Author's Note: I wrote this with the intention of trying to understand how Aang could mistake Pathik's meaning. And how Katara could as well. I'm not sure what Pathik's meaning was and until the season starts, we won't fully know and it's purely speculation. But whatever Pathik's meaning, Aang's interpretation of it caused him a lot of distress. I do think that with the Avatar state alone, Aang is weak. I think that the bond he and Katara shares shows that. She is not a liability to him, she helps him. Like I said, this is just an interpretation. And just a sweet story of love.
Power of Love
Katara found Aang sitting on one of the air temple's balconies, leaning back on his hands and staring up at the star-filled sky. He was barefoot and shirtless, the wound caused by Azula's attack still visible against the paleness of his skin. The day's lesson with Guru Pathik had left Aang upset and frustrated and upon finishing the training, he immediately separated from his companions mumbling something about wanting to be alone. Ever watchful, the waterbender had noticed the little crease on Aang's forehead, the one that often appeared right above his brow when he was upset about something.
Katara knew the lessons were tough for him. Physically he was still healing. Emotionally he was drained and it showed on his round, young face. She knew he struggled with some inner turmoil. She had seen the disappointment in Pathik's wrinkled features when she showed him Aang's wound upon their arrival to the air temple a couple of weeks before. Aang had obviously failed at something and what that was she didn't know and the young Avatar wasn't saying.
"They're like jewels." She said softly, casting her gaze to the sky. "Sparkling."
The airbender didn't say anything in response and merely smiled. He knew she would eventually come after him to make sure he was all right. And sure enough, there she was; a comforting presence in an otherwise tumultuous world.
Katara sat down next to him, resisting the urge to reach out and hold his hand. She had noticed over the past couple of weeks while staying at the air temple that the urge to touch him, to be closer to him was getting stronger and she now looked for any excuse she could find to put a hand on his shoulder or envelop him in a hug. Anything to increase their closeness. To some it might have looked motherly or the actions of an overprotective guardian, but the feelings that were stirring inside of Katara meant there was something far less innocent behind those touches.
Aang confused her, her feelings towards him confused her. They always had. Part of her wanted to protect him, part of her wanted to on occasion slap some sense into him, and lately part of her wanted to find out how it felt to really kiss him, not just lightly and nervously brush his lips with her own.
And it wasn't like she and her brain hadn't done battle over this issue.
'He's two years younger. He's the Avatar. He's your best friend. He can be a complete goofball. He's short and bald.'
The waterbender had pretty much come to terms with his age at this point. Aang often displayed a maturity far beyond his years, a maturity that had come from being a boy bearing a very adult burden. Katara had also come to terms with him being the Avatar. She knew it had risks and consequences and was well aware of what it did to Aang and how she helped him with his powerful abilities. Katara received a clear demonstration of how vulnerable he was and how much he needed her there in the cave below Ba Sing Se.
Their friendship had blossomed into something more, this was now undeniable to the waterbender. She had tried to fight it, tried to tell herself that Aang shouldn't love her and she shouldn't love him, but after nearly losing him to Azula's deadly strike, there was no questioning her feelings.
And Aang's goofball behavior she found adorable. In Sokka it was irritating and she felt no hesitation at snapping at him or smacking him in an effort to make him grow up. But with Aang it was a different story. Katara loved the young Avatar's sense of humor and how the pain of his past and his heavy burden had not diminished it.
Silence hung heavily in the air between the two friends, both eager to say something, but not sure how to say it. And there was the fear of being the one to say it first.
"I wanted to say thank you." Katara said, suddenly breaking the silence and choosing to go the safe route.
"For what." Aang turned, his charcoal colored eyes focusing on her.
'Short and bald is no problem.' The waterbender thought as her eyes met his. 'He'll grow. He is growing. Besides, he's got those eyes…'
Katara felt a blush start at her ears and work its way around to her cheeks and down her neck. She prayed that it was dark enough that he couldn't see how red she was turning.
'…and those tattoos.'
"For saying that you thought I looked beautiful. You know that night in Ba Sing Se we were sneaking in the Earth King's ball." She finally answered. "You said I looked beautiful and I never got a chance to thank you."
"Oh, yeah." A grin tugged at the corners of the young Avatar's mouth as his memory returned to that night. "Toph sort of…"
"…interrupted." They both said in unison, laughing.
The laughter died off and they were once again sitting in silence, staring up at the stars.
"Do you think they are looking down on us right now?" The boy asked, his voice slightly tinged with sadness.
"Who?" Katara looked over at him in confusion.
"Gyatso. Your mom. All of my old friends." Aang sighed. "Do you think they see us? Do you think that they've seen what we've become? What we've done?"
The watertribe girl nodded and reached out to take his hand in her own.
"I think they would be proud of us." Katara said, squeezing Aang's hand. She felt his fingers move to intertwine with hers and she smiled. "They would be proud of what we've accomplished, the strength we've gained, the bonds we've formed, the love we feel…I feel…"
Her voice trailed off. The young airbender was staring at her with wide grey eyes, mouth set in a small smile. Nothing more needed to be said, he understood her perfectly and his smile widened.
Smiling, tears suddenly forming in her eyes, Katara leaned in and captured his lips in a kiss. It was not a deep kiss, but it was enough to send shivers down the girl's spine. The kiss was magical, taking her breath away.
Suddenly the young Avatar was pulling away from her, leaving a gap between them.
"I…I can't. I can't do this." Aang's voice strained with distress. Tears formed in his eyes and slid down his cheeks. He stood up and flung his arms out, his voice suddenly hard and angry. "This isn't fair. I'm expected to save this stupid world, to give up everything I love, to possibly give up my own life, and for what?"
Katara stared at him. His anger was so raw and consuming. He was clearly hurting. Aang sank back to the ground, wrapped his arms around his knees, and buried his face into them. The waterbender could hear his sobbing and she pulled him to her, holding him close and feeling his entire body shaking.
"It's okay. It'll be okay." The girl whispered, pressing her lips against the side of his head. The airbender felt so small and frail in her arms and her fingertips lightly trailed up and down the length of his spine along the blue tattoo.
"No it won't. " Aang whispered. "I can't love you. I have to let you go. I can't control the Avatar State and have love. No earthly attachments."
Katara frowned and hugged him tighter. "Guru Pathik told you this?"
The boy nodded and Katara felt anger begin to take over her emotions. She was furious. That old man didn't know Aang. Couldn't even begin to imagine all he had been through, he had suffered through. Aang needed love and he needed to love. That's what drove him to fight and carry on. It was love that kept him from giving up, love that kept the smile on his face even when things were at their darkest, and it was love that had saved his life.
"You need to remember it was the Avatar State that brought us together in the first place. It wanted us together for a reason and we're going to stay together. You will never let me go. I won't let you. I won't ever stop loving you and you must promise me that you won't ever stop loving."
Katara cupped Aang's face in her hands, her blues eyes focusing intently on his gray ones.
"I love you." She said, simply. "And the world will be saved. We will save it together."
Aang leaned against her and sighed softly. He felt a little relieved. Maybe there was hope for him, for them.
"I love you too. " The young Avatar whispered.
The pair turned their attentions back to the stars. Soon there would be more fighting, more wounds, more chances to die. But for now, they just sat wrapped in each others arms, content to be if only for a short while just young lovers enjoying a warm, clear night.