A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed and to Lyoko. Sorry I can't reply to your reviews, and that there wasn't more Kataang in the last few chapters. Plenty here for you. And to my question, Sun Kai comes from the second book of the Temeraire series, The Throne of Jade. A series I definitely recommend to everyone who likes dragons. Again, please R&R.
Shawn took them out the side door, and Katara waved goodbye to Liz and The Duke who was playing with Momo as they exited the house onto an unused alley.
"This way," Shawn said as he nimbly climbed some boxes and onto the rooftop.
Aang stared in shock at how easily the older man had climbed, but then smiled and followed him. The others followed as well, Zuko helping Katara and then Toph up. The girls smiled at him as they hurried to follow Shawn. Sokka was surprised that no one was out in the streets and commented upon it to Shawn.
"It's the heat of the day," he replied as he led them on. "Everyone retires indoors to have lunch."
"But it's not that hot," Sokka said as they turned, jumping the foot between houses.
"You've been in the fire nation all summer," Suki said. "It's hotter there than here."
"Oh," Sokka said as he noticed Shawn and Suki sweating.
"Yes," Shawn said from the front. "The fire nation is much hotter than here. Ah, how I miss it, but let's keep moving."
Katara noticed they all were starting to sweat, but not as much as Shawn was. Jade stayed on Shawn's tail as the passageways over the rooftops narrowed, with Suki right behind her, followed by Sokka, Aang, Katara, Zuko and then Toph. They traveled for a while on the rooftops until they reached another desolate part of town.
"I know this area," Toph said as they finally descended from the roof into a shabby courtyard ringed by ten ramshackle buildings, similar to the area they had fought Jade in the night before.
"Yes," Shawn replied. "It was once the merchants' courtyard outside Earth Rumble, where you took the title. The area has fallen into disuse and now has a bad reputation since the owner, Xin Fu, disapeared after you left with the Avatar."
Shawn looked around before pointing several empty buildings out next to them. "Suki, Katara, and Zuko, you look inside that building with Jade, and then check the ones going clockwise. The rest of us will start with this one and go the opposite way and we'll meet in the center. If there's any trouble, yell."
Aang and Sokka nodded and followed Shawn to the building Shawn had pointed to as Katara followed Suki to the other building. Jade and Zuko trailed Suki as well, Suki and Zuko keeping a sharp eye on the assassin. They quietly entered the building and found it seemingly deserted. They searched the rooms one by one, but found all deserted of people.
They quietly moved onto the next building and found it empty save for a couple of gooserats that honked when they were startled. The four found the next two buildings deserted as well and were about to move to the last when Jade darted into a side room on the second floor. Suki and Zuko rushed to head her off, unsheathing their swords. Katara followed, pulling her daggers out and stopped and stared as she saw Jade kneel to pick something up.
The assassin cradled the item to her chest before turning to Katara, her eyes shining with tears barely held back. She held it out as Katara stepped forward to take it, the others looking bewildered as Katara took a small stuffed platypus bear from Jades' hand. It was dirty and torn, but recognizable.
"It was hers. I gave it to her before I left, for her birthday," Jade whispered.
Katara nodded and handed it back to the assassin, turning to look at the ground as Jade gave the stuffed animal to Suki. She saw Zuko doing the same, though they occasionally glanced at Jade to make sure she would not try anything. Katara wasn't the best tracker, but saw several footprints in the dust, one set very small and another large with a distinctive left foot print.
"Do you see this?" Zuko asked, pointing to the large left foot print.
Katara nodded and soon Jade was there, inspecting the footprint and the surroundings.
"They were here yesterday," the assassin said finally. "That means they're close." She looked around and stood up abruptly, facing the window in the room, and was followed by Suki and Zuko.
"Get up," Zuko whispered to Katara. "Now! We need to leave."
Katara immediately rose to the commanding tone in Zuko's voice and hurried after him as he followed Jade out of the room quickly. Suki followed Katara and they left the room just as an explosion occurred in the room, sending the girls flying into the hallway. Zuko was suddenly there, helping Katara up. Katara saw Jade helping Suki up as they turned to the remains of the room.
All that was left was a gaping hole and most of the floor. They saw the Combustion man on the rooftop across the street and saw him concentrating.
"Get down!" Zuko shouted as he pulled Katara out of the way and down the hallway further.
Another explosion occurred where they had been standing as Katara landed next to Zuko. He rolled on top of her and shielded her with his body as debris fell on top of them.
