Time Goes By

By Mezzo-chan

I'm sorry, who are you?

Nobody here goes by that name…

My old auntie used to tell me stories about you.

You mean grandpa? He died ages ago.

It was times like these that Aang began to feel his age. Not twelve years old, but one hundred years senior. When he'd woken up, it was no different than opening your eyes after a long nap. It was like blinking between seconds. But those seconds had been decades.

Now every step he took felt like the years wearing away at him. He defied logic. He was like the universe's little mistake.

One hundred years ago he had so many friends. One hundred years ago there was peace. One hundred years ago there was no need for combat training or counterattacks. One hundred years ago Gyatso was alive. One hundred years ago he was among his people. One hundred years ago he was home.

One hundred years ago he was Aang. Just Aang. Not the boy in the iceberg. Not the Avatar. Not the great savior. Not the secret weapon.

One hundred years ago things were the same.

Now, a century later, everything was different.

He could take the changing geography, and the hurried training, and he could even take the fighting with Katara and Sokka beside him.

What he couldn't take was the loneliness.

All his friends, his family, his kinsmen.

They were all dead.

He'd begun to understand why old people stay so quiet. They are traveling through memories that would be otherwise lost. And he'd begun to understand why widows cried so much. There were empty spaces that had no one to fill them.

There were so many empty spaces, he sometimes felt more a void than a boy.

"I'm sorry Aang," she whispered one night at the fire.

"For what, Katara?"

"I'm sorry that your friend died," she bit her lip, those eyes reflecting the flickering light.

"He died twenty years ago, it's not big news," he tried to smile, but something inside him made his chest hurt, "I-I'm getting used to it…now,"

Katara didn't attempt to speak, nor did she try to convince him otherwise, but when she wrapped her arms around him and cried, he felt he had been wrong.

You never get used to it. The hurt doesn't magically go away.

And yet…

He could feel them sometimes, and it felt wonderful. Gyatso. The monks. His friends. Roku. Sokka. Especially Katara.

He could feel them when he glided on the clouds, and when the wind was warm and no one dared to speak. He felt them all pulsing somewhere deep within the empty spaces that had been expanding through his heart.

After all, Aang's just a boy. And boys become men. Men who stand tall and work toward the future. Men who don't live in the past.

He loves life. He loves his friends. He loves the world.

So he keeps going.

Not forgetting.

Not regretting.

And always flying higher.

Author's Note: Written for anyone who has been lonely, or lost someone dear to them.