So I've been assaulted by three different oneshot ideas, the this is the most recent one. The only one I've finished yet, yeah. The other two are troublesome. But I rather like this one. So...
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
The Western Air Temple hadn't seen so much activity in a hundred years, especially not so late at night. Sokka had decided they shouldn't stay at the temple any longer. It was dangerous for them to be anywhere too long. So the packing began, along with the fighting. Only six of them would be moving on.
Sokka had made another executive decision and wanted to leave Haru, Teo, The Duke, and his father at the temple for the time being. There had been a lot of arguing, and it was still going on while Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Zuko, and Suki packed up their things and loaded them into Appa's saddle. They were travelling extremely light at this point to avoid overtaxing the bison.
But as the packing wound down and the arguing gained more speed, Aang realized how tired he was and wanted nothing more than to retreat to his quiet room in the Air Temple and sleep for days. He sighed and strayed over to Appa, leaning against a crumbling stone pillar and looking out over the dark canyon. It was the clearest night they'd seen in weeks, not a single cloud in the sky to obscure the bright western stars. The young airbender took a deep, calming breath of the wind coming up out of the misty depths of the canyon and felt remarkably at ease. That was one thing that hadn't changed about this place after a hundred years. The cold air from the canyon was always the same.
Aang opened his eyes, not remembering closing them in the first place, and glanced back toward the campfire. Everyone was on their feet, except Teo, shouting and bickering. Aang frowned. He only counted eight people… who was missing? He was distracted by movement in his peripheral vision and glanced in that direction. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Katara, slipping away from the campfire and the shouting. He glanced around again. Everyone else seemed distracted, so he crept after her.
The young Avatar caught up to the waterbender a few platforms over, quite away from the group and the activity. Here it was dark and cool, the only sound coming from the wind in the canyon. Katara took a seat on the cold stone floor, kicking her legs out over the edge and closing her eyes. He heard her inhale deeply and he smiled. So she had noticed something special about the canyon air too. Then she sighed, and he was somehow drawn to the sound. He stepped closer on impulse and she turned around in surprise.
"Oh, Aang," she sighed again, smiling. "I didn't know you were following me."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to," he began, blushing faintly in embarrassment. "I just wanted to make sure you were alright…"
Katara just smiled. "That's very sweet of you," she said quietly, making him blush a little more. She gracefully ignored it and patted the night-cooled stone beside her. "Come sit," she invited simply.
Aang grinned and hurriedly obliged, craving the feel of her close beside him. The two of them sat in silence for a very long while. It had been such a long time since they had been alone together, it seemed natural to just reacquaint themselves with the others' singular presence. Aang was certainly enjoying it. He had missed this, just sitting with her in peace, the moonlight making her glow.
His thoughts strayed. It was a beautiful place, the Western Air Temple. The view of the sky was so different from within a canyon. The very architecture of the ancient place seemed to hum with peculiarity. It was like no other place in the world. Maybe when all this was over, he could bring Katara back here. They could explore the whole place together, see everything they didn't have time to see this time around…
Comfortable as the silence was, he finally felt he should say something. After all, Sokka or Toph could come looking for them any time. Who knew how long they had?
"You seem awfully thoughtful about something," he said quietly. The corners of her mouth turned up just a little in the beginnings of a smile.
"I suppose I am," she sighed. They were silent for another few moments. He was about to ask if she cared to elaborate, but as always, he never needed to say much around her. Sometimes he was sure she could hear his thoughts.
"I've just been thinking about how we got here, you know?" she murmured, making a nearly imperceptible move closer to him.
"What do you mean?" he replied with a comfortable yawn. No matter how tired he was, it was never enough for him to fall asleep when she was speaking to him.
"Well… originally, the only reason we were travelling together was to get to the North Pole and learn to waterbend."
Aang was a little startled by this realization. He had forgotten all about that.
"Oh yeah…" he muttered, a frown creasing his brow. "That's…"
"So really," Katara continued thoughtfully, smiling up at the sky. "Once we got to the North Pole, there was technically no obligation between the two of us."
This struck Aang rather sharply. It sort of shook him, even frightened him a little.
"You're right," he uttered, eyes wide. "I guess I never really even… questioned it, when you came with me to the Earth Kingdom."
"Neither did I," Katara admitted quietly. "It just seemed the natural thing to do, staying with you." She turned and smiled at him, noticing how stiff and rather pale he had become. She laid a hand on his shoulder and he instantly relaxed, making her laugh a little. "I guess it's just a sign of how much things have changed."
Aang glanced at her. "You think things have changed?" he asked warily, almost weakly.
She tilted her head to the side, curious. "You don't think they have?" she murmured, offering him a gentle smile. But then she stopped and looked away from him, and if Aang didn't know any better he'd say she looked a little worried. She exhaled slowly and focused her attention on her hands.
"You haven't noticed the change in the way you look at me?" she continued, so quietly he had to lean closer to hear her. When he did, his eyes widened and he felt his cheeks burning in surprise and embarrassment. "Or the change in the way you say my name?"
She turned and looked at him, smiling a little sadly at the look of utter shock on his face. It was so sudden, he had no idea how to react. So she had noticed? She had noticed that he was acting differently around her, that he no longer blushed and stammered at every other word she said. She had noticed that he was trying to be stronger for her, that he was falling in love with her. Before he could even begin to come up with a coherent response, she spoke again.
"You haven't noticed the change in the way I hug you, or the way I kiss your cheek?"
This served to shock him even more. He stared at her, mouth hanging open slightly. She laughed, blue eyes glittering in the darkness. She took his hand and leaned her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes comfortably and making him feel rather numb and entirely too warm at the same time.
"If you don't think anything has changed," she began quietly, still smiling faintly. "Then I guess I've been a little too subtle, huh?"
"…Katara," he stammered at length. She glanced up at him. "I don't… are you saying that…"
She laughed again, a quiet, musical sound, and snuggled a little closer to him. He blushed.
"I'm saying that a lot has changed between us," she murmured. "And a lot has changed in my priorities."
"What do you mean?"
"In the beginning it was just about getting to the North Pole," she continued quietly, closing her eyes again. "But then I got to know you, got to caring about you, and something unexpected happened."
"What's that?" he asked, finally getting comfortable and leaning his head on hers, lacing their fingers together.
"I fell in love with you."
By this point, Aang had surmised as much, and all he could do was smile.
"Really," he sighed. He felt her nod against his shoulder. "Yeah… I think you were being a little too subtle."
She laughed, and he laughed with her. For a moment, both of them forgot their arguing travelling companions, they forgot Azula and her plots, they forgot the Fire Lord and the comet. It was just the two of them, side by side.
"I love you," he whispered. She grinned.
"Feels nice to say it, doesn't it?" she yawned a little.
He took a deep breath of the canyon air that never changed and sighed. "Yeah, it does."
They were silent for several long moments.
"By the way, Aang?"
"I love you too."