Duty Versus Love

By Light-Eco-Sage

Rated: Mature. Romance/sexuality. Cannon pairings. (Kataang, Maiko, Sokka/Suki).

Summary: Six years after Sozin's Comet. For the Avatar, choice is merely an illusion. Now Aang must face the ultimate choice a second time: between love and his duty to the world.

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.

LES: This is my first fanfiction related to Avatar: The Last Airbender. It will be a little interesting for me to write for Aang, since he's only one of the two main characters I've ever written for without anger issues. And the only other monk I've written for had other issues… lechery issues. This story will feature the canon pairings from the show. If you don't like the canon pairings, do not read this story. And if you do read it, don't comment saying how much you hate the pairings. No one is making you read it. By the way, this story will revolve mainly around Aang and Katara, with the other relationships only mentioned. And the ages will be as follows: Aang/Toph: 18, Katara: 20, Sokka: 21, and Zuko: 22.

Edit: Due to the crack-down on fanfictions with Mature Content, this story is currently being edited so that all the Lemons are removed. They are simply removed from the story. However, if you still want to experience this story with Lemons, you can follow the Links to the Lemons on Tumblr. If you do, be prepared for the fact that the links contain sexually explicit content, and I am not responsible for the destruction of the innocence of those who follow those links knowing that they do not like/will not read lemons.

I think I've got all the lemons removed. If you find one that I forgot... PLEASE LET ME KNOW RATHER THAN REPORTING ME! I will remove it without the need for anyone to threaten me.

And, for those who want Lemons, all the links are set up to go to Tumblr. If there is a broken link that got slaughtered by fanfiction dot net's hatred of links, just head to my Tumblr page. I'll put a link in my profile.

Anyway, on with the story!

Chapter I: Life After The Century War

Six years ago, every other nation in the world hated anyone to do with the Fire Nation, everything about them. They had started the Century War with an unprovoked attack on the peaceful Air Nomads, nearly wiping their entire culture off the face of the planet. Then, once the Air Nomads were wiped out, the Fire Lords set their sights on both the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom, which had the largest tracks of land out of any nation.

The war against the powerful Earth Kingdom had lasted one hundred years while the world thought the Avatar, the mortal embodiment of the spirit of the planet and master of all four elements, had disappeared or been killed and for some reason, had not been reincarnated into the Water Tribe.

There were very few people in the world who knew the whole story about the latest in the line of Avatars.

Katara of the Southern Water Tribe was one of those people. The twenty year old woman hopped gracefully off Appa's back. She walked around the Flying Bison's massive six-legged form, and gently patted his nose. "Thanks, Appa." She said gratefully.

Appa yawned and started to head on his own to his specially designed stable.

Katara took in her surroundings. She was in a place she never would have imagined herself until six years ago, at least without being attacked: the Courtyard of the Firelord's Palace.

That was then, and this is now. Now she was more than welcome. She even had her own Palace in the Fire Nation's capital, just like she did in every capital on the planet. It was all part of the package being one of the Avatar's ambassadors.

She had just gotten back from one of her trips to the Northern Water Tribe, keeping the peace there while the Avatar himself was busy in the Fire Nation.

He may be the savior of the world, but even he couldn't be everywhere at once. That is why he had a Bending Master in every nation to act in his stead. Katara for the Water Tribe, Toph for the Earth Kingdom, and Firelord Zuko for the Fire Nation.

Speaking of which, that was who was coming down the front steps of the Palace to greet her.

Firelord Zuko and his wife, Firelady Mai, walked up to her with the regal grace of royalty, but with the smiles of friendship.

"Welcome back, Katara." Zuko said. "How as your trip?"

"Peaceful, as always." Katara answered. "Things just haven't been as exciting since the war ended."

Zuko smiled. "For which, I'm sure, the Avatar is very grateful."

"Where is he?" Katara asked.

Mai gave the younger woman a knowing smile. "I think you know where."

Katara laughed. Where was the Avatar's favorite place in Zuko's Palace? She bowed slightly, giving the Firelord the traditional sign of respect in the Fire Nation, which she learned when she infiltrated the Fire Nation six years ago. "Thank you."

Zuko and Mai nodded in acknowledgement as Katara took off.

"Those two are really tight, aren't they?" Mai commented.

"They are." Zuko said. 'But they have known each other for almost seven years. And they have been together for nearly that long."

