Love Is

1.
Take my hand, take my whole life through

If Toph was ever completely honest with someone, it was with herself. She didn't lie, she didn't try to make things seem any better or worse than they were, and she didn't try to twist her perception of people to fit her own personal needs. And she was just as honest with herself about Sokka: of this she was sure. He reminded Toph a bit of herself (and she wasn't yet certain that it was a good thing).

So, naturally, if Toph knew Sokka for exactly who he was, and no one else, there must be something else wrong with her. It could not be normal for a heart to pound whenever a boy was near; for her cheeks to burn and her stomach to turn cartwheels, in a sensation that was not unpleasant. Most of all, Toph was positive that it could not be natural to think of another person as she thought of Sokka, as more than a person—someone she might like to spend the rest of her life with. Well, not the rest of her life, actually, but at least the next six months—and to Toph and everyone else in their group, six months was beyond the end of summer; and thus, beyond eternity.

From a young age, Toph Bei Fong had been jealous of the unbridled freedom of those who occupied the world beyond her parent's estate, but never of another person specifically—and certainly not over a boy. But jealousy had coursed through her as strongly as did joy and excitement when she was earthbending, and it had been aimed at one girl, and only one: Suki. Toph would never hate someone for such a petty reason, but it did nothing to help her relationship with the girl—nothing whatsoever. However, Suki didn't play too big of a part in the overall equation; Toph would not allow her to.

Because Toph was honest with herself about all things, she also knew very well that there was a very good chance that Sokka would never return her feelings. Sometimes, it bothered her, because Toph was not entirely sure that she'd ever find another person that she could stand to be around for longer than three weeks. It was hard enough to bear Aang and Katara, and they were two of her closest friends, after all. But for the most part, she did not think of it; because Toph Bei Fong was honest with herself, and she knew that if she squandered her time thinking about things that she could not change, there would be none left to enjoy the moments she was able to experience.

There was only one subject that she dared not breach: that, perhaps, what she felt for Sokka know would grow into a pesky emotion called "love." Factoring in the fact that reciprocation of her feelings by Sokka was as unlikely as it was, Toph held no doubt in her mind that falling in love would be a very unpleasant experience. Still, though, there was a nag lurking at the back of her mind—that, perhaps, falling in love was not a conscious choice at all, and that if Aang and Katara could not help it, neither could she. If Toph Bei Fong had been honest with herself to the point of this extremity, she would've realized that there was something she couldn't she, and that was to resist falling in love with Sokka. But she wasn't, and she didn't; and so, for now, Toph convinced herself that liking Sokka very, very much would be even to sate her yearning heart.

But on the few occasions that she had a proper excuse to link hands with him, Toph could not stop a part of her from wishing that he would never let go again.

2.
I will never let you fall

While Toph was busy being honest with herself (but not really), Sokka was busy, well, doing a variety of things. These included, but were not limited to: thinking about Suki, engaging in shenanigans with Aang and Toph, and protecting the people he loved. Mostly, it was the last one, and although it wasn't always center stage, it was there, and it made Sokka worry. There were so many people he loved—Katara, Aang, Hakoda, Toph, Suki—and so many he had to protect. Hell, he had to help protect the entire world.

However, Sokka also found that as Aang and Katara spent more and more time with each other, he was finding himself in the Toph's presence more and more often as well. Not that it was a bad thing—in fact, Sokka was closer to Toph than he ever thought he would be. She was sarcastic, she shared his sense of humor (something he couldn't say for Suki), and she told it like it was—a refreshing counter to Katara and Aang's constant optimism. He kept a watchful eye on her as he did every member of their group, but nothing beyond what he did for Katara. Sokka knew that Toph was an amazing bender, and grudgingly recognized that he was the one who needed her help, more often than not.

Their friendship grew out of mutual love for meat and sarcasm at first, but soon delved into deeper territory—they were best friends. Although it was not an amazing act of trust, confiding in Toph that he no longer remembered his mother's face was not something that Sokka would tell just anyone, and to him, at least, it said volumes of their relationship. She'd even cried in front of him, and Sokka had always been positive that Toph Bei Fong just didn't do that.

