"The Gift Horse"
AN: All materials are copyright their original creators.
Story Summary: The cast of Avatar receive gifts from their creators in recognition of all their hard work in Season 2. Toph is first in line.
Chapter 01: INITIAL T!
"AVATAR" STUDIO PARKING LOT, LOVELY DAY, EVERYONE LOUNGING AROUND AS CREATORS PREPARE SEASON THREE
(Katara reading aloud a letter to Toph)
"Hey Toph, Mike & Bryan here. We just wanted to let you know how happy we are that you joined the GAang and we hope you've enjoyed your first season here at ATLA. You were lots of fun to work with and we're thrilled to have you aboard for another arc. We're all looking forward—er, highly anticipating—all of season three's impending excitement, and just wanted to say "thanks" for all the hard work you put in with your rockin' earth bending.
"Enjoy our little thank-you gift!
"Your two dads,
"M & B"
Katara looked up, smiling.
"Oh! They're so nice!"
Katara remembered her own gift from Mike & Bryan after her first season of shooting—a contract extension for a second season. She'd been grateful and thrilled she wouldn't have to go near a casting couch for at least another year. She was really happy the guys had gotten a little something for Toph and expected it was probably a toy of some sort, more age-appropriate for the younger girl.
"Toph? What did they give you? An iPod? A new costume for season three? A little paid bonus?" Katara's voice became distant as she trailed off.
She stared, disbelievingly at what the blind earthbender had received.
"This! Isn't it awesome?" cried Toph, grinning from ear to ear.
"… Is that what I think it is?" asked Katara weakly.
"Oh yeah!" crooned Toph, bounding into the driver's seat.
"That's Fred Flintstone's car, Toph."
"I know, a classic, eh? It handled great on the spin I took at lunch."
"TOPH! You aren't old enough to… WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'AT LUNCH'?!"
"At the go-kart track down the road. They even let me drift the S-curve. I think I need to lower it and adjust the suspension a bit before I go back for my next test drive, though."
"..." Speechless, the older girl struggled to find some way of conveying her shock and fury.
"Katara?" enquired Toph, wondering what had happened to her friend.
Toph heard a nasty-sounding 'thump-thump-thump' from Katara's feet as she stomped angrily towards the creators' studio.
SAME PARKING LOT, LATER THAT AFTERNOON
Aang, working his amazing, larger-than-life, Avatar peacemaker magic, had calmed Katara down and convinced her to come back around to enjoy Toph's new toy with everyone else over drinks and cookies. He beamed a wide smile at her, and, eventually, she returned his enthusiasm and agreed that yes, she'd been a little immature and perhaps jealous, and she should apologise to Toph and congratulate her on her success. She really had enjoyed working with Toph and was glad Aang had pulled her back into their group of friends to have some fun before they returned home.
"See, Katara? Look at how well Sokka and Toph are finally getting along?" he soothed, trying to cheer up his best friend as they approached the wreck—er, "vintage" means of conveyance—where Sokka and Toph were excitedly making plans. It was like Christmas morning for the two easily-excitable youths. "You'll finally be able to pawn him off on someone else for a while and have some time to yourself. Look how happy he is, messing around with his head under the hood of the, uh, 'car'. I bet he'll be occupied for hours, and you don't have to worry about him breaking your things or tearing his pants if he's in one place," continued Aang, optimistically. Finally, he thought, a chance to get her brother out of the way. Now to make my move…
Then the singing started up.
(Sokka and Toph, to the tune of "The Flintstones" theme)
Meet Toph Bei Fong!
She's a real earthbending prodigy!
From the town of Gaoling,
It's a place right out of fantasy!
"Let's ride with the Boom'rAang down the street.
Through the courtesy of Toph's two feet.
"When you're with the Bei Fongs,
Have a pimp-my-ride, fool, time,
And damn-my-new-ride's fine,
We'll have a gay old time!"
"SOKKAAAAAAAAAA!" hollered Aang, reeling back at the sight of the mess in front of him as he and Katara rounded the vehicle. Katara, strangely, said nothing. "You used Momo as a grime rag?" he gasped. "And Appa's tail as an oil drop-sheet?"
The monk's eyes sparked, and the light breeze that had been gently wafting around the group became noticeably more… agitated. Calm down, he thought, Katara doesn't need to deal with this, too. I just spent half an hour polishing my head so I could look good to finally ask her out, I am NOT wasting this chance on Sokka being an idiot…
"Hey Aang! Wanna come drifting with me? I already got a membership offer from Drifting Pretty, the all-girl drift team! I'm gonna have fangirls!" chattered Toph excitedly. "I bet we'll have the guys' teams on the run in no time!"
"Hah! Good one, Toph, on the run!" snorted Sokka, wiping more grease off his hands onto the poor flying lemur. "Oh, hey Aang. Yeah, sorry about Momo and Appa, but I'm sure it'll come right out. Katara's great at that kind of thing."
Momo was looking decidedly ill, though he tried valiantly for a debonair Batman-ish pose in his new black coat. "It's ok, Momo," soothed Aang picking up his pet lovingly and settling him on his shoulders while he inspected Appa's messed fur more closely. Sighing, he continued, "Maybe another time, Toph." He heard a light snapping noise and turned just in time to see Katara turn a threatening, but incredibly attractive, shade of infinite fury.
