The cashier is looking at him expectantly, and Sokka realizes that he should be saying something instead of staring at him. When Aang had recommended the tea shop across from campus that Sokka had never noticed before, The Jasmine Dragon, he decided to give it a try. He isn’t big on tea, but if the tea is as good as their employees are attractive, maybe it’s worth a shot.
The cashier’s eyes narrow and Sokka worries he's being rude. He wonders if people often stare at the scar surrounding his left eye, so he panics and tries to explain himself.
“Your eyes,” Sokka blurts out, and when he doesn’t elaborate the cashier raises an eyebrow.
“They’re nice. You have nice eyes,” Sokka says lamely, and this is it, this is the embarrassing moment he’s going to replay in his head every night for the rest of his life. What the hell is he doing? This is not how Sokka picks up cute strangers. This is not how anyone picks up cute strangers, but he likes to hold himself up to a higher standard.
It’d be impossible not to notice the blush that finds its way across the cashier’s pale skin, and his eyes look away before meeting Sokka’s again. “Uh. Thank you.”
Sokka beams. Maybe this isn’t a complete disaster, making the guy flustered is enough to give him the feeling of the upper hand again. “You’re welcome.”
“Do you know what you want?” the cashier asks, and Sokka glances back up at the menu. All the different choices are overwhelming and he doesn’t know what any of them mean. His eyes start to seek out the coffee section, but he redirects his attention to the cute cashier instead.
“Surprise me. Make me your favorite tea,” Sokka tells him.
The cashier’s eyes actually light up for a second. “That’s a hard choice, but I have an idea of something you’d like.”
Sokka raises an eyebrow. “Am I that predictable?”
He shrugs. “I’ve met a few guys like you.”
“Sweetheart, there are no guys like me,” Sokka winks, and the blush deepens.
“Can I get your name?” the cashier asks quickly. “For the order, of course.”
“Only if you tell me yours,” Sokka responds, noticing the lack of a name tag on his apron. The cashier rolls his eyes.
“There’s a line behind you.”
“Fine, then you don’t get my name. Put my order under ‘Boomerang’.”
The cashier barely holds back from rolling his eyes again as he scribbles the word on a cup along with the tea order and hands it to his coworker to start on the drink.
“That’ll be $4.25,” Hot Cashier tells him.
Sokka hands him a five dollar bill. “Do you have punch cards?” he asks. “I have a feeling I’m going to start coming here more often.”
Sokka is in a good mood the next afternoon as he leaves his last class for the day. He glances at his watch, there is plenty of time for him to treat himself to a cup of tea before he has to go to work. It has nothing to do with a certain beautiful cashier there, of course not.
The tea shop is quiet when he walks in. There are a couple of other college students studying at the tables, and there is no line as he approaches the counter.
Hot Cashier has his back to him, but Sokka recognizes his loose, dark hair. Sokka clears his throat and he turns around, his eyes widening when he lays eyes on Sokka.
“Um, hi,” Hot Cashier says. His face turns red as he drops the stack of lids in his arms, and he glances down at the mess on the floor in resignation, ignoring them in favor of stepping up to the cash register. “You’re back.”
Sokka smirks. This guy is adorable. “Boomerang.”
The cashier looks confused for a second before his eyes widen in realization. He groans. “That’s why you ordered under the name Boomerang?”
"I knew I would be back," Sokka shrugs. “My sister gave me the nickname when I was younger, people could never get rid of me for long before I found some excuse to return."
“I’m glad my tea was good enough for you to come back,” Hot Cashier laughs, low and rough, and it makes Sokka’s stomach flip.
“And I’m glad I left the decision up to you, you have good taste in tea. Care to surprise me again?”
Hot Cashier nods, taking his money and starting the drink as Sokka hangs around the counter. “My uncle would be happy to hear your approval. He spent years working on my taste for and appreciation of tea.”
“I see, so it runs in the family. Does he like this shop?”
Hot Cashier glances at him. “I hope so. He did start it, after all.”
Sokka’s jaw drops. “You’re kidding.”
Hot Cashier shakes his head. “Cross my heart. It’s his pride and joy.”
“Is that how you got a job here?”
“I kind of...helped him start it. I own this one, he’s opening another a few cities south.”
Sokka’s jaw drops and the cashier puts the drink on the counter for him. “I hope you like this.”
As he grabs it, he notices the pride flag pin on Hot Cashier's apron that definitely wasn’t there the day before. Sokka hides his smile behind his cup.
