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11th October, 2013
He wasn't as stupid as everyone thought he was.
Well, no, he was. He really was. What I meant to say is, he wasn't as oblivious. Yes, that's the right term.
The (wrong) assumption that Sokka had no idea what was going on in Toph's head stemmed from two things. Thing number one was that he never showed any indication that he knew. He never changed his actions or attitude around her.
The second thing was that she was so good at hiding her feelings that even Katara, who was all about hope and love and optimistic crap like that, didn't notice—at least not until Toph made it blindingly clear, in her own subtle way.
So, really, she didn't make it clear at all.
But, back to the point of Sokka's obliviousness, or lack thereof. Lack of obliviousness. So, really, his awareness.
He first noticed because her behaviour changed. Not enough to indicate much, and the behaviour didn't even change around him. Actually, thinking deeper (mostly late at night when Yue was especially bright), Sokka doubted that even she knew of the reasons.
It was plainly obvious something was on her mind, and the confusion irritated her. It was made far worse when Suki joined them when crossing the Serpent's Pass. Aang was too preoccupied with Appa, and Katara with the monk to notice, but he did. She didn't like Suki. It wasn't a 'stay-away-from-the-guy-I-like' kind of dislike, it was more the fear of losing a friend. And why wouldn't she be scared?
Retrospectively, he could see how much of an ass he was to her, without even meaning to. He was so happy to see Suki again, the girl he kissed twice, that he ignored his best friend, the girl who punched him to show affection. Who punched him hard.
So, he hadn't noticed her trying to get closer to him when he was pulling away, spending time around the red-haired warrior. It was only after Suki left that he began to notice. Aang was still too caught up with Appa to notice, searching all through Ba Sing Se with Katara, which left him and Toph alone together.
No, not in that way. Perverts.
She would lounge around the house or practise earthbending, but always in the same room as him. It was almost predatory, territorial behaviour.
Back then, he really was too oblivious to notice it. Well, no; again I'm wrong. He was too oblivious to notice her reasons for doing it. He just assumed that because the other two members of the Aang Gang were always out bison-hunting, that she had no one else to annoy.
That was the excuse she told herself, too.
Huh, great minds do think alike.
Successfully, she was able to ignore the stronger feelings she held for him, and successfully, he was able to ignore the stranger aspects of her personality. Like the blushes.
He first noticed it after he gave her the piece of space-earth to bend. It was actually quite adorable—he doubted she'd blushed many times in the past—and obviously didn't realise that he could see it. It was only faint, a mere speck of red on her cheeks, but on her normally pallid face it was like the moon in the sky.
And he always loved the moon.
It was at that moment of gift-giving that he realised she harboured feelings stronger than friendship for him. He wanted to talk to her about it, tell her not to because she really was just a sister to him. A smaller, more fun (and more dangerous) version of Katara. He didn't, and had never, seen her they way she saw him.
Figuratively, of course.
He had tried to broach the subjective with her on numerous occasions since, but something always got in the way. The Universe's way of telling him to listen to her. To wait until the right moment.
He had the right moment, and he missed it. When she and Katara fought after she had scammed all the money, he decided that he needed to talk to the young girl. Perhaps opening up a little about himself and his feelings would bring her out of her shell.
He underestimated her power of keeping things to herself, however. She had a really thick shell.
It was a shame, too, because she began to act differently again. She had pulled away, they never sparred or joked around, or even talked anymore. It happened after he sided with his sister against Zuko—against her. The look she shot him could have killed a platypus-bear. Twice.
Why don't you trust me? Why don't you believe me?
He felt dreadful, he had to get away—and what better way than to save his father? Ironically, with the one she had defended. Unfortunately, that plan backfired, but by then it was too late. He had forgotten (read: chosen to ignore) the problems he was having with his best friend when he saw Her again.
The look that passed her face when he returned with Suki killed him. She hid it behind her usual jokes and crass humor, but he saw through it. He saw her, because in the past, she had let him. She was never so stupid as to make it obvious to the rest of the group—and especially not him or his girlfriend—but he still saw it. The forced laughter and subtle jokes that he knew she wished would come true.
We'll all understand if you break up with him over this...
He saw in her eyes, for just a single moment, a flicker of loneliness as she knew—she knew—that it was just wishful thinking.
Then the comet came, and he had no room to think about it. Fighting with his two favourite friends, alongside his best friend and sister, and with his girlfriend and lover, all thought of the relationship mess vanished from his mind. They had a job, and if he knew anything about Toph, he knew that she would not allow her heart to rule her head.
So why did all those thoughts and feelings, the memories and hopes and wishes, why did they all come rushing back as they hung, the two of them, suspended over the Great Forest of Wulong as fire raged all around. It couldn't be because she was crying. Could it?
He made a conscious effort to push it to the back of his mind (not difficult, considering Suki saved the duo). Toph seemed like herself, if a little more dismissive of his girlfriend, but he knew he had to address the issue—if not now, when?
After mocking the Fire Lord a little more, and meeting up with Aang (who seemed to have grown a good three inches during the battle), Sokka excused himself, asking Toph to follow him. He gave no indication to either Aang or Suki, but a frown and a small shake kept them at bay.
The two walked for a while in silence, their footsteps echoing in the metal airship (they had nowhere else to walk to, after all). Eventually, Sokka found a suitable room; the mess hall. Toph found a comfortable place on top of a table while he looked for some rations. The thrill of the battle, the adrenaline still coursing through her small body opened her features to emotions not often found—or associated with—the young bender. Sokka could see anxiety and apprehension, written in every line, but he could also see happiness and hope. Walking to her, food in one hand, he placed in on the table and looked into her foggy eyes. Leaning forward, he could swear he heard her heartbeat increase, and her eyes shone. He hated himself in the next moment, his arms gently ensnaring her, and he held her to his chest. He hated himself, because she didn't push him away. Toph gripped his lapels and held him close. He could hear her breathing deeply, and with no words exchanged, he knew she understood.
The two stayed there, unwilling to break away. Or rather, he was unwilling to hurt her anymore than he had. He was prepared to stay there as long as she needed.
He was always going to be her best friend, after all.
Notes: expect the ending to change somewhat. I'm not in the same mood I was in when I first started writing this, and it really shows, I think...
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