I don't own anything. Thats my disclaimer.

This is my take on the obvious and cliche Capture Story. I hope you enjoy "The Blooming Lotus" chapter 8. Lots happening, and the next chapter even more happens!


Last Time

Zuko got up and looked into the dark depths of the canyon. For a few moments Hakoda was sure he would jump, but his whispered words just barely floated to his ears. "I'm coming for you Tara… because I'm in love with you…" Hakoda made it back to his fleet and set a heading before the prince even started back for his own ship.


Chapter 8

"Katara?"

"Yes Sokka?"

"Will you ever tell me what happened?" They stared at each other for a long moment, "I mean, I trust you… I know you do everything for everyone else. If you're trying to protect me, I can handle it. I promise, anything you need to say, I'll just listen. I won't even-"

"Sokka, Stop… I'm alright. You're okay and so is Aang. That's all that matters. And now we know that Dad is alive." Katara hugged her brother and kissed his temple. "You remember what mom used to say, 'Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not ever come to pass, Today is what is important, that's why it's called the present. It's a gift.' That's all I want. To live in the moment, I missed you so much. Even your terrible jokes… Please, I just want to forget what happened."

"Was it that bad?"

"No, It wasn't…" It was that good… "Where's Aang?"

"I don't know… I last saw him with-"

"MOMO!" Aang's cry was loud and clear, and both tanned teens took off at a sprint. "Hang on buddy… I'll get you out!" After freeing Momo and all of the hog monkeys, Sokka declares the snares belong to the Fire Nation. Due to the amount of metalwork.

"We better pack up camp and get out of here."

Aang and Katara start packing the supplies and loading them on Appa's Saddle. "Ah-ah, no flying."

"Why wouldn't we fly?"

"Think about it. Somehow the Fire Nation keeps finding us. It's because they spot Appa, he's just too noticeable."

Katara blanched, "What?! Appa's not too noticeable!"

"He's a gigantic fluffy monster with an arrow on his head… it's kinda hard to miss him!"

Appa turned his head and groaned at Sokka. Aang was still in the 'driver's seat' holding the reigns, "Sokka's just jealous 'cause he doesn't have an arrow."

"I know you all want to fly, but my instincts tell me we should play it safe this time and walk."

"Who made you the boss?"

"I'm not the boss—I'm the leader."

"You're the leader? But your voice still cracks!"

"I'm the oldest and I'm a warrior. So...I'm the leader." Sokka replied, speaking in a deeper tone.

"If anyone's the leader, it's Aang. I mean, he is the Avatar."

"Are you kidding—he's just a goofy kid!"

"Why do boys always think someone has to be the leader? I bet you wouldn't be so bossy if you kissed a girl." Katara smirked, knowing it was true.

"I-I've kissed a girl! You...You just haven't met her."

"Who? Gran-gran? I've met Gran-gran."

"No! Besides Gran-gran! Plus, it's not like you've kissed a guy!" At this Katara's face closed up and became devoid of any emotion. "Look, my instincts tell me we have a better chance of slipping through on foot and a leader has to trust his instincts."

Aang jumped in, noticing Katara's withdrawn expression, "I don't know, walking might be fun…"

"This is a bad idea. If the fire nation is around here, we could walk right into their hands. If we're on Appa, at least we'll have speed on them. We don't know these woods guys; I think we should take to the air."

It was then that Sokka looked at Katara, and really saw into her soul. "Okay Katara, okay." He smile sadly at her and tried to joke, "We'll follow your womanly intuition."

She smiled softly, "You missed me."

He just smiled and went to roll up his sleeping bag. "I still do… Where did my sister go?" he whispered.

"Did you say something Sokka?"

"No, no, just… thinking out loud."

"Well hurry up, we're waiting on you!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming." He hopped on Appa, and they took off. "Let's find some place with food."

"Well, there are a couple towns between here and the Northern Air Temple, we could swing by there and then head up to the Northern Water Tribe. They'll be the last two stops."

