A/N: Hey people I don't know! Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy this little collection, I've spent a lot of time writing, rewriting, revising, and expanding each and every one of these little stories (mini-fics, I call them sometimes), and anyone who takes the time to read and help me better my writing will receive my eternal gratitude (whatever it may be worth)! And now, I proudly present to you…the first installment of From the Heart!
If I Died
The firelight flickered and wavered, sending dancing shadows along the walls of the cave that sat along the rocky shore of the Fire Nation's coast. The majority of the close-knit group was already snoring. Sokka was curled up in his green sleeping bag, and Momo snuggled against the fabric of Toph's tunic as she slept spread-eagled on the floor of the cave. Appa lay at the back of the cave, his big bison snore struggling to outmatch the annoying volume of Sokka's steady breathing.
Aang and Katara were left as the only ones awake. The airbender stretched leisurely and leaned back on his arms, his pale skin gleaming in the light of the campfire. The night was warm almost to the point of being stuffy, so Aang had stripped off the thick vest and tunic that made up his school uniform and draped a lightweight, crimson-colored cloak over his bare shoulders to half-hide his tattoos from the view of any chance passerby. He had, however, insisted on removing his headband, which left the tip of his well-known arrow exposed. As the night wore on, he found himself drifting further off into the whirling tide of his thoughts.
Katara, sitting on the far side of the campfire, unwittingly found herself staring at him as he gazed intently into the flames of the fire. She wasn't aware of how long she had been staring, but she suddenly met those eyes unblinkingly as he came out of his trance and looked curiously up at her.
"Is there something on my face?" the airbender reached a hand up to his cheek self-consciously, wondering why she'd been looking at him like that.
"Oh," Katara blinked, a blush creeping up unbidden to her cheeks. "No...I, uh—"
Aang smiled. "That's good, 'Cause I was starting to wonder."
The pink pallor on Katara's flushed face deepened. "Is it that obvious?" she asked weakly.
The airbender's grin widened and his face reddened. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Kind of..."
In that moment a prolonged silence ensued between them and Aang resumed his stare into the living, dancing flames, a slightly perplexed frown on his face. Katara tried focusing her attention on a large stone sitting off to one side of where they sat. After a few minutes of a futile struggle, her gaze finally drifted back to the airbender across from her.
"Aang, what's wrong?"
"Huh?" he seemed distracted, and he glanced up without actually seeing her.
The waterbender repeated her inquiry. "What's wrong?"
Aang waved his hand dismissively. "It's nothing, Katara."
Her eyebrow rose skeptically, and Aang spread his arms reassuringly.
"Really!" he insisted, a forced smile spreading across his face. But it didn't reach his eyes.
Katara crossed her arms and looked at him pointedly.
The airbender sighed. He let his gaze slip back down into the fire. "I was just thinking about Gyatso," he began hesitantly, his gray eyes glazed, "Sometimes he and I would make a campfire out on the balcony of his room at night, and just laugh and joke and play Pai Sho. All the other monks would yell at us to be quiet and go to sleep, but we always ignored them." His voice was filled with grief, but a flicker of a smile crossed his face briefly before disappearing once again in his furrowed brow.
Sympathy welled up in Katara's heart, and she sighed.
The airbender tugged at the cloak around his shoulders, suddenly cold despite the warm night.
Katara frowned. He looked so alone, and she couldn't bear to see him so down on himself. Impulsively, she scooted around the campfire and put an arm around her friend comfortingly.
He closed his eyes and sighed, relaxing slightly in her grip, though his thoughts and memories still whirled.
"Aang," Katara assured him after a few minutes of silence, "The Air Nomads aren't gone. They will never be gone until you lose them in your heart."
The airbender glanced up, meeting her ice blue gaze. She felt him shudder, and mistook it for sadness. She shifted closer, giving him a brief, one-armed hug.
"The spirit of every person, of every nation...will last long after we're gone." The waterbender paused long enough to swallow around the lump growing in her throat. "If I died, you would remember me, right?"
The question caught Aang off guard. He looked at her, his steel-gray eyes laying bare his horror at such a prospect. "Of...course."
Katara gripped his shoulders tighter. "Then I haven't really died, then, have I?"
Aang looked confused for a moment, but the realization soon dawned on him. He blinked. "I get it…as long as I hold the airbenders spirits, and remember them as they were, they aren't dead to me. As long as I hold you, uh...in my heart, you won't really be gone. Not in a spiritual sense." he paused. "Thanks, Katara."
The waterbender smiled and released him from her hug. "That's what friends are for."
Aang smiled through his tears. The fire crackled, and he stared back at it, wondering if his feelings could ever allow them to be just friends.
A/N: If you're still here…I applaud you for your generosity! And, I must say I appreciate any input (constructive or not) that you can offer (in using the review button or private messaging), because as far as I'm concerned, none of these fanfics are truly the best they can be. That can only happen with the help of my beloved readers.