The sun had barely cracked over the cliffs that surrounded the Western Air Temple, its first moments of light only somewhat reaching the temple itself. One could look up and still see the moon in relatively bright light, indicating that the night was still holding on, at least for just a few more moments.
Still, that didn't stop Katara from getting an early start to her day. Her brother and Zuko were now on the second day of what she and the rest of the team believed to be a fishing trip. She didn't know what exactly this trip entailed, but she was certainly glad Zuko was out of the way for a while, though felt uneasiness knowing Sokka was with him; bad enough the firebender and Aang were alone on that trip to find the origin of firebending. The waterbender remained jittery about his presence in the team, still not fully trusting of his change, and just hoped her brother would return safe.
Nonetheless, Katara still attended to her usual duties, and that included preparing breakfast for those who were there. She was mixing water into a jar full of oatmeal-like substance, and had two sticks ready to rub together to get a fire going under it; that was, at least, until she saw a somewhat unexpected person join her.
Sometimes, Aang would rise early in the mornings to help Katara, even if she insisted she could take care of it and/or he go back to sleep. But the young Avatar would make sure he gave his own hand in the efforts to keep their camps running and the team together, it was something he wanted Katara to not have to do on her own. He had also risen early on this morning to get a quick start on his firebending drills that his new teacher had assigned him during the "fishing trip".
Katara looked up and smiled brightly. "Morning, Aang."
"Morning, Katara," he replied, happy to see her as always. "How are you?"
"I'm all right, just starting up breakfast," she answered. "What has you up so early?"
"Wanted to practice my firebending," the Avatar replied. "You know, Zuko left me with that list of what to do." He cringed a bit of having to do the same, repetitive exercises every day, but if it was to help with fire, and to avoid the same incident that befell him the first time he attempted it...
"All right," Katara said. "Though maybe you want to make sure you have breakfast first? I don't think firebending is a good idea on an empty stomach," she said with a chuckle, picking up the two sticks.
"Actually," Aang began, observing what his best friend was about to do, "let me help you with that." He took a deep breath and raised his hand, emitting a small blast of fire that lit the kindling where the jar was to be placed.
The young waterbender grinned at him. "Aw, you didn't have to do that. I don't mind getting a fire going. But thank you. That should take about ten or fifteen minutes." She moved the jar over to the fire, allowing it to begin cooking away, before getting up and walking closer to Aang.
Aang couldn't help but grow a little timid in her presence as she stood just a few feet away from him now. He could always feel his thoughts become a rush when she was near to him. He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head, wanting to just throw his arms around her and kiss her, seeing such an innocent smile on her face, her long hair waving in a slight breeze, and eyes glowing at him.
Katara stared at him, gazing upon this boy - nay, young man - who had grown up so much in the months she had known him, and not just mentally, but physically as well. He had grown taller, and she could see some muscles on him. He was strong, brave, a powerful bender, and she was falling head over heels for him. But she just couldn't quite come out with it all, the fear that he might lose him any day clouding her thoughts.
"So..." she spoke slowly, brushing some strands of hair away from her face. "Uh...you want to do something...today?"
"Well..." Aang started. He wanted nothing more than to spend some time with the young waterbender and admit it all; of course, he knew one thing "...I mean, I have to do my drills that Zuko said...but, yeah...I think I'd like to." He blushed in her presence and tried to hide his reddening face. Needless to say, with things getting a lot more tense, he hadn't had as much time to spend with her.
Katara chuckled nervously, thinking similar thoughts. "Cool, I mean, it's been a while. I miss our little moments to ourselves, you know?"
The Avatar did notice one other thing. "Yeah...but you know, we have one now, Katara."
She looked around the interior of the temple for a moment, not seeing or hearing the slightest of their allies. It was at that moment she realized that they indeed were alone. How she too wanted to say it all, but she just couldn't get past her deepest fears. But they both were right, having not had this time as of late, not really getting those chances to be to themselves, that she wanted to do something.
"Hey Aang," she spoke softly, taking another step toward him. "Come here."
Aang complied, moving a step closer to his close friend and smiling brightly.
Suddenly, Katara threw her arms around her best friend, drawing him close to her in a tight hug.
The young Avatar was a bit thrown off by the sudden embrace, but he was more than glad to throw his arms around the waterbender and hold her just as tightly. He rested his head on her shoulder.
