Summary: The war has finally ended and peace has once again been restored. However, Aang still has one last battle left to finish… and that's to tell Katara how he feels. Hm… better said than done.
Author's Note: This is only a three to four part story, so it's very short. Anyways this fic is purely Kataang fluff with implied Zutara. Please read and enjoy at your own risk! (Grins)
No One Else
Chapter One: Words still Unspoken
The Southern Air Temple was a truly beautiful place to be; it had grown even more beautiful after four years of fighting in the war. Aang stared at the statue of his old master Gyatso with a smile.
"I did it, Master," he said. "I restored peace to the nations… just as you'd wanted me to."
It wasn't something he enjoyed remembering; he'd barely made it out there alive with burns and wounds that would take weeks to mend. Fire Nation's fortress was powerful and just entering the borders alone was difficult. It was always during those darkest times when he'd wished he wasn't the Avatar, wished that millions of people weren't counting him, and wished he wasn't the born savior of the world. However, he'd defeated the Fire Lord and restored peace, finally, but was on the brink of death. Needless to say, his survival was a miracle all on its own.
Aang bowed his head, but then he let his mind slip – it was typical and not something anyone, nor the statue of his dead master, would ever find out of the ordinary. Even during training of his olden days with his fellow Nomads, it was always difficult for him to retain his attention to only one thing. The Avatar sighed, as dramatic and prolonging as it was humanly possible, causing Momo to stare at him in curiosity, Appa to heave a great big yawn (but otherwise, unbothered) and several of the birds from the trees to scatter. "But… I still have one last problem…" he muttered.
And he let his eyes shift towards the two figures who were playing airball, or rather… at the girl who was bending the water and hurtling it towards her brother, who dodged the attack in the last minute; he sent his sister a heated glare and grumbled something Aang could make out. The girl simply laughed at her brother's sarcastic comments, throwing her head back as she shook with mirth. This small action alone caused Aang to be entranced completely by her, even from a distance Aang could not help but marvel just how incredibly beautiful she was.
"Katara…" he murmured, sighing, getting lost in his daydreams again.
She was most especially gorgeous when she smiled, her blue eyes lighting like glistening water – absolutely breath-taking. Aang couldn't count the many times he'd seen that smile and was rendered speechless. He felt, even now, like he didn't have enough air in him to breathe, to stay alive and coming from a skilled air bender such as himself, that was saying a lot. He couldn't comprehend when such a flimsy crush a few years back soon developed into something so much deeper than all his 100 years of slept wisdom could ever properly put into words.
It was as though she felt his eyes on her, Katara looked up, saw that he was looking at her and waved, a smile gracing her features. Aang shook from his reverie, smiled back (as casually as he could) and waved. Katara went back to her brother Sokka, who was spitting water from his mouth, a look akin to annoyance on his face.
Aang sighed heavily and looked back to his Master, as though the statue had just seen everything and understood.
"You see?" he said. "I love her and yet I have no idea how to tell her! What do I do?"
The statue didn't say anything, which made Aang feel like he should elaborate.
"I don't know how to describe it…" he said quietly, sitting down. "She's the most amazing person I've ever met; brave, strong, smart and beautiful…" He smiled as fond memories resurfaced. "She's saved me quite a few times and has never stopped believing in me… even during the times when I'd stopped believing in myself. I'd do anything for her…anything…"
The statue gave no reply, causing Aang to sigh again, this time in defeat.
"What am I doing? I'm talking to a chunk of rock –" He realized what he'd just said and abruptly sat up, bowing profusely until he was dizzy. "Ah! I'm sorry, Master – I didn't mean it like that, I swear! I just thought – I mean… oh never mind…" he finished lamely, after realizing that he was making blatant excuses to a statue. He dropped back onto the ground and turned his eyes skyward, a color that made him think (no surprise) of a certain someone. "Master, what do I do? I'm going crazy…"
"Going crazy? Oh my… whatever about?"
Aang sat forward like a dashboard and was met with a pair of teasing blue eyes. He froze, unprepared for this and unprepared for the close proximity with, of all people, Katara. She seemed oblivious to the faint reddening of his cheeks and peered at his face, coming closer if that was possible, and causing Aang to feel light-headed by the smell of her scent.
"Aang, are you alright?" she said, frowning. She placed a hand over his forehead. "You're a bit warm… are you okay?"
Coming back to his senses, Aang pulled away, casting his grey eyes elsewhere.
