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Sokka and Yue entered the antechamber of the bedroom only to hear giggles coming from around the corner. He put a finger to his lips, and they quietly approached until they were in sight of the bed.

"Princess, I don't know how to tell you this," Sokka said solemnly. "But your husband's in bed with another woman."

Yue giggled. "Oh, good, that's right where I left him!"

Zuko waved sheepishly. Suki, with only slight difficulty, extricated herself from her position straddling his chest so she was propped on her elbows next to him.

"Where were you two?" Suki asked.

Zuko was right on her heels with his complaint. "Why'd we have to wake up without you?"

"Looks like you're doing just fine," Sokka drawled. "Anyway, we were getting you a treat!" He and Yue pulled hotcakes out from behind their backs.

Suki put a finger over Zuko's lips before he could say something about just ringing for a servant. "Awww. That's very sweet, thank you."

Sokka and Yue delivered their goodies and clambered onto the bed. Yue curled up against Suki, while Sokka smooshed himself in between Suki and Zuko, who obligingly latched onto him like pentapuses.

Sokka sighed deeply. Life was good.


"Prince Zuko, King Iroh requests your presence," announced one of the servants.

Rarely good words to hear. If his uncle just wanted a friendly chat, he would have sought Zuko out himself. A summons meant official royal business.

Zuko and Sokka, his personal guard, shot each other apprehensive glances. "Of course," Zuko said, and they both rose from their seats on the grass to follow the servant. Zuko felt a chill go down his spine.

When they arrived at the King's receiving room, Sokka nodded reassuringly at Zuko before taking his post by the door. Zuko took a deep breath and entered the large hall.

King Iroh was seated on the high dais. Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa were present as well.

"Prince Zuko," said Iroh. "Thank you for joining us."

"Of course, Uncle," said Zuko, kneeling. 

"I do not believe anyone would disagree that you have reached a marriageable age, Prince Zuko," said Iroh. It was true, and Zuko tried not to grimace. At twenty-five, he should count himself lucky he'd not been pressed before now. Cautiously, he raised his eyes. Iroh's face was watchful, assured; his father was unchanged from his usual bored countenance. His mother's face was so soft with sympathy, Zuko thought she might fade into mist.

"The tribe to the North is growing in wealth and power. They have expanded the territory of Imiq in recent years. I wish to ensure that our relationship is one of allies, not enemies, and that they do not seek to encroach upon our lands. As such, I have corresponded with their Chief, Arnook, over these last months, and secured a betrothal."

Ice down Zuko's spine again.

"Prince Zuko, you are to wed Chief Arnook's daughter, Princess Yue."

There seemed to be a direct, taut line between Zuko's heart and the man standing just past the door, faithfully waiting for him. But there was nothing for it. This was what he had been raised for. He was not Crown Prince Lu Ten. Zuko was merely a pawn. No matter how fondly his uncle regarded him, the kingdom of Koudouryoku came first. So he had been taught since birth, and yet it hadn't sunk in until now.

"Yes, Your Majesty."

 

"What happened?" Sokka hissed, as soon as he and Zuko had cleared the doors. He must have picked up on Zuko's tension to be so uncircumspect.

"Later," said Zuko.

When they reached Zuko's study, Zuko looked at the man who had been his best friend since adolescence and his paramour for the last three years. He met Sokka's eyes, and wordlessly, they pressed together in a strong embrace, each the other's bulwark. Eventually, when he could hush the truth no longer, Zuko pulled back to speak. They remained close, clasping each other's arms.

"I am to be married," Zuko rasped. "Uncl—the King—has made a betrothal."

Sokka's face was solemn, but it betrayed no surprise. He had known this day would come sooner or later. "When? Who?"

"In days, to Princess Yue of Imiq. They have already set sail in our direction. The day she arrives, we wed."

Sokka sighed a deep, rumbling sigh. In that sigh, there was more empathy and love than most people could convey given a whole paragraph.

They were silent. "I wish we could run away," Zuko said quietly.

"But you won't," Sokka said. "So let's not dwell on an impossibility. And let's not assume the worst. Maybe you'll like the princess."

"Sokka," Zuko began again, and he could swear he felt the weight of a hand gripping his shoulder. "I love you. But I will not betray Princess Yue."

"I know you won't. But let's just wait and see. Perhaps the princess will not ask for your exclusivity."