To his disappointment, they didn't get to spend nearly as much time together once Zuko and Suki joined them. Sokka found that he liked their group of four better; they just fit together. He was the comedian, Aang was the easy going hero, always prepared to go with the flow, and Toph was the stubborn tough girl, the one who made things interesting. Katara was present as a perfect compliment to Aang, and to take care of them all. Zuko was fine, but it just wasn't the same—especially because Aang was busy training and Katara with glaring menacingly at Zuko every chance she got. Once, her gaze landed accidentally on him, and Sokka couldn't help but shudder until she directed it back at the target. Toph...well, he was pretty sure that she was still miffed at the way they'd treated her about Zuko. But he wasn't going to back down. Zuko wasn't that bad of a guy...but how in Tui's name could he have known it at the time?

And after he rescued Suki, there was hardly time for anyone else. Toph was pushed to the side, whether she'd forgiven him or not. They were still good friends, but Sokka missed the time they'd spent together.

When they were on the airships, though, Sokka discovered just how wrong he was. One minute, they were running; they next, he was slipping down the side of the airship, faster and faster, and certain that one of them was going to die. It didn't happen quite like that.

Instead, Sokka felt a searing pain in his leg as they landed on one of the over-hangings, and there Toph was, hanging beneath him, so, so close to falling—to dying.

Afterwards, Sokka's mind visited and revisited that moment. It scared him that he'd come so close to losing Toph, just as much as it would've terrified him to lose Katara, Suki, Aang, or Zuko...but it also caused Sokka to clutch Toph closer to his heart than he had before. "You never know what you had until you've lost it" was a popular Southern Water Tribe proverb, and Sokka could only thank the spirits that he had only come close to losing Toph. Yet it affected him in the same way, and Sokka couldn't help but think more about what Toph meant to him than he had previously. He even started wishing that he could spend more time with her, a hope that Sokka knew may not come true.

As it turned out, though, it did.

Following Zuko's coronation, while Aang remained in the Fire Nation to finish his training with Zuko Sokka and Katara had accompanied Toph to see her parents in the Earth Kingdom. Sokka was not entirely sure why they were there; except, perhaps, that without Aang, they visibly recognized that the bonds between them were looser than they had been before. Should they to separate from each other, it was entirely likely that things would never be the same again. No one—least of all, Toph, who had to consider her first three friends the most precious people in the universe—wanted that to happen. In fact, they feared it.

The confrontation with her parents was stiff and awkward. The Bei Fongs were obviously unhappy with Toph, but they were also overjoyed to have their little girl back. Mrs. Bei Fong had burst into tears when she'd seen Toph as she ran to embrace her, a sight that Toph seemed to wish her friends had not witnessed. And yet, she'd hugged her mother back. Privately, Sokka thought that the Bei Fongs and their daughter had little chance of ever understanding each other. But he did not speak up. Toph's relationship with her parents was complicated, and he wasn't about to go meddling in her private affairs.

Aang joined them again in Ba Sing Se, and after Sokka and Katara returned to the South Pole with Toph in tow (Sokka was assigned the task of carrying her around piggy-back style), their group was formed again. Every so often, they'd stop by Kyoshi Island in order to see Suki; Toph was always unusually sulky during these visits. Sokka wondered why, but figured that time of month just happened to fall on the days when they were visiting, and he certainly wasn't going to ask Toph about that.

Their group was formed again, and they scoured each corner of the earth, heroes among heroes. It was strange, but Sokka liked being worshipped just a little bit. Mostly, though, it was annoying. The only thing that was really worth mentioning was the fact that he and Toph became better friends than ever before, and that wasn't so much a happening as something that came naturally, effortlessly; not at all, Sokka thought, like his relationship with Suki. But just as Toph lied to herself, Sokka pretended that he had no idea what was going on, and more often than not, it worked.

