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Author Topic: Reflections: Tokka Week 2015 Oneshots (G) Complete  (Read 3615 times)
Maivry
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« on: Sep 06, 2015 06:25 pm »

Fanfiction Index
Heedless -- A Bosami oneshot. (2015, G)
Deepening Steps -- A Tokka story. (2010, PG)
Tokka Alphabet --  A collection of Tokka oneshots. (2008, G)
Condolence -- A Tokka oneshot. (2008, G)
Fanficiton.net

---

Howdy folks! Tokka Week is normally the first week of August, but I was slow to getting around to it this year, in part because I felt more like writing than drawing, unlike usual. I've been having fun getting back into writing oneshots, and so I'll be posting a prompt each Sunday for the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy. =)

Tokka Week 2015
1. Taste
2. I Hope You're Happy
3. Illness
4. We Danced
5. Behind Closed Doors
6. No Excuses
7. Complete

---

1. Taste

Not far east of Mount Makapu resided the Yao Chen Estate, home to a well-established Earth Kingdom family. The current head of the family, Wen Yao Chen, was a diligent father, a fine archer, a member of the Federation of Fire Friends, and, as it happens, a collector of fine arts.

"I can't believe your paintings pass for real art," Katara tittered.

"Don't be so harsh, he's obviously improved," Aang retorted with a cheerful tone. "Look, this one actually looks like Appa."

"That's Momo!"

Sokka grimaced, trying to figure out if they were being serious, as they laughed and started whispering to each other. They probably weren't. Over the years he had worked hard on improving his likenesses and general aesthetic in painting, while retaining a certain Sokka style. You'd think they'd be able to give the jokes about his art a rest upon reaching adulthood, but he was beginning to doubt it would ever happen. After all, one was Aang, forever that goofy kid he met coming out of an iceberg... and the other was his little sister.

"I'm just impressed you managed to swindle someone into paying money for your stuff," Toph said, coming up beside him. "Not that I'm denying your obvious skill, but to me it's still a bunch of flat thingummies hanging on a wall."

"Well, I learned scamming from the best," he said in a low voice, elbowing her affectionately.

He felt a little sheepish admitting anything of the kind out loud, but even he found it all hard to believe. Here he was, perusing a sophisticated gallery with his friends, coming face to face with his own work. What's more, his art was featured beside other remarkable works, as his patron kept a weather eye out for talent from all four nations. It was an honor indeed.

The gallery itself was minimalistic in its architecture, augmented mainly by well-placed glowing crystals, allowing the art to speak for itself. Sokka's work had more than one prominent exhibit. Here hung a long scroll depicting major events in the conflict between the Avatar and the Fire Lord. There resided a collection of smaller pieces featuring curious creatures from across the world. (That's where Momo came into it.)

Sokka entered a semi-enclosed room of the gallery that directed all attention to the singular work of the space, one of Sokka's largest and most striking pieces to date: a panorama of the Great Divide. He'd come a long way since his youth in taking the time to observe his surroundings, and this multi panel painting exemplified that.

He turned about, observing the room itself. Unlike the rest of the gallery, the walls were lined with mirrors, making the space -- and the art -- look far more expansive than it actually was. Looking at himself, with his back to the artwork, it almost seemed like he was standing in front of the Great Divide.

He blinked, almost surprised by his sudden inclusion in the exhibit. He was already feeling self-conscious of his role in the room's decor, facing his own likeness only added to the surreality. He turned his gaze aside, lending his attention to what else could be seen by way of the mirrors. Other paintings were hung at too oblique an angle to observe properly through the two opposing openings in the room's walls. Katara and Aang could only be heard out of sight, ambling away from the side of the collection that featured Sokka's work -- the traitors.

But in the center of an adjoining room stood Toph, solitary and seemingly inspecting the artwork around her. An impossibility, of course. Yet she stood, leaning slightly forward and with her chin raised, imitating the way others observed their surroundings. After several moments she would turn and inspect another wall, or take a few leisurely steps to the side in order to get a closer look at a new piece. Frankly, the way she had learned to mimic the habits of seeing people over the years was almost unnerving. Why did she do it? To make people forget she was any different? To highlight it? Was she even conscious of how adept she was at it?

She approached one particular piece, covered in a thick layer of dark paint, and traced her finger along it. Perhaps she was observing the exhibit, just not in a way that anyone else could understand. Were those paintings more than blank objects hanging on a wall to her? They were made from various materials, earth among them, so maybe she could detect invisible images through the layers of paint with her earth sense? It wouldn't be the first time she didn't let on how much she could discern. Earth sense paintings... that would be something to see -- or, well, visualize? No, envision? Imagine? Well, whatever the term, there was certainly something to the idea...

She moved again, simply clasping her hands behind her back, a gesture that seemed uncharacteristically gentle. It was almost a fluke that she was there, having volunteered to come when she heard mention of it, but it was even more curious that she hadn't already grown bored. As the moments slipped by, she maintained her attentiveness, making her way through the gallery. It was strange to see her, normally so rambunctious, be so quiet. It made her seem different and mysterious. Her face was always hidden by her hair -- well, partially hidden -- but since she was only facing the walls, not a sign of her face could be seen. Just her back, her clasped hands, the wisps of hair beside her face...

