A/N: Has any one else noticed that Sokka and his many 'faces' are an endless well of inspiration? This works well with my other two pieces ("Between the Lines" and "Might Break You") but as none of them are a continuation of the other you don't have to read them.

The assumption that summer for Fire Nation would be winter for the Southern Water Tribe is based on the fact that during the first few episodes—which take place in winter for most of the world—it's almost continually for the two days it transpires in. Even when it's dark it isn't very dark. Thus, it is probably 'summer' for them then, and now would be dark and winter there.

One more thing—I read somewhere that Sokka's name comes from the name Sokha, which means peaceful. I like it.

On a total side note, why is there no Hakoda character selection? The poor man gets no love!

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Summary: Hakoda watches his son on his unacknowledged sixteenth birthday. 312-315 spoilers.

Drowning
By: Reggie

The thunder echoing off the steep canyon walls increased the volume of the raging storm overhead to near deafening. It was a summer shower, the young Firebending Prince had explained to them, and as such would be fairly intense but pass within an hour or so. As he watched the waterfalls created by the rain running off the top of the cliff to splash on the terrace of the temple below, Hakoda could see that he was right. This kind of intense rain could not be maintained for long, and the storm would eventually be the cause of it's own destruction.

It was not the rain, however, that he was chiefly interested in. The lone figure standing out in the rain, body and sword poised in a flawless stance that was the center of both his attention and worry. The boy who should be inside demanding his sister make his favorite meal for his special day, his birthday, instead of out here alone practicing forms in the midst of a monsoon.

No one had wished Sokka happy birthday all day, but his sister—and Katara had done it quietly, as if not wanting the other children to overhear them. She didn't look happy about it, and Hakoda guessed she was on Sokka's orders not to tell the other members of their little group. Perhaps he hadn't wanted to distract them from their fast approaching second invasion, but more likely Sokka had wanted to remain, like the storm, simple background noise to their daily activities.

His son had always enjoyed storms. When Katara and other young children would hide behind their mothers, frightened by the loud noise of the thunder, Hakoda had always had to stop Sokka from sneaking out to stand in the rain and watch the lightening that so fascinated him. It seemed that his desire—no, need was a more appropriate word—to become one with the turbulent weather had not changed since Hakoda had left him alone as the village protector so long ago.

Sokka had been but a child then, not even old enough to have gone ice dodging (though it had been only a few short months away). Now, there he was, a disciplined young man of sixteen years.

It didn't seem like it had been so long to Chief Hakoda. He could still remember clearly the day he'd come home from fishing and his beloved wife had run to him, nearly glowing, to tell him that she had finally conceived. They had wanted a child for years now, but no pregnancy had lasted more than a few weeks before.

Hakoda would rather have faced a legion of Firebenders alone than tell his sweetheart, but he'd almost lost hope that they would ever have the children they both longed for.

She had told him that the Ocean Spirit had come to her in a dream, and promised her that she would have a child who would help to shape the destiny of the world before kissing her. She had woken up then, sure that she was pregnant, and it had turned out to be true. She had been confident that the spirit's promise would be fulfilled, although Hakoda secretly suspected her pregnancy was what had caused the dream and not the other way around.

It was a wildly stormy night at the end of winter, a few weeks earlier than they had guessed, when she had gone into labor. He had sat on the other side of the tent flap for hours, trusting in his mother's skills as a mid-wife to keep his sweet little wife safe, and trying to block out her screams and gasps of agony.

It had seemed so strange when both his wife's screams and the storm had stopped together. It had seemed to Hakoda as if the whole world was suddenly holding its breath and waiting. Then he heard it. The soft, trembling cries of an infant—of his child.

When his mother had beckoned him into the room, the young Water Tribe's man had gone eagerly. Hakoda's first impression had been of just how tiny the infant was. Though he had cried at first he was little more than whimpering weakly now as Hakoda's exhausted looking wife held him close, and he doubted whether the baby was even quite as long as his fore arm. The tiny mewling creature that was his son—it would take months before the full impact of the words sunk in—seemed so helpless lying there.