"Perhaps," Zuko said. He didn't believe it, but he did trust in Sokka's counsel. How Sokka managed to keep his cool, no matter what pain he might be in, was beyond Zuko. He hugged Sokka again. "Shall we paint?"

Sokka grinned. "Only if you'll pose for me!"

Zuko smiled indulgently. "As you wish, my love."


Zuko smiled into his hotcakes, nuzzling his head against Sokka's, then reached over Suki to squeeze Yue's hand. He appreciated their gesture on such a big day. Today, King Iroh would abdicate, and Lu Ten would assume the throne.

After finishing their treat, Zuko and Suki put on their dressing robes, and Zuko rang for a larger breakfast. They would need their sustenance to get through the coronation ceremony and celebration. Zuko smiled as he watched each of his loves eat. Sokka gobbled everything down with enthusiastic abandon. Suki ate with methodical efficiency if she had to get somewhere quickly, but she was playful and easily diverted when she had time, like now. Yue was a thoughtful eater, almost picky, carefully tasting and evaluating every bite.

The ceremony would begin at noon. It was winter in Koudouryoku, a fact that Yue especially would appreciate. Zuko appreciated it too, because it meant it wasn't too hot for a luxuriously long bath. He figured the four of them would have been happy owning a tea shop, but being a prince did have some perks. Chief among them was having a bathtub big enough to fit four people.

Zuko loved the blissful look on Yue's face as Suki combed out her long tresses for her. After they got out of the bath, Suki expertly fashioned Yue's hair into its elaborate style, then pinned her own hair back with the ornamental clasp Zuko had given her for her last birthday. Zuko checked the shaved section of Sokka's head for any missed spots. Sokka smoothed the silk of Zuko's formal robes and did up the badger-frog fasteners for him.

Before they left the bedchamber, Zuko kissed Sokka and Suki goodbye, and Yue did likewise. Then Yue and Zuko joined hands, Sokka and Suki following behind them.


Four days after King Iroh's announcement, Princess Yue and her convoy arrived in the capital city's harbor. Zuko waited at the dock, Sokka by his side, to receive the majestic ship, with its sail depicting the moon and ocean waves.

A figure appeared at the top of the gangplank. She was beautiful, with wide, luminous eyes and glossy hair in an elaborate braided style. She was regal, but far less intimidating than the figure trailing her: a guard dressed in green robes and black armor. The guard's movements were precise and martial, and as the two got close to the dock, Zuko saw the guard was a woman as well.

"A Kyoshi Warrior," Sokka murmured. Zuko looked at him questioningly. "Kyoshi Island is near Emeq," Sokka explained. "They train some of the world's finest fighters."

Zuko looked away from Sokka as the two women stepped onto the dock. Zuko bowed. "Welcome to Koudouryoku, Princess Yue of Imiq. I am Prince Zuko, and it is my great honor to make your acquaintance."

"The honor is mine," she replied, and returned his bow. "This is Suki, my personal guard." She gestured at the woman in green, who gave a perfunctory bow.

"And this is my guard, Sokka," said Zuko.

Introductions out of the way, they lapsed into awkward silence. "Well, shall we?" Zuko gestured to the dragon-moose-drawn carriages that would convey them back to the palace. The four of them climbed into one carriage. Zuko tried to watch the newcomers discreetly as they made their way uphill. Princess Yue's face was a blank mask. Suki's face was vigilant and fierce, ready to defend her princess at a moment's notice.

The trip to the palace was mercifully short. The courtyard was wreathed in fire lilies, and the celebrating citizens clamored just outside the palace walls. The Sages waited on the palace steps to officiate the wedding. Zuko didn't think that anyone had known about his relationship with Sokka, but he couldn't help but think that everything about this marriage had been designed to give him minimal time to escape—or Yue. Once Zuko could see her eyes more closely, he could see that she felt just as trapped as he did. Neither of them wanted these vows, even heavier on their backs than the hot, humid air. Still, Zuko told himself, the vows would not be lies.

 

The wedding feast included Zuko's favorite soup, but he couldn't eat much of it.

"So, Princess, tell us about Imiq. My family is originally of Emeq," said Sokka.

Yue's eyes lit with interest. "I've never been to Emeq, but I've always wondered about it. How did you come to live in Koudouryoku?" Her voice was melodious. Perhaps Zuko could get used to hearing it.

