When they stepped into the teashop, everyone literally froze. Though only five people were present, Aang felt like the entire world was staring him down. He gulped.
"I guess this is what they mean by a captive audience," Toph muttered to Aang in an aside. She scooted closer to him, smooshing Momo uncomfortably between their shoulders. After much squirming, the little lemur was able to break free and scamper to relative safety. "Is everyone gawking at us?" the blind earthbender hissed to her airbending companion.
"Yup," he answered shortly.
Toph swallowed down a groan of irony. "That's what I thought."
Very slowly, one by one, their friends came to their feet, their expressions ranging from surprise to speechless shock. Familiar and sorely missed faces filled Aang's field of vision, old and new friends draped in the latest Earth Kingdom fashions, but Aang zeroed in on one in particular. She was dressed in an ornate, lime green robe, her glossy, dark hair pulled back from her face and flowing loosely down her back. Aang had almost forgotten how beautiful she was and, when presented with the reality again after such long separation, the emotional impact was like a blow to the chest. Air leaked from his lungs in an enamored gasp.
After what she'd written to him in her letter, Aang fully expected to find Katara's blue eyes leaping with righteous anger, but she didn't look angry at all. Instead, her gaze was dark and shimmery with a mixture of solemnity and relief. He could read everything in her eyes and he knew unequivocally that she had missed him.
She smiled at him tentatively. He smiled back. A wealth of feeling transferred between them. In that moment, it felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. But, in spite of that, Katara didn't come to him and Aang had already made up his mind that he wasn't going to go to her. If she wanted things resolved between them, she was going to have to take the steps necessary to do it.
Sokka was the first to shatter the silence filling the spacious teashop. Smiling broadly, he jogged forward to greet the two dusty travelers with open arms. Suki followed his cue while Katara, Zuko, Iroh and Mai hung back, each one for very different reasons.
"Well, look who's alive and well!" Sokka laughed loudly. "It's about time you two showed up! We were starting to think we'd have to come after you." While Toph and Suki exchanged warm greetings, Aang and Sokka had their own reunion.
"Welcome back, buddy," Sokka said as he embraced Aang, adding in a whisper before he pulled back, "Just a heads up…you've got some serious explaining to do with Katara."
"Is she mad at me?" Aang wondered in a low tone.
"Not mad," Sokka replied, shaking his head. "Hurt."
Aang was still grappling with his guilt over that tidbit when Zuko approached him. The Firelord bowed before him respectively before awkwardly enfolding the younger boy in a brief, but friendly hug. "Glad you made it back safely," he told Aang sincerely.
Through concerted effort, Aang managed to break the silent stare he held with Katara and address Zuko directly when he replied, "It's good to be back."
"Uncle, could you brew us a pot of tea?" Zuko asked the retired Fire Nation general with a careless smile. "These two look like they could use a cup."
"It would be my pleasure," Iroh said. "Welcome back, Avatar Aang and young earthbending companion."
"Thank you, General Iroh," both Toph and Aang answered simultaneously.
As Iroh excused himself to fulfill his nephew's request, Zuko rocked back on his heels to regard Aang with a mildly sardonic expression. "You know, when I sent you after General Gang Huo, I never expected you'd make a vacation out of it," he teased wryly.
"If your idea of a vacation is being dragged through the desert in a net with no food or water then you seriously need to get out more, Zuko," Toph quipped.
"Is that what happened to you?" Katara wondered sharply. She cut a fretful glance towards Aang. "You never mentioned anything like that in your letters."
"I didn't want you to worry," Aang replied softly.
The air was fairly thick with the tension between them. Though they were separated by no more than twenty feet, the distance could have been an ocean-wide chasm for all the closeness they felt at the moment. It was evident that both of them wanted to bridge the space between them, but neither was willing to sacrifice their pride to do it. And so they exchanged wordless, but meaningful glances, saying much with their eyes even as they said next to nothing with their mouths.