"Zuko, are you all right?" Katara asked as he finally rolled off and fell next to her, coughing.
"Yeah, fine," he replied. "Suki!" he cried out as he sat up. "Suki! Are you there?"
"We're here," Suki's voice came from across the hallway through a dust cloud. "We're ok. You?"
"Fine," Katara called back, coughing as Zuko lay down again, breathing heavily. "We're fine. Where is he?"
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," Jades voice came, deadly and full of anger.
"Wait," Suki's voice came to Katara and Zuko, but it sounded hollow and echoed as the dust started to settle.
Katara sat up and saw Suki looking dirty, confused and alone across a gaping hole in the floor. She heard explosions outside and peeked her head around the corner. She saw Aang and Sokka hiding behind a house and Toph and Shawn behind another, bracing themselves against explosions. She didn't see Jade but turned back to Zuko as he let out a groan.
"What?" she asked him. "Where does it hurt?"
"Everywhere," he said, smirking as he grimaced with pain, "but mostly my leg."
Katara moved to look at Zuko's legs and saw a piece of wooden shrapnel about six inches long sticking through his right calf. She looked back at Zuko and saw that he had seen it.
"Pull it out," he told her as his amber eyes met hers.
"But I'm not sure I can heal you," she replied, not wanting to do any further damage.
"I've had worse," he told her between clenched teeth. "Do it."
Katara nodded and moved back to his leg. She tore a piece of cloth from the bottom of her dress as she readied herself. She looked up at Zuko once she had grabbed the large end of the splinter and he nodded, clutching his swords in his hands. She jerked it out and Zuko barely contained a scream as Katara quickly wrapped Zuko's calf with the piece of fabric she had torn off her dress, trying to staunch the flow of blood.
"Suki! Can you get over here?" Katara called to the Kyoshi warrior as she tied the fabric.
"I'm coming," Suki called back, her voice coming from the other direction.
Katara looked up and saw Suki come to their side from a stairway just beyond them. Suki handed her a water flask before poking Zuko just above his wound. He unclenched his teeth as the grimace of pain vanished from his face. Katara looked at the water flask and was hesitant about using it, but knew she had to try, The fabric around Zuko's calf was already soaked through with blood. She undid the lid and bent the water out.
It was tiring to just hold the water, but it felt good to be bending again. Katara moved the water to surround Zuko's wound and concentrated. Soon it was glowing the bright blue of healing and then it was gone. She sighed, tired as Zuko sat up, carefully untying the makeshift bandage. When he removed it, his leg was whole once more.
"Thanks," he said, first looking at Katara, and then Suki. "Thank you, but can you do that thing to my arm too?" he asked, holding out his left arm, still bandaged and in a splint.
Suki eyed it and him before poking his bicep. Zuko sighed and nodded his head in thanks as he stood up, strapping his swords to his back again. Suki stood as well and helped Katara up.
"So what now?" the Kyoshi warrior asked.
"We help," Zuko said as he hurried to the stairs that Suki had come up.
The girls followed him and soon they were at the doorway as several explosions rocked the foundation of the house. Katara glanced out and saw their friends in the same positions, occasionally hurling rocks towards the assassin, and Jade was seen sheltering behind the remains of a roof, throwing daggers and stars at the man as well. She spotted Katara and pointed to the house underneath the man. Katara nodded and withdrew into the house.
"Jade wants us to check the building he's on. She might think her daughter's there," she told Zuko and Suki.
"You can't possibly believe her," Suki said, outraged as Zuko merely nodded to Katara.
"Hou Long would want someone that precious close to him," the prince said. "Especially if he needed to retreat or save his own skin quickly."
"But…" Suki started.
"No, I think Zuko's right," Katara said as she peeked out into the courtyard again. "But we'll need a distraction."
"Get ready then," Zuko said glanced into the courtyard before sprinting to where Toph and Shawn hid, dodging a blast from Hou Long in the process.
"What is he doing?!" Suki asked, getting angrier.
Katara smiled at her and placed a hand on the warrior's arm.
"He's trying to help. Let's get ready, I think our distraction is coming."
Just as she had finished, Zuko and Toph stepped out and fired at Combustion man, Zuko with a huge blast of fire, one the size Katara had only seen in the catacombs beneath Ba Sing Sae, and Toph with several boulders, each larger than the last. The others seemed to catch on as well, sending whatever they could as Katara grabbed Suki's arm and started running across the courtyard.
