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|Day the Ninth: Parents|
9th February, 2014
Day the Eighth: Talents
Day the Tenth: Southern Water Tribe
In hindsight, Toph could admit that perhaps she made a few bad decisions that ended up turning into a few bad life choices. Decisions such as taking on board a student with an attitude as sassy as her own, arguing with him over everything and having him refuse to respect her as his teacher. Little things such as wrenching him by the lapels and proceeding to make out with him for a solid hour before pulling him into her bedroom. Forgetting about things such as her parents, and their horrified reaction when they learnt about the nature of her relationship (not that she actually cared much anyway), or ignoring Katara's advice that perhaps she should take things a little slower.
Things like gasping his name as he moved within her seemed inconsequential at the time, but when she thought back on it, she knew it was building to something big. Perhaps he sensed it too. She would like to lie, to say that he didn't hear her as the words escaped, followed shortly by a low moan, but that was all it would be; a lie. And she definitely would like to say that he reciprocated, kissing her long and sweet just like the handsome princes' that her mother would read about when she was a child, bestowing promises of forever and always. That would be a lie, too, though, but at the time, it didn't matter so much. It didn't hurt so much, because he still didn't go anywhere. He still didn't reject her, and he didn't think her weak for harbouring such feelings as 'love' for him. On the contrary, he seemed to revel in it, and Toph was too young and naïve to think anything of it. She was naïve about a lot of things.
She was naïve to her own body, of how it had changed. Naïve to what could happen if she was so reckless with him. And the one that hurt most of all, because it wasn't even naïvety that could be blamed when she found out the news.
Oh, it had started off like any other week. Aside from the fact that as soon as she rolled over, intent on waking him up with a needy kiss, she had felt the strangest urge to run to the bathroom and empty the contents of her stomach, or the fact that she had to do it thrice more before even thinking of greeting her students (and he was definitely not counted among them anymore). Or that it kept happening all week, and the only reason she didn't see Katara about it was because he told her it was just a bug going around. She still cursed her stupidity at believing him.
Finally, almost two weeks after the first sign of illness–two weeks of non-stop heaving in the morning, followed by stomach cramps, fluctuating appetite, and needing him even more when they finally had a moment alone (literally. She only needed fifteen minutes or so. The next class could wait)–Toph had enough. Telling him not to wait up, because Katara would undoubtedly make her stay for dinner, Toph made her way to Air Temple Island, stomach completely empty by the time she got there.
Contrary to what she had believed, Toph wasn't asked to stay for dinner. Actually, Katara had asked if she was needed to break the news, although the offer was declined. A mere ten minutes after arriving, Toph was back on the ferry and heading home.
She stumbled through the front door, almost breaking into a run as she felt his vibrations. Toph wasn't sure what to make of the news, but a child borne of two people should still be a joyous occasion, whether or not they planned it. She was smiling when she told him, hands placed over her stomach as though already searching for a little heartbeat.
Her own completely stopped the next day as she awoke to find the space next to her empty, the sheets cold.
Toph had never felt the need to get a stone bed. The wooden frame provided much-needed relief from the constant activity in the city, and most of the time she was too focused on other things than to worry about the family of gopher-mice that had taken up residence in the far left corner of her larder.
She didn't worry. She refused to worry. Even when she couldn't feel his possessions, which usually littered the small house, she kept her cool. He wouldn't just leave–he couldn't. Unfortunately for Toph, it seemed he had when, a week-and-a-half later, he still hadn't come home.
Toph wanted so much to go to Katara and ask for the support that she couldn't give herself, however her pride wouldn't allow it. She needed to show everyone that she could be strong. He was the one who was weak, who couldn't handle it.
Of course, she completely lost it about two months later at Air Temple Island. Sokka and Suki were visiting from Kyoshi Island, preparing to move to the city to help. Sokka would take over Bato's position on the council (a position he had rejected a decade earlier). Toph had been expecting the happy couple, and had fortified her mind against whatever oogies would spread between them. Even with Katara and Aang, she was sure she could have made it through one, simple dinner.
She probably would have been able to, actually, except for one tiny, insignificant detail that Toph couldn't possibly have foreseen; Suki was pregnant.
"I don't even want kids!" Suki complained, rubbing her slightly-rounded stomach fondly while Sokka hovered around like an anxious sabre-tooth moose-lion to her cub.
"You don't?" Aang piped up, looking at her curiously. "But pregnancy looks so good on you!"
Toph bit her lip, looking down at the stone floor, wondering if people had noticed the tiny swell of her own stomach yet. No one saw Katara slip her hand into her blind friend's and give a gentle squeeze.
