Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar. I'm merely borrowing Mike and Bryan's phenomenal characters and bending them to my will.

Thanks: To my longsuffering beta, who can never seem to get any rest because I keep pestering her with fic. You know I love you.

Katara was two months into her fifteenth year the first time she discovered the absolute thrill of being pressed flush against Aang's body as she kissed him. She was two months into her sixteenth year when she learned, through much avid exploration, that stroking her tongue along the seam of his lower lip made him moan with pleasure. And she was two months into her seventeenth year when she decided that she wanted to do more than kiss him.

The realization had come upon her suddenly and with very little fanfare. It had been mid-day, mid-summer and she, Toph and he had been in mid-travel. For nearly six weeks, they had been tracking an underground militia organization across the Earth Kingdom territories in an effort to halt their attempts to "purge" the Fire Nation from the continent. The search had finally come to a head the previous morning and the militia was now permanently disbanded, its members having been taken into custody. Once again, the Avatar and his cohorts were hailed for restoring peace and balance and, in the town where the mercenaries were finally defeated, a massive feast had been thrown in their honor.

Consequently, after days on end of relentless searching and interrogations only to be capped with a thoroughly exhausting night of socializing, the three teens were looking for a way to unwind. Toph, as per usual, came up with something outrageous. As they lazed about the camp, listening to Momo and Appa squabble, she decided to break the monotony by demanding that Aang give her a tattoo.

"You want me to what?" he balked, swinging upright to regard her with an expression that was a mixture of amusement and shock.

"You heard me," Toph said. "I want you to give me a tattoo."

"Um…why?" Katara interjected blankly.

Toph lifted her shoulders in a noncommittal shrug. "I dunno…" she replied. "I think it would be cool. I've always imagined having one on the back of my shoulder or maybe on my ankle."

Aang reclined back against the ground and idly scratched his chest, his brows drawn together in a thoughtful frown. "Toph, if you're seriously considering a tattoo, you want to have it done where there's a nice, fleshy cushion, trust me," he grumbled. "The ankle? Not a good idea."

"So you'll do the back of my shoulder then?" Toph exclaimed eagerly. "Sweet!"

For the second time in a span of a few minutes, Aang lurched upright. "Now, hold on a minute! I never said I'd do it at all," he retorted. "Toph, I've never given anyone a tattoo before!"

His protest didn't even provoke a flinch of consideration from Toph. It was evident from the determined expression on her face that she had already made up her mind. Her next words confirmed Aang's suspicions. "But you know how to do it, right?"

He swallowed back his longsuffering groan. "Yeah, I know how," he confessed reluctantly, "but that still doesn't mean I want to do it or that I should. Besides, it's a really painful process, Toph, and we're talking hours of pain."

"I'm not afraid of pain," Toph replied flippantly. "It's not like I'm Katara!"

"Hey!" the aforementioned cried indignantly.

"I'm just saying," Toph pressed, "whatever you can dish out, I can take, Twinkle Toes."

"Toph, it's not that simple," Aang insisted. "This isn't the type of pain you can shrug off. Very intense meditation is required and even I had to be sedated through some of the process."

Katara reached over to brush her fingers lightly down the pale, blue line slopping the length of his bare back, feeling his repressed shudder beneath her fingers. "Aww, but the end results were worth it, right?" she soothed in a whisper close to his ear. "I happen to like your tattoos, Aang."

He blushed slightly at the suggestive tone in her words. "Well, I guess there are some bright spots…" he amended softly with a sideways smile.

"If I can interrupt your little love fest for a moment," Toph interjected obnoxiously. "We were talking about my tattoo, remember?"

"Proposed tattoo," Aang corrected. "And I thought we already decided that it would be too painful."

"We didn't decide anything. I don't care how much it hurts," Toph insisted. "I want one."

"Well, if you're giving Toph one, then I want one too," Katara decided impulsively.

