Hi-yo! Chibi-chan here, takin' a stab at—not my first, but my first posted—Avatar fanfiction. Yay! -Throws confetti.- I'm hoping that you readers don't think this chapter is as sucky as I think it is, but I've revised and edited it so many times, I have it pretty much memorized. So yeah. And yes, I know, Sokka and Zuko are quite OOC, but hopefully they won't be so much as this fic continues and progresses. Umm….enjoy?
Warning: This fic contains shounen-ai fluff, and will later contain some hints of yaoi-ness, so if you don't like it, then go click that pretty green back arrow. Yeah, that one.
Disclaimer I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender, or any of its characters, creatures, etc. If I did, Sokka and Zuko would be the main canon couple and other stuff would happen.
"Sokka, you're such a jerk!" Katara growled, somehow maintaining her self-control, or else she'd have given her brother a good bruise or two.
Snarling and turning on his heel, Sokka angrily stormed off into the mess of trees surrounding their temporary encampment. Katara was being extra moody, and so the elder boy decided to hand the fault to raging teenage female hormones and didn't want to keep their absolutely pointless squabble going on longer than it needed to. Besides, he couldn't even remember what she started screaming at him for. He slowly inhaled the fresh, crisp forest air, clearing his mind with each deep breath. He felt ultimately relaxed by the time he happened to stumble upon a small stream lined with silky smooth boulders-a splendid reprieve.
"Hmm…I wonder how she does it," Sokka randomly muttered, to himself, really. He sat cross-legged on one of the lower-leveled boulders right near the water's edge. Staring heavily down at his rippling reflection upon the translucent surface of the crystal water, he slowly moved his hand up and down in almost pitiful attempts to waterbend, for he knew he couldn't do it anyway. But it was worth a try, he guessed. After all, if Katara could waterbend, it MUST be in his blood, right?
Well, apparently Sokka didn't have it in him, as his following ten minutes-or was it more like an hour?-brutally proved to him. Oh well, he sighed, kissing his lovely boomerang: a gift from his father. As long as he had his beloved, most treasured weapon, nothing else really mattered. He didn't need that "magic water" after all. Lovingly fingering the silvery face of his boomerang, the tanned boy stared off down the stream and into the foliage. Whilst the entire time he thought about nothing in particular whatsoever, his mind suddenly brought him to a subject he never imagined he would think about--and one he completely loathed to boot--Prince Zuko.
"What the heck?" Sokka thought aloud, shaking his head as if to rid the firebender's image from his mind. He was almost in shock that Zuko just erratically floated into his thoughts, and the more he dwelled on it, the more ominous the weird feeling in his gut became. What was his body trying to tell him? Somehow, he felt like Zuko was in immense pain, that he was…crying. It almost seemed like the prince himself was calling to Sokka for…help? But that just couldn't be. His mind was just playing tricks on him, as usual--though he did have to admit that this was much weirder than his dream where food ate people, yet not as when he had been hallucinating on cactus juice just mere days earlier. But why couldn't he shake this feeling away? That twinge in his stomach plagued him ruthlessly until…
It was then that Sokka realized that he was starving beyond all logical reasoning in the infinite universe of knowledge. It was also then that he noticed the storm clouds hovering, looming above him like a deadly predator.
Almost sooner than he'd seen the brewing storm coming did rain begin pouring relentlessly upon him in buckets. At this point, the tribesman could barely see his hand in front of his face, let alone where the heck he was going as he battled through the sheets of rain, wishing oh so terribly that he could waterbend then. But, as unfortunate as it was, he just simply couldn't, so he'd have to face the predicament like a man and somehow, magically, find his way back to camp…
…Or maybe that old abandoned cabin right over there.
Yeah. That seemed to be the better of the two paths he could have followed, considering the current circumstances under which he was caught.