"What are you finding so fascinating over there?"

Sokka's heart jumped at the unexpected question. The Toph in the mirror gave no indication that her attention was on anything other than the exhibit, and when he turned to look at her as she truly was, she stood facing away from him, still standing as innocuously as he had perceived her in the mirror. But the voice had undeniably been hers.

"Oh, ah, what do you mean?" he asked, trying to find something through the mirrors to look at. Fascinating?

 "You've been staring at something for an eternity now," she said, turning towards him and revealing a little smirk. She strolled up to him. "Don't tell me you're having delusions of grandeur about your art just because you've got some on display."

An eternity was not a meaningful measurement of time, of course, but her words still made him feel self-conscious. Had he really...? But it wasn't about his art. At first he was observing the gallery itself. And then he just got distracted by... but she didn't seem to realize that at all.

"I was noticing the way the gallery was designed," Sokka said, gesturing hastily with one hand to indicate the semi-enclosed space. "They managed to make the room look bigger and... well, I don't know if you would understand the effect, but it is interesting." He saw her furrow her brow through her bangs. "But I could ask you the same thing," he continued, on impulse. "You've been pretty quiet for the last few minutes, even though you can't see..."

"Heh." She composed herself, no longer furrowing her brow in puzzlement. "I've survived much more tedious things."

"Hmph." Sokka crossed his arms and turned back towards the mirrored walls. She was just being cheeky, right? But he couldn't help his gaze landing on her reflection once again. He wondered if she could tell... but how could she? Looking at her indirectly like that, he felt like he was at an advantage. If she couldn't tell he was watching her, because his posture wasn't towards her... well, she was always more guarded when she thought people were looking...

"Still finding something to look at?"

"Can't you tell?" he asked, purposefully responding with a question.

"Well, there's something here," she said. "I can sense it, but..." She raised her arm to touch the glass. "It's different than... ah. I recognize it now. That's glass. But there's some metal behind it."

Sokka didn't respond. He wished it wouldn't, but his heart started beating a little faster. Did she understand the implication of those two things together?

Her eyelids fluttered. "It's just flat sheets, though," she continued. "I dunno... I think I've heard that metal and glass are beautiful -- at least sometimes." She gestured towards the mirrored wall. "Is it beautiful?"

"Well..." Sokka said, his arms dropping as he watched her through her reflection. "Yeah."

She was silent.

Suddenly she chuckled, prompting Sokka to turn towards her.

"What?"

"Sap," she said.

"What?"

She spun around on her heel, striding away from him. "Sap!" she cried. Her hands were clasped behind her back once again, but this time they gave off an air of flippancy, paired with her bearing. "The way you sounded... getting lost in beautiful sheets of glass."

"What, didn't you hear yourself? You're the one who asked in the first place!"

"I didn't spend eternity lost in thought about it!"

"You don't even have a clue what you're missing!"

By this point she had crossed to a turn in the gallery, putting a fair distance between herself and Sokka. Rather than talk back, she put her wrist to her forehead and threw her head back to reveal a mockery of an expression of distress over the claim she was missing out, before breaking down into a laugh and whipping around the corner, out of sight.

After a couple moments, Sokka couldn't keep from chuckling to himself.

Indeed, she didn't have a clue. But for this he was grateful, because he wasn't sure how she would react -- or even how he could explain himself -- if she realized what had really caught his eye.­
« Last Edit: Oct 18, 2015 07:59 pm by Maivry » Logged

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Maivry
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« Reply #1 on: Sep 13, 2015 03:42 pm »

2. I Hope You're Happy

I hope you're happy.

Truly. I feel the need to say it, because I know there's been a tension between us over the years, and I don't want that to linger in your mind. Or Sokka's. Because, whatever else I had hoped for, I do care about Sokka, and it would be a sorry thanks to the happiness he gave me to take away from his own happiness.

It's hard to give up your first love. I'll admit that readily. Maybe it's because it's my first love, or maybe it's because my heart is softer than I thought, but for the longest time I thought that meant it was meant to be. I see how foolish that is now. How could I think like that, knowing of Sokka's own first love? Was I immune to disappointment, to heartbreak? Of course not. Surely I experienced that even when I still had hope.

I didn't know how much you meant to him when I started getting close to him. If I had recognized that, perhaps it wouldn't have hurt so much. Perhaps I wouldn't have tried to hold on to him as long as I did. Here I was, this rough and tumble Earth Kingdom girl, and I thought I was just what Sokka needed. Well, I was close. I just didn't realize I wasn't the only rough and tumble kind of girl out there.

