Disclaimer: Me no own. You no sue.

This is a little one shot I wrote for the aangxkatara livejournal community after season 2's tear worthy finale. Sigh... I love kataang. It's just so... epic.

Listening to Guru Pathik's advice had to be the hardest thing he had ever done. Yet he had, somehow. He had begun to actually let her go, had started to go into the avatar state, and instead of feeling strength and power, he only felt lonely and vulnerable.

What he did not feel was Azula's lightning bolt, as it entered his body from behind.

The attack knocked him right out of his own body. It took him a minute to realize what was actually happening, and he watched his own body fall towards the floor. Shock, denial, incredulity followed in that brief moment, followed by an overwhelming sense of fear as he realized what a vulnerable position he left Katara in. He tried to cry out, to scream, but his voice was gone and then before his body even hit the floor, he was whisked away by some force, leaving him only with the memory of Katara's face, frozen in horror, as she realized what was happening to him.

The next moment – or minute, or hour, or year, he did not know and really did not care – he found himself surround by the spirits of his past life, being restrained in the firm arms of Avatar Roku.

"Let me go, let me GO! You don't understand, I have to get back – I just have to... LET ME GO! Katara--"

"Will be just fine, Aang. Anyway, it is no longer your concern. Let her go..."

'Let her go...'

The words echoed in his head; the same words spoken by the Guru. The same words that led him directly into the predicament he was currently in.

"You don't understand. I love her. I need to get back. She--"

"She is no longer your concern, Aang. You are not a part of her world, anymore." Came the soft voice of Avatar Kyoshi, along with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

He promptly pushed it off.

"No. I won't accept that. I won't."

"So. You let your feelings guide you, and the rest of the world be damned."

This was said by a water bender. One he did not recognize. "Better to have your love, than to restore balance to the world. How selfish can one person be? We chose poorly."

"I agree."

"You've doomed us all."

They were all closing in on him, grumbling, jeering, telling him that he was weak, that he failed; he failed them, he failed everyone... he felt... suffocated.

All he could see were the patient eyes of Avatar Roku, waiting for something... for him maybe. He alone was not judging him.

A sea of faces passed before his eyes; all the people he had known and loved... Gyasto and the rest of the airbenders, Appa, Momo, Bumi his admittedly crazy earthbending friend, Sokka and Toph, and then finally, Katara. Lovely Katara, who meant everything to him.

And then something snapped inside of him.

"No." He said under his breath, and then more firmly. "No." Finally, he shouted it.


The crowd of Avatars fell silent, and drew back aways, all eyes on him.

Aang smiled.

"You're wrong. You see, the people I love don't make me weak. They don't make me weak at all. The people that I love... they are my strength. And I haven't failed..."

The silent crowd parted in front of him. Peripherally, he could see a slow smile dawning on Avatar Roku's face. And then, he felt the pull again.

This time, it was violent – insistent – full of an energy he knew, and knew well. Something inside of him struggled, and then, with a snap, he was free...

...and looking into the eyes of a very worried Katara.

He only had time to smile, briefly, before what little energy he had failed him and his body gave out, but somehow, this time it was okay.

He would NOT fail.

Aang allowed the sleep to overtake him, knowing that he was warm and safe in the arms of someone he loved.

warm & fluffy rocks... :)