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|Laying Memories to Rest, Part 1|
14 October 2011
Laying Memories to Rest is a cooperative work between PSUAvatar14 and Vulmen. This fanon will focus on Aang and Katara returning to Ba Sing Se, and despite being a One-Shot chapter, it actually has a part two.
A little over a year after the War, the couple is enjoying a brief trip to a ball hosted in Ba Sing Se. Their little vacation away from the South Pole has gone well, until Katara is reminded of the tragic events that had taken place here a year prior, holding her dead lover in her arms. Eventually the two end up embarking on an emotional journey of prior unexplored territory with one another, unveiling secrets and locked away memories.
PSUAvatar14, in a search for ideas, came up with this idea, as this time was part of unease for Aang and Katara. It was an interesting way to see if the two could conquer their past pain, as the Catacombs held their darkest memories.
PSUAvatar approached Vulmen, and the authors worked together and came up with this story to see just how heavy of an impact the Coup of Ba Sing Se, the battle in the Catacombs, and Aang's death had on the couple.
The story, part 1
"Aang...I know we traveled all the way here for the ball and all, but...why don't we look around a little more? This is going to sound a little crazy, but..." Katara hesitated, fidgeting in her wooden chair. Her long, slender fingers toyed with her dark brown hair which hung loosely over her shoulders. Drawing her arms close to press her emerald green sleeves against her chest, she softly bit at her lip before continuing. "I think I need to see something again." Her blue eyes lifted, settling knowingly upon her boyfriend of slightly over one year.
Aang looked at her with a look of confusion. "Katara, what could you need to see? We're here in Ba Sing Se, having a great time...but whatever this is seems to be bothering you..."
The blue of her eyes slipped to their corners glumly, responding quietly to his seeming curiosity. "Don't play dumb..." She blinked slowly, allowing her eyelids to remain closed for a second. "Last week when you pretended to ask me out to dinner for our first time, I remembered our first time here...when you almost did. I don't really know why I'm suggesting this I just..." She paused, offering a shrug before regaining her lost words. "Just come with me, please?"
Aang's mind tried to figure out just what she meant. The first time we were here? I hardly remember....what could she... "Heh, yeah, that was pretty funny. But...almost what?" Wait... "Do you mean, when I nearly told you that I loved you?" He recalled when he came close, only for Sokka to cut him off with talk off the "man-only" trip they were planning on that day.
Her eyebrows lifted only slightly, settling her large eyes on him timidly to supply him a subtle nod of her head. "I knew..."
Aang moved his head around a little, trying to catch on to her idea. He could see in her eyes though that something continued to bother her. "Katara, I'm just not sure what this is you need to see. This was a fun night, I don't get why you would be so sorely bothered. We had a good time..." He moved in to hug her, hoping his embrace would help ease her mind.
"I did have a good time." She slipped her fingers out of the grasp of her hair knotted about them, laying her hands atop Aang's as he embraced her. "Of course I did...when you dance, well..." A little smirk danced on her lips as she averted her eyes away from him and cleared her throat, returning to the subject she had nearly been diverted from. "Never mind, you're right." She dismissed, wrapping her fingers about his hand. "Let's just go home, maybe I'm just a little tired and need some sleep. You are a good dancer after all."
Aang blushed slightly at her compliment, but could still feel something was off when she quickly tried to dismiss her fear. "All right, Katara, something is bothering you here in Ba Sing Se, and it has you worried. If you are tired though, I won't force you to talk about it. Maybe a night of sleep will help."
"I'm fine. There's nothing here that's worrying me." She softly returned, turning a warm smile to her boyfriend whom she extended her hand for. "Take me home, please."
"All right, if you so please," Aang smiled and took her hand. "I think a good night of sleep will do us well." With this, the two traversed the streets from the Royal Palace to their home, the same one they held a year ago on their first trip to the Earth Kingdom Capital. Aang unlocked the door and led her in. "I will see you in the morning then, Katara. Good night." He kissed her on the cheek.