"What? No!" Aang cried stridently. "Absolutely not, Katara! What's wrong with you? Sokka would kill me! And your father would grind up what was left over."

"He's right. Sokka and Hakoda would eat him for lunch," Toph agreed, laughing outright when Katara huffed her annoyance over that injustice. "Lucky for me, I don't have to deal with annoying older brothers or a protective father, therefore… Tattoo, please." She finished her request with a wide, toothy smile. Aang well knew from past experiences that he wasn't going to get anywhere by arguing with her.

"Fine. But, when you're writhing in agony later," he declared darkly, "don't say I didn't warn you."

Katara watched with avid eyes as Aang mixed pigments of soot and oil, one green and the other black, together in two separate stone bowls. Toph had stipulated to him that, not only did she want the symbol of her heritage branded into her shoulder, but she wanted it in color as well. Once he had mixed the colors to a desirable hue, Aang then, with careful and precise hands, traced out the angular symbol of the Earth Kingdom against the pale, supple skin of Toph's shoulder. At that point, Toph was pretty flippant because, while the bamboo tip he used caused her some discomfort, the sensation was a long way from what Toph would have described as pain.

Unfortunately, she was too hasty in her assessment. It was after Aang had finished with the intricate design that the pain actually began. With a tiny rod made of sharpened rock that was fastened to a wooden handle, Aang deftly tapped the ink into Toph's flesh. With each puncture of her tender flesh, Toph hissed audibly, her fingers clenching reflexively in the loose material of her trousers.

Aang's boyish features remained inscrutable, but his anguish over the necessary pain he was inflicting to fulfill Toph's wish was evident in his narrowed stare. Despite the empathy he felt, however, he conducted himself efficiently, his countenance drawn in a frown of pure concentration as he applied the pigment to Toph's skin. Every so often his rhythmic tapping was interrupted with a hushed admonishment for Toph to keep still as she had begun to flinch and fidget beneath his handiwork. The young earthbender, biting down on her lower lip to keep from crying out, told him in very succinct terms what he could do to himself and for how long. Her harsh insults were met with nothing more than Aang's amused laughter, and his general good-natured response to Toph's unrepentant surliness made Katara smile. That was the very moment she decided.

She wanted to make love to Aang.

"Are you almost finished?" Toph ground out three, agonizing hours later. "How long can one little symbol take…gah…" A fine sheen of perspiration had broken out over her body and she had gotten to the point where she would wince even long before the sharp, stone tool made contact with her battered skin.

Dabbing at the tiny pinpoints of blood that welled up from her flesh with a clean cloth, Aang reminded her mildly, "You're the one that wanted this, remember? I've just got to fill in a bit more at the bottom and then I'm done." Toph responded to his smart retort by flicking her wrist to command an earthen spike from the ground to jab into his left buttock. Yelping with surprise and pain, Aang narrowed his eyes and made sure his next prick to her skin was extra forceful.

"Ow!" Toph grated irately, twisting around to skewer him with a blind glare. "You did that on purpose!"

"Did I?" Aang queried with cherubic innocence. "My hand must have slipped."

"Now, now, children settle down and play nice," Katara reprimanded them drolly with an exasperated roll of her eyes. "I think you both need a break. Aang, why don't you let Toph have a breather? In the meantime, I'll mix something up for her that will help with the pain."

"Thank goodness," Toph groaned, collapsing onto her stomach in a relieved heap. "I wish you'd thought of it sooner." A few feet away, Katara refrained from reminding her that she was the one who insisted she could take the pain. "This is cruel and inhuman," Toph grumbled and, because she suspected Aang was about make yet another "I told you so" comment, she added in dire warning, without even lifting her head, "I wouldn't say it if I were you. It won't have good results. Trust me."

Ten minutes later, Katara presented Toph with a sweet smelling liquid in an earthenware bowl. "It's an old recipe I learned from my grandmother," she explained. "It'll take the edge off the pain and help you relax."