Sometimes I want to laugh about it all. At least you understand! You know just as well as I do how oblivious Sokka can be, and yet how sweet. How sometimes he'll encourage your ideas with reckless enthusiasm, and other times he'll bluntly shoot them down. I've never known someone so brave, so sincere, so funny. I shouldn't be surprised that someone else recognized his qualities. In fact, I ought to congratulate you for being so perceptive.

But you'll never see this letter. As much as I feel the need to address this, and as much as I keep turning the words over and over in my mind, trying to pin down just the right sentiment, the written word is of no use to the blind. So that's what this letter will always be: unwritten. No other medium or mediator seems adequate to express my thoughts, but I'll try my best to live by these words so that someday you might understand.

It's just as well, though, isn't it? I thought this letter was for you, but the more I recite it to myself the more I realize it's all for me. I'm the one who needs to move on, not you. You've reached your happy ending.

Or, at least, I hope you have.
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Maivry
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« Reply #2 on: Sep 20, 2015 07:09 pm »

Tokka Week 2015
3. Illness


It was my fault for sticking around her. Other people are catching -- their thoughts, their mannerisms, their being. It shouldn't come as any surprise that we wound up suffering the same malady.

She kept quipping that I ought to beat it if I couldn't take a beating. "Why are you such a glutton for punishment?" she'd ask, punching my shoulder to emphasize her point. I'd wince and give her a nervous grin, but I didn't offer a response. Truth to tell, I didn't understand why. If you'd asked me, I would have freely admitted that Toph was fierce and you ought to do what she says. She told me to go away. I never saw the contradiction between my thoughts and my actions, for I never went away.

Perhaps it was because the more I stood by her the more I could see that her strength had a softer side. We'd been friends long enough that I knew her bravado was neither false nor true. It was something more complex than that -- a part of her, but also a shield. Sometimes she lowered it so that I could see her as she truly and simply was, but even when she raised it up -- which was most of the time, honestly -- I could recall all I knew about her, and she accepted this unspoken understanding. She tries to be strong. She is strong. But that doesn't mean she's invulnerable.

She'd glare at me, facing the wrong direction. She'd sneeze, exaggerating the loudness, but her tiny frame would belie the effort. She'd grumble about me, my stubbornness, my boorishness, my weakness, and yet she never convinced me that she actually wanted me to leave.

Maybe that's it, why I stuck around. Here was this awe-inspiring world-traveling top-notch bender (I like to think I merit two or three of those terms, but I'm not holding my breath on the bender part) who somehow wanted me to stick around. I suppose someone wanting your company is good enough a reason for most people. But, hey, that description could match Azula, too, and if she asked me to hang out I'd refuse.

There was something about Toph, for all her abrasiveness, that drew me in against my better judgment. After months on the grandest adventure we've ever known, and years of keeping up the connection, it was only natural that I, in all my vulnerability, couldn't leave this contagious girl alone.
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Loopy
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« Reply #3 on: Sep 21, 2015 09:02 pm »

1. Taste

Interesting take on the 'Taste' prompt. It naturally makes one think of eating, of course, but artistic taste is a good twist on the word.

Nice reference to "Sokka style." It's probably his trademark phrase, for his fans, but then, I might be biased. Cheesy

I like the description of using crystal light to mimic the kind of lighting that modern art galleries use. It's probably nicer than harsh electric lighting.

Kind of funny that Sokka's most impressive work in the Great Divide, when everyone is so down on that episode, including the cartoon creators. Cheesy I'm curious if Sokka, despite his newfound observational skills, added a rainbow. It could be his signature element, present somewhere in all his work. Using the mirrors to enhance the presentation of the painting is a nice tidbit, and I like that it allowed Sokka even to see his own work in a new light. Sometimes, an artist doesn't even realize all that's contained in their art, and it's a nice parallel to Sokka seeing something new in Toph, even though he didn't create her. (But then, it could be argued that all friends help create each other.)

It's interesting that Sokka sees Toph as mimicking the quirks of sighted people, while my impression of her from the cartoon was that she had her own body language based on her blindness. But then, she does enjoy faking people out for a laugh. So who is her audience this time? Sokka, or the other patrons? Or both?

I like Sokka's thoughts about what Toph can perceive in paintings, and the speculations on what kind of art could be specifically made for viewing through Earthsense. It reminds me of my own piece about Sokka using metallic paint to create art that gave different impressions depending on which style of viewing was available to an audience, but with the art being the culmination of both perceptions.

I'm surprised that Sokka sees Toph as usually rambunctious, though. She's the "wait and listen" teacher, after all, but then, that'd be the side of her that Aang would be more familiar with. Perhaps Sokka has never really taken a Wait And Listen approach to Toph before. Wink

Ah, and it turns out that Toph was perceiving more than even Sokka speculated, knowing that he was deep in concentration himself. Wink Sokka's bit about trying to explain how mirrors make the room look bigger makes me wonder if some kind of vibration-absorber could do the same for Toph.

