My writing is as jumbled and chaotic as my thoughts, raw and nothing more than the path my mind takes once it's set onto an idea. I write what I feel and you may be able to follow or you may not. Sharing your thoughts the way they really are isn't the best way to communicate, but it is the most honest one.
What does the universe know about lies and honesty?
A blue sky
It was the ultimate impossibility to ignore the fact that the next Avatar was expected to be a member of the air nomads. There were many young airbenders that liked to play with the idea of being the Avatar, saving the world and becoming a hero one day, a glorious life as master of all four elements and the bringer of peace and hope for everyone. A dream in the eyes of any young child that had listened to an endless number of old tales and legends belonging to the one who had lived a thousand lives as the same person and yet not.
Aang was an air nomad, an airbender and a child with hopes and dreams as bright as they could be. He dreamed of peace for the world, of a life filled with friendship and love, of becoming a master airbender and of all the adventures yet to be had with his friends.
Aang never wanted to be the Avatar.
Kuzon, an enthusiastic fire nation boy and his friend, was enthralled by everything that had to do with bending. A non-bender himself, he was easily fascinated by Aang's ability to bend the very air around them with a series of moves, a glide of his hands or just a simple breath. Aang loved showing off his skills, loved the expression of awe on Kuzon's face when he glided above his head, defying gravity as though nothing could ever hold him. Not air, not gravity, not the war he was too young to consciously face head on.
Aang never wanted to let the ice hold onto him for so very long.
An Avatar was supposed to start their training at age sixteen. A normal childhood was something no one should be denied, no matter their past or future. Feeling the wind whip around his head, a rush of freedom flowing through his veins, Aang thought that he was one of the luckiest people in the whole world. Bumi always made sure that he had as much fun as any child ought to have, sliding through the mail system of Omashu, training together as earthbender and airbender, nothing more, and whichever other ideas that sprang to mind. At twelve years old, Aang believed in a future as bright as the sun. He had a vision of a sky as blue as the tattoes he was proud of, grass as green as the leaves in spring and the melodic sound of laughter, clear as bells ringing in his ears and filling every ounce of him with the universal symbol of happiness.
Aang never wanted to be anyone else.
Then came the words that shattered his vision, tainted his bright world a painful black and shoved him as far towards the edge as he could ever have imagined.
Bound by his inevitable destiny, the pressure of the universe and the shackles of loneliness, Aang did as he was told - up until they threatened to send him tumbling down that painful edge he was trying so hard to balance on. Monk Gyatso was the wisest person Aang knew, a great airbending master who always looked out for him in all ways possible. He was the one Aang talked to about his troubles, the one who protected him from the dizzying turn his life had suddenly taken.
Aang never wanted to leave Gyatso behind, or the other air nomads, Kuzon and Bumi and all his friends, the war, the world.
And yet it happened.
Everything happened and still none of it went right at all and now here he was, sitting on the edge of a mountain, quite literally this time, staring at the moon and wondering why. He wondered why the universe had deemed it fair and right to pronounce him the Avatar, wondered why he had been frozen for so long with the world just going on without him and he wondered if there would ever be a sky as blue as the tattoes that marked him as the last of his kind, grass as green as the leaves that he struggled to keep from falling to ashes and laughter. True, innocent laughter that contrasted the twisted version of false happiness his enemies portrayed whenever they got a glimpse at victory.
The wind was whipping over and around his small frame, but it felt nothing like it should. He was supposed to be the Avatar first, Aang second. Deep down he knew he would always be an air nomad first, a pacifist, a friend, a vegetarian, an animal lover, a fan of parties and celebrations, an enthusiast who liked the rush of taking risks and would spend all his free time having the craziest kinds of fun. Sitting there, he was Aang, a lost twelve year old boy who didn't know which way to go, because the way he came has been blocked by a barrier he couldn't overcome - time.
His ears picked up the quiet sound of footsteps before a familiar voice spoke.
"Can I- uh..." An embarrassed cough. "Mind if I sit with you?"
Aang didn't look at Zuko, just nodded and kept staring straight ahead, willing the cold air around him to numb his senses. As soon as Zuko sat down, Aang felt a strange silence fill the cracks of their brittle friendship and he had the urge to say something, anything just to chase away the sense of distrust between them.
It was Zuko who found the words first.
"You've been sitting here a while," he observed, his tone careful and lacking a certain degree of confidence.
"I guess," Aang said. Zuko didn't seem satisfied with his response, something that surprised him. He had always known there was more behind the angry facade of the fire prince, had always been able to see the hurt and all the hidden, shameful feelings that the older boy harboured as much against himself as against his father. What he had actually found though had been so strikingly different from the Zuko that had chased him all over the world that it was almost dizzying to watch his change. There was a gentle and careful concern behind the wall of fire and Aang was glad he had decided to give him a chance.
"So, what's got the Avatar so down that the night sky doesn't make him smile like it usually does?"