"Bless you, Katara," Toph breathed gratefully after Katara presented her with the mysterious elixir. She accepted it with eager hands, deeply inhaling the slightly minty scent. "I hope it tastes as good as it smells."

"Now, it might make you feel a little woozy," Katara warned her as Toph began to gulp it down. Her eyes flared with concern. "You should probably take it easy, Toph. It can pack a wallop."

Toph barely heard her warning. The liquid was so good; she had already downed half of it before Katara had even finished speaking. It wasn't just the taste she found enjoyable either. Already a curious warmth was beginning to pervade her body, filling her with boneless contentment and numbing the throbbing heat in her shoulder. By the time she had finished off the broth, she didn't feel the pain at all. In fact, she felt ridiculously happy.

She offered Katara a drunken smile along with the empty bowl. "That was good."

"You weren't supposed to drink the whole thing," Katara said with a chagrined frown.

"Thanks, Katara!" Toph exclaimed cheerfully. "I feel great!"

"I'll just bet you do," Katara muttered under her breath.

Swiping a hand across her mouth, Toph tossed a wide smile in Aang's direction. "Okay, Twinkle Toes," she said, resuming her kneeling position before him and presenting him with her back, "let's do this thing."

There was little doubt the second time around that Toph was most definitely relaxed. When Aang began his sharp tapping into her skin, Toph didn't even flinch, much less mewl in anguish. Instead, she chattered on inanely about every outlandish thing that popped into her head, from earthbending sculptures to why there was so preciously little lint between her toes, while Aang and Katara listened on in eye-rolling amusement. Aang had just finished applying the last of the green pigment to her flesh when Toph suddenly halted mid-sentence and then, without warning, keeled over face first into the dirt.

"Toph!" Aang cried as he and Katara scrambled to her side. Together, they gingerly flipped her over onto her back, careful to avoid contaminating her fresh tattoo. Seconds later, they expelled a mutual sigh of relief when a very loud, very long snore escaped Toph's parted lips. Aang slumped forward with a small, disconcerted laugh. "O…kay," he drawled slowly as Toph continued to snore loudly. "Was she supposed to do that?"

"Well, she did drink a little more than I intended," Katara hedged sheepishly.

"Will she be okay?" Aang wondered. "It's not going to hurt her, is it?"

"She'll be fine," Katara reassured him. "She'll probably sleep most of the night and wake up with a throbbing headache tomorrow morning. Just a little warning…she'll likely be really crabby."

"So she'll be normal," Aang concluded wryly.

Katara laughed. "Yeah. I guess you're right." She stared down at Toph's sleeping face and heaved a large sigh. "Come on," she bid Aang. "Let's dress her tattoo and get her over to my sleeping bag. She'll be more comfortable there."

Once they finished tending to Toph and had tucked her comfortably into Katara's sleeping bag, they then turned their attention to feeding Momo and Appa dinner. As they divvied up the food rations between the bison and lemur, Katara favored Aang with a wry, sideways smile. "So, I know the real reason you didn't want to give me a tattoo earlier," she told him. Smiling, Aang raised his brows in challenge. "I don't believe for one second that you were afraid of Sokka or my father's reaction at all," she went on knowingly. "I think you were afraid of hurting me and that's why you said no."

In an instant, Aang's bravado dissipated. "Am I that transparent?"


Aang sighed and folded down to the ground, not even bothering with pretense. "It's not that I'm against you having one," he explained. "That's a decision that you get to make for yourself, Katara. I don't want you to think I'm trying to tell you what to do. It's just…I can't be the one to give it to you."

Katara plopped down beside him. "That's okay," she replied airily. "I really didn't want one anyway."

Gaping at her, Aang choked out a wry laugh. "What?"

"It was the principle involved, Aang," Katara explained in a matter-of-fact tone. "I just didn't think it was fair that Toph was going to get one and not me."

Aang shook his head at her, half amused, half flustered. "You are so confusing."

