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 9. The song that takes place is "Noble Maiden Fair" from the Disney movie Brave. I know I promised nine a few hours after eight and it took about three days... I'm sorry. But here it is! Enjoy!


LAST TIME

"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.


Chapter 9

The next morning Katara went to waterbending class, late, but Pakku only made a slight note on it. Zuko tried hard to go about his business that day but he had to see her once, so around lunch he went down to the training arena but only the master was there. He was about to turn around when his foot got frozen in ice.

"Not going to say hello to an old friend?"

"I was looking for Katara… I don't suppose you know where she is?"

"Are you going to tell her you're here or just watch her from the shadows some more?"

Zuko heaved a sigh, melted the ice around his foot and sat down next to the man in a meditative position. "I don't know… she has every right to hate me, I don't even know how to begin an apology of this magnitude…"

"Listen to me boy; I lost the love of my life at your age. She ran away from me and never came back, and she raised our child on her own. I don't know how much you care for my granddaughter, but if it's a fraction of what I felt… feel for Kana… then you have to talk to her; before she slips through your pale, firebending fingers. Or would you rather end up like me?"

The young man smiled sadly, "Are you going to find her? Kana?"

"Perhaps, if I get a chance, but we were talking about you."

"I know, it's just hard. I'm afraid she'll reject me, but I know if she does, she has good reason. At the same time, if she doesn't reject me… I feel like she should. She can do so much better than me."

"It's not about what she deserves… It's about what she wants. There is a great difference, and with Katara, I'm not sure if she knows how to do something for herself. Thus far, everything she's done was to help out Aang, or her brother. Her only selfish move was to fight me. If she loves you the way you love her, it may take a lot of convincing. She wouldn't do something for herself if it meant hurting another."

"You picked all of that up in three days?"

He chuckled, "Let's just say she takes a lot from her grandmother. Kana was the same. We got engaged because it kept her father out of the war. I was thrilled. She seemed happy, but she left a month before our wedding."

"She would have been showing by then."

"How did you-?"

"If she left because of her pregnancy than it must be true. It takes a month for a woman to know, so it would make sense, right?"

"Yes, however, we've changed topics again."

"Heh, so we have. I should take my leave." The young man stood and wiped his buttocks of snow. "I do have a question though…"

"If it has to do with Kana then no."

"No, it's about what you said when we first arrived. About the icebergs. You meant it physically and figuratively, didn't you?"

The older man sat with his back to the boy, smirking, "What do you think I meant?"

"Well two things, I'm new to both this side of the war and to love. You meant to say that I can't see everything about the new "territory" until I spend more time there. Uncle's right. It's good advice for me. I don't usually think things through. So, thank you."

He only nodded. So Zuko started to leave, "If it helps, she takes healing classes after she is through here." Zuko thanked him again and headed back to the armory.

When he got there he heard Hahn talking smack, and it enraged him. It wasn't just Hahn being an ass, he was talking vilely about Katara. "You see the temper on that southern girl? I'd like to cool her off, tame her, if you know what I mean." His buddy laughed.

"Cool her off? By heating things up, you mean?"

"I watched her try to fight Master Pakku, and she's pretty limber. And she's got QUITE the mouth on her, a big, dirty mouth. And did you see her panting? I could only imagine my name falling from those full lips."

"She's a fighter; surely she wouldn't just lie down and take it."

It appeared neither boy noticed the irate fire bender in the room. "That's what would make it interesting, the scratches on my back, bites on the neck, heck I might even like it if she took control."

"Can I get that in writing?"

"I said might. Besides, it would be worth it if I could say I took the snotty southern girls virginity, bragging rights are ke-" Hahn's sentence would have to wait until Zuko released his throat. The prince shoved the non-bender into the wall.

"What the hell is your problem, let go of him!" The other boy charged Zuko but with one swift kick to gut the boy was out of the fight.

"If you ever speak of her like that again, you won't have to worry about sex, or your impending marriage, or you're standing in the tribe, you'll just have to worry if you'll ever be able to breathe again." He let go of his neck, and began to walk away.

Hahn began coughing but managed to choke out, "Please, you don't scare me," between coughs.

"No? I could kill you without my bending faster than you could smell your own putrid breath."

"Prove it."

"You'd like that wouldn't you? To have something to report." Zuko was literally smoldering now. "You just can't handle that someone may not be interested in you! Yue doesn't even like you! You want to get rid of anyone who poses a threat to you, and you'll use any means necessary, no matter how low!"

"You think you're a threat to me? Ha!"

"It's true, even Pakku joked that I should be engaged with Yue, I RESPECTFULLY declined. I've been told many a time since coming here that I'll make a great leader. And let's face it; I'm even hotter than you."

At this Hahn threw a punch, but Zuko easily dodged. The water tribe boy threw blow after blow but none landed. Neither noticed Hahn's friend's absence or the lingering presence of a southerner. A presence that had heard all that had been said. Hahn was starting to tire when Castro and the other boy plowed around the corner. Zuko stood tall, hands behind his back as Hahn started throwing false accusations.

