Disclaimer: Everything belongs to their respectful owners.
A/N: See, when you re-watch TV shows you used to watch as a kid, you'll understand things that didn't make sense to you when you were younger, thus the cause of water works because WOW DO I KNOW THINGS NOW
Anyway, I've come to realise that Tokka is the otp of all otps because I'M PRETTY SURE SUYIN IS THE REASON WHY I MEAN C'MON COUGH COUGH also that I love their dynamic, especially that last episode because ow be still my heart
Toph is my hero and I love her so much
Thanks to BirukiMeraki for the beta!
Sokka feels the way his body moves as he slices his sword in the air, his wolftail whips behind him as his torso turns.
Black smoke, shrieks of metal.
His feet take measured steps as the sole of his thick boots scuffs against the bricked floor, Yue's light shining brightly onto him from where she stares down among the stars.
Frantic breaths, clutching fingers.
He purses his lips, feeling the sweat dripping down his neck, before running down his bare chest when the tip of his sword impales itself into an invisible enemy.
Panic gasps, catching her before she falls.
The arc of swings becomes wider, desperate, twisting himself around as he now uses the dummy a few feet away, wanting to hit something as everything becomes faster and clearer at every moment.
He can't see her, but dear Spirits he can feel her, holding onto him tightly as they blink away the tears.
He doesn't know when he closes his eyes, letting his hands grip the hilt tighter as he hears the broken wood under his strong blows, feeling the splinters scratch his skin.
His heart lurches when she slips, but she manages to catch herself, like she always does.
He's ruthless as he cuts off the arms of the dummy, neglecting everything else as he faintly hears them bounce away.
His instinct is screaming protect, protect, protect even if his leg shatters from the fall, where he has to prevent her from slipping out of his grasp.
He suddenly feels an unsettling warmth that spreads over his skin, as if the fire from before is hanging right above him.
He sees men pointing their palms towards them.
He roars, giving one last savage swing.
The voice cuts through the haze he's been in, feeling the way his chest rises and falls with such alarming pace as he stares blindly in rage at the decapitated head of the dummy on the floor, staring mockingly back at him with those blank and beady eyes.
He straightens, his breathing still heavy while he turns around to face the intruder, and sharp hazel eyes stares back at him from where he hides under the shade, leaning against a post with ease.
Sokka mentally shakes away the last of his fight. "Fire Lord Zuko," he greets with a hint of a grin as he wipes the sweat off his forehead, trying to act nonchalant while he wills his heartbeat to relax. "What brings you here?"
Zuko raises his eyebrow. "I asked you a question first, Sokka."
"And I answered it with a question of my own," the Water Tribe warrior shoots back as he walks towards the bench where he tossed his shirt, sheathing back the sword with a sharp shing of metal.
There's a huff of breath. "Well, for one, it's obvious you're in some sort of internal conflict since you just obliterated all of the dummies."
Surprised, Sokka whirls around to see the damage for himself, and winces when all twenty dummies are either toppled or crushed from his wild attacks just a moment ago.
"And that you never addressed me as Fire Lord Zuko in my face ever since I took the throne six years ago."
Sokka laughs, tossing his shirt across his shoulder while he grips the sword in his hand. "Of course I have, what are you talking about?"
Zuko only gives him a partially bemused look.
Sokka rolls his eyes as he starts to walk towards the other man. "It's nothing, Zuko, don't worry about it," he assures him with a plastered grin, but the Fire Lord still doesn't seem convinced that Sokka starts to scratch the back of his head nervously. "And I'm sorry I destroyed your training field, got a bit carried away." Nervous laughter bubbles out of his throat.
"I can see that," Zuko finally smirks, crossing his arms. "But it doesn't exactly explain why you're lying to me."
"You're starting to sound like Katara," Sokka mutters sourly that causes his friend to cough into his fist in embarrassment. "Buddy, I'm not lying to you," Sokka raises his hands in mock surrender even if his heart still stings from the old wounds he has been nursing. "I just got carried away. You know how it's always been, Sokka being his crazy self in the middle of the night with no one but his ex-girlfriend watching over him."
Zuko only scrutinises him more that causes Sokka to shift the slightest bit. It isn't until Zuko sighs that Sokka relaxes. "Fine, I believe you. Just be glad that I'm keeping your moonlight rendezvous from the others, and that none of them are here yet to see you brooding."
"You mean being like you?"
Zuko snorts. "Exactly."
Sokka leans on another post beside him. "So, how's the preparation going?"
"Tedious, but," Zuko's expression softens. "It'll be worth it."
Sokka hums in agreement. "She'll love it," he spares a curious glance. "Do you have the betrothal necklace?"
