Title: Torn

Pairing(s): Zutara

Genre: Romance/Adventure/Angst

I do not own the concept or characters of Avatar: The Last Airbender. They completely belong to Mike Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

My inspiration was a fanfiction by RedNovember called "Love Thy Enemy," so if you've read it before, you may see some similar themes!

Enjoy!


'You need to get out of here, Katara! Leave and don't come back for us!'

'No! I'm not leaving you or Sokka, I won't!'

'This is not the time to be stubborn! Listen to reason, please.'

'I'll listen to reason when some comes out of your mouth!'

'They're here for you. If you don't leave, you'll…they'll…' My father's voice trailed off, suddenly very soft. He didn't want to say the words, fearing that if he did, it would be set in stone. I knew what he was going to say though, that if I didn't leave, I would die. The Fire Nation soldiers came for me, to kill me.

'What will happen to you? Where will they take you?'

'Don't worry about us. We'll be fine as long as we know you're safe."

'Dad, please don't make me do this,' I pleaded, close to tears. He knew he'd won this argument, possibly our last one.

'Find Bato, he'll take you and your grandmother to the Northern Water Tribe. You'll be safe there.'

'Tell Sokka I love him, and that he's the bravest warrior I'll ever know.'

'I will.'

'I love you, dad. So much,' I choked out as I clung to him in a tight embrace, tears slowly making trails down my cheeks.

'I will always love you, no matter what. Remember that.'


I woke in a cramped room on a small cot, fresh tears forming in my eyes. I quickly blinked them away, forcing myself to be strong. I'd had that dream frequently ever since we escaped from the South Pole a month ago. It was actually more of a memory that kept creeping up on me, always at night when my demons could torment me freely, leaving me emotionally and physically drained.

I stood up and pulled my parka over my head, then weaved my way through the maze of cots and sleeping bodies to the door. Quietly, I slipped out the door, walked down the narrow hallway and made my way up the stairs that led to the deck of the boat.

My hair whipped around wildly in the ocean winds, effectively blocking my vision. Closing my eyes, I welcomed the salty mist, letting it caress my face as a lover would, gently and sweetly.

I could see a few figures standing at the front of the boat, talking in a close group, quietly, so they didn't disturb any of the boat's sleeping passengers. One of them saw me, motioned for me to come over and then said a few more words to the group. They all nodded and dispersed, going back to their posts on deck. As I walked closer, I recognized Bato, my father's right-hand-man and close friend.

"Katara, is everything alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I just couldn't sleep I guess." I stared up at the moon, feeling slightly better in its presence.

"The sun won't rise for another few hours. You should get some more rest."

I just shook my head.

"We should be arriving at the Northern Water Tribe tomorrow in the evening," Bato said quietly. He didn't say anything else, or attempt to make conversation, sensing that I didn't really want to talk. So we stood together in silence for a while, watching the boat sail over the blue ocean waves toward the horizon.

After a few minutes of comfortable silence, I spoke up.

"Bato?"

"Yes, Katara?"

"What do you think happened to the warriors who stayed behind to fight?"

He didn't answer my question right away, knowing that I was really asking about my father and brother. Ever since we left the Southern Water Tribe, I'd wondered what fate my father and brother would have to face. Would they have been killed? Tortured?

Part of me didn't want to know the truth; that they could be in pain right now, while I was sailing my way to safety. But then there was the other part of me; the part that would dig and claw at anyone or anything to find out what had happened to them, to find a way to fix what I had caused.

Heart-crushing dread replaced my curiosity as I read Bato's downcast expression. "They were probably taken to a Fire Nation prison, if they lived." He glanced out of the corner of his eye toward me, but I looked straight ahead, my face an emotionless mask, determined not to show the chaos that was running wild inside of my head. They could be alive right now! I could still save them, bring them home, keep them safe. But at the very back of my mind I hoped that they weren't kept alive, because if they were, they would have to face gruesome torture at the hands of Fire Nation soldiers.

