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- Thursday, April 28th, 2011 -

"He was trying to help, Katara."

"It wasn't his business to do that."

"And it's your business to try hooking me up with Toph?"

"That's different!"

"How?"

"That's not...a personal issue. That's just dating."

"Just dating. Because that hasn't caused any of us drama this year."

Katara's hands ran up through her hair with a huff. She paused, trying to contain herself.

"Can we drop this?"

"Can you drop this?" Sokka countered. "That's the entire point. You won't let things go."

"And you're so good at that."

"Well, I try. Yea."

"Mm. Like how you kept going back and forth with Suki."

"Come on, Sis. Let's not do this."

"No! No, you want to keep talking," Katara pressed in her expectedly snippy fashion. "So let's talk. You moved on when Mom died, but you can't let go of Ulrika."

"Katara, I didn't-...It's not that simple, I think about Mom all the time, but...-"
"But it doesn't bother you the way it bothers me. The way it bothers Dad."

"What? How could you say that?"

"Dad needed to start going to therapy. Taking medication," Katara pointed our fiercely. "So did I. But you? No, you were apparently fine. You got by OK."

"Are you really implying that losing Mom didn't hurt me the same way it hurt you?"

"Did it, Sokka? When did you ever cry over her death?"

"Sis..."

"When?"

"At...at her funeral!"

"No! No, you did not!"

"Huh...?"

"You didn't shed a single tear at that funeral. I distinctly remember."

"What? That...-"

"You just didn't love Mom the way I did," Katara seethed, turning her back to her brother as she retreated for her dresser.

"Katara!" cried Sokka in shock, watching her begin opening her drawers and look through them. This hadn't been the first time Katara had made such an implication, and it stung just a bit more each time she had over the years.

"You seemed to come out of it fine," Katara observed. She paused, turning her head over her shoulder. "You never needed pills or...or therapy, or...anything. Y-you don't...-" She gestured a hand around her body. "-...become like...like this...-" Her eyes squinted, nose wrinkled, she went back to her clothes. her voice was shifting gears from snippy and bitter to shaky and quiet. She swallowed a sob, closing the drawers, and bent over her dresser. Elbows on wood, forehead in her hands, she took deep breaths. "Wh-when mom died...you didn't...didn't cry, didn't...say anything. When...Ulrika...-"

Sokka had taken to thinking of her as 'Yue,' that name he had come up with for her.

"-...when she died?" Katara continued, still hunched over. "At her funeral, you...d-didn't say anything then, either. You...you didn't cry..."

Sokka sighed, scratching at the stubble on his face.

"And wh...when Jane left?" Katara muttered, lifting up, arms clasped around her chest. "Same thing..."

"Sis...that's different."

"When you lose someone, it's...like it doesn't even matter."

"How can you think that?"

"What if I died? You probably wouldn't cry. Or say anything at my funeral..."

"Katara, please..." Sokka approached his erratic sister, who was presently shooting him dagger eyes.

"Because you just...you don't care about stuff the same way I do..."

"That's...not true," sighed Sokka, gripping at Katara's shoulder. He nudged her to sit down on her bed. "Katara, I love you," he assured as she sat down. His hands remained planted on her shoulders. "I love dad. I loved Mom, and Ulrika..." His eyes slid sideways as she considered his words. "And I love Jane, too. And I miss people when they're gone. Just like you do."

"Why...why doesn't it bother you as much?" Katara croaked, her eyes damp.

"I...don't know," Sokka admitted. "It...probably does, and I just...keep it in."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure, maybe...I want to try to be the strong one...or whatever."

"Mmph..."

"I'm your big brother. I'm supposed to be the guy...that you're looking up to, and...all that stuff..." He looked down at his sister's quivering eyes. "I don't know," he mumbled, avoiding her pleading expression. He was confused by what this entire conversation was supposed to be about, and sat down beside Katara. "I do cry sometimes, you know," he insisted. "That doesn't mean you have to see it..."

"O-OK," Katara whimpered out, wiping her fingers over her eyes. She sniffed. "I'm sorry, Sokka, I...I didn't really mean...-"
"It's all right. I know."

"It's because...sometimes I can't understand how you do it. How you can lose the same things I do, but...you can keep on going, like you have hardly a scratch."

"Sis..."

"Bro..."

"Gah..." Sokka scratched at the edges of his left nostril. "I probably do have scratches, they're just beneath the skin."

"Mm..."

"And I don't know why I never needed medication. You seem to think that you don't need it, either, though."

"Y-yea...That's true...Ugh, I'm not doing a very good job at showing it lately..."

"Eh. It happens."

"I'm sorry I'm being such a jerk."

"Heh, at least you're not meaning to," Sokka tried to encourage. He gave her back a pat. "When I'm a jerk, I thoroughly intend to be one, haha."

"Hee, yea, you sure do."

"You know, I...think it comes down to that poem."

"Mm?"

"The one you read at Jack's funeral."

"Oh..." Katara had mixed feelings about 'Jet.' It had been complex and difficult to grasp with so much negative emotion toward him after his death, via Jane.

"Uhh, it was...-" Sokka snapped his fingers twice, brows furrowed as he tried to call the words to mind. "Right, yea. It was, like...'Miss me, but let me go.'"

"Yes..." Katara swallowed hard, the memory of the entire poem sweeping over her.

"That's how it is with me."

