So I had this great idea. As with most of my stories, it started with a one-liner. Unfortunately, I don't think I communicated it well. It was great in my head. It's just... somewhere between there and Microsoft Word, the good was lost. I hate it when that happens. Well... I tried to go back and fix it, but I failed miserably and ended up with this.
I just had to get it out of my system. And documents.
Just as a note, there is a passing mention of Aang training in firebending. I still haven't seen the WESTERN AIR TEMPLE, but I'm operating under the assumption that Zuko will join the Gaang at some point, whether in 312 or a future episode. They kind of told us it would happen at the end of THE ECLIPSE. So I'm not spoiling anything, it's just my assumption.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
Aang took a deep breath, preparing to leap off a balcony of the Western Air Temple with his glider for a mid-morning cruise. The sky was an appealing sort of blue today… it kind of reminded him of Katara's eyes…
He turned in surprise. Katara was standing several feet behind him, biting her lip and wringing her hands nervously. This was new.
"Hey, Katara," he replied, offering a puzzled smile.
"Um, hey," she muttered. "Could I talk to you? I need your help."
Aang was immediately concerned. Katara was proud by nature. When she willingly asked for help, there was definitely something wrong. He nodded seriously and sat down, leaning back against the balcony railing. She sat tentatively beside him, resting her hands on her knees and drumming her fingers in agitation.
The two of them sat in silence for several moments. He watched her curiously. She seemed unaccountably nervous. A few weeks ago, he had been the one stammering and blushing around her. She finally took a deep breath, but it didn't seem to completely reach her lungs.
"Aang you…" she began in a rush, staring determinedly forward to avoid his worried gaze. "You're an airbender, so you know a lot about breathing."
Aang's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Uh… yeah, I do," he replied warily.
"Well um… I've been having some trouble breathing lately," she said quietly.
"You have?" he asked, growing more confused by the second.
She nodded silently. He waited for her to continue. When she didn't, he attempted to take initiative.
"Are you alright, Katara?" he asked gently.
"We haven't been spending a lot of time together lately," she blurted. "Now that you've almost mastered waterbending… you're either earthbending or firebending and… I hardly have time with you anymore."
"I've noticed that," Aang consented steadily. He looked at her again. She was still staring dead ahead, her hands fidgeting on her knees. Her chest was rising and falling rather more rapidly than usual. She really was having trouble breathing.
"Without waterbending lessons, our only time alone is in snatched moments, like this," she continued, trying to sound casual though she was a little out of breath. "We haven't really been alone since…"
Aang blushed, looking away. He knew very well when they had last been alone.
"Since the invasion," she muttered quickly. "Uh… but that's… that's too long. That's too long for me to go without you." She finally looked at him, eyes wide. "I need more time, Aang."
Aang knew what she meant. He knew exactly what she meant. But he was trying desperately not to. He had been avoiding her this past week since he had kissed her. It was easy to see how much it was hurting both of them. He glanced away, ashamed. He needed more time, too.
"I uh… I don't quite get what this has to do with breathing…" he muttered evasively.
"Everything," Katara sighed. "I need more time with you but… I'm scared."
"Of what?" Aang asked, bewildered.
She bit her lip again, knuckles white on her knees. "I uh…" she whispered, appearing to be having difficulty taking a deep breath. "I can't…"
"What?" Aang demanded, becoming concerned for her again.
"I can't breathe when you're around," she blurted.
A ringing silence followed this statement.
"That… sounds bad," he finally admitted, alarmed.
"I know but that's not all," she rambled on, now beginning to sound rather miserable. "I can't breathe when you're not around either." He wracked his brain for a response, but found he had none. Luckily, she continued without one. "It's like I can't… function properly when you're not near me. I just can't breathe right. But then I find you and there you are, and I still can't breathe."
He opened his mouth, but once again had no response formed. So she pushed recklessly on, running her fingers up into her hair in frustration.
"I don't know what it is," she sighed. "It's just the way you look at me… and the things you say… the way you talk to me and smile at me. It kind of… messes me up, you know? Like when you miss a step going down stairs or… something."
She looked at him for a moment, but he didn't say anything. It was as though she was waiting for him to do something, but he couldn't imagine what it was.
"I know this is weird," she said hastily. "I know that it's weird that I'm talking to you about this since… you're the problem. If it's really a problem. But this is the kind of thing I have to talk to my best friend about."
She glanced at him again, but he still appeared to be in a state of shock. She turned fully toward him and placed a hand hesitantly over his.
"I need to learn to breathe again," she said quietly. "I need you to teach me to breathe again, Aang."
And suddenly, it was as though a wall of realization came crashing down upon Aang's head. Katara was telling him she loved him. He didn't know how he had reached this conclusion, because to anyone else it would sound like she was having a complete meltdown. But somehow it came to him, clear and simple, like a message to his mind.
She loved him.
"Can you do that for me?" she asked after a few moments, voice barely above a whisper. "Can you teach me to breathe again?"
He looked at her steadily. She was smiling just a little, nervously, curiously, wondering if he understood. He did. He just wasn't sure how to tell her.
"Yes," he said suddenly. "I can. I um… I know what you mean."
Her nervous grin turned into a brilliant smile, the only warning he got before her lips were pressed ardently to his. It was several moments before his mind caught up with him and he had to sense to kiss back.
"I was worried," she murmured. "It seemed like you were avoiding me… I didn't want it to be the Serpent's Pass all over again… or the ship after Ba Sing Sei…"
Aang laughed lightly, having a little trouble keeping a grip on reality. "What kind of Avatar would I be if I let that happen again? You might suffocate."
"I don't think that's a problem anymore," she replied lightly, taking the slightly off-color joke into stride. "You can always breathe for me." He quirked an eyebrow at her in confusion. She just smirked. "What? I thought you'd be all for another excuse to kiss me."
"Oh," he laughed a little again. "Good call."