An explosion occurred above them and half of one of Toph's boulders landed right behind Suki as they just reached the other side. Katara had spotted the door halfway across and had been aiming for it and pulled Suki inside as the other half of the boulder crashed just outside of the door.
"Thanks," Suki said as she looked back and saw the large rock blocking their entrance.
"Don't thank me yet," Katara said as she drew her daggers. "Let's start looking, and we'll have to hurry."
"Yeah, no idea if three eyes saw us," Suki muttered as they hurried to check the rooms.
They found all of the rooms deserted, though the ones on the second floor showed signs of very recent living, and a hurried departure, including a half eaten sandwich with bite marks from a very small mouth.
"These houses are similar to ours. There should be an attic," Suki whispered as they left the room.
Katara nodded and followed the warrior as more explosions sounded outside and the house rattled as if hit by something large and heavy. Suki crept to the far back corner of the house, the only area left unexplored and they found a rickety wooden ladder leading up into a hole in the ceiling. Suki motioned for silence as she started walking up with her sword drawn.
Katara waited and soon saw Suki peek her head out the hole, smiling to Katara and gesturing for her to come up. The waterbender quickly ascended the ladder and saw a small girl of about four with black hair and amber eyes huddled in the corner, trying to stay away from Suki.
"It's all right," Katara whispered as she put her daggers away. "We're friends of your mom. We're here to get you out of here and back to her safely, ok?"
The girl drew back into her corner even further. "Mommy doesn't have friends," the girl whispered, trying to hold back tears.
"Oh, you poor dear," Suki sighed. "We're here with her. She's outside, fighting the man who took you. We need to get you to safety so we can help her. Here."
Suki reached into the folds of her Kimono and pulled out the stuffed platypus bear and held it out to the girl. The child looked hesitant, but crept forward and took the stuffed animal from Suki.
"Your mom said she gave it to you, for your birthday just before she left," Katara said as the girl cuddled the stuffed animal to her chest, in the same fashion her mother had.
"Then you do know her. Can you take me to her? Please?"
"Not yet," Suki told the girl. "First, we need to get out of here. Will you come with us?"
She held her arms out to the girl and the girl stood and walked right into Suki's embrace, starting to cry softly as Suki hugged her. Suki glanced at Katara and Katara knew how she felt as they locked gazes. How could a small girl of only four know so much hatred and distrust already? The two older girls were both heartbroken, but masked it as the descended the ladder and then to the first floor, Suki still carrying the girl.
"I'm Suki," Suki told the girl as they reached the bottom floor and searched for another exit. "And this is my friend Katara. What's your name?"
"Jasmine," the girl replied, starting to yawn as they hurried through the house.
"A beautiful name," Katara replied as she spotted the back door.
They hurried over to it, but found it was blocked by debris. Suki pointed to a window that seemed clear and faced the courtyard. The courtyard looked even worse with craters and the remains of boulders scattered throughout. Katara saw her friends come out and throw a projectile or a blast towards the roof occasionally. Aang saw her after sending several boulders and motioned for her to wait with several stop motions.
Katara waited, but drew out her daggers as Suki drew her sword after adjusting Jasmine so that the girl was cradled in her left arm against her hip. They heard a low rumbling before a hole opened in the middle of the floor, startling all of them.
"What? Who's that?" little Jasmine asked, pointing as Toph came out of the hole looking even dirtier than usual and grinning.
"That's our friend, Toph," Suki replied, sheathing her sword as Katara sheathed her daggers. "She's an earthbender."
"The world's greatest earthbender," Toph corrected before turning to Katara, grinning. "Your escape route awaits."
With that, Toph jumped back into the hole. Katara looked into in and saw Toph six feet below her and jumped down after sheathing her daggers, landing next to the small earthbender. Suki lowered Jasmine to Katara's waiting arms before jumping down herself. They followed Toph through the dark tunnel, following the earthbenders' footsteps as they walked under the courtyard. Several explosions sounded above them as they hurried through the tunnel and Jamsine whimpered as the ground shook, causing dirt to fall onto their heads.
"Shh," Katara whispered, rocking the girl to soothe her. "It's ok, we're almost there."
The girl quieted and soon they were walking up and into sunlight. Katara was surprised it was only early afternoon. Suki motioned Katara to her and Katara saw Jade glancing at them. She held Jasmine out a little, showing Jade that her daughter was safe before retreating to safety once again behind the house.
"Here, give her to me," Shawn said, holding out his arms.
