|By Fruipit||See other fanon and fan fiction works from Fruipit.|
PLEASE NOTE: While I have entitled this work as 'complete', it's actually undergoing the same revisions as the chapters. It's probably worse in this case, so do mind the strange line breaks and, further down, an entire added section that doesn't flow onto the next very well. I couldn't be bothered doing anything about it now. Thank you~!
When Toph stepped through the threshold of a small house in suburban Republic City, she could already feel the confused gaze as it struck her. She briefly wondered why she had decided to let Sokka convince her to visit his home—get to know each other beyond random meetings that had become not so random—although she had resigned herself to the fact that it was too late to change her mind. She had no idea why she was humouring him like this; she definitely wouldn't call him a close friend. More like acquaintances, really.
There was complete silence for a moment as she blindly regarded the other presence in the room. She could hear Sokka walking up the front path, and emboldened by his approach, stuck out her chest.
"Who are you?"
There was a tense silence emanating from the stranger not two metres in front of her—they actually seemed rather taken aback by her bald question. Before Toph could narrow her opaque eyes in annoyance—seriously, was everyone always so willing to ignore her?—Sokka barged loudly through the door. Toph could hear a lot of shuffling and clattering, and held out her hands to help him. He nudged her with a carton of soft drink, and with sure fingers she took it, pointedly ignoring the person who had ignored her. It didn't take Sokka long to notice them, though.
"Katara!" he cried, pulling her into a hug.
Toph moved her head up to survey the girl in front of her. Well, she hoped it looked like it. It was always a fun experiment to see how long it took people to realise she was blind. It was probably the combination of arrogance in others' company and total ignorance that led people to assume such a thing (because arrogant people never deigned to look at other people, apparently).
"Why is she here?" the girl asked from somewhere above her. Being short was almost as annoying as being blind. "I mean..." Here, her voice became lower and quieter, and Katara seemed not to realise just how sensitive Toph's hearing was. "How is she going to enjoy the movie?" Ah, so The Sister knew she was blind. That was interesting. Not particularly surprising, but interesting. Apparently, Twinkletoes did more than just make out with his girlfriend. Unless Sokka told her.
Toph wasn't sure how to feel about him actually talking about her to anyone.
"Because I invited her," he said, with the pathetic, whiney voice that Toph actually found was less annoying than Aang in general. "I thought she'd appreciate movie night, too! I can tell her what's going on."
"You got a problem with that, Sugar Queen?" the Toph piped up. From the way he was leaning, she knew Sokka was smiling. "Anyway, Aang said he was coming going out tonight, and I assume he meant here. It's not like he has any other friends. He just had to get changed outta his track gear. Apparently, it's embarrassing getting dressed in front of me. As if I can fucking see anything anyway. Not that I'd wanna see anything he has. Eww, Imagine that, Sokka. Sokka, are you imagining it yet?" She laughed as Sokka made a disgusted choking noise, ignoring Katara's blustered reprimands over her use of language (and topic of choice). After Sokka had managed to force the unfortunate mental image from his mind, he turned to Toph, intent on asking her a question.
"Did Kyoshi give you a curfew?" Sokka asked, watching the was Toph's face scrunched into a small frown as she thought. Before she had a chance to speak, Katara whispered to Sokka;
Sokka hushed his sister with a tightly whispered, "Her carer," before turning back to Toph. She ignored the exchange (and Katara) as she answered.
"Oh, please. As if Kyoshi could actually make me do anything," Toph replied flippantly. "But, she did specifically mention that there be no sex, drugs, so don't get fresh with me." Katara uttered an indignant cry at the accusation that turned into a choke as it was she who became plagued by Toph's words. She was naturally ignored by both Toph and Sokka, and used the ringing doorbell as an excuse to leave the room. She ran off to answer it as Sokka pulled Toph through the house, narrating where they were, and where they were going to her until he reached the couch and plopped down on it with a satisfied ahhh.
"What movie are you going to explain to me while Aang and Katara suck each other's face off?" she asked. The innocent tone of voice belayed the actual meaning of the words, and Sokka had begun answering by the time he realised exactly what she had said. With a scowl that quickly dropped, he began to answer again.
"Serenity. Joss Whedon's masterpiece—crazy girls with like, psychic powers. Prostitutes, guns. It's a space-cowboy movie with no aliens, and fake Chinese." He shrugged with a grin as Toph's mouth opened in a wide beam, showing off all her pearly teeth.
"Oh, yeah, it's awesome," he nodded, "it's based on this TV show-"
Sokka was interrupted by a low shii-dook from the doorway; he and Toph turned in unison (one to look and one to hear) as Aang tripped from the kitchen lino and landed—surprisingly lightly—on the blue carpeted floor of the lounge room.
"Oof. Toph? What're you doing here?" he asked her from the floor. "I thought you were going to see J-"
"No!" She yelled a little too loudly, and Sokka jumped. Her eyes wide, Toph tried again. "I mean, I was going to go... somewhere else, but Sokka invited me here. I wouldn't have agreed if I knew you were going to be here," she joked easily. If Sokka didn't notice the tightening of her lips, Aang certainly did. He knew her well enough to understand Toph-speak for 'shut up or I will end you', though, and if he wanted to lie long enough to see his children (that's if Toph left him with the capacity), he also knew enough to let the matter drop.
"Uh-huh," he muttered. Toph shot him a scowl, and he backed off. "So, how do you know Sokka?"
Toph dropped the angered expression, grateful for the subject change. She shrugged as Katara walked into the room, laden down with bags of chips and popcorn. "I just do. He's gonna explain a movie to me," she answered simply, and he nodded as though it were the most casual and common thing to do.
"Wait, I'm confused," Katara announced, placing the snacks on the floor with gentle thumpths. "How does everyone know each other?"
Toph felt Sokka move off the couch; she heard the slap-slop-slap of bare feet on linoleum, and decided that it was up to her to answer. "Well, I just know Sokka. And I met Aang a few years ago. He's like... he's my brother." She shrugged again. "We all just... know each other." There was a chi-shich-shich as the chips were poured into bowls, and she heard the sound that announced Sokka's return; Toph only had a brief moment to wonder why he left before he placed a cool can of soft-drink in her hand.
"Oh. You don't, uh, you don't look related," Katara said dubiously, causing Toph to laugh, although her eyes didn't light up as much as they should for such a happy expression. No one noticed the blind girl pull down the sleeves of her jumper, or lower her head a fraction.
"Well, we aren't—not really. Kyoshi is Roku's... master, I guess, an' me and Aang sort of bonded when we were both under his care. I met him before that, but they moved me away. We kinda just kept in contact after I was moved to Kyoshi, coz I didn't have-" Toph cut herself off here, eyes wide in surprise, before she coughed awkwardly and shrugged.
"I mean, it's okay, coz me an' Kyoshi get along really well, despite everything. All for the best." She shrugged again; the air was rank with emotions, and Toph couldn't suppress the grimace that rose to her face. She was used to having people express pity or sympathy for her, and it was only a matter of time before Katara gave her a hug; it was important that Toph forestall her for as long as possible. She wouldn't be responsible for any pain that the other girl found herself in, if that were the case. "Anyway, where are your parents?" she challenged, voice annoyingly (at least to her) calm. Toph was sure she had tried to make it sound angry.
"Oh, well, our mother died when we were young and Dad's in the Navy," Katara answered, a little taken aback by the sudden—but not completely random—change of topic.
"And you live here... alone?"
Katara shrugged. "Well, yeah. I keep telling Sokka to get a job and all, but we get money from Dad's wages and some support from the government. Solar power and owning the house makes it easier," she answered, looking at her brother. He grinned easily.
"Easier to be lazy, definitely. Come on, let's start the movie. I'm sure Toph doesn't really care," he said, glancing at the blind girl. Her lips curled up into a smile.
"You're right, I don't." This was definitely a lie—Toph was always interested in him—and he pouted at her.
"Aww, Toph..." he mumbled, "you're breaking my heart..." He couldn't keep the smile away, and she knew it. With a flippant wave of her hand, she indicated towards the TV.
"If we actually get around to the movie, maybe I'll apologise," she shrugged, and Sokka took the hint. The movie was popped into the DVD player with a gentle tip-whrrrr, and the chip bowl passed around. Sokka sat with Toph on the couch, whispering the action on the television while Aang and Katara lounged on the floor.
"- and she's looking at a TV hanging from the roof. There's an octopus, it just popped out of a woman's boobs, and a mouse just turned into a guy... She's still staring at the screen (... Miranda...). Okay, now she just took off her overdress thing, I'm not sure how to explain it, oh and she's kicking the shit out of everyone. A guy's got her in a headlock and she... just kicked her leg up—god, she's flexible—and wacked him on the head. Mal's getting his gun from the depository, he just sent Jayne to stop her. He pushed a guy away who tried to punch him and has come up behind her (gorrammit, girl, it's me!). River just punched him in the nuts, and grabbed his gun. Oh, Mal just got his out, and (etta kooram na smecht)—that was her brother; River just fell asleep."
The rest of the film passed in much the same way; Toph was, despite herself, having more fun than she would have thought possible, and it was almost a shame when it finished earlier than expected.
"Can we watch that show you were talking about earlier?" she asked.
"Oh, if you're gonna do that, Aang and I aren't interested," Katara interrupted, before Sokka had a chance to speak. "We'll just be in my room...."
"Nah-uh-uh-uh," Sokka admonished. "Door open, stereo off. Got it?" There was a heavy groan, but Toph heard Katara lead Aang up the hallway without a spoken complaint.
Toph snuggled deeper within the pillows on the couch as Sokka changed disks, and even she couldn't hide the smile as Sokka began narrating Firefly. It wasn't as good as the movie, however several episodes in she still couldn't really tell what the story was about (although it would have helped had she not fallen asleep mid-way through the second, and not have Sokka notice until he felt the wet patch on his shirt where she had dribbled).
Shaking her gently awake, Sokka couldn't help the grin as she realised she had been drooling, and even in the half-light of the television he could see the embarrassed blush that appeared on her cheeks. "Come on, Toph. I'll take you home."
"I thought Aang was driving me?" she said, gums and eyes clammy from sleep and soft drink.
"Aang left ages ago. We were up to the scene where Niska had just killed his wife's nephew." Toph gave him a blank look for a few seconds, before understanding dawned on her face.
"There was the guy with the weird European accent? I remember now," she said, stifling a yawn with a yah-ahhh. "D'you think you could gimme a lift home?"
Sokka nodded, before remembering that she couldn't actually see him. "Yeah, no problem. Are you gonna come back again next week?"
Toph shrugged, pouting her lips in a tired frown. "I can. This was... fun..." she told him, not sure if it was the right word to use. Should it be fun for someone to have to meticulously explain something to her? Definitely not. She didn't need anyone to do anything for her. Her frown deepened as she thought further about it. This was different.
The duo slipped into his restored Alpine—after Sokka woke Katara up to tell her where they were going (she threw a pillow at his head that bounced off Toph's shin)—and he drove her the ten minutes to the small house she lived in with Kyoshi. The comfortable silence between them broken only by the chg-agachg-chga of the old motor, and Toph couldn't help but feel annoyed by the small bump that signified they had just driven over the gutter. Why did it have to interrupt? She liked just sitting with Sokka.
"Thanks, man," she said, slipping out of the passenger seat with a sigh too low for him to hear. "Can't wait for next week."
Smiling, she turned away and slammed the car door shut with a foom. The car remained silent, and Toph wondered briefly whether or not Sokka was waiting for her to get inside before he drove off. In spite of herself, the little grin she tried to force down appeared, growing wider the longer she thought of it. After all, he was just being.... chivalrous, yes? Nothing wrong with that. He wasn't helping her at all.
Lifting her key from the metal necklace around her neck, Toph fumbled for the lock (probably leaving horrible scratch marks on the lock in the process). Usually, it took only a few seconds to locate the keyhole, but Toph just wasn't getting it that night.
"Here, lemme help."
Toph jumped as she felt Sokka take the key from her, placing it in the lock carefully. She hadn't heard him sneak up behind her, too lost in her own thoughts and the struggles to open the door. Her heart was racing—tathump-tathum-tatathump—and she only hoped it was the shock of having someone sneak up on her. She heard the click of the lock giving, and Sokka gave her back her key. His hand was far warmer than she had expected, and it seemed to linger over hers for hours.
"Oh, uh thanks, Sokka. Um... 'night!" she stuttered, clenching the key tightly in her hand.
"Hah, good night, Toph. Or, morning. Whatever." She felt his hand touch her shoulder for a second (and this time it truly felt like that long) before he left her and began walking back to his car. With a blind wave in his direction, she opened the front door.
Sliding inside, she put the key back into her pocket and made her way to her room. Across the foyer, five steps on the carpet before her left hand could touch the corner of the hallway, and then it was just the first door on the right. Reaching underneath her bed, she grabbed a cigarette from the packet stuck underneath the beams with a large wad of blutack and moved back through the quiet house. Toph slid open the back door with a small ssshhhrrr, being as quiet as she could before making herself comfortable on the outside lounge. Flicking the lighter on, she burnt her fingertips (although she was beyond feeling that sort of pain now) before the little stick finally lit. Taking a drag, she willed her heart to slow down as she thought about the night. Counterintuitive, had she thought any deeper, but she was just enjoying the memories.
Sucking on the cigarette, it seemed to be the first night that it didn't calm down her racing mind. She smoked it down to the filter, making sure to put it out properly before pushing the filter through the gaps in the deck. Kyoshi would murder her if she knew she was still smoking—not that it actually made her feel any better. Actually... she already felt kind of good...
Dragging herself back into the house, Toph forewent the usual bedtime rituals, instead falling straight onto the messy sheets after circumnavigating the junk on her floor. She would probably trip and break her arms one day, but at that moment she didn't care.
She fell asleep dreaming of her new friends.
"So, what are we watching this week?"
"Ahh!" There was a shriek of surprise and the sound of something breaking from the far corner of the kitchen. "Toph! Don't sneak up on me like that!" Katara admonished above the blind girl's snickering.
"I'll be sure to scream out in advance," she said, still laughing slightly. Katara let out a low hmmm, and Toph could only imagine the frown on her face. "Oi, Twinkletoes!" she called out to the lounge room, "Your girlfriend's had her ego smashed. Come kiss it better!" Toph walked towards the doorway, although without her cane she miscounted the steps and ran her shoulder into the wall with a dull thdd. She scowled comically in the direction of the offending wall, before turning her blind gaze on Katara.
"What? I broke my cane," she shrugged. Turning back to the doorway (now she knew where it was), Toph's didn't realise that the person approaching her (given away by their loud, thumping walk) had other plans than to just to say hello.
The smile she offered in greeting was wiped from her face when the earth beneath her disappeared and she was slung over the other person's arms like a bride.
"Ahh! What the fuck?! Put me down! Put me down!" she cried, wrapping her arms tightly around the neck of whoever had the gall to pick her up. Katara was out of the question, and Aang didn't walk the way this person had. Eyes wide, Toph stopped squirming enough to notice the broad shoulders and little tickle of facial on the crown of her head.
"You really wanna stay in there when you've just given Aang and Katara permission to spread their oogies?" Sokka laughed, the vibrations rumbling in his chest—rrrmgg-grrm-grrr. "I didn't know you would have a death wish like that! Feed me to sharks, throw me in a mulcher, but never subject me to that, Toph!" He was still chortling as he carried her into the lounge room. Someone flicked her head, but by the way Sokka giggled when she growled about it, it seemed likely it was just Aang's payback for her earlier comment about his girlfriend's ego.
The small sting did nothing to distract her from exactly who was carrying her, and the fact she was being carried in the first place. A decision between staying put or being dropped like a log wasn't difficult, although the thought had Toph holding on a little tighter. It was hard to ignore the strange ache in her chest when he noticed, and held her a little closer, too.
"There ya go," Sokka said, kneeling down to place her carefully on the lounge. Toph couldn't deny she was happy to be on solid ground, but to her surprise she found that she was also slightly sad about it, too. "Your Melonness," he added in a mock British accent, bowing deferentially. Toph felt her face heat up in a blush, and even the scowl on her face and the punch she landed on his chest couldn't hide it. At least Sokka didn't seem to notice.
"I'm not a melon," she mumbled. "Hurry up, guys!" she yelled into the kitchen, a way to distract herself as Sokka patted her thigh in order to get her to shuffle over slightly.
"What are we watching this week?" she asked, drowning out the crrrr-reeek of rusty springs as Sokka settled his weight on her left.
"Love Actually. It's a romcom—Katara's choice, obviously. So..." He trailed off awkwardly, and she raised an eyebrow as best she could. "How did you, uh, break your cane?"
The surprise must have been evident on her face, but to her surprise he didn't try and backtrack, instead preferring to wait for her to answer.
"Oh, uh, it doesn't matter. I'm going to go and get another one tomorrow." She had the vague notion that he was frowning at her, however she didn't want to talk about it any longer than necessary. Sokka waited for a few tense seconds, but when it became obvious Toph wasn't going to say anything more on the matter, he let it go with a low sigh.
"Hey Aang, come and help me get the snacks."
Katara replaced her brothers' presence in the room—and on the couch—although it by no means lessened the tension. If possible, Toph felt even more uncomfortable; she had never been fantastic at empathising with other females, and what she knew of Katara (mostly from Aang's pre-dating, love-struck days) led her to assume she wouldn't get along with her.
"So, Toph. Got a boyfriend?"
The blind girl didn't even try to stifle the hapless groan that erupted from her throat. "If I did, do you think I'd be hanging out with you guys on a Friday night?" she asked, scowling in Katara's direction. The other girl moved slightly in what Toph assumed was a shrug (albeit an awkward one), although she didn't say anything. It gave Toph the perfect opportunity to turn her head to the conversation wafting in from the kitchen. She wondered for a moment whether Katara could hear it, too
"She just got angry. The thing was flimsy anyway!"
Oh. So they were talking about that. Fucking fantastic. Toph felt her cheeks heat up again, and her gut began to glurg-burble with guilt that Katara must have heard. To Toph's surprise, though, no one said anything as they all reassembled in the living room. A cool can of Coke was thrust into her hands, and Aang dutifully pressed the play button.
After essentially being kicked off the couch to make room for Aang, Toph spent several moments to create a small nest on the floor with the blankets that someone—probably Sokka—had the forethought to bring out. He was closer this time, gently breathing the words into her ear; action was one thing, but for a guy, Sokka was surprisingly good at describing the romantic aspects, too.
"- he just wants to get out of there because now he feels foolish (It's a... self-preservation thing, you see). He obviously didn't think about this when he was recording the wedding. It makes sense though, because he organised the surprise band and everything..." Sokka fell silent as the action ceased for a moment, and Toph turned her head a fraction in his direction.
"I love this song," she whispered.
"What's it called?" The hot breath tickled her ear and throat again, and she fought the goosebumps that threatened to rise at the intimacy. That shouldn't be happening...
"White Flag, by Dido. It's really sad..."
"I didn't think you'd like this kind of music," Sokka commented. Toph gave a small shrug, her face impassive.
"There's a lot you don't know about me," she replied, before focussing her attention back on the movie. A lot you don't want to know.
When the movie ended (with a cheesy love song. Toph stuck her nose up at it while Sokka tried to explain how 'classic' it was), Katara practically ran into her room before Sokka could say anything. Aang remained sitting dumbly on the couch until his girlfriend shouted for him. Sokka levelled a glare at Aang before the bald boy managed to escape; even Toph could hear him gulp.
"Firefly?" Sokka asked as he put the movie away. "We were only up to the second episode."
Toph frowned glumly. "Can't," she replied around a mouthful of pretzels; tgrik-gritgtig. "Kyoshi wanted me home early this week—what's the time?"
"Uhh..." She heard Sokka move piles of what was probably DVDs around, looking for his phone. "10:37."
"Fuck, I was 'sposed to be home at ten-thirty. You think you can drive me?"
"No problem," he shrugged. "But we will finish it one day!" he announced dramatically. A snort erupted from the short girl, and she rolled her eyes.
"One day, sure," she said, and Sokka had no idea whether she was being sarcastic or not; he frowned at her for a moment, before letting it go.
That week, the drive home was significantly more upbeat being that the car's two occupants were still completely awake and had consumed a great deal more sugar than they needed to. The stereo was playing softly (some programme playing stuff from the 80's, if Toph were to hazard a guess), and she could hear the wind in the gap in the window; Sokka had opened it to de-mist the windscreen.
"It's Aang's turn to pick a movie next week, and he's probably gonna pick something really stupid. I hope you have an awesome film lined up," Sokka told her as they drove through the quiet streets.
Toph turned her sightless gaze on him. "I get to pick a movie?" she asked, surprised. Sokka looked at her from the corner of his eyes, and shot her a warm smile.
"Why wouldn't you?" he asked, confused. "You're still watching it." Toph told herself it must be the wind that caused his voice to sound so soft.
They arrived at her home and Sokka parked the car in her driveway. "Lemme help."
Never one to let people do things for her, Toph opened the door and jumped out. She began to make her slow, unaided way up the path; it was only when she stumbled over a slightly uneven brick and Sokka grabbed her hand before she could hit the ground that she allowed him to lead her up the path after that little mishap. All appreciation for his gesture disappeared as he knocked on the door with a drm-drrrm-drm.
"The fuck are you doing?" she hissed, eyebrows furrowed beneath her hair as she yanked him away from the door.
"I'm gonna apologise for keeping you out," he said, frowning at her in confusion. "Don't you want me to?"
Toph brought her free hand to her forehead, but she already knew it was too late to send him away. The door creaked open, and suddenly there was a giant standing in front of Sokka.
"Uh, hi," he squeaked. Toph knew Kyoshi would be glaring down at the young man, and under normal circumstances she would have laughed at his obvious discomfit. However, the fact that Sokka was actually meeting her carer was not a standard occurrence, and didn't find anything funny about the situation at all..
"Who are you, and why are you holding Toph's hand?" The tall woman asked coolly, an eyebrow raised at the scene. Sokka glanced down at their clasped hands as though only just noticing that they were, in fact, touching, and he quickly pulled away.
"She, uh, she couldn't see," he stuttered, "So I said I would help her so I led her up to the door where I knocked and she got angry and then you answered and I forgot I was holding her hand until you pointed it out. I'm sorry."
"Sokka, this is Kyoshi. Kyoshi, Sokka," Toph interjected, without giving Kyoshi a chance to say anything else.
Kyoshi looked from her charge to the young man in front of her. He was probably 18 or 19—not someone from Toph's school. Not that the blind girl had ever shown any interest in other people from her school anyway. It made Kyoshi wonder how they knew each other.
"Where did you meet?"
Toph let out a grllgr from the back of her throat, but she was ignored by both of them. Sokka sent her a strange look that Kyoshi did not miss
"Aang is dating my sister," he said, voice a lot quieter than anyone who knew him was used to. All of a sudden, Kyoshi's demeanour changed.
"Oh, well, that's fine then! Come on, Toph. I have work tomorrow, and you're late." She left the teens in the doorway rather suddenly, and Sokka couldn't help the surprise that flitted across his face as he started at the spot Kyoshi had been standing.
"Thanks for tonight, Sokka," the blind girl told him, shaking him from his thoughts. She lifted her small fist and punched him lightly in the chest, more a symbol of camraderie than anything else. Her grin was pretty big, too. "Let's just hope Aang picks an easy movie this time. Those different character scenes were difficult."
Turing around, she took a few tentative steps forward until her foot rested on the threshold. There, she paused and turned. "I'll talk to you next week?"
Sokka nodded enthusiastically. "Definitely! See ya next week, Toph," he said, smiling as nudged her with his arm before going back to his car. Toph slid inside and closed the door. She took a moment to lean against it before sinking to the floor with a soft schithump.
"Nice boy," Kyoshi said, walking into the foyer from the kitchen. "I saw that, you know."
Toph glared at the woman before she let the expression drop wearily. "He is nice..."
"Watching movies," Kyoshi commented drily. "I could never see you as a moving picture fan. Raised dots all the way—I thought I had you pegged."
Toph laughed lightly and gave a small hiccup as she replied, "Sokka helps. He tells me everything that's going on in the movie. Like, I dunno, all the action and stuff. It's pretty cool. We watched Serenity last week and Love Actually this week. He's fun."
Kyoshi raised an eyebrow. "I'm raising my eyebrow at you."
Toph let out a huff and frowned at the floor in thought. "No one's ever done stuff like this for me before," she said quietly. "Not even Aang. I just... I've only known him a while; I don't wanna wreck anything..."
"Toph..." Kyoshi moved next to Toph and joined her on the floor with a rather ungraceful dumpth. "If a guy is going to the trouble of helping a blind girl watch movies, I'm pretty positive that means he likes her. Who normally would put that much effort into it?"
Said blind girl looked up towards her carer, eyes wide and—dare Kyoshi say it—bright. "Really?"
"Yeah, really," she smiled. "Now, get your ass into bed before I decide to punish you for being late."
That night, Toph dreamt of her new family.
Toph was unable to get Kyoshi's words out of her head for the rest of the week. For the first time in a long while, she actually found herself looking forward to something other than the habitual cigarette about an hour after Kyoshi had gone to bed. Not that she had really been smoking much lately anyway—sometimes she just got up to sit outside and listen to everything. Even with those nightly excursions onto the porch, she found herself feeling better; usually prone to wandering the neighbourhood, it was no longer the thought of finding a street rat who would let her join in their fun (well, one in particular) that kept Toph's mind occupied.
It was the thought of the next Friday night, watching movies with Sokka, that got her through the sleepless nights and lethargic days that weren't so sleepless or lethargic anymore.
Walking casually into Katara's kitchen, purposely swinging the back of her new cane into the back of Aang's ankles, she even felt a small smile on her face (an achievement in its own right).
"Hi, guys!" Aang called through the doorway of the kitchen, not entirely sure where everyone was.
He grinned when he heard Katara answer from within the house with a, "Finally, you're here!" and Toph yelled out her own greeting.
Aang moved towards the sound of his girlfriend's voice, leaving Toph standing alone in the middle of the kitchen. She took several steps forward, cane making thop-thhh-thop-thop noises as it tapped along the lino, before she heard the sound of another person (that didn't include them slobbering over the other).
"Toph!" Sokka stuck his head around the kitchen door and grabbed her hand, pulling her into the lounge room. It smelt strange—different to the weeks prior. Kind of like a fabric softener, or flowers.
"What's that smell?" she asked, giving another sniff. Sokka gave a noncommittal shrug that she couldn't see, and sat her on the sofa.
"I managed to get them to give us the couch this week," he told her, and she knew he was smiling.
"Oh, really?" she asked. "You actually managed to get your little sister and her pussy boyfriend to give us the couch? Oh, my saviour!" She was grinning madly, and Sokka found the expression was in equal parts endearing and creepy.
"You have too many teeth," he said in a pathetic rebuttal. "Anyway, do you know what movie you're gonna pick?"
He was leaning into her slightly, a warm wall of muscle that had little goosebumps rising from her skin. Swallowing the small lump that had formed in her throat, Toph tried to remember what movie Kyoshi had recommended.
"Yeah. Kyoshi helped me pick; it's called House of Flying Daggers. It's a Chinese movie with people like, jumping over trees and stuff. It sounds weird, but she said I'd like it. She's into those movies, so I have a copy at home if you don't."
"Huh, I haven't heard of that. What's it about?" His hands were resting in his lap, and when Toph lifted her legs to cross them on the couch, she accidentally brushed past his arm. She could only hope that he didn't notice the shudder she had to suppress at the feel of his warm skin.
"Uh..." she swallowed again, trying to remember what Kyoshi had told her. "Ah, it's ab- about a blind girl who is a member of a secret faction rebelling against the government. She's um, she's caught and released with a police officer, hoping that she'll lead them to the headquarters, and they... fall in love." She trailed off, shrugging as she tried to hide the smile that appeared at the thought of him explaining a movie that she chose.
"Hey, that sounds really cool! Well, Aang chose a movie called Amélie. I haven't seen it yet, but it got some pretty good ratings, though. It's of a chick who has been alone her entire life and she finds love using photos or something. She just wants to help people; it's French, but I can tell you most of what they're saying." Toph felt him shrug against her shoulders as laughter sounded from the depths of the small house.
