A/N: OMG!!!! You like me!!! You really like me!!!! That's good. I like me too. ANYWAY, I am SO happy to be continuing with this story. It is just too much fun to write, let me tell you. Me and my pal, Dak, have been having a blast coming up with ideas for our fics. Give his fic "Scorched Earth" a look, it's well worth the read. I'm actually writing a companion piece to it that's gonna be a riot. But this comes first, BECAUSE I LOVE IT!!! So, without further hesitation, aside from a disclaimer, I set you loose to eat up the second chapter!
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. If I did it would be called Toph: The Blind Bandit, and it would be all shojo-y and centered around my favorite earthbender and the exiled prince that loves her and his attempts to woo her. AND IROH WOULD HAVE ALL THE TEA HE COULD EVER DREAM OF!!!! So, of course, I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender... YET.
Toph never liked to admit a certain fact about her personality: She liked order. Order was easy to interperet and work with. It wasn't too much to handle. This was by far the opposite of order, and Toph was not happy about it.
"What's happening!?!" Toph shouted over the intense noise level of the crowd that made her sensitive ears ring painfully. The off-key singing didn't do much to help that little fact, and she'd send a wave of earth in the singer's direction to throw more than their key off if there wasn't so much activity bustling around her and making focus near impossible.
Suddenly she felt her wrist being gripped tightly and her body shoved into the muscular build of another amidts the chaotic scrambling of excited people. The crowd was insane. All of her senses were overwhelmed, (Except her sight, as she was devoid of it), and the confusion was making her feel agitated and frustrated by her lack of vision.
"They pushed us inside the gates and are leading us through the mob to show us our quarters, or at least they would be if foot traffic weren't so congested" said a familiar voice beside her. Toph let out the breath she'd been holding when she realized that, no, she hadn't been slammed into a total stranger who grabbed her wrist and planned to whisk her further into the pack of rabid couples. Rather, Zuko had been perceptive enough to know that being in such an unorderly atomosphere would be a bit much for her to accumulate to in an instant, and had wisely opted to assist her until she could adjust.
Toph unconciously moved closer to her rescuer until he gently tugged her forward as they began to move through the crowd. When it was neccessary, Zuko would let her know what was up ahead or instruct her where to move or when to stop.
"We're going up some stairs. Aang and Katara are being led off to the left and Suki and Sokka were taken to the set of stairs to our backs" He stated calmly. Toph marvelled at how he knew she'd want to know where her friends were, as well as the fact that he could instruct her so well. Had he been a guide to a blind person before her? "Has the noise gotten more bearable?" he asked.
Toph blinked. Indeed, things had gotten quieter, but she'd been so focused on his voice that she hadn't noticed. "Uh... Yeah. Foot traffic ain't as bad either. You can let go of my hand, unless you need me to lead you around now" she said with a grin.
Zuko instantly released her wrist and stepped away a bit. "You're welcome" he growled.
"Yeah, yeah. Thanks and all that" Toph said with a dismissing wave of her hand. He didn't need to know just how unsettling the whole experience had been for her, and thanking him would just feed his pride.
Their guide had cleared her throat, thankfully it wasn't the genderless wonder leading them around, and Toph sensed her bowing at them.
"This is your room" she said quietly, "I hope you enjoy your stay and everything is to your liking". Her footsteps faded away and the duo stood outside of their quarters, neither daring to take a step inside.
"I'm almost afraid to go inside" Zuko muttered. Unintentionally, he had given Toph means to an end and she proceeded with the plan she had instantaneously thought up.
"Almost? Really, Princess... It's okay to be freaked out by a big old scary room" she teased. She repressed an evil grin when he began to tense and involuntarily gave out a growl. She only let out her laughter after he had stomped into the room. Her giggles grew quiet, however, when she realized that Zuko had yet to move or make a sound.
