Disclaimer: Characters belong to Nickolodean and Mike&Bryan. Not to me. sad face
Set post war, everybody aged up nicely to placate my conscience about thinking a 12-13 year old is damn fine. I may scrap this piece but use the HotGliderAction! for another fic of mine.
I'm actually seriously considering merging the two fics...so I guess those of your who have read the other one can think of this one as a preview of what's to come. wink
ACTUAL WRITING START:GO!
Katara felt a little silly, wearing a nice outfit for something as routine as her and Aang's daily meditation & practice session. But she had to admit; she was at least comfortable while being so. The blue and gold wrap dress was light and afforded her a lot more freedom of movement than she'd given credit for in the shop. The skirt wrapped once, twice, three times around her hips and draped elegantly over her right shoulder. When she walked in it, the gold embroidery rippled around her ankles like surf playing over sand. The cloth was cool, and allowed for plenty of air circulation even in the dead heat of a fire nation summer. She quite liked it.
And apparently, so did the other women who were starting to fill the countryside surrounding the western air temple. In the makeshift shop booths and trader's wagon's the style was in high demand, having been modeled after some of the statues in the temple itself of long dead air-nomad women. Those village women had first trickled in with families of ambassadors and officials wanting to do business with the Avatar or the Fire Lord, the temple and the palace being within a day's ride of each other. Now the town was growing in leaps and bounds, being filled with travelers from all walks of life. And any one who was anyone had at least stayed a few days there, just to get a glimpse of the Avatar and the Fire Lord cooperating to make peace.
Zuko had his task cut out for him, that was sure. With him ruling in his own right now, not just with the help of his uncle, he'd had the task of trying to dissuade a people used to three generations of conquest that all nations were equal, and that war was no longer a virtue.
It seemed an impossible task, to turn an indoctrinated and proud people around to the idea that they were wrong, that the four nations were stronger apart than together, better for their differences. The people had been stubborn in accepting that, and there were still many guerilla groups doing things like attacking trade convoys and embassies. Some even claimed they were saving the fire lord from the other nations, even going so far as to suggest he was under an avatar-magic spell.
Climbing further up the cool dark passageway, she laughed to herself a bit over that thought. If anything, from what she'd heard, Zuko was more under the spell of his fire nation girl. Aang told her what in his mind was a horror story about Zuko coming up missing for a meeting with him, sending all the palace in a panic, only to wander in on him half dressed with this Mai girl in a back hallway.
She smiled, remembering Aang's account of the event.
"And he had his hands all over her and looked like he was trying to eat her face off!"
Aang had groaned, rubbing his head the way he did when he was embarrassed or anxious. "I could see the spit dangle between them, it was so gross! I mean! When I go to kiss a girl I'm going to try and go for a LOT more style than THAT. Uchh!"
She'd laughed and rubbed his head, batting his hands away to do it. He'd had a nice crop of peach fuzz that week, and she couldn't resist touching it.
Even when I have to reach up on my toes nowadays to do it. He's not the scrawny little kid I let out of the iceberg anymore.
Nearing the end of the long corridor to a wide set of round doors cut in the rock, she paused, hand on the spiral door handle.
I keep reminding myself more and more of that lately. The way he's so often in his Diplomat role, or even his I'm-The-Avatar role, it's easy to forget how far he's come. Almost easy to forget the big goofball he can be, once he's out of the public eye.
Her heart beat a little harder, thinking of Aang when he was focused and set for diplomacy, the square of his shoulders and the impressive 6 feet he'd sprouted up to. He bore subtle power at board meetings, but with wide grin and the easy laugh he had when he flew, all worries were left on the ground. Any one watching him soar would surely feel the same way. Katara knew she did.
Thus it was with an unconscious smile that she entered the meditation room.
Except it wasn't the meditation room the way she remembered it.
Oil lamps clustered around all corners of the room, filling the space with a cloying-was that white jasmine?- Aroma. A low table was set up, surrounded by huge fire-nation style floor pillows, each with enough tassels and embroidery to be suspected of palace use. On the table were bowls of water lilies, the water reflecting the flickering light.
