I caved. Yeah, that's right, I went and watched the WESTERN AIR TEMPLE online. I saw the NYCC trailer and was like crap, now I have to. And I watched it. And I wrote this to make up for the depressing lack of Kataang.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
"So how did I do?"
Zuko smiled faintly, a sight Aang was still getting used to.
"I think you've got the basics down," Zuko said thoughtfully. "But it seems like there's something holding you back."
Aang glanced at him as the two of them made their way through the Western Air Temple. It was dinner time, and they had to move pretty far from the campsite to practice firebending.
"What do you mean?" Aang replied, stifling a yawn.
"I'm not quite sure," Zuko admitted. "I'm trying to remember Uncle's lessons, but there have been so many. There's something emotional blocking you from reaching your potential."
"Oh… that's doesn't sound good," Aang sighed.
Zuko shrugged. "I'll meditate on it after dinner, see if Uncle's lessons really stuck with me as much as I'd like to think."
Aang nodded and was about to respond when Zuko abruptly stopped walking. He looked up to see Katara walking toward them, and she didn't look very pleased.
"You're late," she said by way of greeting, stopping before them and leveling a hard look at Zuko. He seemed to shrink slightly before her.
"I'm sorry, it's my fault," he said quietly. Katara's eyes narrowed dangerously, and Aang, sensing an oncoming storm, jumped to Zuko's defense.
"No no, my fault," he said quickly. "I lost track of the time and asked to do some extra drills. I'm sorry, Katara."
"That's okay, Aang," she said lightly, eyes never leaving Zuko.
The three of them were silent and still for a few moments before Zuko took a few hesitant steps forward. Katara didn't stop him, so he cleared his throat and continued on his way. Aang was about to follow, but Katara stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm. He glanced at her in surprise. She had an unrecognizable look on her face. She looked worried, but at the same time, there was something dark in her expression.
"Are you okay?" she asked quietly.
Aang frowned at her, clearly concerned. "I'm okay, Katara," he replied just as quietly. "How about you?"
She glanced up at him, and Aang saw a moment of hesitation pass over her. But another moment later she was smiling, a rather faint smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"I'm okay," she said in a cheery sort of way that Aang immediately identified as fake. "I'm okay, you're okay." She trailed off and turned evasively toward camp, but Aang's hand was suddenly tight on her wrist and she was forced to stop.
"Zuko," he called, bringing the firebender to a halt. "We'll catch up to you later, okay?"
"Okay, I'll pass it on," he called back.
"Aang, what are you doing?" she asked quietly. Aang just let go of her wrist and took her hand instead, tugging her insistently toward the edge of the temple. He sat down and kicked his legs over the ledge, patting the floor beside him. She sighed and took a seat next to him, gazing out into the misty canyon.
"It looks like it goes down forever, doesn't it?" she murmured evasively. "Especially now, with the sunset… and the mist…"
"Katara," Aang said quickly, cutting her off. "What's been up with you lately?"
She glanced away. She never could lie to him. Not successfully, anyway. "Uh… nothing… what do you mean?"
"You're always on Zuko's case," he continued quietly. "He's been doing a great job teaching me. He hasn't given us any reason not to trust him."
"It's nothing," she muttered, though he could hear the cold edge in her voice at the mention of the former prince.
"Katara, why can't you at least try?" he asked, a touch of pleading in his tone that broke her down.
"I can't, Aang," she blurted, hands clenching on the ledge. "I'm sorry, but I just… I can't forgive him."
"Why?" Aang replied calmly, placing a gentle hand on her back.
"Because of what he did to you," she shot back, refusing to look at him. "Because he… because of him… I…" She trailed off, staring determinedly at her knees.
"Because I thought he had changed once," she snapped. "I let my guard down… I trusted him… and because of that I almost…"
Aang was watching her with wide eyes, both fascinated and heartbroken by the way her voice tightened with tears.
"I almost lost you," she finally murmured, turning her head resolutely away from him and wiping her eyes roughly on the back of her hand. "Because of him, I almost lost you, and I can't bear to lose you again."
"…What?" was all Aang managed to choke in surprise.