This time Aang couldn't help looking at the fire prince, who was slowly gaining the confidence that was needed to be comforting and steadying. For a long moment, he just sat there studying Zuko's face, searching for something he couldn't name.
"Why do you always call me 'the Avatar'?" Aang asked, genuinely confused and not quite able to keep a hint of disappointment out of his words.
Zuko shrugged, looking away at the forest surrounding the mountain. Aang wondered if he was thinking about grass as green as the leaves of that forest. Maybe he wasn't the only one dreaming of a world that didn't seem realistic anymore.
"'Cause you're the Avatar. Everyone knows that," Zuko explained in a way that sounded like it was the simplest fact in the world, like it was that one reality that anyone could always hold onto because it was more constant than any mountain in the world.
Aang frowned, his eyebrows knitting together to portray his disapproval. The older boy's reasoning didn't sit right with him.
"But my name's Aang," he said, causing Zuko to glance at him curiously.
"But being the Avatar is what makes you, you. Is it not?"
Aang felt like he'd been slapped and the stinging hurt must have shown because Zuko's eyes widened, and he scooted just the tiniest bit away, backpedaled like he was trying to rewind the moment and undo his words. He could see the gears turning behind the fire prince's eyes, working to figure out what he'd said wrong and how to make it right. This was the new Zuko, the Zuko who tried and tried and if it wasn't enough, then he'd just have to try harder.
Aang never wanted to make Zuko feel like he wasn't trying hard enough.
"...Aang?" Zuko asked, it was hard not to take note of the use of his name in this moment.
When Aang found his voice it was reduced to nothing more than a tentative whisper, nearly carried away by the air that usually moved to his will.
"Is that how you see me?"
Something was stirring in his chest, a winding pressure that threatened to fill his very being, hissing dark words at his mind and heart, clenching and unclenching as if trying to persuade him into admitting defeat.
Aang never wanted to surrender to the will of the universe.
Zuko seemed to be frozen, hands floating in the mist of his hesitance, like it was so dense he couldn't see what to do. Aang's shoulders were tense, his hands digging into the earth underneath and had he been more conscious of his own actions, he would probably have noticed the way it was bending under his fingers.
"I'm the Avatar, that's all...isn't it?"
It was a moment fit for one short dry, humourless laugh - the kind that was all pain, nothing of what a laugh should sound like. Only, Aang could never taint a laugh like that, could never use something so pure, innocent and happy to express his pain. His enemies misused it to emphasize someone else's pain and just the thought of such an abuse sent a deep jolt of sadness through him.
So, instead of laughing to interrupt Zuko's weak attempt at preventing the worst of his words' repercussions, he allowed the walls to crumble, as they had wanted to this whole time.
Aang never wanted to cry.
And yet, the tears came so easily and the shockend and almost helpless expression on Zuko's face was so different from anything he was used to that for the first time, Aang felt like he could change something. Maybe they'd understand.
"I-I'm sorry- I didn't mean it like that, it's just that, I mean- You're the Avatar and- and-"
Aang just stared at the older boy with wide, glassy eyes, the watery tracks on his cheeks glistening softly in the moonlight. His hands left the ground and he rested them in his lap, suddenly overcome by a sense of calm and at the same time a feeling of utter hopelessness. When he spoke, his voice betrayed his true age and he was a twelve year old boy and he was lost.
"But I'm also a person."
Aang never wanted to have to remind people of who he was.
He wasn't looking at Zuko anymore as he wiped away the tears on his face. Gyatso had always joked about how emotional Aang could get. He wished he could joke about it now.
"You know what the worst part of being the Avatar is?" Aang began quietly, gaze downcast and eyes tracing the lines on his palms. "Everyone thinks you're so lucky because people love the Avatar, that you're so special because you can bend all the elements and tall to spirits and everything. Only then they forget all about you. First it's your nation," he said, lightly tracing the ending of his tattoo on his left hand. "Then your name," he counts, glancing at Zuko. "And then your personality. It doesn't matter, of course, because they already know - you've already lived so many lives that it doesn't matter. I don't really matter, you see. I could have died with the rest of my people one hundred years ago. I should have," Aang declares, fixing the moon with his gaze, eyes intense with a sadness so deep it was impossible to make out the light at the end of the tunnel. "Then the next Avatar would have been there to stop the war sooner."
There was no hesitation in Zuko this time as Aang stared at the fire prince with wide eyes, filled with the pain of bearing the weight of the world and the confusion about it all.
"I said no. You were meant to live and you were meant to be here now," Zuko said, it was all in confidence now. "Not because you're the Avatar, but because you're Aang."
"But- I'm just- I'm a twelve year old kid and I'm supposed to stop a war that's been going on for one hundred years just because I'm the Avatar!"
"You're supposed to stop this war because you're passionate, good and because you're the living definition of peace," Zuko insisted, gripping Aang's shoulder tightly and confidently. "You are meant to stop this war, but the universe didn't choose the Avatar, it chose you, as Aang."