Katara gasped and went to the table, gently fingering the silk tablecloth. Platters of nuts and fruit nestled among the lily bowls, their fragrances competing with the honey bread steaming in the middle, with an olive oil dish set for dipping the bread into.
She was admiring the spread of dainty sugar dates when the door closed behind her. She whirled, and saw a sheepish but grinning Aang. He had his hands behind his back.
"Hi Katara." He grinned a little wider. "I thought we'd do something different today than meditating."
"I see." she said, eyes wide, the light dancing in them. "How did you get all this? And get it all through that narrow hallway?" she asked out of curiosity, not accusation, and she couldn't keep the wonder out of her voice.
This time his grin turned conspiratorial. "Oh, I picked up a thing here and there, from the bazaar…from the palace…" he flourished a bouquet of brilliant white and red fire lilies. "I have my ways."
She blushed as she took them, and tried to hide it by burying her nose into the flowers. "mmmm."
He flipped over onto his hands but overcompensated his balance and flopped over onto the pillow pile. With no more than a second or two of stunned wince, he quickly arranged himself in a 'cool' pose, an "I meant to do that" look on his face. Katara giggled and rubbed his head. Aang chuckled too. That was Aang for you, even when the joke was on him, he never failed to appreciate it.
Aang's eyes caught hers and blushed for the briefest of moments before turning his gaze self-consciously away. He pulled the closest tray forward. "These are called sea-chest nuts." He propped himself up on one elbow, "Since they look like little sailor's chests, and you open them with this knife..." he pried one open. "and then they, oop!" the nut sprang open and a seed burst from the center into the air, where Aang caught it.
"They're fun!" he crunched. He showed Katara the whole tray. On it where more 'fun' foods that sprang, fizzed, jumped, or bounced when tapped, opened, dropped or chewed. By the time they had finished the plate, Katara had tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks.
The rest of the food was relatively harmless, but delicious, and they set to it at a casual pace, oooh ing and ahhing appreciatively at the variety. Dipping her bread, Katara sighed contentedly. "It's good to know that not all fire nation food isn't either spicy or swimming in gravy."
"Actually, all this is…was…air nomad food."
She chewed her bread slower, more reverently, as if eating the food of a lost nation was suddenly a holy activity. She swallowed. "So…how did you find all this stuff again? Are there still people cooking air-nomad style?"
Aang's face didn't visibly droop, but suddenly his words had a shadow of regret in them.
"No, most of this stuff still grows wild around here, but most people don't know how to look for it. Or that it's even edible. It's not like anyone carved a cookbook onto a temple wall. My people didn't seem to leave much writing behind…."
He shrugged, as if to say it wasn't their fault, but it was a sore point for Aang, she knew. The great temples remained, but so much of the air nomad lifestyle was lost. So much of its culture, disappeared. All save for him, a living relic.
Aang forced cheer back onto this face. "But I remember. And Gyatsu was a great chef. He taught me everything he knew."
"Then why is it I'm always the one to cook supper when we're on the road?" she teased. "If you were taught by a master chef then I'm going to let you do it next time." She threw a grape at him, playfully.
"I'm no good at campfire cooking, only stuff you can make when you get a decent oven! Besides, I did cook that one time, and Sokka complained about it having too much 'rabbaroo food' in it, and no meat."
Katara did remember, now. It had been early in their journey and Sokka was still feeling like he was being "drug along". He'd been in such a sour mood that day that he'd tipped over the entire pot of soup Aang had worked on and yelled about not getting proper meat vitamins to survive the days of travel ahead. Aang hadn't said anything, then, in the interest of keeping peace with his new friends. Katara had cooked then after, and was always careful to make extra vegetables for Aang.
She sighed and a long period of silent eating followed. The atmosphere was so tranquil and relaxing, but she couldn't help but feel a deep current of tension about the whole occasion. All this was so…nice. The food and smells were so good that she felt guilty about feeling uneasy. But she couldn't help it. The room seemed to ask her something, tell her something, imply something. She held on to her ignorance though, as if naming the thing would light a fuse to an unmarked barrel. The barrel could be horrible explosives, it could be dazzling fireworks, but all the same, it was a fuse she'd rather not light.
