The Avatar group was on the move again
The Avatar group was on the move again. They were always on the move. They had to be. Even though there had been no attacks on them at the Western Air Temple since the explosive encounter with Combustion Man, it would be unwise to linger there for long. If Zuko had caught up to them, it was not impossible for other Fire Nation forces to follow close on their heels as well.
Despite Aang's allowance of the fire prince into the group, there still existed an uneasy tension between the former enemy and the others. Though she bit her tongue to keep it controlled, it didn't stop Katara from cutting a harsh remark every now and again. When it came time to leave, Zuko had seemed unsure of climbing into Appa's saddle with the others. The bison gave the uneasy boy a reassuring lick, and he cautiously ambled his way up. Once there, however, seating arrangements shifted, obviously leaving him on one side of the saddle while the others mostly piled on the other end.
But after a few days, the uneasiness faded to a neutral tolerance. Toph, not having known Zuko for as long as the others, had little issue with him aside from her burnt feet, and even then, with Katara's help, they were healing nicely. Momo would sometimes perch on Zuko's shoulder, munching greedily on whatever food his nimble lemur fingers had nabbed off of Sokka. The water tribe boy had even begun asking Zuko to light the campfires at night.
Even with the lightening mood, Aang still found the air too heavy and oppressive. He would frequently leave on short flights on his glider to try clearing his head. But all the wind rushing past him never seemed to be enough. His mind would wander to miscellaneous things constantly: the war, the failed invasion, his new firebending teacher, and Katara.
It was the water tribe girl that seemed to be occupying his thoughts more and more as he tried clearing them. Since arriving in the Fire Nation after his coma, there had been drastic changes between them, and not bad ones at that. Prior to the fall of Ba Sing Se, their relationship had been lighthearted and platonic. Exchanged glances and cheek kisses had been the bulk of their physical affections for one another. Well, aside, of course, from that wonderful, tingling feeling he'd felt in the Cave of Two Lovers.
But there had been a change since the coma. She would put her hands on him during healing sessions, even though she technically did not need to for the water to have its effect. In fact, she would take him in her arms more often, whether she was scared, relieved, or, perhaps, just wanting to physically let him know she was there with him. One night, as they had camped out alongside Appa, she had slumped slightly against him. Whether or not she had woken up from this or not, a small contented smile materialized, and her soft sigh spoke the same.
In response, Aang had become less passive and more actively interactive with her. When she had shied from his invitation to dance at the party, he persisted, and was rewarded with her in his arms. It was like learning Earthbending, he realized with a chuckle. When Katara had begged him to sleep before the invasion, he insisted on training himself to exhaustion. Doing so had induced hallucinations beyond all definition, but it had been worth it to dream of kissing her.
Speaking of which…
What had compelled him to actually kiss her on that day of the invasion? Aang was thankful he was alone, for surely, his cheeks had tinted deep crimson at the memory.
It had been desperation, the looming pressure of the battle ahead of them, that had driven him to capture her lips with his own. I might not get another chance… he remembered the words that thundered in his head at that moment. She at least had to know how I felt… if I didn't make it…
But he had not died. He had not even encountered the Fire Lord. He was still alive, alive to face whatever reactions or repercussions were due to him for his sudden compulsion. And yet, after several days, nothing had come of it.
Perhaps it was because of the group's focus on the failed invasion and what was to be done next. Or maybe it had been the appearance of the fire prince that had everyone's mind preoccupied. It was certainly a logical reason. Either way, he had yet to know her feelings on the matter.
He landed easily near where the group had set up camp for the night. A roaring campfire was already going, and Katara had a pot of stew boiling over it. It wasn't until the hearty smell of food wafted past his nose that Aang realized just how hungry he had gotten, and how exhausted. As he sat himself down among the others, a sharp pain shot up his spine, echoing from the wound Azula had inflicted. He winced visibly.
"Aang! Are you all right!?" Katara nearly spilled the soup she was bending into everyone's bowls.
"I'm ok…" he breathed once the pain subsided. Still, he wrapped one arm around his torso to ease the remaining twinges.
Katara watched him a moment more, then hastily doled out stew to the others. No sooner had she finished than she was at Aang's side.
"It's acting up again, isn't it?" she said softly, almost whispering.
Aang nodded, but his eyes were focused on the ground.
"Come on," she gently took his arm and tugged for him to follow her. "We'll have a healing session."
They went into Katara's tent, and Aang shrugged the upper part of his robe off to expose the ugly wound. There had been critically significant progress from these healing sessions, but every now and again, memory pain would manifest briefly.
Aang sat down on Katara's laid out sleeping bag with his legs crossed, the usual posture for a healing session. She didn't have the water jars she usually used, so the water instead was drawn from the bloat she kept at her side for drinking water. Bending the water onto her hands, she carefully massaged it onto the wound.
"Does this feel any better?" she asked quietly.
The feel of her hands on his back felt refreshing and very relaxing. Aang leaned forward, the warmth of her water-covered hands making him drowsy. He almost didn't hear her question, but when it registered moments later, he nodded dozily.
"Lie down, Aang, if its more comfortable for you." She said. Aang didn't give her words a second thought as he nearly fell face first onto the pillow. The healing session went on, but for Aang, it wasn't more than a few moments before sleep claimed him.
