Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender
Once Upon a Time
Toph heaved a loud sigh as she leaned her head back against the smooth rock, her fingers tapping lightly on the ground next to her. Sitting silently against a wall of the house, she idly contemplated just how bored she was. Dangerously, mind-numbingly bored. She was suffering from such coma-inducing boredom, she thought that she might very well go insane in the next few minutes if she couldn't find something to do.
Aang had gone out into the city again, Momo perched loyally on his shoulder, in hopes of hearing some tiny shred of news about Appa. Katara had gone to the market to buy something for their dinner. Toph, of course, could have gone with either of them, but neither was engaged in an activity that she found particularly interesting. Sure, she wanted to find Appa as much as anyone, but she just didn't think that wandering aimlessly around an enormous city like Ba Sing Se in hopes of stumbling across a scrap of information was going to accomplish anything, especially when they were still being "escorted" everywhere they went. Toph hated being babysat.
So, instead of venturing out into the city, she had stayed behind in their house in the upper ring of the city with Sokka. Unfortunately for her, though, the Water Tribe warrior was most decidedly not doing anything to help alleviate her boredom.
With her bare feet resting flat on the floor in front of her, Toph could feel that Sokka was still sitting on the other side of the room amongst a wide assortment of cushions and pillows that somewhat dulled her sense of him. The occasional, tiny vibration was the only proof that Toph wasn't sitting alone in an empty house. He was being very still and very quiet. Much too still and quiet, especially for Sokka.
After enduring a few more minutes of silence, Toph announced to the room at large, "I'm bored."
If Sokka took any notice of this pronouncement, she could feel no indication of it at all, just a very slight vibration from his direction suggesting that maybe he had reached up to scratch his nose.
Raising her voice a bit, she tried again. "I am so bored."
This time, she felt him shift as he turned to look at her. "Huh? Oh, hey, Toph. What's up?"
"Nothing! Nothing is up, and that's the problem. There's nothing to do in this stupid city and I'm bored out of my mind!"
Sokka didn't seem to find this problem quite as vexing as she did. In a perfectly calm voice, he replied, "Aw, c'mon, Toph. You're in one of the largest cities in the whole world. How is that boring?"
"Yeah, well, I'm not really much of one for sightseeing. Besides, I don't like being followed and watched everywhere I go."
"Yeah, that is kinda creepy."
After this very short conversation, Sokka seemed to feel the matter had been addressed and once again fell silent. Toph, however, didn't agree. "Well?"
She could hear a bit of confusion in his voice as he replied, "Well what?"
"What am I supposed to do? I'm bored!"
"Um, I dunno. Why don't you go play with your rocks or something?"
Toph sat up straight, insulted by the insinuation. "Excuse me? Earthbending is NOT 'playing with rocks'."
Sokka waved this away. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Ancient and noble blah blah blah. So why don't you go practice your earthbending?"
"First of all, Water-boy, I don't need practice. I am the greatest earthbender in the world! And second of all, even if I wanted to practice, there is nowhere in the city with enough room for any serious bending."
Sokka, his attention obviously straying again, said, "Well, I'm sure if you put your mind to it you can come up with something to entertain yourself." Silence reigned once more as he returned to his own amusements.
Toph crossed her arms in exasperation. For being the "idea guy", he really hadn't been much help. She lightly bumped her head back against the wall in a slow, steady rhythm, absently feeling the vibrations throughout the room as her mind wandered.
It was a very short time later that her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Sokka's voice. "Uh, Toph? It's kinda hard for me to read with you doing that."
Toph tilted her head towards him in confusion. "Doing what?"
"Banging your head against the wall."
"I'm not banging my head against the wall."
"Yes! And it's very, very annoying."
"Oh, well, excuse me. I had no idea that your majesty needed absolute silence."
Sokka, his teeth audibly grinding in frustration, forced out, "I never said absolute silence. Just stop banging on the wall!"
He fell silent once more as Toph sat against the wall, quietly grumbling under her breath. This continued for a few minutes, until a sudden thought occurred to the earthbender. She couldn't help the mischievous grin that lit her face.
With one hand she gave the floor a very light, barely perceptible slap. Carefully sorting through the vibrations of the room, she quickly located what she was looking for. With a minuscule flick of two fingers, she sent a pebble flying in the direction of the unobservant Water Tribe boy. She knew her aim was good when felt him jump slightly from the unexpected projectile.
Sokka, in a voice that was a curious mixture of whiny and irritated, said, "Toph! I said find something to entertain yourself, not something to annoy me."
Toph smiled brightly at him. "But annoying you is entertaining."
Sokka breathed a loud sigh. "Fine."
The blind girl's smile disappeared as she felt him stand up and began to gather his things. He's leaving? Just because of a stupid little rock? Guilt and disappointment gnawed at her. She hadn't meant to make him leave.