Sokka cleared his throat loudly in hopes of easing the mounting stress levels in the room. "Um…Aang, Toph," he began, "you guys haven't had the opportunity to meet Zuko's girl yet, have you?"
"Zuko has a girl?" Toph guffawed.
"Yes, I do!" Zuko declared, clearly insulted by her unspoken insinuation that the idea was ludicrous. He stood aside to wave the aforementioned forward. "Mai, come over here. I want to formally introduce you to my friends."
"That's really not necessary, Zuko," Mai remarked as she came to stand alongside her boyfriend, "Once you've thrown a knife at someone's head, an introduction seems trite after that." Aang managed to swallow back his yelp of surprise at discovering that Zuko's girlfriend was none other than Azula's shuriken wielding sidekick. He might have noticed her before had he not been so focused on Katara. Despite, his best attempt to maintain his composure, however, Aang was horrified and must have looked it because Mai said, "Relax. I'm unarmed."
"You are?" he breathed in relief.
"Well no, not really," she contradicted dryly, "but I'm not going to attack you so you can drop the defensive stance."
Upon immediate awareness that he had, indeed, assumed a defensive pose, Aang relaxed. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Force of habit."
"It's okay," Mai replied with a measure of sardonic amusement, "I seem to bring out that side in you people."
"I'm definitely still reeling," Toph interjected loudly. "When exactly did this happen and where was I?"
"It happened a long time ago," Sokka sang airily. "You and Aang might have known that if you hadn't decided to disappear for a month."
"Speaking of your disappearance," Suki chimed in, "how did your visit with your parents go, Toph?"
"It was…surprising," Toph answered vaguely.
"It must have been," Katara commented from the fringes of their circle. "Aang only intended to drop you off and ended up deciding to stay."
"Well, that's because I found out some news that kind of freaked me out," Toph explained, "and Aang was good enough to stay behind and hold my hand."
"Why? What happened?" Sokka asked.
"I'm going to be a big sister," Toph announced wryly.
"What?" her friends chorused simultaneously.
"My mom's having a baby," she clarified. "It should be here in another three months."
"Aang didn't mention that in his letter either," Katara remarked woodenly. Yet another wordless exchange passed between her and Aang. He was the first to look away.
"That's my fault," Toph spoke up in Aang's defense. "I wasn't sure until recently how I even felt about the whole thing. Now that I've had some time to adjust, I think it's growing on me."
"Really?" Aang chirped, clearly pleased by her change of heart.
"Baby steps, Aang," Toph prefaced laughingly, "I'm taking baby steps, but yeah…it's growing on me."
"That's great, Toph," he murmured. The two traded soft smiles, smiles of mutual understanding and those smiles did not escape Katara's notice. She fumed inwardly. When Toph became aware of the sudden increase in Katara's heartbeat she wisely and discreetly put a bit of distance between her and Aang.
"So how long did you end up staying with your folks?" Sokka wanted to know.
"Just a week," Toph said, "and then we made a beeline for the South Pole."
"Wow. You must have just missed us," Suki laughed. "We were trying to delay leaving as long as possible because we didn't want you guys to get there and find us gone, but Zuko was getting impatient."
"What can I say?" the older boy sighed, "Being Firelord isn't all it's cracked up to be, trust me. It was time to get away." He heaved a maudlin sigh. "Sometimes, I almost miss living the life of a fugitive."
"I'll remember you said that," his uncle chuckled as he reentered the main area with a steaming pot of tea.
"Almost, Uncle," Zuko stressed. "I said almost."
Iroh merely smiled and began pouring out cups of tea when he noticed Aang and Toph stifling yawns from the corner of his eye. "You two are exhausted," he realized as he passed them their cups.
"We rode Appa straight through," Toph explained. "I was able to get some sleep in the saddle, but Aang's been up the whole time."
"I have a small room upstairs," Iroh told him. "You should go up and rest."
