Summary: the Gang ends up going to a masquerade in Ba Sing Se, and guess what, so does Zuko and Iroh! Coincidental? Actually, it is this time, because Zuko doesn't even know they're there! Technically, he goes with Jin! But, then, he sees someone far better! ZUTARA! Need I say more?
"This is so cool," Katara gleamed with excitement as she and the rest of the gang approached the masquerade ball. She wore a beautiful blue mask, almost like a peacock style with a gold trim. It only covered her from the nose up, like everybody's masks. Toph couldn't really pick one out, so Katara chose a lovely green mask with beading on it for her. Aang was unusually interested in picking out a mask for himself, and he went for a white mask that seemed to shimmer in the light. Sokka on the other hand, was the typical male, choosing a very plain and boring gray mask. The four of them entered the great hall and saw many of the refugees donning masks, dancing the night away. Sokka went straight for the food. Toph seemed rather grumpy, and kept itching her face where one stray bead was about to fall off the mask, but kept tickling her cheek. Aang blushed before looking to Katara to dance. He was just about to ask her when she interrupted him (although he hadn't started talking).
"Why don't you ask Toph to dance? She seems rather upset?" Katara whispered. Aang gave a glance to Toph and saw that indeed, her face was depressed. He only nodded before approaching the blind girl.
"Toph? Would you like to dance?" he bowed slightly.
"Oh all right. But don't step on my feet, twinkle-toes." Katara smiled as the two of them waltzed off. She peered over at Sokka, stuffing his face full and trying to score a dance with a girl at the same time. Her smile deepened, and then suddenly a sad thought flashed through her mind that left her standing in the middle of a wonderful party, all alone.
"Lee, you definitely should have chosen a better mask than that!" Jin tried looping her arm through his for what seemed like the thousandth time. She was slightly disappointed in him tonight. It was the masquerade, and he chose a black mask with dark red trim. His uncle had worn a vibrant red with all kinds of tassels and decorations. He sort of looked like a dragon when all was said and done. However, Lee's mask was basically black and very plain. She herself, wore a gold mask that had makeup around the cutout for the eyes. He straighten his arm, letting hers fall to her side. She sighed rather loudly.
Zuko was pissed off, to say the least. He had gone out on a date with this girl once before. She was nice and everything, but she was just so…bland. She even chose a gold mask for this ball. Gold! This is almost like beige, which is the drab color that people in Ba Sing Se wear all the time. She has a chance to wear a color and what does she choose? Gold/beige. Ugh. Zuko felt himself wanting to not really go on this date with her, but she asked him out again in front of Iroh, who accepted for him. He stole a quick glance at his uncle, who seemed very happy with himself. Well not Zuko!
"Hey, uh, Jin. I'm hungry, so I'm gonna get some food," a thought entered his mind. "Why don't you dance with Uncle until I get back," he put her hand in his uncle's, and led them to the dance floor. Then he basically ran to the buffet bar. He grabbed something, and stuffed it down his throat. It was slightly spicy.
"Those are ok, but these are better," a boy in a gray mask offered. Zuko took one of them off the bar and popped it in his mouth. It was a little sweeter, and Zuko nodded manly in approval. Something about this kid reminded him of something. He just wasn't sure what.
Katara thought this would be more fun, but she ended up wading off to the outside of everybody else dancing. Toph and Aang were on their fifth song. He was talking a lot, and Toph was giggling as he whisked her about the floor. Katara was hoping they'd have a good time. Not to mention it would get Aang off her back. She was aware of his crush, but she didn't want to do anything that would lead the young Avatar on. As she watched them happily she wondered what and where Sokka was. Probably still at the buffet. She let her feet wander closer to the aroma of the savory foods.
Boy, was Zuko glad he came to the foods bar. This kid in the gray mask seemed to have tried everything at least once, and gave him clear and precise instructions on what was good and what was bad.
"No, no…you don't want that unless you like the burning sensation of it coming out the other end," he warned Zuko. Er, Lee. "That's a good choice, very delicious," he commented when Zuko picked up a bright yellow piece of fruit. It was sweet and sour. This kid was a food genius. But something about him did seem unpleasantly familiar. Oh well, anyone who liked food this much couldn't be a threat to anyone. He grabbed a napkin and was about to wipe away some juice that squirted on his chin, when he turned and saw a beautiful girl approaching. She was petite, and toned. She had a lovely dark blue dress on. It had two long slits going down the side. Her hips shifted from side to side in an intoxicating way. Her chest, though not huge, still made an impact on her outfit. The dress was cut low, and the smallest tease of cleavage was visible. Her mask was a soft blue, covering the top portion of her face. Her lips had a slightly pout to them. He felt his blood boil when she got closer to himself and the kid in the gray mask.
"Hi big brother," she stole his piece of desert and popped it inside her mouth. She smiled as she chewed the chocolate delicacy. Zuko watched her as she laughed at her brother's shocked expression. Her smile was so warm, and her laugh was like sweet music to his ears. Without really thinking about it, he handed his drink to apparently her brother, and extended his hand towards her.
