along the path in the forest, a little bemused by how pretty and calm it was.
Somehow, it seemed like it should have been more ominous. Because - because...
well, she had known a moment ago. But if she'd forgotten, then it couldn't have
There was a hint of sunlight breaking through the gentle shading of the bamboo
shoots; she couldn't help but smile and shut her eyes every so often, enjoying
the warmth and the light. It would be so nice to just lie down and enjoy the
Actually, she'd seen a few people - and animals - napping at the side of the
path. Maybe it was a good idea.
Not yet, a voice in the back of her head nudged at her, when she started
to seriously consider it. You haven't found what you're looking for.
That was the one sticking point. She looked around corners, straining her eyes
to peer through the trees, hoping to catch a glimpse of the object of her
search. Even though it seemed quite pointless at that point:
she couldn't even remember why she was searching.
Or, for that matter, what she was searching for.
Who, the voice corrected. You're looking for someone - not
It started to matter a lot less as the minutes dragged by. The voice continued
to prompt her, but she was having a hard time figuring out why she needed to
care. If she couldn't remember, then why bother? Would she even know the person
when she found them? She couldn't even bring a face to mind, no matter how hard
she thought about it. And what was the big deal about finding this person? If
they were so forgettable that she couldn't even remember them, how could it
possibly be important to find them?
But she continued to search - even if it was mainly to keep that voice from
nagging at her.
She was in the middle of some serious pondering regarding the subject - could
she have maybe passed the person napping on the ground without even knowing it?
- when she wandered onto a spot where the path
branched into two and the trees seemed to lean back. A halo of golden sunshine
bathed the ground, and she had to blink, unused to the brightness.
It made her smile, though; she couldn't help it. This place was just so beautiful.
It distracted her so much that she almost didn't notice as she stepped out into
the open space that someone else had just stepped off of a separate branch
almost at exactly the same moment.
"Huh? Oh." His voice was what drew her attention, and she couldn't
help but stare once it had.
He was taller than her - although he might've been a year or so younger - and
bare-chested. He didn't have any hair, on his face or head, but his features
were even and attractive. There was some sort of strange blue tattoo on his
shaved scalp that ended with an arrow shape directly on his forehead - the
effect wasn't an unpleasant one. And he had muscle - she could see it even from
that distance; his build was slight, but he was tightly put together, like an
acrobat or a gymnast. He stepped toward her with a smile, and she noticed how
every motion he made was unconsciously light and fluid. The tattoos on his arms
and feet stretched and bent with the movement. It was almost hypnotic.
And when he smiled like that, his face so friendly and open, she couldn't help
but swallow hard, a somehow familiar fluttering building at the pit of her
He's so handsome...
"Hi there," he greeted, studying her with a certain curiosity - and
interest, she noticed, which made her feel like blushing. His eyes were light
grey; a nice sort of shade.
"Hi." She managed a smile, mentally chiding herself for becoming so
flustered over a boy - no matter how good-looking. "I'm -
" she started to introduce herself, and then blinked. "Oh. I
don't remember." She felt her cheeks burn; he must think she was so
stupid. "I'm sorry."
"That's okay. I don't remember my name either." He said it so easily,
and without any trace of judgement or embarrassment; she couldn't help but feel
better. And he was staring at her, his smile just a bit on the funny side.
"Maybe we don't need to."
The fluttering in her stomach intensified. "Maybe we don't."
"I was thinking about going this way." He pointed down the one fork
neither of them had come from, and tilted his head hopefully at her. "What
She shrugged. Was he inviting her? Part of her hoped so. "I don't know
"Well, if you're not sure... How about we go together?" He held out a
hand to her, eyes bright and smile wide. "What do you say?"
There it was. Walking along in a beautiful forest with a handsome stranger...
The idea was almost too good to be true. Her smile grew, and she reached out
with only a slight nervous thrill to take the offered hand. "Okay."
"Y'know, this is probably all your fault."
Sokka crossed his arms, giving the cross-legged form in front of him a wry
look. "I don't know what the heck you two were doing, but pulling the
whole glowy bit and heading off to the Spirit World in the middle? Pretty tacky."
