I started this without a clear idea of how it would end, so if it seems weird that's why. It's also a bit of a role reversal, as you will see. I liked it better in theory I think.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
It started as a whisper in the marketplace of the small Earth Kingdom town. She was coming. She had been spotted on the road and she was on her way there. She was among them already. People flocked from their houses to see her, to greet her and speak to her.
Lady Katara, the renowned warrior, the revered healer, thought by many to be the world's greatest waterbender, and she hadn't even reached the age of twenty. She was known the world over as wise, gentle, and beautiful beyond compare. She was a ceaseless traveler, never staying in one place for long. Most believed she travelled simply to bring peace, to spread wisdom and health and stories and smiles across the land, a land still healing from the wounds of war.
But a few people knew the truth. There was a purpose behind her wandering. She was looking for someone. She had been for nearly four years.
The children reached her first. She greeted them with nearly as much excitement as they greeted her.
"Do you travel all around the world?"
"Are you really a waterbending master?"
"Are you married?"
"Did you help stop the war?"
She smiled and answered all of their questions on her knees so they could hear her properly, crowded around her like a flock of sheep. Many of them were collected by their parents, hushed and told to give her some space. But as soon as the children were out of the way, the parents set upon her.
"What news do you have?"
"Has Omashu finished rebuilding?"
"Have they found him yet?"
This last question was asked more than once, and every time it made the young woman's smile falter. She would shake her head, but never say a word on the subject. For the Avatar had disappeared four years ago, and the world was struggling along without him.
Lady Katara was offered several places to stay the night and received numerous invitations to dinner. She politely declined, she was just passing through. But the sun was setting and an innkeeper insisted, so she graciously accepted and followed him to the north end of the market.
The innkeeper was a kindly old man named Don. He ran the inn with his wife, their son, and his wife and two children. There was only one open room, Don told her. She could take it free of charge. But Lady Katara insisted on paying, so he only charged her half his usual fare and they called it even. All of the guests gathered in the cozy dining room for dinner, fascinated and enthralled by the stories the young waterbender told them of the war and the world. But there was an empty chair at the table that drew her curiosity.
"A young man has been staying here for about two years," Don told her. "He earns his room by working around the town. Odd jobs with livestock and shopkeeping and repairs, things like that. A strange man, really. Doesn't talk much, hardly ever joins us for meals."
Katara nodded. That wasn't unusual. Many soldiers returned from the war only to find their homes were gone, destroyed, and ended up drifting into nearby towns to make a living any way they could. This man was likely one of them.
The evening turned into night, the guests returned to their rooms, and Katara slept better than she had in a long time. The next morning she was out the door shortly after breakfast, only to find half the town out to bid her farewell. She took it into stride, having grown inured to it after four years.
But as she waved and shook hands, a pair of eyes caught her attention. There was a man at the back of the crowd, watching her. He was tall and broad shouldered, wearing simple Earth Kingdom clothes and a wide rice hat over unruly black hair. When he noticed she had frozen in place, staring at him, he looked away. But the damage was done. She knew those eyes. Even if they were shadowed beneath the brim of his hat.
All of a sudden she was after him, grabbing him by the shirt and shoving him backwards. She knocked over a cabbage cart and pinned him to the wall behind it, shocking the whole town and sending the cart's owner into a frenzy. Without a word she tore the man's hat off, and her whole body seemed to freeze. An old bandana was tied around his head like a headband, covering his forehead. His grey eyes were wide with surprise.
"Aang," she said simply, hands still fisted at his chest.
"Katara," he replied casually.
The crowd behind them started whispering. "Aang? Did she just call Kuzon 'Aang?' Isn't that the Avatar's name?"
She took a step away from him, eyes wide. "That's why I slept so well last night," she whispered. "You were right next door, weren't you?"
He nodded silently. "I could feel you there too," he muttered. "I just wanted… to look at you before you left." He smiled at her. she blinked in surprise. "You've really grown up, Katara."