And of course Sokka feels like he managed to hide his observations without earning anything more than getting called names, but he's already noted his inability to tell just how far and deep Toph's perceptions go, so perhaps he isn't as secretive as he thinks. Grin



2. I Hope You're Happy

I got that this was Toph's POV right away, but it looks like someone on ff.net thought this was from Suki's POV. It made me go back and wonder if my impression was right, and of course when I went back I was able to confirm with the tells, but really the whole description matches Toph very well. I especially liked how she called out her own ignorance about the different kinds of rough'n'tumble girls, because Toph had to learn the different kinds of strength in the cartoon, and realize that the likes of the rest of the gAang weren't any stronger or weaker than her.

I was concerned in my first read-through that Toph would ever actually write a letter like this (or that she would write a letter at all, and/or dictate something like this to another person), and so I liked the twist that it was all in her head.



3. Illness

Well, you find better alternative angle on this prompt than I did. Grin

It's neat that you followed up a Toph Voice piece with a Sokka Voice piece. It sounds a bit formal for Sokka, but this really reflects his heart more than his enumerated thoughts, I felt, so it worked.

Really, even though Sokka is talking about Toph, it feels like he's talking about Being In Love itself, with Toph just the avatar of that sensation for him.

I feel like you missed an opportunity with the mention of Azula, though. Sokka merely said that he'd refuse if she asked him to hang out with her, but some wild over-the-top exageration would have been a good joke. Cheesy
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Maivry
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« Reply #4 on: Sep 27, 2015 06:19 pm »

Loopy -- Oh, wow, you're spoiling me with more comments than I'm used to. Cheesy

1. Taste -- I think the Great Divide itself is worth something more than the negative association with that one episode. Cheesy It was also a helpful way to show how Sokka had grown as an artist -- learning to appreciate that which was around him. Although I'm a little reluctant to say he adds a rainbow in every work, perhaps he managed to have a tasteful inclusion in this case. Cheesy

I dunno, I think Toph does mimic sighted people on occasion, or at least accommodates them with some of her body language. Of course, psyching people out can be part of it. That she's doing it here, well... I think it's probably more unconscious at this point, rather than something she's doing with a particular audience in mind.

I'm not surprised you would find the Earthsense and art thing familiar.

Like most people, Sokka is somewhat oblivious to Toph's less apparent side.

I wonder if she is being secretive. Grin

2. I Hope You're Happy -- You think it's Toph's POV? Interesting.

3. Illness -- For all these fics, I seem to be taking a more formal approach to the writing... I first wrote three without any actual dialogue, for instance, and this was one of them. Maybe it's because I can sometimes journal to myself in a more formal, poetic style than I'm likely to adhere to in normal communication.

Oh, shoot. You're right. Sokka would probably emphasize how wrong it would be to entertain Azula's offer much more colorfully than that.

---

Tokka Week 2015
4. We Danced


We danced at the wedding.

I laughed and told him I never thought I'd see the day. But this was Sokka; he didn't catch my meaning.

The necklace he carved was beautiful, or so I'm told. It's hard to tell with Sokka. Normally I could trust people to give him criticism if he really deserved it, but there's something about weddings -- something about a rosy bride showing off the tangible form of a promise -- that makes anything but admiring rapture impossible. Even my earth sense can't see past that.

Certainly this wasn't limited to the enchanted onlookers. Sokka himself could be romantic, there's no denying that, but today it seemed every other side of him -- his cynicism, his logic, even his stomach -- was not invited to attend. Everything was beautiful to him.

I was beautiful.

He told me he'd never seen me so lovely, albeit not in so many words. I shouldn't've -- I really shouldn't've -- but I said that to me I looked the same as always. But even at this he was unflappable. He just laughed. He could always count on me for that, even when he was bewitched by love. Not even a wedding could stop us from being pals.

Around us the guests danced and feasted in traditional style. He'd insisted on hitting every Water Tribe custom, without regard to the awkwardness of many of his Earth Kingdom guests. Wedding or no, not everyone can handle whale blubber. Not that he opposed including Earth Kingdom elements, nor were they totally absent -- it just so happened that he was the one who cared more about all the details.

I didn't really care about any of it. I clung a little tighter to him, wishing the moment would last. Wishing, perhaps, that I was as expressive and eloquent as he. Things would be different, then, wouldn't they. Perhaps they would be better. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, trying to imagine such an idea. Better than this?

Of course, the moment didn't last.

Interrupted whispers, unclasped hands, lost proximity -- it was a parting that meant so much more today against every other day. But I had to let him go. At a Water Tribe wedding, not even the bride can monopolize the groom.

We danced.

I smiled, retracing the experience in my mind. I had prepared myself a long time for this day, right down to this moment. Everything felt frozen in time, even as the festivities went on, as those by me tried to get my attention, as Sokka continued dancing with one of the guests.

Even as I kept my smile fixed, I was overwhelmed by the sensation of all my emotions. That was another wedding thing, emotions. It was more than just a union between two people -- it was a coming together of all kinds of people with their hopes and dreams for the future. It's no wonder people can get so excited, dreamy, or even cynical about weddings. But most infamous of all were the tears. It was hard to miss all the sniffs and sobs during the ceremony, nor did they stop just because the celebration began. Sensible me, I was above that.

