I just really like Sokka/Suki, and after sneaking a little bit into "Earth Girls Are Easy", I had to do their own. I kind of love them.
So Suki had come up with the first mission: she wanted to visit her home again. It was a suitable challenge to start with, she was feeling a tad homesick, and to make it more interesting, Suki added that she'd like it to be a secret, and just the two of them.
And Sokka went to work. It took a week, but Sokka was in fantastic spirits for every day of it. Suki was positive everyone else knew something was going on; they all looked to her for some kind of answer. She gave them nothing. She said later that if she had known what she was starting, she would have rethought the whole thing, but that wasn't strictly true. Sokka knew she wanted adventure every bit as much as he did, and that was all that mattered.
They left in the middle of the day. They had a lot of Fire Nation to get through on their way to the ocean, and figured this would give them the most time. They'd appeared in the morning, then went to get lunch together. They'd done this before, often staying out until after dark, though rarely for the reasons everyone assumed. (Usually, they would do something like race each other up the side of a cliff, and then spend the rest of the day figuring out how to get back down.) It was tolerated well enough, so it would be quite a while before their absence became suspicious. By then, they should be out on the ocean.
The schooner Sokka had procured was small enough that two could easily operate it, but Suki was having some doubts on whether it was truly seaworthy. She noticed that Sokka's course seemed to be keeping them as close to land as was possible, which was, strangely enough, not helping her confidence. Equally strangely, they made it to Kyoshi Island relatively unscathed. Their patience had been tested a bit, with both of them desperately wanting to just go along for the ride while at the same time thinking over everything that could go wrong, trying not to say anything about it. They had failed. Each of them furiously assigned the clearly larger part of the blame to the other, trying to obscure their own share. When Sokka had insisted that, as the entire trip was her idea, none of the blame could possibly lie with him, Suki had started purposefully criticizing his sailing skills. The low point had undoubtedly been the last night before their arrival, when they were very South and very cold. Sokka, in an almost touchingly optimistic gesture, had brought just the one heavy sleeping bag. Suki had refused to share it, but neither could be quite selfish enough to take it, and in their stubbornness they had spent a very chilly night freezing at opposite ends of the boat, the sleeping bag in the no-man's-land between them.
Shortly before dawn, Sokka made a peace offering of a remark on his temper having cooled off. They had both laughed, admitted that the night before was probably stupider than anything else they'd done, and spent the morning making up for lost warmth.
When they'd landed, tied up the schooner, and were on solid ground again, Sokka began desperately trying to explain himself. Suki caught something about sailing, Katara, Aang, maps... it was virtually nonsense. She had just stopped him before he could confuse them both any further, and asked what he was really trying to say.
"I'm sorry." He clearly wanted to continue and list everything he was sorry for.
"It's okay. I'm sorry, too." Suki had learned to cut him off before he could start. And no more was said of it. They had an understanding of sorts that allowed them to mutually recognize those rare subjects that deserved awkward talks about their feelings. This would not be one of those subjects. Instead:
"I bet I can beat you up that tree!" Sokka said, racing to get the head start he felt he deserved.
Suki did have an unfair advantage, after all.
"Yeah, well, I didn't have trees where I grew up." Sokka was ever the gracious loser.
The visit was more brief than either of them intended. Suki was a bit surprised to find how quickly she got bored here, now that she knew the world was so much larger than this island. Sokka was making the most of it, continuing his training, but the itch to move and see something new was too difficult to ignore, so they agreed to head back to the Fire Nation capitol, tell everyone where they had been, and then go somewhere else.
It was a pleasant enough night as they got going, until Suki looked at the stars.
"That can't be right...We're going dead South."
"No, we're not."
Suki stared at him a moment. "Yes, we are. You know we are."
"I just... I thought we might..."
"Sokka... are we going to the South Pole?"
"A little bit."
Suki just had to laugh. "I like that you wanted to surprise me, I really do, but did you think I wouldn't notice?"
"I hoped. It would have been a nice surprise, you know?"
Suki chose to be more happy than insulted. After all, it was only going to get colder, so now was not a time to pick a fight.
"Oh... oh man, Suki... I'm... really, really, I'm so sorry."
