The Escapades of the Blind Bandit and Meathead
Chapter the Thirteenth: Familiar Scam
Summary: They could always use something new to tease Zuko with.
A/N: For kpuff, who prompted me with "Sokka and Toph lure Mai into some drunk shenanigans at a Very Important Event" when I opened up prompts a few weeks ago on my Livejournal, and if that's not a prompt for an Escapade I don't know what is.
"I think," Toph proclaimed during dinner, picking delicately at her plate while Sokka tore his way through second helpings, "that Mai is really mad at Zuko this time."
Sokka snorted and shook his head. "No," he disagreed. "She just always has that look on her face."
"I'm pretty sure," Toph insisted, and when Sokka's response was merely to snort again, nearly choking on his stuffed pheasant-ferret, she sighed and continued. "Well, there's the fact that she's forgotten about her knives and just wants to punch him in the head."
"Did she say that?" Sokka asked suspiciously, sure that it was just another of Toph's exaggerations.
"Not quite that politely," Toph answered, jabbing at her dinner impolitely with a chopstick. "Also, there's the fact that Zuko's heart has been racing since we were seated, and not in the fun way. In the nervous way. Like he's about to find his ear pinned to the table sort of nervous."
Sokka waved a hand dismissively. "Could mean anything. That doesn't sound so serious to me."
"Well," Toph added after a moment's consideration. "There is also the fact that she refused to sit next to him and sat here instead."
"Oh yeah." Sokka looked up and across the table, where Mai's glower was informing him that their conversation was being overheard by everyone present. Suddenly, Sokka understood where Zuko's fear of being pinned to the table by his ear had come from. He personally feared for his tongue. "Not that the Fire Lady isn't always welcome to dine with us?" he added belatedly.
Toph kicked him from under the table. Sokka was still working on that whole diplomacy thing. "So what did the Crown King Princess do this time, Mai? You still haven't answered me that."
Mai's glower shifted. "I don't see how this is relevant to the conversation."
"This is the conversation," Toph replied easily, and after a moment, when Sokka remembered that she couldn't see the look Mai was giving her, decided to diplomatically shove an elbow in her side. Toph squeaked and slid sideways, nearly going off of her chair, and once she finally righted herself, taking the time to sniff indignantly and pat her hair as she composed herself, relented. "All right, fine, don't talk about it. See if I care. See if I offer to help you out again. I was trying to help you, I was."
"You were being nosy," Mai informed her.
Toph frowned down at her plate, but Sokka nodded in agreement. "We were kind of looking for something new to tease him with."
They were all silent for a long moment – Toph pouting, Sokka distracted by the food on his plate, and Mai still casting irritated looks back up at the main table, where Zuko was sitting with the Avatar and the Earth King – and then Toph picked up her head and asked casually, "Where's the waiter? I need a refill over here."
Sokka signaled the waiter, and when he finally made his way over – Sokka couldn't help noticing the grimace, and wondered how much they'd taken already – he simply abandoned several bottles rather than face returning to the table over and over again.
Sokka refilled Toph's glass, waiting patiently for her signal – and then he felt it: her big toe, tapping insistently on his foot. Handing over Toph's glass, he then reached for Mai's, which, while not empty, could stand to be topped off.
"This is fantastic wine," he boasted, taking a deep drink, nearly choking himself.
"The king is always really good to us when we visit," Toph added, taking more herself.
Mai replied by sighing, looking back at the table where Zuko was sitting, then, after her face hardened, taking another long drink herself. Toph smiled into her glass – Sokka was the only one watching, and he knew that smile. They usually got what they wanted when Toph smiled that way. Sokka quickly schooled his own expression.
One of the benefits of getting into as much trouble as they tended to find themselves in – whether consciously or not – was that he and Toph could read each other pretty well. Especially when it came to scamming people. He and Toph seemed to be of a similar mind, and there was one thing they had discovered together: alcohol helped to grease the wheels of conversation.
"Did you know we took Zuko out with us before?" Toph asked curiously.
"I'd heard," Mai responded coolly.
"Did you know that we ended up in jail?" Sokka countered.
Step one: Keep Zuko fresh in her mind.
"Did you know that one time he joked that they should rename The Cranky Dragon?" Toph picked up. "He suggested they call it The Cranky Mai."
"And then he laughed." Actually Toph had said that, but admitting that would hurt their ambitions.
Addendum to Step one: Keep Zuko annoying in her mind.
Mai put her glass down on the table. Sokka, helpful as always, topped it off.
Step two: Keep the wine flowing.
"You did realize that he keeps a whole drawer in his office filled with gifts in case he forgets something important?" Toph asked brightly.
"Like your birthday," Sokka added.
"Which Katara had to remind him about last year," Toph insisted.
Step three: Repeat steps one and two as necessary.
Mai rolled her eyes and shook her head. "He thinks I don't notice things like this. I know every single thing that goes on in the palace."
Step four: Tease Zuko in the morning with newly gleaned information.
Step three would prove to be the problem, Sokka realized later. The repeating part. Perhaps, Sokka mused as he squinted his eyes against the light, they should have stuck to refilling only Mai's wine.
He lifted his head – something sticky under his cheek pulled as he sat up – and looked around. He was still sitting at the table, and there was a terrible crick in his neck from sleeping at such an awkward angle.
There was no one else in the room.
Then he shifted his legs, and realized there was a weight over his feet. Peering under the table, he found Toph sound asleep. She was snoring.
All right. There was no one else in the room but them.
He kicked her, and she jerked awake. "Huh? Wuh? Where's – oh. Hey Meathead. Where are we today?"
"We're still it the banquet hall in Ba Sing Se," he informed her. "Do you remember what happened last night?"
Toph bit her lip. "We… tried to get Mai drunk so that she'd tell us what Zuko did."
"Did she tell us?" Sokka asked. "I don't remember anything after singing a birthday chorus to Bosco."
Toph scratched her head, her whole face screwed up in thought, before muttering an oath. "No, I don't remember."
Sokka sighed. "You know what this means right?"
"Yeah," Toph groaned and laid back again. "We'll have to send Katara in to get it out of Mai, and then we'll owe her one."
Sokka repeated Toph's curse.