He awoke in the middle of the night, a subconscious thought reminding him that he had not gone to his bed. Bolting upright, he looked around himself in the darkness. Nothing seemed out of place; he was in a tent and in bed… but not his own.
The warm, downy sleeping bag slid off his chest and pooled at his waist. Curious, he brought the fabric to his nose and inhaled.
He remembered that he had fallen asleep during one of Katara's healing sessions. It was sweet of her not to have woken him up, but if he was using her sleeping bag, then where was she resting?
The cool night air chilled his now exposed skin, and glancing about, he found and piled on his robe top. Stepping outside the tent, he looked around for the water tribe girl.
A tent of earthen slate denoted where Toph slept, and a black and red tent belonged to Zuko. By the fire, side by side, were the water tribe siblings. Sokka was quietly mumbling something incoherent about meat, and there, beside him in Aang's sleeping bag, was Katara. Beyond the siblings loomed the gray sleeping form of Appa. Tucked in beside the bison's face was Momo, who snored his gurgling snore in easy rhythm.
The Avatar tiptoed carefully over to the sleeping girl by the fire. She was lying on her side, with her back to him. Crouching down beside her, he found himself entranced by the gentle rise and fall of the covers on her. The pale moonlight brushed gently against the dark complexion of her face.
She shifted slightly, and for a numb moment, Aang was afraid he had somehow disturbed her. But she remained asleep, moving only to idly scratch her cheek. When she stilled again, Aang let go of the breath he had been holding.
I should get back to sleep myself… he reasoned and stood up to return to Katara's tent. Before stepping back inside, he glanced back at her once more.
Are you mad at me? Are you happy? I wish you would tell me…
Aang awoke to the delicious smell of food tickling his nose. His stomach rumbled, and he airbent himself out of bed. He felt refreshed, and strangely happy as he joined the breakfast circle outside.
"Good morning!" he greeted the others. Their mouths full, they nodded their good mornings to him.
"Are you feeling any better, Aang?" Katara asked.
"Much better." He nodded. "Thanks!"
Katara's cheeks tinted pink, and she handed Aang his bowl of breakfast: a sweet oatmeal with wild blue cherries mixed into it. He noted mentally that the others were eating a different breakfast with meat mixed in. Katara had thoughtfully prepared this separately in consideration of his distaste for animal flesh. It wasn't something that Katara hadn't done before, but all the same, the gesture touched his heart. He smiled to her and dug right in.
At Toph's insistence, Sokka decided that this area would be good enough to stay for a few days before moving on. It would also give everyone a chance to relax and take it easy as they saw fit for a little while. Aang took this opportunity to go through some firebending practice with Zuko.
The Avatar and the Fire Prince went over several basics, even going through the motions of the Dancing Dragon to regain a feel for the maneuver. But as the training went on, Aang found himself distracted by the previous night's thoughts—a dangerous mistake when practicing firebending. Thrusting a fist forward to deliver a straight burst, Aang instead caused the flame to flare up in front of his hand, startling him back to reality. He quickly pulled his hand back to inspect the damage; thankfully, there was nothing to show for it.
"Are you all right?" Zuko asked, seeing the mistake.
"Yeah, I'm all right…" Aang replied, rubbing his knuckles where the flame had barely licked them.
"You were distracted." Zuko stated calmly. "What's up?"
"Nothing…" Aang looked away, still rubbing his knuckles idly. "I think I we should take a break for today. I could use some meditation too."
The Fire Prince eyed him as if to inquire further, but didn't.
"Ok then, we'll pick up from here tomorrow then." He said. "Just don't let yourself get distracted when doing that move. If the chi for it doesn't flow out completely and fast enough, the fire manifests too close to your skin, like it just did."
"Thank you, Sifu Hotman"
"Stop calling me Hotman!"
Aang bowed to Zuko with a light, amused smile. Zuko returned the gesture and they parted ways.
Katara had found a pool with a small waterfall a short walk from the encampment, and it was here that Aang settled himself in for some meditation. Breathing slowly and deeply, he collected his thoughts and focused them mentally in one place.
Predominant matters always surfaced first, and in this instance, it was Katara who came first. Her features stood out vividly in his mind, and a smile materialized on his face. With his eyes closed, Aang was, in a sense, in darkness, but his meditation transmuted that darkness into a memory—more specifically, that of a dark cave with dimming torchlight. By it, Aang could just make out Katara's face leaning in to his, and he into hers. The thrilling feeling of that moment ran through him, causing him to shiver.
Aang cracked his eyes open once the feeling had passed. The scenery around him was the same as it had been when he started. He was still alone and the water was still beside him, splashing and burbling.
His gaze wandered to the cloudless sky above. High above him, an eagle squirrel squeaked as it soared by. When he returned his gaze to straight ahead of him, his meditative mind put Katara before him. There was something very familiar in her eyes and a terrified feeling in his gut.
What if… what if I don't come back? He heard himself say.
Aang, don't say that… she replied.
"I DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT EITHER!" Aang's heart thundered hard in his chest. "How do I tell you…!?"