"Yeah, I know," she agreed, leaning over to kiss him soundly on the lips. When she reared back to regard him a moment later, he was smiling at her in the most infatuated way.

"Do that again," he whispered.

"Do what again?" she whispered back.

"Kiss me," he commanded softly.

"With pleasure," she giggled breathlessly before pressing her lips to his once more.

This time she lingered, sighing into his mouth when she felt his fingers tunnel into her hair. Aang pulled her closer, their kiss shifting and deepening as they angled their bodies closer. Katara's hand beat at the base of his throat, playing with the idea of drifting lower and skimming the seldom explored terrain of his bare chest. She started to feather her fingers across the crest of his nipple when, across the campsite, Toph suddenly released a billowing snore, startling them apart.

They regarded one another with guilty, excited blushes. "Maybe we should go someplace else," Katara suggested quietly after Toph settled down. "I feel weird doing this with her ten feet away. I keep expecting her to pop up and shout, 'Hands where I can sense them!'"

After two years of traveling together, it had become rather obvious to Aang and Katara that Toph had appointed herself as their unofficial chaperone. Rarely did they have a moment of complete privacy that wasn't ruined with stunning alacrity by Toph's frequent interruptions. Though she hadn't yet admitted to it, Katara suspected her brother was behind Toph's sudden bid at "responsibility." She made a mental note to kick Sokka the next time she saw him.

"Come on," she cajoled Aang, rolling to her feet and taking hold of his hand to tug him after her. "I know someplace we can go and that way we don't have to worry about waking her." If there was one time Katara did not want Toph to interrupt, it was this one.

"I don't know, Katara," Aang hedged, hesitating for many reasons, but only voicing his concern for one of them. "Should we leave Toph alone right now? Will she be okay by herself?"

"Aang, she'll be out til sunrise," Katara insisted as she pulled him towards the outer edge of the camp. "Stop worrying. Come with me."

When she looked at him with her imploring, half-lidded blue eyes, Aang knew very well he wasn't going to refuse her. As they tripped past a contented and munching Appa, Aang said, "Keep an eye on her, okay, buddy?"

Apparently, Momo didn't seem to think that particular assignment included him as well because he scampered off after Katara and Aang into the dense thicket of trees. Katara caught sight of after only a few seconds. "Go back to camp, Momo," she ordered him in a low tone as to not be overheard by Aang. "Aang and I don't want company this time." When the lemur continued to loiter in wary suspicion she knelt down and added in shameless bribe, "There's a moon peach in it for you." That did it. Momo scampered back to camp with a happy swish of his tail.

Once Katara was satisfied that she and Aang had sufficient privacy, she abruptly pulled him against her, leaning up on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck and seal her mouth to his. Though Katara didn't really have a clear idea what was involved in seducing a man, she had to imagine she was on the right track when Aang's arms immediately banded around her waist. He hoisted her against him, so that her toes were just barely glancing the ground, and together they tumbled back into a nearby tree, kissing like crazy.

Katara cupped the back of Aang's head, holding him captive to her avid kiss, only vaguely aware that Aang was taking them lower to the ground. And then they were on their knees, exchanging deep kisses and soft whispers, pressing as closely together as the barrier of their clothing would allow. In the silence of the forest, the thumping sound of their thundering heartbeats seemed magnified.

With seeking hands, Aang freed Katara's hair bun, letting the thick curls flow completely over his hands and across Katara's shoulders and back. She responded by deepening the kiss, her tongue making an intimate and thorough sweep of his mouth's warm interior. He cupped her face in his hands, slanting his lips over hers again and again, giving back as much passion as he received.

He was so lost in their kiss, so lost in her, that he didn't immediately take note of the fact that she was nudging him back into the ground until she was fully straddling his lap and wrapping her legs securely around his waist. She scooted into his body, determined to leave not even an inch of space between them. The very instant Katara made contact with his rigid arousal; Aang tore his mouth from hers with a surprised gasp. He was vibrantly aware of the throbbing he made against her warm center. He wondered in deep mortification if Katara was aware of it too.