"No, I'm fine," Aang replied, only to spoil the protest with another broad yawn.
"Go to bed, Aang," Sokka nudged. "We've waited for you this long. We can hang tight a few more hours." He made the last of that statement while directing a pointed glance towards his sister.
"Sokka's right," Katara agreed haltingly. "You should rest. We'll be here when you wake up."
Aang didn't realize how rigid with tension his body was until she gave the reassurance. He practically melted into the floor with relief afterwards, but was quick to compose himself and mask the reaction. A few moments later, as Iroh ushered him off upstairs, Aang turned to look at Katara, his gaze holding hers until he disappeared completely from sight.
"He's pretty tired," Toph remarked as she exited the small apartment, startling Katara at the sudden sound of her voice. The taller girl jumped to a stop in her frenetic pacing and whipped around to face her.
"You scared me to death," Katara sighed, pressing a hand to her knocking heart.
Toph shrugged. "Sorry. I just finished getting cleaned up. How was I supposed to know you were going to be creeping outside in the hallway like a bandit?"
"That's not what I was doing!" Katara denied heatedly. "I'm just waiting for him to wake up. It's been almost two hours now."
"And it will probably be longer," Toph warned her. "I told you, we rode Appa all night to get here. Boy and bison are wiped out."
"Yeah, he did look pretty tired earlier," Katara mumbled. "I guess I'm just really eager to talk to him. Seems like I've missed out on a lot these past few weeks."
An awkward beat of silence thumped between them. Both girls fought the inclination to fidget, but for very different reasons. Katara was wondering what Aang might have possibly confided in Toph during the weeks they had spent together. She was jealous of the newfound closeness that seemed to have sprung between them, but felt she had very little right to comment on it. Toph, on the other hand, was wondering how she could possibly have a calm conversation with Katara when the kiss with Aang was still so fresh in her mind. She felt guilty; a guilt that was only compounded by Katara's all too obvious misery. Toph and Katara knew they needed to talk yet, at the same time, had little idea how to go about doing so.
"Why don't you give him a couple of hours?" Toph advised after clearing her throat inelegantly, "I'm sure he'll be ready to talk to you then." She started to walk away, eager to beat a retreat, but Katara stopped her before she'd even taken a single step.
"Toph, wait a minute!" Katara implored, "I need to ask you something."
With an inward groan, Toph pivoted around to face her. "What?"
Katara nervously twirled a lock of hair about her finger. "Did Aang...I mean...has he said anything to you?"
"Said anything about what?"
"About me. Has he said anything to you about me?"
Once again, Toph had to fight down the urge to squirm. The outward façade of calm she presented to Katara never betrayed even a glimpse of her inner turmoil, however. To Katara, Toph was as cool as she'd always been.
"Katara, maybe that's something you should ask Aang," Toph advised the older girl. She hoped that would put a swift end to the conversation. It didn't.
"I'm asking you," Katara insisted stubbornly only to receive Toph's equally stubborn silence. "Please, Toph," she whispered, "I need to know and I can't ask Aang. I don't think Aang wants to talk to me."
"It's not my place to say anything."
Katara dropped her eyes. "I don't know what to say to him, okay," she mumbled. "He's...he's been so distant lately and I don't know why."
"You don't know?" Toph flared, her temper rising abruptly. "Well, why don't you think about it long and hard, Katara? You're a smart girl. I'm sure you can figure it out!"
"Excuse me?" Katara burst out hotly.
"You want Aang to talk to you about what he's feeling?" Toph challenged, "Maybe you could try doing the same!"
"So he has said something to you," Katara snapped knowingly. "I knew it!"
"What? He can't talk to me now?"
"It's between us, Toph."
"Oh please, Katara," Toph snorted, "You don't get to be jealous right now, not when this whole mess is your fault!"
Katara scowled at her, blue eyes narrowed dangerously. "What's that supposed to mean?" She folded her arms defensively. "And who says I'm jealous?" she bluffed.