"Alright Aang, but these are the last two! I mean how many close calls does it take to get a straight line out of you?"

"What do you mean close calls?"

"Well, since you were gone, we made stops at a fire days festival, which led us to a group of fire nation deserters, which eventually led to a monkey faced Admiral finding us. Aang handled it, turns out Ape Face has control issues. Then we helped two rival communities cross The Great Divide, it helped me understand you a little better actually, and Aang lied, an ACTUAL lie, shocking right? Point is we almost got killed by gigantic bugs because the villagers brought food into the canyon even when told specifically NOT to. THEN we got caught in a storm and almost died-"

"Hey! That was YOUR fault! I told you we should have kept going!"

"Yeah, yeah, but after you saved me and that fisherman you're the one who got captured by Ugly Sideburn dude! And almost got the Blue Spirit killed."

"Only because you got sick and some creepy old herbalist told me you needed to suck on some frozen frogs, then the Yu Yan Archers took me. And by the way, I made sure that the Blue spirit would be okay!"

"Uh huh sure… The only place we didn't run into fire nation trouble was at Wèilái and Xiāngshuǐ Abbey. And at the first some guy was attacked and nearly killed by a platypus bear and the second is where we met up with Bato which led us to… you…"

"Okay so, you guys ran into Zhao, twice? And the Blue Spirit saved you from the Yu Yan Archer's Stronghold."

"Something like that…" Aang looked back at her. "We're about to land, we can get something to eat with the last of our money."

"Money?"

"Sokka was temporarily working for the fisherman we saved."

"Oh. Maybe we'll here news that will help us win the war there too. Keep your ears open."


THE DAY KATARA ESCAPED

ON ZUKO'S SHIP

Zuko jumps out of the dinghy and onto the ship deck, "Uncle, I need to conference with you, in your room." He's about to head below deck but stops and turns. "You'll want to bring some tea."

"Yes, Prince Zuko."

Fifteen minutes later Zuko was pacing back and forth in Iroh's room, and just before Iroh came in the teen sat on the spare bed. Katara's bed… He stood back up and continued his pacing just as the door swung open.

"You wished to speak with me."

"Yes," He closes the door and locks it, "Uncle, I have to go after her, the crew would never abandon their nation, and I don't expect you to. I'm going to the North Pole, hopefully I can get there before them. We have to convince Zhao I'm dead, or he won't stop until I am. Lastly, I need a way to get there… I can't lose her. I need her, like I need air to breathe, and water to drink. She's the fire in my heart and the ground beneath my feet. Uncle-"

"My son, enough. I will not abandon you, and neither will your crewmen. In fact, we all will be rather relieved."

"What?"

"I love you, but when I assembled this crew I knew I would need men who would follow your lead, no matter what."

"How did you know I would change?"

"I didn't. But I hoped, and I prayed, and I meditated. And when Katara was captured, I had lost nearly all hope but then… you let her out of the brig, and it only got better from there."

"So… To the North Pole?"

"I'll make sure Jee, Agni and the Captain all know."

"Uncle?"

"Yes Zuko?"

"Could you-Will you keep calling me son? I just… I need a father, and you've been one to me for over three years now and- and I… It feels nice, to hear…"

"Of course, my son."

Later that night, Zuko walked into a silent, but extremely full, mess hall for dinner. Once he noticed the stares he stopped. Then someone yelled out, "All hail Crown Prince Zuko!" and the entire room got down and bowed in a full kowtow as they all yelled "Hail!"

Iroh walked up behind the young prince, "It is respectful to bow back." So he did, and he bent lowly at the waist in a full sign of respect and gratitude. "I once said to you, 'war is not all that it seems, one nation may triumph over another, but no one really wins.' And at the time, you did not understand. These men believe in the Avatar, because the only way for our world to continue on, is in peace." All the men in the room were on their feet again staring at their Princes, "Do you understand now?"

"I do… I would never be with Katara, if the fire nation wins. The world's balance is a push and pull, like the tide. You cannot take what you haven't given first."