"Castro, sir, none of that is true." Zuko stiffened visibly, but all eyes turned to the fifth person exiting an alcove, "Zuko was just coming in when Hahn, an engaged man, started saying awful, sexual things, about my baby sister. Zuko was just defending her."

"He was choking me!"

"Rightfully! How dare you talk about women the way you do! ESPECIALLY when you're spoken for! Yue deserves better than a dog like you!"

"Like who? You? You're nothing but a filthy little southern peasant! You're not even a true warrior!"

"Enough! Both of you! Hahn, Sangok, out to the courtyard, you have training." Hahn left with a huff, stomping past Zuko and Sokka, bumping them both on the shoulders. "Sokka… Zuko… I'm sure you two have a lot to discuss. Just be gone by the time Hahn is back. Try not to start anything with him."

Both boys respond, "Yes, sir." Castro and Sangok left together, in the direction Hahn left in.

Sokka glared at Zuko. "You have A LOT of explaining to do."

"I'm surprised you have boomeranged me yet…"

"I'm thinking about it, but you stood up for my sister, and that stands for something. I'm just not sure what yet. Start talking."

"Look, Sokka, I'll tell you anything you want to know. Just promise you won't tell Katara I'm here. Not yet anyway."

"I'll consider it, if I think you deserve that kindness."

"Fair enough, I suppose. Let's go get something warm to eat."

Sokka was about to protest when his stomach grumbled. The brunette nodded and followed the older boy to a small café, where they found a table in the back. After they ordered, Sokka pounced. Figuratively. "Tell me what you did to my sister."

Zuko looked up slightly startled, but sighed and sipped his tea. "I took her, when you and Aang took off on the bison. I thought you'd come for her. But I kept her in my uncle's room, she became more of a guest and I…I-I… Don't kill me but, I fell in love with her. It happened so quickly, I hung onto her every word, and noticed everything about her… when she left-" Zuko fell off stuttering, blushing and running his hand over his head.

"That explains the neck throttling."

"What?"

"If you really like Katara, it explains why you nearly killed Hahn. But why are you here? Why do people here trust you? Should I be trusting you?"

"When she left, I knew I would never be able to fight her." At this Zuko started talking more to himself, it made admitting it all so much easier, "And Tara was right about so many things… I had to trust her. Me and my crew, and my Uncle, we've changed sides. I want to teach Aang firebending when the time comes."

"How can I be sure? That you've change…"

"When I work up the courage to talk to your sister… I'll cut my top knot. Cutting my final ties to my nation."

"That's like cutting my warrior's wolf tail… I can't imagine…" Sokka rubbed his hair, trying to imagine cutting it. "I believe you. And I won't tell Katara. But you'll have to tell her soon. She always knows when I'm hiding something, plus… she's been pretty low since she got back to us."

The food finally came to the table and Sokka started scarfing food. "I thought the waterbending was making her happy?"

"If iths, bath sheeves sfill sthad at night." At Zuko's confused look Sokka swallowed, "I said 'It is, but she's still sad at night.'"

"Oh… and you think that's because of me?"

"What else could it be?"

Zuko shrugged and ate his lunch. When both boys finished, Zuko paid and they were walking out when he thought of something, "Hey Sokka? I told you I love your sister, why didn't you like, pummel me?"

"I guess I figure, a guy who defends a woman's honor the way you did can't be so bad. Plus, my other options are guys like Hahn or Aang, neither I'm really fond of. Don't get me wrong, Aang's my friend but the way he looks at her… it's like he thinks this war is a race and Katara's the trophy, you know?"

"Like she belongs to him?"

"Yeah… I don't like it, and Katara wouldn't either if she even noticed him."

"My sister's friend was the same way. Eyeing me like we were 'destined for greatness' but I couldn't think of her like that, not even at 13."

"Say, how old are you anyway?"

"That's kind of… Never mind, I'm 17, have been since the second day of the third month of summer. What about you?"

"Same, only it's the last day of the second month of fall. Katara's was the twenty-fifth day of the first month of winter. She turned fifteen; if we had been home, we would have had a huge celebration for it."

"I'm sorry…"

"What for? You didn't start this war. But, together, I think we can all end it." Sokka smiled, "Hey, I gotta meet up with… Someone… Tell Katara, soon, I won't be able to hide it forever."

"I'll try, have fun with Yue." Sokka paused, but then smiled sadly at Zuko.

"Thanks…"

Zuko nodded before walking in the opposite direction as Sokka. He wandered aimlessly for the rest of the day before joining Pakku and his uncle for dinner and falling asleep.


The next couple of days passed by uneventfully, Zuko tried to muster the courage to talk to Katara, so much so he continued to walk by their practice every day at the same time. 10:27am. Neither Aang nor Katara noticed. One being in rapture at everything the master said, the other being preoccupied by making snowballs or miniature snowmen. Sokka spent almost all of his time with Yue, or talking about her. Katara wasn't as suspicious of Sokka as he thought she'd be. But only a week after the Avatar's arrival, something interesting happened.

