Thanks to NorthernLights25, makula- somewhat more zuko/tara interactions, starz131, EndlessBlack- i still don't know when they're airing those things!- and knd- thanks! ur so nice! i hope i can continue to meet your expectations!

Alright, please give me your feedback. Cuz, it really helps. Zuko seems kinda biopolar in this chapter, so let me know if its realistic or believable, okay? (If you don't mind!)

Once more, I apologize for taking so long to update- that gets a little old, huh?

Zuko warily surveyed the hallways- no guards were in site. Careful not to let his footsteps echo, he stepped lightly down the narrow corridors. His eyes constantly swept over his surroundings, he didn't want to be caught here again. He hadn't been back here in a while, it was far too humiliating to be rejected again and again. But he was confident that he wouldn't receive an empty silence this time…

"Uncle." He announced as the door swung open on rusty hinges.

His uncle made no indication that he had heard him.

"Uncle." He repeated, frowning. Would he have to pull out his trump card already? Why couldn't his uncle just talk to him?
"Uncle," He snarled, after several moments. It didn't matter if the old man wouldn't talk to him- he was still listening, "I'd just like to say that-no thanks to you- my plan worked. How does it feel? Not wanted, or cared for by anyone? What good did defending the Avatar do for you? I'll have you know that he'll soon be under this roof- probably in a cell next to yours. The whole Fire Nation, and the rest of the world, will come by and view him and you with disgust. The Avatar's days of freedom are over!"
Zuko turned to leave, angry despite his haughty speech, but he couldn't resist one last parting shot, "If you won't talk to me, then I guess the girl will have to receive your punishment. I'm sure she's a virgin, I'm sure I'll quite enjoy breaking her in. Perhaps I'll bring her by to show you."
Finally- for the sake of the girl- the ex-general was moved to words. His raspy voice was filled with condemnation and disapproval, that Zuko flinched, "Have you truly sunk so low?"
"So your tongue is still intact, old man." Zuko quickly recovered and spun back to his flaming uncle, "I had wondered if they'd cut it off, seeing that's what they do to despicable traitors such as you!"

"When they find that you've failed once again, Prince Zuko, then you'll soon be down here with me." Iroh growled.

Zuko took a step back, clearly hurt by his uncle's proclamation. It took him a moment to compose himself again, "That's not true!"
"What makes you think that the Avatar's companion will submit? You've tried her once before- let her go." Iroh sighed, worried, despite his scorn, for his nephew's sanity. How could he think that forcing the girl could benefit from anything other than shame?
"No." Zuko snarled, "She'll listen to me- she won't have a choice. She'll break- don't think I don't know how. She'll do exactly as I say- or her dear friends will pay the consequences. It's not a prisoner-captor relation, it's a master-slave one."
"You really are your father's son." Iroh retorted.

A deathly silence blanketed the small room. Zuko's eyes were narrowed into slits, he was on the verge of lighting his uncle aflame. No one dared to speak to him like that.

"Glad you finally noticed." Zuko sneered, before he stormed out of the cell and slammed the door behind him.

His footsteps pounded the metal floor- he didn't care who heard him now.

Katara shivered, despite the heat radiating in the spacious room.

Prince Zuko. Of all the people to meet up with… it had to be him.

Why? Why was fate so cruel to her?

She shivered again, and her face contorted in pain as she disturbed her ribs. What would he do to her? Was he the one who had hired that monster to chase after her and the others? Was he going to kill her?

She closed her eyes, and allowed herself to relax against the pillowed seat. Her injury made her weak- and she couldn't afford to be weak right now.

Her stomach growled, but that was the least of her problems.

"Guys," she whispered softly, "please come find me."

Now all she could do was wait, doomed to her fate.

Zuko continued to trek angrily across the courtyard, back to his room. He would face this girl now. He wasn't afraid of her. Who was she? A peasant of no value to anyone but the Avatar- a little child.

He reached the door, but this time opened it carefully. Palace dwellers would soon become curious if he continued his tirade.

He strode inside, picking up the servant's delivered tray of food, and shutting the door softly behind him. He set the variety of cold dishes on a nearby table while he studied his girl. She seemed to asleep.

He sat on his bed, and continued to study the girl thoughtfully.

He hadn't actually decided on what he was going to do. He wasn't honestly planning on 'breaking her in'. It had long since been discovered that he wasn't that kind of person.

One thing was certain, Zuko thought as he stared down at her soft features, she wasn't going back to her cell. On his way out, a could have sworn he heard the shrill scream of a woman.

How was he going to talk to her? She would obviously hate him, as was expected. Was he to ignore her?
He probably would have to restrain her in some way. Gagging and chaining her to the bed was probably the most efficient way… keep her on edge with a bit of fear.

He sighed. Life always loved to throw him the twist. Couldn't he have been sent that Water Tribe boy instead? No. It had to be the girl, and not the twelve year old, the older, well developed one.

She hissed in her sleep; Zuko raised an eyebrow. What could she possibly be dreaming about? He glanced to his curtains, sunlight had stopped seeping through them long ago. It was probably around midnight.

He stood and leaned over her. He brought a careful finger to her cheek, and delicately ran it across the soft flesh. Mai's cheek had never been that soft. If her cheek was that soft, how soft would the rest of her body be?

Zuko groaned. Jeez, the last thing he needed was temptation.

The girl's eyes suddenly shot open. Her surprised scream echoed throughout the halls before it was cut off abruptly.

"Quiet!" He hissed in her ear, glowering at her with his hand clamped firmly over her mouth. Her eyes slowly lost its fear, and froze into a glare.

Zuko felt himself suddenly infuriated. First his uncle, and now her? No, she would adopt a more humble attitude in his presence, and if she wasn't willing, then he'd just have to encourage her.

