Katara winced at the cold air that hit her newly exposed skin, slipping off her under wrappings and putting them in a pile with her other clothes on a nearby rock. She padded across the sandy ground and gingerly put a toe in the beach water. Freezing. She'd give Ember Island credit, it was beautiful in every aspect and she was grateful for the beaches all around, but Spirits did it get cold at night. She supposed it was similar to the desert: scorching during the day and icy during the night.
Carefully warming up the water just around her body, Katara waded into the black and silver, smiling up at the moon. It wasn't near a full moon yet, so there wasn't too much moonlight, but she was confident there weren't any Unagi or Sea Serpents around Ember Island. The waves lapped at her shoulders now, so Katara dived forward, submerging her body before breaking the surface with a sigh. There was nothing like being in her element.
Aang yawned, watching his bare feet make imprints in the sand as he stumbled along. He would still get nightmares every now and then, though not as terrible as they had been before the Day of Black Sun and the Invasion, and found the best solution was to walk it off, leaving him exhausted enough to fall back into a dreamless sleep.
He paused, frowning. There were other footprints in the sand in front of him, fresh ones, heading to the beach. Without even thinking about it he followed, placing his feet in the slightly smaller prints as he walked, the soft roar of the sea getting louder.
Aang frowned again, peering in the dim light at the clothes folded on a rock. He held up a hand, palm up and let a small flame blossom in it, revealing in the flickering light some red and very familiar clothes. He whipped his head around to stare out at the water, the flame in his hand automatically doused. His heart rate did not slow as he recognised Katara's head out in the waves, but at least his "Danger!" sense had stopped.
Aang grinned, pulling off his tunic shirt and sprinting for the waves before launching himself into the air, aiming a bomb dive for a couple of metres away from Katara. He hit the water surface and added a Waterbending touch to send a torrent of water into the air. He broke the surface, laughing when he saw Katara melt an ice barrier away from in front of her, moonlit eyes wide as they took him in.
'Aang!' she exclaimed breathlessly. Her hands came up to hold her shoulders. 'That- what are you doing out here?'
His grin faded slightly and he averted his eyes. 'Um… couldn't sleep.' He looked up again smiling and started a gentle stroke over to her. 'So I thought I'd join your midnight swim.'
'Don't!' Katara squeaked, her hands tightening on her shoulders. 'Don't come any closer!'
Aang broke off from his stroke, an eyebrow raised; he was just a metre away from her now and confused. If she really wanted to get rid of him, she could have waterbended him away by now, but she was refusing to take her hands off her shoulders, or uncross her arms from in front of her-
Aang inhaled a large quantity of seawater. 'W-what?' He spluttered, raising a hand to point at her. 'Are-are you-?'
His mind flashed back to the pile of clothes he had seen on the beach; there had been Katara's red Fire Nation disguise, but also some white pieces that he had disregarded at the time. Now he thought about it. His face went red and he slammed his eyes shut.
'Sorry! Sorry! I didn't mean to- I didn't know you- you!' He floated hesitantly in the water, unsure whether if he tried to run for it Katara would murder him anyway. He was surprised she hadn't already.
He heard her cough. 'Sorry, Aang.' She didn't sound like she was going to murder him. 'You caught me by surprise. Guess I shouldn't have been out here n- like this, huh?'
He laughed. The sound was strangled and hysterical so he cut it off short, feeling a bit out of sorts as he still floated with his eyes closed. He couldn't remember which direction the shore was and couldn't touch the bottom to tell with earthbending. His mind was in shutdown.
A hand touched his shoulder and Aang jumped, gulping more water and choking. The hand rubbed his back as he coughed, eyes streaming as he opened them. He was half facing Katara, and hastily looked at the sky.
'Thanks,' he said when his coughing fit had ceased. His voice sounded hoarse.
Keeping his eyes at what he suspected was eye-level, he cautiously turned his head to Katara.
Katara inhaled sharply when his cautious eyes met hers, but they didn't stray from her face and she relaxed slightly, one hand still crossed over her chest under the surface of the water and the other resting on Aang's back. She smiled carefully to let him know she wasn't planning on murdering him. And she was surprised to find that she really wasn't angry, even the slightest bit. Slightly shocked, yes. Nervous and a bit embarrassed, yes. Angry, no.
'Are you okay?' she asked. She appreciated that Aang wasn't letting his eyes wander, but was getting a bit uncomfortable from his unwavering eye contact. She let her gaze rest on his back and shoulder, where her hand lingered.
'Yeah,' His voice was deep and husky. 'Yeah, I'm f-' He inhaled. 'Fine.' Katara had begun tracing a small light circle across his shoulder with her forefinger; she watched it, almost surprised at her action.
Aang's breathing was audible. He shuddered and she looked up at his face again. His eyes were still trained on hers.
'Are you doing that?' he whispered. 'The water?'
Katara looked at him blankly for a second before she realised that the temperature of the water around them was suddenly almost as hot as the underground springs she had found at the meeting cove before the Invasion. Where she had tried to cure Aang of his nightmares by taking him through a yoga routine. She abruptly cut off the unconscious bending and the water was suddenly icy once more.
'I d-d-didn't mean s-s-stop altogether!' Aang hissed, shivering. Katara placed her other hand around him.
Aang froze. He was still shivering from the ice-cold water, but he had almost stopped breathing, shocked and unable to move.
Katara had both her arms about his neck, her head resting on his shoulder and her toes against his. The water was slowly warming up again, but Aang didn't think it had much to do with bending.
Carefully, without willing his arms to move, he placed one hand on her forearm and his other, ever so lightly, on her bare waist under the water. She tightened her arms and her body pressed against his.
He was having a stroke.
His heart was beating so hard in his chest he was sure it would burst through his ribs. Aang felt her knees tuck up, resting against his stomach, and… her chest against his. So close to Katara, he was warm again.
Some part in the back of her mind was completely stunned by her actions, unsure of what possessed her to hug Aang like this, let alone so devoid of any coverings on her skin. But the rest of her mind was in bliss. Somehow, it just felt so natural, so right to have her skin against his, to have his hands resting on her waist and her arms around his neck, to press her lips lightly to his shoulder and smile at the intake of breath, floating in the cool water under the moon.
There was nothing like being in her element.