The trip to the South Pole seems longer than ever with Aang and Katara glued to each other. They just gave Sokka a lift and won't stay for long, though, as the Avatar has duties to attend to in Caldera City, and Katara will be following him.
Hakoda awaits the teens on the shore, and warmly greets them.
Sokka jumps into his arms for a hug. "Dad ! It's so good to see you."
The Chief of the Southern Water Tribe pats his son's head fondly. "I wasn't expecting you so soon. Not that I'm complaining, I could use a hand here."
"That's what I thought, so I came to help", Sokka explains, grinning.
Katara mentions they're only staying for the night, staying conspicuously away from the Avatar for the time being. In the evening she properly introduces Aang as her boyfriend, to a not-so-surprised Hakoda that gives them his blessing.
In the morning they're gone, and Sokka starts asking questions about what he can do to help. "Build stuff ? I can. Rebuild more stuff ? I can too !"
"Calm down, son", Hakoda says with a smile. "Why don't you go visit Gran Gran for starters ? She'll be more than happy to see you."
"Of course", Sokka says with a grin before he leaves.
Gran Gran is, as predicted, delighted to see her grandson back.
As he enters his grandmother's house, Sokka doesn't expect to walk into Pakku, and he startles a little. He calls him "Gran Pakku" by mistake and has to thank Kanna for forbidding the old man to waterbend him out of the house.
After calming down, Pakku explains he became a waterbending teacher here too, and that he's currently training those who will become the Southern Tribe military.
Sokka is impressed that they're gonna have a military at all.
Gran Gran says Katara came here before leaving and told her about her romance with the Avatar.
Sokka draws his tongue out. "Ewww, I know, thanks."
"I think they look good together. When will you bring your girlfriend home ?", Gran Gran asks.
"Um, I'm not with Suki anymore", Sokka eludes, trying his best not to think about what if it was a boyfriend.
"Oh, that's so sad. But such a cute face as yours shouldn't take long to be courted again", she gently teases.
Sokka shrugs the embarrassment and stupid thoughts away.
The next days Hakoda drags Sokka on every building site, showing him the way they intend to make a proper town out of the ice. People from the North came to help rebuilding their sister tribe and are working hard alongside them. New buildings are being made everywhere and the village is barely recognizable after a few months of hard labor.
In the meantime, Sokka learns about both constructions techniques and the relationship they entertain with the Northern Water Tribe. It's also a good way to keep his mind off Zuko...
After a first week around the growing city, Hakoda decides to let his son assist to his first official meetings.
Sokka's not allowed to talk but he gets a good idea about politics and how they're done, from the inside. He's kind of impressed, but feels honored, and is serious and attentive in order not to disappoint his father.
Afterwards, Hakoda pats his son on the shoulder and tells him how proud he is of the young man he's becoming.
After another couple of weeks, a messenger hawk from the Fire Nation brings a letter for Sokka. He reads it with trembling hands.
How is life in the South Pole ? I hope you're doing great, despite the ton of work I imagine you have rebuilding your village. I realize I've never properly apologized for breaking through your defenses months ago, and I'm sorry to be one of the causes to your people's dismay. I wish I could do something to redeem myself... I hope you're doing great, you must be happy to spend some time with your father.
I have tons of work with rebuilding the Fire Nation too, and I wish I had you all around me to help me sort this all out. I miss Team Avatar, even though Aang regularly visits.
Send the hawk back with some news, I'd like to hear from you. And you know, if you ever want to come by, the door's open.
Wishing you the best,
It's nice to have some of Zuko's news, but it also stings that he's far away. With Mai. Well, he has the decency of not mentioning her, but still. Sokka's heart swells as he re-reads the part where the firebender says he wants to hear from him, and that he's welcome in Caldera City whenever he wants, but it doesn't feel right. Not yet. He still has work to do here, and he's not sure how he'd react at seeing Zuko and Mai together so soon. Sokka sighs and crumples the letter in his hands, deciding to answer it later. He drops the letter somewhere in his bedroom, intending on forgetting about for the time being. The messenger hawk will have to wait.
The next week, Sokka buries himself into work, only leaving his nights to sort out his feelings for Zuko. He managed to convince himself they were troubled teenagers, and that he should not harbor romantic feelings for a friend. They were misled by then and it meant nothing, really. He still hasn't answered Zuko's letter though, and intends to do so when memories of the young Fire Lord's smile won't make his heart do weird things. Time heals, he keeps reminding himself as a mantra. The messenger hawk left by himself anyway.
Hakoda introduces his son to the industrial magnates that implanted their companies in the Southern Water Tribe, has him visiting the first oil refinery in the South Pole and chat with the employees, learning about both their work conditions and the processes they're an active part of.
Sokka avidly learns, and often acts as advisor for his father, talking to him in between official meetings to give him his opinion about how things are done.
Hakoda listens to him carefully and, more often than not, takes into account what his son said. He's already a respected Chief but his decisions are even more popular now that Sokka kind of assists him.
Another month passes, and Sokka is filled with pride when his father invites him to the first meeting where he's allowed to talk.
There's discussion about building a high-level prison for the most dangerous criminals. The recent industrialization of the South Pole has been met with resistance and a few terrorists attacks, and there's a need for more important facilities than the ones they have now.
Sokka intervenes, telling everyone about his encounter with Combustion Man and how some powerful benders could develop unique abilities. "If you wish to build such a facility you need to know who your enemies are", he concludes under his father's approving look.
Hakoda dismisses the meeting, deciding they need to do some more research before even thinking of bulding anything. Once in the main hall, he tells his son, "Thanks for earlier. I wasn't too keen on building a top secret facility just to keep some people away, but you made me realize we need to be prepared against things we've never seen before. You've grown into quite the wise young man."
Sokka puffs out his chest, smiling. Yeah, I'm doing great. I think I could write that letter now, too bad the messenger hawk is gone.
One late evening, Hakoda comes to his son and hugs him tight. "Sokka, thanks for the help you've been giving us the past two months. It's nice to be able to spend time with you and you've done an amazing job at counseling me." He steps back and softly smiles. "I'm so proud of you."
Sokka doesn't expect what comes next.
A warm hand on his shoulder, and, "It's my honor to make you Ambassador of the Southern Water Tribe."
Sokka blinks. "Wait, is that even an official position ?"
"It is now", his father says with a smile.
"How- but why me ?"
"I chose you not only because you're my son, but also because you're a friend of the Avatar and the Fire Lord. You've fought so well in the war, traveling with your sister and your friends, you deserve recognition. And I can tell since you're back that politics and the likes don't frighten you in the least."
Sokka numbly nods.
"The thing is, we need to strengthen the friendship between us and the other nations. Or, in the case of the Fire Nation... build it from scratch. So I thought, who better than you to hold up to this task ?"
The newly appointed Ambassador grins. "Thanks, Dad, it's an honor. What am I supposed to do then ?"
"Your first mission will be to find something to cement the renewed friendship between our nations. Your goal is to discuss with the Fire Lord about a project to conduct with the conjoined help of the four nations, and see it to completion. You're leaving for the Fire Nation in a week."
Sokka's proud and embarrassed all at once, it's been a good while since he last was in Caldera, he wonders how Zuko is doing, and he never answered his letter. Oh, well, I'm healed now, doesn't matter. Actually, I kinda miss Zuko. In a totally friendly sort of way.