Zuko grabbed a bunch of roses and set it down on the countertop, then picked up his shears to clip the thorns off.
He was in early, so no one else had arrived yet. As much as he liked the background chatter from Ty Lee and the occasional sarcastic comment from Mai, it was nice to have some peace and quiet for a change.
The early morning sun shone through the glass windows at the front of the store, lighting up the room without Zuko having to turn the lights on.
Zuko hummed to himself, and cut some twine from the roll on the counter to tie the flowers together. Then he went to the storage closet and picked a light pink tissue paper to match the roses, along with a sheet of cellophane.
He got back to the counter, and put the bouquet together, then held it out in front of him, admiring his handiwork.
The bell above the front door jingled, signalling someone entering the store. The sun was shining in such a way that when the door opened, it temporarily blinded Zuko. He blinked hard, and then he could see again.
And thank Agni, because the customer who had just entered was ridiculously handsome. Like, seriously hot. He was tall with broad shoulders, and he was wearing a tank top that showed off his muscular arms. He had warm brown skin and dark hair that was shaved on both sides and pulled into a ponytail at the back of his head. And his eyes, a deep cool blue that Zuko could get lost in.
...Eyes that Zuko was staring right at, like a complete idiot. Startled, he dropped the bouquet he was holding. The entire thing fell apart, some of the flowers rolling off the counter and onto the floor. Great.
“Shit, sorry,” Zuko said, ducking down and picking up the flowers that had fallen over his side.
“Don’t worry about it.” The guy laughed, and started picking up flowers.
Zuko straightened again, and put down the roses on the counter. The guy handed Zuko the rest of the roses, and when Zuko took them, their hands touched for a second. And goddamn if Zuko didn’t know this was a stupid cliche, but he literally felt an electric current go through his body from where their hands touched. They locked eyes, the guy’s eyes widened slightly, lips parted, and Zuko’s face heated up, and he was sure he had gone red.
He ripped his hand away and cleared his throat. Pull yourself together, He thought to himself.
“Uh, so what did you come in for?” He said awkwardly. This was great. Just amazing. Way to embarrass yourself in front of the random hot guy, Zuko.
Said random hot guy didn’t respond for a few seconds, staring at Zuko like he hadn’t heard him. Then he shook his head slightly and grinned nervously. Probably because Zuko’s sheer amount of awkwardness was a terrifying prospect to him.
He cleared his throat. “Oh! So it’s my Gran Gran’s birthday today, and I completely forgot that my sister asked me to pick up some flowers on the way there.” He said.
“Birthday, huh?” Zuko said. “Any flowers you want in particular?”
The guy shook his head. “I don’t really know that much about flowers, if I’m being honest.” He admitted.
Zuko thought for a second. “I’d go with something pink, maybe some white. Carnations, daisies and roses.”
“Well, you know this better than me.”
Zuko looked in the boxes of flowers around him, then picked some baby pink roses, white carnations and dark pink daisies. Then took some paper from a drawer in the counter and wrapped them up and secured it with twine and a white ribbon.
“This look good?” He asked the guy.
“That looks perfect.”
“Okay, that’ll be ten dollars ninety nine.”
The guy paid and took the flowers.
“Thanks...Zuko, right?” He said, looking at Zuko’s name tag.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Zuko said, silently cursing himself for being so socially inept. Particularly around hot people.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around, if I ever need to get last minute flowers again.” He said, grinning as he made his way towards the door. “I’m Sokka, by the way.”
Zuko didn’t expect to see Random Hot Guy—Sokka, he had to stop calling him that—ever again, most people only came in the florists for a last minute event they forgot about and didn’t come back.
He didn’t expect to be proven wrong about that either.
In the back room, Zuko was bringing in their latest delivery of flowers into the store when the bell above the door jingled.
He was in the middle of moving heavy boxes, so he figured someone else could get it.
“Mai! Can you get that?” He called, only to get no response. She must’ve gone on her break.
Zuko sighed, gingerly put the box down, and made his way back to the front of the store.
“Hi, what can I get for you—“ Zuko stopped, his eyes widening comically. It was Random Hot Guy— Sokka— waiting at the counter.
“Hey! Long time no see,” Sokka said.
