DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT own the characters from Avatar. They belong to Nickelodeon. I do however own the nickname Sokka uses for Katara. If anyone wants to use it, please ask me first.
May the light of God shine upon everyone and keep them safe as well as the power of water be with everyone always.
A/N: This idea came to me while I was watching "The Fury of Aang". I hope everyone likes it.
Katara glanced over at Toph with a worried look on her face. The blind bandit hadn't spoken for the last hour and she had hardly eaten any breakfast or lunch.
As Katara continued to stare, she saw Toph close her eyes and sigh.
"Toph?" Katara asked her tone full of genuine concern. "Are you okay?"
Toph merely shrugged. She didn't have the energy to nod and even if she did, she felt like her head was going to explode. She had been feeling bad all day, but she wasn't going to voice her physical pain aloud though. She could take care of herself just fine.
Besides, Toph was convinced that Katara didn't like her, and Toph didn't want to be a burden to her. Little did Toph know how wrong she was in that regard.
Katara bought the excuse for now, but she knew it wasn't true.
"Aang?" Katara asked, feeling if she didn't take her mind off Toph, she would go over there and check her for a fever, which would be invading her personal space.
"Yeah?" Aang asked, turning in the driver's seat to face his best friend.
"How long till we get to the next town?" She asked, chancing a glance at Toph out of the corner of her eye.
Aang checked the map and then turned back to Katara.
"Not long," he said, giving her one of his famous smiles.
Katara nodded and tried to preoccupy her time. She practiced waterbending for awhile, but she found herself glancing at Toph every now and again. The earthbending master didn't' look too good and Katara was getting an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Ten minutes passed with silence all around.
Toph was grateful for this and tried to keep the pain out of her eyes. She was starting to feel dizzy, but she refused to say a word. She could handle it herself.
But as Appa dipped down, Toph felt like she was going to vomit. She swallowed hard, trying to fight it back. To her relief, nobody noticed. But Toph wasn't so lucky the second time around. As she swallowed again, Katara heard it.
Katara's head whipped around at the sound and she gave Toph a worried look.
"Toph, are you okay?"
Toph shook her head as best she could.
"Katara, I don't feel so good. I feel like I'm…I'm gonna-" Toph was cut off as the nausea grew. She clapped a hand to her mouth and put her other hand on her stomach.
Katara was at her side in a flash. She put a hand to Toph's forehead and frowned. The earthbender was burning up!
"Toph, you're burning up!" Katara told her, worry evident in her voice. "When did you start feeling like this? And why didn't you tell me?"
"This morn…morning and I…I didn't say anything…because I thought…I thought it would…" Toph's voice trailed off as she swallowed again.
Katara saw that Toph was having difficulty answering her question because of the nausea and hushed her gently.
"SHh, shh, it's okay, Toph. It's going to be okay. I'm going to take care of you. Here." Katara placed a basin in front of the young girl and put her hands on either side of it.
As Toph felt the feeling grow, she started to panick. She wasn't on land and she was virtually helpless right now.
Katara sensed Toph's panick and tried to calm her.
"Toph, listen to me, it's okay. I'm right here and I'm going to help you. You're not alone. Katara's right here. You're safe with me. But you need to trust me."
Toph was crying now, her stomach was hurting terribly. And she knew if she opened her mouth, she was going to get sick all over Appa, so Toph did the second best thing and nodded.
"All right, good girl. Now, you're going to feel my hand behind your head. I'm just going to steady you, okay? Just hold onto the bucket with both hands and you'll be fine."
"Katara, I..I'm gonna.."
Katara's heart was breaking for the twelve year old. She knew what it felt like to be sick and she knew it wasn't fun.
"I know, Toph, I know. It's okay. Just hang in there. You're going to be okay."
"My stomach…hurts!" Toph said, her voice tearful and desperate.
Katara tried to fight back tears as she felt Toph start to shiver as she lay against her.
"Is anything else hurting?" Katara asked, wanting to help Toph in any way she could.
"My head is pounding and I…" Toph's voice trailed off as the nausea reached an unbearable point. She took a deep breath as she felt her stomach lurch. She leaned over the bucket with Katara's help and waited for what she knew was going to happen.
Sure enough, no more than five minutes later, Toph heaved and vomited right then and there. She didn't stop for five minutes, and by the time she was done, she was in tears and feeling worse.
"That's it," Katara comforted, rubbing Toph's back. "There you go. Good girl. Just get it up. You're okay, Toph. You're okay. Good girl."