"My father became a diplomat when I was ten, so my family spent a good deal of time here over the years. Prince Zuko and I became friends, and I trained with a master swordsman. It was the natural choice for me to become his bodyguard."

Zuko swallowed. So very natural. Sokka continued to carry the conversation. "Suki, I gather you're Kyoshi trained?"

"Yes," she said. "I was born and raised there; I've been training since childhood. When Princess Yue needed her own personal guard, her father decided to hire a Kyoshi Warrior." Zuko couldn't decipher the emotions that flashed across Suki's face.

"That's a long distance to travel. The Kyoshi Warriors must be greatly esteemed," he said, trying to be cordial.

"Yes," said Yue. "And women in Imiq are not trained to fight."

Zuko glanced at Sokka, who shrugged minutely. Certainly they were both thinking of Katara and imagining her reaction to such absurdity.

When the celebration finally concluded, the four of them made their way back toward Zuko's chambers. Sokka had slept in the antechamber to Zuko's bedroom since becoming his guard, allowing them to spend their nights together. Until now, Zuko had never had to contemplate the other bedchamber adjoining his own.

Zuko could tell his underarms were sweating, and his mouth was dry. Instinctively, he looked to Sokka for reassurance, who nodded encouragingly.

The walk was simultaneously too long and not long enough. They parted ways at the antechambers' doors, and then it was just Zuko and Sokka.

"Goodnight, Sokka," Zuko said. 

Sokka met his gaze and held it. "One step at a time."

Zuko nodded and exhaled, then continued into his bedchamber and readied himself for bed. He paced, taking some deep breaths, then knocked on the adjoining door.

"Come in." Yue was sitting on her bed, wearing a purple silk robe embroidered in white. Her expression was solemn, resolved.

Zuko's throat was thick. "Hello. I just wanted to let you know—I have no expectation that we...consummate the marriage tonight, or anytime soon."

Yue's gaze slid to him, her expression unchanged.

"Um, are you all right?"

Yue sighed, a quiet, delicate thing. "I'm very tired."

"Of course, you must be. It's been a long day and you're far from home." She nodded silently. "Although, I do hope you'll come to find some semblance, at least, of home here."

Yue lifted her chin. "As do I."

"Well, do you need anything before you go to sleep?"

"No, nothing." Nothing he could give.

"Goodnight, then. I hope you sleep well."

"You, too."

Zuko got back into bed. As the wind rustled, he was afraid he might hear quiet sobs. He pulled a pillow over his ear.


King Iroh had insisted that Lu Ten's coronation would not be a somber affair, as there was no need to mourn the previous ruler. Flowers and streamers were draped along the walls and eaves, along with lanterns, ready to be lit when the sun had set. All the capital city residents who could secure invitations were assembled in the courtyard, dressed in their finest and chatting excitedly. It would be the first ceremony on the palace steps since Zuko and Yue's wedding.

Chairs had been set up for the Royal Family on the palace steps. Zuko and Yue were seated next to Lu Ten's wife, Hana, and their two children. Zuko's mother, his father, King Iroh, and Azula were seated on the other side of the palace steps, but they may as well have been an ocean away. Zuko's focus was only on Yue.

Well, and his niece and nephew. Zuko smiled over at Kaoru, Lu Ten's eldest, who was fidgeting as they all waited for Lu Ten and the Sages to make their entrance.

"Mist?" Zuko murmured to Yue.

She giggled. "I think I'll manage today."

He pulled the small bottle, which Sokka had fashioned to spritz water for cooling purposes, out of his robes. "You sure?"

"I can't believe you brought it!"

"Well, I can't have you melting on me," he said, a bit indignantly. Then he smirked. "Well, not here in public, anyway."

Yue rolled her eyes, but she couldn't hide the smile at the corner of her mouth.

The first Sage emerged, and the buzzing crowd quieted. The rest of the Sages came next, followed by Crown Prince Lu Ten in his new kingly robes. He knelt before the Sages.

"King Iroh, you have served as our monarch these twenty years. We thank you for your leadership. As is your wish, we now crown your son, Lu Ten, to rule in your stead."

Iroh stood, removed his headpiece, and handed it to the lead Sage, who placed it in Lu Ten's topknot.

"All hail King Lu Ten!" the Sages intoned.

Zuko had never been so glad to be a pawn.


