Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or the song "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," by Toby Keith. I do, however, own several of his CDs.

Author's Note: I know I've sort of done this scene before, but I really wanted to do this song as a Kataang fic. It just seemed so appropriate. I thought about doing another Headband piece, but I wasn't sure it quite worked, so I set it after the final battle instead.

You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This

Firelord Zuko decided to revive the ancient tradition of holding a ball after the coronation ceremony. This was a great surprise to his nobles and officers, as no one in the Fire Nation had danced (officially) in decades. Avatar Aang took it upon himself to again demonstrate some of the dances that had been popular a century earlier. That got a few people moving, and Zuko led Mai out onto the floor using steps that Aang had taught him earlier. The new Firelord's injury kept him from doing anything too strenuous, but his example encouraged others to try.

As Aang sat and watched the party later, sipping a glass of juice, he noted that several families must have continued to practice dancing in private, passing the skill on to their children. Some guests were using movements he'd forgotten, and a few of them were quite good. In addition, there were representatives of other nations here, and they were displaying their native styles. Still, there were an awful lot of people standing or sitting uncertainly on the edges.

"It looks like we're going to have to show them how it's done again," said a voice beside him, and Aang started, sloshing a little liquid over the rim of his glass. After quickly air-drying the spill, he looked up at Katara. There was a question in her eyes that he couldn't quite fathom.

"I – I'm not sure," he stammered. He couldn't forget the way she'd rejected him just over a week ago, and he couldn't imagine what reason she could have for asking him to dance. Her expression became suddenly sadder.

I've got a funny feeling.
The moment that your lips touched mine,
Something shot right through me;
My heart skipped a beat in time.

"Please," she said softly, the word scarcely audible over the music. Aang sighed, rose, and took her hand. Did she know that he couldn't deny her anything, even now?

They went out onto the floor, reprising a version of the dance they'd done in a cave many weeks earlier. Since Aang's new robes made it impossible to gracefully perform the more acrobatic moves, certain modifications were necessary. On the other hand, they weren't incognito anymore, so they were able to use some real bending from time to time.

The dance brought their faces close together at one point, and much to Aang's surprise, Katara closed the distance and pressed her lips to his, briefly. Aang's mind went totally blank.

There's a different feel about you tonight;
It's got me thinking lots of crazy things.
I even think I saw a flash of light,
It felt like electricity

Somehow, Aang's body continued to follow the rhythm until his brain lurched back into action. He looked at Katara in a new way. There did seem to be something different about her, almost an invitation in the way she was looking at him. Maybe it was just possible that this was her way of telling him she was finally ready to take the next step in their relationship.

Even as he wondered whether he could dare to hope, a shock of anticipation passed through him, seeming to originate from Katara's hand, which he was clasping. It felt a little like re-directing lightning - dangerous, yet oddly exhilarating. With an effort, he reined his emotions in. He couldn't keep running headlong only to get his heart broken.

You shouldn't kiss me like this
Unless you mean it like that,
'Cause I'll just close my eyes,
And I won't know where I'm at.
We'll get lost on this dance floor,
Spinning around and around and around and around.

Needing a moment to gather his thoughts, Aang pulled Katara closer and led her in a simple figure, turning around the dance floor. He closed his eyes, breathing in the familiar scent of her hair as he did so.

He needed to be cautious here. The combination of the dance invitation and the subsequent kiss might have been an indication that she was no longer confused and that she did, indeed, have feelings for him that went beyond friendship. He wanted to believe that, but he wanted her to say it clearly. There were so many times she'd hugged and kissed him when it hadn't apparently meant anything beyond an almost familial affection. Or had it? He was now the one confused, and he felt a dizziness unrelated to their circular movements.

They're all watching us now,
They think we're falling in love.
They'd never believe we're just friends.

Aang took a deep breath and opened his eyes, glancing quickly at the knowing expressions around the room. Most of the onlookers would assume they were either already a couple or that romance was blossoming at this moment. If only he could feel so sure about things.

"Everybody's watching us, aren't they?" he murmured.

"Don't worry about them," Katara whispered back, and a small smile crossed her face as she pulled back slightly to look at him. "It's just you and me right now."

Hearing his own words sent back to him that way gave Aang a fresh surge of confidence, and he couldn't help giving her a smile back, even if it felt a little shaky.

When you kiss me like this,
I think you mean it like that.
If you do, baby, kiss me again!

Somehow, though, it had been different in the cave. Nobody there had really known how to dance, and the guests had all essentially been strangers. Here, everyone at least knew who they were, and a few even knew them intimately.

Still, Aang managed to put the idea of having an audience out of his mind and resumed the more energetic dancing they'd engaged in earlier. Self-assurance building, he pulled Katara into a dip at the end of the music and watched her grinning up at him. Unlike last time, he brought his face close to hers, close enough to feel her quick breaths against his mouth. At the last moment, he decided not to kiss her back, not until he was sure. Instead, he raised her back up and tried to decide whether the disappointment on her face was real or imagined.