I took a long, halting breath.

Or rather: silly me, I thought I'd be above that.
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Loopy
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« Reply #5 on: Sep 28, 2015 06:09 pm »

Aha, nice twist. You were very sneaky with this one, and when I went back to reread, I saw all those little signs that seemed to point to Toph as the bride but actually didn't. Good job with that.

And I can totally see Sokka as a complete Bridezilla, as he's very big on Tradition and The Way Things Ought To Be. I can only presume that Katara went insane dealing with it all.
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Maivry
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 04, 2015 05:25 pm »

Loopy -- Oh, you think so? Wink

---

Tokka Week 2015
5. Behind Closed Doors


Heavy footsteps. Startled shouts and yelps. Metal objects clanging against each other as they fell to the ground. Toph loved the chaotic sound of everything under control.

She stepped through the threshold of the underground bunker she had just unearthed for her men, in time for a straggler to make a go for it right under her nose. Did he think that just because she was the only one between him and the exit that he could make it? A quick tap of her foot corrected him of this notion.

It didn't take long for the noise to subside.

"Chinu!" Toph barked. Presently her deputy appeared before her with a salute. "Report."

"It's exactly as you expected," he said, a bit of a smirk making it into his voice. "Place is crawling with contraband and stolen goods: swords of every shape and size, battle dress, blasting jelly and other explosives, the odd diadem or tome... Much of it originates from the Fire Nation, but there's also some high-end Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe items mixed in."

Toph nodded. "And the detainees?"

"We apprehended six, but we reckon there were another two that got away. Some of them were wanted for other reasons." He chuckled. "All in all, a good haul." He motioned to another officer. "Hey, bring that big shot over here."

"If you think I'll talk, you have another thing coming," a new voice growled, originating from a man who moved as uncooperatively as he could given that he was being pulled forward by two burly officers.

"No more than you," Toph said calmly. "But I don't need you to cozy up for a chat to find new leads. Even the fact that you're refusing to talk tells me something." The man grunted, and Toph smirked.

"You dunno nuthin'," the man spat as Toph began to pace across the room.

"Are you trying to imply there's a bigger network that'll catch us off guard?" Chinu asked drily while Toph rifled through some Fire Navy battle armor. "Forgive my confidence, but I think you're bluffing."

"I just say you better not assume nuthin'."

Toph caught her breath.

"Stubborn as you are," she said, picking up an object and slowly turning around to reveal a sword wrapped in straps of leather, "we have ways to retrieve information from your sort."

The man's heartbeat picked up, and Toph had to remind herself not to be too pleased at his expense.

"However," she said, drawing the sword and brandishing it before the man, "I for one think we've accomplished enough for today. Take them away."

And although she couldn't see it for herself, she imagined the nervous man lingering his attention on the expertly crafted sword as he was led away, little knowing the significance it held -- from the white lotus engraved on its hilt, to the tip of its black blade.

Yes.

Enough had been accomplished that day, but there was still plenty of room for it to get better.
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 11, 2015 04:00 pm »

Tokka Week 2015
6. No Excuses


Katara swept into the room.

"Sokka was wondering some things about you, so I thought I'd ask you-- wait, first, why are you blushing all of the sudden?"

"I'm doing what?" Toph jerked her face away, withdrawing behind the hair that always covered her face -- or, at least, she was under the impression that it covered her face. Was Katara even being serious? There's no way Katara could see that she was doing that color-changing face thing...

"It happens a lot when Sokka comes up," Katara said smugly, which only added to Toph's irritation. "But it seemed particularly pronounced just now when I mentioned he was wondering about y--"

"You're imagining things." Toph gritted her teeth, welcoming the heat of her anger. Maybe that way Katara could really see her face when it was red (or whatever people see) and drop the whole issue. "Just get to the point."

"I should have known you'd be this way." Katara sighed and tsked. "So, what's with you these days? Ever since you got back from your metalbending tour through the northern provinces you've been kind of stand-offish. I mean, I know it's been a few months..." Katara trailed off. "Okay, maybe longer than that," she added after a moment.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Toph wanted to say Katara was imagining things again, but she wasn't much of a fan of repeating herself these days. She started picking her toes and stuck out her tongue. "Is this because I didn't go with you to find perfume? Really, you shouldn't be surprised..."

"No, it's more the everyday stuff that seems different," Katara, said, waving her hand so dismissively that Toph could feel the current as well as the vibrations. "Like you haven't been staying through meals, and you haven't been joking around with Sokka as much as you used to." Katara faced Toph squarely, crossing her arms. "Did you get a boyfriend while you were away, or something?"

Toph burst out laughing, half accidentally, half on purpose. "No," Toph managed to say with perfect firmness -- it was nice that Katara hadn't even gotten close to a real explanation. "If I found a guy I wouldn't sit around here pining, or whatever you're thinking. I'd drag him along with me if it mattered that much to me." There was an implication in the order of Katara's words that Toph still wanted to call into question, but she feared doing so would give Katara new material to get all smug and presumptuous about.