"I should be okay," she told him, ignoring the new sounds. "My mum- ...I had to take French as a kid. I'm actually pretty good at it, too." She felt him look at her, and she assumed it was likely with surprise, however she was unwilling to elaborate. "Hey, what junk food do we have this week?"
"Coke and popcorn!" he said gleefully, and she heard him bound to the kitchen. The only warning she had of his return was the soft rshff-shrffr of popcorn in a bag before he was catapulting himself over the couch to land next to her. He overshot the distance and inadvertently landed on her lap, limbs splayed everywhere. His hands were full of the snack food, and she stiffened, looking blankly ahead as she tried not to move too much while he squirmed away.
"You coming, guys?" she called to Aang and Katara, yelling louder than necessary to cover the tremor in her voice. She heard them enter the room and ducked her head down, pulling self-consciously at the sleeves of her long undershirt.
"I hope you didn't pick a sucky movie, Aang," Toph warned him, sinking low into the couch—he just grinned at her.
They relaxed into the sofa, Toph leaning against Sokka while he whispered the scene into her ear. She wasn't even trying to understand the movie, just enjoying the sound of his voice and the gentle wvvh of his breath in her ear.
"- she's running to the door to find him. There, she just wrenched it open and he's already standing there. They're just looking at each other, like they don't really know what's happening. Amélie pulls him inside and shuts the door before kissing the corner of his mouth really carefully. She kisses the other side too, before leaning up—coz he's taller than her—and kissing his temples slightly. Now she's pointing where she wants him to kiss her- "
Toph felt her heartbeat, pumping furiously, and she turned her head so she was facing Sokka. He only just seemed to notice how close they were, and squirmed uncomfortably.
"Toph?" She felt his warm breath tickling her face, and hoped that the movie wasn't bright enough to illuminate her face.
Well, here goes, she thought.
"Do- d'you think we could go to the movies one day?" she asked, her heart in her throat. Sokka gave a light chuckle, and Toph's face fell with confusion.
"That's a great idea!" he whispered back heatedly, and Toph felt a blush rise as she beamed. "Let's pick one after this movie—we can go tomorrow!"
There were only a few minutes left on the film, but Toph took no notice of what Sokka was whispering in her ear now. She closed her eyes and sunk further into her friend, biting back her smile. Finally, the movie came to an end with a jaunty tune, and Aang and Katara once again retreated to her room. She heard someone flick the light switch, and the cl-krch of a disc being put back in its case reached her ears.
"So, what did you wanna go see?" Sokka asked as he returned to the couch. She heard the sound of typing, and guessed that he had his laptop on his lap.
"Oh, I read the synopsis of an awesome one!" Toph grinned.
"Which one? I haven't-" Sokka fell silent next to her and Toph grinned at him. "That's not funny."
"Huh, well, there's Monsters University... but that's a sequel... you don't want sequels, do you?" Toph shook her head, and Sokka continued scrolling through the movie listing.
"Hey, I heard people talking about a good one—uh, Much To Do About Things, or something like that?" she offered up. Sokka gave a light laugh. Toph frowned.
"Oh, I'm not laughing at you," he assured her, "But it's Much Ado About Nothing. It was shot in 12 days or something, and is in black and white."
"Ooh, can we see that one?" she cried out in excitement. Sokka laughed again.
"Sure. There's a showing tomorrow at two-thirty, if that's okay with you?"
Toph nodded emphatically. "Yeah! I can get Kyoshi to drop us off, too, you just need to come by at like, 2."
"Uhh...." Sokka hesitated, putting his computer on the floor. Toph could feel him looking at her with a strange expression.
"What? You don't like Kyoshi?"
"It's not that," he admitted. "I just don't see how you do."
Toph laughed lightly. "Hey! She's pretty awesome, you just need to get to know her. She just doesn't take shit from anyone."
"Yeah, well, she's scary," he admitted, and Toph laughed again.
"So, you wanna watch another movie?" she asked, her eyebrows furrowing as she heard him groan. It smoothed out though, as he lightly pushed her shoulder with his fist.
"Eager? Why don't we just talk or something?" he offered. Toph couldn't even suppress her look of surprise.
"What? Don't you wanna talk?" he asked, nudging her again.
"I talk all the time, thank you very much!" she cried out indignantly, the playful scowl not quite reaching her eyes.
Sokka made a ppb sound with his lips. "Yeah, but not about important stuff. Like, I dunno. You have a pet? I don't even know your favourite music! Ugh, Toph!" he whined, throwing his hands in the air. "How can I call you my best friend without even knowing that?"
She didn't answer, and he poked her. "Earth to Toph?"
Shaking her head and clearing her throat, Toph looked in Sokka's direction. "Best friend, eh?" she asked casually, as though the breath hadn't just left her body and her heart wasn't running a million miles. Toph mentally berated herself—she didn't need him to make her happy; but as his smooth ochre voice began talking, she felt her resolve withering once again.
"'Course! I mean, I don't normally let random short girls into my house, but for you I made an exception."
Toph felt her face grow red, and punched him lightly on the arm. "Enough of the mushy stuff," she said, grinning. Sokka nudged her back, however before he could say anything, Aang walked in, holding his phone.
"Hey, Toph, Kyoshi wants to talk to you." He placed the phone on her out-stretched hand, and began padding down the hall after she said, "Thanks, Aang."
Putting the phone up to her ear (and turning it around, embarrassed that she had put the speaker near her ear), Toph cleared her throat.
"Hey, Kyoshi. What's up?"
"I'm coming to pick you up now."
Toph's frown hardened, and her heartbeat picked up. She could hear Sokka breathing next to her, a gentle hhhhsshh in her space bubble.
"Why? Sokka always takes me home," she said flatly, trying to ignore the fact that he was probably close enough to hear Kyoshi on the other end.
"One of my students has been hurt, and I need to go down to the hospital. I'm not letting you spend the night on your own."
Toph growled, "I'm fine on my own. You need to trust me more."
Kyoshi let out a hollow laugh, the tinny sound reverberating through the phone. "Trust, yeah. Remember what happened last time? Look, unless someone comes and stays with you here, or you stay there, I'm gonna be picking you up-"
"You can stay here," Sokka butted in. "She can stay here, Kyoshi!!" he called loudly, biting his tongue when he realised he just shouted at an adult. He missed Toph's widening eyes as Kyoshi's voice made its way through the phone.
"There, sorted. I'm sure Aang's girlfriend has some pyjamas you can wear. I'll pick you up in the morning, okay?"
"Oh, well... we're going to the movies tomorrow..." Toph told her quietly. Kyoshi was silent a few moments as she digested the information.
"I'll pick you up and take you. I'll bring over a change of clothes at the same time. Goodnight, Toph."
Toph handed the phone to Sokka, who hung up and put it down.
"Awesome! Now we can talk!" he cried, grinning. Toph offered a weak smile.
"We better tell Katara..." she said, picking up her cane. It's going to be an interesting night...
Sitting on Katara's bed, a look of blank boredom stretched across her face, Toph found it next to impossible to even feign interest in the other girl. The boys had gone to order a pizza, as they predicted (probably accurately) that they would be up late. And so she was alone with another female, forced to listen to her brush her thick hair (well, it sounded thick, what with the cringe-worthy grkch-grkch-grkch noises that came from it) and a story about... well, she had actually forgotten by that stage.
"-and she got it all to herself."
"Uh, yeah," Toph agreed, uncomfortable. The brushing stopped, and she felt Katara move closer. The bed creaked as the older girl sat down, and Toph felt a finger poke her in the shoulder.
"You weren't listening, were you?" Katara asked, and Toph had the good grace to lower her face at the accusation. "Well, what do you want to talk about?" she continued, and Toph shrugged.
"I'unno. Why do we even have to talk?"
"Because I want to get to know you!" Katara exclaimed, in such a voice that Toph shifted away a few centimetres. She wasn't used to having such exuberant (or, really, any) friends, and in all honesty, she found Katara's positive, cheerful demeanour slightly off-putting. She was used to Kyoshi's frank attitude, or Sokka's pathetic humour. Even her own dour company. Talking to a girl she barely knew as though they were old friends was unsettling, to say the least.
"You do know me," Toph answered blankly, not entirely sure what Katara was asking of her, but hesitant all the same. She heard Katara sigh, although a few seconds of silence told her that the older girl had decided to leave the issue alone.
Toph was far more grateful than she would admit. It wasn't that she didn't like Katara—she did—but Toph was never a particularly sociable person, and had never felt the need to try and be friends with people. Her parents would never have allowed it anyway.
Shaking the unpleasant thoughts from her mind, Toph jumped as Katara sat on the bed with a crrrrgrrr and addressed her.
"Can I bush your hair?"
The question was unexpected, and Toph shot Katara a curious glance. The older girl shrugged, by the way the bed moved, and Toph imitated the action.
"Sure. Whatever," she said flippantly, although Katara didn't miss the questioning tone or how her shoulders tensed. If the older girl picked up on Toph's unwillingness, she didn't say anything. Toph felt Katara sit behind her and delicately pick up her hair. Contrary to her own expectations, Katara was surprisingly gentle, starting at the ends and working her way up to the roots so she didn't tug too hard on the many knots that littered the hair.
"So, how'd you meet Aang?" she asked, and Toph cringed internally. That wasn't a topic she particularly wanted to get into, but she also found herself with some sort of loyalty towards the girl who was being so nice to her. It occurred to her that, for some reason, Aang hadn't told his girlfriend much, and she was grateful for the gap in Katara's knowledge. She remembered giving a vague explanation when she first met 'the sister', but she had a feeling that Katara was after something a little more solid.
"Well, how'd you meet him?" she shrugged, deflecting. She could hear the smile in Katara's tone as the older girl spoke.
"On holiday. My school went to the same ski resort as he did. I met Gyatso there. I went to his funeral, too..." She trailed off here, and Toph fidgeted uncomfortably. "We kept in contact after that, and he's always been one of my best friends," she added, the sweetness in her tone giving Toph a toothache. A small frown graced her face.
"How long have you known him for?" she asked, her voice blank. Katara paused in her work, looking at the back of Toph's head for a moment.
"Oh, a few years. He was just that goofy kid who became more important to me than 'just a friend', I suppose," she said. Watching Toph carefully, Katara took note of how the younger girl slumped slightly—the barest movement that even the older girl, with her watchful eye, could barely notice. "Is that a problem?" she asked, and Toph's head shot up like a rocket.
"Pft, as if," she mumbled. "Why would I care?" The truth was that she did care—a lot. But, she couldn't let Katara know that. It wasn't like she relied on Aang—she had other friends, like Kyoshi. Kyoshi was her friend. And the girls who participated tessenjutsu class. They were her friends too.
Ahh, but that's not the real reason, a betraying voice whispered in her mind. Toph was usually so good at ignoring it, too. You're jealous, because he's the only friend you've ever made on your own, and you aren't even his best friend. She is.
Suddenly, Toph was angry at Katara. Angry at all of them. Angry at how she felt for Sokka, and angry that she couldn't tell him. Angry that she was always number two in the lives of people around her.
Perhaps the foul attitude came from Toph's own unwillingness to accept her own faults. Or, no, that was wrong. Her unwillingness to change them. Perhaps her anger came from the fact that, at almost sixteen years old, she had never had anyone tell her they liked her around, or had ever really acted like they cared about her at all. In a little over a decade of being in the system, she had been with thirty-four different homes, and in all that time, her only friend (her only real friend) was the first one she had ever met. Gyatso was her first real home—home where she actually felt loved and accepted, before Kyoshi—and after she was moved from there, the whole this was just a slipper slope.
But she sure as hell wasn't going to tell Katara that.
"I don't care," she reiterated, narrowing her eyes and glaring in Katara's direction when she realised that she had fallen silent following the unusual bout of reminiscing.
"Well, I think it's great that he has a friend like you," Katara piped up, ignoring Toph's expression before she stood up from the bed. "I have some old pyjamas for you, if you wanted to get dressed before the boys come back?"
Toph looked in the direction of the other girl, wondering what was going through her head. Toph knew she was closed off and secretive—even Aang didn't know all that much about her—but she wished that people weren't so delicate to her. She wished that, if they were curious about something, they would just ask her. She ignored the hypocrisy that Katara had in fact asked her, and she had blown her off. Groaning inwardly, it was all she could do to not put her head in her hands and block out the world so she could think.
"Toph, I want to be your friend. It's not hard. Please?" Katara's voice was low and quiet—almost pleading—and Toph wondered, yet again, what Katara was thinking. No one had ever willingly wanted to get closer to her after they had met her—it was always the other way around. She would talk to someone, and all would go well until they realised how completely fucked up she was.
"I'm not stopping you," she said, still unwilling to let someone into her life who could just as easily walk out of it. She heard a sigh, and a gentle gromp as Katara sat on the carpeted floor.
"Sweetie, you are. You're my boyfriend's best friend, and I know nothing about you," she reasoned; Toph wasn't entirely sure whether she felt angry or guilty, and she wasn't sure if it was at herself of the other girl.
"Why do you care?" she muttered, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm not even—you are." She couldn't keep the bitter note from her voice, and though it was to late to take it back, Toph still made an attempt to mask it. "Fine. What do you want to know?" she asked, tone making it clear that she wasn't going to willingly (perhaps even truthfully) divulge any information. If nothing else, perhaps by getting closer to Katara she could get even closer to Sokka. The very thought sent a hot spark running along her limbs, and she gave a small shudder.
Katara didn't say anything, but Toph heard the crack of her knees as she stood, and the woomph-woomph-woomph of her footfalls on the carpet. The bed depressed as the older girl made herself comfortable, and Toph almost immediately felt pressed for information that she wasn't sure she was ready to give—to anyone. She wondered if it was worse because she knew she'd be expected to answer (and that, really, she should). Oh, she'd been questioned before, by state workers, foster carers, police. None had gained much information from her.
She felt Katara take her hand, and quelled the urge to jerk it away. It would probably be worse if she did that, so she sat on the other girl's fluffy bed, uncomfortable despite the soft mattress and thick blankets as she waited for Katara to say something. She heard the familiar chg-agachg-chga of Sokka's car, and wished the other girl would hurry up.
"I'm not going to ask you anything, Toph," Katara finally said. "Your business is your business. But if you ever want some girly time, I'm always going to be here. I like you." The final few words were stated with such decisiveness that Toph couldn't help the small snort that erupted from her nose. She supposed Katara was frowning, not understanding the action, but Toph didn't feel the need to elaborate.
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever." Toph couldn't help the way the flippant sentence rolled off her tongue, immediately fell on the defensive. She knew Katara would have a hurt expression on her face—they always did—but she didn't particularly want to be the cause of that. She reminded herself that it was all for Sokka. "Look, Honey," she said, her nonchalant tone and bored expression completely at odds with how she felt. She wasn't able to keep the mask on for long. "You don't know me. So, tell me, how do you know you like me?" she challenged. "Why do you even care!? I don't need friends, and I know that even if I did, I wouldn't want my friend to be some fucked up freak like me. So, what's your deal?!"
She had no idea where the outburst had come from, and judging from the complete lack of noise or movement, neither did Katara. Toph was panting heavily, trying to release some of the pent up anger, but it wasn't working. She needed to do something destructive. Without waiting for an answer (one she wasn't even sure would come), Toph jumped up from the bed, letting her cane lead her out into the kitchen. The boys were clattering around with plates and cups, and she could definitely smell the pizza, but even extra spicy supremo couldn't get her to slow down as she pushed through the room and walked out into the front yard.
"Hey, Toph!" Sokka's voice carried through the still air, and she almost stopped to look towards him. Almost. How could she look at him when angry tears were threatening to spill over her cheeks? He called out her name once more, and Toph's resolve almost failed then and there. She was just about to stop when she heard Aang talking to the older boy, telling him to leave her alone. Where once she would have appreciated to gesture, allowing her to calm down on her own, she only felt anger at the bald boy. What if she didn't want to be alone this time?
Using her cane only to avoid the most serious of obstacles, Toph almost tripped over a small crack in the sidewalk outside Sokka's house before she caught herself, shuffling away from the house as fast as she could. There was a cool breeze that did a wonderful job of blowing away her anger until all she was left with was an empty feeling of exhaustion; fumes of her rage that took up more energy than was worth it. There was the faint aroma of tobacco on the wind, and following her nose, she stumbled across a small park. The area wasn't really that much different to her own street, with a quiet, out of the way atmosphere. There was a squueeee of a rusty swingset that grated on her ears, and Toph wondered why people had to try—why they had to try and foster community spirit, and togetherness. There were so many better things to waste taxpayer's money on than a park. The tell-tale smell of cigarettes told her that the plan had backfired, anyway, so why did people have to bother?
The smell also told her she'd probably be able to bum one off one of the street rats and/or hoodlums and perhaps calm down a little.
The catcalls came first as she approached, although that was the norm with such places. They really weren't dangerous unless you weren't used to it and didn't know how to react. Toph had learned through experience that, most of the time, they were completely harmless. Especially in crowds such as this (there had to be at least twenty people), there were almost always other girls who kept their men under control.
"Hey there, Sexy!" a deep voice called to her, and her head shot up. She recognised that voice...
"Jet?" she answered, coming to a halt and crossing her arms. There was the sound of scuffling, and before she realised it, someone was standing right in front of her.
"Oh, shit, Toph! It is you!" She could tell he was smiling, and she couldn't quite quell her own answering smirk.
"'Sup, dude? Hey, can I bum a cigarette?" Short, simple, straight to the point. Jet didn't answer with words, instead placing his own at her lips and bringing the lighter up to it.
"That one'll cost you," he said before flicking open the small, metal case with a fshck and lighting up the cigarette. Toph only waved him off, already expecting him to say that. She immediately felt better as the nicotine flooded her system, and couldn't focus on much else at that point. It was all she could do to stop from throwing herself on the floor in utter bliss. It had been too long since she last snuck out to spend any time with him.
"Oh, God, that's good," she murmured, taking a second, long drag. "I needed that, thanks." The 'thank you' wasn't even completely fake, either. She did genuinely appreciate this, least of all because cigarettes were expensive. It always helped to know people, though, and Jet knew the best.
"How'd Kyoshi let you out this late?" he pried, replacing the cigarette he had just given her with a new one, placing it between his lips and lighting it. Toph grimaced, stuck between sighing and groaning, although her mood was much improved with the cancer-stick hanging from her lips.
"She didn't. She doesn't know I'm here." Toph paused for a moment before deciding to give in to her earlier wish and just plopping herself on the ground. Jet followed her, the gravel krchcnching beneath his sneakered feet. His crew, who had been watching the two with minor interest, returned to whatever they were doing beforehand (probably smoking too, if history served Toph correctly).
"Ahh, and you needed an outlet?"
Toph looked towards Jet, unsure as to whether he has asked a question or made a statement. She decide to just answer it regardless, more to just fill the silence than anything else.
"Yeah." Toph closed her eyes as she took a final puff, ignoring the slight pain in her fingertips as the embers hit the filter and burned her. She was normally pretty good at knowing when to stop so she didn't hurt herself, but the conversation with Katara had frazzled her and left her head all over the place.
"What about a distraction?" Jet pressed, and Toph roller her sightless eyes. "You still owe me; cigarettes aren't cheap, you know. Smellerbee is having a harder time pickpocketing too, because the people 'round here know us..." he trailed off, looking up at the sky. Whatever peace had come with the silence was broken as someone shouted at them.
"Fuck up, Jet. You try and do better, then!" A female voice cut through the night, and Toph raised her hand in greeting.
"Hey, Bee," she said, sighing as she came to a decision and turned back to Jet. "Fine. What do you want with me tonight?"
Jet gave a smirk, and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I want you, but I doubt you want an audience..." Toph felt her stomach clench at his unrestrained vulgarity, and let out a slow breath.
"As if you've don't have a place tonight, Jet," she muttered, feeling him shiver slightly as she said his name. Placing a hand on his chest, she carefully trailed it down until it rested over his pants. "You definitely do want me," she grinned, pressing down slightly. It was Jet's turn to suck in a breath, and he let out a low chuckle.
The thought of spending another night with Jet had her heart racing, and she could hear the blood pumping in her ears. She wanted to be with him tonight; that much was certain, but she had to go back to Sokka's at some point, and she preferred to do that in the same condition (if less angry) as when she left. She had enough self-awareness to know that she needed something from Jet, though, and if this was the only way she could fool herself into thinking she was loved, then it wasn't all bad—she was still able to fool herself.
Jet didn't say anything to her silence, instead raising his hand to place it on her chest, pressing gently. Toph sat there as he leaned forward, capturing her lips as his hand trailed downward and up underneath her shirt. While she didn't miss Jet, she certainly missed the closeness of the moment—the physicality—and she broke away long enough to mumble, "Only this far," to him before allowing her lips to be captured in his once again. He gave a little moan, and knowing exactly what she wanted, she slid her tongue into his mouth. His hand continued its pleasant dance across her skin, dotted with goosebumps, and her own slid around to push his face closer to her own. Jet smirked into her mouth and moved his hands down to her hips just long enough to pull her onto his lap before they returned to her chest.
Breaking the kiss, he leant forward enough to whisper lecherously into her ear, "You know, I always think of you—during, I mean."
"That's because I'm the best," she retorted, her eyes closed as his hand ghosted from one side of her chest to the other and she began rolling her hips over his. It was always fun to tease. With a small groan, Jet let his hand slip under her bra, and suddenly teasing wasn't fun anymore. Throwing her head back at the feel, Jet used it as an opportunity to attach his lips to her throat. Toph couldn't help but anchor him there with her hands, not allowing him to moved away as he continued to assault her senses—it had been too long since she visited Jet, and not long enough, it seemed. Neither noticed the intruder until they spoke up.
Toph's eyes, which had been shut despite the uselessness of them, shot open and she inhaled sharply. Letting her head slump a little, she noted that Jet hadn't let go of her throat (actually, his lips had worked their way down to her collarbone), and she turned her head in the direction of the voice.
"What, Sokka?" she hissed, caught between pleasure and absolute mortification. She really didn't want Sokka to see who she was hanging out with (no one had ever thought Jet was a good influence—he had developed a rather... interesting reputation), but at least she could trust him to keep kissing her for as long as she let him.
The small sucking noises he made—plkchsska-sklpah—was drowned out by Sokka's heavy breathing, although she had no way of knowing if it was shock or anger. Probably both. Toph was waiting for Sokka to say something so she could push Jet away, and a louder inhale signified that Sokka had caught sight of the other boy's hand moving underneath Toph's shirt. She couldn't bring herself to get him to remove it, though; Toph needed that closeness, the one that no one else could—or had ever tried—to give her. The one that, for the first time, she wanted of a specific person... who was currently ogling at what they had just seen.
"I'll just leave you with your boyfriend, then." Sokka's voice broke through, bitter and low. Toph heard the krnch-krch of gravel underfoot as he walked away, and couldn't help out the small sigh, momentarily caught in her throat. She grabbed Jet's cheeks and slowly pulled him away, shivering a little as the breeze brushed her wet throat. He began kissing up her face, and it took even longer to remove him from there. Brought back to the present, she could feel the bulge in his pants digging into her, although any pleasure she would have gained from it (physical or psychological) was completely gone.
"It's been too long," Jet finally murmured against her cheek, allowing her to slide off his lap and onto the ground. She heard him whip out another cigarette, and was only partially surprised when he handed it to her. "I've almost forgotten how... receptive... you can be." He grinned, and finally the last dregs of any positive emotion left Toph. She heaved herself up from the gravel when she felt Jet slide something into her hand. It was a small carton of cigarettes, and she looked at him curiously. He shrugged, taking the cigarette in her hand and having a puff.
"I'm having a party tomorrow, up near Gaoxing Lane—you know, that old joint with the stairs." He stood up and brushed off his pants. "If you need another escape, this'll be perfect."
"Yeah, sure," she said quietly, turning the box over in her hands. "I'll see you tomorrow, maybe." She felt Jet smile, and he gave her a light smack on the backside.
"See ya, Toph," he said, watching her turn around and make her way back in the direction she came from.
The walk back to Katara and Sokka's seemed longer than the one to the park, and she would probably have missed it if she didn't almost trip on the crack outside their pavement again. Toph wavered there on the sidewalk, not knowing whether to keep walking, stroll in with her usual swagger, or try the 'humble' thing people were always talking about. Unable to come to a decision, she just plopped herself down on the path, head in her hands. The guilt she couldn't feel earlier suddenly appeared like an extremely unwanted guest, and she groaned quietly. Of course she had to screw everything up. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
She could hear movement coming from the house. There was a slamming door before silence fell over the street. Toph remained in her seat on the path, the cool concrete chilling her. She had heaved her knees up under her chin, capturing her arms between her body and limbs. With her hands fisted against the flesh of her chest, it didn't take her long at all to realise that the excursion hadn't succeeded in making her feel better. It had just made her feel... sad. Wrong. Dirty. Stupid.
Sighing, she pulled her hands up, holding the small digits in front of her sightless eyes. She could only imagine what they looked like, although that train of thought wasn't one she wanted to travel that night, instead opting to put her head on her knees. She still hadn't made a decision as to what she should do, and she was in no mood to actually try and do anything. She just wanted to go home. Wherever that was. She didn't really care anymore, either.
Toph lost track of time as she sat outside, trying not to think about anything except the stillness of the air and silence of the street. Her musing (or lack thereof) was broken by the slight screeeee of the front door. There was no other sound for a few seconds before the sound of soft footfalls over grass reached her ears. Toph didn't move to acknowledge the person, and it was only when they began to talk that she relaxed.
"Toph?" Aang's voice carried to her, and she let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding. "Toph, it's time to come inside..."
Perhaps one of the main reasons Toph had become friends with Aang was that he never pried, and he gave her an outlet for her anger. He was a distraction for her own problems. But that was years ago. They weren't children anymore, and she didn't have childish problems. Neither did he, but at least he was a functioning human being.
"Look, Aang. I just wanna be left alone right now," she said, keeping her voice level. If Toph was good at anything, it was acting. He fidgeted on the lawn, chewing on his bottom lip. She could tell he was.
"Well, everyone's gone to bed, and you can't stay out here all night."
Toph didn't really know what to make of him at that moment. He was actually... telling her to go inside. He never told her what to do, probably because she usually punched him if he did. Tonight she just didn't have the energy to bother.
"Fine," she said sharply, pushing herself up from the floor and walking towards the house. She could hear Aang following behind her, a light ghmghmghm on the lawn.
Stepping through the door, Toph found herself face to face with Katara. The older girl pushed a bundle of clothes towards her. "These are some old pyjamas you can wear," she said stiffly. "They should fit."
Toph opened her mouth to respond, but found she didn't actually know what to say. She was perfectly content to sleep in her own clothes, and Katara's kindness was only serving to make her feel guiltier—and anger at said guilt—for her earlier actions and words.
"Toph, don't you have anything to say to Katara?" Aang asked pointedly. Toph turned to him and scowled, muttering under her breath,
"Thanks for the pyjamas, Katara."
"You're welcome..." There was silence for a few moments, and Toph had the distinct impression that both Katara and Aang were waiting for something else from her. When nothing was forthcoming, though, Katara kissed Aang on the cheek and said her goodnights.
"Aang is sleeping on the lounge. There's a spare bedroom that you can crash in. It's the third on the left," she said before making her way to her own room. As soon as she left, so too did Aang, although he didn't even bother to say good night.
Toph knew Aang was angry with her. It was in his tone, the way he moved. He was tense and slow. Sad. Probably annoyed with her, although she expected that; not that she could do anything about it now. Sokka had probably told them all exactly what he saw; exactly what he saw and with whom. If she had known he would come after her, would she have done it? Perhaps. It was no secret who Jet was to the other kids her age. He was the stoner—the gang leader. He would never amount to anything in life. Neither would she, but people didn't see that. They always played her off as the victim to Jet's antics and attitude; she liked to think of it the other way around.
Following the instructions Katara gave her, she walked silently down the hall. One hand was on the wall to count the number of doors, though it took her a few moments to find the doorknob. Opening it silently, she let herself get acquainted with the layout of the room before she stopped next to the bed, putting down her cane.