So, head for that cabin Sokka did, and once inside, he slammed the door shut and yanked the wooden lever down to lock it. A sigh of relief escaped his slightly pursed lips as he relaxed against the door, listening to the rain pounding inexorably against the--he was pretty certain, at least--sturdy cabin.
His breath hitched in his throat and his body froze as he suddenly picked up a faint snoring coming from somewhere near the back wall. Oh shit! Someone else was already here? The dark teen was afraid to move, but he managed to muster up enough of whatever courage he had to merely slide down to a cross-legged sit in front of the secured door. Just who was his cabin mate? Sokka was too chicken to wake the stranger up; he certainly didn't have a death wish at the moment. Yet, he still had this insatiable curiosity gurgling in his stomach--or maybe that was just his hunger eating away at his insides? Ah, well, that didn't matter. What did matter was who the heck was snoring not even eight feet from him, and how long he'd have to wait out the storm: it was entirely probable that he'd have to stay put well into the night, or even until the next morning, which was definitely something he didn't want to do. He suddenly felt extremely bad for Aang, Katara, and Toph.
"Who's there?" a voice called out, and before Sokka could fully react and respond, a burst of flame came flying out of nowhere at his alarmed face, just barely missing his head, yet managing to singe a few of the hairs sticking out from his warrior's wolf tail. Great. He was stuck with a damn firebender.
"What the hell was that for!" the scared-shitless tribesman cried out in exasperation, shooting a cold glare into the darkness--to where he thought the man, he decided, was hiding. A pair of fiery, shimmering gold irises peered back from the shadows like those belonging to a feline, meeting Sokka's own ice blue eyes. The dark figure of the person shifted around a bit, seemingly moving closer to the trembling tanned boy, albeit those eyes never wavered from their hard glower. Sokka's eyes never wandered from those golden-sun orbs, either--that is, at least until, without warning, a small flame appeared in front of his face, close enough to eat away at his now sweaty, dark skin, causing him to flinch.
"Zuko," he said with unadulterated loathing and utter disinterest dripping from his low voice. "Great; just my luck to be stuck here with the likes of you."
Those uneven gold eyes narrowed dangerously, and the flames emanating from the prince's open palm flared and flickered, growing slightly in size. The atmosphere surrounding the two boys grew considerably warmer, causing Sokka to sweat a bit more. However, this newfound heat was pretty short-lived, for it only lingered for a few seconds. The tribesman caught a hint of hesitance in Zuko's eyes before the light between them extinguished completely in the flick of a wrist, leaving them in pitch darkness, save for the minimal light seeping through the small windows. Whoa, wait a minute. Did Zuko just…back down? Sokka could no longer see that familiar glow of gold; it was as if Zuko himself had disappeared into the shadows along with his flame.
It was only moments before a second fire sprung up from the blackness, this time in the fire pit located in the middle of the cabin, equipped with a small spit for cooking meat and whatnot. Zuko was--it seemed so, anyway--playing with the flames as they licked almost affectionately at his pale skin, golden eyes transfixed on the matching dancing colors of light and energy that sat before him.
"Seeing as it was your fucking stomach that woke me up, I figured I might as well cook some miso soup or something," the prince announced without Sokka having to really ask. Broken now from his earlier trance, the firebender set to work on preparing the meal. The darker teen wasn't sure if he should take Zuko's commentary as an insult or not, but at least it sounded like the scarred teen was going to feed him. Food plus Sokka equals happy, after all, so as long as Sokka was full, all would be well.
Now that the prince's fire had grown, it was considerably easier to fully see him. His long ebony hair was pulled into a high ponytail like it used to be, but he actually had a full head of hair. Damn, that hair of his grew fast. It must be a firebender thing, the tribesman decided. At least Zuko didn't have those ridiculously huge sideburns and enormous amounts of facial hair like most of the other men from the Fire Nation. They were just hairy people, he guessed.
