A/N: Another chapter done, I am getting hooked on writing this. I had this idea of creating a story within the story, as Sokka pushes forward on his quest he'll have glimpses of the past memories. How he and Toph got together, how was their daily life and few sweet moments. Another thing is that I just love breaking underneath the armor of metal and earth to show that beneath gruff exterior, Toph can be gentle and that's why I am making this small fragments of memory in the story. Of course they will not be chronologically placed so they will go random as story progresses and make you go back to reread previous or maybe later chapters to complete this small side story. Yeah I am that evil!

Sokka almost forgot the feeling of roaming the skies with Appa, it gave him the view of city he hadn't seen in such long time. Despite the small talk by Aang in attempt to at least cheer him up a little, Sokka's mind was still heavy, thousand thoughts lurked at back of his head all of which just made him more silent than usual and Aang noticed that well. Soon they arrived at Sokka's apartment and he jumped down from the saddle, moving to the front and patting Appa on his head followed by pleasant grunt.

"Sokka" Aang started, looking down "You promise me you will be careful"

"I will" Sokka replied

"And another thing, if things get rough, if you get into position where you cannot handle yourself… do not hesitate to call me, alright?

"Now you sound like Katara" Sokka smiled softly

"It comes with years" Aang said with the chuckle "She is your sister…"

"Hey, you chose her, I'm stuck with her" they both chuckled at this and after short pause Sokka continued "Since we are promising things, I promise to call you if things get rough if you promise me to look after Toph while she is in mending temple. Visit her from time to time to ensure she is not alone, deal?"

Aang just nodded and lightly snapped reins and with another 'yip yip' Appa soared up into the skies. Must be great to fly, Sokka suddenly thought… it wouldn't be too bad to be airbender but soon he realized that Aang is in fact vegetarian and the thought of it gave him shiver. Small but good distraction to his mind these thoughts were but after they passed it was time to focus again and he turned, looking at the building where his apartment was. Solid rock building, very well designed with seven floors and green roof and on the top floor was his apartment. Even though his position and quite large pay could easily afford him a luxurious house, something that other Councilors eagerly exercised, Sokka in fact preferred to live here. For some reason he disliked being in house with many rooms and he wanted his house to be more practical, a new trait he received during his stay in Republic City. He climbed up slowly up the stairs, greeting few of his neighbors, ensuring that his damaged side of clothes is not visible to them. Long sigh escaped him as he insert key into lock and twisted, entering his apartment. Windows were closed and air was stale, it must be good three days since he was there. He stepped in lightly, closing the door and locking them, he expected no visitor and no reason in this state to further risk. Bathroom was just to the right, kitchen was just beside it and in front lied two doors, one to far end of small hallway and one to the left… the one in front was his living room and on left was his bedroom. Sokka took some pride in his newfound practical side but for the moment the air was stinging his nose and he opened the window, looking down to the street. Man I stink

Half hour passed and Sokka was lying in his tub, hot water almost to point of spilling out and down on floor beside was a bowl with dry seal jerky, though his favorite it was only food he had in apartment that didn't start spoiling. This quiet time he used to review his plan… First he would need to go to his office, see how much he work missed and not give out suspicion that he was being treated at temple. Convincing others that he will be active but give him enough time to look around, that would be problematic but he'd think something along the way. After that, next stop would be Metalbending Police force headquarters. No doubt that among the group of attackers there are captured ones, so he'll start there, maybe be there during interrogation or read report on it for any lead. Tomorrow he'll start…

Morning could not come any slower. Same nightmare plagued his mind, same scenes but different outcome, this time all he could see was Toph dropping on the ground, dead and he is unable to run to her fast enough… lifeless eyes, half open, stared into nothing as she was lying on the floor motionless and suddenly he could see her eyes starting to close, forever. Sokka screamed, loud in pointless attempt to reach her but her body just kept drifting further from his grasp. Another loud scream and he suddenly woke up, bathed in cold sweat on his bed… His hand moved to his face, wiping his forehead, eyes and then rest of face as he got up, going to the bathroom to wash this smell of nightmare that lingered into his nostrils. He looked into a mirror, water dripping from his face as he took towel and dried himself "You look terrible…" he said to his own reflection, as if expecting it would reply "For our sake, I hope at least you are ready… because I am not". Another long sigh and he went into his bedroom, taking his uniform if it could be called that way and he slowly dressed himself. Eyes wandered on the bed where he placed boomerang last night. Not this time he thought and instead he added one single piece of jewelry to his elegant appearance… a short dagger made of steel, shaped into slight curve with edge sharp enough to easily cut finger should it ran along the line… He placed it in sheath and tied on belt, tied well on his back and covered by long blue coat. He was now ready to start.