The pyjamas Katara leant her were incredibly soft; well worn, but not so much that the fabric became scratchy. They smelt heavily of fabric softener, but Toph could definitely detect traces of the older girl still lingering in the fibres. Sliding her pants off, which were a little tight now, she stepped into the pyjama pants. Katara had been accurate in her guess, because they actually fit fairly well. Taking off her shirt, Toph unhooked her bra and managed to put her arms in the sleeves of the borrowed shirt before she realised she wasn't alone.
For the third time that night, someone snuck up on her. She couldn't even bring herself to care that she was indeed half-naked as they tried to sneak away.
The older boy sucked in a breath, and though Toph couldn't see it, he had his eyes shut tight behind his hands. It was too late, and to anyone else, the fact that they had kept their back to the door would have been a relief. Toph wasn't just anyone, and all things considered, she would have preferred he ogle her chest instead. There was nothing like a guy struck dumb by breasts to give a girl a self-esteem boost—at least, not according to her.
Toph had never stopped to dwell on nudity and nakedness. The only way she would be able to tell was if she touched a person, and most of that awkwardness was usually able to be avoided by the whole 'blind' thing. It was everyone else that had a problem.
"My eyes are covered!" Sokka's cry was muffled by his hands, and he twisted around to give her even more privacy. "I'm sorry!"
He had walked into the room just in time to witness his friend's bra (plain grey cotton, about a B cup if he were to guess) hit the ground. Sokka's male brain told his eyes to look towards her previously covered flesh, and it took a few seconds to realise what he was doing and that he had to stop. Toph hadn't turned the bedroom light on, but there was enough filtering in from the hallway for his eyes to roam over the flesh of her back. He didn't have time to squint at the strange picture he saw there before his hands were covering his eyes.
"What?" Toph tilted her head so her left ear was facing Sokka. Picking up her shirt, she put her arms through the sleeves as he stammered through an explanation.
"N-nothing." He gulped audibly. "I'll just, uh, be outside, un-until you've finished getting, erm, changed."
Toph had never felt insecure about her body, and she would deny it until her last breath that Sokka made her feel such a thing, but she knew she would also be lying to herself. How much had he seen? Oh gods, that cigarette from Jet hadn't been enough, and the knowledge that she had a packet but she couldn't use made it even harder. Slinging Katara's pyjama shirt over the top of her own, she flexed her fingers, wondering if he had noticed anything else. Toph quickly changed into the pants Katara had leant her and felt around the room for the bed, clambering onto it and sitting cross-legged near the pillow.
"I'm done," she called blandly to the hallway. It took a few seconds, but Sokka eventually walked into the room; she was playing with a loose thread by this stage. She heard Sokka shut the door behind him, although she was surprised that she didn't hear the familiar click of the light switch, and he began feeling his way towards her.
"What are you doing?" she asked, tugging aggressively on the thread.
"Uhhh... nothing..." he said, halting his blind search to stand a few inches away from the bed. "So..." Unlike Sokka, Toph felt no need to fill the silence with empty conversation, and so she just remained silent. "I, um, I kinda.... saw you..."
Toph resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I know," she said quietly, dropping her sleeve and looking at her lap.
Sokka bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, unsure of what to say or do next. He couldn't see Toph, and while this had been the purpose of closing the door—equal footing and all that—he still wished he could see her expression. Biting his lip, he moved to sit on the other end of the bed.
"What happened?" he asked, voice completely lacking the anger she assumed would be present. He actually sounded kind of... sad. "With Katara..." He trailed off, knowing full well that it wasn't really Katara he was worried about. She could take care of herself. Toph huffed, blowing a strand of hair from her face, before she looked away from him.
"Nothing happened between me and Sugar Queen," she muttered, scowling.
"Toph..." The way he said her name had her heart clenching. He sounded so disappointed. Huffing again, she tried to ignore the sensation. He was probably just annoyed that she had yelled at Katara and he caught her smoking and making out with some random. It wasn't his problem! What she did and with whom was nothing to do with him!
So why wouldn't the shame and confusion leave her? And what right did he have to make her feel that way?
"Who was that?"
Sokka's voice broke through her inner battle, and Toph took a deep breath, finally turning her sightless gaze on him.
"No one. That was no one."
He didn't want to accept that—it was more than obvious that whoever it was meant more than 'nothing'—but there was also a reason why Toph didn't want to tell him. He waited in silence for several moments as she bit her lip. He wondered why she didn't just send him away, and, struck with a sudden thought, leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her.
She stiffened significantly, freezing in place and expecting him to release her straight away. Instead, Sokka only held on tighter, closing his eyes. She had let that other guy put his lips on her—fondle her—but she couldn't stand a hug from him? He didn't want her to go running off again. He wanted her to share and talk to him. He wanted to be there for her because she needed him, even if she didn't want him.
Mumbling into her ear, he asked the most innocent question he could think of; "What's wrong?"
Toph wanted to lift her arms and wrap them around Sokka's torso—hold him just as tight as he was holding her—but something stopped her. Exhaling, she pulled her arms up between them and pushed him away. He was reluctant to let her go, but didn't say anything. Toph paused for a moment, taking a breath. She could have laughed at his question—what wasn't wrong with her?—but chose to hold her tongue. She wanted to let him in a little. It shouldn't be so hard to open up, should it?
Inhaling quietly, she looked in his direction. "Did you see... I mean, on my back..." she trailed off, but Sokka knew what she was talking about. He nodded, a motion she felt through the bed.
"I didn't want to ask," he admitted quietly. "Is it like a tattoo or something?"
Toph shook her head and, before her courage failed her, she turned around. Grabbing the hem of her shirt at her hips, she pulled it up over her head, baring her back while still keeping her chest covered. "It's not a tattoo." Any fears or trepidation she held were resolutely ignored as Sokka's hand tentatively reached out. It was only his gasp that alerted him to the fact that his fingers reached the skin; she couldn't feel it at all.
"Oh my God, Toph..." he whispered. Unable to get through this part without light, he leaned past her, and she heard the click that wasn't there earlier; the one that brought light into everyone's world but hers. "What the-?"
He almost couldn't return his gaze to her skin when he knew he would have to see it. Knowing he owed her that much (he wondered whether she had ever shown anyone else. Had she shown that other boy?), Sokka leaned back and brought both hands up to her shoulders. Toph sat there in complete silence, waiting for him to finish. He couldn't even begin to fathom what was running through her head, but as he finally dragged his eyes up to see her own half-shut, he realised that it didn't matter.
Her back was covered in thick burn scars, heavy with discolouration and inconsistent healing. The leathery feeling that had first told him something was amiss was even worse when he could see it. Beneath the burns, he could see faint white lines criss-crossing, and he suddenly realised that she had two different kinds of injuries. He didn't want to pity her, but even so, the thought of something like this happening caused sad tears to build in his eyes. Who would have done such a thing? The cuts weren't perfect; they didn't seem to come from any kind of blade. Instead of injuring her, someone had let her be hurt? The burns must have been made to cauterise the area, although Sokka had never seen it done; in truth, he thought medical advances negated the need for such primitive techniques.
"What happened?" he breathed, hands still tracing along her back. She didn't turn her head, or even acknowledge his question, and Sokka wondered whether he had stepped over a line that only she could see. She had shown this to him—wasn't it enough? "Sorry. You don't- you don't have to answer that..."
Toph raised her head a little, before letting out a humourless laugh. "A dog. How stupid is that? It was a dog."
She paused, seeming to be debating whether or not to continue. Sokka didn't interrupt her or try to prompt her to keep going, instead just letting his fingers dance along her back.
"That one little thing led to me being here..." His eyes flashed up at her words, but this time Toph truly didn't seem inclined to say anymore. Not that he could blame her.
"I'm sorry, Toph," he murmured, and Toph shrugged against his hand.
"It doesn't matter. It's in the past. I barely remember it."
Sokka could see her retreating again, withdrawing back into her shell; though he didn't want her to, he let her. He removed his hands and lowered her shirt, although he couldn't stop looking at her with new eyes. Not that he thought she was weak—Sokka saw Toph as one of the strongest girls he had ever met. She needed to know that.
"Toph... I think... it's still amazing..." he murmured, and Toph turned her head slightly, a sneer on her face.
"What's amazing?" she asked, glaring blindly at the opposite corner of the room.
"Well... you, Toph. You're so strong and independent. And you've overcome all this... shit, I guess. I don't think I could do what you've done. I couldn't go through what you've been through..." he trailed off, rubbing the back of his head with a small smile. He watched as her eyes widened and her mouth opened slightly in surprise.
Perhaps that was all Toph needed to hear. That sometimes it was hard and tough and shit and that she was allowed to feel like giving up. That someone else could at least empathise with her and that there were people willing to listen should she ever want to talk.
As though only just realising the vulnerable position she had put herself in, Toph gasped and turned her head away and began fiddling again with her sleeve. She wasn't entirely sure what to say, or even whether she should say anything at all. Luckily, Sokka noticed her discomfit, and before she had a chance to do anything (not that she knew what to do in the first place) he pulled her in for another hug, letting her back press against his chest.
"You know I'm always here for you, right?" he murmured into her ear, unaware how his words sent her heart racing. Toph wanted to tell him that she didn't need his or anyone else's help but the words got caught in her throat and died there.
She allowed herself to be held in his arms, making no move to pull away or return the gesture. She could lie and say she was too tired to bother, but strangely, Toph found that she didn't want to lie to herself. She found Sokka's presence... comforting. So what? She took comfort in loads of things. Lifting her hands, she pressed them against Sokka's, closing her eyes and letting the tension flow from her muscles. How long had it been since she had felt such an innocent gesture? How long had it been since she let anyone get so close to her?
Eventually, though, he pulled away, and this time she was the reluctant one. Sokka moved back a little to give her room to turn around, and both of them found themselves unable to really look towards the other. Toph had her face hidden behind her thick hair, and Sokka had no idea what to say. Clearing his throat loudly, he stood up from the bed.
"I 'spose- well, we have a big day... I'm sure you're tired," he stuttered, biting his lip. He saw her eyes widen momentarily before it was gone and she was nodding. With a small smile, he left the room, bidding her well with a soft, "Good night, Toph," as he shut the door.
"N-night, Sokka," she managed to call, a few seconds too late. She only relaxed when she heard his bedroom door open and shut, and with a sigh she shuffled down the bed so she could fall back onto the pillow. Flicking the light off, Toph just wanted the day to be over already, but sleep refused to come. Her mind was too full of other things; other thoughts and sensations that she wanted to forget and yet hold onto forever. With one touch of Sokka's hand on hers, she felt greater than hundreds of touches by someone else—by Jet. She felt more loved in those moments too, because she knew that he didn't want anything more than her hand in his. Perhaps she was the one who wanted more from him; perhaps she wanted too much. She wanted something he couldn't—wouldn't?—give. There was one bright spark of hope, though, and while she's never been much of a believer, Toph held onto Kyoshi's words with all her might.
"If a guy is going to the trouble of helping a blind girl watch movies, I'm pretty positive that means he likes her."
Toph held her hands up to her face, letting them slide over the smooth flesh before they wrapped around her sides. He wasn't disgusted. He didn't hate her or interrupt. He didn't pity her or console her. Maybe Kyoshi was right; he just didn't know it yet.
Sokka paused outside Toph's door until he heard her repeat the 'good night' back to him. He returned to his room with a small smile, though as soon as he sat on his bed, it dropped.
He had walked into her room angry. He had been absolutely fuming because she had shouted at Katara and just walked off. Honestly, his sister had been fairly emotional when she appeared in the kitchen, watching Toph's retreating figure. Toph had been mean and hurtful and a complete bitch, and when he went after her to ask if she wanted to talk or sit—just like they used to do—he had found her sitting on some delinquents lap, his hand up her shirt and her grinding shamelessly into his lap.
Sokka knew that, by the time he returned home, it wasn't with the same anger as when he left.
He wanted to know everything. Was he her boyfriend? How long had they known each other? And... was she sleeping with him? Putting his head in his hands, Sokka let out a quiet groan. It shouldn't matter! Toph was allowed to do whatever she wanted, and he had no right to tell her otherwise. If she wanted to see a hood-rat who didn't give a fuck about anything, that was her choice. Sokka couldn't quell the bitter thought that it was that reason why Toph was probably spending time with the other boy. She was a lot like that too. As much as it pained Sokka to admit, Toph didn't seem to care about anyone (including him), or anything (including herself). But it wasn't always like that. Tonight, with him, she cared. She opened up a little and she listened to him and his thoughts. Sokka wondered why she couldn't always be like that. Why did she have to be confusing and secretive and distant?
Mulling it over in the darkness, and privacy, of his room, Sokka tried to imagine her being more open, but found that he couldn't. Toph was... Toph was complex and quiet and intimidating and... she was Toph. He couldn't really ask for anything more, and in all honestly, while he felt privileged that she had chosen to share something personal with him, he had no idea what to do with that information (what happened and why she wanted to share with him of all people). Groaning, he pressed his palms deep into his eyes before wrenching himself up from the bed. He needed to talk to Aang; he would know what to do.
He walked quietly down the hall, all but sneaking past the guest room Toph was in as he made his way into the lounge room. Sokka dumped himself unceremoniously on the floor as soon as he was in the middle of the living room, effectively announcing his presence with the heavy mmmmpdth that echoed dully through the room. From the small beam of light floating in from the hallway, he could see Aang roll over on the couch and turn to him, his large, round eyes questioning.
"Sokka? How'd the talk go?" he asked, sitting up. Sokka shrugged half-heartedly, staring up at the ceiling.
"I don't know how to read her," he mumbled. Aang said nothing, waiting patiently for his friend to continue. "She's so... oppositional..." Sokka continued in an small voice. He heard Aang shuffle around a little, but ignored it. "I never know whether I'm going to pry too deep or ask her something too personal. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells, and it's not fair! I just want to be her friend but she doesn't seem to want to let me..."
"Sokka, you're worrying too much." Sokka opened one eye to look at Aang, who rubbed his bald head. "I mean... she's a girl, so she's naturally going to be more sensitive to some things, but if it's something personal that she doesn't want to tell you, she just won't tell you. She won't hate you or anything for asking. Actually..." he trailed off here in thought, "she might like it if you actually ask when you have questions. I think she's more likely to get upset if you tiptoe around her like she's something fragile."
Sokka stared at Aang for a moment longer. "Ugh, I know she's not fragile. She's about the strongest person I've ever met and she's still going. But I want to be there for her if she needs help. Why can't she just... let people who want to help her, help her?"
Aang let his eyes linger on Sokka. "Because that's not who she is."
Sokka flung his arm over his eyes in an attempt to blot out the world. Maybe he could be the one to break through those tough defences that she put up; break through the fortress her heart was holed up in and lead it out into the sun so that it could be free.
"Hey, Aang..." he began, still covering his face. "Has Toph ever told you- I mean... what's with her back? She showed me—she let me touch it—but she didn't... really... say anything..."
"Really?" Aang asked, furrowing his brows in thought. Just by the tone he used Sokka felt compelled to turn his gaze to the younger boy.
"Oh, nothing..." Aang spoke a little too fast for Sokka to believe him, and the terribly guilty 'poker face' he had on didn't convince the older boy at all. "Well... what did she say about it?"
Sokka bit his lip, a little wary of repeating information she had told him in confidence. "You know what happened?" Aang nodded and, confident the bald boy wasn't lying, continued. "She said a dog did it. That- but there's more to it than that, isn't there?" he asked, seeking some sort of confirmation in Aang's eyes. "That can't be all of it...?"
Aang nodded slowly. "Yeah, but I don't know what it is," he was quick to add. "I only found out by accident. She's never actually told anyone, from what I know."
Unbidden, a small smile appeared on Sokka's face. She was beginning to trust him. Honestly, he didn't really care whether she told him anything or not, only that she trusted him enough to tell him if she wanted to share. That was enough for him. The smile dropped at Aang's next words.
"She trusts you, so don't screw that up."
The Sokka's blue eyes glared at Aang's grey ones with such venom that the younger boy would have taken a few steps back if he could. "You really think I'm going to betray her trust like that?" he demanded. "You think I would try this hard to get to know her that I would just give that up?"
"No, I just..." Aang trailed off. "You were so angry when you came home after seeing her at the park. What if she told you something you didn't want to know. What would you do?"
"Look, it doesn't matter if she was with a guy!" Sokka cried, making sure his voice was still low enough not to carry through the house. "This isn't the issue. You don't trust me not to break her trust. Real nice, Aang. I bet that other guy has done loads to hurt her. He's at a park at fucking ten o'clock with a gang."
Aang's eyes widened, and his mouth hung open as he stared at Sokka. "This isn't really about her, is it?" he asked. "This is about that guy she was with at the park. You don't like him, and you don't like what happened tonight."
Sokka actually pushed himself up at these words, a scowl on his face. He had been unable (or unwilling) to try and forget what he had seen. He wanted someone to share in his anger and upset, and so had spilled everything to Aang and Katara as soon as he had walked in the door. Katara looked shocked at the news, her slight frown bordering on sad, whereas Aang just looked disappointed.
"Of course I don't like him!" he hissed. "And I wish Toph wouldn't get so- so cozy with people like him!"
"Sokka, you don't even know who he is! I've known Toph for eleven years," Aang prefaced, "and she's always been like that. She's always being either using people or fighting them. That guy is her—well, I guess the closest term would be 'ex-boyfriend', but even then..." he trailed off momentarily. "She's like a... she's like a little kid. She'll hold onto people she knows and believe won't hurt her, even if they do..."
"Who is he then? It's not like it's going to change anything because it doesn't matter!" Even as he made the wild claim, Sokka knew that Aang wouldn't believe him. He didn't actually care, though, as the thought of learning who was being so grabby with Toph consumed him.
Aang groaned and leaned back into the sofa. "You already know him. Well, Katara knows him. I think you punched him once because he shot her a smile."
With a frown, Sokka looked at Aang. It took a few moments before he connected all the information. "Holy shit," he whispered. "She's seeing Jet?"
Aang shrugged. "I don't know, really. I know she smokes and she gets her cigarettes from him in exchange for kisses and stuff."
"She doesn't... she doesn't sleep with him for this, does she?" Sokka was looking at Aang with such a pathetic look of absolute need. Sokka needed Aang to say no, but he couldn't. Just because he had known Toph longer didn't mean that he knew what she did—or had done—with other people.
Pausing for a moment, Aang asked his own question; "Do you think she does?"
Sokka slumped a little, thinking it over. "... No. Toph's worth far more than just cigarettes and I think she knows that. She has to know that. And she definitely wouldn't just sleep with Jet." He looked up at Aang with a smile, before it suddenly dropped. "Oh... no... wait. She- it's his fault! He uses her—no wonder she doesn't trust anyone!"
"What? No!" Aang cried, trying to placate the older boy. "Didn't you just hear me? I said she's always been like that. I'm saying that... well, to put it simply, she just... doesn't trust people. Period. For her to let you in is, well, it's pretty big. I didn't think she'd... look, she would never say it, but I know she likes hanging out with you. She's never once let me do something for her that she couldn't because of her blindness. She lets you explain something to her that she has no hope of ever seeing herself." Aang sighed, pressing the palms of his hands into his eyes. "You won't be able to 'change' her into someone 'better'. You won't be able to change her at all. All you can do is be there for her, if she wants it."
"I will be there," he vowed, staring determinedly at Aang. "I will. We're going to the movies tomorrow. She's... she's my best friend. I told you I was good with girls! See?"
Aang rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Personally, I'd rather just be good with a girl. Oh, look, I am." He grinned as Sokka clapped his hands over his ears.
"No, stop it," he groaned, shaking his head. Aang shrugged as the older boy pulled his hands away.
"Hey, if I have to listen about you and-"
"Doesn't count!" Sokka interrupted him. "Katara is my sister, and therefore you can't say stuff like that around me." He stood up and turned to Aang with a dramatic shudder. "Just... no."
Aang gave him a light smile. "Fine, fine. 'Night, Sokka."
"'Night, Aang," came the reply, and the room was entombed in darkness as Sokka turned off the light on his way past the switch. With a yawn, Sokka slowed outside the guest room, halting momentarily before shaking his head with a small frown and moving on.
Oh, Toph. Why can't you just let me in?
Fuck, fuck, fucking shit, godammit. This was a stupid idea. A blind girl at the movies? What the fuck was I even thinking? Toph wasn't exactly mumbling to herself; she didn't want to seem scared—pft, perish the thought—so instead she was just yelling the expletives really loudly in her head. She was standing at a pillar while Sokka joined the queue for tickets and food. Assaulted by the smells of 'cinema popcorn', as her... date... called it (Toph really felt equal parts mortified at the term, and absolutely giddy), and far too many people for her to be completely comfortable, Toph had actually forgotten what they were going to see; the difference was that she didn't even care enough to try and remember, because it wasn't important anymore. What was important was that she was spending time with Sokka. As much as she hated being one of those girls, Toph couldn't ignore or deny the little bubble of warmth that burst in her stomach every time she thought about him—thought about him liking her.
They had both awoken around the same time, resulting in mad scrambles for the bathroom, breakfast and getting everything they would need. Both had slept in (a result of the ridiculously late night, Toph supposed) and so only had around an hour before Kyoshi came to collect the two and take them to the movies. An hour that really seemed like only ten minutes, because, despite how nauseating the whole situation was, Toph was... excited. As in, literally, 'cute boy I like asked me on a date' excited. It made her feel sick to her stomach—kind of like she had several gigantic butterflies in there (or wasps), but mostly it just felt like she was going to throw up at any minute.
Over the hubbub of the crowd, she heard Sokka return. "All right, I've got your ticket, popcorn, a pepsi, and the glasses. You ready?
"Glasses?" she asked, confused. Sokka hesitated before shrugging.
"The only showing was in 3D, so we get glasses." Toph digested the information as best she could (having no frame of reference for what a 3D film looked liked versus a 'normal' one), before she shrugged.
"Hey, I get a souvenir," she said, smiling as Sokka chuckled. Even without meaning to, he was able to make her feel all warm and safe, and instinctively, she leaned a little closer.
Instead of asking Toph if she wanted a hand navigating through the thickening crowd, Sokka just went ahead and slung his arm over her shoulders, surreptitiously leading the way. She was shorter—and his arms longer—than ether had expected, and Toph did an extremely poor job of covering the shiver as his thumb accidentally grazed her breast.
"Hey, no getting cold," he warned lightly. "It'll make you need to pee, and then you'll miss half the movie." She could tell he was smiling, and resisted the urge to point out that, being blind, she missed half of it anyway. No need for such gloomy thoughts on such a good day, even after her terrible night's sleep.
Despite her own affirmations as Sokka left the spare room, she hadn't been completely successful in chasing away the absolute mortification of what she had done—and what she had told him. Which then of course led to other thoughts she had spent over a decade trying (unsuccessfully) to bury and keep buried. Suffice to say, she had not had a peaceful night's sleep, and the time spent trying to get into the blissful state had been spent either fretting over the movie date, or cooking up wild, impossible scenarios that might actually mean something good for her. She wasn't loony enough to take it serious, but she, like all other teenage girls, liked to dream.
Toph hadn't even noticed they had arrived at the theatre (number three, Sokka had announced quite unnecessarily) until her cane hit the padded steps.
"Oh, it's almost empty, too!" he told her happily, which of course Toph translated as 'more privacy'. Her heart did a double-take, and she almost tripped, only just managing to catch herself in time. Sokka either hadn't seen it, or didn't want to draw attention to it; either way, she was happy.
They settled into the seats, sitting in the back corner. "So we don't annoy other people who are trying to watch the movie," he explained, setting up their food and drinks.
The whole theatre had a strangely muffled quality about it, but Toph didn't care. She didn't have to hear the other patrons, or even the film; all she wanted was to be the centre of Sokka's attention, like he was hers. She was both anxious for the movie to start, and yet dreading it because it meant that it would end. She rolled her eyes at her behaviour, squirming a little in her seat. She managed to cover it by putting her feet on the chair, and heard Sokka snort next to her before he raised the arm rest that was separating their two chairs. The wry smirk that had formed on Toph's face softened, and she bit her lip in a desperate attempt to make it go away.
It was strange, this; strange how natural it felt. Not that she had a massive frame of reference for liking someone, but it wasn't just that. Even with Aang, there had been some strain with their two clashing personalities. Both Aang and Sokka were there for her, she supposed, but it was different with Sokka. Perhaps because he wanted to be, truly—there was no outside influence forcing them together. He wanted to be with her.
The though sent off some deliciously warm fireworks in her stomach that exploded on her chest.
There was a sudden noise from in front of her, shaking her from her thoughts as she jumped. Sokka let out a snigger, but it wasn't at her. Well, she knew it was at her, but it wasn't mean. He was just amused by her reaction.
"Gimme the glasses," she demanded, scowling. He handed them to her meekly, although she heard his zshhhh of relief when her mouth curled up a little in a smile. The plastic felt funny on her face, and she turned to look at Sokka.
"Can you see my eyes?" she asked, preferring to make it sound like it was a normal question, and not one she had never asked before. He was silent a moment, before answering back in a hushed negative. Toph gave a nod, but they fell silent as the previews flashed by.
The armrest separating the two chairs was pushed up, and Sokka was telling her what was happening. The movie was loud—louder than Toph had expected—and while Sokka was talking directly into her ear, she still couldn't hear him. If she had thought watching films in their living room was intimate, this was almost unbearable. The blood was pouring through her ears, and she was grateful she had put the glasses on because she most certainly didn't want Sokka to see that she had closed her ears to the sound of his voice and the feel of his breath on her neck.
If she had been with anyone else, she would have been bored shitless within the first ten minutes. Not with him. The blood in her ears realised it could also be put to use colouring her cheeks, and she released a shaky breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. It was covered by a loud explosion, and she wondered how long she had left before she had to face reality once again.
It was that though, surprisingly, that had her come to a decision. She would let him know. He already liked spending time with her, and it was obvious he liked her from the way he acted. Acted like she actually mattered to him. A small smile appeared on her face, although too soon it disappeared as the ending credits rolled in. Sokka stretched, his joints creaking and popping uncomfortably to her ears. It was only when he moved away that she realised how cool it was, and how much she needed to go to the bathroom.
"I have to pee," she announced. Sokka could only look at her a moment, her brashness causing an almost rueful smile to appear on his face.
"So do I," he agreed. They made their slow way out into the foyer, Sokka once again leading Toph without making her feel like he was doing it.
"The girl's is right in front of you. It's really busy," he said, "so I'll wait until you're done so we don't lose each other."
Toph nodded dumbly, pushing her way forward. She hadn't wanted to bring her cane, but was glad she did. There were some glances, she could tell (dropped conversation and an almost forced hush emanating from several other girls gave it away), but her head was somewhere else completely. It stayed at that happy place as she finished and met up again with Sokka, who dragged her somewhere else to 'get her out of the way'. She wouldn't begrudge him, though, because it did sound really busy. And she got cranky when she had to pee, too. He was barely gone two seconds when she heard her name being called. The voice sounded familiar, but it was a girly one, so there were only a few people it could be. The sound came closer, and though it took her a few brain-wracks, she managed to place a name before the girl arrived.
"Oh, sup, Suki?" she greeted, giving the taller girl a two-finger salute. There was a light push on her shoulder, and a smile in Suki's tone.
"Oh, not much. Ty Lee was allowed out of the hospital for the afternoon, but she has to go back later. They want to keep her overnight, but I think everyone—everyone—was getting a little tired of her shameless flirting." Toph gave a long nod in understanding. Of course it would be Ty Lee who hurt herself. Not that she had anything against the lithe girl, but she was a little too ditzy for Toph to get on really well with her. She liked Suki better; the girl had a good head on her shoulders, and a good heart.
"So, are you here with someone...?" Suki asked, and Toph, teenage girl as she was, couldn't help the blush that coloured her pale cheeks a gorgeous rose. "Ooh, is this a date?" the older girl teased lightly, and Toph gave a half-hearted grumble. She couldn't quite suppress the small smile though.
"Maybe," she admitted quietly, and Suki laughed again.
"I'm sure he's lovely."
"Oh, he is," Toph agreed fervently. "He's so nice and he doesn't- doesn't care about some parts of me. Not the bad stuff. You'd love him," she added as an afterthought, before realising exactly what she had said and resisting the urge to pummel herself.
