Zuko and Iroh sat on a hard stone bench, waiting for their train into Ba Sing Se to arrive. It was the city of new beginnings, and the place where they could start a new life.
At least, that's how the boy's uncle saw things. Zuko just thought of it as a safe place to hide from Azula while he tried to figure out how to regain his father's approval.
Jet slipped into the seat beside him. "Hey, Li, could I talk to you for a minute?"
Sighing, he hesitated before following the rebel. Once they were out of earshot of Iroh, he made his request. He asked him to be a freedom fighter.
At first, Zuko was going to decline the offer – he was a prince from a nation Jet hated. He didn't want or need any more enemies. Plus, what good would it do? They were in a city safe from the Fire Nation (or so they thought), where people needed very little saving.
But then he had second thoughts. He would have to hide his identity for the duration of his stay in the city, so why would it be any harder to do so while he was with Jet? And he would be living there for a long time – months, maybe years if he was unfortunate enough. Why not make a few friends while he was there?
He glanced over his shoulder at his uncle. Iroh wanted him to make a fresh start; maybe pretending to be Li was the way to do that.
"Alright," Zuko said. "I guess I could give it a try."
Jet grinned. "I knew you'd agree. You're gonna make a great addition to the team."
The firebender could only smile weakly and hope he didn't prove Jet wrong.
Zuko tied an apron around his waist, feeling completely ridiculous. His uncle had insisted they get jobs, which seemed absurd to him. He was a prince – he didn't need to work.
But then he remembered where he was and why, and the reality of his new status came crashing down on him.
So now he stood, wearing an apron, in a teashop in the lower ring of Ba Sing Se, carrying a tray of drinks to too loud customers who rarely ever tipped.
Needless to say, he wasn't very happy.
The day went by at a slow pace, dragging on until all the patrons looked the same and all the teas smelled identical. Zuko spent his time serving drinks, dropping cups, and getting yelled at by the shop owner (the last one usually a result of the second).
The bell above the door dinged merrily, alerting him to a new arrival. He looked up to see who had entered and nearly dropped his tray for the third time that day.
"So this is where you work?" Jet said, looking around the small shop. "I wouldn't have coined you for a tea man."
"It was my uncle's idea," he grumbled, hoping the owner wasn't watching – talking to friends while working wasn't allowed.
Jet shrugged, pulled a chair out from the nearest table, plopped himself onto its seat, and began ordering the ex-prince around.
Zuko sighed in humiliated defeat. Something told him his stay in Ba Sing Se would be long and unpleasant.
Katara walked down the streets of Ba Sing Se, worrying about Appa and how they would contact the Earth King. So far, Joo Dee had ignored their requests, instead touring them through the city and grinning like a programmed robot.
She looked around the many shops of the lower ring, only half focused on the things around her. The upper ring was nice, but somehow she felt more at home in the poorer areas. Maybe it was a result of the conditions she had been raised in.
She passed a small flower shop. From the shadows of an alley, a frightening looking man smiled at her, showing his crooked and incomplete set of teeth.
Shuddering, she suddenly remembered why her first impression of the lower ring had been a bad one.
She froze. She knew that voice. She knew it and the memories it brought back made her blood boil.
"Fancy seeing you here," Jet said. Katara turned to face him, glaring as he grinned, the usual piece of straw held firmly between his teeth.
Reacting without thought, she delivered a powerful blast of water toward him. It slammed into his chest, knocking him back several feet.
Onlookers gasped, awestruck. They murmured in surprise and interest.
"Ten bronze pieces says he's a dead man."
"Fifteen says she's getting her ass kicked."
Ignoring the exchanges of the crowd, Katara focused on the sopping wet teen in front of her. The same boy she had crushed on, who had used her abilities for his own twisted benefit. The boy who had betrayed her trust by trying to harm something she thought she hated.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I live here!"
"Yeah right," she spat, disbelieving. "What happened to your tree house and the rest of the gang?"
"We split," Jet said, getting to his feet. "I decided to turn over a new leaf, and this seemed like the best place to go." As an after-thought, he added, "Smellerbee and Longshot came with me."
"Do you really think I'm stupid enough to believe that?"
"Yes." Katara narrowed her eyes. "I mean no! I think you're very smart, and that's why you should know that I'm a good person who made a really horrible mistake."
She kept a steady gaze on Jet, whose expression was pleading. He took a step toward her, slowly, cautiously, holding up his hands to show he meant no harm.
"C'mon. Just give me one more chance."
Katara sighed, moving out of her defensive stance and letting her arms fall to her sides. "All right, one chance. But" - she was hostile again, poking her finger into his chest –"if you make one wrong move, I won't hold back."
"Relax," Jet said, "I'm not doing anything like I did last time."
She eyed him suspiciously. "What exactly are you doing?"
He shrugged. "Small stuff. You know; good deeds like catching thieves and criminals." With a grin, he added "Besides, it's not like there's any firebenders here."
Then he began to lead her down the street, telling her of the place he lived in and the newest addition to his gang.
Author's Notes: Oh Jet, if only you knew. If only you knew. xD
So, yeah, the beginning of another chapter fic. I need a title for it, though... Any suggestions?
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Avatar' or any of its characters.