Everything Zuko said sounded so wise, he could hear that the words were comforting and here Zuko was making the difference.
Yet something still wasn't right to him. He felt like Zuko had explained, not understood. He was unbelievably thankful for everything Zuko was saying, for how hard he was trying, but this just wasn't quite what he needed. Still, if this was what he received, Aang would have to be okay with it. He could not force his friends to say the right words, to tell him what he so desperately wanted to hear. Even if they didn't, Aang understood. He understood that this wasn't anything to be grasped so easily by just anyone. No one else had this, no one else could ever really know what it felt like.
Aang never wanted to know what it felt like.
He sighed and forced his body to relax, pushing the tension out together with the air in his lungs as he breathed, wishing he could do the same with the pressure of everything and nothing.
"Thank you, Zuko," he said truthfully, managing a smile that was just enough to convey his gratefulness. "I'm glad we're friends."
"I'm glad I don't have to run after you without any leads anymore, too," Zuko joked, but the smile he returned was as honest as his heart.
Aang never wanted to lie to his friends.
Life went on, the universe kept spinning him in circles and Aang kept trying to run straight ahead, hoping for a chane to outrun the plans that someday had been written down in his chapter of the book of destinies. Sometimes it felt like he was winning, others it seemed like the world didn't want to be saved, at least not by him.
Aang never wanted to die.
He had always known that by nature with life comes death, but he had asked for neither. When Azula's lightning struck, Aang was partially blinded by the exhilarating rush of being in the Avatar state. There was no time to think a last thought before everything was falling apart and there was nothing left to save except for the endless feeling of loss.
Perfect chaos was his new prison and Aang wanted to defy it with every fibre of his being. He could not name it, could not even describe the faintest silhouette, but if there was one thing he knew, it was that he could not let the chaos win. This wasn't just about him now, this wasn't a way out, it wasn't even a way. Aang knew that if he didn't grab hold of the last strand of life that was left for him, it would be the end of the Avatar cycle and the beginning of an era darker than the dephts of death itself.
Aang never wanted to leave anyone again.
He was trapped in a state of repairing everything that was him and not, for the universe or for himself he couldn't know. Distantly Aang was aware of a vision of a sky that was no longer as blue as his arrows, but as red as the blinding comet that was soaring above him and causing everything to turn to ashes. He knew he could prevent it, he knew deep down that it was a future that was possible but this time he didn't want it to happen. Working harder for his friends and for everyone out there, those who believed in him and those who didn't, Aang fought to rebuild what was left and escape.
Aang never knew the difference between a hundred years and three weeks.
Until he woke up.
Katara had saved him, had prevented his death and yet he had died. When he first looked at her after he had woken up, he saw in her eyes that she knew. There were no words when she just put her arms around him and held him and Aang realized that this was just a different kind of healing, one that he needed more than the one she used on his physical wounds because without it he was falling apart at the seams.
They had told him that everyone thought the Avatar was dead. The Avatar was dead. The Avatar had died and Aang was still here and why was everything one and two and he was one hundred and twelve years old when he was still just a twelve year old child.
"You're okay," Katara promised, squeezing him tighter and holding him in a way that made him feel fragile but at the same time so safe. "Hey, shh, don't cry. Hey, hey, Aang-?"
He hadn't noticed he was trembling and then he was crying and he wanted to tell her she was right and that he was okay.
But he wasn't.
The so very hurt Aang won over the Avatar, Aang who had so many responsibilities that it was tearing him apart. For once he just had one thing to do: be honest and show his friends how much he hurt because this war inside him had been going on for as long as the war he was trying to stop. This one was for his friends to stop for him because he was so so tired of it all.
"Aang? Aang, I'm here, okay?"
Clinging to Katara like it was him trying to hold her together and not the other way round, Aang shook his head.
"I know," He was choking on his words, it was hard to breath. When had the air stopped being his? "But Katara," Aang was pleading and if he was scaring his friend, scaring the greatest and fiercest waterbender he knew, he couldn't bring himself to do anything about it. "I know I'm apparently good at leaving everyone, but please don't leave me."
And Katara didn't, would never leave him and in between all the shards that mirrored his life, Aang could make up just enough glass putting itself back together to hold a vision of the future - one where the sky may not be the blue of his arrows and the grass may be struggling to push through the layers of ashes, but there was laughter reaching his ears and there was happiness.
Aang never wanted to be the Avatar.
Standing in front of all these people next to Zuko, members of the fire, earth and water nations looking up at them and sharing his vision of a brighter future, Aang wanted to believe he'd been wrong all along. That it had never been the universe and that it had been all him.
Aang never wanted to be who he was because it was his destiny. Aang wanted to be who he was because he did well.
When had he stopped being the air and become the Avatar everyone expected him to be?
Freedom is an irrational desire that resides in every one of us and the only way to achieve a true state of freedom is to give it up.