Okay: this summer I discovered Avatar, thanks to my best friend, so of course I discovered the fanbase here. I'll ship Toph with anyone really—she just needs someone—but Tokka has to be my favorite. Obviously I missed Tokka week, but this was loosely based on 'worst case scenario' (and then I just watched the one where Jet dies—you know, he says "go fight, I'll be fine" and as they walk away, Toph says, "he's lying"—so I was feeling morbid and tragic...)
And I don't know what battle it is. I think it's supposed to be the finale, but everyone but Aang (plus some ground forces) are busy holding off the Fire Nation while he goes off to face Ozai...
Anyway. I digress. Read on, if you're still with me.
Disclaimer: I own nothing at all.
There are some things you never see coming that have nothing to do with blindness.
They were fighting side by side, just like always. It was the most natural thing to do, since both of them considered themselves the more capable—though he called her his equal to her face; and she would scoff and mutter she was better, really—and both held themselves utterly responsible for the other's life. Forget kisses, embraces, or even when he led her while she was fully blind: this was the true meaning of togetherness.
It was an unspoken agreement that they would have died for each other. Toph never thought that it would be anything more than empty words.
She was very, very wrong.
It happened so easily, in what someone who saw would call the blink of an eye. One moment she was fighting everyone around her, reveling in the power she wielded—enough to send battalions flying, to bury dozens of men; hell, enough to hold off almost an army—when it happened. She never saw it coming: the worst mistake she would ever, could ever make.
One firebender, a stupid, nameless soldier who was about to ruin her life, had managed to get close enough to attack. She would never know how. Maybe she had been too busy decimating the rest of the troops, and maybe his soft footsteps were lost in the vibrations coursing through the ground, land mines and the ever-present thud of empty bodies to the ground.
The reason didn't matter. He fired.
A shout rang out, its terror piercing through the noise like a knife through butter. Sudden footsteps rushed, and then she was shoved to the ground with a gasp of surprise. A moment later, heat rushed over her, grazing her face as she threw up her hands to protect it. She smelled the acrid scent of her hair burning from her arms, and then a body collapsed to the ground beside her, landing with finality.
He hit the earth spread-eagled, and Toph felt every inch of him in perfect detail. A strangled cry rose from her lips, disbelief and denial mingled into one. Then she was on her feet, throwing her fists madly, and with every punch, a boulder flew from the ground, smashing against the already-dead Fire Nation soldier.
"No," she hissed with each blow, "no, no, no, no, no!" But the words had no effect, and he was still lying there, so still. She abandoned the attack and slumped to the ground, landing on her hands and knees. Moisture was running down her face, dripping from her chin to the bloodstained ground. Troops—her side? Maybe. It wasn't like it mattered any more—surged past her, forcing the firebenders back, but for Toph, it was already far too late.
"Sugarqueen!" she screamed. "Katara, help! Please!" She could only managed a crawl as she stumbled to his body, grabbing his shoulders, running her small hands along his neck for a pulse…
There! There it was, but weak, and fading with every second. Her other hand moved to his chest, scorched and searing hot. The fabric was burned away, and her pale, shaking fingers came away warm and wet.
"Katara!" she shrieked, as she heard the rattle of breath in his throat.
Then, with a thrill of relief, she felt the rapid, decisive footsteps of the Water Tribe girl. "Over here!" she called, and Katara changed direction, skidding to a halt when she saw the figure lying there.
"Oh," she gasped, faltering for a split second, but then she was racing over, collapsing onto the ground near the body, reaching for her water in one fluid motion. Her usually steady hands shook, and drops of water splattered the ground. Finally, however, hands coated in liquid, she moved them over to his chest. They were glowing white in the half-light of the evening, though Toph couldn't see them.
It wasn't enough. The wounds half-closed, but Katara had known from the moment she got there that the fire had worked its way deep into his heart, and no amount of glowing water would replace the dark blood soaking the ground, and his shirt, and Toph. Her eyes brimmed with tears, and a choked gasp she was unable to muffle slipped from her lips.
