It was just the two of them.
Cole, Zane, and Lloyd had gone out to practice with Nya, and Wu was browsing some old scrolls with Misako. That left them exploring the northern lakes because Kai had said that they should and Jay wasn't going to protest a chance to adventure without people telling him that he couldn't do this-or-that and telling him off for screwing something up. Also because it was a chance to be alone with Kai, but he didn't mention that. Why would he?
Jay looked around at the trees towering around him. Zane had mentioned that the trees around here were generally fir and pine, but neither of the two were able to tell the difference. Pale snow dotted with fallen tree needles coated the ground, halfway to ice and easy to walk on top of. They had left the trails behind maybe ten miles back, and still hadn't crossed a new one. The blue-clothed ninja sighed and pushed his brown hair out of his face. "We could be lost, you know," he said to Kai. That wouldn't be too bad, actually.
"We're not lost, Jay," the red-wearing ninja a few steps ahead of him replied with a faint tone of annoyance. "The lake should be right... here!"
They broke out of the trees and were introduced to a broad expanse of light blue-grey ice stretching at least a half-mile ahead of them and to either side. Just before them, the ground sloped downward to meet the frozen lake with a small natural pier of icy dirt. Kai burst out laughing and pulled on Jay's arm, dragging him down to the waterside. He seemed the most carefree Jay had ever seen him, which brought a grin to his own face.
"You ever walked on ice?" Kai asked with a mischievous smirk, and he had to fight to tone down his own.
"I was raised in the middle of the desert in a junkyard. Do you think I would've had much of a chance?" Jay replied, kneeling and looking at the ice coating. "This looks pretty thin. You, uh, you sure we can stand on it?"
"Stop worrying so much, Jay-Jay," came the response, and he looked up to see his spiky-haired friend land feet-first on the ice with a dull thump. The ice held, surprisingly. Kai reached out a hand to the still-nervous Jay, inviting him to step out with him. He took it, and unbeknownst to each other, a small tingle made its presence known within both ninja.
"Since when did you call me Jay-Jay?" Jay asked, tentatively stepping onto the ice.
Kai grinned and shook his head, quietly laughing at himself. "Since just now, apparently. Hey, can we practice with our powers for a bit?"
"You're probably gonna melt the ice."
"Perfect!" The spiky-haired boy raised his hands and shot a small jet of fire into the slowly-darkening sky above Jay's head, relishing the warmth that flowed through his veins. It felt somehow stronger today, though, and he was alone with Jay. Was that a coincidence, or...?
Jay yelped and leaped to the side, patting at his hair while Kai grinned. "Not cool! You almost burned my hair off!"
"I wouldn't hit you, Jay-" he began, quickly interrupted by a shock of lighting hitting the ice near his feet. He slid to the side with a small burst of fire to speed him along, not noticing a small crack forming in the ice. The two engaged in a mock battle, dancing around each other, spurts of lightning and fire lighting up the growing night as they laughed and dared each other to go further.
Kai's mind was floating gleefully. He aimed a shot to next to where Jay was about to land, the ice melting away rapidly. Then the world slowed down for a moment, and he could see Jay's feet hit the ice, cracking the now-fragile surface, and slide directly into the melted hole. He fell against the smooth surface, fingers failing to catch a hold, and slipped under the water.
Time sped back up, and Kai cried out the name of his closest friend. He shot forward, laying himself flat next to the hole in the ice. He was painfully aware of every faint crack echoing across the frozen lake, but strove to shut them out as he tried to find Jay in the murk. A small trail of orange drifted slowly deeper, and he reached to grab at it. The scarf drifted just out of his reach. With a deep breath in and the acknowledgement that this was probably a stupid idea, Kai dove into the freezing water, doing his best to cast away the growing panic around his chest.
He swam forward, remembering the lessons in swimming Nya had taught him a few weeks prior. One hand evaporated the water in front of him and let him breathe in again quickly after his breath failed. Kai followed the orange scarf to Jay and hooked one of his arms around his chest. He used the other to swim back up to the fading sunlight, feeling his strength start to drain away despite the resistance he had to the cold.
Jay's going to be okay. He has to.
Kai's head bumped against ice, and with a sudden rage, he raised his swimming arm and liquified away the ice. The water around him warmed as well, and he pushed his head out of the hole he had created. He shoved Jay out onto the ice as far from the hole as he could, then hooked his now-heated fingers into the ice, where they melted temporary finger-holds for him to get out with.
The ice crackled and broke apart behind him, and he picked Jay back up again, alternately channeling the fire through his racing feet to boost them toward the natural pier. Seconds after they hit the ground, the lake's icy cover split into several chunks bobbing in the water. A bird began to call out a warning, and most of the forest went quiet. The ground softened beneath his feet as the leftover heat escaped into the earth.
Kai noticed none of this. He almost collapsed, set Jay on the ground, and hugged him tightly. "Oh, First Master, Jay, I'm sorry," he whispered, a tear escaping his closed eyes. Another followed its trail, both softly splattering on the blue gi Jay wore. "Please be okay. Please don't leave me."
For a while, that was all. Snow had begun to softly fall from the sky at some point, and the ground was now lightly topped with a translucent white. The lake's mini ice floes drifted and gradually reformed around the earthen dock. The forest returned to life behind them, keeping a wide berth from the two humans, one whispering tearfully, the other unconscious at the very least.
After a few minutes that felt like an eternity, something touched Kai's back. His eyes opened, stinging from the cold and his tears, and he looked at Jay. The Lightning Ninja smiled at him weakly, and said quietly, "I'm not leaving you."
A relieved laugh escaped Kai's lips, and he hugged Jay tighter, pressing his face into his shoulder. "I thought I lost you!"
"You're not losing me, Kai. I promise." Jay murmured, returning the hug. "Thanks for saving me."
The same thought whispered through both of their hearts at the same moment. I'll never let you go.
I love you.