In my opinion, death was the much easier choice.

"Oh," was all I whispered.

"Don't worry about them, Katara. They made their choice. You should be proud of them. Not many people have the courage that your father and brother possess."

I know that, I wanted to say. I know that they're brave and strong. I know that they would sacrifice anything for our people, for me.

But I couldn't help but feel like a coward.

If I had just given myself up to the raiders, they wouldn't have had to be brave, they wouldn't have had to fight. They could have been safe; the whole tribe could have been safe.

But I ran. I ran like a coward would.

And I hated myself for it.


We arrived at the Northern Water Tribe the next day, just as Bato had predicted. He'd sent a messenger hawk two days earlier to notify the tribe of our arrival so we wouldn't be perceived as a threat.

Even under the circumstances we came here for, I couldn't help but marvel at the beautiful snow structures, the perfect shining city hidden in the side of the ice. Small rafts controlled by water benders came to retrieve us in groups from the boat, and then took us to through the walls that guarded the colossal city. We floated down a small river that ran throughout the city, under perfect white bridges made of snow and passed small children having snowball fights. As our raft drifted by, they paused and waved, and I waved back, smiling a genuine smile for the first time in weeks. How innocent they looked, how naïve they must be. Hidden from the outside world, to the death and danger that their walls so safely protected them from.

I wish I could be that trusting again.

Our small raft finally came to a halt, right in front of a very large plaza that seemed to be the hub of the tribe. I helped some of the other passengers off the raft, while receiving some curious glances from bystanders in the square. There were around thirty of us, me being one of the three teenage girls, the rest were mostly older women, or mothers with their children. All of the men (besides the warriors who brought us on the boat) had stayed behind to fight.

I stood by my Gran-Gran and waited for instructions from the warriors. Bato was talking with the water benders who controlled the rafts, and after a minute or two of conversation, he turned to the group.

"Chief has arranged a feast in celebration of our arrival. You may attend if you wish, but your attendance is not mandatory. I know some of you are weak from the long journey here. The other warriors and I will be meeting with the Chief to discuss some important matters. Kiano will take you all into the villages where you can settle in for now." As he spoke, he motioned to Kiano, the young water bender who was standing to his right. Kiano seemed around my age, seventeen, maybe a year or two older.

"Please, everyone, follow me," Kiano said to us. I took hold of my grandmother's arm and started to walk with the group.

"Katara!" Bato called. I turned and he motioned for me to come closer.

"I'll meet you back in the village, Gran-Gran."

"Of course," she smiled and gave my hand a small squeeze.

I quickly jogged over to Bato and some of the other warriors.

"We would like you to attend the meeting with us. As the last water bender from the Southern Water Tribe and Hakoda's daughter, we think you should know what will happen next."

"Yes, thank you," I said, surprised. I didn't expect to be invited to a counsel meeting, and felt honored that Bato and the other warriors wanted to include me.

We were led down a few streets to a large, ice-sculpted hall at the highest point in the tribe. As we walked in, I could see that the back wall was marked with the Water Tribe insignia. A large waterfall poured crystal clear water over the white snow wall, and columns made of sculpted ice held up the ceiling. Three figures sat in front of the waterfall on a long raised stage. On the left was a breathtakingly beautiful teenage girl with hair as white as snow. She smiled at me slightly as we walked closer. On the right was an older, serious-looking man with long grey hair. He seemed indifferent to our entrance. In the middle was another man, neither as old nor as serious as the older man to his left, but still had an air of authority around him. He stood up and smiled as we approached.

"Welcome, brothers and sister. I am Chief Arnook. This is my daughter, Princess Yue," he motioned to the white-haired girl sitting to his right and she bowed her head. "And this is Master Pakku," he motioned to the man on his left. "Welcome to the Northern Water Tribe."

"Thank you," Bato said while he bowed. He introduced himself, the other warriors and then myself last. "…and this is Katara, the last water bender of the Southern Water Tribe. Her father and brother are warriors in our fleet." I bowed deeply as Bato introduced me.

