Weddings were the worst.
Especially the kind whose guest list included your ex-girlfriend.
And not the sweet, tragic one who had turned into the moon, either.
He was standing in the largest garden on the grounds of the Earth Kingdom palace. Sad garden contemplation was his thing now, he guessed. Unlike the smaller garden at Aang's house, this one had a stream and a pond and a delicate stone bridge. It was really pretty nice, especially during the full moon. But he was just about out of any sort of reserves of positivity, so it felt empty and sad and exhausting.
It wasn't though he had been faking his happiness at the wedding itself. He'd actually enjoyed quite a few moments of genuine bliss, forgetting all about the reason for his past three months of misery. He had laughed and cried at all the appropriate times. He had given what he humbly considered the best toast in the history of marriage. He had eaten more food than the Southern Water Tribe as a whole consumed in a week. He had danced with his sister. He had danced with Mai and Smellerbee and Gran Gran and pretty much every other woman who wasn't a Kyoshi Warrior. He had even danced with Zuko, though at this point his reasoning behind that choice was a bit unclear.
In general, he had made jokes and acted enough like Normal Sokka to please everyone in attendance, even himself.
And now, duty as brother-of-the-bride thus completed, he had retired to the garden with a clay bottle of Kuei's finest sake to drink old girlfriends and weddings and happiness, real or otherwise, into oblivion.
It was bad enough that Suki was there, but the fact that she and the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors were the Avatar's honor guard made it even worse. Everywhere he turned he saw dark green kimonos covered with black armored plates. With the nearly identical uniforms, he instinctively assumed that everyone in dark green was the one person he both desperately wanted to see and was aggressively avoiding.
His heart had jumped into his throat every two minutes.
Suki just had this habit of taking him by surprise.
It'd started the minute they'd met really: a girl kicking his butt to make him look like total idiot, and then kissing him, as though she liked him, which had been confusing at best. After that, well, Yue had happened, and in his grief he'd basically forgotten that Suki even existed. Then all of the sudden, there she was at the crossing to the Earth Kingdom, all assertive with her feelings and taking him completely off his guard all over again.
But women in his life tended not to stick around, so it wasn't a huge shocker when she'd gone back to her warriors. There hadn't been time for romance, anyway and he'd poured his all into getting Aang to the Fire Nation for the Day of Black Sun.
Everybody knew how well that had gone.
But after, when he was at his lowest, losing hope of ever finding his father, let alone winning the war, she had just… been there at Boiling Rock, like she'd been waiting for him all along. It had all been so completely coincidental, running into a girl you had a thing with in the middle of the highest security Fire Nation prison, that it seemed to mean something. He didn't believe in things like fate or destiny, no matter what Gran Gran said, but the girl just kept coming back when he thought she was lost for good.
On the day of Sozin's Comet, nothing had mattered but the mission. Every action had echoed with finality. They'd said their goodbyes the night before. The kind you couldn't take back. There was a tacit understanding between them to protect Toph no matter what. If Aang failed, the Earth Kingdom needed someone who could teach its benders how to destroy the metal airships with nothing but their hands.
Well, they needed the world's only metalbender if there was anyone left in the Earth Kingdom to learn after Ozai had burned most of them to a crisp.
And then, for a third time, he and Suki had been separated. Despite his best efforts, Toph had been on the verge of falling into the unforgiving sea. He could still feel her fingers, desperate and rough, pulling against his, her whole arm trembling from the strain. It was Yue all over again. He was unable to protect the one thing he had sworn to keep safe.
Until Suki had come back, flying through the air with a beautiful smile on her face, smashing the airship that he'd thought would be his tomb into a thousand pieces.
She really was full of surprises.
But three months ago, in another one of these stupid Earth Kingdom gardens, she had surprised him again.
It hurt so much to remember, but he couldn't stop. It was like scratching a deep itch until it bled.
"Sokka, I love you. I always will. But I love Kyoshi more," the warrior looked him in the eyes as she spoke. Her gaze was steady and direct and her posture was strong but relaxed. It was only the quaver in her voice that implied she was feeling any sort of emotion at all. "The more the world changes, the more I see that," she continued. "I have a duty to my warriors, and to my people. It's where I belong. More than that, it's where I want to be. It's where I want to grow old, to raise a family."
Yue was shining brightly on the garden, bathing the world in her pale light. The night smelled like honeysuckle. The gentle sound of crickets and the droning bongs of the Air Nomad wind chimes filled the air. Suki looked heartbreakingly beautiful in the delicate blue gown she had worn to Kuei's solstice ball.
