Chapter Seventeen – Lonely Girl

There were many things I expected to see when we came to school that next day. Perhaps Azula, playing some sort of 'Na-na-na-na goodbye' song; maybe the Kyoshi Warriors in some sort of protest, with signs; maybe Azula lying on the pavement, a golden fan protruding from her heart.

I was not expecting to see a smiling Suki on that overcast day.

"Suki!" Katara gasped, running up. "What happened? Why do you look happy?"

"Cause Principal Pathik is the shit," she said as we all gathered around. "Jeong was all ready to fire me with the rest of the Fire District teachers, but Principal Pathik swooped in and said that I'd had a stellar criminal record ever since I got out of juvy five years ago – "

"Why were you in juvy?" Sokka asked.

"Oh, you know, the usual, some bitch was mouthing off so I cut her tires, sent her threatening text messages of guns and faked a positive pregnancy test that I left in her bathroom for her boyfriend to find. Anyway, he managed to find all these eyewitnesses to testify that Azula had provoked me, and they had no choice but to let it slide and not report me to Shaolin State!"

I was still reeling over the whole 'juvy' thing, but Sokka and Katara cheered. "Oh, my God, you get to go to college! Yaaay!" Katara yelled, as she jumped up and totally glomped Suki. "Azula can't bring you down!"

Sokka got in a stance and bellowed out, in his best Lord of the Rings impression, "Azula – you have no power here!"

"Not when you have my baldness!" I cried.

"And my maternal instincts!" Katara said.

"And my sarcasm!" Sokka added.

"AND MY AXE!" Toph roared, as she came walking up to us. "Sorry, what are we talking about?"

We all cracked up and Suki grinned. "Bitch, Pathik let me off the hook! I'm not losing my scholarship over that cocksucker after all."

"Sweet!" Toph said with a grin. "I knew Azula wasn't going to win. The good guys always win."

"I don't know who the hell let you be on the side of the good guys," Katara said.

"I know, right?"

"Hey, Zuko," I said.

He came up to us with a hood pulled low over his face for some reason. His whole face looked awful, and we all sobered up quickly.

"Guys, I am so sorry," he said.

"For what?" Katara asked.

"I told my sister about Suki's scholarship."

Sokka narrowed his eyes and Toph swore, but for some reason I wasn't mad. He looked too repentant.

"Why did you do that?" I asked.

"She kinda…blackmailed me…" he said. His eyes locked on Katara's. "She threatened to…well, she threatened to kill you guys if I didn't tell you."

There was a swooping sensation in my stomach. It felt like something out of a movie set.

The worst part was, we all knew it was true. There was no, 'Haha, no she wouldn't', or 'She's just bluffing'. We all had solemn faces, knowing that this girl actually would kill us. She'd killed Yue.

"What else did you tell her?" Suki asked.

"Nothing too important…she figured out we were at a party together, she hacked my GPS. And then, you know, about your parents in jail, and then Katara and Sokka's mom, and how Aang lived with his grandfather. Random stuff like that."

Katara sighed. "Well, nothing for it. It's not that bad. She's already done the worst she can to Sokka and I, and her attack against Suki failed."

"She's not gonna dare to touch me, my parents are too important," Toph said.

I managed a smile at Zuko. "It's all good, dude. You did what you had to."

"You guys are going to keep going?"

"Fuck yeah," Suki said. "We've faced worse haters than this."

"Yeah, because I'm totally gonna vote for a bitch who started a fight and burnt down my house," Sokka said.

My heart swelled. I really had amazing friends. The bell rang and we all broke and headed to class. Now for the part of the morning that I'd been expecting – preparing for, even.

I ran up beside Sokka and said, "Hey, dude?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"So, Katara and I…we…"

"Yeah?" Sokka had an evil smile. I hated him in that moment. This fucker was not going to help me out at all.

"Look, so I really like her."

"No shit, Sherlock."

"And I was going to ask you…since I can't really ask her dad…can I take her out for a date?"

Sokka stopped in front of his classroom and looked me up and down. "Well, there's really no polite way to say this, so…no."

I think my heart stopped beating.

"What?" I gasped.

"I don't really think you're good for her. You're bald, you have no career aspirations, you have terrible fashion sense, and you live with your grandfather. It's not gonna happen."