…Of course you'll—
He hadn't let her finish. He couldn't. He couldn't even think beyond his panic, his desperation. Satisfied that his point had gotten across, he had pulled back. She seemed frozen, lost in what he'd just done, but at the loss of contact, she frowned. She understood. And then he took off on his glider, unable to go at all if he stayed a moment more.
His own words trembled over his lips time and time again, the dread of their meaning and the force that had compelled him to kiss her causing his very form to shudder.
What if… What if I don't come back?
"But you did come back."
Completely caught off guard, Aang cried out and flailed clumsily before falling backwards off the flat boulder he'd been meditating on. His meditation disrupted, he sat up to see Katara standing in front of him. She had a small bowl in her hands, and was looking at him with a straightforward semi-serious expression.
"W-When did you get here?" Aang quickly tried to compose himself.
"Just now." She replied. "Zuko told me you were meditating, and since it's almost lunch, I thought you might be hungry. Here."
She handed him the bowl, and he took it, though he didn't start eating right away. Aang rubbed his hand over his face, hoping to wipe away anything that was left of his meditative trance.
"Something's been bothering you lately." She continued when he didn't say anything. "Do you want to talk to me about it?"
Aang froze up momentarily, then relaxed his shoulders. This was what he had been waiting for, but now the words were lost to him. He nodded slightly, then locked eyes with her. She seemed to understand.
"I'm not mad…" she shifted her gaze quickly to the ground without turning her head. A blush tinted her cheeks. "I'm not mad… if that's what you're worried about."
"I don't know what came over me…" Aang's voice seemed to drift off, his eyes following suit. "I didn't know how else to—"
"But you did come back." Katara interrupted. "And you can tell me now…if… you want to…"
It was Aang's turn to blush, and his pale skin showed it a lot more than her darker shade could.
"I'm… not really good with words… like this…" he babbled.
Again, Katara seemed to understand. She tried to meet his eyes, and when he wouldn't, she extended her hand out to him. At this, Aang did meet her eyes, then took her hand in his, and pressed it affectionately against his cheek.
The light, spray-damp breeze of the waterfall seemed to pick up, caressing Aang's exposed shoulder and Katara's hair. He looked up at her again and smiled. It felt like the very elements gave their approval.
"Aang?" Katara piped gently.
"Things have been different since the invasion…" he said distractedly. "More like because of it."
She looked like she was going to say something, possibly reassurance that they would rescue Hakoda and the others in time. But Aang gave her hand a little squeeze, and the words died on her lips.
"I would have told you sooner… about how I felt." Aang kept his voice and words very controlled. "But I didn't know how, and whenever I got up the courage, there'd be a distraction or something. So… I… tried going about it… in other ways…"
"Like a real Airbender." Katara cracked a smile, and Aang thought those words had sounded familiar. His recognition must've showed, because Katara giggled.
"Haven't I heard something like that before from—" he started.
"Toph" Katara finished for him.
Aang's mind suddenly started going a mile a minute. Of course! The thought had crossed his mind before; why hadn't he realized it? Earthbending! It was like learning to Earthbend all over again! Going around the problem continuously failed, but when he got in the problem's face, as the blind girl had put it, he'd managed to solve it! That's why making and giving Katara a necklace had earned some affection. That's why persisting with his invitation to dance with her had paid off. And that, most of all, was why he was able to now express his love for Katara in regards to the sudden kiss during the invasion—facing the issue head on!
"Whoa…" he blinked.
"Are you all right, Aang?" Katara noted his space out.
Aang remained silent. His eyes fixed to the ground, he suddenly broke free of the pensive trance and took both of her hands in his own.
"I… I really… I… reallyreallyreallyREALLYREALLY like you…! …I…"
"Reallyreally… like…like MORE than just friends!…"
Suddenly, unable to continue, Aang reached for his glider, intending to take off in a breath. The wind whirled all of a sudden around them, but Katara's hand stilled him, and they made eye contact again. She was smiling. Her eyes calmed him, as they always had, and the glider clattered to the ground with a ktak-tak. At this, she leaned in close, her warm breath tickling his face. Her water-blue eyes held the Avatar captive.
"I love you…" Aang whispered, entranced.
"I love you…" Katara mouthed silently, closing the distance between them with a kiss.
The wind kicked up again, licking at the splashing water. The cool of the dampened air caused them to shiver, but they did not break their precious connection. Her lips were warm, but they stirred such a powerful heat within him, like a fire in his chest. Neither parted the kiss until the need for air became too great.
They could only stare into one another's eyes. A sweet, euphoric haze drifted between them, allowing only one another to hold their attention. But all good things eventually come to an end. Aang felt approaching footsteps along the ground through his bare feet, a lesson learned from the blind earthbending master.
"Someone's coming…" he sighed disappointedly. He sat himself back down on the flat boulder and retrieved the previously forgotten bowl of fruit.
"Right…" Katara replied in like tone.
It was Sokka who came over, thirsty for some fresh water. He filled his bloat up, then drank from his cupped hands. Once satiated, he turned to his sister and the avatar.
"Everything ok out here?" he asked.
"Just fine, Sokka." Katara replied, perhaps a little too quickly.