"So, any word on if he's going to ask The Big Question?" Mai asked, referring, of course, to a proposal. Zuko did not attempt to answer. Mai glared up at her husband. "Has he told you anything?"

"No, he hasn't." Zuko said. "As his friend, I would love to see him get married to the woman he loves. But I don't think that the rest of the world will share our sentiments."

Mai stared at her husband, confused. But Zuko offered no further explanation, and she did not press him.

Katara knew her destination, heading straight for the torch-lit garden at the center of the Firelord's massive complex. She paused at the entrance of the garden.

He was seated at the base of the largest tree in the garden where she had seen him many times before.

Avatar Aang. When she first met him, he was a goofy twelve year old kid and he was certainly not who she expected the Avatar to be. She always had this mental picture of the Avatar in her head growing up, and it was always the picture of a wise old man with distant eyes, like he wasn't connected to anything in the world. Aang was nothing like that. He was youthful, full of spunk and charm, and a little childish and immature. And his eyes were anything but disconnected. His eyes were probably the most expressive and deep that she had ever seen. Grey eyes, like the sky before the storm. It was during the months that she travelled with him on his quest to master the four elements and defeat the evil Firelord Ozai, she grew to care about him, and eventually, she grew to love him.

It really shocked her when she first discovered that Aang was in love with her as well. She hadn't expected a twelve year old boy to return her feelings, so she had quietly resolved to wait for him to get a little older.

She hadn't taken into account that he was the Avatar with a thousand past lives. Odds were he had fallen in love hundreds of times and could recognize it within himself, even at such a young age.

So, after Aang defeated Firelord Ozai, they decided to ignore his youth and begin a relationship.

That was six years ago, and Aang was no longer a boy. He was a man now, the youngest fully-realized Avatar in the long history of Avatars. Other Avatars took years to obtain mastery of the four elements, but Aang completed the same feat in months.

The eighteen year old sat in silent meditation, wearing the robes befit of an Avatar born to the Air Nomads. Aang was more than an Air Nomad… he was the last one. The only Airbender left in the entire world.

She approached him silently, having no wish to disturb his meditation just yet. She should have realized that her efforts were futile.

"Katara, I know you're there." Aang said with a small grin that she couldn't see. He hadn't even looked around at her. Most were put off by his unnatural perception, but Katara knew there was no trick. It was simply Earthbending, an Earthbending technique so ancient that even most Earthbenders had forgotten it. Toph, Aang's Earthbending teacher, was blind, so she used Earthbending techniques taught to her to her by the original Earthbenders, the blind badger-mole.

She could sense the vibrations in the Earth and use it to paint an accurate picture of her surroundings. She had taught this blind form of Earthbending to Aang, so he could feel his surroundings through vibration too, although not as good as Toph could. Feeling Katara sneaking up behind him had probably been cake-walk for him.

Aang created a small pocket of air underneath him and lifted himself gently off the ground and onto his feet.

Katara never got tired of watching him Bend, able to use all four elements as naturally as his native Air element. He could use all known forms of Bending. Airbending, Waterbending, Bloodbending (which he swore to never use on any human, since he found the idea just as repulsive as his teacher, Katara), Earthbending, Metalbending, Firebending, and Lightningbending. He even knew the rarest form of Bending: the terrifying Soulbending, which allowed him to enter a person's soul and Bend it to his will. She had only known Aang to have performed it once, against Firelord Ozai, when he took his Firebending away forever.

All that combined in one mortal frame made Aang, by far, the most powerful being on the planet. But, to Katara, he was simply Aang, the man she loved.

Katara went to him willingly, and into his arms, gazing up into his stormy grey eyes. "Aang…" She trailed her fingers lightly against his jaw line. "I missed you."

Aang smiled and pulled her into a kiss, which she eagerly returned. The months away from her and seemed impossibly long to him. "I missed you too." He whispered back as they broke apart. "How was your trip to the Northern Water Tribe?"

Katara waved him off. "Nothing that you'd need to worry about. Just a few squabbles. Can you believe some of the Waterbending teachers still have trouble teaching combat Waterbending to girls? I must have dueled half the Waterbending Masters at the North Pole these last few months."

Aang laughed. "You beat them all, didn't you?"

"Yes." Katara said with a small smile.