Everybody swears we'd make the perfect pair,
But dancing is as far as it goes.

"Let's get some air," Katara suggested, and as it appeared that the band was taking a break, it was an opportune time to do so. Aang only hoped that everyone wouldn't get the same idea. They did have some things to discuss privately. Taking him by the hand, Katara led the Avatar out into the garden, which was lit by colorful paper lanterns. They found a secluded spot on a stone bench.

"Aang, I wanted to say that I'm sorry," she began, looking down at her hands as she twisted her fingers together. "For that night on Ember Island."

"No, I'm sorry," he broke in, not really wanting to think about that night. "I shouldn't have kissed you after you said you were confused." Awkward as the situation was, it felt good to get that apology out.

Girl, you've never moved me
Quite the way you move me tonight.
I just wanted you to know.
I just wanted you to know.

"I know why you did," the waterbender said understandingly. "You hoped that would help me make up my mind. Right?"

Aang shrugged but didn't say anything. His heart was pounding too fast and too hard, thrumming in his ears, and he was fully occupied with attempting to hide the fact that he was shaking with anxiety. He didn't trust himself to speak, and he wished she would just get to the point. He'd been enduring uncertainty from her for nearly a year, and he didn't think he could take it anymore.

"The truth is, I wasn't really confused," she went on. "Not about my feelings for you, anyway. I just wasn't sure what to do about them. I – I almost lost you once. Then, on the day of the eclipse, you talked about not coming back…" she choked off the rest of what she might have said in half-suppressed sob.

You shouldn't kiss me like this
Unless you mean it like that,
'Cause I'll just close my eyes,
And I won't know where I'm at.
We'll get lost on this dance floor,
Spinning around and around and around and around.

Aang hated to see her cry, especially when he felt that he might be responsible.

"You asked me to dance," he said slowly. "Then you kissed me, and now I'm confused. What do you want?" At last, her glistening blue eyes rose up to meet his.

"After the eclipse, nothing was like it was supposed to be," she went on, almost as if she hadn't heard his question. "We were still on the run, Ozai was still in power, we still had an assassin stalking us. Everything was so unsettled, so wrong. I didn't know what I wanted, so I just avoided you.

"I know now that was the wrong thing to do. You needed me to talk to you, to tell you how I felt, but I wasn't ready. So when you approached me during the play, I ran away. I just hope you can forgive me."

"Of course I forgive you," he informed her earnestly, knowing that he had already done so. He wasn't one to hold grudges, especially against her. Katara smiled at him then, reaching out to take his hands.

They're all watching us now,
They think we're falling in love.
They'd never believe we're just friends.

"I love you, Aang," she told him, and he melted right there, all defenses evaporated. It was all he'd ever wanted to hear, but she wasn't quite done yet. "I love you so much it hurts. It scares me." The last words were a whisper, and Aang's mouth worked a few times.

"I know," he got out finally, trying to convey that he not only understood but felt the same way.

"After that horrible night, things were so awful between us, so awkward. Then we fought about you facing Ozai, and you left before I got a chance to apologize. When I woke up that morning, and you were gone…I knew what it would be like to live without you. I don't want to. You asked me what I want? Well, I want to be with you always. If you'll have me."

"Katara," he said, so full of emotion he could hardly find words. "I've loved you since the first time I saw you. All I've wanted since that day was to be with you. Really with you."

Smiling with relief, happiness, and love, Katara placed her hands on either side of his face and kissed him firmly. Aang slipped his arms around her, giving himself up completely to the sensations. It was the first kiss they'd shared during which he had no doubts whatsoever.

When you kiss me like this,
I think you mean it like that.
If you do, baby, kiss me again!

"I've been wanting to do that ever since you got here," Katara confessed when she released him at last. "But Sokka and Zuko were injured, and there was the coronation to plan, and we had to take Ozai into custody…" She sighed. "Thank you for dancing with me."

"Thank you for asking me," he whispered back. The new couple stayed cuddled on that bench in the garden for a long time. Aang was the happiest he'd been in far too long, and he didn't want to let that feeling go until he absolutely had to.

They never did make it back to the ball.

--

Author's Note: As those of you who follow my writing know, it bothered me that Katara suffered no visible consequences for her treatment of Aang. She didn't fret unduly over his disappearance, we saw no fussing over him when he returned after the battle, and she never apologized or explained herself, not even to a female friend like Suki. There's just a wordless kiss at the end, and everything's supposed to be okay. Well, something must have happened to make it okay, and this is one possibility. Granted, I don't think Aang would have refused her, but I think she should have been worried that he would.