Sokka's gaze shifted suspiciously from Katara over to Aang, half expecting an explanation from him, but the airbender conveniently had his mouth stuffed full of fruit.
"Well… don't be too long!" said Sokka. "I'd like to get a bath in sometime today. Oh, and Appa seems to be shedding again. We should wash him down before he leaves another trail for the Fire Nation to follow."
"Sure thing." Aang piped.
Washing Appa while he was shedding was never an easy task. As soon as one spot felt clean, a light tug would reveal it to be just another gob of white furry mess, and then it was back to square one. Thankfully, Appa didn't seem to mind the tedious process, particularly since it meant a lot less weight for him to be carrying around.
Not wanting to tire the others out, Aang chose to try cleaning the bison himself. Easy enough, he reasoned, given that he could waterbend a good rinse, then airbend the animal dry. Appa appreciated it, evidenced by the big bison kisses that soaked the Avatar clear to the bone.
The splish of footsteps caused Aang to turn around in mid-splash. Katara was coming towards them, wearing only her swimming undergarments. He lost his concentration for only a moment, but that was all it took for the suspended water to come crashing down—all over himself. Her giggle made him blush slightly.
"Need a hand?" she offered.
Aang ambled back onto his feet with a small smile.
"It is taking longer than I thought." He replied, glancing briefly at Appa before returning his gaze to her.
"I'll start on the other side then."
Something about her smile was different. Aang couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something in her eyes. Something familiar. Where had he seen it before?
Katara bent a large globule of water over Appa and rained it down on him. The beast replied with a soft contented rumble. Aang then bent the next one and 'scrubbed' the bison a bit. The process went back and forth between Aang and Katara, gradually cleaning away all of the excess fur.
Suddenly feeling a bit mischievous, Aang pushed the next globule of water more over to Katara's side and released it, sending a good portion of the water all over her.
"Hey!" came her surprised squeal.
Aang giggled, unashamed. Katara was quick to return the deluge in like kind.
"Hey!" He called to her, laughing. "That's cheating! We're supposed to be washing Appa!"
Her answer was another deluge and her own sprig of mirthful laughter. From there, it became less and less about cleaning Appa and more and more about soaking one another. He sent a wave at her; she'd return fire. He'd send a blob her way; she'd turn it back on him so that he was the one taking all the water. Soon, Appa found himself moving out of the way as the pair continued to splash and tease one another.
Aang set up the Octopus stance, gathering a myriad of water tentacles around himself. Katara was quicker to strike, but Aang was equally as quick on the defense. He held her 'attacks' at bay with one arm while the other seemed to be bending something different. Blocking several lashes, Aang shot one tentacle out to catch her hand, stopping her bending. He locked eyes with her, and his cheeks tinted pink.
"What?" she blinked.
Aang looked up at the water globule above them that he'd been bending while distracting Katara with the tentacle fight. Sucking in a deep breath, he hoped this trick would work.
This is going to be a little tricky…
He exhaled sharply, firebending an orange glow behind the heart-shaped globule he'd bent. Aang couldn't see her face, but he heard her audibly gasp in awe at the display. Out of breath, he stopped bending, and the aquatic heart rained down between them.
"Aang…" Katara breathed.
"I don't think I'll be able to do that one again for awhile without practice." Aang replied, regaining his breath.
Katara rushed over to him, taking him in her arms as though afraid he'd collapse from his effort. Aang seemed to melt against her, then wrapped his arms around her tightly.
"That was beautiful…!" she breathed against his ear.
"No, Katara…" he replied. "You are."
They loosened their grip to look at one another. Love brimmed like water in their eyes, and somewhere, far deeper, an even wind kindled their inner fire to a brighter, rosier glow.
Their lips connected and, as though by bellows, the fiery warmth grew. They parted briefly, then hazily reconnected. Aang reached up one hand to brush Katara's cheek with his fingertips.
In this moment, Katara saw someone different before her. Gone was the boy who loved penguin sledding and riding elephant koi. Gone was the precious friend who had given her hope that the world may yet be free of the war terrorizing it. No more was he the long-awaited Avatar that the Fire Nation had fought tooth and nail to capture and destroy. At this moment, he was none of those things, and yet he still was all of them. At this moment, he was just Aang, the man she loved.
He circled his arms around her waist, holding her close and deepening their kisses. Katara was a little surprised to feel the slightest brush of his tongue against her own. How much did he know of intimacy, she wondered?
She was about to find out, as the next kiss was bolder, warmer, more confident. His hands moved of their own accord, caressing her back, then resting the fingertips on her shoulders. Her hands were not idle either; she, too, held him close, and the other hand trailed the tattoo line at the back of his head. She was rewarded with a soft purr from the back of his throat.
It occurred to Aang when he had last seen that look in Katara's eyes.
Don't worry about them. It's just you and me right now…
That dance… that wonderful, daring, exciting, passionate, absolutely incredible dance! That look in her eyes—loving, enchanting, and seductive! She gave those eyes to him, and to him alone. It sent an ecstatic shiver throughout him to see it.
"Just you… and me…" he said softly. "…right… now…"
The grip around Katara's waist tightened, and their body heat seemed to flare radically. She was no naïve young girl, and was fully aware what pressed against her.
"Aang…" she blushed, searching his eyes.
