I'll Walk You Home pt. 51
The first time that Toph woke she just lay in bed next to Sokka and listened. There were Meathead's snores of course. And the sound of bird song from outside but that was about it. From this she determined that it must be very early and decided to go back to sleep. So she curled up against the warm tribesman and nodded off.
The second time she woke up there were no snores and no birds. She could hear someone, Sokka no doubt, shuffling around the room on bare feet. He was probably practicing one of his weapons forms. There were other sounds as well, quiet talking, people moving, doors opening and closing. She determined that it was well into morning and she should probably get up.
She pulled herself up in the bed, her head emerging from under the covers, and sniffed the cool air in the room. It smelled of wood smoke, and the delicious aroma of food cooking down stairs.
"Hey girlfriend." Sokka greeted ending his practice with two sharp clicks as he folded the Travelers knives in his hands.
Toph heard the young man come over to the bed and felt him lie down on top of the covers beside her.
"Hey boyfriend." She replied, sending her arms out towards where she felt he was.
"You're dressed!" She exclaimed as her hand found his chest.
"Yeah, I put a note on the door and they brought our stuff up early." He explained. "Your bags are against the back wall just past the nightstand on your side of the bed."
"Thanks." She told him finding his head with her hand and pulling it down towards her own.
They kissed good morning a short lovely little kiss.
They lay there for a few moments just enjoying the closeness of one another.
"So…" Sokka finally said his forehead up against the side of her head. "Do you want to get back on the road or do you just want to hang out here for the day?"
"How far are we from Gaoling?" She asked.
"Well I don't have my map but I would say a day, maybe a day and a half." He answered.
Toph thought. Then she decided. Earthbenders meet things head on.
"Let's keep going." She told him. "But after breakfast! I'm starving."
"Me too!" He told her.
"You're always starving!" She reprimanded him.
"Doesn't mean I'm not hungry." He told her in a mock hurt tone.
"Ok, ok. I'll get up." She told him.
"I'll take my stuff down so you can get dressed." He told her, his arm finding her waist under the covers and pulling her to him. "Unless you want me to come back and bring your stuff down too?"
"I'll be fine." She told him
"Last kiss." He warned as he moved his head and she felt his lips on hers.
This kiss was longer and more emotional than the others but even it had to end.
"Ohhhh…" Sokka sighed pulling back. "I could really get used to that."
Toph smiled in reply. Maybe they could spend the day and another night here.
She felt him roll off of the bed and heard him bustling with all his gear at the foot of the bed.
No! She decided. They really should be on their way.
She threw the covers off and got out of bed and felt for her own bags and clothes on the floor by the back wall.
Toph heard the door to the room open.
"Aaa… Toph." Sokka called from the door way.
"Yeah." She answered standing up.
It took the young man almost a minute before he remembered what he was going to say. She just looked too cute standing against the light of the window in his old water tribe top that was much too big for her, with her hair wild around her head.
"Sokka?" She finally asked.
"Oh, yeah." He said coming to himself. "Turn left down the hall, there's a door opposite ours and then about ten steps down there's another pair of doors opposite each other and then about maybe six or eight steps past those the stairs open out to the right. You've got one flight down, then a landing where you do a one eighty and a second flight that takes you into the common room."
"Got it. Thanks." She told him.
"Ok, see you down there." He responded going out and closing the door.
Toph took care of business and got dressed. She was afraid it would be a real chore but whoever had washed and folded her clothes had done an excellent job. They were piled with the loin cloth on top then the breast band, then the under shorts and so forth, so it was a simple matter to just take an item from the pile and put it on. The person had also washed her socks.
Once dressed she folded Sokka's old top and put it into her duffle bag. She checked the contents. She could tell that someone had emptied and refilled the bag, but everything was clean and neatly folded and the duffle had been repacked carefully so that each item was where she had originally packed it. She had no problem in finding anything.
Her new back pack had been treated in the same fashion. Whoever had washed and or dried her things had done a thoughtful and excellent job. She would have to leave them a silver as a tip.
Sokka sat at the table nearest the foot of the stairs and sipped his tea. He had no trouble grabbing this table although the common room was crowded this morning, since most of the guests were sitting near the fire or had wanted to avoid the high traffic area.
