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|The Sleepover Club|
6th December, 2013
The Sleepover Club
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 honesty, 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 be. 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?
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