"Eh, it could be worse. Not, you know, a lot, but..." Suki tried to laugh, but the situation was a little bit grim. The schooner had been fine as long as the seas had been relatively smooth and they kept some distance between themselves and the shore, but between the storm and the rocks, it didn't stand a chance; it had been knocked to pieces. The two of them had strapped what they could to their backs, and hoped for the best. They were granted a piece of schooner that took them to some kind of shore, and they then concentrated on not freezing to death. It seemed like ages before there was enough light to evaluate their situation.
Near as Sokka could tell, they were on one of the islands neighboring the Southern Air Temple.
"This isn't good, Suki. There's no one here."
"That's fine. More for us, right?" Suki couldn't bear to see Sokka hopeless. "You're not going to give up on me now, right?" She found herself able to smile, for him.
"But no one even knows we left, not for sure. The chances of being discovered..."
"...Are at least a little better than you think. I worried what Katara might do if I didn't leave a note, so I told her where we were going. If she knows us at all, she sent help the minute she read it." That got a weak smile out of him. "Now come on. Air Nomads ate, right? And Momo survived here on his own, and you've seen what he can put away."
"But we're nowhere near the temple. And it should only be accessible by airbending."
"All the better. Momo hasn't gotten to this stuff yet." It was getting easier to put on a brave face. The happiness that they were still alive against the odds was taking over. "We managed to save some of our food and supplies, and we have each other. It's very nearly a perfect vacation. In fact, sleeping bag guy, I'd almost think you planned all this."
"Suki..." It was getting useless to fight her. "Come on, I'm pretty good at thinking up ridiculous things, but I'm not /that /good."
Suki kissed him. "Sure you are."
It wasn't long before they were back to racing each other up cliffs, though the island was showing few signs of doing them any nourishment-related favors time soon. Regardless of whether they were going to survive this, they had both just decided that being miserable about it was a bit pointless. They made games out of everything, playing at survival. It was becoming increasingly clear their resources were not going to last, but that was no reason to be depressed. The important thing was to be the first one to discover another source of berries or collect the most firewood.
Holding each other close, to "survive the night," Sokka took one of those breaths that meant they were going to be having one of those talks.
"Suki," he hadn't thought past that part, and it took him a few seconds to continue. "About Yue."
"Relax, Sokka. If we die and run across her in the spirit world, I'll say you and I are just friends."
"What? No... that's not..." He tried to gather himself again. "You're... amazing." The word wasn't enough. Sokka wanted to find some way of saying that he loved who she was, who he was when he was with her, that they were equals. He wanted to spend every day with her, forever, and he was so grateful for every day they'd had. So he added, "Really amazing."
Suki smiled in that incredible, knowing way that meant to Sokka she understood everything. "You're not breaking up with me, are you?"
"Never." They treasured the moment in an utterly comprehending silence until Sokka felt compelled to continue. "You're so different from her."
Suki had tried to be jealous of Yue, during that first awkward talk where Sokka explained things, but the truth was, she'd found Sokka kind of charmingly improved since the first time she'd met him. It gave a sort of haunted past facet to his personality that she found a little irresistible and made her appreciate all the more the way she could make him grin like an idiot by simply showing up. Frankly, she sort of owed the girl. That didn't have to mean she was going to let a chance like this slip by. "Really? Is that supposed to be flattering? Let's see, what do I know... Is it that she was gorgeous and selfless and kind? An amazing kisser?"
"And engaged. And /tragic. /And... yeah, she was all those things too, but so are you. So's my sister, even!"
Suki looked at him strangely.
"What... Aang... I talked to... the other things though!" Sokka tried to focus. "The point is, you... race me up trees. You come with me on totally stupid adventures that get us shipwrecked in kind of terrible places. You help me take on war balloons. We're a team. And I love that. I love... you." He said it a sort of hesitating way that suggested he was a little afraid Suki would make him sleep in the cold again.
Suki grinned that idiot grin they both sort of saved for each other, and Sokka mirrored it. "Likewise. Now, are we just saying this now because we're pretty sure we're gonna die?"
"Maybe a little? But I'm not taking it back if we get out of this alive."
"Good. I wasn't going to let you."
"Are... you actually going to say it to me? I mean, I actually said the words, and not to be picky, but..."
"I love you, Sokka."
The next morning was the first where starvation was starting to feel a little more imminent than usual, so they decided to ignore it and make plans for their homecoming.
