Summary: Jin and Zuko and what could have been. And what might be.
Notes:: The quote in this (which is bold) is a line from a song by The Killers called Change Your Mind. It's an incomplete quote...I hope that's okay!
He found Jin in the gardens. She was sitting beside the pond, looking up at the sky. The moon’s light shone down on her, playing with her hair and lighting up her eyes. He couldn’t see her face, but Zuko knew she was smiling.
He walked up to her quietly, making just enough noise to alert Jin of his presence. When he made it to her side, she glanced at him.
“Prince Zuko.” Not a greeting, just an acknowledgment. Zuko hid a wince, disguising it as a scowl.
“Are you suppose to be out here at night?” he asked.
“Are you going to tell on me?” she asked and he winced again, this time unable to contain it. She raised her eyebrows and continued staring up at the moon.
He stood there awkwardly for a moment, not wanting to walk away and not knowing why he was so intimidated by her. It’s stupid! She’s a servant here! Still, he couldn’t make himself sit beside her, not until she glanced at him.
“You’re looming,” she said, blinking. It wasn’t exactly an invitation to sit - I don’t need one! - but Zuko took it, sitting down beside her. He was careful not to allow his robes to brush against her, not know how she would react. Too much as happened. Jin had been working in the castle for a month now, and Zuko knew she had been avoiding him as best she could. She was very good at it.
Zuko knew she was angry at him. She had every right to be.
“You, uhm. What are you doing?” he asked after a moment, uncomfortable with the silence.
Jin smiled. “Looking at the moon,” she said, glancing at him. “I’ve finished my duties for the day.” It was a quiet sting, the reminder of her station and Zuko looked away.
“I wasn’t asking because of that,” he said. “I just…I was just wondering.” Silently, he berated himself. Why are you out here? He knew the answer, even he didn’t want to admit it. He’d wanted to see her.
A loud sigh distracted him from his musing and he looked at Jin. “What is it?” he asked, frowning.
Jin shook her head. “What is it?” she said, looking at him. “What isn’t it!?! Prince Zuko, why did you sit down with me?” she asked, eyes narrowing. “Why are you even speaking to me? I’m a servant, remember?”
“I know that!” he snapped. “You remind me every time we speak!”
“Because we shouldn’t be speaking at all!” Jin said, getting to her feet. Zuko stood up beside her, perplexed.
“What are you trying to do?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips. “What are you trying to accomplish?”
“I’m just trying to get home!” he said, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. It was funny how he had no problem facing down Fire Benders and Water Benders, but one defenseless girl was enough to make him want to run away.
“Yeah, but why do you need to talk to me to do that?!” she said, glaring up at him. “Prince Zuko, I don’t even know you! I knew a tea server named Lee who was sweet and clumsy. I knew a boy that didn’t even exist.”
“I exist!” Zuko said, stepping towards her. “That was me! The only thing that I lied about was my name. And…where I came from.”
Jin snorted, raising an eyebrow. “That’s all?” she said, the words biting. “Well, silly me! How could I have gotten it so wrong.”
Zuko shook his head. “Stop it!” he said. “Jin, you…I…on our date, I was as real as I’d ever been after my banishment.” It was true, Zuko realized. Despite the lies, I was myself during it.
Jin shook her head. “That’s actually kind of sad,” she said, gaze hard. “Prince Zuko, I don’t understand why you’re telling me this. You’re on your way home. I was just a, a stepping stone on your journey.” She shrugged. “I understand.”
“You’re…you’re okay with that?” he asked.
“Of course not!” she said, stamping one foot on the ground, eyes wide. “What do you think I am?” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, rubbing her forehead. “Look, can I go now?”
Zuko was tempted to order her to stay, to sit with him. “Yes,” he said, sitting back down. He stared up into the dark sky, much like Jin had been doing. He heard her take a step and had to stop her. “You weren’t, though.”
He heard her pause and continued. “You weren’t a stepping stone. You were…a surprise. Ba Sing Se, living in the Earth Kingdom as a civilian…none of it was what I wanted. And suddenly, you were there, and I. For a moment, I saw a future for myself there.” He looked up at her. “I saw myself wanting to stay.”
She stared at him for a moment before rubbing her eyes; he was surprised to see tears there. “But I wasn’t enough , was I.”
It wasn’t a question so Zuko didn’t bother answering. He looked away from her. “I’m sorry.” The words were low, unfamiliar on Zuko’s tongue, but he had to say them. “But I still feel…something for you, Jin.”
He heard Jin sighed and looked at her. She was looking at the ground, hands clasped in front of her. “Don’t be sorry,” she said. “You can’t really help who you are.”
“Who I am?” Zuko scowled and shook his head. “How do you know who I am? I don’t…I don’t know myself. When I look in a mirror, I can’t even recognized myself.”
Jin paused for a moment before speaking slowly, quietly. “You’re Prince Zuko, the heir to the Fire Nation. Determined and loyal to your father and home. Unable to settle for anything l-less than what you were born for.” Her voice hitched and she looked away, wiping her tears away before looking back at him with a terribly fake smile. “That’s who you are, Prince Zuko. Even I, who never really knew you at all, could tell you that.”
Zuko bit his lip, staring at her with wide eyes. “Really?”
She nodded. “Yes. And I. I am Jin, just a servant in the palace of Ba Sing Se. That’s who we are.” She bowed. “And, if you don’t mind, Prince Zuko, I’m going to bed. Good night.” She turned and walked away.
Zuko paused for a moment, gathering his strength to stop the girl. “Jin, wait,” he called out, running to catch her.
“Fortunes change,” he whispered in her ear, ghosting his hands over her shoulders. “If I’ve learned nothing else, that’s it. Fortunes change.” His voice lowered until it was barely a breath against the back of her neck. “Y-you can never be ‘just’ anything to me.”
Jin bowed her head. “Thank you…Zuko,” she whispered before hurrying off.
Zuko walked back to the pond and sat. He looked up at the stars, which seemed to shine just a bit brightly.