After the Dance
"How can it be that a boy so young is so strong that he always lifts me like a feather?" she mused to herself.
They hugged briefly and waved to Aang's classmates, which just made them cheer louder. They blushed in unison, now far too aware that everyone, including Sokka, had been watching them. As they left the dance area arm in arm, Katara gripped tighter and cooed in his ear, "That was lovely dance, Aang but I really need a rest!"
The band started a different number, Aang escorted her back to her chair, made her comfortable, quickly got her a drink, and said, "Just rest here for awhile. I'll be back, and will ask the band to play a 'slow one' so we can dance again later!"
She responded cheerily, "That would be nice, Aang."
Katara realized that she had no idea what a 'slow one' was, but knew that Aang would make it just as fun as the first dance. Then Aang wandered off to chat with all his friends who mobbed him with praise and questions about how to do all the Fire Nation dances. She sipped juice from one of her ice cups, grateful for its coldness in her hands, and held it against her forehead to cool down, but wished it could slow down her still racing heart.
Sokka sauntered by Katara, clearly enjoying being in his Wang Fire costume as 'Kuzon's father' and party chaperone. She steeled herself to criticism from Sokka about Aang and her dancing too close together. Sokka just said instead, "I gotta admit sis, you two looked great out there together - but don't be making a habit of all that dancing stuff with Aang!"
She just nodded absentmindedly, watching Aang chat and laugh with his friends – all these boys and girls just his age. If they only knew who he really was. She couldn't explain why earlier she actually felt really jealous in spite of herself with the girl who danced first with Aang.
"What did Aang say her name was - Onji?", she strained to remember. She had wanted to freeze the girl to the cave wall, snickering to herself at that thought.
Despite her unexplained jealousy, Katara knew it was just Aang's naturally friendly way of getting the party started. But this was the first time in nearly a year she really had to share Aang with any other girl other than herself in all her world travels with him.
Then she admitted to herself she didn't really want to share Aang with any other girl. Tonight seemed so different. She and Aang had done that warm-up workout many times before water bending practice. She was so nervous to dance, but grateful he had whispered to her to do that warm-up as their number together. How was it this time she was so worked up, even now still sweating, and still excited? She looked around the cave, longed for a glimpse, and saw him in the big crowd instantly. He was easily the most handsome boy in the class. As if she had just called his name, he turned and winked at her with that mischievous grin.
"Goodness! Does he feel the same?" she wondered inwardly.
She felt like she was still dancing with Aang, and played every move over and over in her head. Somehow that little hug and a 'thank you' weren't enough to show her appreciation to him for their first dance together – the first dance she could remember doing at all.
Even in the face of so many dangers, there had been times for so many fun and amazing 'first times' doing so much she had never done before – or ever would have done - all with the charming boy who was the Avatar. 'A boy' probably wasn't fair any more after a year of friendship – with that full head of hair and headband, he was more of a young man now. And he was certainly a perfect host for his party! The floor of the cave was now filled with Fire Nation students dancing. Katara smiled to herself that yet another one of Aang's 'crazy ideas' had worked, and began anxiously to wonder when Aang would be back for that 'slow one' he promised her. She realized what she really felt was much more than just friendship.
Suddenly the Headmaster, a creepy older boy student, and armed Home Guard troops stormed the cave and started their search for Aang. Katara watched helplessly and started to move to escape route at the back of the care. Aang bolted through the wall of students toward the back the cave too, while Shoji confronted the Headmaster wearing his own headband, rallying his friends to defy those who would punish their new classmate. Finally the Headmaster, Hide, and the guards were stymied and surrounded by a sea of red headbands, and gave up their search, at least for the moment.
Safe from capture from Hide and the Headmaster's thugs, Aang gratefully bowed to his new friend Shoji, who returned the Fire Nation sign, but saw worriedly that Katara was still waiting for him, and thought, "Why? Katara should already have gone out to Appa where she'd be safe!"
Aang then willed the walls to close noiselessly, sighed, and knowing this was the end of his adventure with the Fire Nation school children, thought, "It was worth it to be just a kid, if only for a few days."
An instant later, Aang was grabbed by the arm, whirled around, and pinned against the rough cave wall so hard it actually hurt! Had he missed shutting out the guards, or had some come around the back and endangered his friends?
"Goodness - it's Katara!" he realized silently.