"Right, now, let us eat. I'm starving." Zuko chuckled but stopped short when Iroh headed toward the table located at the head of the room, meant specifically for them. But he heard a voice in his head, her voice, My Father says that in order to be a great leader you must first learn the hardships of your people. So he smiled at his Uncle and sat with his men instead.

"Prince Zuko, sir, what is to be our plan of action?"

The prince smiled shyly as he filled his plate, "I haven't thought through all of the details, but I know this, we have to gain the Water Tribe's trust, and after that… We have to help the Avatar win this war. But we'll take this one step at a time shall we?"

"You're Highness! Prince Zuko!" Zuko stood quickly and picked up the twelve year old cabin boy and spun him around, causing near silence in the mess hall. "Are we really going to the North Pole?! I heard it from some of the Soldiers! I really hope so! Mother always talked about her travels around the world; did you know that the Northern Water Tribe has a spiritual oasis? It has grass and a pond and fish and flowers and-"

"Kuzon! Slow down kid." The scarred prince put the young man down in his seat, "Yes, we're going north, now eat something. Before you overexcite yourself…" The prince having yet to touch the food he gathered gestured to his plate. He then picked up a few slices of papaya and sat down beside the young boy. "So your mother travelled the world huh?"

"Well, how did you think I got green eyes? Mom always loved the Earth Kingdom. Said she left her true love there. In the days of Fire Lord Azulon My mother used to see the world. She would go by boat to a Fire Nation Colony and then she would use other means of travel to see other places. When she found out she was pregnant with me, she had already returned to the Capitol. You know how ship captains get about women and children… so by the time I was old enough to meet my father, Ozai had taken the throne and it would've been too dangerous to try to go. I do have this though." The young man pulled out a small portrait of the man. "Mother said she sent him letters by messenger hawk. She never let me read what he wrote back. So he knows I exist… and I know he exists, but we've never met."

"When this is all over, when the war is won, I'll go with you and your mother to meet him."

"Really?!" Zuko laughed a true outright laugh and the young boy hugged him. "Oh thank you your highness!"

"Kuzon, you don't have to call me that, no one does, not now that we're going against what our country believes. My name is Zuko Sozin, and I'm just a kid trying to understand the people around me. I'm no more important or special than any of these men you see here. One day I hope to take the throne, and by that time, I hope my people will be able to consider me a friend. My name is Zuko, not prince, highness, or majesty, just Zuko. It is who I am, and who I was born to be."

"Are we going to find Lady Katara, Zuko?"

"I hope so. Do you miss her too?"

"Yes, sir, she was great fun, very sweet, and I like the way she sings."

Zuko grabbed an apple and got up, "Yeah, she's wonderful. I'll be on deck, can you tell my Uncle?"

"Yes, Zuko, I will." And little Kuzon ran off to do just that. It was then that the young future ruler looked around and noticed everyone heard him, every single word.

"Zuko, my prince," started 1st Lieutenant Jee, "I will follow your rule, to my death. You are young, but your Uncle's wisdom is strong in you."

"Thank you, Lieutenant, your praise means much to me."

"Jee Sang is my name, and you are my friend, and leader. Do you need a sparring partner?"

"No, thank you, I was just going to admire the ocean. Have a good evening Jee." The boy smiled to the man and left the hall.

Uncle wiped his eyes and spoke to himself, "You have grown so much my son."


When Zuko stepped on deck he took a deep breath and walked to the rail. He looked to the stars. When he found Polaris, his eyes shifted to Ursa Minor, then followed the Great Dragon's tail to Ursa Major. "Oh mother, I hope I'm doing this right. I hope I'll see you again someday. I know you know Katara, I hope you like her, because… I love her and I would hate-" He sighed.

"She always thought of her as a second daughter."

"Uncle! I didn't know…"

"I know… I sent your father a… condolence letter, of sorts. By morning the entire nation should know of your presumed drowning."