"So…what are you doing out here?" Sokka questioned, just for the sake of trying to start up a light conversation nonchalantly--he still felt the need to be at least friendly, seeing as Zuko was going to feed him and all, which meant he had to swallow his pride for once and forget about his hatred toward the older boy--remaining in his spot in front of the locked door.
I have no where else to go…
"I'm on the run, you nitwit," the prince replied somewhat harshly, working diligently on their meager meal.
"On the run? From who?" the tribesman questioned.
From my psycho sister and the bastard that dares to call himself the Firelord…
"From my own country," Zuko said through slightly clenched teeth.
"The Fire Nation? Since when?" Sokka inquired, raising a surprised brow.
Since my father turned his back on me once again…
"Haven't you seen all the wanted posters in pretty much every single Earth Kingdom city since the attack at the North Pole?" Zuko asked, this time in a pretty neutral voice as he stirred their cooking soup.
"…No, not really. I never pay attention to those things," Sokka replied, drawing a knee in close to his chest and draping his arm over it lazily. He huffed and watched the prince intently, though not cautiously, but rather as if he were intrigued by him. His icy eyes studied every move the firebender made, no matter how small. One thing the tribesman made sure to avoid at all costs, however, was that terrible scar adorning nearly the entire left side of Zuko's pale face. Though Sokka had always wondered where that scar came from, he was terrified to ask. Questioning the enemy about his personal life was pretty much asking for a one-way ticket to the Grim Reaper's front porch.
The two boys sat in complete silence for what seemed like hours until Zuko finally announced, "The soup's done."
It took every ounce of Sokka's self-control to keep himself from jumping up and screaming. Excited and eager to stuff his face, the tribesman scooted across the wooden floor as quickly as his butt would slide. His fingers twitched madly as he grabbed for the bowl the prince handed over to him, and without hesitating another moment, he began shoving mouthfuls of soup into his huge trap.
Zuko merely stared at the water tribe peasant as he scarfed down the food. A smirk graced his timid lips as he sipped at his own soup "How does it taste?"
"Oh my God, it's so great! You are a saint!" Sokka exclaimed, finishing off the rest of his meal in a flash. He glanced at the prince for permission to take more from the pot. Receiving an accepting nod from him, he poured more of the delectable soup into his bowl.
"It's good to know my soup isn't as horrible as my tea," the pale teen said after taking another small sip. "Please don't ask me to make any; you'd probably vomit it back up."
"Oh, I'm sure it's not that nasty," the darker teen replied in between hurried slurps.
"Believe me, the look on my uncle's face when he tried it told me enough," the prince responded, setting down his bowl, which turned out to be still half-full--or half-empty, as both boys would see it, being the pessimists that they were.
Sokka's eyes grew wide as he stared down into his own empty bowl, then glancing over at Zuko's bowl. "Hey…you gonna finish that?" he asked like a small child would, pointing shyly.
"Go ahead and take it," Zuko said, waving his hand as if to dismiss the soup from his mind completely.
"Thanks, Zuko!" the tribesman said gratefully, giving the prince a huge, goofy grin.
"You're welcome…uh...," the prince paused, seemingly turning over several thoughts in his heavily-weighed mind.
"Sokka," the darker teen finished for him, sipping up the remains of soup. "My name's Sokka."
"Right. Sokka. Got it," the firebender said slowly, allowing his stiff frame to relax a bit. He once again reached his hand into the flames that stared at him so temptingly, allowing their fervidness to engulf his trembling fingers completely. Sokka watched him do this with interest, just as he had before. This time, though, Zuko's face wore a different expression than the last time. He seemed to glare at the flames, almost like he was asking them, begging them to burn through his flesh, to char and melt it away.
"Zuko! What the heck are you doing?" the darker teen cried out, slamming the bowl down on the floor with a bang that echoed through the cabin like a crack of thunder did moments later. Whoa, since when did he care about what Zuko did to himself? It certainly wasn't any of his business.