Without saying a word, she gave Aang an affectionate look with those infinite blue eyes of hers, encircled his neck with her arms in a fierce hug, closed her eyes, and kissed him with every bit of passion she could express. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her small waist, closed his eyes, and felt….her bare backside!
"Oh my!" he thought as his eyes flashed open for a moment, flustered.
Her Fire Nation outfit was so skimpy and there was nowhere to put his hands that wasn't personal, and fumbled for the right place to touch her.
But it felt so right, so he relaxed and hugged her tightly. As he blushed harder, he hoped Katara was 'OK' with him touching her exposed skin. Her skin was soft and warm and like nothing he had ever felt before. She responded to his embrace by kissing him more intensely and by moving even closer to him, despite the ruggedness of the cave, clearly letting him know just how 'OK' his touch really was.
Just for one peaceful moment, Katara and Aang were blessed by the touch, the feel, the warmth, and the oneness of their emerging and undeclared love for each other. When Aang felt he would faint from lack of air – unthinkable for an air bender - from that deepening kiss, she pulled back, and with a one last little peck, they rubbed noses, and looked at him tenderly, her eyes sparkling.
She whispered, "Thank you Aang, for my very first dance. I will remember it forever. Now come on - let's go before the guards burn through that wall!"
Hearing the flames roar against the soft stone walls, they raced toward the back exit of the cave. Aang was very grateful that Katara was dragging him by their interlaced hands, or he would have never remembered which way to go or where – he was temporarily lost somewhere between the real and spirit world with her passionate kiss. Katara let go of Aang just as the rest of the Gaang became visible. Toph was busy sand bending away any evidence of paw prints and footprints. Sokka had a death grip on Appa's reins and yelled at them all to get in. Off they launched into the summer night sky. Katara and Aang sat next to each other atop Appa, at a discrete distance, fighting their intense desire to sit closer, and smiled at each other - happy with the secret of their second kiss in a cave and their first dance together.
But glancing at Toph's knowing grin directed toward them, it told them both she hadn't missed any detail of their affection in the cave. They looked at each other and blushed. Aang thought to himself, "Nothing will ever be the same again will it, Katara?"
Katara's kiss was amazing and unexpected. He knew for certain now that she had feelings for him too, and had to find the right opportunity in the days before the battle, to really show her one more time how strongly he felt too, before…before…well, he refused to think about that possibility happening again. Sokka was oblivious to all this, peering over Appa's horns and muttering something about enemy birds again, as they all settled in for a long flight deeper into Fire Nation territory.
Shoji was shocked by the stone walls closing, after Kuzon and his tall, pretty girl friend were on their way to safety, but he was proud he had led their escape. He was a bit disappointed that only now he learned Kuzon, the boy from the colonies, was a former enemy Earth bender. No wonder Kuzon had been reluctant to talk about his past, worried his classmates would not accept him – a colonial Earth bender - as a friend. Shoji refused to be just as bad as that idiot Hide and his prejudiced views about the new Fire Nation citizens from colonies. Kuzon was living proof of how wrong Hide really was. It didn't change anything how Shoji felt about his new friend.
He pondered sadly, "Will we ever meet again?"
In just a few short days, Kuzon had taught them so much about the world outside of Fire Nation – and history he didn't even know about his own country. Guess it was something he'd have to get used to, now that the world was soon going to be united as the Fire Nation.
Far across at the other end of the cave, Onji took a deep breath and sighed. The twelve-year girl could not handle any more. She was simply overwhelmed by the events of the evening, especially when the cave walls closed together. Onji knew she would never see her new friend Kuzon again. She wiped a tear from her eye, knowing Kuzon and she could never be anything more than just friends, something she had hoped for – no, prayed for - tonight when he asked her to dance. But she did learn several things from Kuzon – that dancing was fun and was once a rich part of Fire Nation heritage, and that even an earth bending colonial boy and Fire Nation girl can be friends.
But what Onji truly learned tonight is how a boy and girl in love should really treat each other. Kuzon and his beautiful, bronze skinned, older girl friend were so obviously devoted to each other. What a contrast Kuzon's relationship was with his girl to the callous, smothering, jealous, possessive, and presumptive way Hide had always treated her. If Hide ever touched her again, he was going to feel the crimson hot touch of a flame from her secret and newly discovered Fire bending skill, and she turned and walked away from the cave, filled with angry resolve as Hide called and ran for her.