Katara's flashback dream was vivid.
Teo instructed Katara from her left, clutching the new glider tightly in her hand, "The wind will carry you. It supports something inside you – something even lighter than air, and that something takes over when you fly."
Katara stood at the edge of the Northern Air Temple terrace, holding her glider with both hands. Aang stood behind her to her right with Momo inquisitively sitting on his shoulder watching Katara hold the giant set of wings. She leaned the glider on its side.
Katara fretted and gulped, "I've changed my mind. I think I was born without that something."
Teo laughed, "That's impossible! Everybody has it."
Aang corrected Teo, "Spirit."
Teo asked, "What?"
Aang instructed, "That's the something you're talking about."
Teo reflected, "Yeah, I suppose it is."
Katara tried to steel herself to get enough nerve to launch herself off the terrace over the cliff.
Teo asked, "Are you ready?"
Katara announced with great trepidation, "No!"
Katara jumped anyway and Teo and Aang heard her screams on her way down. Teo and Aang quickly launched behind her. Her screams turned to delight, however, and she gained control of the glider and began to soar the updrafts, with Teo next to her. Aang glided next to her and she exuded confidence in her skills.
Katara exclaimed to Aang, "I can't believe I'm flying!"
Aang cautioned, "Just make sure to keep your mouth closed so you don't swallow a bug!"
As if to emphasize this advice, Momo flew right beside her. He opened his mouth and ate a big juicy one.
Katara observed, "Teo was right about the air! All I had to do was trust it. Let it carry me."
Aang praised his new friend, "Even though Teo's not an air bender, he really does have the spirit of one."
Leaving Katara to revel in her new gliding skills, Aang returned to the Temple terrace, to chat with Teo, who had already landed and put his wheelchair glider aside.
Aang pondered with Teo, "I've been thinking. If you wanna see what's in that room, I'd be happy to open the door for you."
Teo was overjoyed, "Great!"
They turned to hear Katara plead for them not to leave just yet, "Wait! How do I land this thing? What if I land...!"
She inhaled one of the bugs Momo was enjoying so much, "Eh! Blech! Yech! Bug! Bug! That was a bug!"
On that, Katara's eyes fluttered awake, smiled at the dream, stretched, and noted her boyfriend soundly sleeping on his side next to her. She snuggled up to his blue tattooed back, being careful of the lightning scorch mark forever on his spine, and reached around his solid muscled chest to hug him.
He rolled around and gave her a proper 'greeting' kiss.
"Good morning, Katara," Aang said softly.
She stroked his face, and kissed him, and lilted, "Good morning, Aang."
"And why are you waking up so chipper this morning?" asked Aang cheerily.
Katara shrugged casually with her hair cascading all over her pillow and him, "Oh...I dunno...just another day with you, I guess."
Aang rolled his eyes and scoffed, but kissed her back nonetheless, "Katara, that is way to mushy for you in the morning. Tell me what you are really thinking."
"Well, I had a fun dream last night."
"Oh?" Aang inquired.
"Yeah. It was about my first time flying on Teo's glider at the Northern Air Temple."
"Yeah, I remember. But you had kind of a rough start."
"I know..." she recalled especially eating the bug.
"You do have a soft spot for flying. Were you an air bender in a past life?" Aang joked He knew she wasn't a believer in reincarnation for anyone but the Avatar.
She quipped, "I don't think so, but maybe I should have been. But since I am not, teach me to fly, Aang."
Aang was surprised, "But you already do know how to fly, Katara."
"Well, to paraphrase someone I know, 'all I do is just gliding. I lack the spirit.'"
"But Katara, you know you can't ever fly like I do."
She said confidently, "But I can if I fly with you."
"You do fly with me all the time on Appa. In fact, sometimes Appa does better under your touch than I do. You're a natural."
"But that's different. Flying on Appa is only a ride. A nice one, but it's not really flying. I want to fly with you. Next to you," he hugged him harder.
"Oh, well that is different," he said.
But he thought, "Flying with Katara?" The idea was intriguing.
He remembered carrying Toph and Sokka on his glider over the lava river at the Fire Nation capital on a terrifying ride for them to find the the Fire Lord's deep underground vault.
"Well all right then, Katara. Let's do this!"
