Heavy breathing, gritted teeth, and narrowed eyes. Sokka couldn't remember what started the fight, nor how it escalated. But here he was, clenched fists and harsh words. Steely voices replying to each other. His thoughts couldn't keep up with what was happening, all he could comprehend was that he and Zuko were arguing, and that he was upset. His face was heated as he threw retorts back and forth. The next words out of Zuko’s mouth chilled him, and he froze. His mouth was slightly ajar as he mind raced to keep up with what was happening. He snapped his mouth shut, narrowed his eyes, which were stinging with some tears he refused to shed, turned on his heel, and marched off. He could not believe that Zuko had told him that all he did was hold Zuko back. Sure, he may not have bending like the others, but he learned to fight other ways! He was not some chain holding the team back just because he was different. He refused to believe it.
He heard Zuko say something, but didn't hear what exactly was said. He was picking up speed and soon found himself running through the trees, not paying attention to where he was going as long as he got away for some time to think. He stopped when he came upon a cave, climbing inside and sitting against the wall. He let out a sigh and rubbed his forehead tiredly. He always hated whenever he and Zuko argued. Lightning flashed at the cave entrance. Wide eyes peered up to meet Azula’s.
Zuko sat down and put his face in his hands with a heavy sigh. Why had he said that? He knew it would hurt Sokka, so why did he say it? He took deep breaths to clear his head and collect his thoughts. He wanted so desperately to chase after Sokka but he knew that Sokka needed space. How could he apologize? The rest of the gang, who had witnessed the fight, were letting them cool off before they went in to try to help. Zuko looked up at the sky tiredly, when he noticed a flash of lightning. He tensed up and before he knew it he was on his feet and running.
Azula left the cave, a wild grin on her face as she laughed. “Goodbye” she chirped “normally I would finish you off, but seeing as you won't be able to do anything, leaving you here to suffer just seems so much...crueler” she laughed once more and left Sokka on the floor of the cave. His eyes slowly closed, despite his best efforts. A group of travelers passing by discovered him and quickly took him to get medical aid.
Zuko narrowed his eyes as soon as he spotted Azula. “What did you do?” he growled out. She merely smirked, “got rid of something holding you back .” Zuko froze, he felt his blood run cold. “You don't mean…” he never finished the sentence. “Yes, he's dead by this point. Now there's nothing holding you back. I will see you in the kingdom later, when you bring the Avatar.” Zuko clenched his fists. He couldn't afford to fight her now, he had to find Sokka. He couldn't be dead, he just couldn't . However, Zuko could find any trace of him other than scorch marks in a cave. He returned to the gang and, heart brokenly, explained what had happened.
Sokka didn't know much other than his name when he woke up. He was told that he was very beaten and battered, but he was going to be okay, and that he was found by some travelers. The travelers asked him if he had a place to stay, any family or friends. “I...don't know” he whispered. His eyes grew downcast, he didn't know why, but the thought of family and friends really stung. “Well, you could travel with us for a while?” one of the travelers suggested. Sokka grinned tentatively, “you really mean it?” “Of course!” they insisted.
-With the gang-
The group was quieter without Sokka. Zuko and Katara were hit the hardest. It almost made Zuko feel worse that Katara didn't blame him. His heart clenched every time he thought about how the last words Sokka heard him say were harsh rather than kind and loving. His firebending had weakened as well, his drive faltering without the being that was simultaneously so full of hope and skepticism, of cheer and sympathy. The being that he could always count on to be there, the being that was gone forever. Toph was less stern, she recognized that everyone was hurting, and she was as well. Aang and Toph had considered Sokka to be like a brother to them, they found refuge with each other. Occasionally they would try to help Katara, but they knew when to give her space. They would also try to help Zuko, but again recognized when he needed space. After all, he was the only one who hadn't lost a brother. He lost a lover.
The travelers were very kind. Over the time he spent with him he’d regained some of his memories. He remembered his sister, Katara. He remembered they were traveling with the Avatar, Aang, and how they’d met Toph. He remembered the four of them traveling and becoming like family to each other. The travelers promised to help him find his family. He let out a sigh and looked up at the sky. “This would be a lot easier with Oppa here” he laughed to himself. “But if he was here I wouldn't have the issue in the first place, because wherever he is the gang would be there too.” The only way they had to locate his family was based off his knowledge of them and hearsay of villagers in towns they passed through.
The group had stopped in a village to rest and properly take some time to mourn, as most of them had been suppressing some of the pain. A ruckus arose, and the gang was confused. The crowd parted and a small group walked through. Zuko caught sight of one person. His breath hitched and he stopped focussing on anyone else but the one person he’d been wishing for. He saw the figure take in their group and immediately run to hug them. They all went to a more private place to talk about what happened and Sokka filled them in. He noticed Sokka wouldn't look him in the eye. “I'm confused about one thing though” Sokka admitted. “What is it?” “Who are you?” he finally turned to face Zuko, and Zuko felt his heart stop, his stomach fall. His mouth went slightly ajar and his eyes narrowed with pain. The others looked at him with concern. Zuko quickly forced a smile on his face and stuck out his hand. “I’m Zuko. It's nice to meet you Sokka” he almost couldn't force the words out.
Sokka still couldn't remember Zuko. You could see how much it hurt every time if you looked at Zuko’s eyes. One day Sokka was walking across a rickety bridge they had found. Aang and Toph could catch him if he fell, all the others had already crossed with no issues. Zuko still worried. “Socks!” he didn't even notice he used his nickname for him from when they were dating, “be careful!”
“Quit worrying flamehead!”
Zuko froze, that was a nickname Sokka used to call him, “for a firebender you sure smother me” Sokka laughed out. He noticed the others’ shock and frowned. Had he said something wrong? He thought about what he said carefully and slowly looked Zuko in the eyes. He quickly crossed over the bridge and stood in front of Zuko, who was holding his breath. Sokka lifted his hand and lightly slapped him, catching Zuko off guard, before pulling him into a tight hug. Zuko slowly returned the hug, tightening his grip as if afraid if he lets go it will all disappear. “You absolute jerkbending flaming idiot” Sokka muttered. Zuko merely laughed. “Why didn't you tell me sooner? Gosh that must have been such a horrible feeling. I'm so sorry, Zuk” he continued. “It doesn't matter now” Zuko would never admit to the tears in his eyes, “because I've finally got my swordsman back.” Sokka laughed and merely hugged him tighter.