Title: Hope of a Thousand Lifetimes Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender Author: devilinthedetails Genre: Romance; Hurt/Comfort; Angst Characters: Aang; Katara Summary: Aang wonders and worries about second chances. Author's Note: Written for @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha's Springtime Meadow Event for the prompt: "Second Time Around." Hope of a Thousand Lifetimes Aang studied Tenzin, his quiet, serious son, who was his youngest child, but somehow always acted the most mature. The oldest. As if weighed down by the grief, the sorrow, the lost of what had happened to the Air Nomads more than a century ago. As if their pain flowed through his veins and beat in his heart. As if the memory of their genocide hovered over him like a ghost or an angry spirit. He couldn’t help but brooding when he should have been meditating, brooding about Tenzin, his little boy who was old before his time. Old perhaps because of Aang’s training. Aang’s determination to do things right the second time. Not to fail as he had when he fled the Southern Air Temple into a storm and got trapped in it for a hundred years while the Air Nomads were slaughtered by the Fire Nation. But maybe he was so determined not to fail, so focused on righting the wrong he had committed so long ago when he was a child, that he was failing again and wronging his own child with too strict training. Too much responsibility and burden to the future at too young an age. “You seem troubled.” Katara, who could always sense his fears and sorrows like ripples on the serene surface of an otherwise tranquil pond, came to sit cross-legged beside him, copying the meditative posture he had assumed. “I am troubled.” Aang sighed. “I’m wondering if I’m a fool.” “Wonder no more. You definitely are a fool.” Katara’s gentle grin, encouraging him to confide in her, took any sting out of her words. “What are you being a fool about now?” “Second chances.” Aang pressed a hand to his forehead, struggling to describe the depth of his grief, his guilt, his gnawing doubts. “Am I a fool to believe in second chances, Katara?” “I didn’t believe in second chances until I met you.” Katara pulled his hand away from his forehead and wrapped it between hers. “Then you showed me second chances are possible. I didn’t believe that Zuko could become good and be an ally, a friend to us, but you did. You made it possible for him to become good and be a friend to us because you first believed in him and his potential to be good.” “The second chance I’m talking about is different than Zuko’s redemption.” Aang felt as if his ribcage was crushing his lungs, forcing the air out of him so that he couldn’t breathe. “It’s the second chance of the Air Nomads. I’m worried that I’m putting too much pressure on Tenzin, the only airbender in the world, to continue the legacy of the Air Nomads.” “The pressure isn’t on him alone.” Katara’s voice was soothing as a fountain trickling over rocks in a garden. “There are also your Air Acolytes to share the burden of continuing the Air Nomad culture. When a burden is divided among many people, it can much more easily be carried.” “The Air Acolytes aren’t airbenders.” Aang’s stomach squeezed in on itself like a punching fist as he wondered if this was another one of his follies. “Before Sozin attacked their Temples and killed all the Air Nomads, every Air Nomad was so pure and detached from the world, that they were born an airbender. Things were so different before the Fire Nation attacked, and, no matter how hard I try to restore things to how they were before the war, to bring back that elusive balance, I fail. As if the universe is telling me there are no second chances.” Aang felt like screaming his frustration. If he weren’t bald in the Air Nomad tradition that allowed him to better feel the air currents stirring and whirling around him, he would have yanked out his hair, he was certain. “The universe is telling you the exact opposite if you would just pay attention to it.” Katara’s fingers, twined around his like veins about a tree, grounded him in her strength, rooting him in her faith in him and his vision for the future. “Everywhere you look, you would see second chances if you open your eyes wide enough. A rain drop falls from the sky into a river that eventually flows into the sea, and then the sun burns hot enough that the rain drop rises into the clouds again to be reformed into another rain drop. The rain drop isn’t the same, but it gets a second chance at life. And when a plant, its remains are returned to the soil from which it sprang, and new plants emerge from the dirt fertilized by the dead plant. It is not the same plant, but it has been reborn and given a second chance.” “Air Nomads aren’t rain drops or plants.” Aang shook his head, wishing he could be comforted so easily. “They’re people.” “People can be reborn too.” Katara kissed his cheeks. “Isn’t that what the Avatar represents. The wisdom of a thousand lifetimes. A thousand second chances to get things right, and a thousand more lifetimes to get things right after that if the first thousand lifetimes don’t fix everything.” “I’ll definitely need the thousand more lifetimes to get everything I messed up right again.” Aang smiled as he envisioned the reincarnation cycle of the Avatar, of which he was only a small part, stretching out into infinity, righting all he had done wrong in this lifetime. Fixing his mistakes. Giving the world yet another second chance on into unimaginable eternity. “Sozin broke the world. You’re still trying to remake it. Remaking it is going to take time and patience, and when the world is remade it’s going to be different than it was before Sozin attacked the Air Nomads, but different doesn’t have to mean worse. It could mean better.” Katara’s lips were dancing on his like waves cavorting with the seashore now. Aang kissed her back, losing himself in her promises of second chances and hope of a thousand more lifetimes to get things right. To see things reborn from ashes.