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Four Times Sokka and Toph Drank Irresponsibly


1.

In honor of the birth of their daughter and heir, the Fire Lord and Fire Lady declared a week of feasting and celebration to be recognized throughout the Fire Nation. For seven nights the capital gleamed with the light of a thousand-thousand lanterns bright with fire; and the people rejoiced or mourned in accordance with their political beliefs, for at last the throne was secured.

As close, personal friends of both the Lord and Lady, Sokka and Toph were honored to be allowed to drink from the royal cellar, which they did, at length, with great enthusiasm. "Zuko," Sokka said, gazing lovingly at the bottle of genshu he held so tenderly in his hands, "I take back everything I ever said about you. You are the greatest of men."

"Maybe not the greatest," Toph said.

Zuko said nothing. With enormous effort Sokka tore his gaze from the genshu to peer carefully around the room. The walls were still there, the ceiling, too. He was pretty sure the floor hadn't moved. "Where'd ol' Fireface go?" he said.

"Who cares?" Toph said. "Pour the wine already, I'm not getting any drunker over here."

Sokka poured, and poured again, and kept on pouring until there was no genshu left, not even so much as a single tasty drop. It was a tragic time in Sokka's life, a time that stretched on for hours and hours, until Toph said, "You know what this place needs?" and Sokka said, very sadly, "More wine," and Toph told him to stop crying, he was embarrassing her, and Sokka said something he couldn't remember, but it was probably devastatingly witty, because he was just a witty sort of guy, and then Toph decided what the palatial gardens needed were an earthbender's touch.

*

Sokka woke up with his head pillowed on a large rock, the sun blooming bright and warm across his face. In and of itself, this was not strictly out of the ordinary; Sokka had often slept with his head on a rock and had often woken to the soft touch of the sun on his face. What made this morning exceptional was the where of it all: Sokka woke with his head on a rock and the sun on his face in the spacious and elaborately decorated guest chamber Zuko had so graciously presented him with the night before.

"Ugh," said Toph somewhere to his left. "Who kicked me in the head?"

Sokka stared at the enormous hole in the wall and reflected on the night's work. He had vague memories of rooting Toph on as she carved a statue of herself out of one of the many water fountains in the outer gardens. The sun winked merrily at him, hiding its face behind a passing cloud.

"We're so dead," he said.

They were so dead.

2.

Earth Rumble XIII was a travesty.

"That was a travesty," Sokka said, first to Toph, then to the entire bar.

"Wusses," Toph sneered. She cradled the belt against her chest and bolted down another cup heavy with what passed for beer in this joint. "They should've faced me all at once. It would've saved time."

Sokka nodded agreeably into his drink. If he hadn't been so entranced with the ripples in the depths of his cup, he probably would have seen the men gathering around the table.

"Is that a fact?" said the burliest of the burly men, leaning ominously over Toph. Sokka didn't recognize him - forgettable contestant or disgruntled fan? Toph could take him either way, and Sokka felt it was his duty as an observing party to say as much.

"I could take her to pieces," said Burly Man. He leaned in close to Toph. "You hear that, little lady?"

The men around him chortled like the villainous minions in a low budget theatre production, all elbow nudges and winks.

Sokka found this all immensely hilarious. "Ha!" he said, then, because it grew funnier the more he realized how serious they were, he felt the need to add, "Ha ha! Oh, man. No."

"You got something you want to say to me, small guy?" Burly Man said in what Sokka assumed was meant to be a dangerous tone of voice.

"I thought I was a funny guy," Sokka told him, "but you - you, sir, are a funny guy."

"The funniest," Toph said, and she laughed.

Burly Man raised both his arms and flexed, bringing his muscles into focus; the effort was wasted on Toph. "You think I'm not strong enough for you?" he said.

Toph tossed the belt onto the table. "Look, pipsqueak," she said, "why don't you run along home before your momma has to take you home?"

"On a stretcher," Sokka stage-whispered through his cupped hands.

Burly Man threw the first punch; it was also his last.

Fifteen totally awesome minutes later Toph stood triumphant on the arched back of one of the seven guys she had trashed (with invaluable assistance from one Sokka, Master Fist-to-the-face-bender). Somewhere in the wreckage a table groaned, then collapsed. "You guys pay for the mess, all right," she said, thumping back down to earth.

Sokka grabbed her hands and held them high, cupping a hand around his mouth to shout, "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you our reigning barfight champion, Toph! Bei! Foooooong."

"You're welcome," Toph said to the room as a whole. Sokka thought one of the guys might be crying.

So that was fun.

3.

On Tuesday they got drunk because it was Tuesday; as Toph put it, "Why not?" Sokka couldn't argue with that sort of logic. It just wasn't in him. So they pooled their money and raided the most popular tavern on Kyoshi Island, and several hours later, when the moon was high and the wind soft and cool on their upturned faces, they picked their way through the rocks and the brush to home and Suki.

On Wednesday Suki rolled them both out of bed and frog-marched them down the path that walked from their house to the shore, and there she dumped them in the swelling tide.

Toph flailed, sputtered, and lunged onto the beach, clinging desperately at the thin sand and the solid earth that lay beneath it. "Oh, sure!" she shouted. "Let's throw the blind earthbender into the ocean! That's a great idea, Suki!"

Sokka clawed at his ears. "Please stop shouting," he whispered. "It hurts so bad."

"Who was it that made a mess of Akemi's tavern last night?" Suki demanded.

"Not...me?" said Sokka.

"I almost drowned!" Toph shouted.

"We weren't even there last night," Sokka said, clasping a hand to his chest. He blinked seawater out of his eyes and tried his best to look wrongly accused.

"That's strange," Suki said. "I seem to recall watching you both go into her tavern last night."

"I have no idea who that could have been," Sokka lied.

Toph was still shouting, Sokka's headache informed him. "What kind of sicko throws someone who can't swim into the water anyway!"

Sokka clutched his forehead. "Please, Toph, I'm begging you, stop shouting."

Suki held her hands to her mouth. "You two must feel so miserable," she said with immense and sudden sympathy.

Sokka was immediately wary. "....yes," he said, as Toph shouted, "Yeah, no kidding!"

Suki advanced on them, her hands stretched out as if in offering, the smile on her face benevolent and sweet. "Let me help you," she said, and then she grabbed them by their shirts and threw them both into the ocean again.

4.

They buried him according to the traditions of the Air Nomads, by dividing his body and setting the remains out for the vulturehawks. In this way Aang returned to the sky.

That evening they all drank, Katara and Zuko and Mai and Sokka and Toph and Suki, and their children with them, all of them long since grown, and when Toph whispered, "So long, twinkletoes," Sokka felt as though his heart would burst.


This story was originally posted to livejournal on 04/25/2009, for lj user squeemu.

Sky burials, more properly known as jhator (lit. "giving alms to the birds"), are performed in Tibet, though not as frequently as in the past. The practice of jhator is one of generosity and compassion: the body of the deceased is offered as food to sustain the living (vultures). I thought it fitting for Aang. I apologize if I have misrepresented or mischaracterized the nature of it and hope that I might be forgiven.