His gray eyes peered into her own, looking for something as well. He swallowed hard, afraid to ruin this holy moment between them. Love pooled in Katara's beautiful blue eyes, there was no doubting that, but…
Is this too much… too soon… too fast?
"I wish I could tell you just how much you mean to me, Katara…" Aang breathed.
Her fingertips traced along the back of his head, and he shivered at the gentle touch.
"Tell me however you feel comfortable, Aang…" she replied. Her eyes seemed to add '… even if you don't use words… show me…'
Aang cupped her cheek in his palm, bringing her face to his for another kiss. It burned hotter than any of their previous kisses, and the pit of the stomach felt like boiling lava. The wind kicked up again, swirling about in a taunting teasing manner. There was a sudden, frenetic energy between them, and neither could keep their hands off of one another.
Curious and reveling in the rush, Katara nuzzled his cheek with her own, nudging him until she caught his ear with her lips. He gasped, freezing perfectly still. Liking the reaction, she gave it an experimental lick. The arm that had been rubbing her back immediately pulled her body against his tightly. Aang's breathing had picked up; since when had he ever lost control over his own element?
He tried to still himself, to regain the composure that he had lost, but gave that up when Katara gave his ear another lick. His hand went to her shoulder, caressing her neck briefly, then trailing them down to the edge of her top. Cautiously, he nudged a finger under it and waited for her to react. When she didn't protest, Aang slipped a second finger under the fabric and caressed the skin just beneath it.
Katara released his ear, only to sigh contentedly into it. He seemed to know what he was doing, she mused, but then again, he could be just going with his instincts. Still, if this was how he chose to express his love to her, she was certainly not complaining.
Aang moved his fingers more beneath the cloth, then his hand, holding her shoulder in his palm. He chanced a glance at her face, just to be sure. Her eyes were dreamy and heavy-lidded, but did not miss his look. The gentle tickle of her fingertips over his tattooed neck and back assured him that he was not in the wrong. All the same, he froze up when she grazed the wicked scar.
"I'm sorry!" she hastily apologized and drew back as much as his grip would allow.
"Shh…" Aang drew her back to him. "It's there because it happened… I'm here because of you…"
If Katara was going to respond to that, Aang did not give her the chance. His warm lips quieted her, and she relaxed in his arms once again. A tattooed hand retraced its trail over her shoulder, over the cloth, down her side, and coming to rest on her hip. Unable to resist the temptation, Katara helped herself to rubbing her hands over Aang's lean torso. He sighed, loving the feeling.
The dying wind chilled their wet skin and clothes. Aang stepped back a bit, put his hands together, then spread them apart. The water seemed to fly out of Katara's clothing, leaving it dry and looser on her. As thanks, Katara performed the same maneuver for him, and got one of his sweet smiles in return.
Feeling mischievous again, he bent a water whip out of the water behind her and caused it to 'lick' up her backside. Katara squealed, completely surprised, then feigned anger at Aang for the move.
"That was mean!" she stuck her tongue out.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" he smirked. "Would it be better if I did… this?"
The tendril Aang had bent caught her wrist. When she tried moving her other hand to bend it away, she found that it, too, was bound by water. Aang had them tug her forward with a giggle and wrapped both arms around her waist. Despite being freed, Katara didn't seem to want to move.
Aang rested his head against the crook of her neck, never letting go. Like this, he seemed like a young boy again, taking comfort in her arms. He shifted himself against her, his mouth where she could feel his breath against her throat and his arms pulling her securely against him.
"I'll show you… how I feel…" he whispered. "If you want me to…"
Katara nodded slightly, the meaning heavy in his words.
He planted a kiss on her throat, earning a wonderful sigh from her. Reluctantly, Aang let go of her and turned to the dry land. There was a patch of soft moss lining the edge of the pool and a few large stones. Imitating Toph's nightly ritual, he earthbent a triangular tent, leaving the mossy ground virtually untouched. When he turned back to Katara, her deep crimson blush matched his own. Cautiously, he extended his hand out to her, inviting her to enter with him. His heart thundered in his chest.
What if I'm taking this too far?
She took his hand, squeezing it delicately. He led her inside.
It was a small enclosure, but it shielded them from stray winds and spray. Though dark, there was light enough to see one another. They sat down on the moss, gazing at one another. Aang leaned forward to kiss her, and she closed the distance between them.
His hands returned to her shoulders, fingers working their way beneath the clothing to savor the soft skin beneath. Katara's fingertips brushed against his chest, first tickling, then warming as they explored further. Aang tugged gently at her shoulder straps, more indicative than actually drawing them down. His gray eyes were wide, watching her, and waiting.
He's asking if it's ok…
"Aang…?" she whispered.
"Am I…" he stammered. "I mean… is this… is this ok? Are you… comfortable with… what we're doing?"
There was anxiety in his eyes, Katara noted, but not the childish terror she had seen multiple times in the past. It was controlled fear, concealed yet leaking through. She had seen those eyes before; time did nothing to fade the Day of Black Sun from memory.
"I am, Aang" she said, taking his face in her hands. "but you don't seem to be. What's wrong?"
