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|A Gentle Touch|
Chapter 5: A Gentle Touch
Words of Avatar Yangchen:
Sometimes, it can be as uncertain and unpredictable as currents of the wind.
Always changing, never moving in the same direction twice. A turbulent affair...
And other times...
Other times it is a true wind, a powerful wind. One that blows constantly and will never die down, no matter what obstacles block its path.
It is this true wind, this true love that many have sought after and never achieved.
For some, the ones they thought they loved did not love them in return, and the wind slowly died, leaving an empty, barren field in its wake.
And for others...
For others, the ones they loved were taken from them, called to eternal rest.
Addressing the Issue.
Ba Sing Se, courtyard...
Appa landed with a solid thump. Grunting, he laid on his belly to let the group off.
As Aang helped Katara down, he was relieved to see Toph and Sokka still keeping watch over Azula, who now sat cross-legged in the center of her enclosure. She had a slight smile on her face, and her arms were folded
Aang and Katara approached carefully.
"How long has she been like that?" asked Aang, nodding his head toward Azula.
Toph yawned "About half an hour. Didn't make a sound when she woke up, but I felt her, and made sure she didn't cause any more trouble." Exhaling loudly, she picked at her toes. "Azula is incredibly boring when she's not trying to kill you."
Zuko and Mai walked up to the group. "Well," stated Zuko, "when she's not TRYING to kill you, she's PLOTTING to kill you, so keep on your toes."
They all nodded in agreement.
"Hello, Zu-Zu." came a soft voice. "Or, should I say, FIRELORD Zu-Zu?"
They all turned. Azula, though no one had heard her, was standing up, leaning against one of the walls. She had one of her evil smirks on her face and a sallow, pale look about her, making her appear even more deadly.
Zuko frowned. "Azula," he growled, "why am I not surprised?"
Azula sneered, rolling her eyes. "Please, Zu-Zu. Enough with the formalities." Her golden-brown gaze swept the crowd. "Mai." Her lip curled. "Still with my pathetic excuse of a brother? I expected better of you." She sighed, examining her fingernails. "Well, least I can expect from a traitor, I guess."
Mai waved her hand dismissively. "At least I HAVE somebody, Azula. If you haven't noticed, you happen to be alone at the moment."
Azula shrugged wistfully. Her eyes caught Katara. She grinned smugly. "If it isn't the Water Tribe peasant...the one responsible for my downfall. What a nice surprise."
Aang stepped in front of Katara, glaring at Azula. She laughed.
"Relax, Avatar," she mocked, "your girlfriend isn't in any danger...yet." Cocking her head, she went silent. After a moment, she said, "you have quite the group gathered outside of these walls." She twirled a strand of hair in her fingers. "You might want to let them in. They're probably wondering what's going on."
To get confirmation, Katara turned to Toph. "Is she telling the truth?"
"I can't tell if she's lying, but I CAN feel the huge crowd outside. She's right about that."
Katara nodded. "Aang," she said, tugging his arm, "take down those walls. We don't want people bursting in. We might as well show it."
Aang touched her shoulder. "Stand next to Sokka, please," he whispered, "Azula is freaking me out."
Katara nodded, backpedaling till she reached Sokka.
Taking a deep breath, Aang raised his arms in the air and closed his eyes. The ground began to shake. Suddenly, Aang slammed his hands to the ground, and the giant walls he had created sank back into the earth in a split second.
When the dust cleared, a barrage of noise attacked their ears. A huge group of people were gathered all about the perimeter.
Katara ran back to Aang's side, ready to confront the crowd with him. Sure enough, three officials were in front of them in seconds, with several more around the perimeter attempting to keep the crowd at bay.
"Avatar!" One gasped. "What in the world has happened here?" He glanced around. "Why are there bodies everywhere?" his eyes caught sight of Azula. "And is that Ozai's daughter?"
Aang folded his arms. "We were ambushed today. How did the rebels get into the city?"
The commanders shifted uncomfortably.
"Guys, all of us almost died today. How did they get into the city?" His arms fell to his side, and he straightened up. "This is the third assassination attempt we've had to face."
One of the officials spoke. "Sir, we have no idea how they get into the city, we keep the walls monitored at all times. We even have your home at a different location on the city map."
