A/N:: Whew! All that work and serious lovin' from the PREVIOUS Airbender fic, I just had to try something new! So here it is-- first attempt at a Zukka fic.
LOL For all the fear I had in trying it, thinking it wouldn't work and the story would fall through before it finished, it came out pretty well. I'm satisfied with it.
I hope you are too. ^^ Drop me a Review, tell me watcha think, and what I should do next!
"W-wait! I didn't mean--"
"LOOK at this! Look what you did!!"
"I didn't mean to! Katara!"
Sokka's ears perked at the sudden break in his quiet evening. Before he could even turn he knew exactly what was about to happen-- Katara would storm in yelling, Zuko after her, Aang after him. Momo scurried in through the doorway with a loud hiss and took refuge under the warrior's chair.
Cue Katara's entrance.
True to his first assumption, his little sister marched through the archway and across the kitchen in a huff, shoulders high and fists clenched at her sides. Everything about her, from the way she breathed to the way she moved screamed 'hostile.' As much as he wanted to duck under his chair with Momo, the sight was becoming so familiar that he already knew how it would end. He turned in his chair away from the table and toward the yelling match, preparing himself in case sparks- or more likely, kitchen tools- began to fly.
Katara' stopped dead in her tracks, turned on her heels and faced the heir of fire hastening after her. "Didn't MEAN TO?? You BURNED a hole in my waterskin!! I can't heal that!!"
The sudden stop almost knocked Zuko into her, but he managed to save himself anymore trouble and came to a quick halt. Normally he would continue apologizing, but this time it just felt a little bit too over the top to let pass. In exasperation, he threw his hands in the air, his good eye bugging at her obvious bias. "You attacked me!!"
"Are you saying this is my fault??"
Lips clamped shut. Her eyes were slits and her face dared him to put her on the spot. Wrong move- Zuko had pinned himself in a corner. Between apologizing and pressing on, there was no longer a way to win the fight, which, he reminded himself, he hadn't even started in the first place. After a moment of struggling with himself, he took a deep breath and steam poured from his mouth, but he found himself able to face her. Sokka couldn't help but roll his eyes-- this is how it always ended. Though, in Zuko's defense, this was the first time he was able to look her straight in the face after her accusation.
"...No. I'm sorry."
Katara glared straight through his apology, but sighed. With a small huff and a glance back at Aang (who was approaching quickly from the previous hall), she threw the dripping waterskin into his chest and turned again, her bushy mane of tangles stinging across his face.
"If it's not good as new by the time you bring it back to me, you'll have more than just a waterskin to sew up."
With that final bitter remark, she thrust her nose in the air and marched away, back out of the kitchen and onto the balcony before slipping around the corner and out of sight.
The kitchen was filled with a collective sigh and the two remaining found themselves staring at one another. Zuko's face flushed-- he hadn't seen Sokka, let alone known he was there for the fuss. Saving him with a distraction, Aang finally glided in from the hall and stopped, placing a comforting hand on Zuko's shoulder. The older teen smiled weakly at him and received an encouraging smile and a warm squeeze on the shoulder before the monk was out the other door and rounding the corner, calling after Katara pleadingly.
Sokka sniggered to himself. Or he would have. If it were still funny. Sadly, even he knew that a joke was only good so many times. After the hundredth time in one week, it became a lot like beating a dead dragon-- pointless and tiring. By now, watching Katara torture the newest member of their little gang was neither funny nor entertaining; Now it was just sad. The firebender stared at the doorway his pupil and his rival (Was she technically a rival?) had exited from only seconds ago.
Well. Show was over. Sokka turned back to the table and leaned over his plans, brushing away Momo's tail as it whisked across the parchment. Everything would quickly return to normal: boring, tiresome, semi-quiet normal. Katara would steam in the neighboring temple, Aang would attempt to coax her into an apology, Zuko would go sulk somewhere. And Toph. Toph would do.... Toph-like things.
A normal evening.
Zuko sighed again and turned behind Sokka, but didn't leave. It always took him a few seconds to walk off. He was probably deciding whether to storm off steaming or run off teary-eyed, Sokka mused. His brush flicked over the paper, leaving a long, broad-middled stroke on the aged sheet and lifted it off to examine his work admiringly. His lines no longer shook and his characters had more depth then before. Momo pawed at Aang's arrow, gurgling at what appeared to him to be an apple with a thick stem.
