Zuko would swear to his dying breath that it started innocently enough. Truly. Honestly.
He’d been out with a few of his Kyoshi guards in Caldera’s shopping district when a set of beautiful silk robes in the window of a shop caught his eye.
The owner just about fell out when he realized who was in his store, admiring his goods. When Zuko pointed out the robe set he’d seen in the window the shop owner grew excited.
“Oh yes! It’s an emerging fashion trend. Mixing colors and fabrics from different nations. Quite fetching, yes?”
It was. The set of robes was mostly a dark red but with a deep blue trim and sash. As soon as he’d laid eyes on them he knew they’d be perfect for Sokka. Up close that thought was reaffirmed when he realized the set was nearly the perfect size for Sokka, just a few adjustments from Zuko’s personal tailor and it’d fit him like a glove. Even better, it was the perfect mix of red and blue to mark Sokka’s ties to both the Water Tribes and the Fire Nation.
He’d been a representative for the South Pole in the newly established, and ever-growing, Republic City for nearly five years, but had spent the last six months as Zuko’s own personal ambassador. It meant Sokka was his liaison, both to the South Pole and to the Council but it also meant that Sokka now spent the majority of his time in the Fire Nation. Sokka’s recent proximity, and the fact that they now both lived and worked together, had dredged up some seriously buried feelings that Zuko almost forgot existed.
So here Zuko was. In the Caldera shopping district - where he’d originally come to buy his uncle a birthday gift - buying Sokka a set of robes. An expensive set of robes.
Zuko had noticed his friend’s proclivity for shopping. But even until this day, Sokka still never seemed fully comfortable buying expensive things for himself. Or at least he never did it without a second thought, a privilege Zuko had his whole life. He supposed it boiled down to Sokka’s upbringing. Still, even though Sokka was very well paid (Zuko knew that for a fact because...well, he was the one who paid him), he could still sense the discomfort Sokka had when it came to money and buying anything high-end. As much as Sokka loved things it seemed hard for him to break out of the way he was raised.
Sokka would fawn over these very robes, touching them longingly and admiring the details, but he’d never actually buy them. Or if he did, he’d question or regret his decision to do so. So, Zuko would solve that by purchasing the robes for Sokka.
The shopkeeper seemed delighted by Zuko’s compliments of his goods and quickly took the clothing to be wrapped. They were as expensive as Zuko expected them to be, but the price was something he hardly blinked at. And though he felt Suki’s critical eye on him - she was far too perceptive for her own good, all he could picture as he handed the shopkeeper his gold was Sokka’s face when he opened Zuko’s gift.
There was a knock on his chamber doors after dinner that same night. He called for whoever it was to come in and was greeted by Kaiya, one of his newer Kyoshi guards, who bowed deeply to him, ever proper.
“My Lord,” she said. “Ambassador Sokka is here to see you. May I let him in?”
“Kaiya,” Zuko chided gently. “How many times do I have to tell you it’s just ‘Zuko’ to you and the girls?”
“Sorry My L...Zuko,” Kaiya said.
“No apology needed. And Sokka is always welcome in my chambers. No need to announce his presence.”
“Of course, Zuko,” She said.
Zuko grinned at her and she smiled shyly before bowing again and going to fetch Sokka, who came in shortly after her closing the doors behind him. He was wearing that stupid blue sleeveless traditional Water Tribe outfit that made his arms and shoulders look really nice and Zuko was blatantly trying not to check out one of his very best friends - who doesn’t know Zuko’s into him yet - without being creepy or obvious about it. If Sokka weren’t such an oblivious dumbass, Zuko isn’t sure he’d get away with it.
“You requested my presence, My Lord ?” Sokka asked playfully and while any of his personal guards or attendants called him that made him uncomfortable, Sokka said it in that tone of voice that made him uncomfortable for different reasons.
Keep your shit together, dumbass Zuko reminded himself.
