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Chapter 1

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Love Is...

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...Destruction of Self

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Sokka stumbled into the bar, utterly dazed. Each lock of his hair looked as stunned as its owner, splaying off his shoulders in a messy array. Where the hell did that come from? was the only thought circling his mind at this point, mere minutes after the event as he now found himself. Not that he had any sense of time right now. He just knew that he and Suki were supposed to be meeting Aang and the gang for dinner when the bomb had landed. No, it wasn't just a bomb. It was total and complete eruption, distruction, of…of everything.

What. The. Hell.

He somehow managed by a series of confused questions from the maître d' to convey that he himself was Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe checking in for reservations under the name "The Avatar" and that the rest of his party were soon to arrive. The maître d' led him to a large round table in the center of the restaurant, where he pulled out a seat for him to assume. Sokka could only stare blankly at the chair, wasted as his brain was after the befuddled question and answer session, and only sat down after the maître d' gave a polite cough.

Standing or sitting, it didn't make a difference. His posture didn't change anything. He was still facing the reality before him, though his immediate surroundings barely blipped on his register, even when Aang, Katara, Toph, Zuko, and Mai arrived.

"Sokka, you're early! That's a surprise!" Katara said brightly. "Don't tell me you've been starving yourself all day just to be a glutton here on Aang's dime."

Sokka blinked.

"Well, I don't mind if you did, ol' buddy. I may be a monk and not live a life of excess, but that doesn't mean my friends can't, right?" Aang laughed, clapping him on the shoulder before taking the seat on his left.

"I wouldn't say that too loudly if I were you, Aang. It's not wise to show the masses what a child you are," Zuko reproved with a smirk.

"You're just saying that because you're an old fuddy-duddy now, Dad," Aang quipped back.

Zuko glared back stonily, but clearly Aang had struck a nerve. "I am not an old fuddy-duddy, Aang. I am an adult, and the Fire Lord, so I act like it."

"Oh, please," Toph interjected, clasping her hands behind her head. The gesture was quite out of place for the extremely elegant restaurant, but what Toph couldn't see with her eyes, she conveniently ignored for her own amusement. "You and Mai barely get out of the palace anymore now that juniorette's out of the womb."

"You have a weird way of saying congratulations," Zuko remarked, arching his right brow.

"I'm just pointing out that you could both stand to remember you're only twenty-one," Toph said with a shrug.

"And you could stand to remember you're not in your usual pub, Toph," Mai retorted, grasping one of Toph's hands and placing it primly in her lap so that Toph's posture was half formal, half casual.

"Jeez, you're already such a mom," Toph replied with a ready sigh. But she smiled and by her own will placed her other hand in her lap to make a matching pair. At this point she stretched her smile wide enough to split her face, and she raised her shoulders and batted her eyelashes. She was the perfect parody of polite amiability, and her friends laughed appreciatively at her joke. Toph laughed, too, and as her face relaxed into a natural, genuine smile, she unknowingly radiated sociable warmth and a gentle prettiness.

This image of her and her joke—the entire conversation, in fact—were all lost on Sokka. He was still staring at the table, mute and blank-faced.

"Sokka, is something wrong?" Katara asked, leaning forward to look around Aang at her brother.

"Nn," Sokka said and did not elaborate. Either "nn" meant "yes", or it was up for open interpretation.

Toph bit her lip. Upon sitting down, she had removed her shoes, as she usually did in the case of nice restaurants, whether or not they had long, draping tablecloths to hide her bare feet. As soon as her toes touched the floor and she sensed the empty seat on Sokka's right, the question had been at the front of her mind, but she had held it back for his sake. Now, fighting to control her apprehensive yet guiltily gleeful emotion, she asked carefully, "Where's Suki?"

"Gone." It was the first word Sokka had said since what he could only refer to in his mind as "the event." "She's gone."

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To Be Continued…

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A/N:

Yeah, so…this is painfully short. I know it is. I had the urge to write something, though, and I want it to be another Tokka fic, so I sat my butt down and wrote this up. It took me about an hour, which is kind of embarrassing, but I have a hard time writing something without editing as I go. So really, an hour's actually pretty good for me, even though I only supplied a couple paragraphs for you guys to read.

Anyway, if I work with a shorter chapter style, then perhaps I will find it easier to update more often in the midst of my very busy grad school life. We shall see.

Any and all reviews are welcome, of course, because feedback is always very encouraging. Unless it's a very mean flame, but whatever; it's interaction with my readers, and that is what I love the most.

For those of you who know me from Laughter Is Love, So Please Don't Cry, I sincerely hope you enjoy this new Tokka fic. For those of you who are new to my writing, then I hope the scant paragraphs above are enough to keep you with me for the following chapters. : )

Best Wishes,

~Niach

P.S.

The chapter title is rather depressing, but don't worry—it'll all be better by the end. : )