"Aahha…" he said nervously. "Of course I'm okay! I mean why wouldn't I be okay? If I wasn't okay then I wouldn't be okay, which I am so therefore I can't not not be okay… or… is that I can't not be okay so I must be… argh… never mind! I'm confusing myself!" He looked at Katara, who was looked just as confused as he was. He gave her a smile. "Heh… sorry about that…"
Katara giggled. "It's okay," she said. Aang sighed in relief; that was what he loved about her… she was never quick to judge, especially someone who was dorky and not quite settled on two feet as him.
"By the way Zuko is inviting us for dinner tomorrow evening," she said.
"Zuko?" Aang repeated, suddenly coming out of his reveries.
"Yes," said Katara, "Prince Zuko. He's holding an annual celebration in honor of our victory."
"I see," he said, his eyes narrowing.
Aang noted that she was always blushing any time the mere fire bender was mentioned. He did know that at some point during those last four years Katara and Zuko had a fling going on of some sort, where they'd argue, tell each other how much they despised one another and settled it with a heated duel that went on for hours, but Aang knew how Katara had felt… and knew how Zuko had felt. Aang had never voiced this out before but he hated it, not in the same way Sokka hated it – but hated it so vehemently that each time Katara ran off he'd nearly broken whatever it was he'd been holding at the time. He felt sick of all the times they went off together, felt so passionately jealous that every time Katara smiled it'd been for Zuko and not for him.
Then eventually…Katara had just stopped seeing him, Zuko stopped coming to visit and their expanded training time together grew inexistent to either one of them. Aang had to wonder why. He remembered Katara making her way back to their camp one late night, running and half-stumbling, her hair a mess… she was a mess. He was barely awake when he spotted her stepping into her sleeping bag; she was trembling and he could distinctly hear the mingled sobs that were emanating from her.
"Katara, what's the matter?" he had asked, despite his bleary vision and his half-awaken state. He was still aware of her presence.
"N-Nothing…" she had whispered. Her back had been turned to him to hide her face, but Aang knew. Still half asleep he'd reached out for her, his hand coming to gently touch her shoulder, pulling her to face him. There had been tears running down her face and whether or not he'd been aware of it at that time or not, he'd wiped them away with a gentle flick of his thumb.
"Whatever it is," he'd told her, "you know I'm here for you. I'll never leave your side." He yawned. "I promise."
He thought he saw Katara smile and she took his hand in hers, intertwining their fingers. He was vaguely aware that she had stepped out of her sleeping bag, vaguely aware of his own actions as he lifted up the blanket to let her in… was vaguely aware as she leaned her head on his shoulder and cuddled her face at the crook of his neck. He felt her tears against his skin, and without thinking he'd pulled her closer; his hands wrapping around her as she sighed, her breaths slowing down, meaning she was deep asleep, her fingers still laced with his.
He barely remembered brushing her hair aside, wiping the last of her tears before he, too, was sound asleep. Aang couldn't remember whether he'd dreamed the whole thing or not because by the time he woke up, Katara was awake, packing her sleeping bag while Sokka prepared Appa for their departure.
Katara had never spoken about that night and neither did he. And now, here she was, speaking of her former love interest with a flushing face. Aang had to suppress the urge to scowl at the sight, but failed horribly.
"Oh," he said, his voice uncharacteristically bitter, "that's nice."
But it wasn't nice at all. Aang knew that Zuko still harbored feelings for Katara (who wouldn't? She was so beautiful!), but that was the least of his worries. The question was: did Katara still have feelings for Zuko? And watching as she avoided his eyes, her face the color of a ripe tomato, it made convincing himself that she didn't a whole lot more difficult.
"And Toph will be there too," she said, changing the subject. "That should be interesting! She said she looks forward to seeing – err I mean… meeting you again, Aang."
Toph… Aang thought in remembrance… the earth bender that had been his teacher for a period of time during his travels and as well as had nearly killed him in the process. She may have been blind but she was no pushover. Pointless to say the memory was bittersweet; he still had bruises on his bruises where she'd last thrown a chunk of granite at him!
"Really," said Aang dryly. "I bet that's just her way of saying she wants another spar with me." Another way of saying she wants me to sprout another bruise on my head…hmph!
Katara laughed, causing Aang to whip his head at an impossible angle, totally distracted by this. "Yeah, I guess your right," she said. "But that is Toph for you."
