It's taken exactly two years, three months and four days from Sokka realizing he has the biggest crush ever on Suki. To actually getting a date with her.
"I don't know whether to be impressed that you actually know that. Or to find it pathetic." Toph remarks at the lunch table.
"Really?" Sokka asks hopefully.
"No, I change my mind. I find it pathetic." Toph corrects.
Aang smiles sappily at Katara, "Well I've had my forever date for years."
"Really Aang?" Sokka gestures to his meal, cafeteria tacos filled with meat, "Right in front of my salad?"
"Are you gonna go to the dance, Zuko?" Katara asks.
Sokka turns to look at his best friend. Zuko's been quiet all afternoon. He's just moving around the white rice on his tray from side to side. Eyes glued to his phone.
He looks up from his phone when Katara asks the question, "I'm not."
This surprises Sokka. For whatever reason. He hadn't considered it until now. In the past Zuko had always come along to school dances with the group. Albeit reluctantly. Sokka remembers the first time. Right after they had adopted him into the group. The seventh grade spring social.
He had spent the whole time grimacing and stuck to Sokka like glue. Not much had changed. Other than eighth grade, when he was dating Mai, and they skipped the dance altogether. He usually spent dances entirely by Sokka's side. Whispering commentary into his ear. Sometimes shouting it above the din of the music.
They'd actually danced together last year, freshman year, during a fast song. Sokka had taken Zuko's hands in his and made him boogie around a bit. When a slow song came on right after they had just stared at each other awkwardly and for a wild second Sokka had wanted to. Slow dance with him that is. He tries not to think about that too much.
So yeah, now that he thinks about it, he feels kinda bad that he's gonna ditch Zuko, and the gang, for Suki. But fair is fair right? Zuko sort of did the same thing when he was with Mai. And it's not like he could just keep going to dances with Zuko forever. But yeah. Ouch. It does feel bad.
"Are you gonna hang with Mai?" Sokka asks.
Zuko shakes his head, "I, uh, think Ty Lee would make her go."
She would. Sokka nods. Okay. This is an awkward vibe time to change the subject.
"Aang I have one rule."
"This year if you throw rocks at our windows and try to climb up via the tree you have to make sure you know which one is Katara's bedroom."
"I know which one it is!" Aang insists indignantly.
(He does not. Aang learns though, so this time he doesn't mistakenly hit and climb into Sokka's window instead of Katara's. This time he accidentally gets into Bato and Hakoda's. Wakes them up from what must have been a deep sleep. And Bato grabs a baseball bat from reflex alone. Aang shrieks and wakes up the whole house. But that's a story for another time)
After Sokka finishes his meal. He finishes a cycle of worry over his best friend. Whether what he's doing will make Zuko sad. Various ways to make it up to him.
Then his mind wanders over to Suki again...and he has excitement bubble in the pit of his stomach. And then worry. Sure, Sokka talks big, but he hasn't actually dated very many girls. Or actually, to be specific, he's dated none.
That little thing with Yue the summer after sixth grade comes closest. And even then, they hadn't, you know, kissed. Sokka's actually never kissed anyone . He's more than a little embarrassed about it. Especially since he caught Aang and Katara making out in their kitchen and needed to bleach his brain.
Even Toph, their resident "romance is for idiots" spokesperson, has supposedly kissed someone. The identity of said person being an immense mystery. Zuko's kissed Mai, Sokka's seen that too, by the lockers. He kissed Jin, he had told Sokka that. Zuko's probably even kissed Jet. God. Suki used to kiss Haru too, he's pretty sure, when they were together.
Sokka gulps. So it's only him.
They're walking home together, just the two of them, having missed the school buses leaving, when Zuko brings it up.
"You're quiet. You're never quiet."
Sokka turns to look at him. He looks good today. In dark wash jeans and a maroon college t sweatshirt that Sokka knows is a hand-me-down from his cousin Lu Ten. He needs to cut his hair soon, it's all grown out and shaggy. Even though Sokka kind of likes it that way.
"Hey I'm cool. I'm good. I'm fine , dude."
"Sure." Zuko scoffs, "You sound fine."
Just tell him. It's Zuko. You can tell him anything.
"If I tell you." Sokka says in a small voice, "You can't tell anyone ."
Zuko makes a motion over his chest, one that they've been doing since they were kids, it means 'cross my heart'.