“Yeah,” Zuko said. “So... what can I do for you?” Nice one Zuko. Shut down the small talk. That’s an amazing idea.
“Oh, right,” Sokka said. “So it’s my sister’s birthday soon and I need to order some flowers. Her favourite colour is yellow, if that’s any help.”
“Okay, so you can use the website for ordering flowers.” Zuko said.
“Oh shoot, really? And here I thought we could spend some more quality time together.” Sokka winked at him. “Well, until we meet again.”
He mock bowed and blew a kiss as he opened the door and walked out, and Zuko was left a confused stuttering mess.
A few minutes later Mai walked back in from her break.
She raised an eyebrow at Zuko, eyeing his still red face.
“What’s wrong with you? You’re never normally this red unless someone flirts with you or something.” She said.
“I—We weren’t—No one was flirting!” Zuko fumed, embarrassed.
“Ooh, Zuko was flirting? That’s a first. Who was it?” Ty Lee walked through the door after Mai.
“Agh!” Zuko threw up his hands and stormed out.
“I’m telling you guys, we had a connection!” Sokka said.
There was no one in the Tui and La cafe apart from Sokka, Suki and Katara, Sokka’s sister, who were waiting for customers.
Katara snorted. “Don’t you have a ‘connection’ with someone every other week?”
“This time was different.”
“Oh yeah?” Suki laughed. “What about that white haired girl when we were at the convenience store? Or that guy at the gas station that you flirted with so much that he got uncomfortable and hid in the bathroom? Or when we were dating and you claimed we were soulmates?”
Ouch. “I don’t fall in love with everyone I meet okay? And I’m telling you guys, this guy felt the same way. I could tell.” Sokka argued.
“Whatever Sokka. I just hope you actually make a move this time instead of just shamelessly flirting with them or scaring them off. Or both.” Katara amended as an old woman entered the store. “Come on, let’s get back to work.”
The rest of the morning passed uneventfully, apart from Sokka and Katara’s usual bickering that caused Suki to force them to work on opposite ends of the counter.
The only thing that happened all morning that was out of the ordinary was when two girls came in to get coffee.
The taller girl had long black hair done up in a fancy hairstyle and bangs, and had an emo vibe going on, complete with dark clothes and a bored expression. The shorter girl was less intense looking, with a long braided ponytail, big grey eyes and a pink outfit. They were clearly dating, the shorter of the two hanging off the other girl, shooting her adoring looks, and Sokka almost saw a glimmer of affection in the miserable girl’s eyes when she looked at her.
Anyways, Sokka was the one taking orders.
“Hey there, what can I get for you guys?” Sokka asked.
“Sokka! Where did you put the box of milk cartons?” Katara yelled from the back room.
“I don’t know, check the fridge,” He called back. He turned back to the girls to see them staring at him weirdly.
“Sorry about that,” He smiled easily.
“Your name is Sokka?” The bubbly girl asked him.
“Uh, yeah?” Sokka replied, confused.
The two girls exchanged a look Sokka couldn’t decipher.
“Is there...something wrong?” Sokka said, puzzled.
“No, nothing’s wrong!” The shorter girl said, a little too quickly. “It’s just...a cool name?”
“...Uh, okay.” Sokka said slowly.
After that the girls didn’t really act that weird—well, any weirder than they had already.
They did keep exchanging glances and talking quietly to each other while they waited for their coffee, and Sokka kept catching the shorter girl looking at him when she thought he wasn’t paying attention.
The whole situation was a little unnerving, and Sokka was glad to see their retreating backs as they left the cafe.
“Zukoooo, I’m tired.” Ty Lee groaned as she threw herself on the ground, seemingly giving up.
“You shouldn’t have wasted your break to make out with Mai at the back then.” Zuko said smugly. “I however, still have my break.”
“I’d hardly call that a waste, ” Ty Lee argued, then gasped as if she’d just had a brilliant idea.
“Hey Mai, I could really go for some coffee right about now. What about you?” She said mischievously.
Mai stuck her head around the corner from where she was arranging flowers on the shelves.
“Yeah, I could go for some coffee I guess,” She said in her usual deadpan.
“Zuko, when you go on break can you go pick up some coffee? There’s this cafe down the road, kinda hipster looking, you won’t miss it. The chai latte I got last time was so good...” She sighed dreamily, presumably thinking about the coffee.