I just stared at him. Oh, my God. How was I going to convince him? He had to know, I loved Katara, like really loved her –

"Jesus Christ, Aang, I'm fucking joshing with you," Sokka said with a smile. "Of course you can take Katara on a date! God, it's about damn time. Lighten up, man."

And he clapped me on the shoulder and headed into the classroom. For a moment I stood there, my heart pounding out of my chest, and then I finally smiled.

Thank God.

"Toph? Would you come down here, please?"

Toph's fingers paused over the line of Braille text she was reading. She frowned. It was too late for them to have dinner. What was up?

She got up and walked down stairs.

"Mom?" She called out from the living room. "Where are you?"

"In the study. Over here."

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She fucking knew where the study was, she'd lived here since she was born. She made her way into the study, where she assumed her parents were sitting on two ornate chairs up against the back wall.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Toph," her father said, "what were you doing last weekend when we were gone?"

"Uh, studying. Hanging out with Song and Long Wei. The usual."

"So why does Long Wei say that you paid him three hundred dollars to stay away from the house for the weekend?"

Ugh, last time I ever trust Long Wei to do shit. "Because it's ridiculous that you guys got a babysitter for me. I'm fifteen years old and I've got Song. I'm fine."

"Apparently fine enough to completely disobey us."

"Okay, what's going on?"

"I received an email at work today," her father said. "Telling me that there had been a party at this house last Friday, and that if I wanted proof I should look under your bed."

"How do you explain these?" Her mother cried.

There was a moment of silence.

"Mom, seriously? I'm blind."

"Under your bed," she said, her voice cracking, "we found three bottles of liquor, a packet of birth control and a man's t-shirt."

Oh. Well. If that's the worst they found –

"And in your closet, we found a pair of boxing gloves, and some sort of homemade poster that said 'The Blind Bitch'!"

Never mind. That's pretty bad.

Toph sighed and put her hands on her hips. She was strangely calm considering that her parents had just found out all of her secrets. This conversation was a long time in coming. Maybe it was about time they learned.

"So, in tonight's version of 'Bitch-Toph-out', where should we start?" she asked.

"Where do we start?" her father fumed. "First of all, why were you throwing a party? Who came?"

"I have friends now. A couple of Water District siblings, and some Fire and Earth kids, and the last Air District boy. Maybe if you actually talked to me ever, then you'd know that. I invited them over."

"Who bought you alcohol? Was it that awful girl Song?"

"Don't talk bad about Song," Toph snapped. "She's been taking care of me since I was a kid. And she's not even old enough. No, I, uh…I have a fake ID."

"Toph!" her mother cried. "How long have you been drinking?"

"Oh, I don't know," she sighed, "maybe around the time that I started stealing your drugs, and Aunt Miya's, and every family members' and taking loads of them to deal with the fact that I would go weeks without seeing you guys."

The air felt like lava. Now that she started, Toph could feel the words pressing against her teeth, ready to come out. Her parents were stunned.

"Toph," her mother whimpered, "you were the one who stole my Xanax?"

"And your Adderall, and Aunt Miya's OxyCotin, and Long Wei's Vicodin from his shoulder surgery…yeah. Sorry."

"Were you…I mean…was that what the birth control was for? Because you were having…sex to deal with this…depression?"

"Actually, no, I first got on birth control to deal with my fucking awful periods, and because you guys wouldn't let me, so I went to the clinic. But now…"

"You've had sex?" her mother wailed.

"Just once!" Toph said. "And it's none of your damn business!"

"Toph, this is absolutely heinous," her father said. "I can't believe that you would so openly disobey us."

"Well, it was easy to do, you guys were never home. I didn't exactly feel the need to be a good daughter when you guys won't even acknowledge my presence. The people at the company don't even know I exist!"

"We're worried that people would try to take advantage of you, dear," her mother said. "Because of…well…your shortcomings."

"My shortcomings?" Toph couldn't stop herself. The explosion was like a volcano. "Are you fucking kidding me? Just say it! Your blindness! I'm fucking blind! I can't see! You guys have no problem reminding me of it when I'm trying to do basic things, but suddenly when we're trying to call it what it is, you try and sugar-coat it like the wimps you are! I'm blind, and the only thing it's ever stopped me from doing is becoming a flabby spoiled pussy like the rest of my goddamn cousins!"