Aang rubbed his temples with his fingers. "Then that's the first question that I want answered. Take Azula away...see if you can get any information out of her." He lowered his hands and turned to the other officials. "And send some of your men to retrieve these...bodies" he ordered, swallowing hard.
Katara took his hand in hers and the nausea slowly ebbed away.
"Find out who they are and where they came from. I'll get the rest of these people to leave..." he muttered.
"At once, sir!" Each official gave a bow and turned away, barking orders to the other soldiers.
Aang released Katara's hand as he turned to address the crowd.
Katara was exhausted. She lumbered to a bench on the other side of the courtyard, right up against the house.
Shock was finally beginning to set into her body. She noticed that her hands were shaking violently along with her legs. Bending forward, she placed her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. She could feel her head pounding. Wincing, she fingered the lump on her forehead.
"Ugh...that must have been one of the hardest hits I've taken..." she murmured to herself. She sat up and shifted, choosing to lay on her side instead.
But at least Aang's okay...
She placed her head on her hands and curled up, immediately drifting into a hard, dreamless sleep.
With a Light Voice and a Gentle Touch.
Ba Sing Se, inside Team Avatar's home, thirteen hours later...
"She's so tired." Someone murmured.
"I know," whispered another voice. Sokka. "But she needs to get up. She's been out for at least half a day."
Aang shifted. Katara could tell her head was on his lap.
"Sokka," Aang continued, "just let her sleep. Please."
There was a moment of silence, after which Sokka finally gave in. "Fine." He whispered. Katara heard him sit down.
"So," he asked, "where did they take Azula again?"
Aang started trailing his fingers along Katara's face. "They took her to face the Earth King. They planned on interrogating her. I don't know how they plan on getting it out of her, though."
The feeling of Aang tracing her face was about to make Katara fall asleep again, but Sokka spoke.
"What was it she yelled at you while they were taking her away?"
Aang stopped. Katara felt him tense up. "She said, Keep an eye on your girlfriend, Avatar. I'll be back."
Her heart jumped in fear and she shivered at the words, but remained "asleep" in Aang's lap. She felt his hand on the side of her head and took comfort in his touch. Aang...
Sokka exhaled. "She's a maniac..."
"I know. Problem is, she's clever as a rat-viper." Katara felt him brush loose strands of hair from her face. "Azula won't get anywhere near Katara," he whispered, "It would have to be over my dead body."
Katara heard Sokka get up. "Well, that's probably what she wants. Anyways, I'm going to check on Suki. We're supposed to leave in a few minutes."
"Have fun with that."
Sokka rustled away. Katara heard him calling Suki's name.
Aang resumed stroking Katara's face. His fingers traced an intricate pattern across her forehead, and then moved on to her cheeks, nose, and lips. It was extremely relaxing, and her fear gradually melted away. He also began to hum a sweet tune, and added a few minor words.
"Who can tell where your love lies..."
"As your heart flies?"
For a few minutes this continued, until Sokka and Suki entered the room and strode out the door, hand in hand. After that, Aang began to talk, his voice soft and loving.
"When we first met...at the South Pole...that was probably the beginning for me. I was never able to tell you how I felt. At times, I was elated just because you smiled at me or brushed my arm. At others, I was sad. When we met Haru, I remember wondering if you would ever look at me as more than a friend. When we met Jet, I remember asking myself if I could live up to be more than him just so you would like me. Every day, I hoped for a sign that maybe...just maybe...you felt anything for me. The first time I had hope was when we went to Aunt Wu's. I was so excited that you were wearing that necklace I had made for you that I just HAD to get some kind of hope. When I listened in on your session with Aunt Wu, I just wanted to know if I would ever have a chance to be with you. When we danced in that cave at the secret party I threw, I could've sworn I was flying. I probably WOULD have if we weren't surrounded by Fire Nation kids."
"Then...finally, right before the invasion, I got the nerve to kiss you. I was just worried that if I never came back, I never would have told you how I felt about you. I thought that it just about summed it up." He chuckled. "Then, at Ember Island, I felt like SUCH an idiot. After I kissed you, you were so mad...it worried me. AND when you said that you were confused. Can you imagine how I felt, standing before that sunset with you? I finally got my wish."
Sighing, he traced the symbol for Air on her arm. "I just hope you got yours."