She was about to speak up, to mock him for his delicate sensibilities in the hope that he would stay, when she noticed something. Sokka wasn't moving towards the exit. Instead, he was walking towards her, his steps a bit awkward, as if he was carrying something that he couldn't quite see around or grasp properly. A few strides brought him across the room and next to her, where he dumped the load in his arms. The very light, barely felt vibrations told her that it was a large pile of cushions and pillows, which he began to arrange against the wall next to her.
Toph turned to him, unable to keep suspicion from her tone. "What are you doing?"
"Sitting next to you."
"Because if I stayed way over there I would probably lose my voice. Now shush." Sokka, apparently finished positioning the pillows, plopped down beside her.
Toph heard papers rattling as he settled in next to her, their shoulders lightly brushing as he made himself comfortable. Doing her best to ignore the sudden increase in her heart rate, she asked, "What are..."
"Shush. No talking," interrupted Sokka. After a few more seconds of rustling papers, he cleared his throat loudly and began speaking. "Once upon a time..."
Toph, thoroughly confused and not in the habit of following orders, cut him off. "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to read. Again."
"Why are you reading out loud?"
"Uh, because if I read to myself, you wouldn't be able to hear it?" His tone implied that it was a rather obvious and silly question.
Toph froze, speaking very quietly as she asked, "You're going to read to me?"
She could feel him shrug his shoulders as he replied. "Well, yeah. That way I get to read without you annoying me every two seconds, and you get to listen and not be bored anymore. Everybody wins."
Toph was stunned by the unexpected offer. She had been annoying him for most of the morning, at times intentionally, and now he was going to read to her?
Sokka, misunderstanding her sudden silence, began to slowly stand up again as he said, "We don't have to or anything, if you don't want. I just thought..."
"No!" Toph grabbed his arm and jerked him back down onto the cushions. She couldn't stop the faint blush that bloomed warm on her fair skin when she realized just how desperate that had sounded and felt the vibrations of how hard she had pulled him back down. Turning away from him, hoping to hide the redness of her cheeks, she quickly tried to backtrack and distract him. "I mean, um, that might be ok. What's it about?"
If Sokka noticed her flushed face or odd behavior, he gave no indication of it as he answered, "It's an old fairy tale. It's about a beautiful princess who is kept locked away in a secret tower by her evil step-father. She's never allowed to leave, or talk to anyone, or anything. She lives her whole life in the same little room in the tower, never seeing anything except what's visible from her one tiny window. One day, she notices a flock of sheep in the field, and with the sheep is a poor shepherd boy. She watches him for a few days, and then finally works up the courage to talk to him. They hit it off right away. He comes back every day to talk to her, and they eventually fall in love, and he finally decides to try and rescue her from her step-father."
As Sokka described the story, the blush on Toph's face deepened. The story seemed entirely too reminiscent of some of her own recent daydreams. Only, in her daydreams, it wasn't a beautiful princess, but a blind earthbender. It wasn't a secret tower, it was a nobleman's mansion. And it wasn't a poor shepherd boy, it was a brave, blue-eyed warrior with a boomerang...
This time it was Toph who stood up to leave, stammering out an excuse as she did. "Uh, n-never mind. Y-you don't have to read to me. I wouldn't want to bother you."
She started to move away when she felt a warm hand on her arm pulling her gently back down to the floor. "Since when do you care if you bother me? Besides, it's just as easy for me to read out loud as it is to read silently, and this way we're both entertained."
"I know the story sounds kind of corny, but it's really pretty good. Especially the ending. The ending is the best part."
Toph knew she was trapped. After complaining so loudly about being bored, she had no reason not to stay and listen. None she was willing to give, anyway. So she stalled. "What's so great about the ending?"
She could hear the smug smile in his voice as Sokka replied, "Nope, that would be telling. You'll just have to wait and hear it. Now, are you ready to listen?"
Toph sighed, finally conceding defeat. "Yeah, I guess."
Sokka again cleared his throat, before beginning anew. "Once upon a time, in a..."
"Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Positive. Ok... Once upon a time, in a kingdom..."
There was a brief pause before he responded. "You're welcome. Now, do you want to find out how this story ends or not?"
Toph shifted into a more comfortable position, commandeering a cushion from the boy next to her as she thought. Did she want to know how this story ended? "Yeah, Sokka, I really, really do."
"Ok, then. Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a beautiful princess..."
Toph gently leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, perfectly content to lose herself in the story and the smooth, even tones of his voice.
A/N: Just a little scene that's been kickin' around in my head for a while, so I thought I would finally take the time to write it. Obviously, this is set during some part of their stay in Ba Sing Se.
This is only my second Avatar fic, and the first time I have tried writing Toph or Sokka. I'm still trying to get a handle on the show and all the characters, so let me know if anything was too far off. I hope you enjoyed it.
Thanks for taking the time to read the story, especially to everyone who leaves a review. Any feedback is very much appreciated. I will be sure to reply to all signed reviews.