"Presumed drowning?"

"It explains the lack of body, and also it gives a reason for our northerly direction."

"You think he'll assume you're getting revenge? Attacking the Northern Water Tribe?"

"I wrote that we came across a water bender, and as it is, the southern benders are thought to be dead, and if the word has reached my brother it would be assumed she is with the Avatar."

"But why would father care to get revenge for his dead disappointment?"

"He wouldn't, but he would wish to get rid of me. There's a reason the Northern Tribe has remained untouched."

"Uncle-"

"Do not fret. My brother's affection and emotions left him long ago, possibly when our own mother passed on to the spirit world. However, we need to think about how we're going to approach the water tribe as a friend."

"Do we still have all that useless blue cloth you bought a month ago?" Iroh nodded, "We'll need to sew the fire emblem in blue. Fly it, instead of our flags."

"The Fire Emblem in blue, to show we are fire nation? And yet-"

"The blue will convince them, hopefully, that we're on their side."

"We may still undergo trials."

"I don't mind, How long do we have?"

"A day, possibly hours depending on when they intercept us… The fabric is in the storage room with needle and thread. The main banner will take the most time; I'll start it while you work on the smaller flags. We should get busy."

"You're right, let's go."

Several hours passed and dawn was breaking when the two men finished their work. Several men worked on putting them up when Iroh spoke, "We need to remove all armor."

"The men will freeze."

"The water tribe will see it as a blatant threat and an insult to their intelligence, we have plenty coats for the non-benders."

"Give the orders, I have to grab something." As soon as Zuko returned topside, in training clothes, several water tribe boats surrounded them. "Cut the engines! Retrieve the rope ladder! Prepare for negotiation! Uncle?"

"I'm here my son."

"What will I say?"

"Your best bet is a shortened version of the truth, until you can have an audience with their chief. At which point, you'll tell them everything."

"Starting from when?"

"From whenever makes most sense."

Zuko walked to the edge when a voice travelled up to him, "You have ten seconds to turn this vessel around before we sink it."

"We wish to talk, negotiate."

"We don't negotiate with fire breathers!" A new voice replied.

"Hahn, enough. We will talk, but the first sign of attack and we will sink you."

"We can accept those terms, lower the ladder!" Three waterbenders swiftly landed on the deck. Or Not. "Belay that order, stow it and fall in line." All soldiers on deck fell into line, Zuko turned and bowed. He examined the benders on his ship. One in the middle was an Elder, for sure. But the one to the right was in his early 30's and appeared to be a weapons expert, his body built well for hand to hand combative warfare. The last, on the left, looked much like Katara's father. His age is in his 40's, built well but smaller than his younger companion, with black hair and ice blue eyes. "Good morning, My name is Zuko So-"

"I know who you are, and where you're from. I only wish to know your business. State it now or your fate is sealed." The Elder, who has been the only one to speak thus far aside from Hahn, interjected.

"Our journey has been long and strenuous, it has also shown us the outcome of this war and we have made a recent decision, with help from a young waterbender from your Southern Sister Tribe, to break ties with our Nation."

From the water an exclamation of disbelief rose rapidly, "Hahn, I care not of your standing with the Chief, if you don't shut your mouth your training will double and intensify."

The outburst came from the youngest of the three men on deck, but Zuko's gaze never shifted from the Elder. "If I were to believe that pitiful lie, why would you be so far North, why have you entered our waters?"

"It's not a lie!"

"Zuko, control your temper, they have a right to be suspicious."

He took a breath, "Avatar Aang has been seen flying North, and we have reason to believe he will be searching for a teacher. We wish to join in his efforts against my father, the Fire Lord."

"Perhaps you wish simply to capture him. To regain, not only your honor, but your birthright and the incentive of returning home would tempt any man. I do not trust you."