"Well, it is wonderful to have you all here. To what do we owe this pleasure?" Chief Arnook asked innocently, completely unaware of the "pleasure" that brought us here.

"It is not a pleasure that brought us to you, but a misfortune. Fire Nation soldiers attacked our tribe a month ago. We did the best we could to defend it, but our forces just weren't strong enough. A few other soldiers and I transported some of our women and children here, hoping to keep them away from the Fire Nation's grasp. We lost many loved ones in the fight." As Bato spoke I stared at my feet, making a pattern in the snow, knowing that I was the reason the soldiers attacked, that I was the reason so many of our people had died. I saw Kiano enter the hall in my peripheral vision.

"That is a misfortune, indeed. Do you know why the Fire Nation attacked your village?"

"Yes, we do," Bato paused. The entire hall was silent except for the steady fall of water. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat. Bato walked over to me as he spoke and placed a hand on my shoulder. "They were demanding us to give them our last water bender, Katara. They wanted to kill her." I flinched. Bato spoke the harsh truth, sparing no ones feelings. "When we refused, they attacked, killing anyone who got in their way."

"Another raid? I thought that the Fire Nation had killed your last water bender in their last raid, years ago?" Chief Arnook inquired.

"They didn't," I spoke up, surprising myself and everyone else. My voice rang throughout the large hall, echoing off the walls. Everyone was watching me, including Master Pakku, who now turned his head in my direction. I looked at Bato, and he nodded, prompting me to continue. "In the last raid on our tribe, I was only a little girl, barely aware of my abilities. The raiders invaded our village, demanding the water bender come forward. My mother knew that they would kill me if they knew I was the bender, so she told the leader of the raiders that it was her, that she was the one they were looking for. She sacrificed herself to protect me." I touched the moonstone that hung from a band of blue satin around my neck, the one piece of my mother I had left.

"I see," the chief's voice drifted. "Your mother was a very brave woman, Katara."

"I know." I spoke quietly, fearing that my voice would put my emotions on display for everyone in the room.

"Chief Arnook," Bato started, gaining the Chief's attention again. "We also have concerns that your tribe may be in danger of an attack. A raid on our tribe was not anticipated, and I fear that the Fire Nation may finally take action against the Northern Water Tribe." Oh, I hadn't thought of this. The Northern Water Tribe had lasted a hundred years of war with the Fire Nation untouched and safe, but the sudden attack on our tribe could mean an invasion of the Northern Water Tribe, soon.

"Yes, I have been expecting something like this for some time. You may be right, but we will talk more about this again later. For now, please, follow Kiano back to the village. He will take you to where you will stay for the duration of time you spend with us."

We all bowed and walked out behind Kiano. He led us back down the way we had come, but made a few different turns so we were walking next to the river. The sun was low in the sky, barely touching the horizon, almost setting. The sides of the buildings gleamed in the sunlight, tiny flakes glimmering like small diamonds.

I wish my father and Sokka could have seen it.

"Here you are," Kiano announced as we turned down a small street. "Most of your tribe's people are in this area." He showed Bato and the other men into their houses.

"My grandmother is here too. Her name is Kanna. Would you happen to know where she's staying?" I asked Kiano after he was finished settling the men in.

"Yes, I do. She told me you would be looking for her. She's not too far from here. I'll walk you there." He smiled and gestured for me to follow.

"Thanks," I smiled back. We walked down the small street together.

"So, you're a water bender too, huh?" he asked.

"To put it loosely," I laughed. "I never really got any proper training. What I know I taught myself, but I'm no master."

"Well, maybe you'll learn a few new things here. You never know."

"Maybe," I agreed.

"How did you find out that you were a bender?"

I smiled, remembering perfectly. "I was five, and my brother wouldn't let me go in his watch tower. Needless to say, I got angry and the entire thing came crumbling to the ground."

