OK, first off, I am so so so so so so so so sosorry about keeping you all waiting for 2 whole months! School got crazy and then writer's block hit me as well and my inspiration took a vacation to Fiji and I was like "UGH WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME" and so on. DX
*Sighs* Now that that's over with, I'm baaaaack! :D I'll try to update this story as regularly as I can, but I've also got to juggle my "Legend of Korra" stories along with this as well, and then I'm starting a summer Calc class in a few weeks, but I promise that I will work on this story however often I can.
Speical thanks goes out to Airbender Beauty for giving me some ideas to work with in this story. Some of her ideas worked their way into this chapter and into some of the later chapters, just so y'all know. ;D
Anyways, enough of my rambling. On with the story you've been dying so long for! Enjoy and review, my faithful fans!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show and its characters belong to Mike and Bryan, the brillant geniuses behind one of the greatest cartoon shows in the history of cartoons. Their work is legendary, and I salute them for it. I also do not own "The Promise" story, which is written by Gene Yang, and is also the property of Mike and Bryan. I am simply help to spread the news of the upcoming story and do not take any responsibilty for the development of the story itself; I am only going off of what is known thus far.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like the swelling of the waves that slapped against the side of The Harmony, life-giving air circulated through Aang's lungs like an undulating tide, the young Avatar calm and collected as he meditated up near the bow of the ship, letting the early morning rays strike against his lithe body. His eyes were closed, his heart temporarily detached from the worries of the world as he allowed himself to simply exist, to become one with everything around him.
The rising sun stoked his inner flame, igniting it to a blazing fervor as he felt the essence of the waves around him, vast and mysterious in their azure magnificence. Clouds lazily drifted through the cyan sky, each puffy apparition the size of Appa. The ship hummed and thrummed underneath him, chugging through the endless sea as the ship and her crew made their way back to the Fire Nation, having successfully disbanded the Jukaito colony two days before.
He was so detached from everything around him that the only thing that snapped him back to reality was a pair of young, slender arms that wrapped around his waist and a warm, tender kiss to the back of his head, followed by a light, loving whisper of "Good morning, Aang," that sounded ever so pleasantly in his ear.
Eyes still closed, a smile erupted on Aang's face, keeping his meditative posture as he softly said, "Good morning, Katara." Feeling her quietly chuckle and press a kiss to the back of his neck, he asked, "Why are you up so early?"
"Well," began Katara as she rested her forehead against the back of his head, "when you have a guy who's part-Firebender for a boyfriend, you kind of start rising with the sun along with him." She pleasantly smiled as Aang gave a merry chuckle, his joy reverberating from his body into hers, filling her heart with glee and happiness.
"So I guess I'm a pretty big influence on you, huh?" guessed Aang as he felt a warm sea breeze caress both him and Katara, bringing a sense of warmness to his body that felt like Katara whenever they would snuggle in their sleep. Needless to say, he smiled at the feeling of both the wind and the love of her heart that he embraced so readily, without question.
"Hmm…" pondered Katara in a joking manner, her lips slightly pouted in playful contemplation. "I suppose you could say that," she teasingly said, lightly pecking the back of Aang's head again. "I'll see you later, Aang," she said as she let go of him, standing up while still looking down at him. "I have to go wake up my lug of a brother; the two of us are going to check up on the ship's supplies."
Just as Katara took a few steps away from him, Aang quickly opened his eyes and turned his head back towards her, calling out to her: "Wait a minute, Katara." Seeing his girlfriend stop and look back at him in confusion, he Airbent himself to his feet and turned towards her as he said, "I was going to ask you something."
"What?" inquired Katara, turning back towards Aang and lifting an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Would you be willing to do some training with me today?" asked Aang. "I was thinking that maybe you could teach me how to heal and maybe help me practice going into and controlling the Avatar State."
Katara stared at Aang for a few quiet moments, as if she was trying to discern Aang's sudden interest in training during a colonial run. "What's with you suddenly wanting to learn how to heal and wanting to practice the Avatar State?" she asked as she put her hands on her hips,
Aang awkwardly shifted in his place, anxiously rubbing the back of his head as he asked, "Do you remember what happened all those months ago during that storm when we were heading back to the Fire Nation from the Shou colony? Y'know, when I…" He trailed off, letting the implied meaning slip over to Katara's ears, her eyes widening slightly in realization when she discovered what he meant.