"It was. Far more incentive than I needed. At one point my father's love was all that pushed me forward, the only reason I needed to capture the Avatar. But very recently, we ran into the Southern Tribe's navy, and it was in that moment, the Avatar didn't matter, because was I going to lose the woman I love. Over a war that separates our nations. She made me realize my true father, the man that took care of me when I needed him, is my Uncle, Former General Iroh Sozin the Great Dragon of the West."

"All the more reason not to trust you, isn't it?"

"It's the truth, if I spoke anything less, I and my men would be dead by now."

"This girl, what is her name?"

Zuko's face turned bright red, "She is Chief Hakoda's daughter, Katara."

"I assume you would ask for a council with our Chief, Arnook, to better elaborate on why you've switched sides?"

"That would be ideal."

The Elder smiled at the young prince, "I am Water Bending Master, Pakku, we will escort you to the palace. There we shall see the truth."

At this Iroh jumped in, "Forgive me, but is there a cove where our ship may reside during our stay."

"Of course, follow us. Keep a weather eye out, Icebergs run deep and wide under the surface and as you can see they become plentiful in these waters."

"Sage advice for newcomers navigating such beautiful and perilous waters, such as us."

With a nod the three waterbenders jumped over the rail and the water rose to meet them. They led them to a secluded cove not far from the gates of the prestigious Northern Water Tribe. Only a select few left the ship, Iroh pronounced it as an act of peace. In fact only, six people left the ship and one is only 12.

The boat trip up to the palace felt longer than it actually was. To all accept the source, Hahn had not gotten over the fact that "Fire Nation Scum" was openly walking about in their city, and he made his detestation known. Not even the confirmation of a tripled work load and a quintupled level of intensity stopped his ranting. Once, finally, they arrived the man in his 30's from earlier, Castro, took the rather insufferable 17 year old off to train. Everyone else convened in the throne room.

All in the room bowed respectfully, "Chief, the Banished Prince has decidedly claimed that he has… seen the error of his ways. His crew is awaiting orders on his ship outside the wall. They wish for a council."

"This should be good. Assemble the Elders, we have a proposition to hear. And please bring me my daughter, she needs to see this."

It took no more than five minutes to assemble the Elders, and his daughter entered with a short excuse, "Forgive me father, I was consulting with the spirits."

"Of course, child, so much of your mother in you, I'd expect nothing less. Now let us hear the young prince's tale."

He took a deep breath and started with the war room meeting and the Agni Kai from three years ago, then he told of various run-ins with Aang, which led up to Katara, and he continued on like this for over an hour talking about his journey to the right side. Leaving out only his most personal and intimate moments and answering the questions that were asked by the, now serious, advisors. He finished his tale where Katara disappeared and he returned the stolen scroll that had gotten the young girl caught in the first place. Yue was the first to believe him. "I believe him, fully. Note the weight of grief on his shoulders and the light of honesty in his eyes and, to top it all off, his raw emotion in all that he says." When the sneers and whispers became evident, she clarified, "I know my opinion is of little value, however, if the tales of Oma and Shu are true then his story is plausible; a man giving everything up so he can at least see his love again… even if she won't have him. Father, I have made my decision, and nothing shall change it. Might I walk amongst our people?"

"Yes my dear, we shall decide and after I expect to see you for dinner."

"Yes Father." On her way out she spoke softly to Zuko, "My father agrees with me, but he must take in all opinions."

The young prince tilted his head forward in an inconspicuous bow. He would thank her later at the feast that would be held for the turning of the Princes and their crew. The next day the entire crew was presented with blue rabbit seal coats, their ship concealed but easily accessible and a building was erected for the duration of their stay. It was a hotel of sorts. That afternoon the two princes briefed the warriors on combative maneuvers the fire nation will use and the technology they have. Then the Warriors taught them how to fight "Water Tribe Style" all the way until dinner.

In the evening, Zuko found a pile of furs in an empty room in the new building and fell into a deep sleep. While Iroh spent over an hour playing Pai Sho, drinking tea, and speaking of the blooming lotus with an old friend. "I am still not impressed. How will a girl, not even yet a woman be the key to peace?"

