A/N:Here it is. The ending that I've been working on for the last week. I've thought long and hard about how I wanted to end this thing, and I think I have it now. This one has definitely taken the longest for me to write. So enjoy, and let me know what you guys think.
Prompt #7: Secrets.
The trains sure move fast these days, Sokka thought.
Outside, the sky was painted with fluffy white clouds. The moon hung just barely in view, with the stars starting to appear as the sun began to set. Autumn leaves sprinkled across the train's surface, and when Sokka pulled down the window, a cool odorless air entered his nose and passing pollen fell onto his Water Tribe garments. The train's horn roared over the sound of its metal wheels grinding against the track. Moments afterwards, a screeching noise echoed through Sokka's cabin, and the train came to a halt.
Sokka stepped off the train and onto a platform once again filled with unfamiliar faces. As Sokka looked at his map to determine which train he was taking next, he couldn't help but feel foreign in a land of people dressed in different outfits. Silky cloth tied fancily around the neck, jackets with round buttons, and hats as round as Momo's eyes. This was the new generation, Sokka soon realized, and he was old and outdated.
Here, no one seemed to know him. Nobody greeted him, and nobody even recognized the wolf emblem emblazed over his leather jacket in honor of his accomplishments.
Twenty five years is enough to forget people, Sokka assumed.
His next ride was waiting on the other side of the station, and so Sokka made the long walk through hallways and corridors, passing strange glances and unknown faces. When he arrived, Sokka heard the train's loud horn and rushed aboard before the metal doors sealed behind him. The lady at the front of the train announced that they were heading to Ba Sing Se, and Sokka sighed, relieved that he had boarded the right one, and pulled his pipe from his pockets.
It had been like this ever since he began his return. The trains always passed by nostalgic lands covered with beautiful forests and snowy mountains. Yet, whenever Sokka entered civilization, he felt hopelessly lost in a sea of people younger and different than him. Many were oblivious that merely thirty years before the world was on the brink of utter destruction.
Yet, there was still hope in Sokka's heart. He had not made another three thousand mile journey for nothing. In the great distance was a great city, built by a woman who promised to make it as perfect as her Earthbending. Sokka had longed forever to finally be free of his promise and to see the young girl who made it with him so long ago. There were so many things he wanted to say and show to her. The things he had seen, the people he had met, and the food that he grudgingly ate.
Still, it was a lonely road home. During the day, Sokka would perch next to his train window, and he would sit for hours as the cities and countryside blended together in a blur of fascinating colors. At night, he would be at the back of the train, standing in the cold as the vehicle cut through the absolute darkness with only a faint dim light and the stars to guide it.
But no matter how long he slept, or how long he watched the train soar by the scenery, the trek home seemed like an eternity. Republic City was always in the far distance and it was never close enough for Sokka. The time between transferring trains could be behind for days and even months if one was unlucky. Sokka only feared more delays between now and his return.
It was now winter and his train was stuck in the snow.
It was only in spring when the flowers blossomed that the wheels began to turn again.
Sokka woke to the sound of incoming trains. As his eyes opened, he saw that a few birds had perched themselves on the wooden bench he sat on and happily chirped away at each other. After throwing a few crumbs of his last meal for them to eat, Sokka stretched and yawned, taking note of the clock that hung over his head. His next boarding was mere minutes away.
Like always, the station was filled to the brim with travelers from all places. Sokka had long gotten used to sleeping even with their loud voices in their heads, and he chuckled at the thought of him twenty years younger grumbling at the littlest sound that woke him. Now, it was only the sound of horns that pulled Sokka from his slumbers.
The Water Tribesman shook off his remaining doziness and grabbed his bag that he had kept safely behind his back. Slinging it over his shoulder, he waited as his final train to Republic City moved closer and closer towards him. Across the tracks was another platform carrying hundreds of people ready to board trains heading in the opposite direction. The trains there were already parked and horns now blared across the station to signal passengers to board. Upon closer inspection, Sokka found that the trains on the opposite side appeared to be newer models, were fitted onto sleeker tracks, and as the signs above indicated, were a one way trip to the other side of the Earth Kingdom.