She smiled lightly, gently leaning into him as she received his kiss. It wasn't but a moment that they broke away though as she turned to head for her room. Stopping at the doorway, she laid her hand against its frame and cast her warm gaze over her shoulder lovingly. "Thanks for this date Aang. I've really enjoyed our 'vacation' together." She breathed a soft, silent sigh, before making her way through the oaken double-doors in front of her.
Behind closed doors, Katara lay atop a small collection of plush pillows with a tan throw laying peacefully over her soft teal nightgown. Staring up to the dark gloom of the ceiling, she mused over the events of this past year. She reminisced how it felt, how deep it stung, the day she lost Aang. The pain had cut her so deeply she still felt it, though her pain over losing her Mother had eased with time. "When did I fall in love with you...?" She murmured to the air. It felt like she always had, she couldn't really place it. Closing her eyes to allow a gentle smile to grace her lips, she drifted into a heavy slumber, though her sleep was fretful, plagued with visions of her lover's death playing out helplessly before her eyes.
Aang found it hard to fall sleep, his girlfriend's thoughts and actions on his mind. What could be bothering her? What about the first time we were here? Is it, I mean, could it be? But, that was such a while ago... Eventually, his eyes shut and the young Avatar drifted off to sleep.
When Aang emerged in the morning, Katara was in plain view, seated beside a green carpet in front of a low wooden table with her legs folded beneath her. Averting her attention from the newspaper in her hands, she smiled as she laid her eyes upon Aang. "Good morning. I was just looking through the paper here and noticed Iroh's tea shop was mentioned in it. I can't believe we haven't been to see him yet."
"We really should check it out. How about for breakfast?" Aang looked at his girlfriend, happy to see her as always. "I could go for some white dragon bush tea."
"Hang on, I haven't even read the article yet." She refused with a laugh, setting the paper to the table. "'The owner of the most prestigious tea shop in the city, the Jasmine Dragon, has invited all of Ba Sing Se for a half-off luncheon special. This marks the first day of his shop's reopening since...'" She paused, blinking at the page in lost wonder.
He wondered why her voice had trailed off. "Is everything okay, Katara? Your mind looks like it is on a vacation of its own," he chuckled somewhat. "Seriously, does this have to do with what we talked about last night?"
"Huh?" She spun her head toward him, arching her eyebrows perplexedly. "Uh...no. Listen to this..." She turned back to the page and resumed reading the article. "'...since it had been vandalized and damaged last month by four children as a hate crime against the Fire Nation.'" Her eyebrows furrowed into her forehead, blinking in surprise at the page. "'The owner of the establishment, Iroh, has officially bailed the four children out of prison and charged that they should be the first visitors to his establishment, where they will receive their meals on the house. The Jasmine Dragon will officially open to the public for its noon luncheon.'" She set the paper down, lifting to stare blankly ahead of her for a moment.
Aang still looked curious. "Hmmm, an interesting punishment by Iroh...allowing them to be the first entrants in? That is...kind of like him, huh?" He looked up from the paper to see Katara staring away. "Katara?"
"Exactly what I was thinking." She replied wistfully with a shake of her head. "Every time we've met, he's always been so humble and loving." She folded the paper over, lowering her eyes to stare thoughtfully at it without a word for a moment. "Even during the middle of a war, and when all hope was lost."
"He is definitely a father figure to everyone. I could see why Zuko was deeply hurt when he turned against him...Iroh was like his own father," he said, looking up towards Katara. "So, what do you want to do this morning? Maybe we could check out the luncheon later?"
"Well, how about we go out for a walk together?" Katara pivoted her gaze toward Aang, pushing back the paper as she climbed to her feet and turned for the door, though posing an idle question as she headed out. "When were we going to leave for the South Pole anyway? Now that the ball's over..."
"Well, it is a pleasant day. I think a walk would do us well," he walked up to her and took her hand. "I also think it would be nice to spend one last night here, then we can return to the South Pole tomorrow."
Stepping onto their home's front porch, she stretched her arms wide in the rays of morning sunlight, breathing a soft sigh. "You know; for being here a week, I love it." She gingerly walked down the stone steps to the street below, assuming Aang was right behind her as she continued speaking. "I have to admit that I like leaving the Southern Water Tribe. Don't get me wrong, I love it there, but...there's just so much more that I can't do there, something as simple as go on a walk in normal clothes." She chanced a glance to her blue short sleeves, smiling at the warmth of the gentle breeze in the streets.