"You might be able to fool everyone else, but not me," Toph reminded her.
"What's your point, Toph?"
"My point is you need to open your mouth!" Toph fired tersely. "Take some responsibility and go after what you want. Stop waiting on Aang to do it for you!"
"What? I'm not—,"
"Save it!" Toph snapped, thrusting out her hand for silence, "I'm not interested in your excuses! I'm going to tell you how it is and you're going to shut your hole and listen to me!
"Aang and I have gotten to know each other pretty well in the last few weeks," she recounted. "We've pushed each other's buttons and had each other's backs. We're close and I care about what happens to him. He's a great guy, Katara, and if you can't see that," she ground on, poking a finger in the center of Katara's chest for emphasis, "if you don't have the guts to tell him what he means to you after everything that's happened, then leave him alone!"
Having said her piece, Toph turned on her heel then and stomped away, leaving Katara standing alone in the corridor, speechless and shaking in her wake.
Aang awoke in the gossamer haze of midday. For a brief second, he was disoriented to his surroundings and rolled over onto his side expecting to find Toph's earth tent. Instead, he was greeted with empty room and, gradually, he began to remember where he was. Sighing wearily, Aang flopped back onto his back and closed his eyes, contemplating his next move. He knew he couldn't put off talking to Katara any longer and, truthfully, he didn't want to. They had lived with uncertainty for long enough. It was time for them both to get the answers they needed and move on from there.
Resolving himself for the task ahead, Aang rolled to his feet and took a few moments to collect himself. However, when he pulled open the door to go downstairs to the teashop, he was surprised to find Katara sitting outside in the hallway, her back pressed against the wall and knees drawn securely to her chest. At the sound of his exit, she tipped a glance up at him.
"Hey," she whispered simply.
"Hey," he whispered back. "Have you been sitting out here long?"
She shrugged. "A couple of hours. Maybe more."
"You have not been sitting out here that long," he gasped incredulously.
"Yeah," she confirmed with a wry nod.
"You should have woken me up," he told her.
"It's okay," Katara replied. "You needed your rest and I needed this time to think of what I was going to say to you."
He folded down beside her with a sorrowful sigh. "You're mad at me," he surmised quietly.
"No, I'm not," Katara refuted softly. He gave her a skeptical look, causing her to duck her head with a sheepish blush. "Well, not anymore anyway." She spared him a timid glance. "Are you mad at me?"
"I…I don't know," he answered gruffly. "Everything is jumbled up in my head. But I want you to know that I didn't mean to keep you waiting as long as I did. I had every intention of keeping my promise to you and I kept it."
"I know," she whispered, "I was just…I was really looking forward to you being there."
He stared at her with round eyes. "You were?"
Katara bobbed a nod. "I missed you every day, Aang." They lapsed into uneasy quiet, sneaking furtive glances at one another from beneath their lashes. Finally, when Katara could stand the silence no longer, she blurted, "How's your arm?"
"Better," he answered hoarsely.
"Did it leave a bad scar?"
"Not too bad."
"Maybe I can look at it later," she offered, "if you want."
"Sure. Fine," Aang agreed. "You can look at it later."
It struck Aang as a little ridiculous that, after so long and with so much left unsaid between them, they would lapse into inane small talk and yet, it was easier to talk about those little things than the larger issues between them. "How is Master Pakku's school coming along?" he asked.
"Good. It's good," Katara said after a rough swallow. "There are six new waterbenders now."
"Six? That's excellent."
"So you're not alone anymore?"
"It's very good." The silence swelled thick once more. Katara occupied herself with twisting her hair. Aang concentrated on tracing the seams of his shoes. "Aang?" He jumped at the sudden sound of her voice. "Don't you think we should really talk about what's happening with us?"
"What's happening with us, Katara?" he wondered softly.
"You tell me."
"I haven't changed," Aang murmured. "I feel the same way about you that I always have, Katara." He looked her directly in the eyes and whispered, "I love you."