Doors of his office opened and at Sokka walked in, meeting the gaze of young woman with brown hair neatly tied into a bun working at the desk with various papers. She looked at him as he approached.

"Good morning, Councilor" she said bowing head as he approached

"Good morning Jia" Sokka replied with same bow of his head to his secretary

"You haven't come for several days, I hope everything was alright" she started a little concerned

"No need to worry, I took the liberty to inspect our mines" he lied though not entirely, he did in fact visit mines prior to first meeting with Toph "and speaking of, please prepare grant and increase current funding by 10%"

"Of course sir" she nodded with smile, admiring his dedication to his work and city "Oh, these arrived for you" she handed him small stack of letters which he took and opened them all then started reading one by one

"More complaints from NBU wanting more rights…" he scowled a bit as he read first of the papers

"NBU?" she asked confused

"Non-Bender Union. It is a small group, no more than 30 people… basically they formed to request for equality between benders and non-benders but it was not enough and started demanding more rights than benders have… we get one letter every week… alright what's next…" he flipped and looked at next paper "Request for license to construct mending temple at the Dragon Flats…" suddenly his eyes narrowed as he remembered about temple where Toph is, perhaps she wouldn't be alive now if they hadn't brought her to it "What did the other Councilmembers said about this?"

"Two agreed we received that request from them. Councilman from Fire Nation and Councilman from Northern Water Tribe agreed, other two didn't respond" she replied

"Put a stamp on it and make a license document, let's approve of this… we need more mending temples, more so in non-bending areas" he gave her paper and she nodded with smile, another wave of admiration took her as she simply watched how he works… efficiently and decisively. He looked at another paper and read out loud "Are you and your significant other satisfied with length of your sword? Have you found yourself in situation where your tool is just not good enough? We have answers to all your problems, "Qin and sons" blacksmith store best in Republic City, guaranteed finest steel made by tradition of Fire Nation's best blacksmiths" he crumbled the paper and threw it into can "My sword is just fine, thank you!" he waved head as Jia suddenly blushed in slight pink color, perhaps thinking of something else than did Sokka who now looked at final piece of paper, his eyebrow slowly rose as he read it silently.

"More license request?"

"No it's a summon by Chief Hakoda… my father" he continued reading "Festival is coming soon and Water Tribe is summoning me to attend…" suddenly his face turned from worried into pleased. Perfect, this is his opportunity

"Will you be going Councilman?" she asked looking up at him

"Considering that I am representing them in Republic City it would be inappropriate not to attend. Jia, reserve me a ticket for a ship tomorrow, thank you" he smiled and took only that letter, stacking others on the table and made his way toward the door

"But sir, what about the meeting?" she stood up

"Jia, if they cannot reach agreement without me then there is something terribly wrong with this city!" he continued walking, closing the door as he left the building.

This indeed is perfect opportunity. Sokka found his window to make whoever might looking for him believe that he is going to Southern Pole. Sneaking out of it would be tricky but it is holiday season and with open routes to all nations allowed people to visit marvels of both poles and Fire Nation islands so there will be quite the crowd at docks. South Water Tribe has grew since the war ended, rising from nothing more than outpost into quite prosperous town, buildings made by finest ice-carvers and landmarks that made even Fire Nation visitors marvel… well at least once they slip out of their minds that it is icy hell for them. But before he could go and prepare for his fake departure there was one place he needed to visit, it is in fact his main destination for the day. Carriage moved in moderate pace, giving Sokka more time to think about this situation. His first step was to learn more about these thugs, learn more about Quan Shin. Assuming that none of the attackers escaped and he knew that his attacks managed to perhaps even end few of them, rest should be captured… metalbenders are quite proficient in capturing any kind of criminal so at least one or two should be right where he is heading.

Carriage arrived at Police Headquarters and as Sokka paid rider he walked toward the entrance, his steps were steadier now after sleep and he placed his arms behind his back, holding left hand with right. He nodded at two officers standing at the door and they saluted him in return… they knew who Sokka is well even outside of his duty it was not uncommon for him to visit Chief Beifong. Police Headquarter is always busy, metalbenders moving from one place to another, it wasn't exactly quiet place like his office, this was hectic place with quite the number of small thugs and first time offenders coming in for listening. Sokka finally stopped in front of Toph's desk, unlike any other desks on the floor this one was made out of stone, though stylish enough it still looked out of the place. Seat was empty… no one was there to sit with feet up on the table and yell at officers.