"Is that why you do this – this – boxing?"

"It's not boxing, Dad, it's MMA. Mixed martial arts?"

"That sport is disgusting!" her mother said.

"It's awesome, Mom! And I'm really good at it! I'm the undefeated champion! It makes me feel alive, like I can take on anyone."

"How can you fight?" her father said.

"My hearing aids, guys. I can hear when people are close, I can hear the sounds their fists and feet make. I don't waste time responding to attacks that aren't lethal. I'm completely reinventing the sport. They've never seen anybody like me. I do it down at school on Thursday nights."

Her parents were silent. Toph stayed, hands on her hips, feeling her hair brush her eyelashes. It was out. Everything was out.

"And…this t-shirt…was from that boy you had…sex with?" Her mother said softly.

"Yeah. His name's Sokka. You guys would like – well, maybe you wouldn't, he's dirt poor. But I like him."

"Did you use…protection?"

Oh, my God. She'd always been mad at her parents for never having 'the sex talk' with her, but now she could see why. It was awkward as fuck.

"Uh, I mean, I'm on birth control, so…but…I mean…" she sighed, pursing her lips. Might as well say it. "I'm a few days late on my period, so, I don't know."

"What in the hell do you mean, you're a few days late?" her father hissed.

"I mean, I'm a few days late," she said. "It's not a huge deal, I'm late every so often, even with birth control."

"Since when? You used to be perfectly regular last time we checked," her mother said in a whisper, like she was afraid someone would hear her talking about periods with her fifteen-year-old daughter. Jesus.

Toph blew her bangs out and clenched her teeth. Really? Was she going to say it? She hadn't said it out loud to anybody. Not even Song. Was this really –

Maybe they'd trust her. Maybe they'd understand.

"I was – I mean – I was raped," she finally said, her voice breaking. "Last April. At a party. Not…like that…there was just…he…you know…fingered me, and there was a lot of blood and tearing and bruising, and…yeah, I haven't been regular since then."

She felt hot tears prickling at her eyes and blinked them back. No crying. Beifongs didn't cry.

"Toph…oh my word…" her mother said softly. "Why didn't you tell us?"

"Why do you think? You guys didn't seem like you cared. You came in to make sure I was doing my homework and to remind me every goddamn day that I'm blind and I need taking care of. I figured you'd just…chew me out for even being at a party."

"Of course we would," her father snapped. "Toph, I can't say I'm surprised. You go to these kind of parties with these... these boxers – "

"MMA fighters, Dad."

"I don't care! You go to these…these parties and you're surprised that…that happens? I'm sorry, but I can't exactly find a lot of sympathy for you. You brought this on yourself."

For maybe the third time in her life, Toph was stunned silent. What?

"And I imagine that you were wearing those revealing clothes you insist on wearing? It's beyond me why you even wear them, you don't know what you're wearing – "

"Wait, you're kidding, right?" she said. This couldn't be real. Her father couldn't be this big of an asshole.

"What am I kidding about? You hang out with this crowd, that's what you're going to get. Maybe now you learned your lesson."

"Oh, my God," Toph said. "Oh, my God. You think I deserved to be raped."

"Toph, I – "

"Oh, my God. Oh, my God." Her voice was suddenly rising by decibels, her chest heaving. She wished she could see, see what his face looked like, if he really meant what he said. "You've got to be fucking kidding me. You think I deserved to get raped because I hang out with that crowd? You don't even know those people, don't know how awesome most of them all, and you're going to say that I deserved to be raped because of your bullshit stereotypes about everyone who isn't you?"

"Toph, that's no way to speak to your father – " her mother said.

"Bullshit!" She screamed. Her voice ricocheted through the house. "What do you want me to say, I'm fucking sorry that I went to that party, because I thought that for once in my life I could find a real friend? I'm sorry that this guy who weighed twice what I did took advantage of me, and it wasn't because I was blind, it was because he would have done it to any girl at that party. Yeah, that's it, I'm fucking sorry that it fucked me up even more and I started cutting and drinking and drugging, yeah, that's it, I'M SORRY, DAD, I'M SORRY, OKAY, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?"