Eventually, Toph, Sokka, Aang, and Katara disbanded. It was only for a few months after three more years of each other's company, but there was an empty spot besides him where Toph used to be. And this time, Sokka noticed it. After they'd reunited, with tears of happiness and group hugs, and his thoughts remained on Toph Bei Fong...this, truly, was when things began to change.

3.
I keep dreaming you'll be with me, and you never know

As these things went, Toph did not get over Sokka. In fact, if anything, she became more smitten with him than before. As her parents, to her keen mind, were unsuitable to live with for longer than two hours, Toph had picked to continue traveling with Aang, Katara, and Sokka without a second thoughts. Occasionally, she missed the presence of Zuko, for Toph had become closer to him than the others. But she understood that he had duties to attend to, and they did end up in the Fire Nation capital fairly often, if not more than three or four times a year.

Aang and Katara, driven together by their new-found relationship and the sudden ease with which it came, now that the war was over, hovered around each other almost constantly. Naturally, Toph went with Sokka. This, too, was an fluid and uncomplicated friendship, as easy as breathing. Her words flowed smoothly in his presence, and they slid into the notches that his own sentences had carved as smoothly as Toph's arms fit interlocked with his. Her feeling for him swelled like a cactus accustomed to soaking up the little water in the parched desert, and suddenly exposed to a flux of rain. It was wonderful. It was refreshing and beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time, because Toph knew it wouldn't last. Sokka and Suki were still going strong, and eventually, he had to settle down. She did her best to push the last sentiment to the back of her mind, loathe, as always, to waste her precious time with Sokka contemplating things that would happen whether she tried to stop it or not.

The years passed as the months had before the comet, flowing as smoothly as sand through her fingers. Before Toph knew it, she was celebrating her sixteenth—sixteenth—birthday. Four years had passed since the war ended; a little more than three since Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph had begun traveling together once again. It was all she could do not to gape. Although Toph did not spend much time on looking within, she knew that she had changed, and that the others had, too.

Aang had grown not only emotionally, but physically. In fact, his voice had started to changed two years ago, and was now deeper than Zuko's. It was unsettling, but it was a part of growing up. Toph was no exception. Her shirts had tightened considerably in the past year, and she was now almost as tall as Katara. When they visited a town, heartbeats sped up when Toph walked by and voices betrayed nervousness of the local boys on the occasions they approached her. Toph figured that this was largely because Katara was off limits, courtesy of Aang. He kept his arm around her the entire time and shot vicious glares at anyone who dared turn their heads her way.

Strangely, Sokka fell into a sulky mood whenever this happened. Although Toph knew what might be the reason for this, she didn't dare to contemplate it. Suki and Sokka were still as happy as ever, to the best of her knowledge (which, in fact, wasn't very much at all) and Toph certainly wasn't going to say anything. Sokka never had on the numerous visits to Kyoshi Island. Yet...in the short time since they'd been separated, then reunited, Sokka's behavior had changed. Not totally, not completely, and not even substantially, but Toph was one for details, and there were certain things she couldn't help but notice.

Sokka's heartbeat was included on this list, and Toph soon discovered that whenever they stopped for a dip at a lake or stream, Sokka's heartbeat...well, it spiked. His pulse raced, and sometimes his breathing became just a little harder. Toph knew it wasn't Aang, prayed it wasn't Katara, hoped it wasn't Sokka reaction to his own shirtless-ness, and didn't dare to wonder if it was her swimsuit that caused his reaction. Of course, it was nothing new. Sokka noticed girls fairly often, and Toph noticed that he noticed. But now, he was noticing her. Suki, it seemed, had competition...and it wasn't Ty Lee or another flirtatious young girl who would unseat her, as so many had predicted, but it might actually be her, stoic and sarcastic Toph.

She felt slightly guilty for being glad that Suki and Sokka might not last forever. Toph liked Suki, she really did. But as right as everything about their relationship was, something about her and Sokka was righter. However, Toph wasn't the type of girl to attempt to "steal" another girl's boyfriend, and so she concluded that the best course was to sit back and let things happen. It wasn't something that she didn't very often, but then again, Sokka was noticing her now, and the universe was owed a little credit for that.

