A/N: Tokka alert! So, this is my theory about Lin's father. I ship Sukka, but I also ship Tokka, so this is my headcanon compromise. Inspired by Distance by Christina Perri. Go listen to the song, now. It will wrench out your heart and tear and your soul and leave you crying.
The first time she saw him, she hated his guts.
Frankly, that was her belt. It had belonged to her for years. And then that stupid kid and come up and knocked her out of the ring in a minute.
And now this goofy looking ponytail boy was wearing her belt.
"Don't answer to twinkletoes! It's not manly!"
She smirks, because he knows nothing about manliness. He's a wimp, a loser. He's a child. And she hates him.
But he grows, and he learns. She watches him as he steps into his father's shoes and takes on the leadership role in the group. He can read a map, and she can't read at all. He knows where he wants to go. He can cheer them all up in even the darkest times. He holds them together. He's the gluebender, really, not Aang.
And she falls in love with him.
He loves Suki. She knows that, she's not for him. A runty earthbender, years younger. But if the age difference worked for Katara and Aang, it could work for them.
There are moments when she wonders if he feels the way she does. Conversations, fleeting expressions, and she thinks maybe...
Maybe he'll give in someday. Maybe he'll realize what she means to him. But for now, she can't do that.
Distance. She stays away from him, watches her words. She turns away when he comes near. She makes sure that he never hears her when she whispers "I love you" in the night. But every day it gets a little harder, every day she wants him a little more. And that'll never happen. Time is speeding up, and she can't keep it up any longer.
She waits for him. She watches him and Suki, she dates a few boys, and she stays away. He'll come around eventually. He has to. She loves him.
After the war, he gives Suki a blue necklace, and that's that. They get married. And she's alone.
This can't be love. Love isn't supposed to hurt like this. It's not supposed to be her sitting alone, him in love with someone else. It's not love, she tells herself. It's just infatuation.
Ten years of it.
She won't give up on him.
Halfway across the world, she tells him she loves him. He won't hear her. He won't love her back. But she doesn't forget. She watches as he and Suki try and try again for a child, and it never works. She watches him love Suki, and watches him forget her.
But he doesn't, not quite. He comes to her school one dark night, tired and worn out, and runs into her arms.
"Sokka, what's up?"
"I don't know. I just don't know. Toph, I..."
"Come inside. I've got tea."
He tells her how much he's missed her. He tells her that he and Suki are fighting and he didn't know where to go. He tells her everything except what she wants to hear.
She tries to take his teacup, but she trips over the table because she wasn't paying attention to the earth, and she trips right into his arms.
But she takes her chance to kiss him, because it's her only chance, and because she loves him.
He pushes her away immediately. "Toph, we can't. Suki..."
His hands all over her body, just as she always imagined. His heart with hers. She feels his vibrations, feels his heartbeat, and knows he isn't lying. This is true. In his arms at last. Could this be love?
He holds her, and she doesn't have to see his face to know he's torn. He loves Suki. But...
They're strong together. Solid, earthy, whole. She can't get any closer to him. The word distance echoes in her mind, forgotten. So much for that.
Cradled in his arms, her ear against his bare chest, she hears his jagged heartbeat. This is the closest she'll ever be to it.
He goes back to Suki in the morning, like nothing's happened.
Nine months later, she cradles her baby and names it Lin. The baby has her eyes but his smile. She never tells anyone who the father is, but it doesn't matter. She is strong. She can take care of Lin on her own. It was one night, but this is eighteen years. She sees him in this child, in her child, in their child. Sokka is with Suki now, and she only has this one souvenir of him.
Finally, she's found something new to love.