The prince apparently popped back into the realm of reality and quickly snapped his arm back, hugging it against his chest. Sokka could have sworn he saw an invisible shield close in around Zuko right then, much to his disappointment. That minimal, but still-existent open-ness that the prince had while cooking was completely gone now. He was closed off from the world, just as usual, and in that moment, Sokka wanted nothing more than to break down that barrier responsible for separating them. He didn't want to be isolated from Zuko. He didn't want to feel like he had been left alone in the cabin. He wanted there to be a chance, even a microscopic one, that they could be…friends.
Refusing to show any of his frustration, Sokka stacked his empty bowl inside Zuko's and hugged his knees to his chest. His icy blue eyes focused solely on the prince, who merely sat staring into the flames. The firebender inhaled and closed his eyes, assuming a cross-legged sitting position, resting his open palms calmly on his knees. Sokka let go of his knees, allowing them to slide out until his legs were straight, for the most part.
"What are you doing?" the tribesman asked in a hushed tone, somehow feeling that Zuko didn't want much noise.
"Meditating," the prince replied curtly, exhaling slowly, his eyes still closed. The fire in the pit grew much larger than Sokka had seen it thus far as Zuko released his breath. The flames reduced drastically as the prince drew in another breath. "My uncle taught me to do this to clear my mind, keep my head level, and to reduce my temper."
Sokka nodded with almost feigned curiosity. "Does it really work?"
"For the most part, yes," Zuko answered, exhaling the remaining carbon dioxide in his lungs. "It especially helps on days like this, when I feel weakened."
"Weakened? What do you mean?" the tribesman questioned, this time with genuine interest. He momentarily debated whether or not to scoot closer to the meditating prince, but eventually decided against it-for now, at least.
"When it rains," the prince began, opening his good eye just a sliver to glance at the window, "my firebending weakens and I sort of feel frazzled, in a confusing sort of way." Oh, shit. He probably shouldn't have said that. Well, his shield was definitely going back up.
"I suppose that makes a lot of sense, actually," the darker teen said, stroking his chin somewhat thoughtfully. He glanced over to Zuko once more, noticing that the pale teen had tensed up quite a bit. Being the battle genius that he was, Sokka moved closer to the prince--who had seemingly stopped breathing temporarily--and rested a gloved hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry…I won't use that against you," he offered cordially, half-assing his goofy grin. Zuko relaxed slightly, in a relieved sort of way.
The boys fell into yet another awkward silence, which made the tribesman quite uncomfortable. Sighing gruffly, he pulled his boomerang out of its storing pouch and scrutinized it for scratches and whatnot. The firebender merely meditated some more, nearly falling asleep at one point. Though he couldn't explain it for the life of him, for some reason, Zuko felt…at ease with Sokka sitting next to him. He half-hoped that the darker teen wouldn't move anytime soon.
"So why exactly are you on the run from the Fire Nation?" Sokka asked casually, still working at polishing his cherished weapon.
"What is with all these questions?" Zuko replied in question, still holding his head level, not allowing small irritations to crawl under his skin.
"I don't know; I'm just curious, I guess," the tribesman replied, setting down his boomerang for a second to glance at the prince. "I think I should have probably told you before, but I can get pretty annoying sometimes-or so I'm told. Please don't kill me."
"You needn't worry; there's no reason for me to kill you. Though if I truly wanted you dead, I could have disposed of you already," the prince replied with his typical arrogance. Exhaling, he brought his arms to his chest, crossing them. His cat-like eyes fluttered open and he turned to face the water tribe peasant. "Why don't you tell me some things about yourself, since I've already said my share?"
"Well, what do you want to know?" Sokka replied. Gosh, it was almost as if they were playing the questions only game, the way they kept responding to each other. Taking one last look at his boomerang, the darker teen sheathed it back into its pouch.
"I don't know. Tell me the story of that boomerang," Zuko said in a half-bored tone, lying back on one arm, slinging the other lazily over his knee.