Aang's body didn't even so much as flinch.
"Yeah, I know... and hey, I sympathize." Sokka spread his hands.
"It's rough being the guy sometimes. Your girlfriend always expects you to
initiate stuff, and then half the time when you do, she gets mad... It
really isn't fair, is it?" He raised an eyebrow at his friend's
unresponsive face. "But this time I think you were asking for it. I mean,
come on, you know Katara - she gets mad if you even look at her funny.
What did you expect?"
An unmoving silence answered him.
Sokka coughed, and then paced slowly to the side, still eyeing the glowing
Avatar. "And, you know, running off to the Spirit World isn't - " He stopped abruptly, blinking at the sight of Toph
leaning against the doorframe, her arms folded over her chest.
"Hey, don't mind me," she told him, without even a hint of a smile.
"You keep on talking to the spirit-less body. I'll just be over here
"I'm sane!" Sokka protested, stepping around Aang and towards the
door. "I was just... talking to myself. You know. Like any sane person
"Right. Because talking to yourself
totally qualifies as 'sane'." She made exaggerated quoting motions, and
topped it off with a smirk. "It's okay, Sokka -
you can stop trying to hide it. We all knew it was bound to happen
"Okay, that is just totally - " He broke off
again at the unmistakeable sound of shuffling from behind him.
Shuffling - that means he's moving. That means...
Turning sharply around provided him with confirmation: the figure on the floor
was shifting, stretching out its arms; beginning the motions of lifting itself
up from that sitting position... "Aang! You're
Before he could even so much as twitch a finger, the ground under him buckled
and he was tossed back towards the door, slamming into the wall
"Hey! What gives?"
Toph was already in a defensive position, her eyes fixed narrowly on the
familiar form in front of her. "That's not Aang."
"Huh?" Sokka slid his eyes toward the younger boy, and for the first
time noticed that Aang's tattoos and eyes were still glowing. His gaze fixed on
them then, and a very un-Aang-like smile spread on his face. Oh, crap...
"This is bad, isn't it?"
"Gee, what gave you that idea?" Toph answered, through clenched
teeth, and smoothly bent the stone floor into a shield as a sudden rush of fire
blasted towards them.
Sokka pushed himself up, pulling his sword from his sheath and stepping up
beside his younger friend. "All right," he said, taking his stance
and facing the newly created wall. "Let's boot this thing back to the
She shot him a quick grin, and brought her foot down heavily on the ground,
bringing up a large chunk of rock. "Sounds good to
They were still holding hands.
She couldn't help but take note of it, even though neither of them had made a
move to pull back. She didn't want to bring it up or draw his attention to it
in case he pulled away, but she couldn't help stealing glances down at their
entwined fingers every so often. It made her feel warm and happy. And somehow,
she got the feeling that it wasn't just because he was really good-looking.
Something about this guy gave her the feeling they'd known each other a lot
longer than they actually had.
It was comforting, in a way.
"So..." She glanced sideways at him. "Are you looking for
He shook his head, but smiled at her again, and she felt her insides melt a
little. "Not someone - I'm looking for the way out." He paused, then blinked. "You wouldn't happen to have seen it,
"I don't remember," she answered honestly, and shrugged. "All I
know is that I'm looking for someone." And then, because she really wanted
to confide further in him, she went on. "I don't remember who they are or
why I'm looking. I just know that it's important that I find them."
"Well... I'm someone." His smile was so bright, she noticed - so carefree.
Looking into his eyes, she suddenly wished that he would sweep her into his
arms and fly her away. "And it looks like you found me."
It felt like that statement was important, somehow. She stopped, tugging on his
hand to halt him as well. "I did, didn't I?"
He turned to face her, tilting his head a little. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, I just... I wanted to stop." He was so close now; she could
take in every detail. It made her feel shivery with anticipation - but for
what, she wasn't sure. Her eyes caught on the blue line of his tattoos, curving
around his slim arms and culminating in the arrow that pointed directly to
where their hands joined. "That tattoo must've hurt," she murmured.