That unnamed quantity in the room was forcing their conversation to be shallow, all small talk and whimsy, and mostly about the food. Maybe they had touched on something with the mention of air nomads…
"Aang…" she started.
He raised his head to her, his eyes silver grey in the dim light, the lamplight's gold specks reflected at her. She hesitated, watching his eyes.
"This is…the table, the flowers, it's all so…" and she settled for giving him the most sincere smile she could. "Thank you."
He smiled back, not a grin, just a smile. But his eyes darkened and he drew closer to her. "It was worth it, just to make you smile." His voice had gone deeper a little, huskier.
Not the kid in the iceberg anymore.
She was beginning to wonder if she told herself that to remind her that he once was the kid in the iceberg, instead of the young man in the candlelit room leaning toward her and making her breath catch in her throat.
"Aang…" she breathed, and then the lamps sputtered out.
Startled by the sudden onslaught of pitch-blackness, Katara jumped back. She heard sounds of Aang rising.
"I didn't buy that much scented oil, I shouldn't have tried to divide it among so many lamps." Aang lamented, stumbling away from her. "But I have some normal candles around here somewhere…I think."
That was the trick with this particular meditation room. Carved deep into the cliff face, it was completely isolated from the distractions of sun and moon, although it did have generous allowance for ventilation. Which also meant that any light had to be artificial for this room, even during high noon.
"I'm sorry Katara." Aang said from right behind her. Katara jumped again.
She felt his hand take hers, and try to guide her into rising.
"But I have something else I thought you might like instead, c'mon, let me show you. It's outside."
They groped along the wall to the door. Even out into the corridor, their hands were still together. Neither hand had the particular desire to let go.
Aang led her through a series of passages she had never been down, once they left the main stair. His boyish enthusiasm was back, and she wasn't sure if this was a relief, or if she missed that serious, candlelit Aang more.
They turned a bend to a magnificent few of the canyon the air temple was built into, with red hawks wheeling in the air and the setting sun painting the world gold.
But the sight that next caught her eye was completely manmade.
It looked like a bigger version of Aang's glider, but instead of expecting the rider to hang by their own arm strength midair, a hammock of sorts was stretched down the glider's spine, with a triangular bar in front, which looked meant to steer with.
Aang was grinning widely, his eyes narrowed and mischievous.
"Oh! This is like the ones Teo's people use, right?"
"Yeah, but this one is 100 air nomad! This is how a lot of the nomads traveled, in double gliders like this! Here,"
He led her to it, and laid down, belly first in the hammock.
"Lay down beside me." He instructed. After a moment's hesitation and the faintest of blushes, she did.
"Isn't it? Now this way, you could fly in turns! One person could fly during the day, while the other person could fly at night and let the other sleep!"
Katara missed the lecherous smile Aang allowed himself as he stole a glance at her ass, lying so innocently round and touchable beside him, and at the sleek way her back curved to meet it.
"So, how do we get airborne? The hammock holds our legs off the ground." She puzzled.
Aang rallied against his eyeballs and looked her in the face. "Well, usually, people either got run up into the air like a kite by their air bison, or…" the mischievous grin was back.
"They have a secret drop door."
"What?" she had time to say before the cliff dropped out from under them.
They plummeted, Out of control. Then thrown high into the sky by the powerful updraft that came to meet them from the canyon floor.
Katara's screams of terror eventually turned into a scream of delight. She opened her wind-stung eyes and discovered she had unconsciously clutched at Aang. She hastily unwound herself and peeked out over the edge of the tarp.
Aang was laughing. "Whole tribes of air nomads, all at once, would come to stay and leave together from this temple, and they made the ledge able to drop out to get everyone airborne at once. All I had to do was pull a rope." He laughed. "The first time that happened to me I panicked and almost crashed into the canyon wall."
His grin softened. "I didn't scare you too much, did I?" his voice was full of gentle concern, and it made Katara shiver.
