Disclaimer: Everything belongs to their respectful owners.
A/N: Aye the Tokka feels were strong late last night and I cried out when I was checking out the tag because I feel the pain
Thanks to BirukiMeraki for the beta! ^.^
It takes a while for him to realise that she's staring at him.
Though Toph isn't really seeing him with her eyes, Sokka could still feel the intensity of her look that causes his skin to prickle from where the orange light of the fire shines in her eyes, and he looks up from where he's sharpening his boomerang to meet them, her foggy look resting on him evenly.
He suddenly feels self conscious as he straightens up, since he's sure he's the only one awake other than she is as Katara and Aang sleep on either side of him. He curiously peers back at the twelve year old that she probably knows she's caught his attention, but makes no move to acknowledge it.
She's been an addition of their group around a month ago, where Aang has started his training with her a day after that. Sokka finds that she's ruthless in her training, hard and sometimes a bit unmerciful for his taste. It's different than the way Katara teaches the Avatar waterbending at a lake or stream whenever they've decided to stop, his sister usually sugarcoats her lessons with Aang, but Toph is as firm as her element's sake.
She pars with his quips, and though sometimes she outsmarts him more often than not that he refuses to admit it, they rather converse that way. Loud, brash, sometimes giving each other a loud slap on the back that it feels good to have someone who shares his amount of enthusiasm that the other two would dub as overwhelming. They quickly become friends, and he's content in having a pal to cause some racket with once in a while.
But as this unsettling silence seems to sink in his chest, he's beginning to fidget, because she usually makes loud jokes with him rather than sit quietly and stare at him from the other side of the fire, Appa curled up beside them.
He contemplates on whether or not to call her out for it, but he doesn't need to when she speaks.
"When will you stop lying to everyone?"
He's startled of course, he doesn't expect that of all things to come out of her mouth.
She doesn't look away, doesn't falter when he questions her, and it begins to unnerve him then as she doesn't make any movement. "You heard me."
And then, she does move a bit, leaning back on her hands from where she folds her legs. "When did you start wearing the mask?"
He's still confused at first, so caught off guard that it takes a moment for him to let the words sink in fully before he looks at her sharply, studying her look of disinterest that he wonders why she even brings this up in the first place. "What are you talking about?"
He decides to play dumb, but it's a foul move when her lips turn into a scowl, clearly unimpressed with his attempt. "Come on, Snoozles," she drawls. "Your acting skills are top notch. Even if Katara and Aang couldn't see that you're hiding something from them, you can't hide it from me."
He has a feeling what she's talking about isn't some bluff for her to prank him in the end, but that doesn't mean he's any happier. "Look," he raises his hands them in mock surrender, the pebble still in his grasp. "There's nothing I'm hiding, and there's nothing for you to know, so can we please drop this?"
She hums, tilting her head slightly to the side and he's suddenly reminded that she's just at a cusp of becoming a teenager and yet she's able to read him without seeing. "Desperate need to end the subject, heartrate increased." The child-like innocence is gone as she gives him a flat look. "Liar," came the verdict.
He glowers at her back, but he thinks it's futile because she doesn't react. So, he settles with a huff. "Why does it matter to you, anyway? And how would you know at the way I feel about anything?"
She knocks on the ground with her knuckles, and he faintly sees the earth rises the slightest bit under her command before disappearing again a foot away behind her, careful not to alert the other two sleeping companions. "I can feel your emotions through the earth, and the way you're actually hiding some heavy stuff under your goofiness from the others is quite admirable."
Through his surprise, he's impressed at her powers, at what she's capable of doing at such a young age despite being crippled. But of course, he doesn't say that out loud, for fearing that she would most likely throw him into the air or trap him on a very high pillar that it would take a while for him to come down.
Still, he rather not have her prod her way through those problems he keeps deep inside himself that no one but him can know. He doesn't need anyone to see that the nightmares he's been nursing have haunted him for as long as he can remember, that it sometimes keeps him awake at night in cold sweat. He usually seeks solace from the moon as he tries to forget the black snow and hot fire, now more frequent than ever since Yue gave her life to take its place.
