DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT own the characters from Avatar. They belong to Nickelodeon. Anyone else that you don't recognize, belong to me. I also own Katara's nickname as well as the other nicknames in this story. If anyone wants to use them, 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.
This story is dedicated to Celtic Warrior, JJ, Sifu Toph and my sister, Heather. I hope everyone enjoys it and can learn something from it.
A/N: I wrote this story to show everyone some in sight into how I became visually impaired, or at least one event because of it that changed my life. And I Know Toph was born blind, but for this story, I did it a little differently. I hope everyone who reads this story, can overlook that little change and read it with an open mind and heart. I hope everyone reads this with care and the reviews are kind, but constructive. This was hard for me to write about, but I did it because I want everyone to understand me a little bit better.
"A Blind Reality"
"Do we have everything?" Katara asked, turning to her best friend and her older brother. They were packing up to leave for Bah seng sei.
"It looks like it," Aang said, smiling at his friend. He gave Katara a pat on her shoulder, which she returned by squeezing his hand.
Sokka made a gagging sound in disgust.
"Come on, you guys are going to make me lose my lunch!"
Katara giggled and gave Sokka a playful shove. It was only when Katara turned around, did she notice Toph was still in the same position she had been in for twenty minutes now.
Toph had her eyes closed and her hand was on her right temple.
"Toph?" Katara asked, kneeling down in front of the blind bandit. "Toph, are you okay?"
Toph merely whimpered as pain surged through the right side of her head.
Katara took charge immediately. She checked Toph for a fever and found she had none. She then put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Is it just your head that's hurting you, sweetie?" Katara asked, being careful to speak softly, so she didn't hurt Toph's already aching head. Katara knew what having a migraine was like, but little did she know what this migraine would bring up for Toph in the way of bad memories.
Toph nodded, causing a sharp pain to make its way around her right temple. This in turn caused her to clutch her stomach with her other hand.
"Toph, do you feel like you're going to vomit?" Katara asked, knowing the answer before Toph swallowed hard, confirming it.
"Hey Tara!" Sokka called over to his sister. "Let's go! I'm hungry."
Katara rolled her eyes and ignored Sokka.
The warrior had eaten an hour ago and it amazed Katara at how much Sokka could eat at times.
"All right, Toph, it's okay. Just let me get the bucket and I'll-" Katara's sentence was interrupted as Toph heaved, vomiting everywhere.
Sokka made a disgusted noise and went back to his job of helping Aang load things onto Appa. There was no way he was getting involved in taking care of the young girl. He had no interest in helping whatsoever. He would do it for Katara, but that was different. Katara was his sister, Toph wasn't.
"All right, Toph, it's okay. You're going to be okay. Come here." Katara picked Toph up and carried her over to Appa.
Normally, Toph would have fought her, saying she was too old to be carried and she could do it herself, but Toph was in no condition to argue. She was feeling too sick and she knew that if Katara didn't get her settled soon, the young waterbender would be changing her clothes.
Luckily, Katara managed to get Toph on Appa and a blanket around her, before Toph shakily told Katara that she was going to throw up again.
Katara spent the next few hours, comforting Toph and holding the bucket for her. It was breaking Katara's heart to see her little sister like this, but she knew Toph would be okay in time. She was strong and could handle anything.
As Katara put a cool cloth to Toph's forehead and made calming circles on her back, she gave her a kiss and started stroking her hair.
"Shh, shh, it's okay. It's going to be okay, Toph. I promise. I'm right here. Katara's right here and I'm going to take care of you. You're going to be all right."
Toph nodded and gave Katara a small smile. The truth was, this headache was bringing up painful memories of a time just two years ago. A time that Toph would sooner have wanted to forget.
Toph let her mind wander as she tried to sleep. She was having trouble, but finally, an hour later, she was able to sleep.
As Katara watched over her, she patted Toph's shoulder, hoping that would bring her some comfort.
"Is Toph going to be okay?" Aang asked, worry in his voice.
"Don't worry, Aang," Katara reassured her best friend. "Toph's going to be fine. She just has a normal migraine, like I get sometimes."