Tears of relief flooded her eyes and Katara had to quickly avert her gaze in order to keep them from spilling over. Her attempt was futile, however, and soon the tears were streaming down her cheeks in spite of her efforts. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she mumbled tearfully, "until just now…I wasn't sure if you still did."
"Does it matter?" he asked her carefully.
She regarded him with brimming eyes. "Of course it matters!" she cried. "I thought I'd lost you."
"You haven't. I'm here."
"I would have deserved it if I had lost you," she muttered in a suffocated tone. "I haven't been very fair to you, Aang. And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Katara, don't cry," he pleaded. Aang placed his arm around her shoulder and gathered her close. "Please, please stop crying."
But rather assuage her tears, Aang's pleas only seemed to make her sob harder. "I haven't been as honest with you as you've been with me."
Aang's heart lurched at the admission. "You haven't? Is this the part where you tell me you're getting married?" he wondered thickly.
That made her stop crying. She reared back from him with a dubious grimace. "Married?" she balked. "Where would you get a ridiculous idea like that? I'm not getting married!"
"But your dad said—," Aang protested.
"My dad?" Katara interrupted stridently, "What do you mean 'my dad said?' Did he tell you I was getting married?" Aang face turned a brilliant shade of red at the question, igniting Katara's fury further. "I can't believe him! He told you I was getting married? I thought he wanted to help me, not ruin my life!"
"He didn't exactly tell me that," Aang quickly back-pedaled, cringing at her wrathful display, "He just said there was someone who was interested. Is there?"
"There's a boy," Katara confirmed, "and I liked him once, but that was a long time ago before he left for the war. Before you."
"So he does want to marry you," Aang concluded dully.
"But I don't want to marry him." She regarded Aang closely, taking meticulous note of the misery stamped into his features. "Oh my goodness, you thought I did, didn't you?" she realized with dawning horror. "You thought I might be thinking about marrying someone else?" Aang nodded slowly, prompting a self-deprecating groan from the young waterbender. "Oh wow, I really have messed things up between us, haven't I?"
"What do you mean?"
"Aang, if you could think I was going to marry someone else, then I haven't been clear about my feelings for you at all," Katara lamented. Aang didn't bother to deny that fact, but because he didn't want to make her feel any lower than she already did, he refrained from making a comment about it. "Ugh, I'm such an idiot," she muttered to herself.
"Why don't you try making yourself clear now?" Aang suggested tentatively.
Their eyes collided in a pregnant moment of supreme intimacy as if they both recognized that the coming moment would change the course of their relationship irrevocably. Katara sighed as if she were preparing to divest herself of a huge burden. In many ways, that was exactly what she was doing and it felt strangely…empowering.
"Aang, it took me a long time to figure out what I felt for you," she began shakily, "and when I did, then I had to decide what it meant and what I wanted to do about it. I know I've been slow, but I've been really scared. This is all new territory for me."
"For me too, Katara."
"I know," she acknowledged in a low tone. "And when I knew how I felt for sure, I just wanted it to be right when I told you. I needed to say the perfect words in the perfect place at the perfect moment. I didn't want to just blurt it out to you. You deserved better. I had this whole, elaborate plan in my head, but it didn't happen at all the way I imagined it would."
"It doesn't need to be perfect," Aang told her. "I don't need perfect, Katara. I need you. Just tell me."
She nodded, swallowing deeply before she whispered, "I love you, Aang."
He didn't realize he'd been holding his breath through her confession until the air expelled from his lungs in an audible hiss. "Are you sure?" he pressed. "You need to be sure, Katara, because I'm not going to let you take it back."
Katara smiled at him. "I'm not taking it back." Aang reached for her then, with every intention of kissing her breathless, but almost the moment his fingers grazed her cheek, Sokka came pounding into the hallway. They jumped apart. Sokka seemed not to notice their brightly colored faces.