Katara handed the girl to the master and he held her, rocking her and telling her it was going to be all right. Zuko came to them and placed a hand on Katara's shoulder. She looked up at him, questioning him with her gaze.
"We need to finish this now," the prince said in an expressionless tone. "Can you bend anymore?"
Katara stood and looked him in the eyes. She glanced at Shawn and saw he was worried, but he gave her an approving nod. Katara turned back to Zuko.
"Yes, but not much, and I can't do what I did last night, not without a full moon."
Zuko nodded, looking dejected, but stood straight and tall. He then turned to Toph.
"Yep," she replied before turning to where Aang and Sokka were holed up. "Snoozles, let's go!"
With that, Toph stepped out and kicked several boulders out of the ground, sending them at Hou Long as Sokka let his boomerang fly. Aang and Zuko also stepped out, Zuko firing with blasts of fire and Aang with air, earth, and a little fire mixed in, all of it directed at the combustion man. Katara also saw Jade step out and throw daggers, stars and a ball of poison at the man as Katara drew the water out of the air and the few plants around and hurled it at the man.
The assassin started blasting the boulders, and dodged the fire from Zuko and Aang. He took a few daggers and stars in his arm, but most he blocked with his metal hand. The air from Aang sent him back a step, but he quickly recovered to send a blast at the water that was heading towards him. Katara twisted the water to evade the blast and sent it into his stomach, hitting him hard as Sokka's boomerang hit the man's third eye.
He stumbled backwards as the boomerang fell to the street below, but kept his feet, starting to fire as more boulders and blasts of fire were sent his way. Katara could tell something was wrong immediately as no blasts came their way and several small bursts of light occurred around Hou Long.
"Everyone get down!" Aang cried out and they all ducked back into their hiding places as a huge explosion started to take form.
Katara and Aang were out the farthest, having sent the last of the missiles at the man, and had no time to duck. Katara glanced at Aang and saw him running towards her as a large ball of fire started to engulf the courtyard. Aang hit her, knocking her down as she tried to bring the water back to protect them, though she felt it being turned into vapor by the explosion.
Aang was on top of her as the explosion rocked the courtyard. Katara heard a clang of some hollow, metal thing hitting stone as Aang got up in the grey air and smiled down at her. She smiled back as she noticed a shield of air over them covered by a shield of water.
"You ok?" he asked, holding his hand out to her as he stood up, dissipating both shields.
"Yeah, you?" she replied as she took his hand and he hauled her to her feet.
"This should tell you," he said as he stepped in and kissed her full on the lips, passionately and naturally.
Katara relaxed into the kiss as she felt Aang wrap his arms around her waist and she wrapped hers around his neck. She felt him tense as she leaned into him and moved back, breaking the kiss as she looked at him as he tried to hide an expression of pain from covering his features.
"Where?" she asked, her motherly tone in full force as she smiled at him, looking him up and down.
"My side, it's just a scratch," he replied shrugging it off.
"Way to go, Twinkle Toes!" Toph called, and followed it with a wolf whistle.
Katara and Aang started blushing and they became aware of townspeople looking into the courtyard hesitantly. The people look surprised to find them there and soon were asking questions about what had happened. Shawn stepped forward, still holding his granddaughter in his arms as he explained to the people that the Avatar had stopped an attack of a notorious assassin from the Fire Nation and that they had nothing more to fear.
Katara glanced around as Aang started guiding her to where Sokka and Suki were as Toph and Zuko made their way there as well. The boys all looked dirtier than the girls, surprising for Zuko since Toph was nearly covered in dirt, but Jade was nowhere to be seen.
"Where…?" Katara started to ask, but Suki shook her head.
"I don't know, but I think we'll see her later. Let's go back and get some rest."
Katara nodded, feeling exhausted and everyone looked as she felt. Toph directed them to go a different way as Suki stepped up to Shawn and let him know quietly that they were leaving. As they left the courtyard, Aang pulled his bison whistle out of a pocket and blew into it. They had not gone more than a hundred yards when Appa landed in front of them. They all climbed aboard, grateful for the rest as Sokka took the reins and directed the bison back to Master Shawn's house.
The short ride passed in silence, everyone too tired to comment though it was only mid-afternoon. Appa soon descended and they all slid off, The Duke hurrying out to help, but they all walked past him and to separate parts of the house as couples. Aang led Katara to the main room where they sat on some cushions and just curled up together, grateful to be together and alive.