Katara looked very confident, a slight smile on her face. The boy, on the other side of the arena, raised up a ball of water, turned it to ice, and threw it at his opponent. Katara bent the ice around her, liquefied it, and sent a huge stream of water back at the boy who then was washed up and backwards the water then turned to ice, imprisoning him about ten feet above the ground. Katara relinquished her waterbending stance while Pakku approached from over her shoulder.

"Nice try, Pupil Sangok. A couple of more years and you might be ready to fight a sea sponge." Sangok continued to struggle against his bonds. Master Pakku turned away, made a motion with his left hand, and the ice prison melted, dropping the hapless student to the ground. "Katara, you have advanced more quickly than any student I have ever trained. You have proven that with fierce determination, passion and hard work you can accomplish anything." He turned to look at Aang laying on the ground, floating Momo around on an airball, a lazy smile on his face. "Raw talent alone is not enough." With a sigh, Pakku looked over the rest of his students who are sitting slumped on the ground. "Would anyone care for a rematch with Katara?" They all shake their heads no. At this exact moment Zuko passed, Pakku smirked.

Zuko's feet froze, and he only had a moment to register what was about to happen and held his hood securely over his head. He then was forcibly skating over to the practice field. When he was a meter in front of Pakku his feet were released and he nearly fell on his face.

"It seems my pupil needs more advanced opponents, you seem to be available. I hope you're improvisational skills are sharp dear boy. Benders, take your stances!" Katara turned with a smug look on her face and Zuko stood petrified. When she saw him she blinked and shook her head, thinking her eyes were tricking her.

When his image didn't change her expression did. "Zuko?!"

The boy lowered his hood, Aang blanched but Pakku froze him to his place, literally. "Hi Tara… I uh- OOMF!" A jet of water hit him in the chest and tossed him into the snow. He shuddered and steamed himself dry, standing up. "Katara, please, just listen-" a water whip greeted his cheek.

"You can't take him! I won't let you!" Katara threw ice shards at him, which he easily dodged.

"I don't want him!" She assumes the water tentapus position throwing blows at him, which he fizzles out with fire. "And I don't want to fight! Will you stop attacking me?!" She fired several more icicles and water whips at him as he advances, but on the last one she uses enough water to not only douse his fire, but hurl him backward and lay him flat on the ground. Zuko gets up, "I see you've learned a new trick. But I didn't come this far to lose you."

His words give her pause for a moment, but then he fired another blast which she narrowly blocked. Katara's expression hardened then she launched another stream of water at him, hurling him backwards again. He barely retained his balance, but Katara froze the water beneath him. His feet were frozen in the ice. Then, with a massive output of effort, Katara raised a churning sphere of water from the main pool behind Zuko, encased him in it, and froze him entirely. Katara's face had satisfaction written all over it.

Zuko sighed heavily, the ground began to shake and the ice began to glow yellow and orange. With an explosion of fire, the shell of ice shattered, releasing Zuko who promptly charged Katara and shoved her into the snow. "I'm sorry! For everything!" Katara regains her senses and starts to struggle. "I don't want to take Aang away, I don't want my father's approval, and most importantly I can't hurt you anymore." She glares at him, and two twin streams of water throw Zuko off of Katara.

The streams of water flow up her arms "I don't believe you!" She whips them at him and Zuko mimics her form with fire whips, only blocking. "I trusted you!" The fizzle of steam adds tension to every breath, but Zuko discreetly pushes closer to her, "You betrayed me!" He was almost to her, he could see her angry tears in her eyes, "I thought you cared about me, and then I find out you were just… just PRETENDING!" He's too close for bending so she goes to slap him, but he grabs her wrist and pulls her to him.

He holds her to him tightly. "I wasn't pretending, not one second." She started to struggle, but he held fast. Soon she gripped his jacket and let her tears fall.

"I trusted you."

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I want to join you, to teach Aang firebending, and help end this war, the right way. Please forgive me. Please Katara, I'm sorry."

She looked up at him, a look crossed between confusion, disbelief, and hope, trying to gauge the truth. It was in this moment he made a fatal mistake. He kissed her softly, his hand holding the back of her neck and waist. She kissed him hard, passionately, back. She missed him, and his kiss, but when he moved to deepen it, she jumped back and slapped him and started yelling, all at the same time. "You're doing it all over again! You're just trying to confuse me so you can get Aang in your evil Fire Nation clutches!" The slap had literally knocked Zuko on his ass, but he quickly jumped to his feet when Iroh came running into the area with a letter in his hand. No one noticed Aang's vicious death glare on Zuko.

"Zuko, Pakku, I have just received terrible news." Pakku and Zuko glanced at each other.

"Class is dismissed for the day, don't forget to practice your forms, I will know if you didn't."

Every one cleared out except Aang, Katara, Zuko, Iroh and Pakku, "We need to get to Arnook, now; we are all in grave danger."

"I'll run and get Castro; I'll meet you back in the grand hall."