Aang nodded. He knew Katara was probably right, but he still wasn't sure.
It was a few days later that Toph was overcome with those same memories once again. But only this time, they didn't fade into the back of her mind like before. This time, they pushed their way forward with such force, that Toph could feel another headache coming on.
The morning had started out like any other for the small family. They had gotten up and Katara had made breakfast at Toph's request.
After breakfast was over, everyone helped to clean up and soon they were off again.
As they flew over a forest full of flowers and trees, Katara stared at it, taken in by its beauty and significance.
"Sokka, look at that!" Katara said, truly amazed at the sight. "Isn't it beautiful?"
Sokka, who was busy sharpening his boomerang, looked up briefly and shook his head.
"It's just a forest. We pass those all the time. It's not a big deal. If you've seen one forest, you've seen them all." He was about to go back to his boomerang sharpening when he felt a rock hit him in the side of the head.
Sokka looked up from sharpening his most cherished possession to find Toph glaring at him. He glared right back.
"What'd you do that for?" He asked, but it was more of a whine.
Toph threw another clod of earth at him, hitting his shoulder this time. She then did it again, this time, successfully knocking the boomerang out of his hand.
"Hey!" Sokka cried, scrambling to the side of Appa and gazing around for his weapon of choice. "You made me lose my boomerang!"
"So?" Toph said in a tone that told Sokka she really didn't care. "That'll teach you to be more appreciative of things. Even the small things. You never know when something you rely on will be taken away from you. And at least you have the sight to find your stupid stick again." She added this in a quiet whisper, but not quiet enough.
"Toph?" Katara asked, her voice full of concern. "Toph, are you okay?"
"No! I'm not okay!" Toph exclaimed, catching Aang and Appa off guard.
Aang jumped with a start and Appa let out a nervous groan.
"It's okay, Appa," Katara assured the bison while stroking him behind the left shoulder blade. "Thatta boy. Good boy. You're such a sweet boy. There you go. You like that, don't you?" She continued to do the calming motion before turning her attention to Toph. "Toph, you need to calm down. You're scaring Appa."
Toph ignored Katara and hit Sokka with another piece of earth. She then launched into a rant that made Katara's frequent outbursts seem like a passionate speech.
"I'm so SICK of people looking at things and not really seeing them! I'm especially tired of people being too busy to look at something as simple and as beautiful as a forest or a flower!" She jabbed Sokka in the chest, making him take a few steps back. "You should be grateful for the sight you have! You should wake up every day and see everything you can and really see it. Not just glance at it just to be able to say you saw it! That's not seeing!"
"Where did this come from?" Sokka asked, trying to hide behind Katara.
"No way!" Katara told him, sternly. "You started this, you're taking your punishment like the warrior you are." With that, she shoved Sokka forward, making him face Toph's wrath.
"You!" Toph shouted, as if to answer Sokka's question. "That's where this is coming from! Katara wanted to share a beautiful forest with you, but all you cared about was sharpening that stupid stick of yours! You didn't take the opportunity to use the sight you've been blessed with and really see what beauty nature has to offer! You just ignored it!"
"How do you know how beautiful something is?" Sokka asked, not realizing he was raising Toph's ire more.
"Uh, Sokka," Katara said, a little unsure of what was going to happen next, "I think you said the wrong thing."
Toph chose to answer Sokka's question, rather than hurt him. But she was going to give him something to think about along the way.
"That question you just asked, proved to me that you don't see what's really there! You want to know how I see the beauty in things? I see with my heart. I see through other people's description of things. Aang and Katara help me to see things around me and I'm grateful to them for helping me that way. But mostly, I see with my heart. I use my other senses to compensate for my sight and that way, I don't miss anything. But you don't even know how to do that! Sometimes I think you're the blind one instead of me! You better be careful because one day, you just might be. Believe me, I know." Toph said this last part in a quiet voice and Katara could tell she was fighting tears.
"Toph? Toph, come here." Katara held her arms out to her little sister. She then remembered that Toph was virtually helpless in the air. She couldn't feel any vibrations, so therefore, she couldn't tell where Katara was sitting.
