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Only One You
23rd July, 2014
There's no way that she can explain why she's leaving, and so Toph chooses not to even try. She likes to think she's a grown woman, but she certainly didn't feel it then. She knew what she was doing, but she couldn't help herself. She can't ask him what she wants to know, nor can she offer up the information and hope that it's mutual. She wants him to stop her from leaving—stop her from leaving him.
Her heart sinks when he doesn't; when the words don't come and he stands there looking dumbly at her. Perhaps he is waiting for her to explain. Perhaps he is waiting for her to smile and put the bag down. Perhaps, and he doesn't know how much she wants to, but perhaps he's waiting for her to come back to bed; to snuggle in close and just be together.
But, she can't. Toph can't bring herself to do it because she has too much pride and she'll never forgive herself if she gives in.
She makes her way towards the door, and suddenly, Sokka can move. He's in front of her, blocking her way. The frown takes up her entire features, stretching from her mouth up to her eyes. He clears his throat and suddenly can talk.
"Don't leave," he says. "Please."
Toph has no intention of honouring his request, but then he leans forward and all she can smell is him; all she an smell is the salt and honey and smokey wood-fire. His hand reaches out to take the bag from her as he sees her expression soften. It does so further as his hand brushes hers, and she relinquishes her grip without protest. He leads her back to his bedroom, unable to feel the tension rolling off her in waves. After all, it's not directed towards him.
Sokka pauses just inside his bedroom door, twisting slightly and pulling her into a hug so sudden that she almost loses balance.
"I'm sorry," he says, and she can feel it in his heartbeat—in the steady way he holds her—that he truly is. Perhaps he doesn't know why, and perhaps she's hoping for more meaning than he gives, but at that moment, it doesn't hurt so much. Being in his arms... it doesn't hurt.
She has to break it off. Toph knows she does, and has known for a while, but she just can't seem to do it. Not when they retreat to the bed and he does nothing but encircle her in his arms and hold her close.
He doesn't want to fall asleep. He wants to lie awake and hold her like this forever—especially as she takes some sort of initiative and snuggles further. She's never burrowed into his arms quite like tonight, and he can't help but hold her close. There are words on the edge of his tongue that he wants to say—nay, needs to say—but he can't. He knows that it will come out all wrong and whatever good thing he has with Toph will be ruined. He can't afford to push her away, not when she's so close. Instead, he holds her tighter, relishing as their legs intertwine and her breathing levels out.
Toph isn't asleep, though. How can she sleep in such serenity when her mind cannot calm down; it cannot relax nor be soothed by his presence, as much as the rest of her is. She can't wait for morning, when words have less meaning—less conviction. Anything said after sex is wrong—not to be trusted or believed— but this is different. Perhaps because of the lack of sweat on their bodies; the tension that should be there after he stopped without completion is missing. She can't let her heart rule her head, because it is breakable. Her heart can be torn from her chest and smashed into pieces. Her head is never in any danger of that.
Taking a breath, she builds up the conviction she needs. He will argue, she knows. He will try and find any flaw in her logic and bring it down, and Toph knows that it only takes one for her to fall with it. She trembles for the briefest second, but it's enough for Sokka to tighten his grip. He knows there's something wrong; it's written in the way she's holding herself, pressed against him but stiff and unyielding. There is nothing about her that is relaxed.
This is awkward, and he doesn't like it. There is nothing awkward between him and Toph—they are even able to work together, their personal lives in no way interfering with their job. No one suspects anything, and that's the way they like it. They may not talk so much, but their actions tell what they refuse to say. What she refuses to say.
Sokka wonders what she wants sometimes. There are days when she will be open with him—their holidays or weekends especially—and they would lie around together, nothing better to do than smile, and spend their time in the other's presence. He knows every detail of her body, and she knows his. But, those days are far and few between, and are becoming even rarer. More often is the day when she would frown, keeping her head down and avoiding his gaze as he moves within her. He misses the Toph he first shared this experience with—the one who stared at the sky in wonder as he removed himself from her, still holding her close. The Toph who stopped grinning and started smiling at him.
She's not smiling now, and as she lifts her head up to face him, Sokka sees a flicker of emotion, expressed in the corners of her eyes and mouth. Forcing her arms between them, Toph separates their bodies, sitting up straight with her chest heaving. No sound comes from her, and Sokka, with his heart in his throat, can't take his eyes from her.
"We can't keep doing this," she says, and it takes a moment for her words to sink in. "We have to stop."
He wonders if she has completely convinced herself of her words, because they aren't persuading him. He doesn't want to stop. He likes having her in his arms, the way she presses and moulds herself into his skin. He likes having his best friend—his comrade—at work, only to lead her home and watch as she is transformed into his lover.
But, he can't say any of this, and so he sticks to simplicity.
"I don't want to stop," he murmurs, reaching out a hand.
Toph's face is turned from his, and even as his hand finds hers, she jerks out of his grip. Try as she might, she can't stop her voice cracking a little as she says his name.
"I can't do this anymore, Sokka."
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