"Yeah…" said Aang, barely aware of what he was saying now, "…I'm there for you…" Katara gave him a strange look. Aang, realizing what he'd just said, quickly amended, the color of his face on the brink of a hot red, "Uh… yeah! T-That would be something Toph would do! Y-You know her… always ready to kick my butt! Hehehe…" he trailed off, mentally slapping himself on the head for such a lame excuse.
Then he noticed Katara was looking away, her expression suddenly tired and terribly… sad. He came to her side at once.
"Hey… what's the matter?" he asked, concerned.
"I just… can't believe it's finally over," she said softly. She was peering over the edge, where the clouds were endless and the bottom couldn't be seen for miles. Aang looked over the edge too, knowing exactly what she was talking about. "I wished I could have said goodbye to my father is all before well…you know…" Katara bit her lip, trying to push down tears and emotions from resurfacing.
Aang saw this and on impulse, or maybe it was something else – he'll never really know – he reached out for her, his hand wrapping over her own and gently rubbing over her skin there with his thumb. On a regular basis, Aang wouldn't have dared try; he'd have blushed to the very roots of his hair (if he had any) and died on the spot of mortification. But this time was different, this time Katara needed him.
Her father had died in the war against the Fire Nation some time ago. Aang remembered so clearly the day a messenger had gave them a letter telling them so. Sokka had taken it badly – probably the worse out of the three of them; his temper was worse than normal and was always adamant to be left alone. It took a while before Sokka began showing signs of recovery.
However, Katara had never showed anything; her face completely blank as the messenger relayed them the message, almost like she was too shock to feel anything. She hadn't said a single word for days, had suddenly stopped eating and was always gone during the nights Aang woke up for a drink of water by the stream. He had felt immensely worried about her and when he'd asked she had simply told him she was fine and, helplessly, he left it at that. Then finally she was smiling again, waking him up at sunrise and chiding him when he'd goof off on their training sessions, as though nothing had happened and she was, just as she'd told him, fine.
Now…seemed like the first Aang had seen her talk about her father in ages.
"I'm sure your father was proud of you, Katara… both you and Sokka," he said firmly, giving her hand a comforting squeeze.
Katara didn't say anything, she was looking at him in a way he'd never seen her look at him before.
"What?" Aang said.
Katara blinked then giggled, shaking her head. "Oh…it's nothing," she said, her cheeks pink. "I… I just…I almost forgot how… wonderful you are…"
Aang felt his heart stop for a split second in time before resuming its beat, gradually beating faster and faster by the second. He tried to rid of the swooping sensation he'd received at the pit of his stomach by chuckling, rubbing the back his head in an attempt for modesty.
"Me? Nah…It's you who's wonderful…" he murmured. Then he noticed she was shifting from side to side, looking strangely anxious about something. He squeezed her hand. "You okay?"
"Yeah…i-it's just…" she trailed off, and gazed up at him.
He raised a brow at her; her stare… was unnerving. He felt hot and bothered by it, however not necessarily in a bad way; the way she looked at him, so differently, shot a sense of thrill in him, tickling his heartstrings. "What?" he said, tilting his head to the side. "Is there something on my face?"
Katara went pink and she looked away. "N-No…sorry I just…I…I was…" she swallowed, coiled her other hand into a fist, before speaking again. "A-Aang…" Her voice shook as her fingers interlacing with his. "I have to tell you something."
Aang tilted his head to the side. "What is it?"
She took a moment to calm herself, taking huge gulps of breaths. When she was ready, she opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She tried again, and yet she was still unable to say anything. The determined blaze she had on her face was slowly bordering on nervousness and then eventually she just shook her head, resigned.
"N-Nothing… never mind…it's nothing…"
She looked upset, her brows furrowed in frustration and she was biting her lip – a habit she picked up when she was deeply troubled by something, but Aang had no idea what. Before he could ask, she had pulled her hand out of his and had taken a step away from him.
"I'm sorry…" she muttered.
But… what was it she was sorry about? What was going on? He was so confused. Now, she was walking away. Aang panicked.
"Katara, wait, what are you – ack!" He tripped on a tree root that was poking out from the ground, sending him reeling right into Katara, who wasn't expecting this, and the both of them collided right into the statue of Master Gyatso. Aang winced, rubbing the sore spot on his arm that had been particularly bruised by the collision, but it was immediately forgotten the moment he heard Katara's mumbled words of pain. She was squished between him and the statue, rubbing her shoulder. Aang instantly felt a stab of guilt. "Ah! I'm sorry, Katara, I really am! Gosh I'm so clumsy, hey, are you alright?"
