Takes place straight after 'Crossroads of Destiny'. I know a lot of writers are using scenarios inspired from the season finale but rest assure that it's not my main idea. Instead, a belief that two individuals are spiritually connected and a romance that was suppose to die. Depending on how you take it, you may get enjoyment or despair out of it. I hope it strikes a little of both. Also…I'm going through minor writer's block…I'm not satisfied with this. It had to come out but I'll let you be the judge.
Disclaimer: Avatar: Last Airbender belongs to its genius creators at the Nick Studios. If it belonged to the fans, plots would not be a problem…there would be bloodshed over relationships.
I do not feel her.
If the shot had gone directly through my spine, I guess I would not be feeling at all. Azula did not want to kill me... but she did not want me at full strength either.
I was saved by the water of the spiritual oasis. Bended by the drive of someone who cared for me far too stubbornly to let me die.
After waking, I looked into her soft cerulean eyes, expecting to feel the robbing sensation of love I harbored secretly for her. I could see this incredulity in her kind eyes, a sort of affection I would never come to understand, and yet there was nothing to feel.
The shot went through my back, not my heart.
I had closed myself to her... only to fail in what I needed to do.
Gentle anxiety. Cool knuckles brushed the angle of his high color, as she expected, his face was warmer then before. Feeling what would have seemed to Aang as a block of ice, he flinched away from her gesture, gritting his teeth in his sleep. A harsh cough up from his chest triggered a shaking fit soon afterwards.
She hoped he wasn't getting an infection.
The cork of her water-skin quickly popped open for a small amount of water to encase the same soothing hand (that had tried with desperate hurry to heal the hole wounding him… that held down pressure simply for it to come back painted a gruesome burgundy to her color). The shadow crevices of his neck distorted themselves as a faint glowing of blue hovered over his skin.
'…concentrate Katara….just a few more seconds….'
Something inside of her seized her stomach walls painfully. She retched back silent, unaware of the healing liquid sinking within the floorboards lost.
In her mind's eye, she watched the tiny shape high above her… tattered and singed… unable to stop his descent headfirst onto the razor-sharp cave crystals. He landed instead flimsily in her rescuing arms, a listless dummy of unresponsive parts. Only until she could bring him back to life would the dummy become a boy once more. If she wasn't so terribly aware of how awkward it would seem, if she were to kiss his yielding face over and over again, she might have thrown that caution to the wind.
If his eyes weren't so dead to her.
It became abundantly clear as they found shelter in an abandoned farmer's home, that Aang was nowhere to be found in his eyes. He was breathing, he knew the situation, he knew names. But emotions were colorless in his voice, no shame, no grief, no anger, no relief.
He did not hug her back.
A solitary tear clung to the tip of her nose; Katara allowed gravity to steal this symbol of malice. He was alive, that's all that mattered. Not if he ever turned a smile bright as summer's exhilarating afternoons purposely in her direction, if he never would mourned as greatly over her demise afar in the future as some might of his… no, no!
Violently shoving the sliding bamboo door aside, a rumpled girl in blue Tribe clothing escaped from the oil-lit spare room almost in a mad fury. She entered the connected front room to tentatively step over her snoring companion, fearful of being pummeled by a half-conscious-but-still-on-defense Toph. Safely on the other side of her, she dabbed her brow.
Not that she could blame Toph for being worried for her well-being. They should all be fearful.
Her brother lay out on his back, drooling. Momo, comfy on his favorite heater, halfway underneath Sokka's shirt and curled on his chest, absently batted an insect in his dreams.
Cold water from the bowl across the room summoned itself into her pouch so she would not have to alert the light slumber of the Earth King and his pet bear. And as she racked her thoughts for another batch of self-doubt, Toph's snoring paused a moment to snort heavily. Katara crouched down on instinct, a small pocket of panic walloping her throat.
'…spare us oh please….'
The twelve-year-old rolled over onto her left with a groan, remaining still. She took that cue to return to the next room, one protective hand on her water pouch.
A glimpse of yellow and orange-red through the door frame. Her heartbeat slowed in time and her grimace thawed out into a quiet smile, encouraging her to shut the entryway behind with a firm thud—
all that mattered
—when a loud grunt perked her hearing.
Her young ward stirred, unsettled; a damp spot developed where his head cushioned his folded shirt. Dropping to her knees beside him, Kara prepared a long, brown rag to position over his red-infused chest, careful not to actually brush his skin with her fingers.
Such a curious fever mysteriously conceived in his sleep.
Resisting the temptation to check his temperature for the millionth time that evening, she rested her back against the wall opposite his head to keep a vigilant eye on his condition.
