Summary: Season 3 AU, post 'The Awakening'. As the Gaang struggle to rehabilitate Aang following Ba Sing Se, Katara is snatched out of their grasp by a Fire Nation ship. Struggling to return to her friends, she is taken deep into the heart of an unfamiliar country as a prisoner. Zutara.

Disclaimer: Do you really think that if I owned ATLA Katara and Zuko wouldn't be making out in the woods every episode?

Notes: This is my first multi-chap fic, so exciting! I'm always so torn as to which season to delve into though, I also love awkward tea-shop Zuko and I've recently really gotten into angsty ponytail Zuzu too so it was a tough choice.

Head First

Measured footsteps broke through the cold silence as Aang lay on his bed. At the sound of a creak he turned slightly, the familiar shuffling of feet marking Katara's arrival.

"How are you feeling?"

A searing pain shot through Aang's abdomen as he sat up, causing him to groan. He glanced at the Fire Nation emblem hanging above his head.

"A little confused…"

"Azula got us in Ba Sing Se … do you not remember anything?"

Aang thought back - flashes of bright light and crystal caverns – He squeezed his eyes tightly shut – Katara standing in front of him, water whips at the ready as she fought off… Zuko? Or Azula….

"Not really…"

"Maybe some healing will jog your memory."

Katara reached forward, submerging her hands in the bowl resting on the counter top. Her hands took on an ethereal glow as she raised them to Aang's back, working on drawing out the tense knots that caused him to hunch over.

Aang winced as she began to work, but the tightness soon melted away, allowing him to relax slightly.

"It won't all come back at once, and your recovery is going to be gradual. I don't want to push your body too hard, so I think that's all for today."

Aang blinked. It had felt like a few minutes, but a quick look at the metal clock on the adjacent wall showed that an hour had passed.

"Thanks Katara…"

Katara smiled slightly, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. Before Aang could contemplate this, his own drew to a close.

Katara sighed. She stared down at the empty flask, hands poised to drop it into the murky sea below. It was a cold evening, and she was glad that she'd chosen to layer up before she stepped out onto the deck.

The ornate blue and white patterns glinted slightly as she held it up to the stolen ship's lighting, contemplating whether it would be better to keep it – if only so that she could use it again. Who knew what other threats loomed on the horizon. Not that she'd ever be going back to the North Pole…

Her lips pulled taught again as she remembered why she had to dispose of it, and her fingers relaxed.

"Aren't you cold?"

"I've got a lot on my mind. It's been so long… Almost three years since I was home. I wonder what's changed… I wonder how I've changed."

Mai yawned under her breath.

"I just asked if you were cold, I didn't ask for your whole life story."

Zuko's expression faltered slightly, his eyebrows drawing taught.

His girlfriend smiled, stepping towards him and taking a hold of his face.

"Stop worrying."

She placed a quick kiss on Zuko's lips and walked away.

Zuko turned back to face the sea, it's dark waves cascading against the side of the boat. He was nervous about facing the Fire Nation again, given his father's autocratic tendencies. But that wasn't the only thing making him feel uneasy.

The sea was too far down for Zuko to see his reflection, but if he could he'd bet it was fraught with worry lines and dark circles.

He could still hear the gasp of surprise from the Avatar, the unbridled anger of his companions, the look of disappointment colouring his Uncle's face as he realised what he'd done – whose side he had taken.

Zuko pushed off from the railing, turning quickly back towards the centre of the ship and disappearing below deck.

"They know!"

Toph's shout echoed across the ship, Katara hoisting herself up and over the edge of a trapdoor as she scrambled to stand up. Quickly gearing into battle formation she flexed the muscles in her forearms, water bursting out of the pouches on her belt as she directed it towards a Fire Nation soldier.

He scrambled to escape but his legs were already down, and Katara was moving onto her next target.

Left, right, frozen shards and icy water erupted from the vents below her as she fought, her feet slipping slightly on the metal rigging as her eyes narrowed with concentration.

Eight, nine, were there always this many? She threw a quick glance to the right to see how the others were getting on, there didn't seem to be any problems.

Huge slabs of metal sliced through the air above her head as Toph took down three soldiers in one foul swoop, her fists taught and hair matted with the salty wind.

Katara harnessed the rain, welcomed it, pooling and freezing it in places to paralyse men where they stood.

"Katara, look out!"

Sokka's frenzied cry cut through the wind and she whipped around, just in time to see the blunt of a club before being jerked into darkness.

"We can't just leave her!"

Aang was pacing, staggering slightly as he attempted to regain his balance on the tilting deck.

"Of course not, but we have to be rational. Everyone thinks that you're dead!"

"That isn't important! She could be in serious trouble, and if any one of us were in her place she'd never leave us behind!"

"You were unconscious the entire time, and none of us saw where they took her."

"We can fly out on Appa!"

"We can't risk being seen, Aang. Airships would be on us in minutes - do you think that Katara would want that?"

"She wouldn't want us to abandon her!"

"Katara is smart and capable. Until we've worked out a strategy and you're in better health, we've just got to trust in her abilities."

Aang wanted to argue some more, but his legs were already starting to waver.

Katara had a splitting headache.

She tried to loosen her muscles but they throbbed, ripples of pain trailing from her fingers as she attempted to find purchase on the slippery floor.

Heavy eyelids opening slightly, Katara attempted to look around, but a dim glow from the skylight above wasn't enough to illuminate even her own legs.

The darkness waned slightly as she looked towards her middle, a gasp catching in her throat as she noticed the blood.

Katara wasn't afraid of blood, mid wives were in short supply most of the time back at the pole so she had become pretty much desensitised.

But this wasn't hers, and she'd seen enough corpses to know that the slightly congealed texture around the tips of her fingers wouldn't be missed anymore.

Katara tried to focus on her location, attempting to get her bearings before she could work out an escape plan.

Muffled voices and the distant lapping of waves told her that she was below deck, the phrase "water-bender" catching her attention as she strained to listen.


Katara frowned. Were they selling her? But as a water-bender - surely she was too valuable to be sold into the slave trade…?


Katara's heart jumped. This couldn't get any worse.

Suddenly the latch above her head ripped open, hairy arms hooking under her own and roughly tossing her onto the deck above.

She raised her hand to wipe the hair out of her eyes but was sharply restrained, arms wrenched behind her back as she struggled to see.

"Yes, my lord will be very happy with this development. Load her onto the ship."

Katara jumped slightly as she was pushed forward. Willing her shaky legs to walk, she took a few steps towards the bridge connecting the two ships.

A gust of wind shook the hair out of her eyes and mouth and she took the opportunity to glance up, immediately wishing that she hadn't.

The Fire Nation royal insignia glared back at her in the harsh morning light and Katara's stomach dropped.

"This can't be happening."

AN: Sorry it's so short to start with! This FF writing business is actually pretty time consuming.