For a fleeting moment, the two just stood there motionless, clinging to one another as tight as they could, smiling and closing their eyes as they relaxed. What an easing feeling it always was for the two to hug, letting the world slip away and knowing they always had each other, a needed constant in constantly trying times. Their hugs always brought the other a warm feeling, never failing to make their respective days better.
Katara gave a sigh and began to whisper in Aang's ear. "Oh, Aang. Nothing quite beats a hug from you, you know what?"
"I can say the same, Katara," Aang replied just as quietly. "I enjoy a good hug from you every now and then," he finished with a light laugh, though he was quite serious.
"I agree," the young Water Tribe girl answered. "A hug from you...it doesn't get much better than this." Feeling her grip loosen slightly, she quickly tightened it once more, sighing contently.
Aang was half-tempted to stroke Katara's hair, but he did not want to risk doing too much and making his friend feel uncomfortable. So he just continued to hug her tightly, constantly enhancing his own grip so she didn't slip from his embrace before she was ready. He kept his eyes closed, drifting off to a daydream...
Katara was doing the very same, not letting her friend go before he wanted to. She wanted nothing more than to enjoy every second of this time to themselves before someone else stirred. Her eyes sealed, she too felt something going on in her mind...
Their arms remained around each other as their smiles brightened, the two swaying slowly back and forth, the mutual vision spinning in their heads as they felt blushes come on, thinking of such dream becoming reality. They squeezed each other again, not willing to let go, remaining lost in one another. A peaceful moment continued onward...
The two didn't hear it, not allowing such an invasion of their little piece of land.
Still nothing, both of them tuning any outside noises out. It was their own world, and they wanted it to remain as such.
Unfortunately, that did it.
The friends' eyes shot open all of a sudden as their looks changed to shock. They quickly separated and turned to see that one of their friends had risen, glaring at them through her unseeing eyes - of course, her feet had "seen" more than enough to know what was going on, as did her nose.
"Toph!" Katara quickly answered in shock. "Uhhh...what has you up so early?"
"I'm not up that early, Sugar Queen," the young earthbender replied. "While you and Twinkle Toes were standing there unconscious in that little embrace, our breakfast began boiling over! I could smell it from my room!"
"Oh spirits," Katara said worriedly, her and Aang both turning to see that Toph was correct; the liquid was leaking out of the top and onto the stone floor below. "Aang, get that pot off, quickly!"
The young Avatar complied and suddenly raised a small earthen ramp around the fire, lifting the pot with it. Slowly, the dish slid down the ramp and clear of the fire. The waterbender shot some of the remnant water from her supply and put out the flames as the oatmeal settled down, the bubbling coming to its end and the liquid settling down once more.
"That was close," Aang said, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Yeah," Toph began. "Next time, if you two are going to show your 'friendship', try not to do it when it's meal time? I'm starving and I don't want a burnt or boiled breakfast! You two are something else," she finished as she crossed her arms.
The two just looked at each other, sheepishly smiling and thinking about their little moment. Maybe Toph was right, they were indeed "something else", but it was a something they greatly enjoyed. They each thought about their vision and blushed, quickly looking away from one another. But that was something they probably shouldn't have done around Toph, and they realized that when the next thing they heard was:
"I know what you two are doing!" in a sing-songy voice from the young Beifong.
"What?!" Katara said in protest, waving her arms, but only blushing even more.
"Nothing!" Aang said in shock, trying to hide that, his face turning the same shades of red as Katara.
"I can tell you both are lying," the blind girl said smugly, a smile to match. "Now, let's eat."
The two just decided to agree with their mutual friend's idea and shrug off her little taunts, taking a seat around the pot, Katara grabbing a few bowls and beginning to serve the first meal of the day.
When she gave a dish to Aang, she couldn't help but let her eyes linger on him for a while admiringly.
The airbender couldn't resist returning the same gaze.
For now, they could let that vision rest, thinking about the moment they just had instead.
Maybe soon, they could indeed make that dream reality.
The present was the present, and even if dangers continued to lurk around them, they could still have those little moments for themselves.
Indeed, they were friends.
But one day, once peace settled, they could perhaps, again, show even more.
There was even more to be had than a rushed locking of lips before a potential war-ending invasion.