"Officer Wong!" Toph said in loud voice, having rest of the floor suddenly look at the her location while the one called Wong suddenly froze in place

"Y…yes sir! I mean m..ma'am" he said in shaky voice, standing straight in front of her, eyes filled with fear and biting lip

"Chief!" she corrected him with sharper tone

"Sorry Chief!" he immediately corrected himself

"What the hell were you doing in there? Were you getting acquainted with your suspect?" she asked him, folding arms. Suddenly every officer was nearing the point where they wanted to chuckle… rookies, everyone go through Chief's shout at one point and there is no exception… everyone.

"No Chief!" he gulped down hard "I… just wanted to make him talk easier…"

"Uugh…" Toph raised her right hand, rubbing her forehead and moved closer to Wong "Listen here kiddo, you don't treat them as your younger brother who got away after eating half a cake" she leaned forward further into his face, Wong was half head taller than Toph but only thing that it meant was that hell was not coming down on him, but climbing up "When you get into that room you are not offering him your mother's cookies! You get in there to let him know that he is now your bitch! You are in charge and he is facing hell if he doesn't speak" Toph grabbed man's chest plate tight, moving closer to his face and that made him lean back, eyes grew wide "They won't talk unless you shake them a little so it's your job to shake them a lot , you understand?!"

"Yes Chief!" he said still under same influence of mixed fear and perhaps a little bit of admiration

"Good, now get in there and find out who robbed that cabbage store. Now!" She shouted, Wong merely saluted and ran as soon as she released him. A sudden chuckle was heard behind her as hands slowly landed on both of her shoulders. You have to understand that this kind of familiarity with Chief Beifong means instant death or worse. Last person, and that was officer, who placed hand on her shoulder during work hours had his metalplates bend around his groin and squeezed so hard he let out the voice of his inner five year old girl that was hiding deep inside of him. This was a scene worthy of anyone's awe… this man not only had both of his hands on Chief's shoulders but she even placed one of her hand on his. This is the point where every officer in metlabending police force learned to respect him.

"You know you shouldn't visit me while I am working?" Toph asked

"I know I know…" Sokka smiled wide, gently squeezing her shoulders in form of slight massage, trying to just let her tension slip away and even with Toph's hard attempts to hide it, she enjoyed this very much "But I heard rumors that some demon enforces law and order in police force with iron fist and I just could not resist. So, I decided to take a look with my own eyes"

"Funny, Snoozles" she lift one side of her lips up into smirk… demon "Is that only reason you came? If so then you saw it and you can return to your office, I have work to do"

"No no, I brought a treat" Sokka grinned and removed one hand that was not touched by Toph, he removed two small pieces of paper and waved in front of her eyes

"Snoozels… one day you might learn the full extension of me being blind, today is not the day it seems"

"These… are two tickets for Republic City Theater. They are playing the reedited version of "Legend of Aang". They filled in few holes in the story and guess who is playing the awe-inspiring earthbender?" Sokka grinned wide and though he couldn't see, Toph's face suddenly brightened at the sound of it and she turned toward him

"When is it?" she asked with excited voice but quickly she cleared her throat and repeated the question in her usual, deeper voice

"Tonight, front seats, rock stage…" he continued talking with almost singing voice and then looked down at her, noticing the bright expression on her face and eyes that looked directly into his chest "I'll see you at home, love you" he smiled at her, enjoying to poke her into areas that she disliked while in public. This of course made her grunt

"Love you too" she responded silently and he kissed her forehead, walking out nodding back at officers who were now more than just in awe, they witnessed a legend, a person who tamed Toph but of course this was short lived moment where she showed any kind of blush and as soon as Sokka went through the door loud shout filled entire floor "What the hell are you all looking? Back to work!" and yet again the police station continued in same pace as before. Demon has returned.

Sokka sighed heavily as his short memory ended. His eyes now filled with mixture of sadness and anger as memory of his nightmare flashed in front of his eyes. Among the steps of officers who moved passed him, continuing their everyday work, one pair stopped beside him and Sokka looked up toward him.