Kiano laughed and I found myself joining in. We had similar features, the same olive skin tone, dark brown hair and blue eyes. His were much lighter than mine though, like the clear blue water of the waterfalls in the hall where we spoke to the chief. Mine were like the ocean, deep and dark.

"Well, here you are. Home sweet home. I'll see you at the feast later," he smiled and turned, giving me a wave as he walked away. I walked into the small house and found Gran-Gran by the fire, drying some of our clothes.

"Hi Gran-Gran," I said as I sat down by the fire, trying to bring some warmth back into my hands. "Do you want some help with those?" I gestured to the pile of clothes sitting next to her chair.

"Sure, just hang them on this string above the fireplace," she directed me. I started to string the clothes, but decided it was too much of a hassle. Concentrating, I pulled the water out of the clothing and put it back into the water basin. My grandmother laughed quietly. I told her about what happened during the meeting, and she listened quietly while sorting and folding the clothes. I grew more animated as I talked about the water-bending master, Pakku, finally feeling hopeful for once. Maybe there was a chance I could learn from him, find out my true potential. When I talked about him my grandmother grew sad, and she spoke like she was remembering something painful.

"Katara, the Northern Water Tribe has very strict and sacred traditions. Do not be disappointed if Master Pakku rejects your wishes to become his pupil."

I brushed it off and changed the subject. We continued to talk until the gongs for the feast sounded. We walked together to the hall in a comfortable silence, admiring the beautiful city.

When we arrived, the hall was filled with people, talking, dancing, eating, and doing everything that comes along with the celebration of our tribes joining together.

I didn't think it was an appropriate occasion to celebrate for.

My grandmother and I found a group of our tribe, talking and enjoying the meal, smiling, but not really celebrating. They knew how I felt.

Chief Arnook made a speech, welcoming our tribe to the North Pole, promising that there would be better things to come. Loud cheers echoed throughout the hall, and Master Pakku and a few of his students performed a difficult water-bending routine. I was captivated by the grace and beauty of their movements, the fluidity from one step to another.

I talked to Kiano for a while, too. So long, I didn't even realize I had spent the majority of my night with him. A few other girls my age were shooting glances in our direction, no doubt smitten by his good looks and easy-going personality. He made a few smug remarks about them, joking around, and I couldn't help but laugh. It felt like Kiano and I were old friends, reconnecting after a long time away from each other, not strangers from opposite sides of the world. At the end of the night, he said goodbye and went to go meet up with a few of his friends, but promised that he'd show me around the city soon. I walked back to the group of people from my tribe to find my Gran-Gran, but one of the women told me that she already left with a few others and left a message saying she didn't want to interrupt Kiano and me.

As I was walking out of the hall, I noticed Master Pakku talking with a few other men off to my right by a small fountain and set off toward him in a determined stride. I didn't know what Gran-Gran had meant when she said Master Pakku might not teach me, but I wanted to find out for myself. The other men walked off as I strode up to him.

"Good evening, Master Pakku," I said with a bow.

He barely nodded his head.

"Your routine was amazing! I've never seen water bending so complex before. It was incredible! I know its only my first day here, but I-"

"Let me guess. You thought that you would come to me, ask me to mentor you, did you not?" He interrupted me.

"Yes."

"Well, I'll be pleased to tell you…no." He smirked at me, and I felt my face heat with anger.

"Excuse me?" I nearly yelled. A few others leaving the hall looked in our direction. I hushed my voice. "Why not?" I could hear my grandmother in the back of my mind telling me not to be disappointed.

"It is the strict belief of my tribe that women do not learn water bending. They learn to use their abilities to heal, not to fight. You can go to the healing hut with the other women. I'm sure you'll learn a lot there." The hint of superiority in his voice tempted me to smack him upside the head.

"Well, I don't remember ever saying I was a part of your tribe," I sneered. I knew it was wrong to say. I should've been thankful for the Northern Water Tribe's hospitality, but this man made me want to hit something, preferably him.