He was blabbing like an idiot with the jitters, but really – what had he been thinking running into her like that?
"It's okay, Aang," she said, wiggling her arm. "I'm fine. I didn't get hurt that much… just a little sore. Besides," she added, her voice chiding but gentle, "it's you who I should be worrying about. Look! You're bleeding!"
She pointed at near the top of his head, where a small cut could be seen just right next to the arrow tattoo. So… that's why my head's hurting so much, he mused.
"Here, let me—"Katara had opened her water jug, letting a pool of water into her hands and gliding it until it settled over his wound. Aang stood still as she healed him; he tried to keep his concentration from wavering, but now and then his attention would slip and he'd end up watching her, totally transfixed. She looked so determined, her focus completely on the wound, despite how little and insignificant it was. There was a cooling sensation that spread over the cut before the stinging had totally vanished; she had even cured his insufferable headache! Aang marveled at how much she'd developed over the years.
He quickly tore his eyes from her when she noticed he was staring.
"Thanks…but still…sorry about that," he said.
Katara shrugged. "It's no biggie," she said. Then she grinned. "I'm quite used to your klutzy tendencies long by now, Aang."
Aang pretended to look offended by this. "Low blow, Katara," he said. Subsequently, he got an idea and felt worldly evil as he moved closer to her, a glint in his eyes, which did not go unnoticed by Katara.
"Oh, no you don't, Aang, don't you dare!" she laughed, but there was a hint of warning in her tone. Of course he totally disregarded this, refusing to let her get away from him. "Aang! Aang, I mean it!"
"I'm not going to let you go until I get an apology!" he said, and with this he began to tickle her ruthlessly. Katara giggled, trying to push away but failed.
"Hahahah! Aang! Hahaha! Aang, stop, please!" she chortled. "Okay, okay! Hahaha! You win, you win!"
Aang grinned in success. "Tell me that I am the greatest and most devilishly handsome guy you've ever met first!" he went on.
"You've got to be—" His tickling grew faster. "Hahahaha! Okay…okay!" Katara was struggling to speak, but she managed. "You are… the greatest… and most…uhh—"
"—devilishly handsome," Aang helped, enjoying this immensely.
Katara glared, to which Aang responded by tickling her doubly. "Hehehehe! Okay! Okay!" she grumbled. "...And the most devilishly handsome guy I've ever met! There! Are you happy now? I said it!"
Aang tapped his chin as if thinking about this, his fingers still poised and ready for more tickling. "Hm…"
"Okay, okay," he said cheerfully, smirking a little as she sighed in relief. He let his hands slide to her waist, ceasing his tickling frenzy…for the moment. Katara was out of breath, her cheeks flushed. When she regained her composure, she hit him on the chest. It wasn't very hard, just enough to let him know that she'd get him back for this even if it killed her. Aang, however, played along, rubbing the spot on his chest where she'd socked him. "Ow… there's no need for violence Katara." He grinned mischievously.
She shot him a Look.
"C'mon… you know all the things you've said about me was right!"
Katara rolled her eyes. "I think all that air-bending has given you a big head, Aang," she said firmly.
"Now, don't make me tickle you again, Katara."
Katara glared. "Did I ever tell you you're evil?" she said.
"Well…a few times…I suppose," Aang said, as if actually thinking about this. He smiled teasingly at her exasperated stare. "You know I'm just kidding, right?" he said.
However, she seemed to be preoccupied with something else and kept eyeing him critically. "Hey…" Katara squinted her eyes at him up and down as if their close proximity wasn't close enough. "…are you taller than me now?"
Aang looked up and then down at her. "Oh… well, what do you know, I am."
Katara huffed. "You're incorrigible," she said.
"But you love me."
And in his arms, Katara had stopped dead. Aang bit his lip; he wanted to hit himself hundred times over in the behind for saying such a thing, and to tell the truth, he really didn't know where the hell it'd came from! He'd just opened his mouth and said it!
Man… he thought, wanting desperately to disappear through the ground… I'm losing it… wait a minute… I can earth-bend – I can just drill a hole through the ground and… oh what am I thinking? Wait… what is Katara thinking? He couldn't quite imagine.
She was staring in a daze at her hands, fiddling with her fingers nervously. Aang swallowed, and allowed himself to laugh.
"Heheh… I was o-only kidding, Katara!" he said, rubbing the back of his head again. "Cheer up!"
Katara was looking at him strangely, her brows furrowed slightly as if in great pain, and… Aang could have sworn he saw a small glimpse of… disappointment pass through her blue eyes just then. It was gone the moment he thought to look again.
