Disclaimer: I don't own 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'
Title: Smoke
Rating: K+ (PG)
Action/Adventure/Drama with some romance and humour
Smoke... smoke... had to get out of the smoke... suddenly a warm hand gripped onto her wrist tightly. Katara stopped breathing. "Where do you think you're going, water peasant?"
Pairings: Zuko x Katara (Zutang), Jet x Katara (...Jetara?) with hints of Aang x Katara (Kataang)
Takes place near the end of Book One: Water, Chapter Nine: The Waterbending Scroll but with some different events (the major one being that the end of the episode changes). That episode sparked my first ATLA story—let's see if it's a good thing or not. Most scenes will involve Katara or Zuko—but I'll try to put in some parts with Aang and Sokka.


Smoke... smoke.. had to get out of the smoke... suddenly a warm hand gripped onto her wrist tightly. Katara stopped breathing. "Where do you think you're going, water peasant?"

© 2006

Part I: Pirates

This way... that way... slow and steady... breathe deeply... be one with the water... stay calm... stay flexible... feel the water... become the water... move your weight through the positions...

"Aargh!" The water fell back into the river moving slowly past. "Shoot! Come on, water! Work with me here!" Water rose out of the stream and began to move to her command. It resembled a slug—she was still on her water streaming and it was far too thick to be a water whip. "Okay, what if I just..."

She tried lengthening the water therefore thinning it but suddenly it got out of control and the stream's tail slapped her before returning to the river. "Ow!" she rubbed her cheek; it would leave a mark. "Stupid scroll." Katara grumbled to herself.

She took a deep breath then exhaled. When she inhaled once more, she continued to bend the water. "Okay, Katara. Just shift your weight through the stances..." Controlling her breathing and movements, she tried to mimic the river—flowing, smooth, calm...

The water streamer collapsed.

Frustrated. That seemed to be one word to describe how Katara was feeling right now. "Ugh..."she knocked on her forehead. She was way too tense but it wasn't her fault; she couldn't stop thinking about how easily Aang had mastered it whilst she just made a fool of herself. She was from the water-tribe! She should pick it up better than an airbender, better than a twelve-year-old kid! Then again, this 'kid' was the Avatar.

She would never be able to compete with that.

Suddenly there was a loud sound nearby and she turned sharply, her eyes scanning the darkness. Putting the water scroll in her pocket and moving cautiously to where the sound had come from, she pushed back two thick bushes.

Gasping, she recognised the pirate ship from the market. They were still after the scroll that she had stolen, and she—being as stupid as she was—had just given away her location with her sounds of disappointment.

Walking backwards, she realised how it was a bad idea to come here and practice on her own in the darkness. Katara should have just stayed in camp and forgotten about that silly piece of parchment.

The girl turned and sprinted, only to run into a heavily muscled man that was nearly twice her size, and without a top, showing off the scar across his right pectoral muscle. She struggled in the grip he had on her shoulders.

"No! No! Let go of me!" Using her free arms, she bended a water streamer out of the river to hit the pirate in the face, forcing him to release his grip and stagger backwards.

Keeping her eyes on the pirate behind her, Katara ran forward—bad idea. She saw something in her peripheral vision and tried to stop but it was too late as the figure grabbed onto her wrists and pulled her towards him—Prince Zuko.

He smirked, an expression that Katara could only identify with a firebender, "I'll save you from the pirates."

She continued to struggle, trying to rip her wrists from his grip but it was no use. He was smart enough to realise that without her arms, she could not waterbend. Spinning her round (so fast that it made her dizzy) and pinning her arms to her back, he began to march her towards the pirate ship. She noticed another smaller boat with it and recognised it as part of the Fire Nation's.

Of course—how else did Zuko get here? Grabbing the waterbending scroll from her pocket with one hand whilst he kept a firm grip on her wrists with the other, Zuko grinned. Katara turned to glare at him but he had already put on his frown and matched her glower with his own.

Turning her again so she was facing him, the fire prince pushed Katara into a tree and let go of her arms. She was thinking how stupid he was to let go when they were this close to water but when she felt some soldier grab onto her wrists and tie them with rope, she understood. They were tying her to a tree so she could not escape, and so they could interrogate her about Aang's whereaboats.

Being in front of an aggressive prince, merciless Fire Nation soldiers and a group of savage pirates, Katara tried her best to not look intimidated or frightened. She pretended to act aloof, as if she didn't know that they could all kill her in an instant. But, dear readers, she most certainly did.

"Tell me where he is, and I won't hurt you or your brother." How did Zuko know about Sokka's relation to her? He must have really good memory, or have noticed that they looked similar (Katara thought that she looked no more like Sokka than she looked like any other person in her village). Perhaps he had overheard a conversation and they had mentioned that. Being as obsessed and as sneaky as he was, Katara did not doubt it.

