I had this brewing in my head ever since I watched The Boiling Rock last Friday, but with schoolwork and SATs and life...yeah. But I'm proud of it, so it's all good.
This story makes only SLIGHT references to TBR. Not enough to call them spoilers, really, since it focuses on Aang and katara. And Aang and Katara were in like, two scenes of TBR. Lame. Anyways, if you're the type of person who won't stand for ANY spoilers whatsoever, no matter how small, then this isn't the place for you.
For the rest of you, though...enjoy!
The Western Air Temple, which had become quite lively ever since the arrival of a certain Avatar and his friends, had resettled into an unusual silence for the first time in weeks. The absence of two companions had left the Gaang in a state of excruciating boredom; even Toph, who typically held a daily dosage of sarcastic remarks for anyone within hearing distance, had pursed lips as she lounged upon her makeshift bed of rock near the outskirts of camp.
The only sounds that could be heard throughout the temple were the occasional croaks of a single badgerfrog, which in turn were accompanied by a loud groan and the roar of several fireblasts.
Katara watched in silence as the Avatar - the last airbender in existence, and her best friend, no less – punched repeatedly into the air, the sweat dripping down his jaw. She wasn't sure if it was from the heat of his firefists or the severity of his training; maybe it was both. Aside from sleeping, he'd been at it for nearly an entire day. Apparently Zuko's lesson plan wouldn't go unheard, even if the firebender himself had decided to go off on some Sokka-enthused hunt for fish.
The firefists turned into hot squats, and Aang's counting became mere grunts, his teeth grinding in determination. Momo let out an anxious chatter from his spot on Katara's shoulder, and the waterbender raised a hand to scratch behind his ear.
"I know, Momo," She murmured softly. "I'm starting to get a little worried, too."
She had every right to be, in any case. Just as he finished his final hot squat, a loud, resounding croak echoed throughout the walls of the temple, and Aang bit back a scream of frustration. If there was ever a time to strangle a badgerfrog…
No…he needed to do this. He let out a shaky breath and slowly opened his eyes, raising his arms for what felt like the thousandth time that day. It convulsed in protest, and Aang gritted his teeth in pain. His entire body was on fire, his legs on the verge of collapsing…he hadn't felt this way since his very first earthbending lessons with Toph. And to think he'd forgotten all about it until now -
The young airbender let out a startled yell and whipped around, eyes wide. He instantly regretted the action, of course; his head nearly exploded as his legs buckled from underneath him, and the silky chocolate hand that had touched his shoulder tightened on impulse. In one swift fluid motion, Katara dropped forward and caught Aang moments before he hit the ground. She landed on her knees with a sharp intake of breath; whether it was because of the aftershock of the fall or the fact that Aang was practically sprawled in her lap was anyone's guess.
"I'm so sorry!" Katara blurted, her blue eyes wide with embarrassment and alarm. "I didn't mean to startle you – are you alright?"
Aang let out a moan and attempted to push himself into a sitting position; his arms gave out with the smallest effort, though, and he collapsed back into Katara's lap, exhausted.
A tinge of red was visible on her cheeks as she furrowed her brow in concern. "Aang, please, you need to rest. You're being too hard on yourself – I don't really think Zuko meant for you to do 20 sets of firefists and 10 hot squats every single time a badgerfrog croaks –"
Aang gave her a weary look, and she rolled her eyes. "Okay, maybe he did, but for an entire day? This is crazy! He and Sokka should've been back by now. I mean, how long does it take to go fishing, really…?"
She stared off into the distance, her mind wandering off into the possibilities of what her brother and Zuko could be doing. Within moments, her fingers were absentmindedly gliding along his scalp, tracing circles and other patterns along his arrow.
Aang's heart nearly shot out of his chest at the touch. With a sudden burst of energy, he lurched forward and airbended himself to his feet. "I-It's okay, I'm fine! See?" He lifted his arms with a slight wince, which he slyly passed off as a grin.
She stared at him with a mixture of confusion and surprise, and Aang inwardly cursed his over enthusiasm. With a nervous laugh, he hastily turned away to hide the deep crimson that was undoubtedly spreading across his cheeks, a hand scratching his neck.
"Aang…" Her soft voice was anxious, doubtful; Katara obviously knew him too well. His heart constricted in his chest, and he let out a sigh.
"I…I need to master Firebending, Katara." He turned back to her with a grim frown on his face. "This war needs to end, and I've already wasted so much time –"
"But how does overworking yourself help?" She got to her feet as well, hands clenched at her sides. "You need your rest. We've been through this before, Aang. You're still a kid - we all are! There's only so much you can handle!"
