It’s a winter wedding.
A winter wedding in the Fire Nation, though, which Sokka is sure comes as a relief to their many, many guests. The evening air is temperate – practically warm – and the droves of people who have gathered to celebrate them are dressed for the occasion.
They’ve been living in the Fire Nation for a few months now; long enough to verify that Sokka does, as Zuko had once predicted, look good in red. It suits him, even if he wasn’t born for it the way Zuko was – but it’s not what he wears today.
Sokka’s wedding robes, like most of the clothing he’s accumulated since he arrived in the Fire Nation, had been made specifically with him in mind: the breathable, lightweight fabrics are all Fire Nation made, but the cut and color is distinctly Water Tribe. He is a spot of blue in a sea of reds and golds, but standing at Zuko’s side, he never once questions his place.
(“Agni, you’re beautiful,” Zuko had whispered when Sokka had joined him at the altar. It had been appreciated, but unnecessary; the look in Zuko’s eyes – the awe and the reverence there on his face – had told Sokka what he thought more convincingly than any words could have.)
The wedding itself is the most widely-attended event in a decade. It seems like half the world has come to witness it: the union of two nations, together as one for the first time.
The Fire Lord (who had insisted, upon meeting him, that Sokka call him Uncle) presides over the ceremony.
(Zuko – along with half of the royal advisors – had reminded Uncle several times that it is usually the job of the High Fire Sage – not the Fire Lord – to officiate royal weddings. Uncle had suggested, with a twinkle in his eye, that maybe it was time for a break in tradition.)
The value the Fire Nation places on tradition, immense though it may be, is apparently no match for the will of the Fire Lord. Interesting, but not exactly surprising given that the Fire Lord’s family is supposedly descended directly from Agni. (Sokka had learned all about it during his crash course on Fire Nation culture — which he had excelled in, thank you very much. Zuko can claim to be the better student all he wants, but he hadn’t been trying to learn while dealing with the many distractions that come from being tutored by your incredibly beautiful and endearing fiancé.)
Sokka had raised an eyebrow when Zuko explained it to him. “So you’re telling me that your family literally has a divine right to rule over the people of the Fire Nation. Like, for real.”
“We’re supposed to,” Zuko had shrugged. “It’s what we’re taught. I don’t know if I believe it.”
Sokka had thought it sounded ridiculous, at the time. Now, looking at Zuko, he’s not so sure.
The sun is setting at Zuko’s back, and it paints his edges in gold. The glow blurs the lines of his body until he and the light are one and the same, and if not for the way their hands are joined between them, it would be impossible to tell where Zuko stops and the rest of the world begins. He burns as bright as any star, and it is easy to believe, here and now, that he is of the sun. Zuko isn’t a spirit, Sokka knows, or even probably the descendant of one; he’s just a boy, the same as Sokka – but when Sokka looks at him, he feels like maybe Zuko was made to be worshipped anyways.
Zuko had looked at Sokka at the start of the ceremony, full of wonder and weak at the knees, and Sokka had understood. He’d felt the same. He still feels the same, and he is sure without knowing quite where his certainty comes from that although the day may turn to night and the years may come and go, this is something that won’t ever change.
“We are gathered here today,” Fire Lord Iroh announces to the crowd before them, “to celebrate the beginning of a new world.”
Uncle turns to the Fire Sage kneeling beside him. He lifts the hairpiece carefully from the pillow in the Sage’s hands and raises it into the air above their heads, where it gleams under the day’s dying light. “This ornament,” he says, his voice deep and slow and steady like the tides, “normally cast in gold, has been forged with silver to symbolize the heritage of the Water Tribes, and to act as a reflection and a reminder of the light of the moon, and all that she gives us; may this union provide even more, and may it remain a symbol for ages to come of the legacy we endeavor to leave behind.”
He brings the ornament down and fits it neatly into Sokka’s wolf-tail. It is identical to the one Zuko wears in all but color. They are each other’s mirror image, now: the sun and moon; two halves of a whole; the tie that will bind their nations together in harmony.
Uncle takes a step back and holds his arms out in a grand, victorious gesture, as if inviting all the world into his embrace. Cheers ring out from the crowd. Somewhere behind them, the choir begins to sing. Zuko smiles, squeezing Sokka’s hands in his, and the warmth that settles over Sokka has nothing at all to do with firebending. Sokka smiles back, and thinks: so this is what it’s like to know you’ll never be cold again.
The sun sinks below the horizon, and like that they are married: with the blessings of the Fire Lord, and the sea of people gathered before them, and all the rest of the world, and the spirits by which it was made.