He makes a swift drag of stone against his boomerang, the sound it makes rings across the night. Sokka ceases his movements when their sleeping companions stirs in their sleep. "You don't know anything," he tells her quietly, and he begins to clean up his belongings as he gets ready for bed. "And there's nothing for you to know."
She shrugs as she begins to stand up. "I don't know anything, but you can't deny that you're hiding something, and I intend to find out what."
He stiffens half way through his sleeping bag, before slowly sinking into the space. "What for? There's nothing interesting in this noodle," he taps the side of his head. "Wouldn't want you to waste your time."
She smiles then, almost a pitiful smile he thinks, because it's different from the wide grins she always dons whenever she has something mischievous she would share with him. "At this time of the century, everything that happened during the war would be interesting."
He doesn't argue with her as she walks a little way out of the small circle, making her own tent of rocks; he doesn't stop the spark of curiosity that makes itself known inside his chest when he wonders about her history as well.
He watches Katara and Zuko fly off with Appa, pursing his lips as his sister's harsh words towards him still bounces against his skull, reminding him again of all the things he regretted and would have done if he thought things through properly long ago.
Sokka knows Aang is worried for them as much as he is, where Katara and Zuko would be hunting for his mother's killer even after the Avatar has given them some advice. Sokka's worried too, because he has never seen such cold rage emitted from Katara that he prays that she would be alright, even though he knows she's more likely capable of taking care of herself while having Zuko to watch her back.
Buddy, you better take care of her.
"I don't like this," Aang mutters out beside him as they watch the flying bison turn into a speck in the sky, before it disappears fully. "Revenge was never the answer, this could get messier than before."
Sokka clenches and relaxes his fist, turmoil mixing with his emotions because even though he wasn't as close to their mother as Katara was, Kya is still his mother and he wants her death to be justified.
But not by killing.
Never by killing.
He hopes that they would do the right thing.
"Sokka, are you okay?"
He faces Aang, meeting his friend's worried look as he frowns slightly. Sokka flashes him a grin, clasping Aang on the shoulder as he steers them away. "I'm fine, now let's go get something to eat."
He knows Toph's watching them from where she leans back on one of the large rocks. And when the two boys pass her, she tilts her head in Sokka's direction, letting her gaze rest on him briefly so he sees the knowing look she gives him. He ignores her, his pace increasing as he quickly makes his way towards his pack, getting out the food as they all wait for their two friends to return.
Sokka sees the way Satoru hangs out with her, where the bespectacled man is holding her hand as they sit on one of the tables in front of him, talking in hushed tones by the way they lean forward so that their words are only them to hear. Sokka's curious, and slightly perturbed that Toph would let someone be that near to her and gives them the permission to hold her hand, since he has seen men and women alike being beaten up just for touching her.
Sokka knows it's wrong to watch, creepy even, and Toph would kick his ass if she so much knows that he's been looking after her like a hawk whenever boys and men begin to notice her. He can't help it, though he knows she can take care of herself -as she numerously tells them since long ago- it's like a reflex that he would be the one to save her when she needs it. And he knows that this overly protective emotion begins to form when they were hanging onto the hot air balloon to prevent their deaths, and he begins to feel extra wary about keeping her safe.
But she's a tough fifteen year old girl, and if she knows what she's doing, then Sokka isn't going to stop her from doing it.
Sometimes he has to prevent himself from bristling when he sees other men make themselves comfortable around her, that he's tempted to stomp over them and tell whoever the guy is to scram and never come back. But of course, she could sense their intent long before he does that she plays with them first, and that frustrates Sokka to no end because she's just making herself more vulnerable. But then, when the men would get aggressive, she would chase them off by shoving a boulder in their faces, and that usually leaves both her and Sokka satisfied as they watch the men cradle their bleeding noses.