Appropriate, since she was currently in the process of breaking his heart.
"We both know that's not what you want, Sokka."
The rest of the conversation was a blur. He could, he swore he would go with her, forget about all of it, Yu Dao and the new world Aang was trying to build and everything else if she'd just let him come with her, but Suki just smiled sadly and touched his hand. They'd been growing apart for months, maybe even years, hadn't he seen it? They wanted very different things. It was better this way, to part as friends, to remember their time together happily. Their love had been something beautiful, but she had her duty, he had his, and now those duties were separating for good.
"I'm a girl, but I'm a warrior, too," she said softly, and then kissed his cheek.
He didn't know what that meant, but it hurt too much to try and figure out.
She left for Kyoshi the next day.
And this time he knew she wasn't coming back.
It was the smack on the back of his head, not the real-life person asking a real-life question possibly for quite some time, that jerked him out of his own memory. Probably for the best. He'd relived it so many times he was probably reciting his own breakup in his sleep.
Zuko yanked the sake bottle away from the Water Tribe man with one hand and with the other he bent a small flame. Bringing the bottle close, the Fire Lord squinted to read the imprint on the wax seal. After a frown and a grunt of distaste, the small flame burst into a flash that very briefly enveloped the entire bottle before it went out completely. Sokka made a noise of protest, but he was ignored. Zuko ducked down to the foot of the bridge, reached out his long arm to dip the bottle in the cool water, then pulled it back up and brought it to his lips.
"This is gonna be better hot," was all he said.
Sokka grabbed for the bottle, which he brandished with a sweeping gesture.
"Well excuuuuse me, Your Flameyness, but where I come from, we like things cold. Especially in the summer. Which it is. Now."
Zuko shrugged, "But it wasn't even cold. Just kind of lukewarm. Also I think you grabbed the cheap stuff they use for cooking. That stuff is disgusting if you don't warm it up."
"Sure whatever," the Water Tribe man grumbled, throwing back the bottle for another swig. He had been spending way too much time thinking, and not nearly enough drinking. His little trip down memory lane proved that brain could still form coherent thoughts, which was unacceptable.
After swallowing he jerked his head back in surprise and started blinking rapidly. His companion had crossed his arms and was glaring at him expectantly.
"Actually," Sokka admitted with as much gravitas as he could muster, "this is significantly better."
Zuko raised his eyebrow.
"So what brings you out here, Your Majesty?" he redirected. "Katara send you to cheer up her poor, miserable brother? I gotta say, she's scraping the bottom of the barrel if she figured you'd do the job."
"She could have sent Mai," the corners of the firebender's mouth turned upwards, just the tiniest bit.
Mid-swig, Sokka burst into laughter, spraying sake all over his companion.
"Okay, okay," he admitted to his now-dripping friend, "that was pretty funny."
"Katara didn't send me," Zuko, who was not at all amused, began while shaking the booze out of the long, belled sleeve of his royal robes. "She is…" he paused and then looked extremely uncomfortable, "well… I don't think either of us really wants to know exactly what your sister is up to right now…"
Sokka, who most definitely didn't, shuddered and made a sour face.
"Yeeeahhh," the Fire Lord agreed. "Anyway, I was hoping you could come and… uh… extradite Toph from an awkward situation. I'd do it, but I'm afraid it'd start an international incident."
"Toph? Awkward situation?" the young man barked out a laugh as he sat the bottle on the edge of the bridge's railing. "Take it from me, Zuko, she can handle it herself. She doesn't care about awkward at all."
"I don't think she's used to this kind of awkward," the firebender rubbed the back of his neck, feeling extremely awkward himself. "See, there's this guy… well actually, there are several–"
"A… guy?" Sokka interrupted him ponderously, the thought of guys and Toph in any kind of situation together having never crossed his mind before. There had been that one kid, like, forever ago, but since then Toph had seemed pretty happy rolling through the world by herself. After consideration, he shook his head, the answer obvious. "So… she just earthbends him into the floor. She's done it to me enough times. Unless Bumi's trying to convince her to dance, I think she's probably okay. He's the only bender here who can take her, no offense."
"King Bumi is drunk in a corner somewhere, telling jokes to my sleeping uncle," Zuko said. "And, none taken." He thought for a moment. "Aang could beat her, maybe, but he'd have to go into the Avatar State to do it. Maybe my sister…"
Sokka was fairly uninterested in discussing the long list of all of the different benders Toph could beat in a fight, and he really didn't want to talk about Azula.