"I have to agree, Katara," Aang looked at her. "I like living at the South Pole, but a little vacation every so often is a good idea." The couple walked past the sights of Ba Sing Se, hand-in-hand. "Katara, you said there was something you needed to see, last night?"
She gave a subtle squeeze of Aang's hand, shifting her attention toward a cluster of trees lining the pathway. For a moment, the only sound that echoed in the streets were their footsteps across the stones beneath them. "Well..." She tugged softly at Aang's hand, turning back to him. "I don't know what was wrong with me last night. You were right, we're having a wonderful time here and it's a beautiful day right now."
"See? A good night's sleep is just what you needed," Aang said, smiling at her. "I'm glad you're feeling better." With that, he took a breath of the beautiful fresh air around them. The day was perfect, not too warm, but not chilly either. It was the perfect setup. Aang felt glad to be in the presence of Katara, enjoying the beautiful day. As they walked, they closed in on the Royal Palace.
Walking in silence, Katara attempted to let her mind drift away from what had troubled it before, focusing on her current company instead. She snickered softly, smirking toward the stone pathway as she muttered lowly. "Of course you don't mind leaving the Southern Water Tribe. You can't stay in one place for long."
As they strode towards the Royal Palace, Aang could feel something with his seismic sense. Although it was not as strong as Toph's, it could still pick up things. "Hmmm, I think we're near...." He decided in his mind to dismiss this. No...bad memories. His look shifted, trying to distract from that thought.
Katara swallowed at his words, and stopped walking, slipping her fingers from his to let her hand fall to her side. "...Aang." She stated simply, staring at him with a solid look of familiarity. "Near what?" Her question was straightforward, though her tone gave away a distant fear he had relit.
"W-W-well....it's a place we saw our last time here," he stammered, his memories starting to protrude his mind, like the Drill trying to break through the walls of Ba Sing Se. "I just..." The young Avatar gave a disheartened sigh.
She broke away during his stuttering, leaving his side as she paced away from the paved courtyard toward a building at the farther end, tucked against the wall. Despite moving, her face and movements were stiff and straight as a statue.
"Katara?" Aang looked towards his wandering girlfriend. "Is everything okay?" He moved towards her, realizing though that her look had not changed. Still, he could not process why she walked away from him.
Arriving closer to this building, she paused her advance with her back to Aang. Her shoulders rose, then fell, releasing a hard breath. "That place you're talking about." She half-stepped to her side to face him. "You mean there?" She pointed to a grate covering a gaping hole in the courtyard.
Aang looked towards the hole. "I think that goes towards..." He somberly looked down below, full well knowing that it led to by far to a place where his worst memory since his fleeing from the Air Temples. The stream, if he was thinking right, was part of a waterfall. "I...should we be here?"
She shrugged, turning to somberly stare into the grate. "Probably not. Last I knew the Dai Li used it as a prison. Now? Who knows..." Keeping her head tilted toward the dark abyss, her eyes drifted to Aang. She couldn't help but suddenly have the sensation of feeling his deadweight leaning against her, desperately trying to help him stand to no avail. Her throat tensed as she swallowed this thought back.
His thoughts moved through him like a raging river, memories overcoming him. Suddenly, he realized something. "Katara....this....was this what you meant last night? When you needed to see something?"
She shrugged silently, pacing about the entrance before kneeling to dip her fingers into the rushing water pouring over the grate. Running her fingers upstream, her eyes gently followed the ripple of water that bent around her fingers softly. "I just, well. This is the place you were referring to also, right?"
He took a deep breath. "Yes...this is the place. Old Ba Sing Se." The Avatar tried to re-organize his thoughts, but found it a struggle. "Do, you...you know....want to take a look? Since we are here?"
"Should we?" She straightened herself, lowering her knees to the stone as she sat upon her legs. "There isn't an entrance besides this one I know of. The Dai Li made the entrance for me when they threw me in, and I left through-" She paused, dipping her gaze instantly as she remembered her exit through this very grate. "...so it might be like breaking in?"