"Ah." Katara suddenly felt like a hypocrite. Reading that poem at such a solemn event, yet living her life clinging to the past...Just the idea of acting hypocritical didn't settle well with her, especially in her current state of mind and mood.

"I miss people, too, Katara. I really do. But I try to let them go when they're gone."

"Maybe...I'm supposed to be doing that, too?"

Sokka shrugged, and she could see in his eyes that this was what he thought, but he wasn't going to say it.

"I...I don't really know how to go about it," Katara grumbled. "How did you...let go of Ulrika?"

"Yue...?"

Sokka bit his bottom lip as he thought about this.

"You know, the more I think about it...the more I wonder if I really have."

Katara reciprocated Sokka's shrugging gesture, and in turn, Sokka could tell that this was what Katara was really thinking, though she wasn't going to tell him outright.

"Sounds like...we both might need to think about this...?"

"You might be right, Sister."

"I always am, Brother."

"Except when you're being all hormonal and grumpy."

"Bleh...Yea, maybe not then. Really, I'm so sorry..."

"It's all right. Are you going to be OK?"

"What...?"

"No offense, but...I'm worried that in an hour your switch is going flip back and you'll just be a jerk again."

"That is a distinct possibility," Katara groaned, palm over her eyes. "I don't know what's wrong with me..."

"You have two X chromosomes," Sokka picked, to which Katara shook her head with a grouchy glare.

"Pff...Yea, well...I'm still mad at Aang."

"I get ya. I don't agree with it, but...I get it."

"I know we'd said we'd all go out to eat together tonight, but...I don't know. Between me and Aang being grumpy and you and Toph being all...weird...-"

"Yeeeaaa..."

There was a knocking at the door. Sokka jumped up to answer while Katara furiously rubbed at her eyes, ensuring they were dry. It was their father.

"Hey, you two."

"Hi, Dad."
"Hey..."

"Is...everything all right? Did I interrupt?"

"We're fine," Katara insisted, avoiding her father's eyes.

"Yea, it's all good. What's up?"

"Bato just pulled into the driveway, I thought you might want to say hi while he's here."

"Sure!"
"OK..."

Katara pulled herself up from the bed, and Sokka playfully nudged her along downstairs to see the old family friend.


Sokka's fingers drummed along the desk as he pulled objects out of a cardboard box sitting on the floor beside his chair. His father had recommended he do some spring cleaning in his bedroom, and start organizing out what he was going to be taking with him after graduation from what was going to be staying here. He had needed some space to himself, anyway. Things with Toph had a heavy layer of expectation hanging over them that he was nervous to confront, and Aang and Katara were still both cranky with each other. There was one box Sokka had been avoiding, and he had finally reached it.

It was a conundrum, all right. A box full of pleasant memories, but ones he had been spending quite some time trying to hide from, trying to forget.

Katara's embittered words had stung with irrational grumpiness on her part. But there had been truth to them. It was somewhat hypocritical of him to criticize her when he was letting the past keep hold of him. While Katara was an open book, announcing her hurt to the world, Sokka tried to keep his self-contained. That probably didn't make it any better, really. It just ended up leading him to make decisions with women that maybe he would do well to not make.

A notebook with doodles they had scribbled together. A pair of 3D glasses, a keepsake from a film they had seen - their first 'date movie' as a couple. A collection of odds and ends he had received in his campus mailbox - they had used to send each other random notes and such every week, for no reason in particular.

Hm, what was this? A CD?

The label-less disc had something scribbled in permanent marker: {U. A.}

Sokka dredged his laptop out of his backpack and popped the CD in. He spent about fifteen minutes perusing through its girth of digital photos. He had actually never taken the time to look at the album until that day. There were plenty of moments and events that he had forgotten entirely over the past couple of years.

Haha. That time we had a cookout together. Oh, right, that one date where she took me to that fancy restaurant. Ugh, good god, she was so pretty that night. The food was damned tasty, too. Oh, man, Every-Ice-Cream-Flavor-at-Once-Day...Takes me back.


The photos of the ice cream event Sokka had single-handedly made up with Yue recalled memories of the night they had first met. It was at the start of Sokka's sophomore schoolyear, during a college-hosted ice cream social gathering outside. The evening air still clung to the warmth of the late August sunset, now passed. Sokka had offered to take his sister along, who - as a freshman - was a bit petrified of the entire ordeal. This was understandable; after all, Katara had been a sort of outcast during high school, which had altogether been a very rough time.

Sokka still didn't quite understand what had possessed Katara to attend the same college as him - she had received much better offers at more prominent schools. Then again, this had been where their mother had attended, so perhaps it was for the sake of honoring Kya's memory. Whatever the case, he was glad she was here, though she was still fresh with sarcastic steam from an entire summer with her brother, and their sibling rivalry was in full swing.

During the course of introducing his little sister to various friends and fellow students, Sokka had come across a most peculiar sight - a girl with hair as white as snow. Artificially, sure, but...it was still eye-catching, especially when set around such a beautiful pair of blue eyes. The girl was currently wearing a somewhat shaky, uncertain expression. She looked fairly uncomfortable. How could they not see it? How was no one reacting to this? How could he immediately notice? Sokka had seen this girl a few times on campus this week since class had started. SRU was a small college, after all, and she was easy to pick out in a crowd.

In that instant, though, it became Sokka's desire to 'rescue' her from her social peril himself.

"Sokka? What's wrong?"

