In Vino Veritas
Sokka does thing differently when he's drunk, and the effects carry over to the morning after. Giftfic for Shinjae.
It was funny, how drinks just disappeared. All it took was one or two of them, and then you just couldn't remember where the rest had gone. Soon you were up to six or seven (or was nine or ten?), and all you could really think about was the way the dancer rolled her hips. It didn't help that the serving girl was pretty and well endowed and that buying another drink meant another chance to look down her dress. She leaned over, too, when she was laying the heavy earthenware mugs down on the table, and she smiled invitingly.
Then, when you'd had enough, you discovered that you'd been pick-pocketed. Unwisely, you blamed it on the large, sluggish-looking unwashed man sitting beside you at the long table, and then you found out that, though he was very sluggish, he hit very hard.
And then, when you'd thought things couldn't possibly have gotten any worse, you remembered that they call the city guard on people who start fights in taverns.
You knew you were in trouble when you're sister refused to come collect you.
"Yep," Toph answered, biting back a yawn. "You're lucky anyone got out of bed. I was asleep, you know."
"She refused!" Sokka announced to his cellmate (though what he'd thought was a small man folded up in the corner was actually a large cistern full of rancid water sitting in a pile of dirty rags).
Toph crossed her arms, and looked at the jailer, who just shook his head and unlocked the cell.
"Can you walk?" she asked Sokka, who was staring raptly at the man in the corner.
"Why won't you answer me!" he demanded of the water jug.
"That'll be a no," Toph said to herself, and moved into the cell to help Sokka stand. After a few minutes of pushing, pulling, and swearing, she managed to get him on his feet and out of the jail – a task that proved much more difficult than she'd thought. He'd grown so much in the past few years and she really hadn't grown at all. He stood head and shoulders over her, which made keeping him on balance quite a chore.
He listed from side to side as they tripped down deserted streets, and more than once he dragged her into a potted plant or ran her into a wall. She tripped over his feet as often as her own, but she knew paving stones as well as she knew earth and soon they were tumbling through the back gate of the Bei Fong's estate.
Toph waved off the guard – a new hire, and young, who stumbled over his words – and dragged Sokka up the back stairs, through the kitchen – where he demanded they stop to grab a piece of cheese – out into the hallway and down to the guest room he was sleeping in for the duration of their stay.
"You know, you could've picked a better time to get drunk," Toph noted idly as she used her free hand to haul open the heavy door.
"You smell good, " was his drunken reply, and she almost let go of the door ring.
When she'd beaten back the little thrill growing in her chest, she replied, "I smell like dirt."
"I like dirt," he said, and leaned in closer. The added weight sent her careening sideways into the sideboard, of which she had been unaware until it jabbed her in the hip. Something fell heavily to the floor but did not shatter, and the door slammed shut with a loud bang.
"Get offa me," she muttered angrily, shoving at his shoulders. He fell back against the opposite sideboard, but managed to catch himself on it without knocking anything over. She felt across the door until she found the ring, and gave it a hard yank. She was beginning to wish she'd never gotten out of bed.
When she'd dragged the door open and wedged it, she reached out for him. He watched her hand grasping through thin air, and something inside him – the same something that had always looked out for her when they were in trouble – remembered that the floors beneath them were hard wood. She was blind, in the truest sense of the word. She needed help finding him.
He stumbled forward into her arm, misjudged the distance – and his own momentum – and ran her backwards into the sideboard again. She let out a yelp as her back connected painfully with the sharp edge, and both her hands braced against his back, trying to keep him steady.
She swore as she hauled him into the room, and he began to laugh. His arms had fallen around her shoulders, and he was resting his chin in the crook of her neck in some sort of obscene pantomime – the way they tripped and spun, it was almost like dancing. She didn't bother to light a lamp – such things never occurred to her- and he said nothing because there was more than enough moonlight spilling through the terrace doors. If she remembered the room's layout (and she knew she did, because all the rooms were alike specifically for her convenience), the bed was halfway across the wall on the right. She was able to drag Sokka as far as it's edge before his foot caught on the rug and he took a tumble right onto the waiting sheets, pulling her down with him.
His arms tensed around her shoulders, and all she could do was freeze. She'd had this dream before, more times than she'd ever admit to anyone, and that little part or her that had jumped at his earlier comment began to hop around like mad. He smelled like wine and sweat and something cold she didn't recognize – glaciers, maybe, or winter winds. He was warm, lying there beneath her, his breath constant and cool against her cheek. If she turned her head just a fraction she would be able to kiss him.