Suki looked at her young friend with an observant eye. Toph's trademark sarcastic air and cynical expression had been replaced with something- well, something more open. The girl's face was still a little red, and her light green eyes were brighter than they ever had been before.
"I'm sure I would. He sounds wonderful," she agreed, and Toph gave a small smile. She didn't notice Sokka coming back, and Suki was too intent on watching Toph to notice anyone enter their circle of two until he spoke up.
"Suki? Fancy seeing you here!" he cried. The exclamation shook both girls from their thoughts. Suki sucked in a breath as Toph looked up towards him, but the blind girl didn't notice.
"You two know each other?" she asked, surprised.
"I should hope so," he said. The cryptic response was explained as he added, "She is my girlfriend."
"G-girlfriend?" Toph repeated, gulping a little as her throat closed up.
Toph could hear the cheesy grin on his face, the smack of lips on lips, but only just. The blood, again, rushed through her ears as her stomach dropped away, and although she couldn't see it, her pinkish cheeks had paled substantially, making the pallid girl look even more ghostly than usual.
"O-oh," she managed to force out from around the lump in her throat. Her arms were leaden, and it sent sharp pangs through her chest. She was saved from having to do or say anything else because at that moment, Ty Lee decided to arrive. She had been in the bathroom too, but crutches on a born acrobat were probably not the easiest—nor safest—things for her to use.
"Hey, Suki, our movie starts in a minute, and I need help getting up the stairs," she complained lightly. "Oh, hey Sokka, Toph!" Toph felt herself pulled into one of the lithe girl's tight hugs, and didn't know whether she wanted to push her away, or sink into it. Ty Lee didn't give her an option, which was probably a good thing, as they broke apart.
"Aww. I'll see you later, babe?" Sokka asked, and the nauseous feeling that had plagued Toph that morning came back in full force. It seemed that the universe wanted to give her some consolation for the bad hand, though, because Sokka's phone suddenly went off. He handed it to her without picking up. "It's Kyoshi," he said. "Do you mind getting it?" It took Toph a moment to remember that they had traded numbers that morning in the car, so Kyoshi could reach them, but when she did so she took the proffered item and nodded, walking away from them a little as she answered. She could try to fool herself into thinking it was because he was still a little scared of her, but the hurt side of her argued that he probably just wanted to make-out with Suki for a while.
"Hey, Toph." Kyoshi's voice ran tinny through the phone, and Toph had never thought it sounded so good.
"Take me home," she said, not even bothering to return the greeting. Kyoshi's silence conveyed her surprise at the tone—and the request—but she gathered herself quickly.
"Am I dropping Sokka home?" she asked, and Toph tried as hard as she could not to flinch.
"Hold on..." She walked slowly back towards the group, suddenly feeling very small. She didn't like it at all. "Sokka, do you need a lift home?" She tried to imbue her voice with as much feeling as she could, but was woefully transparent. Sokka shot her a funny look, but of course she missed it. It had been weeks since Toph's voice was that flat, but then again, it had also been weeks since she felt that low, too.
"Uh, if it wouldn't be too much to ask, that'd be awesome!" he replied, and Toph gave a jerky nod.
"Yeah, if that's cool," she answered into the phone. There was a pause from the other end before Kyoshi spoke again.
"Are you okay?"
Toph didn't really want to talk about it, let alone on the phone in front of him; she answered with a terse, "Yes." Kyoshi didn't speak for what seemed to be the longest time, but when she finally did, it was just to say that she was coming. Toph handed the phone back stiffly.
"I'm going to wait outside. It's too cold in here," she said blandly. Without waiting for a reply, she walked off into the crowd, following the sounds of traffic and the feel of slightly warmer air. She was strong, she didn't need him. She most certainly wasn't going to break her 'no crying' rule over some guy.
But once she got outside, she couldn't stop the utter humiliation from setting up shop where her heart should be. In one moment, where she was finally happy, she had told someone. Told someone that she might actually like someone else, and that they seemed to like her. Yeah, sure, that was bad enough on its own, and something she would have been lamenting about earlier. Not this. Not telling the girlfriend of the guy. Toph's arms itched, and she sat down on a seat near the smoking zone. Even second-hand stuff was better than nothing at this stage. The will to not cry was fading—she couldn't even channel it into anger anymore. What was the point in being angry when everything was shit and it wasn't going to get any better?
Idly, Toph scratched at the long sleeves of her shirt. She had hoped Kyoshi would arrive before Sokka found her, but apparently she wasn't finished her round of bad luck.
"You okay?" he asked, inadvertently repeating Kyoshi's question as he sat down with a small hff.
"Fine." Toph didn't mean for her voice to sound so sharp, but she didn't know what to say about it to take it back. She felt Sokka look at her peculiarly, but he didn't say anything. Toph was grateful; she loved his voice.
No, dammit girly. Stop it, she hissed to herself. She felt Sokka shift slightly, as though he was about to speak, but the sudden blaring of a horn distracted him.
"That's Kyoshi," Toph said, jumping up as she recognised it. She made her way to the car, knowing Sokka was behind her but not caring—or caring too much.
The drive home was tense, to say the least. Sokka could have blamed his as-yet unresolved issues with Toph's foster carer, but he knew he would be lying. He shot her a glance from the corner of his eye, frowning. Toph's face was drawn, her fringe covering her eyes. What he could see of her mouth was a tight frown, and she was fiddling with the hem of her sleeve, blind eyes focused on it. Kyoshi's phone rang, and as she busied herself plugging the bluetooth in, Sokka leaned in a little closer to his short friend.
"Wotcha thinking about?" he asked, more casually than he felt. Toph jerked slightly, surprised, before her face settled back into gloomy nonchalance.
"Nothing." She turned her face towards him, staring straight through. "Why?"
Sokka shrugged. "You just... got really quiet," he finished lamely. Kyoshi was still talking on the phone, so he wasn't afraid of being overhead. Toph didn't make any comment on his observation, though, and as they pulled into his street, all opportunities for conversation ceased. Kyoshi has really good memory, he mused to himself. They pulled into his driveway, and Sokka couldn't help but hesitate a moment. He wanted to talk to Toph, find out what happened to make her angry, but he found himself unable to.
"So, er, that was fun," he said rather lamely. "I'll see you on uh, Friday for another movie?"
Toph gave a noncommittal shrug. "Sure. See you around, Sokka. Or, not..." With a halfhearted wave in his direction, she was off. Toph felt uncomfortable, to say the least, and every minute she spent in his company was another blow. She couldn't say she wasn't expecting it, of course. She knew, right from the beginning, that it would all turn to shit. It could have been worse. She could have told him she had feelings. Good feelings. About him, and her, and in the tiny part of her tiny heart, about how she had entertained the ridiculously improbable idea of a them.
In a burst of anger, she swung her hand out, hitting the inside of the door. Kyoshi didn't say anything, and Toph took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself.
"So, how was it?" The older woman's voice broke through Toph's wall of self-pity, and she crossed her arms.
"It went fine," came the short answer, and Toph had a feeling she was being glared at.
"Oh? Then what's with the attitude?"
The blind girl sighed, either in an effort to cleanse her mind, or stop herself from crying (angry or otherwise, they were still tears).
"Sorry," she mumbled contritely; this time, Kyoshi grumbled.
"Now I know something's wrong," she said. She didn't ask again, and Toph slumped back in her seat. It was futile, she knew. She could feel the heat prickling at her eyes. Okay, fine. Just because they're there doesn't mean they have to fall, she told herself.
"Toph?" Kyoshi's voice prompted her to look up, and Toph came to the unwanted realisation that they had indeed fallen, and she was indeed crying. She just shook her head; they would be home soon and she could get her hands on a cigarette, or maybe some alcohol. Hell, she'd go and snivel to Jet if she had to. There were only a few things that would make her feel better, and crying wasn't one of them. Sitting around moping wasn't either.
As soon as Kyoshi pulled into the driveway and cut the engine, Toph was out of the car. Her cane slid rhythmically along the pavement as she walked away. Kyoshi called out after her, but she was ignored as Toph sought solitude, at least for a moment while she made her way to her destination. There was only one other person she could tolerate to be around at that moment, and that was because he usually had some alcohol, nicotine, or some other contraband with which she could use to make herself feel better. Despite her head telling her that with Jet was where she needed to be to feel better, she couldn't ignore the quiet voice in her heart asking that, when it was all over, would it truly be worth it?
She didn't have an answer.
"Hey, you made it!" Jet's exuberant greeting at the front door made Toph feel a little better, and she smirked up at him. He had expected her to be there, and hoped she would. It was... nice, if she said so herself.
"Wouldn't miss it," she grinned, absolutely lying through her teeth as he opened the door a little wider, inviting her through. Usually it made her feel kinda bad, lying, but that was usually when she was able to feel worse. Until about an hour prior, Toph had absolutely no intention of coming to Jet's party, but the idea had cemented itself in her mind as she wandered through the neighbourhood.
Even after walking through random streets for a few hours, it hadn't been as difficult as she thought to find the house Jet had directed her to only the night before. It was one of his old foster homes that hadn't been too cruel to him. Jet made sure nobody broke anything, at the very least, and she knew he usually left a note for them to wash the sheets.
Toph was roused from her thoughts as she heard Jet flick a lighter on, and she held two fingers out expectantly. He completely ignored her outstretched hand, instead popping the lit stick directly between her lips. The anger that had burned in Toph earlier seemed to float away each time she exhaled the noxious smoke, and she didn't hand the cigarette back. Jet walked around behind her and let his hand glide slide through the collar of her shirt.
"Believe me, you're going to be owing me by the end of the night," she told him with a grin that wasn't entirely real, and Jet reluctantly removed his hand. He didn't see Toph bit her lip, unsure for the first time since meeting him if that was what she actually wanted. The question from earlier came back to her. Would she regret this? Was it worth it?
Toph took a final breath of the cigarette before passing it back. "Any newbies?" she asked. Jet had slung his arms over her shoulders—spirits she hated being short sometimes—and she felt his hot breath wash over the crown of her head. He spun her around, hands gliding down her sides to rest on her lower back, pulling her close.
"Nah. No one'll try anything with you. They know who you are," he said, and she gave a strong nod, lifting her arms to wrap around his neck.
With a grin, he leant down, grinding their hips together as he placed a rough, heavy kiss on her lips. "I'll be waiting in the living room," he murmured into her mouth, before pulling away. "Don't take too long."
With that, he left her. There were heavy movements of other people, and through the house she could hear Bee's laughter echoing.
Despite the state of their non-relationship, Toph had always held some respect for Jet. Losing his parents as a boy to one of the more violent street gangs, and being thrown into a system that completely ignored him (and his cries for justice), he had developed a hatred for any type of authority. He was the authority, and his band of dispossessed teenagers knew it. Anything he said went, and if he told them that she was off-limits, no one would even touch her, unless she gave permission. She wouldn't, of course. She owed him, not them, and if she ever wanted anything, he was the one to go to.
It wasn't that he was protecting her—he wasn't, because she didn't need or want it—but rather, he just made it clear that no one else was allowed to have her. He had never done anything to hurt her, so why wouldn't she listen to him?
Making her way through the house, she followed the sounds of people talking and glasses clinking. Someone handed her a shot and she took it without a thought, appreciating the burn as she indicated another. No one said anything to her as the shoved another into her hand. Throwing this one to the back of her throat, she brushed off another glass and instead began feeling her way around the room. The effects of the alcohol was already beginning to mess with her head a little, making her feel a little lighter than she should be, and it didn't take too much scrabbling to find the beer. She grabbed two bottles and accepted another shot before making her way towards Jet's voice. The 'circle' he mentioned was really just a group of people all splayed out in various positions in the living room. Jet was sitting on the couch, and as soon as he noticed Toph, he jumped up and pulled her close. The stumbled back to the couch and she landed roughly on his lap.
"Mmm, Tophie," he moaned hair, handing her a joint. She took a drag, exhaling deeply and passing over the second bottle of beer. This was what she needed. Beer in one hand, weed in another, and sitting on a boy who would do pretty much whatever she wanted. She alternated between smoking and drinking, slowly losing herself in the feeling inside her, of Jet's warm body pressed against her, the music thumping through her bones (when did they turn that on?).
She could feel her muscles relaxing pleasantly, the goopy feeling something almost forgotten. How long had it been? Three weeks? Four? She hadn't even noticed, being with Sokka. He had been just as good, she had thought, as the drugs. She couldn't- couldn't remember, because suddenly she was giggling and the music was lighting her throat on fire. Her legs grew heavy and suddenly it was too hot, too still, too loud, even as she felt movement around her, other people coming together.
Toph felt light and foggy, but not happy. She was so used to the euphoric feeling that came with sharing a joint with Jet that without it, she was left startlingly empty. Twisting around on his lap, foot nudging the bare skin of someone on the floor, she faced him with half-lidded eyes.
Jet leaned forward, mouth missing her lips and kissing the skin beneath her nose. Toph angled her head up slightly as he pulled back a fraction and she whispered throatily, voice husky from need and the smoke wafting around them, "Fuck, Jet. I need you." She let her hand fall to his lap, sliding beneath his waistband.
"You do owe me, eh?" he asked, feeling the blood heading south. Toph didn't say anything to this, slowly pulling her hand away as she leaned forward, trapping her hand between their bodies.
This time, he kissed her, hard and rough. The music had faded into the background; the only thing in existence was Jet and his lips on hers, his fingers digging into her hips. They were largely ignored by everyone, and it didn't take long for Jet to thrust his tongue into her mouth, pressing her head closer.
Slowly, Toph pulled back before standing up and tugging Jet to his feet. "Not here," she said, and he took the hint, grabbing her arm and leading her from the room. She never put on a show for anyone else, even as they passed other moaning, writhing bodies.
Jet pulled her down a hallway, the air clearing with each hurried step. He tugged her sideways into another room, walking backwards towards the centre. Toph felt him drop suddenly, and it took her a few moments to realise that he was si tting on a bed. She moved forward to sit on his lap, legs draped on either side.
Each touch was amplified, sending violent shivers through her body. She attacked his face greedily, moving her body deliciously against his as she masked her moans beneath his.
Jet's jaw scraped along hers, stubble scratching the soft skin of her cheeks. "Your beard is too long," she said, reaching up to scratch his face with short nails.
"Your tits are tiny," he retorted, hissing as her fingernails dug into his cheek. He grabbed the hem of her shirt and tugged it over her head, throwing it into one corner of the room. "Why do you even bother with bras?" he asked as he skilfully unclasped hers and pulled it away. Toph heard him sigh for a moment as he looked at her
It took Toph less than a minute to divest herself of her clothing, and less than half that time to remove Jet's. It wouldn't even have taken that long, except Jet became unusually pre-occupied with her hair. It didn't matter, because soon he was up against the pillows, her sitting on his lap. She spent a moment sitting there before he began to move, taking her breast between his teeth and sucking gently. Her hands wound through his hair, and then he really began moving, forcing little moans from her. It wasn't until afterwards, as he slept and the balmy air washed over them, that the doubt crept into her chest again.
The answer to the question she had asked herself only mere hours earlier. No, it wasn't worth it. She felt sick and disgusted, emotions not ones she was used to. Why did one boy have to throw everything out of whack? Her equilibrium was destroyed—where once she would feel, if not relieved, at least wanted in one sense, there was just... emptiness. It wasn't enough anymore.
Carefully, so she wouldn't wake him, Toph pulled a cigarette from the box on the nightstand, taking a delightful drag as soon as it was lit. Shaking fingers, she noted with some dismay. She wasn't sure if it was withdrawal or nerves. She had told him 'freebie', but she also knew he wouldn't mind if she stole one of his cigarettes. The 'owing' system meant nothing, really. He would always give her something she wasn't allowed, she would always sleep with him. It was their system. She wasn't a complete whore—they had dated—but she couldn't call it a 'relationship' when there was nothing more than the sexual gratification they shared with one another.
Toph squeezed her eyes shut, reaching out again for another cigarette. Her hand hit something far more valuable, though, and it took only a moment for her to realise it was a bottle of vodka. A grin appeared on her face at this, and she took a deep swig, holding back the cough as it burnt her throat. Ah, pain. Real pain, if only mild. She took another one, this gulp only marginally less painful. She didn't know why she had to steel herself—she had done this a thousand times before. In this very bedroom. Hell, Jet had even walked in on her a few times.
After shrugging on one of his long shirts, Toph made her way down the hall and into the bathroom. It didn't take her long to find what she was looking for and, unwilling to be caught by someone else, she snuck back into Jet's room.
Suicide was an interesting concept, she mused as she sat on the edge of his bed. When did everything stop becoming 'bearable', and become too hard instead? Was it truly the belief that no one would care if said person disappeared from the world? Or that they would be leaving a world that hurt too much to stay in? She had often asked herself those questions, but she realised now that there was only one person she wanted to give the answer.
The shaking hadn't been nerves or anxiety—the need for another smoke. It wasn't withdrawal, either. Both those would have solved the problem, but as Toph held up her hand, nerves twitching as she took in a deep breath, she knew. It was her willpower slowly crumbling, breaking down; like the wall of a dam, it broke hard and fast, the minute cracks becoming gaping chasms in the blink of an eye.
Toph used the last of her strength to pull the razor sideways across the flesh of her arm, before descending into guttural sobs.
Sokka glanced at his phone for the umpteenth time before standing up and moving towards the door. He only made it a few steps before stopping and sitting back down on the couch.
"Where is she?" he called out to the kitchen. Aang poked his head around the door, irritated.
"It's been ten minutes," he reasoned. "She's not even that late." Sokka threw himself backwards in a tantrum. He probably would have grumbled, too, except he heard the front door open and shut, and Katara call out a greeting. He fidgeted, not wanting to seem too excited—everyone would convene in the lounge room shortly anyway. As soon as she walked in the door though, he jumped up.
"Suki!" he cried, kissing her on the cheek. "You made it!" She gave a small smile, and looked away for a moment.
"Sorry we're late," she said. "I got lost on my way to Toph's." She moved out of the way to reveal the blind girl.
Toph was holding the DVD as though it were a lifeline, and her face was horribly pale and drawn. Her clothes hung looser than they did the week before, and there was a flicker of emotion in her eyes that Sokka couldn't place. In short, she looked sick, and absolutely, bone-weary exhausted.
"Hey, are you okay, Toph?" he frowned. "You look a little sick..." Sokka took a step forward to put his hand on her forehead, but without warning, she jerked away. His frown deepened until she nodded.
"I'm fine. Let's just start the movie, yeah?" Even her voice was low and subdued. She didn't give him a chance to address him as she made herself comfortable on the floor—it was Katara and Aang's turn on the couch, after all. She had thrust the movie into Aang's chest, and was currently burrowing into the blankets that were heaped in a pile on the floor.
Sokka shot Aang a confused frown, but the other boy merely shrugged. Suki and Katara were shooting Toph furtive glances, having a conversation with their eyes. There were several moments of silence, before Sokka moved and broke it.
"Hey, Toph," he began, "do you mind if we... watch something else this week?"
Toph was still for a moment, before she gave a small, almost imperceptible shrug. "Fine, I don't really care," were the words that went with the motion.
Chips and soft drink were passed around as everyone got in position. Sokka sat in the middle of the two girls on the floor, while Katara lounged on Aang. The 'older brother' gene would likely have kicked in, if Sokka wasn't so worried about Toph.
Perhaps 'worried' was the wrong word to use. He was curious, yes, for several reasons. Why had she been so distant after the movies? Why was she so blank now? She hadn't smiled once. Perhaps she was just sick, but even so, Toph had always struck him as the 'stoic' type. She'd laugh away a flu because having it would mean people fawning over her, and if he knew anything about her, he knew she didn't like that.
She was sitting stiffly, and in the light of the television, the circles under her eyes became even more pronounced. He wondered why she hadn't slept, and his heart went out to her a little. Why wouldn't she come to him for help—or even Aang? Why did she have to be so quiet all the time. Leaning down, Suki's hand clasped in his, he began whispering in his blind friend's ear.
Toph didn't want the chill to run up her spine, but it did anyway. She didn't want to feel so warm by his side, but it wasn't as though she could control herself anymore. She wasn't sure what they were watching, and she didn't really care, either. They were singing, so it was a musical of some kind, but Toph could barely concentrate when she was trying so hard to keep her distance from the boy whispering into her ear.
Despite her initial anger and upset at Suki coming to movie night, Toph had the lucidity to concede that perhaps it was for the best, before she did something she regretted, like, say, sleep with Jet again. Never before had she felt so rotten, so nauseous at her actions before. It felt, well, it felt like she had cheated on Sokka, which was absolutely ridiculous. As far as she could tell, there were only two possibly outcomes, and the one most likely to occur was also the one most unfavourable to her.
Sokka could barely focus on the movie; he was worried about Toph. With good reason, because she kept tensing and shivering, fiddling with her shirt. This was far cry from the bright, confident girl he had met barely a month before—was it really only that long?—and he wondered if he was doing something. Perhaps she didn't like hanging out with him, and she just didn't want to say it because he was friends with her friends. But, why would she ask to go to the cinemas with him, then?
"Are you sure you're okay?" he whispered, touching her arm. She sucked a breath, and pulled it from his grip.
"I keep telling you, I'm fine," she retorted, although the blanching of her already pale face told him that this was a lie. He wanted to press it, but remembered the last time Toph stormed out of the house; he didn't want a repeat of that. She would go back to Jet and fall in love with him and hurt herself in the process. She was a girl, she couldn't help it. Sokka made a decision then and there to protect her. So, he didn't push it, but he didn't back away, either. He remembered how she had kissed him after he interrupted her time with Jet, and knew he would show her that support didn't have to be physical—he could help her, and he would.
She was fighting off the waves of sleep that threatened to consume her (how embarrassing would it be to fall asleep on him?) but the near week of less than two solid hours of sleep a night was creeping up on her. She hated it; hated the fact that he made her feel so warm and safe, that even with how she felt towards him and Jet and towards herself, she could fall asleep on him. She knew the reason—what girl doesn't?—but Toph absolutely refused to entertain the thought that it was anything other than a passing crush. She wouldn't be able to cope, otherwise. Toph absentmindedly scratched her arm, picking at the scabs through the cloth. She bit her lip at the pain, closing her eyes again. She wasn't going to bother fighting the sleep anymore. It was... nice, leaning against Sokka. And sleeping was better than having her heart ache each time his breath washed past her ear, or his leg brushed hers. She slowly let her head sink, breathing in the smell of salt and a crisp breeze.
Sokka had been a little distracted by Suki, and her wonderful hands roaming up his chest, but he hadn't failed to notice when Toph dropped her head onto his shoulder, eyes closed. It was like all the things that were worrying her just fell away. For the first time since he met her, Sokka was looking at Toph without her usual confidence or veil. She looked, without being too clichéd, at peace. The movie was only about a third of the way through, but Toph honestly looked like she needed the rest, and he was loath to break that. She couldn't have been too angry with him if she was falling asleep on him.
It was actually strange, just watching the movie without explaining the visuals. He had found himself catching little things—goofs, and funny little nuances within the film—when explaining it to Toph. Just sitting in silence was rather boring, and once or twice he found himself nodding off. It was, dare he say it, a pleasant reprieve when the movie actually finished, and everyone began their post-film rituals of going to the bathroom, brushing teeth and getting dressed for bed.
"I'll take her to the spare room," he murmured to Suki. "I'll be back in a minute."
Toph was, perhaps surprisingly, a still sleeper. Sokka half-expected her to fidget even in the realm of unconsciousness, but it wasn't the case—unless mumbling and rolling into his chest slightly counted. She gripped onto the front of his shirt with surprising force, a frown splayed on her face. Gods, she was really small. Short, he had known, but this? It was actually kind of adorable, but he would never let her know that. She would probably kill him.
It was only thirty seconds after he had first left her that he rejoined Suki, who greeted him with a smile. She was sitting on the couch, snuggled into the corner with the blankets they had been using.
"I have to go soon," she warned as Sokka sat down next to her. "I have an early class tomorrow." His face fell a little, before he shrugged it off.
"We have next week," he said, the smile reappearing. "We'll watch her movie then..."
Suki reached up to kiss Sokka on the forehead. "We should have just watched her movie," she said, and Sokka looked away.
"I wanted you to have fun," he said. "And I know you don't like foreign films..." She silenced him with a gentle kiss on the lips, and curled her head on his chest. He could feel her biting on her lip, and the silence didn't last long. Sokka poked her in the shoulder lightly. "What's wrong?"
Suki sat up slowly, and he knew from the look in her eyes that they were going to have a Serious Discussion. There was silence for a few more seconds while Suki worked out what to say, and Sokka became worked up over what she would say.
"Oh, my god, Suki. You aren't.... pregnant are you? We were so careful," he cried in hushed tones. She giggled lightly.
"No, Sokka, I'm not pregnant. This isn't about me, it's about you..." the sombre look returned, and Sokka bit his tongue. "I'm worried about Toph-"
"You too?" he interrupted again. "So, it's not just me. You saw-"
"Sokka!" He quietened straight away. There were several beats of silence as Suki tested the words in her mouth. "I'm worried about... how you come off to her. She might be... thinking about it differently..."
Sokka shot Suki a confused glance. "What do you mean?"
The red-haired girl glanced away, her lips curling into a small smile and pressing against his again. "She's a girl, and us girls think differently. Just.... keep that in mind," she said, curling into his chest.
"Mkay, Suki," he agreed, not really sure why she had brought up such a thing. "I'll remember that."
"Love you, Sokka," she mumbled against his chest. He gave a small smile, leaning down to kiss her on the forehead.
"I love you too..."
Toph had absolutely brilliant hearing. She had not always had her white cane to help her around, and until she was able to use it properly, her ears had been the only guide she had for navigating the world. For Toph, there were almost seven years of complete blindness, with only the aid of a guide or counting steps, before she was given her cane and a myriad of possibilities opened up for her; while her ears became secondary, she never lost her acute hearing. In all actuality, it was more likely that it had strengthened over the years as she grew and was able to better remember and identify familiar sounds. The sound she was hearing now, it was not familiar. Not in person, at any rate. She had heard the sounds of the ocean before, but she had never once actually ventured to the beach.
There was a gentle breeze on her unclothed back, and she sucked in a deep breath. The air was refreshingly salty, swirling around her head and mussing her hair. Toph's tongue darted out, tasting it; it was at that moment she realised she wasn't alone. Another person moved slightly, and though they didn't make a sound, she knew who it was. Who he was.
Sokka's hands landed at her knees, crossed in front of her body, and the fingers gently walked up her thigh. Her own hands moved to meet them, although they quickly parted company as she slid them up his arms, pausing the barest fraction before she began mapping out his chest. He lifted her up, placing her on his lap before reaching down with his lips and gently placing them on her cheek. Toph couldn't help the shiver that ran down her spine at the feeling, and she arched into him the barest fraction.
This was not unexplored territory. She had been in similar places before, however it was different this time. Perhaps because the situation meant so much, made her heart sing so loud, there was an undercurrent of emotional vulnerability that, no matter how hard she tried, Toph couldn't completely quell, dispel, or hide. He seemed to know, though, because as he trailed his fingers up her sides to rest at her waist, or the way his mouth gently caressed the skin of her cheeks, ears, neck, his own confidence that what he was doing was exactly what he wanted to do. Despite herself, Toph found small noises of pleasure erupting from the back of her throat. She felt him smile into the crook of her neck, and the urge to become the controller appeared. It lasted only a few seconds; the utter completeness she felt at having someone hold her, love her, was far better than any dominance she could have over him.
Her steady breath slowly turned into pants as he lathered her neck with sweet kisses, moving up her cheeks but never once touching her lips. It was a beautiful kind of torture, although one she couldn't help but hold onto. Here, with him, she was safe. Here, she was innocent. As his hands bypassed her chest, moving to cradle her head, Toph felt as though nothing existed in that moment, except for the two of them. He placed a kiss on the corner of her mouth, and she couldn't bite the words back as they escaped as a breathy sigh.
"Love you, Sokka...."
It was what he was waiting for, and she felt him smile—a pure upturning of his mouth that convinced her his intentions were deeper than the superficial gratification anyone could achieve. He wanted her there, too. Their foreheads connected a second before his breath hit her, speaking before finally ending her ruinous torture and kissing her on the lips with the pent-up force and passion she needed from him.
