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18th October, 2013

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"Well, we could go to a club and drink, or a bar. There's a good one about ten blocks into the Lower Ring. Or, we could just buy tonnes of grog and have our own party." Sokka was reeling off suggestions to an entranced Toph, just as excited for her birthday as she was.

"Let's go out. I need to be able to flaunt my birthday," she replied after a moments consideration, smiling her wolfish smirk.

"Okay, so a bar—a club will probably be too loud. Now, are we going to invite my sister and Aang?" He looked up at her just in time to see her scrunch her nose up.

"... Maybe we should have a little party with them, and then go and get wasted on our own. I mean, Twinkles doesn't drink, and Sugar Queen will be puking after her first one, she's such a lightweight."

Sokka nodded, as he made another note on his piece of paper. "Okay, you and me and a bar. Although, we could probably go to a tavern and have a meal there first, then get our drunk on!"

He looked down to make another note and thus missed the red tint that had made its way onto his young friend's face. "Oh, Sokka, you really know how to treat a girl," she jested, hoping to hide whatever emotion she knew was pasted onto her face.

"You ready?" She nodded, and Sokka rolled up his scroll. "Okay. We can have the party tonight, coz Katara and Aang were gonna come over anyway. This is gonna be awesome!" He gave he a wink that she couldn't see, and her heart gave a skip that he couldn't feel.

The two teens walked into the most secluded bar they could find. For the fifth time.

"I swear, Sokka, if I don't manage to get a drink in this bar, I'm going to kick your ass all the way to Omashu," the young girl said as they walked into the rowdy building. At once she was accosted with the smells of alcohol—and not the good stuff—blood, testosterone and urine, old and fresh. Scrunching her nose up, she marched straight up it the wooden bench top, rapping her knuckles against the surface.

"Come on, lets get a drink. I'm parched," she said, winking. Calling over the barman, she pointed a finger at herself, and then to Sokka.

"Gimme a bottle of your best cheapest alcohol, and a shot of whiskey for my friend!" She gave her widest smile as the wrinkled man sauntered up to her and slammed her order in front of her.

"How old are you?" he asked, cracked and missing teeth clacking together unnaturally. Undeterred, Toph stuck her arm out, handing him her family seal.

"I really don't think you should offend my bodyguard," she whispered, jabbing her thumb towards Sokka as she leant towards the old man conspiratorially, before adding for emphasis, "He gets a bit antsy when I get upset..."

Eyes wide, he quickly handed her the passport back and put the bottles of liquor on the table. Picking up her bottle, Toph gently clinked the top of the glass onto Sokka's small shot before raising it to her mouth.

"Uh-uh-uh," the tribesman admonished, placing his palm over the mouth of the bottle. "This is an important moment. Historic! Uh..." he struggled to find another word and Toph, annoyed with not being able to drink, piped up helpfully, "Significant?"

"Exactly!" He looked as though he had been struck with an amazing epiphany. "This is a big step forward in our relationship, Toph! Now we can be drinking buddies!"

Releasing the top of Toph's bottle, he picked up his own drink and tapped the glasses together, wincing when it went down a little too rough. As a result, he missed the strange and blindingly obvious blush that appeared on his friend's face. Taking a sip of her own drink to cover her face, she quickly downed the whole thing.

It wasn't long, then, until she was onto her second, then third, then fourth drink. It was all Sokka could do to keep up with her almost desperate consumption of fire whiskey and vodka. Soon, the duo were completely drunk, and recalling various hilarious stories.

"An- an- and then Aang slid under his legs and he landed on his head. Th- the otter penguin just looked at him!"

Toph was laughing so hard she accidentally sprayed her drink out of her nose. This only served to make her laugh even harder.

"I wanna see an otter penguin one day," she said, sobering up a little. "You gotta take me to the Water Tribes one day, Socks..."

"B- but you can't see at all!" he guffawed, and she punched him—not as hard as usual, he vaguely noted somewhere in the back of his mind.

"I don't care!" she cried, throwing her arms up. "You- you've been to my house an' now I wanna see yours..." she slurred, taking another drink.

"Okayie dokie, artichokie," Sokka replied seriously, before bursting into giggles. Toph looked at him a second before she too joined his fun.

"Hold on... I have to pee," she said between guffaws. Standing up, she was too inebriated to balance properly, and ran straight into a rather burly man playing Pai Sho.

"Hey! Watch out, punk!" she told him, glaring madly. He raised an eyebrow, pulled his fist back, and socked her in the jaw.

Knocked to the ground with a rather loud clatter, Toph was on the verge of unconsciousness when she felt a cool splash of water drenching her head and chest. Flailing somewhat, the vibrations told her that it was the barman who had tipped the jug of cool liquid on her.

"Out! I don't want no trouble tonight."

Grumbling, she felt someone take her hand. She could tell from the vibrations that it was Sokka, and so she allowed herself to be led from the building. She was drunk enough anyway—drunk enough that they could go home and finish celebrating her birthday.

It was obvious that Sokka had managed to keep most of his faculties. He wasn't stumbling, and his speech wasn't nearly as slurred. She was grateful that the soaking seemed to have returned to her some of her control. Her sight was clearer, and she didn't seem to sway so much.

"Sorry we got kicked out of another bar, Toph..."

