A/N: Happy New Year, everyone. xx-Kitten.

Invisible Strings

By Kittenshfit17

Katara's back slammed into the wall of the run-down Ba Sing Se shop, a hand clamped over her mouth and a solid male body pressed intimately against her own. Her heart was pounding furiously inside her chest, her pulse thumping loudly in her ears, her breath erratic and quick from the race through the streets with Dai Li agents on her tail. Fury and fear warred for dominance in her brain, one pushing her to reach for the water-pouch at her hip, the other demanding that she just keep running, keep fighting, keep trying to get away.

She knew what would happen if the agents caught her. She didn't know who had already caught her.

"Get off me!" she tried to screech, but all that came out was muffled grunts thanks to the unforgiving hand covering her mouth and preventing her from screaming for dear life.

"Shhh," a hissed shushing met her ears before the sound of heavy feet pounded past the dingy alley she'd been dragged into.

Katara's stomach turned over in terror and she struggled fruitlessly against the creature pressing her into the wall, finding a solid hand clamped over the end of her waterskin, preventing her from uncorking it so she could bend at her assailant.

That didn't bode well.

For a long time, they stood there like that, Katara struggling, her hands pulling at the back of her captor's shirt and trying to worm between them to push against his chest, trying to get him off her, unable to speak or cry out or call for help. When, finally, he leaned back a little bit as silence reigned in the streets around them once more, the Dai Li evidently long-gone, Katara's eyes jerked up to the face of her assailant. Her breath caught when she made out the ghostly features in the darkness. A demonic blue and white mask looked back at her.

A spirit!

The Blue Spirit to be exact.

The same Blue Spirit that had been wreaking havoc all over the world, most wanted by the Fire Nation second only to the Avatar.

"You," she tried to say, her mouth still covered.

Some of the fight drained out of her as she stared into the sightless eyes of that mask. Whoever was behind it was male and decidedly human from the heat of his body through the thick black fabric he wore. When she un-tensed, he slowly did as well, his hand carefully lifting from her mouth and hovering in front of her face, waiting to see if she would scream.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, her mind racing, wondering who could be behind that mask. Aang knew. She knew that he knew because he'd stopped speculating about who wore the Blue Spirit mask after he'd been rescued. He wouldn't tell her and Sokka who it was, and that made her nervous.

The Blue Spirit didn't answer. He didn't speak. He never did, according to all the reports of his antics.

"Why did you save me?" she asked softly. "Everyone keeps telling me you're the bad guy..."

Slowly, his hand lowered from in front of her face, obviously realising she wasn't going to scream, and Katara thought about shouting for her freedom, noting that he might've leaned back a little, but he hadn't pulled away. The long, sinuous lines of his body still moulded themselves into her soft curves. He still had her pinned. He was still covering the cork of her waterskin, obviously knowing better than letting her have the opportunity to bend at him, even if he might've just saved her life.

"Are you?" she asked curiously. "The bad guy? Or are you someone who can't be caught being a good guy wearing your own face?"

Moving like lightning, Katara reached for the mask he wore, intent on ripping it from his face. She got it up far enough to see a pointed chin and a pinched mouth before an iron grip closed over her wrist.

"Don't," he warned, his voice low and deep.

His tone brooked no argument. This was a man used to being obeyed when he gave a command, Katara could tell.

"So, you are human," she hummed, smirking.

"As human as the Painted Lady," he answered, nodding down at Katara's own outfit. She'd been frequenting the sick-houses of the lower ring in her outfit, hiding her identity and letting these people think she was a Fire Nation spirit, come to repent for the suffering the Fire Nation had wreaked upon them. She'd been doing a good job of it too before the Dai Li started chasing her.

"So it would seem," Katara murmured, looking up at him from beneath her veiled hat.

He didn't release her wrist, his much more powerful strength overpowering her own and dragging her hand back down to her side, away from his face before she could reveal his identity.

"Are you going to release me?" she asked eventually when the stand-off continued and the silence stretched, tension fizzing between them.