Zuko just rolled his eyes at his friend’s fake formality and motioned for Sokka to follow him from the main room of his chambers into the adjoining area that housed his bedroom. He’d left the package on his bed, beautifully wrapped in golden paper by the shop owner.
“I saw this today while out shopping and thought of you,” Zuko said, trying his hardest to keep his voice casual and friendly.
He held the package out to Sokka who looked at Zuko with an indecipherable expression before his eyes lit up the way Zuko hoped they would.
“You bought me something?” He asked, excitedly making grabby hands, taking the parcel. He ripped into the paper without further ado and Zuko watched, holding his breath.
As Sokka unfolded the set of robes, his eyes lit up immediately. Zuko watched as Sokka took in the silk and the details. He may have grown up with little to speak of, but he’d been around wealth long enough now to know when something was expensive, and to appreciate it.
“Zuko…” he trailed off, speechless for once. “These are beautiful. I...why...what’s the occasion?”
“I saw them and thought of you,” Zuko shrugged. “I know it’s a few months late but take it as a gift as my new ambassador. Now you can represent both our nations.”
“These had to be insanely expensive,” Sokka stated, almost carefully.
“I’m literally the Fire Lord. I could buy you the clothing store itself and it would barely make a dent in my finances. Don’t worry about the expense of a simple set of robes,” Zuko brushed off Sokka’s concerns. It was true, of course, but more so he didn’t want to make the man uncomfortable with his gifts.
“That’s irresponsible and a complete humble brag but, touché,” Sokka said, and the thought seemed to relax him.
“Besides, I like buying things for the people I care about.”
Zuko wasn’t sure if he was imagining the faint blush on Sokka’s cheeks or if it was from the glow of the candles on his friend’s face. He didn’t have long to try to decipher before Sokka was jumping into action.
“I’m going to put these on right now!” Sokka said excitedly.
And then proceed to strip down to his skivvies in Zuko’s bedroom.
Zuko tried - truly, Spirits forgive him did he try - to look away but he couldn’t help himself from sneaking a glance. It was more from surprise and curiosity than anything. It had been ages since he’d seen Sokka shirtless, back when they were both lanky teens, but now Sokka was truly and thoroughly a man. A man with broad shoulders and a tiny waist and arms that said “I do actual, physical labor, I don’t just work out.” It wasn’t until Sokka went to shuck off his pants as well that Zuko turned around to give the man some privacy. Sokka quite obviously was not shy, but he probably thought this was one bro casually and platonically undressing in front of another, not one bro undressing while the other bro tried not to pop an inappropriate boner while the other said bro was changing.
“Oh don’t be so shy,” Sokka said like Zuko was the ridiculous one. “Whaddya think?”
Zuko turned around cautiously, making sure Sokka was indeed fully dressed, and his words got nearly stuck in his throat.
Sokka looked good.
Sokka always looked good but he looked stunning in the deep red color and the expensive cut of the fabric truly suited Sokka’s body. Zuko realized at that moment as his friend alternated between checking himself out in Zuko’s full-length mirror and beaming back at Zuko, that he was well and truly fucked.
Sokka wore the robes for nearly a week straight.
Zuko wasn’t complaining.
But, also, like how did Sokka find time to wash them? There was no way they were clean by that point.
But also, also , Sokka looked really good in red - it complimented his brown skin so nicely - and the blue accents really made his eyes pop. And seeing Sokka proudly and happily wearing something Zuko bought him maybe gave Zuko a little bit of a rush (and a semi) but Sokka needed more than one set of nice robes. Also Zuko still never bought Iroh a birthday gift.
So back to the shopping district it was.
Zuko was a man possessed. He couldn’t stop himself. It was like after that first set of robes all he could think about any time he was out and about was how good Sokka would look in this, how much that bag would compliment Sokka’s newest set of robes, how excited Sokka would be at the prospect of a first-edition book on the history of engineering in the Fire Nation.