"Katara...the Dai Li are gone. I don't think it will matter. This place, as far as I know, hasn't been used since the War ended," he reminded her. "Besides, I want to see you get this out of your mind before we go home, if it is bothering you."
"I know they're gone, that's not the point." She climbed back to her feet, turning to Aang as she waved one hand before her, palm open, in explanation. "This whole place still belongs to the Earth King. We can't just go around breaking things up to go wherever we want, can we?"
"Well, maybe we should go to him first. He should approve, I am the Avatar after all," he chucked slightly. "Seriously, we'll see if he does approve. I don't see why he wouldn't, though." With that, Aang took her hand and they walked towards the Royal Palace.
As the Waterbender and Airbender approached the tall doors that led to the Earth King, she drew her hands up and gripped each of her arms, glancing aside to Aang. "Um, are you sure we need to do this? I mean really, this kind of feels silly to bring before the Earth King..." She finished with a soft little chuckle, bearing a grin to her boyfriend.
"Katara, I think he will understand," the Avatar said as they approached closer to the throne room of the Earth Kingdom's Royal Palace. "We are, after all, the world's saviors, aren't we?"
She exhaled a silent laugh, closing her eyes to shake her head in dismay. "If I haven't heard that one a hundred times already..." Taking a step forward, she laid her hand upon the door. "Fine; let's see what he has to say about this."
One of the Earth King's servants opened the door. "Ah, if it isn't Avatar Aang, and his acquaintance, the legendary Katara. Welcome. What may I do you for?"
Aang bowed in response to the guard's show of respect. "We need to speak with King Kuei about entering the Crystal Catacombs. Is he available?"
The guard nodded. "Follow me."
As they followed after the guard across the long open floor, Earth King Kuei sat on his throne in all his royal regalia in discussion with a small group of upper class citizens. This rabble broke off instantly as the young man laid eyes on the approaching couple and allowed an honest grin. "Ah, welcome Avatar Aang." Kuei waved his hand in dismissal to the three at the base of the stairs, not without a few grunts in return as they twisted to head away past Aang and Katara, two with sour expressions. "What brings me this honor? Our next council meeting with the other nations isn't for another month."
The Avatar bowed to the Earth King before him. "Greetings, your majesty. I have what might seem like a weird request for you."
Katara bowed her upper body slightly, grinning stupidly as she found herself agreeing. "Hmm." Kuei leaned back in his chair and propped his elbows off either side of his throne, peering at Aang from overtop his bifocals. "I'm sure some of my most recent requests would probably seem more odd than whatever you wish to ask. Go on."
"Well..." he began, debating on the proper way to query the King. "Me...and Katara...there's something bugging us with regards to Old Ba Sing Se. We know it is in your control now...so, we decided we would approach you for permission," he gave a more straightforward look to the King. "May we see the Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se today? I feel a visit there would help me and Katara get this funk out of us."
"Something is strange about the catacombs?" Kuei posed with sudden interest, arching a single eyebrow in curiosity. "What is it that is troubling you? There have been a few uprisings in the past several months but no mass organized effort that I am aware of." He waved his right hand toward a general of the Council of Five, drawing his attention as the man, Sung, stood at the ready for any order to be given.
"Um...we don't mean like that, it isn't any kind of trouble..." Katara hesitated nervously, smiling in spite of the mistaken reasoning Kuei had taken.
"Oh." He sank back in his chair, blinking in his lost thought as he recollected himself. He relaxed his hand so that Sung likewise stepped back.
"What we are saying, your majesty, is that it relates to just us," Aang explained. "It relates to what happened the last time we were here in Ba Sing Se. I think going down there is in our best interests, mentally and physically."
"Of course." Kuei gave an allowing nod to the two, settling the matter instantly. "Feel free to look all you like. However, the catacombs may lie in a state of disrepair. It has been closed to all ever since the eradication of the Dai Li. I can provide you Earthbenders to open a tunnel for you if you wish."
The Avatar nodded and bowed. "Very well, we will accept any help we can get. I understand things are probably not in the best of shape."