"Good, because if you lose it, we're gonna need to turn the earth upside down looking for it."
"I don't doubt it," Zuko chuckles as he straightens himself up. "We need to get some sleep, it's almost dawn and maybe we'll wake up just in time to greet the others."
Sokka chuckles, bowing slightly. "Fire Lord Zuko."
Zuko answers with his own. "Sokka."
Sokka only smirks before he turns away, walking towards the room that Zuko let him stay in for the moment.
"If you need me, I'll be here, Sokka."
Sokka pauses, startled at the sudden note as he feels something seize his insides, stopping him from making any more movements. He takes a deep breath to calm himself, inclining his head to the side to give indication that he hears him. "I'll keep that in mind."
As he leaves his friend behind, he can still feel the weight clawing his chest.
Sokka doesn't stop the grin that stretches itself across his face when he sees the flying bison, feeling the wind caressing his skin as the beast lands just at the entrance of the Fire Kingdom, its passengers waving madly at him and Zuko. "Hey guys!" The airbender greets enthusiastically as he rolls down to meet them both, pulling Sokka into a hug. "It's great to finally be here."
Sokka claps a hand on the Avatar's back. "Good to see you too, Aang. It's been a while huh?"
"A couple of years is a long time," Aang agrees with a chuckle, taking a step back as he faces Zuko with a smile and a bow. "Fire Lord Zuko."
"Avatar Aang," Zuko responds. The moment he straightens up, Aang pulled him into a hug as well, making the both of them laugh jovially. "You're finally here!"
"Hey, Twinkle Toes!"
Sokka rips his attention away from them when he hears the familiar voice, his heart stuttering in his chest when he sees the black hair of a bun and the sharp of look in her eye despite them being unfocused, hands resting on her waist as she glares in their general direction from where she stands on Appa. "You forgot something."
Aang sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Oops," he flies towards her and wrap an arm around her waist, before gently settling her on the ground that Sokka sees the way her face filling with relief. "Sorry about that, Toph."
Toph punches Aang in the arm, to which he lets out a sound of pain as he rubs it defiantly. "Honestly, you could've at least remember that you have a passenger with you," she smirks. "But thanks for the ride."
It's been a while since Sokka has seen his friend.
She's grown obviously, now blossomed into an eighteen year old woman with more defined features that suits her perfectly, her face no longer as round as he last sees her, posture tall as she starts walking towards them with an air of power surrounding around her. He thinks he has never seen her as beautiful as she is now, and he can't look away if her tried as she stands beside him. "Surprised, Sokka?"
He takes a step back, forgotten that she knows how to read people despite being blind, and he laughs loudly to cover his embarrassment, catching her into a bear hug like he always does when they meet. "Toph! I didn't know you were going with Aang, I thought you'd come later with Katara."
She responds his hug briefly before she pushes him away with a shove, but he knows she's only doing it good naturedly. "Aang passed by, so I thought I'd hitch a ride."
"But she's coming, right?" Zuko asks with a frown, worry gnawing his features.
Toph snorts. "Calm down, Sparky, she'll be here like she said, around evening. So your engagement surprise won't be ruined if you think she would bail on you."
"And that makes me so much better," he grumbles. "Anyway, there's food if you're hungry. Sokka and I thought we'd wait for you to come before eating."
"Is there meat?"
"Thank Spirits," she mutters as the four of them walk inside while Appa is being handled by the guards. "I don't think I can take anything vegetarian after that little expedition with Twinkle Toes here."
Sokka nudges Zuko lightly in the ribs. "As much as I know you can't wait to see my sister," Sokka wiggles his eyebrows, causing the Fire Lord to flush lightly. "You don't have to worry because the only reason she's slightly late than the rest of us is because she said she had to monitor her students for a while, and then she'll come here as soon as she can."
"I heard her healing school was a success," Aang hums as they all sit at the table. "And that everyone wanted to learn from her."
Zuko ducks his head to hide his smile. "Yeah."
"How sweet," Toph chuckles quietly beside Sokka, her bangs hiding her eyes partially as she glances at his way while Zuko and Aang launches into a conversation. "He's excited," she murmurs when he leans down to hear what she has to say. "I can feel it even if he doesn't show it much. They've probably been writing letters to each other."
Sokka snorts, picking up his chopsticks. "Oh sure, write to him but not her own brother, I haven't seen her for a while too."
She raises an eyebrow. "Really? How come? I thought you were at the Southern Tribe?"
"I was, until a couple of years ago I was travelling all over the world to find benders to help the progress of Republic City, since we're short on people and Aang and Zuko wanted to get this place up and going as fast as possible," he takes a bite of dumpling. "How about you, Toph? The school going on okay?"
