Author's Note: I got the chapter done in six days! That being said, this chapter was tough to write, and it ended up being kind of short. I hope you guys enjoy it though!
Avatar: The Next Generation
Chapter 17: I Didn't Expect
Ichiko was tossing and turning in her bed for the fifth night in a row. She couldn't get the conversation she'd had with Hajime on the beach out of her head. Her parents were concerned that she was getting sick because she was so exhausted lately. The truth was that she just couldn't sleep.
Hajime filled her thoughts almost constantly which honestly made her nauseous. She was turning into one of those girls. She hated the girls who did nothing but obsess over their latest crush or boyfriend (prime example: Ayame). She'd promised herself, and her friends, years ago that she wouldn't turn out like that, yet here she was unable to sleep because of Hajime. She almost hated him for it.
She had no choice but to finally admit to herself that she liked him. For the first time in her life, she was interested in a boy romantically. That didn't mean she was ready for a relationship though. There was no way she was going out with him. She may like him, but she wasn't doing that. She was still determined to stay single. She'd get over him eventually.
“What are we going to do about this?” Aang asked Zuko. They were just leaving an important meeting. They'd gained information that Azula and Ozai were recruiting people for an army. The source wasn't aware of exactly how many people they had been able to get, but they felt it was a lot.
“I guess just wait,” Zuko sighed, “Capturing them now won't do much good because there will be other people to deal with now. We'll still search for them of course, but even if we find them, we'll have more work cut out for us. I doubt he people they've recruited will just stand by and do nothing.”
“Don't you think we should tell the Fire Nation people that something's happening as well?” Aang suggested, “We might be able to convince some people who would otherwise join Ozai and Azula to be on our side.”
“It couldn't hurt,” Zuko agreed, “We know Azula and Ozai are using propaganda. I'll see if we can get some flyers or something. We'll have to call another meeting about it.”
“Great,” Aang said sarcastically, “Yet another meeting.”
Zuko smiled at his friend for what felt like the first time in days, “I couldn't agree more.”
Ayame watched as Ichiko paced in front of her. It was a strange sight to see Ichiko so nervous since she usually tried to hide it. Ayame sat patiently. She was beginning to get a little annoyed, but she didn't want Ichiko to snap at her for interrupting her pacing.
Finally, Ichiko turned to her, “Okay, don't laugh,” she demanded of Ayame. Once Ayame had assured her that she wouldn't, Ichiko continued, “I already sent letters to Kazuna and Ai earlier this morning.” Ayame noticed that Ichiko's cheeks had a pinkish hue to them. “I like Hajime.”
Ayame smiled, “Is that it?” She continued when Ichiko nodded, “Ichiko, we've all known that for a long time.”
“I know,” said Ichiko, “But I've finally admitted it to myself. I can't stop thinking about him,” she clenched her fists in frustration, “Gah! It's so frustrating.”
Ayame couldn't help but chuckle a little, and Ichiko glared at her. “Ichiko, there's nothing wrong with that,” Ayame assured her friend as she slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Now, when are you going to tell him?”
“Um,” Ichiko murmured, “I'm not.”
Ayame gasped in an overly theatrical way, “Ichiko! You have to tell him!”
Ichiko rolled her eyes at Ayame's theatrics, “No, I don't. I don't have to date him just because I like him.”
Ayame was giving Ichiko a strange look. She didn't seem to understand what Ichiko was saying. She probably didn't. When Ayame liked a boy, she did everything she could to make that boy like her.
Finally, Ayame seemed to recover. “Fine,” she said, “It's your business, so I can't make you do anything. That doesn't mean I'm not going to bug you about it constantly though.”
Ichiko groaned and laid back on the grass. This was why she couldn't tell her friends anything.
Aang's smile grew larger when the small village came into view. He and Zuko had decided that there wasn't much more Aang could do at the moment, and Aang was finally able to come home to be with his family. He'd sent a letter ahead, so they'd know he was coming. He could see his whole family waiting for him just outside of the village.
The younger children began running towards him, with the exception of Yuuga who was just beginning to walk, while Kazuna and Kuuya came over more slowly.
As soon as Aang's feet were on the ground, he was attacked by a mob of children. He collapsed back in the snow, laughing, as his children began climbing on him. Kazuna and Kuuya even joined the fray when they reached him. Somehow, things led to a snowball fight that even Katara joined in. Of course, the water benders had a very unfair advantage.
Later that evening, the reunited family sat around the fire place. Aang smiled as he looked at his family. He was finally home.
Ai sat with Haruki in front of the pond on the palace grounds. They were feeding the turtle ducks together. They'd been spending most of their free time together since they'd met.
Ai loved spending time with him. She hadn't had a boyfriend in a couple of years. She'd been too busy learning from her father what she'd need to know to rule the nation to focus on boys. Part of her felt it wasn't a good idea to get attached to Haruki. There was too much going on at the moment, but she couldn't help being drawn to him. None of her past crushes had been this strong.
She watched him as he tore off a piece of bread and threw it to the turtle ducks. He'd found her sitting here once he got off duty about fifteen minutes ago and had brought some left over bread from the kitchen with him.
Ai wanted to say something about her feelings for him, but she was scared he wouldn't reciprocate. Maybe he just thought of her as a friend. Her being the next in line for the throne didn't help either. Most guys were usually intimidated by her. If her responsibilities weren't hard enough to deal with, her father being able to lock up or banish them didn't help either.
She was still debating whether to say something to him or not when Haruki himself spoke up, “We've been spending a lot of time together lately.”
Ai just nodded. She wasn't sure what he was getting at.
Haruki continued, “It's just, when I came to work here I didn't expect your family to be like this.”
“What do you mean?” Ai asked in confusion.
“I expected the Fire Lord and his family to be slightly stuck up to be honest. I definitely didn't think Princess Ai would want to spend time with me.”
“My mother and father have always taught me that I'm no better than anyone else, no matter what my birth,” she told him.
“I see that now,” he said before slightly changing the topic, “There's also something else I didn't really expect.” He turned away from her and focused his eyes on the turtle ducks. “I didn't expect I would fall for you.” Ai could tell he was blushing slightly.
Her cheeks colored a little as well. “Really?” she asked. This was too good to be true.
He turned to her and nodded.
Ai smiled and said, “I like you too, Haruki.”
Haruki smiled, “I guess that means you'll be my girlfriend then?”
Ai laughed and nodded, “Yes, I'd be happy to be your girlfriend.”
They smiled at each other, and then Haruki leaned in to kiss Ai for the first time.