"I thought so. None of those masters are a match for you. You are, after all, the one who taught me everything I know about Waterbending."

"You surpassed me a long time ago, Aang." Katara kissed him again, but this time, it was cut rudely short by the entrance of Katara's protective older brother, Sokka.

"Hey! Hey! Hey!" Sokka ran into the Courtyard, yelling, while Aang and Katara pulled apart nervously. "Just because I approve of you two being together, doesn't mean I want to walk in on you two being together!"

"Hello, Sokka." Katara said sourly. She always had much less patience with Sokka than Aang. After all, Aang was constantly walking on a tight rope trying to prove with every waking moment that he was good enough for Sokka's younger sister.

"Sokka, what brings you here?" Aang asked.

"Oh yeah. That." Sokka said, and then turned on Aang. "Look, Aang, we all know that you are the mighty Avatar with an army of servants waiting on you hand and foot twenty-four hours a day, but even the maids have a limit. They asked me to tell you to stop practicing Metalbending in your room. They found a mountain of metal in your room. I guess the maid quit."

"Oh, uh…" Aang blushed. "Sure, I'll try to restrain myself."

"Practicing Metalbending?" Katara asked. "But you are very good at Metalbending, being the only student of the one who invented it."

"I know. There are just some things I need to figure out." Aang said cryptically while shifting his eyes away from her face.

"So, when are we going home?" Sokka asked excitedly. 'Home' being the Southern Air Temple, since they had been helping Aang clean up and restore his childhood home in their spare time. He was excited to go home because his new wife, Suki, had decided to stay behind to protect the Air Temple in their absence.

"I suppose it's up to Katara." Aang said. "She just returned from the Northern Water Tribe. Katara, are you going to be okay traveling tomorrow?"

"Yes, I'll be fine. All I need is a good night's sleep tonight." Katara said, smiling.

"Then it's settled." Aang said, smiling. "Tomorrow, we'll begin traveling back to the Southern Air Temple."

"Thanks, Aang." Katara said, giving him a soft kiss, mainly to see her brother get all flustered, and started to walk away.

Sokka glared at his Avatar friend and gave him the universal sign of 'I'm watching you', and then walked away also.

Aang shivered.

Later than night, Aang sat on the floor of his room doing exactly what he promised not to do, practice Metalbending. He held a small piece of metal in his hand while his fingers ghosted over the surface of the metal in small subtle movements. To his side lay a small pile of similarly shaped talismans, all discarded as failures.

After several moments, Aang seemed to grow equally frustrated with the metal in his hand and tossed it away with disgust.

He had been working on this 'little project' for months and had yet to come up with a solution.

It had all started months ago when he decided that it was well past time to marry Katara. Then that brought up a whole other question. What sort of pendant should he give her to symbolize their engagement? In the Water Tribe, a necklace was given, but the Air Nomads preferred bracelets. He eventually decided on both, since their marriage would be a blending of two different cultures. But those problems were minor compared to the ones he faced now.

The new problem was that he had no idea how to etch the proper symbols into the metal. He never had a chance to learn the skill from his mentor, Monk Gyatso. Air Nomads didn't learn how to make a betrothal bracelet from their elders until they came of age, and Aang had been twelve when he ran away from the Air Temple. With Metalbending, he could easily shape the metal into the size and shape he wanted, but his first attempts at manually etching the symbols into the metal with the tools he found around the Air Temple turned into useless failures. Then it occurred to him to simply use Metalbending to etch the symbols into the metal, but that was easier said than done.

The problem was the very nature of Earth and Metal bending. What Aang was trying to do was subtle, and Earthbending was hardly the most subtle form of Bending. It was a hard-learned fact when he first tried to master Earthbending years ago. It was great when you wanted to throw giant rocks at your foes and tear your way out of a metal prison cell, but near useless for etching fine symbols into a small piece of metal.

Toph, his blind Earthbending master, had been just as stumped as he was when he asked her about his problem.

So, here he was, months later, still trying to figure out how to etch a simple Air symbol into a piece of metal. It wasn't going very well. The most he had been able to do was give the metal some kind of ripple effect, which did look beautiful and normally would have pleased him, but not today.

"Still not going well?" Aang glanced around and saw Toph leaning in the doorway, her arms crossed over her chest.