"Okay, next time? None of this secret stuff. I'm going to talk to people and get us some reliable transportation that we can operate. I'll help invent it if I have to." Sokka was already sketching ideas in the dirt... or just scribbling; it was difficult to say for sure either way.
"I think I'll study up and pick somewhere warm and full of food for next time."
"Nuh-uh. You got to pick this one! I wanna pick next time."
"But you did! That's why we're here, remember?"
"We never made it to the South Pole, so it doesn't count."
"Okay, fine, as long as it's full of food." They shared one of those idiot grin moments, now that they knew what they were really saying, before Sokka squinted into the horizon.
"Is that Appa?"
"Are we at hallucinations already? I would've thought we had more time."
"Would you look? I think that's Appa. Throw some more wood on the fire."
And just that simply, their rescuers were bearing down on them.
Katara was aghast. Not only did Sokka and Suki look completely weathered and horrifying and have an absolutely dreadful story to tell about the past few days, but they would not stop smiling.
"It really wasn't that bad, Katara! Sure, it wasn't my first choice for a vacation... which reminds me! Hey, Aang! Can we swing by the South Pole real quick?"
"Are you /insane/?" It was at least the third or fourth time Katara had asked.
"Look, if we don't do it now, Suki and I are just going to find some way of getting there on our own. Not that I would complain, but this might be faster and less suicidal."
"It's okay, Katara. It's not too far," Aang said, smiling, having already set the course. "Oh Suki! You have to try penguin sledding."
"No. No she doesn't. What she has to do, she and Sokka both, is come back to someplace warm and /rest/."
"We can rest just fine in the South Pole," Sokka persisted. "You and I managed for a few years there, if I recall. Besides, I want to see what they've done with the place."
Katara decided to fume in silence, trusting that would make Sokka realize how foolish he was being.
"So... how did you find us?" Suki offered, still smiling.
"Well, we went to Kyoshi Island to find out whether you'd arrived, and they said you had, but that you'd left. We asked around, and one of them said you guys mentioned something about going to the Southern Water Tribe, so we started over there. Then Katara spotted the boat you guys took. Well... you know, parts of it."
"We thought you two had /drowned/, you know." Katara broke her silence briefly.
"Well, we figured it wouldn't hurt to look. And hey! We found you!"
"That's weird, though... I didn't even know we were heading South before we left, let alone mention it to someone. Did you tell anyone, Sokka?"
"It was this vendor who said he'd talked to Sokka when he sold him--"
"I think I just must have mentioned that's where I'm from! Thank goodness he heard me wrong. Really lucky, there. Hey Aang! Can I have a word?"
And that left Suki at the back of the saddle with Katara and her aura of disapproval. Suki debated striking up a conversation, but one look from Katara made her think it might be better if she just pretended to be contrite. Sokka was back at her side before long, and they continued to smile at each other a lot while Katara scowled.
Sokka introduced Suki to everyone when they landed ("Suki, this is everyone!") then they were somehow separated in the ensuing rush to get them cleaned up and comfortable and, most importantly, fed. Suki found herself surrounded by entirely new faces, which she didn't mind at all, as they kept bringing her delicious new things to eat. At some point Katara showed up, much friendlier than she had been, latched onto Suki's arm, and gave her a tour of the tribe, pointing out the recent developments and a few of the new faces, when she spotted Sokka again. They exchanged a goofy smile and a kiss before he stammered an invitation to show her something. He took her mittened hand in his own, and led her away to a quieter snowy area. A few penguins shuffled by a little ways on.
"Okay, so... I have something for you. It's kind of the reason for... everything. I just wanted to do this as right as I could." He took a few breaths; his heart was racing. "You've seen Katara's necklace, right?"
And he presented his gift, explaining that the choker had come from Kyoshi Island, and the stone from the South Pole. He went on to explain the pattern carved in the stone, each line having some significance.
"Okay... so you know how I can't really draw, right?"
"A little." Suki was trying to restrain herself until he had finished speaking.