When he saw Toph coming down the stairs he stood, and called out,
"Hey Toph, over here."
He saw her head turn and as her foot landed on the wooden floor she moved in sliding steps towards him.
He got to her about half way to the table and she took his arm as he led her to her chair. After helping her out of her duffle and backpack he pulled her chair out for her, scraping the legs on the floor.
As she sat he bent down and whispered to her,
"Your hair smells nice."
She had brushed it using her lavender scented brush, into the long pony tail down her back. The comment made her blush prettily and drop her head.
The two sat sharing a cup of tea, and talking about what each would like for breakfast. Sokka wanted fried rice, which was not surprising. Sokka loved fried rice and would eat it with every meal if he could.
Kang brought a fresh pot of tea and took the couple's order. Before he left with the cold pot he quietly deposited two large silver coins on the table by Sokka's cup.
The young man raised an eyebrow to the innkeeper.
"The other guests insisted." Kang explained. "They most handsomely paid for your stay. They told me to tell you it was the least they could do for the two of you."
Sokka looked up and saw many of the other guests looking to him. He nodded to each face and received nods in reply.
Once Kang had left with their order Toph turned towards Sokka and suggested,
"You should probably check the room one last time before we leave."
"Good idea." He agreed. "I'll be right back."
The young man bolted up the stairs two at a time. The young woman sipped her tea. True to his word he was back before the food arrived.
"Good thing I did." He told her a little breathlessly as he sat down again. "I forgot your stomach chain thing on the night stand."
"Well I can't put it on now!" She told him. "Hang onto it for me."
"Right!" He replied stashing it in a pocket of his money belt.
Toph quickly checked to make sure she was wearing her armband and her necklace. She didn't remember ever taking them off but she wanted to make sure. They were there, and she breathed a sigh of relief. She also patted her pockets, though she never kept anything in them, but she felt something in her right pants pocket. Pulling it out she realized it was the stone that Sokka had given her a few days earlier.
Whoever had taken care of her clothes must have removed it to wash her pants and then returned it before they had folded them up.
Definitely two silvers! The young woman thought.
"Sokka, give me some money." She demanded holding out her hand.
"Ok…" He said a little doubtfully.
He handed over the two coins that Kang had returned to him.
"Silver." He told her.
"Perfect!" She proclaimed with a wide grin.
"Why do you enjoy spending my money so much?" The young man asked.
"Because it doesn't cost me anything, Silly." She responded putting the coins in her pocket.
Bingwen brought the food then, hot from the kitchen. He was much more polite and deferential this morning to the young couple then he had been last night. After serving out the dishes, sweet rolls, a dish of honey, fruit, and chicken/pig fried rice. He tucked the tray under his arm and asked,
"Will there be anything else sir, madam?"
"No, this is fine. Thank you." Sokka responded trying not to drool.
"Then let me return this sir." Bingwen said placing on the table the bronze coin the darker teen had given him the night before. "The other guests got together and gave me a very generous tip. They told me to tell you, 'Tell them that their money is no good here.'"
"Well… alright. Please tell them thank you for us." Sokka told him.
"I will sir." Bingwen said bowing and leaving.
"This hero business isn't too bad." Toph observed with a grin, picking up a bun and dipping it into the honey.
Ju stood leaning up against the sink slowly sipping her tea. The last two days had been busy, especially after a month of almost no guests. To be full the day before, and nearly full last night, she was out of practice at cooking for so many people. Plus she had been up late taking care of all the washing and drying of that elegant lady's clothes. She had not seen the two special guests but she had to be very pretty, elegant, and small to be able to have such, well skimpy, but fine things.
"Ju!" Her husband called sticking his head through the serving window.
"What?!" She replied testily.
She had been going nonstop all morning after only two hours of sleep.
"The lady wants to thank you." Kang told her. "Hurry!"
Ju sighed, pulling her cooking hat off and used it to wipe her face of the sweat and cooking grease. She then pulled off her apron and threw it on the counter. She must look terrible but there was nothing she could do about it now.