Most people were unnerved by her unusual perception since she was blind, including her own parents, but Aang was more than used to it. She probably knew him better than he knew himself, since some days it seemed like she could read his mind. She certainly knew about his feelings for Katara long before he knew about them himself. The only thing she didn't know about him was what he looked like.

"Yes. I haven't gotten any closer to finishing this than I was a month ago."

"And I've told you a thousand times: you can't think like an Airbender when you are trying to Earthbend. Earthbending isn't about subtlety and fine carvings in metal. It just isn't made to do what you are trying to do."

"But if I can't do it, then I won't be able to marry Katara!"

"Calm down, Twinkletoes." Toph said, calling him by his old, familiar nickname. Despite Sokka's complaining that it wasn't very manly of him to answer to 'Twinkletoes' all the time, Aang was a little proud of the nickname. Being light on his feet was one of his Airbender traits, and he was very proud of it, just as he was proud of being an Air Nomad. Being the only person in the world who could fool Toph's Earthbending vision was a plus too. "Just hire an artisan to do it for you. You're the Avatar, I'm sure they would be lining up to do this for you."

"But both the Air Nomad and Water Tribe tradition says that I must make it myself." Aang explained. "Giving your love an engagement pendant made from your own hands shows how much you care about them, that you would devote time and energy to your love for them."

"So? You're all ready braking tradition by even considering taking a wife." Toph said. "If I remember my history correctly, Air Nomad monks almost never got married."

"True. But even the monks understood how important love is." Aang said. "Compassion, a trait that every monk needs, stems from love. Besides, I'm kind of the exception, aren't I? I'm the last Air Nomad and the last Airbender. The entire world is counting on me to become the Father of an entire race. If I don't, the Avatar Cycle will be broken the next time it goes around to the Air Nomads."

"Wow. Repopulating an entire race." Toph said casually. "Sounds like a tall order, even for the Avatar."

"Compared to 'you must master all four elements and defeat an all-powerful evil Firelord in less than a year', it seems relatively easy." Aang commented.

"Yeah, I suppose it does." She elbowed Aang. "Not to mention a lot more fun in the doing!"

Despite his age and maturity, Aang blushed a deep red at the sexual overtones of her comment. After all, he had been raised by monks.

"Don't worry; I'm sure she'll like anything you give her."

"Maybe… I'm going about this all wrong." Aang was suddenly hit with a brainwave, shaping a new piece of metal into the desired shape. "After all, Zuko showed me that all bending is connected. Like using a Waterbending technique to redirect lightning. Maybe I shouldn't use Metalbending at all."

"Good luck trying to find another type of Bending to affect the metal." Toph said.

"I don't really need to change the metal. I just need to cut it." Aang said. There was a vase of Fire Lilies sitting on a nearby table, so Aang drew the water from them. "Sorry." He apologized quietly as the flowers wilted before his eyes.

He wasn't able to draw a lot of water from the flowers, but it was enough to do the job he had in mind.

Using small, perfectly controlled movements, he bent the water until an almost recognizable Air symbol appeared on the metal. Sure, it wasn't perfect and there was some fine-tuning needed, but Aang was exhilarated to be on the right track at last.

"So, did your idea work, Twinkletoes?" Toph asked.

"Sort of." Aang answered. "It's not perfect, but at least I'm on the right track after all these months of fruitless attempts." He paused. "I've been in love with her for so long, and I've wanted to marry her since I was twelve years old. Back then, it was my young age holding me back. Now it was how to make these pendants properly. I just can't wait for the day I make her my wife."

"You're such a softie, Twinkletoes. I don't know how Katara puts up with you." Toph said.

Aang shrugged. "Love."

LES: As an after note, as far as I'm aware, there is no official name for what Aang did to the Firelord in the Finale. So I decided to call it Soulbending. The lion-turtle said that it was Bending the energy within people. So I guess it could properly be called "Chibending", but I think Soulbending sounds cooler. Whatever, it's my story. And as for the Coming of Age, it is the same as in the show: sixteen. And there is a reason that Aang is two years late with his proposal. Basically, he spent his entire sixteenth year on Avatar business with no contact with Katara, so there weren't many chances to further their relationship. Then, sometime when he was seventeen, he met up with Hakoda to ask for his daughter's hand. Since then, he's been working on the engagement pendants. This will be explained in greater detail in later chapters. Hope you enjoyed the first chapter.