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Dancing During Dinner

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It’s going to be a long night, Sokka realizes on his way to the Fire Lord’s chamber, and Zuko likely hasn’t eaten, so he asks one of the attendants at the door to bring dinner for the two of them.

“Something easy,” Sokka explains as he strides into the chamber, “that Zuko will definitely like. Maybe komodo chicken?”

He doesn’t think about it again until later, after he’s been ushered through the antechamber into a salon where Zuko sits on the floor in front of a low table. A pile of scrolls lies in front of him, and he keeps looking at the topmost one as he fills another sheet of paper with his carefully practiced characters. Sokka sits across from him and covertly moves the inkstone and stick away from Zuko’s sleeve. 

Zuko looks up at him in alarm. 

“Wow, look at you, it seems like you’ve gotten a lot done already on your own,” Sokka says encouragingly. He grabs the stack of papers on the far side of the table and hefts them meaningfully, raising his eyebrows at Zuko. 

“There’d be more done if you got here earlier,” Zuko says pointedly, though they both know he isn’t actually angry. He avoids the view of Sokka’s contracting biceps he knows is meant to distract him.

“Hey, you asked me to take the meeting with the Hubei governor,” Sokka reminds him. He drops the stack on the floor next to him with a thud reminiscent of a camelephant foot hitting the ground. 

The left side of Zuko’s face quirks up in a grin. “And now that you know him so well, you can be the one to respond to his letter,” he says. He hands Sokka his own sheet of paper and one of the scrolls.

“You’re joking,” Sokka says. He unfurls the scroll. “He sent one, too?”

“Everyone’s sending congratulations, Sokka,” Zuko says, borderline impatiently. “There’ve been hawks coming every hour since your dad made the announcement.”

Sokka sighs. “I guess this is what I get for being engaged to the Fire Lord.” Sokka hears a huff and looks up to find Zuko with his one eyebrow raised, unimpressed. Sokka breaks into a toothy grin. “Not that it isn’t absolutely, completely worth it.”

Zuko lowers his face back down toward his paper in an attempt to hide the small smile on his face, and Sokka looks smug as he picks up his own brush and starts writing. 

Only a little while later, the double doors open, and a litter of servants enter the salon bearing several trays. Zuko stares, his mouth agape, as an attendant sets a soban table next to the two men, and the rest of the litter begin laying dishes on its surface. There is not only komodo chicken, but also squirrel-fried fish, sticky rice and komodo rhino sausage wrapped in lotus leaf, fresh green cucumber with garlic and red chilies, hippo-beef dumplings, and even Zuko’s favorite Earth Kingdom delicacy, fried dough filled with sweet red bean paste. One last servant presents them with a bowl of elaborately sliced mangoes, bananas, and cherries, and a pot of jasmine tea, before going to stand with his colleagues.  

“I hope these humble leftovers will be to your liking—” The senior attendant pauses; Sokka’s term of address is still a little ambiguous, especially in light of his recent engagement to the Fire Lord. Does one still consider him an ambassador, or is his status now that of a royal? “Sir,” the attendant finally settles on.

Zuko finally regains his ability to speak. “What is all of this?” he asks. He stares at the spread in a daze. 

“It’s for you,” Sokka says kindly before turning to address the attendants. “This is great! Thank you.”

The attendants bow and leave the room, closing the doors quietly behind them. Sokka resumes his writing. Zuko still stares at the food. 

“Why?” he finally asks. 

“I figured you needed to eat,” Sokka says simply. He gestures to the dishes with the back of his brush. “You should start.” He grins cheekily. “I’ve still got a lot of catching up to do on my letters.”

“You do,” Zuko agrees, and he considers waiting for Sokka to join him, or insisting he start eating first. But the fragrance of the rice calls a little louder, and Zuko picks up his chopsticks and eagerly analyzes the dishes before him for his first bite. 

For a while, all Sokka hears while he writes his replies is the stroke of his brush on paper and the sound of Zuko’s chopsticks occasionally tapping together. But then there is something else, something he’s never heard before and that he cannot place, like a rustling of fabric, but not quite as loud and more regular. Sokka raises his head slowly out of curiosity. 

Zuko looks sleepy, as he normally does when he stays up this late, with half-lidded eyes and a looseness about his shoulders. But he is also smiling. Contentment softens the lines of his face as he chews his food and his chopsticks float above the dishes, preparing for his next selection. Each bite is rewarded with a brief squeezing of his eyes shut, and a little sway, before he resumes a curious motion Sokka doesn’t understand at first glance. Zuko bobs up and down to some silent beat, his head moving in one direction and then another, and his free hand idly moving in tandem with the rest of his body. 

Sokka realizes all at once that Zuko is dancing

His mouth drops open slightly and his chest seizes at the sight of his betrothed, one of the fiercest firebenders in the world and the most powerful man of his nation, dancing during his dinner. If he were a crying man, Sokka would be moved to tears, but he’s instead simply, painfully overwhelmed with the desire to sweep Zuko into his arms, or to tie him to the bed, or just cradle him and keep him from the rest of the world. The little movements of his body, the sweet joy of his gaze on the food, the sway of his hair are all too much for Sokka to think about literally anything else, and the scroll slips from his hand and falls to the ground, forgotten.

Zuko stops dancing at the sound and looks up at Sokka, blinking slowly. 

“Sokka?”

Sokka's mouth doesn’t work yet, and he simply gazes at Zuko, pure adoration shining from his eyes. 

Zuko misreads it. 

“What, is there something on my face?” he asks self-consciously. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, worry furrowing his brow. “It’s not my fault there’s so much sauce on squirrel-fried fish.”

Sokka finally shakes himself out of his reverie, and he smiles lovingly at Zuko. “You’re perfect,” he promises, and he leans across the table to kiss Zuko soundly. He tastes like garlic and chilies and salt. “I really love you.”

Zuko looks a little dazed when Sokka pulls back, and a light blush colors his cheeks. But he looks pleased. “I love you, too,” he says, his voice a little hoarse, and he laughs, short and sweet. He points to the food, barely any less abundant than when he began. “Now will you please eat with me?”

“In a minute,” Sokka replies, picking up the scroll once more, “I just really want to finish this.”

Zuko nods and tucks back into one of the bundles of sticky rice, sighing and dropping his shoulders as he relaxes anew. 

Sokka smiles as he waits patiently for the dancing to start again.