Disclaimer: Considering I'm scrounging around to find money to buy Christmas presents, it's pretty safe to assume I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
A/N: This is a continuation of sorts for To Have and to Hold. This little series is out of chronological order.
Stories in chronological order: Actual Wedding Vows
1.) To Have and to Hold 1.) To Have and to Hold
2.) In Sickness and in Health 2.) For Better or for Worse
3.)For Richer or for Poorer 3.) For Richer or for Poorer
4.)For Better or for Worse 4.) In Sickness and in Health
Written to make myself feel better after seeing that "You better worry more about Appa and Momo" comment for the first time. Why are creators always sinking my ships? ;;
For Better or for Worse
He still screamed in his sleep, some nights.
Nearly seven years had passed since he had killed Fire Lord Ozai, and still he had nightmares. They never talked about that incident, it was one of the two subjects they never spoke of, the other being his fits of night terrors. Katara never pressed the issue, but she knew he dreamed of his confrontation with the madman. It had been the first, and the last time the gentle man had ever killed.
She hadn't even been aware of the problem until after they married and she began to share his bed. The first time she had seen one, four months after their wedding, it had nearly frightened her out of her mind. He had begun to flail wildly, crying out. Alarmed, she had grabbed his shoulders and attempted to shake him awake, but to no avail. She then seized his wrists to keep him from harming himself, but he had the advantage of strength over her and broke free. One of his lashing arms hit her across the cheek, leaving an angry bruise there.
She had tried to cover the mark by letting her hair down the next day, but he caught a glimpse of it as she leaned down to retrieve their bedroll. He demanded to know who had done that to her. His expression when she gave the answer was heartbreaking, and he avoided her for the rest of the day, as if he was afraid he would harm her further.
From that point on, she sat to the side during his fits, watching her husband fight his demons while she sat unable to help him.
These nights always came around when someone mentioned the battle that initiated the beginning of the end. A surprising number of people were very tactful about broaching the subject, as they traveled. Only occasionally would a social moron ruin it.
That morning, they had arrived in a Fire Nation city on their way to meet with its Lord. The elder of the town had immediately rushed up to them and began gushing over the man. In his long list of praise, Ozai had only been a passing reference, but the Avatar's wide smile became a little more forced, and Katara had felt like smacking the man upside the head. Sometimes, she wanted Sokka around again to be his typical undiplomatic self, but he was too busy trying to hold the devastated Water Tribes together. They were offered the best rooms in the grandest home, but they refused. After eight years, sleeping in the great outdoors near a flying bison had become a habit, and they found they had difficulty sleeping anywhere else.
They camped out on the outskirts of town, by a small stream to ward away the heat of the Fire Nation summers. Their nightly ritual was quiet, each lost in their own thoughts. She mentally preparing herself for a sleepless night, he mulling over the past.
He pulled her close in their bedroll, tucking her head under his chin. She moved her hand in soothing motions across his back, praying to whoever could hear her that he got a good night sleep. Eventually, she felt his breaths became slow and deep and his hold relaxed. Hours passed, and the moon was high in the sky as she lay awake, unconsciously stroking his back and waiting for the inevitable. Suddenly he became very tense, and began to mumble quietly. Katara rolled out of his grasp, ready to dive from their makeshift bed the moment he began to move. To her surprise, he didn't begin to thrash. Instead, he heaved a deep sigh and buried his face between her shoulder blades. She blinked a few times, baffled by this development, and waiting for the nightmare to progress. As she lay there, her eyelids became heavy and she drifted off.
A humid breeze against her back woke her. She opened her eyes to see the sky had entered into the dull blue grey that signaled dawn was only a few hours away. Turning her head, she realized her companion was gone. She felt his impression in the soft material, it was cool, so he had been gone for quite awhile.
Now she panicked.
Had the night terrors evolved into full out sleep walking? He could be anywhere. Angry, she berated herself for not waking and sat up, scanning the area for her wayward husband. She breathed a sigh of relief as she spotted his figure hunched over the stream, only a few yards away. She hurried over to him, but stopped abruptly. The bare back was gleaming with sweat, and she could see in rising and falling rapidly as he breathed like he was in a panic. He splashed water from the stream forearms and hands, rubbing vigorously. The skin there was red and raw, even his tattoos seemed discolored by the scrubbing.
