Title: Not Dreams, But Dreams
Author: The Bookworm's Magician
Spoilers: The fate of the Air Nomads
Summary: What is the difference between a dream… and a nightmare?
Disclaimer: I don't own this, I never have and I never will. I just like to torture my favorite characters! 'Cause I'm a mean person, yep!
AN: This is my fifth story on FF. I hope you like it!
"'Nevertheless, you will fly from here," he gasped. 'This is the Island where Dreams come true.'… 'Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams – dreams, do you understand – come to life, come real. Not daydreams, dreams.' There was about half a minute's silence and then, with a great clatter of armor, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before… For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had – dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again – and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true."
- The Dark Island, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Not Dreams, But Dreams
The large, airy room, with its many statues, is quiet. The only noise is the wind, and the sound of breathing from the boy on the floor, facing the statues. He is sitting cross-legged, his eyes closed, and his hands pushed together. The boy doesn't move; in fact, he looks almost like one of the many statues surrounding him.
Suddenly, the boy—Aang—hears a noise behind him. He twists around quickly, coming face-to-face with an old man, dressed in Fire Nation clothes. The man has a long beard and many wrinkles. Aang greets him cheerfully.
"Avatar Roku! It's nice to see you! It's been quite a while. How have you been doing?" The old man—Roku—does not look very happy to see Aang.
"Avatar Aang," he states ominously, "you have failed in your duties."
Aang's happy smile fades at this, and he arises from his position. "Roku? What do you mean?" Roku glares at the boy—for he is only a boy, even if everyone wishes him to be a man—and Aang takes a small step back. He's never been scared of Roku before, and he doesn't wish to start now, but Roku is acting very strange.
"You have failed, Avatar Aang. You have failed in your duties as the Avatar. You have failed."
"Wha- Roku, what are you talking about?"
"Where were you, when the world was going to fire and ash and dust? Where was the Avatar?"
Aang turns around again, only to falter as he finds himself standing before a large crowd of previous Avatars, all speaking in unison, with more joining in at every moment. He tries to speak—"I-I was… I didn't want-!"—but he is drowned out by the voices of the others.
"You left, Avatar. You hid. You stayed in your little iceberg while the world burned. You should have burned with it. Why didn't you? Why did you not fulfill your duties as Avatar? We have kept the peace for as long as we can remember. Why didn't you?"
Aang turns, unable to face the accusations, and starts to flee—only to stop in shock as he comes face-to-face with his people. All of them are there, from the youngest baby to the oldest Wise One. They are all looking at him with disappointment and anger.
"Why didn't you save us, Aang? We looked for you when the soldiers came, burning and killing everything. We looked for the Avatar, but you weren't there! Where were you, when the soldiers came? Where were you, while we burned? Where were you?"
Aang shifts, turning from the Avatars on his left to the Air Nomads on his right. What does he say? What can he say, to make this right? Is there anything to say? Anything at all?
"I-I… I'm so sorry! I didn't want to leave! I wanted to help! I wanted to stay! I wanted to save you!"
They crowd in on him, keeping him from the freedom of the air, drowning him in their disappointment and anger. He is suffocating, trying to desperately get oxygen, while they press in with their angry, truthful words—the same words he's said to himself many times.
"Why didn't you save us—Why didn't you help—Why did you not fulfill your duties—Where were you—The soldiers—The fire—Save us, Aang!—Help us—Your duties—Avatar—Save us—Help us—Where wer—The sold—HELP!—"
The words are blurring together, he can't hear them anymore, can only see his people's faces, feel their hands as they reach for him. In supplication or in anger, he doesn't know—he doesn't know why they ask, he can't help, they've been dead for over a hundred… And they're right; this is his fault, why wasn't he there, why didn't he save them, whywhywhywhywhywhy-?
Katara shifted reluctantly in her bed roll as she heard a whimper from nearby. It'd been a long day of traveling, she was tired and hungry, and she wanted nothing more than to give herself back to comforting, quiet sleep, but she slowly opened her eyes and looked around.
Toph was on her left, enclosed in her small earth tent—how did she sleep comfortably in that thing?— Sokka was on her right, snoring softly in his bed roll—normal noises at night; after years of living with him, she was used to the snoring—and Aang was in front of her, without a bed roll as always.
She frowned, looking at Aang again. His forehead was shiny with sweat, he kept shifting in his sleep, and he was whimpering slightly—all classic signs of a nightmare. She sighed and got up, went to his side, shook his shoulder lightly and softly called his name.
He woke up abruptly, gasping wildly for air and crying. He saw Katara and slumped in relief, breaking down into quiet sobs. Katara regarded him worriedly. She'd hardly ever seen him crying, but she knew how bad nightmares could get. She knelt by his side and pulled him into her arms. He stayed there until he was able to get his tears under control, then pulled back. She looked him in the eye.
"Aang? Do you want to talk about it?" Aang shuddered and started crying again.
"Katara, I didn't want to! I wanted to help them, I really did! I didn't want any of them to die!" He looked at her, his eyes swimming with tears, and asked a question that she had no answer for. "Why didn't I help them, Katara? I'm the Avatar; it's my job. I failed them. I failed everyone."
Katara didn't say anything. She just hugged him tightly, feeling her heart break as he poured out his grief and shook until the morning.