"I love you, too," he murmured breathlessly as they pulled apart. She smiled, leaning in again before a sudden noise jolted her away—
—and she found herself, not in the warm arms of Sokka, but the thick sheets of a bed. A door had slammed, jerking her back into the land of the living, although it was not the noise she was focussing on now.
Toph was not thinking about her heart, hammering in her chest, or the way the traitorous tears refused to go away, waiting for a gap in her defenses to slip down her cheek. She was trying to forget how warm and safe she had felt, because she was Toph; she didn't need anyone else to make her feel that way. The crushing feeling in her chest proved otherwise. Her blindness had never been a sore spot for her, but perhaps that was the reason Sokka would never look at her the way he looked at Suki.
It was part of the reason why it was so hard for her to identify if she were dreaming or not. It was difficult for a sighted person, when they were in the dream; upon waking, the typical person has the moment of clarity (or sadness) when they realise it was all inside their head. For Toph, it depended on how outlandish the dream was in the first place. She knew, though, that there were more instances where she would wake up, and not know where she was or how she got there, the dream was so vivid. It seemed the only ones she could escape were the ones she didn't want to.
"Oh, God," she whispered to herself. It was a mistake. Everything was a mistake. And now dreaming about him? Ohhhh God. She needed a smoke; she needed something. She brought a bag this week, full of the necessities, because Toph had known something bad would happen. Of course it would. She also realised how stupid the whole thing was—since when did she need anyone else? But, it wasn't about needing. It was about wanting.
She sat on the bed and wondered that perhaps it wasn't her blindness. It had brought them together, after all. She didn't want to think of all reasons she couldn't be with him. She wanted to think about all the reasons he made her feel better. Made her better.
Her stomach twisted painfully as she remembered what she had done the previous weekend. It shouldn't have felt like cheating, but it did. Jet brought out the worst in her, while Sokka brought out the best. She needed that, she supposed.
Sliding from the sheets, she made her way down the hall, gently calling out a name.
Toph had only been in Katara's room once, and she barely remembered how she got there that time; by all accounts, she shouldn't be able to find it without someone showing it to her again. But, Katara was a girl, and her room smelt. Not bad, necessarily, but it just had an unfamiliar, unmistakably feminine odour that Toph couldn't help but scrunch her nose up at. It wasn't that she hated the scent, but rather that she wasn't used to something be so sweet. Kyoshi certainly never bothered with it.
"Aang, get out," she said, effectively announcing her presence as she walked through the doorway. There was a small ummmmm coming from one corner of the room, and she furrowed her brow. "Now," she reiterated. "I need to talk to Katara."
There was silence for several moments, and she assumed the duo was sharing a glance. Toph huffed, crossing her arms before a quiet word slipped from her lips.
"Please?" she mumbled. There was the aura of another shared glance, although Toph didn't try and break it this time. She stood there, biting her lip, waiting for Aang to respond. It wasn't him that spoke first, though.
"Aang, could you?" Katara told him. There was a second of hesitation, and Toph briefly wondered what Katara was thinking. The last time they had spoken hadn't been on particularly good terms. She felt Aang brush past her, but Toph didn't move. Suddenly, she didn't want to be there.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" Katara asked. Toph couldn't identify the emotion in her voice; perhaps hostility (which would not be unwarranted, she admitted), but not completely. Toph opened her mouth a few times, but no sound came out. She felt rather nauseous, and without realising it, she began swaying slightly. "Toph?"
Toph looked towards Katara, regaining control. It didn't even matter what she looked like; she could feel it in her gut. Toph put her head down, facing the floor as she chewed slowly on the words she knew she had to say, but still didn't want to.
"I'm sorry." The words were spoken in a quiet rush, and Katara almost missed what she said. Toph's tone was almost pleading, her voice slightly higher in pitch than normal. She bit her lip, and idly, her fingers reached up to scratch at her wrist; Toph opened her mouth again. "I didn't- I mean... I shouldn't have got- gotten angry with you... You were just.. being nice..." she trailed off, almost faltering. She purposely kept her eyes averted from Katara, who was naturally scrutinising Toph's every move.
"It's okay, Toph. I forgive you," Katara replied, smiling slightly. She knew Toph couldn't see it, but she knew it was there. Toph gave a jerky nod, and hesitated just long enough to alert Katara before turning around to make her way out of the room.
Toph turned her blind gaze back to Katara, confusion written on her face. It was Katara's turn to bite her lip.
"You know, Toph, you can talk to me about anything. Us girls have to stick together," she said with her eyes averted. When she looked up, Toph seemed to be on the verge of breaking something, or yelling again. Her face was red, a heavy frown pulling at her eyebrows. There was a laugh from down the hall (Suki's, from the sound of it), and Katara could have sworn that she saw Toph's face slacken for the barest second.
Toph herself couldn't even believe she was thinking about telling Katara. Wasn't there a girl code against the dating of friends' brothers (or, in her case, just liking them)? And, if she were to be completely truthful to herself, Toph did want to be friends with Katara. It couldn't hurt to try, could it?
"Hey, Toph?" Katara's voice broke through Toph's angsting, and she looked up. "Do you wanna just... chat?" she offered. Toph regarded her warily.
"I don't know... do you have a favourite... song?"
Toph raised an eyebrow, although she had to applaud the other girl's attempt. She knew from experience that if someone had wronged her, she would be less inclined to spend time with them. Katara was making an obvious effort, and the least she could do was try.
It wasn't lost on Toph that those words were also thought by her last time, and how that turned out.
"I don't... really listen to a lot of music. Well, not of the new stuff," she offered, voice low. "I don't really have the money to get into that. I just listen to whatever Kyoshi has."
"Oh..." It was obvious that Katara had no idea what to say next, and Toph couldn't help but share in some of the older girl's discomfit.
"Turn around," she commanded, moving slowly towards the bed. She briefly wondered whether there was a strange look sent her way, before she disregarded it. There had been no sound to suggest Katara had moved at all, even as Toph sat on the bed next to her. "Come on, I promise I won't shout again."
She said it in such a cavalier manner, Katara almost forgot exactly why the girl had shouted last time. She was hesitant to give it the chance to happen again, but at the sight of the girl's expression, Katara couldn't say no.
After all, the hope that appeared in the blind girl's eyes, albeit faintly, was not something Katara had expected.
She naturally still had her reservations, but how could she say no when someone was reaching out? Perhaps not for help, but it was obvious to Katara that Toph needed something; or, something had happened to force her into such a position. The brunette wasn't complaining, although her heart did go out to Toph. With a small grunt, she turned around, trying not to let her mind come up with too many dreadful scenarios.
It did not wander far before she felt Toph's small, slightly pudgy fingers combing through her hair. The blind girl didn't make a noise, carefully and steadily parting Katara's hair in order to do.... something with it. Katara could only clear her throat noisily.
"Shush, I'm just braiding it." There was a pause, and Toph elaborated on the unspoken question, "I can hear it moving from the other side of the room. It was annoying me."
Of course, that wasn't the real reason. Toph certainly remembered how kind Katara was to her the previous week, offering to brush her hair. She didn't like debts.
"How do you know how to braid?" Katara asked. Toph could only snort.
"I am a girl, you know. Besides, braids are neater sometimes," she explained, silently marvelling at the sheer volume of hair that Katara had atop her head. "And, just so you know, you can... ask me stuff..."
Katara turned slightly, just enough to regard Toph from the corner of her eye.
"You won't yell again?"
Toph gave a small nod. "Yeah, I won't yell. Doesn't mean I'll answer, but I won't yell."
Katara was silent for a while as Toph finished with her hair. There was so much she didn't know, and so much she wasn't sure she wanted to. They did have one common factor, though (well, one less painful than the fact that neither essentially had no parents), and Katara deemed it to be a good place to start.
"How do you know Jet?" she asked, curiosity written in her small frown. It was impossible for Katara to miss the downturn of Toph's lips, or the way she slightly bared her teeth.
"How do you know him?" was the response, and Katara would have laughed if the air hadn't felt so tense. It wasn't as though she liked remembering Jet, however as Katara looked at Toph's closed face, hidden behind her bangs and blank expression, she truly realised that the blind girl didn't trust anyone. And she realised how much she wanted—and needed—that trust in order to help her.
"I met him a few times. Parties, around the neighbourhood... I liked him, he had this kind of wild, roguishness about him that I think is appealing to most girls," she answered. Toph bit her lip, looking thoughtful.
"Did you sleep with him?"
The blind girl hadn't expected Katara to shout so loudly, nor for her tone to be so disapproving. Toph's eyes widened, and her mouth hung open just long enough for Katara to see.
"I- no, I didn't sleep with him. When I finally talked to him, I realised he wasn't the guy for me. Not to sound conceited, but I knew I could do better."
Toph fell once again into silence, her hands finally dropping from Katara's completed braid. Katara turned to look at her, but she couldn't read anything on her blank expression. She was thinking deeply, and Katara desperately wanted to know of what.
"Toph? Did you, uh, did you... sleep with him?" she asked slowly. The blind girl's eyes flashed up.
"So what if I did?" she challenged, although the fire was gone from her tone; she just looked tired. Katara couldn't blame her—a quick glance to the clock showed they had been talking for quite a while, and it was late to begin with.
"Just... nothing." Katara was quite willing to back off, but Toph wasn't having a bar of it.
"No, what were you going to say?"
"I just don't know how you could do it," Katara explained, rather lamely in her opinion. Toph gave a snort.
"It's not hard. One minute you're fighting, the next you're kissing, and then you start fucking and you barely realise until after what you've done, but it doesn't matter because even though the guy can be a total prick, he made you feel special in those twenty-or-so minutes while he had you in his bed."
Toph fell silent, taking a few breaths to make up for those she had neglected during her small rant. She was surprised, to put it mildly, that she had offered such details, but she supposed it didn't really matter, either. Katara was a girl, too. It didn't mean that Toph didn't need some kind of reaction.
"Oh, um...." Katara was at a loss at what to say.
"Why did you want to know?" Toph asked quietly, as though hushed whispers would allow the Spirits to forgive her for her outburst.
"Sokka... he told me what happened last weekend... Well, told everyone..." she trailed off at the look of absolute horror Toph sent her way, eyes wide and more terrified than they had ever been before. Toph rubbed furiously at her arms, and action that was not missed by Katara.
"What- what did he tell you?" she asked, cursing herself. Way to make it obvious, Toph.
"Just that he, er, saw you at the park. With Jet..."
Toph visibly relaxed, her shoulders slumping as a deep breath was let out. Katara wondered what else the girl had done in order have such a reaction, although she knew from said reaction that Toph wasn't very likely to share.
"Toph, he doesn't love you," she said suddenly, her voice smooth and kind. "Maybe he did. I don't know, but Jet isn't the kind of guy to fall for someone."
"I know..." The reply was so low that Katara could barely make it out, but when she did, it was all she could do to bite her tongue and let Toph continue. "I know he doesn't, and he never did. But I never did either, so it's not like I'm... pining after him or whatever." No, that would be Sokka, wouldn't it?
It was more than the fact Katara had asked that caused Toph to look towards her. It was the tone she used, the way the intrusive question seemed so much more innocent and curious that had Toph letting her in, just a little—just enough.
She gave a sigh and kept her eyes turned downwards. "Because it's better to be with someone you don't love than to be alone," she said quietly.
She did not expect Katara to let out a small awww and pull her in for a hug. Toph stiffened as hands pressed down on her back, but Katara either didn't notice or didn't care as she held the younger girl.
"You shouldn't think like that, Toph," she said quietly. "You'll find someone some day."
Toph didn't have it in her to refute Katara's claim, and so she just sat there, allowing herself to be held. Only when the older girl pulled away did they realise something was wrong.
Toph pinched her eyes shut, letting out a silent sigh. Of course Sokka managed to hear that. Of course.
There was silence.
Not the people-silence, where the ambient noise always echoes louder, forming an incessant buzz. This was pure, dead silence, unbroken by even a whisper of breath—it was being held by each occupant of the room. Finally, Katara moved.
"I need to check with Aang," she murmured stiffly, the pathetic excuse still adequate in getting her out of the room and away from the tension. Sokka swiftly took her place on the bed, although he didn't hug Toph as his sister had done. She didn't say a word, and the two sat in an uncomfortable silence as their thoughts wandered. How much had he heard? There were some things she knew better than to tell others, but what if they found out? If Katara could so easily get her to talk, what was stopping everyone else?
She refused to acknowledge Sokka's presence; after all, he was most likely to get her to say something she didn't want to. Kyoshi once said that everything happened for a reason, and that only with great sacrifice could one chose their own path. Otherwise, their life was not their own. Where had she gone so wrong?
By some complete miracle, Toph had managed to find her way around the neighbourhood without being run over or kidnapped (not that either situation was especially unpalatable at that moment). She had found what seemed to be a deserted park, and after tripping over an exposed tree-root and grazing her knee, she sat on one of the rusty swings.
Toph was never really an advocate for self-reflection, and certainly not one for self-pity or regrets; however, it was certainly difficult to not do any of those when the blind fourteen-year-old had run away from yet another home and found herself alone once again.
Still, Toph refused to cry or lament. It was just one of those situations that she couldn't change, nor would attempt to. She had found there to be little point.
Despite those thoughts, she still couldn't prevent the tiny little bead of fear from forming when she heard the uninhibited cries of several drunkards, swaggering towards the park. Perhaps her blindness made her more reckless because she couldn't see the monsters of her dreams, however she could still hear and imagine them; in six years of running away, Toph had never felt fear of other people. She could concede that she was young, yes, and reckless, most definitely, and a girl such as herself, out late at night made for an easy target for even the most pure of souls. Even the kindest man turns when drunk—something she had learned long ago.
Toph didn't say a word as the men—a group of five or six, by the sound of it—stumbled past, although she let out a sigh of relief. It was destined to be short lived as one of the men unexpectedly caught sight of her, slurring to his friends before tottering over. Toph sneered, her dread hidden behind the sharp expression. They could barely walk, although it didn't make them any less dangerous.
"Mmm, hey there..." one drawled, leaning closer. He reeked of rum and vodka, and Toph couldn't help but shy away. "Yer pretty..."
"You look lost," another simpered. "We'll keep you company..." He laughed, a lewd sound that had Toph almost puking where she sat. If she was able to see herself, she would have been disgusted with how tight she was holding onto the swing, and how pale her face had become.
"No, thanks. Not interested," she said, succeeding only partially in keeping the quiver from her voice. There was a noise she couldn't identify, and then nothing as she was pulled off the swing and onto the ground.
"What was that, darlin'?" one of the men sneered, and even with all her strength, Toph couldn't push them off. "Hey, fellas, look at this!" Whatever Toph had been expecting, it wasn't for someone's finger to suddenly poke her in the eye. "She's blind."
There were chuckles, alerting Toph to the fact that she was surrounded. With a slight choke, she uttered a single word; "Please..."
There was more laughter, and a breath in her ear. "Well, if you insist..."
Toph could only try to struggle against them, ignoring the way they egged each other on. She pinched her eyes shut as though to protect herself from the nightmare, even though she had already resigned herself to what was going to happen. She felt her t-shirt being ripped open, the harsh tearing comparable to a death cry. There was one last, feeble attempt to push the man off as his hands began working painfully on her chest, but her own hands were pinned down by the other men around her. Even her legs were trapped before she could start kicking.
From the back of her throat, a loud cry escaped, and in any other circumstance she would have cursed the tears that had begun to silently streak her face. She tried one last time to plead with them, knowing it wouldn't work.
"Shut her up," one of them hissed, and almost immediately she felt the paralysing sensation of fingers around her throat.
She almost missed the harsh cry that came from the other end of the park before the hands disappeared, and she sunk into unconsciousness.
Jolted back to the present by a slight rustle, Toph cleared her throat, desperate to take her mind off the thoughts that had just plagued her.
"Where's Suki? Shouldn't you be out there... canoodling, or something?"
Sokka heaved a heavy sigh. "Toph, it's not- you aren't-" The fierce glare she shot him shut him up, and he took another breath. Sokka glanced around Katara's room as he spoke; "She went home. It's after midnight, and she has training in the morning." When his eyes landed on hers, Sokka couldn't believe that could become so wide.
"She- she left?!" Toph cried out disbelievingly. "Fuck... This day just keeps getting better and better..." she hissed, lifting her right hand to scratch at her wrist. Before it could make contact, though, it was grabbed by Sokka.
"Why do you do that?" he asked. "And I thought you liked movie night!" He couldn't quite keep the hurt from seeping into his voice as she wrenched her hand from his grip. Toph wasn't sure what to say, so she went with the easiest option.
"Kyoshi's gonna kill me..." she said quietly. "She only let me come tonight because Suki was coming, and she trusts her..."
"Your guardian trusts Suki, but not you?" he asked, and Toph shrugged. It did not pass Sokka's notice that she once again began rubbing her forearms, however he left it for the moment. "Why would she kill you?"
"Didn't you hear Suki earlier? I had to be home early this week," she huffed, pulling her sleeves over her hands and crossing her arms. Sokka fell silent, thinking, and Toph's own mind wandered back to her conversation with Katara. How had she gotten mixed up with Jet? Why was it so hard to believe the older girl, believe that things would get better? Fuck, she was dead meat.
"Hey, you okay?" The voice was soft, and terribly smooth. At least this stranger wasn't drunk, Toph thought, although the usual sarcasm that would have imbibed it was completely gone. Opening her eyes, Toph realised she wasn't in the park anymore. The ground beneath her was soft (well, softer than the twigs and stones from earlier), and the air wasn't quite so thick. Sitting upright, she grabbed at her shirt to close it, only to find that it wasn't even her shirt. Whoever was in front of her seemed to have put one of his over the top of her ruined one.
"What are you going to do to me?" she asked, ignoring his question. She tucked herself into a tight ball, hoping that the man in front of her hadn't just saved her so he could have her to himself. There was the sound of a lighter and a low sigh before she got her answer.
"I'm going to give you a cigarette and a shot, and then you can do whatever the hell you want," he said. "Your guardian is probably looking for you," he added, taking another drag. "But, you can stay here if you want to. I'm not gonna do anything to you."
There would have been a silent pause, had the man not moved closer, handing her a cigarette. Toph put it in her mouth, letting him light it from there. The first few drags hurt, each one sending her into a coughing fit before she got used to it. He took the filter from her just before she burnt her fingertips, replacing it with the cap of a bottle, filled to the brim with some kind of alcohol. From the feel of it, it was about the size of a shot glass, although Toph really had no prior experience to fall back on, so she didn't try it.
"Hey, it's easy. Take a deep breath, and let it out. Then take the shot, and take a deep breath in. It'll burn less that way."
Toph gave a little nod, although she took several breaths before attempting to drink. It still burned on the way down, but it wasn't nearly as unpleasant as the cigarette. She heard the sloshing of liquid in a bottle, and held out the lid. No words were exchanged as he filled it up again, and she downed it with only one preparatory breath.
"Who are you?" she asked quietly, putting the bottle-cap on the ground in front of her. "Why did you save me?"
"You can just call me Jet," he said, retrieving the lid. "And I saved you because that's what any decent person would do. We can't let people who abuse their power have it in the first place," he explained.
Toph bowed her head low. When she spoke, her lips only moved the tiniest fraction, the words barely audible. He heard, though, through the silence of the early morning; he had to smile. "Thank you, Jet..."
The blind girl in question jerked suddenly, looking towards Sokka's voice. "Hmm?"
"I've been calling your name. I can take you home now, if you want?"
Sokka looked at his friend carefully. She wasn't usually so distracted—actually, it was normally he who fidgeted, or was lost in thought. Watching Toph think about something that seemed uncomfortable was strange. He never realised how much expression she had in her face. Each twitch of her lips, or angle of her eyebrows meant something completely different. Even her eyes, incapable of seeing, told others what she was thinking, if only they could read the language. He wondered if she knew how much was written on her face.
"Yeah, that'd be good..." she replied, letting out a slow sigh.
Toph had left her stuff in Suki's car, expecting to be returning home with the other girl. It meant she didn't have anything to pack up (not that she usually had much anyway), but it still got Sokka wondering how Suki could just forget about Toph in the first place. Didn't she just mention something about appearances that night?
Sokka hung back as Toph approached Katara and punched her lightly on the arm. If the elder girl was surprised (or in any pain) she hid it well as she pulled Toph in for a tight hug. Sokka had to rub his eyes as he watched Toph return it with an awkward pat.
The drive home was thick, the tension creating a heavy wall between them. Sokka would be the first to admit he didn't like it, although he also had a feeling that it was his fault. Well, there was probably only one way to rectify it (only one way that could be achieved during the short drive back to Toph's).
"So, what were you talking to Katara about earlier?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Sokka saw Toph jump slightly as though she had been thinking again, and not for the first time wondered what passed through the girl's head. It sounded stupid, but he occasionally wondered if she thought the same as he did. How did she imagine things—using only smell and touch. Where he could envision say, navigational routes, did she have a 'mind's eye' like that? However, he also knew that it wasn't the time to ask her about it.
"We were just talking about... girl stuff," she said, and even though Sokka wanted to call her out on her lie—wanted to shake her until she told him what she did with Jet—he didn't.
"Oh, well, I hope you had a good... talk..." he said, hesitant but sincere in his words. Toph didn't say anything, and when he snuck a glance from the corner of his eye, he saw her 'thinking frown' back on her face.
He wondered why she always frowned when she thought. He had never seen a thinking smile on her features.
"Hey, Girl! Come on, we have to move."
Toph opened her eyes again, more to let Jet know she was awake than anything. There was movement to her left, although she couldn't identify the sounds. Birdsong was in the air, so it must have been close to dawn. She felt Jet move closer, and her heart began hammering in her chest. There was a breath in her ear, but it was nowhere near as foul as the one the previous night.
"We have to move. It's almost dawn, and I don't wanna get caught here," he said quietly. Toph would have asked him to elaborate, except he had already stood up and was moving away from her. Gathering the blankets she had been lying on, Toph followed the sound of his footsteps, not realising there were steps until too late, and she had tripped down them.
Expecting a very hard landing, it was almost a relief when she found her face not pressed into the cool earth, but rather a very warm chest.
"Careful," he told her. "Don't wanna trip." Clasping her hand in his, the duo walked quickly. Toph felt Jet occasionally look around, although she made no comment on it. She had no idea where she was, or where he was taking her, but at that moment, it didn't matter. Someone had cared enough to help her when she couldn't help herself, and as painful as that was to admit, Toph knew the alternative would have been a lot worse.
After about ten minutes, she felt Jet slow to a stop. The ground was crunchy beneath her feet, and from the weaving they had just done, somewhere in a small forest or a wood. Toph frowned at this thought—they were in the middle of suburbia. Where was he going to get a small forest from?
"Where are we?" she asked, putting the blanket on the ground and sitting on it. Jet joined her, putting his small bag on on corner and lying down.
"The National Botanical Gardens," he answered. "We spent the night in the main gazebo, but there's a wedding today and I didn't want to risk getting caught. Cigarettes, alcohol, and a twelve-year-old girl is just asking for trouble."
"I'm fourteen, actually," she argued quietly, hugging herself tight as she lay back. Toph hadn't realised it could get so cold outside of a morning, even though it wasn't even winter. "How old are you?''
"Really? You look younger. Well, your face at least," he smirked. She could hear it in his voice, and in an unprecedented fit of self-consciousness, Toph crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm seventeen, but I'm not the oldest in my gang. Or the youngest, for that matter." He let out a soft laugh, and Toph wondered why she had never heard such pleasant noises from other boys before.
"You're part of a gang?"
Jet nodded. "The Freedom Fighters. We don't live in the system, or for the system. They can try and shunt us around as much as they want; they never succeed. We fight for our own freedom, to run our lives the way we want. Even though we don't have a home, we have each other. You'd like them."
Toph sat up, bristling. "Why? Because I'm one of those kids, too?" she snarled. There was a shrug she couldn't see and a moment of silence.
"Not necessarily," Jet said after a moment. "They're good people. Good kids. A few good adults who just couldn't make it, too. You can meet them tonight, if you want." He shrugged again.
"What makes you think I don't wanna go home?" she retorted, this time met with a bark of laughter.
"Because we don't have homes," he answered simply, repeating his words from earlier. "You know, you never told me your name..."
Toph fixed her blind gaze on Jet, trying to get a read on him. His voice was low and smooth—calming—and he was talkative enough without trying to get her to talk. He respected her privacy, and even though she had passed out half-naked after the men- well, he hadn't tried anything on her even when she was most vulnerable.
While she was thinking it over, Jet remained silent. His eyes roamed up and down her body, remembering the previous night. Oh, he had looked—of course. What kind of male would he be if he didn't?—however he hadn't touched. He would never sink as low as the despicable men who had led him to her, although what he had seen, he definitely liked. But he wouldn't waste time trying to convince her—she was only fourteen, for chrissakes. He wasn't a paedophile, either. The girl was a strong one (for he was almost 100% it had been her first cigarette, and shot, the previous night), and she hadn't stopped fighting the men until she couldn't defend herself anymore.
"Toph. I'm Toph."
The girl broke through to his wandering mind, and Jet shook himself. "Toph. Pretty name," he said, watching closely as a small blush broke out on her face. Perhaps he had a chance after all... "Now, Toph, I don't know about you, but I had a long night. I'm going back to sleep. You can do whatever you want." With that, he turned on his side, facing away. Jet wouldn't go to sleep until he knew what she was doing, although he didn't have to wait long. Mere seconds after the declaration, Toph had curled up on the blanket, back-to-back with Jet.
"Sleep well," he mumbled under his breath.
"Toph, we're here..." Sokka cut the engine, trailing off. She didn't seem to have heard him, and he wondered for the umpteenth time that night exactly what she was thinking of that caused her to become so distracted. Jumping out of the car, she didn't even berate him when he opened the door for her. Actually, she was completely silent as she began making her slow way up the path.
Sokka bounced from foot to foot, biting his lip. He really should apologise to Kyoshi for Toph being late. The girl had mentioned being lucky to have come over that week—he didn't want anything to jeopardise her chances of coming next Friday. The porch light was on, something Toph wouldn't need, and so he followed her up the path. Kyoshi was expecting someone with sight, and this way he might be able to explain.
Toph's head hung low, and as Sokka neared the door, he could hear the lock jiggling. Toph must have already knocked, because it swung wide open just as he got there.
"You are... really late, Toph," Kyoshi said, her voice laced so thick with disappointment, even Sokka felt upset at himself. It wasn't even directed at him. "Sokka." She gave a small nod of acknowledgment, and Sokka raised his hand in greeting.
"Hey." He couldn't help it that his voice cracked. It was a natural teenage-boy thing, wasn't it? By the gods, Kyoshi was scary. Toph just pushed her way past the guardian and into the house. Sokka was wondering whether he had to stay or not. A cough from Kyoshi prevented him from leaving, though.
"Come inside, Sokka."
Not really in any position to refuse (well, that was the reason he told himself, at least), Sokka followed her dutifully into the house. He had never been inside before, and couldn't help the passing thought that there should be human skulls and a satanic shrine in the corner before he shook himself. Just because Kyoshi was tall, and exuded an aura of power and could make grown men cower in fear from one look, didn't mean she was evil. He chuckled to himself, swiftly turning it into a coughing fit when he realised just how much it echoed. There was a shuffling from down the hall, and Sokka watched as Toph completely ignored him upon returning to the living room, only passing through on her way outside. Kyoshi stopped, watching her.
The blind girl turned her gaze towards Kyoshi, letting it drop after only a few tense seconds. Kyoshi didn't say anything else, and Toph quietly slipped outside. Sokka moved towards the door, but another noise from the carer stopped him. She turned around and walked towards another room, Sokka trailing dutifully behind. He had only just realised she had led him to a kitchen when she pushed him roughly into a seat and slammed a teacup in front of him.
"What is going on?" she asked, voice disarmingly calm as she took a sip from her own cup.
"Uh.... I'm fine....?"
Kyoshi snorted. "Not about you. Toph. What's going on? With her, with you? She's late, and after last week, I don't know if I should let her out again!"
Kyoshi's voice had risen slightly, not quite loud enough to reach Toph, but still loud enough to force Sokka to take a gulp of his own saliva and look away.