Her chest heaving, Toph stood in front of her parents, fists clenched, suddenly aware that everyone's world was crashing down with this statement. She couldn't see her parents, but she imagined they had shocked and scared looks on their faces. As for her, she just felt defiant. She held her back straight and tall and forced them to come to grips with the daughter that they hadn't meant to raise.

"I feel like I don't even know you anymore, sweetie," her mother said softly.

"You've never known me, guys. I've never been the helpless, obedient blind girl that you thought I was, that you want me to be. That's…I decided, a long time ago, that I wasn't going to let my disability and my last name dictate where I was going in this life. So…this is who I am. I'm sorry." She took a deep breath. "I mean that. I didn't mean to hurt you guys. But you were the ones hurting me. And I couldn't – I can't live like that."

Her heart pounded rapidly, suddenly finding all of these emotional words seeping into the air, words that maybe she'd secretly always wanted to say.

"So you intend to…continue like this?" Her father said.

"Like what?"

"This…this fighting you do, the sex, drugs, alcohol – "

"I quit the drugs," she said. "They were destroying me. I didn't like the way I acted on them. And, uh, there's not exactly a list of guys lining up to have sex with me, so I don't think you have anything to worry about there. But the alcohol – I can stop that if you guys want."

"But the fighting?"

She shook her head. "I can't quit that, Dad. I'm sorry. That's who I am. It makes me feel powerful. I don't want to quit. And I don't really see why I should. Don't you want me to be able to defend myself?"

"You shouldn't have to!" he said. "There should be no reason why a wealthy girl like you should ever have to defend yourself. We would take care of that for the rest of your life."

"I don't want you to take care of me for the rest of my life! I want to be able to live my own life, make my own choices! I have to leave the nest at some point, guys!"

There was silence. She imagined her parents were sharing some sort of glance.

"Lao, don't – " her mother said.

"I don't have a choice, Poppy. This is completely unacceptable. She's going to get hurt."

"What?" Toph said, suddenly terrified. "What are you talking about?"

"This was exactly what we feared when we sent you to Four Nations. I'm afraid…I think it's time you finally went to the Deaf and Blind High School."

Toph's heart dropped into her stomach. "What? You're going to pull me out of school?"

"You need to be in a place with others with your disabilities. Going to a normal high school is doing things to you, making you into some sort of…daredevil that we cannot accept here. You are a Beifong, and whether or not you are blind, you need to start acting like it. This fighting, and these friends of yours…well, I'm afraid, that's simply not what we envisioned for you."

"You're kidding. You're going to take me away from all of my friends and put me in the deaf and blind school? They're just going to hold me back there! Going to Four Nations is the only way I'm going to learn how to take care of myself!"

"Toph, it's for your own good," her mother said.

Her heart slammed in her chest, the darkness suddenly pressing down on her. "Oh, my God, please! I love it at Four Nations! My friends and I, we're doing something important! We're resisting the Fire District!"

"You're what?" her father barked.

Oh, shit. Nice one, Toph.

"I mean, not like that, we're just – "

"You know how important the Fire District is to our business! Are you trying to sabotage the Beifong company?"

"No, Dad, I just – "

"After all of this – this – shit that you're doing, and you're even trying to destroy the company? That is it, Toph! I will not have insurrection like this in my family! You go to your room right now, young lady, and you can kiss Four Nations High goodbye! We are calling them first thing in the morning! And you can take those boxing gloves and liquor bottles and birth control and throw them in the trash, because it is all going up in flames tonight!"

Her mother quietly sobbed from her chair. Toph had never felt so vulnerable, so scared, like her father had ripped down her 'tough girl' defenses that she'd worked so hard to build up. This couldn't be it. This couldn't be the end of the line.

She slowly turned around and began to edge her way out of the room, spreading her fingers to try and find the furniture that would help her out.

"Toph, do you need help, dear – " her mother called.

"Jesus, Mom, I can find my way to my room!" she screamed, her voice breaking. The hot tears finally fell from her eyes as she hustled out of the room as quickly as she could, slamming her shin against a stool as she went. She swore and hurried over to the grand staircase, hearing servants whisper as she passed.

Her eyebrows pulled low as she climbed the staircase. She brushed her bangs out of her eyes.

