Special thanks to Maschan who gave me this word!
"What do you mean I need glasses?" he demanded angrily.
Toph arched an eyebrow, a smile playing over her womanly features.
"What are you whining about? It could be a lot worse, you could be blind." Toph countered.
Sokka ignored Toph and glared at the doctor.
"How is that even possible? Are you sure that you're a doctor? I don't see any certifications." Sokka accused.
The doctor rubbed his temples and gestured to the wall behind him that held scrolls that detailed his certifications.
"Look, it isn't that big of a deal. Many young men wear glasses." The doctor assured him.
Sokka ran a hand through his short hair—fashioned like his father's—and sighed.
"Listen, I'm twenty, there's no way that I'm old enough for glasses." He protested.
The doctor glanced at Toph, who was beginning to twitch with anger, and tamped down the annoyance that was building.
"Children sometimes need glasses to correct vision issues." The doctor watched Toph bristle and began to backpedal. "But not all cases are correctable." He deflated visibly and tried again. "What I am trying to say is that age is irrelevant and you need to wear the glasses. I'll send an order to the local glass-maker and he'll have them ready in a matter of hours." The doctor finished.
Toph grunted and grabbed Sokka's wrist.
"I'll make sure that he gets them and wears them." She promised, dragging Sokka out of the office and into the setting sun.
Sokka mumbled incoherently as Toph tried to find the shop the doctor had mentioned.
After several minutes of walking aimlessly, Sokka snapped out of his reverie and turned to Toph.
"You're going the wrong way." He informed her. Toph stopped and glared at his shoulder.
"Well, it must be nice to be able to see where you're going." She stated before turning on her heel and leaving him in the middle of the street.
Toph was sitting on the couch when Sokka returned, glasses tucked away in their case in his pocket.
"You aren't wearing them." She stated coldly, her eyes never leaving the tablet that rested on her thighs.
Sokka turned to Toph, wondering how she had managed to notice.
"How'd you know?" he demanded.
Toph grinned, knowing she had the upper hand, and took her hands off of the tablet.
"Well, when you walked in, you tripped on that floorboard and almost ran into the coffee table." She answered.
Aang, previously unnoticed by Sokka, laughed.
"Wow, she's good." He said with a laugh.
Sokka stared at him blankly.
"When did you get there?" he asked.
Toph smirked as she turned her attention back to her tablet.
"And you didn't notice Twinkle-toes." She added.
Sokka rolled his eyes and sat down next to Toph.
"Look, I wanted to apologize for earlier. It just…came as a shock." He defended.
Toph merely shrugged and continued running her fingers over the tablet.
Sokka leaned over and stared at the stone for a moment.
"If you put your glasses on, you might notice that there are engravings on this." She said suddenly, her face remaining contorted in concentration.
Sokka turned towards Aang and shrugged his shoulders, as if to ask how Toph was able to know what he was thinking.
"It's actually pretty cool," Aang praised. "Toph is learning how to read."
"I won't be able to read in the traditional way, and Earthbending can't really reach the finer details of things…so Katara and Aang came up with this idea of using engraving to…" Toph trailed off and sighed. "Here, give me your hand." She said to Sokka.
Sokka looked down at his hand uneasily and then at Toph's; it seemed so natural and inviting.
After a moment, he surrendered his hand to hers and she pressed it onto the tablet.
"Okay…" he said, waiting for her to continue.
"Alright, this is the word for water," she began, guiding his hand to the engraved symbol. After a moment she smiled. "And this," she continued, moving his hand to another one. "Is the symbol for warrior." She said with a bright smile.
"Um, Toph, that's the symbol for meat." Aang corrected.
Up until then, Sokka had only been aware of the warmth of Toph's hand, the coolness of the tablet, and the sound of wonder in Toph's voice.
He blushed and pulled his hand away.
"Guess I'm still learning," she said with a smirk. It was evident to Aang that Toph knew exactly what she was doing, but Sokka seemed unfazed.
"So how long have you been working on learning this?" he asked.
Toph shrugged and glanced at Aang.
"A little over a year now." He supplied.
"How come I didn't know about this?" Sokka wondered, his voice betraying his hurt.
"Because I don't understand a lot of it sometimes, and I get frustrated and embarrassed. Can you blame me for keeping it private?" Toph demanded, her voice raw with anger.
Toph looked up as Sokka walked into the kitchen.