"Good. You two have finally made up," he declared in a matter-of-fact tone. "I'm glad. The tension was really starting to bum everybody out."
Rolling her eyes over the criticism, Katara demanded impatiently, "What do you want, Sokka?"
"It's tea time. Iroh sent me up here to get you."
"We just had tea a few hours ago. Can't it wait?" she wondered with a desperate glance towards Aang. "We…we were in the middle of something."
"Yeah, but this tea is being served with dinner," Sokka stressed.
"We'll just meet you later," Katara said.
"Oh, no you don't!" Sokka retorted stubbornly, "You'll have plenty of time to catch up with Aang later." He snagged hold of Katara's wrist, ignoring her vehement protests, and yanked her to her feet. "Who knows when we'll have another chance to be all together like this again?" He dragged her towards the landing. "You're coming downstairs whether you want to or not! You too, Aang," he added sternly, "Shake a leg."
Aang watched Sokka pull a complaining and loudly complaining Katara out of sight before following behind them, a contented smile lingering on his lips. At the base of the steps, Toph intercepted him and anxiously drew him aside. "So? Did you talk to Katara?" she demanded without preamble. Aang nodded happily. "And?"
"She loves me!"
Toph bit back a smile at his boyish excitement. "Congratulations, Twinkle Toes!" she said. "Are you happy?"
"Yeah. I'm pretty happy," he confirmed, his smile broadening.
"Good. I'm glad," she murmured. "You deserve it." All too soon, however, Toph's smile began to wane. She nibbled at the corner of her mouth, her expression noticeably troubled. "Um…did you tell her…about…you know?"
Aang's smile mellowed a bit as well. "Not yet."
"Don't," Toph advised him, "Don't tell her."
"I don't want to lie to her," he protested.
"It wouldn't be lying," Toph refuted. "Besides, it's over. Technically, it never even began. There's no point in hurting Katara over something that never was and never will be." He started to argue further, but Toph reached out to tug his sleeve, quelling his objections. "Please, Aang," she implored softly, "Let's keep it between us. It was a special time and it meant something and if you tell Katara then it will be reduced to something shameful. I don't want that."
Aang nodded his head in understanding. "I don't want that either," he whispered, clearly torn.
"It's for the best."
"I guess so," he mumbled. "I don't want to hurt her either, but…it's there, Toph. We can pretend it's not, but it's still there. Eventually, she's going to know."
"It'll go away, Aang," Toph predicted, "and she won't know because I won't be here. I'm going back home tonight. Zuko said he'd give me a ride. I've thought about it and…my mom needs me, so I'm going back home."
"Wait! What?" Aang exploded in confusion. "When did you decide this?"
"When we left the South Pole," she confessed softly.
Aang reeled to discover that she'd been sitting on the decision that entire time and she hadn't said a single word. "Toph, you just can't ru—,"
"Don't argue with me," she interrupted fiercely. "You've waited long enough for this moment, Aang. You should enjoy it. You need this time with Katara without distractions. We need this time so we can feel normal again and that won't happen if we're constantly in each other's faces."
"Why do I feel like I'm never going to see you again?"
"Don't be silly. You'll see me again," she promised. "We're rebuilding the Southern Air Temple together, remember?"
He growled in exasperation. "Toph, I never agreed—,"
"I said you're rebuilding the temple and that's all there is to say about it," Toph declared in a tone that tolerated no arguments.
Aang sighed in surrender. "Yes ma'am."
"Good," she commended somberly. She blinked rapidly to hold her coming tears at bay. "In the meantime, take care of yourself, Aang. It's been real."
She meant to leave it at that, meant to walk away from him without any overemotional goodbyes because she knew that was the only way she was going to keep herself together. But he wouldn't allow it. Aang reached out to catch hold of her forearm as she turned to walk away. For a moment, Toph resisted his efforts to pull her closer.
"Aang, we agreed," she reminded him tersely. "Don't make this complicated."