"What's wrong?" Katara whispered when he deftly avoided meeting her eyes. "Why did you stop?"

"It's just…I…uh…you see…um…this um…this position is uh…" Aang stammered ineffectually. He closed his eyes, swallowing audibly before trying again, as unsuccessful with his attempts to explain the second time as he'd been the first time. "I'm just wondering…if you… What I'm trying to ask is if…"

"Shh…" Katara whispered, gently framing his face in her hands and bringing his darting gaze to her steady one. "It's okay. I don't mind it."

Aang surveyed her with surprised eyes, both relieved and aroused by her quiet admission. "You don't?"

She smiled at him, unconsciously seductive even while she was trying to be reassuring. "No, I don't mind," Katara reiterated softly. "I like how you feel, Aang."

Her words had an intoxicating effect. There was little need for her to initiate the kiss this time because Aang was more than eager. He bunched one hand in her hair while the other swept the expanse of her trim back, kissing her thoroughly and deeply. Eventually, though kissing failed to be enough for them. They needed to be closer. They needed to touch more. Almost instinctively, the two young lovers began rocking against each other, slowly and unconsciously at first and then in a more definitive rhythm when they became aware of the delicious friction their sinuous movements created.

Only when Katara began skating her lips along his jaw line and he felt her hand creeping down between them in a determined trek towards his groin did Aang get the vague sense that they were going too far. In a feat of willpower that nearly made him whimper aloud, Aang captured her hand before she could touch him. "Don't do that…" he bid her in weak protest.

Katara nuzzled against his cheek. "What's the matter?" she wondered softly. "I just want to be close to you, Aang. Don't you want to be close?"

When she tried to kiss him again, Aang managed to avoid her intent by capturing her head between his hands, only to fail seconds later when he yielded to her insistence to nuzzle against his lips. Before long they were kissing again and Aang forgot all the reasons why he was supposed to be stopping them. Katara ground her body against the jutting hardness positioned at her aching center, seeking to quell the warm pulsing there, but only magnifying it instead. She groaned into his mouth with the need to appease the throbbing and swept Aang's hand from her neck to bring it down over the curve of her breast.

Aang required no further invitation than that. He eagerly kneaded her soft flesh without coaxing, familiarizing himself with the contours of her body through the thin fabric of her tunic. Her nipple hardened under the stroking insistence of his nimble fingers. Katara gasped her approval, dragging her lips around to his ear to tell him the words foremost in her mind right then.

"Aang…Aang," she whispered in a breathless gasp as he brought around his other hand to give the same attention to her other breast. She pressed into his body, arching herself forward to allow greater access to his questing hands. "I want to make love."

Those words managed to do what nothing else had. They brought Aang crashing back to reality. He was abruptly shaken from the haze of desire surrounding them, becoming vibrantly aware of the fact they were on the cold ground, in the middle of an unknown forest about to go way too far. Without warning, he bracketed Katara's waist with his hands and lifted her from his lap with a rueful groan before rolling away from Katara completely. With his back to her, Aang loosely drew up his knees and dropped his head forward, taking in several deep, gulping breaths in a desperate attempt to calm his thoughts and his desire.

Seconds later, he felt Katara's tentative fingers sliding across his bare shoulder. "Aang?" she queried timidly. "Did I do something wrong?"

Without looking at her, he answered her with a strangled, "No."

Though his answer was mildly comforting, Katara still found herself blinking back tears over his unexpected reaction. "Is it that you don't want to make love?" she wondered in a thickened tone.

He suppressed a shudder just to hear her utter the words again even as his erection gave a reactive leap. "No," he groaned deeply. "I want to make love."

Katara slumped beside him, relieved enough to tease him with a teary, bantering, "With me?"

"Of course with you, Katara!" he half laughed, half balked that she should even joke with him about it being otherwise. "I want you so much right now I can't even touch you."