"Oh," she simply said, dropping her hands back down to her side, clarity melting away her perplexed expression. "You want me to teach you how to heal because of what happened back then?"
"Yeah," replied Aang, still rubbing the back of his head. "I figured that if there's ever a time that you're hurt, I could return the favor by healing you."
Katara considered Aang's statement, shrugging as she admittedly said, "I guess that makes sense." Gesturing to him, she added, "You are the Avatar, after all. Learning more bending skills is just a part of who you are."
"So you'd be willing to teach me how to heal, then?" asked Aang, dropping his hand back down to his side.
"Of course," nodded Katara with an amiable smile. "I'd do anything for you, Aang," she sincerely added. "You know that.
"I know," agreed Aang with a genial smile, "but I wanted to be polite and ask you first."
"Well, aren't you ever the considerate gentleman?" teasingly asked Katara, her eyes playfully sparkling as she blushed at Aang's sweetness.
"I'd like to think that I'm always a gentleman," replied Aang as he walked up to Katara. With a sly wink as he took hold of her hands, he added, "Especially towards you."
Katara chuckled as she shook her head, amusedly saying, "If you keep this up, Aang, you're going to spoil me rotten."
"And you consider that a bad thing?" he wittily retorted.
"Not at all," replied Katara with a small smile. Squeezing Aang's hands, she said, "Come on. Let's get started on your healing training."
"Right," firmly nodded Aang, letting go of Katara's hands and allowing her to uncap her water skin.
Katara coated her hands with the liquid from the water skin, kneeling down on the deck of the ship as she said in her best teacher-like tone, "Take a sti, Pupil Aang, and let us begin your training."
Adopting the same studious demeanor he sported back during their old Waterbending training sessions, Aang obediently kneeled on the deck as he respectfully said "Yes, Sifu Katara. What must I do to master the sacred art of healing?"
"In order to learn," sagely stated Katara in a wizened manner, "one must simply listen." A slight snicker crept its way out of her mouth, a contained chuckle also resonating from Aang. The two of them tried to contain their laughter, but the pressure became too much, and soon both of them were boisterously chortling, the sounds of their merriment carrying across the deck of the ship.
Coming out of their merry fit, Aang wiped away gleeful tears from his eyes as he lightheartedly said, "You were saying, Sifu?"
Uttering a quick giggle before she composed herself, smile still intact, Katara said, "Healing is a special skill among Waterbenders, but it's also a skill anyone can achieve through hard work and constant practice." Flashing Aang a knowing smile, she added, "However, since you're such a natural at Waterbending, I'm sure you'll get it on your first try."
"Maybe," agreed Aang with a grinning smirk. Bowing his head slightly, he humbly added, "Of course, I wouldn't be learning this skill if it wasn't for you, the greatest Waterbending Master in the world."
Katara appreciatively smiled as Aang came out of his small bow, her heart aching with love and affection for the boy that smiled so softly, so tenderly at her, as if she were the most precious treasure the world had ever seen. Composing herself once more as she sucked in a fortifying breath, she said, "Now, the first thing you need to learn about healing is that it follows the flow of chi throughout the body." Pointing to the tattooed arrow on Aang's hand, she said, "Your tattoos show the flow of chi throughout your body, correct?"
"That's right," affirmatively answered Aang as Katara dropped her hand back down to her lap.
"Healing works with those chi pathways," continued Katara. Moving her hand over Aang's arm, she added, "With healing, you can trace your way through a person's chi pathways until you find the area that's either wounded or has imbalanced energy in it. When you find that area, you let your own chi flow through the water and into the other person's body." To prove her point, she let an influx of chi infuse itself with her water, making it hum and glow as she worked her way up his arm. "Can you feel my energy traveling up your chi pathways?"