"I'm the Avatar, Katara," He snapped, glaring at the ground. "I have to handle it." He turned to her accusingly. "You're the one always telling me I have a duty to the world, aren't you? I don't have time to be a kid anymore!"
The harsh bitterness laced in his voice left Katara temporarily stunned. She stood there silently, watching him with a mixture of hurt and several other emotions he couldn't decipher, and suddenly Aang couldn't have regretted his words more.
"Katara…" His eyes widened and he frantically struggled to find the right thing to say. "I-I didn't mean…I'm just…this training…"
Katara gave no indication that she had heard him. Without a word, she dropped her gaze and walked towards the airbender, head bowed.
Aang took a nervous step backwards. In the short time he had known Katara, he quickly found himself believing that she was the person he knew better than anyone else. Many times he could read her like a book; her fears, her hopes, her dreams. He was even proud to say that he understood her in ways that even her own brother did not.
But this…this was the Katara he never could - and probably never would – begin to understand. In this state, she was unpredictable...and incredibly dangerous.
So naturally, it put him on edge.
She brushed past his shoulder without so much as a sound, and for one horrible second Aang wondered if this marked the beginning of a very uncomfortable tension between the two of them. With Sokka and Zuko gone, he had a feeling this would be far more torture than any training he'd ever done -
Suddenly, her fingers were tightly wrapped around his wrist. Before Aang could even begin to register what was happening, Katara took a step forward and flung him across the pavilion with a strength he hadn't even known she possessed.
He wasn't aware that he could simply stop himself with an air rift, or the fact that he was practically screaming his arrow off. The shock of what Katara, his best friend, the girl he was hopelessly in love with, had just done, was enough to shut his brain down entirely.
Apparently, he had underestimated just how dangerously unpredictable this girl could be.
It seemed she wasn't trying to hurt him, though, because a moment later he landed a little less than gracefully into the temple's restored fountain, soaking everything - including a sleeping Appa, who grunted in protest - within a ten foot radius. He resurfaced seconds later and resorted to rapidly opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water, at a complete loss for words.
Then she appeared out of nowhere, right there in front of him, her body so close to his that he could felt the warmth practically radiating off of her despite the icy water surrounding them. He gulped. Her eyes were a storm of unreadable emotions, and she continued to stare at him until it nearly drove him insane.
Oh, what a mistake it was to snap at her.
Katara was leaning towards him now, lips hinting an unfamiliar smirk. Aang's heart sped into overdrive. A hundred different images of her, all rooted deep in his memory, flashed through his brain like wildfire - none of them came close to the way she gazed at him now. Eyes wide, he scrambled backwards in a panic, desperately trying to grasp any hold of her hidden emotions, her motives, anything to help him understand why she was acting so…unlike Katara.
It was pointless to try, really. She was much too skilled at this game for her own good. The smirk slipped off her face, and he watched her eyes cloud over with even more emotions he couldn't decipher.
For the first time in his life, Aang was terrified of his best friend.
His back hit the outer ring of the fountain, but he didn't dare attempt to get out. Her icy blue eyes held him frozen to the spot, and Katara slowly advanced again, bending the water to envelop the length of her arm as if it were second nature. She knelt in front of him and reached for his hand, lacing it together with her own; Aang's breath hitched at the touch.
"W-What are you doing?"
He cringed when her hand tightened considerably, took the hint, and went silent once more. Katara's eyes slid shut. She bit her lower lip in concentration, and the water flowed from her hand to his, traveling up his arm and wrapping around his torso like a sheet of liquid. Their eyes locked for just a moment; his wide and fearful, hers filled with uncertainty – the first signs of the Katara he knew and loved.
Then she let out a shuddering breath, and Aang felt his insides freeze over.
He couldn't move. He couldn't speak. He couldn't even breathe. The sheet of water surrounding him had solidified into ice; he'd never felt so cold in his life, and he numbly wondered if this was what it would have been like to be awake in that iceberg.
Katara opened her eyes and gazed at him, looking apprehensive. He could only stare back, the confusion and hurt and…devastation…evident on his frozen face.
Why…why was she doing this?
But then she closed her eyes again, took another breath. His body temperature skyrocketed from cold to hot; it felt like he was on fire all over again, and his muscles were screaming in protest as the water covering his body boiled against his skin -
The next thing he knew, he was leaning against something warm and comfortable, staring groggily at the ceiling.
"Aang." He blinked, and Katara's face swam into view, eyes filled with concern. "Aang, are you okay?"
His mind clicked into place, and he shot out of her arms in an instant, much to her surprise. His eyes were wild as he pointed at her, then to himself, stammering incomplete sentences and everything else in between.