Katara lay there in silence. She was touched by Aang's confessions, and glad she had pretended to be asleep.
They were there together for about ten more minutes when Katara decided to wake up. Groaning, she yawned and stretched, "accidentally" hitting Aang's face for good measure. He caught her fingers, pulling them away from his head.
"Katara?", came his soft voice, "You awake, love?" he rubbed her arm.
She nodded slowly as she stretched her legs out. She was extremely stiff from being asleep for so long.
Aang laughed. "I'm glad. You've been out forever."
Katara smiled, still resting in his lap. "What happened?"
"Well, after Azula was taken away, I almost had a heart attack because I couldn't find you. Then, Sokka pointed you out, and I picked you up and brought you inside."
"How long have I been sleeping?"
"Around thirteen hours."
"And...you've been here the whole time?"
Aang smiled softly. "Yup. Haven't moved."
How in the world...Katara stared at him in disbelief. "You must have had to go to the bathroom or something."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Not really. It's fun to watch you sleep. You're so peaceful and beautiful."
"You know, that's the first time you've called me 'love'." Katara pointed out.
Aang nodded. "I'm just really happy that we're together, and safe."
Katara touched his cheek. "Me too." Thinking for a moment, she added, "I like that...love. Sounds so cute."
Aang smiled. Stretching his arms, he smelled himself and recoiled, gagging. "WOW! I smell like Appa after a storm. I need to wash up." He glanced at his chest, which was still covered in dried blood. "Ugh. I feel like a zombie."
"You kind of look like one." Katara said. It was true; he was still pale from losing blood, and dark circles outlined the bottom of his eyes sharply. Take all of that and add the blood, and he was quite the zombie.
"Well, go wash up," Katara yawned, "I'll go in a minute." She paused and added, "And... Aang?"
"I did get my wish. Don't ever doubt it." She smiled and let out a small laugh at the stunned expression that dawned on his face.
"Y-you heard all that?" he asked.
"W-well, I meant every word of it...I just didn't know you were...listening." He stammered and blushed slightly.
"Always with that way with words..." Katara teased. Groaning, she sat up and blood rushed from her head, making everything spin. She held onto Aang's arm and stood up unsteadily before releasing him and wandering into the kitchen. She was starved.
"Do you want anything?" She called to Aang. "We've got some possum-chicken legs, some hippo-cow steak, meat, meat, and more meat."
"Ha, ha." Aang answered sarcastically. "I'll just have some salad. Mind getting some out?"
"Yep." Fumbling around, she grabbed a bowl of fresh salad along with some seal jerky and rice. Backing up, she shut the cooler and dropped the food on the table.
"It's on the table!" she yelled down the hallway.
"Thanks, love!" A dull thud sounded as Aang slid the door shut.
Love...I like it. Katara smiled as she picked up her small meal . Turning, she walked down the hall leading to her room. She entered and shut the door behind her.
She was filthy. Her hair had the appearance of dreadlocks and her clothes were torn, burned, and stained. Aang had apparently wiped the blood off her head and neck, though.
"How he thought I was beautiful, I will never know..." she muttered. Taking a bite of jerky, she crossed the hallway to her washroom. There, she undressed, drew hot water and soaked in a well deserved bath, washing away all of the horrors of the previous day.
When she had finished bathing, she changed into fresh, comfortable robes and brushed out her tangled hair. She walked back out into the living room area, still finishing her food.
"Aang?" she called as she walked in. There was no answer, and Katara could see why. He was sleeping on the couch. All clean and in new robes, he was out cold with his mouth slightly open and his arm hanging over the side.
Grinning, Katara walked to the edge of the couch and sat down. Picking up his arm, she slipped under it and snuggled into his side, laying her head on his shoulder as she closed her eyes and sighed.
She was content to simply lie beside him.
About an hour had passed when Toph burst into the house, her voiced unusually high and strained.
Katara woke with a start.
"Aang! Katara! Something's wrong! It's Sokka, he's coming toward the house, but—"
She was cut off as Sokka burst through the door, nearly knocking Toph over.
Tears were dripping down his face.
Katara jumped and a look of horror crossed her face when she turned to face them.
"No..." she breathed.
In his arms lay Suki.
She wasn't moving.
As always, be sure to check out the rest of the series, more chapters coming soon!
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