Sokka sat down beside her, a banana in hand, and groaned.
"Why is it so hard to wake up lately?" Sokka questioned. Toph ignored this and smiled.
"You're wearing them!" she exclaimed.
Sokka touched the frames on his face and nodded.
"Yeah, I guess your words…well, they got to me." He confided.
Toph shrugged and went back to eating her bread-roll.
After a moment, Sokka stood up and stretched.
"Where are you going?" Toph asked, itching for someone to train on.
"Actually, I'm going to go paint…did you want to sit with me?" he asked.
Toph opened her mouth, prepared to make a sarcastic remark, but closed it just as quickly.
"No thanks, I have a few errands to run." She replied.
"Do you need some help?" he offered.
Toph shook her head and sighed.
"No, go ahead. I'll catch up with you later." She promised.
Sokka stared at the parchment in front of him and dipped his brush into the ink pot.
"Fierce, raw, strong, and beautiful." He recited, as if it was a mantra.
He began to paint, his hands fueled by his passion to create.
His strokes were filled with purpose, his hands steady.
In his twenty years of life, Sokka had learned one thing if nothing else, and that was to have a steady hand that was filled with confidence and determination.
He was a warrior; it was his way of life.
If he had doubts, if he hesitated, it would all be over, and death would be certain.
Sokka worked on his painting, shading and perfecting for over an hour.
When he was done, he stared at his work.
It was as if he had captured his subject with…some sort of thing that made a replica of a person.
Sokka smiled and stood up, stretching his stiff back.
He jumped when Toph's voice reached his ears.
"You've been at it for a while, did those glasses help?" she asked.
Sokka turned around to face Toph, a blush creeping across his cheeks.
"You shouldn't sneak up on me like that." He warned, his eye twitching.
Toph laughed and punched his shoulder before blowing her bangs out of her eyes.
"So, what'd you paint?" she asked.
Sokka rubbed his shoulder and shrugged.
"Just a pretty sight." He told her.
Toph laughed again, and Sokka noticed for the time how much Toph had matured in recent years. He blushed and cleared his throat.
"Pretty is not a manly word." She informed him before turning on her heel.
Katara walked into their shared home and glared at Sokka.
"I heard you were a jerk to the eye doctor." Katara accused. She opened her mouth to continue lecturing, but stopped. "Where on earth did you get that painting?" she demanded, moving closer to Sokka's masterpiece.
"I thought you were yelling at me." He stated, ignoring her question; Katara was never one to like his paintings.
"Sokka, where did you get this done?" she asked again.
"I did it." He said sullenly, waiting for her criticism.
"You did this? Sokka, this is amazing. And is that…" Katara stopped as Aang ran into the house, a look of panic on his face.
"I didn't mean to!" he cried, his breath coming out in ragged huffs.
"Do what Aang?" Katara asked. Aang glanced at Sokka and shook his head. Katara seemed to take his hint and pulled Aang into the other room.
A moment later, the door swung open again, and Toph walked in, a lethal look plastered across her pretty features.
"I'll kill that bald son of a…" she trailed off, her words becoming incoherent.
"What happened?" Sokka demanded, although he wondered if he should get involved.
Toph turned slowly, as if she hadn't noticed him—which, in her state, was quite possible—and glared.
"Aang," she spat. "Told my parents, who seemed to have forgotten, that I had reached marrying age." She ground through her clenched teeth.
Sokka stared at her blankly.
"Why on earth would he do that?" Sokka asked, wondering if there was something that they needed to know.
"Shit if I know," Toph swore, pushing her bangs roughly behind her ears.
"Toph, are you sure that's what he said?" Sokka asked, trying to reason with the younger woman.
"Yup, saw him with my own two feet." Toph confirmed.
Sokka sighed and stood up.
"I'll go talk to him…just try…try not to kill him until I get to the bottom of this." He pleaded.
Toph snorted and sat down in a chair with a grin that did anything but reassure Sokka.
"Okay, so explain this to me one more time." Sokka beseeched.
Aang sighed and began again.
"I was worried about Toph. I mean, I have Katara, and you have Suki. I just wanted to make sure that my sifu was taken care of." Aang repeated.
"So you asked her parents to arrange a marriage." Sokka stated, attempting to clarify the nonsense that was coming out of Aang's mouth.
"Yeah, basically." Aang replied.
