FatherBrotherFriend and Lover
Avatar: The Last Airbender belongs to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.
I was dreaming when I wrote this/ So sue me if I go too fast
For the #Tokka tag on tumblr
That was Katara's best guess, and since Katara already had two kids, it was safe to assume that she was right.
Toph ran a rough palm over her belly. A baby. It felt weirder to accept that she was going to be a mother than it had been to consent to being a wife. And now she was a widow.
Oh, she knew how her family felt when she first announced it. The words felt awkward coming out of her mouth. "I'd be honored if you attended the wedding". So formal.
He was an Earthbender. His technique was solid and quiet, and maybe that's what she'd really fallen in love with, although the last time she'd seen him leave for Yu Dao she'd felt the tiniest pang of real affection for him, the gentle vibrations of his steady pace walking out the door.
She'd buried him herself, as was the custom among Earthbender females. She hadn't even cried as she felt his empty body become one with the earth. When she woke up a fortnight later, vomiting and emotional, she figured she must have really cared, after all. Luckily no one was around to see, so she burned some incense and prayed for the second time in her life.
The sickness persisted, and she had trouble controlling her bending. Every step was tortuous.
"Just tell her," Aang whispered.
Katara's body tensed.
"What's wrong with me?" Toph demanded, her voice pitching upward. She didn't want to admit that it started after he died. She didn't want anyone to think she was that weak over the loss of someone who had loved her. She didn't want to think about how nauseated and unbalanced she'd feel when either of them died. If she lost them. Any of them.
"You're pregnant," Katara said, finally.
There was a sea of sadness in her voice, but Toph felt oddly relieved.
Being a widow saved her from the stigma of being a loose woman, if anyone could accuse Toph Bei Fong of being a whore and live to tell about it.
But the baby wouldn't have a father.
Toph decided that it wasn't at all bad. She herself went a long period of her life without a real father. She always felt – even though the relationship was later partially healed – that Lao didn't love her. He treated her like an expensive and ornate vase, not a daughter. Iroh had been something of a father figure, especially now, as he aged quickly and peacefully. Sokka had been something of a father figure, maybe the closest – which was embarrassing to admit, given her childhood crush on him, given how much he obviously saw her as another little sister – while they traveled the world. She remembered the low heat of a sunset, their feet dangling over the edge of a cliff somewhere in the Fire Nation. Advice, guidance, an arm to cling to.
Her heart still sped up when she felt his vibrations, walking up the hill to meet her. In the first year of her marriage, she'd scolded herself fiercely over it, trying desperately to squash the love that had matured from blushing cheeks and shared jokes.
"Any morning sickness today?" he asked.
"No. I think it might finally be over," she replied.
"Have you felt it move?"
She frowned slightly. "Her. Have I felt her move. No." She shook her head. In the subtleties of the earth, she could feel him smirk. Everyone thought it was weird how she insisted and insisted she was having a daughter.
"She'll be like her dad then, a quiet one." He said.
She sucked in her breath. Her dad. Her dead father.
Every so often it occurred to her that the baby would be proof that he was once real. She would probably look like him, not that she'd be able to tell much. She would be one half of him.
"If I'm lucky," she said finally.
He exhaled in relief.
"Do you need me to bring Katara tomorrow?" he asked after a long silence.
She hadn't heard from him in months, and suddenly he was there, almost every day. He brought her food, did chores around her house. If she was feeling particularly sick, he'd rush Katara to her side.
"No. I'll be fine." She paused. "You wanna go for a walk?"
He helped her up and they wandered, mostly tracing a path that – according to Sokka – overlooked the city in progress. They talked about Aang and Katara mostly, and the small revolts still flaring up around the rural Fire Nation. They talked about Iroh and about the latest Earth Rumble.
As they circled back to her boulder garden he paused. Every muscle in his body was in overdrive, his voice hesitant.
"So. How are you… how are you planning on raising her without a dad?"
While she was pleased that he had decided to go with her decision that the baby was most certainly a girl, she couldn't place the range of heartbeat and pulse he was projecting. She could feel him trying to pull it together, knowing she could see him.
"I'm going to be her dad," she said, her voice as unyielding as pure metal.
"It takes a village to raise a kid, right?" she went on, unable to control the anger boiling up within her. "You'll all help me, won't you?"
"Yeah. Of course." He sounded calm, but his pulse was still flickering madly.
"Sokka," she warned him.
"She'll need a real father. One who loves her as if she were his real daughter. Toph, I – "
"I'm not getting married again," she cut across him. "I know you and Katara and Aang have been worried, but I don't want any of you stepping up to introduce me to someone. You're not – you're not my parents."
He was silent for a long time. She thought he might turn and leave at any moment. Turn and leave to come back tomorrow or the day after. Or not at all.
"Toph," he said finally, quietly. "Let me be her father."
She'd had nightmares.
The baby was born blind.
The baby was stillborn. Tiny empty body being swallowed by the earth.
She never had nightmares about being alone with the baby.
"What?" she whispered, her voice dangerously on the edge of unbridled emotion. All around her, boulders and rocks trembled.
"Me. Let me be her father."
Her heart lurched. "You are going to be her dad," she insisted. "And so will Aang. And Katara. And Zuko. We'll all be her dad."
She felt him shake his head. The next step he took toward her sent his pule into the ground like a rockslide. "I mean just me."
The earth around him opened and shot upward.
He didn't even try to defend himself. The instant his back hit rock the first wave of tears welled up and she screamed in frustration and confusion. Fear.
"What the. Hell. Sokka," she choked out. "Don't. Don't so this to me. What about – "
"You know we broke it off. Years ago," he retorted, lifting himself. The ground shook underneath him.
She fell to her knees and breathed, waiting. Finally, only the smallest grains of sand clinging to her bare feet responded to the turmoil in the pit of her stomach.
"Do… do you feel obligated to me or something?" she asked, covering the small swell of flesh on her belly with her hand.
"No. Never. Toph – " There it was again. He wasn't even trying to fight it. "I love you."
Everything was still.
It took her a long minute to filter out everything but his heartbeat. Dissect it.
He wasn't lying.
"I. Love. You," he repeated, firmly.
The swell of earth at his back exploded, thrusting him forward.
Before he could fall she caught him with her fists, the blows reckless and rough at first, pacing down to soft, rhythmic touches. His hands wrapped around her wrists.
"Marry me, Toph."
"I don't even – I don't even like you!" she spat, that high pitch returning.
"You're lying," he said softly.
She pushed hard, letting the earth burst around them, sinking them ten feet under, pebbles cascading over the edges of the crater.
"She left you," she said. "She left you two years before I was married. Why didn't you say anything then?"
"Because I wasn't good enough for you," he answered. "I will never be good enough for you. You're… I've invented things, Toph. But you, what you've thought up surpasses the highest sophistication of the art. You're practically a goddess. How could I ask you to choose me?"
"I always loved you," she murmured. "Always."
"I'll never be good enough for you," he repeated, "But I love you so much."
Sokka's hands at the nape of her neck, his breath on her temple. It's all she could do to keep from bending herself far from his touch, so scared of how much she wanted it.
"And I'm good enough to be her father."
The seat of dirt underneath her lifted her up, propelled her gently into his embrace, into his kiss.
"Yes," she managed, breathing hard in the space between their noses.