He knew his royal coin master was definitely either suspicious, concerned, or both but it was all out of Zuko’s own pocket so there wasn’t much he could do to stop him. Plus, Zuko was the Fire Lord. He could buy Sokka whatever the fuck he wanted to.
But even Zuko had to admit he had a problem when he commissioned the finest tailor in Caldera to make Sokka custom robes in deep reds and blues, as well as tunics and tanks for Sokka to wear on his off days. Those were maybe a bit of an overkill, but the Fire Nation was hot for a man from the South Pole. And those casual shirts definitely weren’t Zuko’s favorite because they showed off Sokka’s toned arms. Not at all.
Suki, who has accompanied him on many a shopping trip as part of his personal guard, was the first to call him out on it.
“Zuko, this is getting out of hand,” she said, watching Zuko purchase a pair of high quality, expensive, knee-high leather boots that he just knew would look incredible on Sokka.
“Mhmm,” Zuko just hummed at her, not really registering what she’d said.
“Zuko,” Suki repeated more firmly.
Zuko pulled his gaze from where he was admiring the boots (and thinking of how good they’d look on Sokka) to see Suki giving him her best “you’re a dumbass and I’m judging you” look. Zuko was pretty used to it after all their years of friendship.
“How about instead of wooing Sokka by gifting him with insanely expensive things you just tell him how you feel?” Suki said. The judgment in her face didn’t cross into her tone, which was gentle.
Zuko sputtered out a few half-formed rebuttals and excuses, but in the end, he and Suki both knew she was right.
“I’m working on it,” he eventually admitted, quietly. Because he was working on it. Slowly, of course, but he was working on step two of his “Woo Sokka” grand scheme.
“Well, work on it a little faster, or you’ll go broke if you’re not careful,” she teased, but her voice was warm.
Zuko well and truly meant to ask Sokka on a proper date. He’d rehearsed what he was going to say to his friend countless times over. He wanted there to be no doubt when he did so that yes, this was a date Zuko was asking him on. But when he reached his friend’s rooms to do just that, he was struck by how stressed and upset Sokka had looked before carefully schooling his features, plastering on a smile for Zuko.
“Everything okay?” Zuko asked cautiously.
“Everything’s great! Everything’s fine!” Sokka replied in that high-pitched voice of his that meant he was lying and everything was not fine.
“Sokka,” Zuko said, sternly. “You don’t sound ‘fine’ to me.”
“Okay! You caught me!” Sokka cried. “I’m just a little stressed is all. I worked my ass off on this really great, thorough trade treaty but some of the other ambassadors wrote it off, saying it wasn’t well thought out. Which isn’t true! I’m the plan guy, I think everything out, and I put so much work into it. I feel like they just don’t respect me yet because I’m new and younger than most of them.”
Zuko’s heart broke a little for Sokka. He knew how hard his friend worked and how seriously he took his new position. Zuko would have to weasel out the names of the ambassadors who put Sokka down and then have a little chat with them. He normally didn’t like to use his power as Fire Lord to intimidate people, but he might have to make an exception for this. In the meantime though, he had another idea.
“Why don’t you take a break from the drama of Fire Nation politics and come to the shopping district with me?”
Sokka immediately perked up “Really? Aren’t you busy though? I don’t want you to stop your whole day just to cheer me up.”
What Sokka didn’t understand is that Zuko would try to stop the world on its axis to cheer Sokka up. But the other man didn’t need to know that. Yet.
“I’m the Fire Lord,” Zuko shrugged. “I can afford to take a quick afternoon trip here and there.”
“You pull that whole ‘I’m the Fire Lord’ card a lot for someone who doesn’t like to actually pull the ‘I’m the Fire Lord’ card,” Sokka teased. Zuko narrowed his expression at him. “Either way, I’m in!”
As it turned out, things devolved into quite a bit more than a ‘quick afternoon trip.’
