Prologue: The Chase
Sokka needed to get his mind under control and think clearly. Never in all his time during the war or the four years since had he been this terrified, but fear wasn't going to help him or Toph get out of this.
"How far behind are they, Toph?"
Toph put her hand to the stone floor of the small house in the tiny mountain village in the remote south-eastern corner of the Earth Kingdom where Sokka had thought they could hide until their pursuers gave up. Apparently he had underestimated the evil that now hunted them.
"They're less than a half mile away now, and from their movements, they still have our trail," Toph whispered in a shaky voice. Apparently she was even more scared than he was.
Sokka opened up the curtains a bit and looked across the mountain river to an abandoned fishing shack.
"Okay, Toph, we're gonna cross the river. The water will cover our trail."
"You idiot, I can't swim!" she said with her I-can't-believe-you're-actually-that-stupid face, "Has it been that long since the Serpent's Pass? And remember, Suki isn't here to save me this time." She said the last while pointing an accusing finger at him.
"How many times do I have to tell you, I was literally a half second away from diving in! Just climb on my back and hold on tight. I'll sprint to the water and cross the river." He squatted down with his back to her. "As soon as you feel that no one is around, climb on and we'll make a break for it. We don't want any villagers seeing us and telling them which way we went."
"Okay….NOW!" She shouted as she jumped on his back and wrapped her armed around his neck.
Sokka kicked open the door and ran at a full sprint to the waterline. Once again, he was grateful that Toph had barely grown an inch since they day he met her. A part of him suspected that she somehow did it on purpose to stay closer to the earth. As his feet hit the water and Toph heard the splash, he felt her tense up in fear. He grabbed her arms around his neck and squeezed them in reassurance as he dove head first into the water. It was difficult to keep both his and Toph's heads above the surface, but he had learned to swim in the deadly waters of his home, and barely spent a day dry once they had come to the warm waters of the fire nation, so this slightly chilly river was no match for him. As he got to the opposite shore, Toph finally started breathing again, even though she had access to air on the way over.
"Quick," Sokka said putting her down and taking her hand, "into that fishing shack!"
"But it's wood!" Toph shrieked, "I won't be able to see them if they're coming up on us!"
Sokka put both hands on her shoulders, "Toph, if we can't escape them now….I don't think we're going to. I think this might be the end of the line." He saw Toph swallow hard and led them into the shack.
They knelt down facing each other next to a wall and Toph embraced him in a trembling hug, "Sokka…What if they find us here?"
Sokka ran a hand down her back, most of which was now covered by her jet black, matted hair. His face made a small smile. Toph always did hate haircuts almost as much as footbaths. "Then we'll go down fighting, Toph. Like old times. Just you and me, never giving up, never surrendering."
"Sokka, if we don't make it out of this…I need to tell you something."
"What is it?"
"I just want you to know that I….I've always—"
She was interrupted by the wall they were kneeling next to exploding inwards and them getting knocked across the room. Sokka brought his arm back to throw his boomerang, but within a split second, a long spiked tongue dashed forward and slashed across his neck. He felt his whole body go numb as he slumped to the floor. A second whiplash and Toph fell limply across Sokka's stomach. Since he couldn't move his head, Sokka couldn't look up to greet the dark-haired, darkly-dressed, tattooed woman that he knew was sitting atop the shirshu that just stung him.
"Hey Jun, how ya been?" He asked in a defeated voice.
She climbed off of Nayla and sauntered over to them so that he could see the self-satisfied smirk on her face. "Been better, to be honest. Business has been slow. Or at least it was, until I got this job of tracking you down. So thank you."
"Glad we could be of some help," Toph grunted sarcastically. Her voice was muffled since her face was smushed against the wooden floor.
And, sure enough, her two employers landed and walked over to their prey with scowls on their faces
"How can you two be so selfish!?" Katara almost screamed at them in her "strict mother" tone of voice, "Zuko is our friend. How can you not want to be there for him?"
"But I haaaaate weddings," he complained in a high-pitched whine, "and the fact that it's Zuko's just makes it worse, because every event in his life has to be accompanied by a five-hour-long ceremony!"
"Yeah," Toph chimed in, voice clear now since Aang had flipped her over, "I swear, the guy can't fart without a dozen fire sages there to bless the gas." Aang actually chuckled at this until a glare from his girlfriend made him shut up.
"This is what friends do, Sokka," Katara lectured with her hands on her hips, "Wouldn't you want Zuko to be there for your wedding, assuming you could find a girl in the four nations stupid enough?"
"…Okay, that was below the belt, sis."
Katara knelt down next to him and stuck a finger in his face, "You run off again, and I will be swinging below the belt. With a water whip."
She turned to Toph, grabbed her by the collar, and started dragging her back to Appa, "Come on, it's several days' flight to the Fire Nation Capital, and we still need to fix your hair and get you measured for your bridesmaid dress.
Toph's foggy eyes widened in horror, "NO! Katara, please, I'll do anything you want! I'll give you my entire inheritance! Think of all the dresses you could buy! Oh, oh, I know, I'll stop calling Aang 'Twinkle-Toes!'…for a week! Sokka, help me!"
Getting some feeling back in his neck, Sokka turned to scowl at Aang, "You traitor."
"Seriously, Sokka? You're twenty years old. Grow. Up," Aang grunted as he hefted Sokka over his shoulder, "Look on the bright side, we've still got Zuko's gopher-stag party to look forward to.
"Oh yeah, a bachelor party with Angsty McEmopants and a freakin' MONK, watch out, Fire Nation, this is gonna be a wild night."
"Oh come on, you never now, just you watch, we're gonna have fun."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Sokka said with an unseen smirk as he started formulating his evil plan. He was going to have to be the one that made sure they had fun.
I promise I'll get to the actual story advertised in the summary very shortly. This was just a scene I had knocking around my head that went well with this premise I was thinking about, so I thought I would make it a prologue. The next chapter will start in the Fire Nation Capital. I'm setting the events post-Promise, but I'm going to twerk it a bit so that it's 4 years after Sozin's Comet instead of 1, and also I'm going to conveniently ignore Mai breaking up with Zuko in that comic (because come on, we all know she's coming back anyway :P)