"I love you, Katara…" he turned slightly. "more than anything. I rejected mastering the Avatar State because it meant I would have to let you go in the process. I'll never regret that. I'd give up being the Avatar if I could if it meant being with you forever. You've asked me to tell you how I feel, but I need to know if you feel the same way. I don't want to you to be hurt or mad. To lose you…"
He paused, seemingly unable to go on. Katara felt a light squeeze on her shoulders. Aang was taking in slow, deep breaths in a manner reminiscent of his meditation.
"To lose you…" he said brokenly. "It would be like… losing everyone… everything… all over again!"
Katara pulled him tightly into her arms, and by this she could feel the shuddering he struggled to suppress.
"Shh…" she cooed, stroking the back of his head. "I love you completely, Aang. Don't ever doubt that. You would never hurt me—"
"But what about the time I burned your—"
"The firebending accident was just that: an accident. I forgave you for that. You should forgive yourself also."
"Is there anything else on your mind? Anything else worrying you?"
"Well…I guess I kinda… wanted to ask your dad, or maybe even Sokka if… well, if it's ok to…"
At this, Katara's soft giggle escaped her. She released Aang to look him straight in the eye. Her warm smile overflowed with love.
"My dad approves, Aang." She took his hand in her own and squeezed affectionately. "He respects you, not just as the Avatar, but as a wonderful person too. As for Sokka…"
"Is he going to beat me up?"
"He'll probably overreact and give a big speech about how his 'little sister' is his responsibility." She rolled her eyes. "But, in all honesty, I think he'd approve because he knows how we feel about each other."
Aang's gaze was at the ground, but a small smile materialized on his face. He felt relieved and terribly shy all at once, and it showed on his tinted cheeks. Still he raised questioning eyes to her.
"Will you… love me…" he took her hand and rubbed it as he spoke. "…be with me… for the rest of my life, Katara?"
Katara gasped, and her face blushed deep scarlet. Her hand trembled, and joyous tears wet her face; there was no containing this euphoria!
"Yes!" she cried ecstatically. "Yes, I will! I will!" She caught her breath a bit before adding, almost cryptically, "And every lifetime afterwards…!"
The words struck home, and Aang was too overjoyed to keep control of himself. He embraced her so fast that he all but tackled her to the ground. Katara didn't seem to care, equally mirthful. Aang buried his face in her neck, nuzzling her with all the excitement of a child given candy. From the Spirit World, Aang could faintly feel all Avatars, past and future, rejoicing with him.
Katara's laughter melted to a loving sigh as Aang's kisses on her throat shifted to warm, open mouthed ones that left wet trails wherever they were placed. Half of his weight was on top of her, and their chests were quite firmly pressed together. Aang loosed one hand from under her back to caress her side softly. Katara purred at his delicate touch.
Amidst her elation, she realized that she was enjoying, but not giving anything back. Her fingers easily found his neck and back. She trailed them lightly over his skin, careful to avoid the sensitive scar.
Aang couldn't seem to get enough of her. It felt like a starvation that could never be fully satiated. He planted a warm kiss on her throat and sucked sensitively at it. Katara's eyes flew open, her breathing suddenly shallow and quick. Aang was teasing her, and it felt incredible.
Katara was still in a daze when Aang sat up beside her. He, too, was breathing heavy, and making a meditation gesture, he managed to calm himself a bit. Aang reached forward and slipped his fingers under the straps of her top, then gave her the questioning glance. Katara nodded timidly, and he languidly pulled them down off her shoulders. When it was down to just above her breasts, he again checked her expression; she mouthed a shy "Go ahead", and the garment was removed.
It took some resistance on Katara's part not to cover herself. She didn't meet Aang's gaze, afraid that he wouldn't like what he saw. His breath picked up again, and he reached out to graze one carefully with the back of his hand. The feathery caress warmed her whole body; her breathing picked up a notch at the sensation. Loving the reaction, Aang touched her again, this time with his fingertips. Katara whimpered dreamily for more.
Aang continued to caress her, keeping his ministrations light, circular, and only with his fingertips. Katara found this to be more of a tease than she could stand for long, so she pressed his hands against her bosom a bit more. Aang took this as encouragement and cupped them warmly in his palms. The blissful look on Katara's face pooled warmth in his lower belly.
He laid back down beside her, content for the time being to toy with her breasts. Drawing in a deep breath, Aang took in her scent and was thoroughly intoxicated by it. Katara drew him against her, and Aang found his cheek cushioned ever so comfortably against her breast. An idea darted across his mind, and Aang could only have assumed one of his previous incarnations had suggested it; he kissed her breast. Katara sighed happily, pulling him even closer until his face was pressed against her. Curious, he took the peak in his mouth.
Katara cried out, ecstatic, and the very sound fell not on deaf ears. To Aang, it felt as though hot water had been poured through him without scalding. He gave an experimental suck, and the resulting cry made his body tingle.
He gave her other breast the same attentions, eliciting those wonderful cries and whimpers that exhilarated him entirely. Katara curled her arms around him, cradling him, and keeping him close. While his mouth was busy, his hands trailed her sides. She squirmed under his touch, never withdrawing, but always shifting herself to feel more of him. In her wriggling, her leg slipped between his and brushed his groin. Instantly, he froze up.
