Flower on the Precipice

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.

Warnings: Speculation, General Spoilers

AN: For Avatar_500 over on LJ. The prompt was #11: Teach. Thanks to attackfish for the inspiration.

He is six when Gyatso feels the first trickle of dread. He has cared for Aang since the day he was born. Since his mother breathed her last in birthing him and his father was unknown. Gyatso was the one to hold the tiny infant in his arms. The one to soothe his cries. He was there for the first smile and the first giggle. For all the steps afterwards and the swirls of wind that so easily answered his young whims.

But Aang is six, and Gyatso sees the way the elders watch him with eyes so judging. Assessing and weighing and finding him lacking. Aang is only a child. Just a boy. But they push him to be better, to be stronger. For now, it's just a game to him. It is just a simple challenge to master his lessons before the others. To flit from one to the next without pause.

Soon, however, it won't be a game any longer. Soon, it will be all he knows, all he experiences if Gyatso lets them have their way. All that Aang will ever have.

Children always learn the lessons adults never intend to give, and he doesn't want Aang to learn this. To learn only duty. To not know friendship or love or freedom. He is the Avatar, yes. That can never be changed. Nevertheless, it should not be solely a hardship but a joyful duty.

He is the Avatar but also a boy. He needs fun. He needs excitement and laughter. He needs to live.

And despite the fact that Aang is supposed to be with Tashi, Gyatso takes him by the hand and gently leads him down a back corridor. The other children are out doing what all children are wont do, but Aang is often held back and is starting to notice that fact. He doesn't yet understand why, and Gyatso would give almost anything that he won't for many years to come.

So instead, he takes Aang to the back entrance and the laughing boys he hears nearby. He tries not to think of Tashi or the other elders and instead focuses on the hand in his. It's baby soft but slightly calloused from too much training. And far too small for the weight of destiny, for the responsibility of the entire world.

But that is an adult matter; it isn't for children. Not for little boys with wide grey eyes and too much energy. Not for Aang. Not yet. Not right now.

Gyatso gives Aang's hand a squeeze as they step outside. He smiles at the boy – at the one dearest to his heart – and sends him off to play.

Ever Hopeful,