"Y-Yeah…" she said softly. "A-A joke…right…"
Aang chuckled, still embarrassed over his choice of words. "Um… yeah…" he agreed.
Katara smiled slightly and looked back down at her lap. Once again, silence went on between them. Aang couldn't help but feel maybe he'd made the tension worse than actually help it.
It was then that he noticed the smudge of dirt on her cheek. "Oh…you got a bit o-of… here…let me…" He flicked the smear with his thumb, but then getting carried away by how soft her skin felt he found himself gently stroking the rest of her face, letting his fingers trail down the edges of her jaw-line, her chin… her lips… Katara sighed, closing her eyes and – was he dreaming? – leaning in towards him.
They were standing close… very close. It was the first time Aang had really noticed that he was holding her pinned against the statue, arms by her waist, his eyes out-ling every curve and feature of her face into memory. Without really thinking of it, all sense of reason be gone, he leaned in further, and, in turn, she leaned in too… closer and closer…
Their lips just barely a centimeter apart until –
"Hey, you guys, we got to get going!" It was Sokka.
This seemed to pull a trigger in Aang's head and he was quick to pull away. Katara did the same, although there was not much space she could move back to as the statue of Gyatso still stood behind her. She was trying to look anywhere else but at him, at them; her face red, and looking as though she'd been holding her breath the entire time.
Katara avoided his gaze. "Sokka's right…" she murmured. "W-We better go…" She maneuvered her way around him, her ducked low so that Aang couldn't even catch a glimpse of her face, and walked towards her brother; all that time she hadn't, once, looked back at him.
Aang felt his heart stricken with more guilt. What had happened? What had he almost done? He'd nearly… nearly kissed her! He felt faint just thinking about it. What the hell had come over him? What was he thinking? No… that was just it… he hadn't been thinking at all.
He watched as Katara helped Sokka reload the bags and supplies back on Appa. For the life of him, he couldn't imagine what she must be thinking of him now. Aang buried his face in his hands. He'd screwed up big time.
"Hey, Aang, are you just going to stand there all day or what?" Sokka called to him. "If you don't mind I'd like to get to the Fire Nation as soon as possible – preferably before I hit eighty!"
Katara whacked her brother over the head.
"Fine, take all the time in the world!" said Sokka, who looked annoyed. "There's no rush!" When Katara turned her back, Sokka gave him urgent looks of 'hurry up!' and waving impatiently to get on Appa's back.
Aang sighed and looked back to his master. "I know… I know…" he muttered, "not exactly smooth. But I'm trying!" The statue didn't say anything. "Hey, these things take time, okay? It's not that easy you know?"
"Aang!" Sokka called again. "I hate to interrupt your conversation and all, but seeing as how your master ain't gonna say anything productive any time soon, how's about we boot it?" Katara glared at him. "Or… if you want… keep talking. No biggie. I can wait even though I'm about to die of sheer hunger… noooo pressure here," he grumbled.
But Aang was watching Katara, watching as the sun behind the peaks of the mountains made her hair and her skin glow. Truly, she was beautiful… and it wasn't the first time that he felt all ounce of air leave his lungs, rendering him absolutely breath-taken. There was no doubt about it… he was head over heels, totally and completely, in love with her. He could spend another one hundred years convincing himself he wasn't… but he couldn't hide the truth no better than he could hide that he was the Avatar. It was there, in the open.
He was smitten. And... he was also doomed.
Aang looked back at the statue of his master and nodded, as though it were actually speaking.
"I know…" he murmured. "I know…she isn't going to wait forever." He sighed. "Thank you, Master Gyatso."
He bowed, paying the last of his thanks to his old master, and then hopped on Appa, tugging on the reigns with muttered 'Yip Yip!'
They rose in the air, leaving the Southern Temple far behind.
"Hey, Aang," said Sokka after awhile, "what were you talking to your master about anyway?"
Aang snuck a quick glance at Katara, who still refused to look at him and was staring out at the ocean. Aang felt his heart sink.
"Nothing really… just stuff," he said lamely as he took them up higher and higher into the sky.
However no matter how far up the clouds he continued to take them Aang still felt he was stuck rock bottom.
A/N: To tell you the truth I haven't finished watching the series yet, so some stuff might be jumbled. Feel free to tell me what you think: were the characters okay? Was the chapter bad, good, needs improvement? I'm new at this so I'm open for options! No flames please, thank you!