The tribesman paused, remaining silent for a minute or so. Sighing, he pulled his weapon out of its sheath and held it so tightly, his knuckles turned ashen. Staring at it as a saddened look came over his face, he said, "This was a gift from my dad. He gave it to me before he left…to fight in the war, along with the other men in my tribe. They left to help the Earth Kingdom. That was over two years ago…."
The prince's lips turned down into a slight frown as his gaze transferred to the dimming flames. "It must be nice…," he whispered, closing his eyes.
"…What must be nice?" Sokka asked, returning his boomerang to its sheath. A mood of seriousness had settled upon them, and the darker teen really didn't like it.
Having a father that loves you…
"Y-your boomerang. I meant that it must be a pretty nice weapon," Zuko muttered as a substitute for what he really wanted to say. "So, two years, eh? I think that's how long it's been since I've seen my father, as well…maybe a bit longer…"
"Why did your dad have to leave?" Sokka inquired, automatically jumping to conclusions that, well, he probably shouldn't have—plus, he momentarily forgot about Zuko being the Fire Nation's prince.
I wish he would have left.
"He didn't leave…I did," the prince replied, sighing sadly, his voice dropping as certain memories began seeping into his conscious mind.
"Why'd you leave, then?" the tribesman questioned, only slightly altering his question from before.
"I…have my reasons," the pale teen said, clearing his throat a bit, as if to dismiss the subject completely. Sokka took the hint and sighed in defeat; it didn't look like he was going to get much more out of Zuko, to his dismay.
"…Awkward turtle," the dark teen said almost as soon as the uncomfortable stillness ensued their conversation, placing his right hand over his left, both palms facing down, and moving his thumbs in a sort of swimming motion.
"What…?" Zuko asked, cocking a brow, giving Sokka look that said, 'What the hell…?'
"It's just…something you're supposed to do in an awkward situation, or when it's too quiet. You know, to lighten the mood, I suppose," Sokka responded, shrugging his shoulders.
"…Okay then," was Zuko's uneasy reply.
Well, the awkward turtle didn't seem to work, so Sokka decided to try a different method.
"You're acting a lot different than usual," he said, avoiding looking at the prince at any cost. "You're not being the stubborn, short-tempered prick you normally are. Why is that?"
"Maybe I decided I don't like being a prick," Zuko said flatly, frankly. He liked to keep his answers relatively short; it would be terrible news for him if he accidentally let valuable something slip like earlier.
"Well, don't ever go back to being one, because I like you better this way…just like everyone else would, I guess," Sokka added quickly, stumbling over the right words to say and exactly how to say them. Clearly, the boy lacked heavily in eloquence. But Zuko didn't mind much; in fact, it was almost refreshing to be around someone with less articulacy than his old, proverbial uncle.
"I'll try not to…just don't provoke me," the prince said with a small smile that disappeared as quickly as it graced his lips.
"I won't provoke you if you won't provoke me," the tribesman replied, holding his right hand out for the prince to shake it, as if they were forming some sort of truce.
"Agreed, for now," Zuko said, taking Sokka's gloved hand in a friendly way.
"So, how long do you think this storm will last?" Sokka asked, deliberately changing the subject.
Hopefully all night, 'cause I don't want to be alone…
"I don't have a clue," the prince said, poking at the fire once more.
"Well, that's about as good as my guess," the darker teen replied, watching Zuko play with the dimming flames. Studying, scrutinizing, cautiously eyeing that fire-licked hand, it was then that Sokka noticed dark pink marks snaking around the pale skin, trailing their way up and around the wrist, and disappearing beneath that tattered excuse for a sleeve. And then it hit him: that gut-wrenching, stomach churning feeling from earlier…
"Zuko…quit that. You're starting to creep me out," Sokka ordered with a shudder, still focusing on the hand resting almost unbearably comfortably within those flames…
The prince didn't move a single muscle, as if he didn't hear the tribesman speak at all. His golden eyes mirrored every movement of the flickering fire as it swayed back and forth like a lithe dancer, sparked furiously like fireworks on crack. Somewhat infuriated and even more worried, Sokka reached for Zuko's unmoving hand and grasped it, pulling it away from the flames, earning himself a few small burns in the process. The firebender tried to yank his hand away, but the tribesman kept a firm grip on his wrist, refusing to let go.