Going through the swinging door she finally met the special guests that had caused so much discussion amongst the other guests and so much work for her. She was surprised at how young they were, only teens.
The boy tall, dark skinned, dressed in blue robe and leggings with a long black coat over all. He was armed with a long sword and some strange and frightening weapons hanging from his belt under the coat.
The girl, small and pale, dressed in yellow and green with an off white coat that matched the boy's in style. But she carried no weapons, yet she stood with an air of confidence and power, that only came with being a master bender.
They were a formidable couple for all their youth.
"My lady." Ju said bowing.
"Bowing." The tall boy said in an undertone.
The lady returned Ju's bow and then held out her hands to the cook.
"I just wanted to thank you for all you did for me last night." The girl told her.
Unsure at first Ju eventually reached out and took the girl's hands.
"Anything for the guests of the Friendly Fisherman." The innkeeper's wife replied.
Ju felt two coins being pressed into her palm, the lady then dropped her hands and bowed again. Ju caught by surprise was late in returning the bow. The young couple loaded up their gear and headed out of the inn onto the ancient road.
"Oma and Shu!" Ju said in quiet wonder, looking at the two coins in her hand. "I hope they come back again sometime."
She looked to her husband and held up the two coins.
"Maybe I will do a little shopping in town." She told him with a sly grin.
"Earth!" Toph cried out as her boots hit the ground outside of the inn. "How I've missed you!"
Sokka laughed at her joy and held out his hand to her. She took it and the two of them walked down the road.
The ancient highway followed the river out into low rolling hill country. The land on either side was divided up by low earthbent walls into pastures where animals grazed. Occasionally they would pass by a farm with tilled fields, the crops already harvested for the coming winter.
Even though the road was easy they took frequent breaks, Sokka's load of books being very heavy. As they walked or sat he would describe what he could see around them to Toph, and she would describe what she felt to him. The time passed quickly and easily.
As the hills gave way to more level ground the pastures gave way to more farms, with the occasional village, with a small inn. The two ate a good lunch in one of these, and Sokka bought some food and snacks for the road.
After lunch they started on the road again. Sokka had asked how far Gaoling was from there and was told about a day's walk.
"If you pushed it, you could probably get there sometime this evening." The innkeeper, a woman named Qiao, told him.
As they left the inn Toph pulled her boots and socks off. The day had been cold but the sun had warmed the earth up quite a bit. The blind bender relished the feel of earth under her bare feet again.
Sokka put the shoes and socks in his nearly empty duffle and the two were on their way.
They continued down the road for the rest of the afternoon. They passed through more villages and more farms. The villages grew larger as the day wore on. Occasionally a farm they would pass had little in the way of cultivated fields and a very large house. Sokka thought they were more estates than they were farms.
As they took their frequent breaks he noticed that Toph would take her horse stance and he could feel her send her bending out into the earth. He had a feeling she was looking for something, but when he asked she would just say something about enjoying barefoot bending again.
As the sun neared the horizon Sokka suggested they stop at an inn for the night, but Toph insisted that they push on, and even sped up her pace, towing him along down the road. He thought she was obviously looking for something, something she didn't want to talk about, so he trusted her and just went along, shifting the book sacks into a new position on his shoulders.
The sun was well down and the sky growing dark as Sokka sat by the side of the road trying to massage his aching shoulders. Toph was in her stance sending her bending out again when her head shot up and she ran over to him.
"Let's go!" She insisted, grabbing his hand.
"Give me a second!" He replied testily, as he pulled his packs and bags back on.
She waited impatiently for him to finish, and when he finally slung the heavy book bags on, she grabbed his hand and dragged him down the road at an even faster pace than before.
This went on for quite some time. Toph stopping every so often to check with her bending, and Sokka leaning on his knees panting and thanking Tui for the brief respite. Then she would grab his hand and drag him off again.
After about an hour of this, it was full dark with only the stars for light. The moon had not risen yet, and would not be up for some hours yet as Sokka knew. She pulled him off of the road onto a country lane going off to the right. It took all of his concentration to not trip on the uneven lane.
"Faster!" She commanded.
"Toph! What's going on?" He gasped out. "Where are we going?"
"Almost there!" She called back hauling him along by the hand.