Katara woke to the door opening and saw Shawn entering with little Jasmine asleep in his arms. He smiled at her as he passed her and Katara was surprised to see it was nearly dark. She sat up, carefully moving out of Aang's embrace so as not to wake him and saw him shift and roll over, exposing a small dark spot on his clothing. Katara inspected it closer and found it was dried blood, from a scratch much larger than Aang had told her. The scratch had stopped bleeding, though it was almost three inches long.
Katara stood carefully and hurried to the kitchen, finding Liz in there talking with Shawn and The Duke looking bored. Katara smiled at them and filled a bowl with water.
"Everything ok?" Shawn asked.
"Aang has a large scratch. It looks like it could get infected, so I'm going to heal it."
"Maybe you shouldn't," Shawn said.
"I'll be fine, Master Shawn, but thanks."
Katara hurried back to Aang before Shawn or Liz could protest any more and carefully drew the water into her hand and pressed it to Aang's side. It was more tiring than when she had healed Zuko, but the water turned the blue of healing and soon Aang's side was whole again. She returned the rest of the water to the bowl and looked into Aang's face, startled to be looking into his grey eyes.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," she said, blushing slightly.
Aang smiled and brought his hand to her chin, bringing her close for a kiss.
"You didn't, but you didn't have to heal me. I would have been fine."
"I know, but I didn't want it to get worse," Katara replied, blushing again as she sat and curled up again with Aang, his arm around her.
"I know, thanks," he replied as he scooted closer into her embrace, placing his head on hers.
They were almost asleep again when shouts and what sounded like something crashing sounded from the back of the house. Katara sat up as Aang sprang to his feet. He helped her up before he started running to the back of the house. Katara followed and found Sokka standing protectively over Suki with his sword out in a side room and everyone except Aang in the hallway, peeking in. Aang was inside and speaking softly to someone. Katara tried to step in closer to see who it was, but the little girl pushed through everyone and ran to the figure, crying "Mommy!"
Katara eased back with the others as Aang came out, followed by Jade holding her daughter. Jade gave a grateful smile to Katara as she passed her and went to Shawn. The master wrapped his daughter and granddaughter in a hug before leading them away to his room. Aang stopped next to Katara and smiled at her as he wrapped an arm around her.
"What was that about?" Toph asked sleepily, standing next to Zuko.
Katara looked at her and saw that they were across the hall from each other. The two hadn't cleaned up at all and their clothes and hair looked rumpled, probably what Katara thought she and Aang looked like. Aang smiled at them and stifled a yawn.
"Jade came through the side door and Sokka woke to her sneaking by. He jumped up to defend himself and Suki and knocked over a table. Jade tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't hear any of it. She promised not to attack us anymore. We should get some sleep like she is," Aang told them as Sokka and Suki came out.
"I still don't trust her," Sokka stated.
"You still don't trust me," Zuko stated. "Any reason she's different?"
Sokka sent a glare to the firebender before he broke out laughing. "You've got a point, but Aang's right. Let's get to bed."
"In separated rooms," Liz stated from further down the hall.
Everyone turned and Katara saw Liz looking sternly at them, being supported by The Duke. Katara waited until Sokka and Suki separated and Toph hugged Zuko goodnight before turning to Aang. Liz was standing in the hallway as the others passed. She saw that they wanted a moment alone, so she turned and had The Duke help her to her doorway.
"Good night," Katara whispered to Aang as she leaned into him.
"Good night," he whispered back as he turned to face her.
Katara leaned in further to him and started kissing him. They locked in a passionate embrace for a few minutes before Liz started coughing. She got louder as they ignored her ad finally Katara broke the kiss, hugging Aang.
"I'll see you in the morning," she said, starting to back away.
"Katara," Aang said, holding onto her hands as she moved away.
She looked into his grey eyes as he held on and saw his love for her reflected in their depths.
"I love you," Aang whispered.
Katara stepped into him again and kept her gaze locked on his.
"I know, I love you too," she whispered before kissing him softly. "Good night."
"Sleep well," he replied, kissing her quickly once more before he turned and started heading to the boys' room.
Katara watched him go before going to Liz. She helped Liz into the room and to her bed and saw Suki and Toph already asleep, still dirty and in their clothes. She headed to her bed and fell onto it. Everything was good. She and Aang were together. One assassin was gone and another they had made peace with, and everyone was working things out. Yeah, she thought as she fell asleep, life was good at the moment.
A/N: I am finished with Katara's pov, and I've decided to go back to my strengths and my favorite characters. Next installment of this story will be labeled Earthquake and it's at . Hope you enjoy it.