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|Day the Twenty-Fifth: Change|
21st January, 2014
They had been friends for years. Since she was twelve, he fifteen, to be precise, although it felt much longer than that. Some of the best memories Sokka had with Toph were also the most simple. Laughing at a joke she told, or throwing some water at her head and having her punch him in retaliation. Swimming in a lake – well, him swimming, her wading in the shallows. The simple times were the best.
But, as was inevitable, they had to grow up. They had to 'mature'. The jokes became scarce, too tired from work to think of any, too tired to spar and muck around in the mud as they had as children. They were in the public eye, and even for a blind girl Toph knew that looks must be maintained. Once upon a time, it would not have bothered her, however the end of the war had aged them; they lost their childhood, and with it their naïvety. Something happened in those years. Sparring wasn't the fun game it once had been, as Sokka noticed Toph growing (and not always being able to hide such developments). Swimming was no longer the relaxing activity he had been able to rely on. It became an awkward affair as they grew, becoming embarrassed and ashamed of their bodies. Toph ceased entering the water, and silently Sokka was grateful as her new body confounded him in ways he knew but refused to understand. There was no need for him to hold her in the deep liquid, and though neither spoke of it, they were the both of them disappointed by that fact. She instead sat on the land talking to thin air as Sokka remained hidden from her; they developed a system, and it worked, for a time. But as always happens, as they grew they needed more than casual companionship. Sokka never spoke of Suki, and Toph refused to mention Ohev. Both had broken the others' hearts, and it was easier to forget than forgive.
Each felt the stirrings of emotion in their hearts. The familiar ache which had resulted in so much pain had returned. They ignored it, fragile as they were, but the instinctual need for love and fellowship were too strong to be wiped. They searched for such a love, ignoring the fact it was staring them in the face. They didn't want to believe that what they were looking for was in each other. It was too easy, too simple, too... strange.
But it couldn't be denied for long, and soon they began spending more and more time with each other – if that were even possible. They were inseparable, barely aware of themselves when the other was around. The were terrified of what it could mean, terrified of themselves and of each other. But, the heart wants what it wants, and it couldn't be denied. Perhaps ignored, for a time, but the need returns, stronger than ever.
Toph was the first to admit perhaps it was true. The first to look to herself and accept it. She did not, though, act on it. Her life was based on waiting and listening, a mantra that had embedded itself in all facets of her world. She was not ready to strike, because he was not ready to receive.
When Sokka finally faced the fact that perhaps he had romantic feelings for his best friend, he freaked out, couldn't talk to her without stuttering for three days, before finally accepting it and relaxing. They slipped back into the façade of friendship (because it was far more than that now), but something had changed. It went deeper.
They two held no secrets from the other, save for the secrets of their hearts, although because of that, they were still equal. Neither had invested any more than they wanted to give, and neither had expected any more from the other.
In the background, a running bet was had as to where, when, how they would finally admit it to each other. Would it go down in a blaze of fiery passion, during a romantic moment (Katara's prediction). Or, as Aang believed, would it be a simple affair of a gentle kiss and a light blush coating their faces? Zuko fervently hoped that they would just run away, get married – or at least elope – and be done with it (he had a good amount of money riding on that).
As it turned out, all were incorrect.
Toph was Toph, and Sokka was Sokka. Perhaps the most fundamental thing forgotten was that they had never been 'Toph or Sokka'. They had never been 'Toph, plus Sokka' (or vice versa), nor were they 'she's Toph, and he's Sokka'. They were 'Toph and Sokka', and they always had been.
When Toph 'struck', it was first (not her usual MO, she would admit). They were bathing in the sun on a golden blanket of grass and dandelions, a small breeze fluttering through, whispering to the stalks to tickle the two trespassers. The blind girl cleared her throat of the evidence of disuse, and opened her mouth.
"You know I love you, right?" she asked, clear and succinct. Sokka smiled, and in a gentle move, took her hand.
"I do," he replied. "I know... I love you too, Toph."
And the two lay there until the sun set, fingers intertwined; nothing had changed, and neither had wanted it to. Oh, it would, in time, but as they made their way back to the small campsite, hand in hand, they were only dreaming of the present.
AN: I know, I released it early, but I've been late ever since day 7 (which is still unfinished an unpublished). I've always thought this idea was cute, and thus far this is one of my favourite chapters. Actually, this story was adapted from one of my unfinished Taang stories...
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