Without realizing it, I'd allowed my self to lift from the ground whilst singing, the airbending that had come so naturally in my youth, was amongst my lesser used adult talents. Though it seemed I was not out of practice, she'd felt me lift from the ground, the same way I had when I bested her on our first meeting. Still slowly returning to full footing I bit my lip knowing I'd been found out, there was nothing I could do but offer.
"Hello, Toph Beifong." My words quaked as they left my throat unsure to what her reaction might be, would she cry, or run off angry at me. The reaction it did elicit however caused me to grin ear to ear. Over the years I'd become adapt not only in bending but in many forms of hand to hand combat, couple that with the vibration training Toph herself had given me, I saw her untrained punch coming the instant she resolved to throw it. I however didn't move or attempt to block, it made me so happy I couldn't bring myself to prevent it.
"What's the idea of screwing with me like that ya airhead, do you know how freaking worried I've been about you?" Laughing I picked myself up from the ground, spitting away the blood from my lip. She'd not trained in the martial arts, but her bending training left her strong as ever. More importantly, her words flowed natural, her stance solidifying completely, this was no demure flower of refinement any longer, no this was something far more beautiful, this was Toph Beifong.
"I thought I'd lost you." I laughed out as she spit to the ground beside her.
"That's supposed to be my line, no word for ten years, only rumors that you're even still alive, you really have air for brains don't you?" But she was smiling, and tears were flowing down her face. She delivered another strong blow to my arm before pulling me into an even stronger embrace. I returned the gesture pulling her in close whispering my apology to her.
"I'm, I'm sorry Toph, I was angry, and afraid. . ." Words failed me, but I knew she understood my intent, the way only an old friend could. We stood there like that a long while, not speaking, but communicating everything to one another. Eventually though we seperated I stared at her and knew the bare feet hidden under her dress were feeling every beat of my heart. In that moment I realized exactly what I'd been running from for so long, it wasn't the memory of Katara, or the guilt I felt taking the firelord's life that day. It was loss, if I had no one close to me, I couldn't lose them, like I lost Katara, like we lost Jet, and how my people were taken from me. In Toph though I saw a worse kind of loss, a loss of self, a loss that was reflected in me I'd been so rigid, I pushed away everything that had once made me happy out of fear. It took seeing her again to make me feel like an airbender again, and I knew having me there made her more comfortable, to be the way she'd been, the Toph I knew. I'd spent all this time taking care of world, keeping the balance, but the people I cared about most were thrown into complete chaos, I had to set it all right. After what felt like an eternity of silence I spoke.
"Can we visit Zuko before we head to the southern water tribe?" She gave that telling smirk, and I felt my heart skip a beat, I could tell she felt it by the gentle blush that appeared on her cheeks before she shook it off, changing the subject.
"Fine, but you better not slow me down twinkle toes" With that she took off, the earth bulging beneath her feet, carrying her in the direction of the fire lord's palace. I shook my head and with some (I'm embarrassed to say) difficulty I formed a ball of air beneath myself and shot off after her.