"…good at that kind of thing?" breathed Katara delicately, softly, almost too quietly to hear. But somehow, they all heard. "…good at that kind of thing?" she repeated. And they all felt that special, powerful, absolutely gut-clenching moment of fear that only gave the slightest warning to the impending terror to befall them. "Sokka, am I really good at that kind of thing?"
Sokka considered his next words carefully—very, very carefully. For Sokka, it was the equivalent of spontaneously gaining the brainpower of the presidency of MENSA and Einstein.
"Well, Katara," he began as bravely as he could while she loomed in front of him. "I think actually I may be more suited to this particular task," his voice cracked, "and really, you should go have a night out and relax – on my tab! Here," whipping out his wallet, he started ripping as many plastic cards as he could from their organised slots, "Aang will take you, and you can take as many of your friends out as you want. Hey, I bet Jet and Haru are around, wanna go hang out with them?"
His voice was speeding up, and soon he was barreling along, babbling and urgently reaching for any sign of potential war-path-avoidance available.
"Here's my Visa, and my MC, and oh, just in case, my American Express, and you have no curfew tonight! NONE AT ALL! Your big brother will be working hard, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning the lemur and the flying bison until they squeak and shine, and you can sit back and go get a massage! How's that? Oh, and I'll do the regular laundry, too! And I want you to go take in a play, or an opera, or a water-bending demonstration at the cultural centre—don't those sound wonderful?" his voice getting more and more desperate, his tone getting higher and higher, his eyes begging for mercy as he pleaded with his sister for forgiveness. "Please don't kill me," he said in a tiny voice, flinging his arms in front of his face to protect him from the anticipated assault.
Katara looked at the pile of credit cards he'd shoved into her hands. Some had his name, some had the names of some of his…girlfriends? She looked closer. Oh man, he is such a player…
Katara calmed slightly at the thought of attending one of the waterbending demonstrations she'd seen advertised at the cultural centre, though. Aang may enjoy it too, seeing as he is the Avatar. She looked over at the enraptured monk, holding up a credit card at random. "Wanna go with me?" she asked simply.
Everywhere. "Sure, let's take the afternoon off and go to the market, too," he smiled, already plotting out ways to try and convince the lovely dark-haired girl to practice their bending in a hot tub at a hotel, just in case they didn't make it home that night. He did say no curfew…
Meanwhile, Toph snorted under the hood of the car, pulling out another random part and throwing it carelessly behind her. "Still too heavy, need to lose more weight before it'll balance properly in the corners," she muttered. Sokka's an idiot to send his sister out with Aang and Katara's an idiot to let herself be played so easily, she thought. Though she did end up with all the money… Bah, she had plenty of money herself, what with the Bei Fong fortune. And soon, she'd own the track (well, not literally own it, but she'd rule it!) and have more fangirls than even Zuko! Beat that, Prince of Angst! Silly girlie-man… Toph continued tinkering with the engine bay for a bit before her frustration got the better of her and she suddenly hurled a spanner at it. Sokka looked over at her curiously.
Straightening up, she threw her hands on her hips and exclaimed in exasperation, "DAMNIT! Sokka, what color is my car?"
IN ANOTHER AREA OF THE STUDIO
Zuko sat up in a panic. He'd sensed a great disturbance in the force… Were those?—
Iroh sprang into the room, the door flying open, his eyes wide and his face grave. "Nephew, did you--?"
"Yes, Uncle. I felt it, too." His face set stonily. He picked up his swords. This could only mean one thing.
"Someone's trying to steal my fangirls, Uncle."
/AN: References in this chapter: The Flintstones, Initial D, Family Guy, Mr. T., Pimp My Ride
/AN: It was pointed out to me that my 'spelling' was occasionally wrong, and that some of my vocab is difficult to understand. Just to clarify: I'm not American, so these are likely just differences in the spelling and vocabulary I learned as a kid. My parents are from the UK, and I'm Canadian. Our rules are a little different. (At least the ones I learned growing up!) A spanner is a wrench.
IMPORTANT A.N.: Version 2.0, Aug/2007:
This story was originally conceived back in December 2006, and was intended to finish up around Christmas/New Years several weeks later. (For a number of reasons, it didn't.) As I'm now revising the story to improve its cohesion, I'm adding in a small note here at the beginning to remind readers this is a 'holiday story' of sorts. It becomes quite obvious in later chapters, but if you're reading outside of holiday-time, it may seem a bit strange. (It's also intentionally odd, don't worry, it isn't just you!) In addition, this story was partly 'crack'-based. There are a number of references to other shows, books, movies, etc., found throughout this story: if something seems familiar, check the ANs at the bottom of each chap to see if I was referencing something specific. (More than likely). This story was also intended as a COMEDY, not a romance-fic by any stretch of the imagination. It was shaped, and later given alternate 'ship-specific epilogues, by the comments and crits I received on the original chapters. If you don't get too deterred by the ship itself, I recommend you read both-- you can skip the 'mushy' parts easily. Finally, the characters in this story are actors playing themselves. (IE: Katara is still Katara, but she's an actress playing herself; this story is slightly AU that way. They aren't really in the Avatarverse, and the creators (M & B) show up peripherally. You'll see what I mean immediately once you start reading. It may seem inconsistent.)
Also, immeasurable thanks to renagrrl for beta-ing this revised edition, and to tikkihikki, solitaryguard, and heartsyhawk for their comments/crits/suggestions on the original.
Thank you for reading!