"Care to dance?" he asked her staring into the little hint of her blue eyes that stuck out behind the mask. She seemed unsure, and looked to her brother for what seemed like approval. He nodded graciously and drank the boy's beverage. "I was going to finish that," he tore his eyes away from her face for a quick second. She chuckled at his quip, and placed her hand into his open palm. His attention was swiftly brought back to the girl that gave him butterflies. They walked to the center of the floor. He positioned his left hand behind her back and held her quite close. She blushed in response to his actions and rested her delicate fingers around his shoulder.
They moved slowly to the music, not speaking, but just admiring each other. Of course, they were only seeing the lower halves of each other's faces, but those portions were just as gorgeous. He had a very strong jaw, and flawless, somewhat pale skin. She had a very rounded out face, possibly still some baby fat which appealed to her cuteness effect. Her teeth were remarkably white, and her tanned skin seemed to be taunting him, begging him to splash a kiss on her cheek. He sure hoped he might get that chance.
Now this was the type of fun Katara had wanted. She was dancing with a very handsome teenage boy to a lovely song that spoke of love and devotion. Kind of weird, but hey, she'll take whatever she can get. That's when she looked up into his face. She was so busy thinking about herself, that her focus was then truly diverted to the boy in who's arms she was swept up in. His lips were arched in a slight smile, and there was a twinkle coming from the eye cutout in his dark mask. Her smile widened as she looked into his adorably good-looking face. There was something about him suddenly that gave her goose bumps. Her cheeks burned rosy pink when he pulled her closer to his chest. What a feeling that was rushing through her. Whoever this masked man was made her feel…wow…she couldn't even think of a word for it. It was a new experience, whatever it was. Love at first sight? But, she could barely see his eyes with the mask and everything. The song ended too soon, and the instrumentalists and vocalists took a small break. He led her outside the back of the ball, towards a beautiful garden.
"Thank you for the dance, it was lovely." Katara tucked her hair behind her ear awkwardly. He seemed to laugh at her. "What?"
"It was lovely…" he agreed. He was a little odd, Katara observed. There was a long pause between them, and they both cracked into laughter.
"What is this?" she blurted out.
"What's what?" he sat down next to her on the stone bench.
"I don't know. You give me goose bumps," she admitted.
"You gave me butterflies," he openly divulged. This was rather odd of him to tell this girl how she made him feel, but it would only be for tonight.
"I don't even know your name," she suddenly realized.
"It's Lee…and yours?" he mused.
"Katara." His heart seized up, and he couldn't breathe. The Avatar's friend, Katara? The water bender, Katara? He glanced at her neck. He had been such a fool. He was so enraptured with her body, and her exquisite mask that he didn't even notice the necklace that clung to her throat. She observed his facial expressions. "What's wrong?" she asked. "You don't like my name?" she teased. HOLY CRAP! She was flirting with him? Wow, if she knew who he really was, she would be doing the complete opposite. Castrating him or something, not flirting. He stood suddenly, needing to get away from her, and get air.
"I- - I need to get some fresh air," he stuttered.
"But, you're already outside," he really was a strange one, she thought.
"Lee? Lee, are you out here?" Jin couldn't have had better timing. Zuko was so thankful when he heard her slightly annoying voice pierce the air.
"Who's that?" Katara sure hoped it wasn't his girlfriend, but the uncertainty in his face gave him away. He had a date. "Wow," she sighed breathlessly. Zuko had absolutely no idea what to do. He had to address Jin before she discovered them, but he didn't want to leave the girl that had mesmerized him all alone in this garden. She got up, possibly disgusted with the man before her. "I should go, your uh, date is calling you." She was embarrassed, she was enamored with him, but now that he had a girlfriend…ugh…she wasn't the kind of girl that would still pursue something that was taken. He still looked uncertain, and nervous. "Do you have anything you want to say?" she was talking down to him. How dare she?
"No," he objected childishly. She scoffed and turned to leave. That was not a last impression he wanted to leave on anybody, but for some reason, not even her. Especially not her. He grabbed her arm, and drew her in for a kiss. She was hesitant, and prone to pulling away, but his lips were remarkably warm. She felt herself succumb to his intoxicating action. He pulled away, and disappeared around the flowers and statues that decorated the magical garden. She felt herself plop back down on the stone bench, and sigh.
"Jin," Zuko ran up to the girl who was just about to go back inside.
"Lee!" she squealed. "I was so worried. Your uncle Mushi wasn't, but I thought maybe something bad happened. I- -," she leaned in to give him a kiss, but he pulled away instinctively. She frowned and tried looping her arm through his, but he continued walking without her. She jogged to catch up. Unbeknownst to either of them, Katara had watched his actions. He was interested in her at all. Her his date. He had kissed Katara, not this girl. Katara smiled a cocky smile, knowing she had the affections of this masked man. But one question kept invading her body. Would she ever see him again?