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|""When events conspire to keep two people apart despite their feelings for each other, they shouldn't be the ones to question it.""|
|— Suki to Toph in the AU fanon "One of Two Ways"|
3 (Unexpected Twists)
Toph stood outside of the doorway of the house in which she knew Suki was spending the night in, and took a breath in order to steady her own mind. This was not going to be the easiest thing she had ever done in her life, Toph knew; in fact, she thought, this will probably be like returning home all over again. She was barely able to suppress a shudder at the thought. But if Sokka needs me to do this...she reminded herself, and walked forward into the house.
Suki, who had apparently not went off to the bedroom to sleep yet, noticed her presence and said in a cold, monotone voice, "Hello, Toph." Great...I knew she would be like this. Toph was silent for a few moments, trying to figure out how to begin.
Suki intervened before she could come up with anything, "Excuse me, but what has brought the heroine of the Second Battle of Kyoshi to meet me in private this late at night?"
Toph took a breath again, trying to swallow her pride and then spoke quickly before she would be able to stop herself. "I'm sorry, Suki." "'Sorry'...?" Suki asked back, making the word into a question. " I'm sorry if I did anything to cause you to break up with Sokka," she said as quickly as she could while still leaving her words clear, and then added as if it somehow clarified matters, "When you were still together three years ago. Whatever I did, I honestly didn't mean to." Yeah, I was definitely right about this conversation...
There was an uncomfortable pause for a few seconds, and then Suki said in a voice which made it sound like she only half-believed her former friend's words, "I'm sure. There's not much you can do about it now, though."
This statement annoyed Toph. Am I in here for no reason then? "Why not? Sokka never stopped sending messages, and he came all the way from the South Pole to win you back!" Toph almost begged, despite her discomfort in doing so.
"For whatever reason, Sokka's priorities obviously didn't lie with spending time with me," Suki retorted. "I told him that the others could pick up his slack about leading you around while I was there, and I told him straight to his face that he shouldn't lead you on again by doing that type of thing, but he refused to listen to me," she finished, sounding like she was still a little angry with Sokka's stubbornness.
That wasn't a refusal, Toph thought to herself as she remembered overhearing the conversation the two had had right before they broke up. He probably had no idea what you were talking about. Remembering what had happened right after the incident, she got an idea. She fished around underneath her tunic and finally found the engagement necklace she had stashed between it and her undershirt all those years ago. She had kept it in secret ever since Sokka had tried to show it to her at the South Pole right after the break up, for reasons she couldn't even explain to herself at the time, but now she pulled it out and revealed it to Sokka's former girlfriend by opening her palm. "Would this change things any?"
Suki went quiet for a bit, and then asked, "What is that?"
"It's a Water Tribe engagement necklace. He made it for you right before you left to return to Kyoshi Island," Toph answered. "Sokka was thinking about you the entire time."
Suki went silent again. "It doesn't matter now."
"What? Why?" Toph asked in exasperation. This is hard enough for me without her being so difficult.
"When events conspire to keep two people apart despite their feelings for each other, they shouldn't be the ones to question it." Suki replied cryptically.
"What do you mean by that?" Toph asked, totally lost on what the other girl was talking about. Man, I hate mind-games. "I've moved on, Toph," she replied shortly, and paused for a few moments before she added, "I've gotten engaged to someone else."
What?!! "Since when?" Not getting a quick reply, Toph didn't wait, and instead moved on to ask another, more pressing question, "Why didn't you tell Sokka this in any of your letters?" Did he not read everything in them to me? She second-guessed herself.
"It would have been too awkward to tell him about just in a letter," Suki replied. "I preferred to keep the affairs of my heart secret until the opportune time, Toph. You of all people should understand that."
Toph cringed at the mention of her secret crush on Sokka, and felt the heat on her cheeks begin to rise out of embarrassment. In order to keep some semblance of dignity, she angrily growled, "Forget it," closing her fingers tightly around the necklace in her still out-stretched hand and then turned towards the doorway. She stomped angrily out of the house, letting Suki's betrothal necklace-to-be sift through her fingers and flutter onto the floor behind her. She heard Suki faintly saying that wasn't what she had meant, but gritted her teeth and ignored Suki's partial apology.
She walked back over to the building prepared for the needs of the heroes of Kyoshi, and tried to sneak into the common sleeping room without making up either of the others. She took the remaining sleeping matt and pillow on the left side of Sokka and moved them over to the right side of Aang, not wanting to think about Sokka at the moment. Aang, who she had apparently trained quite well, made noises that indicated he was being stirred from his slumber when she was in the process of doing this, and he asked her in a low whisper as she began to lie down, "What's up, Sifu Toph?"
She shook her head, not wanting to talk about the bad results of her secret meeting with anybody. "Just go back to sleep, Twinkle-Toes."
"If you say so..." Aang sounded unsure, but she heard his head plop back down on his pillow right afterwards. Toph crawled onto the matt and roughly slammed her head against her pillow, still seething. Stupid Suki, she thought, doesn't she know how hard this has been on Sokka? And now she had to go and get engaged....