Like hell you're taking me out of school.

It was a soft, rainy night at Casa Gyatso. We were all sitting in the living room, Katara and I doing homework, Sokka strumming lazily at his guitar. Grandfather did his crossword puzzle with Momo on his lap, and Appa snoozed by the fireplace. It was rare for all of us to feel so at peace like this, with the rain pounding on the roof and dripping off the gutters. The crackling lightning somehow accompanied Sokka's playing perfectly.

There was a great roll of thunder, and in the midst of it, I could barely hear three soft knocks.

"Did you guys hear a knock?" I asked.

Sokka shrugged, but Katara said, "Yeah, I heard it. I'll go answer the door."

"Be careful," I said, "you don't know who comes out during the rain."

She rolled her eyes and got up off the couch, her soft slippers padding the ground as she walked over. There was a moment of silence before the door opened and the sound of rain filled the house. Then Katara gasped –

"Oh, my God – Toph!"

The three of us jumped up and ran over. There, in the pouring rain, was Toph, her bangs so wet they completely covered her eyes, clothes dripping, carrying a backpack and two suitcases. Another girl with a soft face stood behind her with an umbrella, carrying another suitcase.

"Can I come in?" Toph asked, her voice quiet.

"Oh, my word, of course! Come on in!" Katara said, ushering her inside. Sokka immediately ran off to get some towels as Toph stood in the foyer, dripping off. Her shoulders slumped, and she was wearing what looked like sweatpants and a t-shirt. We still couldn't see her eyes, but her mouth was turned down in a sad frown.

Sokka came back with two towels, and handed one to the other girl and one to Toph. Katara immediately snatched Toph's away and started drying her off herself. I waited for the inevitable protest from Toph, but it didn't come. Instead, Toph stood meekly as Katara fussed and cooed over her, barking out instructions for Sokka to get her bathrobe. The other girl didn't seem to be that wet, and she just looked down at Toph with sad eyes.

Finally Katara got to Toph's bangs and fluffed them out, which showed us her eyes. At first I thought they might just be wet because of the rain, but then I looked closer – they were rimmed with red. She'd actually been crying.

"Thanks, Katara," she said quietly. "This is my friend Song – oh, and she's my maid too."

"Thank you for letting us in," Song said, setting down the umbrella.

"No problem," Grandfather said. "Now why are you out in the rain with all these suitcases, my dear?"

Toph stood still as a statue, her head hung down. "I just ran away from home."

There was a sharp intake of breath around the room. "What?" Katara whispered.

"They were…they found out about the party, and the liquor, and the…the…the MMA stuff, and so I told them about what happened last year, and all of that stuff, and then they heard we were resisting the Fire District, and they said they were going to transfer me to the deaf and blind school – "

"What happened last year?" I asked, but Song met my eyes and shook her head furiously. Toph rubbed at her eyes and tried very hard to keep herself under control.

"And they were just…they couldn't accept me, what I'd gone through…so I went to my room and called Song, and we did all the paperwork, so I'm free – "

"What are you talking about, sweetie?" Katara said. Toph shook her head and dropped to the ground. Song knelt down beside her, putting her arms over her shoulders, and addressed us.

"It happened pretty quickly. We submitted the court paperwork for an emancipated minor, so Toph's parents aren't her legal guardians anymore. And then we transferred all of her bank accounts into her name only, so her parents can't access it. Then we packed only the essentials and drove away. I doubt her parents even know she's gone, and when they find out, it'll be too late."

Toph rubbed the heels of her hands against her eyes, like she was trying to rub sight into them. Song stroked her back as the rest of us sat in shocked silence. Toph had run away from her parents? Was this seriously happening?

"How did your parents find out?" I asked. "Did one of the servants – "

Song shook her head. "Somebody emailed Mr. Beifong at work."

"It was probably Azula," Toph said, her voice so low and gravelly. "Zuko mentioned the party to her. It was bound to happen."

Another person who's life got flipped upside down because of this revolution. I bit back the anger and shame welling up in my mouth.

"Anyway," Toph said, looking upward with her milky, sightless eyes, "can I stay here for a while? Just until I find my own place. I'd stay with Song, but she lives inside the mansion."

"Toph," Katara whispered. "you can't live on your own."