It couldn't be that bad... Could it? There was only one way to find out. Toph gulped and walked into their quarters calmly and attempted to "feel" around the area. Dread slowly welled up inside of the small girl as she took in her surroundings. There were candles, lots and lots of perfumed candles, dotting the perimeter of the room. She could hear the swish of fabric, probably silk, from near a large futon on the floor. The ONE large futon meant for two people to get cozy in TOGETHER covered in luxurious silk looming ominously on the floor. Rolled out and ready for a romp. And it got worse.
"No way... No WAY IN HELL!!!!" She uttered in enraged disbelief.
Zuko coughed uncomfortably somewhere off to the side as if to assure her that, yes, this nightmare was happening. There were no doors aside from the one leading into the chambers. That meant that anyone with the ability to see had a perfect veiw into the shower from any vantage point in the room unless they had their back turned, and vice versa. Not only was that just gross, but it was unfair! Zuko gets to peek and all she got to do was guess?!
Toph caught up with her wayward thoughts and fought the urge to mimic Sokka's trademark forehead slap. Things had gone from bad, to worse, to REALLY uncomfortable.
"Princess... I just want to inform you that I'm entertaining the thought of blinding you so we can call things even" she muttered.
She could hear Zuko scoffing and felt him guesture around the room. "I might take you up on the offer. All these damn mirrors are giving me a headache" he said. So they were surrounded by mirrors too? She felt him look up at the ceiling and cringe. "Ugh... They even have a mirror above the bed! That's so distasteful" he grunted.
Toph tilted her head to the side questioningly before speaking. "Why would there be a mirror above the bed? It's not like you can watch yourself sleep..." She mused. It took a few moments, but the air became thicker as Toph put two and two together. "EW!!!!" she shrieked.
A hurried knock came to the door and Zuko went to open it while Toph "stared" blankly at the ceiling and repressed a shudder. From the sound of the footfalls the intruder was male, but then there was an annoyingly familiar voice.
"OOOOOOOOOHHH!!!! I KNEW YOU'D LOVE IT HERE!!!!!" The genderless wonder cooed. "I picked this room out special for you two! I heard from that lazy fella that your lady love is blind, but I figure she can still smell, hear, and most importantly... Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel". She didn't need to see to pick up on the lecherous grin that was plastered accross the maniac's face, or the twitch in the corner of Zuko's mouth as he resisted the urge to barbeque said maniac.
"OH! Silly me! I forgot to introduce myself! I'm Pat. I'm in charge of guest reception, but don't think that means I just get you a room and leave you be..." Pat said.
"If only it did..." Toph grumbled.
Pat went on as if she/he/it didn't hear. " I also get to assist with the outfits!!!!" IT let out a girlish squeal that left ears ringing.
"Outfits?" Zuko questioned with a hint of apprehension.
"You didn't know?! OH GOODY!!!! I love surprising cute couples such as yourselves with the great news!" Pat squealed yet again. Oh how our duo was begining to loathe Pat. "Grab your wife and I'll lead the way!!!" Pat sang enthusiastically.
Toph groaned as Zuko grabbed her wrist and started to drag her behind him.
"Do we have to do this?" She whined.
"The sooner we get this over with the sooner Pat will shut the hell up and leave us alone!" Zuko spat. Toph quickened her pace while Pat sang merrily ahead of them. However, Toph still picked up Zuko whispering "Hopefully" as they made their way along.
After walking for a few minutes, Zuko helpfully giving instructions, they arrived at a building that they had passed on their way in. Toph could hear the sound of excited chatter and the occaisional delighted scream and felt constant movement inside.
"There are clothes everywhere, and more are being sewed together by seamstresses. You might want to watch your step, since there are pins on the floor, too" Zuko whispered.
"This place just keeps getting better, huh?" Toph asked sarcastically.
Before her companion had a chance to reply, Pat had started to speak again, much to their dismay.
"This is our fitting chamber! You see, we feel that each couple is special and unique. Therefore, we came up with the neat idea of creating beautiful matching outfits for each couple that are different from all the other couples. We just draw from the personality traits of husband and wife and bring them together to make outfits that reflect the couple! It's a little confusing to explain..." Pat trailed off, trying to come up with a suitable explination.