After he'd seen both his wife and child, Kana had pulled her son from the room and quietly expressed to him doubts that the baby would live long. She did not think he had the strength to survive the rest of the hard winter ahead, and though he ached at the thought the chief had to agree with her. She had advised him not to name the baby, as it would only make the inevitable separation more painful for both him and his wife.

When Hakoda returned, however, he found that it was too late to act on such advice. His wife had looked at him, a tired smile on her face, and said simply, "I want to call him Sokka, as he is my hope for peace."

Hakoda had looked down at his still sleeping son, who was still whimpering softly in his sleep, and remembered how the whole world had stood still when he'd entered it. "It suits him," he'd said, and so he'd let her keep it.

Sokka had surprised everyone by hanging on to his life with a tenacity Hakoda did not know an infant could posses. Though the odds had been against him from the start, he grew and thrived and lived in spite of everything and everyone.

That was of course, Hakoda thought with a smile, just part of who his little boy had been. Always so stubborn and hungry to prove that he could do the things that so many other thought impossible. When the other children would give up on making forts out of too slushy snow, or finding a lost toy, Sokka always found a way to make it work.

More than once, as his son had been growing up, Hakoda had remembered his wife's belief that the boy had some of the Ocean Spirit in him. Watching the way his moods could swiftly change, how unpredictable he was with his unorthodox way of thinking and layers of reasons for doing thing, he found himself almost believing.

Storm and sea all rolled up into one person, was how Hakoda's mother had once described him. "The only thing you can count on with that boy," she had said in a huff while mending a torn pair of pants, "is that he'll change somehow the minute you turn around, but he'll always be there one way or another."

If it had been true when Sokka was a young boy, it only intensified after his mother's death. Hakoda knew he was partly responsible for this, though he'd yet to get up the courage to apologize to either of his children for that. The village had needed him then more than every before, and he had chose the good of the whole over his beloved children who had needed him so desperately then too.

In some ways the responsibility that Katara, ever her mother's daughter, had taken up had been good for her. No longer did she come running to him for every little scare or scrape, and instead she learned the courage to face things alone. She gained independence, a sense of self and a value as that self, she had not had before. It was now serving her well in aiding the Avatar and the world through him.

But Sokka, his little changeling, had only become more unpredictable than ever. He would be happy and laughing one moment and dark and serious the next, radiating the intensity for which he was so well known. Though Katara was a support this little family in so many ways, Hakoda was only too aware of how much the depended on the more subtle strength and leadership that radiated from his son.

He had seen it in the way the others looked to him to make decisions, or to support the ones they made. It was his will, his intensity for life and everything about it, that kept them going—that had lead so many from around the world to put their faith in the plans of one young boy.

It was Hakoda's greatest fear that one day the storm would simply blow itself out. Sooner or later Sokka would run out of whatever it was that sustained him, and Hakoda didn't know where his boy would go when that happened.

There was a wall between himself and his son, one that had been there for so many years now he wasn't sure which of them had put it up in the first place. He was even less sure how to get it down. He loved his son dearly, would do anything to keep him and Katara safe, and Hakoda did not doubt Sokka's own strong affection for him. Yet…it was almost as if he was in some way untouchable. Whatever it was that lay beyond the clouds, and the bottom of the ocean, was what he had to reach and that was not possible for him.

There were moments, like now as his son continued to practice his swordsmanship in the slowly tapering off storm, which Hakoda could almost see it glimmering beneath the surface, and he'd want to reach out for it but not know how to get it.

Today, that tiny infant of so long ago could officially claim himself the man he'd really been for so long. Though the passage to manhood began with ice dodging at fourteen, it was concluded with a ceremony when the boy turned sixteen and came of marrying age. Sokka had been a man for so long now—robbed of his innocence by being the sole witness to his mother's death, something Hakoda could still not bring himself to speak to his son about, and being responsible for those he loved from that moment onward.

Now it would be recognized, and the Chief promised himself that when this madness was finally over he would throw his son the kind of birthday party the son of the chief deserved, and maybe stop him from sliding too far out of the reach of everyone who was stuck on solid ground.