Almost there meant another half an hour at least. They were in some field. Sokka would have collapsed if he didn't know that he would probably not be able to get up again if he did. So he stood bent over, hands on his knees while Toph stood a few paces away sending her bending out again.
"This is it!" She nearly shouted with glee. "Quick! Grab onto me."
"Now what?" He asked stepping in and hugging her awkwardly with all their bags and packs on.
"You'll find out." She told him with a big grin that he could just make out in the darkness.
Toph raised her arms and bent her knees. Sokka bent his knees and waited for the shock of being launched, but as her arms came down he felt the ground fall away underneath him. His stomach tried to replace his lungs somewhere in his chest, and he let out a high pitched scream of surprise and terror.
Happy Place! Happy Place! He chanted in his head as he fell through the darkness, clutching to Toph for his very life.
After about an hour and a half, at least it felt that way to Sokka who was screaming the entire time, so it probably was less than a minute. The two landed with a thud, followed by a second thud as the young man's butt painfully hit the ground.
Sokka heard a grinding of earth over head as Toph closed the shaft they had come down.
"Take my hand." She said.
"I'd love to." He said angrily from the ground. "But I can't see it! As a matter of fact I can't see anything!"
"Oh… poor baby…" Toph began but was cut off.
"Not funny!" Sokka said rising painfully to his feet. "What's going on here Toph? What's all this about?"
"We're almost there." She answered just barely containing her excitement. "Just a little bit farther."
"Ok." He relented holding out his hand towards the sound of her voice. "But I really can't…"
He was cut off as Toph grabbed his hand and began to drag him off at a run.
Sokka realized that "little" was a relative term, especially when you were being dragged down, what he assumed was a tunnel from the echoes, in absolute darkness. It was probably only a half an hour or so in reality.
Toph would pull him off at an angle occasionally to the right or left. He tried to keep count and build a map in his head but he failed miserably. Finally she stopped and he stood panting again. From the echoes here he thought they were in some large cavern.
Toph released his hand and he felt a small trembling in the earth beneath him. He heard water dripping somewhere to his right but that was all.
"Toph…" He began but was immediately shushed by the earthbender.
"Quiet!" She whispered.
They waited for a while longer and then he felt it. An answering trembling coming up through the soles of his boots. More earthbending.
The sounds followed soon after. The sound of earth shifting, and something large moving over the ground. It had a hollow sound as if the sound was coming from a tunnel ahead of him. Sokka started to worry again.
Ok… Earthbending?… giant animal?… yeah… Giant Badger/Mole. He thought to himself. As he remembered they were even bigger than Appa, and the sky bison was an herbivore unlike badger/moles.
He felt Toph take his hand and squeeze it hard. He could feel her shifting and moving nervously beside him. Oh this can't be good! He thought. He tried to find his happy place but there didn't seem to be any way to get there from here.
"Shuffles?" Toph whispered to herself hope coloring the word.
"Shuffles!" She repeated a little louder, recognition joining in with hope.
"SHUFFLES!" Toph shouted in unalloyed joy.
She let go of Sokka's hand and he could hear her bare feet slap against the stone as she ran towards the giant creature as it emerged from the tunnel into the chamber.
"Oh Shuffles!" The blind woman cried as she embraced the nose of the giant beast. "I've really missed you! It's been so long!"
Sokka stood in the dark and listened to the heart felt reunion.
The grunting, sniffing, sounds moved closer to the tribesman until he could feel the creature's warm breath, move back and forth across his face.
"This is Shuffles." Toph said from beside the warrior, apprehension apparent in her voice. "Shuffles, this is Sokka."
"Ahhh… Hi Shuffles." The young man said toward the breathing.
"Lick her nose." The bender told him.
"Ohhh…. Kay…." Sokka said reaching out in the absolute darkness.
He found the muzzle of the giant animal and moving in he gave the cold wet nose a long, and in his opinion, manly lick.
The beast seemed to think for a second, Sokka then felt a large wet tongue scrape up his face.
"SHE LIKES YOU!" Toph shouted in joy grabbing awkwardly onto the young man. "She really likes you."