"Er, nothin', Sis. Um. Hey, listen. Ya mind if I...cut ya loose for a minute?"

"What?" Katara balked.

"Uh, no, that...-! That came out wrong," Sokka pleaded sheepishly at her indignant expression. "Listen, there's...this person I've been wanting to meet, and...well, they're-"
"Oho," Katara knowingly teased, rubbing her thumb and index finger across her chin. "'They,' huh? So you mean, 'she?'"

"Yes...?" The word spilled slowly and with uncertainty under Katara's stern eye.

"OK, OK," Katara sighed at her sibling's puppy eyes. "Let's go meet her, then, I guess. Maybe she'll want to talk with me..."

The two of them fumbled their way around mingling circles of students until they reached the small crowd surrounding this girl. Katara slurped at her bowl of Death By Chocolate, the flavor helping to sooth her social anxiety, while Sokka held a sugarcone with a stump of rainbow sherbert atop it.

"-and I was like, 'Oh. My. God. She is totally going here.'"
"It is sooooo amazing that you are here, girl."
"Seriously."
"Yea, like, seriously."

The poor girl was being bombarded by...what was this? Schmoozing? Weird. Buncha tools, sounded like. And the girl who'd attracted his attention looked thoroughly unamused by it.

"Excuse me," Sokka piped in, startled by the lot of them. They were all dressed in clothing that looked expensive for the sake of being so. One of them was wearing some kind of fancy sunglasses, despite the fact that it was evening out. Sokka didn't give the lot of them more than a second's thought, and even then, only that because of their utter surprise at him barging in. "Sorry, uh...don't mean to interrupt, it's just...-" He eyed the girl with the bright hair right in the eyes - those big, captivating eyes, blinking with confusing at him. "-...it's been so long, I almost didn't recognize you."

Her eyebrows furrowed at him for a moment while the slightly agape jaws around them hung even lower.

In that tense moment, Sokka's eyes and hers read each other's intentions and a sense of understanding was innately achieved.

"O-oh!" she muttered, putting on a smile and extending her hand. Sokka gladly shook it - wow, yikes, so dainty. He hadn't broken anything there, had he? "Yes! Of course! It...really has been too long," the girl announced a bit louder. She let this strange, bold lad escort her away from the group, whose conversation had been cut short. Their gazes moved to the awkward freshman chowing down on chocolate ice-cream, her braided hair frayed at the edges. Katara, upon realizing through her binging that she was being stared at, slunk away, following the other two.

"Are you all right?" Sokka asked the strange girl.

"I...I admit, I'm a little bit better now that I'm not listening to those people."

"Jesus, I was only there for about three seconds and I'm already relieved its over."

The blond-haired girl giggled at this, and Sokka instantly felt gratified. Mission accomplished. Bam. That had been easy.

"Name's Sokka, by the way." Sokka licked at his ice cream casually.

"I'm Ulrika," the girl introduced herself with a courteous nod. Sokka returned the nod with a dignified raise of his eyebrows. She laughed again at this gesture.

"Whoa, nice. I think your name might be as exotic as mine is," he joked.

"I suppose so," she chuckled back.

There was a loud throat clearing from behind them.

"Oh! Right." Sokka directed his hand to his sister. "Actually, my sis has a pretty out-there name, too. This is Katara."

Katara beamed timidly at the girl, waving her hand. The motion was sent back with a warm smile.

"Is that...-? Is that a penguin on your shirt?" Ulrika asked, pointing to Katara's chest, where a cute, rounded penguin was printed on her blue shirt.

"O-oh, heh," Katara shrugged with unease, her eyes glazing over. "Y-yes...It is."

"That's very adorable," the blond girl complimented.

"Thanks," Katara mumbled.

"So...Where are you two from?" Ulrika wondered, pondering their unique complexions and facial structure.

"The mysterious and far-off land of Canada," Sokka decried. "Where men dual in battles of bladed feet within arenas of ice, and where maple syrup reigns supreme. It is a land where only the fit survive."

The girl gasped dramatically.

"I hear your people are so barbaric, they put mayonnaise on their french fries," she entertained him, and he giggled weirdly at her jest. Katara raised her eyebrow at the phenomenon which would eventually become referred to as 'Sokka's Stupid Laugh.' "I'm from Los Angeles," the girl explained as they reached a table full of ice cream tubs. She grabbed a bowl.

"Wowwww, what brings you all the way over here?" Sokka wondered.

She shrugged coyly, scooping some Rocky Road ice cream into her bowl.

"I wanted to go to a quiet school, a small school."

"Why's that?"

She sighed, taking a cautious bite of her dessert.

"To avoid the sort of thing you just saw," she replied after an odd silence.

"Huh?"

"You...don't know who I am, do you?" she realized, as if it were some shock.

Sokka stared at her blankly.

"Uh, well...I know you're Ulrika. And that you're from LA. Aaand...-"
"Hahaha! You're a silly kind of guy, aren't you?"

"He has a long track record of that," Katara eagerly stuck in her two cents, relishing with amusement at the brief glare Sokka sent her way.

"I'm an actress," the girl explained. "I was in a movie that just came out this summer - my first feature-length film."

"Whaaaa? Are you for serious?"

Ulrika bit another chunk of ice cream.

"Mm-hm!"

"So...You're an actress. Huh? Ya know...I'm sort of an actor, myself," Sokka cockily explained.

"An actor? You're good at acting like an idiot, anyway," Katara teased.

