Making New Habits
Toph wasted no time beating around the bush with her parents; she told them that she and Sokka were together, and that she would not tolerate any of their attempts to change that. Despite this restriction Lord Bei Fong still strongly objected the match, but Toph felt slightly comforted that her mother said and did nothing that suggested she agreed with her husband, which was as good a sign as any that things might work out with her parents someday.
Sokka took off as much time from work as he could in order to stay with Toph and spend more time with her. Using the excuse that his leg needed more time to heal, he managed to pull off the scheme for a while, but at some point several days after the removal of his cast, he ran into one of his co-workers on vacation in the Earth Kingdom, and then the jig was up. Grumbling, he returned to the Northern Water Tribe, his job, and—much to Toph's joy—his own apartment. She loved the guy, sure, but her sense of independence retaliated against even the notion of a live-in boyfriend, and the reality of it drove her nearly mad.
"Babe, I love you, but you gotta go," she had to tell him matter-of-factly, and basically sent him packing.
Despite herself, she missed him terribly over the days following his departure and took off to visit him, but found his apartment in complete disarray, and concerning a number of left-over/out food items, varying states of decay. Repulsed beyond all measure, she turned right around to leave for Katara's, Sokka shouting after her that he loved her and please not to go and that the filth he was living in was all a product of how much he missed and loved her, so all the trash and the bad/funny smells and growing fungi actually embodied his love for her.
She shouted at him that that was not at all romantic, and left anyway.
This squabble became their first fight, and it quickly snowballed when Toph refused to even visit him at his home if he didn't clean up. Sokka took great offense to this and claimed that he had the right to live however he wished within the privacy of his own home, and if she wished to see him, then she'd know where to find him. She returned that 'yes, she'd just have to track down the source of the plague, though she could probably smell the place out first. Or just follow the legions of cockroaches immigrating to a Brave New World.' Sokka's infuriated reply to this line of insults hit such a high note that this authoress is not entirely sure herself what he said.
Katara wisely stayed out of the new couple's row, and in a matter of days, Toph couldn't stand it anymore and ran over to his place, apologizing and telling him she loved him for better or for worse, for clean or for putrid/deadly/disgusting/plaguetastic/etc. When she calmed down though, she realized his apartment neither smelled nor decomposed nor twitched with the life of immigrant insects, and the making up make out session which followed became one of the most ridiculous yet sweetest memories of all the memories they knew they would make together for the rest of their lives.
For both were confident, even in their worst moments, that they would last through anything because the good they had together always outweighed the bad, even through the issues with her parents—mainly her father—even through their arguments about which of them got to propose to the other, and even through what they called The Return of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge approached Toph some months later, wanting to talk. Toph was going to refuse to listen to him, but something about him gave her reason to pause. He told her that she had been mistaken, he really had loved her, and he still did. He wanted her to know that whether she was with someone else or wishing to be with someone else, he would bide his time and wait for her, whatever it took.
Toph had no reply for this. She wasn't even mad at him. She didn't realize it immediately, but she felt rather sorry for him, for how she'd treated him and for what she'd said to him because how was he any different from how she had been? Even in the face of Sokka's love for Suki years ago, Toph still held on to a faint glimmer of hope, and even when he fell into an intense and long-lasting funk over their break up, she had still dared imagine a day would come when he'd finally notice her as more than a friend. Her perseverance had been rewarded, and she felt assured that she and Sokka would never lose each other; so what did that make Stonehenge and his resolution to wait for her?
"He's what I could have been," she came to realize.
And seeing things this way, she found him the tiniest bit less infuriating.
So to be as direct and as reasonable as possible, she told him that she had no intention of ever leaving Sokka, that she was happy with him and that he, Stonehenge, would just have to deal with that. She conveyed this state of affairs to him rather gently, and he accepted it, not expecting her to say anything else.
"I just wanted to let you know," he told her, and that was the last she heard from him for a long time.
She often heard about him, however, as he continued to travel around and compete in and win various Earthbending tournaments and championships.
Aunt Wu had told Meng she would find her destiny in the Fire Nation, but Meng wanted to forget about destiny for a while, since it had not been kind to her too recently. If she had cared to look a little closer, she might have seen that her time in the Fire Nation had changed her and set her on a new and promising life path, albeit one that began from a doomed love and a broken heart. It was the beginning of this path, however, that led her to the person with whom she would walk the rest of the way. Thus, while Stonehenge put all his heart into his battles, Meng traveled with him, supporting him in any way she could, though she always refused to pick his dirty underwear up for him.
As the months continued to pass, Mazane's belly continued to swell, as did her and Hakoda's happiness, until finally their healthy baby boy arrived and made their world one step closer to a realistic paradise. Toph and Sokka and Katara and Aang went to welcome the new baby, friend and family member into the world and found him a very calm, peaceful, laid back, and carefree personality. Hakoda asked Sokka to name his younger brother, and Sokka eagerly took on the task. However, even after repeatedly holding his brother to the left and shouting "Iroh!" then swinging him to the right and shouting "Boomy!" he still found himself unable to decide between the two names; so he passed the decision on to Toph. Unfortunately, at the very moment of baby transaction, Sokka's little brother's dizziness caught up with him and he wretched all over his older brother.
"I kind of like the name Ralph," Toph laughed as Sokka cried out in disgust. Neither Hakoda nor Mazane liked this name (they weren't fond of Boomy either), but the name Iroh agreed with them and inspired them to name their son Kiroh.