"Well, I didn't want you to have to wear one of my art projects forever... if... you know... you decided to... and you don't have to, but I hope...well... So, I... I carved this line here, but I thought I'd get some help to do the rest, especially since the best ones are done with waterbending. So Katara helped me make the design a little more, uh, polished... and she did this swirl here. And Aang did that one. And Grand-Pakku did this wave. Then, since I was on kind of roll, Gran-Gran did that part, and my dad did that last wave. Anyway, I know it's not terribly traditional, and it's not like it has to mean that we... but I thought it might be... nice?"
Suki had kissed him before she could attempt to stop herself. She pulled away slightly just to say, "You talk too much," before attacking him again.
When Suki returned to the rest of the village wearing the necklace, very few people seemed remotely surprised, and at least one was out of her mind with excitement.
"Oh, Suki! When Sokka told me and had me look over the design, I was just... I'm so glad!" Katara embraced her. Clearly, she had been dying to say something. "I'm so sorry I was so rude on the way here! I was just worried and I had no idea... Sokka said he would have told me right away so I'd lay off, but he thought I wouldn't be able to keep the secret, and he was probably... but I'm so glad!"
It took them all of a few hours before they'd commandeered a canoe for some privacy, which worked better than they expected when some shifting ice prevented them from moving anywhere once they got far enough from shore.
"This stuff happens out here," Sokka said dismissively. "I've definitely had worse."
"Really? What did you do?"
"Last time? I think we found a kid in some ice with a magical bison."
"So no big deal."
"No big deal."
They were roaring with laughter when they returned, Sokka sopping wet, the two of them carrying the canoe. No one was able to figure out what had happened, on account of both of them dissolving into giggles when asked about it.
A few missions later (including "Sled on a Penguin," "Teach Suki to Fish," "Build a Snow Fort," and "Beat Katara and Aang in a Snowball Fight"), one of which was a hilariously pathetic failure, another might have been a success or a failure depending on how you looked at it, two of them wound up requiring rescue missions, and only one was an undisputed success (Suki had learned to fish), Katara was losing patience with them. She (with a silent Aang) insisted on doing a nice, grown up evening together as couples, where everyone would act like an adult and no one would get thrown in the water again.
It wasn't the first double date that Suki and Sokka had been on; there had been that memorably awkward night with Mai and Zuko a few months back... neither Sokka nor Suki had gone anywhere near a fruit tart since. But they got the feeling this wouldn't be one of /those /dates, though probably not the respectable kind of adult evening Katara seemed to be planning, either.
"So what do you think? Revenge?"
"Revenge." Sokka nodded. He and Suki had resorted to some questionable tactics in their last snowball rematch against Aang and Katara, and while they believed they had been paid back by suffering one of their most grisly defeats yet, Katara may have felt a little different. Suki maintained that there had been no acknowledged rule against the use of penguins, but conceded the middle-of-the-night sneak attack might have been a little much.
"What form will that take?"
"You think the date itself isn't enough?"
"This is Katara, and she wants us to feel uncomfortable. Like, tripped on a penguin and fell into the water uncomfortable." They both paused a moment to laugh a little.
"Mushy stuff, then?" Sokka made a face.
"That's my best guess."
"Aang is probably off-limits, huh?"
"Too easy. It would be like cheating. And it's not his fight." Before Sokka could object, Suki interrupted, "That ice ball was accidental, Sokka. You know it was, and I still say your head was always that lumpy. So," Suki changed the subject before he could argue any more, "beat her at her own game?"
"Yes," Sokka agreed enthusiastically. "But that means what, exactly?"
It was actually a mature, grown up evening for the better part of 10 minutes. Sure, Aang and Katara were smiling a lot more than usual and that was the tiniest bit unsettling, but it was otherwise nice. Then, in all fairness, Katara started it by asking a bunch of silly questions, like what they loved the most about each other, the sweetest thing they'd ever done for one another, and precise moments that they "knew they were meant to be together." There may have been real answers for those questions if they dug deep, but they just made up what they knew Katara wanted to hear.
"So what's it like being betrothed? I'm sure you two must be so excited and making lots of plans for the future."
"It's so fantastic, Katara! Thanks so much for asking. When it's all finally official, I just can't wait to settle down somewhere quiet and start a family of our own. I was a little embarrassed to say it earlier, but I'm just so happy that we get to be sisters, finally!" Suki almost looked a little misty-eyed. "You know, from the moment I first met you and your brother, I just wanted to be part of your family. And now it's coming true!"