But he was drunk, and her arms, pinned between him and the bed, were beginning to tingle with numbness. She pulled away from him with a sigh, and swallowed the regret that was crawling up the back of her throat.
"Where are you going?" Sokka protested, hooking an arm around her waist and pulling her back into his lap. "We never get to talk anymore. We should talk."
"Let go of me," she demanded levelly, planting one of her hands against his face and pushing.
His response was to hiss in pain, and sit up so suddenly that she tumbled backwards off the bed and hit the hard, cold floor with a loud thud.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" she demanded, climbing to her feet and barely resisting the urge to pummel him with a closed fist.
"I'm drunk!" he shouted back with a slight lisp. "And you hurt my lip!"
"I did not," she said with a sigh. "Stop being a baby."
"You did too! You hit it in the exact same spot that big smelly guy did!" He swabbed the back of his hand across his mouth, and it came away smeared with red. "I'm bleeding again! Are you happy now!"
"Why do you think you got punched in the face?" Toph asked irately, crossing her arms and turning her head in the direction of the wall.
"Because I pick fights with bigger men when I'm drunk?" he supplied easily, still staring at the blood on the back of his hand and trying to connect it with the pain at the corner of his mouth.
"No!" she stated, stomping her foot. "Because you – okay, yes, because you pick fights with bigger men! When you're drunk! Why are you always picking fights with bigger men when you're drunk!"
"I dunno," Sokka said with a shrug. "But I think I need to lay down."
"Oh that's just fine!" she complained to the floorboards, moving forward to sit on the edge of the bed. "Go ahead and lay down. Go to sleep, even! You just see if I come and get you the next time you get thrown in jail for starting a bar fight!"
Toph's eyes seemed to glue themselves to a spot on the far wall, and Sokka watched how the moonlight played over her dark hair and she sat silently, almost fuming. She was pale, as she'd always been, but yelling had put a touch of color in her cheeks. Her small, full mouth was set into its slight perpetual frown, and he wondered what it would be like to kiss her when she was smiling. The part of him that was still thinking clearly decided to save that idea, in case it ever came in handy.
"Why are you staring at me?" she asked suddenly. "Thinking about starting another fight?"
"No, I just…Thanks," he said blearily, settling back into the pillows. "For coming to get me, I mean."
"Yeah, whatever," she murmured in reply, and groped around on the bed until she had located one of his booted feet before tugging at the laces.
"Really," he continued, blissfully unaware of how uncomfortable he was making her. "You're so sweet, but no one would ever guess. I mean I don't see Katara here helping me into bed! She'd rather sleep then take care of her own brother!"
"You're a moron," Toph interjected.
"That's what I'm talking about!" Sokka insisted. "You're honest! You're not afraid to say what you think, and you're not concerned with impressing anybody. It's refreshing. Lots of girls just keep quiet about their thoughts – not you!"
Holy hell, but he was a talkative drunk.
"No, you're not about to debase yourself just to impress some snot-nosed underage brat. You're assertive! And you make this face, when you're being assertive. It's like suddenly there's a grown woman standing there instead of this skinny little fifteen-year old and-"
"Cut it out," she said lowly, dropping one of his boots onto the floor and starting on the other.
"What?" he queried, eyebrows drawing downwards. "I can't notice how much you've grown up? People don't tell you you're pretty?"
"People do," she replied, fiddling with the knotted laces of his second boot. "You don't."
"I do so!" he exclaimed. "I just did!"
"Well stop it!" Toph ordered, yanking the boot off. She wondered if he was always this articulate when he was drunk.
"No!" he huffed, sitting up and crossing his arms. "I think you're pretty and I'll tell you so whenever I damn well please! Just you try and stop me!"
"You are such a liar!" she shrieked, and threw the boot at him. It missed his head by more than a foot and bounced off the headboard to clatter onto the nearby table. Something shattered. "You've never treated me like a girl – no, I'm special! I get to be one of the BOYS! You don't even see me when there's another girl in the room! I'm just that littler person you nudge when you've noticed the tavern maid's backside and you want to giggle about it! Did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn't want to know what you thought of some other woman's butt? Has it really never crossed you mind that maybe, just maybe, it might hurt my feelings to know that you think it's all right to make googly eyes at some street walker but you won't look twice at ME! And don't you even dare say it's not true, because it is! It is, it is, it is!"
By this time Sokka had backed up against the headboard and was contemplating jumping off the terrace.