In return, he made a rasping noise that the two girls realized after a moment were attempted words. "Toph," he whispered. "Toph…"
Toph leaned closer immediately. "I'm here," she reassured him quickly. Her small hands found his large one, and she grabbed it and guided it to her face, forgetting the tears still streaking her cheeks.
"Are you… okay…?" he asked laboriously.
She choked on a sob, and it lodged painfully in her throat. "I'm fine," she whispered. "He got you instead."
"I know," he sighed, and then added after a moment, "I meant… to do that."
"Idiot," she mumbled, but it was halfhearted. He gave a weak laugh that turned into a wracking cough, and blood splattered his chin. With all the care in the world, Toph wiped it away.
"Hold on," she murmured to him. "Just hold on, for me, okay? Katara's going to heal you, I promise."
As she spoke, she glanced up pointedly at Katara. To her horror, she felt the girl's heart stutter as she spoke. "What?" she hissed. "Katara, heal him! What's wrong?"
"Nothing," the waterbender replied after a moment, her words hollow and wooden. "Nothing's wrong." There was a pause, and then she said quietly, "Go fight, Toph. I'll take care of him. He'll be fine."
Toph's breathing was suddenly shallow and quick, rather like Katara's heartbeat. "You're lying," she whispered. "Why are you lying, Katara?" The older girl looked away, unable to meet her unseeing eyes, and Toph repeated brokenly, "Why are you lying?"
Another coughing fit took Katara off the spot, as Toph clutched at the young man's hand, stroking his bloody face with her fingertips. "Toph," he rasped, "Calm… down. I'll be… fine."
Tears were running freely down her face, dripping onto his chest. "You're lying too," she said, her voice thick with tears. "Stop it. You're going to be fine."
"Toph," he said sadly, and this time his voice held no pretension any more. "Toph… I love you…"
Suddenly it was sincerity filling the air instead, stabbing somewhere beneath her ribs like a knife, and she wished that he would lie, if only because the truth hurt so much more. She threw her arms around his neck, sobbing openly into his shoulder. "No," she whimpered in his ear, half to herself, "no, please!"
His mouth found her ear, and his lips were cold. One of his rough hands cupped her face, thumb stroking her pale cheek. "Tell me," he said faintly. "Toph… please…"
"I love you," she echoed, her voice breaking, and then continued where he hadn't. "I love you so much, Sokka, more than anything, earthbending, even, so you can't die, you can't—"
She felt his lips curve into a sad smile against her cheek. "I'm sorry."
"You saved me," she reminded him weakly. "Don't be sorry, it's all my fault…"
"It's not... your... fault," he interrupted fiercely, his finger clumsily finding her lips. "It's okay, Toph."
Her tears came stronger, faster, because he wasn't lying this time. He sounded calm, like nothing mattered but that she wouldn't feel guilty. His heart was stumbling, missing entire seconds where it should have been beating. He coughed again, and she felt drops of blood splatter her tangled hair, but she didn't move; she couldn't bear to.
"I love you," he repeated, and then she felt him growing limp in her arms.
"No, Sokka!" she shrieked, grabbing his sagging shoulder, shaking him. "Please!"
But the air in his lungs just whooshed out in a final rasp, and then Toph felt his heart stop; and the world ended not with a bang, but with a silence. It should have been different. He should have had everyone around him, and decades more outlined in a wrinkled face. Instead, there was nothing but empty stillness to say that Sokka, her Sokka, was gone. No pulse existed for her to feel any more, and no warmth in his rigid hands, still clutched in hers.
Next to her, Katara was now weeping freely, her delicate sobbing uncontrollable. Strangely enough, Toph felt all her tears stop. She had no desire to cry. A cold numbness descended over her, and she gripped the corpse's hand, grateful not to see his wounds. Feet still rushed past her, and she could hear shouts of joy, but they must have come from far away, some other world where joy could still exist.
The war might not be over yet, but for Toph Bei Fong, it had already been lost.
Hmm. I can't write happy oneshots. I'll work on something really fluffy for the 100...
Reviews are great, always; I'd love to know if you liked it... or hated that I had the nerve to dare split up Tokka--whatever. Still makes me happy to know someone's reading ;)