"Did I hurt you, Aang?" she said once she regained her voice.
"No…" he whispered. "Not… at all…"
She tried to move her leg away, but Aang pinned it right where it was. As he slid himself up to kiss her, the solid bulge below his waist pressed against her thigh, and Katara realized that this was why he didn't want her to budge. Despite what they were already doing, she found herself suddenly shy.
His lips trailed soft kisses from her neck to her navel. Here, he sat up, staring intently on Katara's lower covering. She peered up at him, and that questioning look was in his eyes again. Katara knelt up in front of him, cupped his face in her hands, and kissed him. Then, without breaking their connection, she traced his arms from shoulder to wrist with her fingertips, enjoying the shiver it triggered from him. His hands were led to the edge of her loin cover; cautiously, Aang slipped a finger beneath the band on each side.
Katara had never imagined that the feel of her own clothing being drawn off of her could feel so good. Perhaps it was because not being the one doing it made it all the more sensual. Or perhaps it was because of which part of her garb was being removed. Her preferred idea was that it was because Aang was doing it.
Her body exposed, Katara again felt the need to cover herself. But something about Aang's warm hands on her hips tossed that idea to oblivion. Still, she pulled him into her arms, feeling his hot skin against her own.
"Are you scared?" Aang whispered in her ear. "Do you want me to stop?"
"I've never…" her voice trembled slightly. "No one's ever seen me--"
"I see you… and you're beautiful" he said.
"Aang…" she sighed against his ear. One of his hands was appreciating the smooth skin of her backside while the other buried itself in her hair.
"Just tell me… do you want to stop where we are right now?"
Aang pulled away enough to look at her. Katara gazed back with equal intensity. He drew in a slow, deep breath, then let it out just as forcefully calm.
Outside the makeshift dwelling, the sun was setting. The shadows grew longer and the light faded as the sun descended beyond the horizon. What little light there was to be had in the little earth tent was slipping away in increments.
Aang rose to his feet, turning away from Katara, though she watched him, spellbound. There was a rustling of cloth as he loosened the belt and removed his pants. He paused, glancing over his shoulder at her before going further and finally removing his underwear.
By this time, the last of the sun's rays had faded to darkness, blanketing all in night. Aang knelt down beside Katara and slowly reached out to her. From the feel of her breath on his hand, he found her face and caressed it gently. She in turn leaned into his touch, an unseen smile on her face. Shifting closer to one another, their lips met, and the memories of the Omashu cave flittered to the surface.
Breaking the kiss, they leaned their foreheads together, loving the feel of the simple, yet emotionally close contact. Aang's hand trailed lazily down her cheek, brushing her shoulder, and coming to rest comfortably on her breast. Katara's sweet sigh was warm on his face. Idly, he massaged them, loosing some of his earlier apprehensions in the process.
Katara lay back on their discarded clothing; the moss may have been soft, but it was still cold and keeping the still warm clothing about was much more comfortable. Aang curled up next to her, his hands never leaving her body. She reached out to him, not wanting him to be left out. Her hands kneaded his side, wandering down to his hips and giving his rear a light squeeze. An amused breath tickled her.
Their hands never stopped. Aang dragged a slow trail down over her stomach, pausing to feel her belly button. The fingers brushing his hips wandered cautiously over his leg and inner thigh. He suddenly froze when, just for a split second, his sack was grazed. But instead of pausing his ministrations on her, he sighed and moved on from where he had paused, moving lower at a painstakingly slow pace.
He was teasing her, Katara was sure of it. With every minuscule movement, he removed any doubts she had had about how much he had learned centuries ago from a life lived among monks. Aang had always had such a carefree nature; perhaps the fun loving ways of the air benders extended to truly all facets, and as such were taught about physical pleasures as well.
Katara would have mused more on this had Aang's fingers not brushed her lower regions. She gasped suddenly, the hand she had on his thigh giving it a squeeze. Her breathing picked up again, and in a sort of retaliation for his touch, she purposely ran a finger over his sack, just catching his hardness in the process. Aang moaned against her shoulder.
Wanting to hear more from him, she repeated the gesture, and was rewarded with a louder moan. Aang wriggled closer to her until his aroused body was pressed against the side of hers. Temptation overcame her, and she cupped his length in her hand, awed by the feverish heat of it. Aang pulled her into a tight embrace, crying out unhindered. The sound made her whole body tingle; she squeezed him several times, eliciting more from him.
All of the years of meditation and learning to control the different calls of his body were rapidly eluding the air bender with every bit of pressure Katara applied to his sensitive body. Lost to the feel of her hand on him, Aang ground himself against her hand, mimicking the ancient dance of life he so direly wanted with her. Every thrust merited another wonderful squeeze, and he could never seem to have enough of them.
Katara stopped to kiss him, but by this point, Aang was not ready to relinquish the ecstasy she'd been gracing him with. Wrapping a leg around hers, he continued pressing against her, gradually more desperate for contact with each grind. The hand at her waist returned to her folds, now slick and warm. She cried out, bending her unpinned leg to give him more access. Another touch of his fingers and she arched her back off the ground, a strangled version of Aang's name escaping her.