As Toph caught her breath, she closed her eyes, willing the sick feeling to go away, but it didn't listen to her. She promptly leaned over and got sick again. She repeated the process a third time before her stomach finally calmed down. She was still feeling sick and all she wanted to do was sleep.
"All right, I need you to lay down for me," Katara instructed. "I need to take your temperature and I want to get you warm."
Toph didn't argue. She did as Katara asked and waited for the waterbender to start nursing her back to health.
"There you go," Katara said, placing the bucket next to her. "If you're going to throw up again, you need to let me know, so that I can help you."
"Katara, I feel awful!" Toph whimpered, closing her eyes against the pain in her head and stomach.
"I know you do," Katara soothed, "but it's going to be okay. I'm going to take care of you."
Katara felt Toph's forehead and the heat emanating from Toph, confirmed Katara's suspicions. Toph did indeed have a fever.
"You're burning up all right." Katara confirmed. "We need to bring that fever down. Here," she held a cup of water to Toph's lips. "You need to drink this."
Toph pushed the cup away, feeling her stomach lurch again.
"Katara, I-I can't. If I drink that…I'm gonna…" Toph's voice trailed off and Katara knew what was going to happen. She helped Toph to sit up and placed her hands on either side of the basin again. She found that Toph worked better if she had something to support her when she leaned over, so Katara put her arm around her.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, sweetie, you're going to be okay. I know you don't feel good, but you're going to be all right. I'm right here, Toph. I'm here."
Toph merely whimpered as she leaned over and heaved again. She just wanted to sleep.
After Toph's stomach had calmed down, she did something that totally surprised Katara. She buried her face in Katara's shoulder and let out a sob.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, it's okay. Toph, it's going to be okay. I have you. I'm right here. We'll be on the ground soon. I promise. Here, why don't you lay back down."
Toph whimpered and a simple no, came out, causing Katara's heart to melt. She was touched that Toph actually felt safe with her and comfortable enough to request cuddle time with her.
"All right, you win." Katara said, planting a sisterly kiss on Toph's head. "You can stay with me for now. But once we set up camp, you are going to lay down, am I understood?"
"Uh-huh," Toph said, almost asleep.
As Katara sat there, rubbing Toph's back and stroking her hair, a strange feeling swept over her. A feeling Katara was used to feeling for Aang and Sokka, but one she didn't think she'd ever feel for Toph. But as Katara held Toph close, she felt the feeling grow and knew instantly what it was. The feeling was acceptance and love. And a part of Katara knew it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Aang broke Katara out of her thoughts.
"Is Toph going to be okay?" There was worry in his voice and Katara knew Aang felt the same way she did.
"I'm sure she will. Toph probably has a twenty four hour thing."
Aang nodded, hoping Katara was right. He cared about Toph and he didn't want anything to happen to her.
We're here," he said, preparing to land.
"Aang, wait," Katara said.
"Yeah?" Aang asked, turning around to face her once again.
"When you land, try to go slow, okay? I don't think Toph's stomach can handle a fast landing."
Aang nodded and gave Katara a thumbs up.
"Yes, Sifu Katara."
Katara gave Aang a playful glare.
"Appa, yip yip!" Aang commanded, shaking the reins gently.
Appa descended gently at Aang's command.
After Appa was on the ground, Katara got down first and laid Toph upon a sleeping bag. She covered the sleeping girl with a blanket and gave her a pat on her shoulder.
"We need to set up camp and get something to eat," Katara instructed. "And I'm going to wake Sokka up."
Aang nodded and grinned. He knew exactly what Katara had in mind.
Katara smiled and threw a water whip at her brother's head, making him jerk awake instantly.
"Aw, Tara! Why'd you have to do that!" Sokka whined. "I was dreaming about meat!"
"Sorry, but we need to set up camp and get dinner started."
Sokka's mouth started to water at the sound of the word, 'dinner and he was awake instantly.
"Did you say dinner?" Sokka asked, making Katara and Aang burst out laughing.
Katara nodded as she set out her sleeping bag next to where Toph was laying. She checked on her before helping Aang set up camp.
"Hey!" Sokka shouted, glancing over at Toph. "Why isn't she helping? I thought you just yelled at her before about not doing her share and now you're letting her slack off!"
"Sokka, shh!" Katara hissed, her blue eyes narrowing in annoyance at Sokka's exaggerations. "Toph is sick. She's not feeling good. She has a fever and her stomach hurts. She's also been-" Katara's sentence was cut short as she saw Toph starting to stir.