"Do you mind, Katara?" Sokka jibed. "I'm tryin' to have a conversation, here." A heavy pause. "And I was in the drama club during high school, I'll remind you," Sokka sharply pointed out.

Katara wiggled her spoon in his direction, telling Ulrika, "You should see some of the costumes he wore for plays he was in..."

"So!" Sokka coughed loudly, ending that discussion right away. He turned back to the girl, who had snickered at the siblings. "It...looks like you're gonna be in town for a while."

"Ahaha. Yes. I do suppose so." Ulrika smirked slyly. "I hear this 'college' thing is sort of a four-year commitment."

Sokka smiled awkwardly and shrugged, and the two of them both chuckled nervously.

"I'm thinkin' maybe we could...-" Sokka's shoulders popped again, and he gave her a pleading smile. "-...do an activity together...?"

Ulrika's eyes squinted with humor and her face lit up with an amused grin.

"Do an activity?" she repeated with a giggle.

Sokka's face went pale and he chomped into his sugarcone. He had trouble eating it in his mind-numbed state, nearly choking. His sister shot him a snarky expression.

"Very smooth," she mocked him under her breath. "You should excuse my brother," she chimed to the girl. "He's...a little different."

Ulrika beamed at Sokka, who was pounding at his chest, trying to clear his throat out.

"I can see that," she remarked, her eyes narrowed with keen interest as Sokka finally recovered.


Sokka immediately recognized her platinum blonde hair from behind during his morning commute to class, and he dashed toward her from behind.

"Ulrika!" he gasped out. "Good morning!"

She was traveling with a handful of other glamorous-looking girls, but Sokka hardly even noticed them - it was like comparing flashlights to the sun. She curiously turned to face him, and her friends stuck up their noses, trailing on ahead. They watched from afar, not that Sokka even realized this.

"So! It was...really fun at that ice cream social, huh?"

"Ew, she talked with him?"
"Ugh, another fanboy..."
"Looks like a loser to me."

The popular girl with the glowing blue eyes and pale white hair smiled warmly at his earnest enthusiasm.

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself," she politely replied.

"Eh, it wasn't all that fun after you left," Sokka tossed out.

Ulrika's cheeks burned a bit at his compliment, and Sokka's flushed a bit in reciprocation. Ulrika received all kinds of pleasant remarks every day - but for some reason, this boy...this young man-...Something about him caught her in a way that felt true and whole, instead of the fake and empty discourse she was so often submerged in.

"S-so I was hopin' we could start seeing more of each other," Sokka suggested, quickly walking beside her when she advanced forward.

"Do an...activity, you mean?" Ulrika came back with suspicious eyes.

"Y-yes! At...a place. For...some time," Sokka spat out, petrified at the girl's stern gaze. He was overcome with relief when it withered away as she winked sneakily at him.

"I'd love to," she told him quietly, so the others couldn't hear. "Meet me tonight for dinner at six at the front steps of the campus center."

"Great!" Sokka chirped. "I'll see you-hurk!" -Clang!- Sokka had walked right into the metal trash contained outside of the Gyatso building. His knee throbbed from the impact, and Ulrika giggled at the accident. Hey, at least the pain had a purpose, then.

"Sorry," she apologized.

"Nah, I'm OK," Sokka played it off coolly. "It's all good."


Back in the present, Sokka longingly stared at the DVD case he'd retrieved from the cardboard box. It was still sealed. He'd purchased a copy while he and Yue had dated, but...he hadn't ever watched his own copy. In fact, he'd only watched watched the film once - with Yue. He rubbed at his quivering eyes and took a deep breath, cracking the seal.

{Love Amongst the Dragons}

In this fantasy romance, Ulrika had played the role of a Princess who served as a warrior on behalf of the Spirit of the Moon in some kind of Greek Mythology-like...thing. But with more Japanese stuff? Something weird like that. Yue had ended up getting really into lunar-themed things in particular when she found out that Sokka's family had an affinity for such things, as well. The moon became a symbol of their love and of their families. In the movie, Yue's character was grief-stricken just before the climax, due to her love interest being slaughtered in war. In a tragic ending, she'd ridden a dragon into battle and burned down the entire country. Then, she'd jumped into a volcano.

Yea. It...had actually been pretty freaking ridiculous and Sokka hadn't really found it too romantic, in particular. In fact, he'd found it downright silly. Fortunately, in watching it beside Yue, the both of them made fun of it. It had been sort of surreal - making fun of a movie alongside one of the leading roles thereof.

In Sokka's viewing of the film on this April evening, however, so many moments took on more profound emotional impact. Sokka found himself lost in a flood of memories he'd been suppressing.

+ YouTube.com/watch?v=G_80PQ543rM +
('The Moon', Tonomura)

Their first dinner together, the buzzing of students around them drowned out by her sweet-mannered voice.

Her tender, delicate hands. The soft touch of her luscious lips against his own.

Their silly jokes, their verbal prods at one another. Their red-faced smiles during the odd moments of awkward silence.

Enjoying ice cream together, a favorite pass-time they had shared, born from the sentimentality of their first meeting.

Sokka writing out {U.A. = Yue}, presenting it to her as a nickname.

Sokka, taking up his purple lightsaber, er, magical sword from space, and defending the Princess from the Evil Hogwarts Witch Katara. This childish moment of antics had instilled a fancifully romantic notion with them. He began calling her his Princess, and she began calling him her Noble Knight.