"Yeah," nodded Aang, watching Katara as she moved along his tattooed arm, which tingled as her energy made its way up his chi pathways. "It…it feels really good." He shyly averted his gaze away from her as he timidly blushed, her expression curious as she looked up at him. There was still something profoundly intimate about part of Katara's energy melding with his own. It was nearly impossible for his heart not to race or his face to flush when it seemed like her spirit was becoming one with his.
"Are you okay?" she concernedly asked him, stopping the flow of chi to her water-covered hands, killing the glow as she forced the liquid back into her water skin. Placing a gentle hand on Aang's cheek, turning his face towards her, she softly asked, "I didn't do something wrong, did I?"
"No no, you didn't do anything wrong," Aang quickly responded, wanting to ease Katara's mind. "It's just…whenever you use your healing on me, I can't help but feel so much closer to you, like some small part of us is mixing together…like we're becoming one."
A surprised blush tinted Katara's copper cheeks as her eyes widened slightly in astonishment, only managing to utter a small "Oh…" as she dropped her hand from his cheek.
Aang anxiously gulped, hanging down his head and letting his gaze fall to the metal deck below them. "I don't know how else to say it. That's just what I feel when you use your healing on me." He felt Katara's free hand tenderly cup his chin, raising his head to look up at her loving face, a heartwarming smile plastered on her face.
"Here," she quietly said, taking her hand from his chin and moving her hands to her water skin, uncapping it and drawing the liquid within.
"What are you doing?" cautiously asked Aang as Katara covered her hands with the water, wary of her intentions. Without another word, Katara grasped his hands, transferring the liquid globs onto his hands.
"I want you to use your healing on me," stated Katara, letting go of Aang's hands and leaving him to quickly adhere the water to his hands so that it didn't fall to the deck.
Feeling panic settle into his heart, Aang began to nervously stammer, "I-I don't know if I can do this, Katara. I've never used healing before! What if I mess up or something?"
"Aang," softly said Katara, bringing a sense of calm to the frantic Avatar, "I know you can do this. I've always believed in you, and I trust you with all my heart." Turning around so that her back was to him, she added, "Besides, my back is kind of sore this morning. I need some tender love and care to get rid of this ache." Glancing back at Aang and throwing a wink over her shoulder, she teasingly said, "And you're just the guy to do it."
Aang instantly hesitated, still very much unsure of himself. "You're sure about this, Katara?"
"I'm sure, Aang," she assured him, looking straight forward again. "Just let your instincts take over. You'll do just fine."
"If you say so…" murmured Aang, moving his water-covered hands over Katara's back, furrowing his brow in concentration as he let his chi flow into the water coating his hands. As the water became infused with Aang's chi, the liquid began to hum and glow, tendrils of energy reaching through Katara's skin and delving into her own chi pathways.
The moment his energy entered her skin, Katara let out a pleasant, utterly satisfied sigh that reddened Aang's face even more. "Don't stop," she muttered in an almost pleading tone, absolutely breathless under his reverent, tender touch. "You're doing fantastic." Aang nervously bit his lip, sweat beading his forehead as he soothed the aching muscles in Katara's back, slowly moving his hands up and down her back as he worked.
Suddenly, Katara felt something stir within her, as if part of Aang's energy had fused with her spirit, becoming an irreplaceable part of her. She let out a shivering gasp, her body tensing and her hands clenching as her cheeks burst into a crimson flush. His energy seemed to both galvanize and soothe her heart, setting it on fire with his endless love for her and cooling it with the chilling sweetness of his innocence. She had never felt so something so real, so tantalizingly intimate, so thrillingly amazing in her life before, all of it an unknown experience that she simply couldn't get enough of.
"I'm not hurting you, am I?" worriedly asked Aang, his heart beginning to race when he heard Katara's shivering gasp. "If I'm hurting you, I'll stop."
"No!" quickly squeaked Katara, her spine stiffening as she glanced back at Aang, practically panting as she tried to calm herself, making Aang jump slightly out of surprise when she whirled on him. "You're not hurting me at all!"
"Then why do you look so exhausted?" he questioned her, concerned for her wellbeing.