"Soooo, she just bends the guy away, goes back to… you know… whatever it is that she's been doing this whole wedding," he said dismissively, realizing in the process of talking that he actually had no idea. What Toph had been doing during the wedding, that is. They'd been sitting at the same table, basically right next to each other, but he had no clue who she'd spent the evening talking to, only that it hadn't been him. It was kind of insulting, when he thought about it. Come to think of it, she hadn't really spent any time with him since her return. Was she ignoring him?
Worse yet, was he somehow ignoring her by accident? It wasn't as though he'd sought her out, being too caught up in his own misery. He hadn't even danced with her yet, and he had made a firm commitment to dance with everyone.
He turned towards the palace, knocking the bottle off the railing and onto the bridge, where it miraculously didn't shatter. Instead it rolled down to the other side, spilling sake everywhere. Displaying a commitment to hot beverages that would make his uncle proud, Zuko chased after it.
"First off," the fire bender shouted called out over his shoulder, "If you'd been paying any attention you'd know that Toph promised not to bend unless it was absolutely necessary. The Earth King was nervous about her destroying his palace again or something. So she's stuck trying to talk her way out of the amorous attentions of what seems like every available man in the entire Earth Kingdom, not to mention the Northern AND Southern Water Tribes. I think the Fire Nation citizens are too terrified to do anything other than stare, but they sure are staring."
"Did she start picking…" Sokka trailed off, still staring at the palace and feeling more than a little guilty.
"They don't even notice when she picks her nose!" Zuko exploded, his patience at an end. "Or if they do, they don't care! If you weren't such an idiot, you'd notice she's become extremely…"
But as the Fire Lord turned, he found himself talking to no one as the Water Tribe man was out of earshot, stomping heavily toward the Earth Kingdom palace.
"…beautiful," Zuko told no one in particular. He shrugged and then threw back what remained of the sake with a satisfied sigh.
Weddings are amazing! was the last thing Katara found herself thinking before she became incapable of any more rational consideration.
For her part, she was probably right.
Weddings were the worst.
Especially fancy ones in the palaces of Earth Kings who demanded their guests not metalbend unwanted... what was she supposed to even call them? Suitors?... to the wall.
It wasn't that she didn't appreciate getting a little attention. Toph didn't really have a problem with attention. In fact, you might even say she loved it. The cheers of an Earth Rumble crowd after a particularly well-executed finishing move. The gasps of Yu Dao bystanders as she grabbed lawbreakers around the ankle with claws made of metal and dragged them into the ground. The awed silence of her students as she bent iron bars into delicate lace patterns that she couldn't technically even see. The accolades of world rulers... respect from the common man... praise from her friends…
She ate it all up.
But she did not like stuffy men throwing themselves at her, sloppily kissing her hand, asking her to dance and not taking no for an answer.
Normally this wasn't a problem. She could easily avoid them with her tried and true excuse of, "Does it look like the blind girl can dance?" No one ever argued with that.
But she couldn't this time because unfortunately her cover was blown.
Toph could dance. She could dance well, and what's more, she'd been able to do so for the past twelve years. Even though her parents hadn't exactly been eager to reveal her existence her to anyone, they had needed to be certain that if word somehow got out that the Bei-fong family had a daughter, that she was a daughter worth having. They'd expected to raise someone who could hold her own in high society, and taught their daughter as much.
They'd ended up with a dirty, spitting, earthbending champion, who had managed to turn the world upside-down in more ways than one. Regardless, despite the hundreds of victories Toph Bei-fong had under her belt, she had never forgotten how to dance. It wasn't that much different from earthbending, really, as long as she stayed on the ground, and she couldn't exactly un-learn it.
When Iroh had insisted she cut a rug with him, she'd thought "Why not?" It had been unexpected fun, actually. The Dragon of the West really knew how to show a lady a good time on the dance floor, probably from all of those years being the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation. She'd had no complaints about that.
The problem had begun after the old man had done himself proud and retired into a corner with his tea. That's when the line of eager partners had started forming.
"Oh, Miss Bei-fong, you're such an exquisite dancer."
"Miss Bei-fong, you are as beautiful as you are accomplished."
"Might you do me the honor of allowing me to kiss the delicate hand that invented metalbending?"