When Sokka had protested that he was more of a peasant, she had insisted that he had helped teach her to appreciate herself for her, not for her reputation, and not for being able to pretend to be someone else. His title or background were irrelevant - it was who he was that mattered to her. The fact that he seemed to care so deeply for her regardless of her social status had only shown how much he, too, followed this creed.

Fancy meals full of exotic meats, each of them laughing at the other's silly remarks.

His favorite memory of her encompassed that security and elegance she had brought into his life. It was an abstract memory: the many times they had stargazed together at night. Even in the frozen winter, they'd put on their jackets and find a quiet place on the fringes of campus to sit together, keep each other warm, and stare up at the sky. Yue would point out constellations to him, and explain their mythological meanings and origins, and he would hang on every word.

Her bright, cheerful smile would light up his dark nights like the full moon itself amongst the glorious arrangement of twinkling lights in the black sky.

And just as quickly as she'd entered his life, she'd faded out of it. The sun rose up, and the monotonous day-to-day humdrum had resumed, almost like she had never been there. A fleeting ghost, so briefly a part of his life, yet leaving such a deep impact, like a crater in his soul.

Thoughts of her would linger in the back of his mind from time to time, but the sharp and intense emotions Sokka had experienced during a single semester of time with her had an equally harsh knockback when he'd lost her. He'd tucked away the things that had made him think of her, all into this box. In picking out its contents, Sokka had been holding back his tears. She wouldn't have wanted him to cry, right? She wouldn't have wanted him to be sad or to dwell on what had been lost. That sort of thing...

Sokka sifted through a pile of mail that had been lumped with all of these old college materials. It was mostly spam mail, some of it not even opened. Credit card, credit card, loan stuff, space camp, credit card, birthday card, birthday card, credit card, junk, junk, junk...

One piece of mail caught his attention. The name it was addressed to was {Noble Sir Kesuk} and the return address owner was simply marked {U. A.}. Sokka recognized it as an old Christmas card. Yue had written it and mailed it out ahead of time, so that by break, it would be there waiting for her love. Sokka had originally read it after her death, since she had passed away in that car accident before the school year had ended. He couldn't remember its contents, as he'd been too hurt at the time to really focus on what the letter had said. He took a deep breath and pulled the shiny-edged, ornate card out from the opened envelope.

The picture on the front showed two silver bells, side by side.

+ YouTube.com/watch?v=wo_bqk3DeT4 +
('Introspective Duck in Space'; Brent Black)

{My Noble Knight,}

{I bring you tidings of Christmas. I will be across the vast sea with the Royal Family. Perhaps you believe you will be amongst peasants. But I assure you, your family is true and strong. I see it in your eyes; in your sister's, in your father's. Yours is a family of warriors, no matter how ragged or plain your clothing may appear. I admire you and what you have in them. Never forget that.}

{While you serve your duty as my guard - and a rather handsome guard you are, I must confess - I sometimes see the chinks in your armor. The scratches and scuffs. Have no fear. I will polish them for you. A dutiful Princess does not wait for her Knight to arrive with armor shining. She seeks him out when he is weary from combat, and she keeps his armor clean from the battles he fights in her honor. You may protect me, as you insist, so long I am allowed to tend your wounds. We are a team, you and I. We are two sides of one coin. Together, we can accomplish anything. Never forget that.}

{And lastly, I wish to tell you that while I am uncertain of our future, I know that we can defend the Castle we have built together. While you may stray from my kingdom from time to time, I will wait here patiently for you, keeping these walls strong and safe for your return. And I know that maybe it's a little too sentimental for your tastes, my Love, but...No matter what happens, I will always be watching over you, Sokka. Even when I'm not nearby, I will still be with you. If I am like the moon, then you are my world, which I shall forever spin round and look after. Never forget that.}

{Fair Thee Well,}
{Your Princess}

Sokka slowly dropped the card to the table, his eyes having dropped a few tears without his permission while he had read. Were these tears of joy? Of sorrow? He couldn't decide. Too many ideas collided at once. How could a single person in a mere few months leave such a mark like this? Sokka let the tears pour out.

Yue was gone. She would be missed. She was missed right then, in that moment. She had not been perfect. She was not the end-all-be-all of his world. He had to accept this. He had to move on. Sokka did not need another Yue in his life - one had been more than enough. One had taught him a great deal, continuing to do so even while not with him, just as she'd promised. One Yue was all that had existed on this earth, and that was OK. Sokka did not need to expect someone else to be just like Yue to make him happy - rather, he needed someone to accept him like she had. And how would he truly know if he avoided finding out the possibilities?

When a scientist failed an experiment, or got an unexpected result, did they give up? No. A real Man of Science would continue experimenting, continue exploring the potential outcomes and see what results turned up. He'd investigate each and every angle, not just the ones that were easy or comfortable.

Sokka took a tissue and blew his nose, then took another and cleaned his dampened face. He couldn't remember the last time he had let himself cry like this. He'd let himself get so prepossessed over being "manly" that he'd forgotten he was still human. That's probably how his sister would put it, anyway.

He finished cleaning up the mess he'd made of his bedroom, feeling more at peace with the matter than he ever had before. He had confronted all of the memories head-on. It had been mentally draining, leaving him eager for some kind of reprieve. While still working at tidying things up, he received a knock at a door.

"Come in," he called out before taking a deep breath. He wiped sweat from his forehead as the door creaked open, revealing a curious Toph.

