A week had passed since Aang's return and it seemed to Katara as though he had never left them. Though her father, the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, had yet to give formal permission for him to stay in the village, he had already made himself feel right at home and had already, like years before, endeared himself to the children, who were more than delighted to discover that the great and powerful Avatar loved fun and games as much as they did, so unlike most of the boring adults in the tribe.
"So, what do you all want to do today?" Aang cheerfully asked the group of youngsters who he had been unceremoniously tasked to keep out of their busy parents' hair.
"Penguin Sledding!" yelled a little boy.
"No, we did that yesterday and two days before. It's boring now," complained a little girl.
While the boy stuck his tongue out at her, Aang with a grin asked her, "Well then, what do you want us to do?"
In a very serious tone, she immediately told him that she wanted to ride his flying bison and so did the rest of her friends who seconded her answer with resounding cheers.
"Now, kids," said Aang loudly in order to be heard over the ruckus, "I've already told you that I left Appa at the Southern Air Temple-"
"Gee… I wonder why," said someone who wasn't a child in a rather loud voice.
His expression turning sheepish, Aang turned round to see Sokka giving him a narrowed look with Katara standing beside him.
"Eh… hi, guys," said Aang with just a touch of nervous guilt in his voice for one of the reasons why they had been unable to track him years ago was because he had left a very reluctant and inconspicuous Appa at the Southern Air Temple.
You left Appa at the Southern Air Temple…
Sokka, stay calm.
Don't tell me to stay calm, Katara. We spent- no! wasted an entire year looking for him. Of course, we asked people if they've spotted a ten-ton flying bison. All this time, Appa was at the Southern Air Temple-
Didn't want Appa to be lonely while you were off doing who know what all over the place, huh, Aang?
Uhm… actually, I stayed about half the time at the Southern Air Temple. Had a lot of work to do… Both Appa and Momo needed food so I had to make sure a lot of plants were growing there again. Took a lot of earthbending and waterbending… Wasn't easy.
Good. I hope it was excruciatingly difficult.
Sokka, let Aang finish.
Always have to defend Aang even though he was the one who-
I just want to hear his side of the story so keep quiet.
Don't thank me, Aang. I am still upset with you.
Okay, okay. Anyway, remember that herd of flying bison we came across before?
What about it, Aang?
Well, I decided it was time that there were a lot of bison and lemurs again at my old home. So after I got the gardens and orchards going, I went to look for that herd and brought them all back to the Southern Air Temple with me. I also remembered that old pirate captain saying about him being able to sell Momo for a good price so I tracked him down and persuaded him to find more flying lemurs for me.
Well… it was more like he volunteered his services, Sokka. It's always a good idea to be in excellent relations with the Avatar.
Shh, Sokka. Let Aang finish.
I stayed the first two years at the Southern Air Temple. Also visited the other Air Temples sometimes and visited Bumi-
Bumi! He told us he didn't have a single clue where you had gone off to!
Don't tell me to calm down, Katara! He and Bumi had us going around in circles the whole time. If Aang was just at the Southern Air Temple the first year, why'd Bumi keep telling us about his spies hearing rumors and news about Aang being in this corner of the Earth Kingdom, in that village, in that city, on that island!
… It's not Bumi's fault, Sokka. I asked him-
-to send us on a wild goose chase! You trusted Bumi with your deep dark secret, but couldn't trust us!
… Bumi wouldn't had insisted in being with me all the time-
Well, guess what, Aang? We now don't care whatever you do or wherever you go. Go on. Run away from us again. Abandon us again. We won't care. You didn't want us with you; we don't want you with us.
Sokka had then marched off, leaving Aang looking after him with a shamed expression on his face. Katara, torn between wanting to reassure him that Sokka didn't really mean what he had just said and partly agreeing with her brother's sentiments concerning Aang's actions, had just remained quiet; her continued silence only adding to Aang's guilt and uneasiness.
Yet regardless of the hurt caused and the harsh words spoken out loud, the very next day, Sokka had, in a very gruff voice, asked Aang where he had slept the night before since the younger man hadn't returned to Sokka's hut where he had been staying since his arrival at the Southern Water Tribe Village.