"Besides, dear, that's nonsense," Grandfather said. "We'd love for you to stay with us. Our house is your house."

Toph finally smiled, though it was just a little one. "Thank you so much."

Song nodded her thanks and then turned to Toph. "Sweetie, I have to get back to the mansion, before your parents find out I'm gone."

"What's gonna happen to you?" Toph asked. "I mean…will they fire you?"

"Not if they don't think I had anything to do with it. Don't worry about me, hun." She gently brushed aside Toph's bangs and placed a kiss on her forehead. "I've got enough money saved up to get an apartment for the rest of high school. I'll be okay, I promise."

Toph gave a wavering smile. "I love you, Song."

"Love you too, sweetie." She squeezed her tight and got up, then walked quietly over to Katara.

"Don't unpack her clothes," she whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear. "She likes to do it herself, so she'll get her own system set up. And don't try to baby her too much, she hates it. Wait for her to ask for help. Oh, and whatever you do, don't leave anything at the foot of the shower or her bed. She's broken both arms by stepping on stuff that way, she hates it."

Katara nodded in agreement, and I could see her eyes lighting up at the prospect of another charge to take care of. Song thanked us all one last time and then slipped out the front door. Toph groped around for her cane and then slowly hauled herself to her feet.

"I'm gonna take a shower, okay?"

We all nodded, quickly realized that was a bad idea, and then all said 'yes' as one, which at least prompted a small smile from Toph. She picked up her backpack and a suitcase and walked into Katara's room, dripping water all over the carpet, and Katara followed her with the other two suitcases. Her shower lasted for a good twenty minutes, and Katara, whose mommy senses were in overdrive, stayed outside the door listening, and told us with sad eyes that she heard unmistakable sounds of sobbing. I looked over at Sokka and saw a strangely overprotective look in his eyes, as well.

The knock finally came late, around ten or so. Sokka was sitting in his room, waiting for it. When she knocked, Sokka sent Aang a glance and got up to answer the door.

Toph stood there, drearily rubbing her eyes. She had on a pair of green silk pajama pants and a white tank top. Her thick hair had been plaited into two braids, presumably by Katara.

"Sokka?" she murmured.

"Hey, Toph," he responded.

"Can I borrow your guitar? Kinda need some venting time, you know?"

"Of course," he replied, going over to get his guitar, which he had already taken out of its case.

Toph took it by the neck and offered a plastic smile that Sokka saw right through. "Thanks, man." She turned and trudged down the hall without her cane, keeping one hand out until she found the sliding screen door and opened it up.

For a moment there was silence, except for the sound of the rain against the roof.

"There's another door," Aang finally said. "Around by the kitchen. It's pretty quiet. You can get out that way."

"Thanks, man," Sokka said gratefully, rushing out of the room to the kitchen. He waited a moment to test the screen door. It squeaked just a little when he opened it, but he figured that the rain would cover that noise.

Then he froze, not willing to take another step to let her hear him. Toph was sitting underneath the overhanging porch roof, a solid wall of rain before her while she and the guitar stayed dry. She pushed back her bangs and Sokka clearly saw her crying, tears running down her porcelain cheeks. The rain made a beautiful kaleidoscope pattern on her face, and he was struck with sudden sadness that she would never be able to see it. Maybe that's another reason why she's crying, he thought.

She reached down in her back pocket and fumbled around until she pulled out an old pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Sokka started, but he couldn't say he was surprised. But he'd never seen her smoke before. She pulled one out and placed it in her lips, and Sokka kind of freaked out when she started trying to light up, petrified that she would burn her fingers. She did for a moment, but instead of screaming like Katara would, she simply lowered her eyebrows and moved the flame. Girl had some crazy pain tolerance. Finally she managed to get the cigarette, and she took a deep drag, the little red glow lighting up her face for a moment. Then she exhaled, smoke streaming from her lips.

She smoked for a while, very careful not to even touch Sokka's guitar during it. Her face stayed blank and expressionless, but the tears kept falling. It was like she was afraid to show emotions, even to herself. She kept rubbing at her eyes, making her nose ring move a little. The smoke was almost the same color as her eyes.