However, Aang had learned long ago that whenever Toph made a concerted effort to distance herself from people, that's exactly when she needed the most love. "I'm not making it complicated. I'm going to hug you goodbye," he declared, channeling her stubborn will one last time, "and you're going to shush up and deal with it."
He did exactly that, holding her fast until the obstinate rigidity finally went out of her body and hugged him back. When she did, Toph returned his embrace fiercely, her arms encircling him with vise-like strength, her slender fingers bunched tightly in the then material of his shirt. The moment was swollen with an abundance of unspoken emotions. They stayed that way for a long time, impervious to the curious glances from their friends, with Toph pretending not to cry and Aang pretending not to feel her hot tears soaking into his collar.
Later that evening, a few hours before Zuko, Mai and Toph were set to depart; Aang stepped out into the courtyard of the Jasmine Dragon while his friends bickered about Sokka's woeful lack of artistic ability and found himself surprisingly content. The last few months of his life had been nothing short of chaotic turmoil. The idea that all of that had led him to this precise moment, this perfect, unbelievable moment completely amazed Aang. What had seemed to him like curses before was now revealed to be blessings in disguise. Aang would be forever grateful for the life lessons he'd learned along the way because, he realized now, those lessons had helped to shape the individual he'd become. Those lessons had shaped his destiny.
When Katara came out to join him, Aang sensed her approach even before he turned and smiled at her. She smiled back, her cheeks bathed in a rosy blush, her blue eyes luminous. Radiant, Aang thought. She looked radiant, the exact representation of how he felt inside.
She held out her arms to him and he turned into her embrace wordlessly, instinctively. The emotions that pervaded his body were almost indescribable. Aang found home in Katara's arms, in her heart…exactly what he had been searching for ever since the day he'd found the Southern Air Temple desolated and deserted. A place to belong. A place to begin again. It had been in front of his face the entire time. She had been there. Katara was his place to belong, his place to begin again.
She always would be.
Aang could have held her forever, would have gladly held her forever, but the embrace ended as all things did. They turned together briefly to glance out at the sprawling city, quiet, happy and satisfied. When Katara turned to him again, Aang knew that she was ready. He knew that she was sure. She framed his cheeks with her hands; her eyes falling closed, and turned his face up for her kiss.
They wrapped in each other's arms, pressing closer, kissing deeper, flooded with sensation and connected body, soul and heart. The feeling that swelled between them was all they'd both imagined and more. It was butterflies and electricity and the sun peeking through the clouds after a punishing rain. It was heartache and tears and painful misunderstandings. It was the fulfillment of everything they could have ever dreamed of and the unveiling of every vulnerable emotion they possessed. It was building up and tearing down, only to rebuild anew. It was laborious and exhilarating.
It was perfection.
It was love.
A/N: I meant to leave this earlier when I posted the final chapter, but I completely forgot. Don't ever get old, people.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who stepped outside their comfort zones and read this story, whether that was a Kataanger being exposed to Taang or a Taanger being exposed to Kataang.
As for me, I ship both. I love both. I see the potential in both and, if it was possible to keep the whole thing in character, I'd write Aang having both Katara and Toph. Yeah, he's a pimp like that, lol.
That brings me around to why I wrote this fic. I am someone who was completely satisfied with Avatar finale. I loved that Aang and Katara ended up together and I fully believe they're soulmates. But, at the same time, I'm intrigued by Taang potential and I wonder what would have happened between Aang and Toph if they'd had more one on one time to get to know each other better. So then I asked myself, "How can I still preserve that lovely Kataang ending and yet satisfy my Taang cravings?"
This fic was born.
I didn't write it to trick people. I didn't write it to increase my readers. I didn't write it to convince anyone of the awesome merits of Kataang and/or Taang. I wrote it because I love these characters and I love both pairings. I wrote it because I wanted to share it with others who might feel the same. I wrote it because I love Avatar.
And that's all.
Thank you all again for reading.