"...Why does she hate me so much?"
The brush went askew and crashed into the table, leaving a streak of black and smeared gray behind. Zuko hadn't moved at all-- and had nearly given Sokka a heart attack when he finally voiced what was holding him back. Sokka huffed angrily at his ruined masterpiece, but recognized a serious question when he heard one.
"What do you mean?" He answered tactfully-- he didn't want to get carried away; Zuko only needed to know so much. If he didn't have to know the entirety of the situation, Sokka wasn't gonna take the time or effort to tell him.
"Well, you're her brother," to his surprise, Zuko had managed to slip over to the table silently and was pulling out the chair beside him. 'Light on his feet'... what an understatement. He could rival Aang with a little practice.
Sokka waited, but the firebender was long settled into his seat and no continuation seemed to be coming. "...And?"
"You're her big brother," He began again, like the 'big' really meant something. "So why does she hate me so much?"
Apparently there was no way to get to the heart of the question without treading dangerous waters, so Sokka started small. Cautiously, he set down his brush in the crack next to his abstract scribbles and turned toward Zuko. "Hate is such a strong word.."
"Yes, it is, and that's the problem."
So he wasn't blind in BOTH eyes. Good to know. The Eskimo sighed and put up his hands defensively. "Alright, yeah, she hates you. A lot."
Zuko slumped back in his chair in agitation. "So what do I do?"
The room grew quiet again. This was awkward. He had never really talked to Zuko before-- more than to make fun of him of course. I mean, who could pass up a good jerkbending joke? NO ONE, that's who. But now the two teens sat alone in the silence, basking in the uncomfortable stiff air that had filled the kitchen since Zuko had cozied into the chair next to the rabid Penguin's big brother.
Sokka sighed and turned back to his work, tapping the bottom of his brush in rhythmic clicks on the table. "I dunno. Have you tried groveling?"
"Okay, okay! It was a joke!" Sokka's hands went up in defense again, brushing the blackened bristles against his face unintentionally- ink smudged clear up his jaw and over his cheekbone.
Zuko snorted quietly, trying to keep from embarrassing the other too much before producing a clean silk cloth from his pocket and offering it to the fool before him. The gift was received gratefully and Sokka began to think again, 'Hmm'ing loudly as he rubbed the stain from his face.
"Maybe you should try a 'stache. Seems to be working for Haru..."
The serious expression on his face as he rubbed the splotch was chuckle-worthy, but Zuko held it in-- he really was, honest and truly, determined to get the watertribe girl to like him. Or at least tolerate him. This constant warzone had to disappear if he was to be Aang's teacher.
"Can't," He finally answered the silly suggestion.
"Huh," Sokka grunted quietly, leaning back as if to get a better look at Zuko. "I dunno, I just always figured, with your Dad's fine face-mane, you'd have to shave like nonstop."
"Nahh. Mom's genes."
The air grew stiffer and the table more awkward as they glanced at each other, away, around the room and then back. Sokka couldn't help but think that the room was getting smaller and smaller. Zuko just seemed to loom closer even though he hadn't moved an inch. Maybe 'awkward' wasn't a strong enough word.
Now that he thought about it, Sokka had really never stopped to examine Zuko. The older boy was tall, he knew, but aside from that he was just a pale blur. Now, though, all of his features seemed magnified in definition. His jawline was angular and tight, pulsing with tense energy. His eyes weren't really yellow, but more a bronzy-gold color against the clay-tan kitchen; His skin seemed several shades lighter under the poor lighting and odd colors. His muscle mass wasn't what Sokka remembered-- he was small. Lean. Gangly, even, almost the same shape as Aang if a little bigger. For some reason, he seemed very similar to the little Monk...
The sound startled him awake. His voice wasn't as gravelly and rough as Sokka remembered, either. All of him just seemed... Softer.
Sokka cleared his throat and looked back down at the table. "So."
"What about you?"
Zuko leaned forward this time-- Now Sokka was truly trapped, pinned between the older bender and the table. If the air was stiff before... Not even the size of the room held merit under this new development.
One thing Sokka was sure he'd never noticed?
All of Zuko's actions and words and little glances-- it felt so silly now, like it was the most obvious thing in the world-- how all of Zuko's actions had such drive behind them. Even the small move from his chair to simply leaning forward into Sokka's face was a swift move full of determination and carefully hidden desire. Everything he did, he did for a reason.