"Councilor Sokka" man said saluting him "Captain Gin"

"Captain" Sokka bowed head slightly in greeting

"I assume you came here to ask about Chief, am I correct?" captain asked

"I came here to talk to one of the arrested from warehouse" Sokka's voice became strong, sharp "And to examine any reports on interrogation if they were conducted"

"This is unusual… Since when is Council taking direct interest in our work?" captain asked, narrowing eyes but as he looked around, noticing obvious crowd he allowed his question to remain mute "come, please" he finished, walking toward his office and as they both entered he closed doors and sat behind his desk, arms placed on table leaning with elbows on surface of wooden surface "Why are you really here, Councilor?"

"Like I said, I came to speak with those you captured" Sokka sat down on chair, folding arms as he looked at captain

"I can assure you we are doing all we can to find those responsible for it"

"I do not doubt captain, but I wish to examine this more personally" Sokka's voice now became sharper, battle of dominance began between two of them "outside of official business"

"You doubt that we are doing everything possible?" Captain, placed hands on table but it was more of a slam "This is our Chief, one who trained us we are talking about, Councilor!"

"That is my fiancé captain!" Sokka raised voice to be higher than captain's, his heart clenched a bit at it, though he never asked her to marry her he could no longer just say that it is his girlfriend "I do what I can to protect those dear to me, is there anything you wouldn't do for your family?!"

Captain Gin just stood up, silent, walking toward the window and stopped there, looking outside for a minute before he continued

"I have wife and two kids…" his voice was back to his normal tone, facing the loss of this skirmish as he understood Sokka's reasons "every day I see their expressions as they watch me go to work and wonder if I will return home. More than few times they asked me to quit this job, find something more peaceful. We all understand the dangers of our line of work and risks we take each day… but…Chief Beifong... saved… my life, Councilor" he spoke that last sentence with pause after each word as if to make him fully understand weight of them "She molded me from vagabond into captain of this force… I owe her my life for it, something I cannot repay her enough" he turned and looked at Sokka, he could see the reason why Sokka came to this station "You didn't come here to oversee us, you came to seek justice of your own" however Sokka said nothing, not a word, not a slight twitch to give captain as much as a sign but this silence was more of a sign than any said word "You realize that it could damage your own career? Meddling with police affairs can create certain issues, even make a scandal…"

"Captain, at this point I could not care less about my career" Sokka stood up, again placing his hands behind his back "In worst case scenario other representative will come from Water Tribe… I just want to find who did this to Toph"

Captain Gin looked up and down at him… Sokka was taller than him by perhaps 2 or 3 centimeters but his attitude, his standing and those eyes made him look like giant. He walked to his table and opened small drawer, looking inside and pulling out small stack of papers

"This is what we know about group called Jade Dragons" he handed it to him and opened door exiting "Officer Sun, get that blond firebender we got arrested from raid into interrogation room"

Sokka read papers in silence. Jade Dragons. Originally called Crimson Dragons, a small group of thugs from Fire Nation that settled in Republic City shortly after it was built, seeking better life but their way of better meant something different. They started as simple "hit and run" group that were known for pickpocketing and store robberies but with growth of city and ever present competition they gained numbers, accepting more firebenders into ranks however with expansion of districts and city itself they had to find more lucrative ways of easy money and they turned to extortion and smuggling illegal products into Republic City. Most known is extra strong, specially processed cactus juice which was said to have caused serious side effects to any who drank it, everything from prolonged hallucinations that could lead to mental disorder and in some cases even strong addiction. Some said that variation of this juice along with few ingredients made benders become stronger but the mortality rate was too high and Council prohibited distribution and usage of these products under penalty of 20 years in high security prison. Metalbenders were very vigilant and after several raids on ships Crimson Dragons had to reconsider their strategy. Under guidance of new leader called Quan Shin they joined forces with another bender criminal Jade Lotus. This would be the first that any criminal group joined with another bending group. The duality of leaders created unique strength of firebenders and earthbenders making their competition fail to produce any kind of resistance as they spread. History may call these a precursor to Triple Threat Triad but metalbenders are eager to denounce these speculations. However… no one knew exactly how they operated. Only thing that metalbenders knew with certainty is that several months after establishing this unique alliance, co-leader of Jade Dragons and previous leader of Jade Lotus, Zhu Kang, suddenly emerged dead under unknown circumstances. Despite theories, it was clear to metalbenders that Quan Shin liked this new formed union but did not liked to share power and "unusual circumstances" was nothing more than mere assassination. Now Quan Shin runs Jade Dragons alone, creating network around Republic City, but that is all that was known about him.

