Comments (and crticisms) more than welcome. I need help!
Zuko stood on the balcony of his bedroom, his eyes tracing the graceful canals and gently curving roofs of homes in the capital city of the Southern Water Tribe. They had certainly come a long way since the first--and last--time he'd raided their village, and now it can safely be said that they now had a city. In a few years, he was sure they would rival their sister tribe in scale as well as grandeur. He blew out a quick breath of warm air to prevent icicles from forming on his eyelashes as he studied the shadows and alleys of the city before him. There were few people out, but he was looking for one in particular and in minutes, his wish was granted when he spotted his brother-in-law battle the arctic gusts to make his way back home. It did not appear as if Sokka was aware of his presence, but then again, he was at least two stories up and had not moved since he stepped outside.
So, he was surprised when Sokka raised his head and his sharp blue eyes met Zuko's unerringly.
"Are you waiting for your prince to come?" Sokka called out.
It took all of Zuko's willpower to bite back his less than friendly retort. He held out a hand, signaling for Sokka to stop. His movements sharp and sure, he leaped over the side of the balcony and landed softly on a neighboring roof before jumping down to where Sokka stood.
"I'm not your prince, am I?" Sokka said, unfazed and amused.
"Where have you been?" Zuko asked coolly, an eyebrow arched. "It's a way past your bedtime."
"I didn't know you were keeping track."
"I don't supposed your little trip had anything to do with the Earth Kingdom ship docked at the harbor, would it? I understand that Long-zi is on board."
Zuko began to walk along the canal and after a beat, Sokka fell into step next to him.
"I was actually picking up a package Toph sent," he said matter-of-factly. "Not sure who Long-zi is."
"You might know him by his other names," Zuko said, not to be deterred. "Long-di. Fa Long. Xi Long Xia...yes, isn't that the name he went by the last time you two...connected? I wonder if that family in Omashu is still trying to find that priceless 200-year-old bow and arrow that has gone missing."
The silence between them was tense as Zuko was sure Sokka was considering what his smartest move would be.
"If you're accusing me of being a thief, I can assure that I'm not," Sokka said warily. "What possible reason would I have to steal?"
Zuko glanced at him, saw the tightness of his jaw and considered a different approach.
"I'd rather not spend more time out here than I have to," he said evenly. "I know you're not a thief, Sokka, but I do know enough to make your life uncomfortable. That being said, I have no plans to share any of your...extracurricular activities with your sister. I simply want to ask a favor of you."
"And what would that be?" Sokka said.
"Dispose of Azula."
Sokka let out a snort. "That's one way to put it. What makes you think I wasn't already halfway through doing that?"
"You've never done it before."
Sokka reached out and grabbed a handful of Zuko's parka, forcing the Fire Lord to look him in the face.
"How much do you know, Zuko?" he hissed threateningly, a dangerous light in his eyes that Zuko was sure only Sokka's enemies ever saw.
"You're good at what you do, Sokka, but I think you underestimate the resources I have at my disposal. But, don't go into hiding because I can safely say that no one else knows of your particular skills."
"It was simply a matter of connecting the dots. I also recognized the value of this knowledge and so I covered your tracks when I could. Your secrets are yours. Think of me as your guardian angel."
Sokka rolled his eyes and let Zuko go with a light push. He faced Zuko with a relaxed battle stance, his hands loose at his sides, and Zuko had a feeling he was looking at the real man, not the handyman and jokester everyone else knew. Sokka exuded a tense quiet that only men who have chosen a certain way of life had, like an animal stalking its prey. Zuko knew he'd been gambling on Sokka's abilities, but he knew now that he picked the right man for the job.
They stared at each other on the quiet, darkened walkway, neither breaking eye contact, neither giving anything away. Sokka studied his face carefully as if searching for evidence of duplicity, and Zuko didn't flinch from his gaze.
"Do what I couldn't," Zuko muttered, his expression tightening for a moment.
Finally looking away, Sokka turned eyes towards his father's house.
"I'm not doing it because you asked," he said. "I'm doing it because it's what we need to finally get the peace we want."
"My resources are yours."
"I'll take them."
Zuko nodded. Without another word, Sokka walked past him and toward the house. When he realized that Zuko wasn't walking behind him, he stopped and turned.
"Come on," he said, familiar again as he smiled crookedly. "Katara won't be happy if the stewed sea prunes get cold."
Side by side, the two erstwhile enemies fell into step together and walked.
(Thanks to sableambiguity for a very quick and very necessary edit.)