"I wasn't scared, just startled." She tried to dismiss the panic her heart rate was still in. She tried placing her arms on the front bar. "Can I try?"
"Sure! Just let me adjust your grip…."
He laid his hands over hers and they looked at each other, suddenly embarrassed by the simple contact and their proximity. A sudden rogue breeze upset their moment, and the glider veered wildly left. Aang adjusted it, and Katara's grip, before reluctantly taking back his hands. He propped himself on one side with an elbow.
"See? Now I'm free to take a nap."
"Aah! Don't!" startled by another opposing wind, Katara panicked and sent the craft tumbling backwards. Aang wrapped a steadying arm around her middle and shifted their weight so that they were level again.
"Maybe we need to get out of the canyon. " he whispered in her ear, "even master air bender's used to have trouble with the winds down here."
"Even you?" she teased, tongue out in concentration.
"Ahh, not me. I'm not just any old master air bender, remember?" he whispered low into her ear, nearly brushing it with his lips. "I'm the Avatar."
Katara felt a shudder run down to her toes of delicious heat that had nothing to do with the hot summer wind.
They rose out the canyon itself over the budding town. They were just low enough to see people on the street point skyward at them, making general sounds of recognition and admiration.
Katara felt Aang place his hands on either side of hers, gently taking control of the craft.
"Let's give the nice people a show, shall we?" he said low into her ear. "Hang on!"
Aang swung the craft back and forth, flipping the glider at the apex of each swing.
The assembled below 'oh'ed and ahh'd. Katara's face lit up in exhilaration.
He caught a fast moving breeze that shot them high, high into the air. Katara had only moments to notice the view before the glider shot earthward. It spun as it dived. Katara screamed, half in thrill, half in terror. Just when Katara was sure they were going to crash into a cabbage wagon, Aang pulled them from the dive into a gut-wrenching loop-the-loop. The resulting gust spread down the street and bowled over less observant townsfolk.
Laughing, they circled the town lazily, in higher and higher spirals before sailing off over the surrounding countryside.
"Do you buzz those poor people every time you go out?" Katara laughed.
"Nah, it doesn't seem to fit the Avatar's image to go out for too many joyrides. Might question my standing as the all-wise serious-business Avatar. " He propped himself on an elbow, trusting her with the craft again. "But I don't especially want to feel like 'The Avatar' today."
Katara busied herself with flying the glider; trying to ignore Aang's smile and the gentle look he was giving her. Not to mention the flutter of her heart beat whenever he looked at her like that.
Aang rolled onto his back, watching the sky through gaps in the canvas. He snuck the occasional glace at Katara, her tongue sticking out in that cute look she had when she was concentrating. After a while, he finally gave up watching the sky. His neck was cramping from turning to glance at her so often from on his back. He rolled onto his side again.
"You're really getting good at this." He praised.
"Well, once I got out of that canyon," She admitted, "Once we're up here it's not hard to just follow the wind wherever it takes us. Are we trying to go anywhere special?"
"Nope. We're just going where the wind takes us, Air nomad style."
And then he kissed her.
It was just a little one, right on her temple, like she had given him from time to time riding on Appa. But it was the first one, the first casual one, she amended, that he'd given her. She turned and looked at him, surprise in her eyes.
He smiled at her and then quickly pretended to study the scenery.
Maybe it was something in the wind streaming over her face, or the blue in the sky, or the sway of the glider, but Katara suddenly felt bold and reckless, just a little. She kissed him back, on the cheek.
Aang turned back to face her and they were suddenly nose-to-nose. Their eyes met for the briefest of seconds before Aang reached for her, and kissed her again. This time soundly, on the lips. They had just enough time to try for a second one before the glider bucked, startling them both. They both grabbed wildly for the bar. Aang got control first and sent them into a spiraling descent. He hit the ground and skipped twice before gently skidding to a halt just short of a thorn bramble.
Katara's knuckles were white on the bar, but Aang was already sitting up and laughing.
Katara gave him a 'You're Crazy' Look.