Katara had always been something of a motherly figure to her friends, but they had never seen her more motherly than she was with her new little brother. Toph and Sokka acknowledged it as cute, but left it at that since they had, as they usually did, some serious making out to do. Aang, however, couldn't help but watch the Waterbender and her baby sibling. Seeing her caring for a new life fascinated him, and drove him to a certain degree of sudden passionate madness.
"Marry me, Katara," he said as she cooed to baby Kiroh.
She abruptly stopped cooing at this abrupt proposal.
"Aang, what are you talking about? We're still not even together," she protested.
"Does that matter? We both know that we love each other, right? I don't think a little thing like us not dating should change that."
Katara scoffed at his temporary loss of rationality, but kissed him on the cheek to placate his objections to the former. Once his ability to reason returned, he surprised her again by asking a second time. On this occasion he supplied many good reasons supporting why they should marry, and with a happy nod and "Oh, yes, Aang!" from her, he quite literally swept her off her feet, called her his Forever Girl, and that was that.
Toph and Sokka's engagement came a year later, and both have different stories as to how it took place; Toph claims she proposed, but Sokka just as adamantly alleges that it was he. It does not matter, though, who asked whom, for in the end it happened, and when they married, it was with as much happiness as either of them could have ever hoped for. Lord Bei Fong grudgingly attended the wedding and unenthusiastically bestowed his blessings upon them while Lady Bei Fong smiled and wiped away genuine tears of joy for her daughter and her groom. Before the ceremony she whispered to Toph that her father would eventually come around and that he most certainly loved her very much and wanted the best for her. Thinking about her parents' marriage turned Toph's feet cold, and waves of doubt suddenly crashed over her, making her question if she was really ready for this step, and if they could do the whole marriage thing without turning into her parents.
Again putting her maternal instincts to good use, Katara stepped in and offered Toph the reassurance her own mother could not.
"Toph, I can't tell you whether you're ready or not—that's something only you know—but I can tell you that my brother is 100 percent prepared to commit himself to you today. He has been ever since he figured out how he really feels about you," the maid of honor said truthfully. "And would it be so bad if your marriage became like your parents' marriage? Your parents are still together, Toph, and they're happy. Their marriage works for them, and that's a wonderful thing. Now you have to make a marriage that works for you and Sokka. You're already off to a great start—I've never seen either of you this happy. You two can't see it, but you both practically glow when you're together. And that's not something to take lightly."
The pep talk had its intended effect, subduing Toph's anxiety for the time being, just long enough for her to enter the arena on her father's arm as he guided her up and into the ring. She and Sokka had joked that marriage was a battlefield of sorts, and so they decided to hold their wedding ceremony in the Earthbending stadium and invited everyone they knew and also any curious spectators willing to pay an entrance fee.
"After all," Sokka had reasoned, "someone's gotta help pay for that open bar both our dads were too cheap to buy for us."
Because Toph was wearing shoes for the special day, her father led her to the designated spot where he stopped, kissed his daughter rather sadly, and left her to take his seat beside his wife. On either side of Toph was a line of four kneeling Earthbenders in formal dress. As the music cued, they began a synchronized dance, and on every fourth beat, they stamped a foot, and a stone step surged up from the ground in front of Toph. She took the step in her healed shoes and waited the brief interval before the next step appeared for her to take. She could only slightly feel the vibrations through the shoes, and aside from the sound of the stomping, she was detached from those around her: her parents, Hakoda, Mazane, Kiroh, Zuko, Iroh, Haru, Sora and all her other friends, along with all the random people there to watch the eccentric wedding ceremony.
As the steps continued and Toph climbed higher, she could hear less and less of the stomping. As the height of each step increased, she felt fewer and fewer vibrations, and it was as if she were completely alone, and as the steps went on and on, it was as if she would always be alone. Would anyone really be waiting for her there at the end? she began to wonder.
The music finally cut off, and Toph realized she had made it to the top where the the Earthbenders' steps met up with a smaller stage atop a pillar where she could vaguely make out the presence of four people: the marriage official, her maid of honor Katara, the best man Aang—and Sokka. Her Sokka. As soon as she felt him near, she knew this was where she was meant to be, and she confidently strode forward straight for him, even though she couldn't see him or feel his exact location. Still, she knew where he was, and when she was right in front of him, she grabbed his tie and pulled him down to kiss her full on the lips, much to the enjoyment of the entire arena.
"Toph!" he grumbled, rather self-consciously. "We're not to that part yet."
"I don't give a damn," Toph said, shrugging it off. "I just wanted to show you how happy I am that you're here."
"Well," Sokka said, grinning cockily, "you can show me whatever you want to later tonight, but right now, we've gotta do this part, right?"
"Ready when you are then," she said, also grinning.
"Hey, preach," she said as they both turned to face the marriage official, hand in hand and smiling broadly. "You think you could double-time this thing? We've kind of got someplace to be."
And with that (and a few other ceremonial bits) they were married.
And, of course, they didn't live happily ever after all the time, but, as they liked to say, they gave all the fairytales a run for their money.
And that was that, four months after the posting of the final chapter. I hope it was worth the wait, and even if it weren't worth the wait, I hope it was enjoyable just the same. I tried to make the Epilogue in a style different from other epilogues, so we'll see together how it goes. Hopefully it was an entertaining read and a pleasant conclusion to wrap up the loose ends.
Here's wishing everyone the best for the holidays and whatever festivities you and yours celebrate. I appreciate your reading this, and I hope to hear back from you.
If anyone has any suggestions for spoof bits for the story, let me know, and I will gladly write them and post them. ; )