"Oh, sweetie, there's no reason to be embarrassed about that!" Sokka made a big show of kissing her hand. "I kept telling her that you'd be so happy when this happened, Katara, but she was so worried! It was so adorable!"
"You're adorable!" Suki giggled.
Aang, who had been growing more concerned as the evening went on, began to look a little nauseous. Katara was beaming, however, believing she was finally seeing the real side of this relationship.
"I'm so happy for you two! You have no idea how nice it is to see you both like this. Right, Aang... honey?"
Aang put on a very unconvincing smile.
"Oh, Katara, I'm just... I hoped that this would... the whole time I was in prison I was only thinking of... I hoped..." and Suki dissolved into full-on tears of joy. Then she turned to Sokka. "Can we ask her?"
"Go ahead, darling."
"We were wondering, Katara..." Suki bit her lip. "I can't... You ask her, honey."
"But it was your idea!"
"She's your sister, though..."
"No, pumpkin. She's our sister." And they shared a long, loving look into each other's eyes, then at Katara, who was completely absorbed in watching them.
"Together then..." Suki turned to Katara, beaming. "Katara, we were wondering..."
"... when we have our first daughter..."
"... can we name her..."
"... after you?" They said together, grinning.
"YES!" Katara squeaked, completely unable to contain herself.
They held the tableau for a few moments before Aang fell out of his chair laughing, at which point Sokka and Suki lost it. Katara was stonily silent.
"I'm sorry, Katara, really, but... I didn't think we'd have you going that long!"
"Oh, I totally did!" Sokka laughed, trying to catch his breath.
"You two are so... immature!" Katara was not pleased. "Why don't you just... penguin... drown!" she stammered, which only got them going anew. "Well, at least I... That's just not something you /do./" She tried dialing up the disapproval.
"Come on, Katara... if you really believed that Suki and I could ever be like /that/, you kind of had it coming." Sokka had calmed himself enough to only laugh every other word.
"Well, I don't go following you around on your dates or anything, Mr. Knows.... Things... So Much!" Katara was still fuming a bit. "Sorry I assumed that you two could actually act like a real couple."
"Oh, Katara... I don't know what kinds of scrolls you've gotten your hands on..." Suki was trying to show no signs of the laughing fit she had only just suppressed. "/Real/ couples? Tell me you don't act like that with Aang."
Aang shook his head vigorously before Katara could stammer her response. Instead, she made an exasperated noise and stormed out the room. Sokka and Suki looked at Aang, who slouched and resignedly accepted his fate.
"I'll go talk to her."
Katara sought out Suki the next afternoon (Sokka was still collapsing with laughter every time he saw her) for a chat. Suki began to apologize, but Katara raised a hand to stop her.
"Look, I understand that you two love each other for who the both of you are, and it's not logical for me to expect that to change you into totally different people." They sounded a bit like Aang's words, but Suki wasn't going to object. "I mean, I guess I hoped that deciding to... I don't know, whatever it was that you decided with that thing," she said, pointing at Suki's necklace, "meant that you were both ready to grow up." That sounded more like Katara.
"That's sweet to assume we could, Katara," Suki smiled. She'd debated apologizing for preying on Katara's naivete, but wisely figured that might be taken the wrong way. She knew the course she had to take. "Okay, Katara... I haven't talked about this with anyone else, really..."
Katara narrowed her eyes.
"I don't know where Sokka and I are going. We might wind up with your happy ending and rainbows and bunnicorns, or we might never settle down anywhere... or we could fall into a volcano by accident. I don't know. We just know we want to be together. And that's something we knew before he gave me this necklace. This is just a nice little reminder that also kind of brings out my eyes." Suki smiled.
Katara seemed unconvinced, certain Suki was holding out on her, that the real relationship was still hiding behind jokes. Suki debated telling Katara what she wanted to hear, because that would be so much easier than trying for actual understanding, but ultimately a step in the wrong direction.
Suki frowned. She didn't like having to bring this up, but it seemed the only way. "I'm not Yue, Katara."
"What? I know that."
"I'm not sure you do, really. I'm not you, I'm not Mai, and I'm really not Yue. I don't see marriage as a goal, a necessity, or a duty. And I don't want to. That's not me."
"I don't... that's... " Katara bit her lip. "Okay."