Satoru's not like that however. He's a nice guy and he adores Toph more than those weasels would, and it's obvious she feels the same way too as she smiles softly at him, such a rare sight for Sokka since the last time she let's herself look like that is when they were talking about Katara on the edge of a cliff, and about their mothers.
Sokka taps his finger on the table when Satoru gives her a kiss on the cheek, causing Toph to bloom a pretty pink that makes Satoru grin at her response, clearly amused as he stares at her with some love in his eyes.
Sokka takes the pleasure of seeing Satoru getting socked in the arm when Toph finally composes herself, even if he knows that it's her way of showing affection when she's suddenly overwhelmed by those type of things. Their laughter drifts towards the spot Sokka sits beside Aang, unaware of his food being set in front of him.
He blinks, quickly straightening himself as he meets Katara's confused look, where she and Aang has started eating. "Are you okay? You've been spacing out for a while that it's starting to make me worry."
Sokka waves it away dismissively as he picks up his chopsticks, the smell of food finally breaking through his concentration and causing his mouth to water. "I'm fine. Just, you know, thinking."
Katara raised an eyebrow, resting her utensils on the edge of the bowl. "Thinking? What about?"
He shoves some noodles in his mouth as an excuse to prolong his answer, and only gives her a shrug.
"He's probably worried about Toph again," comes Aang's reply and Sokka almost chokes on his food. "Even if he doesn't need to."
Katara glances at the couple behind her, who sits a few tables away that the both of them are out of earshot of their conversation. "Why? She's in safe hands. Anyway," she faces forward again. "If she hears that, you're a goner."
Sokka swallows his food. "Hey, I can't help but let my defenses up once in a while when she's with another guy, you know. I mean," he quickly adds when both Aang and Katara look at him in surprise. "Have you seen the way other guys treat her? No respect for women at all."
"Right." Katara responds drily.
"Sokka, Toph's fine," Aang assures him as he takes a bite of noodles. "Anyway, Satoru wouldn't do that to her, he likes her enough to not disrespect her. And he knows what she can do if he does."
"Yeah, unless, of course," Katara lets out a smirk. "You're jealous or something."
Sokka scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Hardly. I'm just being the overprotective brother, you know? Like when Aang accidentally burned you with his fire bending?"
Aang coughs uncomfortably beside him. "I'm still guilty about that."
"And I forgave you," both siblings say at the same time, and Katara shoots Sokka a look. "Yeah, but Toph can protect herself."
"And I'm not doubting her," he retaliates back. "I just got this brotherly feeling okay? Can't help it when it happens."
Both Katara and Aang still doesn't seem convinced when he starts eating again, effectively ignoring them both that they leave him be.
Sokka glances over Katara's shoulder again. This time, he sees Toph looking at him straight in the eye.
He lifts his feet slightly off the ground as he focuses on his food, and Toph frowns at him.
"You didn't bother acting just now."
Sokka shrugs, not looking at her way as Toph settles on the sand beside him, and instead continues to stare into the sea with a flat pebble in his hand, the sun half sinks into the sea in front of him. "Sometimes I need a rest."
When he finally does look at her, she's swirling the sand with her fingers while perching her chin on her knees, staring straight ahead. "I figured. Both you and Suki's emotions were a hammer to my face."
He tightens his hold on the pebble, looking away. "Things like that happen when you're breaking up."
"Probably, from what you're feeling," she agrees. "But I wouldn't know, so I can't be the judge of that."
He let's out a breath of laughter. "What do you mean, you don't know? What about Satoru?"
She purses her lips. "We weren't exactly together, but it almost felt like it," she spreads her hand on the sandy ground, letting the fine powder spread over her fingers. "And he did mean something to me, even if we know both of us can't be together for long, since we have our own responsibilities."
He hums. "You two were good together, and I'm happy for you."
There was silence that stretched before them, before she lets out a sigh.
"You have to stop doing that to me, Meathead," she chastises. "It won't do good for the both of us."
