From a distance, the walls of the Fire Nation palace seemed magnificent, rooftops pushing up towards the sky as if they'd sprouted whole from the baked earth of the dormant volcano. It was only up close that you could see that the bricks were the same as anywhere, rough clay covered by paint and pretend majesty. Lies covering truth, the way the Fire Nation always was.
A palace of dreams made of hardbaked mud.
It wasn't often that Jet allowed himself to see it as it was, those lie-bound walls holding him in. To him, it was a prison, a magnificent prison but one nonetheless, and when he did let himself notice, gave the tiny voice in the back of his head free reign, the walls seemed to push in on him, strangling him with their closeness.
Sometimes, when he was sitting here dressed finely in the clothes of the Fire Nation, Jet allowed himself the niggling suspicion that he was insane.
Sitting here in the courtyard where the breeze was sweetest, waiting for Zuko and watching Sokka reenact their invasion on the day of the eclipse with bits of stone and flower buds, Jet felt the full weight of the prison around him and distantly considered the state of his sanity.
Not that it would be a surprise, perhaps not to anyone. He'd been shattered as a kid, had put himself back together with chubby, childish fingers and freedom fighters, only to be splintered again by his own people. When a crude puzzle was strewn apart enough times, it made sense that a piece or two might go missing in the process.
Maybe it explained why he was here, or why he was still here, long after he'd first come. He'd only wanted to see if the rumors were true, if that boy he'd seen before with eyes that glittered like metal shavings was actually a Firebender like he'd suspected. He'd known, hadn't he, he'd been right, and that might have been satisfying enough.
Until he'd learned the truth and the truth had been worse than he could have imagined, worse than anything. Not just a Firebender, but a prince, son of the Fire Lord who had...had...
And when Jet had seen him again Zuko (Li, his mind whispered sometimes, still) had been Fire Lord himself. Kneeling in his throne room, surrounded in the flames, and it was fire, the taste of ashes thick in his throat and if Jet closed his eyes he could remember--
Zuko and Sokka, together, trying to lead the Fire Nation into peace, and somewhere in the whirlwind of seeing them, of seeing the truth, Jet had ended up staying.
And now he was here, playing guard to the Fire Lord during the day and playing lover to him at night. Playing games, always games, never accepting a single gift or trinket, no matter how costly or cheap. Clothes he took as his due payment for being a body guard, food, a bed, but he was not here for the Fire Nation to coddle and pet, and the servants had long ago learned to leave him be. He preferred it, rarely spoke to anyone who wasn't Sokka or Zuko.
He was here to keep Zuko alive and that was all. And if he was fucking their Fire Lord, leaving sweet bruises on that porcelain-fine skin, then he would call that a long overdue payment.
"Are you even paying attention," Sokka broke into his thoughts impatiently, kneeling on the ground in his own Fire Nation uniform, the clean lines of it broken by the necklace he still wore. Water Tribe, it stated plainly. He wasn't hiding who he was for anyone, either.
Sokka, who was only part of this in the periphery. Being with Sokka was a less bitter reward and more of a way for the universe to balance his karma. Sokka kept him steady, kept him sane, kept him from feeling those walls so closely.
Carefully, Jet took the wheat stalk from his mouth and did not allow himself to think that Fire Nation wheat tasted just the same as home. "Baby, I always pay attention to you."
A brilliant rush of crimson flooded Sokka's cheeks and it made Jet smirk, made it easy to push back that squabbling, clamoring voice that demanded to know why he was here, why, why he hadn't slit that pale throat yet in the night and let a rush of scarlet stain the pure white of their shared sheets, why, why--
I won't, he told himself. I won't hurt him, either of them. Not when he was with Sokka, whom he suspected knew and with Zuko, who did know, who knew and still slept with ease, would bare his throat to Jet, and who would duel with him, neither of them showing mercy. They knew him and still let him stay, and he wasn't about to abuse that trust. Not this time.
But that whimpering little voice in the back of his head was still there, whispering for his attention and Jet had to push it ruthlessly aside, clambering to his knees and reaching for the other boy, ignoring Sokka's indignant protest as his 'stone and flower' battle map was scattered. It turned quickly into a horrified, furiously whispered protest that they were in the middle of the courtyard, anyone could walk in and see them.
Jet ignored it all, stripped Sokka down to his bare skin and the grass here was as green as home, and soft and sweet-smelling, and that niggling little voice was fainter and fainter as he pushed himself between Sokka's spread legs, listened to words disappearing into moans.
Sokka might protest, but he was hard against Jet's belly, and easy, twined his ankles behind Jet's knees and arched up into every thrust. Easy to kiss, biting at his soft, eager lips,easy, and Zuko was the same. Both of them would let Jet do anything, anything, and it made him want to scream at them at times, because were they crazy, didn't they know what he could do?
"Yeah, yeah, that's good," Sokka whimpered, one hand between his legs stroking himself and the other clutching Jet's arm, blue eyes closed, so trusting, and Jet hitched up his legs a little further and pushed into him as hard as he could. Hot inside, not as hot as Zuko, but tight, and good, and it didn't take long, not nearly long enough before he was spilling into Sokka, sweat pooling in the small of his back from the heat of the sun.
He expected Sokka to push him away when it was over, teasing words already forming on the tip of his tongue and was surprised when Sokka clutched him instead, tangled his hands into Jet's loose hair. No topknot, not for him, never, and the feel of Sokka's slim fingers sifting through his hair made him close his eyes, rest his head on Sokka's shoulder and hold on.
Imprisoned by walls, imprisoned in Sokka's arms, Sokka, who maybe knew, and Jet didn't let himself wonder if maybe it didn't matter where he was. Maybe he carried that particular prison with him.
He didn't wonder, the voice inside him silent for a just a little while, and soon he'd feel another hand on his back, pale fingertips tracing down his sweat-slick back, and this, this wasn't a lie. This was real.
Jet would make sure of that.