AN: Originally for shipswap over on LJ/A03, with the request for Sokka/Suki/Zuko. Despite being a longtime fan of the show I've never written for Avatar:TLA before, nor did I think to combine my love of Sokka/Suki and Sokka/Zuko into one OT3. I kinda like it...
Disclaimer: The characters in this story and the show Avatar: The Last Airbender are not mine. No money is being made on this piece of fanwork.
She'd tainted it.
Only a few months ago on nights like this, he would have doused the fire down to nothing more than coals and sat down on his sleeping bag, just looking up at the sky. Watching the full moon light up the forests with its ethereal light, passing behind the occasional cloud before reappearing as if to say 'it's alright, I'm still here'.
He was no water-bender, but on nights like those Sokka always felt a little stronger, even with the sadness spreading through him. Even just being the 'meat and sarcasm guy', he felt like he could do anything with the full moon shining down on him.
Until the night when he couldn't. The night when, as the full moon shone brightly in the night, his body wasn't his to control. The will of another had forced his legs to step forward and his hands to draw his beautiful new sword against his own little sister and the world's best hope. His lungs had been tight in his chest, as if needing her permission to even take a breath, and was forced to hear her wicked cackling even as the moonlight made her grey hair shine like silver.
The blood-bender had tainted the quiet strength of the full moon, of Yue's beauty and gentle nature. And Sokka hatedher for it, almost as much as he hated the former Fire Lord himself.
After that night, he would still stay up late on the nights of the full moon, but for a different reason. He could no longer just sit and watch the night go by silently, or even sleep like a normal human being; instead he felt the inexplicable urge to move. Sokka needed the comfort of knowing his limbs were his own, even knowing the witch was locked away tight. So when the day was done he would finish up his new daily duties as ambassador/advisor and settle down and eat dinner alongside his girlfriend and his best friend (and hadn't thatsurprised the two boys when they figured it out), chatting about the days events and times gone past, laughing and joking as if it were just another day. They would say their goodnights and part ways, with Suki and himself retiring to their private suite for the night, and when she fell asleep Sokka would carefully creep out of bed and make his way to the palace's workout area/gym where he would train the night away, slicing away at ghosts with the sword he'd thought was lost the day the world was saved. The next day would be hell to get through without sleep, but the relief he gained from it was more than worth it.
Of course, there was only so long he could keep it a secret from Suki. She was a fully trained warrior, after all; she slept lightly, even in times of near-peace (you know what they say, 'Ba Sing Sae's walls weren't built in a day'.) So on the night he looked up from a new move he was working on and saw her standing in the doorway, dressed in light training gear and fan in hand, he hadn't be all that surprised. Suki didn't ask questions, just got into a fighting position and waited as Sokka had sheathed his sword and set it aside.
Sparring with another person was even better than training alone; he'd had to focus more on Suki's movements than the movements of his own body. One night, on a five-minute break, Sokka told her about that night in the woods and the screams Toph heard in the mountains. They would spar until the first rays of dawn cut through the darkness outside, then retreat back to bed for a precious few hours before their duties called. That was how it was for a few months, and there weren't any problems.
No problems, that is, until Fire Lord Zuko had cornered him in between meetings, asking why they were sneaking around his palace in the middle of the night and acting like tortoise-sloths the next day. Looking back, he really should have known better; just because you couldn't see the guards didn't mean they didn't see you. Sokka reassured his friend that no, they weren't doing anything treacherous-ish, and no, there wasn't anything wrong. There may have been a little panicked flailing and nervous laughter involved in the conversation, but he couldn't really recall.
That was when the jerk started playing dirty; he'd let the sharpness of his gaze dull down and placed a hand on his shoulder, and started talking about how he was worriedabout him. As hard as it had been to deal with 'Capture The Avatar'!Zuko, it was impossible to fight against 'Being A Good Guy!Zuko'. He was still so damned awkward when it came to personal stuff like that, not always sure if he wanted to know or how he could help, but you could just imagine him squashing the hesitation under his heel and pressing on anyway...It just sounded so stupid whenever Sokka tried to explain it all out loud.
He'd finally admitted he'd been having some trouble with nightmares, and was trying to work them out. It wasn't the whole truth, but it seemed to be enough of an explanation for Zuko, who dropped the subject without another thought.
The day after the next full moon Sokka and Suki's morning schedules had been unusually clear, leaving time for some much-needed sleep. The next month Zuko was waiting for the two of them in the training room with his dao swords on his back and the excuse about how he didn't want to get too rusty.