Unfortunately, Katara didn't give up easily.

"But there is something up, isn't there?" she insisted, and Toph sighed. "You're not denying that something's different, just that it isn't, you know, someone else."

"Well, I dunno, maybe things are a little different," Toph said, ignoring the way Katara emphasized that last word. She bit her lip before continuing. "I don't really notice a difference, but I suppose it could be inevitable, with all the time that's passed."

Toph didn't immediately regret how she had worded her response and Katara didn't have an immediate retort, so it seemed one danger had passed. Truth to tell, Toph felt a little... out of place these days, among her friends. Everyone was moving through different stages of life now, and she doubted things could ever get back to how they used to be. Especially since they couldn't spend as much time together. All of them were only going to be in the same town for a couple more weeks... Toph couldn't even decide if that was reason to keep more distance or not.

"So are you going to get over this and start acting normally around each other again?" Katara said, trying to restart the conversation as if there was no pause.

"What are you talking about, you're getting on my case just like you always used to do," Toph said, unable to keep herself from chuckling a little.

"I meant around Sokka, obviously," Katara said with a little huff. "He's actually getting kind of depressed about it."

Toph felt her skin prickle at these words. "Well, maybe you haven't been feeding him enough meat." What was that? She didn't seem to be thinking of a coherent retort. "His mood always seems erratic when he's not eaten, I don't know why you'd bring me into it." Did that help? Toph was too busy rolling Katara's claim around in her mind. Did he seem more depressed these days? Sure, they hadn't been bantering as much, but that didn't mean he was depressed -- and even if he was, why would that be because of Toph? Wasn't he just, oh, more preoccupied with his responsibilities these days? Now that she thought about it, he did seem to be pretty responsive when she did feel comfortable joking around with him, but the rest of the time he seemed unusually quiet--

"So you haven't noticed at all?" Katara said in a low voice. "You're not paying attention to that any more? Are you looking for anyone these days?"

"Y'know, Katara, you seem awfully determined to get into my personal business and, what's worse, you're tossing Sokka in for no good reason." Toph did her best to make every word drip with derision. In her estimation, it was working. "Funny," she added, lightening her tone oh-so deliberately, "Last I knew you came here to talk to me about some question or other of Sokka's."

"Right," Katara said. Toph raised her eyebrow. She would have expected Katara to be a little flustered. Or perhaps outright contrite. But... she sounded even more smug. "Oh, did I forget to mention?" she continued, almost mirroring Toph's light, sardonic tone. "All this was what Sokka was wondering."

Toph blinked.

"You're joking."

"No, no, I wouldn't joke about that," Katara said, a chuckle belying her words. "But I'll be sure to tell him that there's no use asking you anything, because you're just going to be biting and taciturn like always. No use putting himself out there just to get spurned."

"What are you playing at?" Toph said, her voice coming out higher and louder than she intended. "That doesn't sound like Sokka. I mean, him-- m-- spurned?" Toph shook her head, trying to knock some sense into it "Doesn't sound like Sokka at all. Even if what you're saying made any sense, why would he ask you to ask?"

"Oops." Katara still sounded smug, making Toph feel more nervous. "Come to think of it, I don't think he actually asked me to ask you at all," Katara admitted, but Toph could tell she was smiling. Toph wanted to wipe that smile off her face. But that would probably say more than she meant to say, knowing Katara. "I probably shouldn't have told you anything."

Katara clasped her hands together and started backing out of the room.

"Hey!" Toph said, jumping up from her sitting position almost by reflex. "You're just going to act like you betrayed Sokka's confidence -- which, honestly, probably isn't the case, I mean, really," Toph added hurriedly, not sure who she was trying to convince more, "-- and get all up in my business, and act like nothing happened? Where do you even get these ideas?"

Katara had passed through the threshold, but she popped her head around the corner -- one of those seeing people habits, again -- and said, "I told you I was talking to Sokka about it. Not my idea."

"Why would Sokka be wondering stuff like that?" Toph retorted, with a hard and low voice.

"I dunno, I think you ought to ask him," she said, tilting her head. "You both could stand learning to confront each other. As for me, this go-between business hasn't been working out so well. Good luck!"

And with a little, obnoxious chuckle, she disappeared.
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 2015 05:25 pm »

5. Behind Closed Doors

This was cute. What good is being Chief of Police if you can't conduct a raid every now and then to recover your buddy's stuff? Cheesy Hopefully, the Republic City Metalbenders don't itemize everything they seize.

It makes me wonder about this guy who got raided, though. Obviously, he's some kind of criminal, but the fact that he had Space Sword means he uses his ill-gotten gains to buy some rather cool stuff, rather than the usual drugs and hookers. Does he have a collection of gAang memorabilia specifically, or just rare and beautiful items? What else might be there? Alas, the answers probably lie behind closed doors.