Sokka hugged back, he then felt the blind woman's hands on his head pulling him down, and her lips on his. He kissed her back just so happy to be alive right now.
Toph broke the kiss and wrapping her arms around his neck laid the side of her face against his chest.
"She really likes you." The small bender said quietly in relief. "I'm so glad."
"Me too!" He said, his voice cracking high on the last word.
A large wet nose bumped the couple.
Toph laughed and patted the muzzle of the giant beast.
"I think she wants to join the hug." The bender said.
Sokka reached out and gave the badger/mole a long scratch along the ridge of her long nose.
There was an appreciative grunt from the animal in response.
"Where's Snuffles?" Toph asked the creature.
"Snuffles?" The tribesman asked. "And I'm raising my eyebrow."
"Snuffles is her… boyfriend." The bender explained.
"Shuffles and Snuffles?" Sokka asked sarcasm lacing the words. "And my eyebrow is even higher."
"I was six, ok!" Toph said defensively.
There was a grunt from the badger/mole and the two returned to their patting and scratching.
Soon enough the sound of a second beast could be heard approaching the trio.
"Snuffles!" Toph cried out in glee and ran off to embrace the face of the new giant.
Shortly a large wet nose was nudging the tribesman in the side.
"Sokka this is Snuffles." Toph introduced the pair.
"Hi Snuffles." Sokka said reaching out for the badger/mole's nose.
Without being bidden the young man licked the creature's nose. Snuffles licked back with a long, wet, raspy tongue.
"He likes you!" Toph exclaimed happily.
"Yeah…" Sokka began but was suddenly knocked over by an explosion of wet air as Snuffles sneezed.
Laying on the ground the tribesman felt something wet and slimy covering most of his head.
"Ah… Giant animal snot. How I've missed you." Sokka moaned sardonically.
The young man struggled back onto his feet where he received another lick from the male beast, removing most of the mucus.
"Thanks." Sokka told the creature gratefully.
It took about three more licks to get the rest off of him. He thought the creature also may have gotten some of his skin with the last lick.
"Stop playing around." Toph ordered taking the boys hand. "Shuffles and Snuffles are going to lead us home."
"Lead? Why don't we just ride them, it'll be faster." Sokka suggested.
"You can't ride wild badger/moles." The blind woman explained as if to an idiot.
"Why not?" The swordsman wanted to know.
"They're wild!" Toph exclaimed.
Sokka made a dismissive sound as he pulled his drum from its case where it was lashed to the top of his back pack. He slung it from his shoulder and began to tap out different rhythms.
"What are you doing?" She asked. "And I'm raising both my eyebrows and rolling my eyes."
"We should work on that eye rolling thing." He observed absently, still tapping on the drum.
Toph made a disgusted noise in reply to the criticism.
"Oh giant badger moles." Sokka sang to himself.
"Oh Giant Badger Moles"
He began to sing in earnest, striking the drum more forcefully.
Oh… Great big Giant wonderful Badger Moles
How about giving us a ride
You wouldn't even feel us on your hairy hide
Shuffles is so nice and really really kind
You could give us a ride
And I don't mean inside
So how about it Shuffles
It wouldn't cost you much
And would save us a bunch
As he sang and played Sokka trailed one hand against the side of Shuffles as he moved down the animals flank. When he reached the foreleg he stopped playing the drum but continued to sing.
Now I'm gonna grab your hair
I'm sure it won't tear
And you won't shed a tear
Using the clumps of hair as hand holds the young man began to haul himself up the side of the great beast. He used his legs when he could, but his arms had to do most of the work, and the strain of pulling himself and all he was carrying was very evident in his voice as he continued to sing.
Sorry… Shuffles… for… pulling... your… fur
But… I… got… to… get… high… ur
And… it… won't… be… too… furrr….
His arms were burning with the strain by the time Sokka finally pulled himself up onto the broad shoulders of the badger/mole. She didn't seem to mind the boy climbing on her. Toph could feel Shuffles swaying her head slightly from side to side in time to the song, and the beast actually seemed to like the pulling on her fur as if it was a light scratching.
Well here I am, finally on top
Please don't knock me ker plop
'Cause… (He searched for the next rime) I'll… land like a mop
With his hands free he began to play along on the drum again.