"Be that as it may, Aang, we certainly weren't planning on this," Suki laughed. Toph felt Sokka calm down a little and approach his girlfriend. He put his arms around her, placing a kiss on her lips before resting his hand on Suki's, rubbing them slowly across her stomach.
"A little accident that turned into a little miracle," he said. No one had time to ask why, because Sokka had always been terrible at keeping secrets, and he cried out before anyone could get a word in. "I asked Suki to marry me and she said yes!"
Toph's choked cry was hidden beneath the happy gasps and words of congratulations. Katara rushed forward to hug her brother and soon-to-be-sister-in-law, while Sokka gave Aang a manly handshake and the monk placed a congratulatory kiss on Suki's cheek.
"Hah, Toph! You always said I'd end up alone, and I proved you wrong!" Sokka crowed, grinning until he saw the spot where the earthbender had been standing only a few seconds previous. "Toph?"
An awkward silence fell over the assembled group. Only Katara knew the reason why she had left; to everyone else, it seemed as though she didn't wish them happiness. Sokka frowned and, kissing Suki on the cheek, excused himself to find his blind friend.
It didn't take nearly as long to find her as what he had thought. She was sitting in a cocoon-like earth structure that was open on one side in the middle of the courtyard, which wasn't surprising. What was surprising was the tears leaking from her eyes as she sobbed quietly into her sleeve. Sokka was by no means an expert, but even so it was hard to believe that the tears she was shedding were the result of the news of one pregnancy and one engagement.
"Toph?" he asked cautiously, not wanting her to run away from him again. She didn't make a move this time, though. In fact, she seemed to ignore him altogether. He waited several moments, although when he opened his mouth to speak, she beat him to it.
"Go away," she said, her voice quiet and croaky. She wiped her eyes futilely, ignoring the fact that Sokka was ignoring her. "Congratulations," she murmured between hiccups, and at once, Sokka remembered why he had chased after her in the first place.
"Toph, what gives?" he asked softly, not wanting to worsen her mood further. "Are you actually happy for me? I'm having a family now..." He was squatting just in front of her, looking intently into her eyes. Now that he thought about it, Toph had been unusually quiet all through dinner, and seeing her like this made him think that there was definitely another reason behind it.
"I am happy for you," she mumbled after a while, the tears still marking thick tracks down her face. At least she was coherent now. "You get the family you always wanted. I get to watch from the sidelines, as per usual, while everyone just keeps getting happier and happier..."
She honestly hadn't meant to make it sound so pathetic or needy, but once the words were out Toph couldn't even be bothered to try and take them back. She felt a sensation on her face, and with a jolt realised that Sokka had pulled out a handkerchief and was dabbing at her face. The soft gesture surprised her, because even when she was in a relationship, he would never do anything like this (not that she would cry in front of him, anyway).
"Toph..." Sokka sighed sadly at her. "We're your family. We always have been. Nothing else has to change. You're always going to be my badass little sister. We're always going to rile Katara up and go out drinking and have fun with each other. You don't need someone who doesn't deserve you."
Toph hung her head, blinking away the tears that were beginning to form. She didn't expect any other words from Sokka, but that still didn't mean she had to like it. He didn't know; didn't understand what she was going through.
Sokka's hand was still hovering near her face. Coming to a decision (after all, there's no time like the present), she took a hold of it.
"What if I'm the one who's not good enough?" she asked, placing his hand on her stomach and trapping it there underneath her own. "What then?"
There was no way he could mistake the small bump for anything other than what it was, and Sokka felt his breath catch in his throat. His mouth dropped open, and he felt his chest constrict tightly. "Toph, are- you're- ?" She didn't answer, but Sokka didn't expect her to. His other hand moved forward to tentatively land on her stomach, and he lifted the hem of her shirt up just far enough to prove that it was indeed her stomach, and not a poorly-crafted practical joke. He placed a hand on her bared stomach, smiling when he saw her do the same, albeit much, much smaller. Putting her shirt down, Sokka moved closer and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.
"Why are you upset? This is happy! Congratulations!" he whispered into her ear, "You're going to be a mother!"
"I know!" she cried. Sokka could feel her on the verge of pushing him away, and so released her from his grip. He moved to sit next to her, though, wrapping an arm loosely around her shoulders. "I know I am, and I'm not- I'm not ready. I can't do this on my own, Sokka."
The very fact that she had used his name triggered alarm bells in Sokka's head. He resisted the urge to look at her, because she was uncomfortable enough as it was and him scrutinising her every action probably wouldn't help.
"What about the guy that, uh... helped?" he asked awkwardly. Toph gave a derisive snort, and looked away from him. Her silence was answer enough, and gave Sokka another hint. She wasn't upset that he was getting a family, or getting married.
Toph was upset because she had believed it could happen to her, too.
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