"Good, but hurry Zuko." With that he took off at a sprint for the War operations building, and straight down to the armory. Pulling Castro away and meeting everyone in the palace, including Jee and Agni. "I have just received terrible news." Pakku erected an ice table quickly and the letter was set down, "The letter was in response to your death certification. It tells of an armada headed for the north. Zhao is leading it and it says he has war winning information. It has been made to sound like retaliation for your death, but they plan to harm the spirits."

The Chief starts, trying his hand at optimism, "We have advantages, they don't know you're here, and they don't know that we know they're coming. And the Avatar-"

"Is just a kid. Who has only mastered one element." Zuko cut off, "No offense, but he's not a exactly weapon. When will they be here?"

Sokka and Yue storm in, "They already are. The black snow's started falling, we don't have much time."

"Sound the drums of war, Castro."

Zuko, pacing, ran his hand over his scalp, and then an idea snapped into place. "Uncle, you can create lightning, can't you?" He nodded. "Jee, Agni, I need you to ready our ship. Change the banners back to red. If we're losing the battle uncle will shoot a bolt of lightning into the sky and you will fire upon as many ships as you can. If we're winning I want you to write a letter to Ozai, speaking of the traumatic betrayal of The Dragon of the West, and you, and the crew, are to return to the Fire Nation and keep up correspondence with us." Jee nodded grimly and both Lieutenants left. "We have to protect the Spirit Oasis, Zhao will use the battle as a decoy to get what he wants."

"Zuko, If Zhao sees you and survives this battle…"

"I know." Zuko pulled the knife from his boot, looked Sokka in the eyes, who nodded, and then sliced off his dragon tail. Sokka cringed when Zuko burnt his hair to ash in his hand. "I'll find a way to stay hidden." The ash blew out of his hand.

Sokka stepped up the older teen and clutched his forearm, a sign of respect in the water tribes. "I'll fight with you, Brother."

Zuko Clutched back and they completed the show with a hardy thump on the back. "That means a lot to me."

"I know." Aang's outright death glare went unnoticed. Again.

"Sokka, I have a mission for you. I would trust no one else."

"What's the task?"

"Protect my daughter."

Sokka nodded at the chief and stepped closer to Yue. Iroh spoke up next, "Perhaps our young Avatar may consult with the spirits. Maybe they will give you the wisdom to win this battle."

"YEAH! Or, maybe they'll unleash a crazy amazing spirit attack on the Fire Nation!" He looks around momentarily. "Or Wisdom… that's good too."

Katara stepped up, "The only problem is, last time you went into the spirit world by accident. How will you get there this time?"

"The Spirit Oasis, you must all go there and protect the spirits. Avatar Aang you will find spiritual awareness there, now go!"

The teens were rushing toward the exit but Zuko waited. "Uncle…"

"If you're fishing for an octopus, my son, you need a tightly woven net or he will squeeze through the tiniest hole and escape. Remember your Breath of Fire, It could save your life and put your hood up, keep your ears warm..."

"Stay safe Uncle. We will meet again." Zuko hugged Iroh, "I love you uncle."

"And I love you, my son. Now go, quickly."

The group of teens waited for him at the door, and he quickly caught up. They ran through the city and as they were ascending the stairs to the Oasis, Kuzon came barreling down. "Zuko! What's happening?"

"Kuzon! What are you-? Kuzon I need you to listen to me… I need you to go to the ship. You stick to Lieutenant Agni like sap on a maple tree, do you hear me?"

The poor boy looked terrified, but nodded his head, "Zuko, we'll be alright, right? I'm scared…"

"And you have every reason to be, but do you remember that promise I made you?"

Again he nodded, "We would find my father…"

"After this war is over, You, me, and your mother will find your father. No matter what. But in order for that to happen, I need you to stay with Agni. Do whatever he tells you to okay?" Another nod, "Go, quickly, run as fast as you can. Be careful." The boy hugged the teen and Zuko, unwittingly let a few tears fall.

Once Kuzon was gone they arrived at the Oasis, at the same moment the main wall fell. Many buildings started exploding and falling apart, but the young team moved into the warm space. Yue was telling Aang about the spirituality of this place and how it may help. Zuko and Katara were on either side of the pond; she was watching the fish, he was watching her. Aang entered the spirit world during this. Then there was a moment when their eyes met in their reflection and the two koi fish glowed brightly, when their eyes moved to see, it stopped. Yue's conversation with Sokka stopped when it happened. "You two… you just…"

"Just what?"

"Look at each other in the reflection of the pond." Katara was glaring, but eventually, when her gaze softened, the fish started glowing again. "That's impossible!"

"What is it Yue? What are they doing to make that happen?"

"It's a prophecy… as old as the spirits themselves…" An explosion stopped her, it was closer than any of the ones before.

"It may not be safe here for much longer." Zuko rubbed his head, reaching for his hair.

"How does it feel?"

"What? Oh… Uh my head feels lighter. And colder."