"So you are awake in here, Snoozles," Toph observed, leaning against the door frame. Sokka couldn't help but notice that her hair seemed clean and shiny, neatly brushed, but still playfully situated.

"Yea, just...-" Sokka grunted, lifting a heavy box and setting it another another in his closet. "-...takin' care of some spring cleaning."

"Gotcha."

There was a quiet moment while Sokka carefully placed old action figures into a plastic container.

"Uhh...Miss Fussy-Britches and Twinkle-Toes are both still actin' all weird. I guess they didn't want to go out to eat tonight?"

"Yeeaaa, that was...what I'd heard..."

"Well, just 'cuz they're gonna be all grumps about it doesn't mean we should miss out."

"Mm..."

"Seriously. I'm fuckin' bored. I need to get outta this house, man."

Sokka scratched his nose, which was still slightly gunky from his earlier sobbing, minutes before. He placed the action figures in the closet and approached the doorway.

"You wanna go and chill with me? Just get some food somewhere?" She was presenting herself as nonchalantly as she could.

It was an awkward moment of silence as snow-white eyes stared blankly through Sokka's vulnerable form, his mind still shaky from the memories he'd been sifting through. Traces of a smirk formed on Toph's face as she awaited a response to her question.

"Uhhh...Ya OK there, Meat-Head?"

Her words seemed to wash past him in that moment, so lost in those eyes he was. They glowed at him with a familiar, warm admiration...like Yue's once had. This was a new and strange experience. In those eyes - windows to places unknown - the round, pale circles became twin moons, shimmering with the memories of stargazing with Yue, and the girl's obsessive love of all things lunar.

{...and I know that maybe it's a little too sentimental for your tastes, my Love, but...No matter what happens, I will always be watching over you, Sokka. Even when I'm not nearby, I will still be with you.}

Yue's handwritten words from that old Christmas card invaded the void of solace his mind had slipped into. Sokka found himself suddenly enchanted with a fanciful thought: that Yue still watched over him through Toph's elegantly empty eyes. He molded together this fable that Yue lived on as a guardian angel, still determined to help Sokka find happiness in this world. Toph was the vessel for that happiness, and Yue had led her to him through blinded eyes that glimmered like moonlight.

"Hello?" Toph's serenely neutral expression shifted to impatience. "Hey, Snoozles, I asked you a question. I know you can be pretty brain-dead and all, but...gimme something."

Sokka was amazed. Never before had a girl's face elicited such a mythological swell within his normally logical, scientific brain. And never before had Toph's porcelain face looked so...damned beautiful.

"Erm...Yea," Sokka finally blurted out, his face burning, his body tingling. "Let's, uh...Let's go do that, Toph. You and me."

"Sweet." Toph grinned, folding her arms and allowing Sokka to gently whirl her around.

"I know a good place we can go to, it's not too far," Sokka told her. He caught himself staring at her exposed shoulder blades as he nudged her toward the stairwell. He watched her grasp the wooden rail with care. "You should probably put on something a little warmer, though," he advised. "It's a little cold out."

"Um, sure. Good thinkin'. See, this is why you're the Idea Guy."

"And you're the loud, annoying jerk bringing me down all of the time," Sokka joked.

"Damn straight! Who else is gonna knock you down a few pegs every once in a while?"

Sokka smiled at this. He'd swore they'd had this same exchange so many times now, and it had gone both ways, with the one in need of ego-smashing swapping with each go around.

"So. Where to?" Toph wondered.

"We're goin' out on a date," Sokka explained plainly as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Wait...huh?" Toph muttered, eyes wide.

"A date. I am taking you out. For dinner. And dessert."

"Um...L-like a...what kind of...-?" Toph was sputtering with confusion while feeling her toes around for her sandals.

After putting on his sneakers, Sokka waved the others farewell.

"Where are you two headed?" Katara asked with a somber tone.

"I'm taking Toph out on a date," Sokka proclaimed with optimism.

"Ah, neat," Aang replied, scratching his head. "Er, we'll see you later, then." Aang waved, offering Sokka a meek smile of encouragement.

"Have fun," Katara murmured, thought with a somewhat more hopeful demeanor than she'd worn moments before.

"What's with you all...-?" Toph puffed out under her breath, apparently too flustered to find her sandals effectively. Sokka kicked them a few inches over for her.

"C'mon, Dead-Eyes," Sokka picked, tipping her slightly off balance by her shoulder. She growled at him, but before she felt back, he clutched at her flailing hands, pulling her uprgiht. "Stop goofin' around," he mocked her. Her face was boiling with embarrassment and she fussed herself into her sandals. Sokka hadn't let go of her hands, and even as he opened the door to leave, he still clutched one hand.

As they flew out of the door, Toph wormed her fingers inbetween his, and he allowed them to connect seamlessly and without incident.

"I-I'm confused," Toph laughed out nervously as Sokka led her to the passenger's seat of the car he and Katara shared. Sokka opened the door and let her enter, then neatly closed the door behind her. He grinned at the bashful smile on her face. Upon entering the driver's side, he took a deep breath, buckling himself in and checking that she had already done the same - she was looking for the right place to lock in her belt. "What's with stuff all of a sudden?" she wondered, her voice raised a pitch. Sokka helped guide her hand to the buckle.

"I did some thinking today," Sokka announced, starting up the car. "And I decided that if you wanted to go out on a date with me, I should stop being a pussy and do it."

