"Hold still, Bumi."
"Come on, kiddo, just a quick pic."
"Kya, you're blocking me, sweetie."
"Why does she get to stand on the table?"
"You can sit next to her if you want."
"Mom, can I please hold Tenzin in the picture?"
Sokka chuckled as Aang and Katara attempted to get the kids situated. As hectic as he imagined family life to be, he couldn't help enjoying the playful banters. As his eyes feasted on the chaos, a part of him suddenly began to feel empty. Not again. He glanced at the photographer, looking for a distraction.
"You think you'll be ready today with that contraption, Lee?"
The warrior continued watching his sister and brother in law and trying to convince himself to ignore the feeling. He was not missing out on anything and he was perfectly happy.
But this feeling wouldn't leave him.
It starts off as an apprehensive sensation that churns his stomach. It wasn't the kind of nervousness one would experience when running into a pretty girl or when giving a speech in front of hundreds of generals. Rather, it occurs for no apparent reason and continues on throughout the day, developing into something that makes his voice squeak than speak clearly. It would block his chest and cause his throat to burn, and before he knew it, he would be seething with a kind of sorrow that doesn't last long but makes him become a whole different person.
He had noticed this feeling since Zuko and Mai's wedding day. It continued throughout the marriage ceremony and even when he roamed the reception hall to distract himself with food. Ok, maybe it was just the fire flakes acting up in his belly. The feeling returned during Aang and Katara's wedding ceremony and, this time, stayed with him longer. Sokka had gotten pretty emotional that day (in secret of course), but whether or not he was the emotional type, this apprehensive feeling in particular was still foreign to him. There were no fire flakes, either, that day. Maybe it was the fruit pies.
The feeling harassed him even more when the Gaang's kids starting entering the world one by one, starting with Izumi. The Fire Lord didn't resist inviting Team Avatar over to celebrate his daughter's birth, but Sokka wasn't into babies so there was no need for him to be overly excited. This was disproved quickly. Sokka turned out to be the one running around the most during the event- and not for the food, that is. The feeling began to eat him away little by little all throughout the night.
Upon Bumi entering the world a few years later, Sokka realized this feeling wasn't just gas or a coincidence. While Aang and Katara lost themselves in the bliss of their baby's cooes and murmurs, Sokka ended up holding Bumi the longest. Instead of noting the squishiness of the newborn's features, he focused more on his future as Bumi's uncle and the lessons he would teach the little guy. As far as considering this change in Sokka, there was the fact that he was no longer a teenager.
But that doesn't prove anything about his sudden attachment to family time or, rather, babysitting time.
Kya's arrival was no different for the warrior, but it made him feel more warm and fuzzy on the inside. Of course, he wasn't going to show it. Kya's birth also initiated the perfect time to take matters about Republic City further, involving construction and government establishment, and Sokka became a lot more busy. That didn't stop him from pranking on Kya the most with Bumi as his partner in crime. He ended up spending more time than he expected with the Avatar's children and children in general.
Sokka originally wasn't going to complain about his lifestyle changes. Life had not been that easy for him since the war ended. Training Toph's students and trying to restore peace took a heavy toll on him and even strained his relationship with Suki, and when the point came where he and Suki separated a few years afterwards, he didn't make that big of a deal about it like the Gaang expected him to and surprised everybody. If he was okay through all of this, he should be okay with this feeling, too.
But it had gotten to the point where he couldn't sleep at night.
"I'm ready, sir."
Sokka snapped out of his thoughts. "Okay okay, Avatar family, get settled."
"Look at the camera, kids."
"Ow! Mom, he's pushing me!"
"Hey, you pushed me first!"
Aang sighed playfully. "Katara, I guess we're going to have to put off that egg custard recipe-" He didn't need to finish as Bumi and Kya settled down and grinned at the camera. Katara smirked.
"Okay, one….two...three!" Lee chirped.
Multiple bright flashes surrounded the room all at once. Afterwards, Katara handed Tenzin over to Aang and held Kya close to her. Another set of flashes followed. Sokka grinned widely as they all made funny faces for the next picture. The next few pictures included ones of Aang and the boys. Katara and Kya took one next. Then came Katara and the boys while Aang and Kya posed afterwards. That was one happy family Sokka was looking at.
"Lee, can you take one with just the kids in it?"
"Of course, Avatar Aang."
"Ooh! I want to hold Uncle Sokka's boomerang!"
Sokka smirked, handing Bumi his boomerang. "Give your best pose, buddy."
"I'm gonna hold it next."
"I'll think about it," Bumi smirked.
"He'll give you a turn, Princess, now smile."
Kya and Bumi tried their best not to fight over the boomerang. Again, another set of flashes. Aang and Katara posed together next, handing Tenzin over to Sokka. Aang wrapped his hands most willingly around Katara.
The Oogie couple, Sokka thought.
Ugh, tell me about it.
"Hey, Sokka, join us for the next one."
"Nah, Aang, I think I'm good-"
"Drag him over here, kids."
"On second thought, I'm coming."
While Bumi took over the center spot this time, Kya climbed up to Sokka's shoulders and wrapped her arms around her uncle's neck.
"Uncle Sokka, let's take one together. Just me and you, okay?"
The warrior smiled his biggest smile, feeling his discomfort leave him slowly with the touch of his niece's tiny fingers and cutesy words. As tiring as it was being an uncle sometimes, it was all worth it when he got to have a spot in the family picture. "Okay."
Just when they all gave the camera their biggest smiles, Lee glanced at them apologetically.
"I'm sorry, Avatar Aang. The film has run out."
"No!" Kya squealed.
Sokka felt like he was hit by a train. That awful feeling again. It's just a picture. Don't overreact, Sokka. You've taken plenty of those before.
"Just for two pictures?" Katara said.
"I apologize, Lady Katara. I thought I replaced the old one this morning. I'm not exactly sure what happened."
But this is a family picture! Sokka's conscience yelled. How can you not bring a spare film thingy?
"I'm sure you can get another one right quick, right?" Aang said. "Money's not a problem."
"I wish I could, but we're out of stock, and our next shipment will arrive tomorrow night. You are aware of how strict the Earth Kingdom forces have gotten with trade."
"Completely understandable," Sokka cleared his throat, trying to be nonchalant. Thanks again, Universe. And yes, I know I'm being childish right now.
"But I wanted to take another picture!" Bumi whined.
It's okay, buddy. I did, too.
"Geez, Katara, you make everything sound like a problem." Sokka disappointedly let Kya slide off of his shoulder. "I'm fine."