As many people as there had been to witness the ceremony, Sokka thinks that there must be nearly as many at the reception, despite the palace staff’s assurances that it was an invitation-only affair.
There are only a few people Sokka recognizes: Zuko’s family, Sokka’s father, and a few Water Tribe delegates (including Bato, who Sokka hasn’t seen in months, but is determined to speak to at some point during the night). Aang and Katara are there, of course, and Yue and her father had arrived with several other high-ranking members of the Northern Water Tribe. He had probably been most surprised to see Suki in attendance as a representative of Kyoshi Island, accompanied by a few of her fellow warriors. She and Zuko had bonded immediately over teasing Sokka, to Sokka’s own horror and delight. He had pouted about it for show, of course, but had been unable to keep the smile off of his face for long, watching two of his favorite people laugh with each other (even if they were laughing at him).
“We should introduce her to Yue,” Zuko had murmured when she was called away. Sokka had tightened the arm he had wrapped around Zuko’s waist, and hummed in agreement.
Behind Zuko, Sokka catches sight of an approaching Lu Ten. He opens his mouth to warn Zuko, but Lu Ten catches his eye and winks. Sokka nods, biting his lip to keep from smiling. He doesn’t have to hold himself back for long – Lu Ten is on them in seconds, announcing his presence with a hand on each of their shoulders and a cheerful, if slightly booming, ‘hello.’ Zuko jumps, obviously wary of being accosted by another old noble woman come to pinch his cheeks, and glares half-heartedly when Sokka laughs.
“I have a few guests over there,” Lu Ten says, smiling at the both of them and gesturing over towards a group of Earth Kingdom nobles gathered over by the windows, “that are very eager to speak to you, cousin, before the dancing starts and they lose the opportunity. I thought it best I let you know early, so that one of them didn’t drag you off without warning.”
Zuko nods gratefully. “You can tell them I’ll be over in just a minute,” he says. “Thank you.”
“Not a problem,” Lu Ten says, squeezing Zuko’s shoulder once and then letting go. “I’ll let them know you’re on your way.”
“You knew he was sneaking up on me,” Zuko says accusingly once Lu Ten is gone, but his feigned ire can’t drown out the fondness in his voice.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sokka says, shrugging innocently.
Zuko leans in close. “That’s no way to treat your husband,” he murmurs.
Sokka shivers, just a little. He wants to play along, but he knows himself well enough to know that the elation he feels at hearing the word ‘husband’ will leak into his expression and his voice no matter what he says.
“It was just Lu Ten,” he says unrepentantly, grinning like an idiot. “We like Lu Ten. I would have pulled you away if it was one of those old court ladies coming to swoon over you again.”
Zuko snorts. “I guess you’re forgiven then,” he says. “For now. I’ll let you know how I feel when they’re finished with me.”
“I’ll be waiting,” Sokka says with a smile. He’s still smiling when Zuko presses a warm kiss to the corner of his mouth, and when Zuko leaves him to go play nice with foreign nobility. He’s been smiling all day, actually, and he isn’t sure there’s anything that could make him stop.
Savoring the temporary peace as best as he can before he’s summoned away to make nice and kiss proverbial babies, Sokka looks around the hall. Near the doors that lead out into the garden pavilion, Katara is conversing with a pair of young Fire Nation noblewomen (one of them dressed entirely in pink, and the other discreetly showing off a well concealed set of knives). Yue seems to have found the Kyoshi Warriors all on her own, and looks absolutely enthralled by them already. Over by the buffet table, Sokka’s father is laughing with Fire Lord Iroh and, curiously, a young woman dressed in the latest Earth Kingdom fashions, who despite the finery of her clothing does not appear to be wearing any shoes.
Greens and reds and blues and golds mingle together all throughout the room; Sokka doubts he has ever seen so much color in one place. This is what the world was always meant to be, he knows. This is what this treaty – this marriage – was always meant to give them.
Love is how we’re going to fix the world, Yue had said, and she’d been right. This is how you heal what a war breaks: by making the choice to love one another, and to let that love be heard. By building something new from the ashes the war left behind. By creating love in a world that went for so long without.
Sokka catches Zuko’s eye from across the room and waves. Zuko smiles back so warmly that Sokka is sure it could make spring come early to the South Pole.
If love is what the world needs, Sokka thinks, smiling helplessly back, let them have it. More love exists in this room – in just the space between he and Zuko – than he could ever have imagined. If Sokka is sure of anything, it is that these wells will never run dry; this love will always flow freely, and there will always be plenty to go around.