Standard disclaimers apply.

Sokka walked towards the room he had escorted Zuko to the week before. His distrust of the former prince had largely faded under the reality of him leaving with Aang for a few days and bringing him back unharmed and even enthusiastic. And once the distrust was gone, a few points had come to Sokka's attention.

Point one : Zuko, while not having been in the Fire Nation military himself, had traveled extensively with soldiers and came from a military as well as royal family.

Point two : The former prince's new conciliatory attitude had matured from the initial "afraid to raise his voice or say anything slightly negative" phase of the first couple of days into a more comfortable and more importantly believable "willing to yell at Sokka for being an ass but still not setting him on fire and even having civilized discussions" groove.

Point three : Zuko liked to train with his shirt off. A lot. While practicing forms that showed both grace and power, along with lots of sweat and a build that Sokka could only dream of achieving. Without any obvious signs of showing off, but also without more than a token blush quickly covered by a small smirk if he caught the eye of an admiring onlooker.

All of which, along with a healthy dose of Sokka-unusual optimism, was leading the water tribesman to a door he hadn't visited since the awkward escort duty of last week with a feeling that the worst that could come out of this would be a curt rejection and maybe a bit of difficulty making conversation for a day or two. And the best that could come out of it... Well, Sokka's brief time infiltrating the Fire Nation military had shown him that the informal traditions he had learned from late night eavesdropping on Water Tribe warriors, and confirmed as alive and well in the Earth Kingdom soldiers and city guards thrived even in the regimented culture Zuko had grown up in. Call it an army, a guard, or a warrior's wolf pack, when manly men spent time without women and with a sense of camaraderie and interdependence, there were ways of helping each other relieve tension, turning down such a request without malice and not needing to talk about it afterwards.

Late enough to be full dark, but Zuko probably not solidly asleep yet? Check. Sokka smelling clean but not perfumed or anything girly like that? Check. A light knock on the door and an entrance loud enough to avoid the firebender responding to him like an assassin but quiet enough to encourage quiet in return? Check and without even tripping and making an ass of himself! A soft and even smooth suggestion as Zuko lit a small flame in his hand to see who it was, "Let's just leave the lights out..." Check and his voice didn't crack at all. Slip over to the bed and lay a hand on the other man's hip, not a grope he'd be wanting to scrub off for a week if he wasn't interested, but not a touch you gave when you were coming in to discuss battle strategy? Check. Now wait for Zuko to either move into a touch of his own, lie back signaling passive acceptance or remove the offending hand and dismiss him...

Or Zuko could light every lamp and candle in the room with a single movement and look right into the water tribesman's face, a pale hand gently touching the darker one that lay on his hip. "Hi Sokka."

Hi? Hi! Well 'hi' to you too, Prince Breaks-Every-Unspoken-Rule-Of-This-Kind-Of-Encounter-At-Once! How's your night been?

Sokka tried to stay cool and let the attempt go with enough dignity to face the other man over breakfast. "Sorry to wake you." He slipped his hand free and began to leave.

"I see." A flat tone to the voice. "No lights, no names, pretend it didn't happen in the morning? No thank you."

"Yeah, the 'no thank you' would have been sufficient." He yanked the door open but the next words from across the room had an odd note to them that made Sokka pause.

"Just wanted to be clear what I was saying no to."

What he was saying no to? What did that... But the tribesman replayed the exact words in his mind, remembering that Zuko did tend to be extremely precise. He hadn't actually said no to Sokka, he'd greeted Sokka. He'd said no to the unspoken conditions of Sokka's presense. He turned back from the open door and looked at the prince sitting up in bed still watching him. What other option could Zuko be hoping for?

"Maybe a little more clarity would help..."

Zuko gave a slight sad smile. "Look, Sokka, I spent three months wandering the Earth Kingdom, lying about every single thing about myself to every person I met. Then I made it back home where I got to lie to myself about what I was doing and how I felt instead." He ran a hand through his hair and looked down at the floor. "When I decided to come join all of you, I also decided that I wasn't going to lie anymore, even to myself. I'm not doing anything I'm ashamed of, and I'm not going to be ashamed of anything I choose to do. So if you only want to spend that kind of time with me in the dark, with some sort of... I don't know, plausible deniability that you can pretend it didn't happen... Well then, you need to leave and we can skip straight to the pretending it didn't happen part."

He looked up then and Sokka saw those golden eyes again, the features that the firelord couldn't make ugly even with the brutality of that scar, a friendly and perhaps hopeful look. "But all things considered... I'd prefer that you stay."

Perhaps I'll add another chapter later with Sokka's reply, but the story popped into my mind fully formed with this as an ending, so for now it ends with the counter-offer.