"Tara?" Toph asked, her voice cracking with the effort to not throw up. "Katara, I…I…I don't' feel so good."
"Toph, it's okay. I'm right here. Do you feel like you're going to vomit?"
"Yes!" Toph said, her voice full of fear and pain.
"All right, it's okay. Remember how we did this earlier? Come here."
Toph tried to sit up, but she was feeling too weak. Despite this, she attempted three more times. Each time, she felt worse. She wasn't going to give up though. She was strong and she was determined to help herself. She had needed Katara's help before, but only because whatever she had had hit her hard, but now, she was going to try and do it herself.
But as Toph tried for the fourth time, Katara saw her struggle and put her hand on her arm.
"Toph, stop. It's okay. I'll help you. You don't have to do it on your own."
"I don't need your help!" Toph snapped, trying in vein to sit up again. "I can do it myself!"
Katara shook her head.
"No, you can't. I know you're used to being independent, but we have a rule in this family. When you're sick, you let the people who care about you, help you. Now, please, let me help you."
Toph ignored Katara's words and attempted to do it again. As she sat up, she started feeling dizzy and had to lie back down.
"Crud!" Toph shouted, in pure frustration. The nausea was still strong, but right now, her frustration was over riding it, but she knew it wouldn't last for long.
"Toph, come on, I can help you. Stop being as stubborn as your element."
Toph glared at Katara and let out a sigh.
"Fine. If it will make you feel better, I'll let you help me."
Katara smiled as she patted Toph's shoulder and prepared to assist her.
"Thank you. You know, there's nothing wrong with getting help from the people who care about you. It's perfectly fine."
Toph nodded and braced herself as the nausea feeling grew. She gritted her teeth in pain and shot Katara a look.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's just get this over with." She said, some of her old personality coming back.
Katara came up behind Toph and put her arm around her. She then reached for the bucket and realized that it was still on Appa.
As Toph threw caution to the wind and put all her trust in Katara's ability to assist her, the words Katara had said, brought back a memory. And as Toph thought about it, she remembered that someone else had told her the exact same thing, but in a different way. She smiled inwardly and promised herself that she would let Katara help her when she really needed it. If Katara cared enough to lend her services, then who was Toph to stop her? And if Katara wanting to help her was out of love, then what was wrong with that?
Toph's thoughts were interrupted when she felt her stomach lurch.
"Katara, please! I don't know…I don't know how much longer I can…" Toph's voice trailed off as she felt the sick feeling increase. She started to panic, which made it worse.
"Toph? Toph, listen to me." Katara said, her voice stern, but full of love as well. "You need to hang in there just a couple more minutes."
Toph took a deep breath, willing herself not to get sick just yet.
"That's a girl. Good girl." Katara patted Toph's shoulder while turning her attention to Aang. "ang, can you toss me the basin that's still on Appa's saddle, quick!"
Aang did as he was told and made sure Katara had it before going back to settling a fight between Momo and Apa. The two friends had gotten into a fight over a peach.
"I'm glad we picked that thing up," Aang commented as he sliced the peach using airbending. "It's a good container to store stuff in, but it can also be used for other things too."
The gang had picked up the basin in a nearby town the last time they had stopped.
Katara nodded before turning her attention back to Toph.
"All right, it's okay, here we go. I'm going to place the bucket in front of you, then I'll show you where it is." Katara patiently explained.
Toph nodded. It was taking all of her will power not to vomit and she was losing the battle rather quickly.
As Katara went to place the bucket down, Toph lost the battle and braced herself as she heaved, vomiting everywhere.
"I'm sorry!" She said, thinking that Katara was going to be upset with her. "I'm sorry! I'm…" Toph's voice trailed off as she heaved again.
"Okay, it's all right. Here, it's right here. Just lean over. You're okay."
By the time Toph was done, she had burst into tears and surprised Katara by burying her face in her shoulder once again.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, Toph. It's all right. I'm not mad at you, honey. I'm not. Believe me. I know you had no control over what happened. You're okay. Are you still feeling sick?"
Toph whimpered, which gave Katara the impression that the answer was yes.
"All right, just try and let me know, okay? Do you think you can keep some water down?"
Toph shook her head and let out a sob.
"All right, shh, it's okay. I won't make you just yet. It's okay. Just try and sleep, okay? I'm right here."
"I want my Mom!" Toph cried, surprising everyone, especially Aang.