The morning after the wedding, Sokka and Suki left Zuko and Princess Yue in the care of other guards so they could begin Suki's orientation into the palace's unit. Zuko looked a bit panicked to be left alone with his new wife. Princess Yue was ethereal in the morning light, with those huge, soulful eyes, and skin so clear she seemed to glow. Sokka had to cut off this line of thought. He had never felt so immediately, insistently attracted to someone. It was just his luck for that someone to be his lover's wife. Sokka schooled himself and led Suki to one of the palace's training arenas.

"To start, what techniques have you been trained in?" Sokka had never been responsible for a new guard before. He hoped it didn't show.

"Kyoshi Warriors use tessenjutsu—iron fans, katanas, shields, and aikido." Suki's response was rapid, straight to business.

"Aren't there usually...more of you?"

"Yes. Chief Arnook hired a troop of us to work in Imiq, to protect Princess Yue and others. But I was the only one sent here, obviously."

"So you're used to working in a group."

"Yes," Suki looked down and to her left, then raised her chin. "But I'm very capable of fighting on my own."

"I have no doubt," Sokka assured her. "But you must miss your troop."

"Yes. But—" Suki cut herself off, gazing toward where they'd left Yue and Zuko. Sokka tucked this moment away for later consideration and moved on to the next item on his agenda.

"I take it Princess Yue isn't trained in self-defense?" That meant Suki would have to be extra competent.

Suki scowled. "No. The attitude toward women is the worst part of Imiq."

Sokka frowned as something occurred to him. "Why hire you and the Kyoshi Warriors, if they're so opposed to training women for combat?"

She shook her head. "It's just their own women. And I think the Chief was anticipating an eventual political marriage for Princess Yue, and wanted her to have a companion."

"Huh. It's not like that in Emeq. Of course, there's no need for it at the moment, but the art of fighting is a major tradition shared among everyone. My sister is the best fighter in two generations—and it's not just our family who says that," Sokka said, smiling.

"Better than you?" Suki questioned, eyebrows raised.

Sokka considered. "I might give her some challenge, now that I've trained for years. But she was always more naturally gifted at it."

"You must miss your family."

"Yes. But." He met Suki's eyes with a half-smile. He shook his head to clear it. "Anyway, the Captain of the Guard has asked me to 'assess your skills.'" He said the last part in his best supercilious voice. "Up for a spar?"

"Itching for one, actually," Suki said, and Sokka grinned.

"Any weapons allowed for this round?" Sokka asked, and Suki nodded in agreement, eyeing the sword at his belt and the boomerang and club he wore over his shoulder.

Their eyes met, the cocking of a spring-loaded trap. Then Suki moved, and the trap released, launching them into the fight.

After several minutes, neither of them had gained an edge over the other. Sokka didn't want them to exhaust themselves unduly. "Call it a draw?"

"Spoken like someone who's afraid he'll lose," Suki scoffed.

Sokka tsked. "Ah, if you think I'll rise to that bait, you don't know me yet."

Suki grinned. "Fine. Water break?"

They refreshed themselves, then Suki said, "What was that about another round?"

"Swords?" Sokka suggested, and Suki nodded. They bowed to each other and drew their weapons.

Suki was capable with a sword, and a worthy opponent, but not for nothing was Sokka one of the best swordsmen in Koudouryoku. He took the time to evaluate Suki's strong and weak points, then disarmed her.

Suki took it with grace. "Well done. I can see why they chose you as the Prince's guard."

Sokka shrugged. "It was not without a fair amount of campaigning on Zuko's and my part."

Suki laughed. "How about a round with no weapons?"

Sokka eyed her mock-suspiciously. "Exactly my plan. Should I be nervous that you suggested it?"

"Probably," Suki said airily. "Ready?" Sokka nodded.

It wasn't a complete landslide, but Suki had him pinned sooner than Sokka would have liked to admit. Though, admitting that was preferable to acknowledging that Suki felt much too good on top of him, with her strong thighs squeezing his hips. The sun brought out the red tones in her hair. This was great, just great. Another exceedingly attractive person in his immediate sphere was exactly what Sokka needed.

Thank the Spirits, Suki was quick to get to her feet and offer him a hand up. Of course, Sokka just had to notice her toned arms flex as she did so. She grinned saucily at him.

"You're an excellent fighter, and hand-to-hand is not my strong suit," Sokka conceded. "I'd be honored if you'd help me improve my technique."

"Sure," Suki said. "I do miss coaching."