Katara dryly gulped, shakily saying, "It's just…it feels so good." Sheepishly glancing away from him as her cheeks heatedly flared again, she admittedly said, "I've never felt anything so incredible before." Letting a tiny smile grace her lips as she looked back at him, she added, "You were right. This just makes me feel so much closer to you." Turning around so that she was facing him, she took hold his hands and interlaced her fingers with his, his hands still covered with glowing water as she rested her forehead against his. His energy continued to pour from his hands into hers, connecting his spirit to hers, letting their energies become one.
"So…" slowly said Aang, smiling as he deeply gazed into Katara's sparkling cerulean eyes, "did I pass my healing test, Sifu Katara?"
"With flying colors, Pupil Aang," proudly whispered Katara in an affectionate tone, moving her lips within mere inches of his, her eyes fluttering closed as he too slowly closed his eyes, their lips just about to meld together…
The shrill cry of a certain meat-loving, Boomerang-wielding Water Tribesman came roaring out of the mid-deck staircase that led to the lower levels, causing Aang and Katara's eyes to snap wide open and halt their almost-kiss. The water coating Aang's hands instantly lost their cohesiveness and healing glow, falling off of Aang's hands and onto the deck as Aang and Katara looked back to see Sokka walking towards them, a less-than-amused scowl imbued on his grumpy face.
"There you are!" Sokka exclaimed as he continued to storm towards them. "I figured you were out here." Stopping when he was next to the young couple, he saw that their hands were intertwined in a sickeningly sweet manner that he immediately rolled his eyes at. "Playing kissy-face with your boyfriend again, sis?" he impatiently asked her as he crossed his arms in front of his chest, uttering an annoyed huff at her.
"I was just teaching him how to heal, Sokka," dryly replied Katara, slightly scowling at her brother out of irritation.
"What, did he burns his lips or something, and you were going to heal his lips with a glowing kiss or something?" sarcastically asked Sokka, leaning down closer to Katara's face so that he could leer into her eyes. "From what I saw, you two were about to kiss."
"So what?" indifferently dismissed Katara. "He's my boyfriend, remember? I'm allowed to kiss him whenever I want."
Sokka rolled his eyes as he stood back up straight. "Yeah, I know that, but right now, you're supposed to be helping me check up on the ship's supplies."
"I can't right now," retorted Katara, letting go of Aang's hands and dropping her hands onto her lap. "I'm helping Aang practice healing and going into the Avatar State."
Looking over at Aang, Sokka asked, "But I thought you had full control of the Avatar State by now? Why would you still need to practice it?"
"I may have full control of the Avatar State now," stated Aang, "but I'm still a long way from mastering it. There's still a chance I could go into the Avatar State if I lose control of my emotions."
"Oh," said Sokka in a tone of realization, "you mean like that one time in the Si Wong Desert when you got really mad at those Sandbenders who took Appa?"
"Exactly," nodded Aang. "I need to practice so I can learn to control my emotions if I ever need to use the Avatar State again."
Sokka's shoulders slumped as he heavily sighed. "Fair enough," he relented. "I'll just check up on the supplies myself." Sokka dropped his arms back to his side as he began to walk away from the couple, only to stop a few steps later when he realized he had forgotten something. "Hey Aang?" he asked as he turned around to face the Avatar. "I got a question for you."
"What is it?" inquired Aang, wondering what Sokka had on his mind.
"Do you think you could do some training with me when we get back to the Fire Nation?" asked Sokka. "I want to get better at fighting against the other elements seeing as how I'm a nonbender, and I really want to sharpen my skills." Gesturing to Aang, he added, "Seeing as how you're the Avatar, I figured you could help me out."
"Sure, I can do that," agreed Aang, giving his brother-in-arms a reassuring smile.
"Awesome," amiably grinned Sokka, satisfied with Aang's answer. Turning back around and dashing towards the mid-ship stairs, he shouted over his shoulder, "You're the best, buddy!"
"Anytime, Sokka," Aang called after his friend before he disappeared below deck, leaving him and Katara all alone on the main deck once more.
"That was really nice of you to do for my brother, Aang," sweetly commented Katara with a warm smile, drawing Aang's gaze back towards her.