"Hang on... We have to dress ALIKE?!" Toph interrupted. She pointed a finger toward the area where she figured Zuko was standing, though she was a little off. "How do I know he has any fashion sense!?" she shouted.
"No worries, we'll handle the designs. We just need to know a little about you to get an idea of how to dress you up" Pat said.
"This is nonsense! Why can't we just continue to wear what he have on?" Zuko huffed.
"Awww, not that's no fun! You have to get in the spirit of things. Dressing alike will bring you closer together!" Pat cheered. It clapped its hands and a small stampede approached the duo.
Neither warrior showed their fear, though it was there in full force. Limbs were lifted, cloth was pressed to their bodies, measurements were taken, compliments were hurled at them, and then it was over. Toph was the first to let out the breath that she'd been holding, Zuko following her lead.
"OH MY!!! YOU'RE BOTH SO PALE!!!!" Pat shrieked, causing what little color that was left in them to drain.
"We're fine!" Zuko barked while Toph waved her hands frantically in front of her in an attempt to hold off the insane madman... madwoman... madthing.
One of the women approached Pat and whispered something to it. Pat nodded and clapped excitedly. "OOOOh?! REALLY?!".
Just that simple statement from their tormentor was enough to drain what little remaining color was left in the worried couple. Pat turned toward them and thrust its arms out wide. "GOOD NEWS!!! It looks like your outfits are ready!!! The girls collected information from your friends on your personalities and, along with meeting the two of you in person, were able to whip up the CUTEST lil outfits!!!".
Zuko looked at Toph and restrained himself from laughing. He could just see his "wife" decked out in a little devil costume. His mirth didn't last long, however, when he realized that information was shared about himself also. The idea of being dressed as a devil was cute on Toph, but on him it was a little scary, (Unless you are a rabid Zuko fangirl... Then it's SEXY).
"The little lady will get to dress up first... Meiling, help her adorn her garments" Pat ordered a seamstress nearby. She bowed and fetched Toph, taking her back to the fitting rooms as Toph screamed various obscenities and repeatedly stated she didn't need help.
"I WILL EARTHBEND YOU STRAIGHT TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH!!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?! STOP STRIPPING ME!!!! GET OFF, YOU FLOOZIE!!!!!" Toph screamed as she was being assisted.
"Oh dear... These undergarments won't do... WARDROBE!!!!!" Meiling shrieked.
"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE YOU CRAZY-" Toph began.
"Wardrobe!" Chimed another seamstress as she passed something white and silky looking over the top of the dressing room that Zuko just happened to catch a glimpse of. Pat watched with an evil smirk as his eyes widened and he started to cough uncontrollably. The genderless being leaned over and whispered "Just wait until you get a close-up with them ON her" with a lecherous grin, causing Zuko to choke even more.
"PRINCESS, IS THAT YOU HACKING UP A LUNG?! SO HELP ME... IF YOU DIE WHILE I'M GOING THROUGH THIS I WILL BURY YOU MYSELF!!!!" Yelled Toph. Several screams, insults, threats, and profanities later she was shoved out of the fitting room and straight into her "husband's" arms. He didn't catch her on purpose, his hands just shot around her on impulse. Just like it HAD to be an impulse that he wasn't letting go, just standing there awkwardly hugging her to him. "Awwww"ing and cooing could be heard erupting from every corner of the room and Zuko felt his cheeks burn.
"You can let me go now..." Toph whispered, apparently just as shocked and embarassed as him.
He didn't take the time to even look at her outfit, (He didn't think he could face looking at her at all, really), just walked into the fitting room unaccompanied, (much to Pat's dismay), and put on what was handed to him. It didn't take long until he stepped out and the two were shoved next to each other. More gawking and cooing could be heard from the crowd as Zuko treaded over to a large mirror, bringing Toph with him just to get her away from Meiling, who was smiling a little TOO enthusiastically at Toph.