He says nothing.
When he first steps foot onto Republic City, he's already twenty-five.
And she's already twenty-two.
It shouldn't surprise him to see her there in the City Hall courtroom he suppose, standing tall beside Aang as he talks to the representatives of each nation, where the councilmen are already occupying their seats at the table, leaving one vacant for him.
Toph senses him first and turns her head sideways towards him as acknowledgement, and Aang realises what she does and looks up, where Sokka is already making his way towards them in his traditional water tribe garb, his sword strapped behind him.
"Sokka," Aang greets him warmly as he stands up, and the chatter trickled to a halt when all of their attention points towards him. "Welcome to Republic City."
Sokka smiles, clasping Aang's hand with his. "Thank you."
"Gentlemen," Aang addresses the others. "Our council is complete. Sokka would be representative councilman of the Southern Water Tribe, and he would be with us in discussing about the United Republic Council as well as who would become the chairman. Toph Beifong." At this, Sokka sees the way she only levels her gaze towards them all, as if silently daring them to say anything about her being the only woman in the room. "Volunteered herself along with her former and current students to create a police force for this city, and she would be Chief Police until she wishes to retire."
Sokka stares at her in surprise, and is about to ask her about it when the other councilmen and Aang continues their conversation from where they left off, and Sokka is forced to listen before he can catch her attention.
She gives him a smirk discreetly when he glances at her again.
"Chief Police, huh?"
"Could say the same thing about you, Councilman."
He chuckles, cradling the glass of sake he holds in his hands as they occupy the newly open bar at the corner of the room, both of them ignoring the awed looks of pedestrians and shop workers alike. The place begins to fill in with more people as the skies darkens. "I was offered, I thought I'll just grab the opportunity when I see it."
She hums, taking a sip of her beverage. "Aang and Zuko needed someone to have an eye on the city if anything happens, so I volunteered myself."
"You didn't tell me about it."
"I guess we're even, since I didn't know you were going to be a councilman until Aang told the others about you coming in soon." She arches an eyebrow at him, to which he avoids as he takes a gulp of his sake. "I thought you were helping Katara rebuilding the South Pole."
"I am, but I'll be going back and forth from here to there to have a look once in a while." He looks down into his empty cup. "Since my dad isn't getting any younger and he needs help in taking command when some of the warriors from the North Pole are there to help their sister tribe. It's hard work but," he shrugs. "We'll manage."
She asks for another cup for them when a waiter passes by their table, and they don't say a word until he leaves. "Your dad, Hakoda, is the Chief, right?"
He looks at her in confusion. "Yeah, but you already know that."
She nods. "You do realise that you're some sort of prince? Royalty and all."
He knows that, but he usually doesn't care or doesn't think about it at all. That doesn't explain why she asks when she already knows about it in the first place. "Your point?"
She faces him fully then, leaning back on the chair that her armour gleams under the light. "It means, Your Highness," she smirks as he shifts in his seat. "That word would travel fast when they see you, the Southern Water Tribe's legacy, drinking sake with a Beifong," she lets out a chuckle. "And to think we're already councilman and Chief Police. If the ladies of other high families hears about this, it'll be gossip matter around them that they'll probably start shoving their sons under my nose to avoid more scandal."
He laughs, leaning forward on the table. "But you like my company," he teases her. "Their sons would have to line up to get to you."
She scoffs, taking a drink. "Their sons can kiss a rock, the only reason they want me as their wife is because of 'strengthening ties between one name to another', and they're all money with no brains," she shoots him a grin. "You, on the other hand, absolutely love it when I'm in your company."
He shrugs. "I'm not sure about that, but you can dream."
She leans forward too, and he sees the mischievousness in her then. "When will you stop lying to me?"
He grins even if he knows she can't see. "When I know I can get away with it."
The breath of laughter she releases ghosts over his cheek. "Meathead."