It becomes part of his daily routine to stop at The Jasmine Dragon after his classes. He doesn’t always get a tea, but when he does, he’ll come up with another ridiculous name to order under. When he doesn’t get tea, he’ll bring his laptop and books and get some studying done while Hot Cashier wipes down the tables around his own way too frequently to not be on purpose. Once or twice, Hot Cashier isn’t working, and a boy with “Jet” on his name tag greets him instead. Sokka tells him to surprise him. Jet blinks at him. Sokka sighs and just orders the first thing on the menu.
After a week, Sokka walks in to find Hot Cashier waiting at the register. Usually he’s busying himself with something to do around the tea shop, but he looks up as Sokka walks in.
“You’re ten minutes late,” he says simply, crossing his arms across his chest. “I was starting to get worried.”
Sokka knows it’s a joke, but there’s a note of sincerity in his voice that makes him smile. "I wouldn't dare miss an opportunity to see you again. Surprise me?"
“Hot or iced tea?” he asks.
“I like my tea how I like my men. Hot and mysterious,” Sokka says casually. “But really, I’d like iced tea. It’s kind of hot today.”
He reaches for his wallet but Hot Cashier shakes his head. “On the house.”
“He obviously likes you.”
“I know! And I like him. But every time I think of asking him out, he looks at me and there is so much in his eyes, like I can see into his soul and get a glimpse of who he is, and I chicken out. Guys like that don't go out with guys like me.”
Katara glances over her shoulder at her brother, unimpressed, and Toph snorts.
They’re in the living room of the apartment that he shares with Aang. Aang and Katara are on the floor in front of the television playing a video game while Toph is lounging in the armchair and Sokka is spread out on the couch, once again subjecting them to the latest development with Hot Cashier.
“What’s his name again?” Toph teases, and Sokka huffs in frustration.
“I still don’t know. Thanks for the reminder,” he says bitterly.
“Really? There’s nothing that will give it away? Nothing on the website, no name on the receipt, no clue on Facebook...” Aang suggests, trailing off as he gets distracted by an enemy on the screen.
“I’ve done my share of Facebook stalking, thank you very...wait.” Sokka sits straight up, then he runs to his room without another word. He grabs for his bag, searching for the side pocket and pulling out a handful of receipts that he has stuffed in there recently.
He renters the living room with a victory cry, holding the receipt in the air. “Aang, you’re a genius! Here at the top, it says ‘cashier: zuko’. Zuko! That’s gotta be his name.”
Katara smiles, not looking away from the screen. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Sokka was just at the tea shop not forty minutes ago, but he doesn’t care. He throws on his shoes again and rushes out the door, his friends cheering him on behind him.
He doesn’t know why he starts running, but he can’t seem to stop. Finding out Hot Cashier’s real name is a small victory, but it’s enough to fuel him with the courage he needs.
There’s a line, and Sokka bounces in place as he waits impatiently. Hot Cashier - Zuko - looks surprised when Sokka steps forward as the next customer.
“I’ll take whatever tea you made me the first day I came here, Zuko,” he says, smiling in satisfaction as Zuko’s eyes widen at the sound of his name.
“How did you-?”
“I had to get creative, I couldn’t keep referring to you as Hot Cashier in my mind,” Sokka shrugs, enjoying the way Zuko's blush trails down his neck and disappears under his dark v-neck. “Plus, it was on the receipt.”
“You got me,” Zuko chuckles, grabbing a cup and holding the marker in his other hand. “What’s the name for the order this time?”
“It’s Sokka. My name is Sokka.”
Zuko looks up and smiles. “Nice to meet you, Sokka.”
“Nice to meet you too, Zuko.”
After two more weeks of tea shop visits and a handful of dates, Sokka gives in to the pleas from his sister and his friends to introduce them to his new boyfriend.
Boyfriend. He smiles to himself.
Zuko is waiting for him at the register as usual, and he looks surprised to see Sokka with company.
“I brought you some food,” Sokka tells him, coming around the counter to hand him a paper bag containing his specialty - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - and planting a quick kiss on his cheek. Zuko smiles down at him softly.
“Ugh, you two are adorable. It’s disgusting.” Katara shakes her head, smiling. “Hi, I’m Katara, Sokka’s favorite sister.”
Sokka rolls his eyes. “My only sister.”
“And I’m Aang, Sokka’s favorite roommate.”
“I’m Toph, Sokka’s favorite blind friend.”
Sokka snorts, and Zuko glances between the three of them, still looking caught off guard. “Um. I’m Zuko, Sokka’s...favorite boyfriend?”
Sokka's forehead rests on Zuko’s shoulder as he shakes with suppressed laughter before he gives him another kiss on the cheek. “Damn right you are.”
The three newcomers are still looking at Zuko expectantly and he clears his throat awkwardly. “So...do you like tea?”