"You still let your rejection blind you. Women are not weaker than men; you must simply give her a chance."

"I have yet to meet a woman strong enough to fight in battle."

"There has been no opportunity to prove you otherwise, though I think you have. I know that she was strong enough, without bending, to leave a place and a person she loved behind in order to keep her child from living a sexist lifestyle."

"Our views differ."

Iroh chuckled, "And so do our elements, I must turn in the sun has long since set. Pakku, just think about it, she may change your mind whether you want her to or not."

Pakku grunted in recognition and the old general left.


The next 4 days continued similarly, each side giving valuable information. The waterbending master became quickly attached to the young prince, reminded of himself at such a young and impressionable age. It could be seen that the teen was growing increasingly comfortable in the frozen city. In a meeting with the chief, his daughter and a few Elders, Pakku spoke to Zuko in an almost familial way, "I like your drive, you'll make a great leader, perhaps you should be engaged to the princess." A few people chuckled but awaited Zuko's reply, which came swiftly.

"I'm afraid that wouldn't do. Not that you aren't beautiful, Princess, you're also very kind with a strong and intelligent head on your shoulders, but I love the Ice Princess from the South."

"Getting her to accept your apology will be a hurdle all in itself won't it? Southern women are much more… Outspoken." The majority laughed accept the two youngest and Iroh.

"She is. One of the many reasons I love her. She knows what's right, what she wants and she's not afraid to express it. She won't give up, not until she's convinced every one of her views. And though she's only a novice warrior, and has much to learn, she fights. To protect those she cares for, and to be a better person. But perhaps we should revert to the task at hand, I believe it was armor and weaponry."

Iroh smiled at Zuko's much improved temperament. By the end of the week the Avatar was spotted and it was decided that they were not to be told of the situation until Zuko could talk to them, without seeming threatening. That evening another celebratory feast was held, but Zuko paid little mind to what the chief was saying, something about Yue's birthday, marrying age, and the avatar's return. But his eyes were trained on the rather solemn expression on Katara's beautiful face. It wasn't until Pakku, Castro, and the silent 40 year old that has yet to give his name, started their waterbending demonstration that her face was graced with a smile. Boy, is she in for a sexist surprise. Katara said something to Sokka and mock bowed to him, Zuko's gaze naturally shifted to Sokka to find him flirting with Yue. Poor guy's going to get his heart broken when he finds out about Hahn. He returned to looking at the Southern Ice Princess, this time, it appeared Katara felt his gaze and looked to the crowd in his general direction.

A close call, but at the end of the night Aang had spoken with Pakku about training and everyone returned to their homes. The next morning Katara and Aang were close to the training arena when Katara spoke, "I've waited for this day my whole life! I finally get to learn from a real waterbending master!" Master Pakku was manipulating a blob of water when the two entered.

"Good morning, Master Pakku!"

Master Pakku dropped the water blob with a grimace "No, please, march right in; I'm not concentrating or anything."

"Uhh...Sorry… this is my friend, Katara, the one I told you about?" Katara bowed while Aang introduced her. Master Pakku looked over at her as if she were a bug.

Master Pakku created an ice chair for him to sit down in before blatantly insulting the young girl, "I'm sorry. I think there's been a misunderstanding. You didn't tell me your friend was a girl. In our tribe, it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending."

Katara's body and her face clearly reflect the anger she feels. "What do you mean you won't teach me? I didn't travel across the entire world so you could tell me "no"!"

"No."

Katara, barely containing her fury, placed her hands on her hips, "But there must be other female waterbenders in your tribe!"

"Here the women learn from Yugoda to use their waterbending to heal. I'm sure she would be happy to take you as her student despite your bad attitude."

"I don't want to heal, I want to fight!"

"I can see that. But our tribe has customs, rules."

"Well your rules stink!"

"Yeah! They're not fair. If you won't teach Katara, then-"

"Then what?"

"Then I won't learn from you!" With that Aang turned to walk away.