He blinked again - "Huh?" - and then brought
up his free arm, staring at the arrow with mild surprise. "Oh. I don't
know." He turned his hand over, and then back again, looking somewhat
bemused. "This is going to sound weird, but I didn't even know these were
"Weirder than us not knowing our own names?"
She smiled, and felt the butterflies return to her stomach in full fluttering
mode as he met her eyes again. "You've got one on your back, too."
"I do?" He twisted, trying to look over his shoulder. It struck her
as something so typical for him, somehow, and she couldn't help but laugh. He
turned back to her, a bit of a sheepish smile on his face. "I guess I'll
take your word for it."
"It goes all the way over your head." She reached up impulsively, and
ran a finger from the top of his head down the line of the arrow, ending at his
forehead. "Like... this..." His eyes met hers the finger came to a
halt at the point, and she felt inexplicably nervous.
"Really?" he asked, but somehow he didn't sound interested in tattoos
"Well... yes." Without knowing why, she let the finger drag down
further, running lightly between his eyebrows and down over the slope of his
nose. When it brushed over his lips, she felt it begin to tremble.
They were so soft...
Without breaking their gaze, he reached up with his free hand and carefully
wrapped it around hers - not squeezing, just holding. She noticed his fingers
were shaking, too. And then his lips pursed against the digit; he was kissing
It felt like that was enough to release her inhibitions. Pulling their hands
down, she leaned up and replaced them with her lips, pressing gently up against
him in a chaste kiss.
The contact sent a thrill all the way through her - a shivery, aching sort of
thrill - but it wasn't enough. They stared at each other as she pulled back,
heavy lidded, and then he leaned in and kissed her again. And when he pulled
back, she followed, sliding one hand free to brace at the back of his neck and
hold him still against her mouth.
Well. Not completely still.
He let go of her other hand and wrapped both arms around her waist, returning
her kiss with enthusiasm. It was new and exciting, but somehow still familiar
and comfortable. Either way, she felt like her reservations had deserted her;
with all of the delicious heat between them and his bare skin beneath the hands
she'd splayed out on his back, her head was spinning and she could feel her
breath coming short. Nothing sounded like a better idea than pulling him
closer, parting her lips to kiss him open-mouthed, shuffling her feet in an attempt
to find a way to press more firmly against him.
The fact that he was still a complete stranger barely even registered in her
brain at that point.
She may have been tugging him against her a little too hard, or lacking too
much care with her footing, because somewhere in the middle of the increasingly
heated kisses, they both lost their balance and toppled ungracefully onto the
soft dirt of the path.
The breath went out of her lungs almost at the exact moment that they were
wrenched apart. His reflexes allowed him to catch himself on his hands and
saved her from being crushed, but the landing had still taken her by surprise,
and she had to pause for a moment to gulp in more air while he braced himself
above her, face flushed and eyes a bit wild, watching her face anxiously.
"I'm sorry - I didn't hurt you, di - ?"
She cut him by propping herself up on her elbows and kissing him, open-mouthed
and maybe a little clumsy but with enough heat to leave them both flushed and
breathing heavy. "Shush," she scolded him as she pulled back, and
managed a small, awkward smile. "We can talk later, all right?"
He swallowed, the tips of his ears going red, and she was grateful that he
hadn't missed her meaning. "Are - Are you sure?"
"Not exactly, but..." She reached up to wrap her arms around his neck
- and then, because it seemed like a great way to drive the point home, wrapped
her legs around his waist as well - pulling him down against her. If she'd
thought that having his weight over the hot spots on her body would quell the
aches, she had been mistaken. It only intensified them. "I... um... think
I need this," she stammered, feeling her cheeks grow
even hotter. She slid her hands around to bracket his face between them,
watching the storm of emotions playing in his eyes. "I mean, I want it.
It was a pretty inane question; she had ample evidence of just how much he did
want it pressed up against her, but he still whispered, "Yes," and
leaned down to capture her lips again, hungrily.
That pretty much ended the talking.