"Aang," she called quietly, kneeling beside him.
He didn't seem surprised by her presence, and gave a soft, "Hi, Katara," in reply.
"What are you doing?"
"Getting cleaned up, we have to get an early start, you know. Zuko always has conniptions if we show up late, even if.."
"Aang. It's at least four hours before dawn. Try again."
He bit his lip, and turned to face his wife. His grey eyes were bloodshot, and a fine layer of sweat glistened on his face.
"I never told you what happened with Ozai, did I." It wasn't a question.
Katara held her bit her lip as she stared at him.
She and Sokka had entered the palace only a few moments after the death of their nemesis. Aang had been kneeling by the body, staring at it with an indescribable expression. Sokka had to carry the younger boy out, he was so unresponsive. He had been like that for days. Katara admitted that some part of her was afraid to know what had happened.
He took a deep breath before continuing, "I sucked the air out of his lungs."
The waterbender swallowed.
"He told me that I was too much like Zuko. That I would be the downfall of everyone around me, if I didn't kill them first."
He sat, as if the story drained the energy he needed to continue crouching. He looked at the water, not meeting her eyes at all.
"I reacted by pulling the air from his lungs to keep him from talking, and I just held it out. I wanted him to suffer. Gods, even now I feel dirty talking about it."
The last sentence was a quiet whisper.
Katara stared at the man she loved for what felt like an eternity. She didn't know what to say. What could she say?
She reached out and ran her hand along the side of his smooth scalp. He jumped a little at her touch, half expecting her to have run at his confession.
"You could do anything with your abilities, could cause so much harm. Yet, you let yourself lose control just once. You were thirteen, Aang. Thirteen. No one blames you, except for yourself."
Aang leaned into the dark hand, "I just thought if you knew, you'd..."
"I'd run away? You should.." Katara gasped as a lightening bolt of realization hit her, her hand slid to his shoulder.
"Those nightmares you have, they aren't about Ozai, are they?"
He shook his head.
"They began when we began courting. You always run from me in those dreams."
Two hands came to his face this time, and their insistent force turned his line of vision from the ground to Katara's face. Her voice was quiet, but it carried a world of meaning in it.
"Aang, remember at age twelve when you were so afraid I'd leave you to get married to someone else?"
He nodded, smiling a little ruefully at the memory.
"I said nothing could ever make me leave you. I went with you to fight the greatness power in our world. Let me help you fight this, too."
The waterbender took one of his larger hands in hers, turning it to expose the palm adorned with the tattoo of a golden dragon. She pressed her own palm, with an identical mark into his.
"You had your duty, and you did it. You were human and scared for half a moment. And I don't love you any less for it."
She felt his warms arms go around her waist, and was unabashedly pulled up against her love, who began to kiss her quite enthusiastically. He pulled away, and she made a little noise of disappointment in the back of her throat.
"You're amazing, you know that?"
She smiled cheekily, before declaring in a dramatically haughty voice, "I know."
Another kiss was initiated, with even more vigor. Katara moved to straddle Aang's lap, as he began toying with the ties at the back of her nightclothes.
From behind them, Appa let out a disgruntled snort, the bison version of the age old "Will you two knock it off?" groan.
Katara rested her chin on the Avatar's shoulder as she glared at the beast.
"I think your bison was channeling my brother for a moment, there."
Aang chuckled, "We should probably save such 'activities' for a less exposed place."
When Aang fell asleep again, he dreamed only of the future, and not of the past.
They arrived late the next afternoon to the palace, sheepishly explaining they had overslept. Zuko decided he didn't want to know.
A/N: XD Poor Zuko, I torture him so. See a lot of similarities with To Have and to Hold? Good, that was the point. The next two will be a lot more cheerful, I promise. In Sickness and in Health even features Doctor!Aang! Please review, I have a muse and ego to feed.
By the way, the marriage tattoos are totally KimchiCrusader's idea. I am just a dirty idea whore, I bow before her godly writing. Go read her stories NOW!