A/N: Story number 99. Woot! I don't remember where this particular story came from - I just started writing it because I felt like it, and it was too long to put with my little collection.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The sounds of excited laughter echoed through the ears of the Blind Bandit. Her lips turning downward in a bitter frown, she sat back and rested her head on the feeble mound of snow that she had packed together with gloved hands. Even through the thick furs, coats, and mittens, her fingers were numb and her unseeing feet felt just short of frozen.
A loud scream echoed through the cold air, followed by a resounding thump and laughter from two individuals. No, Toph couldn't see what had happened, but she didn't need her long lost (and very much missed) Earthbending sight to realize that Twinkletoes and Sugar Queen were at that flirting game again. From what she could gather, he had tackled her into the endless sea of snow. Annoyed by the fun her friends were having without her – though she'd never admit it, oh no – she crossed her chilly arms and pouted.
Moments later, Toph heard the sound the she often associated with a boulder flying through the air, and something cold and wet hit her square in the side of the face.
"Hey!" Sharp as ever, her demanding voice slashed through the thin air like a knife.
"Sorry, Toph!" came Katara's voice over to her left. "I was aiming for Aang."
"Yeah, yeah," Toph growled, shaking her wet hair out of her face. "Just keep playing like a bunch of kids. Don't mind me."
Next came the sound of heavy footsteps that crunched the fallen snow. Sokka's voice sounded winded, as if he'd been playing an exhilarating game. "Come on, Toph. Katara and Aang only just finished –" he paused to catch his breath and wheezed, "You've got to try this."
"No thanks." As impolite as she sounded, her heart panged with reluctant curiosity.
Sokka sighed. "Well, since you're going to be difficult about it…"
The next thing Toph knew, she had been hoisted off the ground and slung over a shoulder as if she were a sack. Toph resisted, pounding on his back and shouting nonsense threats. Off to the side, Katara and Aang had stopped laughing and, presumably, watched as a likely smirking Sokka began to trek across the South Pole's vast ice shelf. A violent upward jerk occurred once his stride stopped, spawned from the Waterbending of the two masters that accompanied her. Fear replaced the initial anger now; she stopped shouting and instead clung to Sokka's heavy parka for dear life as they soared upwards. If she fell from this rising height, she would not be able to help herself.
"Don't you drop me," she warned, though her voice no longer seemed confident even in her own ears.
The grip around her knees tightened. "Relax," he soothed. "You're going to love this."
"Somehow I don't think so."
"You'll see." The rising stopped and Sokka stepped forward – Toph tightened her grip on his parka for fear of falling off the edge of the pillar – onto another tall, carved platform. Toph wondered, as she often did, how she must have looked at that moment from somebody else's perspective; she, heavily clothed, slung over the shoulder of an older guy, her rear end sticking up in the air as she struggled and tried not to fall at the same time.
"Okay, here we go." He set her on her feet, knowing that she wouldn't move, and shouted down to Katara and Aang, "Keep it steady!"
"You got it, Sokka!" Came Aang's reply.
Toph listened intently to every move that he made, every shuffled step, and every breath he took. Then, a half-second after the sound of his nearing footsteps had ceased, she felt his gloved hand take hers.
Voice still gentle, but tinged with something she thought was a mixture of amusement and pure happiness, he said, "Let's go."
As much as Toph wanted to fight, as much as she wanted her barriers to hold and her resolution to stay firm, her defenses melted around her at the sound of his voice. Her numb hand gripping his for dear life, he guided her forward to a place she couldn't see, and she couldn't help but wonder if he was guiding her to more than the edge of a snowy platform – a place she was blind to, but only because she had never delved deep enough within herself to go. Her heart leapt in fear and, strangely, something else as he brought her forward.
Suddenly, Sokka stopped. Toph almost lost her footing as she had lost her train of thought – a small gasp escaped her before she could stop it – but he flung an arm out and caught her around the middle. "Easy, Toph," he said.
The biting cold was enough to effectively hide the blush that crept to her face, or so she hoped. She retorted in the only way Toph Bei Fong knew how, "Stop being stupid and go already!"
"Right, sorry. Here, sit down."
"Wha –?" Before she could object, he'd forced her down into a sitting position. Two mounds of snow rose up to her midsection height, forming a sort of cart. A cart. Which meant that –
Oh. Oh no. "Sokka, I –"
Even in her blind panic, her teenage hormones took notice when he crammed himself behind her into the small cart.
"A little tight," he observed, shifting his weight back and forth to settle in and stretching one leg on either side of her, "but it's not so bad. Katara could have made the cart a little bigger."
Toph said nothing.
"Hold on tight. Ready?"
"Hold on to what?"
He hadn't seemed to hear her, for instead of replying he shouted down to the people below, "Okay, let it slide!"
Toph didn't have time to scream. In one swift motion, the cart slid forward, sliding down the slick path that had been carved from ice and snow with Waterbending. The feeling, not unlike the sensation she experienced while riding bareback on Appa – only faster this time, much faster – was one of sheer terror and amazement. When it had happened, she wasn't sure, but her gloved hands rose and gripped either side of the cart for dear life. Sokka whooped, clearly enjoying himself as he had never allowed himself to do during the long years of war. The cart hit a small bump and he let out a small exclamation of surprise. His hands, which had been in the air, came down and gripped Toph's waist. Whether it was to keep him from flying away or she, Toph wasn't sure.
The rapid turning and twisting, the occasional bump and the sharp turns were enough to warrant a slightly nauseas feeling in her stomach and in her head. Harsh winds whipped at her face, tousled her hair until they soared down the end of the slide and came to a slow halt a few meters away.
Aang and Katara came running up to the cart, out of which Sokka was already scrambling. Body still, Toph heard him trip as he tried to climb out of the cart and fall flat on his face in the snow. Still she said nothing. Her head was turned forward as if she were too shocked to move.
"Are you okay, Toph?" asked Katara, breathless and concerned.
Her voice brought Toph back to reality. She took a deep breath – had she even breathed during the ride? She didn't know – and let it out as slowly as possible. Once Sokka had picked himself up off the ground with a little help from Aang, he rested his hand on the Blind Bandit's shoulder.
He gave her a gentle shake, as if to wake her up. "Toph? Anybody home?"
"Oh," said Toph in a pleasant sort of voice, turning her head in the general direction of her comrades, "Hello. Nice day, isn't it?"
Her friends stared. Sokka took the upper part of her arm and gave a small tug. In response, Toph came-to and scrambled to her feet. Because her brain was spinning from the ride, her foot caught the edge of the cart much like Sokka's had, and she toppled forward with a gasp. Quick as a flash, Sokka lunged out and linked his arms underneath hers, so she collided with his chest instead of falling. Toph closed her eyes and allowed herself to stay in this semi-awkward position until her mind stopped reeling and her stomach ceased its churning.
Aang and Katara watched all of this with nonplussed expressions. Aang, cheeks red from the cold, felt his chapped lips turn in a small smirk at the sight of Sokka trying to help Toph to her feet. He shot Katara a sidelong glance, which she returned with raised eyebrows.
"Well," he began slowly, shrugging, "I'd say she liked it, all in all."
Katara opened her mouth to reply, but at that moment two loud shouts pierced the still air as the warrior's arm slipped, and both Toph and Sokka toppled to the ground.
A/N: I don't know. Little hints of Tokka and Kataang here and there, but nothing like a snog-fest or a confession. I wasn't in the mood, you know?
My AWS is really killing me here. I've heard rumors about the Season Three release date from everything between April 27 to some time in September. If they would only throw me a trailer, I would be happy. Honk if you want S3!
Written out longhand over the course of three days.