"You know that's not what I meant…"

"I know, but I've already accepted this as my destiny… my fate was sealed weeks ago." At this Zuko smirked, "And there's nothing you can do about it." Then he pulled Sokka under his arm and gave him a noogie. When Sokka pulled out he tackled Zuko, and started laughing.

Katara lost it, "How can you possibly be okay with this? He's probably the reason the fire nation is here! He's just trying to take Aang! To get rid of the world's only hope for peace!"

"I have a handful of reasons why I'm okay with him. One, being the most important, he protected your honor against Hahn. Another being that I'd rather you be pissed off than the hollow shell you were before! The last is that he's proven himself, he cut off his ponytail."

Katara was confused, "So we should forgive him because he got a haircut?"

"No, it's a symbol of honor and loyalty to his nation. Like my warrior's wolf tail. It would take a lot for someone to do that. It's like you and your braid. And Aang with no hair…Sort of…" By this point both boys were back on their feet, brushing the grass off their backsides. Katara tugged on her braid, thinking, when Yue jumped into the conversation.

"Besides, Aang isn't the world's last hope for peace. Not if we have you two."

"What?" the trio responded in unison.

"It's the prophecy! You to a destined for a greatness insurmountable by any before! But only if you two are together… You can't accomplish anything without each other. It's true isn't it?"

Zuko nodded slowly, thinking about the past couple of weeks, "I don't know what you're talking about! I've been fine on my own." Causing Zuko to cringe like a stricken dog.

"Don't be stubborn and stupid Katara. Maybe you can't tell but the past couple weeks have been miserable. You haven't been my sister, just the shell of the girl I remember."

"The prophecy tells of two people, born opposite, who come together to accomplish impossible things. Only the spirits will know who they are. Tui and La have blessed the both of you. The moon spirit blessed me by giving me my life, and I can't think of two people better fated."

"What do you mean?" Zuko had grown fond of the people of the North, Yue was one of his best friends and the thought of her dying was painful.

"When I was born I was very sick and very weak. Most babies cry when they're born... but I was born as if I were asleep. My eyes closed. Our healers did everything they could. They told my mother and father I was going to die. My father pleaded with the spirits to save me... that night, beneath the full moon, he brought me to the oasis and placed me in the pond. My dark hair turned white, I opened my eyes and began to cry – and they knew I would live. That's why my mother named me Yue, for the moon. I owe the moon spirit my life."

"Yue, that's incredible…"

"Shhh! Someone's coming! We have to hide Aang!" Zuko ran to the 12 year old and began to move him when Katara water whipped him. "Katara, we don't have time for this! I'm just moving him behind the bamboo!" She sent him a glare but allowed him.

Zuko had just gotten in his stance when the footsteps stopped. The trio looked at Zuko, Yue standing behind Sokka and Katara fully turned toward him. "Zuko? Why would they st-?"

Several blasts of fire flew toward them, Zuko and Katara both threw up shields in time, and when the smoke, or steam, cleared, Zhao and four foot soldiers crossed the bridge. Zhao took a pause at the sight of the crown prince. "You're alive?"

"You tried to have me killed!" Zuko launched a few fire blasts at Zhao with a cry of anguish, but his target dodged, rolling onto the grass

"Yes, I did. You're the Blue Spirit – and an enemy of the Fire Nation! You were going to free the Avatar!"

"I had no choice!"

"You should have chosen to accept your failure – your disgrace! Then, at least you could have lived!" Zhao returned fire and they traded volleys. As the fight raged back and forth in the darkness the four other Soldiers started to attack Katara and Sokka. At one point, Zuko was able to exploit a moment when Zhao left his chest unguarded. Zuko blasted him and Zhao fell to the ground, Zuko is about to finish him when his collar is yanked and he's thrown backward. It was at that moment he noticed Yue and Sokka were being held by one Fire Bender each and Katara was slowly losing her own fight. "One thing that never changed about you Zuko, you never think things through."

Zuko executed and spinning kick of fire and managed to throw Zhao back. He turned to face his other opponent but was punched, causing his nose to bleed. His retaliation was kneeing his crotch and kicking his stomach. He quickly tackled the soldier fighting Katara, threw off his helmet and started punching the guy in the face. He was up to four when Katara called for aide "Zuko! Help me Zuko!"

"Tara!"

"Don't move Zuko, you take another step and she'll die." A small dagger was at her throat. Zuko clenched his fists but didn't move. "You're no fun Zuko… You won't even let me kill this worthless peasant. What would your father think? Now that you're alive…"

Zuko wiped his bloody nose. "Why are you here Zhao?!"

"I was a young Lieutenant serving under General Shu in the Earth Kingdom when I discovered a hidden library, underground in fact. I tore through scroll after scroll. One of them contained a detailed illustration and the words "moon" and "ocean." I knew then that these spirits could be found – and killed… And that it was my destiny to do so." The soldier in front of Zhao has finally recovered and creates a fire dagger and takes Katara from the Admiral. Zuko goes to take a step. "Ah ah… She'll still die. It just won't take as long with him."

