Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender

Author's Note: I don't know if the season finale will deal with this or not, but I wanted to get my version out there just in case. I will also be writing a scene of Aang meeting Hakoda in Destiny's Call, but that will be some ways down the line. And yes, a new chapter of that story is coming soon!

Aang Meets Hakoda

Hakoda watched the giant flying creature pass overhead, much as he had a few weeks before. This time, however, an object plunged off of it, coming directly towards him. He backed away and tried to make out what it was as it drew closer.

It appeared to be some kind of flying machine, apparently guided by a grinning boy. Behind him, clinging tightly, was another, longer figure, clad in blue. Hakoda's heart was in his throat as he realized who was dropping in to pay him a visit. The pair landed, and the boy with the blue arrow on his head, who could only be the Avatar, collapsed the machine into a wooden staff.

"Just for the record, I hate it when we do that!" Sokka informed his companion.

"Well, Appa's too big to land on the ship," the Avatar pointed out, though he seemed fairly unrepentant. Sokka, however, wasn't really listening, as he had just looked up and seen his father.

"Dad!" he shouted, and ran to hug him. After returning the hug, Hakoda held Sokka at arm's length. He saw that Sokka had tears in his eyes, much like he had when Hakoda had left, more than two years ago. Of course, Hakoda wasn't completely dry-eyed himself.

"This strapping young man can't possibly be my son!" he exclaimed in amazement, looking over the boy and marking the changes in him. "You've grown so much!"

"It's really me. It's so good to see you!"

"Where's Katara?" Hakoda asked, noting his daughter's absence.

"One of us had to stay behind with the Earth King. It's a long story," he said in answer to his father's expression. He turned to the Avatar. "In the meantime, there's someone I'd like you to meet. Dad, this is Avatar Aang. Aang, my father, Hakoda of the Southern Water Tribe."

Avatar Aang set down his staff and clasped one fist in his other hand, bowing deeply.

"It is a great honor for me to greet the father of Sokka and Katara," he intoned formally. Hakoda was stunned. Seeing the Avatar, even if he was very young, treating him with such deference was a little surreal. His children must have made quite an impression, and Hakoda was very proud.

"I am very pleased to finally meet you, Avatar Aang," he managed, returning the bow.

"Just call me Aang," the Avatar straightened up and flashed a disarming smile.

"Bato told me you were traveling together to the North Pole," Hakoda said promptingly.

"We made it there," Sokka confirmed, and something flickered across his face before he shook it off. "Katara's a master waterbender now. She's been teaching Aang."

"Amazing! You're both growing up so fast…" and he was missing it. Already, there were signs in Sokka's eyes that he had seen more of life than even Hakoda had. He had hoped to protect his children from the war, and instead, here they were in the middle of it. "Well, why don't you come inside, where we can sit down and talk?"

"I'm afraid I have to be going to the Eastern Air Temple," Aang refused apologetically. He paused and appeared to be struggling with something. His face began to turn red. "But, as long as you're here, there's something I'd like to ask you."

"Of course, anything."

"I, um…well, you see…the thing is…um…"

"Aang's in love with Katara," Sokka stepped in helpfully. "He probably wants to ask for your blessing or something. He's kind of old-fashioned that way." He cast a smug, sidelong glance at the Avatar, who was gaping at him with an expression that probably mirrored Hakoda's own.

"How – how did you know?" Aang asked him.

"Seriously, Aang, you're sort of obvious. Besides, I've never seen anything else that can make you blush and stammer that much." Aang cleared his throat and flushed even more deeply.

"So, yeah, that's kind of what I wanted to ask," Aang returned his attention to Hakoda. "Is it okay with you?"

Hakoda was still trying to make sense of all this. The Avatar? In love with his little girl?

"Katara is still quite young," was all he managed to come up with at first.

"Actually, she's older than he is," Sokka replied. "Well, sort of. It's complicated."

"Yes, of course," he said faintly, already doing the mental calculations. He remembered a sweet-faced child with large eyes that were far too serious for her years. "I suppose my daughter is growing into a lovely young lady."

"She's beautiful!" Aang affirmed.

"She looks a lot like Mom," clarified Sokka. If that were true, then the dreamy expression on the young Avatar's face was completely understandable. Hakoda allowed himself a sad smile as he remembered his late wife.

"I know we're both really young," Aang acknowledged seriously, meeting Hakoda's eyes. "But I love Katara. She means more to me than anything, even stopping this war. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I mean, if she wants to." Hakoda scrutinized him carefully, exploring the steady, gray gaze. Children sometimes had a tendency to be dramatic. This boy, though, was different. He knew exactly what he was saying, and he meant every word. Hakoda swallowed.

"How does she feel?" he had to ask.

"I don't really know," Aang admitted. "I haven't been able to tell her yet. I've tried a few times, but something always seems to happen."

"Sokka?"

"I'm not sure," he answered. "I know she cares about him a lot." His eyes, however, were sending a message to his father that they would talk later.

"Well, Sokka, you've been with him for a while. I trust your judgment. What do you think?" Sokka faced Aang and appeared to regard the question soberly.

"Well, Dad, I have to be honest with you; he's not perfect, and the fact that he's the Avatar will always be throwing complications in. Plus, of course, no one will ever really be good enough for Katara." At this point, Sokka broke into a broad smile and draped an arm casually about the younger boy's shoulders. "But I think he's the closest we're going to find." Aang grinned happily and gratefully at him.

"All right," Hakoda decided. "You have my permission to pursue Katara, as long as she doesn't object."

"Thank you, sir," Aang bowed again. "Thanks, Sokka."

"Aw, you know I already love ya like a brother," Sokka said, rubbing the Avatar's head fondly. The easy affection they displayed told Hakoda more than any words could exactly how much these two had been through together. "Now, get out of here, you goofy little freak."

"Okay," Aang laughed good-naturedly, spinning out his glider and taking off. He took a couple of joyful loop-de-loops on his way up. The two Water Tribe warriors watched him rejoin his bison and fly away. Hakoda turned to his son again.

"Well, Sokka, let's go share a bowl of stewed sea prunes. It sounds like we have a lot of catching up to do."

Author's Note: I originally conceived this as a oneshot, but I'm thinking of doing another chapter or two of Sokka and Hakoda catching up.