"Somehow," he choked, when her ranting had wound down to heavy, angry panting, "I get the feeling there's more to this than me calling you pretty."
Toph took a deep, shuddering breath, and turned to face the opposite wall, drawing her knees up to her chest.
"Do… um," Sokka stammered, fishing for words that he already knew wouldn't solve anything. "Do you wanna talk about-"
"No," she stated calmly before he could even finish asking.
"Are you su-"
A gentle, hesitant knock on the door startled both of them out of the uneasy silence. Sokka was unsure whose jurisdiction applied in this case – it was his guest room, but it was Toph's house – so he kept silent, and when the second knock resounded, she heaved a heavy sigh and called, "Come in."
The door squeaked open, and a young maid carrying a candle stuck her head in.
"Are you all right, mistress?" she queried softly. "Your mother heard shouting, and woke me to come see if anything was wrong."
"I'm fine," Toph replied stiffly, setting her feet back on the floor and rising from the bed. "I was just helping Sokka. He's too drunk to control the level of his voice."
"Forgive my saying so," the serving girl continued, "but you should be in bed, miss. Your lady mother won't be pleased to find you awake."
"Then don't tell her," Toph ordered, making her way to the door, where the maid moved aside with a small bow. "I was just on my way out anyways."
With one of the servants present, Sokka could do nothing except wave goodnight. It wasn't until after the door had closed and the room had grown dark again that he remembered Toph couldn't feel his movement. He muttered a few choice swear words to himself, then laid down and prayed he wouldn't have a horrible headache in the morning. He wondered if his lip was still bleeding. A quick, exacting prod with the tip of his tongue was enough to assure him that the bleeding had stopped, and he tried to remember why he had gotten drunk in the first place. When the answer did not reveal itself immediately, he decided to leave the contemplations until morning, and chose instead to focus on what it had been like to have Toph in his bed – however briefly the physical contact had occurred.
Perhaps, he thought to himself, I should talk to her when I'm sober.
Breakfast was a quiet, awkward affair. The same serving girl who had come to find Toph had also woken him for the morning meal – though "woken" was a very delicate term. She had thrown the terrace doors wide open, stripped the sheets from his sleeping form, and then announced, in a voice that was much too cheery, that breakfast would be on the table in a quarter of an hour.
He chalked her crabby attitude up to the fact that she had found her young (unwed) mistress alone with him at an unseemly hour, and decided not to call her on it. His complaint would likely lead to her telling Toph's parents what she'd seen, and the last thing any of them needed was another reason for the Bei Fong's to distrust them.
So he sat and silently nursed his cup of mango juice. His mouth still tasted fowl, and the food that gazed up at him imploringly from the thin porcelain plates sent his stomach into all kinds of unpleasant spirals. At least his head was mostly intact.
Toph sat quietly to his right, pretending to listen intently to whatever her mother was saying. Aang and Katara, on the other side of the table, seemed to have picked up on the bad mood and were talking in low concerned tones to eachother. Every once in awhile, they would glance at Sokka – who would glower back – or Toph – who couldn't tell they were looking – and then go back to murmuring. He knew they were speculating about what had happened; though he could hardly guess what they thought had gone on.
Luckily, Toph's father was away on business. Sokka had been thanking the gods for that great fortune ever since she had shown up at his jail cell the night before.
Lady Bei Fong cleared her throat a little more loudly than necessary, and rose from the table.
"Well," she said congenially to Toph. "I have to look over the account books for the week before writing the summaries for your father. If you will excuse me." This she added to the guests with a tilt of her head. "Do help yourselves if you need anything. Just ask one of the servants."
Three sets of eyes watched her leave the room, and Toph spooned a little more porridge into her bowl. When the hall door had clicked shut, Katara rounded on Sokka and said lightly, "You wanna tell us why the two of you are so tight-lipped this morning?"
"Not really," Sokka replied easily, and polished off his juice.
"Toph," she prodded gently.
"Not a chance," the blind girl responded with a sunny smile, before pushing back from the table. "I have to finish dressing. Someone's coming for lunch, and Mom was adamant that I be there."
"Who is it?" Aang asked through a mouthful of yogurt.
Toph shrugged. "Hell if I know. One of her friends, or some other merchant. No one I know. Just leave the dishes. Someone'll clean it up." Then she followed her mother through the door at the end of the room.
Sokka watched her go with anxious eyes, then turned to Aang and Katara and said, "I'm gonna go lay down."
