FOR YOU, IRREL, YOU DAMNABLE SOUL-STEALER.
First, Zuko lets slip that he maybe-accidentally-bonked-his-old-childhood-best-friend, and Jin Births a Seal.
"Damn it, Zuko!" She slapped him, and he wondered at how that seemed to be happening a lot lately.
He still felt like an asshole, but this was…Katara, after all.
"She's the…she's twinkie girl I told you about." Her eyes went wide, and behind the thick veil of tears, there was resigned, despondent understanding.
Then, after what seemed an eternity of silence (save for the hitched sound of her breathing and the sporadic staggered sob),
"So, I guess…I guess you're breaking up with me?" Zuko hated himself. He was stuck between a rock and a…Katara, and he wanted desperately to latch onto the latter, but after all, what had the rock ever done to him apart from support and cherish him, even after he'd told it about his horrible past? (What a terrible, unfitting metaphor, Zuko thought, before he moved on.)
"…no," He said, and she looked up at him in surprise. "No, I'm not. I…you're…I…do like you a lot." He started, staring at his hands.
"Don't sound so enthusiastic," She said, and it startled him to hear the bitterness in her voice.
"Jin," He turned to her now, looked her in the eye. "I…with Katara…I…we…"
"Zuko." She wasn't touching him, he noticed suddenly. She was always touching him, to the point where it almost made him uncomfortable, but her hands were fisted carefully in her lap as she spoke. "If you don't love me, then you should just break up with me. Under normal circumstances, I'd try to convince you that all you need is some time, and maybe a little motivation, you know? But Zuko, these aren't…these aren't normal circumstances. I can't make you fall in love with me if you're in love with someone else. And it's not fair to me for you to keep leading me on if you're just going to go sleep with Katara every time she beats you up, which, from the way you tell it, is often. Or was often, at the very least. In the end, I'm the one who gets hurt, and you get to constantly feel like shit about your decisions until it starts not to matter anymore and you dump me the day before my birthday. Or Valentine's Day." He took a moment to wrap his brain around Jin swearing, and then tuned in again. "If you leave this decision up to me, Zuko…then that scenario gets to come to life. Because I don't plan on letting you go. I love you, and I think I've always been a bit of a masochist, so if you don't dump me, then I'm certainly not going to do it, either, because it gives me some hope that maybe you don't love her, even though I can see that you do, and because you do, you'll always run to her when my back is turned, and I'll forgive you again and again and again, but it won't make a difference because you gave your heart away to her years before you ever met me."
"That's not—" He started, and was cut off.
"It is true, Zuko. Don't argue with me. In this conversation, everything I say is automatically correct and right, because I didn't sleep with my childhood best friend behind my significant other's back." His mouth clicked shut. "So, as I was saying…either you get rid of me, or you're stuck with me. But you should know that either way, I won't go down without a fight." He stared at her as if seeing her for the first time. She hadn't been the first person to befriend him since the Fire. And she certainly hadn't been the first to try and gain his romantic attentions (which he couldn't figure out; when he wasn't angsting heavily he was playing video games or obsessing over "The Blue Spirit", and he couldn't fathom how that would scream –or even whisper, really—'girl-magnet').
She had been the first to succeed, however, and he hadn't ever really put much thought into why. But now he understood where the attraction had come from. She was strong, like Katara (he winced internally at the unconscious comparison, and was very glad that she was not privy to his thoughts), but also bright and endearingly forward in a way uniquely Jin. She was not Katara, and therefore he did not love her, but he did like her, and maybe…maybe eventually, if Katara hadn't abruptly reentered his life …maybe he could have fallen in love with her. He wondered if he could manage to…no, he decided. He would return to Katara –it was inevitable, like the rising of the sun, like the waxing of the moon…and he couldn't keep doing that to Jin.
And at least Jin seemed to understand –even if she seriously didn't like it—that Zuko's heart belonged to someone else. He admired her perception and intelligence even as he steeled himself to crush her spirit.
And, like many a greater man before him, Zuko opened the conversation with tact, politesse, diplomatic consideration.
"We can still be friends…?"
And then she punched him.
I hadn't intended for her statement about not going down without a fight to be literal. But really, Zuko. Don't be a rere.
(Isn't it wonderful how I've written Jin to just completely NOT care that Zuko slept with Katara? It's possibly because even SHE knows they belong together. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to deal with her emotions. Or just a poor author. Either way.)