"Then why are you sitting here about to hyperventilate instead of…well, you know?" Katara wondered shyly. "I mean…I want you and you want me, so…why not?"

"It's not the right time," he answered vaguely.

She frowned at his answer. "You mean because you don't want to leave Toph unattended for too long?" Katara asked.

"No, I mean because it's not the right time," Aang reiterated firmly. He looked over at her then, biting his lip when he confessed, "I want to wait."

"Wait?" Katara parroted blankly. "For what?"

"I want to wait until we're married," Aang clarified. "I want to make love to you, Katara, but I want to be married to you when I do."

"Um…kay," Katara replied slowly, only because she had no idea how else she should respond to him. Of all the reactions she had expected, this one had never crossed her mind.

Aang released a self-deprecating snort at her expression. "You think it's weird, don't you?"

"No. No! I don't think it's weird," Katara reassured him quickly. "I…I'm just surprised. Why haven't you ever said anything about this before?"

"Well, it's not like we ever came this close before," Aang replied defensively. "You've never said anything about wanting to make love in the past and…well, if I had just randomly brought it up in conversation, you would have swatted me and you know it!"

"You're probably right," Katara conceded fairly. "So…is this like an Air Nomad thing?"

"No, it's not," he sighed expansively. "It's an Aang thing." He shifted around to face her then, gathering her hands into his as he met her gaze with earnest eyes. "Katara, I don't have many things I can give you. I'm not rich. I don't have any possessions. I don't even really have a home. The most precious thing I have to give you is myself, my body. And when we make love, I want it to be because I belong to you in every way possible…because you belong to me in every way possible and not because our bodies are…um…in a highly aroused state. I don't want our first time to be some rushed grope in the middle of a forest while we're dodging Toph, who, incidentally, is unconscious right now. You deserve more than that and so do I. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Hmm…so you want us to belong to each other first? That's some pretty serious stuff. It sounds a whole lot like possession and attachment to me," Katara teased him wryly. "Aren't those things specifically against the Air Nomad teachings?"

"Like I said before," he laughed softly, "it's an Aang thing. I miss my people and I want to hold on to their ways and traditions as long as I can. But, as much as I hate it, they're gone and I'm here and I need to make my own traditions…with you, Katara. I can't be unattached to you. I don't want to be. I don't know how."

"Neither do I," she whispered.

"I just want our first time together to be an affirmation of the sacred pledges we'll make to each other. It just…feels right," Aang explained softly. "Besides, it seems to me like I waited forever just to kiss you. I think I can wait a little while longer to make love to you."

"I think I can too," Katara agreed softly. "Now that I've had a chance to let it sink in, I like the idea of waiting."

"You do?" Aang prompted in a hopeful tone. "You're not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?"

"No," she assured him. "You're right. I think it would be better if we waited. It's kind of romantic. Not to mention it's also nice to finally have some verbal confirmation that you were, at least, thinking about marrying me," she concluded with an eye roll.

"I thought that was a given."

"Haven't you learned by now, young airbender?" she teased him, reaching out to tweak his nose. "Never assume."

"Yes, I want to marry you," he confirmed laughingly. "I've wanted to marry you since I was twelve years old."

"Wow, that's a really good answer," she commended as he pulled her close. "It almost makes up for the fact you totally rejected me a little while ago."

"It's completely true," Aang murmured, his breath stirring warmly against her cheek as he cradled her even closer. "And I didn't reject you. I…I postponed your efforts," he phrased creatively.

"Oh, is that what you did?" she laughed as he began to nuzzle her.

"That's what I did." He nipped at her ear, touching his tongue to her sensitive lobe. "So…if I kiss you again, will you promise not to jump me like you did before?" he teased her.

Katara wrapped her arms around his neck and replied rather boldly, "Well, waiting doesn't mean we can't have some fun, now does it? We can still have fun, can't we?"

Aang was laughing softly when he sealed his mouth to hers and proceeded to show Katara exactly just how much "fun" they could have while they waited.