Katara made eye contact with Sokka, who just shrugged, even though he looked worried.
Aang looked fearful. He wasn't used to seeing Toph so broken and upset like this.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, Toph. It's all right. I know you miss her. You're safe and sound. You're safe and sound with me. I know how you feel, believe me, I do. I miss my Mom too."
Toph nodded and let another sob escape her lips. And as she leaned into Katara, crying into her shoulder, she realized that she was slowly starting to trust the older girl. She saw Katara as more than just a friend. She was starting to think of her as a big sister.
"That's it," Katara soothed, starting to stroke Toph's hair again. "Just try and sleep. You'll feel better soon."
Toph tried to obey and was asleep in minutes.
"What was that about?" Aang asked, not sure what to make of it. "Toph's never acted like that before."
"I know. But I think she's feeling home sick along with having the flu. I used to get that way when I got sick after my Mom died." She looked at Sokka, who confirmed it with a nod.
Aang sighed and glanced at Toph worriedly.
"I hope Toph is going to be okay." He said, a frown crossing his face
"Toph's going to be fine," Katara assured her best friend. "She has the flu. She'll be okay in a few days. She just needs some love and care and rest."
Aang nodded, knowing that Katara was right.
"Well, now that the show is over with," Sokka said, eyeing the bag of food like a ravenous beast, "let's eat!"
Aang smiled at this and Katara almost giggled. Sokka was hilarious sometimes.
Later that night, Katara woke up and decided to check on Toph. She had been up most of the night taking care of Toph. Toph's fever had gone down some, but she was still not able to keep anything down.
As Katara walked over to where Toph was sleeping, she put a hand to Toph's forehead and frowned. Toph felt warm again and Katara knew what she had to do. She bent down and gently placed her hand on Toph's forehead, streaming a strip of water across it.
"Katara?" Toph asked, her voice sounding tired and a little tearful.
"Shh, shh, Toph, it's okay. I'm just trying to bring your fever down. You're okay."
"No," Toph said, trying to sit up. "I need the…" Her voice trailed off as she swallowed hard, willing herself not to vomit on Katara.
"Okay, all right, it's okay. Here," Katara put the bucket in front of Toph and placed her hands on either side of it. She then got in back of her and supported her as she leaned over, throwing up right into it for the umpteenth time that night.
After Toph was done, she once again found refuge in Katara's embrace.
"Here," Katara said, knowing that Toph had to lie down, but also knowing that Toph was stubborn and wouldn't go for it right now, "do you want to lie in my lap?"
Toph nodded and allowed Katara to put her pillow down before she eased herself upon it.
"There, is that better?" Katara asked, starting to stroke Toph's hair gently.
"Uh-huh," Toph replied, closing her eyes. "Katara?" She asked, after a few minutes of silence had passed by.
"Yes?" The waterbending master said, patting the blind bandit's shoulder.
"Thanks." Toph had a genuine smile on her face and she hoped Katara could see the sincerity in it.
"For what?" Katara asked, truly confused now.
"Thanks for taking care of me," Toph said. "I guess I need to get used to letting people help me every once in a while. I'm used to doing everything for myself."
Katara nodded. She understood completely.
"I know what you mean," Katara said, smiling down at Toph.
"For the first time in a long time, I was actually scared." Toph admitted, blushing a little bit. "But even though I didn't want to admit it to myself, when you helped me, it made me feel better."
"I'm glad. I'm here for you whenever you need me." Katara told her. "I want you to know that. I'm here for you just like I'm here for Aang and Sokka."
"But I'm not family," Toph said, catching Katara completely off guard.
"Toph!" Katara whispered, loudly, her voice stern and determined. "Toph, look at me right now." She then realized how silly that sounded, considering the situation and blushed. "I-I'm sorry. That was silly. Way to go Katara." She scolded herself, making Toph giggle.
"It's okay," Toph said, honestly. "Really. I know what you mean. I'm listening."
Katara smiled, happy that Toph understood the meaning behind her foe paw.
"You are family," Katara told her, earnestly. "It took me a little while to get used to you, but after the first month, you became a member of our family. And I would do anything for you. You're like the little sister I always wanted."
"I am?" Toph asked, surprised by Katara's words.
Katara nodded, a small smile crossing her face.
"Yup. Just like Aang is like my little brother."
"But we all know you like Twinkle Toes more than just a friend," Toph chided her, making Katara play swat her in the arm.
