I had told him I was confused, and watched him wince both mentally and physically. Even then, at the moment I said those words, I hated myself. Confused… bah! The only thing I was confused about was exactly how I was going to pin to the nearest wall and have my wicked way with him. I certainly wasn't confused about how I feel.
This hadn't exactly been a recent discovery either. I was actually rather shameless, looking back on it. I literally tried to coerce a kiss out of the young airbender in the Cave of Two Lovers. Little secret, getting out of that cave was a distant second in my mind when I brought the idea up.
Or my daily flirtations called waterbending lessons. It was no accident that almost every session wound up with me smeared across his back like butter on bread, my face sultry as his cheeks burned bright red. Sheer coincidence… and if you believe that, I have some tropic property near the South Pole I'd like to sell you.
And let me say this, I don't think Gran Gran hugged me as much in fourteen years as I hugged Aang in roughly six months. Any excuse I could get to throw my arms around him was good enough for me. Aang was happy? Give him a hug. Aang was sad? Give him a hug. He was feeling sleepy, hungry, thirsty, upset, irritated, lonely, anxious, or any other emotional state? Give him a hug. Had it been five minutes since the last hug? Well, give him another; can't be too careful after all.
Dad told me how proud he was of me after the final battle of the war. Wonder how proud he would have been had he known half of the things I did to poor Aang. I'm pretty certain my dad knew about my feelings… not that I was exactly discreet. I learned that my own father often carried me to my room after I had fallen asleep at the foot of Aang's bed during the airbender's recovery. And let's not forget angrily brushing my father aside when the object of my affections had finally awakened. I was not going to share Aang with anyone for that first hour, I suspect. Or when I broke down in my father's arms… he wasn't the only one I was crying about, and I'm sure he knew it too. He never addressed my feelings directly… but he knew. He had to.
Spirits as my witness, I threatened to kill a man if I even as much as thought he might hurt Aang at some point in the future. I would have done it too, and the idea still doesn't even so much as unnerve me.
If anyone should have been confused about our feelings for each other, it should have been him. I had pushed and pulled him away so many times I don't even remember them all. We share this electric, steamy, passionate dance one night… and the next day, I pretend nothing out of the ordinary occurred. On the night of the invasion, I literally melt into his kiss then barely am willing to come within arm's length for a week.
So… yes… I'm a young woman in love; madly and hopelessly in love with a man who is the living incarnation of my hopes and dreams. Yeah, I'm real confused about that.
So why did I say I was? I was more trying to convince myself than Aang, really. I was hoping I could stop loving him. I… didn't want to lose someone else I cared so completely for. It would have destroyed me. I had to tell him I didn't know, and more importantly I had to believe it. I wouldn't have been able to function, I would have been paralyzed with worry, and too many people needed me to allow myself to be in that state.
Not that it worked. Don't misunderstand me; I did the job I was needed to do, and I still was absolutely terrified of what was going on half a world away. Even as I pulled Azula's chains tight, my cursed treacherous mind was running through half a million nightmares. I drove poor Appa to the point of exhaustion rushing back to the Earth Kingdom as fast as the great bison could carry me… I still don't know if Zuko even heard me tell him where I was going so quickly… I might have been a few hundred feet off the ground by the time I finished. But I'm sure he knew.
And now, here I am, a two-week whirlwind of activity later, watching Aang quietly slip away off onto the balcony of Iroh's tea shop in Ba Sing Se. He's taken my words to heart it appears, giving me space; waiting for me to decide it's "the right time". It hurts me that he doesn't seem particularly hurt. Infinitely understanding, infinitely patient… and it makes me feel like trash. I don't deserve him.
It's time for me to finally make things right.
I quietly follow him out, completely toning out whatever Toph had just said, and barely aware of the laughter behind me. He turns his head in my direction once I'm at his side, and gives me his "Aang look" tempered with the wisdom thrust upon him in such a short period… lifetimes of experiences compressed into a handful of months… and I'm blushing, I know it.
I barely even was aware of what I was doing before I had pulled him into another hug. Old habits die hard, but even as I'm smiling, I'm smacking myself. This isn't good enough. He deserves a lot better than more of the same.
I pull away, and take a look out towards the great city to where the sun is setting. Tomorrow will be a new day, another day separated from the scars of war, another day to change something else for the better.
But I'm not going to wait until tomorrow. I gently turn him to face me, and this time, I take the initiative. I push forward, and I kiss him…
… so that there would be no confusion.