"Isn't your room the other way?" Aang asked, this time through a mouthful of apple, gesturing towards the lonely door at the other end of the room.
"Sure, whatever," Sokka answered distractedly as he made his escape.
The dining room door opened into a long hallway that ran the length of the main house, before branching off into the little side-house thingies that Sokka couldn't recall the name of. He turned left, walked the length of the hall, took another left, then a quick right, and found himself in the hallway that ended at Toph's bedroom door. There was a smaller, much plainer door just to his left that belonged to whichever maid had the misfortune to be at Toph's beck and call.
Sokka took a long, appraising look at her door before approaching the portal with caution. He knew he probably should have thought over what he wanted to say to her, but that would take time he didn't have. He'd never get any real reaction from her unless he caught her off-guard – no, there was no turning back now.
"You're such an idiot," he muttered to himself, echoing her thought from the previous night as he knocked on her door.
The low voices he could hear behind the wood paneling silenced, and that same maid that had woken him opened the door and gazed out with a sour expression on her face.
"Can I help you?" she demanded, when he couldn't find words to express his complete dissatisfaction with the cards fate was dealing him today.
He swallowed the lump in his throat, and answered, "I need to talk to Toph."
"She's dressing. You'll have to wait."
Then she slammed the door in his face.
"So," he announced slowly to the silent hall. "You think you can get rid of me just like that? Think again!"
Then he banged on the door for all he was worth.
This time, it was Toph who threw it open.
"Are you insane!" she shouted through the section of her hair that had been combed over her face to keep it out of the way. "I'm dressing! Or can't you hear!"
"First of all," Sokka said calmly, "I'm not all too sure what "dressing" means. Weren't you dressed at breakfast? You looked pretty dressed to me…"
"Go away," she interrupted, and closed the door.
Or would have, if Sokka hadn't wedged his foot between it and the jamb.
"Secondly," he continued, shouldering into the small opening. "We need to talk."
She stared blankly at him for a moment – strange, because the affect was similar to anyone else's blank stare – then heaved a dramatic sigh, and asked, "Can I at least finish putting this stupid get-up on? I can't get into it by myself, and Amah and Lili both have to help with lunch…"
Sokka looked in at the other two occupants of the room. Their was an elderly woman holding an ornate silver comb, who was glaring at him as if he had just interrupted her in the middle of creating an artistic masterpiece, and the sour-faced maid he'd been seeing everywhere, who was gathering up what looked like some sort of elaborate robe and trying to appear humble in the presence of two people who were obviously her betters. Suddenly he had the unexplainable urge to laugh.
"I'll just wait outside," he whispered as he realized that both the servants were watching him intently.
Toph seemed to pause for a moment, then shook herself, and pushed him backwards out of the door's path before pulling it closed.
Sokka looked at the ceiling, as if seeking some sort of assistance, then took a seat with his back to the door.
When the door finally opened – what had to be hours later – he fell onto his back and closed his eyes rather than stare up the skirts of the two maids as they both stepped over him and made their was back down the hall into the main house. One of them stepped on he left hand.
He righted himself with only a small amount of discomfort. What small headache he'd had at breakfast had completely vanished, and the juice had calmed his stomach considerably. In fact, the only thing bothering was his hand.
"You said we need to talk," Toph's voice broke into his reverie. "So talk."
He glanced up to find her sitting on her vast, curtained bed, swathed from shoulder to toe in cream and jade silk. None of the many adjectives now flowing freely through his mind seemed to do justice to the picture now presented to him. It seemed his luck had just gotten better.
"You know," he began, clearing his throat when his voice stuck. "I wasn't lying when I said you were pretty."
Her head turned towards the bed's surface, tilting just slightly so her left ear was in line with his face. The gold ornaments hanging in her upswept hair glittered in the sunlight spilling in through every window.
"You're saying that now because you remember you said it last night," Toph told the sheets easily. "And it's probably pretty easy to lie when you're looking at a porcelain doll."
"Don't talk like that," Sokka scolded with a frown. "Why would I lie to you?"
"To keep from getting your ass kicked."
A grim laugh escaped his throat as he sidled forward, sitting down beside her one the bed.
"All right," he admitted. "I might lie to keep from getting my ass kicked. But I get the feeling you're not in the fighting mood."
"If I mess up my hair, Amah will beat me 'til I'm blue," she answered lightly. "Not to mention the fact that I can hardly walk in this dress, let alone earthbend."
"You'd find a way," Sokka maintained. "If you were mad enough."