So the real question was: Who here was putting on a farce?
Sokka cleared his throat once. Twice. Four times? He wasn't counting. Gold beads held all of his attention, daring him to break the gaze. "W-well..." His voice started out hoarse. Embarrassed, face burning at that little smirk before him, he cleared his throat and tried once more, willing himself to sound like a man. THE man. The one he knew he was, he reminded himself weakly.
"I-I think you're... I mean, if Aang--"
"No," Zuko cut him off, smirking, grinning, almost teasing him. "What do YOU think?"
Sokka swallowed the lump in his throat, wishing he could melt into the table. "I... Well..."
A lie would only throw him in deeper, he sensed. With a small sigh and a less-than-powerful breath, he closed his eyes and broke away from the gaze.
"You're a goodguy."
So much silence.
But this time it was not tense or stiff. This time it was almost.... comfortable. Like sleeping under a tree in a vast green field. Somehow, everything was just completely relaxed.
Zuko laughed first. Then Sokka followed suit, if only nervously. The laugh drawled off into a smile-- an honest smile at that. Sokka stared-- it was like looking straight into the rising sun.
It was like he was echoing the words to make sure they were real. Trying them on, seeing how they fit. A smile molded carefully back onto his face and he gave it to Sokka warmly.
"Is it weird?" To Sokka's surprise, his own voice seemed very small.
"It's a good weird," Zuko assured. He put a hand to his mouth-- Sokka hadn't noticed his trembling shoulders until he did. The firebender lifted his hand from the table beside Sokka and pushed himself back into his chair.
Sokka examined the face under the hand in scrutiny. His shoulders shook. His hand covered his mouth like he was about to be sick but... Was that a smirk?
"Are you LAUGHING?"
His exasperation wasn't enthusiastic enough. Not far-fetched enough. In fact, the whole situation didn't seem quite surreal enough to actually be happening. The ex-fireprince, the one with no smile, Scars McScaryFace, Mr. I'm-Never-Happy... was laughing.
Now it was Zuko's turn to be embarrassed. His porcelain pale cheeks tinted pink and he looked away, but the shoulders continued to shudder and quake in strain. The effort it took him not to laugh was overwhelming. "N-No..." He stood abruptly and turned further away from Sokka.
Sokka stood as well-- he clearly had something to say. And maybe if Sokka could get him to look, he'd really honestly laugh. Zuko began slowly, pulling his hand carefully away from his lips before mumbling.
He began shaky, but his confidence built quickly and he turned to face Sokka with a nervous, but solid- smile.
Was that his name? It sounded so different when Zuko said it. Sokka... Almost proper. Classy. How could anyone make the name Sokka sound classy? Maybe that was just the way Zuko said names. Maybe he just had that effect on words.
Sokka stood dumbfounded long enough for Zuko to lean back toward him and give his wolftail a yank, snapping him back to reality. "Thanks, Sokka."
Playful Zuko was creepy. Or maybe just strange. Odd. Yeah, odd. It was just 'odd' to see Zuko acting like that. Still, Sokka's hand shot up to his little warrior's knot and matted the hair back down when the firebender released it. Zuko was staring at him nervously, waiting for a reply.
It took a moment for him to get the hot feeling on his face to settle. Had Zuko's hands brushed by his face when he wasn't looking, or was the room still getting smaller? He felt his cheeks cooling by the second and he found himself smiling at the prince. Maybe the Jerkbender was more than just a goodguy. Maybe he was a GREAT guy, even.
Sokka cleared his throat- good or not, this sudden moment was still awkward, and would continue that way until it ceased altogether. Sokka mustered his best, sincerest small smile and offered it to Zuko. "Any time."
Any time? He had planned for a "You're welcome." Why had 'Any time' Come out?
Zuko's smile widened and he nodded before carrying himself in his usual proud manner down the hall. Sokka stayed, planted on the spot, staring at the archway until he heard a door close in the distance. When his thoughts found him still in the kitchen, he turned back to the table, sat down, and scooted his seat in. He picked up his brush, but his fingers couldn't seem to find the right grooves.
Just another quiet evening...
Well, there it is!
If you see any common, stupid, or otherwise mistakes, send me a message so I can fix it! If I read back through later and find them myself I'll be completely distraught. lol
I hope you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for your support and I hope you come back for more! ^^
-Little Girl Geek