"I don't know. You think she talks to me about anything?"
Kyoshi's eyes fixed on him, and even if he had several languages and a thesaurus, there was no way Sokka would ever be able to explain the feeling in his chest as she levelled her gaze at him.
"Yes, I do."
He took a sip of the now-tepid tea and looked away. "Well, I don't. I don't know what happened last week... we got out of the movie, and suddenly she was in a bad mood. I dunno. Maybe she doesn't like Ty Lee of something, it happened when she came up to us."
"Why would Ty Lee approach you?" Kyoshi asked, frowning. Sokka shrugged.
"Well, Suki was there, and we haven't gone out for a while coz we've both been busy, and I've had no money, so we stopped to have a chat. They were there together, and Suki saw us after our movie finished."
"Wait—you're dating Suki Matsuda?" Sokka nodded. "Ahh, I didn't know that..."
"Mmm, well, yeah. Toph got really upset when Ty Lee joined us, which was weird... and we were late because she fell asleep, and then Suki left because she said there was an early morning training thing tomorrow, and there was just a bit of confusion."
"You mean today," Kyoshi remarked wryly.
"Oh. Yeah, today..." Sokka took another sip, trying not to grimace at the cold liquid. The silence was palpable, and Kyoshi didn't seem inclined to continue conversation as she finished her own tea. It was only after she rinsed the cups in the sink that she turned to Sokka.
"It's late. I think it's time for you to go home, Sokka," she told him, her voice firm. He bit his lip, torn between complying and going out to see Toph. Eventually, the former won out, but he still couldn't leave it as it was.
"Is she still allowed to come next week?" he asked as they reached the door. Kyoshi's eyebrows crinkled, and the way she looked at him—as though she were looking into him—sent chills down Sokka's spine. He wondered if she found what she was looking for in his eyes.
"I'll think about it," she told him, and Sokka knew that was all he could hope for.
Without a word, he walked back to his car.
Kyoshi stood behind the door, the seconds stretching out into minutes. She pondered briefly on how incredibly stupid Sokka, and boys in general, could be, however she was also fairly quick to concede that it likely wasn't his fault, either. After all, if she hadn't seen it herself, Kyoshi wouldn't have believed Toph to be capable of loving someone.
As horrid as it sounded, the girl was a complete basket case. It was one of the reasons Kyoshi had agreed to take care of her in the first place; the woman's very presence inspired fear and respect, and while Toph had fought tooth and nail against such a thing, the two had a mutual (if grudging, on Toph's part) understanding. Kyoshi wouldn't force her to do—or not do—anything she didn't want to, however Toph also had to respect Kyoshi, and her decisions. There were just some things that Kyoshi, as an adult, did have to get Toph to do, not because she wanted to, but because she had to. It wasn't quite so difficult after Kyoshi had proved she deserved the respect, but the woman also wondered whether anyone ever respected Toph. She wondered if the blind girl respected herself.
Moving away from the front door, Kyoshi walked over to the glass sliding one that led to the back porch. Sliding it open, she was already prepared to march over and take the cigarette from her lips and stand on it-
-only, Toph wasn't smoking. This revelation alone was enough to give Kyoshi pause, and she watched as Toph twisted the stick around in her little fingers.
The pause also gave Kyoshi time to take in the surroundings, and by the light filtering in from the kitchen and living areas, she could make out the mangled corpses of at least a dozen other rollies. Kyoshi sat next to Toph on the lounge, waiting for the other girl to speak. It wasn't her turn to talk.
"Okay, listen up everyone!" Jet's voice echoed around the clearing, forcing everyone to shut up until only the crickets and crackle of the campfire was heard. He waited a few seconds more until he knew he had everyone's complete attention, before pointing to Toph, She was standing back a ways, her head low. "This is Toph. No one—no one—is to touch her, okay?"
There were low murmurs of confusion that changed to mumbles of assent before people moved on to continue their own conversations. Toph moved forward to Jet, allowing him to wrap an arm over her shoulders.
"Sorry about that, but these guys..." he trailed off. "You'll be safe now. No one would dare disobey me. This was more to just... deter them." Toph nodded, accepting the cigarette he placed at her lips. She wasn't really sure how to say no, and she wasn't sure why she should. "Anyway, most of them have girls on the side." He flicked the lighter on, letting Toph take a heavy drag before taking it and having one himself. She coughed a little, although it didn't take long to recover. Jet plucked it from her lips, and amidst the sound of him taking a drag, she could discern that of a liquid in a bottle. Of course he would have some stuff for himself. Toph wasn't quite sure yet how she felt about the cigarettes and the liquor.
She could feel Jet leading her somewhere, but didn't protest as she stole the cigarette back, already feeling the crowd thinning out. They weaved through a patch of trees, leaving the sounds of the party behind as they pushed forward. Toph wished she had a cane. It was equal parts pleasant and not to have to rely on Jet, especially because she didn't have any idea where they were, or where they were going.
It all came back to her when she tripped over a tree root. This time, someone was there to catch her.
"What the fuck, Jet?" she hissed. "Did you bring me back to where-" She couldn't keep going, but Jet knew what she was going to say.
"It's always better to face your demons," he said, "And you have a lot."
Wrenching away, Toph twisted to face Jet with bared teeth; her furious expression had cowed weaker men, but the one standing in front of her still wasn't afraid. "What?! Don't you dare try and get into my head, you good-for-nothing little c-"
"Woah, woah, easy there," he soothed placatingly, although he was glad she couldn't see the smirk on his face. "I only meant-"
"Oh, I know what you meant," she seethed. "But I'm not the one living in a garden, pretending like I'm oh-so-strong, pretending like I can help people. Tell me, does drinking away your problems help?"
"Why don't you find out?" he retorted, moving his face mere millimetres from hers. Toph inhaled a shuddering breath, tasting the cigarette and liquor he exhaled. "After all, you have so many. It's gotta cure at least one of them." She felt the bottle slide into her hand as Jet moved back far enough for her to take a swig. Toph gave herself an imaginary pat on the back when she managed to not cough it all back up. Thrusting the bottle into Jet's chest, she turned away with a sneer.
Jet nodded, grinning. He hadn't expected her to be such a little spitfire, but he certainly wasn't complaining. "Good girl," he praised, taking his own gulp and ignoring the glare she sent his way.
"I'm not a little girl," she muttered, setting her jaw so tight Jet wondered whether or not it would shatter. He gave a smile from the corner of his mouth before suddenly grabbing her hand and wrenching her back towards him. Toph gasped in surprise as her back came into contact with his chest, and his hands trailed down her stomach and around her hips.
"If I asked you to prove it, would you?" he questioned, moving his hands and gently squeezing her butt. Toph's entire face slackened for a moment before it tightened into one of complete fury.
"You fucking prick!"
Toph whipped around and lunged for him, striking wildly with her small fists. Jet didn't offer any resistance as she pushed him over and he landed heavily on the ground. She punched him in the chest while she straddled his stomach; Toph had no idea whether she was hurting him or not, but at that moment, all she could think of was her hands making contact, one after the other. She felt her eyes well up, but she didn't notice the water fall from beneath long lashes until it was too late to stop it.
"You asshole," she cried hoarsely. There was a lull in the blows as a low sob shook her; a tiny second off that Jet took advantage of.
Rising slightly from the ground, his lips lingered over hers just long enough to shake her from the violent rampage and instead start kissing him back.
Toph's kisses were as rough as her punches, her short, almost non-existent nails marking red lines across his cheek as she tried desperately not to be left behind. He felt a sting where her tears seeped into the broken skin, the pleasurable pain forcing a low moan from him as he thrust his hips up. "You're still a fucking c-"
She was cut off as he swallowed her lips in his, biting down hard enough to force a small whimper from her. "Language, language, Toph," he admonished, suddenly realising he had two very good hands to put to use.
Toph gasped as he slid his hands under her shirt, the cold fingers roaming across her hot stomach and up to her chest. "Mmmm, definitely not a little girl," he whispered lasciviously. Looking up at Toph, the blind girl had her eyes shut as he moved his hands underneath her bra, but he could still see the water leaking from behind the closed lids. She threw her head back, and Jet wasted absolutely no time in latching onto the exposed flesh with his lips. This time, the sound she made was on par with a moan, and he couldn't help the smirk that appeared on his face.
She didn't protest as he lifted her shirt up, instead leaning forward and nipping at his face with a subdued kind of enthusiasm. He moved his hands around her sides to unlatch the last piece of clothing covering her, but with a gasp she grabbed his hands and forced them back to her front again.
"N-no," she murmured breathlessly, but it was impossible for him to tell whether or not it was arousal or surprise. He wanted to ask what he couldn't touch, but as she dragged his hand underneath her bra, he knew it wasn't that.
With a silent sob, Toph reached around, and let the piece of material fall.
"I've, um... I've been seeing someone. With someone—I've been with someone." Toph shook herself slightly as she let the cigarette roll around the palm of her hand. She kept her head lowered, the small conversation she was making the only acknowledgment of Kyoshi's presence. There was silence from the carer, and Toph took it as an indication to continue. "Sleeping with- with them..."
There was a low creak from the seat next to her as Kyoshi moved slightly. Toph bit her lip, waiting for a response. Finally, there was a low, almost resigned, sigh.
"I know; I guessed. Is it Jet?" Kyoshi watched as Toph moved her tongue around her mouth, eyes cast down.
Kyoshi shut her eyes and gave a small nod. "How long?"
The night air was completely still, surrounding the two with a small layer of warmth. Kyoshi could see the clouds moving by the light of the moon, but the wind didn't reach them. Even the crickets and cicadas had stopped singing.
"Almost two years..."
"Shit, Toph." Kyoshi breathed the words, and Toph nodded slowly. "Did you use protection?"
This time, a shake came from Toph, and Kyoshi sucked in a sharp breath. "Not all the time," the blind girl mumbled. "He didn't always have- and I mean, I'm not... He pulled out though, I think..."
Another nod. "I wasn't- wasn't always fully... aware of what was happening..."
There was another moment of silence as Kyoshi digested the new information. When she spoke, her voice was low but calm—something the blind girl appreciated a lot, even if she didn't show it. "Why are you telling me?"
Toph shrugged, closing her fist on the cigarette before flinging the broken object to the floor. "I don't know. I don't... I don't want to be that person..." she said quietly. "Katara talked with me tonight. I didn't like what she told me—how can anyone else?"
There was a low creak, and suddenly Toph felt Kyoshi's arm around her shoulders. It was this soft, unhurried gesture that Toph had never associated with Kyoshi that forced a sad sigh from her lips; she leaned against the tall woman as she felt her insides crumble, only to be expressed by the tears that began to fall.
Kyoshi sat there in silence, and waited.
"Thanks for bringing me back, Jet..." The words were sincere, however Toph couldn't fully muster up the energy to appear honest in her expression. Jet didn't care, mostly because he couldn't blame her.
It was the early hours of the morning; the traffic was limited, and the sun's rays hadn't quite warmed up the air, lending it a slightly chilly breeze that tousled Toph's hair. She was leaning with her back against his stomach and her head on his chest. Jet's arms hung over her shoulders, resting lightly on her breasts. They were standing outside a large, red-brick house. Jet could hear the sound of a baby crying from somewhere within, and cringed.
"You don't have to go back, you know," he told her. "You think they actually care whether you come back or not? Stay with me. I can make you happy."
She sighed, leaning back a little further against him. Toph couldn't deny how warm his body was, or how much he obviously liked her. The way his hands hovered over her breasts brought back the muddled memories of the previous night; shaking, twisting, moaning, the cold seeping into her skin only to be kissed away as Jet moved his mouth all over her. The pain that came from deep inside, and the breath of relief as he gave her so many other feelings to focus on. And then when they lay, spent and panting on the cool earth, where he would still move his lips around her face, comforting her.
"I can't..." she murmured, and he spun her around to swallow her lips in his. After a few seconds, she pushed him away; he let her go, but not without a slow bite to her bottom lip.
"Are you sure, Toph?"
She nodded, leaning her head heavily on his chest. "Yeah..."
Jet stood silently, waiting for her to elaborate, but Toph found she couldn't. Her head hurt, perhaps more so than her stomach, in which a rather unpleasant throbbing had settled. She needed time to be by herself and think.
"I'll come back," she said, her words slightly muffle through his shirt. "To our park, I'll meet you there again..."
"I'll be waiting," he told her, and with another forceful kiss he left. It took Toph a few seconds to gather herself.
That night, and many nights after that, she went to the little park, only to return to her home the next day. No one said a word; no one noticed. One year, four months and eighteen days after her first night with Jet, she met someone else at her park—their park.
"Who're you, and why are you here?" she demanded. She needed to be with Jet. She needed one stable thing in her life, which had just been uprooted once again. She needed a cigarette and some whiskey, and she needed him in her; she needed his kisses and groans because he always gave them. This other person was going to screw everything up!
"It's late," the other person said. "Why are you here?"
"I'm waiting for someone," she said, not expecting to hear the small laugh from the other person.
"Hey, same here! My name's Sokka; wanna wait together?"
"Why are they always late!?"
Sokka was grumbling and groaning, pausing at random intervals no greater than a few minutes apart to check the time, before he went back to whining. Aang and Katara were just ignoring him by this stage, which only seemed to further his agitation. Aang gave an amused smile when the older boy shot off into the kitchen at the sound of a car pulling up; he didn't notice that Katara's wasn't quite so large, or as honest.
"Suki!" They heard Sokka cry out happily, however it was cut short as his voice drifted sadly towards them. "Wh-where's Toph?"
Suki walked into the living room, Sokka close behind. She waved to Katara and Aang in greeting, who only offered confused looks back.
"She didn't wanna come this week," Suki shrugged. "She said she felt sick, or tired, or something-"
"Which was it?
The whole room seemed to freeze; Suki gave Sokka a strange look, and Katara and Aang suddenly became very focussed on each other's hands.
"I don't remember," the red haired girl said. "Does it matter?"
Sokka shuffled slightly from side to side, frowning as he muttered, "I guess not..."
There was no conversation as everyone settled down in front of the TV, with the only noises coming from the sofa as Aang and Katara settled their weight on it. No one was comfortable as the tension refused to leave the room, and everyone seemed afraid of breaking the delicate silence. Sokka leaned forward to put the movie on, only to realise that he had no idea what they were watching.
"I thought we were going to watch Toph's movie?" Suki said, looking at Sokka intently. It was as though a spell had been broken as he turned to face her, disbelieving.
"But that's Toph's movie. We can't watch it without her," he said, as it were the most simple thing in the world. Sokka half-turned around to look at the other options, when Suki's voice once again permeated the room.
"Sokka, does it matt-"
"Of course it matters!" He cut her off with the sharp words and a fierce frown, causing Suki to jump slightly. "She's been excited about this for ages, and we were going to watch it last week, only we didn't. I'm not gonna watch it this week coz she isn't here."
Sokka paused to catch his breath, and in the silence he seemed to realise just how loud and aggressive he must have seemed. Lowering his head, he sighed.
"I'm sorry for snapping," he said to the floor. "I'm just... worried..."
"It's okay to be worried, Sokka." All heads turned to Katara, who had spoken through the thick silence. She shot Suki a strange look before turning back to her brother. "But it's Toph. I'm sure she's fine."
It was impossible to stay negative with Katara's hopeful smile radiating the room, but Sokka still looked at her with a sad frown. "Yeah, I know she can take care of herself... Sorry for yelling, Suki." He leaned over and placed a clumsy kiss on her cheek, which did nothing to placate his girlfriend. Even so, she let the gesture pull a forgiving smile onto her face as he continued. "Let's just watch something else. Aang, you wanna pick?"
The bald boy nodded, selecting a random movie from the massive pile that everyone was likely to enjoy. No one said anything as The Wedding Singer began playing. Suki snuggled into Sokka's side, placing her arms around him in a sideways hug. She watched him turn down the brightness on his phone as Aang turned the lights off, and even as Adam Sandler met Drew Barrymore, she caught him sneaking glances at the small piece of technology every few minutes.
Frowning slightly, she snuggled into her boyfriend further; the hand that was around his front slowly but surely making its way across his abs and up to his chest. She rested her head on his shoulder, biting back a smile; the effort soon proved futile as he continued to ignore her. Suki was all but thrown away as, halfway through the movie, the phone rang.
"Hi! Yes, Kyoshi! How are you? How's Toph? Is she feeling any better? Suki said-"
"Suki?" Sokka's small ramble, which had prompted Aang to pause the movie, and Katara to glare at her brother for the disruption, was cut short by Kyoshi's questioning tone. "And how is Suki, might I ask?"
Sokka shrugged, and with a quick, "She's fine," jumped right back into his previous train of thought. "Toph hasn't caught a bug or anything? Because we were gonna watch her movie, but she's not here so we had to postpone, and I was looking forward to-"
"Sokka, shut up. Toph is fine-"
"She is? Then why didn't she come when Suki picked her up?"
There was a heavy silence before Kyoshi's voice rang tinny through the phone.
"I'm going to ignore the fact you just interrupted me, Sokka. Now shut up and listen. Toph was fine when I left three hours ago to set up for class. A class that Suki is supposed to be at. I told them all yesterday. Now, if she isn't at the dojo in ten minutes," Kyoshi continued through the line, "She can forget about leading the girls next week at the semi-final matches."
Sokka opened his mouth, then shut it again, unwilling to relay the message. Suki frowned at him, raising her voice slightly to reach through the phone. "I heard you, Kyoshi," she said before muttering several obscenities under her breath.
"Good. Class finishes in an hour and a half. She can text you then." Without waiting for any formal (or informal) goodbye, Kyoshi hung up the line. Sokka turned to Suki with a confused look.
"How did you know what she said?" he asked. Katara facepalmed, and Suki glared at him.
"Do you really think the volume of your phone is the most important issue here?" she asked. Sokka frowned at her, his jaw set in a hard line.
"Hey, don't blame me if you shirked your class. I could have picked Toph up, and you could have joined us next week."
Suki let loose a frustrated groan, standing up to collect her stuff.
"Katara, can you walk with me to my car?" she asked, sounding very much like a demand to the males in the room. The brunette offered a small nod, sending a glance towards Sokka, who was watching his girlfriend. His eyebrows were furrowed, and he kept glancing between Suki and the phone in his hand.
"All right, what's wrong?" Katara was straight to the point as soon as they got outside, away from the boys. "What's with you two tonight?"
Suki was silent for a moment as they made their slow way down the front path. "I don't know..." The simple admission, when coupled with the red haired girl's low tone and crestfallen expression, would usually be enough for most people to pull her into a tight hug and let her know it would be all right. Katara wasn't most people, and she had a sneaking suspicion that whatever was wrong was certainly tied to Toph; a girl she liked, and wasn't about to side against without any information.
"Is it Toph?"
The brunette was right in thinking that the direct approach, at least that night, would work. Suki's eyes narrowed, and she kicked a small pebble over the fence.
"What makes you say that?" she asked, not giving an inch. Katara merely shrugged.
"No reason. So, what did you want to talk about, then?" She didn't need to look at Suki to know the expression that would be on her face. "Oh, please. You asked me to walk you to your car. Of course you want to talk about something."
They arrived at said vehicle, although Suki made no move to open the door. She opened her mouth instead, finding it more difficult to form the words she wanted than she expected.
"I want... could you... I don't like how much time Sokka is spending with Toph," she finally got out, looking away ashamedly. It was a stupid reason, and a silly, jealous act, but after the eventful beginning, and they way he carried on with Kyoshi, Suki felt her fears were justified.
Katara looked at her friend cryptically. "I'm sure Sokka wouldn't try anything. Toph is too young. And anyway, he's dating you," she added, feeling as though it would be a better reason for the girlfriend of her brother.
Suki ducked into her car, winding the window down to level a stare at Katara. "I know, and that's not who I'm worried about."
Katara's mouth dropped open. "You mean..." Suki gave an ambiguous shrug, putting on her seatbelt.
"I have to go. Can you just..." she trailed off, and Katara nodded. "Thanks." She drove off without another word, speeding slightly down the quiet streets. Katara watched as she turned the corner, before making her way back up to the house. Her head was buzzing, and through the midst of disbelieving, "Toph? No way," and "That's impossible. I would know," one lonely little thought popped out.
"Toph... I'm really sorry..."
"All right! Aang and I are going out now, and we'll be home later, okay?"
Sokka, who had been reading the blurb on the back of Toph's DVD, looked towards his sister. He frowned at her, wondering silently when she had found the time to get dressed, when another glance to the clock told him he had been reading the same paragraph over and over for the last twenty minutes.
"Where're you going?" he asked, confused. "It's movie night." Katara cocked her head and gave him a strange look, just as Aang walked through the door. He was wearing nice clothes too, and Sokka could only look between the two as his poor brain tried to make a connection.
"I've been telling you all week, Sokka. Aang and I are going to dinner and then we're going to go watch a movie at the cinema," she told him. Thinking back, Sokka did remember her mentioning something to him about it, however he had the feeling he had just gotten off the phone with Suki; lately, all his girlfriend had been doing was making him feel frazzled. No wonder he couldn't remember.
"Oh. Well, you guys have fun. I'll just, uh..." he trailed off, lost. He didn't know what he was going to do. Suki had a class, and Toph hadn't given any indication to say she was coming that week. It was too late for Aang or Suki to pick her up, and obviously Kyoshi wasn't going to drop her off. Maybe she was waiting for him to pick her up?
The thought brought a tired smile to his face, the feeling almost foreign on his lips. He turned to Katara, who was looking at him, unsure.
"Toph and I can watch her movie," he said, and the brunette felt torn between smiling at her brother's obvious joy at finally watching the fated film, or frowning at what she had learnt from Suki the previous week. Eventually, though, the smile won out. Sokka and Toph made each other happy, and if something were to happen, she wouldn't stop it. There was also the matter of Suki acting unreasonably jealous, despite the fact that Toph had never done anything to suggest she'd steal Sokka, or attempt to break the two up.
"That sounds like a good idea," she said eventually, linking arms with Aang. "Have fun, then! We'll be home later!"
Katara also wouldn't complain that Sokka seemed to prefer spending time with Toph than thinking up pathetic excuses to 'chaperone' her.
Sokka waved a small goodbye, slowly standing up in order to gather his things. He had no idea if Toph had any junk food, so he shoved a few cans of coke and the packet of gummy lollies he had bought in anticipation for the night into a plastic bag, shutting off the lights as he grabbed the film. He yawned as he locked the front door, slipping inside his car with a small stretch.
The drive to Kyoshi's had never seemed longer. If Sokka didn't laugh so much at the paranormal, he would assume that the Gods of Luck were out to get him as he caught every red light in the district, and was pulled over for a random breath test. What should have been only a ten minute drive turned into twenty, nearing on twenty-five, before he finally reached Toph's neighbourhood.
Glancing over to the passenger seat, the irritation at the long drive dissolved as, smiling slightly at the sight of Toph's movie, he pulled into the driveway. It was nice not having to worry about Toph's tall carer. Sokka had been unable to imagine her leaving them alone if he were to watch a movie at Toph's, and her presence would just make him feel... uncomfortable. Cutting the engine, he jumped out of the car, grabbing the DVD from the other seat before rapping quickly on the front door.
The sight of Kyoshi's familiar red brick was comforting, and almost forgot his weariness as he waited for the door to open. It had been a long week, full of arguments and sleepless nights; his dreams were just as bad as his real life, making it harder to drift into something deeper than a light doze. Regretfully, it seemed as though he had reached the end of his rope on the one night he had been looking forward to all week.
Waiting a few moments, he could hear Toph shuffling around behind the wooden door, unlatching the bolt before pulling it open. He couldn't suppress the grin that appeared at the sight of her, although it fell anyway as she scowled in his direction.
"I told you last week, Suki," she said, glaring at Sokka's midsection, "I don't want to go anymore."
"Toph?" He almost wanted to smile—sadly, yes, but still smile—at her mistake, but couldn't bring himself to do it as he focussed on the blood that quickly rose to Toph's cheeks. She actually stumbled backwards a few steps, mouth forming a small 'o' at the sound of his voice.
"Sokka!" she cried, surprised. "I wasn't expecting-"
"You could just tell me you don't like movie night," he interrupted, looking at her sadly. The red that tinted Toph's cheeks was the only colour on her body, and he couldn't even stand to look at it. Sokka had never seen Toph in house clothes, but honestly he wasn't surprised by the grey track-pants and black skivvy. What was a surprise was the fact that he had never noticed how tiny she really was. The black shirt really flattened her stomach; either that, or she had lost significant amount of weight in the two weeks since he had seen her last.
"N-no, that's not it!" she told him, biting her lip. "I just... it felt like a couple thing. I mean, I was probably distracting you from the movie. You want- you wanted to just cuddle with Suki, yeah?"
Sokka looked at her curiously, taking advantage of the fact that she still hadn't moved forward again by slipping inside.
"Toph, I love having you come to movie night. Look, I even brought your movie over so we could watch it!" The grin reappeared, albeit slightly smaller than earlier. Toph bit her lip as Sokka closed the door and gave her a smile. "And I bet Kyoshi has an even comfier couch," he added as an afterthought.
He didn't miss the way she sucked in a breath, brow furrowing before she shot him a small, hesitant smile.
"You love watching movies with me?" she asked, her voice unnaturally soft. Sokka felt his own grin widen a little at the sound, although if asked to explain why, he wouldn't have been able to give a decent answer.
"Yeah," he responded, his own voice just as gentle. "Yeah, I really do."
Toph shot him a hesitant smile, before punching him lightly on the arm. "Well, hurry up then. I've been aching to hear this one." She grinned fully at him now, pearly white teeth behind pink lips. He had missed her smile.
Toph turned around, walking towards the room he remembered to be the kitchen. He noticed her cane, lying on the dining room table, and a question popped into his head.
"How long have you lived here?" he asked, genuinely curious as to how she made her way around unaided. Honestly, if he didn't know she was blind, he wouldn't have been able to tell the difference (except that she gave objects a wider berth than most people). Toph stopped in her tracks, just past the doorway of the kitchen. The pause lasted only a second before she was moving again, leading him to the living room. She sat on the couch, biting her lip again, as he set up everything.
Honestly, Sokka wasn't expecting an answer. He was surprised he had the guts to ask it, actually, because he knew how much Toph didn't like talking about herself. He sat down next to her, fully content to let it pass and not bring up the subject again, when she opened her mouth.
"I've lived with Kyoshi for almost five months," she answered, looking away from him as she did so. "They didn't want me here for too long because she works weird hours, but they couldn't find anyone willing to take me..." While her voice was soft and quiet, it was also fairly apathetic. Toph spoke of her circumstances as though it was every day that teenagers were moved and shunted, and only stopped when there was no one left to shunt them.
"Well, if you weren't here we wouldn't be able to do all this stuff," he told her, smiling. Toph looked towards the sound of his voice, her own small smile breaking out again. "Movie time?"
"Yeah," she nodded.
Neither were particularly interested in the food that week, although Toph did munch on a few lollies. Sokka pressed play, and leaned over to start narrating for her. It was slightly harder because he had to translate what they were saying, but when Toph smiled as he introduced the main heroine, he knew it was worth it, even as it became more difficult for him to actually explain what was going on.
"They just pulled out a tonne of drums. Mei is standing in the middle of them, while the police officer-thingy is fiddling with a bowl of... nuts? Oh, I think they're little pebbles. She's waiting for some-oh, the officer just threw a pebble at a drum, and then she hit it with the really long sleeves," he said, looking between Toph and the screen. He wondered how she was imagining the scene, because at least to him, the descriptions seemed woefully inadequate. "There, they just did it again, except the rock bounced off two drums that she had to hit in order. That was three- holy hell, she's really flexible. She's jumping around to hit them in order, coz the area she's got is pretty big. Ohh, that's just... he just threw the bowl of pebbles so it hit the drums and went everywhere. Now she's just trying to hit the drums."
There was a slight break in the action, a scene that he couldn't explain without just repeating himself. Sokka looked at Toph again, searching for the words to describe what he was seeing. It took him a moment to realise that, looking between his friend and the movie, he couldn't describe either of them.
He wanted to be able to explain the stunning visuals of how the actress was leaping through the air, the twists and turns. Looking at Toph's wide eyes, the faint hue just above her smile that was highlighted by the light of the television, he realised that she didn't really mind.