So they got themselves ready for the day. Aang and Katara were staying at the Summer Palace at Ember Island as the Avatar's main office. It was the perfect place for now, and was about as centrally located as possible between the Four Nations' capitals. The Palace was also well guarded. Zuko forbid him to live in the Earth Kingdom at the Ba Sing Se guest house, with many renegade Dai Li agents still bent on revenge against the Avatar. Kuei had his hands full of arresting – or in many cases eliminating - the extremists, and supported Zuko's insistence on Aang's safety. It was still a dangerous post-War World for now.
In a Palace with over 100 rooms, Zuko was fully aware that Aang and Katara started sharing only room soon after moving there. But he'd be a hypocrite to point that out, with Mai sharing the new Fire Lord's bedroom suite with him since the day she returned from prison. Besides, it made things much easier for the Palace Guards to concentrate on protecting one room. Zuko also knew the Avatar and his soul mate were a great deal more innocent in their bedroom manners than he and Mai were.
Aang and Katara met in the courtyard after dressing in their wardrobe rooms. Aang couldn't believe what he saw.
"So, Aang, what do you think?" Katara modeled herself before Aang. She wore a female Air Nomad tunic and pants suit, colored in beautiful saffrons, oranges, and tans. It even had a little orange/red shoulder cape. She had let her hair hang completely down in the simple style of Air Nomad women. The only hint that she was Water Tribe was her dark skin and two tiny blue beads in her hair loopies. It was like she was a citizen from the Eastern Air Temple a century ago.
Aang's eyes went wide and his jaw dropped, "Katara? Wow! That's amazing!"
"It's a little surprise for you, Aang. I was saving it for a special occasion. Well, this is special."
He could not believe how stunning she looked in Air Nomad clan colors, and he surprised her with a strong hug and a kiss. It made him tear up in her sweet gesture of cultural unity with him. He knew in her heart she was partly Air Nomad. She was fascinated with his culture from the day they met.
Katara brought him back to reality, though inwardly was very happy with his reaction to her outfit, by saying, "You need to concentrate more on teaching me to fly with you, Sifu Aang."
"Oh! Hehe, yeah..." he rubbed the back of his head, embarrassed just a little.
Still partly distracted by her beauty and outfit, they began.
Aang gave a little history as well as flight instructions, "Tandem flying was often done between spiritual partners, especially during festival time, when spiritual partners reunited for the closeness and fun of it, since almost every Air Nomad was an air bender as well. I just never imagined us doing it. Tandem flying was normally done with one partner riding beside the other, but at times, the partner would ride on top of the glider."
"Riding side by side sounds a lot more fun, Aang," winked Katara.
He swallowed hard, still getting used to this boyfriend/girlfriend frankness and physical relationship. After a year of cat-and-mouse flirting and false starts before they became a couple, he was happy, but often still surprised, at her affectionate openness after only six months officially together.
So they stood side by side. He popped opened his glider, and held it over their heads, like a parasol. Both couldn't forget the first time walking in the rain under that umbrella, and remembered their culture's imagery of couples meant for each other strolling in that manner. Well, now they really were meant for each other. She stole a cheek kiss from him.
"What was that for, Katara?"
"You full well know what that's for."
"Oh. Yeah, I do...Katara, do you think we'll always be hopeless romantics now that we are together?"
"I sure hope so, Aang," she smiled demurely.
Upon reflection Aang replied softly, "Yeah...me too."
He cleared his throat, and tried to speak deeply, but his developing voice cracked. They both chuckled, and he tried again, "Pupil Katara, we put the glider shaft behind us and between us like so, and we each grasp a handle, like this..."
She followed every move exactly.
"Aang, what do we do with our other hands and arms," as if she didn't know. She just wanted to make him chafe.
"Well, uh, we put them around each other like this and hold tight."
She grasped his muscled midsection securely, as he grasped her thin, shapely waist, "Like that?"
While they had held each other similarly before when embracing, it was still a thrill for him. He could feel the blush, and she knew it being nearly cheek to cheek with him, but he said affectionately, "Yeah, just like that."
She teased, feeling equally happy with his hold on her, "Tell me Aang, did Air Nomad partners ever actually fly much when getting together like this?"
Not skipping a beat, he joked back, "Through the power of strong meditation and discipline, yes they did."
She couldn't resist a retort, "And if they didn't meditate strongly enough?"
Aang could not suppress a smile, "Tandem flights as couples were often...umm...delayed."
They both laughed.
Katara encouraged Aang to continue, "Teach me more, Sifu."
Aang went through a number of pre-flight checklist items, including how to shift their weight to bank and turn, as well as climb and descend. He showed her how to point her feet and toes, and even how to hold her head to help aim them on their flight path and trajectory.