"It's just... I know you saw Sokka with Yue, and it's understandable that you'd compare us and expect me to be like her, at least a little. And that you'd expect Sokka and I to act like that, too. And when you don't see that on the surface, you think we're just hiding all the serious stuff from you."
Katara's silence was a hint that Suki was on the right track.
"I'm afraid we're just not that complicated, Katara."
Katara frowned. "But you guys have to be serious /sometimes/, right? You can't expect me to believe you just climb rocks and steal boats and smile all the time."
Suki had the eerie feeling Katara may have spied on them more than a few times. "We've had our moments. They're even less frequent than your brother's usual spurts of seriousness, though. But, I mean... I did ask, and he did tell me all about Yue, for example."
"And other things. You really are like a sister to me, Katara, and I would love to have your approval, but I won't share everything to get it. You're just gonna have to trust that while we do squeeze in the necessary relationship stuff, Sokka and I are just..." It seemed so easy to understand, but she faltered trying to find the word for it.
"I guess so." It seemed like Katara had gotten the gist of it. She sighed, then continued, "Just promise me you'll try to quit being so incredibly reckless."
Suki agreed, but mostly because she felt recklessness was just something that happened. Instead, the promise just meant she would continue to not tell Katara everything.
It took a little more work, particularly in getting Sokka to keep a straight face so Katara would talk to him, but Suki was able to convince him that "Mission: Get Katara's Forgiveness and Approval" had top priority. Eventually, after shooting down some of his worse ideas ("Can't we just promise the daughter thing, but for real?"), Sokka was able to muster enough seriousness to take Katara aside and have a talk. Suki had been horribly tempted to eavesdrop, but managed to resist, figuring that Sokka logic against Katara would most likely just make her laugh and give herself away.
Katara found Suki not too long after, and looking a little weepy, gave her a big hug.
"Oh, please tell me he didn't go ahead and promise that we'd have a daughter and name her after you for real this time."
Katara shook her head, and composed herself. She explained that Sokka had said a lot of the same things Suki had, but as kind of a bonus peace offering, had shared a little more. Suki was worried for a minute that he had just gone and made things up again, but then Katara elaborated.
Suki was still smiling when she found Sokka working on the boat; he and his father had been devising a slightly more seaworthy vessel that he and Suki could handle.
"You like me." She just grinned wider. "I talked to Katara."
He blushed. "That was... well, I had to tell her /something/... you know."
"You like me. A lot."
"How come you never told me all of that?"
"Clearly, I knew it would just go to your head."
Suki tried to be gracious, but couldn't help it. "But... You really love me."
"Yeah, I know that."
He was still blushing. Suki figured it was only fair that she pay him back. "That first time you took me down, my heart was beating so hard, I swore you could hear it. And that next time I saw you, at the ferry? When you recognized me, the way you smiled, I just... And when you finally kissed me? Somewhere in all of there, I figured out I really liked you, too."
"Was that all? Just 'really like'? Hmph."
"Well, I had to leave somewhere to go when you showed up at the prison, didn't I?"
"I'm just saying, I knew I loved you before that, and that was when I had someone to get over first."
"Really? I'm supposed to give you extra points for finding some moon princess while you still had me on the line?" She was unable to stop smiling while she spoke. Even Sokka could not be expected to think her indignation was genuine. "And since when was it a race, anyway?"
"I'm just saying." He was trying to pout and grin at the same time, with goofy yet charming results. "If it was a race, I totally beat you. By a lot."
"So you didn't like me any better when, say, I rescued you from certain death?"
"Nope. I liked you plenty by then."
"So this is it, then? Nowhere to go from here but down?"
Sokka contemplated this. "I see your point. Okay, I take it back. I love you, but I don't really love you. You'll have to earn that."
"Nope. Can't do that. I earned it already."
"Now you're just cheating."
"/I'm/ the cheater? Come here..."
Suki was shoving a handful of snow in Sokka's face when they heard Katara scoff at them from behind a snow drift.
"You two.... are IMPOSSIBLE."
They watched her storm off, and managed to wait until she was probably out of earshot before they succumbed to a laughing fit.
Suki flopped on top of Sokka when she had caught her breath, and brushed some snow off his face. She contemplated him for a minute. "I really love you."
"Ha! I knew it."
