Sokka knew that Toph was beautiful, but at that moment, standing in front of him, he could have sworn she was one of the spirits. Her wedding gown flowed around her small frame. She almost looked like she was floating.
"Toph, please," he whispered to her. "You don't have to do this." He grabbed her hand as she turned away.
She bent her head until her chin touched her chest. "Yes I do." She heaved a sigh. "Goodbye, Sokka."
Toph began to walk away, into the fog that surrounded them. Her hand started to slide through his fingers. He grasped her tighter, determined not to let her go. He knew that if she left him, he was never going to see her again.
"Don't leave me!" He didn't care if he was screaming or begging. He couldn't lose her like this.
She slipped out of his hold and vanished into the fog.
Sokka woke up feeling like he'd never rested at all. He was sitting against the outer wall of the Bei Fong estate, arms resting on his bent knees.
He leaned back against the wall. The sun had not yet risen, so he still had time before Aang and Katara left. Maybe he could go back to Toph. Maybe he only needed to explain himself better. He just needed to talk to her alone for a few minutes, and everything could work out the way it was supposed to.
He shook his head. There was no point. She had dismissed him last night, there was no mistaking that. She made it quite plain that she didn't love him.
So why had she kissed him like that? Everything about it felt so...right.
"Did you really sleep out here all night?"
His head snapped up. Toph was standing in front of him, arms folded over her chest. She was wearing her travelling clothes and carrying her bag over her shoulder. "Morning Toph," he said, and shrugged. "I guess I did sleep out here. And what about you? Headed back to Ba Sing Se?"
She nodded and pushed a piece of hair behind her ear. She was wearing it loose again, a headband keeping her bangs out of her eyes. "I was hoping it would be okay to stop there on the way. I have to pick up a few things from my apartment."
"On the way?" Way to where?
"Yeah. I'm sure the Earth King could find something for me to do in the Fire Nation." She tapped a finger on her chin and smirked. "I do like the sound of Ambassador Toph Bei Fong."
"Ambassador?" Sokka's mind reeled. Nothing she said was making sense.
"Sure! Being an ambassador could be fun! At the very least, it would mean a better room in the Palace."
Sokka rubbed his forehead with his hand. "I know it's early and my brain isn't fully awake yet, but I'm so confused."
Toph took a couple steps toward him. "Then let me explain. Last night, this guy with a ponytail "
"Wolftail," he corrected without thinking.
"Ponytail snuck into my bedroom, declared his undying love for me, and practically begged me to run off with him. Now, I thought that was you, but if it wasn't, please tell me so I can go find him because he was one amazing kisser."
Sokka scrambled to his feet. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. She was really coming back to the Fire Nation...for him? "Wait a minute," he said. "I thought you made a promise to your parents and Lin."
"Well, I did promise to marry him." She grinned at him, and he knew exactly what it meant.
"You're not telling me everything." He crossed his arms in front of him. "Spill it, Toph."
She sighed and smiled again. "I also said that if ever the clumsy, obnoxious, clueless, oblivious, meat-loving, sarcasm-spouting..." She paused and her features softened. "...brave, caring, and completely wonderful warrior I fell in love with four years ago came for me before the wedding, I promised I would tell them before I ran off with him again."
A hundred things went through his mind. "Wait a minute," he said. "So last night, when you told me to leave, you knew what you were going to do."
"Of course I did. I had to find some way for starting to make you pay for making me wait so long."
"Starting to?" She only smirked. He almost wished he didn't know what that meant. "Hey! Don't I get any credit for "
"Snoozles." She pounded her foot on the ground and was raised up by a small mound of earth. She was eye-level with him, and she rested her arms on his shoulders. "Would you just be quiet and kiss me already?"
Any objection he had was lost. "Be quiet, Sokka," he said with a smirk, and leaned into her.
Their first kiss a year ago had been tentative and nervous. Their second was rushed and heavy with passion. But for Sokka, the third kiss they shared next to the wall of her parents' house was what he would always remember as their real first kiss. It was light at first, and then deepened into something else entirely. Something he couldn't describe in words, but he knew that it wasn't longing or infatuation.
It was love.
He wrapped his arms around Toph's waist and picked her up from her small hill. He felt her smile beneath his lips, so he spun her in a tight circle. The smile turned into a laugh as she clung to his neck.
Sokka set her back to the ground and held her close to him. Her head rested against his chest. He could only think about how good he felt even the pain in his shoulder had disappeared. "Don't ever leave me again," he whispered to her.
"Promise," she replied. She tilted her head up to him. "Don't ever let me go."
He pressed her even tighter to him and smiled. "Wouldn't dream of it."