You weren't sleeping in Katara's hut, were you?
… Of course not-
Let's just be clear about this. We aren't kids anymore so you can't sleep in the same hut or room as my sister unless it's an emergency or something like that. People will talk if you stay in her hut.
You're staying with me until dad decides what we should do with you.
… Sokka, I'm sor-
Never mind, Aang, really. I know you did what you had to do. Just needed some time alone to get over what a sneaky bastard you really are. … We all really missed you badly, Katara especially. I just hated seeing her so sad, even wanted to beat you up into a pulp for-
I am really sorry, Sokka. I didn't want to leave. And about Katara, I-
I know, Aang. I know. Let's not talk about it anymore. It's all in the past. The only thing I want you to do right now is to make up for what you did to my sister.
… What do you mean exactly, Sokka?
Gran-gran told me that she thinks Katara's been waiting for you. You should know that a lot of guys in my tribe want to marry her, but she refused to even go out on dates with any of them.
Aang, you do –like- her, right?
… Yes, very much. I love her, Sokka.
Good. Because you will –really- get it from me if you ever –ever- break her heart again.
Sokka's threatening promise echoed in Aang's mind as he returned Katara's smile.
"Hello, Aang," she greeted; her voice sounding feathery soft to his ears. He felt a tinge of disappointment when she looked away from him to her brother who was causing the children some upset.
"Aang, the Avatar that is, will be too busy to play with you today. Go. Do something else. He can play with you tomorrow," he said; his voice sounding rather stern amidst the chorus of disappointed protests.
"What's up, guys?" Aang asked curiously as the children moved off reluctantly as a whole.
It was Sokka who answered with a slight smile, "Thought you'd like to hear some good news – Dad's decided you can stay."
"Really? That's great!"
"Took a while. Sorry about that, Aang. You know how Pakku can be, but still... it was obvious from the very start that we had to let you stay with us. We'd be the laughingstock everywhere except in the Fire Nation if we refused such a modest request from the Great Avatar."
Aang sighed, "Sokka, I'd really appreciate it if you stop referring to me as the Great Avatar."
"Nah. The title's grown on me. So has the –one-and-only-almighty- Ava-"
"Sokka, quit it," muttered Aang, looking grumpy as a grinning Sokka threw his arm about the younger man's shoulders and led him towards the section of the village where his and Katara's huts were located.
"Nothing personal, Aang, but I –need- my space. It's time for you to get your own place." Sokka laughed at his rhyming.
Katara added in kindly, "We'll help you put up your own hut, Aang, but you should know the material that we use is all made from animal skins. Maybe you'd prefer an igloo as your home."
"Or something more grand like the ice houses at the Northern Water Tribe," commented Sokka, "You are the All Powerful Avatar; you can bend water and make your own frozen palace if you like."
Amused, Aang shook his head slightly. "Thanks for the suggestion, Sokka, but a cozy igloo will do," he said with a soft chuckle of his own before turning his attention away from the water tribe warrior to his sister just walking a few steps ahead of them. Sokka noticed with nary a blink.
Expectedly, Aang wanted his new home to be close to his friends'. Unfortunately, there wasn't an unoccupied area nearby though the lack of it certainly didn't deter him. Much to the rest of the village's surprise and quick-to-follow amusement, the Avatar without much ado began bending columns of solid ice about and in between Katara and Sokka's huts in order to support an icy platform several meters above.
"Aang, this looks ridiculous!" Sokka complained loudly to Aang, who was putting the finishing touches to his cozy igloo suspended over their homes.
Fighting to keep from giggling, Katara annoyed her brother by suggesting, "You could just let him stay in your hut…"
Sokka almost said, "How'd you like it if he mucked about in your hut?" He barely managed to hold back the retort, and Katara, distracted by Aang now bending a circular stairwell to lead up from the frozen ground to his new home, didn't notice Sokka's sudden verbal reticence.
Though he had more or less ordered Aang to court his sister, Sokka certainly didn't want to hurry them along. Besides, he was also not yet entirely certain how he would actually react to Katara taking Aang as a lover and perhaps finally as her husband.