Zuko's eyes start to water as Zhao shove's his hands into the water and forces the white struggling fish into a bag held by his left hand. "I'm so sorry Katara… I'm sorry." Zhao stands up holding the bag. The moon, visible behind him, colored a blood red while the fish thrashes in the bag. Katara and Yue both felt faint and started to slump against their captors.

Zhao raised his fist to the heavens. "I am a legend now! The Fire Nation will for generations tell stories about the great Zhao who darkened the moon! They will call me Zhao the Conqueror! Zhao the Moon Slayer! ZHAO THE INVINCIBLE!" At this moment Momo jumps onto Zhao's head and starts pulling at his face and chittering. "Huh! Get off!" Momo flies off and he lands on an outstretched arm – Aang's arm. "Don't bother!" Zhao was holding his knife to the bag with the Moon Spirit in it. Aang dropped his staff and raised his hands in surrender.

"Zhao! Don't!"

"It's my destiny... to destroy the Moon... and the Water Tribe."

"Destroying the moon won't just hurt the Water Tribe. It will hurt everyone – including you. Without the moon, everything would fall out of balance. You have no idea what kind of chaos that would unleash on the world."

"He is right, Zhao!" Iroh stepped onto the bridge, forming a triangle with Aang and Zhao around the pond.

Zhao, in a bored, lecturing tone, "General Iroh, why am I not surprised to discover your treachery?"

Iroh lowered his hood. "I'm no traitor, Zhao, the Fire Nation needs the moon too. We all depend on the balance." Iroh points a finger at Zhao, still holding the weapon to the bag and thunders, "Whatever you do to that spirit I'll unleash on you ten-fold!" He assumes his stance to bend lightning, "LET IT GO, NOW!"

Iroh and Zhao locked eyes for a moment, then Zhao faltered, and lowered the bag. He kneeled and released the fish back into the water. The red light of the moon vanished, replaced by its normal color. Zhao's face was quickly overtaken by a look of madness and desperation with a cry of rage he stood and smites the water with a blast of fire. As the fire blast passes Iroh recoiled in horror, Aang and Momo's faces are briefly illuminated by the fire. The Avatar looked up to witness the moon wink out of existence. Iroh sprang instantly to the attack. Jumping off the foot bridge, Iroh fired blast after blast. Zhao blocked one blast before his soldiers released their captives to fight. Zhao backed away while Iroh expertly dispatched his four guards. He looked on in horror as his men were wiped out by the aging General with such ease and precision. He ran, Zuko hot on his trail.


The scene was horrifying. Iroh stood over the guards who struggled to get up, the pond where the black fish swam frantically and the white, a huge gash in its side, floated. Iroh gently lifted the white fish from the water, an expression of sadness on his face. The guards were then gone. Princess Yue on the verge of tears, with Sokka's hands on her shoulders, sobbed softly, "The moon spirit is dead. It's over."

Aang's sad expression turned to determination as his eyes and tattoos glowed white. His Avatar Spirit spoke through his mouth, voice deep and other-worldly, "No, it's not over." Aang walked forward into the pond, Katara moved to follow but she is stilled by a motion to halt from Iroh. Katara, Iroh, Yue and Sokka look at Aang as he stood in the middle of the pond, arms in prayer. He looked down at the black koi fish, whose eyes and white mark on his spine began to glow white, when he dropped into the pond as if the bottom had fallen out of it and he disappeared. The water in the pool around the oasis itself began to glow a deep blue, veined with white. The effect spread to the citadel area behind the third wall of the city. The four looked on with wonder at the awesome power coming to life before them. A huge, incandescent blue wave rushed under the footbridge as if some huge creature were moving underneath it.

The blue, white veined creature was a huge fish like being; at its center was a blue white bubble in which Aang resided and spread his arms wide. A moment later, the Ocean Spirit duplicated the motion. The Ocean Spirit from the view of Fire Nation soldiers who stood in front of the last wall towered over the citadel. It's arms still spread wide, it's blue spirit lighting the city like a beacon. The Spirit began to move down into the city where Master Pakku and his waterbenders instantly bowed to the floor in honor of their god and, across the canal, some Fire Nation soldiers raised their spears in defiance. They were swept away by a wall of water sent by the Ocean Spirit. Fire Nation tanks sent blasts of fire at the Ocean Spirit, but they were absorbed with no effect. The soldiers and tanks were washed away as if they were toys. The Ocean Spirit passed by the Water Tribe citizens who make obeisance to their lord. The Fire Nation army started in full retreat, trying desperately to escape the vengeance of the living Spirit. The Ocean Spirit reached the main canal in front of the third wall and melted into it.


BACK AT THE SPIRIT OASIS

Iroh placed the dead Moon Spirit koi fish back into the pond, and sat with Katara and looked with concern into the pond. Katara's voice, filled with despair, broke the silence, "It's too late. It's dead." Yue, Iroh and Katara were mourning the passing of the Moon Spirit when suddenly Iroh looked up at Yue in wonder.

"You have been touched by the Moon Spirit. Some of its life is in you!"