Katara went over to Toph and pulled her into a hug. She started stroking Toph's hair and encouraged her to let it out.
Toph did just that. She cried for the next ten minutes, letting out all her frustration over everything that had taken place that morning, along with all the horrible memories that had been plaguing her subconscious since the other day.
When the group finally landed, Toph was calm, but she was still crying and she refused to leave Katara's lap.
Katara didn't argue and allowed Toph to stay there. If Toph felt safe with Katara, who was Katara to stop her? And truth be told, Katara enjoyed having cuddle time with her little sister, but she hoped Toph would feel better too. She hated seeing anyone she loved in pain, emotional or physical.
As the boys set up camp, Katara tended to Toph. She managed to get Toph to drink some water and started rubbing her back, hoping it would help her to calm down.
"Sokka doesn't understand!" Toph wailed, her voice tearful and desperate. "He has no idea what it's like to have something taken away suddenly and not be able to get it back! And yet he takes things for granted! I don't' understand him."
"Shh, shh, hush. It's okay, Toph. It's all right. I'm right here. Katara has you. You're safe." Katara planted a kiss on Toph's head before hugging her close. "Tell me. I want to understand. Help me here a little bit. I promise I'll listen."
Toph hiccupped and let out a sob. She thought long and hard before starting to speak. In the end, Toph realized that Katara was the best one to tell her past to. She knew Katara would listen and comfort her if she needed it. The only thing Toph wasn't sure of was if Katara would truly understand. And Toph knew it wasn't that Katara didn't' care or she didn't' love her, far from it. It was just because it was hard for someone who hadn't been through what Toph had to truly understand the pain she went through, both emotionally and physically.
But as Toph gazed into her sister's kind, blue eyes, she saw nothing but love and a desire to understand. As Toph laid her head against Katara's shoulder, she decided to give her sister that chance.
As Toph let the memories consume her, she squeezed Katara's hand for comfort and buried her face in her big sister's shoulder. She needed Katara's comfort right now and Katara was all too willing to give her little sister what she needed during this difficult time…
Two years earlier…
Ten year old Toph Bae Fong sat in her room, staring blankly at the walls. She had been sitting there for an hour, just staring. Staring at what exactly, Toph didn't know. She had just lost her grandfather to the fire nation and she missed him very much. He had always been there for her and now, Toph felt alone. Sure she had her parents and she loved them, but nobody could understand her the way her Pop Pop did. He was amazing and now, he was gone forever.
As Toph sat there, she started feeling a pain go through her right temple.
Great. The ten year old thought, sarcastically. A headache on top of everything else.
As Toph rubbed her eyes, the pain started to increase. She tried to close her eyes, thinking that would help, but it did nothing to dull the ache. She made her way over to her bed and laid down, praying that would help, but to no avail. The pain was persistent and to make matters worse, Toph was starting to feel sick as well.
"Toph?" Her mother, Linda, asked. "Toph, honey? Are you okay?"
Toph managed to shake her head before vomiting everywhere.
"Oh Toph!" Linda said, scooping her daughter up and taking her straight to the bathroom.
Toph spent the next hour in the bathroom. Her mother ran a warm bath for her, hoping that would help her daughter feel better. She figured it was just stress over losing her grandfather that was causing Toph to be sick so suddenly, but little did Linda know that was far from the reason.
After Linda got Toph out of the bathroom, she tucked her daughter back in and stayed with her for the night.
Linda's husband, Chang, came in sometime later to check on his wife and child. When he learned that Toph was sick, he wrote it off as stress as well, telling Linda that Toph would be better in a few days.
Linda hoped her husband was right, but she had a funny feeling that this was more than just a normal flu bug.
For the next three days, Toph continued to have pain and to not be able to keep anything down. She was becoming dehydrated and Linda insisted on taking her daughter to see a doctor.
Toph hadn't been able to sleep due to the pain and would wake up from fitful bouts of sleep, screaming that it hurt and she wanted the pain to stop.
It broke Linda's heart to see her daughter in that much pain and she wanted to help her any way she could. She was convinced that this wasn't a normal bout with the flu and she was determined to get her daughter the help she needed.
