Well dear viewers, I have a few things to say before you start on your journey through the second chapter of Eyes Wide Shut.
1. I got a beta reader! I know everyone who read the prologue is probably screaming,"THANK GOD!" Anyways, her pen name here is AvocadoLove, and she is an angel! She really has an eye for things and she is chalk full of all sorts of nifty little ideas.
2. I would like to thank said beta for putting up with all of my "He Said, She Saids,"
3. Thank you reviewers! I have never gotten so many reviews on a story and it really encouraged me. I went on vacation the day after I posted this and when I came back I was overwhelmed! You are all so nice and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it.
4. And finally, I am moving this next week to start college, so chapter three might take a little longer for me to post. Sorry!
Chapter One: Of Birthdays and Awakenings
"SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SOKKA!" shouted the room's inhabitants, making said birthday boy's jaw drop.
"…Wha?" was all he could muster. Blue eyes darted around the decorated main hall of the fire nation palace. "…Katara? I thought you said that this was another one of those 'Rebuild the Earth Kingdom' meetings."
"It was a surprise silly, I couldn't tell you the truth," she laughed, throwing her arms around Sokka's shoulders. "Happy birthday big brother!"
The taller of the two siblings closed his eyes as he brought his sister into an embrace, flashing one of his trademark goofy grins. "Aw, you guys shouldn't have."
"Believe me Snoozles, we didn't want to. Twinkletoes and Sugarqueen over there told us that if we didn't all show up and at least scream 'SURPRISE', they'd do something horrible like hang us up by our toe nails or set our eyebrows on fire," Toph droned sarcastically.
Katara replied with the very mature gesture of sticking her tongue out.
"Thanks Toph, I'm glad you came," Sokka said with a smile. He hadn't seen her in almost a year. Both of them were busy with their respective duties, and he had really missed her. She was fifteen now, taller than she once was, and maturing into a very beautiful young woman. Someone was going to fall hard for her one day, he decided, dirty feet and all.
"Well birthday boy, are you gonna stand there all day or are you going to hug me?" she asked, giving him a quick punch to the shoulder that made him wince. Without further hesitation for fear of more physical abuse, he scooped her up and swung her around in the biggest bear hug he could muster. When he set her down she was flushed and grinning ear to ear.
"Ahem" cleared a voice, causing everyone to turn and look. Sokka's father stood behind them, glass raised in the air. "A toast to Sokka on his eighteenth birthday!" Hakoda exclaimed, raising his glass in the air. Everyone raised their glass as well and downed their contents, leaving Sokka feeling exceptionally happy and overwhelmed.
But somewhere, something inside him roared.
"Mai, we're already late! Could you hurry up?" Zuko called out to his girlfriend, who was changing behind a privacy screen.
"Calm down Zuko, you're the Fire Lord, it's okay for you to be a little late. It builds tension," her mournfully sweet voice poured over the screen, making the scarred nineteen year old bite his lip.
"Well, this is important and I didn't really want to be an hour late." He took a few slow, even breaths, trying to control his anger .
Mai poked her head around the screen, hair tumbling down in an unbound, wavy mess. "Well jeez then Zuko, just go already. I'll catch up later." Her eyes narrowed in annoyance. "It's really not like you to be so anxious to make a public appearance. Why so excited about this one?"
"I told you Mai, Sokka's my friend and I haven't seen him in a long time." Their gold eyes locked for a moment. "…I just wanted to wish him a happy birthday," he said on a softer note, his eyes breaking from hers to stare at the floor.
"Alright then, go see him," she urged, her voice also softening as she motioned with her chin in the direction of the door. "I'll be there in a little while."
Zuko practically sprinted out of the door, but not before grabbing a small wrapped package that sat on the edge of his bed.
Sokka stared at his once girlfriend turned just-a-friend, who was blushing brightly and trying to shush him. Suki was wearing her ceremonial Kyoshi warrior uniform, minus the make-up, with her brown hair hanging down longer than he had remembered, down past her shoulder blades.
"I was going to tell you earlier, really, I just wanted to do it face to face. You didn't want to find out over a messenger hawk, did you?" she questioned, perfectly arched brow raised slightly.
"No, it's not that at all, I just didn't expect it! I mean, I thought you HATED each other!" and as if to emphasize this point, Sokka threw his arms into the air.
"Hated each other? What made you think that?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that you tried to kill each other at the boiling rock!" the arms were now waving wildly.
"But our auras complement each other perfectly!" came the voice of Ty Lee, who flipped and somersaulted to land perfectly beside Suki in her matching Kyoshi warrior outfit. "Plus, she's the only one who can match me in a fight! Isn't that romantic?" she squealed, clasping her hands together and making doe eyes at Suki.