"It's fine, more people started coming in, they learn, and some of them mastered it already," she takes a sip of tea. "Do you remember Penga?"
"The girl who said you had enormous biceps."
Sokka chokes out a laugh, attracting strange looks from Zuko and Aang. "How can I forget?"
"Just now, apparently."
He drinks to hide his glee when he sees the amusement that shines in her pale eyes. "What about her?"
"Well, she just mastered everything I taught her, up until metal bending. So I left everything for her to take care of until I get back. Who knows, if I decided to stop teaching new lily livers, I'll let her take over."
He's surprised, because she's usually so dedicated to her work. "Really?"
She hums in agreement. "Yeah."
"I thought you wanted to teach?"
She shrugs. "I do, but there's just some other things I have to settle."
He's curious now, letting his eyes roam her face to find answers. "Settle what?"
She faces him then, giving him a smile that makes him notice the way the corner of her lips curl almost mischievously. "We'll see."
That night is full of merriment.
Sokka watches the way Katara dances with Zuko from where he stands at the side, their bodies moves together fluidly around the bonfire with identical wide grins that occupies half their faces while people around them cheer them on, clapping their hands to the rhythm of the music as the Fire Lord and his fiancé celebrate their day. Sokka grins when Zuko wraps an arm around her and dips her back, the roar of the crowd becoming louder then.
The crowd then begins to trickle in the space as the couple decide to take a break, another Fire Nation classic streaming around them. Katara makes her way towards her brother and tackles him into a hug. "Sokka! Why didn't you tell me about this?"
He laughs, squeezing her back. "And risk getting my butt roasted by Zuko? Sis, I love you and all, but I'd like to keep my body intact."
Zuko grins. "True."
Sokka hugs her again tightly. "Mum would be proud of you."
She reaches up and kisses his cheek. "Thanks, big bro."
He let her go and take Zuko's hand, both of them making their way to Iroh, where the old man sits at the edge of the clearing, his eyes brighten when they land onto the couple.
Looking away, Sokka sees Toph at the other side of the dance floor talking to Aang, her fingers wrapped around a cup. Both of them don Fire Nation clothing just as he was, the blood red a sharp contrast to her pasty skin as the skirt ends just at her ankles, while the top rests just snugly around her torso. The orange light flickers onto her softly, making her eyes glow yellow from it.
Everytime he sees her, he takes a moment to admire her.
Because sometimes, he can't help but make sure she's unscathed, that she isn't hanging at the edge of a floating balloon while he tries to prevent her from falling. Where he makes sure that she, one of his close friends, doesn't have fear etching onto her when everything is horrific around them as she clutches onto him for support.
It doesn't matter if she's too far away for him to have a conversation or she just stands there and does nothing, but he's always grateful that he's able to save her from that fall.
"Lost in thought, Sokka?"
He jumps, whirling around and meets the eyes of Iroh, where they twinkle with a knowing look as Sokka tries to straighten himself. "Uh, no Iroh, everything's...fine?"
Sokka almost bangs his head onto the table of food beside him when the former general looks at him in amusement. "Why don't you ask her to dance?" Iroh says instead, nodding towards where Toph socks Aang in the arm as she laughs, causing the airbender to rub the spot with a mock glare towards her way.
Sokka subconsciously touches the same spot Aang is hit. "Are you sure?"
"Why not? The night is still young, and so are you. Make the most out of it when your limbs are still strong."
"I don't think-"
"Don't think then, act on it," Iroh flashes him a smile, and Sokka things it's contagious because he smiles too. "You'll never know what you'll miss."
He follows what Iroh says, because he's Sokka and he's usually more enthusiastic when he sees a pretty girl and he would usually talk to them without breaking a sweat. But this is different, she's not some pretty girl. She's Toph, she created metal bending, she's one of the gang, and he enjoys being her friend because she's naturally funny and cool. But she has a big heart too, despite her acting dismissive in most things.
So, he tries not to sweat too much as he walks around the dancing people, weaving his way through the crowd as his eyes focuses on her only. Her gold headband, her eyes, the curve of her lips, anything about her.
But then, he accidentally bumps into someone -small frame, a girl he thinks- and feels his heart squeeze when he sees the familiar face full of make up.
Her eyes widens when she sees him. "Sokka."
He gives an awkward wave, the smile he attempts feels more like a grimace if anything else. "Hi, Suki."
There's an air of uneasiness as the Kyoshi warrior shifts the slightest bit in her place, her armour making a small sound. "So," she clears her throat. "How are you?"