He sees her then, years after he first sets eyes on her in the courtroom, standing at the door of the apartment she's staying while wearing her thick pants and white T-shirt, her arms crosses defiantly that he sees the way her lean arms stretch as she rests her weight against the frame of the door.
"Aren't you happy to see me."
It's a statement of mockery, because she probably feels the way his pulse jumps the moment she opens the door, and he's been trying to calm himself down ever since.
"Don't flatter yourself." Is the only reply he manages to make.
She stares at him for a moment, and then she straightens herself. He feels his heart rocket again when she stands on her toes and leans forward, so that her mouth brushes against the shell of his ear.
He forces himself to stay still as she leans back, feeling the way her cheek grazes on his briefly, his breath hitching the slightest bit as he meets her foggy eyes.
"Don't tempt me," he warns her, clutching his hands to his sides. "We both know that we'll regret it later."
She only shakes her head. "Again, you're lying."
"As if you don't lie," he shoots back.
He smiles. "And that is a lie itself."
They talk like they always do when they're alone in a shop or somewhere else.
But this time, there's something else between them that he notices.
Sometimes, he catches her soften slightly before she reverts to herself, punching his bicep a little more aggressively than before that it actuallyhurts now.
Other times, he stares at her a little longer than he should, finding himself studying the way she tilts her lips into a smirk and how graceful she can be while weaving her way through the sea of people.
He notices these new things.
And he's not sure whether he likes it or not.
He's been lying to himself again.
Sokka knows it.
Toph knows it.
But they don't say anything about it.
If the worried looks their friends send them have any indication about it.
But like the two best friends, they clamp their mouth shut and throw the key away.
They'd rather not interfere with this fragile thing.
This time, they let their actions speak.
Instead, he comes to her without a word, announcing his presence by the mere fact that he's there and she knows that he'll come.
So, he doesn't bother to knock when she's already pulling the door open.
And she doesn't protest when he presses his lips to hers.
When he wakes up, she's still asleep in his arms, snuggling into his chest that he feels her breath fluttering against his skin.
The tabloids will have a fit if they see them like this.
He tries to untangle himself from her, but her grip on him tightens momentarily as she buries herself further into his scent, and he freezes for a moment when she grazes a kiss to his chest. "Stay."
He brushes her hair from her eyes, nuzzling the top of her head. "You know I can't."
She peers at him, all traces of sleep gone from her gaze as she manages to look at him evenly. "But you want to."
He doesn't answer then, even if it's his only chance of lying to her and he'll get away with it.
In the end, she'll know he's lying anyway.
They're lying to themselves again.
And he thinks she's as good as an actress as he is at pretending.
No one suspects except their close friends.
Especially his sister.
"You two are breaking each other again."
He looks up from his massive amount of paperwork, meeting his sister's piercing blue eyes across his study at the South Pole, a relieved break after staying in Republic City for seven years. He plays dumb, a defensive move that becomes a habit. "Who?"
She's unimpressed. "Stop it, Sokka. I know you and Toph have this, thing going on for a while and you won't talk to anyone about it."
He puts down his brush. "I wasn't aware there was even a first time," he muses. "And how are we breaking each other?"
"Do you really want to know?" She questions flatly. "It's obvious both of you have something for each other, but you're being damn stubborn as usual and absolutely refuse to talk to her about it or even call the rest of us for help even though it's killing you. You're ignoring everything you felt even if it's butchering you because of your damn pride."
"Did you ever thought that maybe there's a reason for this?" he asks her harshly, blue clashing blue. "There's a reason why I don't want to tell anyone about this? It's because of this," he gives a sweep of an angry hand towards her. "You're forcing me to tell you stuff that I'm keeping a secret for a reason! Why can't you just trust me and not make false accusations based on what you see!"
"Because it's true," she insists. "And don't you dare try to lie your way out of this like, I know what I saw and you can't deny it just because it bothers you!"
At this point, they're voices are bordering to a screaming range, but he doesn't care because he's angry at her for barging in and he's angry at her for being right.