“Seriously?” Zuko complained. “Just because you wasted your break...”
“Come on Zuko, you haven’t left the store all day. You should take a walk or something. You might as well do a favour for us at the same time.” Mai said.
“Pleeeease?” Ty Lee said.
“Ugh, fine.” Zuko said. “I’ll go now if you’re going to be that annoying about it.”
He grabbed his wallet and left the store, walking down the street.
A hipster coffee store... Aha. The Tui and La cafe.
The line in the cafe was getting ridiculous.
“Suki! Can’t you like, make coffee faster or something?” Sokka said desperately.
“Oh I’m sorry Sokka, you’re right. I was going at such a slow pace, I’ll speed right up.” Suki said menacingly, slamming down the lid on the blender.
“Point taken. But seriously, we need to do something about this line, it’s blocking up half the space in the cafe.”
“What do you suggest, Sokka? You’re the ‘plan guy’ after all.” Katara said without looking up from where she was sorting ingredients.
“Forget I said anything!” Sokka said, annoyed.
Eventually, Katara stopped what she was doing to help Suki with the coffee, and that sped the line up dramatically.
Sokka wasn’t even registering the people he was dealing with, just saying the same thing to each person, processing the money, printing the receipt, next.
Which is why he was caught completely off guard.
Sokka had just dropped a sachet of sugar on the ground and bent down to pick it up between customers. When he stood back up, he continued with his usual address.
“Hi welcome to Tui and La cafe, how can I help you?” He said, putting back the sachet and putting the box away. There was no response. Sokka looked up.
“ Zuko?” Sokka said in disbelief.
Zuko looked dazed, and lifted up an arm in greeting. “Um, hi.”
“What are you doing here?” Sokka said.
Zuko pointed to the menu. “...Getting coffee?”
“Oh, right.” Sokka said quickly.
“I didn’t actually know you worked here,” Zuko offered. “But it’s nice to see you again.”
Sokka looked at him, surprised. Zuko’s face was flushed, and he was determinedly looking down.
Zuko then ordered, still not making eye contact with Sokka.
While Zuko was distracted, getting his wallet, Sokka turned and made eye contact with Katara. She looked back at him, confused. He widened his eyes and jerked his head in Zuko’s direction. Understanding dawned on her face, and then she was looking at Zuko, scrutinising him. Satisfied, she looked back at Sokka and shrugged, as if to say: good taste.
Sokka heard a throat being cleared behind him, and whipped his head around to face Zuko.
They finally made eye contact, Sokka looking into Zuko’s golden eyes, Zuko staring right back into Sokka’s. And for a moment, it felt like there was nothing there except him and Zuko’s stupidly attractive face and stupidly pretty eyes.
Someone in the line behind Zuko cleared their throat. The spell was broken.
Sokka laughed nervously. “Sorry about that,” He said to the rest of the people in the line.
He turned back to Zuko, who’d taken his coffees from Suki wordlessly.
“Well, it’s good to see you Zuko, you should drop by again some time!” Sokka said.
“Yeah, will do,” Zuko mumbled.
After Sokka was sure that he had left, he turned to Katara and Suki.
“Oh my god Sokka, maybe you’re right. I’ve never seen anyone make you speechless like that.” Katara said, laughing.
Zuko marched back to the store, his expression thunderous.
“You knew, didn’t you?” He said as he burst through the door.
Mai and Ty Lee looked up. Ty Lee looked vaguely guilty.
“Know what?” Ty Lee said with a nervous smile.
“Don’t play dumb. You knew that Sokka worked there and sent me there on purpose!”
“Yeah we did, Zuko. We sent our friend to see someone he liked in the hopes that he would go on a date for the first time in months. We sincerely apologise.” Mai retorted.
Zuko hated that her reasoning made sense.
“We only did it because we wanted the best for you!” Ty Lee said.
“Did you at least get his number?” Mai said.
“What? No! I hardly know him!” Zuko sputtered.
Ty Lee and Mai groaned in unison.
“Did Sokka not tell you? He’s been pining after some dude who works in the flower store for like, two weeks.” Suki said.