As they went through the motions, they moved as one, pressing their hips, torsos, and shoulders and other parts of their bodies together. Aang was focused on the teaching motions and the functions they served. Katara was enthralled by the closeness with him, and the wonderful feelings she was getting from the touching and the pressure.
"This is pretty complicated, Aang. You make it look so easy. This is so much harder than when I was gliding at the Northern Temple."
"Not that much harder Katara, but it is the difference between gliding and flying," Aang commented.
So they were finished all the lessons and preparations. Aang asked, "OK Katara, that's it. Are you ready for this?"
"Not quite," and she feigned adjusting her clothes, and looking around, but then she leaned into Aang and gave him a very solid kiss. He pressed back and deepened it.
They pulled back a fraction of an inch and Aang smirked, "was that an invitation to delay our flight as couples of old did, Katara?"
"No Aang, that was for luck and was a preview of our post-flight 'discussions'." She said slyly.
"Oh" Aang said with pleasant surprise.
They crouched down, and Aang propelled them into the air. Katara shrieked with delight.
They soared above the Ember Island Summer Palace. They could see the guards looking up, with some little concern that they couldn't protect their charges now.
They turned, and banked, and soared in the brilliant blue skies, littered with puffy clouds. They took a full tour of the island, and the island people below cheered and waved at the Avatar and Katara. Aspiring fan girls knew their crushes on Aang were lost causes, seeing him tightly holding his girlfriend. Some gasped at the sight of the Air Nomad couple.
After about an hour of cruising, Katara challenged Aang, "Is that all you have, air bender?"
"Oh, you think you can handle mixing it up, Katara?"
"Do your best, Sifu Aang. This little Water Tribe girl can take it."
He immediately pulled a high g turn, and Katara screamed happily, so Aang put them in a fast climb above the clouds, which quickly changed to darting in and out of the delicate clouds some 5000 meters above the island. She loved it when Aang did a huge loop completely around one of the biggest clouds.
"Go through that cloud, Aang," she ordered, with mischief on her mind.
Coming out the other side, Katara laughed, as Aang noticed he had an ice moustache and beard, courtesy of Katara. They both laughed, "Trying to imagine me in my eighties, huh?"
"I love my Avatar with a beard and moustache," she winked.
In fake indignation he said, "You know full well I can't do that yet. All I have is chin fuzz."
"But you will, Aang, you will," and she kissed his cheek.
Aang settled back to a smooth, sweeping high altitude ride that took her breath away. From just below the cloud deck, she could see, from their perch above Ember Island, nearly the entirety of the Fire Nation from the capital all the way to nearly the Earth Kingdom coastline. It was inspiring, and here she was, alone among all of her clanswomen, in a tight, loving embrace with the Avatar himself while flying.
Not only did she look like an Air Nomad, she actually felt like one.
For awhile she was silent, sometimes with her eyes closed, just taking in the total experience of embracing, the wind across her face and flowing hair, and flying together on the glider.
Flying with Aang on his glider was so intimately personal. It felt like dancing together, another thing they loved to do. Learning to fly with him was the best idea she ever had. Each day she fell more in love with him, if that was even possible. This one was especially one of those days.
After awhile, they were both tired, and certainly hungry. The swift decent was a bit scary at times for Katara, with negative g's making her stomach feel 'funny', but she helped him with the maneuvering as best she could. Some of the moves were so much like water bending. Air and water were, after all only fluids of a different density, so it really wasn't that much of a surprise.
They returned to the Palace, and softly alighted on the plaza center. As soon as Aang had folded his glider, she wrapped her arms around his neck, and exclaimed, "I love flying with you, Aang. Thank you so much!" and squeezed him tightly, rewarding him with a truly deep, appreciative, loving kiss.
Over breakfast, they munched on the savory fruit and and rolls, and considered the remainder of their rare open day together without meetings and problems to solve, "So now what do you want to do, Aang?"
He thought only a minute, grinned and said, "Let's go swimming and surfing. I need some tips on my ice surf board techniques, Sifu Katara."
"Are you sure you just don't want to see me in that new skimpy Fire Nation bikini that Mai bought for me?"
"Well... yeah, that too, now that you mention it!" he admitted.
They laughed, she smiled broadly, took his hand, and they ran to change and then to the beach.
Thus began a lifetime of flying together, which they always loved. And like the long-departed Air Nomads before them, more than a few flights together did get delayed...
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