"We're not going there," Katara said, her voice stern. "Anyway, when you got sick this afternoon, I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to help you."
"Really?" Toph said, her insecurity coming out fully. "Why?"
"I guess I was afraid you wouldn't let me help."
"I didn't think you cared. That's why I didn't say anything."
Toph's words hit Katara like a knife. She was silent for a minute, taking in all the earthbending master had said.
"I do care," Katara told her, finally. "I care for you just like I care for Aang and Sokka. Why would you think otherwise?"
Toph shrugged, but Katara could tell she was trying not to cry.
"Toph, it's okay. You don't have to be afraid or embarrassed to express your feelings in front of me. I'll comfort you and I promise I won't laugh."
Toph nodded and took a deep breath, trying to form her thoughts into words.
"I didn't think you liked me because for the first few weeks, you treated me really badly."
Katara nodded as realization hit.
"I'm sorry, Toph. I really am. I don't act like that usually. Aang can vouch for me. I guess I was just trying to get used to you, and I wasn't used to someone not doing their share."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I promise to help out more often."
"I know," Katara said, patting Toph's shoulder. "And you have been helping out more. Believe me."
Toph yawned, indicating that she was tired.
"All right," Katara said, giving Toph's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I think it's time for you to get some sleep. Your body needs rest. I'll tuck you in, okay?"
Toph shook her head.
"Katara, you don't have to do that."
"I know I don't have to," Katara said, giving Toph a loving smile. "But I want to."
Toph nodded and smiled. She allowed Katara to do so.
Once Toph was all tucked in, Katara gave her a hug and started patting her shoulder. She sat there long after Toph had drifted off. She had even managed to get Toph to drink some water, which would definitely bring her fever down.
As Katara watched Toph sleep, she yawned and finally resigned to laying down herself.
Later that night, Katara was woken up by someone calling her name. She glanced over to see Toph, tossing and turning. She was whimpering too.
Katara was at her side in a flash. She started rubbing Toph's shoulder, trying to wake her up.
"Toph? Toph, come on, sis, wake up. It's just a nightmare, sweetheart, wake up. Katara's here, you're safe." Katara then realized what she had called Toph. She had never called Toph, 'sis before and it felt weird, but at the same time, Katara felt like it was long overdue.
Toph shot up, panting and gasping for air. She was crying and Katara could tell she was shaking.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, Toph. It's okay. I'm right here. It was just a bad dream, sweetie. That's all it was. You're safe now. Come here."
"Tara?" Toph asked, using Katara's nickname from Sokka.
"I'm here, sweetie, I'm right here." Katara took Toph into her arms, hugging her close.
Toph responded by pulling away. She really didn't feel like being hugged right now.
"Katara, I'm okay. Really." Toph said, although her voice gave it away.
"No, you're not. Stop being stubborn and let me comfort you." Katara said, a note of frustration in her voice.
Toph sat there for three minutes, before the dam finally broke.
"Toph." Katara reached out and took the upset girl into her arms. "Toph, it's okay. I'm right here. Katara has you. You're okay. Shh…"
This time, Toph didn't pull away. Instead, she responded by clinging to Katara for all it was worth and letting out a sob of fear.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, Toph. It's all right. I have you. Just cry it out. It's okay. You're safe now."
Toph did just that, but as she let out another sob, she felt the sick feeling return.
"Katara? Tara, I…I'm gonna…" Toph's voice trailed off and Katara wasted no time in getting the basin in front of her. She helped Toph to steady herself as she brought up the contents of her stomach again.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, it's all right. You're all right." Katara soothed as Toph heaved yet again.
Toph's stomach didn't' calm down for ten minutes. When she finally did get relief, Katara held a cup of water out to her and to Katara's relief, Toph sipped at it.
"Good girl. That's it. There you go."
After Toph had drunken a little bit more, Katara put the cup down and let Toph lay in her lap again.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Katara asked, referring to Toph's bad dream.
Toph shook her head and buried her face in Katara's stomach, letting out a sob.
"All right, it's okay. It's all right. I'm right here. Just try and get some sleep, okay?"
Toph obeyed and in a matter of ten minutes, she was back in dreamland.
As Katara held Toph and started to stroke her hair, she gazed up at the sky and smiled.
"Thank you, Mom. Thanks for helping me accept Toph and helping me to take care of her. I hope she learns to trust me more." With that, Katara gave Toph a kiss on her cheek before laying down for bed herself. "Sweet dreams, Toph. I hope you feel better. I love you."