A/N: Yet another story spawned from online conversation. Huzzah! This time, it's an actual oneshot.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
"Great. Now what are we going to do?"
After all this work, including faking identification to get into the ball, they were stumped. No, they were more than stumped. Sokka had been captured a few days ago, and since then Toph had heard rumor of his whereabouts. Now here they were, standing in the center of a Fire Nation palace, surrounded by potential enemies, and they didn't know where Sokka was.
Toph feigned dropping something so that she could place her hand on the ground. Her expression hard, she stood up moments later and shook her head.
"I can't tell where he is," she informed her companions. "His feet probably aren't even touching the ground anymore."
"Well what do you think we should do?" Aang asked, puzzled. Katara bit her lip. "Where was the last place you thought you felt him?"
Frowning, Toph opened her mouth to reply. "Well, I know –" a man brushed past her and she stopped talking until he had disappeared into the crowd again. "I know he's around here somewhere. In this building. And there's only two doors to go through; the door we came in through and that door on the other side of the room. There's people behind both."
"So I'm assuming that we're going to try the second door?" Katara pressed.
Toph nodded. "I'll backtrack and check the bathrooms and the closets for any different route, then I'll meet you in that other room."
"Good enough for me," confirmed Katara.
Aang nodded once. His hat slipped the slightest bit, but he reached up and corrected it before his arrow could be exposed. "Let's do it."
The three nodded one last time and Toph headed back in the direction from which they'd originally come. Aang watched until the tails of Toph's long braids whipped around the corners before turning back to a very thoughtful-looking Katara.
In this dire circumstance, he'd tried his best not to notice her stunning beauty, but it was just one of those things that he couldn't help. She and Toph were both dressed in the same apparel that they had used to enter the Earth King's party for Bosco, but it hadn't been Toph that had caught his eye. Sure, in his mind he had acknowledged her prettiness, but it had been Katara that had made his insides melt. That all-too-familiar feeling would come up over him every time he looked at her, and this was no exception.
"Aang, are you alright?"
After a few seconds, Aang realized that he had been staring, and shook his head. "Sorry," he apologized, blinking a few times. As if he didn't feel stupid enough in these noble clothes, he'd been staring like an idiot. "Just thinking."
Katara turned away from him and they walked to the edge of the dance floor. "Well I hope you were thinking of the best way to get to the other side of the room, because we have one little problem."
"What is it?"
She pulled one hand out of her sleeve and jerked her thumb in the direction of the far end of the dance floor. His gray eyes followed her hand until they rested on her target: a dolled-up, but undoubtedly sour-looking, Mai. Aang recoiled in horror.
"Can't go around the floor," he said, though doing so was unnecessary, as Katara had figured this out long ago.
A thoughtful expression on her face, Katara turned away from Mai and tapped her chin as she pondered the different choices. Then, before Aang had a chance to ask her what she was thinking about –
"Come on, I have an idea!"
Katara grabbed the surprised Avatar's wrist and pulled him onto the dance floor. "Katara!" He hissed her name as quietly as he could so he would not draw any attention to the two of them. "What are you – ah!"
Something happened in that moment that Aang could not properly explain. It was not just Katara's spinning around and grabbing his hand, but also the way she looked at him – the sparkle in her eyes so brilliant – and the way that he automatically reached up and put a hand on her delicate waist. Aang couldn't, for the life of him, explain what had just happened, but it had happened.
And it was working.
They began to move as one, fluid and graceful. Never once did they attract any attention from the other couples as they swirled and spun with the music. The dance floor was packed with couples, all of whom were dancing a dance similar to the one that he and Katara were improvising at that very moment. People went around him in a swirl of reds and greens and all the different colors, never taking a second look at them.
Katara's light, sweet laugh brought him back to reality. He looked at her and realized that he must have been blushing something fierce; they were, after all, closer together than they'd ever been before. "Why Aang, I didn't know you could dance!" she said, smiling.