Outside, the nearly full moon was rising, and its light cast a holy glow on all that it touched below. It stirred the already flowing chi of the two benders in the earthen tent. The water outside, once quietly lapping at the edges of the pool, hit the banks with a bit more force, sending spray into the wind, which had, interestingly enough, picked up as well.
Aang pushed his fingers in a little bit more. Katara gripped his shoulders in a vice-like grip, refusing to let go. She was taking in great gulps of air and exhaling wordless praise of him with every breath. He continued to play with her a bit more before removing his fingers and looking at his wet fingers, rubbing them experimentally.
Katara's grip on him tightened to the point where it was starting to get painful. With the moon out, Aang could see her eyes: desperate, pleading, loving, and lusting. A light sheen of sweat made her skin gleam in the First Waterbender's light. Aang moved over her, settling himself between her legs and keeping his weight up on his arms.
Aroused as he was, Aang suddenly felt embarrassed again. It had been at this point that his schooling in intimacy had all but come to a close. The monks had said that even if the mind was unsure how to proceed, the body would know what to do and take lead. He pushed against her, the heat of that contact causing both to moan and shiver.
But he'd been off center, and feared this mistake would make him seem clumsy in Katara's eyes. But she didn't seem fazed at all, instead taking him into her hand again and actually setting him where he needed to be. As though banishing any residual embarrassment left in him, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into a deep kiss.
The kiss muffled their cries as they came together intimately. Neither had ever imagined such a close, hot, ecstatic euphoria. For Aang, it was an embrace like no other. For Katara, she wondered how she had never felt empty, spiritually and physically, before this very moment.
Breaking their kiss, they looked deeply into one another's eyes. Arctic blue reflected storm cloud gray and vice versa. Their mingled breath tickled their faces in warm, quickened pants. The world around them faded away, leaving only each other, for one another.
Katara pushed against him and they moaned together. Obeying his body, Aang pulled back ever so slightly, then slid back in, crying out even louder. They pressed again and again, learning one another's rhythm and falling into it. The chi in their bodies swirled wild as a whirlpool. Their lovemaking was like water bending worship; the push and pull of their bodies imitated the sea as the wind licked at it.
Aang quickened their pace, feeling a familiar pressure growing in his lower regions. Katara clung to him, urging him on with her cries and meeting him thrust for thrust. He kissed her neck and chest, drinking in her marvelous scent. Her fingers dug into his upper back, clinging as though she'd die without him. He, too, gripped her tightly, his arms beneath her arched back holding her to him and keeping her body at that perfect angle they'd both come to love. Soon, only the intimate parts of their bodies moved; their immovable grip on one another allowed for nothing else.
Katara's cries turned a higher pitch and Aang could feel her body tightening around his own. Suddenly she clamped down on him and threw her head back, screaming his name to the heavens euphorically. Unable to hold back against such delicious friction, Aang bellowed a choked version of her name as he exploded, emptying his seed into her.
She came down from her release first, and cracking her eyes open, realized the tent was full of light. Still in the throes of orgasm, Aang's tattoos were glowing brightly, though his eyes were pinched tightly shut. As he began catching his breath, the glow faded until they were again dark.
Weary, he forced his eyes open to look at her. Katara's face was flush and sweaty, but to Aang, no other sight was more beautiful. An exhausted smile crossed her features, and the sight made him smile as well.
"That was…" she started.
"Whoa…" Aang finished for her, and they both laughed tiredly.
"I love you, Aang…" she sighed contentedly. She stroked the rim of his ear as though tucking some non-existent hair behind it.
Aang lay his full weight on her, unable to stay propped up on his elbows any longer. He found that her chest made a wonderful pillow for him, and her accelerated heartbeat was quickly lulling him to sleep.
"…love you…" he slurred, planting a sleepy kiss on her breast.
As charming as this was, Katara knew that the last thing they needed right now was to be caught by Sokka or the others in this situation. Regrettably, she nudged Aang to keep him awake.
"If we don't head back to camp, the others are going to come looking for us." She said softly.
"G'mme my whistle…" he mumbled.
"Your whistle?" she blinked. Why would he need the whistle to call Appa?
Aang nodded without lifting his head. Not expecting much of an answer, Katara fumbled for and found the bison whistle. She handed it to him and he blew into it. To them, there was no sound, but Appa heard the noise loud and clear and came right over to the tent.
"Hey buddy, think you could warn us if somebody shows up?" Aang smiled dozily up at the bison. "We kinda don' wanna get caught."
Appa grunted a yes and curled himself protectively around the earthen tent. Aang settled his head back down on Katara's chest, intending to go to sleep right there.
"Even if Appa warns us, they're still going to see the tent and know something's up."
"Not necessarily." He slurred. "I figure… it's be a few hours 'fore they come looking fer us…By then, I can earth bend us int' the ground and they won't see it."
"And what about Toph? She can see underground you know."
Aang thought for a moment with his hazy mind.
"If she hates Sokka's wild tangents as much as we do… maybe she won't say anything… when they come by…"
"And if she doesn't?"
"…'ll figure… som…ing out…zzz…"
Katara shook her head with a weary smile. Aang had already fallen asleep, and moments later, she too slipped into a slumber of sweet dreams of her and her precious love.