"I can't trust him," she continued, her voice dark. She sniffed and wiped her eyes again. "I can't forgive him. Having him this close is just a reminder… and I just feel like… it could happen again."
"I can't let that happen again, Aang," she said sharply, returning her gaze to her knees. "I can't lose you again. You don't… you don't know what that did to me, when you fell. You don't know what I went through… trying to bring you back…" She paused, biting her lip. Even in the dark evening, he saw a blush creeping over her cheeks. "I can't lose you again, Aang. I… I love you too much."
Aang inhaled sharply in surprise and choked. He started coughing, eyes wide, and Katara smiled slightly. She reached over and rubbed his back, waiting for his lungs to settle down.
"You okay?" she asked gently.
"I'm okay," he gasped.
Katara laughed lightly. "Sorry for springing that on you," she murmured.
"That's okay," he said hastily. "I uh…" He started blushing, making Katara smile again. "I was just surprised."
"Well… I hope that answers your question," she sighed, moving to get to her feet.
"Whoa, wait," he said quickly, grabbing her wrist again. "You can't just leave after saying something like that."
"You just left after kissing me," she pointed out delicately.
Aang opened his mouth to respond, but found he had no way to defend himself there. If given a few minutes to think, he could probably come up with a logical argument. But at the moment, he felt more like fainting than anything.
"Well, you still kissed me, and I still love you, so let's just call it even and I'll go," she said, sounding flustered. She tried again to get to her feet, but he kept a tight grip on her wrist, forcing her back to her seat.
"I uh… I know it's hard, Katara," he muttered. "Losing someone you love. I mean… I kind of lost everything."
She looked at him in surprise. He rarely talked about the Air Nomads. Sometimes, she nearly forgot that he had literally lost everything.
"How do you do it, Aang?" she asked quietly. "How do you stay the way you are after you lose everything you love?"
Aang thought about it for a moment. "Well… I guess I just focus on what I haven't lost," he said, smiling a little. He looked at her. "I haven't lost you."
She glanced at him. He opened his mouth to continue, but found that once again, he had nothing to say. She realized that, in not so many words, he might have just told her he loved her. She smiled a little, watching him blush and look away.
She sighed, throwing caution to the wind, and reached up to his face, turning his head and bringing his lips to hers.
For what seemed like the hundredth time in so many minutes, Aang's mind shut down in surprise. Luckily for him, he didn't need his mind, because instinct had kicked in. He didn't remember fastening a hand to her back and pulling her closer. He didn't remember sliding his other hand up into her hair. He didn't remember her wrapping her arms around his neck. He didn't remember how many minutes had passed. What he would remember was the feeling. How warm she was, how sweet she tasted, how lightheaded he seemed to be very suddenly and without explanation.
Before he was ready, she pulled away from him. He opened his eyes to find her taking a deep breath, eyes still closed. She licked her lips thoughtfully.
"What did I just do?" she asked under her breath.
"You… uh… kissed me," he muttered. "So I guess we're even."
"Yeah… you okay?"
"I'm okay. You okay?"
"I'm okay, you're okay," she smiled indulgently, finally opening her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he sighed.
"For almost getting myself killed," he muttered, glancing away.
Katara smiled sadly. "Just don't do it again," she said quietly.
"So… I get why you still don't like Zuko," he continued. "But… could you maybe not be so openly hostile?" She looked hesitant for a moment. "For me?"
"For you… sure," she sighed.
"Thank you," he replied, smiling in relief. "We do need him, you know."
"I know, don't push it," she laughed. "Come on, let's go back for dinner."
"We could go back, yeah," Aang began, looking innocently skyward. Then he glanced at her, smirking. "Or…"
"Or?" Katara repeated, smirking right back and drawing closer to him. He pulled her against him, lips hovering over hers, and stopped.
"Promise you'll pretend to be nice," he said quietly.
Katara tried to ignore him and move closer, but he maintained the inches between them. She groaned a little in protest, but he just smiled, waiting. She rolled her eyes.
"Okay," she sighed.
"Okay," he replied, smiling.
"Okay," she laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck and closing the distance between them.