Toph had been born with limited sight in her left eye and next to none in her right. The sight in her left eye had lessened over the years till she could only see light and shadows. And as for the right eye, well it might have just as easily not been there at all.
Chang, seeing that his wife was not going to give up on this too easily, finally agreed.
"But I'm telling you," He said as they walked to the local healthcare facility, "they're just going to rehydrate her with those new IV things and tell us to keep giving her fluids and medicine. You're wasting your time."
Linda shook her head as she held a crying Toph close. Toph was in extreme pain and she hadn't been able to sleep since this whole mess started.
When they arrived at the hospital, Toph was seen by a doctor and she immediately rehydrated her via IV. This was a new way of doing things, but the doctor assured Toph's parents, especially her mother, that it would do the trick.
Linda trusted the doctor's judgment and allowed her to perform the painful procedure.
Toph was too busy crying from the pain in her head to notice when Dr. Arielle Larson, stuck the needle in her arm. She let out a whimper, and tried to bury her face in her mother's shoulder.
"Shh, shh, it's okay, sweetie. Mommy's right here. I'm here, Toph. You're going to be okay."
Toph believed her mother, but she still was in a great deal of pain. She just wanted the pain to go away.
After Dr. Larson had rehydrated the young girl, she told Toph's parents that she was going to get Toph's medical records and do a simple examination that would hopefully tell her what was going on.
Linda agreed and glared towards the door, where she knew her husband had gone. He wanted to get something to drink, but Linda knew better. She knew he couldn't' stand to see Toph in pain, but Linda wished he would have stayed there with them. Toph was his daughter too and Linda couldn't do it all by herself.
When Dr. Larson came back, she prepared to do the examination on Toph.
Toph cried the entire time, something she never normally did when she went through eye examinations.
Toph's cries broke Linda's heart. She wanted nothing more than to take her daughter into her arms and take her pain away, but she knew she couldn't.
"All right, I have some questions for you now," Dr. Larson said, sitting down next to Toph's bed. "When did Toph start feeling like this?"
Linda took a deep breath before answering Dr. Larson's questions.
"Three days ago. My father died at the hands of the fire nation a week ago and Toph…she hasn't been the same since. She and my father were very close and when he was killed, she withdrew and started keeping to herself more. She wanted more cuddle time from me and I gave it to her, but I didn't start worrying until she got sick a few days ago."
Dr. Larson nodded and gave Linda a sympathetic look. She had known Toph since she was born and knew the struggle the Bae Fong family had gone through and were still going through.
"All right. Well, I promise you I'll do all I can to help Toph feel better." She patted Toph's shoulder as she left the room.
Two hours passed with Toph sleeping off and on. Dr. Larson had given her some medicine that helped dull the pain, but it didn't' take it away completely.
It wasn't until a day later, that the Bae Fongs' found out what was going on with their daughter. But the news was very unexpected.
It was on a Wednesday of that same week that Dr. Larson came into see how Toph was. She had news, but she knew the family wasn't going to like it.
"Linda, can I talk to you?" Dr. Larson asked, approaching her from behind. "I would really like to talk to your husband too, but I know he's at work."
Linda nodded and glared. She knew Chang was doing this so that he wouldn't have to see Toph and it angered Linda to no end.
"Did you find out what's making Toph so sick?" Linda asked, her voice full of hope.
Dr. Larson nodded and frowned. She took a deep breath before starting to explain.
"Toph has what we call glaucoma."
"What's that?" Linda asked, fearing the worst.
"Well it's when the pressure builds up in either eye, in this case Toph's right one. When the pressure builds up, it looks for somewhere to go and if it can't be released, it just keeps building up, causing pain and nausea. We can usually treat this with medicine, but in more severe cases, like Toph's, more drastic measures must be taken."
Linda took this all in and felt as if she was going to faint. This couldn't' be happening to her Toph, her baby. It just couldn't. Toph had been through too much already.
"What do you mean drastic measures?" Linda asked, having the feeling she wasn't going to like the answer Dr. Larson had for her.