"Oh c'mon Katara! Crash landings are half the fun!" he nudged her, as if sharing a great joke.
She gave into his merriment and laughed. She made a move as if to slide off the hammock, but Aang's arm came around her waist to stop her.
"Now that we're out of the sky…." His arm tightened around her, pressing her to him. "I'd like to try that again…"
And he kissed her. Katara's eyes flew wide, before relaxing and closing again. Little bursts of golden sunlight played in her mind as he kissed her. Each kiss was electric as he moved his tongue and lips enthusiastically. His kisses were like him, playful, energetic, but gentle, with a hint of a more serious passion lurking under the surface.
As she responded in kind he moaned and deepened the kisses, taking longer with each one, letting his tongue linger longer and further into her mouth. Her jaw opened just a bit further every time, wanting to take in just that much more of his affectionate tongue.
Dimly she was aware of their legs tangling together in the hammock, less dimly aware of the hands roaming over her back, pressing her closer. Always closer.
Her mind was turning to mush when Aang broke briefly away from her mouth.
"Aang…" She breathed his name.
He sighed, (or was it more of a gasp?) and dropped down to her jaw line to plant gentle licks over her flushed skin,
"Aang…" She tried again, but couldn't keep the pleasure out of the word. He had found the sensitive area just behind her earlobe. Her hands tightened on his shoulders. She admired the wiry lean muscle under her fingers. Between mental bursts of pleasure Katara ran her hands along his sides. He'd worn his saffron monk sash today, leaving a shoulder bare. He was so lean, so wiry, but she could still feel the long muscles jump under her palms. He wasn't built like a soldier or a warrior; his muscles were more the build of the acrobat; or a cat. He was all flexibility and speed and endurance. The applications that implied in her mind made her blush almost as much as the kisses he was applying lavishly to the hollow of her throat.
"Ka-ta-ra" he mouthed sexily against her skin. "my Katara."
Their legs were really tangled now, her skirt hem twisting midway around her
lower thigh as his foot rubbed absently at her calf. She hadn't noticed when they had lost their shoes, but the sudden return of Aang's mouth to hers made it not matter. She also failed to comment on the "my Katara," although a certain annoying voice in the back of her head told her she should.
It was such a rush. And so easy to just be swept along, to just flow along with his coaxing, his gentle insistence. Her mind was already full with the things he had done for her, planned exclusively for her. Her heart racing with the memory of the flowers, and the food, and the smile she looked for every morning. And her body quite happy to just float along the currents of pleasure he was creating for her.
Again, he broke from her lips. His eyes were thunderhead grey now, dark and heavy-lidded with affection and desire. She gazed back, eyes unfocused and unquestioning. All those little niggling thoughts in the back of her brain could wait, as far as her consciousness was concerned, there was an Aang, and he was smiling at her, and the world was full of warmth and more Aang. What else need there be?
A sense of caution tried to force it's way up to the forebrain. Just wait, it said. This can't be life, life isn't this good. There's something to object about, if you'd only stop getting carried away by his smile and kisses.
Aang was still gazing at her in a dreamy sort of way. His hands were stopped but now firmly holding her waist against him.
Sluggishly, she realized he was waiting for her. For what exactly she wasn't sure. A word? A movement? For her to tell him off? A slap? A rejection.
She couldn't think. It wasn't fair, him making her think again. His leg was still rubbing against hers, making her hem ride just a bit higher. Damn him, making me think and not think at the same time.
"Katara." He whispered.
"Aang…" She breathed back. His name, that was a good start. Speaking might jar her mind away from the fuzzy tingles her lips still sent to her brain for processing. She swallowed and tried again.
TO BE CONTINUED...
A/N: for those of you who are going to make me insanely happy and review this fic, I have a request for your constructive critism reguarding this fic. Do you feel I try and explain things too much? should i cut back on the dinner scene? I also would like people's opinion on how in or out of character the two might be. thanks!
EDIT: btw, if anyone's interested, i drew an illustration for the dinner scene. it can be found at my deviantart account, user: Zabchan, Title: the way she looks at him.