That was how it stayed for awhile. Month after month the three of them would meet under the light of the full moon, with Suki and Zuko taking turns sparring with him, with or without weapons in hand. They'd switch back and forth without a pause, sometimes even teaming up against Sokka, rarely giving him more than a moment to recover. The two of them were completely relentless, working him until his body was bruised and aching and he didn't want to move anymore, collapsing to the ground and waving the proverbial white flag in surrender.
Sometimes Sokka would just lay on the floor for awhile, eyes closed and taking the air deep into his lungs simply because he could. He wouldn't move an inch, just listening to Suki and Zuko talk about differences in their fighting styles, or how Mai hadn't been able to deal with the politics of being the Fire Lord's consort after her own family life had affected her. Or they'd just talk about the new tarts the bakers had whipped up for dinner the night before, wondering if there were any leftovers; they were both so deep in denial of their shared sweet tooth (sweet teeth?), it was ridiculous.
Sometimes he would close his eyes for just a moment and the next thing he knew, he would be waking up in his own bed with Suki at his side, the morning sun streaming in through the crack between the drapes. Zuko would carry his sleeping form on his back through the palace halls without complaint, careful not to wake him and bidding a quiet goodnight to his girlfriend, returning to his own room after a moment's hesitation. Sokka knew he did this because sometimes he'd fake being asleep, if only to have an excuse to be that close to the other man without pride getting in the way. On those late mornings Suki would just smile, but never said anything more than 'Zuko's a great guy'. He really was.
That was why, months later, when Zuko had come knocking on their door with only a sliver of white high in the sky and a haunted look in his eyes, they didn't hesitate to grab their gear and head to the gym to exorcise a few old demons.
It was the first time Sokka had gotten to watch Zuko and Suki reallyspar against each other, no holds barred; one wielding power and speed, the other able to turn that power against their opponent with a graceful sweep of an arm and a cool head. Sure, they both had so much more training than he'd ever gotten as a boy, but even then the two of them made it seem so effortless, more of a dance than a battle. It was beautiful to watch them and it only strengthened Sokka's resolve to keep training, hoping to become even half as good someday.
The routine changed a little bit again after that night; they would still convene on the nights of the full moon as they had and keep their schedules clear the next morning to recoup, but the training nights were no longer limited to that one time of month. If one of them needed the distraction, they would get it, no questions asked. They would work their bodies until they dropped, either nodding off into sleep and being carried off into bed or breaking into a quiet conversation until dawn. In those quiet hours, they weren't sovereigns or politicians or the leader of the Fire Lord's private guard; they were just three young people dealing with the fallout of of their battles. If they squinted, they could even imagine themselves back in the Western Air Temple instead of a lavish palace full of servants and guards and butt-kissers.
Eventually, Sokka told Zuko about the innkeeper with twisted talents and a creepy obsession with puppeteering. The next day, he personally checked in on her imprisonment, making certain that no one be within a mile of her sight when the sun set and the moon was at its peak. If the Fire Lord held any measure of pity for the monster his grandfather had created, he never showed it; she had chosen to stay and hunt for decades when she could have fled.
One cold clouded night under the lamplight Zuko had wiped the sweat from his brow, taken a deep breath and told the two of them everything. He spoke about Lu Ten, and what his grandfather had ordered his father to do in the fallout of his death. What his mother had done to protect her child and where Zuko had gotten his scar. How even now from his prison cell, his father dangled the location of his mother in front of his face like an apple in front of a sky bison.
Sokka had been wrong. Oh, he hated Hama all right, but hate wasn't nearly a strong enough word for his feeling towards Ozai. He might need to invent one, just for use when thinking about the so-called Phoenix King.
Suki called on the two of them from time to time, to shake off a dark memory of unsure days behind prison bars. It wasn't nearly as often as they called on her, but she never minded or thought to complain about it. After all, the boys had experienced far more in the last years of the war than she ever could have imagined with her duties on quiet little Kyoshi Island. If they needed her to be their solid ground, she was more than willing to take up the task.
The months passed, as they always do. Zuko's hair finally brushed his shoulders again, heavy bangs no longer there to hide the laughter the other two worked so hard to get loose from him. Suki stopped growing long before the young men did, her forehead just barely reaching their eyes in the end. The size difference didn't exactly matter much in their sparring; she'd been fighting men larger than her since she was a kid. Sokka finally, finallygot the beard he'd been longing for since his days as Wang Fire, a goatee much like the one his father wore. He understood now why Haru had taken such pride in his own facial hair, even if it seemed weird on him at the time...
