. helium lost .

Author's Notes: Written for the 5-sense community at Livejournal. I originally intended to write all five at the same time, but somewhere along the way, I got interrupted, so I'll be posting them individually.

Anyway, I picked Toph because her senses and the way she perceives things would be different from the rest of the Avatar cast, with the differences being both physical and metaphorical/emotional. :) And I think it would be really fun to explore her character, because I haven't really written anything with Toph as a central character for quite a while.


Toph Bei Fong, daughter of the rich, wealthy, eminent, and prominent Bei Fong family, has tasted the finest food from all around the world (after, of course, the doctor's confirmation that such food is okay for such a sick, ailing girl). She has eaten roast duck from the farthest reaches of the Fire Kingdom; she has eaten squid and eel from the deep, mysterious seas around Kyoshi Island; she has even eaten wolf meat from the Southern Water Tribes (which, according to her mother as she doled out slices of the tender flesh onto her plate, is very expensive and very hard to come by).

But she has never eaten roasted fish before.

Of course, she has had steamed fish—the flesh so tender and steamed that it melts in her mouth—steamed fish with the taste of onions and cilantro and soy sauce; she has had deep-fried fish, the crunch outside filling her mouth with a savory, rich taste (of course, she was never allowed to eat the fins, even though they were—according to everyone around her—so delicious—she could choke on a bone if she wasn't careful!). She has had fish smothered in a spicy sauce with tiny squares of tofu mingling with the hot peppers; she has had raw slices of fish layered on top of delicately molded mounds of rice, carefully bundled together with sheets of seaweed.

But she has never had fish that tastes of fire and smoke, fish that just moments ago was wriggling and writhing in the hands of a hunter. She has never had fish that was gutted and cleaned before her, then clumsily speared through with a stick and laid by an open fire to roast and cook.

"Eat up, Toph," Katara says, handing her a stick with fish on it. "It's not much, but it's the best we could do."

Toph takes the stick, still warm from the fire, and feels the ash tumbling off with the gentle sweep of her hand. She taps the stick, then feels the vibrations that go through the wood and into the fish, picturing it in her mind. Its mouth is open, the tiny teeth piercing the warm air; its fins are splayed out at odd angles, and its body is contorted on the stick. Nothing like the delicately prepared and delicately laid out fish at home—this fish is rugged and real.

She takes a hesitant bite of the fish, tasting the unevenly cooked flesh, the pure taste of fish and smoke and fire, with no frilly spices or decorations. She takes another tentative bite.


Sokka looks up. "You okay?" he asks, taking big bites out of his own fish.

Toph coughs. "I think I have a bone in my throat," she says weakly, coughing again.

Sokka shrugs. "Happens all the time—here, have some water and just relax. You'll be fine."

Toph nods and takes the canteen, swallowing down gulps of water. She takes a deep breath, and notices that her throat is clear of the prickling sensation.

"Thanks," she murmurs, then takes another bite of fish. A moment of silence passes.

Toph Bei Fong has dined, all her life, in the finest halls of the Earth Kingdom. She has eaten off golden plates and used chopsticks made of jade; she has sat in stiff-backed, expensive redwood chairs from the depths of the Fire Kingdom, with seat cushions of finely embroidered, golden silk, hand-woven and hand-embroidered by the finest artisans of the Earth Kingdom; her hands have touched smooth, polished mahogany and jewel-encrusted thrones of precious gold and silver.

But here, Toph sits on a throne of dead leaves and twigs, her lap the only table available, this stick the only utensil she can use; she swallows another bite of fish and declares, "This is the best fish I've ever tasted."

Sokka blushes and Katara laughs.

Author's Notes: As always, constructive criticism and feedback are always welcome! The other four will, hopefully, be finished soon :)