Sokka and Aang, his roommate, and Toph were at Suki and Katara’s apartment for their weekly movie night.
“What? Who is it Sokka?” Aang asked, his arm around Katara on the couch.
Sokka didn’t respond, sulking in the corner.
“Oh what, so now you can’t harp on about him but it was okay when you were annoying me?” Katara snorted. “He came into the cafe last week. It was the most awkward conversation I’ve ever had to witness.”
Toph sniggered. “Is Sokka in looovve?” She sang.
“No! Can you all shut up, please?” Sokka grumbled.
“We’ll shut up when you get his number.” Suki said.
“Fine! On Monday, I’ll go and get it. Anything to shut you all up.”
“Like hell you will.” Toph said. “You’re just saying that to get us off your back.”
“I believe in you Sokka!” Aang said brightly.
“Wanna bet, Twinkletoes?” Toph said, a dangerous glimmer in her eye.
“But— I was just encouraging him—“ Aang protested.
“You’re on.” Suki said. “He’s been pining this long, I think he’ll do it.”
“I’m in too,” Katara said. “I’ve known Sokka way longer than you guys. No way he’ll do it.”
“I—Are you guys betting on my love life?” Sokka asked incredulously.
They ignored him, and Toph then turned to Suki.
“What are we betting?” She said.
Suki pondered for a moment. “If I win, Katara has to be in charge of cleaning our apartment for a week, and vice versa if I lose. And Toph has to help me clean the cafe after we close for a week if I win, but if I lose she can have every coffee I make for her free.”
Toph gasped. “Sokka, you better chicken out.”
“This is ridiculous! Aang, you agree that this is ridiculous, right?” Sokka turned to Aang.
“It does seem a little much for someone’s number...” Aang thought. “But it’s just friendly competition! Nothing wrong with that!” He said, seemingly unable to recognise the murderous looks the girls were giving each other.
“Hey Zuko, come look at this! I think the paint is peeling on our sign.” Ty Lee called from out on the street.
“Seriously? I swear we had that redone just a few months ago.” Zuko went outside and looked up, squinting against the bright sunlight.
“What are you talking about? There’s nothing wrong with it,” Zuko said, turning to look at Ty Lee. But she was gone. Zuko heard the sound of a key turning in a lock and looked at the door, surprised.
“Hey, what’s going on?” He said to Mai and Ty Lee on the other side of the door.
Mai’s response was muffled through the door. “This is an intervention Zuko. You’re not allowed back in here until you get that guys number.”
Zuko wanted to tear his hair out. “You’re unbelievable! All of this just for some guy’s number?”
“But it’s not just some guy, is it Zuko.” Ty Lee said. “We can tell you really like him, just give it a chance!”
Zuko balled his fists, then released them. “If I get his number, you guys will let me back in?” He said.
“Yep!” Ty Lee said sunnily.
Zuko clenched his teeth, partly in anger, but also in stress. Then he sighed, and resigned himself to his fate.
“Nearly your break Sokka!” Toph sang as she walked into the cafe, dragging Aang in her wake.
Sokka scowled. “Are you all seriously here just for your stupid bet?”
Toph grinned. “Pretty much! Although I did have to drag Mr Kind and Noble with me.”
Aang grimaced at Sokka, silently communicating an apology in fear of Toph.
Suki leaned across the counter, looking at the clock. “Nearly time!”
“I can’t wait for my lifetime supply of free coffee Suki.” Toph said, sickeningly sweet.
“I can’t wait for my free tiny janitor.” Suki countered.
Katara walked in from the back room. “Don’t be delusional Suki, me and Toph are winning this bet. For once we’re actually in agreement, which is a sign from the universe.” She declared.
A faint dinging sound came from where Toph and Aang were sitting. Toph punched Aang in the arm, and with a faint “Ow...”, he pulled his phone from his pocket, showing them the alarm that was going off.
Sokka goggled at them. “Firstly, you set an alarm? And secondly, Aang, why did you have to betray me like that man?”
Aang shot Sokka an apologetic look. “You think I had a choice? This is Toph we’re talking about.”
“Come on Sokka, chop chop!” Toph clapped her hands. “It’s your break!”
“Don’t blow this for me Sokka,” Katara said. Sokka ignored her.
