notes: slight zukka. not entirely to make something very sensory... ended up with pseudo gayness. takes place after the end of the series.
He has a thick, ropey crescent on his lower back from climbing too high as a child. He doesn't notice it any more, but he catches his uncle's stare in the bath. It's nothing, he thinks. Nothing.
A line of pale pink skin on his calf marks a duel. He'd told his mother it was a training accident, but Azula, even then, had been vicious with the sword.
A series of dots pepper the side of his thigh from when Aang had thrown him into a wall of rock. He had once considered asking Katara to fix it, but somewhere between here and there had forgotten.
A small white triangle on the heel of his palm was attributed to adolescent clumsiness. It was barely noticeable, except that Zuko looks at his hands a lot these days- in embarrassment, in study, watching his own fire.
A sea of scorched flesh swims over his brow, eye, cheekbone, temple.
"Huh," Sokka said from over him. He had propped himself up on his elbows. The sun was baking their skin while distant splashes echoed in the rocks. Katara and Aang played in the water, laughing. Zuko had never heard her laugh like that. Not in his presence, at least. He wondered how much of that was his fault for previous betrayal, and how much if it was because they were always meeting diplomatically now.
"What?" Zuko didn't lift his head from where it rested on his arm. Sokka's shadow fell over his face.
"I never noticed this before."
The Fire Lord turned to see, but was gently pushed back down. He craned his neck. Sokka's gaze was on his shoulder. He looked like he was examining a map. "How'd you get this?" He touched something on Zuko's shoulder.
Sokka's long, calloused fingers pressed against his skin. His fingertips and right palm were rough, the left hand softer by only a small margin. He pulled gently at Zuko's skin, then pushed a little. "It looks like a bird," Sokka said. "But it's really faint. Small." Then, frankly, "You're pretty lumpy." His fingers were a tracery of touch around the scars.
"I hope you're enjoying yourself," Zuko said, embarrassed. His face was hotter than his probably sunburned back.
"I am, actually," Sokka said cheerfully. His fingers drifted and spread into wings across Zuko's shoulders. And more seriously, "I never saw it before."
"Well, I don't walk around with my shirt off all the time," Zuko replied, irritated and flattered that Sokka would take such an interest in him. "Unlike some Water Tribe warrior I could mention."
"When my... when my father burned my face..." Zuko stopped. It was hard to explain how it felt- the shame and betrayal burned into his skin. Sokka's hands stilled, the warmth blending between them. He could feel the pulse of blood through the swordsman's thumbs. "Fire doesn't stay still."
Silence, broken only by shrieks from Katara and Aang as Toph took it upon herself to liven up their day.
"If you say you're sorry, I'm going to punch you. And that's going to make me sorry because then I'll have to move," Zuko said into the crook of his elbow. "It happened a long time ago." His breath felt shortened, smothered, so he lifted his face. "I didn't remember that was there."
Sokka lifted his hands, and Zuko sat up. He faced the brown boy, squinting in the light of the sun reflected from the lake. Sokka's hair was down now, the long front brushing his jaw. He still looked pensive, studying the map of Zuko's face. "I remember my shoulder hurting," Zuko said, thinking of a time when his uncle hovered over him, dabbing salves on his wounds. He remembered lying on his side, fire bursting from his fingertips uncontrollably. And his uncle, moving and displacing the flames easily. "But I guess I forgot."
Sokka looked as if he was sitting on a nettle. Then, as if to brush it all off he said, "I bet there's a couple I have that I don't even know about." He craned his neck, trying to see his own back. The line of his neck stood out, dark against the brilliant blue sky.
He was almost surprised when Sokka did.
Zuko had never studied other human beings for more than a threat assessment. This was different. A landscape of skin was available for his curious perusal. Not a single scar, freckle, line or blemish ruined the surface. He could see the dips and rises of Sokka's spine like the division of a mountain range. Subtle shifts in elevation marked shoulders, hips. Hills of musculature were soft but apparent under his skin. No sign of sunburn or reflection of hard months camping out with Aang broke the surface. Perfect.
Zuko was jealous.
To return his embarrassment, he spread his fingers out across Sokka's shoulderblades. He drew a fire nation symbol with his fingernails in the space just under the left ribs. Zuko ran a thumb up Sokka's side, watching the pucker and slide of golden-brown skin against his own pale fingers.
A short shriek of laughter. "Hey!" And then Sokka pulled away, sat up. "That's not fair, your Flameyness." But his eyes were laughing, his mouth drawn into a friendly grimace.
He debated for a moment. He could lie- say there was something on Sokka's skin that marred it somehow. He wished for unreasonable scars of misspent youth. Instead, he told the truth. "Nothing. You're clear." Sokka's eyes were big and blue and curious.
The Water Tribe warrior deflated a little. "Nothing? Not even a little burn? No scratches? Nothing?" To Zuko's surprise, he groaned a little. "All that fighting and saving people and nothing to show for it!" In a familiar gesture, forehead met palm.
"You WANT scars?" Zuko was incredulous. Unthinkable. "Why?"
"It was KATARA! She fixed me too well!" Sokka's face was a catalogue of melodramatic torture. " What's a warrior without them? Even Aang has scars."
"You're not Aang," Zuko said, and suddenly his breath was tight. "You're Sokka." And he was. Shining and smooth despite self-inflicted accidents, hardships, and war. It wasn't because his skin was like that. He was still able to agonize over his lack of scars despite the sorrow that surrounded him. He was Sokka- a book without the writing of marks to define him.
And suddenly, his own scars didn't matter.