And on and on and on. There had been moments, wonderful ones, when Aang, giddy with joy, had demanded her presence for a toast or a hug or a dance. She had realized, with just a small blow to her pride, that it was pretty much impossible for a blind earthbender to keep up with a fancy-dancing Air Nomad, especially on his wedding day. Regardless she had enjoyed herself away from the line of men who were dead set on dancing with her, no matter how often she insulted them.
"Oh Miss Bei-fong, you do have quite the miraculous wit," they would titter.
It was pathetic. More importantly, it was wasting time and she had plans. Plans that required actual action, before a certain someone was so drunk she'd have to carry him to take him anywhere. She was so nervous about getting everything right that she'd avoided her target for the entire evening. Thankfully he seemed to be getting on all right without her to cheer him up, but he'd disappeared now, and she was left in a bit of a situation.
They were surrounding her now, all of their eager feet blurring her sense of place. Most had either horrible breath or wore too much cologne, so she couldn't even smell right. In all of this chaos, and without the ability to defend herself in the way she best knew how, she didn't have the focus to figure out how to make them go away without actually breaking their arms. When one put his arm around her waist and whispered an address in her ear, she had decided to earthbend them all into the Middle Ring of the City, promises to Katara be damned.
And then Snoozles was finally there.
She felt him before he spoke. Not his seismic imprint, though she felt that too when the hundreds of feet in the ballroom slowed for a moment. But it was more than that. Certain people, ones she knew well, had specific… signatures about them, and when they came close, she could tell exactly who they were.
It wasn't any sort of magic. Just memorized combinations of sound and scent and presence that sighted people probably experienced just the same, if they'd take the time to notice. Having eyes that worked, for all of their colors and lights and other things that Toph understood herself to be missing out on, seemed distracting from the real sensations of life and living. She was told everyone's eyes were different, unique only to them, but she doubted that the patterns in the two small balls of jelly on everyone's faces could compare to the way she experienced the most significant people in her life.
Katara was like a warm rain in the chill of spring while Aang was constantly wrapped in a cool autumn breeze. Her movements were languid while his were so light as to nearly go unnoticed, but when they were together they were always in sync, even their stupid, sappy hearts.
She could feel the sun on her face in midsummer summer whenever Zuko came close, while his uncle would forever smell of the burning kindling he had used to heat the tea on their first meeting. Azula, whom Toph had grown to recognize out of an entirely different sense of importance, reeked of ozone. Whenever she was near, even if the situation was not at all threatening, the hairs on the back of the earthbender's neck stood up as though lightning were about to strike. The Earth Rumble fighters each smelled like their own blood, since it had sprayed across the arena often enough for her to memorize it. Their bending felt different too, different frequencies of vibration she guessed, and she could tell the Boulder from the Hippo even if her feet weren't on the ground.
Toph was very against being unnecessarily poetic, talking around things instead of just getting to the point. She supposed that benders all brought their elements with them inadvertently and she really couldn't help but pick up on personal differences. It wasn't like she could feel their chi or something dumb like that. Again, anyone who saw could probably do it, if they just took the time to focus on something other than what their eyes saw.
Nonbenders like Mai and Suki and Ty Lee were equally identifiable, though they didn't reek of elements. The three women in particular were all light on their feet in slightly different ways, none like Aang, who seemed to float, but more like dancers, real ones. Now that Toph had lived a little more outside of Gaoling, she could tell the difference between an airbender and an acrobat, even if there was only one of the former.
Suki was always in motion, pulling her momentum forward the way waterbenders manipulated their element. She smelled very faintly of cherry blossoms, as though the scent was part of a morning routine and then otherwise forgotten. Ty Lee, for as delicate as she seemed, was constantly winding and unwinding like a spring. Her movements, even the most leisurely ones, were singularly intentional and overwhelmingly powerful. She smelled like rosewater. Often like too much rosewater. Mai was unpredictable and moved in explosive bursts, able to go from a standstill to a dead run in an instant. Most of the time, though, her body was languid and relaxed. She always smelled of the oil that she used to clean her knives. Toph was rather fond of the scent.
But no one was quite like Sokka, whose associated sensations were so abstract at this point as to be somewhat difficult to capture in words even more flowery and ridiculous than what she had to use to describe her friends. It wasn't a big deal or anything that he was so singular in her mind. They got along really well, he was her best friend, basically, and they had come this close to dying together, so why wouldn't she know him by heart? Yeah, she had had a crush on him once, when she was twelve but that was long over, Suki or no Suki.
Right now she was just very, very happy that he had finally shown up.