"Why are you doing this? Tell me what's going on," Sokka demanded, tightening his hold on the prince's wrist.
"Let go of me now, or you'll regret it," Zuko threatened in a dangerously venomous voice, snorting steam out of his nose like a dragon. Just like earlier, the atmosphere inside the cabin spiked in temperature. A tiny bead of sweat rolled down the side of the tribesman's head.
"I'm not letting go until you tell me why the hell you're MUTILATING yourself!" Sokka yelled, pulling Zuko closer to him. And for being the lanky, absolutely-no-developed-muscles-whatsoever kind of guy, he drew the prince over quite a good distance.
"Oh, and since when do you give a FUCK about ME, the ENEMY!" Zuko shot back in an equally loud voice, the room getting hotter by the second because of his incredible temper.
Unable to take it anymore, Sokka finally snapped. Tugging the prince even closer, he took his anger-quivering lips into a fierce, yet gentle kiss. Sokka could feel Zuko immediately give in, though he was sure it wasn't completely by conscious choice. He rested his gloved hand on the pale, unscarred cheek of the firebender, suddenly feeling something touch his fingertip. Something…wet?
Zuko's barrier had fallen and shattered into a million pieces.
He, Prince Zuko, the icy-hearted heir to the firelord and throne of the Fire Nation…was crying. This hot-tempered, beastly monster that Sokka had always seen him as actually proved he was…human; that he was such a precious, sacred, beautiful creature--too beautiful to cry.
Pulling away ever so slowly, the tribesman gathered the trembling prince into his arms, hugging and holding him protectively. As much as his actions confused him, though, Sokka didn't try to hold back at all. He wasn't sure what exactly had come over him in the short time the two boys had spent alone together, but he kind of didn't want these new feelings to go away. He and Zuko were sort of…similar to one another, and it wasn't until just recently he realized that this was so. And if they were as similar as Sokka thought they were, Zuko probably had everything bottled up inside of him, like a volcano waiting to erupt-almost quite literally. All he needed was an outlet, and this was it… Just thinking about the possibilities brought unwanted memories and musings to the surface of Sokka's mind, and he warily let a single tear drop from his half-open, oceanic irises.
"I'm…r-really…sorry, S-Sokka," Zuko muttered through shaky breaths, hiding his face entirely in the tribesman's chest. He clenched and unclenched his fist periodically, causing horrible wrinkles in the soft blue fabric. He felt Sokka's arms embrace him tighter, and every muscle in his body loosened. The warmth that emanated from the darker boy was so comforting, even more so than the prince's internal heat that he had learned to live with, being a firebender and all. It was under said warmth that the ice encasing his wounded heart began to melt away into a giant, emotional mess of a puddle that had been trampled through many times over.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, Zuko," Sokka attempted to assure him as he tried to calm him down, rubbing his gloved hand slowly up and down his back. "Please...tell me what's wrong?"
"I-I can't...not now," came the almost silent reply. "Just...please, don't let go..."
"I won't; I promise," the tribesman assured the firebender, planting a comforting kiss on the top of his head.
Somehow within the last hour, Sokka had managed not only to put up with the snobby, arrogant prince, but he had also discovered emotions he didn't even know he had, kissed a guy, and had finally gotten Zuko to warm up to him, even if it was just a tiny bit.
Things would definitely be different from now on.
And there was chapter one!
Word Count: 4,527 (this doesn't include the author's notes at the beginning and end—just the chapter itself)
I probably won't be updating too soon, seeing as this chapter took me about a month to write. That being said, please don't hurt me!
Read and review?