He looked down briefly, just to make sure that he was dancing, then turned his eyes back upon his dance partner. "Neither did I," he admitted, shrugging. "I guess it must be an Avatar thing."
Another laugh from Katara, this time a lower one with an accompanying blush. With a grace that he didn't know she possessed, she raised one arm and put it around his neck in one swift motion. She brought her face closer to his, and whispered into his ear, in a sultry voice that sent a chill down his spine, "Let's move."
And so they did. Aang, who was busy trying to look nonchalant about the closeness of their bodies, spun Katara around so that her back was against his chest. His hand, which most certainly acted of its own accord, found a comfortable spot on her midsection, where her hand joined it almost immediately.
Wow, her heart is racing. Aang's brows shot up. Am I doing that?
As much as he wanted to test his theory, he didn't have the boldness or the time to do so. He and Katara moved amongst the couples, blending in with their steps and sways, with each movement. They would have seemed comical to a person who knew of their intentions, he thought; two teenagers, out on a dance floor together, each trying not to look suspicious and each peering furtively around the room. Some sort of music was playing from the orchestra on stage - Aang, who had little to no education in the music department, could only say that it made him feel... inspired? Bold? Maybe a little afraid? All he knew for sure was that he liked this feeling of closeness, this feeling of his hand on her stomach and the rhythm of their bodies moving to the music. It was, for lack of a better word, nice.
By now they were about halfway across the floor. The door on the other side of the room seemed, for the first time, like a possible – even likely – destination.
"See anything important?" he whispered in her ear.
In a twirling motion, Aang dipped Katara low; his muscles groaned from the sudden weight, but he managed to keep a steady arm. Though her vision was upside-down, Katara had a clear look at the floor and the people on it. Aang pulled her back up, but with a little more force than he had hoped; she slammed against him a little less than gracefully. Both winced.
"Sorry," he muttered, hasty, trying not to notice just how close they were…
Katara, to his immense surprise, didn't pull back right away. Her face lingered close to his, her blue eyes never leaving his gray ones, until she leaned in. Aang could feel her warm breath on his lips, the wild beat of her heart as it drummed through her chest and into his, and his hand on her waist as it pulled her closer still to him. Then, just when her nose brushed against his and he thought that he would surely taste that sweet lip stuff that she was wearing, she pulled away a few inches.
The glint in her eye was unmistakable. A test. "It's alright."
To Aang, it sounded a whole lot more like permission than acceptation of an apology. Even so, his insides twisted in an agony that did not appear on his face.
Yet another blush rose to his cheeks, but this time he tried not to notice. He took the lead of the dance as he spun both of them around in a swift circle, tearing his eyes from hers only long enough to peer over her shoulder at the door. Nobody was there.
"The door looks clear," he informed her. He was amazed that he sounded so collected, when in fact his brain was still reeling. "We're almost at the end of the floor."
Katara nodded. When Aang reached the end of the floor, he stopped in mid-twirl, narrowly avoided being hit in the head by another dancer's elbow, and let go of Katara as if he'd been violating her personal space.
"Let's go," said Katara, and she and Aang began walking.
Aang let his eyes wander to the ground while he followed his ex-dance partner. Had she thought nothing of their tension? Their almost-but-not-quite kiss? The very thought made his heart plummet –
"Oh, and Aang?"
He looked up at Katara just in time to see her step towards him and place a soft kiss on his lips. She pulled away after only a moment, and then offered him a small smile. "You owe me another dance. Later."
Aang could only nod dumbly and follow her as she started off towards the door and, presumably, towards Sokka. He seemed to have left whatever wit or grace he'd possessed on the dance floor, but that was okay for now.
Because according to Katara, he wouldn't need it until later.
A/N: Poor Aang and his nervousness. I tried to create this feeling of tension on his part, but... meh. I don't know.
I was going to include a comment about how they knocked Zuko out and stuffed him in a closet, but it didn't really fit with the plotline. Oh well. Thanks for reading!