"I'd like to thank you, gentlemen," he addressed the men who surrounded her with a deep bow. She could feel his heart jump and knew whatever he was about to say next was an outright lie. "I do appreciate that you didn't allow my lovely fiancée," he put his arm around her waist and drew her possessively close to him, "to grow too bored in my absence. But now," he grasped her hand, relaxed his hold on her waist, and twirled her away from the men, "I do believe I owe the lady a dance."
"See ya boys," she called out over her shoulder before he whipped her towards the floor once again.
The earthbender had felt her friend dancing with numerous people earlier in the evening. One of those people had been Zuko, and she didn't think she had ever heard Mai laugh quite as hard as she had then. He had also danced with his sister quite a few times, and his grandmother, and the Fire Lady herself and a lot of other girls that Toph didn't even know. During those proceedings, something had become abundantly clear.
Sokka was a horrible dancer.
At least by Earth Kingdom standards. She didn't really know how they danced in the Southern Water Tribe, but she figured Sokka had probably never learned to dance there either. Even if he had, and Water Tribe dancing just happened to be very bizarre, he was at a disadvantage trying to translate that into the formal ballroom dances of the Earth Kingdom. Unlike his sister, who had her waterbending forms to fall back on, Sokka had nothing but his enthusiasm and energy, which basically translated into chaos.
Now he was dragging her across the floor like it was a Fire Nation airship and the world was going to end if they didn't dance right now. He smelled of alcohol, but not nearly enough to be actually drunk, which was a relief. She needed to make her move soon, but she couldn't talk to him if he was busy throwing her all over the place.
"Where's the fire, Snoozles, or should I say, Honey?" she asked, voice strained since he was in the process of pulling out her arm.
"Come along now, Darling," he insisted. He was trying to joke, but his joking voice was all wrong and she knew he didn't actually feel cheerful at all.
"Now that you've rescued me from the Sloppy Hand Kissing Gang, we don't actually have to dance, you know," she stopped moving altogether, digging her feet into the ground so they came to a halt.
It wasn't technically bending if property wasn't destroyed.
He spun around completely, grabbing her by the shoulders, and shaking her just a little bit. His heart was racing and she could smell the fruity vanilla scent of sake on his breath.
"Toph Bei-fong!" he squawked, "You and I are going to dance, and you are going to like it, or, so help me I will stop this entire wedding!"
And based on the abrupt halt in all vibrations through the floor, he had done just that.
"Weddings… are… amazing…" Aang gasped into the pillow, as he collapsed onto the sheets.
"So are you, sweetie," Katara exhaled, blowing strands of her hair out of her face. Her eyes were hazy, but her grin was too feral to ignore.
So he didn't.
"Weddings are the worst," they said at the same time, both very aware that everyone still sober enough to care was staring at them.
He figured everyone thought Toph looked utterly humiliated, head tilted down as though her eyes were fixed on some point on the ground. But her shoulders were squared, as usual, so he knew she was mostly if not completely all right. He made a face at the onlookers, hoping they'd go back to whatever it was they'd been doing before, then turned back to his friend.
She was in was a dress, the kind he had never seen her in before. It was lovely and made her look really delicate, which he wasn't really used to. It was probably because the fabric was wispy, sort of like a cloud or something.
But a green cloud. Or, maybe, a white cloud over a green sky. Kind of like her eyes…
Anyway, he knew Toph was tiny, though her bravado always made her seem… bigger somehow. But this dress was drawing attention to just how small-boned she actually was. It was also drawing attention to the curves she had managed to pick up in the Fire Nation. He didn't appreciate it when people stopped looking the way they were supposed to. Maybe it was the sake, but he felt sort of dazed.
"You look really great," he finally said dumbly, at long last grasping exactly what it was that Zuko had been trying to tell him outside.
"You smell like cheap booze and sound like a crazy person," she shrugged, "but I'm sure you look really nice."
"Will you just dance with me, already?" he whined, whatever pensive mood her weird dress had put him in completely over with. The situation was not at all going the way he had hoped. There was no excessive gratitude for saving her from a bunch of boring guys. For reasons unknown he'd expected the kind of raw appreciation that made him feel better about himself, though he supposed even Toph's insults were marginally more enjoyable than sighing to himself in the garden.
"Only if you promise not to swing me around like a water whip," she said to some point over his left shoulder. She was wearing makeup, just a tiny bit, but it was a little smeared underneath her eyes, making them look smoky.