So Toph come on up
Come on you can ally up
I'll toss you a rupe
Toph just shook her head in wonder. She couldn't believe that Sokka was still alive. But most of all she couldn't believe that he could make up such an awful song.
Toph I'll toss you a line
Come join me on Shuffles spine
That'll prove you're a girlfriend of mine
Toph earthbent a curving earth column that deposited her gently in front of Sokka on the female badger/mole's shoulders.
She sat cross legged leaning back into the tribesman's chest grasping his legs for support.
"You know?" She observed. "For an idiot you can be really smart sometimes."
"Thanks." He replied, still playing his drum.
Ok Snuffles please take us home
The roof can be flat or a dome
We'll stay there and never more roam
The giant beast gave a happy grunt and began walking swiftly towards the tunnel it had entered the cavern from.
"Duck!" Toph said leaning down.
"What?" Sokka asked in the absolute darkness.
"Duck!" She commanded reaching back and pulling his head down.
Sokka could feel something brush against his wolf tail as they entered the tunnel.
They traveled for quite some time, well over an hour, before they finally reached their destination. Home to the badger/moles was in an even larger cavern and was a large nest built from tree branches and lined with a thick layer of fur that the two animals had shed over the years. The two humans found it soft and warm.
Nestled between the great beasts they ate the cold dinner Sokka had bought at the last inn they had visited. They did not bother to dig out their blanket or ground cloth; they weren't needed with the soft fur and warmth of the badger/moles. Sokka and Toph didn't even bother to undress. They simply snuggled together surrounded by two of the most dangerous creatures in the world, secure and warm.
Toph snuggled closer to Sokka's chest as she started to drift off to sleep. Tomorrow she would have to go to the estate and meet her parents. But tonight, as she lay here with her best friend, her boyfriend, the thought made her smile. And Shuffles and Snuffles who had taught her how to bend the earth and see the world in their own way, she finally felt that she was home.
To be continued:
Disclaimer: "Avatar the Last Airbender" the characters and the world were created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and owned by Nickelodeon and Viacom or Paramount or some huge corporation. This is purely a work of fan fiction because I wanted to play in their world and I love the characters that they created.
Well Toph finally gets home. This is a short chapter, only about five thousand words, but I did not want to mix in the next chapter where Toph meets her parents with this one. They didn't seem to fit together. Also I wanted to get a second chapter out for Tokka Month over on Tumblr.
I hope you enjoyed it.
Hey for once I don't feel I have to apologize for taking so long to update.
Thanks so much for reading.
Fanart; There is fanart for the story on DeviantArt; Totalfanboy21 has a great picture of an older Toph and Sokka inspired by the story and Abi-chan14 and Cutubulla as well as Kawayui-Kage have created Fanart for the story. I am really honored that talented artists have liked the story so much that they have actually made art based on it. Please check them out.
Thank you all so much for sticking with my story.
I have to thank everyone for the really generous and kind reviews. You guys keep me going and I really appreciate all the support. I always try to answer all reviews. If I missed any one please forgive me.
For the last two chapters I have not responded to Guest reviews which I normally do, and I apologize for not doing so. I was just so anxious to get the chapters out that I didn't want to take the time since there were so many.
I would just like to say thank you to all who have left their support and criticism of my story. I really appreciate it.
To Concerned; I will give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you are writing from a real concern you have for the readers, though the words you used were very insulting and hurtful, and if you want to get a writers attention that is fine, you certainly got mine, but if you want to get their cooperation you might think of a better approach in the future.
As to your concerns all I have to say is that I really think you missed the point not only of chapter 50, which you reviewed, but of the entire story and the arcs of the two characters in the story. If you want you can go to the author's notes to chapter 37 and see an explanation of what I am trying to do with the story and the characters.
Finally I would add that this story is rated M for a reason, to restrict it to those sixteen years of age and older.
Once again thank you to all those who have added this story to their alerts and especially their favorites, and a very special thank you to all who have added me to your author alerts and favorites. That is a real honor for me. I hope I have not disappointed you with this chapter.
Thank you to all for reading
All comments and/or criticisms are more than welcome.