"And now that she's no longer in Imiq, I think you should train Yue as well. I can help, maybe be your opponent in demonstrations?"

Suki smiled. "All right. I look forward to beating you up again."


Sokka and Suki had been stationed with the other guards, flanking the ceremony, Koudouryoku banners raised.

"Sweet relief," Sokka moaned as the ceremony ended and the hubbub in the courtyard resumed. "I was so sick of holding that thing." He lowered the banner on its staff to a more comfortable position over his shoulder and rubbed his sore arms. "Come kiss me all better?"

"Oh, you poor thing," said Suki. She stood on her tiptoes, then ducked rapidly and smacked a kiss on his upper arm. She grinned. "Should've been more specific."

Not one of Suki's best pranks, perhaps, but still cute. Sokka thought for a moment. "My mouth needs kissing better too. It's never had to be quiet for so long."

Suki guffawed. "For ten minutes?" But Sokka got his kiss.

The entire palace was under the impression that Suki and Sokka were together. Of course, they were, but it wasn't just them. It felt a bit odd to show only one of his partners affection in public, but at the same time, it was nice to be able to receive affection in public.

Sokka and Suki made their way back to Zuko and Yue.

"You're staring," he sing-songed in Suki's ear.

"Oh, like you're not!"

"Maybe, but I bet I don't look as sappy and starry-eyed as you."

"Hmm, let's ask the witnesses, then," Suki challenged him, just as they arrived at Yue and Zuko's side. "Hello, loves. Did you watch our faces as we were coming up to you?"

"I never look anywhere else," Zuko deadpanned.

Suki snorted. "Okay, I sounded ridiculous, but did you get a look at us?"

"Funnily enough, I was watching my newly instated cousin-King."

"I saw you," Yue volunteered.

"Okay, who looked sappier?" Suki asked.

Yue winced. "Sorry, Sokka."

"Ha! I win at subtlety," said Suki.

"Well I win at...displaying my affection!" Sokka argued. He winked at Yue.

Suki scoffed. "This from you, after I kissed your arm? See if I do it next time."

"All right, you hooligans," Zuko rolled his eyes. "You can spar more later." He offered Yue his arm, and the four made their way down the steps.


It was a special kind of masochism, watching the woman you loved with her husband. Suki's responsibilities didn't require her to observe Yue as closely as she did, and yet she was transfixed.

She saw that Yue was even more reserved and forlorn than she had ever been in Imiq. Suki resented Zuko for it, for his position as Yue's spouse, but she didn't blame him. What she saw on his face matched Yue's: that mixture of grief, loneliness, determination, and strength. Some might mistake his manner toward Yue as cold, but it was evident to Suki that he was just awkward, sad, and guilty. She hated that she couldn't be angry with him, especially when he failed to develop any rapport with Yue. She wanted to hate him for not making Yue feel like a treasure, especially when this marriage was a bigger boon for Koudouryoku than for Imiq. But it wasn't for lack of effort on Zuko's part, just his hopeless social clumsiness, and that sadness whose source Suki couldn't quite figure out. For a prince, he had an appalling lack of talent for artifice.

Suki didn't know whether it made it feel better or worse that the marriage was arranged. It was worse for Yue and Zuko, certainly, but at least Suki didn't have to watch them overflowing with love for each other. However, that consolation was becoming less and less true.

Some weeks ago, Yue and Zuko's not-honeymoon had ended, and they'd returned to their royal duties, including facilitating the finance ministers' meeting. As they were leaving, Zuko had said something that, for the first time, made Yue laugh. Was it the first time? Or just the first time that Suki had witnessed? Suki felt a cold wave roll over her, stealing her breath like driftwood from the shore. No, she told herself. This changed nothing. Yue could never have been hers.

Today, Yue smiled, her real, tickled-pink smile, as Zuko read to her.

"The moonlight dissolves the night,
Spring's lonely in flowers' shade.
I bask in the moonbeams bright
Wondering, where is the lunar maid?" He was so earnest in his declaiming, like it was his genuine goal to recreate a theatergoer's experience for Yue.

Shouldn't it have made Suki's blood turn cold with jealousy, watching Yue so at ease in Zuko's presence? Instead, she found herself smiling, too—even if it came with an ache in her chest.