Katara seemed to have begrudgingly accepted that no matter how she tried to meddle, Suki and Sokka would never be the sickeningly sweet and terribly adult couple she still seemed to want them to be, but the two of them were somehow happy anyway. Further, though she treated it like a huge sacrifice on her part, she seemed to have realized that the chances of her brother becoming a mature and upstanding gentleman under Suki's influence were small at best, and there was certainly no hope for Suki at all, no matter what kind of necklace she was wearing.
"So Aang and I need to go back to the Fire Nation," Katara informed them, Aang by her side, watching her close.
"Avatar things?" Sokka asked.
"Avatar things," Aang confirmed, smiling.
Katara sighed. "I don't suppose I can possibly hope that you two will stay here and keep yourselves out of trouble?"
"Well, you /can/, but that would be freakishly optimistic, even for you."
"We're doing our best to avoid another catastrophe," Suki admitted.
"Well, another similar catastrophe. I make no promises that we won't run into entirely new ones."
Aang put a hand on Katara's shoulder, and she took a deep breath. Likely due to his influence, she was keeping her nerves under admirable control. "Right. And there's no chance I could persuade you to just come with us on Appa?"
"Again, freakishly optimistic."
Katara nodded. "Okay. Just... write. Please. Or leave a trail. Something. And try to not... you know... /die/."
"Thanks, Katara," Suki grinned, and hugged her.
Sokka opened his arms, and after glaring at him a moment, Katara hugged him as well. Then, sighing again, she retreated.
"This is largely your fault, you know," Suki told Aang.
"Me? I'm doing everything I can to try and keep her calm!"
"You treat her too darn well. Gives her totally unrealistic expectations for the rest of us," Sokka said, shaking his head.
"As long as you keep that up, there's no way she's actually going to believe we really like each other at all," Suki scolded.
"And the maturity? The responsibility? I mean, I know you're way older than you look, but tone it down a little, huh?"
"Bye, you guys." Aang hugged them both before adding, "Seriously, though, try to stay out of too much trouble."
"How much is too much?" Sokka asked. "Just so we know where that line is."
"I'll settle for both of you not getting yourselves killed," Aang grinned.
"Well, we had all these plans... but for you, sure."
Aang waved at them both before chasing after Katara.
It was midnight, and it was cold, and Suki was on deck, stowing the rest of the supplies. Sokka and his father had finished working on the boat, and were now on the shore, saying goodbye. It was quiet and still enough over the water that Suki could hear everything, but she could muster the grace to pretend that wasn't the case.
"Keep it on course, and keep an eye on the skies. It shouldn't go the way of your last one, but..."
"I'll be careful."
"I know. She really is... some girl, Sokka."
"Keep her safe."
"Eh, I'll try. She got mad at me the last time I did that."
"Ha... of course she did. What did she do when you nearly got the both of you killed?"
Suki blushed as Sokka stammered.
"You hold on to her."
"I will, Dad."
"I'm really proud of you, Sokka. You two have fun."
"I'm all done here!" Suki called, joining them, pulling a blanket a little tighter around her shoulders against the bite of the outside air. Hakoda looked significantly at his son until Sokka got the hint and put his arm around Suki's shoulder.
"Now if Katara asks where you're going, I can tell her, right?"
"Please do, or she'll kill us all," Suki said, laughing and only half kidding.
"And that wouldn't be half as interesting as the ways we would come up with otherwise," Sokka added. His father caught his eye and he continued, "I'm kidding. I won't get us killed on purpose or accidentally if I can help it."
"That's right. I don't want to take the fall for helping you if things go south."
"Relax, things couldn't go any more south if they tried. Right? Because we're at the South Pole? Oh, I kill me."
"Now that we have a co-conspirator, we'll try to be much more careful," Suki assured him.
"It has been nice having you around. I hope you'll come back someday."
"We..." Sokka looked at Suki, "will? Right?"
"We will." Suki smiled.
Hakoda embraced them both and helped them launch the boat, then waited on the shore until they were lost in the darkness.
"So where are we going, anyway?" Suki asked. "I'd thought it was my turn to pick, by the way."
"Sure. So where are we going?"
"It's a surprise this time."
Suki contemplated that a minute. "Bet you we won't be halfway there before I figure it out."