One of a Kind
A/N: Just wanted to give a big thanks to everyone who's been reading this and reviewing/PMing. I've gotten pretty much nothing but positive feedback and it's nice to feel like my work is worthwhile to some people out there. I'm sure I'd still be writing this even if hardly anyone was reading it but it really is rewarding to feel like my writing is being appreciated, so thanks for the support to all who have taken the time to give it. We're not done yet, though, so I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.
Where is it? Where is it? Urgh. Not there. Not there. Not there, either! What the hell? Where did it go?
"Where did it go?"
At this point, she was desperate. On her knees, she was smacking everything around carelessly, unable to track down her tiny treasure. Cloth, leather, bag of rice, bowls, forks-ow, for Spirits' sake! She grunted in pain and frustration, sucking a drop of blood from her finger.
"Where did what go?"
"O-Oh, hey, Katara," she mumbled, attempting to shove everything back where it had been. Her haphazard efforts probably looked like a trash heap. "I just lost something. That's all."
"Well," Katara slowly began. "What did you lose?"
Toph rose from her knees and turned to Katara.
"I think I lost the bracelet Sokka made for me." The grumbling flopped out of her mouth like it had to be shoved out.
"Sokka didn't make you a bracelet," Katara pointed out coyly. Toph could sense a smirk through Katara's tone and her cheeks started to heat up. "You mean the meteor rock he gave you?"
"Yea," Toph spat out hurriedly, wanting to change the subject. "Yea, that. I can't find it!"
"Where was the last place you put it?"
"I think I put it with Sokka's things before I went swimming yesterday," she explained, smacking herself in the side of the head. She had been careless at the time, eager to take up Sokka's offer for a swim, but she'd been petrified of losing it and having it wash away down the river. The events of the day had her so preoccupied that she'd forgotten all about it, and now her wrist felt bare and lonely.
"OK," Katara said reassuringly. "Let's go and ask him if he found it, then." Yea. That couldn't be too difficult, right? Geez, what was she panicking about, anyway?
Toph gave a simple nod and the two exited the tent. Katara snickered at nothing she could discern.
"We really need to fix your hair."
Oh, right. Bleh. Might as well do that after we find my space rock.
"Ah, there he is," Katara said, patting her on the back. "He's straight ahead, at the river." Toph headed off, leaving Katara to continue working on breakfast with Suki.
Crawnch. Krnsh krnsh krnsh. Sokka's munching was a dead giveaway through the sloshing of the running water. He was chowing down on what sounded like a carrot. Hawky was perched on his shoulder, cawing on occasion. He was sitting on a boulder half sunken into the river near the shore.
"Hey, Meathead!" Toph called as she approached. "You got my space rock?" Rumblings from her feet told her he had bounded off of the stone and onto the shore. Hawky became a wisp for a moment, then took on a clear form on Sokka's shoulder when he'd reached solid ground.
"Your what, now?"
"My meteor rock," Toph insisted. "I think I left it with your stuff yesterday. Before we went swimming?"
"Oh, right," he muttered. Shiff-shuff-skaff. "Yep, here ya go." He tossed it at her, and she could feel its presence drift through the air, the nerves tingling in her extended palm from the flowing energy attracting the stone. She twisted her hand and eased the rock in mid-flight, strapping it around her left wrist. Ah. Much better.
"Thanks." She gave him a wide grin. "I didn't wanna lose it in the river."
"Definitely. You gotta take good care of that. Don't wanna lose it, right?"
Toph eagerly nodded in reply.
"That thing's one of a kind," he said before chewing into his carrot again. He gave her a pat on the head and added warmly - with a mouthful of carrot - "Juff wyke woo." Toph could feel her soul beaming with pride at his compliment. But this was short lived, as Sokka sighed to himself, and Toph's heart grimaced at the longing in his breath.
"What's up?" she wondered, running her hand along the cold, surreal stone on his wrist.
"Ah, it's nothing," he grumbled with a dismissive tone. Thip thip thip. He was making his way back to camp.
"Don't gimme that, Snoozles," Toph urged, catching up beside him and tugging on his shirt. "What is it?" Something weird was up with him, for sure.
"Agh," he groaned. "It's just...I miss Space Sword." It was a pathetic whimper of desperation.
What? Seriously? He's flustered over a sword? A hunk of rock?