This is a weird place to tell him. On the sidewalk. Barely out of their school parking lot.
"I've never kissed anyone." Sokka admits.
The expression in Zuko's eyes is one of surprise. And then goes all soft. He reaches out to touch Sokka's hand briefly, and then lets it go.
"...There's nothing wrong with that." Zuko says finally.
"Like. I know that." Sokka explains, "I've just. I've waited so long for a date with Suki. I want it to be perfect."
"You want to be good at it."
"Yeah. I want to be great at it."
"That just takes practice. It'll be fine."
This is gonna be awkward. But would he rather be awkward here? Right now. In front of his best friend who's seen him do some of the stupidest shit in the world and somehow still likes him. Or in front of Suki, the girl of his dreams.
"So how does it work?" Sokka musters up all the courage in his bones, and he asks.
"You know. Kissing."
Please don't make this weirder than it needs to be.
"It's, uh, not the kind of thing you can explain. It'll make sense when you do it."
"You don't have to." Sokka starts off, he feels so stupid even asking, "But could you? Maybe show me? Or something. I just don't want her to think I'm some nerd who's never been kissed. Actually you know what. Let's forget it. Let's get some ice cream."
Oh jeez. He's made it weird.
"Okay. But not here."
Thirty minutes later they're in Sokka's room. On Sokka's bed. Staring at his teenage mutant ninja turtle poster. They hear the sound of the ice cream truck in the distance. The whir of the lawnmower. Dad must be cutting the grass.
Sokka's heart is thudding in his chest. He's wondering if maybe this wasn't a good idea. Because outside when they were walking it hadn't seemed that risky. But now Zuko is here. And warm. And close. Sokka's never kissed anyone before. Zuko knows it. He's going to show him. It's just practice. Sokk repeats to himself. Just practice.
"Relax." Zuko says, and it's ironic, because Zuko is the least relaxed person in the whole cosmos.
Sokka nods. And honest to god, he tries.
"You should start with holding her hand." Zuko explains, and he takes Sokka's hand in his.
It's instantly comforting, and Sokka relaxes a bit. Letting the easy feel of their friendship make this a little easier. He's always been there for Zuko. He always will be. Zuko's just being here for him. There's no one else he'd rather trust with something like this.
Then Zuko reaches out and takes Sokka's ponytail holder out, letting his hair spill free. What?
"Looks better like that." Zuko says, a hint of pink in his cheeks.
"Really? I mean I know. I am a bit of a heartbreaker with my hair down."
"Don't be getting a big head. Mr. never-been -kissed."
Hearing that from anyone else might hurt. But the way Zuko says it. Fondly. The accompanying half smile. The way he reaches out to touch the edge of Sokka's face with his fingers. Yeah. It doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt at all.
"You really want your first kiss to be me?" Zuko whispers, even though they're alone on the upstairs floor.
"Yeah. Just. Just show me Zuko. You're killing me here."
Zuko puts his right hand on Sokka's shoulder and his left cups Sokka's cheek. He leans in and presses a warm closed mouth kiss to Sokka's lips. It's soft and chaste. Sokka likes the feel of it so much, the tingle it sends down his back, he forgets to kiss back.
Zuko notices, so he does it again. And this time Sokka does kiss back. Pressing against his best friend's mouth and tentatively putting his hands around Zuko's neck. Right where it meets his back.
His brain briefly registers. Kissing! Zuko! Kissing Zuko! Before it short circuits as Zuko deepens the kiss. Taking a different angle in a way that feels oh-so-good.
Sokka copies him. And they go back and forth. Without words. Zuko gives his hand an almost imperceptible yeah, like that squeeze when he does something right. And Sokka memorizes the feeling of Zuko's mouth on his. No one told him it would feel like this. He feels a rush like nothing else.
After a minute, Sokka pulls him in closer almost on instinct alone. Zuko kisses him, and kisses him like he's never going to stop. It only makes sense though. Practice makes perfect .
Sokka's entirely unclear on where the soft sighs of contentment are coming from. Exactly when and how they end up tangled together. When and why he's the one, rather than Zuko, who's supposed to be leading this, who tries something out with his tongue.
He's practically in Zuko's lap. Breathless. With his hands tangled in Zuko's silky hair. When he takes a moment and glances at the clock. They've been kissing for thirteen minutes. Damn. It felt like thirteen seconds.
