A/N: Blah… I can't do fluff to save my life. Even my fluffy stuff is laced with angst… I tried, really, I did try… and I hate, absolutely abhore this one shot… it is pointless, and goes nowhere… but I'm posting it anyway, due to the depressing lack of AxK fics on this site. I apologize in advance for its suckiness.
She looked at him, stricken, her eyes reddened from crying. She had lost quite a bit of weight and the pallor of her skin had increased dramatically. She looked… frail… broken.
He was shivering, knowing what she was going to say, yet not wanting to hear it… his own tears threatened to fall… he reached for her, but she turned her back on him.
"I… I have to go… have to get away, Aang…"
Slowly, he approached her, his soft, pale hands wrapping around her waist from behind and she could feel the erratic rise and fall of his chest against her back as he struggled to regulate his breathing.
"Running away won't bring them back, Katara…"
The first indication of his arrival was the hushed, excited murmurs of the villagers as they gathered in the center of the clearing, some of them pointing excitedly to the sky.
The lone water bender resident paused, placed the ripe melon she was holding back onto the merchants cart and turned, her heart filled with a combination of hope and fear.
Could it be? She wanted to scream and cry and shout all at the same time… it had been nearly three years…
Three years since the end of the war. Three years since she had buried the remains of her father and brother.
"I need you to stay. Everyone… everyone expects so much from me… I can't be who they want me to be… not without you."
She looked over her shoulder briefly and smiled… smiled at the boy who, on the verge of becoming a man, had saved an entire world…
If only their victory hadn't been so very costly.
"I think you'll do just fine, Aang." She answered softly. "Besides… what good am I to you now?"
Unable to meet his eyes, Katara turned quickly away and didn't see the stricken look that graced his face.
She raised a shaking hand to cover her bright blue eyes from the sun and looked to the sky. Next to her, a young girl clapped her hands excitedly; jumping up and down and pointing at the large, white bison flying freely amongst the clouds.
"Look! It's the Avatar!" The girl cried, full of youthful exuberance.
Katara paled… she wanted to run, but for the life of her, didn't know if she wanted to run to him… or away.
The hushed whispers suddenly became shouts and cheers. She swallowed thickly, pushed her hair out of her face and pulled the hood of her cloak over her head. As if on their own, her feet slowly carried her into the mass of people gathering in the square, awaiting the Avatar's descent from the sky.
She started to walk away, towards the ship that would take her far, far away from what she could no longer see as home. The soft crunch of the snow under her feet was almost drowned out by the sudden gust of wind that crept up behind her.
Strong, warm arms suddenly embraced her from behind, gripping her fiercely as if afraid to let go. She could feel his hot tears against the side of her neck as he buried his head in the crook of her shoulder and for just a tiny fraction of a moment, she wavered.
"Don't go, Katara… please, don't go… I…"
"You what, Aang?"
"I need you, Katara."
If only… if only he had used a different set of words, she might have stayed…
She took in a deep breath and let it out before turning to face him. She had… grown to love him… despite herself. He looked at her, both hopeful and fearful and she smiled sadly at him. Her fingers reached to gently brush the side of his cheek… his eyes fluttered closed at the gentle touch and he let out a relieved sigh, thinking perhaps that she was going to stay.
Katara committed the image of him to memory… it was one of the few good recent ones she had, and she'd cherish it. Slowly, she leaned in and very gently kissed him – a brief, fleeting touch of her lips against his – and pulled back, smiling sadly at him when he blushed fiercely.
She needed to leave… she had no business loving him… not when the whole world needed him. And besides, she always lost everyone that she loved…
Better to leave now.
Her name fell from his lips in a breathy, hopeful whisper and he reached for her. But she had already pulled away and only paused to glance at him over her shoulder.
She watched him, hidden within the small crowd of villagers that had gathered to see him. She stood behind a tall earth bender, her hood drawn over her head, seeking anonymity. It hurt to hide from him… it had been so, so very long…
But would he even want to see her, after what she had done?
She knew now that she shouldn't have left him… together, they could have helped each other heal. Instead, she ran away… and even now, remained… broken.
She told him that they were family… and yet, at the loss of her own, she broke that promise.
'Aang, will you ever forgive me?'
He landed, and despite herself, she was drawn to him… she moved slightly closer, trying to somehow get near enough to hear and see him clearly without him discovering her identity. She… she didn't know what she would do if he hated her now…
When she left him, she had thought that she already lost everything. The years apart taught her how very wrong she was… she had willingly given up the last thing that had meant anything to her… and now he was here, right in front of her once again, and she couldn't bring herself to speak.
Politics… issues with neighboring cities… the sudden decrease of wildlife in the surrounding forest… all of these were issues that were brought up to the Avatar by the villagers, as if by merely being present he could solve all of their problems. Because that is what he did… of course, he could never solve her problem. It would require forgiving her, and how could he?
Promises… he was making promises now… promises to help and he smiled at them all…
Her heart caught in her throat. The smile... it was sad and tired… did she do that to him?
The name escaped her mouth in a strangled whisper, and as soon as it passed her lips she slapped her hands against her mouth in a vain effort to keep it in. But it was no use… she couldn't help herself.
His name was spoken softly; quietly and filled with anguish. There was no way it could be overheard, and yet –
As if by magic, the crowd parted, placing her directly in the Avatar's view. She tried to turn her head away, but it was too late – his grey eyes had already caught hers, and were now widening in disbelief and thinly veiled hope.
A whimper, a lone tear, and then she was running; the crowd surrounding the Avatar parting with a flick of his wrist and a gentle gust of wind. Her feet were so very heavy; each step took forever, it was as if she was moving through slag. But she kept on moving, running, seeking… absently noticing that he was taller now… and that somewhere along the way he had become a man.
His arms were warm, warmer than ever and she gasped when his lips blindly sought hers, the wind whipped through her hair freely… he was so warm, real, alive and there….
Somehow, they both ended up on their knees, wrapped in a fierce embrace, warm kisses being peppered along the side of her face, her jaw, before her lips were caught again by him and parted, suddenly and possessively.
"Are you real?"
All she could do was nod – nod and cry and cling onto him… sobbing slightly, she kissed him back, putting all of her repressed love and passion into the kiss and feeling him pull her even tighter against him.
"I've found you… I've never stopped looking, you know…"
"Don't be… just tell me you'll come with me… you'll be by my side…"
"Because you need me?"
His embrace was warm and his lips were soft and needy against hers.
"Because I love you."
She melted, gripped him tightly and sighed. Perhaps now… now she could start to heal.