Is it funny that I still refuse to watch THE WESTERN AIR TEMPLE but I'm writing all of these oneshots about the Western Air Temple? As I imagine it, anyway.
So... this came from something I read somewhere. I can't remember who it was, but someone said Zuko is a drama queen compared to Aang. If you think about it, Zuko just has daddy issues. And mommy issues. And an inferiority complex. Basically he's a psycho. But everything he lost is still around. Aang, on the other hand, has nothing from his old life. Just Appa, Bumi, and the ruins of four Air Temples. He should be a total mess. But he's not, and it makes you wonder if he ever just takes some time to be sad or angry.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
Katara knew a lot about Aang. She probably knew more about him than any living human in the world. She had learned about him over the course of the months they had been traveling together, come to know him by watching him and listening to him.
So by the time they reached the Western Air Temple, Katara knew very well that every couple of weeks, Aang would disappear.
She had learned, of course, that he wasn't really just disappearing. He would simply wander off on his own for a few hours. She followed him the first few times to figure out where he was going, but she always left him alone. Back in those first few weeks, he had still been a stranger. She didn't want to intrude upon his private thoughts, so she let him be.
As the weeks with him grew into months, as she grew to know him and care for him, it simply became a habit. So every two weeks or so, he would silently leave the campsite. When Sokka and Toph began to notice, Katara told them to simply wait for him to return. He came back every time, just two or three hours later, and their journey would resume. Nobody ever questioned him.
Until Katara found herself alone at the Western Air Temple, wandering the deserted corridors to collect her thoughts. It had only been a few days since their arrival, and the entire time had been rather trying. Aang had convinced them all to allow Zuko to join them. Katara and Sokka weren't very happy about it. Toph, having had few run-ins with Zuko, seemed rather neutral to the whole thing. Haru, Teo, and The Duke chose to stay out of it.
It wasn't until Katara was allowed a good long time to shout at the banished prince that she finally accepted the idea, albeit grudgingly. So the past few days had been spent rather on edge for her. She was watching him at every turn, making sure he didn't show the slightest hint of wanting to hurt Aang.
So when she was sure Zuko was at the campsite under the watch of all of her traveling companions, she slipped off for a while to herself. She didn't do it very often, but she really needed some time to sort things out. Particularly where Aang was concerned.
She hadn't forgotten that kiss, though it seemed as though he had.
Katara stopped in the middle of a long hallway, leaning against a crumbling stone railing and looking out over what must have once been gardens. She sighed. He was a hard boy to figure out when he wanted to be.
A sound reached Katara's ears, echoing through the empty temple. She turned, curious. It sounded like someone was crying. So she followed the noise through abandoned halls and crumbling temples. It led her to an old, windswept airball court. In the shadow of the far goal post was Aang. He was sitting on the ground in the lotus position, his face buried in his hands and his shoulders shaking.
It was then that Katara realized that it had been about two weeks since he had last disappeared.
She hesitated for a moment. If this was his disappearance, as she had come to call it, she shouldn't intrude. But… she bit her lip. Aang was crying. He was in pain. She hated it when he was in pain.
Aang looked up, surprised to find her kneeling beside him. He wiped his eyes hastily.
"Katara? What are you doing here?" he asked sharply. His tone was harsher than she was used to, and she jerked back as though he had hit her.
"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I just… I heard you, and… I wanted to make sure you were okay."
Aang shook his head, sighing heavily. "No, I shouldn't have snapped at you," he said flatly.
They both fell silent. Katara frowned.
"Aang," she finally asked, still hesitant. "Is this… what you always do when you disappear?"
He looked away from her, remaining silent. She took that as a yes. She reached a tentative hand toward him, touching his shoulder, but he shrugged her off. She withdrew quickly, not sure what to do.
"Do you want me to go?" she murmured. She didn't know how to act. This wasn't Aang, not the Aang she was used to. She was having trouble taking it into stride.
He seemed to be considering her offer, looking darkly at the ground. "Well," he finally said. "Do you want to go?"
This struck her as a strange question. She frowned again, thinking it over. Then it hit her. He was testing her. Testing her loyalty to him.
"No," she said simply. He glanced at her. "I want to stay here, with you." He looked down again. "But if you want me to go, I'll go."
He didn't answer for a long time. She remained silent, giving him as much time as he needed. There was something oddly intimate about this silence, their proximity to each other. She probably would have enjoyed it if she couldn't feel how miserable Aang was.
"Do you… ever feel like you're disappearing?"
The question took Katara by surprise. He had asked it quietly, hesitantly. He was sharing something with her that he had thought he would never tell anyone. It was heartbreaking, hearing his voice like that.