"Oh," she awkwardly replied, unsure of how to respond or what had brought about the subject. Oh, duh: the space rock, it was made of the same meteor Sokka had forged his old sword from. "Uh, that sucks."
"Yea," he glumly agreed. "I miss Boomerang, too. He and I went way back, ya know? His son's a great guy and all, but...Just not the same. And SteelFace is cool but man, I had a freakin' sword from outer space. It's not like those are easy to come by."
What the heck was she supposed to say to that? He was getting all bent out of shape over his weapons being gone. Then Toph remembered the very thing she had just been making a fuss about and felt like a jerk.
"Mmmaybe you should...I dunno...Make a new sword yourself?"
Sokka hadn't made SteelFace, he'd bought him from a smith in Ba Sing Se before they had left so he could continue practicing. 'Always gotta be prepared,' he'd said.
"Maybe," Sokka pondered. "It was worth it, though." Her world was rumbled around as his rough knuckle descended upon her head and scratched at her skull. "I guess you're more valuable to Team Avatar than even Boomerang and Space Sword were combined."
One of a kind, just like you; valuable: to Team Avatar...But also to him, personally? Maybe maybe?
"Besides, someone has to help me keep everyone grounded in reality. Don't want everyone getting too optimistic about life, right?"
"Yea," she agreed gruffly. "The Universe is waiting to crush us around every corner, after all."
The two enjoyed a chuckle at the expense of times gone by.
She remembered those perilous moments when her life had hung by the thread of Sokka's arm, pinned down by Fire Nation soldiers on a war blimp above an ignited forest. Sokka had bravely sacrificed his two beloved weapons to save her life, all on his own. Well, until Suki showed up and...saved them both. Toph didn't care, he was still her hero.
"Man," Sokka said simply, as if being enlightened about something.
"Have you always had that much hair on your big head?" Sokka wondered in disbelief at the mass of frizzy black that hung from her head, no-doubt pointed in all manner of directions. Toph sunk her head down to the ground, feeling her face flush. Bleck, he probably thought she looked like woodland animal.
"Yea," she muttered with a shrug. "Haven't got it cut since I was still with my..." She trailed off. It didn't feel right. They didn't deserve to be referred to by that title any more. Sokka slapped her on the back - a rough stroke of sympathy.
"No use having so much hair if you don't do anything with it," he advised, fumbling for conversation so as to avoid the topic she was not in the mood to discuss at the moment. At least he knew well enough. His words stumbled along like a drunken old man. "Maybe you should have Katara...I don't know...braid it for you. Or something. She...seems good at the...braiding. And stuff." She could feel an uncomfortable insecurity in his tone. Girly things like 'hair' were clearly not his strength. Well, that was OK, because they weren't hers, either.
"You think so?" she probed, her face still pointed down.
"Uh, sure," he replied in nonchalance. "Pff, I dunno. You should really ask Katara about it, I don't think I'm exactly a fashion guru. Just a thought, though."
Urgh, make up your mind! You brought it up, you Meathead.
"Did you find your rock?" Katara questioned. Huh, that walk had seemed longer on the way over...Oh, yum. That smelled like boiled carrots and potatoes. Potatoes were quite possibly the greatest gift bestowed upon mankind, as far as she was concerned.
"Yep," Toph replied, sticking up her arm proudly to show it.
"Great." Skoss-skoss - wooden spoon, scraping around inside a pot. That familiar sound made her mouth water. "Food's almost done. You wanna go get Aang? He should be with Appa and Momo." Katara knew better than to tell her which direction they were in. Those three made quite a racket - not to mention the way the earth shook with each step Appa took.
After a minute or two of walking and obsessing over why Sokka had made that comment about her hair, she'd found the group. Aang was swirling Momo around in a mini tornado while Appa moaned in what likely approximated to laughter.
"Hey, guys," Toph proclaimed. "Time to eat!"
Her mess of hair went flailing around. Had Aang just airbended Momo past her head?
"You better watch yourself, Twinkletoes," she threatened, pounding her fist into her palm gleefully.
"Why's that?" Aang taunted back, zipping by on his stupid little air-ridey-thing.
He was gone before she could reply. She pushed her hair out of her face and laughed to herself. He was certainly living up to the reputation she had assigned him.