About two hours before dusk, just as Katara was about finished tutoring waterbending to her pupils for the day, Aang came over to where they were practicing just outside the village and was greeted by a chorus of 'Good Afternoon, Avatar Aang'.
Lips twitching, Aang returned the greeting and Katara's very young students looked rather disappointed when she dismissed them. With slow reluctance, they left, more than once looking back over their shoulders to catch a glimpse of their waterbending master with the Avatar.
"Done for the day?" Aang queried softly. Suddenly feeling shy as she often did nowadays when alone with her best friend, Katara didn't trust her voice to remain steady should she speak and instead simply nodded an affirmative to him.
She blinked, indeed very startled when Aang suddenly drew close to her and asked if she would go on a date with him.
"… A date?" Katara had replied, sounding quite squeaky and making Aang's lips twitch again with amusement.
"Yes, Katara. A date," he repeated teasingly; his gray eyes gleamed with satisfaction when a deep blush came over Katara's face.
"Because I like you, Katara."
"I –like- you."
"… I like you too-" she broke off for Aang had pressed his right index finger across her lips to silence her.
"Let me rephrase, Katara. I like –like- you. Do you understand now?"
With his finger still barring her lips, Katara could only nod at him. Besides, she couldn't trust herself to speak for she felt as though her insides had all turned to mush.
"Great! So where do you want us to go to?" said Aang cheerfully; he seemed rather unaware that he was still holding his finger against Katara's mouth. He yelped when she bit the offending appendage.
"Don't complain. You deserve that at least for that 'you'll be cleaned up faster with my help' stunt in my hut," said Katara with a glare.
Aang wasn't the least bit repentant. "I'm not complaining. I just rather you had bit something else of mine- Ouch!" Katara had stomp very hard on his foot.
"I'll keep that in mind!" she said scathingly, her cheeks flaring red at his cheek but mostly caused by the very uncomfortable realization that she had actually found his shameless suggestion arousing.
Images began to flash crossed Katara's mind's eye as she suddenly and not for the first time imagined herself lying naked on the sleeping furs in her hut with Aang lying over her.
It was Aang's turn to blink and to be surprised when Katara abruptly turned to hurriedly walk away from him.
"Katara?" he said worriedly, keeping easy pace with her.
Realizing that he thought he had upset her, Katara quickly said, "It's okay, Aang. I just need to do something first.
That something being needing to thwart her libido by immersing herself in a cold water over at the communal baths. Normally, after work and before dinner, Katara would enjoy a daily hot bath with the other women in the village. Unfortunately, in this case, indulging in a bath of any temperature other than that of the chilly variety would only enhance her current dilemma.
Even now, her overactive imagination was presenting a lurid vision of her and Aang enjoying a steamy bath together.
She yelped, alarmed when Aang all of a sudden grabbed her elbow, in turn propelling her to face him again.
"Katara, I don't want you going away from me upset."
"I wasn't upset with you, but I'll be if you don't let me go!"
Aang disobeyed her with considerable impunity; Katara's eyes widened with disbelief when he lifted her bodily into his arms.
"Aang, let me down!"
"We need to talk alone."
"We were talking alone, and I'll never speak to you again if you don't let me down this instance!" However, once again, he ignored her order, and Katara found herself clinging tightly against him for support when he began sprinting away from the village at breakneck speed.
"Why did you bring me here?" Katara asked Aang in a very bothered tone of voice as he lowered her feet first to stand on the deck of the Fire Navy ship wreck, which now had been stripped bare of everything and anything removable, leaving only its skeleton and damaged hull.
"It was the only shelter around here that I know of," said Aang as an explanation; he sounded a touched embarrassed.
Katara gave him a narrowed stare.
Aang blinked back at her. "I just want to talk with you, Katara, and I didn't want us to be without shelter just in case there's a snowstorm or something.
"… Right, how thoughtful of you… and just what exactly do you mean by 'something'?"
He pretended that he didn't hear her question; this annoyed Katara but surprise soon became the dominant emotion yet again when he said-
"Not that I didn't hope and think of us making love out here… that would be very nice, but I have decided to wait until we're married.
