Love and Plundering
@ash-and-starlight created a STUNNING set of artwork of a pirate AU, which inspired me to write this little tidbit:
“I’m the world's best reconnoiter,” Sokka boasts.
Two hours later, he’s ensnared by the enemy.
To be fair, it’s deceivingly small. There’s not a flag in sight, only a dingy bit of fabric, scorched to tatters, that flaps from the mast. The crew is a scattered lineup of grubby men, like no soldier Sokka has ever seen. They lack the faceless, haunting masks, and the heavy armour. Instead, they look like they’ve all had a horrible mix up.
“Um,” Sokka says.
A man with severe sideburns and a permanent scowl looks down at him.
Sokka opens his mouth right as a bulky door flies open, revealing the stomping mass of a fuming teenager, his short, choppy hair bouncing with the force of his furious steps. He has a scar so prominent it’s the only thing Sokka can focus on as he marches over.
“Water Tribe,” he snaps, appearing ridiculously short next to the other man, “what’s your business?”
“What’s your business, Fire Nation?” Sokka retorts, wiggling in his shackles. They’re biting into his skin, but no one gathered around the deck looks friendly enough to oblige a request to have them loosened.
“We’re not affiliated with the Fire Nation,” he snaps.
His ears appear to be vaguely steaming.
“Wow,” Sokka says, “I forgot that earthbenders can firebend. Any other tricks up your sleeve? Airbending? Can you make monkeys talk?”
“NO,” the boy yells.
Behind him, a short, fat man floats over, angling a benign smile right at Sokka.
“Nephew, perhaps it would be more prudent to simply tell our lovely guest-“
“He is not a guest, he’s a prisoner!”
“I object to that,” Sokka butts in, and gets a swift glare from the boy.
“You can’t object to anything, peasant!”
Sokka opens his mouth, furious, but the old man gets there first.
“Would you like some tea?”
The boy rounds on him, golden eyes flashing.
“You’ve figured me out,” Sokka says dryly, “my special trick is drinking beverages with no hands.”
Surprisingly, the old man erupts into obnoxious guffaws.
He wipes an invisible tear from the corner of one eye, and places a hand on his seething nephew's shoulder.
“Zuko, I don’t think this boy is a threat-“
“-and it may be in your best interests to release him.”
They descend into a one-sided argument that the old man simply stands and takes.
Sokka, immediately bored, casts an eye around the rest of the ship. Scruffy clothes, a mixture of browns and reds, even greens, that do little to compliment the irritable features that paint almost every crew member. Some are chewing on hardtack, thoughtfully watching the boy’s explosive tantrum, as if it’s an everyday occurance too common to accord any real attention to.
The realisation hits him belatedly.
“You guys are pirates!” Sokka blurts out, and the ship sinks into a sudden, cold silence.
Zuko twists on his rugged boots, and leans forward, bringing with him the smell of smoke and dirt. Up close, the scar is ridges of burnt skin, mottled beyond recognition.
“Yes,” Zuko says, his voice a raspy snarl, “so, do you have anything of value to offer, or should we throw you overboard?”
He thinks vaguely of the fake gemstone he’d bought from a market vendor because of its sparkling prettiness, and nods very fast.
The ship is small, mangled and damaged. They’re eating hardtack, which his father once told him is prone to getting infested with weevils.
“Yep. I think it’ll, uh, really help your… situation.”
Zuko glares at him.
After a second, he nods to the man, possibly his second, and points a demanding finger towards the door he first appeared from.
“Take him to my quarters.”
There’s a girl in Zuko’s quarters.
She’s lounging on a mattress on the floor, throwing a knife that glints under the low light of the lanterns. When he’s pushed inside, she looks over immediately, and still catches the blade by its hilt.
Sokka turns around, because he'd rather be up on deck with the angriest boy in the world, than with an irate looking knife girl.
He’s shoved back again, and the door slams in his face.
“Is Zuko keeping pets now?” she asks boredly, when Sokka awkwardly spins to face her again. A regal looking hand pulls a much smaller knife from the depths of her robes. It slides between long fingers with delicate ease.
“I’m not a pet,” Sokka grumbles.
Momo is the pet, and they didn’t need anymore flying, food-stealing lemurs.
“Good, because he already has one, and it’s a pain in my ass.”
“What, a parrot?” Sokka snorts.
She sits up, and tosses her hair behind one shoulder, revealing an equally angry looking-
Sokka squints at it.
“Is that a lizard?”
It looks like a lizard. Red scales, beady little eyes that observe him hungrily, and a tail that flicks forward to curl around the girl's neck. On its back, two strange little nubs protrude like tree stumps.
“Something like that,” she says boredly.
Sokka inches quietly away from it.
“I’m Mai, and this is Druk.”
Druk watches his every movement from the curtain of black hair, pausing only to accept gentle strokes from one of Mai’s fingers. After a second, it’s scales fluff, and it purrs, a rough, grating sound similar to nails dragging on metal.
“Tui and La,” Sokka flinches, “Zuko and Druk sound perfect for each other.”
The corner of Mai’s mouth twinges, barely.
She stands abruptly, and stalks over to him.
“Turn around,” Mai instructs, apathetically.
“Um,” Sokka says, eyeing the glint of her blade nervously, “why?”
“Because I’m going to remove your bindings.”
Mai grabs his shoulder, and twists him around.
“Because I think it will annoy Zuko.”
“Oh,” Sokka says, relaxing marginally, “do you do that often?”
“It’s entertaining. He’s a crank.”
Sokka decides it was in his own best interest to keep his mouth shut, and not tell her that she also seems like a bit of a crank.
“There,” Mai says, after a second of fiddling.
The relief on his joints is immediate, and he stretches out his shoulders, relishing the loud crack that follows.
“Ugh, that’s better,” he mutters.
“Good,” Mai says, and plucks Druk from her neck.
She drops him on his head with one hand, and swings the door open with the other.
“Stay here and look after Druk. I need to talk to Zuko.”
The door shuts after her with a resounding bang.
Druk’s claws twist painfully into his scalp, like little thorns from a rose bush. A second of coaxing does nothing to move him, so Sokka, irritable and impatient, grabs the lizard by the tail and lifts.
They end up eye to eye, gazing at each other warily.
“Great,” Sokka sighs, “any chance you know the way off this thing? Or the closest landmass?”
Druk hunkers down onto his haunches, and burps out a spark of flame.