Sorry it took me so long to update. Life's been crazy lately. But anyway. Tonight's episode of ALTA was AWESOME! Loved it! Poor Zuko…Anyway. Think I'll find some way to incorporate Toph and what happened to Iroh in future chapters. We'll see!

"I'm right here, Azula!" Aang called from the doorway, Katara crouched down in fighting position right beside him. Her canteen was open and she was ready to fight! But then she saw Zuko, how battered he looked, and in chains! Dear spirits! she thought, wishing she could rush to him and heal every scratch and bruise on his beloved body. The waterbender looked at Aang, passing a brief, silent communication to him. He nodded, understanding. Holding in her relief, Katara inched her way toward her fiancé while the Avatar moved in on a now-recovered Azula, who had been shocked to see her quarry in the doorway just waiting to be captured.

The Fire Nation Princess sent a blast of blue fire at Aang, who narrowly blocked it with a gust of wind before countering with a fire blast of his own, albeit not blue. This pattern continued for many moments, with Azula shooting at Aang with blue fire or lightning and Aang countering with either fire of his own or air.

Katara, seeing that the fighters' attention was solely on each other, made her way toward Zuko. His manacles were glowing red and he was wincing. At first, she thought the horrible witch Azula had heated the manacles herself to torture him, but then the waterbender realized that it was Zuko himself heating the manacles so he could escape. She had to repress a surge of pride at her love's resourcefulness. Pride later, rescue now. Finally, after what seemed like ages, Katara reached the place where Zuko was chained up and knelt down in front of him. "Are you alright?" she whispered as she brought a stream of water to cover the right manacle before freezing it and smashing it. The piece of metal shattered.

"Yeah, I'm okay," he replied, flexing his hand into a fist, then stretching it back out to regain feeling in his fingers that had been in the air far too long. "What about you?" he asked while she froze the other manacle and smashed it. He flexed his left hand, stretched it out, and rubbed his abused wrists. "Are you okay?"

She nodded, blinking back tears, and reached down to help him to his feet. "I'm alright. Can you bend, or should we just get out of here?" He looked at her. The look said, quite clearly, that he was able to bend and that she should have known better than to ask that question. Katara shrugged and both approached the still-fighting Aang and Azula. Zuko sent a fire blast at his malevolent sister, followed by the strike of a water whip courtesy of the only waterbender in the group.

"Thanks, guys!" Aang called, sending a fireball at Azula, all the while backing up. Though usually, the goal would be to corner the enemy and destroy, but this time the trio merely wanted to get out of the cell and back out into fresh air. That, and they had a plan, simple though effective. If all went well, that is. Finally, they had reached the door, though Azula was closer than they would have liked. Still…Once again, a silent exchange passed between Aang and Katara. On a silent count of three, the Avatar sent a great blast of air at the malevolent princess, slamming her up against the wall, then Aang, Katara, and Zuko hurried out the door, shut it, and locked it.

"There," the waterbender said, smiling as she hurried along the hallway. "That wasn't so bad. Now for the hard part—getting off the ship."

Up on the deck, Appa was floating silently beside the ship, waiting for them. Sokka had dispatched the guards and was sitting impatiently on the flying bison's saddle when the three he had been waiting for finally came out from below deck. "Finally!" he scolded as he handed each one into Appa's saddle. The Water Tribe warrior looked at the former Fire Nation prince with barely veiled contempt. "I take it since you are here that the mission was successful."

Katara sighed, knowing full well that her brother hated her soon-to-be husband, but could see no way around it. He would have to deal with it. Hopefully, having a niece or nephew to dote on would soften Sokka up a little toward his future brother-in-law. "Yes, it was. Now let's get back to camp and go to the Fire Temple!"

"You're right, Katara. We need to hurry—we've already lost a day and the full moon is only five days away! Hey, that rhymed…Appa, yip-yip!" Off they went, back to camp and then…to the Fire Temple!