That feeling came again; that awful feeling in her stomach, like a large peach pit she couldn't get rid of. It clenched at her insides, churning them, heightening her frustration.
She couldn't see Sokka's expression.
Her lack of sight infuriated her more than anything sometimes. She found that it was mostly because of him. She yearned to see him in other ways besides his shape and his heartbeat, his movements and his words. She wondered what color his skin was, what color his eyes were. Maybe the expression on his face when Zuko once more jabbed at his apparent lack of wit.
"Don't worry about it, Snoozles," she told him wearily, stretching. "We're all used to it."
"That makes me feel so much better, Toph," he replied. She could hear the pout in his voice.
She wished she could see it.
The wishing was driving her insane. She wished, she wished, she wished…Why was it always wishing? Why couldn't she just accept it?
Sometimes, she thought she had accepted it. Her frustration nearly boiled completely away, until she was almost totally content.
Then Sokka would walk into the room.
She could feel his heartbeat, see what he was doing, hear his quirky words—but never see how he was looking at her. Or if he was looking at her at all.
Did he ever see her?
Every time she 'saw' him, the familiar pit in her stomach would sink farther and farther. Sometimes she would get so frustrated she would have to leave, to throw a boulder at some unsuspecting tree or cliff face. The frustration was too great. It tore at her insides, like some firebender's flame.
"Don't touch me, Sokka."
She could hear the confusion and pain in his voice—but she couldn't see it on his face. Her anger grew. "But why?" he asked.
She whirled on him, hitting away the hand he had reached out to touch her shoulder with. "I can't," she said simply, flinching at the pain she heard in her own voice. "I can't."
"You can't what?" He was almost panicking.
"I CAN'T!" she bellowed at him, and she could feel the pit in her stomach vanish as she focused all her pain and rage into that one shout.
It felt like the sudden silence was pressing in on her, noiseless and hard. She couldn't breathe. And she didn't hear him do so either.
Holding their breaths, unable to understand.
One thought, two minds: Why is she so angry?
She buried her face in her hands, turning again to walk away from him. Like she always had, whenever she could stand it no longer. Running away from feelings she couldn't control.
He had apparently forgotten her previous command: he reached out, touching her shoulder with the lightest of touches. "Toph, please."
"Please what?" she asked, her voice filled with quiet fury. Who was she angry at?
The conversation was spinning in circles.
This silence wasn't hard. It was soft, and it covered her like a blanket. He was looking at her, wasn't he? He must have been. The silence squeezed her gently, encouraged her.
"What can't you do?" he asked in a quiet voice, like he was afraid he would scare her away.
It wasn't a completely ridiculous assumption.
"I can't…I can't…" What should she say? 'I can't see'? How stupid did that sound? He knew she couldn't see; it was the most obvious thing to say. Although he probably didn't think about it a lot.
Did he ever think about her?
All of the sudden, she felt his arm wrap around her shoulder. It wasn't much of a hug. More of a friendly arm-around-the-shoulder-type embrace.
It didn't mean nearly as much as Toph would have liked it to.
"It's all right, Toph," he said, in that same quiet voice. His voice and the comfort of his arm relaxed her. She could breathe again.
Without even realizing it, she unconsciously leaned into his shoulder. When did he get so tall?
When did she get so short?
Another bit of self-confidence melted off her skin, and fell to the forest floor, lost.
"I can't see you."
The words had sprung from her lips before she realized she was saying them. She pushed back the urge to clap a hand over her traitorous mouth, knowing that it would only inflate the situation.
So much for subtle.
"You can't see?" he sounded almost relieved. "Is that what's bothering you?"
The oblivious water tribe warrior had missed the important part of the sentence: 'you'.
"Yes, that's what's been bothering me," Toph said with forced sincerity. "It gets so frustrating sometimes." Frustrating that she was in love with an idiot.
His grip around her shoulders loosened somewhat, leaving the girl longing. "You got me worried, Toph. I thought it was something, like…really bad."
Toph felt tears coming on.
"It is really bad," she replied quietly. "I can't see your expressions, or how you look when you say things…I don't know what any of you look like. What color's your hair, or your eyes? What kind of clothes do you like to wear? Do your eyes squint or widen when you're angry? What's the color of your skin, or your—"
"Toph." Sokka cut her off. "You don't need any of those things."
"But I want them."
"But you see so much that we don't."
Another soft silence, one that left her hanging.
"…Like what?" she asked, truly curious.
"Like whether someone's sincere. Like whether they're excited or nervous. And because you can't see, you see through all the illusions we often put ourselves through."
Deep stuff for someone who didn't realize she loved him.
"We need you, Toph. Because you're blind, we need you the most. You're our guide, when we can't see for ourselves."
In this silence, Toph had once again lost her ability to breathe. Sokka remained casual, walking on with peaceful contentedness, his heartbeat steady. But Toph knew her heart was going a mile a minute.
Not that she would ever say a word about it.
She threw her arms around Sokka, pressing the side of her face into his chest. (His heart was beating rapidly now; from surprise or something else, she couldn't tell.) "Thanks, Snoozles," she whispered into his shirt, unable to say anything else.
Like all the things she would love to tell him. Maybe 'I love you'? Possibly 'Do you think about me a lot?'
Maybe some encouragement, like 'You're a great friend, Sokka.' 'You're amazing.'
But the earthbender kept her soft silence, and let it envelop her like Sokka's embrace had.
AN:: Kinda proud, kinda not. Not my best work.
But I was craving some sort of expositional writing, as I'm feeling rather poetic today.
Review, please. I love whatever you say.