Tact Is Not At All Overrated

Neither of them gave much thought to what they were saying and how they were saying it, that much was certain. It was a simple truth that Sokka and Toph should never be in attendance during sensitive negotiations, when lies littered the air as comfortably as...air.

Their lack of tact wasn't due to thoughtlessness—at least, not all the time—but a need for more honesty during a time when nothing was sure, and they could be betrayed by their closest allies and just as easily be helped by their greatest enemies. It was also hard to ignore the entertainment value in stirring things up a little.

They recognized this about each other and were unspoken allies in The Plan to Ignore All Societal Niceties. Toph had never bothered to hide her scorn for the rules that governed human relations, and Sokka...well, Sokka just wasn't aware there were rules. While Aang and Katara waded through the diplomatic hoo-hah that the business of peacemaking tended to create, they stood in corners, whispering jokes and occasionally, greeting a Very Important Person with rude names.

Namely Zuko.

Of course, they also turned on each other when there was nothing else to do. Toph tended to get the better of her partner during those times, Sokka finding himself no match for her thinly veiled barbs because she always seemed to have the element of surprise on her side. Even after all these years, he still didn't expect the razor sharp words to come out of that delicate mouth. However, sometimes he did try to get the upper-hand.

"What's with the outfit, Toph? You off to impress some fancy-pants boulder mover? The clock is ticking, old girl. What are you, seventeen now? It's about time you got on the marriage train or else you'll be some lonely old spinster sitting in the corner of your father's house moaning about how you shouldn't have let that last one get away.."

"Shut up, Ponytail," she retorted, reddening. "If I get married, who'll you hang on with then? Who'll be standing around with you, listening to your idiot comments, and laughing at them even when they're not that funny?"

"With these looks, I could ensnare an innocent young lady to be my sidekick," Sokka said archly.

"I'm not your sidekick. You're mine. And you could ensnare some pretty girl to be your arm candy, but believe me, she won't laugh and she won't respond," Toph said, sounding like she was enjoying herself. "Face it, Boomerang...I'm your perfect companion and the last thing you want is for me to get married."

Sokka stared at her.

Not for the first time, his tactlessness got the better of him.

She was right.

"Dammit," he muttered.

Toph grinned and looped her arm through his.

"Come on. I think Zuko just came in."

Sokka let her drag him across the floor. He stared at the back of her head, at the elaborately done hair and the slender body wrapped in the delicate silks. She was beautiful, she was rich, and she wasn't going to be alone for long. He saw the other men in the room glance at her, calculating, measuring.

And he glared at them.

-fin-