"Thank you very much, your majesty," he said as he bowed. Two Royal Guards, two of the strongest Earthbenders in Ba Sing Se, came up to the two, upon Kuei's motioning.
"Guards, lead the Avatar and Katara down to the Catacombs, and open the tunnels to allow them entrance," the young King explained. The guards nodded and bowed. With that, Aang took Katara's hand and led her as they followed the men.
Katara had slipped her hand up, seizing Aang's arm as they began their descent into the tunnels of pitch ebon. The two guards had been pacing alongside them, but here they ceased at either side of the tunnel, flattening their backs to the wall as they bowed toward their guests. "The rest of the tunnel is open for you now. If you have need of us, we will follow, otherwise we shall be waiting at the surface to seal off this tunnel once you have finished."
"Thank you," Aang again showed his respect with a bow. With that, the couple began their descent, closing in on the beautiful but rather hard to see sight.
"So..." She posed, letting her arm hang loosely from her hold on Aang's arm. Her blue eyes searched the darkness ahead of them, focusing on the glow of green lighting their destination. "Why are we doing this...I mean, this is all behind us. Why are we even here?"
"Katara...I think we need this. I could tell something was bothering you about Ba Sing Se...and considering...well...." Aang's mind started to go adrift, thinking about his hard fight he had nearly one year ago, only to result in his most infamous moment. "I think...if we get this off our minds...we'll be fine."
"Alright...I guess." She slipped her hand back, tucking each under either of her arms as she tipped her head downward toward the tunnel's end.
"Katara? Are you sure you want to do this?" Aang saw his girlfriend already seemed un-nerved.
"Yes, I'm fine Aang." She returned softly as they neared the glowing jade hue awaiting them. "Let's just get this over with and enjoy the rest of our day."
Aang looked around the large waterfall before him, the same first sight he had seen when he entered with the Dragon of the West just a little more than a year ago, when he was on a rescue mission. "I can't believe we're back..." He muttered quietly to himself. He looked down towards the tunnel that him and Katara ran through, trying to escape the then-falling Capital. Things came back to the Avatar fast, it's almost as if he could see him and her running right in front of his eyes.
Katara slowed her pace, falling behind Aang before halting just past the tunnel's entrance. She gazed full-round her, glowing green gems of jennamite littered the expansive room. Four columns still stood proudly in the center of the room, though one obviously still bore heavy damage. The floor was still cracked and dented and fragments of spikes from the ceiling still protruded from the floor sporadically. She sighed softly; her knuckles whitening as she squeezed her arms tighter. Her eyes drifted to Aang's back, though she couldn't see his scar through his shirt, she stared straight at it, being more than familiar with its location. These catacombs hadn't even been restored since their battle, and still bore its scars - just like Aang bore his. What am I doing here...
Aang made his way to the Catacombs' floor, looking around, his mind processing thoughts as he walked across the floor, following the stream at the waterfall's base. He looked around, his own look starting to grow somber, as his memories continued to come back to him. I can't believe what I did here.... His head started to hang down as he paced the floor, looking towards Katara, who remained rather somber.
As Aang glanced back to her, her eyes broke away from him to stare at nothing in particular. In silent wonder her feet began to carry her down toward the damaged floor below. An eerie green glow lit her way, her footsteps crunching with each step on pieces of jennamite scattering the floor. "All they did was seal this place away...they didn't even clean it one bit..." She wistfully stated, catching sight of the shattered crystal she had slammed into before briefly falling unconscious. She grimaced, remembering how this had left Aang with no support during that time.
Aang looked up to see the pieces of a small rock house shattered, the same one he was smashed into when Azula blew him away with blue fire. "I fought badly here...I never had a chance," he whispered to himself. "Until I tried..." Aang took a seat on the rock floor, his head pointed down to it.
Her eyelids lowered, her heart dropping as Aang likewise fell to the floor. With a slow blink, she reopened her eyes to stare in his general direction, but toward the cracked stone floor by his feet. "You did everything you could Aang, I'm proud of you." Her eyes passed over him, turning to the river encircling the auditorium. Without reason, her feet carried her toward the river, though she paused just as she passed Aang to gently rest her fingertips atop his shoulder.