Finally she got to a little stub, and she took the last drag and then flicked the cigarette out into the pouring rain. Then she picked up the guitar, letting her fingers move around on the strings. She tried out several different chords, like she was deciding what to play. Then, eventually, she settled on a chord and began strumming, a soft, sad song that Sokka recognized from the first words.

"Stranger than your sympathy – and this is my apology…"

Sokka almost had to stop himself from singing too, but the words were so perfect coming from her, the way her low, soft voice had just the right level of anger, bitterness and shame.

"I'm killin' myself from the inside out…and all my fears have pushed you out…" Her voice was so, so sad. "I wished for things that I don't need…all I wanted…and what I chase won't set me free…all I wanted…and I get scared but I'm not crawling on my knees…"

Her voice had steadied, her bangs covering her eyes, somehow losing herself in the words.

"Everything's all wrong, yeah…where the hell did I think I was?... and stranger than your sympathy, take these things so I don't feel…I'm killin' myself from the inside out…and now my head's been filled with doubt."

"We're taught to lead the life you choose – all I wanted…"

All I wanted was for you guys to love me for who I was. The real me. To see me as more than a blind…liability to the company. A freak. Someone who needed to be taken care of.

"You know your love's run out on you – all I wanted…"

And it's gonna happen again, you know it is. These people, Aang and Katara and Sokka, they're gonna see it too. That there's nothing more to you than some angry, blind girl with an addictive personality who should be institutionalized. They're gonna see it. And then you'll be out in the rain again. So get used to it.

"And you can't see when all your dreams aren't coming true…"

Fuck yeah all my dreams aren't coming true. I've been fighting, I've been clawing my way out this whole damn time, but it never works out for the ugly girl, it only ever works out for girls like Katara, she's gonna get Aang in the end and we all fucking know it, but who's gonna put up with me? Sokka just fucked me cause he was drunk and I have big tits, but there's no way he wants to stick around to deal with the crazy. It's better to just pretend it never even happened. At least I won't die a virgin.

"It's easy to forget, yeah…when you choke on the regrets, yeah…who the hell did I think I was?!"

Her voice suddenly cracked with anger and frustration, and Sokka almost stepped forward to comfort her, but the moment was too personal, he would ruin everything if he intruded.

"And stranger than your sympathy…and all these thoughts you stole from me…and I'm not sure where I belong, where no where's home and no more wrong."

Finally the tears came tumbling, and she couldn't hold it in any longer, and her strumming began shaky and sad, but she kept playing.

"And I was in love with things to make you believe I was…and I wouldn't be the one to kneel before the dreams I wanted…and all the dark and all the lies were all the empty things disguised as me…"

Her voice faded as she hit the final chords, but she couldn't finish the song, just hung her head and cried. But Sokka was suddenly too scared to go and comfort her. Would she lash out at him for witnessing her personal moment? Did she even need him? Why wouldn't she talk about the time that they had sex? Did she even want him? Did she realize how much it was hurting him that they refused to talk about it?

Quicker than he imagined, Toph got herself together and stood up, wiping tears out of her eyes. Then she slowly walked to the door and Sokka dashed back inside to receive his guitar, and continue the lie that he didn't know how much this girl was going through. The lie that he didn't think of her when he went to bed at night and wish for some sort of resolution to the longing in his heart.

Howdy friends! Hope you enjoyed! I know the time of updating is a little weird, but it was the only time I had today. I've been planning this scene for a while, so I hope you liked it :) the idea of the LotR scene ('and my axe!') is totally from D3stiny-Sm4sher, I can't even lie about that haha. I just tweaked it a little. The song is Sympathy by Goo Goo Dolls :)

Also, good/bad news: Now that I have a real people job, I have enough money to go to Cali/New York to visit brother/Boyfriend respectively! So the great news is that I'm getting laid next week (with Boyfriend, obvi). Bad news is, sex does not leave much time for updating. I should be back in a week and a half, and hopefully I'll have time to write on the long fucking plane ride I'm taking from LA to NY, but no promises. So, please accept my apology. I hope that you all have delicious Valentine's Days, and if you do not have a significant other, than Rule 34 some Zuko and take care of your own business ;) Besitos - PVB

PS: Props to MELONLORD for being the only fucking person to get U2 for the last chapter title. I give you dozens of wet Toph kisses a la 'The Serpent's Pass' :)