Katara raised an eyebrow in amusement. "What?"
Aang gawked at her for a good thirty seconds. "I swear…you…" He raised a hand to his temple, baffled. "Was I…was I dreaming or something?"
"Aang, are you feeling okay?" Katara asked slowly, with an innocent frown.
Aang's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Too innocent.
"Actually…" He shifted his arms in confusion, gazing at them in wonder. The pain was completely gone. He did the same to his legs.
He turned to her, comprehension finally dawning on his face for the first time that day.
"Katara, did you…what exactly did you do to me?"
For some strange reason, she blushed. "I-It's just this new healing technique I've been working on. I figured out that if you slightly alter the temperature of the body, you can soothe overworked muscles and body aches." She paused momentarily and bit her lip, her cheeks reddening even more. "I just wasn't completely sure if it would work or not, that's all."
Aang gaped at her. "You weren't sure?"
"Well, I wasn't going to try it at first, but –" Her eyes went wide and she quickly pursed her lips, turning away from him. Brushing her hair away from her face, she hastily got to her feet and made her way towards the fountain, shaking her head. "Never mind, it's not important. I'm going to go practice some waterbending techniques, okay?"
Aang watched her sit on the edge of the fountain's perimeter and slip out of her shoes, the blush still evident in her features. And suddenly, the realization of the entire situation that had happened earlier hit him like a ton of bricks.
A smirk of his own found its way onto his lips. It had definitely been the exhaustion of his training that had dulled his senses. Katara's healing had cleared that up right away, though.
That…and a few other things.
He'd nearly driven himself insane trying to figure out that look in her eyes after she'd thrown him. But really, all it took was a slightly different perspective to pinpoint exactly what emotions she'd been feeling.
After all, he gave her the exact same look all the time, didn't he?
And although Aang knew now that everything she had done was simply out of concern for him – well, mostly everything, he added silently, the smirk widening - he couldn't resist getting even.
Katara was just about to pull off her outer dress when she heard the distinct patter of feet hitting ground. She glanced up in bewilderment.
The next second, Aang was tackling her midsection, and they both flew into the air, her shrieking in surprise and him laughing in glee. They fell into the fountain with a splash, drenching Appa once again; Katara resurfaced, spluttering and furious.
"Aang, what the heck was that all about?!" She positioned herself on her knees, wringing out her dripping hair and glaring daggers at the grinning airbender. "You could've at least waited until I was in my wraps!"
"I could've," Aang replied lightly with a shrug. He raised his hand in front of his face, smiling innocently. "But I don't remember you waiting for me to change when you threw me into the fountain, either."
Katara flushed a deep shade of crimson. "I-I didn't…that was just…"
His smile turned into a devilish grin, and he skillfully maneuvered his hand at the water. It built up into a miniature wave, which surged towards the dumbstruck waterbender and pushed her up against the edge of the fountain. She gasped as he came within inches of her face, his body pressed up against hers; they had switched positions, and Katara knew it.
"You said you weren't going to try that new healing technique at first, right?" Aang breathed, and Katara shivered on impulse. She slowly nodded her head, eyes wide.
"So…what exactly were you going to do instead?"
Her breath hitched, but she didn't need to give him the answer; her eyes said enough. Aang grinned.
He knew her better than anyone else, after all.
His actions were entirely instinctual at this point, and without another moment's hesitation he closed the distance between them and captured her lips with his.
It was most definitely a change from their kiss before the invasion, Katara decided, as she automatically wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. For one, she had actually been ready for this one, no matter how shocked or jittery she'd felt prior to it.
And kissing in a fountain…in her natural element…with her best friend…
She certainly couldn't argue with that.
When oxygen became an issue, they pulled apart, equally breathless. A faint croak suddenly reached their ears, and both Katara and Aang glanced up at the sound, startled.
"Hey…" Katara flattened a hand against his chest, shooting him an accusing smirk. "Didn't you tell me you've been wasting too much time? Zuko won't be happy if he comes back and finds out you weren't practicing your Firebending."
Aang rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and this is the guy who wanted to go fishing with Sokka." Katara giggled, a musical symphony to his ears. He grinned, gray eyes sparkling mysteriously. "Plus, who said anything about not practicing? I think I could use a little more practice right now, don't you?"
Katara laughed again, sliding her hand to the back of his neck and pulling him towards her once more.
"Well, I wouldn't mind a little practicing, either."
A/N: Okay, sorry, it turned out a lot longer than I originally anticipated. But I'm hoping you enjoyed it nonetheless. I personally loved writing the part where Katara throws Aang into the fountain. xD Katara rocks.
Feedback appreciated, as always!