She resisted the urge to spit at him—she was far more civilised than that and instead yelled at him to "Go jump in the river!" He tilted his head to the side and stared at the ground, assessing the situation and coming up with a new plan; a new tactic of questioning. Katara hid her gulp as she wondered if he would use torture as a method but sticking her nose in the air defiantly, she would rather die than tell him anything about Aang.

Zuko saw him as only the Avatar, but he was much, much more than that. He was a twelve-year-old boy, the last of the Airbenders, a compassionate and caring spirit and Katara's good friend. Not that the spoiled prince would know anything about friendship!

His voice turned sickeningly sweet and friendly, not at all fitting the prince's image, "Try to understand..." She turned her head to the left, refusing even to look at the cruel royal firebender. "I need to capture him to restore something I've lost..." He began to circle the tree that she was tied to. His change of tone made her feel unnerved, especially when he was out of her sight and behind her. "My honour..."

She looked to the right as he came to her left, still refusing to meet his gaze. He was very close to her now (so close that she was extremely uncomfortable); when he breathed, it fanned the back of her neck. It made her shiver and goosebumps would have appeared across her skin, if his breath was not so warm.

"Perhaps in exchange I can restore something you've lost." Katara did not have to be looking at Prince Zuko to know that he was smirking. He was trying to make a deal but she would never trade Aang's life, especially to the son of the Fire Lord. She would not give him the satisfaction of giving in—she was much stronger than that. Noticing that he had something in his hand, she stared at it as he brought it up to her neck before realising that it was strangely familiar.

Katara gasped. "My mother's necklace!" She had lost it whilst freeing the earthbenders and when she noticed it was gone, she had thought that she would never see it again. She couldn't deny that she missed it; it was all she had left of her mother. Zuko smirked as he pulled away, dangling it in front of him to taunt her. Even as he walked away with his back to her, he made sure that she could still see him looking at it—admiring it. "How did you get that?"

He turned to face her, "I didn't steal it if that's what you're wondering." Changing back to the usual commanding self, Zuko demanded: "Tell me where he is."

"No!" she shouted. Even if her mother's necklace was Katara's prized possession, Aang was much more important. He was the hope of the world, and even if he wasn't, she would never have swapped a piece of jewellery—sentimentality or no sentimentality—for a life. And dealing with the Fire Nation? Never!

The pirate captain interrupted them, fed up with all this "necklace garbage" and asking for the waterbending scroll. Prince Zuko threatened to burn it into ash if the pirates did not find and bring to him the Avatar and the pirates did as he instructed, albeit grumbling on the way. Zuko—still holding her mother's necklace—placed the heirloom into his pocket but made sure that the blue ribbon dangled out so Katara could see.

She clenched her fists and growled, and he responded with a smirk.


Thanking Momo the lemur after he released her from the tree, Katara rubbed her sore wrists. The rope had been unforgiving, very similar to the prince that had captured her and had chaffed the skin, making it raw and red. Luckily, she wasn't bleeding.

Glancing around, Katara looked over the situation in front of her. Sokka and Aang had been captured by the pirates but when Zuko wanted to trade the scroll for the boy, Sokka mentioned how the 'boy' was the Avatar and was far more valuable than a piece of parchment. Prince Zuko tried to make it seem as if the 'water tribe peasant' was lying but it did not work and the pirates decided to keep the Avatar.

Zuko—obviously angry—had launched an attack and the pirates had responded by throwing smokescreens and now the grey cloud was steadily expanding and consuming the beach shore.

All but Momo and Katara were inside, and Aang and Sokka were in the centre. She pondered over her two options. She could go into the smoke and try to find Aang and Sokka and prepare an escape route. Since the smoke was still thick (not to mention full of Fire Nation troops and pirates), she decided to go with the second choice and began to run around the perimeter of the smoke clouds, where she knew the pirate boat was.

However, she was knocked to the floor when someone stumbled out of the dark grey gas. Prince Zuko turned to her, his fists covered in flames and a snarl on his lips but when he caught sight of her, the fire dissipated. He reached for her but she scurried into the thick cloud, knowing it was the most effective way to escape the Fire Prince. She stayed close to the floor—smoke rises—and tried not to be spotted by others in the smoke.

Katara heard her brother and Aang calling to each other and stood up, shouting to them. "Guys! Guys!" One of the pirates nearby must have dropped another smoke-bomb, and it made her start a coughing fit. When she recovered, she continued to call to her accomplices, "Where are you? Aang? Sokka?"

The girl nearly jumped out of her skin when something dropped in front of her but grinned broadly when she noticed what it was—the waterbending scroll! The waterbender placed it back into her pocket, where it belonged. Although, she would have much preferred her mother's necklace...