"I don't suppose you'd care to test that theory," she gibed, grinning at him through lips that had been painted deep red.
Then, for no other reason than her smile, he leaned in and kissed her.
She sat very still, and when he pulled away – deterred by her lack of movement – he could see the tension in the set of her shoulders and the way her left hand curled in the bed sheets.
She touched her lips briefly, as if checking for injuries, and her fingertips came away red.
"You enjoy ticking me off," she finally concluded, nodding to herself before turning to face him. "What was that?"
"A kiss," Sokka answered weakly, wondering why she was asking odd questions and hadn't hit him yet.
"A kiss?" she repeated disbelievingly. "That's a kiss?"
"Yeah," he replied, still slightly bewildered. "That's a kiss."
She turned to face the wall again, and thought for a moment before responding tonelessly, "Not very exciting, is it?"
Sokka could not believe what he was hearing. "You're disappointed!" he demanded shrilly.
She shrugged, and responded, "A little."
"Here I am," he continued, as though she hadn't answered, "worrying over whether or not I've just destroyed one of the best friendships I've ever had, praying that I haven't just scared you out of any romantic relationship we might have had, and all you can say is that is wasn't very exciting!"
Toph gave him a pitying look, and nodded her head.
"Well," he sighed, climbing to his feet. "No one can say I didn't try."
"I can," she challenged, and he turned sharply to face her. "And I will if you walk out that door without kissing me again – and I mean a real kiss; none of that silly, chaste stuff."
Sokka couldn't think of a single thing to say – could hardly do anything but stand still and wonder if perhaps he was still drunk and dreaming.
"Look," she went on, standing. "I'll even make it easy for you. But I'm expecting something good this time around."
She took a few hesitant steps in his general direction, and then, as if suddenly realizing everything she had just said, began to blush furiously.
He laughed – what else could one do in such a situation – and closed the distance between them. Then, laying a hand on either side of her face, he bent to kiss her.
This time she responded, with parted lips and quick breaths that grew quicker the longer they were in contact. It was strange, to feel her like this, and exciting. There was a familiarity in her touch, because she kissed like she did everything else: a little harder, a little deeper, a little rougher around the edges, but with an almost preternatural skill; as if she could read exactly what he wanted to do, and exactly what he wanted her to do.
For the second time in as many days, a loud knock interrupted them. Toph pulled away immediately, and took a deep breath, glancing around him to stare dispassionately at the door.
"What?" she called irately, more than a little upset at the timing.
"You're mother wants to see you, Toph," an unfamiliar voice called through the paneling.
She swore under her breath, and then replied, "I'll be right there, Amah."
"So," Sokka began as Toph rolled back one of her sleeves and wiped her mouth vigorously. All the smeared red paint came off, leaving only the lightest shade of pink. "It was better the second time around, right?"
She stood on tiptoe to place a quick kiss on the corner of his mouth, then pushed past him.
"You could still use some work," she teased over her shoulder as she made her way to the door. "I'll let you practice after lunch."
Then she pulled the door open and vanished down the hallway.
A graying head appeared, followed by the rest of the elderly maid who had been with Toph earlier. Her brown eyes, still sharp, took an appraising look at Sokka, before saying simply, "Paint."
Sokka, who had been too absorbed thinking about the afternoon practice session, shook himself and asked, "What?"
"You have red paint," she continued. "On your mouth."
He made a valiant attempt at looking innocent, but the maid just laughed and closed the door, leaving him alone in Toph's room.
AN: Omigod, what can I say about this? Basically, I took the idea given to me and I ran with it. I ran really far. And then when I couldn't run anymore the fic grew its own legs and ran itself. It's a LOT longer than I was planning. But I suppose these things happen. It was so very fun to write, though now that I'm finally done with it I'm wondering if it will please the person for whom it was written. Did I do good, shinjae? I sure hope so, because I put a lot of hard work into this. I know it's not exactly what you had in mind, but I'm hoping it fits the bill close enough to satisfy your craving for Drunk Sokka/Toph. It's rather fluffy, isn't it?..
So everyone, know this: Shinjae is awesome. One of the best reviewers on the entire net. That's what this gift is for: the amazing reviewing powers of shinjae.
To Frozenheat: yours is coming, darling. I had to get away from the Kataang for a bit, but after this monster I'm ready to get back to my OTP. I have a wicked little idea for your request...
And I'm just a little bit scared of what the Sokka/Suki fangirls will do to me...