Disclaimer: Don't we know by now that I don't own it? Yes, we do.
A/N: So, I'm back already, but this isn't my idea. This fic is based on Kataang Caps' AU headcanon. She was good enough to give me permission to write it. Thank you for doing that. Hopefully, you won't regret that. You can find her headcanon at Kataang Caps.
So basically, this is my take on that. I ask that you don't hate me either, lol.
There will be a few modifications here and there, but the gist of the story will be the same. I haven't written into this as far as I would like, so updates will be slow initially (expecially because I have finals coming up), but once school is done, it's full speed ahead.
Aang's eyes flew open with a startled gasp, his entire body covered in a fine sheen of perspiration.
Long ago, the beeswax candle burning on the small table near the head of his bed had sputtered to a quiet death. Little remained of it, other than a gutted, misshapen crater, but the faint honeyed aroma it had emitted still lingered in his bedroom. Gyatso had chided him often enough about falling asleep while reading, but Aang had yet to learn the lesson. But his room wasn't dark. Brilliant sunlight was spilling across his bed and body and Aang imagined that was what had awakened him in the first place.
Despite recognizing where he was, Aang's fingers automatically fluttered to his chest because the familiar weight he had expected to find there was absent. Her presence had felt so real that he'd absolutely expected to wake with her sleeping beside him. The disconnection between reality and what he felt should be reality left Aang feeling mildly disoriented and confused. It was difficult to discern what had been the dream and what had been real.
Aang could still feel the sensation of her body folded into the crook of his own, the moist puffs of her breath stirring warmly against the bare skin of his forearm. He stared at his arm, finding it encased in the rumpled material of his tunic rather than naked as it had been in his dream. Furthermore, he was in another room entirely…in another bed and another time entirely…and he was alone. While everything he had just seen and experienced had felt undeniably real to him, the actuality was that he was no married father of three with a lifetime of peacekeeping accolades attached to his name.
He hadn't defeated the Firelord and put a stop to a century old war at the tender age of twelve. And he hadn't been frozen in a chunk of ice for 100 years. Instead, he was simply a twelve year old airbender named Aang, who had currently overslept for his meditative exercises yet again and had learned, only six days prior, that he was the new Avatar.
Subdued by the memory, Aang momentarily set aside the lingering unease that accompanied his odd dream and rolled upright with a heavy sigh. He was thoroughly reluctant to face another day of whispers and furtive pointing, but also very aware that he needed to get on with it. Still, he dallied, dangling on the edge of the bed when he knew full well that Gyatso was likely waiting for him.
He didn't want to force the older airbender to come looking for him, but Aang couldn't make himself move. He was completely unmotivated. Aang well knew that once his meditative session with Gyatso was finished, he would once again go back to being a pariah among his peers.
So, perhaps "pariah" was too dramatic a description, Aang amended mentally. His old friends didn't avoid him or disdain him, but they definitely didn't treat him the same as before. Now they talked behind his back as if he were some curious oddity. When they did address him directly it was in low, reverential tones. No longer was he "buddy" or "Aang." He was "Avatar Aang," the demigod of their generation, a potential master of the four elements who was to be treated with deep and worshipful respect. Basically, Aang deduced inwardly, he was the loneliest and most bored person alive!
Aang had been struggling with the change, especially because his friends were not the only ones to treat him differently. The monks' expectations of him had changed as well. They still admonished him on his silliness and inattentiveness just as they always had, but now they were further exasperated with him because those traits didn't suddenly disappear overnight. It was as if they expected that learning he was the Avatar would somehow transform Aang into the acceptable student they had been yearning for him to be. Aang was fairly certain they were disappointed.
Gyatso told him that it was human nature to resist and refute things not fully understood and, presently, he wasn't at all understood, not by his classmates and not by the monks either. It would take time for them to recognize that he had always been the Avatar and being such did not alter the fact that, beneath that grand and lofty title, he was still Aang. He had to be patient with them and wait for them to acclimate to the changes, just as he was doing. The explanation made perfect sense to Aang, but that didn't make his friends' scrutiny any easier to deal with or the constant harping from the monks any less unbearable.
Not wishing to dwell on it any longer, Aang finally shifted to his feet with a mournful grunt and shuffled over to the simple, wooden stool and wash basin that were situated at the far corner of his small bedroom. He dipped his hands into the cool, clean water housed there and splashed his face several times in an attempt to wake himself fully. While he was successful in pushing away unhappy thoughts concerning his identity, that also left his mind wide open to consider the wild dream he'd been having minutes earlier. Even now, Aang could feel it pulling at him, beckoning him to recall events that had never happened.
Frowning, Aang glanced about at his surroundings, noting his narrow, unmade bed, the unfolded piles of clothing on his floor, the bare walls and minimal furnishings. They were familiar sights he had known practically all of his life and yet, right then, they felt strangely foreign to him. In his heart, he was aching for another bedroom and bed altogether. He was aching for people who didn't even exist. Aang didn't know if that was because his dream had been so vivid or because, lately, he had been yearning to be anywhere except the Southern Air Temple.
He drifted over to his open window with that unhappy thought, drawn by the cacophony of gleeful laughter sounding from the courtyard below. It was filled with a dozen or so boys. Two were involved in an intense air scooter race while the rest cheered for one or the other on the sidelines. There had once been a time when Aang would have readily joined them and raced as well, especially given the fact that he had been the one to design the air scooter. At one time, he had been the undefeated champion. But that time seemed long ago to him now.
His friends no longer wanted to have air scooter races with him. They thought he had an unfair advantage, not because he'd been the originator of the idea, but because they believed his bending had somehow been amplified now that it was revealed that he was the Avatar. In fact, all of his natural skill with the air scooter had been negated, as well as the early acquisition of his tattoos, as a mere consequence of his being the Avatar. Suddenly, Aang's accomplishments weren't his any longer.
Everything he was and would be was now being ascribed to some faceless entity that had chosen him as a vessel. The monks told him that he should be honored to have been chosen, but Aang felt more resentful than honored. He was being measured by a standard he had never welcomed or wanted. His entire life, as well as people's perception of him, had literally changed overnight.
Aang expelled a heavy sigh and turned away from the window. If this was the kind of life he had to look forward to as the master of all four elements with all the cosmic energy in the world at his fingertips, he would have gladly passed on it. So far, he wasn't impressed at all.