“Good luck!” Aang called as he left the store.
The inherent ridiculousness of the bet Sokka’s friends had made had distracted Sokka from the nerves he had at going to ask for Zuko’s number. Sure, Sokka flirted a lot and acted confident, but he didn’t actually go on a lot of proper dates.
He took a steadying breath as he walked up the street. It would be fine. He would just go and ask him, no big deal.
Sokka was looking at the ground as he walked, and so didn’t notice anything until he bumped right into someone.
“Shit, I am so sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going—“ Sokka’s thoughts all came to a screeching halt, and he stopped mid sentence. “Zuko?”
Zuko looked equally shocked. “Hey,” He said. “I was just on my way to the cafe.”
“Really? That’s so weird, I was actually going to your flower store. Small world, huh.”
“Yeah, weird.” Zuko looked uncomfortable.
Sokka’s brain finally caught up, and he suddenly remembered why he was there.
“Listen I just wanted to—“
“I was just wondering—“
They both spoke at the same time, then stopped.
“You go first,” They said in unison, then Sokka laughed.
“Okay, um, I guess I’ll go first” He said. “So, I know that we don’t know each other very well, and that you probably think this is super out of nowhere, but I like you. A lot. And I was just wondering...” Fuck it, Sokka thought. Might as well go for it . “If you maybe wanted to go out some time?”
Zuko stared at him in disbelief. He was quiet for such a long time that Sokka started to backpedal.
“I mean, only if you wanted to? Fuck, forget I said anything.” Sokka turned to leave.
“Sokka wait,” Zuko said in a strangled voice. Sokka turned. “Just to clarify, you did just ask me on a date, right?”
“I can’t believe this.” Zuko muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose.“I was literally going to the cafe to get your number.”
Sokka blinked. “Wait, seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously. Agni, we’re such idiots.” Zuko said, exasperated.
“So...is that a yes?”
Zuko looked at him, surprised. “Of course it’s a yes.”
“Thank god, you had me worried for a second there!” Sokka said. “Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if I’d misread the whole situation? I don’t even know what I would’ve done, seriously. I mean—“ Sokka stopped mid rant. Zuko was looking at him, his eyes soft.
On impulse, Sokka reached down and took Zuko’s hand. Zuko looked down at it, then back up at Sokka. Sokka took a step towards Zuko, and slowly slipped his arms around his waist.
“Can I kiss you?” Zuko asked softly, his face so close to Sokka’s that he could feel Zuko’s breath on his face.
“Yeah,” Sokka said breathlessly. Spirits, Zuko was pretty.
Sokka didn’t even have time to think about anything before Zuko’s lips were on his, his hands cupping his cheeks, then moving to link around the back of his neck. Sokka leaned into it, and ran his hands through Zuko’s hair, which was just as soft as he’d imagined. Then he moved his arms back to Zuko’s waist.
“You’re right,” Sokka said, breaking the kiss.
“We’re both idiots.” Sokka breathed. “Also, I think we have an audience.”
“Move Aang, I want to see what’s happening!” Katara said.
The four friends were gathered at the window at the front of the cafe, craning their necks to see what Sokka was doing.
“Yeah Aang, let me see what’s happening!” Toph echoed, receiving an exasperated look from Katara.
“Oh my god.” Suki said in a shocked tone.
“What?” Katara said, shoving Suki aside to look. “Oh my god,” She said faintly.
“What? What’s happening? Aang!” Toph said.
“Um...it looks like Sokka got more than just Zuko’s number,” Aang said in disbelief.
“They’re making out, Toph. In the middle of the street,” Suki supplied helpfully. “Wait, does this mean I won the bet?”
“Not now Suki! I’m still trying to recover from witnessing that.” Katara said in a disgusted tone.
“I think it’s sweet!” Aang said brightly.
“He’s my brother, Aang! It’s gross!”
“Uh...guys?” Suki said. “I think they noticed us.”
They all looked up, where Sokka was staring at them, grinning.
“Yeah! Get some, Sokka!” Toph yelled through the glass.
Zuko turned red and ducked his head, and Sokka laughed at them, and put his arm around Zuko’s waist. Then he and Zuko made their way up the road, in the opposite direction of the cafe, and disappeared in the crowd.