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Katara stood gazing out at the mountains that surrounded the air temple. Today would be the last time that she would do such a thing for a long time, possibly forever. She wanted to remember every little detail about this place and their time here. She thought back to months earlier when her journey with Aang had barely begun. He had taken her and Sokka to see his home at the Southern Air Temple. She had remembered her excitement over seeing an air temple, but it had been tempered with a slight bit of apprehension from knowing what they would probably find once they got there.
The Eastern Air Temple had been a different experience right from the beginning. She still approached the temple with awe and apprehension, but this time her fears were not for Aang's emotional well being, but his actual safety. She didn't trust Zuko, and she worried that in the month's time that they would be there he may try something. But he had surprised them all. Weary from the war and dissatisfied with his life as he was, he had taken the guru up on his offer to change. She had been skeptical at first. Her guard was always up around him, but in the end he had changed. This brought a smile to her face as she realized they all had changed.
One month ago they had arrived here exhausted and in need of healing. Each of them had demons to contend with. Each had been wounded in one way or another. Their time at the temple had healed them all, and it had all started with Zuko. It was ironic in a way. Zuko had been the source of all their suffering, or so she had believed when they first arrived. His betrayal in Ba Sing Se had cost all of them dearly, but in the end it was his willingness to change that had set off a series of events that would not only affect each of them, but eventually the whole world.
It amazed her that this boy, who had entered her life as her enemy, attacked her village, and tracked her and her friends around the world, would eventually be the key to peace amongst the nations. The Prince Zuko that she had first met months earlier cared only for himself, and would stop at nothing to restore his lost honor. He had done some horrible things to them, but it never seemed to faze him. He had been so narrow minded and focused on his goal of capturing Aang that he had never thought about anyone else. Now she knew differently. She had learned about the pain that drove him forward; that had made him grow stronger and more determined, and she was thankful for those qualities because without them he would have never opened the chakras.
It still amazed her just how much he had changed as a result of his experiences with Guru Pathik. Gone were the insecurities and doubts that had plagued him for so long. Without the need to prove himself to his father he had become free and surer of himself. He understood his destiny, and that understanding was what now drove him forward. It was a difference that could be seen in his temperament as well as his bending.
He had told her that for so long his bending had been fueled by anger and hatred. He never appreciated it as anything other than a way to prove himself and to dominate others. But when he opened the last chakra he realized that there was so much more to firebending than what he had originally believed. He sought his uncle's counsel, and spent a great deal of time relearning his craft. He was relentless in his training, but she noticed that he seemed more satisfied at the end of the day. He was at peace with himself as a person and as a bender, and as a result he had grown incredibly powerful.
Now his new found abilities would soon be put to the test. They would be leaving the temple today. By the end of the week they planned to rendezvous with her brother and Toph, as well as any forces that they could gather for an invasion of the Fire Nation. She knew that Zuko was anxious about the upcoming meeting with Sokka. Her brother still considered him the enemy, and he had not had the chance to experience the changes that Zuko had gone through the way that she had. Convincing him to trust the prince would not be easy, but she had faith that he would eventually come around.
She stood thinking about the reunion with her brother when she felt two arms encircle her waist from behind. Pulling her back against him, Zuko leaned down and said softly in her ear, "I missed you when I came back to camp this morning."
She smiled and asked, "Did you and Aang find Guru Pathik?"
"Yes we did?"
"Did he take you up on our offer?"
"No, he said that he had fulfilled what he had promised to do a long time ago, and now he was content to live out what was left of his life here in the solitude of the air temple."
She could understand the old man's decision. She almost wished they could stay as well. But they also had a promise to keep, and that promise would not be kept if they stayed hidden from the world.
"I'm going to miss this place." She said truthfully.
"I will too." He replied. "I never would have thought so when we first arrived, but now that we're about to leave it, I find myself appreciating it more."
Turning in his arms she faced him and smiled. "I'm going to miss this too." With that she gently kissed his lips.
When she pulled back he looked down at her with an expression of worry on his face. "What do you mean Katara?"
"Well it's just that up here, in the isolation of the temple, it's much easier to be alone. I don't know how many chances we're going to get once we meet up with everyone else."
"We'll make opportunities." He said, and then in a voice laden with insecurity he asked, "Katara, you don't regret what we have do you? I mean now that we're about to meet up with your brother, you're not having second thoughts about us are you?"
She brought her hand up to his face, and placing it against his cheek she said, "I love you Zuko. I will never regret that feeling. I'm sure that Sokka will have something to say about it, but I am not ashamed of you or of us."
He grinned at her answer. "I love you too." He replied, and then returned her kiss with a more passionate one of his own.
Pulling back she said breathlessly, "If Sokka sees you kiss me like that he may do something more than just complain."
This brought a slight smirk to his face. "I'm not stupid you know. I'll behave myself around big brother."
"See that you do." She teased, and then stepping out of his embrace she said, "I guess we should get Appa loaded for the trip."
"Aang and Uncle are already doing that. It was Iroh who sent me to find you. In fact he was very insistent about that."
'Really?" she smiled.
"Yeah." He replied and then in an irritated voice he said, "I don't think he has much faith in my abilities to woo you."
"Woo me?" she laughed.
"You know," he started, becoming slightly embarrassed, "courting girls; saying romantic things and such."
"Is that so?" She said laughing still, "Why would he have doubts about that?"
"I don't know." He replied scratching his head and blushing furiously. "I guess he still remembers that girl I went on a date with in Ba Sing Se."
"You went out with someone in Ba Sing Se?" she asked suddenly feeling jealous.
"Well it was only one date, and it was very awkward."
"Really, why was that?" She teased.
"I don't know. It just was. I mean I never really went out with a girl before and I just didn't know what to say. Everything came out all wrong. It was a complete disaster."
"So I guess your uncle has some valid reasons to worry."
He gave her a glare and said, "I think I'm doing just fine."
"Yes you are." She replied. She turned towards camp and started walking. Looking back over her shoulder she said, "But a little poetry every now and then would be nice."
With that she started to laugh again as she took off running. She could hear him close behind her all the way back to camp. Smiling she thought she truly would miss this place, but she knew that the memories of what had happened here would stay with her forever. No matter what the future held for them she would never forget the time spent at the air temple for it had changed her life.
A.N. It is done! I love hitting the Complete button! I was getting anxious as the year anniversary of this story drew near. I am by nature a procrastinator and even worse at avoiding things that I don't want to do. Actually I did want to finish this so I sat down today and did it. I hope you all like it. This is probably my shortest chapter ever. Like others before it, it took on a life of its own and ended completely differently than I envisioned, but I liked it like this.
Writing this story has been an incredible experience for me. I have learned so much about my writing and have become a lot more confident. Much due to all of the support and constructive criticism over the course of writing it. When I started this it was in response to the horrible feeling that episode 220 left behind. But as I wrote it I began to pour more of myself and my own journey over the past year into it.
I truely enjoyed writing this and I have the first two chapters of a sequel already uploaded. Look for the sequel to share the title of this chapter - "Better Days".
I hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as the others. Thank you again to all who have reviewed. I never would have thought I would get such a great response. And once again I would like to thank WrenSharpbeak for her encouragement and ideas early on. Her imput really helped shape the story!