GUYS I HAVE WRITER'S BLOCK LIKE WHOA. It's rough. And aggravating. So sorry Parlor Tricks is taking so long. But I still managed to squeeze this one out. I've been planning it for a while. It's the sequel to TO DIE FOR, a oneshot from a while back. You don't have to read it to understand this, but it'll help. Shameless self promotion for the win.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar
"You would have killed him."
Katara looked down. She couldn't bear to look at Aang anymore. Not with that look on his face. That anger. That disappointment. That scorn.
"Aang…" she murmured, but she could barely breathe, let alone speak.
Aang just leveled his icy gaze at her. "I can't be with someone like you," he said darkly.
She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. "What?" she asked, breathless.
"You and I believe very different things about the value of life," he replied, hatred in his voice that drove all the air from her lungs. "I can't be with someone like you."
"No," she whispered. Darkness closed in around her, swallowing him up. Leaving her alone.
"Katara, wake up."
Katara sat bolt upright, taking shallow gasping breaths. She was freezing cold and shaking, approaching complete hysterics in a matter of seconds.
"Aang," she gasped, roughly wiping her eyes and looking around wildly. "Oh, Aang… where…"
All of a sudden his arms were around her, wrapping her in warmth. She exhaled heavily against his bare chest, still shaking violently. But the Avatar's arms were firm around her, his chest stable, his breath against the top her of head steady.
"Katara," he whispered, gathering her closer. She let out another shuddering breath and pressed her forehead to his chest, concentrating on his heartbeat. It was quicker than usual. He was worried for her. "Katara, what's wrong?"
Katara didn't reply right away. She still wasn't quite sure what was going on. She opened weary eyes and glanced out past Aang's arms, a little frightened of what she might see. Something had scared her. But no, nothing to be afraid of. They were in their bed in their little room at the Southern Air Temple. Right where they were supposed to be.
"Nightmare," she finally whispered, closing her eyes again. She started idly tracing the contours of the muscles on his abdomen with the tip of her index finger. His hands were slowly sliding up and down her back, so warm and solid, and she finally stopped shaking. "Bad nightmare."
"You okay now?" he murmured, stifling a yawn. "Want to tell me about it?"
Katara opened her mouth to respond but couldn't get started. How could she even begin to tell him about that terrible dream?
"You asked me once," she finally whispered. "If I was willing to die for you."
She felt him stiffen in surprise. At length, he quietly said, "I remember."
"I told you I was without a second thought."
"I remember that too."
Katara was silent for a while. She took a deep breath and her hand fell still on his abdomen.
"If you wanted to truly test my devotion to you… you were asking the wrong question," she said lowly.
Aang pulled away from her, holding her at arm's length by her shoulders. His eyes were wide and brimming with confusion.
"What do you mean?" he finally asked, a little slowly, warily.
Katara sighed and looked down, lost in thought. "I loved my mother more than anything," she said quietly. The look of confusion on Aang's face deepened, but she didn't seem to notice. "She died to protect me. But then I was finally faced with a chance to avenge her, you remember?"
Aang nodded. "I told you not to," he said simply.
Katara shook her head. "I didn't want to listen to you," she murmured. "I knew you were the better person and I liked it that way. But when I finally found him…"
She paused for a long time. Aang remained silent. She finally glanced up at him, a faraway, haunted look in her eyes.
"I couldn't kill him," she whispered, sounding almost bitter. "I couldn't hurt him. I couldn't even touch him. I couldn't kill someone for my mother, for myself."
"That's a good thing," Aang pointed out, smiling a little. She shook her head again and his face fell.
"I have to tell you something that I should have told you a long time ago," she said lowly. He just nodded. She sighed and looked down. "When Zuko first joined us at the Western Air Temple… I told him I would kill him if he hurt you."
The silence from Aang was deafening. He was visibly stunned. Katara held his gaze steadily.
"It wasn't an empty threat, either," she continued recklessly as her words sunk in. "They weren't just words. I was serious. If he had hurt you, I wouldn't have hesitated to end his life."
"Katara…" he finally stammered. Katara looked down again.
"Dying for you isn't the worst thing I could do," she whispered. "I would kill for you."
"Katara… I don't want you to kill anyone," he said quietly.
"I know," she replied lightly, shrugging. "But if it came down to it, I would anyway. I'm a selfish person, Aang. I want to be with you, and as long as you still want me, I'll do whatever it takes to keep you alive and at my side."
Aang sighed and gathered her into his arms again. She closed her eyes and eagerly welcomed his embrace, snuggling closer to his chest.
"You know Katara… I would… do the same for you," he said slowly.
Katara shook her head. "I don't want you to do that for me," she murmured. "You wouldn't even kill the Fire Lord, and that was for the whole world. I couldn't stand it if you did that for me."
"Katara, that isn't fair to you at all," he murmured, exhaling gently into her hair. She sighed. "If you would sacrifice your spiritual needs for me, I should be able to do the same for you."
"Our spiritual needs are different," she reasoned. "You were raised with the belief that all life is sacred, no matter what. You stuck to that even in the face of the one man everyone would have forgiven you for killing."
Aang didn't respond. The temple was quiet and cool in the darkness of the night as the silence stretched out between them. Katara yawned.
"I was raised in the middle of a war," she continued, yawning again. "You fight for what you love, no matter the cost." She laid a hand on his chest, fingers drumming in time with his heartbeat. "You're different, Aang. That's why I love you. You can find another way."
Aang was silent again. They both yawned.
"So what was your nightmare about?" he asked quietly.
She was quiet this time. "Well… I dreamt that I told you I would kill for you."
"And?" he prompted.
She looked down. "You left me."
"What?" Aang shouted in surprise, startling Katara and nearly tossing her from his lap. "Katara, I would never… you know I would never…" he stammered, too aghast to string a sentence together.
She smiled, laughing a little. "I know you would never leave me," she murmured, leaning up and kissing his cheek. "That's why it was such a bad dream."
He sighed heavily to settle himself. "Alright then," he said at length. "If you're okay, we should get back to sleep."
"I'm okay," she yawned, and the two of them snuggled under the covers. Katara curled up against his chest as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and he accepted her into his arms just as easily. Aang didn't dream the rest of the night.
Katara did. In the morning, she wouldn't remember it well. Just snatches of an argument between herself and Aang about what to name their children. She was inexplicably happy all day.