It was strange and it felt slightly awkward, but it was wonderful at the very same time, so Toph didn't do anything much different. Instead, she sat back and enjoyed the warm, sunlit, sparkling feeling of being wanted.

6.
My girl's in the next room. Sometimes, I wish she was you...

As it was, Sokka was noticing Toph, and even though she knew that he was, Sokka didn't know it himself. There were a few clues, sure, but Sokka was a dense person when it came to romance. Eventually, though, the realization came. They were revisiting the town in the Fire Nation that Katara had helped as the Painted Lady, the one on the docks. Crystal clear water now flowed beneath them. Toph hung on to his shoulder, as always, and Sokka pretended to ignore the jolts in his stomach whenever she leaned too far against him. Then, as they were strolling through town, Sokka had a strange urge to glance towards Toph, and noticed that she was...she was, why, blushing. It was incredible. It was astounding. And at that moment, Sokka stopped pretending, because he'd finally caught Toph at a moment when she wasn't lying to herself. It wasn't a sudden revelation of "I love her" or "she's perfect for me," but it was something.

That something grew, and grew, and grew. Suki began to notice how distracted Sokka became when he visited; he was attempting to combat his own heart. Sokka was ashamed that he did not want to be kissing or hugging Suki: he wanted to be spending time with Toph. There was a difference, and each day, the gap between the two seemed to grow wider and wider. Even when Sokka was not around Suki, he couldn't help but feel obligated to be chaste around Toph. No unnecessary touching, and certainly no dropping of hints. It was killing him. Sokka wasn't planning to "make a move" on Toph anytime soon—far from it, he was apprehensive at the mere thought. But he wanted the freedom to do so if he wanted to, and he wanted to spend more time with Toph.

Sokka was hovering on the edge of deciding on his next visit to Kyoshi Island. Suki invited them all for dinner, and as Toph laughed at something Aang said, Sokka caught a glimpse of her grin—her amazing, wild, ear-splitting grin. He looked back at Suki and her smile like sunshine, but knew that hers was no comparison to Toph's. That evening, he pulled her aside near the end of dinner, and as gently as he could, ended his relationship with Suki.

To his shock, Suki didn't seem all too surprised. She merely wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve, and looked up at him sorrowfully. Sokka understood suddenly that if it weren't for Toph, he would've married Suki; they would've had five kids running around all day and been the happiest couple in the world. Stepping forward, Sokka embraced her for the last time, and as they stepped back into the dining room as not lovers, but friends, neither held any regrets.

(Although Sokka didn't break it to them until later, Toph knew from the moment Suki invited her to a drink at the local tavern afterwards. After two straight hours of drinking, Toph and Suki were cross-eyed drunk. Suki mentioned that Sokka had broken up with her, and Toph shrugged. Suki told her she knew why, and Toph shrugged again, with a loud burp.

Then, Suki announced to Toph that it was because of her.

Toph blushed, told her to shut up the hell up, and finally thanked her three years later, on her wedding day.)

Sokka had not expected anything to change straightaway after he broke up with Suki, and it didn't. Toph and Sokka did not spontaneously kiss when Sokka informed her that he was a bachelor once again; that just wasn't the way they did things. Instead, Toph and Sokka enjoyed each other's company (they didn't have to be together in that way to have fun) and waited for the moment when everything would simply slide right into place.

They continued as they were, but their friends soon began to catch on. Mai had a hunch all along, Katara always had a taste for Toph and Sokka as a couple, but Zuko and Aang were simply oblivious. When they next visited the Fire Nation, Zuko couldn't help but notice something different about Toph and Sokka—perhaps a new haircut?—or different clothing? Mai was forced to pull him inside and explain that the newfound shine about Toph and Sokka as they laughed, joked, and made witticisms about Zuko's girly Firelord robes, was nothing other than love.