"Wh-?! I...I never said anything about a date, Meat-Head..."

As they pulled out of the driveway, Sokka laughed.

"You never go out and say things like that, Toph, it's not your style," Sokka pointed out. "I figured it out. I'm the smart one, remember?"

"And I bet your sister had nothing to do with this," Toph grumbled, suddenly skeptical.

"Hey, gimme a little credit," Sokka demanded. "I had you pegged before I asked Katara about it."

"I call bullshit."

"Stop being a little bitch and enjoy the ride," Sokka teased. "This is 100% my decision. I am taking you out on a romantic evening of...food."

"And if I refuse?"

"Eh, I guess I'm kidnapping you, then."

"Very gentleman-like."

"You know me."

"Guess I did make it a little obvious when I played that song, huh?"

"A little."

"What's with the sudden turnaround? You seemed pretty awkward just last week, and now I'm supposed to think you're all wanting to give this a shot? Just like that? I don't get you sometimes, Sokka. Is there a catch, here? What your deal?"

"Damn, woman, is this 20 Questions, or am I taking you out for dinner?"

"Um...Shutting...up now?"

Sokka turned on the radio, giving his flustered but pleasantly surprised friend the choice of which station to listen to. On the one hand, Sokka realized he was acting a little spur of the moment. But the other, he'd spend the past week thinking on all of this. And when presented with the choice, when he stared it right in its face, his mind had made itself up pretty quick.

It was time to stop moping and worrying and give this thing a try. It was time to take a risk. It was time to give Toph a fair shake at his attention, which she had recently seemed so interested in.

It was time to move on with life. It was time to stop dwelling on old memories and start making some new ones.

+ Youtube.com/watch?v=ofbWiDdkHuQ +
('Sweet Memories of Earth'; CarboHydroM)

Sokka's hand, clasping Toph's tightly. Their goofy grins as they were led to a "table for two."

Sokka admiring Toph as she feverishly devoured a plate of waffle fries before he could even down half of his hamburger.

Witty banter, merciless picking. Laughs, giggles, snorts...

Sokka explaining his past situation with Yue. Toph lamenting her previous relationships before Aang.

Moments of awkward silence igniting into snickers.

Sokka's stifled laugh when the waitress walked by just as Toph was making a blatant sexual innuendo. Toph's embarrassed grin after she informed of the fact.

Playing footsie beneath the table while finishing up food - where 'footsie' entailed kicking kicking each other's shins.

Sokka's decisive victory, gloating over Toph's stubbed toes.

Toph's pouting face dissolving into a smirk.

Leaving the diner just as they had entered: hand in hand.

The commotion of the busy diner quieted as they left, repeating their process of loading the car. They both sat for a moment, each sighing out in satisfaction from full stomachs.

"Right," said Sokka out of nowhere, starting up the car. "Time to dessert."

"Dessert?" cried Toph incredulously. "Fuck, man! I'm...full."

"There's always room for ice cream," Sokka gleefully decided.

"Eh...Fair point," Toph gave in.

"Besides, this evening of romance and wonderment can't end so soon."

"Pff! Yea, burgers and fries at some old-timey diner. Real romantic."

"Wasn't it?"

"You sure know how to charm a woman, ya Blockhead."

"I do. Don't I?"

Sokka was giddy from the emotional high, the rush of this experience. He was just...letting himself put things out there. Make light of it all. Be assertive - something he knew Toph respected - while also not making things serious. Toph seemed to be enjoying herself, and in turn, was acting naturally and comfortably, which only further heightened Sokka's new-found attraction to her.

So many idiosyncrasies of hers were suddenly...hot...in some stupid way. It made no sense. Sokka chalked it up to hormones.

He needed this. Whatever this was. Getting his "mojo" back? Or some crap?

They stopped by an ice cream parlor, and while in line, Sokka and Toph naturally clasped hands, fingers locked as before. It came so effortlessly, this simple gesture. As if their hands had a mind of their own and had been wanting this for some time.

Sokka ordered a bowl of Rocky Road, while Toph got some mint chocolate chip.

They sat at a small, round table in a back corner of the tiny shop. It wasn't too busy at this hour - whatever hour that was, they'd both lost track, and gladly so - and the two of them ate in demure silence. And therein lied the other half of the scientific equation of this "dating" thing. It was something Sokka had been able to enjoy with Toph now and again, but never with Suki: comfortable silence.

Sokka and Toph could rattle on for so long, their conversations positively radiating sarcasm, they could say horrible things in jest, and even under the context of this intending to be a romantic evening, there were no set expectations. No desire for the other to be acting any differently than they normally would. It was rather refreshing after being expected to reach certain criteria Sokka had never fully understood.

By the time they both finished their bowls, Sokka was eager for a second helping. Evidently his stomach had more room than Toph's tonight. She and her walking cane paid a visit to the bathroom as Sokka arrived back at the table. Sokka had a delightful little epiphany then: that Toph enjoyed him easing her along and taking care of her a bit, but she didn't need him to do so. She was fine on her own, but she was also fine with him choosing to be gentlemanly when the desire struck him. Again...no expectations. No artificial standards. It was wonderful.

Sokka chowed down on another bowl, the sweet blend of nuts, marshmallows, and ice cream taking him back to times with Yue he'd recently revisited. It was different this time. He smiled from what had once been, rather than lamenting what no longer was. He was living in the present tonight. Toph's enthusiasm, adorable moments of embarrassment, and the organic psynergy between the two of the was making it very easy to live in the present.

