Words Left Unsaid
Rated: Teen for dramatic and fluffy romance. (Kataang)
Summary: AU Post-War. "Katara, I'm leaving." Katara felt the words hit her heart like a dagger. Leaving? Why would he be leaving?
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender belongs to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
LES: This story is based on an idea presented by QueenOfTheCute. She posted a Tumblr blog that she was upset about how there is a lack of angsty romance within the Avatar Fandom. The sort of romance where two people are head over heels in love with each other, but can't seem to get together because of preconceived notions about the other person. Of course, it will start off dramatic and end fluffy, because I can't resist a happy ending. This story takes place two years after the finale and kind of ignores the finale kiss and The Promise.
To any other person, it was a beautiful night. Even Katara had to appreciate it a little, despite the heaviness in her heart. She knew that life was never simple, but there were times like now when she wished it would just give her a break.
Had she once been so foolish to think that just because the war was over that her life would suddenly sort itself out, and she would get her happily ever after? Well, she had, and she couldn't have been more wrong on that count. Life was not turning out the way that she wanted.
She had just turned sixteen… and was the proper age to receive proposals and get married. She had lost count of the number of men who had proposed to her in the weeks following her birthday. It seemed like she had gotten proposals from every eligible (and many non-eligible) males in the world. Diplomats, nobility, peasants, strangers, men who were old enough to be her grandfather… all had traveled to the South Pole in an attempt to win Katara's hand. She had received a proposal from every male in the world, except for the one that she wanted to hear it from.
In fact, Aang had barely said three words to her since her birthday weeks ago. He'd watched impassively every time a man stopped her in the street with a proposal and a necklace. He'd mediate right through Sokka's numerous lectures to his sister that she should just pick a suitor and be done with it.
Katara was at loathe to admit it, but she was on the verge of giving up on Aang. She loved him. She loved him so deeply that there were many days that she couldn't stand it, but he hadn't shown an interest in her for years. He loved her as a boy, Katara knew, but those feelings seemed to have disappeared since the end of the war.
Only just recently, she had a talk with Toph and had been shocked to learn that Toph had feelings for her brother, Sokka, for several years now. But, the problem was, Sokka was in love with and engaged to Suki. Katara remembered the words she had told Toph that day. The young Waterbender had told her Earthbending friend that she needed to move on. She couldn't waste years of her life waiting for Sokka to return her affections when it would never happen.
Now Katara just felt like a major hypocrite. She had urged Toph to move on, but was nearly incapable of doing the same thing with her feelings towards Aang. She leaned against the railing of one of the balconies on the palace of the Southern Water Tribe, a new addition since the end of the war… her father's home and her home, when she was with her tribe.
She considered her possibilities. Sokka would be the one to take over as chief one day, so Katara didn't need to worry about arranging a political match, a man who was capable of being Chief. She was free to marry whomever she picked. Despite all her refusals, there were men among her suitors that she knew that she could live with. Despite the fact that she didn't love them, she knew that she could be somewhat happy. Perhaps she could even grow to love them.
Picking another man would be easy… letting go of Aang was the hard part.
Just the thought of moving on and letting go left her feeling empty. Aang had made her feel more than she ever thought possible, and the idea of losing that love… it was nearly unbearable.
Her fingers drifted up to her neck, where her mother's necklace hung around her throat, where it had been since the day she lost her mother to that awful Fire Navy raid. She couldn't imagine what her mother would say to her if she took off her beloved necklace only to replace it with the carving of a man she didn't love. She could imagine that her mother wouldn't be too thrilled with that, but Katara didn't see any other option.
She would gladly replace the necklace with the carving made by one man, but he hadn't given her reason to do it. No matter what, she couldn't force Aang to love her. He was too good, to gentle, and too perfect to trap him in that way. He was the Avatar, but before that, he was an Air Nomad. Like the birds, Air Nomads were meant to be free, not trapped in an unwanted relationship.
She was so deep in her thoughts that she didn't even notice someone watching her from the doorway.
Aang watched her with sorrow in his stormy grey eyes. He wanted nothing more than to walk up to her and join the legions of men proposing to her. But the one thing that he knew more than that fact that he loved her and would always love her was that it could never be.
Avatars were not specifically forbidden from being in relationships, falling in love, getting married and having families. But it was seen as highly irresponsible while the world was in crisis. Two years after the war had ended; things were not nearly back to where they should have been. He would be criticized all over the world if he took a wife while the world was still trying to rebuild itself.
And then there was the issue of his competition. Sure, he had known Katara longer than that had, but they were nearly all better equipped to take care of her. Aang had no permanent home, and he lived a life of nomadic poverty. It was a life that he was used to and accepted, but he knew that he could not allow Katara to lower herself to that level. She deserved so much better than an Avatar, constantly traveling with nothing to his name besides his clothes, staff, and bison. She deserved a king, someone who could give her comfort for the rest of her life. That was something that he simply could not provide for her.
Knowing all that, asking for her hand would be about the most irresponsible thing he could ever do to her. So he stopped openly pursuing her, and watched impassively as man after man asked for her hand in marriage. He knew that those men didn't stand a chance. Katara was too strong-willed and opinionated to marry someone that she hardly knew. But the day would come when someone agreeable would ask for her hand, someone who would make her smile and laugh, kiss her until her heart soared, and give her everything that she ever deserved.