"I am a great dancer!" the affront hit close to home. "Ask pretty much any lady here! Or even Zuko!"
"Whatever. Just do what everyone else is doing," she ordered. "No freestyle."
"How are you supposed to tell what everyone else is doing?" he demanded, realizing immediately afterward how rude it was, but not particularly caring at the moment.
"Maybe, because unlike some people here, I actually know how to dance," she shrugged with a smirk.
Sokka glared at her, receiving no response whatsoever. It was occasionally annoying to have a friend who couldn't see your irritated face.
Not like Toph would care, even if she could see it.
"So if we're going to do this, you've gotta lead. Unless you want me to strip you of the last vestiges of your masculinity. In which case, I'm happy to."
He glanced anxiously at the other occupants of the dance floor. It was almost exclusively Earth Kingdom. His fellow tribesmen were at a table full of empty sake bottles, about half of them laughing raucously at some joke his father had just told. The other half were rolling their eyes. Most of the Fire Nation citizens in attendance were diving into the dessert buffet or filling up their drinks, happy to sit this one out.
"Lead?" he asked nervously.
"You're the one who wanted to dance so bad," she shrugged. "So dance with me."
The pairs around them were standing very close to each other, with the men putting one hand on the waists of the women and the women putting one hand on the shoulders of the men. Their other hands were clasped and held high. Arranged that way, they moved in small little circles in time with the music.
It looked really boring, and not at all the sort of thing that Toph was into.
With a frustrated sigh, he grabbed her hand and yanked her flush against him.
"Fine," he muttered grumpily into her hair.
"Weddings are amazing!" Ty Lee giggled, doing an exaggerated pirouette in her Kyoshi uniform.
"I guess I've been to worse," Mai intoned flatly. "Aren't you supposed to be honor guarding or something? Wouldn't want anybody to attack while the Avatar is getting–"
"Oh! Well, I thought it might be okay to just come over for a second and say hi." Ty Lee smiled hopefully, craning her head toward the dessert table, "And… maybe have a piece of cake?" Noticing the empty platter upon which the flawless cake had once triumphantly stood, the Kyoshi Warrior's face fell.
"Um… never mind," she sighed.
The Fire Lady pulled a plate with an enormous slice on it out of her sleeve without a word.
"Weddings!" Ty Lee squealed.
This was it. She had to do it, if it was going to work at all. She had him more or less alone, dancing this boring dance when there was actual fun to be had elsewhere, and it wasn't an opportunity she was going to waste. Sokka was droning on about how irritating formal events were becoming, and how he just wanted to get away for awhile. He wasn't so drunk as to be incoherent, but just tipsy enough to think her proposition was a good one.
She couldn't have come up with a better moment if she'd planned it this way.
"Why don't we just run away?" Toph blurted into his chest, just a little too quickly, covering up her enthusiasm with a laugh.
"Aren't we a little old for that?" he chuckled. His mild response to something she'd hoped he'd find exciting, or at least hilarious, annoyed the nerves right out of her. She was trying to help him get out of this funk, after all. To avoid giving away her plans, she'd spent the past week in Ba Sing Se doing lame lady things with Katara instead of having fun with the one person she'd missed the most over the past year.
He was going to appreciate this, or she'd pound him.
"What makes you think I'm joking about this?" she squeezed his hand much harder than was entirely necessary for the dance.
"Owwww," he whined, trying to pull away. She reached the hand that had been on his shoulder up behind his neck and pulled him down to her level.
"I need to do something that's not technically legal," she said in a low voice. "I need your help, and I need to be away from Twinkletoes and Sweetness to do it."
His heart skipped a beat, then accelerated.
"So why bring me along?" he whispered. "Other than for my scintillating personality, obviously."
She continued as though he hadn't said anything at all. "I have some plans for a new type of metalbending, but to do it need a certain type of metal that I can bend like a whip. It's gotta be really strong, but really flexible at the same time. I've only ever found it once, and I only have a little bit left."
After a quiet gasp, his breathing quickened.
"See… I need more of it than I have so I can figure out what it's made of and make more."
Through the floor, she could feel his heart thrumming so hard that it was hard to believe no one else in the room did.
"That is," she smiled, "if the materials can even be found on earth."
"Toph…" the tone of his voice, meant to sound like a warning, was filled with so much desperate excitement she could taste it.
It tasted delicious.
The words felt like butterflies in her mouth, so she just let them fly.
"So, Sokka… how do you feel about a little coastal salvage operation?"