As Toph came back, she nudged her chair right next to his and sat down, immediately finding arm onto his back, and the other around his bicep. He had frozen in mid-bite, and for once this evening, he was the exceedingly red-faced one. Toph let her head drop to his shoulder, and Sokka delighted at her hair tickling his neck.

"Sounds like you're havin' fun there, Meat-Head."

"Mmmfffghh?"

Toph breathed out a deep, relaxed sigh, closing her eyes.

She asked him sleepily, "Was it your plan to make me full and fat and lazy?"

Sokka swallowed his latest spoonful.

"You could say that," he coyly mumbled back, a bit shocked at her swift physical approach.

"Just so ya know," she taunted. "I am way too full for, like, a first kiss, or whatever, so if youurrrp-!" She belched out, interrupting her own sentence. Sokka choked on the fumes, laughing through it. Toph let a flurry of giggles tumble out, slapping her hand over her mouth and pulling herself off of him. Sokka soaked in the moment, her very boyish burp accented with such a girly blush, her hand over her mouth, eyes squinted in humor.

"Mm, minty aftertaste," Sokka joked. "Yea. Super smooth, there."

Toph punched him right in the shoulder. She hit him hard. It was satisfying as all hell. She hadn't physically landed a solid blow on him since...back when she'd started crushing on him.

"Ahhh-haahhh," Sokka winced, rubbing what could've been a bruise for all he knew. "What was that for?" he whimpered, trying to pass the pain off in humor. Agh, crap, though. Definitely got him good.

"Shit, did I get you that bad?" Toph tried to feign sympathy. It twisted itself into a devilish chuckle, though.

"Remind me, again...why...with the punching...?"

"That's how I show affection," Toph sighed expectantly, knowing full well she'd explained this before. Sokka admired her smarmy smirk, the way her hair draped across her face like curtains, her glassy eyes the windows he stared through.

"You're doing it wrong," Sokka chuckled.

"Pff..."

An idea struck Sokka like a bolt of lightning. He was certainly adventurous today, and the chemicals within him pushed him onward like a tidal wave. He closed his eyes, leaned over, and kissed her on the mouth. Her own lips instinctively puckered out, and she returned the gesture. For two seconds, they enjoyed each other's affection, until Sokka pulled away. Toph was a bit breathless, having not expected this, but certainly not minding it.

Sokka's eyes were bulging open, his face burning from the interaction - though perhaps not nearly as much as hers were. He cleared his throat and recovered. After all, it wasn't any good without the punchline.

"Now, Toph, see...That...is how I show affection."

Toph's childish glee beamed at him for a moment before hereyelids hung low as she cocked her head sideways, pressing her face toward him.

"You mind, uh...teaching me that one again?"


A/N: I wanted to try and develop more things from Sokka's perspective, like I did with Katara a while back concerning Aang. Ultimately, Sokka's decision comes across as quick or fast, but the idea I'm going for is that part of him has kind of been interested, he's just been internally blocking it off for a while, holding onto fear or regret of losing someone he deeply cared about (the implication being that Sui or Ty-Lee were more just distractions to keep him from confronting what was really going on inside of him. This is sort of what Toph was doing, too, except we got a more deep glance at her inner workings and hers lasted a longer period of time. I hope it all makes sense and feels like it was developed well enough up until now. This chapter was honestly hard to write and I'm still not quite sure I'm happy with a lot of it for some reason...but hopefully you guys get it well enough. =)

[link] <--- Chapter 89, Part 2
Chapter 90, Part 1 ---> [link]

:icons-r-u:

The full SRU art gallery: [link]
A more comprehensive and organized version of the art gallery, along with all updates for this project (including chapter previews, notable blog posts, and new artwork), can be found on the Facebook page: [link]

You can also start following all updates for my next project, 'Esteemed,' here: [link]

--

Note: I'm note sure if the thematic meaning with the music will make sense to people, but to explain, it's a theme song for The Moon. I liked the energy of it. The 8-bit original represents the past, Sokka's memories. The piano piece is somber and represents him confronting the present -- the loss. The rock version represents his new-found freedom in letting go of the past and allowing himself to move on with those memories helping him rather than letting them continue to hurt him.
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:iconalleemaria:
alleemaria Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2014
Aw.... This is AMAZING.... I love Sokka and Toph and their romance, it's really well described!!!
Reply
:iconkodiaksaint:
Kodiaksaint Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2013
There you go again, blowing away both my mind and my tear ducts. The letter was especially well written. You just keep reminding me why I love your writing so much. Keep up the good work :)
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Ah, thanks. ^u^ I'm glad you liked it.
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:iconnatureanimalcad:
NatureAnimalCAD Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Student General Artist
Awww yeeah toph is so cute :) love the last bit
Reply
:icondarkblackarcanine:
DarkBlackArcanine Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
FIIIINALLY!!
Reply
:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
=P
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:icondarkblackarcanine:
DarkBlackArcanine Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
....also that scene with Katara and Aang in the shower has potential...
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:iconblu3spirit:
Blu3Spirit Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2012
hmm DAT TOKKA! yess~
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:iconpopwiz15:
popwiz15 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
TOKKA AT LAST!!! My life is complete.
Reply
:iconthrawndew:
ThrawnDew Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2012
So this applies to all the chapters, but I really like all your song choices. They're awesome.
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