As his beard grew, so too did his fighting skills. The long nights began to pay off, no longer needing to try and flirt with Suki or bait Zuko with confusing banter to win a match with them. His lanky body and flailing limbs became stronger, more graceful in their movements, and Sokka began to see the tiny flaws in the movements of his partners. The moonlight reflected proudly off of his black blade and onto Zuko's smile on the night he admitted defeat, and the kiss Suki had given him the night he finally managed to pin her to the mats made him wish they were somewhere more comfortable (but not necessarily more private)...
And, like his Master Piandao once told him, he became more aware of the environment around him. His peripheral vision improved greatly, and he could pick up on the changes in a persons demeanor from just a twitch. It came in handy whether Sokka was sparring, dealing with a shady nobleman, or simply snagging another steamed picken dumpling from the kitchens before the cook came after him wooden spoon a-waving.
Or seeing the way Zuko looked at Suki when he thought Sokka wasn't paying attention.
Sometimes his gaze would linger a little too long, or he'd be so caught up in watching her sparring he would forget to hide the hunger in it. Then he'd come back to himself and shake it off, a flicker of guilt before acting like nothing had happened. Sokka knew Suki saw it too, if he'd been able to notice it. She was more open with Zuko, teasing him over an awkward slip of the tongue, a quick brush of her hand against his back or a quick peck to the cheek that came a little too close to the mouth at times.
Sokka had not been impressed, but kept his anger to himself. These were two of the people he trusted most in the world, would die for, would killfor, and he had no evidence it had gone any further than where it was now. Jumping to conclusions could unravel nearly two years of love and friendship, and Sokka couldn't risk that. Not with them.
He'd never been more grateful for his cautious nature when he finally began to notice Suki wasn't the onlyperson Zuko had been watching.
The anger and jealousy disappeared, melting away and forging itself into...something else. Something stronger. It was a lot to think about, but thankfully Sokka was usually pretty good at the whole 'thinking' thing when it was important. Which this definitely was.
It had been a moonless night when Zuko came knocking on their door again, and Sokka was the one to open it. He didn't know if it was his flushed bare skin, the light sheen of sweat or the outline in his shorts (he'd looked down, if only for a split second) that had tipped him off to what they'd been doing, but almost as soon as he'd answered the door the Fire Lord was apologizing for disturbing them and backing away with a blush on his face.
Sokka hadn't needed the moon in the sky for the strength to reach out and grasp Zuko's wrist that night. The memory of fierce golden eyes burning into his back and grappling holds that were a little too handsy to be effective deafened the fire-bender's protests long enough for him to pull the other man into the bedroom, feeling Suki watching the two of them from their bed as he silenced him with a kiss. Well, she hadbeen watching them. Then she was standing there next to them, unashamed of her nakedness (and she really had nothing to be ashamed about) as she unbuckled the dao blade holster from Zuko's back and sliding a hand under his shirt.
The touch had been enough to jerk Zuko out of the kiss, pulling away from Sokka to look back and forth at the two of them. The guy still wasn't the best at hiding his emotions, good or bad, when he was taken off guard. Confusion, nervousness. Hope. There was want there too, oh was there want, but there was also guilt for wanting two people who were already so happy together (Zuko also had his guilt complex deeper than the damn ocean). And that 'something else'.
Somewhere between giving him a reassuring grin and Suki pulling Zuko down for a sweet kiss Sokka had seen his friend's hesitation wavering, stuck between the wanting-slash-something else, and 'how does it work with three people? Does it work at all?'. Sokka knew that line of thinking; he'd been stuck on it himself for a while there himself. He figured the best way to get the fire-bender unstuck would be to suck on the pale expanse of neck left unguarded as he was kissing Suki.
Sokka always did have the best plans, no matter what anyone said.
Hama no longer haunted him or tainted his love of the full moon, even before she'd passed away alone in her prison. Instead of working his body to exhaustion Sokka could finally just sit on the palace roof, watching her shine on the glazed clay tiles and making them look like waves on the water. He no longer needed her to give him strength though, and didn't need her to feel like he could save the world. He had his own strength now, built and supported by the embodiments of earth and fire that sat next to him on the tiled ocean.
The world was saved and together the three of them would now help to change it, restoring the balance broken over 100 years before by men with misguided ambitions while finding an exciting new balance with each other.
Yue would have the best seat in the house to see it all happen, and she shone all the brighter just to make sure she didn't miss a moment of it.