Pretty risky if you get something wrong, Sokka thought.
Sokka's train arrived, and Sokka was first onboard after handing his ticket to the lady at the rail. As always, he found the private cabin that he had bought for himself on his trip home. Setting his personal belongings aside, Sokka opened the window and took a breath of fresh air before leaning against the wall and watching the people on the opposite platform.
A plume of smoke rose from the trains on the other side, signaling that it was about time to leave. Sokka could not help but feel a slight nostalgia at the sight of people boarding those trains. He had left so long ago, but no matter how long it had kept Sokka from those that he loved, his trip had been one filled with memories, experiences, and good friends. Sokka once again pulled out his pipe, but on second thought, placed it back into his jacket.
Lieutenant Roro would want me to stop, he said to himself.
Suddenly, as Sokka turned his attention from his pipe back to the window, he spotted someone.
She was clothed in an old fashioned green robe, and she walked towards the train station with a pair of bare feet. Over her shoulder was a small bag that she must have bought decades ago from a tournament in her home town. Her hair blocked the color of eyes, but Sokka was almost absolutely certain that there was a jade hue that hid underneath.
It didn't occur to him at all that she had broken their promise. All Sokka could think about was getting her attention.
Sokka pulled the window down, almost forcefully ripping it from its bolts, before shouting a name at the top of his lungs. It didn't work. The station was too crowded, and everyone's voices were mingled like an out of tune orchestra. The lady didn't hear his voice and instead, stepped closer to the train in front of her.
Now, both trains blared their horns and made the entire station wince at the loud noise that frightened even the birds that had been nesting in the metal roof above. The lady was almost at the steps, and Sokka had yet to catch her attention. Thinking frantically, he continued to shout, only to receive absolutely no response.
Just when Sokka suspected that he may have completely run out of ideas, a new one stepped into Sokka's head. Right as she stepped aboard the train, Sokka started stomping his feet as hard as he could, rapidly pounding the floor of the metal train, and sending his vibrations to anyone willing to listen to them. The train sounded its warning horn one last time.
The woman's ears perked out of her hair, and she turned as quickly as she could. Her hair flew in the wind as Sokka strained outside the window to take a closer look. As she shifted towards him, he saw a mouth gaping in surprise, cheeks as pale as snow, and the faint glint of a headband shining in the evening sun. Sokka craned his neck even more, hoping to see those beautiful green eyes.
It didn't happen. The metal doors closed on the train, and the glass windows obscured his view.
The trains moved in opposite directions.
In a matter of hours, Sokka's three thousand mile journey came to an end, just as someone else's had just started.
When Sokka reached Republic City, it took only a few questions to find The Jasmine Dragon. When he arrived, the door was ajar, but the dimly lit lanterns suggested that there were few to no guests tonight. Sokka took a deep breath, and stepped inside.
The store was empty. Chairs and tables were unoccupied. There was no sound of boiling water and no aroma of jasmine tea. Discouraged, Sokka prepared to leave, but not before he heard the clanking of porcelain and glass.
Sokka turned towards the sound.
A young man, who had almost dropped his teapot in the process, stared back at Sokka, his mouth partially open. For a moment, Sokka could not recognize him. It wasn't until he saw the man's unmistakable blue eyes that he realized who it was.
"Sen," Sokka whispered.
The man was silent, his hands shaking over the teapot. His eyes seemed to portray a mixture of anger and rejoice.
"That's what she gets for not telling you about it," his son spoke finally.
He set the teapot on a table and brought out three cups.
"Sit down. I'll keep the tea hot until she comes back."
A/N: A song to fit this ending would be the TV version of Sakasama Bridge by Suneohair.
I wanted this Tokka fic to be different. It wasn't one that was supposed to be filled with romance, but it wasn't one that was devoid of it either. To me, a good romance is not about saying "I love you" or all the kisses and hugs you give. Instead, a good romance is painted best by the small actions that people make and the commitments that people have for each other. And that's the type of romance I wanted to portray with this story.
I hope you've sincerely enjoyed this journey. I know that I have.