The Matrix
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Release date

21st December, 2013

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Non, je ne regrette rien



The Matrix

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.

"Sokka, I'm...-"

"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..."

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