longer. She called her midwife, and Bumi's nanny, and prepared to give birth without her husband by her side.

At the disaster site, the father felt a sense of urgency to return to Republic City that he couldn't explain. Though the recovery efforts were incomplete, he jumped on Appa and flew home. He arrived just in time to hold his wife as she gave the final pushes.

Afterward, they held the dark-haired, blue-eyed child between them, marveling at her tiny perfection.

"She must be a waterbender," he whispered. "The moon called her."

"She must be," his wife agreed. "Can we call her Kya?"

"I can't imagine a more fitting name," he agreed.

Aang stopped in to see his wife at the hospital during his lunch break. It was their anniversary, so he brought flowers. They had plans for the evening: a couple of Air Acolytes were going to babysit the children, so that they could go out for a fancy dinner at Republic City's most expensive rooftop restaurant, and then dance at their favorite club.

The hospital seemed more chaotic than usual, and it took the airbender a while to find Katara. When she finally came out to greet him, she accepted the flowers with frazzled gratitude. "I'm sorry, there was an accident at one of the factories and I need to perform two surgeries. I'll be late for dinner. Wait for me?"

"You wouldn't be you if you didn't put helping people above your own good time," he answered easily. He was proud that she was such a great healer, and so selflessly dedicated to her work.

"But it's your good time too!" she fretted. She hated to spoil their plans. "You deserve a night out."

"I can't celebrate our anniversary without you!" He kissed her cheek, then whispered into her ear. "Even if I have to wait past midnight, there will always be plenty of food and dancing and love for us to share."

"Thank you," she murmured, drawing strength from their connection to help her through the evening's lifesaving labors.

Katara sighed as she read the message from her husband, who was in Ba Sing Se for an international trade conference.

These politicians are taking forever to come to an agreement. Looks like we'll have to delay the family vacation a couple of days. Please wait for me. Love, Aang

It wasn't like she had a choice: Appa was with Aang, so they couldn't exactly leave for the South Pole without him. Actually, that wasn't exactly true anymore: Tenzin's animal companion Oogie was big enough to fly long distance solo now. But the original idea had been for the two bison to fly side by side for this first intercontinental trip, and Aang wanted to stick to that plan. As eager as Katara was for this trip, and as hard as it was to put off seeing her ailing grandmother, she was happy to wait for him to join her.

Because that little phrase had come to mean so much over the years: it was a call for patience and forgiveness, an acknowledgement of one's own shortcomings and the way they created demands on a partner, a reminder of the necessity of catching up with each other and traveling through life together. All Aang had to do was invoke those words, and his wife would do anything he asked.

The Avatar lay weak in bed. His children and friends had come from around the world to say goodbye; their tender scenes were over, and he was alone with his wife.

"You promised," he reminded her.

"Yes. I'll find you in your next life and teach you waterbending again," she repeated her vow stoutly, before her eyes filled with tears. "But it won't be the same."

"I know. I'm sorry."

Hearing his apology brought her up short, so that she wiped her eyes roughly, cursing her own weakness. Air Nomad tradition dictated that a deathbed should be a place for happy recollections, not tearful recriminations or regrets. "No, I'm sorry for bringing my grief into this sacred space. We should be celebrating. You accomplished so much in your life. You saved the world, and brought back airbending, and founded a Republic."

"I couldn't have done any of it without you," he murmured.

"We raised a beautiful family and spent over fifty years together, deeply in love for every single day," she went on.

"Thanks for going penguin sledding with me," he joked, recalling her to the beginning of those years of happiness.

She could tell his time grew short. With all the desperation of a new widow, she pleaded, "Wait for me."

"Always," he exhaled, and was gone.

Author's Note:

Which little scene did you like the most? Tell me in a review!

If you liked this story, follow me! Sign up to get notifications when I post a new story. I have a multi-chapter story I've been cooking for a few months, and I'm finally ready to post chapter one on Friday, September 16. If you can't wait that long, and you've already read all of the other amazing Kataang week stories, then check out "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" by A. D. Curtis, my favorite story of 2022 so far.

Note added March 17, 2023:

This story is now available in audio form on the Audio Fanfiction Library! This website won't allow me to place a link here, but if you search Google for "Audio Fanfiction Library" and search the audio library by fandom you can easily find an audio file of me reading this story aloud! If you can't find it, send me a PM.