She couldn't hear Sokka or Aang anymore—had they gotten out of the smoke? Perhaps she should just try to get out too, instead of walking about blindly. She'd be able to think with a much leveller head if she could breathe in fresh air. Coughing hoarsely, she realised how urgent the fresh air was to her lungs. Smoke... smoke... had to get out of the smoke...

Suddenly a warm hand gripped onto her wrist tightly. Katara stopped breathing.

"Where do you think you're going, water peasant?"

Her fingers attempted to pry Zuko's strong grip from her wrist but he responded by raising the temperature of his hands, making her all-too aware of how easy it would be for him to burn her to ashes. Nevertheless, she continued to thrash against his grip, refusing to be captured once more. The prince dragged her out of the cloud and tied her wrists with some rope conveniently attached to his belt thus her waterbending was once again useless. Where was Momo? And Aang? And Sokka? And Appa?

Continuing her struggles, Katara screeched at him. "You have no right! You have no right!"

He flung her to the floor whilst pointing to himself with his thumb. His pose was aggressive, proud and arrogant and matched the royal's character very well. "I have every right as the Fire Pr—" Zuko ducked, just missing the captain of the pirate's sword. If he had been any less aware or not as quick with his reflexes, the teenager would have been without his head.

The captain and the prince continued to fight; the pirate using his sword whilst the prince used his firebending skills as well as hand-to-hand combat. Seeing this as her chance to escape, she began to crawl away only to just miss fire thrown at her head. Although Zuko was fighting, he was still keeping a careful eye on Katara to make sure that she did not escape. The water tribe girl watched in amazement as the old man she had seen accompanying Zuko managed to stop them from fighting.

"Are you so busy fighting you cannot see your own ship has set sail?" he asked the pirate captain.

Zuko turned to the elderly man. "We have no time for your proverbs, uncle!" he raised his voice and clenched his fists but Katara noted that he made no move to attack him. But this old guy was Zuko's uncle! They were nothing alike, and she guessed that he was from Zuko's mother's side. No Fire Nation royal could be so cheerful and carefree as she had seen just a few moments ago when she had been tied up against the tree.

In fact, he seemed to be lamenting over a 'lost lotus tile', which was a ridiculous thing! No firebender would withstand such nonsense. They knew nothing of 'fun', only war and destruction. It was, after all, their element. "It's no proverb," Zuko's uncle stated as he pointed towards the river flowing past. She looked in that direction and noticed the pirate's boat moving away. But that was impossible! The smoke had now cleared, and all the pirates were on the beach, as were the Fire Nation soldiers. Unless...

"Aang!" she called. "Sokka!" The pirate cursed and ran after his ship whilst Zuko pointed and laughed. When she heard the sound emerge, Katara looked to him with wide eyes. She had never imagined that the spoiled prince could emit such a sound—it was a teenager's laugh, like Sokka's. It didn't at all suit the firebender.

However, his laughter quickly ceased as the pirates sailed past in the small Fire Nation ship. The captain hopped on and they all waved at the Fire Nation troops and their prince Zuko. One particular man decided to moon them and Katara looked away in embarrassment. "Hey! That's my boat!" Zuko began to run after it. The sight was so comical that she found it hard to repress the snicker, but managed to.

When she heard Zuko's uncle speak to himself—"Hey, maybe it should be a proverb..."—it was too much and she began to chuckle. Her merriment also came to a quick end because soon the Fire Prince was holding her up by the front of her clothes.

"What do you find so funny, peasant?" She put on a stoic face, revealing nothing. Grabbing onto the rope that was attached to her wrists (the rope had been too long to wrap around her wrists so she was left with a trail) he pulled her along. "Come on, uncle!" The elderly firebender followed after them and they soon reached the end of the river—a waterfall.

Looking at the remains of the pirate ship below, Katara hoped that Sokka and Aang were okay. She scanned the skies and grinned when she saw Appa's form flying away in the distance. She considered calling to them but they were too far to hear, and that would only aggravate Zuko, not that she minded. She was just aware of his firebending skills. Katara wondered if she should dry jumping off the waterfall but it was foolish, and a death wish with her arms tied behind her back.

"My boat!" he yelled. His uncle leant over to catch his breath then started laughing.

"Prince Zuko, you're really going to get a kick out of this... That lotus tile was in my sleeve the whole time!" Cringing and stepping back, Katara watched as Zuko's breathing became laboured and feared his wrath. He snatched the lotus tile from the greying man's hand then threw it as hard as he could over the waterfall.

Tugging at the rope connected to her wrists once more, Zuko marched on. "Well, it seems we're going for a little walk, water peasant. Hurry up, uncle. We must retrieve a boat and—"


"What?" he turned to her with an angry expression but her face remained emotionless.

"My name is not 'Peasant'. It's Katara."

He scoffed and continued his trek, muttering "Peasant" loud enough so she could hear.