Four times he made a mistake, four times he needs to correct them.
A/N: Been a while, I apologise, however I am determined to finish this series.
Disclaimer: I don't own.
la primavera: One More Chance
Zuko x Jin
It was late.
The cerulean sky was slowly painted anew by a darker colour and the sun was sinking downwards, disappearing more and more behind the horizon, Zuko noticed as he gazed idly through the window.
He was glad by it, though. So exhausted after a day's work in his uncle's tea shop he was counting the minutes until he could go home and plop down on his bed to get some well-deserved rest. All day he had been dragging his tired and calloused feet around from the one end of the shop to the other to scribble down orders and serve everyone. He never realised the full extent of square footage of the building and its vast population of customers. Not only that but making the tea wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. He had burnt his hands at least three times when pouring into the dragon-decorated cups or even merely setting the tea. Luckily he did have help from servants.
Either owning a tea shop is hard and practically impossible labour or he was incredibly clumsy.
He liked to believe it was the former but dreaded the second option was the veracity here.
Nonetheless it made him respect his uncle even more than he already did.
He peered from behind the counter at the four lingering customers. A group of three middle-aged men huddled together, loudly laughing over something the curly-haired said, and then a few tables further a young girl, roughly his own age he estimated, intently reading some novel with a secretive smile as she swirled the spoon around the teacup in gentle rhythmic circles. He caught himself staring at her. There was just something about her that just captivated his attention, something familiar that he couldn't quite pinpoint but he shrugged the notion away when the plump fellow of the bunch motioned him over.
He threw the dishtowel in one fluid motion over his shoulder before ambling over to the merry table and then queried lazily with a forced smile, "Anything I can do for you?"
The bushy-bearded one grinned, "You can tell us how much we own for you fine services, young lad."
Zuko simply replied with nine gold coins and accepted the money from the man's sticky with sweat hand, bowing formally as they left the teashop. He channelled his attention to the messy table, piling all the cups and saucers on a platter and then swiftly moving the dishtowel back on forth on the table to clean up.
From the corner of his champagne-brown coloured eyes, he could examine the young girl better than before. Zuko was never one to check out girls but he had to admit that he found himself beginning to develop an interest in her.
She was dressed in a knee-length, olive-coloured dress with simple decorations embroidered on the hems, wearing puffy pants underneath. Her shining hair was a raven black, twisted in a neat bun at the nape of her neck with a few loose strands framing her oval-shaped face and her green eyes were almost like emeralds, outlined subtly with brown make-up. Her skin was smooth and pale, her lips a glossy pink spread into a cat-like grin. And it was then that he recognised her.
The girl from the firelight fountain date.
Jin was her name, he recalled.
He felt his cheeks flush when he remembered the feeling of her soft lips brush his slightly and he quickly went away to put the platter of dishes in the kitchen as a desperate attempt to prevent her from seeing him look so nervous.
When he regained his calm, he went back and lit the candle on her table by just a snap of his fingers, she looked up at him with startled eyes. He smiled, "Wouldn't want you to strain your eyes."
She cast her gaze downwards to her book. "Thank you," she murmured timidly.
After a nod, he turned around briskly to clean up the table which had been deserted by the group of men but was stopped in his tracks when he heard her say his name.
His eyes widened at the sound of his name echoing through the room and reaching his ears, and his chest began heaving up and down rapidly, as his breathing increased. He looked at her over his shoulder.
"So you know," he finally answered.
"The renowned Fire Prince having been peacefully coroneted and occasionally visiting his dear uncle who owns a prestigious tea shop in the upper ring is the sort of news which spreads around quite fast in Ba Sing Se," she explained matter-of-factly, and then quickly added, "Actually even around the world."
Since he didn't know how to respond properly, he watched the flame dance and couldn't help but get lost in the rhythm. It felt almost like a trance, a distraction, and one that he thought he needed most of all.
His face was contorted into a look of confusion.
"That you hid your true identity from me," she elaborated matter-of-factly, "I understand why you had to. So I'm not cross with you about that."
"Thank you," he managed to stammer out, shifting on his feet still uncomfortably.
She snapped her book shut, laid it down on the table and slouched back against her chair, levelling him with a disappointed glare.
"What I don't understand, though, is you going on this date with me while clearly you already had something with that girl."
She sighed, visibly irritated. "I don't need to know her name, Zuko. It's not relevant here. I felt like a complete and utter idiot. That whole fountain scene, it was like a smack in the face and I have never been so humiliated in my life."
"I'm sorry," he apologised, the whisper barely audible.
"Too late for apologies now."
"I think I'm going home."
"You haven't touched your tea."
She pushed the tea cup to the centre of the table, rose from her chair briskly and slung her bag across her shoulder after stuffing her book away, leaving two gold coins behind as she headed to the door. Her hand clasped around panelling as she muttered, eyes locking with his in an intense pierce, "Not thirsty anymore."
And then she left his sight, not even bothering to wait for a reply.
He stared at the untouched cup of tea.
His thoughts drifted back to his two encounters with her.
And he had to admit that he was being a jerk to her, both times. He abruptly left her on their date and he rudely ignored her when Mai was toying with him. He behaved poorly toward her when she had been so nice to him, made him feel like a normal teenager which was something he hadn't felt in a long time then.
He didn't even explain himself, even forgot about her when he left Ba Sing Se.
All these thoughts culminated in a need to seek forgiveness from her. So he ran after her, not certain what he would say, how he would say it, but just knowing that he had to say something, for the sake of making things right.
It wasn't long until he caught up with her.
"Jin! Don't go, please," he said, breathlessly.
"Just give it up," she replied, her voice stern, not looking back and kept on walking.
He winced, a bit surprised at seeing this once so sweet and tolerant girl acting so bitter toward him. Then again he couldn't exactly blame her. Still determined he sped up his pace so that he walked in front her, facing her directly and then stopping her by placing his one hand firmly on her shoulder.
"I can't let it rest this way. The way I treated you was awful and you deserve better. Much better. And I want to make it up to you. Just give me one more chance."
"What about Mai?"
"We're not together anymore."
Her hands began to tremble a little but she forced them to be still, not wanting him to notice. She cast her gaze downward, not able to look at him.
"Look at me."
"Jin," he pleaded.
Swayed by the sincerity in his voice, she sighed dramatically, crossed her arms over her stomach and did as asked.
"I want to go on a proper date with you. The one you should have gotten," he whispered as he stepped closer to her, never faltering his gaze resolutely.
She paused, contemplating his offer and caved in after a minute.
A broad, eager smile spread on his face and he entwined his fingers with hers, leading her to the firelight fountain.
He forgot how charming it was. The candles were lit this time, reflecting beautifully in the sparkling water. The transparent movement of the water was soothing and relaxing and he was mesmerized by the distorted flames dancing gracefully.
"You know, I really liked you," she said unexpectedly and he laid his eyes on her, a gleam of bewilderment flickering.
"I am aware of how stupid I sound since I barely know you," she continued, her cheeks a deep red, "But I did."
"Why?" he queried without thinking, mentally smacking himself afterwards for even asking that.
She giggled, amused. "I can't really explain why. You seemed different than most guys. More sensitive and kind. I could tell by the way that awesome uncle of yours loved you so much."
He smiled, genuinely touched by her words. And again without contemplating, he leaned in, delivering a short kiss as his lips softly grazed hers.
"I liked you too."
A/N: Whooo, one more drabble left. As always, feedback is greatly encouraged!