He shrugged, his body shifting against hers as he did so and Katara gasped, biting her lip when the movement sent sparkles of something hot and forbidden hissing through her blood. He froze against her before slowly, tipping his head to one side curiously. Katara emitted a soft squeak when he moved again, this time with purpose, rolling his hips and grinding his body against hers.

"What are you doing?" she breathed when he did it again, heat spiralling through her core and making her ache.

"I'm not the bad guy," he answered quietly, his voice growing husky.

Katara would swear she'd heard that voice before. She knew it, deep in her subconscious, but the thought skittered away as soon as she had it when he rocked his hips again.

"Neither am I," she whispered.

His mouth twitched, pulling up at one corner as though amused. Katara's eyes dropped to his mouth and unconsciously, she licked her lips. Stars, she wanted to taste those lips. She didn't know who he was. Didn't know his name or where he came from or the things he'd done. She only knew he was a wanted criminal, according to the Fire Nation. So was she. Both as the Painted Lady and as Katara of the Southern Water Tribe. Maybe that made him a bad guy. Maybe it made him a good guy. It didn't really matter.

When he rocked his hips against hers again, Katara returned the friction, biting her lower lip on a moan. He licked his lips in response, his breath catching in his throat when she ground against the growing hardness pressing into her stomach and Katara made a snap decision. Without thinking, she leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his, her lips crashing against his hungrily; needily; desperately. She wanted him. There in the dark against the alley wall, Katara wanted this reckless boy; this wild spirit; this miraculous saviour.

He kissed her back after going tense all over. He leaned into her, his hand releasing her wrist and reaching up the cup the side of her neck, holding her still while his lips devoured her own. He was hot to the touch, burning up like he had a fever, but Katara suspected there was a different reason for that. Reaching for his shoulders, she pulled him closer, kissing him harder, her mouth opening under his, her tongue darting out to meet his for the very first time. Her knees almost buckled at the sensation and Katara whined into his mouth, rocking her hips against his harder, hungry for him, suddenly overwhelmed with the need to have him.

His name didn't matter. His identity didn't matter. Where he'd come from and where he was going were immaterial. All that mattered was the moment; his lips on hers; his body moving against hers. He dropped his hold on her waterskin to reach for her in return, his hot hands travelling to her chest, cupping her breasts through the thin fabric of her dress.

"Oh my god," Katara breathed against his lips, breaking their kiss to whine needily.

"I want you," he told her seriously, voice husky and deep, tight with need.

"Me too," she whispered. "God, I want you, too."

"Here?" he asked, one hand beginning to fist the skirts of her dress, pulling them higher.

"Yes," Katara whispered. "I can't wait."

He emitted a self-satisfied sound when she claimed his lips for another hot kiss, gathering her skirts and hoisting them up and out of his way. His hands burned when he trailed them across her thighs and to their junction. She was bare beneath the dress because she'd ditched her sarashi to be washed before coming on tonight's expedition as the Painted Lady, and he grunted against her mouth when he realised. Katara moaned when his fingers slid against her aching body, the touch driving her crazy.

"Spirits, how do I get under these?" she muttered, her hands roaming his chest and lower, searching for a way under his clothes.

He moved one hand, guiding her wrist to the hem of his pants and under them. Katara whimpered as he kissed her neck, taking pains to avoid the carefully painted lines decorating her skin while he tormented her, his fingers moving in and out of her skilfully. Katara burrowed her hand down the front of his trousers, finding the hot and hard appendage she'd sought, and she closed her fist around it snugly.

"Fuck," he said against her skin, and Katara would swear she knew that cursing voice.

Practically blind with the wild sensations coursing through her, Katara pumped her hand up and down his length, her hips rolling into each slow beckon of his fingers, making her crazy.

"Stop teasing," she gasped, pulling him closer.

"Impatient," he accused, a low laugh of surprised smugness escaping him before he pulled his fingers from between her legs, his hands moving to her bum and suddenly boosting her up the wall.

