Have writer's block on real book. Have idea for sad fanfic. Shall write now.

Summary: He is their leader. They love him. And they're not going to leave him to die alone beneath this lake. One-shot, no pairings

Disclaimer: Alu does not own ATLA or any characters therein

At Your Side

They followed him for years. He picked them up off the streets – lonely, hungry children with not a friend in the world or a copper to their names.

Jet became their world. He made them freedom fighters against the nation that had destroyed their homes. He taught them how to use weapons and live off of the land. They swore to follow him forever.

Longshot and Smellerbee went with him to Ba Sing Se. They watched his newfound peace fall apart, his paranoia and anger taking over again. He scared them sometimes; they loved Jet, but they knew he wasn't quite right. The loss of his family had broken him a long time ago, and now he saw firebenders everywhere.

They tried to stop him, tried to make him see sense, but he wouldn't listen. Jet had never been one for reasoning.

The Dai Li dragged him away when he finally lost it – furious and panicked, he disappeared.

When they saw him again, everything was wrong. He didn't remember that they had come here together; he barely seemed to remember them at all. Something had happened to him, something that they couldn't understand. Until the Avatar's friend had unlocked his memories, the freedom fighters had been terrified that they would never see their leader again.

And now, beneath Lake Laogai, Jet was dying, and there was nothing they could do. Something inside him was broken beyond repair, and he was going to die. He told the waterbender girl he'd be all right, but everyone knew he was lying. They didn't need the earthbender. Jet knew. They all knew.

As the Avatar and his friends disappeared, Smellerbee collapsed to her knees at Jet's side. Longshot nocked an arrow, defending the door.

Jet turned his head toward his young subordinate, and the effort left him gasping. She held his hand tight and cradled his head in her lap as tears streamed down her face.

Air rasped in and out of his lungs, a tremendous struggle against his failing body. He closed his eyes. Vision was leaving him anyway. He could barely feel Smellerbee's gentle hands smoothing his hair out of his face. He could still hear his freedom fighters, though; Longshot's low voice exchanging soft words with the younger girl, and her quiet farewells, punctuated by choking sobs. Jet thought she might be singing.

Smellerbee held him as he died; his breathing halted, and his heart stilled a minute later. He looked more peaceful than he ever had in life. The anger was gone, the fear, the constant wariness. Jet, for the first time in nearly a decade, was free.

A few tears slid down Longshot's face, and Smellerbee hugged Jet's body, sobbing miserably.

The pair of freedom fighters knew they would follow him soon. They couldn't fight the Dai Li for long, and the cavern had already begun to tremble. Long Feng was too crafty to leave any evidence; and Longshot, Smellerbee and Jet were evidence. The legion of "Joo Dee's" was evidence. The leader of the Dai Li wouldn't hesitate to bury some of his own soldiers in order to wipe out the proof of his iron-fisted grip on Ba Sing Se.

Jet was dead. They had nothing. Longshot dropped his bow and knelt beside his fallen leader. He had defended the door to allow Jet to die in peace; now he was gone, and Longshot and Smellerbee were going to follow no matter how hard they fought. They wanted to spend their last moments by Jet's side, where they'd stayed for so long.

The ceiling collapsed.

End

WOW, that was depressing O.o Please never let me write about Jet again.