post-series, Sokka & Toph
"Look, I don't need you here to make me feel better about being stupid," Sokka mumbled into his drink bitterly.
She rolled her eyes at him, but he was turned away.
"Sokka, here's how it is," Toph said simply. She snapped her fingers in his face, and could tell by the way he jerked back on his bar stool that he was offended. She ignored his annoyance in the way that only the blind can, by staring blandly in his direction and pretending the only way he could show her he was irritated was by telling her.
She went on, "You are smarter than me, Sokka. That's obvious. You get all quirky and investigative and try to invent crazy machines that don't work most of the time-"
"Hey!" he interjected, and Toph could tell by his tone that Offended Glare had turned into Insulted Pout.
"--but sometimes they do," she continued, putting a hand in his face, close enough that she could feel his breath just before he snapped his mouth shut. "You led a rebel invasion when you were sixteen, and have helped with Fire Nation policy building and relations since then. You've gone to Ba Sing Se University and actually understood that babble that comes out of their mouths."
"Didn't keep me from getting kicked out," Sokka muttered bitterly. He grabbed her wrist and ushered it down, but he was gentle about it so she let him.
"It's not your fault that professors in Ba Sing Se are pansy-ass babies who can't tell when they're getting criticized and when they're getting debated with," Toph replied, "but that's not my point. My point is, you're smart, Sokka. That's not the problem here."
"So what is it then?" Sokka asked. Even if he was still agitated, he was at least feigning interest.
"You need me," Toph told him calmly, smiling and taking a sip from her jasmine tea.
This seemed to break through the pouting by sheer strangeness.
"I need you?" Sokka repeated, and it was proof that he was smart that he said the words without a hint of patronizing disbelief. Or perhaps it just showed that Sokka was both smart and wisely kind of afraid of her.
"You're smart," Toph said again, "but you're not educated. The problem that you have isn't that you're not smart enough to make it at Ba Sing Se University. It's that you're completely out of your element. When you were off fighting the war, all your snobby classmates were studying with their private tutors in their fancy mansions, probably not even aware that the war was going on."
Sokka didn't say anything, but Toph could hear the way his hands tightened around his glass, clinking it against the wooden countertop.
"I should know," she added, and was proud of the way she kept the bitterness out of her tone. "That was me, before you guys all kidnapped me."
"Your dad's still going on about that?" asked Sokka, snickering.
"He's convinced you, Aang and Katara have ruined me for polite society," Toph said with a smirk, eyes rolling. "I'm practically Fire Nation by now anyway, so I don't think it really matters."
"I don't know," Sokka offered. "Maybe Zuko'll try to marry you."
"Yeah, and maybe Zuko'll get all his teeth knocked out, we'll see," Toph countered easily. She finished off her tea with an unladylike flourish, slamming it down on the counter. She enjoyed the way the other patrons of the teahouse jolted in their seats, her legs just long enough to touch the bare cement floor and feel the scrape of wooden table legs along the ground.
"Here's my point," Toph said, her finger in the air and pointed rudely in Sokka's face. "You're like a rabbit-kitten trying to live among the wolf-snakes. You don't know how to communicate correctly, and they're going to eat you alive if you make a single mistake. The fact that you've gotten this far is kind of ridiculous, actually."
"Thanks... I think," Sokka said. Then he asked, "So where do you come in?"
"As it turns out, I'm fluent in wolf-snake, and I have a soft spot for little rabbit-kittens like you."
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