He stepped into her and Katara guided him, her body aching to be joined with his.

"You sure?" he asked when he was poised at her entrance.

"Positive," she whispered tightly. "Do it. I want it. Now."

He was smirking when he rolled his hips forward, piercing her, impaling her, claiming her. Katara whimpered as he slid home, her mouth finding his as he tunnelled inside her until he rested deep, sheathed entirely, filling her to bursting. She kissed him like her life depended on it, every nerve ending tingling, her synapses firing, her brain empty but for the pleasure of this forbidden act. She was certain her heart stopped when he withdrew slowly and pushed back in again. And again. And again. She broke from his kiss and he buried his face against her neck, nipping her, licking her, suckling at her pulse-point, drawing blood to the surface and giving her a love-bite.

Katara whined, her arms around his neck, her legs wrapped around his waist, her ankles locked against the small of his back. He took his time with her, not rushing the moment even though they were in a dingy alley in the dark with the Dai Li hunting them. He ground in high and hard, driving deep and withdrawing slowly, ravishing her, owning her. Her eyes rolled back in her head and it was all Katara could do to cling to him for dear life, loving him even though she didn't know him. Was this what life was all about? Was this feeling the reason they'd all been put upon the Earth? Was this what it was supposed to be like? She never wanted it to end but her body betrayed her, tightening and tensing, twisting itself in knots until a low cry of ecstasy tore from her throat as her head dropped back and her whole world imploded.

He went faster then, his speed picking up, his breath growing erratic, his rhythm getting jerky. The low groan that escaped him did strange things to her and Katara sighed as he spilt himself deep inside her, utterly spent, content like she'd never known.

Afterwards, he leaned against her, pinning her to the wall and breathing deeply, trying to catch his breath, still embedded within her while Katara held him, unwilling to let him go.

"We shouldn't have done that," he murmured against her neck, kissing the sensitive skin there tenderly.

"Probably not," Katara whispered in agreement.

"Think you can stand?" he asked, lowering her slowly back to the ground and pulling away, tucking himself back inside his trousers and letting her skirts fall back to the floor. Her knees quaked beneath her, but he steadied her, pulling back from her slowly.

When she lifted her eyes to his face, he was in the process of fixing his mask where she'd pried it up, hiding his identity once more. Katara let the veil upon her hat fall back into place, wondering if he could figure out her identity despite the painted mask she wore, too.

"THERE!" a loud shout startled them both and the Blue Spirit jerked back from her quickly, drawing his swords instinctively.

Feet pounded on the stone pavers and Katara knew they Dai Li had found them again.

"Run," she gasped at the Blue Spirit, grabbing his wrist and tugging him, running for the far end of the alley. She launched herself onto a stack of wooden vegetable crates and them up and over a stone wall with the boy she'd just made love to right on her heels. He flew over the fence behind her, grabbing her wrist and tugging her down another street, moving fast, his feet practically silent as he ran.

"We have to split up," she said when the Dai Li kept cutting them off. "Go. You're faster than me. I'll be okay."

He turned to look at her, skidding to a stop at a four-way crossroads.

"Go that way," he pointed, his voice commanding once more. "Don't stop. Run until you make it home. I'll lead them away."

"You'll be caught," she protested.

"I'm not tripping over skirts," he argued, laughter in his voice. "And even if they catch me... they'll never hold me. No one can."

Katara doubted it. She hesitated, wanting to know his name.

"Will I ever see you again?" she asked instead, knowing he wouldn't tell her his name when he wouldn't show her his face.

"I'll find you," he promised.

"When?" she asked.

His masked face remained impassive, but when he answered, she would swear she could hear the smile in his voice.

"Always," he murmured before he turned and ran in the opposite direction that he'd pointed her to go, pulling something from a pocket as he went and hurling it toward the Dai Li agents. Katara flinched at the boom of the explosion and the shouts of surprise and pain before she shook her head and turned away, running into the night and leaving the Blue Spirit behind.