First things first:

Though it starts out looking like one, this is not your typical Zutarian fanfiction. Katara is not kidnapped by Zuko, and then as a prisoner, falls in love with him. In fact, this fanfic is remarkably in sync with the Canon storyline of Avatar, making it even more believable to those of us who believe it should have happened.

This story COULD have happened where it is written, something I've found few Zutarian stories can boast.

But most of all, I hope this story furthers our unity as a fandom, and lets us all enjoy a love that should exist, even if it take a long time to do so. Also, because it has to be said, I do not own Avatar: the Last Airbender, or any of the names or characters of the show. I merely control them for my own twisted pleasure from this point in my story on.

And now, without further adieu, I present When the Mask Comes Off.


The Good Morning Surprise

Katara could still smell the storm in the air when she woke up the morning after. Her sleeping bag was damp from the morning dew and she shivered. Sitting up and yawning, she made sure her arms weren't exposed to the frigid morning air.

One slow glance around camp told her she that was the first one up. Knowing that some movements could wake Toph, she didn't shift any more than to reach for the parka beneath her head and wrap it around her upper body.

Today getting out of her warm cocoon seemed too horrible a thought to even consider but she also realized that if she didn't start the fire she'd be cold until someone else did. She looked up at the sky and figured that it was mid-morning already and that breakfast should be first on her list of daily chores.

Yawning again, she looked through tearing eyes for her clothes. They were bundled beside her and she grabbed them. She changed within the small confines of the warm cocoon before slipping out into the freezing air around her.

The storm had rolled in almost immediately after the sun had set and shortly after, rain had pelted the group, forcing Aang to land their tired, wet, and freezing ten ton flying friend.

The forest that surrounded their camp was filled to the brink with trees that seemed as tall as the sky. She had no idea what they were called, but their needle like leaves were a pain to sleep on. It had taken them almost and hour to find a suitable place to land Appa and make camp, and by the time they'd landed they were exhausted. Instead of making a fire that would go out in the rain anyway, they turned in.

Katara walked past Appa's giant, snoring form and over to the large saddle beside him. She rummaged through bags until she found the moose-deer jerky that Sokka had managed to make over the last couple of days. By mixing it with juice from the other supply of meat and a little fresh water, she'd be able to make a nice soup for breakfast in very little time. She'd managed to find some nuts and a hardy supple of berries for Aang as well.

She could feel the pull of a nearby water source and, picking up her cooking pot, made her way in that direction. It was perfect because during the early morning she and Aang could practice waterbending, and then while Toph's lessons of earthbending took over in the mid-afternoon, she and Sokka could bathe.

Blessed with a fairly accurate sense of direction, she made it to the river and back to camp with little trouble. Though the water was heavy in her arms, she knew that she had gotten a lot stronger over the past few months.

The Fire Nation was searching for them night and day, but they had finally arrived at a point where there were more allies in the towns they came across than enemies.

After setting the heavy pot on the ground near where she planned on making a fire, Katara used various random rocks to outline a fire pit, worried that even wet, the slightest stray amber could set the whole forest ablaze. She managed to get the fire going with just the flint; the heavy lifting making her hands much more usable now that her blood was pumping through them.

But as she placed the pot in the middle of the roaring fire, she couldn't help but feel that something was off. For one thing, Toph was almost always up as early as she was, but the blind girl had yet to come out of her own small rock tent. And as Katara shredded jerky into the pot, she realized that something else was bothering her: Momo was no where to be seen.

She took a deep breathe and gulped, hoping that her pounding heart and sweaty hands were all an overreaction. Suddenly, Katara realized that all of her friends sleeping around her had their faces hidden. It made her feel alone, and that made her feel even more scared.

Standing, she made her way over to the best bet; her brother would wake up and keep her company if she asked, and he was good at keeping her occupied when the others were busy, or in this case, asleep.

But as Katara approached Sokka's sleeping bag, the bad feeling got worse and worse. When she reached him and looked down at his inactive form, she realized that he wasn't sleeping at all: the large goose egg forming at his hair line was the cause of his unconsciousness.

Too late did she realize the trap that had been sprung around her, and too late was it to fight off the Fire Nation soldiers that had already made sure her other friends weren't going to wake up any time soon.

As she fought them off with the boiling water from her cook pot, she realized that she alone against however many of them was pointless, and then she was surrounded. When the business end of her brother's club met with the back of her head, she didn't think anything at all.

This is where my author's notes go... Enjoy.

Hello there everyone. :) I'm Jamie and I love to write, and, as if you couldn't tell, my obsession right now happens to be Avatar: the Last Airbender. It finally got to the point where no one had written a fic that had everything in it that I wanted, so I decided to write my own. Hope you liked your first peak at it.

Just in case anyone is lost, this fanfiction is a ZUTARAIAN fic, and it will eventually happen. But sense I'm one of those horrible people who write so much and actually say very little, it will still be a few chapters until Zuko even shows up. Sorry about that.

I hope that my writing is enough to keep you tuned in for another couple of days while I write the next couple of chapters.

Thanks for reading.