He found it hard to even look at Katara as his memories took him over. He looked to see Katara walking up the river. The Avatar briefly got up and looked at the waterfall. To its left, that was where it all crashed down. He could see himself, floating high in the air, going to his last ditch effort, the all-powerful but high-risk Avatar State. I wanted to save you, Katara... Then came the lightning. Then came the blackout. He remembered catching a sight of her for a few seconds, but then nothing until the Fire Nation ship. I failed everyone...
She stopped by the river, her arms hanging limp as she stared into its reflective surface. Due to the glow filling the air, the water appeared to nearly be liquid jennamite now, as the crystal had spread even further throughout the catacombs since their last time here. "Aang. I don't know. I'm not feeling any better about being here...what are we looking for?" She idly muttered toward the water.
Aang took another seat on the floor. Maybe this was a bad idea... All he could think of was his failures, the fact that his loss helped result in Ba Sing Se's collapse. His head again tilted downward as he felt distant from the world around him. Even though he did end the War, the pain of his failure still scarred him mentally. I thought by coming back to this place, by facing this pain....
Despite not receiving an answer from him, she had shown no notice to this. Instead, her breath rasped as her eyes honed upon a lone towering gathered cluster of jennamite reaching from the floor. It stood defiantly several feet in front of a roaring waterfall, surrounded by two streams of water. Without responding to Aang's silence, she paced toward this structure - the dome of crystal created by the Avatar.
Aang finally gathered up the will to walk towards this dome, and finally re-face his girlfriend. He looked at the crystal dome before him. He could feel a rush of sadness as he looked within the dome. I'm sorry, Katara... he could hear the words like they were yesterday. Now he felt the need to say them again, as he saw that she did not want to be there. Why did I force her here...me and my ideas... He stood behind her, his head wandering.
She laid her hand on the smooth crystal. It was cool to the touch, and due to its proximity to the waterfall moisture had settled upon it. She slid her hand slowly across the crystal, wiping the water away with her fingers as it streamed down the side. Likewise, a trace few droplets of water danced down her cheeks. "I'm still proud of you." She nearly inaudibly rasped to the reflection of Aang in the crystal.
The Avatar found it hard to take pride in any sort of effort, knowing that he failed at that very spot just over a year ago. Seeing Katara shed tears began to add heartbreak to him. With this, a tear dropped down his face, as he turned away from Katara, again kneeling on the ground. I failed...
"Aang?" Katara's voice quailed, plummeting to the stone behind him, spreading her knees to either side as she threw her arms around his chest, laying her head atop the back of his neck. Her tears fell to his neck, tugging him back against her chest. "It's not your fault. You did everything you could have, you even mastered the Avatar State. If Azula hadn't..." She gave him a further squeeze, breaking her speech. I was so scared. She pressed her cheek into his neck, stifling a hard cry to keep control of herself. "But it's all over now. It's over."
The tears ran down his cheeks as Katara hugged him. "Katara..." his voice choked out. "I...that day...that feeling...it's so hard to get rid of...I wanted to save you...save everyone..." He took a hold of one of Katara's hands. "I...failed..." Aang looked to the somber young woman behind him.
"Ssh." She kissed the side of his neck gently, tilting her head forward to rest her head against him a moment after. Her hair streamed over his shoulder, settling herself upon the ground as her body pressed comfortingly against his. "I watched you try harder than you ever had. You don't have anything to apologize for." She gently rubbed his chest, absorbing this new scene, his warm body filling her heart and memories. She had been reminded of just how limp and still he had felt in her arms before; and now, she wanted nothing more than to feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest with each breath. "Besides...it all worked out in the end. Zuko even became the Fire Lord. This...was for the best." She told herself, aloud as if to tell Aang.
Aang tried to focus on the good. "Well...I feel like it did bring us closer," he spoke as he tried to smile through his tears. "You're right...in the end, we did succeed, and now we are moving towards peace." With this, he separated himself out of her embrace to turn around, placing himself in a position where she was in front of him. He embraced her tightly, tears still streaming down his cheeks, but now more those of happiness.