"The rules remain the same. It goes against my beliefs, my teachings, and my tribe's traditions."

"So, because I'm a woman you won't teach me?"

"Precisely."

"You've got to be kidding me, right? That's completely unfair! You think I'm weak? You think I can't fight?" My voice had raised several octaves as I spoke, drawing more attention to us. I didn't care. I didn't care if the entire tribe could hear me. This man was insane and biased, and I couldn't stand him.

"This conversation is over," He said briskly, then turned and walked away.

"No it isn't! It's over when I say it's over!" I yelled after him.

"Goodnight, Katara."

"Ugh!" I swung my arms down and water from the fountain sprayed all over, soaking my hair and clothes. I didn't bother to bend it out. What's the point? I wasn't going to learn from a proper master anyway.


"I just don't get it!" I complained to Kiano later that week as he gave me a tour of the Tribe. "What does he have against women?"

"He doesn't have anything against women. He's just following the customs of our tribe."

"Well your customs stink," I muttered. I looked over at Kiano and found him staring at me open-mouthed. "What?"

"Nothing!" He held up his hands as if to defend himself. "It's just, I've never met someone who's as opinionated as you are before. It's refreshing to finally meet someone who isn't afraid to speak their mind."

"You mean to finally meet a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind?" I asked bluntly.

He glanced at me from the corner of his eye.

"It's okay, I understand where you're coming from. It's just that in the Southern Water Tribe, women aren't thought of as weak and needy like they are here. We're given all of the same opportunities as men are, except fighting in the war."

We didn't talk anymore, just walked through the Tribe, and Kiano pointed out a few important places, the bathhouses, the market, the healing huts and a some others before we were interrupted.

"Kiano!" We turned around to see a young man running toward us, waving his hand wildly to get Kiano's attention, probably one of his friends.

"Hey Rhan," Kiano greeted the warrior.

"Oh, Katara, good you're here too. Chief Arnook has called a meeting and wants the two of you to be there."

"Did he say what for?" I asked.

"'To discuss the next steps,' was all he said," Rhan shrugged.

Kiano and I looked at each other. "Alright, let's go," he said.

We hurried over to the meeting hall, anxious to find out what 'the next steps" would be. When we arrived, we took our places quickly, Kiano with Rhan and the other warriors, and myself next to Bato. Chief Arnook, Princess Yue, and Master Pakku all sat on the stage in the same order as the first day we met them. A few others sat behind them, the rest of the counsel, I presumed. After everyone had arrived, Chief Arnook stood up.

"Good evening, everyone. I've called you all here to consider our next actions in this war. Recently, as most of you know, our sister tribe was attacked by Fire Nation soldiers abruptly, driving our brothers and sisters from their home to us in hope of refuge. We have reason to believe that the Fire Nation could be planning an attack against our tribe in the near future. Fire Navy ships were spotted a few weeks ago off our coast," the chief paused and looked at Bato and me, "around the same time that the Southern Water Tribe was attacked."

Oh, this was news to me. He continued.

"I have met with my counsel and we have decided that it is time to take action. We cannot sit by and wait for the day that the Fire Nation attacks us." The audience murmured in approval. "We have devised a plan that could effectively transfer power into our own hands. We need a capable warrior who is willing to perform a dangerous task for us, someone who is willing to infiltrate the Fire Nation forces. It's the only way we can gain an upper hand in this war. The spy would inform us of the Fire Nation's plans, warning us ahead of time of any possible attacks. Is there anyone who is willing to-"

"I'll do it," I interrupted suddenly, unaware that the words had even come out of my own mouth, but conscious that I couldn't take them back now. Mindful that all eyes in the room were trained on my face, I stood up tall, looking the Chief in the eye and said it again with more force and confidence in my voice.

"I'll do it."


Well, I hope you liked it!

This is my first story so I hope I did alright! Leave me reviews, let me know what you think I'm doing wrong, or right, or just leave your thoughts! I'm up for some critique :)