Katara's jaw dropped as Aang continued, "It won't be easy waiting, but it would be proper that our very first time together be during the honeymoon. By the way, there's a very nice tropical island just south east of-"
In a strangled voice, she said, "Us, marry?"
Aang gazed back at her with a rather innocent expression on his face. "Yes, Katara. I want to marry you. That's how it usually goes, you know."
"… But you've only returned to us for barely a week-"
"I've been thinking and dreaming about marrying you for years, Katara."
"Look, we already know each other so well, and I'm a hundred percent positive that sex between us will be incredible-"
"Aang, we- you don't even know that for certain yet!"
"I'm sure," he told her simply before stating his main reason for wishing to take her as his wife.
"I love you, Katara. Very very much."
"Now, I know we've been separated for four years and that you probably still think of me as a friend, hopefully still your best friend, but I can wait for and accept your decision whatever it may be. Right now, I can only promise you that whatever your feelings for me, whether only friendship or more, I will make certain that you will find me extremely enjoyable in bed, and that I will be a very good husband to you and a great father to our kids-"
"Aang," finally able to interrupt him, Katara, sounding confused and feeling more than a little helpless, complained, "we haven't even kissed yet and you're already talking about us having children."
Katara barely made the realization that her words implied a suggestion to Aang to kiss her when he leaned towards her, bending his head to gently brush a kiss, almost chaste, across her mouth.
"May I kiss you, Katara?"
"… You just did."
"That was just a peck. I couldn't help it when you said that we haven't even kissed yet." A slight shiver ran through Katara as she felt his warm breath against her mouth.
"I want to kiss you properly, Katara. Will you let me?"
It felt as though all her muscles had seized up; Katara could only look at Aang for a long while before finally, under his watchful gaze, licked her dry lips nervously before nodding, giving permission to her best friend to kiss her properly.
Despite wearing thick fur-lined clothes, the warmth from Aang's body seemed to permeate throughout her as he drew her close against him.
Noticing that he wasn't wearing a fur coat, only a tunic and a pair of trousers made of leather, Katara began vaguely wondering why he never seemed to feel cold, whether sleeping practically naked in a Southern Tribe hut or swimming in frigid waters around Kyoshi Island during winter in order to ride the Elephant Koi.
All thought disappeared from Katara's mind as Aang once again lowered his head this time to press a firm yet gentle kiss on her lips.
The Romantic & Comedic 'me' is happy to end this at this point; however, the Angst-y & Dramatic 'me' wants to… uh… make things a little more complicated for these two oh so dear characters… As it's often said- we like to torture the ones we love, and I so… adore Aang and Katara. XD
I actually have in mind at least three more chapters, which are quite dark. If I write and post those, I'll have to consider changing the genre categories of the story from Romance/Humor to Romance/Drama or Angst or Humor/Drama or Angst… (wish ffnet allowed three to four genre categories…)
If you're wondering about what I mean exactly by the latter chapters being dark and angsty... well - if you're familiar with Disney's 'The Fox and the Hound', you should know that it started off sad, became very sweet and happy and then became very dark and sad once again. The original novel version of 'The Fox and the Hound' by Daniel P. Mannix was actually dark all throughout, had sex in it and ended -very- tragically. Yup... I was very surprised when I read the original novel.
I'll leave it up to you. Do you agree with my R & C side or with my A & D side? Would you like to see this story turn dark and angsty? Just a warning of sorts, I can only promise readers that it will not end tragically and that there will be actual sex in those chapters. (Heh... may just earn this story an M rating.)
Whether or not I will continue this story, I'll probably be around the fandom, perhaps writing more Kataang. The Avatar Day episode just bequeathed upon me an aangsty (misspelling and pun intended) plot bunny which I think will be occupying my imagination for quite a while.
Oh yeah… and guys… (pimps aangxkatara LJ community) Please join, post art, writing, media and such. I'm not the one who started this com which has been around for months already before I even got into the AtLB fandom (plus I am a multi-shipper; I've also written Zutara, slash and gen) so this isn't a matter of pride or something like that for me; it just strikes me as very odd and quite depressing that the aangxkatara LJ com is so and too quiet for my comfort.