Zuko purposefully only brought Ty Lee and Kaiya with him on the trip as his guards, asking them to remain in their plainclothes instead of full Kyoshi uniform and makeup. He also asked them to trail behind. He didn’t want to overwhelm Sokka and definitely didn’t want one too many of the girls out with him for there to be multiple witnesses to him yearning over Sokka. He resolutely had Suki stationed elsewhere for the rest of the afternoon. He felt slightly guilty for it, as she was pretty much his right-hand woman and one of his best friends these days, but he really did not want her knowing eyes on him the entire trip. He also definitely did not want to give her any more blackmail for how over the moon he was for Sokka.
Once they were in the district, Zuko put his guilt on the back burner, quickly distracted by Sokka’s joy and excitement, and the two of them had themselves a day.
Zuko got to step back and enjoy while Sokka “ooh’ed” and “ah’ed” over countless frivolous items. They bought so much Zuko eventually had to start leaving their purchases with shopkeepers, promising that royal couriers would be by later to pick all their new things up. At one point, they ended up in a confectionery. Sokka’s eyes were definitely way bigger than his stomach and the two of them nearly ate themselves sick with sweets.
They were finishing up in the district and on their way back to the palace when they passed Zuko’s favorite spa to de-stress at. And what could be more perfect for Sokka right now than to top it all off with a spa day?
They started with stone massages, followed it with facials and mani/pedis (they were men, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t be hygienic!), and finally finished by relaxing in the sauna.
“I wish today would never end,” Sokka said, eyes closed and head leaned back against the sauna wall. Zuko couldn’t help but stare at the long line of his friend’s throat as he resisted every urge to put his mouth on the drops of sweat beaded there. He was also trying - and failing - not to make eyes at Sokka’s half-naked body, but it was a little hard - pun intended - to not do so.
“It doesn’t have to,” Zuko said quietly.
Sokka cracked his eyes open and gave Zuko a lazy grin.
“What do you have in mind, oh Fire Lord of mine?”
Between the sweat trickling down his friend’s abs and the look on his face, Zuko wasn’t sure that Sokka wanted to really know what was on his mind.
“Come back with me to my chambers,” Zuko started, and he could’ve sworn he saw a flash of something in Sokka’s eyes, “and have dinner with me tonight. I’ll have the kitchens make that seafood dish you like and we’ll crack open that bottle of super-expensive wine the Earth King gave me for my birthday this year.”
“We really are treating ourselves today, huh? I like the way you think.”
Dinner was, of course, delicious, though Zuko was, as always, fascinated with the amount of food that Sokka could eat - especially after all the sweets they’d loaded up on earlier. They ate sprawled out on Zuko’s floor like a couple of degenerates, using his coffee table, instead of using Zuko’s personal dining table like two proper gentlemen should. Zuko didn’t mind in the slightest. It was nice to be able to relax and be himself around someone else and not have to posture all the time.
For the first time that day, with the exception of being in the sauna together, the two of them were completely alone.
It wasn’t a date, it wasn’t a date, it wasn’t a date.
Even if Sokka sat close to Zuko all night, pressed up against him on the couch, laughing so hard he almost spilled his wine. It wasn’t a date.
Even if Sokka fell asleep on said couch with his head in Zuko’s lap, Zuko stroking Sokka’s unbound hair away from his face, it wasn’t a date.
It wasn’t a date because, at the end of the night, he gently shook Sokka awake and escorted his half-asleep friend back to his own room, tucking him into bed. He left Sokka without so much as a kiss to the cheek, and went back to his own chambers, alone.
So, no. It wasn’t a date.
But Zuko so badly wanted it to be.
Sokka sauntered down to where the Kyoshi girls and Mai spent their mornings meditating and sparring. It wasn’t abnormal for him to join them or even to just sit and watch or hang out and gossip. He was wearing one of his new shirts from his shopping expedition with Zuko the day before. It was a finely-detailed red silk tank and if he did say so himself, it made his shoulders look extra nice.