Princess Yue looked up with a spark of excitement, "Yes, you're right. It gave me life. Maybe I can give it back."

She got up and went to the pond's edge. Sokka reached for her, "No! You don't have to do that!"

Princess Yue held his hand behind her, but looked to the ground, "It's my duty, Sokka.

"I won't let you! Your father told me to protect you!"

"I have to do this."

She walked to Iroh, who held the dead fish in his hands. She put her palms over the Moon Spirit which began to glow. She closed her eyes for the last time, exhaled a final breath, and fells over into Sokka's arms when he cried out for her. He placed his hands on her cheek and looked away.

"She's gone." He hugged her body tightly, "She's gone." Her body glowed briefly and disappeared. The fish in Iroh's hands lit up, he dropped it back in the water and it began to swim in the pond. The pond glowed white as they looked on and a ghost rose from it. It coalesced into Yue's form, but she was dressed in white her hair floated around her. She addressed Sokka, her voice echoed and was other worldly.

"Goodbye, Sokka. I will always be with you." She kissed him, their hands on each other's faces. Then she faded away, but into the sky, where the moon shined brightly.


ELSEWHERE IN THE NORTHERN WATER TRIBE

Zhao ran over a foot bridge somewhere in the city, but when he exited onto a parapet he was almost hit by a blast of fire. As the smoke clears, Zhao looks up to see Zuko on the wall on the tier up above him. Zuko continued his attack, firing volley after volley at Zhao, who broke them with his hands held together in a wedge in front of him. As the blasts subsided, Zhao dropped his smoking cloak to the ground.

"You won't be leaving the North Pole Zhao."

"Oh and are you going to kill me?"

Zuko Smirked, "You'd appreciate that, but No. I'll hand you over to the Tribe and they'll hold a trial to see what punishment you deserve." Zhao kicked out several erratic blasts that Zuko easily dissipated.

In the distance the Ocean Spirit, who had caused a massive retreat of ships by tidal wave, looked up to see the moon alive once again. Instantly, Aang began to wilt inside the creature, which dissipated into the ocean. The Spirit's essence flowed back to the wall and deposited Aang atop it. There his glow left him as he put his hand to the side of his head, spent with the effort.

Zuko and Zhao continued to battle on the bridge over a canal. They traded blows, but a series of direct hits from Zuko laid the Admiral flat. As Zhao tried to get up, he saw the moon over Zuko's shoulder. "It can't be!" Then the essence of the Ocean Spirit approached fast and coalesced around the bridge, grabbed Zhao and began to pull him off the bridge. Zhao struggled and Zuko reached out for him, no one deserved to die that way.

"Zhao, Take my hand!" Zhao tried to reach for it for a moment, but then drew back with an expression of hate on his face. As the Ocean Spirit dragged Zhao under the water and disappeared, Zuko took a moment to ask Agni for forgiveness for not saving the retched man.

He made his way back to the Oasis, only to find an even more melancholy sight. Sokka in tears, and Yue's body missing, Katara was trying to console her brother and Iroh looked up to him sadly, "Zuko, where's Zhao?"

Zuko shook his head, "The ocean spirit…. He wouldn't even take my hand. His pride cost him his life."

"Zhao chose his death. Princess Yue did as well, a more honorable death that will be remembered for generations." Zuko fell to his knees, tears slipping out from his brave face. "It is a sad day, but the spirits have them now."

Iroh knelt down next to his nephew and held him. "How many others, Uncle? Who else have we lost? How do we move forward?"

"We must look up, look at the greatness given to us by those we have lost. In the coming months we will mourn and grieve, but we will also remember. The way Yue trusted openly, and her love of her people, the way she could always put a smile on anyone's face. She will not soon be forgotten." Zuko nodded and wiped his nose, the bleeding having slowed and dried. "We have to tell the Chief his only daughter has passed, and in the morning we will have a ceremony for her life. She would not want us to dwell on her absence but rather bask in the life she had. Stand up my son, there is still much left to do." As Zuko stood up shakily, Katara looked at him sadly before helping Sokka up.


An hour later everyone stood outside the citadel, to hear a speech of Yue's life saving sacrifice, and a eulogy for her premature death. There were other deaths, warriors who died valiantly, including Hahn and citizens who couldn't quite escape the wrath of the fire nation. All were mentioned, bodies were sent to sea that very evening. Yue's body being gone, they would wait until morning to collect her most prized possessions before sending them in a kayak down the city water ways with a small group of people to ensure its departure. This group included Katara, Iroh, Aang, Zuko, Sokka, Master Pakku, and Chief Arnook with the family's pet wolves, all three. Once at the city wall, which now lay as a lumped ramp to the ocean, the kayak drifted out to sea and Sokka sank to his knees and broke down into sobs again.

Katara knelt next to him and knew there was nothing to stop the tears, but she could always try, "Sokka, do you remember that lullaby mom used sing? The one we never understood? I think I do now…"

"What do you mean?"