He has never wanted the earth to swallow him then. "Oh, you know," he drawls for time to think up for a response, making hand movements as if that could emphasise his point. "Been all over the world, doing some work, going back to the South Pole," he shrugs helplessly. "The usual."
"Oh," she nods, giving him a small but unsure smile. "That's great."
There's another awkward silence that could have only have lasted a few seconds but feels like an eternity, and Sokka is dying on the inside. "How's being Zuko's guardian doing for you? I heard you and the ladies swore to protect him."
She shrugs. "It's good I guess. We're doing what we can to get anyone from attacking him."
"Even after six years?" he jokes.
She chuckles. "Yeah."
Again, they fall into silence. This time she breaks it with a deep breath, and Sokka waits in curiosity and anticipation for her to speak. "Sokka, I-"
"There you are, Snoozles!"
There's a rush of relief and disappointment as they face The Blind Bandit, a large lopsided grin is visible as she props her hands onto her hips. "Aang and I saw you and thought you'd want to join us, apparently he has a game that he thought you'd be interested in." Then, she faces Suki and gives her a nod. "Hey there, Suki. It's been a while."
"Likewise," the Kyoshi warrior answers shortly. She contemplates on saying more but only purses her lips. "It's good seeing you both again, but I have to get going." Tossing one last strained smile at his way, she turns around and disappears through the crowd. Sokka could only helplessly watch her go.
He let's Toph tug onto his arm as they make their way towards Aang, where the Avatar is showing some impressive tricks to a small crowd of people. "What?"
"Come on, Snoozles," she drawls with a quick glance at his way. "I could feel the way you were jittery in your shoes when you were talking to her, so I decided to save you the agony." She pauses when they have to squeeze between two large people. "Why were you talking to your ex-girlfriend anyway if it's so awkward for you?"
Sometimes, he curses her ability to know because he can't hide anything if he tried. But mostly, he's glad that she goes straight to the point because honestly, he doesn't have the strength to explain it fully to anyone.
"I bumped into her, literally," he says instead. "And I can't just ignore her. She's a friend! It's awkward as butt yeah, but I really want to be her friend even if we're not as lovey-dovey as we were used to. You don't just, avoid someone after experiencing near-death situations a few times even if you ended a relationship with her a year back."
Toph passes him a cup when they arrive at her spot, and he doesn't say a word as he takes a gulp, feeling the spike of cactus juice in his tropical drink. "It's," he continues with a sigh. "It's stupid."
"I never knew why you guys ended it," she muses as she takes another cup. "Why did you do it? Wait, let me guess," she snaps her fingers. "Long distance relationship isn't working as you hoped it to be."
"No," he agrees with remorse. "I'm too busy hopping from one place to another to write letters, and she's too busy chasing away baddies from killing Zuko in his sleep, and from what I heard, there are a lot of people trying to kill Zuko in his sleep." He shrugs. "We've decided to cut it off, and life goes on."
"Do you still love her?"
He feels himself straightening his spine. "Maybe."
She stays silent for a while. "You're not telling me the whole truth."
He shoots her a dirty look. "Are you using your seismic powers on me?"
"Maybe," she echoes his response, taking a gulp of her drink.
He rubs his face. "Fine, maybe I'm a little bummed we had to end it so soon when I still have feelings for her, but over the months, I've settled with the term friend instead of girlfriend when it comes to her now. And those feelings smoothed down into platonic instead of romantic," Suddenly, he snorts in realisation. "Since when did you become the love guru?"
"I'm not," she scoffs. "I'm just curious, can't have Boomerang Man moping over a breakup when he has to make a city."
"Technically, Aang and Zuko's making the city, I'm the gopher."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, you're helping them make the city more modernised, a new change, so you have a part in this too."
He chuckles, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and squeezes her towards him. "Thanks, Toph," Before she could reply, he remembers why he's there in the first place and begins dragging her towards the dancing people. "Let's dance."
She digs her heels into the ground. "If you haven't notice, but I can't dance, Meathead," she retorts. "Because, you know, I'm blind."
"Just follow my lead," When she refuses to budge, he pouts. "Please, Toph."
He then realises that his puppy dog faces is futile to her, but that doesn't stop him when he bends down slightly to reach her height so that they are eye to eye, clasping his hands in front of him. "Please."
She must have sense this and sighs heavily through her nose. "Fine," she finally snaps, ignoring the way he rejoices and starts pulling her towards the dance floor. "This is stupid."
"Don't worry, if you fall, I'll catch you." He winks.
She sighs again. "Oh Spirits, help me."
But she surprises him by delicately sets her arm aligned with his, while their other arm is resting on the slope of their own backs, waiting for the music to start.