"Yes," she replied quietly. He glanced at her again. The beginnings of tears were in his eyes, and her breath caught in her throat for a moment. "When my mother died, I asked Sokka the same question. He didn't understand. But we were young… I didn't expect him to…" His gaze was fixed on her now. She could feel it, though she was focused intently on her knees. "Every day, Aang. For years… every day I felt like I was disappearing."
"When did it stop?" he asked, his voice dull and flat.
She smiled a little. "When I found you," she whispered.
He held her gaze for a few moments before he looked away again. The smile faded from Katara's face.
"Why do you feel like you're disappearing?" she asked, concerned.
He drew his knees up to his chin and glared at the ground. "I'm pretty happy most of the time," he said in response. "I'm almost always calm, I don't let things get to me." He sighed in frustration. "I'm not actually that happy. The truth is… I'm angry."
Katara frowned again. Aang was hardly ever angry. His gaze was still focused intensely on the ground.
"All the time, somewhere inside me, I'm really really angry," he continued. She saw his hands tighten into fists, his eyes narrow. "All these people we've met over the course of our journey… all of these victims of the war… I've lost more than all of them combined."
Katara's eyes widened and she felt her breath leave her. He slammed his fists to the ground, making her jump.
"I lost everything," he said coldly. "Everything. My family, my friends, my home, my entire world is gone." He turned to her suddenly. "I lost everything, Katara. All the people I loved, all the people that loved me. They're all gone. All of them. And nothing I do will ever bring them back."
He punched the ground again, and she flinched.
"All of these people we've met, complaining because I've taken so long to help them, blaming me for the war, feeling sorry for themselves because their house was burned down or their brother joined the army. They can get those things back. Not me. No… nothing I lost is ever coming back. Not ever. I can beat the Fire Lord, I can restore balance to the world, I can fulfill my destiny or whatever it is I'm doing, but the Air Nomads are still dead."
He let out a roar of frustration, and Katara felt tears gathering in her eyes.
"Oh Aang…" she whispered.
"Me and Appa… we're all that's left," he shouted at no one. "And these big stupid temples… just sitting here, crumbling. They're disappearing, just like me. I've got nothing, Katara. How am I supposed to keep pretending to be happy when I've got nothing?"
He finally fell silent, breathing heavily to calm himself. Katara wiped her eyes on the back of her hand.
"Nothing?" she repeated quietly. He glanced at her, angry tears running down his cheeks. "You might feel like you have nothing, Aang. But you've still got me." His eyes widened in surprise. "You'll never lose me."
Aang laughed a little, a short, sarcastic laugh that didn't suit him at all. "Pretty words, Katara," he said darkly. "But when the war is over, you won't want to stay with me. You'll leave. Just like everybody else."
"Don't," Katara said suddenly, fiercely. He looked surprised again. "Don't say that. You know it's not true." She looked down. "Unless… you don't want me to stay with you."
"Why would I ever want you to leave?" he asked, sounding slightly incredulous.
She sighed miserably. "I'm a lousy best friend," she said in distress. He stared at her. "You've been hurting like this for so long… and I never knew."
"Katara…" Aang began, finally smiling just a little.
"No, I'm supposed to know these things," she continued, sounding thoroughly depressed. "I'm supposed to be here to help you. I'm supposed to make you better. But I never knew… I'm sorry, Aang."
"I kept this to myself, Katara," he said quietly. "Don't apologize. I wouldn't have told you. I would have kept it secret."
Katara looked up at him hesitantly. "I don't want you to feel like you're disappearing," she whispered.
He sighed. "I don't think anyone can help," he muttered.
"I can try," she continued quietly. "I can't love you as much as all the Air Nomads did." He looked at her in surprise. "But I can love you as much as I can." She smiled at the look of shock on his face. "Does that help at all?"
He was still staring at her, wide-eyed. "More than you know," he said, sounding a little shaky. "Just to be clear though… this isn't like um… familial love we're talking about, right?"
She laughed lightly and placed a hand on his shoulder. On the day of the invasion, he had kissed her without warning or explanation. Katara figured it was about time to return the favor.
"No, it's not the familial kind," she said quietly, tightening her hand on his shoulder and pulling his mouth to hers. It was almost a perfect reversal of their first kiss. Aang tensed up in surprise, only to relax and lean into her moments later. This one didn't abruptly end, however. Katara kept him close, taking her time, getting him back for surprising her like he had and then pretending it never happened.
When she pulled away from him, his eyes were still closed, his lips still parted as though he was expecting her to continue. She smiled, only slightly smug.
"Feel better?" she asked quietly.
"Much," was all he could manage.
"I'm coming with you," she said suddenly.
"The next time you disappear," she replied. "I'm coming with you. I'll be here. I promise."
Aang smiled. "Thanks, Katara."