"I-I just didn't know you were both…you know," Sokka stumbled for the words, eyes darting around wildly as he leaned forward in a ridiculous display of trying to stay discreet. "…like that."
"Sokka, you don't have to whisper, everyone already knows." Suki's hand met Ty Lee's in a warm grip.
"How long have you known that you…liked girls?" he managed to spit out after some hesitation, eyes doing anything to avoid his once girlfriend. They had ended their relationship about eight months after the war was over, but it wasn't because they didn't care for each other, they just couldn't find the time to be together. She was training the Kyoshi warriors and he was back at the South Pole, helping with the new construction. Sokka would always have a soft spot for the blue-eyed warrior, but now he was unsure of her once upon a time feelings for him.
"I really liked you Sokka, if that's what you're worried about…but it's been what, two years now? I just moved on, that's all, and the person I moved on to just happened to be a girl," the older brunette paused here, trying to meet the tanned youth's hiding eyes. "I thought you'd be happy for me," her voice was a whisper now, with a touch of sadness present that hadn't been there a moment ago. Ty Lee squeezed her hand tighter in a small comforting gesture.
"Aw…I am happy for you Suki. As long as you've found someone, that's all that matters, right?" Sokka admitted after a moment of silence, throwing her a lop-sided grin. Suki smiled and let go of Ty Lee to hug her friend briefly. "I really need to get out of the South Pole more often! Anybody else got something that they fell like surprising me with?" he asked the room, jokingly.
"Has anybody told you about Appa and Momo?" Aang joked from somewhere across the main hall, causing the whole room to burst into laughter. Sokka hadn't realized how much he missed everyone until they were all together again, laughing and smiling like a family again. One thing was missing though…
"Right here," came a rich voice from over his shoulder, causing the water tribesman to jump. Sokka spun around on his heels quickly, blue eyes meeting gold.
"Zuko!" Sokka exclaimed, practically tackling the other in another one of his bear hugs. The fire-bender was caught off guard and stumbled backwards, but somehow found his balance, wrapped his arms around Sokka, and returned the embrace.
Sokka pulled back and studied the comrade that he had not seen in ages. He was taller than he remembered (he briefly wondered if it was a conspiracy that everyone was getting taller but him) and his shoulders were just a little broader. If it was possible, he looked more regal than ever, even with his scarred eye and the little smile that played across his lips.
"So now that you're Fire Lord you have the right to be late to my birthday party?" Sokka couldn't really help but tease. "I guess once a jerk bender, always a jerk bender."
"I suppose so, but I guess that still makes you a water peasant," Zuko replied jokingly, in a way that made Sokka's heart soar. Zuko was one of the only people who could match him in the sarcasm and snarky remarks department, and that was probably why they had such a close bond.
They hadn't gotten to become friends until the last leg of the journey, since Zuko was in fact trying to capture the Avatar. Once he had joined the group and Sokka saw past his own preconceptions of the Fire Nation boy being evil, they really connected, as warriors and as friends. He and Zuko would go hunting for the group; Sokka teaching the prince all he knew about tracking and killing for food, and in turn Zuko trusted Sokka enough to confide in him.
"Sokka? You're staring," Zuko's voice and smug face snapped the shorter of the two out of his trace, causing him to blink his blue eyes a few times.
"No I wasn't."
"Yes you were."
"Well…you have something on your face."
"No, I don't."
"How can you be so sure? Can you see your face?"
"Well then, how do you know that you don't?"
Zuko frowned and suddenly grabbed Sokka by his shoulders, yanking him closer. The water tribesman's breath hitched, eyes widening slightly. "Z-Zuko?"
"…I knew I didn't have anything on my face," Zuko said triumphantly, letting Sokka go after he had studied his face in the mirror like surface of the younger one's boomerang.
"Of course, right, just looking at yourself in my boomerang…nothing weird going on here!" Sokka chuckled nervously, causing the other to cock his head to the side and raise an eyebrow.
"It's a gift."
"Speaking of gifts…," Zuko trailed off, rummaging through the pockets on the inside of his coat, searching for something. He then pulled out a small box, wrapped neatly in bright red wrapping paper. "I got you something."
"Well, whatever it is, it'll be hard to beat Toph's present," Sokka said with a grin, pointing down at his feet. Zuko glanced down and for the first time realized that Sokka was wearing slippers. Not just any slippers, but badgermole slippers. They were special to Sokka not because they were more durable or fashionable than other slippers, but because Toph was in a sense exactly like a badgermole, and now every time he wore them he would have to think of her.
"Wow. You're right, there's no way I can beat that," Zuko said with a tiny little smile. Sokka was a refreshment to the prince, a welcome free spirit in a palace that was all rules and restrictions.