He'd once heard the monks say that if you truly love someone, who are willing to let go of them. He hadn't understood that saying until now. For Katara's happiness, he had to let go of her. He had to. He couldn't spend the rest of his life pinning after her. But it was too hard to stand by and watch her move away from him. Disappointed love was like a having a thorn stuck in your skin… removing it hurt like nothing else, but doing it quickly was the best way.
He silently moved up towards her so that he was standing about a foot from her back. She hadn't heard him approach, but he didn't know if it was because she was so deep in thought or because she just hadn't heard his naturally light footsteps.
He stood there for a moment, gazing down at her sadly, enjoying this last moment of closeness before he ripped out his heart. And then he spoke, just three words. "Katara, I'm leaving."
Katara froze when she heard the voice behind her. She knew right away that it was Aang, but the words that he spoke hit her heart like a knife. Leaving? Why would he be leaving? She thought to herself, turning around to face him. Aang stood there on the balcony, looking so tall and handsome, but staring at her with sad, grim eyes.
"Aang, what…?" Katara began, confused.
"I'm leaving." He repeated himself firmly.
She desperately hoped that he was talking about leaving on some Avatar duty. He had been in the Southern Water Tribe for a while, and things were bound to come up that would draw him away. "Do you… want me to get my things?" She asked hopefully.
Aang sighed. "Not this time, Katara. I'm leaving you here, in the Southern Water Tribe, where you belong."
Here it is. Katara thought to herself sadly. He can't even stand to have me around anymore. He's going to take off and I'll never see him again. "I… you won't even give me a choice in the matter?" Katara asked.
"It's the best choice." Aang said. "Katara, it's time that we both stopped living out childish fantasies. You know as well as I do that you're not a nomad like I am. You can't spend the rest of your life traveling with me, especially when you have options here at home… people who love you and can take care of you much better than I ever could. And I… I can't stop traveling. Even if my Avatar duties didn't keep me traveling, this is the way that I will live my life. You may think it fun now, but how about in a few years when you just resent me for taking you away from your home and a possible marriage?"
"Aang… I have never complained about traveling with you… not once." Katara stepped forward and grabbed the fabric of his robes. "I love traveling with you. Please don't abandon me here in the Southern Water Tribe! Please!"
"Abandon?" Aang questioned. "Katara, I'm giving you the option of a better life! Here in the Southern Water Tribe, you are a Princess, you are loved by everyone, you have an army of men waiting to marry you, and who would bend over backwards to keep you happy for the rest of your life. What would you have traveling with me? Endless campsites? Boring meetings? A life of poverty, of eating whatever food we can find in the wilderness? Never stopping, never resting…"
"How about never loving?" Katara demanded impulsively before she could censor herself. "How about you abandoning me into a life without love?"
"What are you talking about? You have your family here. You have an army of suitors here."
"Suitors. Not boyfriends. Not fiancées. Not husbands." Katara corrected. "Just because they pursue me don't mean that I appreciate the attention, or return it."
"Well, even if you don't like the ones who have presented themselves so far, someday there will be someone who asks you, and you will love him, and you'll say yes." Aang said.
"I've been waiting for him." Katara said. "Oh, Aang, I've been waiting for him to ask me. But he hasn't. And I'm starting to lose hope… and patience."
Aang's heart sunk. He knew that she was waiting for someone specific to ask her. He just knew it. "He'd be… foolish to keep you waiting for much longer."
"He is a bit of an idiot." Katara conceded. "Especially when he comes up to me out of the blue and tells me that he's abandoning me in the Southern Water Tribe for no reason."
Aang felt his heart stop. He couldn't think, couldn't say a word, and couldn't breathe. He met her eyes, his own eyes going impossibly wide. Katara remained impassive, simply waiting for his reaction.
Several minutes passed and Aang was finally able to breathe again. "Katara…" He gasped.
She turned away from him. "I guess you know now. I guess you should just leave now, leave me to a life of unhappiness without the man that I love."
"Katara…" Aang began again. "I don't have a home."
"The whole world is your home." Katara countered.
"I don't have any material possessions." Aang said.
"I don't need material possessions if I have you." Katara countered.
"The life of the Avatar is difficult, and it's sure to be just as difficult on anyone close to him." Aang said.
"I haven't left you yet, have I?" Katara countered. "Aang, I know what I'm saying. I know what I'm getting into. I know that it won't always be easy, and I know that there will be times when I want to settle down but can't. But the one thing that I know above that is that I want to be with you for the rest of my life. If I am to marry, I would marry for love rather than security a thousand times over." She moved closer to him, so that they were practically nose-to-nose. "Ask me to marry you, Aang, and I promise I'll say yes in a heartbeat."
Aang closed his eyes, hyperaware of her hot breath on his lips. He longed to kiss her, ached for it. "I… I don't have a necklace."
"Make me one." Katara whispered.
"I didn't really want to leave you. I thought you would be happier without me."
"Make me happy now."
"Katara…" Aang sighed, wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her close to him. "I love you. I love you so much. I've loved you since we were children, and I love you all the more now that we are adults."
"I love you too, Aang."
"Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, I don't have a necklace for you, but will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" Aang asked.
"Yes, Aang. Of course, yes." Katara replied as Aang's lips finally met hers. The last time he had kissed her was on the Day of Black Sun, but it was so much better now. They were deeply, madly, passionately in love and they both knew it now. And they would never allow those words to go unsaid again.
LES: I hope that you guys like this!