Disclaimer: Avatar the Last Airbender belongs to Michael Dante Dimartino, Brian Konietzko and Nickelodeon Studios.
Character: Aang/Mai, Zuko/Katara - implied
He turned away, unable to watch them anymore. He was happy for his friends. They'd been through so much, sacrificed so much, they deserved this chance at happiness. Even if it meant sacrificing a happiness of his own.
Wearily he trudged towards the stables needing the comfort of his old friend. The celebratory music drifted lazily through the air unwilling to let him escape his torment completely. He knew he should be mingling with the guests, offering his congratulations to the newlywed, but all he wanted to do was run.
"I guess some things never change."
He'd jumped when she'd spoken, not expecting anyone else to be here. As her words caught up to him he frowned, then gave her a pointed look. "I wasn't running away."
Mai looked at him curiously, arching one elegant eyebrow. "Oh?"
He grinned. "I was planning on flying."
She smirked, snorting slightly. "Same thing."
"I know." Deflated he sat beside her, petting Appa absently. "I just…it was like…"
"You had to get away? Like you were suffocating?" As he nodded she looked down. "Yeah, me too."
They sat in silence for several moments, Appa chewing absently through their discomfort. The hated music hung heavily in the air around them, reminding each of what they'd lost. For him the urge to run was overpowering. He didn't so much as stand, as glide to his feet. Appa grunted in response, seeming to understand the other's need. Both knew the healing effects flying had and now more than ever Aang needed the wind's caress. Mai seemed to understand as well and stood, brushing strands of hay from her elegant skirts. She nodded her farewell and turned to leave.
"Mai," he called softly, feeling the need to reach out to another suffering soul. "Will you fly with me?"
She'd stopped when he'd spoken her name and now spun to face him, her eyes unusually wide. "What?!"
He grinned, patting Appa. "Come on, it'll be fun! We can get away from all…this." He finished lamely, with a wave of his hand.
"And I thought you'd have gotten used to stables by now Avatar, with that beast of yours."
He laughed and she couldn't help but smirk a little.
"Come on Mai. We're not going to be missed," he finished sadly.
The truth of his words stung harder than she cared to admit. Seemingly casual she walked towards him, though in reality she wanted nothing more than to run away from it all. As he helped her into the saddle she mused that they weren't so different after all. She almost missed him telling her to hold on and started when the beast suddenly launched itself into the air. For one terrifying, heart-stopping moment she waited to fall, her screamed lodged securely in her throat. Moments turned into minutes and she slowly let out the breath she'd been holding.
For the first time she looked, really looked, at the world rushing past her. The wind had made short work of the pins holding the elaborate hairstyle together; the strands, loose for the first time she could recall, danced in time with the strange fluttering of her heart. She breathed deeply, just enjoying the cool air against her face and through her hair.
"You're really pretty like that."
She looked at him, realizing for one moment she'd forgotten he was even there. "Like what?" she asked rather confused. Did her loose hair really change her appearance that much?
"When you smile."
She blinked, her hand rising to see what her eyes could not. Beneath her fingers her lips were drawn upwards, her mouth parted slightly. She flushed realizing he was correct; she was smiling. Not a smirk or polite smile or even a smile with hidden intentions behind it; just a smile. Despite herself she laughed, and the sound was as free as the smile on her face. He laughed then too; childlike, tinkering and infectious. They laughed, the wind pulling at her hair and robes, and she felt truly free for the first time in her life.
In her newfound freedom she forgot her pain, forgot the rules of etiquette and propriety her teachers had installed in her and, without hesitation, without masks or walls, she found his lips and thanked him properly. And he returned it, with his own gratitude.