6. No Excuses

The dialogue was good, especially Toph's carefully worded answers and Katara's smug manipulations, but I have to admit that I couldn't figure out the reason for Toph and Sokka's difficulty. I'm inclined to actually accept Toph's excuse, that the dynamics are going to change as time passes and the gAang has large gaps of time between their meetings, but of course I recognize that Toph's crush is also present in there. I'm surprised that Sokka himself is just ignoring any difficulties and trying to keep things the same, but I can buy him recognizing Katara's "relationship manager" role in the group and appeal for her help.
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 18, 2015 07:58 pm »

Loopy -- Thanks for all the comments! ^_^

5. Haha, man, you're thinking about this way more than I did. My theory is that the guy didn't have a clue that he possessed something that meant anything to the gaang.

6. Perhaps some of the clarity was lost in the attempt to make it unclear whether or not Sokka's side of the equation was being represented accurately. I would say Toph's excuse was real enough, just toned down to something that would allow her to keep her private thoughts to herself. As for Sokka, I rather think he's able to articulate that the dynamic is off in specific instances, but is still oblivious to the bigger picture.

---

This will complete this year's prompts for Tokka Week. As per forum rules, I won't be posting again, but I would be happy to follow-up any comments through PMs, and I'd like to thank anyone who took a look at my little fics. Smiley I hope they've been worth it!

---

Tokka Week 2015
7. Complete


“Y’know, Toph, we really do make one big family.”

“I suppose being around each other all the time does that to people.”

“No, I mean we’re gonna be -- I guess we aren’t right now -- all related to each other. But we need to work on you.”

“Huh?”

“Well, for starters, Katara’s my sister. That’s a given. And then Aang’s going to be my brother-in-law -- I can’t deny it any more. Then there’s Zuko. His great-grandfather was Roku, who’s basically the same person as Aang, so they’re related. And then when I marry Suki, she’ll be part of the family, too. So that just leaves you.”

“What are you suggesting, that I get with Zuko, or something?”

“Haha, no! But, I mean, maybe he has a cousin, or something, or maybe Suki does... or you could find a descendant of Kyoshi. It just seems fitting, y’know? Being one complete family?”

Toph was silent.


Sokka rolled his fingers across a couple smooth, flat stones he held in his hand, shifting one over the other. He stepped to the edge of the shore -- from which he had taken the stones -- and hefted one in his right hand. Leaning sideways toward the ground, he launched it into the air. He watched it skip across the surface.

Skip, skip, skip. Another followed after it. He bent over to find more stones.

“Every year we’ll have to go back for the Arctic Hippo Feast. It’s not really an arctic hippo feast, if you know what I mean, but it’s kind of like the Unagi Festival, except instead of fish, there’s a lot of meat. Love it. And I think it’s high time someone got an actual arctic hippo involved -- they’re pretty intimidating, you see -- so I’m thinking of trying to lasso one like my dad did this one time-- pretty crazy, huh?”

“Pretty crazy,” Suki confirmed quietly.

“Anyway, with all the business in the Earth Kingdom, it’ll be nice to get away sometimes. That’ll probably be a good time to carve out a visit to Kyoshi Island, too.”

Suki was silent.


Plunk.

Sokka straightened up slowly, his eyes fixed yet not quite focused on the spot where the stone he had just thrown unceremoniously sank into the water. Well, sometimes that happened... He closed his eyes, telling himself he should just pick up another and try again.

Several moments passed without him making a move.

He probably would have stood there longer, but the back of his neck prickled, and he had the uncanny sense that he was being watched. Turning around, he spotted Toph perched on a rocky outcrop, not terribly close, but certainly not far away enough to be unaware of his presence, blind or no.

What does she want? he thought anxiously. He was out there by himself because he wanted to be alone. For a moment he wondered if he could pretend she wasn't there -- as if he hadn’t spotted her -- but she tilted her head towards him, evidently savvy of his attention.

He turned around, opting to search for more rocks to skip.

“We really need you here,” Sokka said with wide eyes.

“I have things of my own to take care of,” Suki said, looking him in the eyes before looking away. “I know you’re trying to do important things, but I am too. My Warriors need me. The people we’re trying to help... they need me. And I don’t think you need me as much as you think.”

“Of course we do,” he insisted. She looked up at him, and his heart gave a nervous little dance. She gave him a little half smile.

“Thank you. But I still need to go.”

“Okay,” Sokka said after giving a long exhale. “You said it won’t take long, right? So I’m counting on you... I’ll see you soon.”

Suki was silent.


Skip, skip, skip.

“So, why are you here?” Sokka asked without bothering to turn around.

“I’m a little concerned about you,” Toph said casually from her perch. “Your heartbeat’s been pretty erratic, so I wanna make sure you don’t keel over. Tell me, was it something you ate? Or has someone challenged you to a duel? Or are we dealing with a sillier kind of heart issue?”

He shot her a glare. “Oh, come on,” he said as he turned back to the water to throw another stone. “It can’t be that hard to guess.”