She giggled—something she only did when drunk, or around him. But he didn't know that.

"I'm not. That was fun! My jaw hurts, though..." She knew Sokka was looking at her incredulously, and smiled. "Okay, we coulda done without the punch, but that was a really good birthday!"

"Oh, no!" Sokka cried suddenly, stopping short. Toph wobbled at the unexpected lack of support, and he quickly grabbed her arm to steady her.

"What's wrong?" she asked, the alcohol in her system making her both worry and dread the answer where normally she would have just brushed it off.

"I didn't get you a present," he told her. She could hear the sadness in his voice and almost laughed.

"I don't need a present."

"No!! I have to give you something coz its your birthday and you're sixteen and it's important!" he whined, and Toph blushed slightly over how emotive he had become—all because of her!

"What do you want for your birthday?" he asked, returning to seriousness.

"I don't need anything, Sokka. Now come on, I still have to pee," she said, tugging him along for a few steps before he stopped again.

"No no no no. What do you want for your birthday," he emphasised, looked into her light green orbs as they stared straight past him. Toph bit her lip, an action he found adorable because it was so uncharacteristic.

"Anything?" she asked, and he nodded fervently. "O- okay... c- close your eyes..."

Sokka raised his eyebrow and closed his eyes, thrusting his arm out so she could lead him to wherever she wanted to go. He felt her take a hold of it, and he took a step forward. He probably would have continued walking had he not felt soft lips on his own. Opening his eyes in a flash, he was greeted with the sight of Toph's blind ones staring directly into his as her other hand gently stroked his cheek. Her face was a brilliant red but she seemed in no rush to stop as she slowly closed her eyes. Sokka could feel her hot breath in his mouth, flowing across his face as she deepened the kiss. There was no urgency or roughness—nothing that could convince him that it was indeed his best friend with the delicate lips on his. With a gasp, he stepped back, breaking contact with her.

Toph was standing on a raised pillar of earth, bringing her up several inches to stand almost as tall as him. He raised his hand to his lips and watched as she did the same, quivering.

"Sokka, I-"

Sokka had a moment of clarity, before his mind went into overdrive. He was drunk, and she was drunk—that was all there was to it. She hadn't meant to, it didn't mean anything... even as he tried to convince himself, he knew it was a lie. Toph never did anything she didn't mean or want to, not even drunk.

"Um, hap- happy birthday T- Toph..."

Toph was trembling slightly, her eyes wide. Sokka looked away, wanting to go and comfort her but knowing it would only make it worse.

Toph wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and hope to wake up. She didn't know where the confidence had come from. She didn't know why she did it. All she knew was that, for a few short seconds, she felt like she belonged. Toph could still feel his chest under hers, and the slight dimple on his cheek as her hand gently rubbed across it. She could feel his tender lips under hers, and unconsciously she brought her hand to touch them again. What she couldn't feel, though, was him kissing her back.

Truth be told, Sokka had wanted to kiss her. He had so wanted to meet her halfway; take her head in his hands and return the gorgeous feeling she had given him. It wouldn't even be a lie, really. But, he had stayed his hand because he didn't know what else he wanted. Toph was a gorgeous girl, especially with her hair down. She made him happy, spending time joking and arguing and making up. And when they worked together to disband the Dai Li, he had been the one to cheer her up when it became too hard. And then Suki left to go back to Kyoshi Island, and Toph had pulled away. Not physically, as they still spent most of their time together, but emotionally. She had closed herself off to him, and now he knew why. She didn't trust herself around him.

The very thought made his heart ache. To be sure, he wanted to be friends with Toph—best friends—but did he want anything else? Anything... more? He couldn't, in good conscience, expect more of her that he wasn't willing to give himself. The problem was, she had already given it to him, and he didn't know what to do with it. If he refused now, he didn't know what it would do to their friendship. Toph wasn't weak—far from it—but he knew their dynamic would change. It couldn't not, not after this. Looking up, he could see her waiting for him, his decision. Taking a step forward, he stopped just inside her personal space.

"Toph, I'm- I'm flattered," he began, already knowing it wasn't what he wanted to say. He could see, as though in slow motion, Toph's expression fall; just the barest fraction, for the smallest second, he saw how small she was, how lost and confused and angry at herself and her feelings. "I- You're my best friend, Toph," he tried again, "and I think you deserve so much. So much more than I can give you."

Her eyes widened, and she bit her lip. "I don't want any more. Even if I had absolutely nothing to my name, I'd- I'd be happy if it was with you...." she trailed off, her voice quiet but strong.

Reaching forward, the Water Tribesman pulled his best friend into a tight embrace. Their drunkenness was all but forgotten as Sokka pulled back, grazing his lips lightly over her cheek.

"I can't give you what you want," he whispered. "But maybe I will one day, when you've found someone else. Then, you can laugh at me and tell me I missed my chance.

Stubborn to the very end, Toph shook her head, a watery—but not teary—laugh escaping her. "I'll wait. I'm an earthbender; it's what we do." Lifting herself up, she moved to kiss his lips again, but thought better of it, and gently pressed her nose into his cheek. "Thanks, Sokka," she whispered, before releasing her friend and turning around. Sokka watched her leave with a sad smile. One day.

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