Disclaimer: Obviously, I do not own the rights to Avatar. This is a fan-based work made for self-flagellation, not profit.
Summary: It's after the war, Azula is better, Zuko's throwing a party, and Sokka's invited. Katara has all the luck. Come for the Sokkla, stay for the manipulation and psychological torture.
Warning: This is (possibly) my darkest fic yet. Themes are a little more explicit than (though similar to) those of my Harry Potter darkfic, And All the King's Horses, but if you've watched Chinatown you should be alright. Also, though the rating may be M and sexual situations will come up, this is not really intended to be smut, so if you're looking for that, you've come to the wrong place. But do stay for the sexual manipulation and psychological torture.
Author's Note: This is for Anariel Tindomerel, who named an OC in my other Sokkla fic, Blood, Silk, and Steel. I promised her a 1000-word oneshot on the subject of Water Tribe Ambassador!Sokka and Azula as her usual fire princess self?" I don't think this is really what she intended or imagined, but… it's what came into my head.
Katara has all the luck.
Not that Sokka believes in luck, but, he does believe in solid statistical evidence. And frankly, the statistical evidence points to the fact that Katara has all the luck. How else could one explain why Katara is attending the Earth King's birthday party, while he's stuck in the Fire Nation celebrating Azula's homecoming?
And he's here alone. Suki, his beloved bride-to-be, had absolutely refused to come with him. Mai and Ty Lee are nowhere to be found. He understands; Azula had almost killed him once. He hates her, too.
Zuko is there, of course, but Zuko has his hands full with the courtiers.
Sokka hates the courtiers. He's found a third of them to be insipid, a third to be vile, and a third to be insipid and vile. In the forty minutes he has been in the ballroom he has had the misfortune of talking to a dozen or so of them: admirals and generals reflecting on "the good old days," haughty courtiers whose sneering glances let him know just what they think of him and his filthy barbarian blood, status-seeking bourgeois, and one old crone who made some very unwelcome advances.
So after forty minutes of mingling with the scum of the earth, Sokka finds his way to an abandoned balcony, from which he can survey the movement of the psychotic people Zuko rules. It's as he leans over the banister that he sees her: the only person in attendance other than Zuko he actually knows and the guest of honor. She looks up and sees him. Their eyes meet for a second, and then she looks away, at nowhere in particular, and that action itself catches his interest. Azula looks to be the only other person having as miserable a time as he is. Then, because as the Southern Water Tribe's ambassador, he's supposed to mingle, he sets off to find her.
It isn't hard. She hasn't moved.
"So, Sokka's your name, right?" she asks him softly, disinterested, as if though she frankly isn't sure. He wonders if she realizes the ironic echo of her words, and then, he remembers that she is Azula and should never be given the benefit of the doubt.
This time, however, he won't let her get him riled up. Not like the last time she asked him his name, so he merely nods. "I'm glad to see that you're better," he says softly, not really meaning or believing it, but at a loss of what else to say.
A light little chortle leaves her throat, sounding foreign in his ears. "And you're supposed to be the smart one." The words are classically Azula, but the tone is so harmless that for the first time, he seriously considers that she might be better after all. "Do you care to dance with me?"
"Pardon?" he asks, dumbfounded, and wonders if he's dreaming.
"Will you dance with me? It's my party, but no one will dance with me. They're all afraid—of me or of His Majesty, I can't tell, but they're too afraid to ask me to dance."
Silently he agrees, reaching his hand out for hers, wondering how, exactly, he got himself into this.
Azula dances well. Better, really, than any other woman than he's ever danced with. All it takes is the slightest shadow of a push, and she moves as he wants her to. It's unbearably strange, dancing with this woman, bending her to his movements. She's supple, almost subservient, and as the music slows she leans her head against his chest. He's about to put his own chin against the top of her hair, when he remembers that he is dancing with Azula… Azula who once tried to kill him, and his best friend, and his sister, and his other best friend.
The music slows even more, and then it halts. Azula looks up at him, her golden eyes unreadable. "Thank you for the dance, Ambassador." And then, like that, she takes her leave of him.
Later, when all the courtiers have gone home and Azula is nowhere to be found, Zuko finds him. The poor Fire Lord looks absolutely ragged. Their eyes meet for a second, and Sokka realizes that he looks just as bad as poor Zuko. Suddenly, at the same time, they break down laughing, until they fall to the floor.
Zuko calls for a servant to bring them booze, and Sokka gladly and greedily consumes it.
"I don't know how you do it," he confesses. "These people you rule are completely insane."
Zuko snorts and sprays his drink all over himself. "You know, they really are."
"This one woman, she must have been like, older than King Bumi, she was trying to seduce me."
"And that would be Lady Wan-Tan."
"More like Lady Wanton."
And once more, Zuko has covered himself in his alcohol.
"You really are tired," Sokka observes. "You'd never laugh at my jokes otherwise."
Zuko rubs his eyes. "You have no idea." Then he sighs and adds, "I saw you dancing with my sister, by the way."
"I'm sorry. She caught me off-guard."
"No," Zuko interrupts his apology. "I actually wanted to thank you."
"Don't tell Suki and we're even." It's a joke, because that's what he does; it's what he is: Sokka, meat and sarcasm guy.
Zuko starts to laugh, and then, suddenly, it isn't a laugh any more, but a cry of despair. He shoves his face into his hands and folds in on himself. Sokka's never seen his friend like this. He reaches out, to put his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"What's wrong Zuko?"
Zuko looks up. Tears have welled up in his eyes; they are bright with despair. Zuko prepares to speak, his tongue makes a dry clicking noise as it comes unstuck from the roof of his mouth. "It's Azula." His voice breaks. "I don't know what to do."
Sokka doesn't mean to make light of the situation. But what else can he do? He's meat and sarcasm guy, after all. "If she's being trouble, just send her off with her dear old dad. He'll be glad for the company."
Apparently, it's exactly the wrong thing to say. Zuko breaks down crying.
Author's Notes: There will be one, or more likely, two more chapters to this. It's not a long story. Reviews would be lovely.