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Only One You
11th June, 2014
He is still warm when he returns to the bed, the light traces of vodka on his breath. He turns his back to her, and that hurts more than it should—more than she can allow. She wants him to hold her again, but she can't initiate something like that. She can't let him find out just how warm and safe she feels in his arms, and so she hides behind anger and lies.
Even so, she can't stop her fingers from trembling as she sits up and slips on her underwear. He shuffles slightly, and Toph knows he's listening for her movements. She forces her arms through the short sleeves of a singlet. He turns fully to watch as she steps into her pants and walks out of the room.
Suddenly, as though aware of his complete nudity, Sokka covers himself, picking his own pants up from the floor. He rubs his hand over his face, wondering why it always ended like this. Once upon a time, they would talk about any and everything. Now, her silence is all he hears, save for those brief moments her guard is let down, and she tells him through her gasps just how good he feels—how good he makes her feel.
He isn't feeling very good at the moment. The vodka has settled in the pit of his stomach, making him feel nauseous, but he knows that's just another symptom to something else. He can still remember that first night. He still remembers when she came to him, her face still round with youth and her body not quite grown yet. That was the first time he heard Toph stutter.
And how could he refuse her, after he saw the fear in her eyes? It wasn't just about being with someone she trusted—she was scared she would never be with anyone. Face speckled with pimples, short and gangly; even Toph, blind as she was, saw enough to know that she wasn't the prettiest. But Sokka had never noticed that. All he saw were her honest eyes and wide grin.
They were travelling with Katara and Aang, and while Toph was a patient woman, even she began to get antsy. Sokka wondered several times if she would just cancel the whole thing, and sometimes he wondered why he didn't.
Their chance came during a rainshower; Toph refused to go inside the wooden inn that Katara and Aang were holed up in, and Sokka felt somewhat sad that she would be outside alone.
"She's only going to be sleeping!" Katara had argued, but Sokka had only shrugged. She hadn't bothered fighting any longer, mostly because the rain was falling heavier and there were a few brief flashes of light. Toph earthbent a medium shelter, big enough for the both of them, and Katara pulled the water out of the ground to give them something dry to sleep on, while Aang gave him a set of spark rocks. Sokka was grateful when she stayed long enough to keep the water from soaking them.
As soon as they were both in the shelter, Toph slid the door shut, leaving only a tiny gap at the top for fresh air to enter.
The memory of the promise came back to them at the same time, and Sokka set about building a small fire. There was a large network of tree roots beneath their shelter, and in no time at all, there was light emanating from one corner of the tent. After making sure that they wouldn't die of smoke inhalation, Sokka turned back to Toph.
He hadn't been able to see it in the darkness before, but now he couldn't help but notice the blush lighting her face on fire. Scooting close to her, he felt the way she tensed up, and he immediately backed off.
"Hey, Toph," he murmured, voice bouncing off the walls of the shelter. "If you don't want to—I mean, it's a big deal..." He trailed off when he saw her scowl. "It should be with someone you-"
"What is it like?" Her voice was small but strong, and her fingers were trailing random patterns in the dirt. All around them, the thunderstorm raged, but in that moment, neither heard it.
"It's like..." Sokka wasn't sure what to say. This was Toph, the one he shared everything with, but how could he say that it's just physical? How could he say that he only ever cared about two of them, and neither had worked out? How it means nothing to him?
Because, Toph did mean something to him, and he didn't want her to become so jaded with the whole deal that she just threw herself at anyone, like he did. She was worth more than that.
"It's like.... do you remember when Aang baked that egg custard tart for your birthday? How it was so rich and gooey, and it made you feel so warm inside? It's like that... like a heat that covers your body, and you know that whoever you're with is special, because this is sacred. I'm a guy, and so it doesn't... matter so much, sometimes. There's nothing special about guys. But girls? It's a privilege to get that close to them; to be allowed to touch them. You're the one who carries a child—that's all on you. A guy does barely anything. He just donates half the stuff. Your body is sacred, and guys don't always realise that..."
Toph nodded her head, thinking. "But you do," she said, and it wasn't a question. Sokka shrugged.
"It depends on the girls. If she doesn't respect herself, how can any guy?" Toph kept her eyes facing the ground as she spoke.
"Has that happened to you? You were with someone who didn't respect themselves?"
Sokka didn't want to admit that he had sought them out—prostitutes were always willing, and hey, nothing like a moral-building exercise at the local brothel. He didn't want to admit that to Toph.
Toph seemed to pick up that he didn't want to say anything else, and suddenly, she moved away from him. He caught the way her fingers trembled nervously, but aside from the small tell, she was composed. Kneeling almost directly in the centre of the tent, she began to slowly peel off her clothes. Sokka's throat was suddenly dry, and his eyes travelled over her small form. She was all arms and legs, her body belying her strength. He watched as she pulled her shirt off, leaving her in her upper bindings. Sokka waited until she was only left in her under-wraps before moving.
Ridding himself of his shirt, he slid forward, hand hovering just over her skin. Toph's eyes were wide, and in her softest voice yet, made a small sound.
"Sokka, I've really... I don't know what to do..."
It was this that brought the smile to Sokka's face as his hand landed on her hip.
"It's okay," he murmured, "let me show you what to do..."
Sokka is brought from his memories as more shuffling reaches his ears. This time, he has to see what she is doing, and so he stands up on the cool ground, making his way out of the room. Toph is emerging from one of the numerous unused room of his home with a small bag. Her hair has been tied back, and Sokka feels his heart sink at the sight. He knows what she's doing; she's running. It's what she always does. For the first time, though, he doesn't know why.
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