Sokka nodded before returning to his newest present, tearing through the wrapping paper quickly. Once he pried all the tape from the box and finally had it open, he had to just stop and stare.
There was a long silence between them for a moment, one waiting anxiously for the other's reply, the other one gaping.
"It's a scarf…?" Sokka asked, pulling it out of the box to get a better look at it. It was red, but not the shocking bright red the wrapping paper had been, more along the lines of a deep crimson. The reason, however, Sokka was flabbergasted was not because it was a scarf or because it was red, more because it was so poorly made. It was crooked in some places and very frayed looking, like maybe a five year old had tried to make it.
"Yeah," Zuko admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I wanted to make you something, and I figured you could always use something to keep you warm. I picked the red because it suits you…and you have too much blue anyways. If you don't like it though, I could get you something else," he rushed, fidgeting with his robes.
"No, I like it," Sokka said with a laugh, closing the distance between them so he could give the other another hug. "You have GOT to work on your knitting skills though."
Zuko chuckled, enveloping the other in his arms again. "I'll do that."
"Zuko," someone said behind them, tapping the older teen on the shoulder as they did so. Zuko turned his head to the side, his eyes landing on his girlfriend.
"Mai," he mumbled, letting go of Sokka somewhat reluctantly. He had forgotten how much he missed his friend in their time apart. "I'm glad you could make it."
She looked at them for a moment, eyes darting between the two of them, dark brow rising in question. "Me too," she said after a moment, linking arms with her boyfriend. "Happy birthday Sokka," she wasn't really smiling, but the water tribesman knew that Mai not smiling didn't necessarily mean that she wasn't happy.
"Thanks Mai, I really--," Sokka was interrupted mid-sentence as a wave of dizziness suddenly hit him. He swayed a little before his legs completely gave out and he tumbled over. He would have hit the floor if not for Zuko quickly jerking his arm away from Mai and catching him.
"Sokka?" Zuko asked worriedly, staring down at his friend.
"I'm alright, just a little tired I guess," Sokka said. He shook his head as if to clear it. "I think I'm gonna go ahead hit the sack."
"Do you have a place to stay?" Zuko questioned, righting the other as he did so.
"Yeah, I'm staying at the 'HogMonkey Inn'."
"That place is a dump."
"Well, it's the only place that had any rooms left," he admitted with a shrug. "Besides, it beats sleeping on the ground, right?"
Zuko rolled his eyes and grabbed Sokka's elbow. "Come on, you can stay here. I'll take you to one of the spare rooms." Sokka opened his mouth to protest but Zuko shot him a glare, effectively silencing him.
Everyone said their goodnights to the birthday boy as he was led from the great hall, once again congratulating him for making it this far. However, as Zuko took him down the hallway, one pair of softly focused, upset eyes followed them.
Mai was beginning to wonder.
"Will this room suffice?" Zuko asked as he opened the door to one of the spare bedrooms. It was large, larger than Sokka's entire igloo back home, with high ceilings and tapestries of various shades of red hanging on the walls.
"Are you kidding? It's HUGE! I could live in this room!" Sokka exclaimed excitedly, racing over to a window that took up almost the entire east wall. "This window is insane--," another wave of dizziness hit him and this time he really did hit the floor.
"Sokka!" Zuko rushed over, but Sokka was sitting up before he reached him, clutching his head.
"I'm fine, I fine. I guess I'm just really tired," he said, waving Zuko off.
"Can you stand?" the question rang out through the quest room as Zuko brought himself into a crouching position beside Sokka.
"Of course I can stand! I'm not a pansy!" Sokka growled out passionately, slightly offended at Zuko's worrying. He stood up quickly, only to sway and tumble over again. Zuko caught the other teen this time, smirking down at him once he was in his arms. "Not. A. Word. Zuko," Sokka hissed between clenched teeth, crossing his arms over his chest and turning his head away.
"Of course not," Zuko retorted with a smug smile, lifting the younger one up and into his arms.
"I can walk!" Sokka squawked indignantly, flailing around wildly.
"No you can't," Zuko reminded, dumping Sokka into the bed. "Now get some sleep. I don't want to hear about you fainting like some girl tomorrow." Zuko then held his hand over the candle beside Sokka's bed and closed it into a fist, the flame dying away at his command.
"Show off," Zuko raised a brow at Sokka's little outburst before chuckling and heading towards the door. "Hey Zuko?"
"Yes?" the Fire Lord asked, turning slightly.
"Thanks for the scarf."
"You're welcome Sokka. Goodnight," and then he closed the door.
