Preoccupation

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Zuko had spent seventeen years of his life not thinking all that much about kissing girls.

That was not to say that the topic had never crossed his mind. Zuko was a highly educated person. He read scrolls, books, inventory lists, and sometimes maps. No one ever kissed any girls around him, of course, because that would have been a severe violation of etiquette, but Zuko had always been vaguely aware that kissing was going on somewhere in the wider world. Girls were usually involved.

He hadn't seen fit to investigate the matter. It all seemed pretty salacious to Zuko - especially after the third time he'd had to smoke a pair of longshoreman out of the aft cargo hold. He could remember thinking that commoners must have a lot of time on their hands if they indulged in that kind of carrying-on at all hours.

Unfortunately, Zuko's years of peace were at an end. Things were different since his outing with Jin in Ba Sing Se. Now he thought about kissing girls all the time.

Zuko was busy. It was very inconvenient.

For instance, sometimes back in Ba Sing Se he'd be serving tea and suddenly remember the soft, dry feeling of Jin's lips pressed lightly against his. He'd wonder what would have happened if she'd opened her mouth. Possibly it would have amounted to much ado about nothing except excess saliva, but Zuko didn't know that, and preoccupation with the topic made him clear tables unacceptably slowly. Occasionally he forgot to give exact change.

Since fleeing the city Zuko's troubles had gotten infinitely worse. Not only was he on the run from two armies, but Azula's old friend Mai had refused to kill him and now she was on the run too and suddenly there was a girl within arms length that he could consider kissing.

Zuko thought about it when she ordered him to leave the immediate vicinity before she unpinned her hair. Zuko thought about it when she complained about one of the small indignities of their lifestyle and it was exactly what he had been thinking. Zuko even thought about it when the earth roiled and they drew arms and she smiled as though she'd just remembered she was really, truly alive.

The whole situation was unseemly. Zuko had to put a stop to the insanity before it took over his life. For Angi's sake, all that they were doing right now was sitting in front of the campfire roasting fish that was not even very good fish, and Mai looked bored enough to start making smart remarks, and he was still thinking about kissing her.

Enough was enough.

Zuko stood up and crossed his arms. Then he uncrossed his arms because they would probably get in his way if they were crossed. Then he put his hands on his hips because he didn't know what else to do with them.

"Can I talk to you?" Zuko asked.

"Evidently," Mai replied, without looking up at him.

Zuko didn't have a good comeback for that, so he decided to get things over with by grabbing her jaw, tilting it upwards, and kissing her. Their noses bumped together and Zuko enjoyed a good ten seconds of confused lip-mashing before he panicked and let Mai go.

Mai flailed and wobbled backwards. She looked like she had just been slapped. A distant part of Zuko noted that it wasn't like her to be so graceless, but the rest of Zuko was too busy wishing that he would be swallowed in a freak Earthbending accident to care.

"You kissed me," Mai accused. She'd regained her balance but she wasn't looking at him. That was okay because Zuko wasn't looking at her either.

"Yes." Zuko backed up a couple of steps. Mai was a girl, and if there was one fact Zuko knew about girls it was that they were capable of anything.

"You can't just do that and then…" Mai trailed off into incoherency. She was fidgeting with her hair and her face had turned beet red. Usually she fidgeted with knives so Zuko took this new hair-twisting business as a bad sign.

"I can go," Zuko said quickly. He made a placating gesture. "Gather firewood, I mean. We need firewood."

Good old firewood.

"That wasn't what I meant!" Mai growled with frustration, and Zuko knew that he should have feared for his life in that moment, but mostly he thought about how fascinating it was to see Mai so emotional. He wondered if he could reproduce the effect – what Mai would be like if she were apprehensive, or predatory, or rumpled.

Zuko didn't have a chance to try, since that was the point at which Mai stood up, bit her lip, tossed her hair, and then threw herself around his shoulders before sticking her tongue down his throat. Mai's hold was too tight and Zuko wished she'd let up a little bit because as interesting as the sensation was he kind of couldn't breathe with Mai blocking his windpipe like that. Zuko didn't want to shove her off him. Hopefully she would notice his gagging sounds soon and then they could really get down to business.

Zuko had no intention of giving up on this kissing thing until he'd finally cleared his head.

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Author's Note: Written because not enough newb teenagers suck at kissing in fiction.

Not everyone can be Sokka, people!