This is how it didn't happen.

"Well," Aang fidgets, crossing and uncrossing his arms before sitting next to her, "to be blunt, he was a jerk."

"Yeah," she sighs. "I know. Pretty much every guy I like turns out the same way in the end. Maybe I'm just doomed to date jerks."

"No! They're all just—just trying to take advantage of you, because that's…" he trailed off, trying to decipher the angry expression forming on her brows.

"Are you saying I'm easy to take advantage of?"

A stammered apology and an angry exit later, Aang is sitting alone, head between his hands in preparation of the oncoming of a self-induced headache.

The girl is slightly shorter than her, with brown eyes and a pretty smile. She blushes whenever he gets within five feet of her, and every time Katara looks up to see her pink cheeks something goes sour inside. She spends the hours gossiping with friends, and the question pops up constantly. Finally, a governor's daughter has the guts to go and ask him, and returns giggling with news.

"'She's only a friend,' is all he said." The statement is followed by a waggling of the girl's perfectly plucked eyebrows, and everyone predicts possible scandals.

Katara doesn't join in, only watches the girl as he waves in her direction, and she waves back, and feels the strange urge to snap her fingers off.

"How could you!" Aang turns his head so fast that he can hear some tendon stretch. "Don't you ever, ever—"

Her next words are stifled in his shoulder, mouth moving briefly against his skin, so he hugs her tighter still. She's shaking from yelling, and tries to push him off, but then her arms wrap around his back and she's shaking with sobs.

"—ever run away again."

He only lets go when the doctor protests he still has an arrowhead in his leg that needs to be removed.

The last guest introduced is the Avatar, and Katara notes that he looks the part. He sweeps his charm through the room, laughing and joking with people he's never met as if they're family he hasn't seen in years.

She adds up the time gone by in her head, and the product is this tall, good-looking, very eligible guy. Who was her best friend as a kid, who she taught to waterbend, who keeps looking across the room just to smile at her.

"Calm down," Toph orders. "I could hear your heartbeat with both feet off the ground."

"Hey," he starts, determined to get it right this time, "I want to tell you something."

She waits, a small grin still on her face as he takes the most nerve-wracking breath of his life.

"I love you."

"I love you too."

There's a split second of utter shock. They stare at each other, trying to make sense of what just happened, and if it really happened at all.

The kiss, though, somehow comes as no surprise.