There was some awkward shuffling with their clothing; she tried to pull her
pants down without breaking their kiss or shifting out from under him, but
failed, and he ended up having to back away and let her work, both of them
blushing furiously, breathing quick and uneven, eyes darting to each other's
faces almost guiltily. He watched her with wide eyes as she unravelled her
belly wrap, until she hastily pulled him back over her, too embarrassed to deal
with his stares. He fumbled with the tie on his pants a moment later,
one-handed, resting on his other elbow with his torso still close to hers, and
didn't pull back far enough for her curious eyes to catch more than a shadowy
We're going to do this, but... we aren't going to see each other first?
It struck her as kind of backwards. But she just couldn't bring herself to be
the first one exposed; she was as embarrassed as she was eager. The heat
between them was almost unbearable, and they could sort that out later. Right
now, she just wanted this to happen, and quickly.
He pressed a clumsy kiss to her lips, kneeling again between her legs.
"Sure?" he breathed again, staring at her with uncertainty from just
"Yes. Sure," she agreed. Her stomach was tense with anticipation.
There was a certain amount of fumbling before he got it right - and the initial
moment of impact was painful, but not horribly so. He was tense, and stared at
her face as she held him still, eyes clouded over and mouth opened just
slightly. It was a look she thought she could get used to - and when the moment
passed and she loosened her hold and began to move back against him, she
decided with a startled gasp that she could get used to this, too.
It was over quickly; he didn't know better than to thrust into her with
reckless enthusiasm, and she didn't know well enough to slow him down. They
were both too excited and caught up in the sensations of each other to care,
even when he stiffened with a sudden gasp after only a few minutes, and buried
his face in her neck, shuddering all over.
Oh... oh... She lay back against the ground and breathed slowly, still
feeling her heart race and wondering at the feel of the almost-stranger in such
an intimate position with her. His breath was hot and uneven against her neck.
Was this okay, for her all-important first time? It felt like she shouldn't
have been so content with it. This was her virginity, gone, and somehow it
didn't seem like she'd ever imagined it would go like this. Not in such an
impulsive, rushed manner, in the middle of a strange forest, without even fully
undressing, with a boy whose name she didn't even know.
He raised himself up on his elbows then, and as their eyes met and they smiled
shyly at each other, she decided that it had been perfect.
"That was... wow." His gaze was thoroughly infatuated, eyes
shining as he stared down at her, and she couldn't help but feel gratified by
it. "I wish I knew your name," he said, brushing one unsteady hand
over her cheek. "You're so pretty... I can't believe you really wanted to
do that with me."
"Um. Thanks." What could she say to that?
"You're - You're really handsome, too," she admitted, hesitantly.
"Really?" He pulled back, hastily
straightening his pants and redoing the tie, and was polite enough to avert his
eyes as she fixed her belly wrap again. She wished she could've cleaned between
her legs; it felt strange and slippery and a little sore. "I - uh - well.
They weren't quite there yet, she decided, feeling her cheeks burn yet again as
she sat up and pulled her pants back on. But - she took in his clear, honest
gaze and ready smile - they could work on this strange new thing between them
"Hey... what's this?" He was looking at her waist; before she could
ask, he lifted a loose vine and held it up so that she could see. "It's
tied around you - see?"
"Oh." She looked down with some surprise, and noticed the coil that
had been looped around her waist. "I guess it is." How had she not
spotted it before? "I wonder why."
"Maybe it's supposed to lead somewhere?" He pointed at the line of
makeshift rope that stretched back the way they'd come, curling loosely around
trees where they'd made turns and eventually disappearing into the depths of
She frowned, and pushed herself to her feet, staggering only a little before
managing to steady herself. "I think it does," she said slowly, and
turned back to look at him, smiling suddenly. "Maybe if we follow this
vine, it will lead us out."
He blinked up at her. "You really think so?"
"I don't know, but I have a good feeling. Come on." She extended a
hand down to him. "I'll lead you."
His answering smile was bright; when he took the offered hand, she felt like
everything had somehow turned out right. "Okay!"