"Haha! I got you mom!" Toph pretended to trip wildly as her small son sent a small bit of rock underneath her feet. She fell on her back with a loud thump and remained motionless. She felt her three-year-old edge up to her slowly. He touched her then quickly shied away, checking to see if she was conscious. Then he got worried. "Mom? Mom? Are you okay?" He began to shake her shoulder softly and then more violently.
"Hakoda, what's wrong?" Sokka walked up to stand next to his wife and son. Hakoda stood and looked up at his father his face the picture of misery.
"Mom tripped on a rock that I earth bent and now she won't get up!" Toph could feel her husband trying not to laugh.
"How about this," Sokka said while kneeling down next to his eight-year-old son, his face solemn, "Try blowing on her face. That's known to work." Hakoda sighed,
"I don't think it'll work this time dad, but I'll try I guess." Hakoda crouched next to his mother's motionless figure and began to blow on her face, no sooner had he done this then Toph's eyes popped open.
"Boo!" She cried. Hakoda fell backwards, surprised. He frowned, figuring out the joke immediately.
"That wasn't very nice mom, I was scared for you." Toph winked at her son.
"Didn't you feel the vibrations? You should've known I was just fine." Hakoda scowled.
"No I didn't, I was too scared to focus that much." Toph scooted over next to her son and put her arms around him.
"We'll work on it more." Toph blew in his ear and he giggled. "Wasn't it a little bit funny?" She asked him. Hakoda laughed harder.
"Yeah mom, it was pretty funny." Toph hugged him tight.
"That's my boy."
"Did you remember the jerky your father made for you?" Hakoda rolled his eyes and turned away from packing his saddlebag to look at his mother.
"Yes mom! I remember everything."
"Everything?" Toph replied as she raised an eyebrow.
"So, you won't be needing this then?" She held up the boomerang his father had made for him when he was five from behind her back and waved it in front of him. He sighed and smiled.
"Yes mom, I'll be wanting that." Toph tossed it to him and he caught it just before it hit his face. He put in the leather holder on his back and buckled the top of his saddle bag. When he turned back around his mother was crying silent tears. He walked towards her and hugged her gently. He'd only ever seen his mother cry once and that time and this scared him to death. His mother had always been strong. He'd heard stories his entire life about her and the gaang and how tough she'd always been. He'd out grown his mother long ago, the top of her head only came to his chin but even though she was small, she was strong. "Mom, I'll be okay. Uncle Aang will keep me safe. You have nothing to worry about." She pulled away and wiped her eyes, nodding.
"I know Hakoda, but I'm a mother, I can't help being scared. Now I know how my mother felt when I ran off. I can't imagine the pain I caused her."
"Mom, I'm sorry, but you know I have to go. The rebel groups are getting overwhelming; Aang and Zuko need all the help they can get." Hakoda felt a hand on his shoulder, without looking he knew it was his father. "I have to go dad." Sokka went to stand by his wife.
"We know you do son, we can't help being worried, but we know there's nothing that we can do." Sokka put his arm around Toph, "Now get out of here Hakoda before I start crying too, that's something I know you don't want to see." Hakoda laughed softly, gave both his parents another quick hug, swung himself onto his ostrich horse and rode off, pausing only once at the gate to look back at his parents and wave.
Toph turned into her husband's waiting embrace. "He'll be okay, right? He's only eighteen."
"Toph, we were much younger then he is when Aang defeated Firelord Ozai. He'll be fine."
"I know, I guess you're right. But he didn't have to grow up quite as fast as we did."
"It'll be okay, I promise."
Toph woke up with a jolt from dreaming about her son. She sat up quickly before realizing where she was. Once realizing that she was in her bed at home, and that the letter she'd received the night before was real, she burst into tears for the fifth time in the past twelve hours. At the sound her husband woke up as well.
"Oh Toph." He knew immediately what was wrong; he took her in his arms softly, tears running down his own face. "I was dreaming about him too. About him throughout the years. He was wonderful wasn't he." His words only caused Toph to cry harder.
"Sokka," Toph gasped through her tears, "Tell me the letter wasn't real, tell me that we haven't lost our son. Tell me that that rebel group didn't kill him. TELL ME SOKKA!" Sokka held her tighter. They sat there for what could've been hours, just holding each other, thinking about their son and crying tears for him together. After a long while Sokka wiped Toph eyes and said,
"Toph, we haven't lost him, he will never be lost to us, he will always live with us in our hearts. His spirit is here, can't you feel it?" They could feel it, a whisper, a laugh, a bad joke, their son was with them still.