She sighed out softly, wiping away tears with the back of her hand before sinking into Aang's arms, pulling him close against her. The sound of rushing water filled the air as she allowed herself a slight smile, closing her eyes to enjoy his love for her. "I'm not sure I will ever forget what happened that night, and I still don't like being here. So, if you've seen enough, I'd like lunch on the terrace of the Jasmine Dragon please..." Her words rang out with a touch of sweet play in it.
He pulled his lips to her ear, giving it a small peck. "I'm sorry I brought you down here, Katara. Yes, we may go to the Jasmine Dragon now," he said quietly, as he brushed her hair, his fingers running down it lightly.
"Mm..." She hummed softly, leaning against him to cherish his touch as he stroked her hair. "Thanks, Aang." She whispered hushedly, drawing her legs back to slowly prop herself up, allowing her hand to linger on his shoulder as she rose. "It's okay that you did. I, I just..." She gazed past him, lifting her blue eyes to the distant waterfall. "I've been trying to put this all behind me." Her eyes dimmed as her words softened, slipping her hand to the side of her hip. "It was worse than when I lost Mom."
"I'm sorry I forced this all back on you, Katara. It's just, last night, something seemed to bother you about our last trip here," he got up and came to her right side. "This is the only thing I could figure. I thought that maybe coming back here, facing our pain, we could get rid of it from our lives," he explained. "I guess it only made it worse," he turned himself away from her. "I'm sorry." He then addressed her last statement. "Katara...really?"
She shuddered, turning away from Aang toward the exit, though her feet refused carry her forward. For a moment, her lips had parted to speak, but nothing came but a fresh tear. Oh, stop it, stop... "I...I can't believe what that did to me. When I saw Zuko again..." She mumbled mindlessly, another tear wetting her cheek. Her mouth slowly parted again, her following words very still and quiet. "I threatened to kill him."
The Avatar gasped. "You...what?" His Air Nomad nature kicked in. "Katara...I...I don't understand. Why?" He looked at her somberly.
"I trusted him." She stated, turning slowly toward Aang. "Because of that; I held you...dead." Her last word broke off, her gut twisting at the memory as she clasped one hand over her mouth. Tears broke from her eyes, and with only a passing moment she snapped her head toward Aang and thrusted her hands to her side. "I didn't want to lose you again-I couldn't, I just couldn't go through that again!"
"I never knew you trusted him the first time...I guess that explains why you were angry at him in the first place, I never expected you though, to...you know," he came up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "As you said though, it is in the past now. We have forgiven him, and we don't have to worry about that again," he smiled, wiping the tears that fell from her face with the back of his hand, then cupping her cheek in that same hand.
Staring pensively into Aang's eyes, she responded with a brief shake of her head. "I didn't know I would either. I just, broke..." She drew closer to him, sliding her head beside his to rest it beneath the crook of his neck, on his shoulder. "I love you Aang. I don't want to know what life is like without you." She closed her eyes and exhaled gently, her fingers searching down his arms before finding their companions, interlocking with his fingers.
Although he was shocked to hear Katara make such a threat, he found it easy to let it go. Her beautiful words made his eyes beam with great love and happiness, his eyes welling up some. "It's okay, Katara, you did find it in you to forgive him, and for that, I am proud of you. I love you too, and I don't know what I would do without you, either," he said, as he kissed her on the side of her neck.
With her arms wrapped around him, she uttered softly, yet just loud enough to overcome the rushing water. "Take me away, please. I'm ready to leave this place." Her fingers still locked with his, she pressed her palms to his and curled her fingers to the back of his hand.
"I think we have had enough of this place...forever," he whispered into her ear. "Now, I do believe there is a nice lunch waiting for us at the Jasmine Dragon, but, I think we should thank Kuei first," he cracked a smile again. "Let us leave...or, as Bumi would say...lettuce leaf," the Avatar chuckled to try and lighten the mood.
"Oh, don't say that." She teased lightly, stepping back and turning to hold one hand as she gently tugged him after her. "It'll be just our luck if King Kuei decides to imprison us like Bumi did."
(End of Part 1)