"I'm going to kill you!" Sokka screamed, lunging at Aang. "How could you do something so stupid and insensitive? I would never have left Toph alone. She would have been taken care of! I would have done it!" Sokka declared.
Katara's expression changed as she realized what her brother was saying.
"Oh spirits, Sokka, that painting, the painting of the woman, that's Toph isn't it?" Katara asked, realization dawning on her face.
Sokka tilted his head downwards and sighed.
"Yeah, it is. Fierce, raw, strong, and beautiful. I wanted to capture her." He said softly.
Aang's eyes filled with tears and his chin began to quiver.
"Sokka, I am so sorry, I had no idea. Have you told her yet? And what about Suki?" Aang asked.
Sokka shook his head and laughed bitterly.
"She found someone else." He stated.
"When?" Katara asked, surprised more by this admission than his first.
"A year or so ago." He told her. "It doesn't matter," he continued, shaking his head. "You have to get Toph out of it Aang. I'm sure they haven't started looking yet." Sokka reasoned.
Aang nodded slowly.
"I'll go back there right away." He promised.
Katara stood as well. "I'll go too, just in case they need some convincing." The two turned to leave from the back in order to avoid Toph, but Katara paused. "Sokka, are you going to tell Toph how you feel?" she asked softly.
Sokka shook his head.
"Not until I know that she's free to make her own decisions." He replied.
Sokka and Toph both looked up when Aang and Katara trudged back into the house.
Both looked sullen.
"So what happened? Are they calling off the search?" Toph asked eagerly. Sokka closed his eyes as he realized that all of Toph's dreams, that Toph's freedom, was about to come crashing down.
"Yes and no," Aang began, sitting down across from her. "You see, they are no longer searching, but it's because they already found someone. They want you to meet with him in a week or so." Aang informed her. "Please, hit me if it will make you feel better." Aang offered, closing his eyes and bracing for the impending pain.
But Toph was still, her eyes closed as well. Even after she had stood and fled the room, her eyes remained closed.
Sokka suspected that was the only thing keeping her tears in check.
Things were tense in the house. Toph hardly spoke, but the others made a real effort. In the back of their minds, they all knew that their days together were numbered.
Sokka was pained deeply that the number was decreasing more rapidly than he could stand. He could not bring himself to stain Toph's mind with his feelings when he knew that, even if she wanted to, she could never return them.
So Sokka was silent, remaining her friend and her source of strength.
Toph sighed and stood up, turning to face Sokka.
"I can't get the hang of this symbol Sokka." She said angrily.
Sokka stood up and moved closer to her, their legs touching, and smiled.
"I'll help you. Which one is it?" he asked, glancing at the tablet.
Toph pointed to a symbol and Sokka felt his throat tighten.
"That one." She replied.
Sokka stared at the word, his eyes filling with tears.
"That means respect." Sokka said softly. "It's like if you want to do something, but you don't because you know it would hurt someone or something. It's kind of like that. No matter how bad you want to do it, you don't, because their happiness means more than yours." Sokka finished, looking down at his hands.
Toph cleared her throat, her own eyes misty.
"I know what respect is, I just couldn't figure out the symbol." She informed him.
Toph stood up, and then turned around.
She gave him a small smile and went to her bedroom.
Sokka sighed and stood up, heading to the kitchen.
Maybe it was intuition, but as soon as he passed by the door, someone knocked on it.
Sokka opened the door to Toph's parents.
"Avatar Aang asked us to come by. He said something about a painting." Poppy said.
Sokka sighed and gestured towards the wall behind him.
"Go ahead and look, but I don't see what the point is." He replied.
He stepped back and allowed them to enter.
As they gathered in front of the painting, Poppy's eyes filled with tears.
"Is this my Toph?" she asked.
Sokka nodded and sighed.
"Yeah, I wanted to show people how fierce, raw, strong, and beautiful she is." Sokka recited.
Poppy closed her eyes as her husband stepped forward.
"I think I found the man I want my daughter to wed." he stated.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Some noble from the Firenation." Sokka muttered.
"No…you take good care of my daughter Sokka, and you have my blessing." He replied.
Sokka stared at him blankly.
"Are you serious?" he asked.
Many years later, when their children would pester them about how they got married, Toph would always tell them that it was because of his glasses.
A/N: Maschan, I hope this one made you proud. Thank you all for reading and seeing this through to the end. Thank you to every single person who has reviewed or even intends to. ~Kirsten