Zuko didn't like these events. Well, none of them liked royal functions much, besides the food, but Zuko especially minded all the small talk with Koudouryoku's elite. Suki wished she could hold his hand, but she left that job to Yue, knowing she would do it well.

The next time they paused to catch up with some nobles, Zuko let go of his arm to wrap his arm around Yue. She smiled up at him, and the affection on their faces could have been a poster for one of Zuko's favorite love comedies. If Sokka had thought Suki looked lovestruck before...she worked to control her expression, and looked away, but even Zuko's voice as he painstakingly socialized made her melt.

"Have you mingled enough?" Suki murmured to Yue and Zuko, as soon as the other couple had moved on.

They nodded. "Then let's go," Suki wheedled. Then she smirked. "I want to get you alone."

Yue, unfazed, raised flirtatious eyebrows in return, but Zuko's face turned as pink as a Zankan cherry. Suki smiled in satisfaction.

"So, what should our story be this time?" Sokka said. "Zuko twisted his ankle dancing?"

"No, he had the 'migraine' last time," Yue pointed out.

"Your ankle, then?" Suki suggested to Yue.

"Sure."

They rejoined the throng of dancers. Zuko caught Suki's eye. Thanks, he mouthed. Suki winked.


"Worst part of growing up royal?" Yue asked.

"Posing for the portrait painters," Zuko said after a moment. Yue suspected this was a true answer, but the simple, easy one. "You?"

Yue stepped onto the bridge leading over the garden's pond, then paused. Should she dissemble, like Zuko, or tell him the truth? If she wanted truth from him, she would likely have to extend it first. Yue sighed, and fixed her gaze on the water. "Knowing that I was ornamental. I had all the restrictions of royalty, and many of the responsibilities, but almost none of the agency." She looked back at Zuko. "I imagine you can relate."

He frowned sympathetically. "Yes, but at least I know it's because I'm the King's nephew, not because of my gender. That must have been rough." He paused to gather his words. "I can't imagine your agency has improved much, being married to me, just another pawn. But when it comes to the two of us, at least, I want to give you whatever agency we may have."

Yue smiled at him. "Can I ask you something, Zuko?"

"Ugh, again?" But he grinned at her and nodded in invitation.

"I've had the feeling for a while now that you and Sokka are having telepathic conversations during meals. Is something amiss?"

Yue watched his face carefully, and sure enough, he blushed deeply. "I hope you will not try to lie to me, Zuko," she said evenly. "We did take vows to be honest with one another."

He deflated a little. "Yes, we did." Zuko glanced around to confirm there were no passersby, then exhaled. "Sokka and I were lovers for the past three years."

"Were?" Yue asked.

"Well, not since I married you, obviously—"

"But you still wish to be?"

He huffed out a breath. "Well, yes, but I also want to be a loyal husband."

"I don't think the two are mutually exclusive," said Yue. "It's lying that's disloyal, not having feelings."

Zuko stared at her for a moment, then shook his head. They continued their walk.

Yue smiled, tickled that her intuition about the two men had been correct. "Sokka, huh? I can see why you like him."

Zuko's expression morphed from bewilderment to a grin. "Can you?"

Her cheeks heated. "He's very...magnetic."

"Isn't he though? When we met as kids, I think it took me about an hour to decide he was my new best friend."

"How did you go from friends to lovers?" Yue asked.

Zuko shook his head as if in befuddlement. "I think eventually we just...snapped."

"Hmmm."

He eyed her shrewdly. "Why do you ask?"

"You're not the only one to have feelings for your bodyguard," she confessed. "But Suki doesn't know."

"Ah. I get it. Sokka and I hid our feelings for a long time. It's a big leap of faith."


The feeling of stepping into their private chambers was as good as the sudden warmth of the Spirit Oasis in Imiq. Especially when Suki was carrying her.

The four of them bustled around, taking off their formal clothes and washing their faces. They may have helped each other get dressed this morning, but nobody wanted to delay the process of getting into bed.

Sokka and Suki settled back against the headboard of the bed. Yue sat in the cradle of Sokka's legs as he carefully removed all the accessories holding her hair up, then began to braid it. Zuko curled into a ball, uncannily catlike for a man of his size, with his head resting in Suki's lap.

"How are you feeling, Zuko?" Yue asked.

"Tired. Calm." He paused. "Like I don't need to know what's coming next."

Yue didn't need to know what was coming, either. Now that she had these three by her side, though, she looked forward to seeing it.