Perhaps, for him as well, it had stopped being about the movie, and was just about being with a friend.
He gave a large yawn as a new sound was introduced on the television, and regretfully, he turned his attention back on the movie.
"She just..." he paused for another yawn. "She just used her sleeves to draw the sword out of the officer's scabbard, and she's kinda waving it around while he avoids it. He just threw the pebble bowl at her, kinda like a discus. She pulled the sword back to her and caught it, hitting the bowl. It just kinda shattered on the floor. Everyone's waiting and- nope, the officer just pulled out his own sword, so everyone's running away."
Sokka tried to stifle another yawn, but failed miserably. He lay his head on Toph's shoulder, still facing the TV so he could explain to her what was going on.
"He wants... he wants to know who she is. Why she wants to kill him. He's just circling her all calmly, and she says that it's because he's a 'government running dog' or whatever that means. She lunges at him and he just steps out of the way. This is really cool. It's like she knows where he is. Just the way they fight is really pretty. It's kinda like a dance. I suppose she is a dancer..." He trailed off, breathing deeply. He had never noticed it before, but Toph smelled kinda pretty, too. Like peppermint tea.
Toph felt the familiar ache in her chest as he lay his head on her shoulder, although it increased ten-fold as she realised with a start that he had actually fallen asleep on her. His breathing was deep and even. The movie continued to play in the background, but without Sokka's voice in her ear, she had lost interest. Or rather, her interest lay elsewhere. She gave a small smile and lay her head on his. Right here and now was perfect, and she honestly wouldn't have it any other way. He must really have been tired to fall asleep so soon, Toph thought, and in a moment of bold confidence, she took ahold of his hand, clasping it gently in her own.
She wanted to admit it. The thought had occurred to Toph before to just... tell people what was going on in her head, but that was all it had ever been; a thought. Now, sitting in the dark with Sokka, she didn't want to keep lying to herself. She wanted to say that her feelings were important, and should be acknowledged. She wanted her feelings to matter, not just to herself, but to other people.
Toph sat there all the way through the rest of the film, familiarising herself with Sokka's hand. If she only had that piece of him, for only a few hours, then she was going to make sure it was worth it. The scar near his thumb on the back of his hand, the way his index finger was almost as long as his middle finger, and the neatly filed nails—she would remember it all. Secretly, she hoped Sokka would stay asleep forever, just preserving the moment. Toph would have laughed at herself had she not been afraid of any movement waking him. She was acting pathetic and she knew it, but she also didn't care. Suki had Sokka whenever she wanted—and Toph would never start something that would end badly for all of them. There was no inherent 'right' to Sokka, and she wasn't that much of a bitch that she would try and steal him from Suki. If this was all she got with him, it was enough.
Heaving a deep sigh, she relaxed further, just enjoying the closeness. Everything was okay.
Sokka wasn't sure when he fell asleep, but he knew the moment he woke up. His neck was aching, probably from the angle in which he was lying and an added weight holding it down, and he could feel something warm surrounding his hand. Moving slightly, whatever it was on his head moved, and his hand was dropped. Sokka had to wait several moments for his eyes to adjust to the bright glare of the blue television screen from the darkness of the room. Rolling his head, he remembered laying it on Toph's shoulders before... before nothing. That must have been when he fell asleep. He could still smell the traces of mint, and able to think more coherently than earlier, found he actually liked it. Turning his head, Sokka's breath caught in his throat as he laid eyes on Toph.
She turned towards him with a start, her gaze looking over the top of his head and her chest moving up and down in shallow breaths. From the light of the television, she had an almost ethereal look about her. Sokka tilted his head, very aware of how close they were. He sat up slowly, never taking his eyes from Toph. She swallowed several times, eyes wide; he couldn't look away.
She was staring towards him, her gaze looking over the top of his head and her chest moving up and down in shallow breaths. From the light of the television, she had an almost ethereal look about her. Sokka tilted his head, very aware of how close they were. He sat up slowly, never taking his eyes from Toph. She swallowed several times, eyes wide; he couldn't look away.
Without his permission, Sokka's body leaned forwards. Somewhere between the sitting and leaning, he had forgotten how to breath; Toph seemed to be having the same problem. There was no way she could mistake the heat radiating from him as he gulped several times. Lifting his hand, still warm from her touch, he brought it to her cheek.
Suddenly, he realised what he was doing, and he jerked his hand back. Toph's eyes widened momentarily before she lowered her head.
"You fell asleep," she muttered into her lap. Sokka's eyes followed her sightless gaze, and he realised with a start that it was her hands that had been around his. There was a slight skip in his heartbeat at his eyes sought out hers.
He swallowed drily, his lower gut rolling uncomfortably as Toph gently pulled her lip between her teeth. He coughed, wrenching his gaze from her.
"Sorry," he muttered. Toph shook her head.
He didn't move for the longest time, although neither did Toph. They sat there, suspended in time, waiting. The pain in Sokka's neck was forgotten as his hand slid around to her neck and he pulled her close, their breath intermingling for a mere second before he placed his lips on hers.
Toph was having a difficult time getting air into her lungs as, under Sokka's relentless lips, she found her own responding. Her heart was in her throat, pumping more furiously than she had believed it could as Sokka's hands cradled her head. All her earlier affirmations flew out the window as he opened his mouth slightly, deepening the contact. Toph could have died happy at that moment. She actually lost track of how long they sat there together, neither willing to move away. Eventually, though, Sokka slowed, breathing deeply as he rest his forehead on hers. Toph never wanted to see so bad; there had never been a better reason for her to wish for sight, but as she had done her entire life, she just tried to make the best of it.
A want, a need, like nothing she had ever felt with Jet sprung up within her, and for the second time that night her confidence got the better of her. Toph raised a hand, placing it on Sokka's cheek with the intent to map out his face. He didn't let her as his hand appeared from nowhere, trapping hers on his face. Toph sucked in a deep breath, her chest aching for him. Sokka's breathless pants spurned her on, and leaning forward slightly she could feel how much he wanted her, too. Moving away slightly, she moved her hand to grab the one atop it, pulling him to his feet as she led him down the hall.
The fuck am I doing? she thought. Stopping dead in her tracks, she turned to Sokka. He didn't let her speak as he pushed her against the wall, his lips meeting hers again. She felt the floor disappear as he wrapped her legs around his waist, feeling her breasts against his chest.
The fuck am I doing? The thought crossed Sokka's mind that he shouldn't be kissing Toph, but before he could explore the reasons why, she opened her mouth against his, tongue running softly against his bottom lip. All rational thinking left him then, and the only thing he was focussing on was getting them to wherever she had tried to lead him. Walking a few paces further, he stumbled into the first room he could find, sucking gently on Toph's neck as he did so. They stood there (well, he stood there holding her) for several moments before he realised that they seemed to be in a bedroom; Sokka crawled across the clean sheets, laying her down but refusing to let his lips leave her skin. The lack of light didn't bother him; not when he could nibble on her neck and not be distracted by every other part of her. He wouldn't have believed Toph to be so responsive, but he certainly wasn't complaining as he lifted her shirt up, encouraged by her breathless gasps.
Sokka's hands roamed up her sides, avoiding her covered chest. They moved around to her back in order raise her slightly from the bed, however he pulled them away sharply as he felt her tainted flesh.
"Sorry," he whispered, kissing her earlobe. Toph could only shake her head at the apology.
"N-no, it's... d-do it again," she gulped, pulling his face back to her lips as he sat her up. With a lingering kiss, broken only by the need to fully dispose of the material, Sokka let his fingers dance lightly up her back, laying her back down and kissing between the shallow valley of her breasts and over the material of her bra. Toph tugged on his shirt, leaving no doubt of the next article of clothing she wanted removed, and Sokka happily obliged, breaking contact just long enough to pull his shirt off and throw it on the floor next to Toph's.
She was sitting upright when he clambered back onto the bed. Her lips, pink and swollen, beckoned him close as they curved up into a small smile. Their hands found each other, fingers intertwining as Sokka gently pushed her down onto her back. He found himself smiling back, his hands running across faint bumps as they worked their way up her arms to hold her head. There was almost no space between them, but it still wasn't enough, and Sokka made a decision as he trailed his lips lower, running them across what little skin he could see of her breasts and focussing on her stomach. Toph gave a little gasp as he licked her bellybutton before kissing it, his fingers fiddling with the waistband of her trackpants, warning her of what he was going to do. Toph made no move to stop him as he slid the warm material down her pale legs.
Sokka's eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, and the faint moonlight filtering in through the window gave him more than enough light to see Toph lying prone upon the bed, eyes shut tight. He felt his heart swell at the sight, her chest moving up and down in breathless pants. Now he wanted to see all of her, feel all of her. Removing his jeans, he lay down just to the side of her, kissing wherever he could reach
There were no words to describe exactly what Toph was feeling. She felt as though her heart would explode, all because of the young man next to her, lathering her with such sweet kisses, making her the important one. With Jet, they had skipped all this. With him, it was about the physical reaction, the result at the end of it.
Because she didn't love Jet, and Jet didn't love her.
Suddenly, she was struck with an overwhelming need for Sokka's forgiveness; for him to know everything and to accept her for it. She needed to get rid of the guilt, the self-hatred of giving herself to someone else, night after night. Of using and being used.
Clasping his head, Toph pulled Sokka close. His lips, which had been tending to her chest, moved up to her cheeks as his hands slid under the strap of her bra.
"Sokka, wait," she whispered throatily. She wasn't sure that he heard her, but within a few seconds his hands moved back down to her waist. His lips ghosted over her own, so gently she thought she might cry. Pulling him close and bestowing what was likely the softest kiss she had ever given anyone, she whispered to him.
"I've been sleeping with Jet..."
Sokka's lips were relentless against hers, and unknowingly, he wedged his thigh between her legs, pressing deep into her. Toph tore away from the kiss with a broken cry as she threw her head back, the pleasure almost too much. Her own hips began to move, desperate for the friction, however it was the feeling in her chest that was most precious to her. She had told him and he didn't hate her or judge her for it. He was accepting it.
She wasn't aware, though, that by breaking the contact between their lips, she gave Sokka a few crucial moments to finally regard what she had said. Pulling away, he took in the sight of her beneath him, eyes shut tight as she squirmed slightly against his leg. Panting heavily, she opened her eyes, wondering why he had stopped the assault on her senses.
I've been sleeping with Jet...
Sokka's mind echoed with her words, and suddenly he was too close, too near her. Wrenching himself away, the thought of Toph with Jet, lying beneath him just as she was Sokka, made him feel sick to his stomach. Moving away from her, he was able to think clearly for the first time, and he felt almost as disgusted towards himself. The darkness squirmed around him,
"What the fuck are we doing?" he asked, more to himself. "What are you doing, Toph?" The lust that had clouded his mind, forming a thick haze, lifted, and he found that he couldn't look at her.
If he did turn to look at her, Sokka would have seen the way she trembled, wide-eyed and pale. Bringing her hands up, she clasped them tight against her breast in a pathetic attempt to hold herself together. The thrill, her inner peace, it had been lost as soon as Sokka moved away. For that one, blissful second, she had allowed herself to believe that she could be happy. And now? And now that single moment in time was coming back to bite her.
Toph's brain hadn't quite caught up with everything, which was possibly the only reason why she wasn't crying yet. A heat, different to the one from mere minutes earlier, emanated from Sokka, and she felt her heart constrict painfully in her chest.
"You... you slept with him?" Sokka repeated, voice low. He was clenching and unclenching his hands, jaw set in a tight line. "The guy who tried to solicit my sister for sex, you just, I don't know, gave yourself to him?!"
He refused to look at her, letting his angry breaths fill the silence that seemed more and more tangible as each second passed. Furious, Sokka ignored the distance that stretched between them.
It wasn't just her. He was furious at himself, of letting himself get so close. He had a girlfriend, and here he was seducing a girl, not only several years younger than himself, but not even legal yet. No. Toph seduced him. She led him to the bedroom, made this something it wasn't.
He heard a shuddering gasp as Toph reached for him. He couldn't let her get away with it, though. Did she have any idea how this made him feel? Like he was the jerk! She nearly made him sleep with her, knowing full well he had a girlfriend. "Sokka..." Her hand brushed against his, the contact shocking Sokka into jerking away.
"What, you're gonna tell me it wasn't like that?" he sneered. "That Jet loved you, and you loved him?"
"Please don't, Sokka," Toph pleaded quietly. "Please. I'm not- we weren't... It's over..."
"Oh, so you didn't have feelings for him? You just used him for sex, and now you're using me? Fuck, Toph. I thought you were better than that. I should have known better. You're not even legal yet—what the fuck were you thinking?!" He was shouting by the end of it, seconds away from tearing at his own hair.
"You kissed me first!" she argued, albeit weakly. Sokka rounded on her.
"Yeah, but I didn't lead you to a bedroom. God, and here I thought that you of all people wouldn't be into whoring around. Guess I was wrong. For fuck's sake, Toph. You're a kid! A child. What the hell?!"
He turned away from her, shrugging his trousers on. He picked up the pile of clothes, pulling his shirt from the midst of it before throwing Toph's at her.
"I thought you said you loved movie night with me..." she choked out, tears forming in her eyes. Sokka turned away from her; in the dark room, he could pretend not to notice.
"I've changed my mind. I don't think you should come next week," he said finally, voice harsh. "Or any week." Giving her one last look, he found the tears in her eyes gave him the push he needed to spit out the final few words. She wasn't the victim here!
"I'd appreciate it if Suki didn't find out about this..."
Without another word, he stormed from the room, allowing the door to slam behind him. A few seconds later, she heard the front door do the same before the familiar sound of his car disappeared down the street. Toph could barely breath, but it wasn't the same as earlier. She couldn't think as the first sob wracked her small frame, followed by so many more. She had thought Sokka would understand—would listen. She thought he wouldn't care about her past, not when the future looked so much brighter. Apparently, she was wrong.
Sliding off the bed, ignoring the clothes that had so ruthlessly been thrown at her, Toph tore through her bedside table, looking for the one thing that could offer a reprieve from the absolute pain she was in. Gripping the small instrument tightly, she stumbled heavily down the hallway, one thought on her mind. Her cheeks became stained with tear tracks as they fell mercilessly from her eyes. Slipping into the bathroom, she quietly closed the door behind her, locking it. The silence, once upon a time, had been her friend. The silence meant there was nothing out there to hurt her, in the dark world she was trapped in. It was only after meeting Sokka that she realised there was no one to love her, either. It was only after meeting Sokka that she realised there had never been anyone to love her. The hole in her heart that had been there since the day she was born disappeared when she was around the boy, but now that he had gone, she found it bigger and more excruciating than ever.
Sinking low onto the floor, Toph brought the edge of the scissors up to her body, the pain nothing next to Sokka's words, his anger. Again and again, she put the metal to her skin; arms, legs, stomach, all falling under her ruthless attacks.
Finally slowing down her frenzy, Toph took a deep breath, putting the blade to her wrist.
She wouldn't stop until that pain drowned out the one in her heart. She couldn't.
Sokka was absolutely fuming on the drive home. Luckily, the police seemed to have gone to bed, because he tore through the streets well above the limit. He didn't want to think of what had just transpired or what it could mean, but his mind kept jumping back to it.
Pulling over to the side of the road, he cut the engine and put his head in his hands. God, he could still smell her, the aroma burying itself in his clothes, his pores. Taking a shaky breath, Sokka couldn't ignore the little voice in his head, telling him things he already knew; telling him how right it felt with her, how easy.
He couldn't ignore the little voice that told him he truly was the scum of the earth for wanting it when he already had someone.
What if Toph hadn't told him? What if she'd stayed silent. Sokka knew what he would have done. He would have taken her, been with her, and she would have given herself to him. He wouldn't be thinking of Suki until afterwards, the guilt settling in. How else would it have changed them? Everything would have been awkward and difficult. Surely him leaving was better for everyone?
He refused to think over why Toph had said anything in the first place.
No matter how hard he tried, Sokka couldn't forget the harsh words he had screamed at her, though. He wanted to turn the car around and drive back to her; he wanted to hold her and beg for her forgiveness. Truly, he wanted to kiss her senseless again, and the thought caused an exasperated groan to spill from his lips. There was no way he could face her again, not while he was still so wound up from her touch—her smile.
He shivered at the memory. He didn't know a single girl could have so many sides. Yue had been his first, all soft and tentative, but sensuous too. It took him months to get over her death, but then he met Suki. She was the complete opposite, forceful and hungry, making it easy for him to be with her. They both had prior experience, established likes and dislikes when it came to pleasure that were easy to share with the other person. Honestly, he liked the power in Suki's kisses, the way she gave no quarter. But Toph? He had no idea. He could still taste her in his mouth, the sweetness of her lips at odds with the way she peppered him with kisses, dragged her fingers along his skin. The way she responded to his touch, squirming and grinding, always asking more, more, more, was so unlike any one else he had ever been with.
Groaning again, Sokka turned the engine on as he realised that he needed to forget the night ever happened. He was tired and wound up. He needed to deal with it—with Suki. That was the reason, and he refused to allow the little voice to convince him otherwise. He needed Suki's body, not Toph's. He needed her kisses. Toph was just the only girl that was around at the time. If he could see Suki, everything would be okay.
In a much calmer frame of mind, Sokka drove through the streets to the dojo. It was only early, and Suki was likely still at her class. He made his way—at the speed limit—to the community center (actually the assembly hall of the local high school), parking in the small car park. He still hesitated before getting out, mentally slapping himself when he finally made a move.
Walking up to the doors, he was pleased to hear the class was still going on. A brief glance at the clock as he walked in told him that there were only a few minutes left anyway, and he relaxed slightly at that knowledge. Purposely avoiding Kyoshi's gaze, he strode across the room and sat himself in a corner, watching the girls finish their cool-down exercises. Finally, something he was supposed to do—ogle his girlfriend as she sent a surprised smile his way. It took him a while to find her because even after several years of dating, it was almost impossible for him to pick her put of the class line-up. It probably had something to do with the make-up. Finally locating her, he winked, forgetting to keep his eyes away from Kyoshi as he grinned from the side of his mouth. It fell when his gaze caught Kyoshi's; swallowing, Sokka didn't even try to hold it as the guilt that had begun to swirl in his stomach fizzled slightly.
What would Kyoshi do to him if he knew what had transpired between him and Toph? If she knew what he had said. Kill him, probably. As soon as she announced the end of the class, he was up and at Suki's side, holding her wrist as he all but dragged her from the dojo, only stopping to pick up her bag.
"Sokka? What's wrong?" Suki asked, eyebrows furrowed in concern. She hadn't been expecting him to come to the dojo to see her; he had never come to see her class before, always waiting at her house or just outside if she was going back to his. She bit back a smile when she remembered that Sokka should have been watching a movie with Toph; instead, he was here with her. She almost repeated her question when they got to his car and Sokka threw her bag in the backseat.
"Sokka, what-" She was cut off roughly as Sokka's lips met hers. She could taste mint as he encouraged her to kiss him back, the vibrations travelling through their interlocked lips as she moaned slightly.
"Nothing's wrong," he murmured as they broke apart. "I just wanted to see you..."
"You know... I've got the house to myself tonight..." she whispered, sliding closer. Pushing herself up against her boyfriend, Suki felt his hands land on her hips just as she pushed herself against him. "You should... come over..."
The not-so-innocent suggestion was met with another needy kiss; Sokka couldn't help but note that 'needy' was all it was. Desperate to keep his mind off the other girl, he pulled away and murmured, "We should probably go there soon, otherwise we'll get no privacy at all." With a wolfish grin, Suki backed away and opened the passenger-side door.
"Hurry up, then," she said, a faint blush evident beneath the make-up. His stomach twisted, but he didn't allow it to sway him as he jumped in the drivers seat.
Suki wasn't completely oblivious; she could sense the tension as it dripped from Sokka, permeating the air and making her feel just generally awkward. Unsure of how to help, she just sat next to him in silence. She didn't even say a word as she unlocked the front door and he moved past her, flicking lights on whenever he walked passed them.
"Just let me take my make-up off, kay?" she said. When she brushed past Sokka, he grabbed her hips, staying her.
"No. Leave- leave it on," he whispered throatily, kissing her full on the lips again. Her response wasn't as excited as he had hoped; she didn't see the way he frowned as the thought crossed his mind.
Breaking apart, Sokka all but ripped his clothes off, leaving himself bare as he kissed Suki's neck and peeled the outfit from her, finally pushing her down on the bed still in her underwear. He was right about earlier; she was nothing like Toph. The blind girl, through her touch alone, had convinced him to give more—to give everything. Suki barely seemed to respond at all; she was silent and still as he kissed her, a demure smile on her face as his fingers roamed up her back.
Sokka didn't have time for this. All but ripping the last of her clothes off, he began to move, trying to release the awful pressure that Toph had started.
Kyoshi had noticed Sokka as soon as he walked through the door; she wasn't sure if he was seeking out Suki, or trying to avoid looking at her. Even if she had wanted to keep Suki back after the class, or tried talking to Sokka, the boy gave her no such opportunity as he shepherded Suki from the dojo, barely stopping to pick up her bag. He was behaving strangely, and Kyoshi couldn't ignore the small twinge of apprehension and doubt that crept into the back of her mind.
Going to her bag, she pulled her mobile out and speed-dialed the home line. When there was no answer, she frowned, instead trying to call Aang. There were several moments pause as the line linked up, and suddenly he answered with a fairly breathless, "Hello?".
"Aang? Hi, it's Kyoshi," she began. "Listen, is Toph with you?"
She heard a light giggle over the phone (probably his girlfriend, whatwasit-? Katara) before Aang responded.
"Sorry, Kyoshi, what was that?" he asked, giggling again. Swallowing her agitation, Kyoshi repeated her question.
"Toph isn't answering the phone, and I wanted to know whether she was with you," she said, putting her fans away in their case.
"Uhh, no," Aang told her. "Katara and I went out, so Sokka said he'd go to yours and watch that movie with Toph. They probably went back to his house or something."
"No, they didn't. Sokka just came to pick Suki up, and now Toph isn't picking up. Sorry to ruin your date," she said, actually sounding legitimately upset at the intrusion. That was new. "But I need you to go and check up on her and see why she's not answering."
Aang let out an annoyed sigh, wondering what the issue was. "I'm sure she's fine. Toph can look after herself. She's probably still sick or something, and that's why Sokka left early."
Suddenly, there was a new voice over the line. From Aang's indignant cry, Kyoshi could only assume that the phone had been wrenched from him.
"Kyoshi? What did Aang mean when he said Sokka left early?" Katara asked.
"I don't know about early, but he came to pick Suki up a little before nine. They left in a hurry, too," she explained.
"Do you know why he was there?"
"No. Suki drove here, so she didn't need a lift. He looked... he looked like he didn't want to be near me, but really needed Suki for something." Katara was silent for a few moments, piecing together the information.
"Okay. Well, Aang and I were just... never mind; we've finished now, and we can stop by and check up on her if you want?"
Kyoshi nodded. "Thank you, Katara. I shouldn't be too long. I'll meet you at the house."
Hanging up, Kyoshi paused for a moment and let out a deep sigh. She recalled Aang's confident words;
I'm sure she's fine. Toph can look after herself."
Stomach twisting slightly, she could only hope that was true. Kyoshi didn't want to think about why Sokka had left early.
There were no lights on as Aang and Katara approached the front door. The air was heavy and still, their knocks echoing like gunshots down the empty street.
"She must be asleep or something," Aang mused. Katara gave a small 'hmmm', and Aang shot her a glance. "What?"
"Aang, haven't you seen her recently? She looks absolutely exhausted; she looks like she's barely been sleeping at all," Katara explained. She cast her thoughts back to the last time she had seen Toph. The girl was good, but Katara was better; she could tell Toph hadn't been feeling well, although now she knew the reason why the blind girl came along anyway. "At the very least, we should go in and check for Kyoshi."
Aang made a funny look, but conceded. Toph would do the same for him; actually, she would have kicked down the front door by now and then blamed it on him for taking too long.
Turning the doorknob, the door swung open, surprising the teenagers. Aang shrugged, explaining that, "Toph never remembers to lock doors unless she's going out. Or lights, obviously."
Flicking the light on, they looked around the house. "Well, Sokka definitely came here," he noted, pointing to the television. Katara walked around to turn it off, noticing the barely untouched food and drinks. Looking up towards Aang, her gaze landed on Toph's cane, still sitting on the kitchen table.
"Maybe she is asleep...." Katara murmured quietly, indicating the cane.
"Come on, her room's this way..."
Taking Katara by the hand, he led her down the hallway, flicking lights on as he went. The brightness threw the brunette a little, but as she got used to it she realised how very sparse the house was. There were a few photos on the wall, of Kyoshi and an unknown girl, but nothing that could obviously be attributed to Toph. Actually, there was nothing that her own home had; no little figurines or paintings on the wall. There were no creature comforts. Katara's slightly sad musing was cut short as Aang stopped outside a bedroom. Reaching into the room, he felt around the wall for a few moments, trying to locate the light switch.
"Me walking in there is more likely to wake her up," he explained in an almost-inaudible undertone, although it was completely unnecessary as the light revealed that she wasn't actually in her room at all.
"Huh," Aang said. "Where is she, then? She wouldn't go anywhere without her cane..."
Katara had a sinking feeling in her gut that only worsened as she caught sight of the crumpled clothes sitting on the bed. Maybe she went back to Jet or something—but, hadn't she admitted that she only went to him because she had no one else? That couldn't be it—she wouldn't go to him—because Sokka had been there tonight...
"Maybe she's in the bath or something?" Katara couldn't keep the lilt out of her voice, and Aang looked at her curiously.
"... Maybe..." He wasn't willing to get into Katara's suddenly stricken look at that moment. Not when his own heart was thumping loudly in his chest.
Leading her further down the hallway, they found the bathroom door to be shut. There was no light on, but Katara supposed it didn't matter to Toph. Pushing her way past Aang, she rapped on the door a few times.
"Toph? Are you in there?" They waited a few moments with bated breath; when there was no reply, Katara tried again. "Toph?" Reaching forward to open the door, she wasn't expecting to find it locked. Wiggling the handle a few times, an unknown panic bubbled up inside her. Banging on the door, she paused only long enough to look at Aang; her eyes meeting his, she found her own emotions mirrored on his own face.
He nodded, already knowing what she was going to say. "Kyoshi has a key," he said in a tight voice, before darting back the way they came. They were both trying to focus on the door, and not what they would find on the other side. As soon as he left her side, Katara began banging on the door again, hoping for the best and yet fearing the worst; tears had already begun forming as she imagined what she would find on the other side. He came back only a few seconds later, silently grateful for Kyoshi's extremely organised nature as he handed Katara the key. Her hands had begun shaking as she put it in the lock, knocking one more time.
"T-Toph! We're coming in!" she called, stuttering slightly. Twisting the key, she pushed the door open.
With her head pressed into Sokka's chest, all Suki could smell was the perspiration that clung to the both of them. His chest rose up and down in slow motions, so different to her own; she felt like her lungs were at half capacity.
Pressing her face further into him, her thoughts naturally wandered back to what they had just done. Yes, she liked it when he was a little hard; a little rough. But that was just... he had never been like that before. The way he had all but pounced on her made little shudders run up her spine. Her ending had be fantastic; she felt like she had exploded from the inside out, in all honesty. But Sokka? He had ended up just... giving up, unable to reach his own satisfaction.
"What's wrong?" she asked him, lifting her head to look at him. Sokka avoided her eye as he replied with a grunt.
Suki turned away, biting her lip. He was lying, she knew it, but she wanted him to just talk to her. Why did they never just talk nowadays?
Sokka watched from the corner of his eye as, with a small hff, Suki moved from her bed, going to her wardrobe and pulling on a nightshirt and some underwear. She didn't say anything as finally she went to scrub her make-up off. Gingerly, Sokka picked up his pants and slipped them on. He came to Suki to work off some tension—to feel better. So why did he feel worse? Reaching into his pocket and picking up his phone, he barely capable of the surprise he knew he should feel when he glanced at the time.