Once the door closed and the darkness had a chance to settle around him, Sokka rolled over on his side to look through the window, where tiny strings of moon light cut through the night. "What is wrong with me?" he whispered, pale blue eyes looking up to where the moon sat, searching it for answers. But Yue remained quiet, shining precious light into his room as the only comfort she could now provide.
With a sigh he finally closed his eyes, tired of searching for answers, and waited for sleep to claim him.
He sat in a place where there were no walls or floors or earth or sky, where the darkness swirled around him and caressed his face in what seemed to be a friendly touch, but only sent a chill straight to his heart. Sokka's eyes, the ones he had trusted so much before in times of need, when he was hunting or being hunted, he now doubted as he stared into the roaring, but quiet nothingness.
"Where am I?" Sokka breathed, bringing himself to his feet. His brow furrowed together as he took a few steps forward, his hand outstretched. Even though he couldn't see anything, he might be able to feel something.
"It is nice to see again, Sokka of the water tribe," spoke a voice, but didn't, in a very eerily familiar manner. The teen's heart pounded heavily in his ears and he froze, eyes widening slightly. "Will you not turn to face me?"
Sokka really didn't want to, because he was pretty sure he already knew what he was going to find, but he turned around anyways, as if he had been commanded. Instead of seeing the wolf he had thought he dreamed all of those years ago, a man stood before him.
"Who are you?" Sokka asked, his blue eyes widening in confusion.
The man before him was easily six feet tall, with white shaggy hair that matched the snows of Sokka's homeland. He was dressed in a white tunic with silver stitching, and white pants as well. He was so bright in the contrast to the darkness of that place that Sokka had a hard time looking at him.
"You don't remember me?" the stranger said in Sokka's mind, his mouth only moving to form a sharp, toothy smile. Those teeth, Sokka decided, where too sharp to be normal, and he stepped back.
But suddenly the man was gone, and Sokka bumped into something hard and cold. He turned his head to the side to see what it was, and he couldn't even try to stop his breath from catching when he realized it was the man again. "But little Sokka, how could you forget me?" he asked, wrapping his long arms around the water tribe boy's middle and pulling him closer.
'He's not breathing, his skin is too cold,' Sokka realized in a panic, wrenching himself out of the other's grasp and stumbling forward. He never came in contact with ground however, because the man moved in front of him and caught him. 'There's no way he could move that fast,' Sokka thought in horror, staring up at slate blue eyes.
"Your heart is beating so fast, little Water Tribe boy," came the crooning of that voice in his head, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. "Are you frightened?" The man moved forward, laying his forhead against Sokka's.. "I would never think of hurting you Sokka. Did you forget? I saved you."
Sokka's mind went back to the day of the black snow, when that poison arrow found his shoulder and he made that pact on the artic planes with the wolf spirit. It was no dream, he realized as despair rose high in his stomach. It had happened.
The teen raised his hands and pushed the spirit away, stumbling away as he did so. The man brought himself to his feet, still smiling that cold smile. "Why now?" Sokka asked, eyeing the other warily. "Why not before? It's been ten years, why did you wait so long?"
"You were still a child, Sokka; you could not have survived had I chosen to awaken earlier." The voice had become patronizing as it ghosted through all of the corners of his mind, leaving him feeling very violated.
"Fair enough," Sokka said, though he felt like he had become a man long before his eighteenth birthday. "But why do you need me at all?" he crossed his arms and glared at the intruder, now that he was gaining his courage back.
"Revenge," the man snarled, his demeanor changing completely. "They took what was mine and destroyed it from the inside out." Those cold calculating eyes were on him, boring into his, and Sokka realized once again that there was no way the man could have gotten that close that fast without him noticing.
Sokka swallowed hard and the man smirked, the rage melting from his eyes to something more along the lines of amusement. "No need to worry little warrior, I won't hurt you." He lifted his cold hand to rest on the brunette's cheek, making Sokka shiver. "You will help me. We are one now, and together we will make them pay for their sins."
"What?" Sokka asked, but he was already falling, through that nonexistent ground that they had been standing on in the darkness, and into something far more horrible.
"Sokka!" his eyes snapped opened and he lunged forward, bumping his head against someone else's.
"Ouch," Sokka hissed, bringing a hand to his forehead. He opened his eyes to see Zuko, who was also nursing a forehead injury. "Sorry," the younger teen whispered.
"S'fine," Zuko grunted, eyeing the other warily. "You were screaming, so I came to check on you. Are you alright?"
That's when the nightmare came crashing back down on him, the silver hair, the slate blue eyes, the promise that he made, and Sokka realized that he didn't know.
Song that inspired this chapter is ,"Who I am Hates Who I've Been," by Reliant K