"Well, have fun teaching yourself. I'm sure you'll do a great job."

"Wait! Aang didn't mean that." Katara ran over to Aang's retreating figure and grabbed him by the shoulder to stop him. "You can't risk your training for me. You have to learn from Master Pakku. Even if he is a big jerk." Katara walked for a while before finding the healing hut and entering tentatively. "Um, hi. Are you Yugoda?"

"Are you here for the healing lesson?"

Katara surveyed the room; the students are all young girls. Katara looked at the ground glumly, walked forward and sat down, "I guess I am."

"Welcome! Welcome!"

At the end of the class Katara walked up to Yugoda, "Thanks for the lesson."

Yugoda nodded with a smile, "So, who's the lucky boy?"

"Huh?"

"Your betrothal necklace. You're getting married, right?"

Katara smiling, "No, I don't think I'm ready for that yet. My grandmother gave my mother this necklace, and my mother passed it down to me."

Yugoda looked closely at the necklace and gasped softly, "I recognize this carving! I don't know why I didn't realize sooner! You're the spitting image of Kana!"

"Wait, how do you know my Gran-Gran's name?"

"When I was about your age I was friends with Kana. She was born here, in the Northern Tribe."

"I guess I knew that… She wasn't married but she had a daughter."

"Yes, I was the one who told her. I could feel the second heart beat of your unborn mother. She asked me never to speak of it, she said goodbye, and I never saw her again."

"I'm sorry, that must have been hard for you."

"She was my best friend, almost a sister. I would have done anything for her."

"Thank you."


The next morning Zuko and Iroh were with the Chief talking when an upset waterbender came into the throne room, Avatar and brother in tow. The two princes quickly moved to the side of the room, out of the line of sight. Katara hurriedly explained what happened, and was trying not to be obvious about what she wanted. Trying not to be Outspoken as it were formerly, delicately, put.

"What do you want me to do? Force Master Pakku to take Aang back as his student?"

"Yes – please!"

"I suspect he might change his mind if you swallow your pride and apologize to him." Zuko blanched, Oh THIS should be good. She will not take this lightly… Her eyes moved to Aang and she turned to look at him. She turned back, clearly unhappy, having taken a moment to think.

"Fine." Pakku smirked in a smug manor and Iroh knew he would attempt to provoke her.

"I'm waiting, little girl."

Katara's hands balled up instantly to a fist at this insult, "No! No way am I apologizing to a sour old man like you!" As she spoke, cracks opened in the floor beneath her as her waterbending abilities began to get out of control. She ended up by pointing directly at Master Pakku, her finger almost in his face.

"Uh, Katara..."

"I'll be outside – if you're man enough to fight me!"

Princess Yue drew a breath in surprise as the men stiffened. The others stood frozen. Aang trying to fix things, "I'm sure she didn't mean that."

Sokka knowing his sister well, "Yeah, I think she did." He quickly ran after his sister, Aang hot on his heels. "Are you crazy, Katara? You're not gonna win this fight!" Katara took off her coat and threw it at Sokka, hitting him in the face.

"I know! I don't care!"

"You don't have to do this for me. I can find another teacher."

"I'm not doing it for you! Someone needs to slap some sense into that guy!" They reached the bottom of the steps as Master Pakku appeared at the top. Katara turned to see him. "So, you decided to show up?" The master walked past her. "Aren't you gonna fight?"

Master Pakku, without turning, acknowledged her, "Go back to the healing huts with the other women where you belong." Insanely angry, Katara drew a water whip out of the ground and whipped Pakku on the back of the neck making him stop abruptly. Master Pakku turned to face her. "Fine. You want to learn to fight so bad, study closely!"

Pakku grabbed a lot of the water from the pools on either side of the citadel and bent it around himself. Katara ran at him, but she was flung backwards when she is hit by the water. She stood, at that moment ten feet from Pakku. He bent the water in a wall around both of them; it spun faster and faster creating a whirlpool effect.