The moment it does, they move.
Again, she surprises him with how agile her feet flies across the ground, quick and measured as if she has been doing this for most of her life while she dances with him. He focuses on her then, those steps that he learn from both Zuko and Aang comes smoothly when he spins her around, before they part with a flourish as their arms stretch in front of them, their fingertips just brushing against one another.
Then, she whirls back into his embrace as the music starts to get gradually faster.
He faintly hears the crowd cheering for them, where all he could sense is the heat of the bonfire, the way his feet glides over the floor as he watches the way her smile gets wider at every second, her eyes twinkling as she no doubt feels the way the people around them stomp their feet with the music.
He laughs as she keeps twirling around him, until there's one last beat of a drum where his arm is around her waist while her leg is hiked up to wrap itself around the back of his thigh, where she holds onto his shoulders as they look at each other, their breath heaving.
Then, the crowd around them broke into a roar.
They straighten themselves from their positions and make their way to the side, where Aang is waiting for them with a grin. "I thought you said you couldn't dance," Sokka teases.
"I probably learnt a few Fire Nation moves from Katara," she shrugs with a grin. "No big deal."
He beams. "Probably."
It happened again.
And Sokka is getting tired.
He goes wherever his feet brings him, clutching his sword as he blindly turns around the hallways of the castle before he burst outside.
Confused, he blinks when he sees he's not at the obstacle course like he suspected he would go, and instead found himself standing at the garden, where the full moon still shines brightly above him.
Shaking out of his reverie, he begins walking nearer to the pond, where the turtleducks are sleeping soundly as he kneels in at the edge of the water, letting his fingers skim the surface. He takes a deep breath, letting his sword fall at his side as he closes his eyes, feeling the air shifting into a breeze that it tickles his damp neck, the nightmares pushed back to the corner of his mind.
"I didn't expect you'd be here."
He only manages a twitch of his hand to reach for his sword before he finds himself wrapped with hardened earth. He snaps his head up, and sees Toph sitting on the stone bench with her back leaning against the tree with her eyes closed, feet plant firmly on the ground. He's surprised to see that she's in her robes, untied, exposing the bindings she wears and her usual pants, her hair tied into a crude version of her bun as strands of hair frames her face.
"Toph," he breathes.
She smirks. "Hey there, Snoozles."
"I thought I was the only one awake," he mutters.
"Well, you thought wrong," she answers easily. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he wiggles in his bonds. "Could you please let me go?"
Then, the hardened earth vanishes into the ground, and he joins her on the bench with his sword in his grip, before he lets his weapon rest on the edge of the seat. "So," he begins lightly. "Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really, it's kinda the same thing for the past few years, but I can handle it, I'm a big girl."
He stares at her. "Dreams or nightmares?"
She inclines her head to his way, studying him. In the end, she shrugs. "Nightmares."
That causes him to purse his lips. "Does it have to do with almost falling to your death, having firebenders shooting at you, and feeling completely lost?"
She stiffens. "Yeah."
He nods, leaning back on the tree as well. "Well, same here."
They stay quiet for a while, until she begins to talk again. "Any idea how to get rid of it?"
He sees the way she tries to hide it. The anger, the frustration, the helplessness. But he sees it, despite her being quite good at it and that he's feeling the same things himself. "Honestly? I don't know."
"It's been six years since the war ended," she huffs. "You'd think these stupid nightmares would stop after this long."
"War does that to you. And I'm not loving it either," he faces her then, watching the way one side of her mouth scrunches in displeasure. "You know," he begins softly. "I almost lost you that day."
Toph does nothing to hide her surprise, watching him with her eyes wide and a subtle flush on her cheeks. He's mesmerised by that particular fact until she chuckles breathlessly, hitting him in the arm.
"I almost lost you too, Snoozles," she snickers as he rubs his arm, but the pink tinge has yet to leave her cheeks, and that makes him grin. "If it wasn't for you, I'd be dead by now."
His amusement fades when those words are spoken, and he stares into the pond. "Likewise."
"Sokka, I'm serious," her small hands then grip his larger ones, forcing him to face her as she gives him a stern look. "If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be here to open a school, or see Zuko and Katara getting engaged. I wouldn't even be sitting next to you right now. So," she ducks her head then, strands of hair falling. "Thank you."
He gathers her in his arms, and he quiets her splutters by hugging her tightly to his chest, resting his cheek on the top of her head. "You know, I'm really glad you're here," he murmurs as he feels the way she responds to his hug slowly. "I can actually reassure myself that you didn't fall."
She gives him a squeeze before peering up from his chest, a small smile playing on her lips.
"I'm glad you're here too."