"Katara, I would do anything for you and your brother," sincerely said Aang, his smile honest and truthful. "You know that." Katara's only response was a small smile that accompanied his signature smile, finding themselves lost in the depths of each other's eyes for what seemed to be an eternity. After a little while, Aang cleared his throat. "Anyways," he said as he stood up, brushing himself off as Katara stood up as well, "let's get started."
Katara took a few steps back, allowing Aang his space as he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as he brought his clenched fists together, the arrows on his hands pointing towards each other. Aang took in a deep breath through his nostrils, calming himself as he searched deep within himself for the power that hid deep inside of him, awaiting his command to unlock and unleash its energy throughout his young body.
Suddenly, he found that ancient power nestled within the very core of his being, and he immediately unlocked it with his resolute will. All at once, indescribable, cosmic energy flooded his entire body, his chi pathways filled with a searing power that yearned for release into the world around it. Aang snapped his eyes open, white light bursting to life in his eyes as his tattoos began to glow pure white as well.
"You did it!" joyfully cried Katara, clapping her approval of Aang's success. The Avatar cheerfully smiled at her for a brief moment before he twirled himself around, propelling himself upward on a large spiral column of air. Katara covered her face with her arms as the wind buffeted her, uncovering her face and looking up as the rushing wind died down.
Aang was nearly five hundred feet up in the air, flying high above the ship on his mini-tornado. Coming to a stop in mid-air, he thrust his palms outward, angling his head up towards the sky as massive streams of flames came voraciously roaring out of his mouth and palms. The air cackled and snapped from the immense heat of the enhanced flames, which only seemed to grow ever larger as the Avatar poured more of his limitless power into his Firebending.
Snapping his mouth closed, Aang cut off the flow of explosive chi to his mouth and palms, killing the flames and causing them to dissipate as he angled himself downwards. Summoning more air behind him, he dove down towards the sea surrounding The Harmony, leveling out when he was just mere feet from slamming into the waves. The water began to waver and undulate as he flew above the ocean's surface, circling around the ship as he continued to soar with his Airbending.
Katara continued to watch Aang as he moved about the ship, completely awestruck by the incredible power he was displaying. Her eyes glimmered with amazement as she watched Aang move back towards the front of the ship, twirling his arms as he spun his body, causing streams of water to course around his body as he flew.
Aang suddenly shot upward, belching flames from his mouth and coating his entire body in fire as he rose higher and higher on his air spiral, large streams of water obediently following him and orbiting his body as he flew upward. He was like a flaming arrow that flew with all the swiftness of the wind through a torrential waterfall.
Katara watched as Aang released himself of his elements, the flames dying off and the water falling back into the ocean as he let himself fall back to the deck of the ship, softening his landing on the middle of the deck with a small cushion of air as Katara came running towards him. The glow of the Avatar State faded as Aang deeply exhaled, smiling as he turned around, only to find himself being tackle-hugged by Katara. "That was incredible, Aang!" she happily exclaimed, tightly gripping Aang as he hugged her back. Coming out of their hug, holding each other by the forearms, she jokingly added, "It's still hard to believe there's that much power behind that goofy smile of yours."
Aang deeply blushed as he glanced away from her, eliciting a loving chuckle from Katara. She drew him into another hug that he readily returned as she whispered in his ear, "You've become so strong, Aang, and I'm so proud of how far you've come since we first met."
"I couldn't have gotten this far without you, Katara," stated Aang, whispering in her ear as well. "But there's still room for improvement. Am I right?"
"Of course you're right," agreed Katara as they came out of their hug. "We're all still growing, and I plan on always being by your side as you keep on growing up."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," smiled Aang as he took hold of her hand, leading her towards the mid-ship stairs. "Let's go help out Sokka for a little while, and then we can get back to training."
"Good idea," nodded Katara as she let Aang lead the way. Nudging his shoulder with her shoulder, she teasingly added, "Maybe we can get some Waterbending training in as well."
"Whatever you say, sweetie," acquiesced Aang as he lightly pecked Katara on the cheek, making her chuckle as her cheeks tinted a flirtatious pink.
The two of them made their down to the lower decks, still walking hand-in-hand, their hearts growing ever closer with each passing moment.