After appraising his new clothing he had to begrudgingly admit that the tailors had done an excellent job. He wore a sleeveless fighting robe over a pair of black pants. On his wrists were black wrist guards that were more for show than fighting. The robe was a muted emerald color, (That reminded him of Toph's eyes, though he'd NEVER admit it), that was mixed with the color of rich earth. Of course the colors would compliment Toph. However, his complaint was forgotten when he noticed the black phoenix decoration that seemed to "fly" up from the corner of his robe and settle over his chest. He looked at himself again and realized that his now shoulder-length shaggy hair did give him the rugged look of an earthbender, not to mention the bangs he swept over his bad eye hid his telltale burn scar. It took a lot for him not to smirk appreciatively at his reflection, (As all men secretly do).
"Well, what's the damage? Am I hideous?" Toph asked with a hint of tension.
Zuko looked over at Toph and forgot how to blink for a few minutes. She wore a robe similar to his, only it had a high collar that made it resemble a dress more than any robe he'd ever seen. She also wore black pants, wristbands, and a black choker that peeked out from under her collar. What really struck him was her hair. It was down for the most part, only pulled up from the sides into intricate hair ornaments that looked like the phoenix on his robe. There were even real feathers forming the tails. Her hair still fell into her eyes, but the longer strands were pulled back into her hairstyle. She smirked up at him and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Judging from your erratic heartbeat you really like what you see or you're about to go into shock" she said with a laugh, though a pretty shade of pink blossomed on her cheeks. Zuko also blushed and came back to his senses. He quickly thanked everyone, grabbed his wife, and half walked, half ran, back to their quarters.
Pat beamed and looked to Meiling. "I think he likes it... Too bad he seems in such a hurry to get it off now" it laughed. Meiling just rolled her eyes and gathered up Toph and Zuko's old clothes. She handed them to another worker and plainly stated "Burn these" before getting back to work.
Back in their chambers, Zuko dumped Toph uncerimoniously onto the futon and went into the bathroom to splash his face in cold water. What was going on? His senses were all frazzled and his skin felt like it was covered in butterpillars. And all from just one look at Toph. Something was off.
Meanwhile Toph growled and scrunched her fists up into her dress. How dare he treat her like that! Sure, she wasn't pretty or cavity-inducingly sweet, but she couldn't be THAT bad, could she? It hurt, not that Toph acknowleged the clenching in her chest as pain. She unsuccessfully worked on trying to tell herself the discomfort was indegestion until her temper snapped.
"I KNOW I'M UNATTRACTIVE, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO RUB IT IN MY FACE!!!" She roared as the building shook around them.
Zuko stopped trying to drown himself in icy water and looked at her in disbelief. "You think you're ugly?" He asked in disbelief.
"Well DUH!!!" She growled as the earthquake began to settle down.
"How stupid are you? You think I see you as ugly?" He scoffed, feeling insulted and angry at her assumption.
"WHAT ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO THINK WITH A REACTION LIKE THAT?!" Toph screamed.
"That you're... You're... Mildly alluring..." Zuko fished for a compliment that wouldn't make him sound like a smitten fool.
"Oh..." Was all Toph could say as her face flushed a new shade of red. If she could see, she'd notice that Zuko's face was also aflame.
Before either of them could ruin the small moment they were having it was done for them by their good friend, Pat. "Fogot to mention, we're having a big dinner party tonight in honor of your arrival!!!! Try to keep your hands off of each other until AFTER the main course, lovebirds!!!".
And then the door to their chambers was shut and the awkward silence began anew with a vengance.
A/N: And there you have it: CHAPTER TWO!!!! This was a fun chapter, even though describing their outfits was HELL!!!! If you still can't quite vizualize it, don't stress too much, I'm currently drawing them and coloring a picture of them so you'll have a reference pretty soon. As always, PLEASE review. This is so much fun and your reviews only work to make it even more fun! I love you guys!!!
REVIEW AND I'LL GIVE YOU VALENTINES CANDY!!!!!! For the sake of sugar and cavaties, REVIEW!!!!!!