“Morning ladies,” Sokka said as he plopped down next to Suki, who was doing her morning stretches.
“Nice threads,” Suki said casually. “Your sugar daddy buy those for you?”
It took a moment for Suki’s words to sink in before Sokka was sputtering. Sugar daddy? What in the hell kind of gossip was going around the palace that was saying Sokka had a sugar daddy?
“My what? - no, Zuko bought this for me!” Sokka said, voice high.
“Yes, exactly,” Suki said. “Your sugar daddy. Zuko. Zuko your sugar daddy.”
“Zuko. My sugar daddy? ” Sokka asked, near hysterical. “Suki. He and I aren’t even dating. He does this kind of stuff for everyone, right? It’s a rich people thing!”
He looked around the room for confirmation but the rest of the Kyoshi guard’s expressions ranged from being on the verge of laughter to straight up pity. Even Mai’s normally impassive face had the hint of an amused smile on it. Suki just looked outright smug.
“You think he buys countless expensive clothing and gifts for everyone? Hell no,” Suki said.
“To be fair, he does pay us girls incredibly well and has invested a lot of time and money in making our Kyoshi uniforms the best they’ve ever been, but that’s about it,” Ty Lee piped up.
“Mai?” Sokka asked weakly. She was one of the few people who knew Zuko better than anyone else, even him.
“Giving gifts is how Zuko shows affection sometimes,” she said, simply. “It’s also his way of courting. He did that for me while we were dating. Dresses, food, whatever I wanted, it was mine. It seems he’s upped his price range quite a bit for you, though. Guess that comes with being the big man in charge, though.”
She gave him a sly smile and Sokka felt like the floor was falling out underneath him.
“Oh,” was all he could say before turning on his heel and all but running out of the room.
Sokka tried to walk to Zuko’s chambers at a normal rate, but the more he thought about what the girls said, the more his mind raced. What a dumbass he’d been. What dumbasses they’d both been! He’d assumed his crush on his friend was blatantly, embarrassingly obvious, but it seemed they’d both been oblivious.
He all but burst through Zuko’s door - he didn’t even want to think why the regular palace guards stationed outside the doors barely blinked at Sokka entering the Fire Lord’s rooms in such a fashion - to find Zuko engrossed in work at his desk. He looked up at Sokka and his expression immediately brightened, like the sun coming out from behind the clouds on an overcast day. And oh Spirits, how had Sokka been so blind? It was written right there, all over Zuko’s face.
So, what Sokka meant to say was “Are we dating?” but what actually came out was -
“Are you trying to be my sugar daddy?”
Zuko’s good eye widened comically and his face shifted through countless different expressions before he finally just went completely red, sputtering for a moment before he squeaked out, “I mean, I was trying to be your boyfriend. But I could be your sugar daddy if that’s what you want.”
“No!” Sokka said, a little too quickly because Zuko’s face fell. “No! Not no, no but no you don’t have to be my sugar daddy.”
Zuko blinked, looking like he was trying to process the emotional whiplash Sokka was putting him through, but his expression was still guarded.
“Oh, Spirits. Okay, I’m sorry, I’m totally screwing this up. Just let me start over,” Sokka amended, taking a grounding breath before he continued. “What I’m trying to say is that I do love it when you buy me stuff. But I don’t want you to think you have to buy me stuff just to get me to like you. I’d still like you, even if you were still a broke fugitive like back in the good old days.”
He watched as Zuko’s face softened with each word, when the meaning of what Sokka was saying finally sunk in, Zuko only said one word that seemed to hold so much weight.
“ Oh .”
Zuko walked towards Sokka slowly, like Sokka was some wild animal he was afraid to spook. His hands came up, gently tracing down the details of the fancy shirt he’d bought Sokka until they came to rest on Sokka’s waist. Sokka felt like a livewire, like he was going to vibrate out of his very own skin if Zuko didn’t just -
“Can I kiss you?” Zuko asked quietly.