Sokka kisses Zuko on the cheek, he presses his lips there for a good second. It's a thank you.
"Okay?" Zuko asks, kissing Sokka's cheek now, a mirror image.
Oh my god.
Sokka feels such a wave of emotion. Of attachment. Blind overwhelming affection. That he throws his arms around Zuko's neck and he hugs him. Tight. Zuko holds him back.
They've shared something. Something really special. Sokka knows that. And he's feeling some type of way about it. Zuko's warmer and cuddlier, and nicer to hold than he has any right to be. And even after all the kissing this suddenly feels more intimate.
But it's not weird. It's not weird at all.
"I guess I never had time. Or. I don't know ever since mom died..." Sokka says it into Zuko's neck.
My best friend. My best friend who kissed me.
"I get it." Zuko replies, gripping Sokka even harder.
"How did I do?" Sokka asks.
"Felt good." Zuko says, in a strange choked voice that Sokka doesn't really know what to do with.
"So did you." Sokka replies, it feels like the thing to say right now, "How'd you learn to kiss like that?"
"Gotta love Mai."
"Yeah. You know. I still do. Just not in the same way."
"S'fine. Don't worry about it." Zuko assures him.
I'm glad it was you. You know me better than anyone else.
The dance comes and goes. He has a blast with Suki. She's fun and cool. And they do kiss at the end of the night. But if he's honest, they're better as friends.
And after the other kiss, his real first kiss, this one doesn't have the same spark in it. The same fire.
He thinks about the kiss all the time now. In the shower. In class. On the bus. At the lunch table.
Sokka's always felt like he takes care of people a lot. He doesn't like sharing his secrets very much. Or the things that make him feel less than. But Zuko had been so gentle and kind and soft. He had kissed Sokka readily and so well, held him close after and never even brought it up since. He had taken care of him.
Sokka wants that again. He needs it.
Zuko was my first kiss. He wants to tell someone. But he doesn't know why or who.
He and Zuko have always had their secrets though. Things Sokka will take with him to his grave. Sokka alone knows the details of what happened to him that September night when he got the scar that mars half his face. The stuff about Zuko's sister. His mother. All of it.
In the end he settles on Aang. Who is the safest. And actually not that bad at keeping secrets. He doesn't tell Aang that it was his first kiss. Just that they had kissed.
"Sokka. It's okay if you like him."
"I don't know if I do though? I thought I liked Suki like that."
"For what it's worth. I'm pretty sure he likes you ."
Aang can be pretty perceptive. But he couldn't…could he?
Sokka misses the bus with Zuko again. About a month later. He does it on purpose. Stalling them by the lockers.
While they're walking home, he decides to play a little question game, "Who was a better kisser…Jin, Mai or Jet?"
"Jet." Zuko answers, finally confirming what Sokka's suspected for months.
"I'm gonna need to bleach my ears."
"Jet or me?" Sokka asks, entering dangerous territory, he doesn't know if it's a rule. Just that they don't talk about it. The kiss that is.
"Come on. Please ."
Zuko reddens and mumbles something kind of weakly. He blinks. And scratches the back of his neck. All twitchy and jumpy. The way he gets when he's nervous. Aang was right. He does like me.
Sokka remembers what Zuko told him. Start by holding her hand. So he takes Zuko's hand in his. Hoping Zuko will remember something about what that means. When they were younger. Much younger. They used to walk hand in hand all the time. But this is different. Different and also the same. Because yeah, Sokka will still take care of him. They're still friends, best friends, before everything. Even if he also wants to kiss him.
Sokka takes his hairband out and shakes his hair free.
Come on. Even you have to get this one.
Zuko steps closer to him. Their foreheads just touching.
"You sure? I mean. It's me ."
"You idiot. That's why I'm sure."
This time. Sokka leads. He kisses Zuko as if they weren't on the side walk in front of a Dairy Queen . As if they were back in his room. In their own private cocoon of extremely oblivious 'practice kissing'. Seconds are even better than firsts. Zuko tastes like jasmine tea. He feels just as good and right as ever against Sokka's mouth.
Sokka doesn't say it but he thinks it. Even though it's crazy and way too early and all of that.
You were the first...and maybe, just maybe, I'd like you to be the last.