"She's still here… Listen…" And with that, Katara started singing in a tongue Zuko didn't understand,

"A naoidhean bhig, cluinn mo ghuth

Mise ri d' thaobh, O mhaighdean bhan

Ar righinn oig, fas as faic"

As she sang the Chief's wolves started howling, and Zuko stared at the young woman. His mother's voice rang in his head, Zuko, my son, I know of who you will marry… She is the girl who sings with wolves.

"Do thir, dileas Fein

A ghrian a's a ghealaich, stuir sinn

Gu uair ar cliu 's ar gloire

Naoidhean bhig, ar righinn go

Mhaighdean uashaill bhan"

Sokka joined in as she sang it a second time through, when Zuko asked his uncle what it meant. "The song is in Gaelic, It is called Noble Maiden Fair, it means, 'Little baby, hear my voice, I'm beside you, O maiden fair, Our young Lady, grow and see, Your land, your own faithful land, Sun and moon, guide us, To the hour of our glory and honour, Little baby, our young Lady, Noble maiden fair.' A fitting song…"

"A naoidhean bhig, cluinn mo ghuth

Mise ri d' thaobh, O mhaighdean bhan

Ar righinn oig, fas as faic

Do thir, dileas Fein

A ghrian a's a ghealaich, stuir sinn

Gu uair ar cliu 's ar gloire

Naoidhean bhig, ar righinn go

Mhaighdean uashaill bhan"

When the song finished, the wolves trotted up to Katara and Sokka and sat grieving with them. There was a heavy silence in which they all stood in remembrance. After some time passed Aang spoke, "We should leave, before they come back looking for me. Enough damage has been done to your tribe, partly because of me… We should be gone by the end of the month."

There was a group nodding of the head before the made their way back to the citadel. As they walked conversation became easier. "I've decided to go to the South Pole. Some other benders and healers want to join me." Pakku turned to face Katara, "It's time we helped rebuild our sister tribe."

"What about Aang? He still needs to learn waterbending."

"Well, then he better get used to calling you 'Master Katara.'"

Aang told Iroh and Zuko he would respectfully accept the firebending instruction, and wished for them both to travel with them as a part of the "GAang".

Chief Arnook spoke wistfully to Sokka, "The Spirits gave me a vision when Yue was born. I saw... a beautiful, brave young woman...become the Moon Spirit. I knew this day would come."

"You must be proud."

"So proud. And sad."

For the next couple of weeks they helped rebuild but by the end of the third week they were all on a boat headed south. The next morning, the GAang was saying good bye. Master Pakku was on the deck of the ship with several other men from the Northern Water Tribe, he reached into a bag and pulled out a triangle-shaped amulet, in a serious and ceremonial manner, "Katara, I want you to have this. This amulet contains water from the Spirit Oasis." Master Pakku handed the amulet to Katara, who is standing in front of Appa and next to Aang and Zuko. "The water has unique properties. Don't lose it."

His face softened as Katara bowed respectfully "Thank you, Master Pakku." She embraced him. Aang stepped forward and Master Pakku produced an intricately-decorated brown box.

"Aang, these scrolls will help you master waterbending, but remember they're no substitute for a real master." Aang looked up at Katara, who was on top of Appa, nodding.

Zuko stepped up to the Elder and hugged him tightly, before stepping back and grasping his arm. "I appreciate the wisdom you've given me, and I'll miss you."

The old man smiled and pulled out two leather bound books. "Zuko, my boy, you've been good for me… I give you these two books, to help out with a few of those Icebergs. You'll need culture on your side. Stay safe. We'll meet again. Sokka." Sokka stepped up and looked at him proudly and expectantly. "Take care, son." Pakku patted Sokka's arm, giving him nothing. Sokka's expression became very dejected and embarrassed.

Iroh moved forward as Sokka climbed up Appa's back, "My old friend, take care of yourself, and be sure Kana receives my love."

"I will, if she doesn't kill me first." The two share a knowing smile, "Take care of my grandchildren. I'll be seeing you soon." Iroh nodded and climbed onto Appa. "Oh and Sokka?" The boy looked over the edge, and quickly caught what was thrown at him. "Don't cut yourself with that. Now fly straight to the Earth Kingdom base to the east of here. General Fong will provide you with an escort to Omashu. There you'll be safe to begin your earth bending training with King Bumi." Sokka pulled out the whale bone dagger, smiled softly and tied it to his waist.

"Appa, yip yip!" Aang pulled the reigns and Appa lifted off. Master Pakku waved solemnly goodbye.

Katara called back as they flew off, "Say hi to Gran Gran for us!"


Author's note: I just wanted to thank all of you for being patient with me, and for being faithful readers, and for some of you, faitful reviewers! It always helps to see all of the compliments and critiques! Anyway, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to those in who celebrate, to those who don't, HAPPY 22ND OF NOVEMBER!

Also, I thought you guys would appreciate the fact that all of their birthdays, are holidays. Sokka- Halloween, Katara- Christmas, and Zuko- Qixi Festival in 2014 (Chinese Valentine's day)

Thanks again! Please Review! :-)