After Mai and Zuko returned to the feast, Sokka, although he couldn't explain why, had the strangest urge to punch the smirk off of Zuko's face. Fortunately for diplomacy, he didn't, and merely shifted uncomfortably under Zuko's knowing gaze.

It was often wondered why Toph and Sokka did not explode from unresolved sexual tension in those days. But as Katara once noted, they were perfectly happy with being friends. It wasn't about the romance or the kissing for Toph and Sokka: it was about the meat and the sarcasm and the inseparable friendship. Still, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Toph and Sokka would be far happier if they confessed as soon as was possible. The friends in question, though, were as sturdy and unshakable as mountains in their silence when it came to love and romance—because, deep down, they understood as no one else could that everything that needed to happen between them just would.

7.
I'm crazy for this girl, yeah I'm crazy for this girl...

Eventually, everything did slide right into place. But it took far longer than they expected. Toph was betting on a month; Sokka on two. It didn't work out quite like that.

Somehow or other, Sokka turned twenty one, and the spring afterwards, she turned eighteen. During the year following Suki and Sokka's breakup, the essential relationship building had occurred—the kind that elevated their friendship to the point where it could be considered as deep as Aang and Katara's . But they weren't tearful, trusting, and loving like Katara and Aang—it was much harder for Toph and Sokka to connect to other people—and because of this, some might've considered it deeper. Although neither had acted on their feelings just yet, Toph still loved Sokka. Sokka still loved Toph. They were still traveling with Aang and Katara, though they planned to retire to one of the Air Temples by the end of the year, and they hadn't confessed yet.

Although Zuko and Iroh had a bet going on whether or not it would happen while Toph and Sokka were drunk; in the end, Iroh won: they were completely sober. In later years, the story became vague and loose, as if any old couple could be slipped into it and fit perfectly, but that was not how it happened at all. In fact, the end of their love story played out just as it should for Toph and Sokka. They were both trying to work up the courage, and in the midst of another day in each other's company, one of them ended up saying offhandedly, "I love you;" and the other replied, "I know," and then Sokka finished it off, "I know you do." And there wasn't any grand old kiss or significant embrace to finish it off, but Toph took Sokka's hand, and they were together.

But the whole point of their story, Toph and Sokka came to realize, was not that they were spontaneously together after year of somehow being apart. It was that they always were together, not always lovers, but as friends and best friends. Aang and Katara were something unique and fated from the start; Mai and Zuko found each other amidst the scars of war; Toph and Sokka simply were. It made perfect sense, and that was all it had to do. However magical their stories were, Katara and Aang were forced to use destiny to justify their romance, and Mai and Zuko might've pointed to kindred souls who happened to be placed in the same difficult environment—but Toph and Sokka were logic, strong and sturdy as ever before. If there was any other way to do things, Toph and Sokka often proclaimed, then someone should step up and say it now, but no one ever found one. If anyone ever had, their reasoning would've been turned upside down and inside out.

There was nothing else to do but live and breathe and be, so as long as Toph and Sokka kept living and breathing and loving each other, they'd stick together—and that was that.

FIN.


A/N: HAHA, I am HATING myself for not working on the sequel to I'd Lie right now. I know what I said in "Inevitable." I lied, LOL. I don't know if any I'd Lie readers are reading this, but if you can guess the Taylor Swift song the SEQUEL is named after...there -might- be something for you. (Emphasis on "might." :P) A HUGE thanks to Isabel from KF for beta-reading. There were a bunch of embarrassing mistakes in here before she ran through it. xD Anyway, this is really how I imagine Tokka happening. She did mention that there were a few spots that got boring, but I wasn't sure exactly which, so if you notice anything while reading, please, tell me! :3 There's always room for edits.

Credits: Lyrics from "Can't Help Falling in Love," by Elvis; "Your Guardian Angel," by the Red Jumpsuit Appartus; "Far Away," by Nickelback; "Lips of an Angel," by Hinder; and "Crazy for This Girl," by Evan and Jaron. Title from Isabel. Thanks, everyone! :D