A/N: This is just another one of my sick-minded one-shots centered around Zuko. Ever wonder how the guy fared in prison after his cover got blown in the Boiling Rock? You know I did.
"Don't Drop the Soap"
Zuko's first day in the cells was both memorable and somewhat disturbing.
"So," a burly inmate whispered. "Whatcha' in here for, kid?"
For a moment, the ex-crown prince just stared at the man. Sitting down, the guy was roughly six feet tall. He bore a number of suggestive tattoos on his heavily muscled arms and looked as though his nose had been broken a few times given its crooked shape. With the cue ball, he looked like what Aang might look like if he were on steroids.
Zuko edged away a little before mumbling, "Acts of high treason. You?"
"Heh. You don't want to know. Might give ya' nightmares, newbie."
Zuko didn't doubt that one bit. He had a nasty feeling that he already knew more about his inmate than he ever would have wanted to know just by looking at him. Judging by the content of the tattoos alone, he suspected that the man was into...er...boys. Careful not to make eye contact, he started slowly creeping further and further away from the man.
"I know exactly who you are. You're Prince Zuko."
"I can tell by the scar. Anyway, you're gonna need someone to show you the ropes 'round here. You'll be in here for a long time. I got mad intuition, bro."
Zuko was very uncomfortable when the large man draped an arm around his shoulders, reeling him in. "I suppose you've been in here for a while," he said, trying discreetly to wriggle free. It wasn't working. It was like wrestling with a pentapus.
"Five years. And let me tell you somethin' right off the bat: Don't drop the soap. Made that mistake my first day here, and it didn't end well." Zuko's inmate had a distant, nostalgic gleam in his eye as he recalled the incident. "Well," he amended. "...it wasn't all that bad, looking back. You just need someone to watch your back. And you can take my word for it, princey. I'll be watchin' yours."
Only an idiot would have missed the connotations of that statement.
"If you don't let go of me right now," said Zuko slowly, articulating each word carefully so that there were no misinterpretations. "...I'm going to break your jaw."
In spite of that conversation, Zuko never expected to actually have to put his inmate's knowledge to use. But lo and behold, that night in the showers, he had the misfortune of having the stale clod of soap slip out of his hands. He tried to catch it, but it was like trying to catch a greased hogmonkey. Every time his hand nearly closed around the bar, it shot straight through his fingers.
His golden irises followed the soap as it arched in slow motion, finally hitting the floor with a very solid thunk.
Zuko tried to ignore the dark laughter of the other felons as he stared at the soap. Common sense told him that it wouldn't be a good idea asking one of them if he could borrow theirs...besides, he was willing to bet that more than half of them had syphallis. No telling what they did to their own alloted bar of soap and Zuko really didn't want to know.
"Hey, newbie," a thin lanky man built like a panther sneered. "Ya' dropped your soap. Ain't ya gonna pick it up?"
Zuko narrowed his eyes at him. "Why don't you pick it up?" he replied in a low voice.
"Your ass looks better than mine."
More laughter, and to Zuko's horror, a few wolf-whistles. He wished he could have stopped himself from blushing bright red in humiliation.
"Jerks," one of the other new prisoners muttered, shooting the ex-crown prince a sympathetic look. "Hey, I got it, dude." And before Zuko had time to bark out a warning, the young man (still shaking his head at his inmates' crude humor) bent over to pick up the soap.
It happened so fast that Zuko didn't have time to even close his eyes. There was a split second of motion behind the random samaritan, a high-pitched screaming yelp, and a sickening grunt of triumph. Zuko knew he probably should have tried to help the guy, but the poor bastard had been pushed down to the floor, and saving him would have involved bending over.
A spasm of guilt and nausea crawled up his throat as he edged away. If Sokka doesn't get me out of here soon, I'm going to kill a bitch, he thought.
That night, Zuko started working on his first shank. He had borrowed a spoon from the cafeteria and was running it feverishly against the bars in his window, trying to whittle down the edge until it would be able to stab through a commodo-rhino's skin if need be. His inmate watched him in amusement, not missing the vaguely haunted look in Zuko's eyes.
"You dropped the soap, didn't you?"
Zuko's gaze locked with his. "Don't talk to me."
"I bet it was an educational experience. Am I right? Did you enjoy it, princey?"
Deciding that he didn't have an answer for the giant of a man, Zuko went back to carving his shank. However, in spite of his attention being occupied on his "arts and crafts" project, he was very aware of this feeling running up his spine; the kind you get when you think you're being watched. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the guy staring at his ass.
Zuko decided that he wouldn't sleep that night until his shank was finished. It took him five hours of tedious, exhausting work, but he didn't let himself stop once. Necessity was the mother of invention, after all. And given everything he had seen and heard today, he had more than enough motivation to see the task through.
Paranoid and sleep-deprived, Zuko found Sokka's cheery attitude the next morning to be an added insult to his injury. "Zuko," he said, clasping the guy on the shoulder. "How're you holding up? You okay, buddy?"
His golden eyes were like the eyes of a beast as he regarded the disguised Water Tribe warrior. "Do I look okay to you?"
"Actually...no. You look pretty shitty. Didn't you sleep at all last night?"
Zuko just stared and stared at him. Wordlessly, he held up his newly-finished shank. It was already tarnished with a reddish-brown crust along the edge.
Sokka squinted at it for a few seconds before he finally realized what he was staring at. Half-choking, the Water Tribe warrior jumped back a few paces, giving Zuko a wider berth. "What...what happened?" he demanded, his face a sallow color as he stared at the blood-stained weapon.
"My cell mate got a little too friendly last night."
Sokka's eyes were wide and uncomprehending. Zuko just gave him a flat look.
"He's into younger men," he elaborated quietly. "I now know this for a fact."
There was a long silence.
"So you killed him?"
Zuko sighed. "No. If I killed him someone would notice, and they'd put me in isolation. I just cut off his balls. The guards aren't going to check for those."
Sokka's jaw dropped. "Ugh...ugh...uwa?"
"So, you better hurry up with that escape plan," he continued, as if the fake guard hadn't uttered a sound. "I don't think I can handle much more of this. I'm not allowed to take this thing in with me in the shower," he added, gesturing at Sokka's face with the shank. "And I don't want to have to snap someone's neck. You understand, right?"
Wordlessly, his partner in crime nodded. He looked vaguely sick to his stomach.
"Good talk," Zuko said, pocketing the shank. Without another word, he walked off towards the mess hall, picking up a tray and getting in line for the food. Sokka noticed how men much larger and scarier-looking than Zuko immediately let him move ahead of them. It was unnerving.
"Damn," said Suki, coming up to stand beside Sokka. "Did you hear the rumors? Zuko's turning into a cell boss."
Sokka could only swallow. Holy Spirits, he thought.
A/N: Short but sweet. Seriously, though, if someone ever tried anything on Zuko when he "dropped the soap," we all know he'd go ninja on their ass so quick it would make our heads swim. Anyway, was it funny? REVIEW!