"We need to remove her right eye."
"Excuse me?" Linda asked, thinking she had heard Dr. Larson wrong. "What did you say?"
"I said we need to remove Toph's right eye. This must be done almost immediately."
Linda closed her eyes, feeling as if she was in a nightmare that would never end.
"Can I stay with her?" Was all Linda managed to ask.
Dr. Larson nodded.
"Yes. You can stay with her until she falls asleep."
Linda nodded and said a quiet thank you to Dr. Larson before turning her attention back to her daughter.
Toph awoke in a room a few hours later, feeling a little bit better. Her head didn't' hurt nearly as much and the sick feeling was almost gone.
As Toph strained her ears for a familiar sound, she heard someone moving towards her. The footsteps were unfamiliar, so Toph chose to stay quiet.
"You're awake," a gentle voice said, putting a hand on Toph's shoulder. "Are you thirsty, sweetie?"
Toph didn't answer. She didn't' know this person and the only person she wanted right now was her Mom.
As Toph went to sit up, the person put her hand on Toph's shoulder again.
"No, sweetie, " she said, her voice gentle, but firm. "You can't sit up just yet. You need to lay down for awhile."
Toph nodded. It was only when she looked around, did she notice that she couldn't' see any light or shadows. It was completely dark. This grabbed Toph immediately and she started to shake.
"I can't see anything!" Toph cried, fear evident in her voice. 'I can't see anything! Why can't I see? Why can't I see!"
The woman, Dr. Lucy Chasity, put her hand on Toph's shoulder.
"Shh, shh, it's okay. It's going to be okay. You're going to be all right. You can't see, sweetheart, because you have patches over your eyes. They'll come off eventually."
"Take them off now!" Toph commanded, reaching up and attempting to do it herself.
"No, sweetie. You have to stay still." Lucy then put a small sedative into Toph's IV, lulling her back into a semi peaceful sleep.
Toph awoke once again, but this time, she heard the soothing voice of her mother, humming, something that always calmed her whenever she was afraid.
Toph took a deep breath and was immediately calmed down by the familiar sound and relaxed instantly. She then squinted, trying to see any hint of light or shadows, but nothing came. It was just pitch blackness.
"Mommy, I can't see!" Toph cried, her voice cracking with fear and tears. "I can't see anything! It hurts and I can't see!"
Linda felt her heart break into a million pieces at that point. She knew she had to tell Toph what had happened and soon. She realized that Toph had been out of it and not with it due to being in so much pain. Therefore, she hadn't heard the conversation that had taken place before her emergency surgery.
"Toph, baby, I need you to listen to me, okay?" Linda started, trying hard not to start crying in front of her daughter.
"I can't see!" Toph cried again, reaching her hand out for her mother's, desperate for some familiar contact.
Linda gave her daughter what she so desperately needed and then continued her explanation.
"Toph, sweetheart, you had to have an operation to make you feel better. And the doctors had to remove your right eye. Your right eye was what was making you so sick, baby. I'm-I'm so sorry." With that, Linda broke down, scaring Toph even more than she already was, if that was even possible. Toph had never seen her mother cry before, except for the day her Pop Pop was killed.
Toph burst into silent tears and buried her face in the pillow. This couldn't be happening. This had to be a bad dream. But it was anything but a bad dream. A nightmare maybe, but it was far from over.
Toph had trouble sleeping that night and for many nights after that. She gradually got used to her new way of doing things, but she never fully got over what had happened to her. And it wasn't until three days after surgery, did Toph get slapped in the face with the blind reality of her situation.
Toph was reading a Braille book while her mother went to get lunch, when Dr. Larson came into the room. She checked Toph's vitals and did some routine tests before going to find Toph's mother. She had to talk to her.
Gradually, Toph got tired of the book and put it back. She was beginning to feel tired and laid down, surrendering to sleep.
Toph awoke an hour later and was about to call for her mother, when she heard two people talking just outside her room. She listened hard and realized that the two people were Dr. Larson and her mother.
"So what you're saying is that Toph could wake up one day and not be able to see anything?" Linda asked, disbelievingly. "No light, no shadows. Nothing?"
