The air was warm and dry, the cat-birds were singing, Yue had risen mid-morning in all of her glory, and Sokka and Zuko were on a stroll through the lower rings of Ba Sing Se.
It had been nearly a year since either had been back. The war and the Fire Nation had both come and done, and there were still entire blocks which had been leveled on the day of Sozin's comet. But others stood, and the rebuilding had begun.
Occasionally either the Fire Lord and the celebrated warrior would pause and make a comment, share a memory about a particular place, before moving on.
"I remember this," Zuko said, stopping by a fountain. Once magnificent, it's walls had been smashed in on one side during the fighting. Now it stood dry with a crust of green algae staining the bottom.
Sokka nodded. "Jin mentioned something about it - you lit the lanterns with firebending?"
An almost soft smile passed over Zuko's scarred face. "Yeah." A pause. "Do you miss it? Firebending, I mean."
"With this baby?" Sokka patted the broadsword by his side. The same one Zuko had purchased a year and a lifetime ago. Under tutelage from Master Piandao, he'd gotten really good.
As they walked on, Sokka nudged Zuko's shoulder, friendly and companionable. "Do you miss being just a Water Tribe peasant?"
"You are son of the Chief, not a peasant," Zuko shot back with an almost proprietary tone. He started to shake his head, then shrugged. "No, except during long meetings with court ministers. I saw how Hakoda and his men plan. There are some things your people do right."
They turned another corner down a long residential street. Zuko slowed and looked a little wary. "You're sure about this?"
Sokka shrugged. "I did promise an explanation, even though it's a year coming." He gave his friend a sidelong glance "And it would be kinda hard to explain things without you. Plus, she's pretty. Maybe single?"
Zuko winced. Mai had been a sore spot for a long time between him and Sokka, even after they returned back to their bodies. There was a short breakup while Sokka fought the war and Mai had to wrap her head around the my-boyfriend-actually-belongs-in-another-body thing, but it seemed the relationship was back on.
Zuko couldn't object to it, but it was... weird to see Mai and Sokka together.
"Jin was really strong when we were in that prison cell," Sokka continued. "She helped me figure some things out even though she was put through a lot. The least I can do is explain why." Sokka threw an arm about Zuko's narrow shoulders, "Plus, she's pretty."
"You already said that," he grumped, but followed as Sokka walked on.
They had gotten her address from a guy who knew a guy who had heard a girl matching Jin's description lived in an apartment complex. Sokka was the one who knocked and then stood back, trying, and failing, not to look nervous.
The door opened and Zuko smelled a rush of Jasmine tea. For a moment he was back in old Pao's tea shop and then she was there, looking confused and then surprised. And Sokka was right, she was pretty.
"Sokka?" she asked, looking straight at Zuko. "This is... a surprise."
"Hey Jin." Sokka gave a one handed wave, grinning sheepishly and Jin's eyes darted to him, clearly not knowing who he was, and then looking even more confused. It was like those first few days after Sokka, Zuko and Aang all returned from the spirit world and no one seemed to know what to say or how to treat them.
"Uh, hi," Zuko said awkwardly. "It's been awhile?" he didn't mean for it to be a question, but somehow it was.
"Can we talk?" Sokka piped up.
Jin stared at him blankly for a moment, but seeing his honest earnestness and Zuko's sheepish smile must have won her over. "I just made some tea," she said, stepping back and inclining her head. "Why don't you two come in."
~ Fin ~
Thank you so much everyone, for reading through this fic! It's taken nearly 4 years to the day, but it's finally done. :D
A couple of notes about this story:
* The original title was called The Great Switch and that has been the name of the master file, saved through 3 computers.
* The idea for Another Brother came from chapter 8 when Sokka is telling Jin of his life back at the North Pole.
* The first line in the epilogue is almost identical to the first line of the fic.