Weariness misted the corners of her vision; Katara rubbed them fiercely. To distract herself from succumbing to the demands of her internal clock, she kept her hands busy wringing out her rumpled hair and proceeded to messily braid large heaps, neglectfully.
—was that he was alive—
She scooted forward before stopping herself (don't baby him) before he spoke a single breathy word. A word that gave her a buzzing untold in the fractures of her core. A word he spoke gutturally.
A name that sounded so… familiar. And she was very certain she had never heard such a name before in her life. It was not a figure from one of the many childhood tales she heard upon a time or a shadow of a nightmare recurring. Yet… it possessed a nightmarish quality. Astonishingly echoing a disease, something ancient and evil, something that would prefer indulging in decay and jealousy.
The rise and fall of Aang's chest calmed, deepening in his diaphragm. The spell compelling her, pinning her securely to her spot, lifted as his eyes snapped open.
He blinked rapidly as Katara crawled over, the storm emptying in his ocular, vanishing into glass-grey focusing in on her face.
His hot palm found its way to her left cheek where the lightly-tanned flesh darkened a mystified scarlet.
"Oh, my Ummi. My darling Ummi…" he rasped, breaking a wide grin, Aang's charming boyish grin. "He did not take you from me. That monster does not have you."
She sucked in a tight inhale as he created a path with his thumb fondly stroking her bottom lip. Spirits… it tingled.
A bigger part of her wanted to pull away, break the hypnotic power merely his careful touch fashioned; she continued sitting there to look down at him with shock.
"It is your Kuruk. Do you not remember me, my love?"
His grin never wavered but the confusion emitting from her was unquestionably apparent. But, in fact, he didn't seem to mind it so much. Aang's expression changed into an emotion she could not identity; an emotion that was not in his character. He slid the wet rag off of his chest and bid the strength to go up on an elbow to cradle the back of her hair soothingly.
In an act— not as the shy, inexperienced boy he truly was but as this keen and tender stranger— he drew her mouth to fumble against his.
Defying, stealing, Aang's warm lips moved across hers. She saw double, whether from keeping her eyes wide open or the weakness he exchanged, a devouring dizziness forcing her to ultimately shut out her vision in fear of fainting dead away. The sweat from his fever she could taste on his mouth. He was so hot, like holding a flame in her arms.
But so strong, she never knew him to command fervor for her. As if he hadn't seen her in decades, parched of her essence and needing a drink. As if he desired nothing more than to have her wrapped forever with him. So protective… loving. Forgetting the abruptness of it all, her body responded accordingly, crushing him with an already closed kiss.
Malevolent beady eyes. A chalked up mask. Long, blood-red lips sneering. Glistening, opaque teeth latching onto a delicate silk sleeve. It taunted him with her beautiful and dead eyes. Shone black in the moonlight, streaking his aging face, the blood from his wounds. A scream of defiance; a shriek of animal.
Beware the Face-Stealer, my child…
Her brown hands pushed him away roughly. She gasped loudly as the last of the split-second pictures bled out of her drowsy consciousness. They separated. Liquid beads of sweat glittered under the fading light in the room, bejeweling exposed tattoos. Perplexity in magnetic gray.
"What is it?"
A man's inquiry. Too low. Too harsh.
She mumbled, timidly, "Who are you?"
A pale, outstretched hand reached for her, obligating her to back away. Hurt. A pleading in his tone, "Ummi…"
"I... I don't know who you are."
Horror detailed his gaze. His breathing became rapid and he stared at himself, his hands, as if they were alien. Visible heat in his blood flushed his countenance.
He spoke no more as exhaustion send him crashing back into unconsciousness. She cringed outwardly at the feeble sound of impact. A terrible onrush of guilt, of misery, clouded her. Panicky, she cupped one of his limp hands into both of hers, biting back the unpleasant sobs working versus her self-control.
A few moments of just holding his hand to her forehead let the sorrow dry, the noise in her head expire, and restore composure to her.
Backs of her nails caressed his temple; the wet tear that came too late making contact to the corner of his mouth after she kissed him sideways, graceless.
She could not live with a mindless dummy, a mechanical being that would not smile or mourn. Nor would she believe that a reincarnation of Aang, an Avatar of past or forthcoming, could come close to what she had risked everything for. Willing still to die for.
'After all I've done... saving you from the iceberg, from yourself, what Azula did; you can't leave that in vain. I don't want a substitute, I don't want the Avatar, Aang; I want you.'
Sleepy, stormy eyes peered up, concerned, "You... look red."