A/N: hey all! My second fic, dedicated to the amazing complexity and hotness that is ZukoxSokka. I guess it's a little AU, because Zuko and Iroh are somehow traveling with the Gaang, although I've only seen season 1 so maybe it's canon later. Basically it's how Zuko thinks about Sokka... those two are just drawn together, ne? The first two parts of this were easy to write, the last parts not so much. So if you like one part and not the other, review and tell me about it! Reviews make my world a shiner happier place. wouldn't you like to be the cause of that? Aka, review or forever hold your peace.

Disclaimer: I dont own Avatar, or an original disclaimer.


Sometimes, Zuko thought mornings were the worst.

After all, in the mornings he often woke coated with dew and stiff from a night spent on rocky ground

In the mornings, he was forced to awaken from his sleep and remember yet again his father, his sister, his failure, his decisions. The dawn shook him from a haunted and confusing dream world into the chaotic and confusing reality of another day as a member of the Avatar's entourage.

In the mornings, he faced an unnaturally good natured twelve-year-old and tried to force some discipline and firebending into him for the sake of the world.

It didn't make mornings his favorite time of the day.

On the other hand, in the mornings, he woke up to Sokka pressed unselfconsciously against his chest as the other boy sought out the nearest heat source.

In the mornings, before anyone else had woken, he could see the sharp lines of Sokka's face relax in a way they never did when he was conscious.

In the mornings, he witnessed the last remnants of Sokka's nightmares cling to him, and had the power to dispel them with a soft touch and a barely audible word.

So maybe not.

--

At other times, it was clear that the afternoons were the worst.

When a morning's worth of firebending was behind him but hours of traveling still awaited.

When the Avatar's endless enthusiasm and clear infatuation with the Water girl went from amusing to baffling to irritating.

When his Uncle clapped him on the back and told him sagely, for the hundredth time, that this was all building his character.

And yet, the afternoons were his best chance to observe the Water teen as he interacted with the others and especially with Zuko himself.

When Sokka bickered with his sister, Aang, Toph, the spirits, Appa, and pretty much anyone except Iroh, no matter if they were interested or not.

When Katara relegated Sokka to bringing up the rear with Zuko for that same bickering.

When Sokka spent the remaining hours walking with him, talking to him, challenging him, fidgeting and exclaiming and sometimes walking by close enough to brush against Zuko's side as he passed him.

So the afternoons gave him headaches, but maybe they weren't the worst.

--

And often, Zuko found himself thinking that the nights were the worst.

Because the sun was going down, and everyone was tired and cold, and they had to stop and camp while they were still so far from their destination.

Because he knew that in a few hours he would be dreaming of his family, whether he wanted to or not.

Because it meant sharing a campfire with the rest of them and listening to Iroh and the others chat and quibble as if they had known each other their whole lives, while he watched a certain boy across the fire and felt strangely... unsettled.

But he couldn't quite bring himself to condemn the nights either.

Because that was when he and Sokka, setting up the tents, would occasionally brush fingers as they passed the tools, and his keen eyesight could make out a hint of pink on the darker boys' cheeks.

Because that was when he could watch Sokka from across the fire and appreciate the way firelight played on the other boy's face.

Because that was when he could listen to Sokka's steady breathing near him and wonder what the Water boy would say if he ever simply invited him to lie down closer (for purely heat related reasons), and find Sokka silently inching closer to him in his sleep anyway.

So instead, Zuko found himself rather vaguely thinking that nights were the best time of all.

--

Zuko rolled over in his bedding and winced at the sharp rock jutting into his back. He exhaled and shut his eyes again anyway, ignoring the annoyance and trying to clear his mind so sleep would come more easily. As always when he did this at night, thoughts of Sokka popped up.

Zuko opened his eyes. He wasn't going to get to sleep any time soon if he kept thinking about that. He glared at the boy sleeping a few feet away from him. Maybe if he just moved a bit closer, he could get more comfortable and finally get some sleep...

His plans to subtly slip closer to the sleeping boy were interrupted when Sokka abruptly snorted and rolled over to lie next to the firebender, shivering in his sleep. Zuko started and then leaned in closer to the boy and relaxed again, finally feeling comfortable.

Of course Sokka had interrupted his brilliant plans to get closer and taken it into his own hands. Zuko suddenly discerned the pattern in his days, the thread that connected the unpromising beginnings right through to the bittersweet ends.

Sokka was always ruining his plans. At any time of day.

The corners of Zuko's lips twitched up momentarily, and he closed his eyes once again and settled into sleep.

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