She's startled at how monotonous his voice has become. "Sokka, listen to me-"
"I did," he cuts her off coldly. "And I had enough. So please, make your way out."
She snaps her mouth shut, staring at him in shock. And then, she heaves out a sigh. "If you ever need me," she says softly. "You know where to find me."
And then, he's left alone.
He has never hated himself more than that moment.
It takes him a while, but he apologises on paper, setting it beside Katara's head while she sleeps, before he slips out of her room and heads for the dock.
Republic City needs him again.
Two years, that's how long he's been gone from the city, and he never thinks at how much time has passed until he goes to Toph's apartment, where she greets him at the doorway like she always does.
But what catches his attention is the way she looks surprised when she sees him, as if she hasn't sense his presence like she always would. He also notices the way she holds onto the small bump that begins to grow on her abdomen.
He snaps his head up to look at her, his heart at his throat. "Toph."
She hears how strangled his greeting is, and she squares her shoulders. "Sokka."
He swallows the ball in his throat. "Are you-"
"Yes," she answers swiftly. "I am."
He feels something shattering inside him.
Lin is born months later.
As he holds her that day, surrounded by his friends, he silently wishes she's his.
The councilmen are breathing down his neck.
Rumours have spread at how the chairman of City Hall is having an affair with the Chief Police.
He's careful now when he visits the girls.
Toph only tells the nosy people to screw themselves.
He has never loved her more.
He doesn't say it to her though.
He knows how he feels about her, has been for a long while, but he doesn't say it.
He's afraid, he realises.
Afraid at how she would react.
As he glances at her playing with Lin, where the year old baby giggles at her mother, Katara's words begins to haunt him.
You two are breaking each other again.
He tells her one morning, when she's in her office talking to one of her officers, her voice stern as she mutters some commands for a search party to find this mysterious killer who has been causing some problems to the city. He and the other councilmen have been discussing before this, and right now he needs to talk to her.
It's the young officer who notices Sokka first, straightening his stance more when he sees the water tribe warrior walking in the Chief's office without knocking, and he suddenly looks more nervous in the presence of two of the Avatar's closest comrades.
"Is that clear, officer?" Toph's voice rings through the space, and the officer nods his head jerkingly.
She waves him away, the officer bows slightly in respect and Sokka's impressed at his etiquette even if both men knows she can't see, before the officer bows at him too with a quick greeting of, "Councilman Sokka."
Sokka nods his head, giving the officer a smile. "Officer."
And when the two friends are left alone, he faces her, where she's already waiting for him by leaning against her desk, crossing her arms as she bows her head, almost as if she's staring at her feet. "So," she begins to speak. "To what I owe the chairman this pleasure?"
He shrugs, mimicking her stance as he leans against the door. "Nothing much."
She snorts in disbelief, shaking her head. "If I knew you wanted to waste my time, Meathead, I would have kicked you out earlier. But since you're an old friend," she lifts her head to face his general direction, the corner of her lips tilts up. "I guess I'll have to give you some exceptions."
"Don't worry," he assures her with a grin that she doesn't see, but she probably feels his glee when she begins to frown at him warily. "It'll be worth your time."
She shakes her head again. "Fine," she relents. "What is it?"
"I love you."
This time, he thinks, she knows he's telling her the truth.
It's days after his confession and he's sitting in front of her in the same bar they've been going for years in the middle of the night, sake in hand as they let their body slump on their respective chairs.
It's another fruitless attempt of finding this criminal.
And everyone's tired.
So, he doesn't expect when she finishes the last of her sake in one gulp and gets up, making her way towards him that she has to lean down to talk to him quietly.
"I love you too."
With that, she disappears through the doors as she makes her way towards the daycare to pick up her three year old daughter, leaving him grinning at the spot she occupies mere minutes ago, letting his heart bloom fully in his chest.
He's thirty-nine years old and he has never felt the urge to laugh childishly as he is at the moment.
For once, their words ring with something they've been waiting to hear from each other for a long time.
And they both get what they want.