Toph muttered something under her breath. Sokka thought he caught the word “stupid,” which didn’t improve his mood. But then she said, “Sorry, I guess it’s still too soon.”

He paused for a moment while an especially nimble stone danced across the water. Too soon? It had been at least a month-- or maybe it was two now? He had to admit it was hard to keep track. Time was a very strange thing right now, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

But something in her tone made him take note. He opened his mouth, then pursed it. After a moment, the only reply he managed to give was, “Oh?”

Toph braced herself against a rock by her side, launching herself effortlessly to the ground below. “You know, Katara used to always go on about hopes,” she began as she walked towards him. “And I used to make fun of her for it, but I guess it turned out pretty important during the war... and after,” she added softly. “I can also see,” she continued after a moment, “that hopes can be kind of harsh. That we all have them, and it takes strength to survive them being dashed.”

Sokka watched her as he listened, then turned to the water to watch it in contemplation. He wondered if she was speaking just from observation, or from experience. Was she still thinking of the struggle it took for her parents to understand her? Or was there some more recent hope of hers that he had missed over the years?

“Yeah,” he croaked. He took a deep breath to get his voice back. “I know I always talked about... about the future. Heh, I guess I share something with my sister, even if I didn’t realize it... But,” he continued, trying not to let his throat close up, and he threw another stone, "It wasn't just all in my head, was it?"

"No," Toph assured him, toeing some water-smoothed rocks at her feet. "We all thought you were pretty well settled."

He wanted to ask if Suki was included in that "we," if she had said anything or if Toph could tell from her heartbeats when or how things became unraveled. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. But not knowing, having to run through the memories and try to sort everything out, was killing him.

"Do you know why?" he finally managed. He took a breath. "Did I really mess up so bad that she had to cut ties with everyone to get away from me?"

"Ties?" Toph asked with a light tone of surprise. "You were always the main reason she stuck around."

"Nonsense," Sokka countered, flinging a stone into the air. "She loved being with everyone."

Toph was silent.

Sokka was bending over to retrieve more rocks when he halted. Propping himself on his knees, he looked over at Toph. Really looked, for once. He straightened and came towards her, realization dawning on his face.

"You never really liked her, did you?" he asked.

Toph shrugged. "She was alright," she said. "We were on the same side. We all were. But personally, what we did have in common... it never did bring us together." She tilted her face away from him. "It wasn't just me. She seemed like she belonged in your sphere to us, so that's where she stayed." There was a pause where Sokka tried to decide how he felt about that, how he could respond. But Toph continued, softly, before he could. "Maybe if we helped her feel more connected to all of us she would have stayed."

Sokka breathed deeply, processing the idea. It wasn't an apology, no, but it was an admission that relieved him, ever so slightly, from his worst fears and self-deprecation. Could he believe it? He cast about for memories and happenings that supported this new idea.

Bits and pieces began fitting together, hinting at a bigger picture he had long missed.

"So I was wrong all along, then," he said after several moments, in a lighter tone than he would have expected to manage under the circumstances. "She never really was part of the family." He frowned, continuing to retrieve stones and flinging them across the water. "The whole idea was a figment of my imagination."

"I think you were at least a little bit wrong," she admitted.

Skip, skip, skip.

"But..." Toph trailed off. Sokka saw her stoop down to pick up a smooth, flat stone the size of her palm. "Maybe your vision isn't completely out of the question," she said, hefting the stone up and down in her hand. "Maybe she hasn't completely closed that door for you." She paused. "But if she has, and you find yourself whole and ready to move on," Toph continued, facing the shore and readying her stance to throw the stone, "there's still someone else who isn't quite part of the 'family' who wouldn't turn you down."

The stone flew through the air, touching upon the water at just the right angle and just the right speed to begin its dance across the surface.

Toph inclined her head towards Sokka, who looked at her speechlessly, before she walked away. He watched her go, his mind racing to confirm that he hadn't misheard her and that he hadn't misunderstood what she said.

Behind him, the stone she had thrown continued to glance across the water far into the distance, time and time again.
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Loopy
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« Reply #10 on: Oct 19, 2015 06:41 pm »

You must have saved the best for last, because I think this is the strongest piece in this year's set.

You did a good job encapsulating an idea that could take longer to portray- Sokka breaking up with Suki, coming to an understanding of what happened, finding out about Toph's crush, and paving the way for future Tokka once the requisite healing has begun. I like the theme of family, and that Suki was separate from everyone else, and how even if she and Sokka had a decent romance going, the exclusion is reflective of what could perhaps be a less-than-fulfilling life together. It's a good breakup scenario that avoids trite dialogue about "not belonging in your world," and respectful of the various characters. (I notice Sokka didn't realize that he didn't fit into Suki's family either, although I don't think all the Kyoshi Warriors are married to each other, so perhaps the comparison isn't as obvious. Cheesy)

And of course Toph would be great at skipping stones. Nice metaphor for how Tophs skips into the Water Tribe warrior's life time and time again. Grin
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