Oh, thank the Spirits.
Sokka didn’t even grace him with an answer, just pulled Zuko in with a firm grip to the back of the man’s neck, reeling him in until finally, finally, they were kissing.
It started off soft, almost hesitant but they both moved to deepen the kiss and things progressed quickly from there. Sokka maneuvered Zuko over to the very couch they’d basically cuddled on the night before - not an easy feat, as neither of them seemed to want to put any pause in their kissing - and gently pushed Zuko to sit before following, climbing into the other man’s lap.
He went in for another fierce kiss, both of their hands beginning to roam wherever they could reach before a thought struck Sokka and he pulled back. Zuko tried to chase Sokka’s lips before falling back into the couch, looking up at Sokka slightly dazed and very flushed.
“Yesterday,” Sokka started, “was that a date?”
If possible, Zuko’s cheeks went even redder.
“Well, maybe not officially? But I wanted it to be,” Zuko admitted.
“Me too,” Sokka breathed. “So it was a date. We’ll call it a date.”
“Okay,” Zuko said easily, grinning up at Sokka in a way that made his heart clench. “Now kiss me again.”
So he did. Over and over and over until they were both breathless, shirtless, and definitely a little hard and another thought came to Sokka.
“You know,” he started, tracing the lines of Zuko’s face - his eyelids, his lips, his scar, “I should really thank you for yesterday. And for all the gifts.”
He then promptly sank to the ground between Zuko’s legs running his hands up and down the Fire Lord’s strong thighs. Zuko looked down at him, gaze burning and chest heaving, unconsciously letting his legs spread a little more to accommodate Sokka.
“I - only if you want to,” Zuko said with bated breath. “I don’t want you to think you have to just because of everything I bought you. I did that because I wanted to, not because I expect anything in return.”
Sokka’s heart melted for a moment at the sentiment before his caveman brain took right back over to remind him that he wanted Zuko’s dick in his mouth like yesterday. Literally.
“I know that. And that’s why you’re the sweetest boyfriend ever,” Sokka said, testing out the word and delighting in the pleased look that flashed across Zuko’s face at hearing it. “But I wanna suck you off because you’re hot as all hell and I really fucking like you, Zuko. Anything else is just extra.”
“Well then,” Zuko said, voice strained as his hand came down to free Sokka’s hair from its wolftail so that it fell around his face. “As you wish.”
Sokka just looked up at Zuko with a wicked grin, and promptly went to work.
No one had seen or heard from the Fire Lord or the Water Tribesman since Sokka had all but ran out of the Kyoshi training room earlier that morning. If the fact that they walked into dinner - fifteen minutes late, mind you - hands intertwined with the palace guards who’d been assigned to Zuko’s rooms trailing behind looking slightly traumatized was any indication, the two of them had finally gotten their shit together.
As they sat at the head of the table near Suki, she whispered to them, “you two finally bang it out?”
“Suki!” Zuko hissed, cheeks red as Sokka said, “absolutely, all damn day” at the same time.
She heard Ty Lee giggling on the other side of the boys, and even Mai snorted. They’d all given them a hard time, but they were also very, very happy for their friends. Even if the way the two of them looked at each other, hands still intertwined under the table, was just a tad sickening, Suki loved being right.
Sokka didn’t care what gossip was running rampant through the palace, the Fire Lord was not his sugar daddy. He was his boyfriend.
Did Zuko still buy him just about anything and everything he wanted? Yes. Did Sokka live for every minute of it? Also yes. Did Zuko get a little hot and bothered every single time he saw Sokka wearing or using something Zuko had purchased for him? Absolutely yes.
But that was just Zuko’s way of showing affection. If Sokka wanted it, he got it.
(Zuko was still lowkey Sokka’s sugar daddy if everyone was being honest. But he was first and foremost Sokka’s boyfriend. And that was what really mattered.)