"I'm afraid so," Dr. Larson told her. "I'm really sorry, but the prognosis doesn't look good."
Toph gasped and felt the tears come to her eyes. She had always been able to see something, whether it was light or just a spec of a shadow. And what she couldn't see like everyone else, her hearing and earthbending made up for it. But not being able to see anything one day was a reality that Toph wasn't ready to face. She wasn't ready for it, but she knew it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Linda came back into the room and sat beside Toph's bed. She assumed Toph was sleeping and started to stroke her hair.
Toph feigned sleep, partly to give her mother a chance to think and partly because she didn't feel like talking to anyone or really being asked questions. She needed time to think herself and get used to the fact of one day being plunged into a world of darkness. But as Toph lay there, a part of her knew she would never get used to the blind reality that was coming her way, ever. It didn't matter who talked to her. It didn't matter how she looked at it or how many times her mother tried to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. Toph would never get used to the fact of one day not being able to see a thing. Never…
Katara was speechless as she hugged Toph close and planted a kiss on her cheek.
Up until this point, she and her brother and Aang hadn't known what exactly had made Toph blind, but now that Katara knew the full story, she felt a new surge of love and sympathy for her little sister. Katara also felt a new sense of admiration for the blind bandit as well. Toph was able to do things that Katara could never imagine doing in her position and she did them every day without thought.
As Katara held Toph close, she felt a shiver run up her spine. Toph's story had taught her something else too. She was NEVER going to take anything for granted again. Not even the tiniest building from atop Appa or the largest tree in a forest otherwise barren with nothing. Katara was going to take everything in and really see its beauty. She was also going to try her best to help Toph see all she could, even if it wasn't the same way she and Sokka and Aang saw. At least it was something.
"Toph, I…I…I never knew you went through so much at such a young age." Katara said, her voice tearful and soft.
Toph nodded, feeling a little bit better.
"I did and I've learned something from that experience."
Katara nodded, knowing what Toph was about to say.
"Never take anything for granted. Not a single thing."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Katara said, starting to stroke Toph's hair again. "All right, let's get you tucked in. You had a long day and you need your rest, okay?"
Toph nodded, but was glad when Katara didn't relinguish her hold on her just yet.
"Toph, can I ask you something?" Katara asked, not sure how Toph would react to her question.
"Sure, Tara. What is it?" Toph asked, resting her head against Katara's shoulder.
"Do you ever wish you could see like everyone else?"
Katara waited for the storm to come, but it never did.
Instead, Toph sighed. She was quiet for a long time, but she finally did answer Katara's question.
"Yes and no." She said, knowing full well that the answer she had just given her sister, wouldn't satisfy her.
"What do you mean?" Katara asked, making Toph giggle softly.
"I mean yes, I sometimes wish I could see like everyone else, but then I Realize I see the world differently and that's not a bad thing. If I could see like everyone else, I would never have been able to teach your idiotic brother that lesson. I also would never have been able to teach Twinkle Toes or anyone else I've come in contact with."
Katara nodded. She knew Toph's last statement had only a little to do with earthbending.
Toph was about to say something else, when she yawned, giving Katara the impression that she was ready for bed.
"All right, I think you should take a nap. You had a long day."
Toph didn't argue, but asked Katara if she could stay in her lap, which Katara agreed to almost immediately. She knew Toph needed the closeness as much as she did and Katara wouldn't have it any other way.
Toph ended up falling asleep, holding Katara's hand and listening to the sound of Katara's sweet singing voice. It wasn't her mother, but Toph was reassured by it all the same.
As Katara watched Toph sleep, she gave her a kiss and patted her shoulder gently.
"Sweet dreams, Toph. I love you." With that, Katara fell asleep to sweet dreams herself. Toph was feeling better and she was safe, and that's all that mattered to Katara at that moment in time.
A/N: Thank you for reading this story. Those two events really happened to me and it's helped me to write about them. It was painful to do and I did cry as I was writing this story. I hope that everyone is able to learn something when they read this.
May the light of God
shine upon everyone and keep them safe.