She told me she was confused, and it felt like she had punched me a little too low. I wound up pressing a little too hard that night, and probably only made her even more confounded and upset. I've made a good many mistakes in my short life (I really have a hard time counting the century spent in a block of ice as part of my life), but that was probably the worst.
It took me some thinking, but I came to accept it, and could understand. "I love you" had been on the tip of my tongue every day for four months, and for as many months, that's where it stayed. I was awfully brazen at times in my pursuit of her affections, and pulled away at the moment of truth far at every opportunity. I can't imagine how my precious waterbender would wind up confused over that…
I mean, it's not bad enough that I somehow managed to imbed my entire leg in my mouth in the Cave of Two Lovers. Little note for reference; don't compare kissing a girl with dying. Astonishingly, girls don't take that as a compliment. I was so proud of myself that I managed to form a coherent sentence as thoughts of claiming Katara's lips filled my mind that I never realized what I had said until it was too late.
On top of that, I was awfully shameless in trying to get her attention. With all the "mistakes" I made in my stance during my waterbending training, one would almost think I was making them on purpose just to feel her warm body press against me as she leaned over to make the corrections… not that I'd ever do that.
Chief Hakoda once said I had the strongest spirit he had ever seen in his life. I wonder how much that opinion would have changed had he seen my cowardice in approaching his daughter. How I coerced her into dancing with me then shied away from her genuine show of affection minutes later… or how I couldn't even work up the nerve to actually kiss her until I was facing the possibility of never getting the chance at all. Then, just as she starts to respond, I again retreat and fly off as if I couldn't get away from her fast enough.
The mighty Avatar Aang; able to stare down a malevolent face stealing spirit, a behemoth assassin with metal for limbs, earthbending secret police, a maniacal, power-mad Firelord with the augmented power of a comet, and goes to pieces the moment a certain girl from the Southern Water Tribe smiles at him. The only time I feel confident about my feelings to her is after I've completely scrambled her mind. Oh yeah, there's a noble hero for the next generation to look up to.
I was like a moth-ant, hungering for the warmth of the fire, but wary of the flame. Everything I had ever loved was destroyed because of my cowardice. I couldn't bear to fail her the way I failed by fellow nomads. So I tried to keep my distance, even as the other half of my mind yearned for everything I tried to deny myself. I couldn't give her up to control the Avatar State, yet I couldn't let myself get in a position where I was certain I'd fail her love.
And so, here I am in a prison of my own making, watching her mingle with our friends as I vainly try to amuse Momo. The distraction doesn't work, and I find my air ball come unraveled in much the way my heart does whenever I find myself in awe of her. She's critiquing her brother's recent attempt at art… I'm guessing it's rather dismal, and it's all I can do not to slip my arm around her waist and tell her everything I want to say right there with everyone watching.
I can't though, but at least this time it's not out of cowardice. I need to keep my distance and let her come to understand how she feels. After all I've done to confuse her; she's entitled to that much from me. If I can't love her the way I want, I can at least respect her the way she deserves.
Ba Sing Se is quite a peaceful scene, but I sense that peace is not in my future. I can sense Katara approaching. I don't look her way until she's right next to me, and I know I'm a goner the moment I do.
She pulls me into a hug, and I feel my heartbeat fall into rhythm with hers… beating as one, and I smile with a profound comfort that I could never imagine would come from such relatively innocent contact. It reminds me of the times she was more comfortable with me, when we were truly the best of friends. I'm glad that we've returned to that. I wish it was more, but I'm willing to take it if that's all she is willing or able to give.
We both look out to the setting sun. It seems like ages since the hundred year long war had ended. Maybe I can start again, maybe I can get another chance to tell Katara how I feel. It might take time, but she's worth it.
Our eyes meet, and then she surprises me, taking the opportunity to steal a kiss from me, and I feel the warmth flood like a lightning bolt straight to my toes… granted a much more pleasant lightning bolt than the ones I had encountered thus far. I hadn't expected it, but there was little doubt of her feelings any more…
… she made sure there wasn't any confusion at all.