"You-" He began, his hand slowly warming over her mouth. Her eyes quickly lost their defiance. "Are not to treat me with such disrespect. I saved your pathetic life, and I will not suffer abuse from someone such as you."

With his other hand, he quickly scooped her up and tossed her onto his huge bed.

She cried out as she hit the bed, and he quickly climbed up behind her. "Do you understand me?" He snapped, grasping her upper arm.

She made a desperate wriggling attempt on the bed, before something seemed to give. She stilled for a moment, only to lash out with her free hand.

Zuko snarled as her finger nails raked across his face. She took his distraction as an opportunity and attempted to make a dash for freedom, as futile as it was. She didn't even make it off the bed before he lunged at her, threw her down and quickly straddled her.

She froze underneath him, and he smirked down at her, feeling that victory was near.

"I said… do you understand me?" His hot breath tickled her face.

She didn't respond, and only stared up at him with wide moon eyes. As he watched her, they seemed to become more and more shiny. Moisture began to pool in the corners of her eyes.

Zuko felt his iron resolve begin to waver… he didn't want to be responsible for this girl's tears.

"Please…" She whispered, her voice soft and cracked.

He stared down impassively at her, desperately trying not to give into the girl's voice. "Don't fight me- and you won't get hurt."

"Please…" She repeated, "get off…"
"Why?" Zuko sneered, and then wiggled against her, "Are you uncomfortable? Hmm? Well, I suppose you'll be a bit more cooperative, won't you?"
She nodded, and a single tear slid down her cheek.

Surprised at her compliance, Zuko slowly rolled off her. He hesitantly released her, mentally preparing himself for her next attack.

But the girl did nothing, sensing her release, she tried to roll over on her opposite side, away from him. However, when she winced visibly, she rolled back onto her back, closed her eyes, and delicately tried to cradle her ribs.

Zuko frowned at her strange behavior. What was wrong with her? Was she giving him some sort of silence treatment? "Hey." He touched her shoulder, she didn't respond.

"Don't you-" He began, until he finally recognized her position. Several of his crew members had once engaged in a midnight bar brawl- it hadn't ended well for any of them, and one of them had broken most of his ribs. They had brought him back, and on his pallet, he had favored this position…

"Are you hurt?" He asked dumbly.
He didn't expect an answer, but she nodded.

He looked around the room awkwardly. This could complicate things. If he sent her down to the infirmary, or sent for a doctor, questions about the girl would be raised for sure. He could always order the person into silence… but there was always a risk of a slipping tongue.

The only option left was for him to take care of it.

"Ribs?" He asked.

Her head nodded once more.

"How long ago?" He continued, uncomfortable with the long, drawn out silence.

He found himself looking into shiny blue eyes, "Since I was taken…"

"Oh…" He replied, looking away as he sought a plan of action. Had he hurt them more by sitting on her? Yes… he probably had. Crap.

He glanced back down at her. He needed to do something, that much was obvious.
"Hold still," He ordered, somewhat wearily, " and try to relax."

The girl's eyes were wide as he settled closely to her. His hand rested hesitantly on her tan stomach. He was glad she was wearing this Fire Nation outfit, which made it obvious that she had been captured while trying to blend in, because with her old Water Tribe robes, he might have had to take off her dress/shirt thingy. Now that would have been… uncomfortable.

He flushed away all of his trivial thoughts as his eyes focused on her injured body. He frowned, he couldn't tell where the problem was! His hand slowly trailed upward to her chest, mentally thanking the spirits that she wasn't struggling.

"Tell me where it hurts." He sighed.

She lifted her hand, and delicately spread it over her lower chest region.

"Here?" He asked, gently applying pressure to the area.

"Yes." She whispered shakily.

He studied her, before turning away. "Does it hurt to breathe?"

"… a little." She admitted.

"When does it hurt the most?"

"When I try to move."
He sighed, "Well… there's nothing that can really be done for that…"

"Nothing much…" he continued, "just rest, I guess."

The room filled with an awkward, heavy silence.

"Look… um… about earlier…" Zuko lifted a hand and rubbed the back of his neck, searching for the correct words, "I…"
He stiffened suddenly, he heard the distant clicking of metal heels meeting metal floors. Even if it was just a guard, no one could know about her. No one.

"Come on!" He hissed, and as she just stared up at him, confusion and anxiety bubbling up in her eyes, he reached down at scooped her up again. "Quiet!"

For the most part, she was quiet, a little uncomfortable, perhaps, but quiet. Where to hide her?

He spun around in a circle, before sliding onto his knees and pushing her under his bed. Hopefully, the long, red trim would conceal her.

Then, he flipped back over onto the bed, and attempted to look 'tres casual'. Not a moment too soon, his door flew open and in strode the demon- his sister.

Her hawk-like eyes quickly swept the room, before her lips pressed together and curved down into a frown. "Hello, DumDum."
He tensed at his irritable nickname, before managing a polite response, "Hi. What brings you here?"
"Oh nothing really, Zuzu." She continued, examining her nails in the firelight, "I just came on an instinct, that's all. But, I suppose it was nothing. Well, what are you doing? Just sitting there?"
"I'm thinking…" He replied.

"About?" Azula prodded.

"… uncle." He lied.

"Well," Azula shrugged, dismissing the idea immediately, "why bother thinking about him? He's a waste of your time, Zuko. Trust me."
When Zuko didn't answer, she sighed, "Well… I suppose I'll just leave you here to your brooding. If you have anything to tell me, just stop by whenever. We're siblings, after all, Zuko. You can tell me anything. Really." She insisted, as she turned to leave.

"I know…" Zuko sighed, as the door shut.

"Not." He added in an undertone.