"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you!"

The whirlpool constricts, but before Katara was knocked back down she swings her arm, almost as if she were swinging a heavy stick, deflecting the wall of water off on a different trajectory. The errant wall of water hit Sokka and blew him into a nearby railing with an exclamation of "OW!" Katara ran at the Elder with a water whip but He raised a ramp of ice in front of her which she slid up and then back flipped off, landing neatly on the guardrail of the citadel steps behind him. Pakku liquefied the ramp and threw it at her while catching her feet in ice. The wave broke around Katara however; as she bent it out of the way.

"You can't knock me down!"

The crowd behind her cheered, Zuko barely containing his pride, and howls of excitement, grew jealous of the young avatar who openly called out to her. "Go Katara!"

A very angry and determined Katara was bearing down on the esteemed Master. Pakku, unaffected, raised a sheet of ice between him and the raging girl. Katara liquefied the ice as she reached it and threw several blows at Pakku, one of which narrowly missed his face, before he washed her out of his way and into one of the pools with a wave of water, Pakku smiled with satisfaction.

She broke the surface of the water and the crowd cheered. Katara then raised a circular pedestal of ice out of the fountain pool and began to shoot slivers of the top of the pedestal at Pakku who broke each of them them as they arrived; The last one however narrowly passes to the left side of his face. Pakku could see his own reflection in the passing sheet of ice, both surprised and dismayed. When it is gone, he turned back to Katara with a bewildered and, perhaps, somewhat impressed look on his face. Katara began bending a stream of water around her which she threw at Pakku, who caught it and began to twirl it around himself.

Katara ran at him again, but he washed her backwards and onto her behind when he released the stream of water. Katara's hair was disheveled, having fallen out of its braid; she's breathing heavily but then she jumped back up in a bending stance. She made a motion and the segmented pillars of ice behind Pakku collapse, narrowly missing him.

"Well, I'm impressed. You are an excellent waterbender."

"But you still won't teach me, will you?"

"No."

With a cry of effort, Katara raised water near her feet, froze it, and sent it in a rolling wave along the floor to Pakku, who is raised up on a pillar of ice when the wave reaches him. He liquefied the base of the ice column and began to flow forward on it, like an iceberg riding along a river. Katara has raised her own stream of water to knock him off his iceberg, but Pakku grabbed Katara's water and froze it in an arc around her which he slides around behind her as he exited the arc he knocked her down, her necklace falling to ice near her.

Pakku raised a huge column of water out of one of the pools, making a whirlpool out of it in the air and then freezing it into shards the whirlpool disintegrated. Katara stood in front of Pakku, but the shards landed closely all around her. She is trapped. Zuko had to fight the urge to go to her, to help her, and to save her. She struggled in vain against her prison of ice, her hands and arms unable to move. Master Pakku walked towards her "This fight is over."

"Come back here! I'm not finished yet!"

"Yes, you are." However he stopped in surprise and picked up the necklace. "This is my necklace!"

"No it's not, it's mine! Give it back!"

"I made this sixty years ago – for the love of my life." Katara's ice prison liquefied behind him, freeing her. "For Kana."

"My Gran-Gran was supposed to marry you?"

"I carved this necklace for your grandmother when we got engaged. I thought we would have a long, happy life together. It was an arranged marriage but I loved her. More than anything. I suppose she must have gotten married…"

"She never married… She never talks about it but, she left here pregnant with my mom. Gran-Gran wouldn't let your tribe's stupid customs run her life, and definitely not her child's life. That's why she left. It must have taken a lot of courage."

"Yes, courage… Something, I notice both you and your brother inherited. I'll see you at sunrise." With that, he returned the necklace to the girl, and left.


Author's Note: Jet is not in this part of the story, He will be eventually but not yet. Also, if you were wondering what happened to the gang halfway through, just read the transcript for "The Northern Air Temple" and you'll know.

Thanks for reading, Chapter 9 will be up in a few hours!

And thanks for all your support! :-)