A/N: I don't think this fits particularly well anywhere in canon - I haven't watched the third season yet, so let's just pretend it takes place sometime around the end of the second season, in one of those random adventuring episodes. ^^x

Sleep Talking

Toph, he says, one night when his brain is all fuzzy because he's exhausted (but not quite ready for sleep, because there's this niggling scream in the back of his head shouting that they're all going to die sometime soon, no matter how optimistic they all pretend to be) – Toph, do you ever dream? She sleeps. He knows she sleeps. She curls up and kicks and she even snores, but whether or not she dreams while all that is happening, well, he doesn't know. She's blind, after all, and typically that would mean that she can't visualize, so, well...how do you dream like that? He closes his eyes and tries to imagine not seeing but even then he is seeing, like is it all-white or all-black, or is that just impossible because there aren't any colors at all?

Why, she mutters back, equally tired but somehow twice as cranky, do you want to know?

Because. He is attempting to break the world record for genius; he is bored and curious; he is starting to realize that when one is facing the prospect of death, life's little mysteries absolutely must be solved, else one can't go peacefully. Because he needs someone to talk to, and they're both awake. Because he's tired of dreaming sad things, scary things, like blood and goodbye and never. Because that is a secret and Toph, unlike Aang and Katara, does not always try to fix things, and does not like to pry. Um. No reason.

Dead silence. Like rocks, he thinks to himself, but even he can admit that that was lame.

Appa's breathing fills the air for some moments. He sighs, and thinks, okay, fine.

He closes his eyes and the world is burning.

He closes his eyes and his mother is dead, but suddenly it's not his mother, it's his sister. And these aren't dreams, they're visions and they disturb him, but he's just way too tired to blot them out tonight. Ugh.

He is seriously starting to feel ignored when she finally says, Yeah I do. It's like being awake. Only sleeping. You know. Sounds and smells and sensations.

There are too many pictures in his head. Even in the darkness he's trying to fill in the form of Toph, somewhere across the campfire from him, hands beneath her head and not seeing the sky above her. Like?

Like sand and soil. Like the wind whispering in the desert. Like Aang's ribs going up and down when he's meditating. Like a black hole. Like everything blindfolded, at least that's how a blindfold sounds anyway. It's a sad statement, when he hears it and all those things flash in his mind. But her voice is small and starting to be sleepy and he knows she's being matter-of-fact about it, not at all sorry.

This makes Sokka feel weak. The moon glimmers overhead, haloed by the stars. He thinks of rushing meteors and white fishes and the icebergs of home. The images make him sad, and the sadness settles into his bones like a leaden blanket. I see.

Sokka, she calls out, unexpectedly. You ever dream?

He thinks about the blankness before her like a sea. He wonders if he can tell them to her: the images and the definitely not fears and worries, the trying-not-to-wake-up-crying, because real mean don't cry and it hasn't got a point, anyway. He can't tell Aang because it would make Aang sad; he can't tell Katara because he's supposed to be tough for her sake. But Toph probably won't be affected, she's not going to get hung up on his problems; it might actually be worth some dignity to admit how lately, no matter how bonesucked tired he is, he's kind of afraid to fall asleep.

And yet – what good would it do to even talk about his weakness? He thinks of Toph, tiny and blind and not letting the sop eat away at her like this. She doesn't deserve to hear any whining, especially not from him. So he scrubs out his mother's outstretched arm and Yue fading in his grasp; he crumples up the fear and incompetence and tosses them in some secret mental wastebin. He exhales. Then, in a rush – Sure I do. I dream about winning the war and seeing the world safe, then getting a hot girlfriend and becoming the most famous inventor in the world.

That's cool, Toph says, and for once she sounds like she really means it.

This makes him so happy that he goes all life-instructor and gabbles, come on, your guts this time.

Another silence, but it's shorter. In the darkness her voice is high and sturdy. I'm going to be the bestest earth bender in the world. And I will bash everyone's head in who doesn't think so. And. And. She yawns. And I'm going to have fifteen hundred hot guys ready to serve me at my every whim.

He marvels at this piece of gut. So, even Toph thinks about the opposite sex once in a while.

She notices this, and it couldn't possibly embarrassment but for some reason she says real quickly, you can be one of them, Sokka, because I'm nice like that. Maybe I'll even give you a salary.

He laughs. Snickers. No, it's a laugh. In your dreams!

She snorts, but it's a friendly snort, if that's possible. More like yours.

Goodnight, Toph. He's grinning now.

Goodnight, ugly.

He closes his eyes and for one moment, the world is burning – then there's wind and water and earth and together they blow all the flames away, and he's wearing expensive clothes and metals and for some inexplicable reason is serving a little unseeing girl chocolates out of a dish.


A/N: Thank you for reading! Comments would be greatly appreciated. :D This was written at the request of G.