Nine-thirty. He had lasted all of twenty minutes before he decided there was just no point. Suki seemed satisfied, at least, so there was that. But not once had he ever failed himself like this. He should have just sorted himself out, at least then the shame would be justified. There was a guilty burble in his gut as he realised that, even if he had fixed it himself, it wouldn't have been images of Suki that flashed through his head.
God, what kind of guy was he?
He was cut from his musings (thank God) when the phone began buzzing. Katara's caller ID flashed on the screen, and he spent a moment just looking at the name. As much as he didn't want to talk to her, at least it meant she and Aang weren't doing what he just did with Suki. Putting his hand over his eyes, he answered the phone with a resigned sigh.
"Sokka!" It wasn't Katara's, but Aang's surprised voice burst through the phone, jolting him slightly. "Where are you? I need you to get down to the hospital, now!"
A chill fell over Sokka's body, and all the breath escaped his lungs.
"Aang? Wha- is Katara okay?" There was a quiver in his voice that he couldn't control.
"Kat- Katara's fine. Well, no, she's not, but she's not who you need to be worried about now."
"Who-?" Sokka's heart sunk and cracked. There was a lump in his throat that he couldn't get past, and he hadn't even noticed Suki return.
"Toph. Please hurry..."
His hand slid away from his face as he stared straight ahead. Suki stood in front of him, reaching out, but as soon as her hand met his, he jerked away, springing from his seat.
"I have to go," he said, picking up the rest of his clothes and putting them on. He didn't look at Suki; he didn't want to see the look on her face.
"Was that Toph?" she asked, unable to keep all of the bitterness from her voice. Perhaps it was lucky that he didn't hear the tone; only the words.
"I have to go," he repeated. "I'll call you tomorrow." With that, he turned and left. He didn't stop and wait for Suki's sniffles. He didn't turn around when he heard them.
Katara wondered when the tears would come. They fell earlier, she remembered, but now her eyes seemed to have dried up. She didn't want to leave in case any doctors came back with news about the blind girl she had come to regard as a sister; she was immensely grateful when Aang offered to call Sokka. Kyoshi hadn't made a noise nor a move since she arrived, instead sitting in stoney silence as she watched everyone with a sharp eye, taking in every detail to keep her mind from wandering to places she didn't want it to go.
She had been treated for shock as soon as she arrived at the hospital—she didn't have the strength to fight them off—but she couldn't get the image of Toph from her head.
Kyoshi noticed Aang return, although his presence made Katara jump slightly, thankful that he interrupted her thoughts. He slid onto the bench next to his girlfriend, handing her phone back. She looked up at him blank eyes, and Aang could see the events of the night still hadn't completely caught up with her.
Putting his arms around her shoulders, Aang pressed her into him in a tight hug.
"Shh. It's okay, Katara," he whispered. "She's going to be okay. Sokka's on his way now."
He felt her nod against his chest, and for the next ten minutes they sat there together. He stroked her hair and she gripped his hand, both finding much-needed comfort on the actions of the other.
"Kyoshi Dao? Are you Toph's family?"
The kind voice came out of nowhere for Katara and Aang, although as they jolted up they could see Kyoshi already on her feet and desperate for news.
"Yes? That's us."
The doctor was a young woman, perhaps twenty-five. She looked between the three of them with kind eyes, assessing each person and how they were likely to react. Katara had her hands clasped with Aang's and was looking far too pale; Aang, swallowing anxiously, being sure to make eye contact. Kyoshi looked just about ready to kill someone if they didn't hurry up.
"Hi, I'm Doctor Song. Toph is stable. She's sleeping now, but you can go and see her. She's in room 18," she said, looking at Aang and Katara. They rushed away, with a small 'thanks', and the doctor turned to Kyoshi.
"What else?" the tall woman asked, absolutely dwarfing the doctor. She looked up sadly, giving Kyoshi reason to believe that this was not the first such case the doctor had handled.
"We had to give her a blood transfusion. She had passed out by the time..." she looked down at her notes for the name. "By the time Katara found her, likely from pain. Katara saved her life."
Kyoshi moved a few steps back, collapsing on the chair she had just vacated. "Is she going to be okay?" she asked softly. The doctor heaved a small sigh.
"We don't know how permanent the damage will be. The median nerves in both wrists were cut, her left worse than her right. They've been stitched back together, but it's impossible to know the extent of the damage until she wakes up."
Kyoshi nodded, understanding. Song sat down next to her, putting the clipboard to the side.
"We've had to put her on watch as a precaution, and psychiatric examinations will be necessary before we can release her," she continued. Kyoshi nodded again, not looking at the doctor. "I'm sorry."
The tall women did look up at this, her face drawn with a heavy frown. "She's going to be okay," she said confidently. "No... She has had... issues before, but she was getting better," She thought back to the class, and of Sokka's unexpected visit. "She can do it again."
Aang and Katara had paused just inside Toph's room as though fearful of stepping too close. There was a nurse, bumbling about with tubes and machines, but she moved around a bit as soon as the younger couple stepped through the door so they could see their friend. She was an old lady, a face full of rolls and dimples, but she had a kind smile and soft eyes.
Next to him, Aang could feel Katara trembling—a violent shiver that would be better suited to an ice-rink than a hospital—and he shepherded her forward to stand next to Toph's bed.
"I'm going to grab some chairs," he said, kissing her cheek. Katara gave a small nod, but otherwise made no movement. The nurse was still clattering around the bed, and Katara wondered how Toph would react to such attention if she were awake.
"You're the one who found her?"
The old nurse's voice surprised Katara, least of all because she wasn't expecting to be addressed in the first place. The second surprise was just how warm it sounded; like honeyed cream buns, fresh from the oven. Katara gave a little nod.
"Yeah," she admitted quietly, trying to keep her eyes focused on Toph's sleeping face, and not the thick bandages wrapped around her arms. Moving forward, she gently pushed Toph's hair. It was just as soft as she remembered it to be, those weeks ago when she brushed it. Her bottom lip trembled, and she swallowed in an attempt to hold herself together.
"I couldn't...." she began, taking a breath. "I don't understand," she admitted quietly. "Why would she do this?"
The nurse rested a hand on Katara's shoulder. "Maybe that's something you can talk about when she wakes up."
Katara looked at her, the warm smile forcing a watery one onto her own face. "Yeah," she said, turning once again to her friend. Katara didn't notice the nurse leave. The beeping of the machines lulled Katara, and she completely lost track of time; it took her a while to realise that Aang hadn't yet returned, and she bit her lip. She didn't want to leave Toph's side—what if she woke up?—but, now she realised how long he had been gone, she was desperate to find out what was keeping her boyfriend. The longer she waited for his return, though, the more nervous she became until eventually she couldn't stand it anymore.
"Aang?" Peering around the edge of the doorframe, she couldn't see her boyfriend anywhere. Checking on Toph one last time, she moved closer to where she had been sitting only a short half-hour previous. She probably should have come sooner.
"Sokka? Wh- what happened?"
Her brother was sitting on one of the chairs, holding an ice-pack to his eye and a tissue on his split lip. "Sokka!? What happened?"
"Nothing..." he said quietly. "Ran into a door." Katara looked from him to Aang, who was looking at Sokka with sad eyes, to Kyoshi, who was purposely ignoring Sokka.
Sokka lowered the ice-pack and wet his lips. "Kyoshi, can I-" he started, but the older woman interrupted, not looking at him.
"I said 'no', Sokka," she hissed, finally turning her gaze on the boy. "She's sleeping, and I doubt she wants to see you when she wakes up." Rising suddenly, Kyoshi moved away from the scene, walking down the door to Toph's room. Katara watched her, looking back at Sokka only for a moment before she too left, leaving her brother alone with Aang.
Sokka refused to look at anyone. He had watched Kyoshi walk down the hall, but now that she had disappeared into what was presumably Toph's room, he had turned his focus on the checkered tile flooring, blinking back the rapidly-forming tears that he only just realised were there. He was a guy; guys didn't cry. Sure, they were allowed to feel like their insides were missing, and the spot where their heart should go be empty and cold, but they still didn't show it.
"She hates me," he whispered, more to himself than anyone else. He wasn't sure whether he was relieved or not when Aang turned to him, although the younger boy's words weren't particularly well-thought out.
"Kyoshi's just angry. I'm sure she doesn't hate you," he said. The frown on his face made Sokka question both the words and the fact that Aang had chosen to try and comfort him. Sokka gave a dry laugh, but it sounded foreign and unnatural. He shut his mouth after a few seconds and tried to discretely sniffle back the mucus that had begun forming in his nose.
"I didn't mean Kyoshi," he said quietly.
"Sokka..." Aang put his hand on the older boy's shoulder. "This was bound to happen sooner or later," he murmured quietly. "Toph won't hate you, because it's not your fault-"
"It is!" The sudden vehemence that laced Sokka's voice hit Aang suddenly, and he jerked away. "It is my fault..." He turned away, clenching his eyes. There was silence as Sokka tried to pull himself together, and Aang tried not to listen to the boy breaking down next to him.
"I need to see her." Sokka's voice, while still low and heavy, had a note of decisiveness that, only a few minutes earlier, Aang honestly hadn't thought he could muster. The younger boy made no attempt at halting Sokka, although he didn't have to. Even when Sokka stopped several metres away and turned around, Aang knew that he would still try and see Toph, no matter what anyone said. No matter his answer (for of course there was a question).
Sokka swallowed thickly, the fierce emotions from earlier replaced with something far more melancholic; Aang could see it, even as Sokka avoided eye contact. "You- you said this was bound to happen... w-what did she do?"
He finally looked up, meeting Aang's eyes. His own blue orbs gazed into the younger boy's grey ones, desperately seeking an answer that he wasn't even sure he wanted. Aang let out a deep sigh and looked away, unable to face him any longer.
"She slit her wrists..."
"I'm going to fucking murder your brother," Kyoshi hissed quietly; looking at Toph, Katara couldn't actually find a reason to defend Sokka. "What the fuck was he thinking?"
Each woman sat on either side of Toph. Kyoshi was stroking Toph's forehead, her back to the door—almost as though shielding as much of the short girl from the outside world as possible. The soft action completely at odds with her harsh words. Sitting down, Kyoshi wasn't much taller than Katara, and the teenager could see the redness in the adult's eyes. Almost embarrassed at witnessing such a display from the other woman, Katara averted her gaze, her eyes flitting around the room, stopping at the door when a movement caught her attention.
"Is this how he gets his kicks or something?!" Kyoshi cried, although Katara was barely listening as, through the open crack of the door, she saw her brother halt.
"He's an idiot. He wasn't thinking..." she said quietly. Sokka was looking straight at her, though for the first time she could remember, he broke the stare first.
"You're fucking right he wasn't," Kyoshi agreed darkly, eyes focussed on Toph. "How the fuck did he not realise this would happen? Is it all boys, or just him, who fail to notice when someone hasn't been eating or sleeping, or is so fucking depressed that she's been hurting herself for spirits only know how long! She doesn't- she's never been able to regulate her emotions well, and he goes and fucks with her again!" Kyoshi trailed off, biting her lip.
"Kyoshi... I didn't even know she hurt herself..." Katara protested softly. "... And I don't know why you think Sokka-"
"You suspected though, didn't you!" Kyoshi argued, interrupting. She didn't catch the way Katara looked towards the door before averting her gaze.
"Yeah... She- she told me some things..." Katara admitted quietly. "An- and she let me hug her and help her..."
Kyoshi didn't say anything, and they fell into a thick silence. Katara looked up at her after a few moments, swallowing nervously.
"Kyoshi? H-how do you know this was Sokka?" she asked timidly.
Kyoshi exhaled heavily through her nose. "Because he came to pick up Suki. That, and Toph was only in her underwear..."
Head jerking up, Katara's wide eyes darted between child and carer. "You think Sokka and Toph...?"
"Something happened," Kyoshi said. "I don't know what, or why, but it happened..."
Katara's eyes met Sokka's for the briefest moment. His entire face had fallen, and he looked positively nauseous before he vanished, stepping away.
"She'll be okay, won't she?" Katara asked. "Kyoshi?"
Kyoshi opened her mouth, but didn't get a chance to speak as the door swung open and the young doctor who had greeted them stepped through.
"Ms. Dao? Can I speak with you a moment outside?" she asked, moving towards the door as the other woman began to stand up.
"Kyoshi? She's... she's like my little sister," Katara whispered softly. "Can-can I stay here until she wakes up?"
Both women turned to the doctor, who had a sad smile on her face.
"I think Toph will need you when she does," she said. "I think she needs to know she has friends—a sister—just like you."
"I don't know. You think she talks to me about anything?"
"Yes, I do."
"...So fucking depressed that she's been hurting herself for spirits only know how long!"
"Yeah... She- she told me some things..."
"She slit her wrists..."
"...Slit her wrists..."
Sokka hadn't made it far after escaping the claustrophobic confines of the hospital. Stumbling away from Toph's room, he hadn't been able to make eye contact with Aang—he hadn't been able to look at him at all. The antiseptic building numbed him enough to make it out the doors in one piece, although the guise had fallen as soon as he slid into his car.
The tears didn't start falling until the sobs turned guttural and he was fighting for breath between each one. He couldn't explain the feeling in his chest, only that it hurt. It hurt and he wanted it to stop, but he also wanted it to never go away because he deserved the pain after everything he had done. His head was resting on the steering wheel, arms wrapped around his middle in a desperate attempt to hold himself together.
Toph... his best friend, Toph, hurt herself. She hurt herself and had been hurting herself for a long time and he hadn't seen it. And he hadn't been able to help her. He... he broke his promise.
"You really think I'm going to betray her trust like that?"
What was he supposed to do now? Now that he had completely ruined his friendship with her; how could he come back from that? He was the proof that the world was just as shitty as she always believed it to be, and he was never going to get a chance to redeem himself, or show her the other side. His own words echoed in his ears;
"...I thought that you of all people wouldn't be into whoring around. Guess I was wrong. For fuck's sake, Toph. You're a kid! A child. What the hell?!"
Oh God, why did he have to say that? She wasn't a child! She was his friend, and when she finally opened up to him he rejected who she was.
"I think she needs to know she has friends—a sister—just like you."
Katara was always the better person. Better than him. She would help and listen to Toph; be the friend the younger girl needed. He would only hurt her more.
Wiping his eyes, Sokka turned the ignition on once more, and made his slow way home.
Kyoshi was only out of the room for a few minutes. Katara tried not to listen, but how could she blot out the phrases like antidepressants and psychiatrist, and just in time? How could she forget what she saw? The door creaked open as the older woman slipped inside. Kyoshi's gaze landed on her young ward, falling the barest hint.
"Can you stay here tonight?" she asked. "I have to go to the State Department to organise some-..." She trailed off with a small sigh, eyes never leaving Toph. "I think it's better if you're here for her rather than me."
Katara opened her mouth, a small noise escaping from her throat. It died as Kyoshi finally looked at her, eyes bloodshot. The older woman took another steadying breath. "I'll be back when I'm done. She should wake up soon..." Katara nodded, looking away.
"I'll be here..."
Kyoshi gave a small nod in thanks, and slipped from the room. Katara didn't watch as she left, instead turning her gaze back to Toph. The small girl had a small frown on her face, eyebrows furrowed the barest hint. Katara slipped her hand over Toph's face, wiping away the emotion splayed there. The action proved somewhat therapeutic for her, too, and she continued it, becoming lost in the sensations of Toph's smooth skin underneath her fingertips. Her mind wandered, trying not to land on the small girl lying in bed in front of her, but ultimately failing. The door opened as Aang slipped inside, holding two take-away cups of coffee. He handed one to her silently, sitting on Kyoshi's recently-vacated chair. He seemed unable to look at his friend, instead staring at his coffee as though expecting it to do more than just sit in his hand. Time seemed to freeze, and yet when Katara happened to glance up at the clock on the wall, an hour seemed to have passed without her even realising it. The coffee had gone cold, and Aang was crossing and uncrossing his legs in an attempt to get the blood moving again.
In all that time, Katara didn't hear the heart monitor speed up, her attention focused on Toph's face. The blind girl's eyes didn't move beneath the lids, even as the lashes began fluttering open and her fingers started to twitch.
Katara's breath caught in her throat when she noticed it, though; she had expected it to take longer for the blind girl to wake up. Honestly, she had hoped that Kyoshi would return, but at least she had Aang. Putting the untouched coffee on Toph's bedside table, Katara threaded her hand in the small girl's, holding it lightly. Standing up, she moved closer, but not so close as to freak Toph out when she finally gained complete consciousness. Aang hadn't moved from his seat, instead preferring to watch Katara handle it. He would only get in the way, and Katara's presence would likely be the more calming one.
"Toph?" Katara whispered quietly, smoothly. "Sweetie, can you open your eyes?"
Aang held his breath, eyes flickering between his friend and his girlfriend. Toph's eyes flickered, opening for a second before closing again. She let out a low groan, and Katara squeezed her hand again, waiting for a response.
Toph couldn't see anyone (obviously), and she had no way of knowing Katara was sitting next to her save for the warm hand in hers. Her breathing, once shallow, came faster and faster, and she was finally able to open her eyes. There was a soft voice next to her that could only belong to one person.
"K-Katara?" she managed weakly, trembles running from her fingers up her arms and then travelling the length of her body. Toph grit her teeth, clenching her eyes as Katara helped her to sit up. Suddenly, she leant forwards, arms coming to wind around her stomach. Her frame shook violently, and as her eyes pinched further, she couldn't stop the wetness that began to leak out.
"Katara!" she forced, although she didn't have to bother as the older girl was already moving. Aang stood up, but with no direction from Katara and absolutely no idea what to do on his own anyway, he remained in the same place, fidgeting. Katara slid a small bucket onto Toph's lap, rubbing her back slowly and moving her hair out of the way.
"Toph, it's okay, Honey," she murmured. "I got you."
Toph's hands shot out and, holding the bucket in place, she couldn't hold back what her stomach wanted to expel. Her hair stayed out of the way thanks to Katara, but Toph couldn't focus on that as her body settled. Her throat burned, causing her eyes to water; when the bile crept up again, she pushed it down, this time successful. Aang moved closer, a tissue suddenly in his outstretched hand. He shot Katara a look that she didn't see as she took it of him and began wiping around Toph's mouth. The younger girl sat complacently until Katara had finished, small shivers still travelling over her body. She didn't say anything as Katara finished and moved the bucket out of the way. Her hands were shaking slightly, and she was tapping her pinkies against her leg. Katara saw her eyes widen slightly and watched as Toph gulped several times.
"Do you want a drink?" she asked quietly, as though anything above a whisper would scare Toph away. The blind girl gave a small nod, and Katara turned to the pitcher only to find Aang already pouring a glass. She gave him an appreciative smile, turning back to Toph. She had stopped trembling so violently, and Katara gently placed the cup in Toph's hands. The blind girl began to lift it to her mouth when the whole thing suddenly fell from her hand and into her lap, spilling water everywhere. Katara and Aang looked at her for a moment; Toph's eyes had widened slightly and after a few seconds of staring toward her lap in shock, she turned her face towards Katara.
"Katara, I-" She choked, and Katara couldn't find the shock she thought should be there as Toph turned her face up, a trickle of a tear making its way down her face. "-I can't move my fingers properly. I can't feel anything."
The small display was enough; Toph roughly wiped the tears away and set her heart to stone. She wouldn't cry. She had done this to herself, so she wasn't allowed to cry over it.
Even so, she just wanted to be alone. She knew how to deal with 'alone'.
"Can I have a minute?" she ended up asking, still feeling Katara's eyes on her. Her voice was barely more than a murmur, and she felt her friends—friends?—hesitate.
"We- we can't, Toph..." Aang placed his hand on Toph's as he answered. "You're-" he sighed. "After tonight, they don't want to take any chances. I'm sorry..."
The couple watched as Toph futilely attempted to clench her fists, the muscles in her hands spasming. Her jaw tightened, and Aang used her distraction to nod his head towards Katara.
"I need to make a phone call," the brunette said, glancing at Aang for approval. He gave a small smile and she continued. "I'll be back soon, Toph. I'll get the nurses to bring a dry shirt, okay?"
She wasn't expecting Toph to say anything, so when the other girl muttered out a, "Thank you, Katara," she was pleasantly surprised. Katara left the room smiling, though with her went all the noise.
Toph never liked silence. To be perfectly frank, she abhorred it. She would never tell Aang how much she appreciated it when he whispered, "Scooch over," in her ear and sat softly on the edge of the bed. Everything he did was soft, she mused as he gently clasped her hand.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" he asked, smiling ruefully when she let out a short snort. "Yeah, I didn't think so," he conceded. Toph turned slightly and buried her face in his side.
Breathing deeply, she spoke, her voice coming out muffled and almost unintelligible. Chuckling, Aang asked her to repeat herself. Toph lifted her head away slightly, staring at his navel.
"You smell like Katara," she said. Aang lay his head on hers.
"And you still like burrowing, huh Badger?"
Toph scowled, but there was no venom in the expression. "No, I don't," she said. Aang didn't see her face fall, but he certainly heard it in her voice as she continued with a quiet, "I don't even know..."
"Hey, hey," he said, wrapping his arm around her. "... Toph, what happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it..."
Aang let out a sigh. "You remember the first time I met you? You marched up to me and told me you were in charge of everyone and I had to listen to you."
Toph shrugged, unabashed, though a small smile had begun to work its way onto her face again. "I could tell from an early age you needed guidance," she quipped.
"You were seven!" Aang cried, eliciting a tiny chuckle. The smile that had risen to his own face at the memory dropped as he continued. "And now? Toph, we want to help you," he started. "Katara was in tears. Finding- no one ever wants to see their best friend, their little sister, bleeding out on a bathroom floor," he told her.
Toph turned her head away, unwilling to hear anymore. Aang knew, of course he did, and he squeezed her a little closer. "We love you, Toph."
He didn't say anything more after that, put he didn't let her go, either. Toph had her face pressed into his side, the warmth turning her cheeks pink. Her breathing evened out and aside from the sporadic shivers, almost managed to forget her damp shirt.
"Where's Kyoshi?" she ended up asking after a few minutes. Aang's thumb had been rubbing circles into her shoulder, and he didn't break the routine as he answered.
"She had to go to the State Department. She'll be back soon."
Toph nodded in acknowledgement, too tired of everything—too tired in general—to do much more. Aang still had his other hand around hers, and it staved off the worst of the trembles, and she found herself almost nodding off to sleep. Not quite, though, and she stirred when she heard Katara walk back into the room. She felt herself missing Aang's warmth almost straight away when the boy was ushered from the room. He placed a soft kiss on her temple—again with the softness!—and she remembered when they were young and he comforted her then, too. In the hospital with severe infection on her back, and his presence just helping her through the pain.
And now she was alone with Katara, and the full weight of Aang's words settled on her. They both had seen everything. They didn't know and now they did, and Katara's silence and awkwardness was enough to tell Toph that the other girl had no idea how to react.
Or maybe she did. With no warning at all, Toph found herself pinned between Katara and her pillow as the older girl sniffled into her shoulder.
"Spirits, Toph. Don't ever scare me like that again," she murmured softly. Toph could feel a wetness on her cheeks that didn't come from her, and was about to lift a hand when Katara pulled away. "I have another shirt for you here," she said, rubbing her nose. "I'll just be outside. Let me know when you're done."
Toph felt the material land lightly on the bed, and as the sound of Katara's footsteps reached her ears, she couldn't help but remember what Aang had said.
Katara halted, and Toph found she couldn't keep her head up.
"I can't... can you help me?" she murmured, breathing deeply. She wanted to say more, but she wasn't able to as Katara moved forward. The brunetter picked up the dry shirt and pulled down the blankets so Toph's feet were free. Toph didn't argue as she was helped to the edge of the bed, her legs swinging loosely over the side.
Katara wasn't one for inaction, though, and guessing somewhat correctly that Toph didn't want enough time to think about anything, moved forward.
"Arms up," she said gently, reaching for the hem of Toph's shirt. The blind girl obeyed silently, appreciating the clinical efficiency with which Katara behaved. Even so, Toph knew she was scrutinising every cut, every blemish. Though Katara didn't say a word, Toph still felt ashamed, scared for a reaction that she didn't want to hear.
It never mattered with Jet, so it shouldn't now. It shouldn't but it did. Even as all of this was going through her head, Katara finished replacing the damp shirt.
"All dry," Katara said, brushing her hands over Toph's shoulders. Toph had her face angled towards the floor, and opened her mouth to say something when there came a light knock at the door.
"Toph?" Aang's voice carried through the wooden door, causing Toph to jump slightly. "Kyoshi's here..."
Katara walked to the door, pulling it open slowly. Even with her superior sense of hearing, Toph was unable to make out much of what was said. Truth be told, she wasn't trying all that hard, either. The door closed again, and she could tell from the heavy footsteps that only Kyoshi was in the room with her.
Again, with the silence.
"Just get it over with," Toph muttered. She tried to move back so she could bring her legs up on the bed, but couldn't put enough pressure on her hands to do so. Even though Katara had put her shirt on properly, she suddenly felt very naked in front of Kyoshi, bandages wrapped halfway up her arms.
Kyoshi didn't say anything, though, and Toph felt herself biting her lip under the intense gaze. She refused to turn her own face away, but even so she felt herself withering. "Just say what you have to and leave!" she cried out, louder, almost a bellow save for the way her voice cracked.
"And what do I have to say, Toph?" Kyoshi asked. She sounded like she was frowning. To Toph's ears, it sounded like she was disappointed. Just another voice in a sea of hundreds whose expectations she would never get close to reaching. Spirits, she could feel the lump rising in her throat. Did she really have to answer that question?
Not really, and she didn't; Toph sat there silently, throat bobbing as she attempted to swallow around the lump that was making it difficult to breath, let alone anything else.
Kyoshi wasn't one to display affection openly, nor was Toph one to show her; the one time, only a few short weeks ago, that Toph had cried around her, she had woken up gluggy and ashamed that she had let anyone, let alone her carer, see her like that.
That was why Toph couldn't hold back the small choke of surprise when she heard Kyoshi move forward and settle her weight on the bed. She let out a quiet sigh and wrapped a strong arm around Toph's slight frame.
"What did the department say?" Toph asked, letting herself sink slightly into Kyoshi's side, her hands were running along her bandages.
"... Do you want to move again, Toph?" Kyoshi said instead. Toph paused for a moment, thinking back. She'd been hurt more in the last few months than she had in the last few years of moving around. New 'homes', new lives. She'd never stayed anywhere long enough to really form a true home anywhere. Until recently, her home had been with Jet, and his weed. His body. Now, it was with everyone else.
"No," she said quietly. "I don't want to move anymore."
"What do you want?"
Toph's began chewing on the inside of her cheek, swallowing thickly.."I want to be happy," she said finally. "I thought- I thought I was going to be happy..." She sniffed, letting Kyoshi tug her a little closer.
"Toph..." Kyoshi began, "What did he do tonight?"
The blind girl couldn't even find it in her to be surprised. She clenched her fists as tightly as she could, though Kyoshi soon noticed and encompasses her hands with her own, forcing Toph to relax. This time, as the first tear dribbled down her face, Toph didn't feel ashamed. She just wanted someone to hold her and not judge her.
"Sokka-" Spirits, even saying his name was painful. She choked again, the tears dropping with a vengeance as years of pent up hatred and hurt finally exploded. "He- I didn't mean to do anything. I didn't do... he started it."
Kyoshi stayed quiet even as Toph bumbled through the explanation, only offering small words and soft hushes. "Deep breath, Toph," she said, rubbing the blind girl's back in an effort to calm her down.
"He... he kissed me," she finally managed, though the tears refused to cease. "He kissed me and touched me and... he made me feel... special... and- and then he left me. He didn't- he called me a whore and a child and he left after making me so happy. How- how could he do that?" She finally turned her gaze to Kyoshi; the tall woman's heart broke for her young charge. Toph's face was red and splotchy, eyes drowning in the tears she was trying—and failing—to so desperately hold back. "I thought he was my friend..."
Kyoshi didn't hesitate as she slid off the bed and, pulling Toph to her feet, wrapped the girl in a tight hug. Toph sagged against her, finally letting herself go as she sobbed desolately against her carer's shoulder.
They stayed there together, Toph leaning against Kyoshi as the older woman tried to hold her together, until she finally fell asleep.
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