Toph did not enjoy a particularly comfortable sleep that night, her head filled with angry and frightful dreams. She seemed to repeatedly get trapped in a small area which her brain told her ought to be interpreted as her old room at her parent's house, though she couldn't feel most of it with her Seismic Sense, with what she could feel seeming a lot more cramped then she remembered. From some unseen place high above her head she heard the voices of her parents and Suki calling out in almost taunting voices to say her that she had to stay in her room for her own good because she was too weak to fend for herself, or that Sokka would rather die a hermit than be with her. She tried to ignore what they were saying by covering her sensitive ears with her hands, but they just grew louder and shriller, becoming more inhuman-seeming and threatening to force their way into her mind to take up permanent residence there. When she attempted to run away from the voices, her feet lost contact with the ground and she stumbled in the darkness, fall head over heels into some foreboding sense-numbing void, only to end up back in her "room" again and for the events to repeat themselves with only slight differences depending on which direction she ran. Interspersed with these were long blank stretches where she was half-awake, stuck with the dull sensation of feeling the heat of her own forehead with nothing more interesting to occupy her attention, invariably returning to her "room" whenever the monotony broke for more than a few seconds. The only time the consistent pattern broke was about half-way through the night, when she felt like a giant furry hand was shoving itself down her throat and trying to choke her to death; she bit down hard on its arm and had the satisfaction of an almost deafening roar of pain coming from the owner of the hand. Unfortunately, she soon wondered whether she would have to fight off the creature she had just provoked, which caused the voices to start back up again to tell her that that was why she needed to stay in her room at all times, and she soon found the nightmares starting up again.
Needless to say, she was not in a good mood when Sokka woke her up late the next morning, and she snapped at him, "What's the point of getting up?" She got up regardless, scowling at the world and its manifest problems. "What's your deal?" Sokka asked, obviously confused about why she was taking on such a bad attitude.
"You'll find out soon enough." She answered grumpily. Momo awkwardly fluttered onto her shoulder from where he had previously been sleeping below her feet on her sleeping matt, his movements indicating he was nursing an injured limb. "Come on, Twinkle-Toes. Let's go outside and practice Earthbending; I can't stand being inside today," Toph ordered her former student around, petting Momo on the head as she did so.
No one was inclined to disagree with a crabby Toph, and so Aang followed her out of the building; Sokka came out a few minutes later, but scurried off in the opposite direction from the one they were taking, obviously headed towards Suki's house to continue his attempts to woo her back to him.
Aang had long since shown a lack of interest in learning the highest ranking Earthbending moves, and so the two of them simply began sparring with each other without either really trying to win, Toph holding back from using any truly damaging moves against her friend. After about fifteen minutes (in which Momo sat by watching the whole fight), Toph felt Sokka walking back up the path towards them; while she was trying to figure out what was going on with him, Aang tried to take advantage of the fact that her guard was temporarily down to actually win their fight, but Toph managed to refocus in time and caused the earth under his feet to slide sideways. His abilities as an Airbender helped him catch himself quickly, but Toph merely went over right as his feet brushed against the earth again and shoved him roughly in the chest in order to knock him to the ground, and declared the fight officially over.
Now able to properly concentrate, she was able to sense that Sokka was dejected as he walked closer to them, his head hanging downwards. Toph walked quickly over to him, and Aang soon got up off the ground and followed her. His friends now right next to him, Sokka sunk to a sitting position on the ground, and hugged his legs with his arms. Momo crawled up next to his feet.
"I can't believe Suki got engaged," he said sadly, and rested his head against his legs.
"She did?!!" Aang exclaimed in surprise. Toph said nothing, but simply walked over and put her hand on his shoulder.
Apparently trying to take in the new information, Aang then asked, "Wait...who did she get engaged to?" "His name is Genghuan. He's lived on this island his whole life. And of course, he's a lot better looking than I am, the way Suki describes him." Sokka said, and then berated himself, "I knew this would happen!" "I'm sorry, Sokka," Toph tried to comfort him. Aang seemed at a total loss for words. "She's just trying to replace you," Toph tried to reassure him. "I'm sure his looks had nothing to do with it."
"What makes you so certain?" Sokka asked back, having no idea where she was coming from. Toph did not want to dredge up the embarrassing memory of her private chat with Suki the previous night by speaking about it, and so failed to answer him.
Toph felt Aang shift his weight back and forth between his legs in discomfort with the whole situation, and then he said, "I don't know if this will help, Sokka, but ... would you like to come with me on my mission to see the Earth King to get your mind off of things?"
Sokka's weight shifted slightly as he looked up at Aang, "Anything to get me away from here."
"I'm up for it," she replied. "I want to get out of here just as much as he does."
Probably figuring she was referring to whatever had made her cranky earlier in the morning, Aang nodded, and the three walked off to find out where Appa had wandered off to on the outskirts of the town, Momo resting on Sokka's shoulder where the Water Tribe warrior was distractedly petting him.
They soon found their mount eagerly chomping down on a bush filled with berries which secreted some sticky substance. It took awhile to turn his attention away from eating the apparently delicious plant, and even longer to remove the sticky substance from where it had apparently managed to stick to much of the fur covering his body. When they were finally ready to get going, Toph used her Earthbending on the small patch of ground beneath her feet to launch herself into the saddle, and then held out her hand to help Sokka climb aboard, attempting to be nice to him so that he would forget his problems with Suki. (She had no idea whether he noticed it or not.) With a "Yip Yip!" from Aang, they were off and flying towards the Earth Kingdom's mainland.
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