Seize the Day

by Mezzo-chan

Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Nickelodeon, and Mike & Bryan.

He stirs slowly, the wind whipping around his tattered clothes as Appa flies across the dawn horizon .

"Katara…" he begins, but she hushes him with a hand on his arm.

"Shh, Aang, go back to sleep,"

"No…no, you have to hear this,"

"It can wait, you're injured Aang," she urges.

"That's exactly why you need to hear it now…" he urges back.

She falls quiet, tucking her unbound hair behind one ear.

"I…when I…" he stammers, trying to find a way to begin, "When Azula…struck me back there…you know I could have died…I think I was going to die,"

He sees her, through heavy lidded-eyes, bite her lip uncomfortably. It's as if she's replaying the scene over and over in her mind, and he's sure that it's terrible and she's suffering even more than he is.

"But…I didn't die," he continues, his breathing shallow, "You saved me, and…for the longest time it was my job to save people,"

She stays quiet looking him in the eyes now, not sure where this is going.

"But…I…need you to…save me, every now…and then," he smiles a little, "because…if you don't save me…I'll die. And if I die…in the Avatar State…like I almost did back there…there'll be no more Avatar at all…"

"WHAT?" she cries, "How do you know that? Aang, why are you talking this way?!" she looks so tired, so spent and tear-stained, and from the bottom of his soul he wishes he could change what had happened, and he wishes he hadn't tried to forget her back there, because he can feel her slipping away even now. She's afraid. Afraid of death, afraid of losing the people she loves.

"It's true…Avatar Roku showed me…" Aang tries to explain, but knows he must finish what he started, "Katara, listen," he says, in a forceful way that doesn't suit him.

"I am listening, Aang," she says softly, looking at their clasped hands.

"I need you to save me…when I need saving," he feels his face heat up at what he's doing, "And I need you to be there…so I want you to stay with me forever. As long as I'm alive…" he winces and clutches at his wound. Katara already has her arms around him, trying to sooth him as he tries to breathe normally again.

"Aang…what are you saying?" she says, not because she misunderstands, but because she's sure she understands perfectly.

"I don't know how long I'll be here…what with this war…with our enemies. But I'll protect you, and you'll save me, and I want to be with you always,"

He looks into her face and for a moment he seems to sure, so strong and determined. He looks mature, she thinks, older than he really is.

She leans forward and their foreheads touch,

"Oh Aang," she murmurs.

Now their noses are touching.

"You don't even have to ask,"

Now their eyes are closing and her shoulders relax as he leans forward just a little bit more.

She kisses him in the soft, urgent way that says I don't want to lose you, ever.

He kisses her in the tender, relieved way that says You won't.