For Sokka, this was a start, perhaps a bit wider than he expected, a criminal organization… he felt that this would not be easy and before long doors opened and captain Gin called for Sokka to follow him to interrogation room. This room was simple, one table, two chairs and a young man, with blond hair sitting inside, hands tied together behind his back with metal plates to ensure he cannot bend. Crimson color on his clothes gave Sokka at least idea that this is firebender. Sokka entered inside along with captain who stood by now closed doors and observed what would happen.

"Do you know who I am?" Sokka asked as he sat down at table, at opposite side of this guy

"I dunno, some important shitface?" bender replied with cocky voice

"Or, you can call me Councilor Sokka or Sokka for short" he placed both hands on table, examining the paper in front of him, this is report of arrest

"And why do I need to care?"

"You need to care because I was there at warehouse when you were fighting Toph Beifong" Sokka said, now slowly beginning to lose patience "The one you put in mending-temple"

"The blind bitch survived?" guy suddenly started laughing "Tough one isn't she?"

"You now need to worry about yourself, you are in deep shit yourself" Sokka's voice turned sharp again, he was obviously pissed about

"And what are you gonna do assface? Huh? Are you gon-" man started but before his sentence could be finished Sokka stood up and placed foot under the seat of his chair and pulled up, right hand pushed guy on chest and he fell down with chair and Sokka planted foot firmly on guy's chest, creating extra pressure on his now smashed hands

"I'm going to receive answers from you. For your tiny brain to understand this fully, I ask, you answer"

"Go to hell!" man screamed as foot pressed with more force, causing both pain on his hands and his chest… all the while captain remained completely silent, observing

"I am already there, I'm just deciding who else I'm taking" Sokka growled "Where is Quan Shin?"

"I don't know!"

"I don't believe you"

"Like I care!"

"Then how about you start caring now?" Sokka pulled hand under his robe, taking his knife from belt and looked down at him"

"What are you gonna do? Kill me? You won't do that…" man chuckled inbetween painful coughs

"No I can't kill you in here… but I can do something else" Sokka suddenly grabbed his clothes, pulling him up and from the chair and slammed against the wall, left hand held guy by his throat while right one held knife dangerously close to guy's eye "Report didn't say in what condition you came… how about I make you as blind as " blind bitch" you mentioned earlier and make it easy on everyone?"

"Hey hey! Do something about this!" man suddenly became more fidgety, eyes turned to look toward captain who simply looked away from this scene "Hey!"

"Two small cuts… and you'll be in darkness till the day you die" Sokka pressed tip of blade on guy's eyebrow, tilting blade down, ready to slash the eye "You are firebender, aren't you? Only earthbenders can learn to see through earth…"

"Screw you and that blind bitch!" guy spit out at him

"You know what?" Sokka suddenly grinned "I don't even care about answers anymore, I'll take your eyes anyway for what you did to Toph and ask another one who is arrested" tip of the blade pressed, creating pressure enough to puncture the skin

"Wait wait wait! Alright… alright!" bender's voice trembled, his breathing increased fast… He was scared of the thought of losing his eyes "I'll talk!"

"Where is Quan Shin?" Sokka asked again, louder

"I don't know!" man repeated choking on his own breath "We don't know where boss is! We only work in groups, only leader of group knows, rest are just getting paid to do work and not ask questions! I swear!"

"Who is your group leader and where do I find him?" Sokka asked, but man suddenly went silent, perhaps having second thought but Sokka's repeated pressure of knife loosened his resolve

"The guy's only known as Feng!" he spoke trying to pull head back from knife but wall and Sokka's hand on throat ensure he cannot move "He works at Golden Turtleduck tavern at western quarter… we get orders from him… that's all I know I swear!" man cried out, eyes filling with tears and just before he could start begging Sokka released him and bender just fell slid down on floor. Knife found its way back into sheath and Sokka made way toward the door.

"We'll raid the place and arrest this Feng" captain said as Sokka approached "Taking eyes out… bold bluff…" he smirked "for a minute I honestly believed you would blind the sod"

"I wasn't bluffing, captain" Sokka looked at captain whose eyes widened "I was really intending to cut his eyes out"

Sokka opened door as captain moved and left the building, leaving man inside speechless to watch at sobbing firebender trying to compose himself. Now he had some solid lead follow and perhaps move from string to string on this spider's web until he can reach the center. Captain will indeed raid this place as soon as he gets warrant which won't happen until tomorrow, meaning that tonight Sokka will have to visit this place himself, but first… He needs to visit another old friend.