A/N: This was written for atlaland's writing challege "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words." I had to choose a piece of fanart and write a fic for it. I chose something Kataang centered- "Hot and Bothered" by crusanite (check them on dA!) which was, apparently, inspired by an already existing fic- "Hot and Bothered" by Lyralocke who passed away May 15th, 2010.
Rest in peace, Lyralocke, fellow writer in fanfiction.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: the Last Airbender or the fanart mentioned.
Warnings: Post-canon, with Kataang as a central pairing.
By: Nuit Songeur
At the age of twenty-four, Katara hadn't changed much as a person since the war's end. She was still the same caring, gentle, and hopeful girl she was ten years ago. Much had changed since the world had— supposedly— achieved peace, but Katara had remained steadfast, as she did with any hardship. She took to traveling around a bit, helping those who she could, but she didn't travel quite extensively as she did during her time with the Avatar.
But that was a different time, a much different time that happened ages ago.
She took a quiet sense of peace whenever she'd return to the South Pole to see and care after her family— her silly, flirtatious brother, her stable and strong father, and even her happily-wed and old— very old— grandparents, Gran Gran and Pakku.
Pakku had agreed to remain at the South Pole for Kanna, but there were times when he became homesick for the North. During such times, Kanna would announce that she would very much like to see her old friend Yugoda, and an escapade to the North Pole was imperative. The trip was planned and organized, and Katara would always insist on escorting the elderly couple. Master Pakku would take offense at the kind gesture, arguing that he could take of his wife and himself. Katara knew that he could— old age did not seem to hinder his waterbending skills— but she would simply respond that she fancied a trip to the North as well, secretly aware of her own overprotective nature.
The North was much different from the South, Katara already knew this from her first visit to the Sister Tribe. The shift was refreshing, a welcomed change of scenery that distracted Katara.
Katara had an uncanny habit of seeking out distractions.
She found herself on the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday at the North Pole once more. She didn't mind. Once Chief Arnook got wind of the news, he threw a marvelous celebration accompanied by a feast and a waterbending performance, much like her first visit.
Except this time, the spotlight was on her, not on Yue or the Avatar.
Katara took a careful, deep breath and went back to blushing and waving at those cheering for her.
Before Arnook— who was now sporting hoary locks— would allow anyone to begin eating, he stood up to give a small speech. Katara blushed even more and urged him to sit down, that it wasn't necessary. Arnook ignored her protests.
"Don't be so modest, Katara," he said. "This is your birthday. And, in honor of it, we have a very special guest who I would like to announced. The Avatar!"
There was cheering as Arnook gestured to the palace's entrance , but Katara remained silent as she mechanically stared at the newcomer. Kanna merely watched her granddaughter carefully, ready to pounce if the need called for it. Pakku, who could admit to himself that he didn't fully understand the ways of his women, was silent as well out of respect for them.
The rest of the Water Tribe denizens continued cheering as the new guest approached.
"Happy birthday, Katara," he said.
Aang, Katara noticed, had changed very much since the last time she'd seen him. Even his voice was deeper, huskier. He was taller, still slight but his shoulders were noticeably broader. Katara could only guess a lean chest beneath his monk robes.
But the arrows, the bald head, and the soft, gray eyes were the same.
"Thank you, Avatar," she said coolly before returning to her seat. He took no shame in taking a seat beside her.
When the feast began, Katara was no longer the blushing and smiling girl she had been a few minutes prior. She remained silent, on edge almost, and picked up the habit of clenching and wringing her hands together. She ate very little and watched Aang from the corner of her eye. He seemed unaffected by her coldness. To the contrary, he seemed quite at ease, conversing with Arnook and narrating some of his travels.
Travels, Katara knew, that didn't include her.
By the time Katara's knuckles turned white from so much clenching and her fingers red from so much chafing, she decided she had had enough for the night. She stood up, trying not to draw attention to herself and slipped away from the party to her awaiting icehut.
She paused when she stepped outside as an icy breeze blew some of her hair from her face. She took a deep, steady breath, steeling herself against a dull throb aching in her chest. It had taken her years to settle the pain. She wondered how long it would take her now.
"Katara?" She blinked at the voice that interrupted her train of thought and suddenly found herself inside of her hut with Aang.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, too surprised to be reserved. His expression was rueful, almost sad. It looked even more pathetic when he attempted a smile.
"It wanted to see you. I wanted to talk to you." Katara went on the defensive again.
"Well you've already had your chance for that. Please leave." The Aang from her memories would have obeyed her request, head hanging and pride wounded. But this Aang was different, stubborn in his maturity.
"Will you hear me out, please?"
"Why should I?" Katara asked, arms folded. Why should it take you eight years to want to talk to me?" She noticed how her sharp words affected him, but she was too hurt to care.
"Because I think you at least deserve an explanation."
Katara narrowed her eyes at his reasoning, She crossed her arms and waited for his explanation. He took a deep breath to prepare himself.
"Where do I begin?" he said with a small chuckle, a small attempt to lighten the mood. Katara would not be so easily swayed.
"How about when you left," she suggested venomously. "That sounds like a good start." Aang sighed.
"I left because I thought it would be for the best. It was a dangerous time, then, and I was needed everywhere. I couldn't take you, I couldn't risk your life like that." Katara could have laughed in his face.
"Risk my life? Nevermind the fact that I'm a fully capable waterbender," she almost spat at him. Aang shook his head.
"It wasn't about doubting your fighting abilities. It wasn't about Iyou/I, it was never about you. This was about the world needing an Avatar that wasn't distracted, that could be there and not worry about his girlfriend." This stung Katara even more, and she was distinctly reminded of the time Zuko left Mai in the Fire Nation. Mai had easily forgiven him, but Zuko had only been gone a few weeks at most.
This was Ieight years/I.
"That makes me feel so much better," Katara said through clenched teeth. Her hands felt restless, and she found herself fidgeting with the long sleeves of her ceremonial robe. "I suppose sending a message or anything like that would have been too much trouble." Aang's eyes averted to the ground.
"You would have followed me, to protect me. I thought it best to cut off any ties to you." He was right, of course. She would have followed, to the ends of the world, just as she had followed her grandparents to the North Pole.
Suddenly, the room felt stifling and unbearably hot. Her robes were itchy and thick, and perspiration began breaking out on her brow and neck. She turned from Aang, her irritation coupled with the new discomfort.
"Go away," she said. He didn't, of course.
"Katara, I know my behavior was inexcusable and that you have every tight to be bitter and to hate me." He swallowed. "But, I am truly sorry for hurting you like that. There never went a day when I didn't think about you or miss you." Katara kept her back turned to him.
"For eight years?" she said doubtfully. Abruptly, he was behind her, rubbing his hands against her shoulders.
"Yes," he said, inhaling deeply. Katara spun around to react but he caught her wrists in his hands, and when she looked at him, saw his rapt, half-lidded gaze on her. She was stunned and her resentment seemed to magically lift away as she became weak at the knees.
Without her anger, she was suddenly vulnerable.
"Eight years," she repeated softly in a broken whisper, reminding him of her pain. His nose touched hers gently.
"I'll make up for it with the rest of my life," he promised. "I'll never leave you again, Katara."
Katara wasn't ready to believe him but let Aang kiss her anyway.
Sorry for the angsty romance. It's what I'm best at. Haha. Hope you enjoyed! Please review!