She didn't quite know what to say to that. She knew it was true. Four years as a nomad had changed her. She had gotten a little taller, a little leaner, a little tanner. She was stronger, she was faster, she was wiser and calmer. Her eyes had darkened to a blue that was almost black.
But between the two of them… Aang had easily changed more.
"Me? What… what about you?" she stammered, taking another step away from him. "I mean… is it even really you?"
He stepped away from the wall, bringing them closer again. He stopped and held up his hands in a placating gesture. "See for yourself," he said simply.
She frowned and reached up, pulling the headband away. Sure enough, that familiar blue tattoo was peeking out from under his hairline. She bit her lip as he rolled up his sleeves, offering her his hands. She took them in hers and felt her heart flutter. His hands were so much bigger than hers now. And rougher from all the work he'd done the past two years. But those arrows were still there, twisting down his arms.
More whispering erupted in the crowd, but neither of them paid them any attention. Katara looked up at him again. He was smiling a little, but he looked so tired. So sad. She gazed at him for a few moments that felt much longer before she threw herself against him in a fierce hug that had him staggering back a few steps.
"Wow, you've gotten strong," he gasped, hesitantly wrapping his arms around her.
"You've gotten tall," she muttered into his shoulder. "When did you get so tall?"
He smiled again and kissed the top of her head. "Oh a few days ago," he said quietly.
She laughed. He sighed at the sound.
"I've missed your laugh," he whispered.
"I've missed all of you," she murmured. "I just have one question."
He felt her sigh against his shoulder. "Why are you here?"
He was silent for a long time, still unaware of the whole town milling around the marketplace, pretending to be busy while they were trying to listen.
"I needed some time," he said after a while. "I needed to figure out this Avatar thing on my own for a while, you know? I needed to… just be a normal person so I could get what it meant to be so… not normal."
"You could have told me that," she muttered crossly.
"Would you have let me go?" he asked, a smile in his voice.
She sighed again. "No."
He laughed a little and she smiled. "You've done pretty well for yourself on your own, though," he pointed out. "From the way people talk about you, you're like another Avatar."
It was her turn to laugh. "Don't make fun," she scolded with a smirk. "I started traveling in the first place so I could find you."
"I figured," he muttered. "But I'm not making fun of you, I'm serious. You're famous, all around the world."
She laughed again and he closed his eyes, reveling in the sound. "Can you imagine the stir it would cause if we started traveling together?"
"Quite a stir," he agreed quietly.
"Are you ready to stop being normal, Aang?" she whispered, finally pulling back enough to see his face. He looked down. "I mean… I hope you are. I can't imagine leaving here without you." He glanced up at her. She smiled. "But if you're not ready, I understand. I just… I'd like to get a jump on making up all the years we've missed. All those years for you and I."
He stared at her. She frowned a little and tilted her head to the side in confusion. The gesture was enough to drive him over the edge.
Aang seized her by the arms and spun her around, pinning her to the wall and cutting off her shriek of surprise with a breathtaking kiss. Her eyes, wide in surprise, took only a moment to lose focus and slide rapturously shut.
Neither noticed that the marketplace had gone completely silent in surprise.
When his lips left hers several long moments later, she remained still, eyes closed, lips parted, taking long breaths. Her eyes eventually fluttered open and she glanced up at him, thoughtfully licking her lips.
"Um…" she began breathlessly.
"I agree," he said quietly. "We need to get a jump on all those years for you and I."
She laughed a little. "Oh…" she murmured. "That's what that meant."
A few hours later, the Avatar was back. He shaved his head and changed back into his old monk's robes that had been hidden beneath his bed for two years. Hidden with them was his staff.
So, arm in arm with Avatar Aang, Lady Katara bid goodbye to Don the innkeeper and the little town. The town became famous that day, known as the second place Lady Katara had found the missing Avatar.