A/N: Well, here it is, the epilogue that I wrote due to popular request. I'm slightly embarrassed that this epilogue is longer than any of the chapters and consists of nothing but fluff. Blame it on Toph and Aang they ran away with my imagination. It's broken into three parts; the first dealing with Zuko and Katara, the second, Sokka and Suki, and the third Toph and Aang. I'm especially proud of the third section myself. I'd like to again thank all of my reviewers. If you don't mind just leaving one more review to let me know if you liked this. I'm nervous about how I did. This is dedicated to conterra-san, sorry it took so long to edit.
What Happens In Kyoshi…
Epilogue: The Gifts
Multiple Rapes of the Kyoshi Warrior
An exultant Fire Lord Zuko kicked in the ornate wooden doors that lead to his master suite. Still beaming, he used a foot to slam them both closed once more, as his arms were otherwise occupied holding his newly named Fire Lady.
"Zuko, slow down," Katara giggled from her perch in his arms, still clad in her elaborate wedding dress. The dress was one of the most exquisite and fitting things Zuko had ever seen in his life. The rich silk faded from a deep indigo to a flaming scarlet, elaborately embroidered and beaded to appear as if the turbulent waters of the ocean ran into a seething river of fire. While the workmanship was awe-inspiring, the thing that truly took Zuko's breath away was the bewitching woman whose body the dress was currently clinging to in a very inviting manner. Zuko clutched his girlfriend― no his wife― closer to his chest and glared down at her playfully.
"No," he stated plainly. "I will not slow down until we are safely bolted behind the doors of my bedroom. I had to endure an entire year of waiting for this moment, not to mention the ridiculously long engagement process, all of the treaties between our nations, and that ludicrous celebration after the wedding which dragged on for hours." He let out an indignant huff. "Nothing, not even a national catastrophe is going to stop me from enjoying our wedding night."
He continued to walk quickly through his rooms, the fireplaces and candles bursting into life in his wake. He paused when he reached the doors that led into the chamber that housed his extraordinarily large feather-bed. He kicked the door open again, more gently this time.
"Welcome to our bedroom, Fire Lady Katara," he said in a low voice, leaning down to press a soft, sultry kiss against her upturned lips. Zuko stepped into the room, his eyes never leaving Katara's face. He caught her almost imperceptible sharp intake of breath and the widening of her cobalt eyes as they caught sight of the large bed, illuminated in the dark room by the thin strip of moonlight sparkling through the window. Her grip tightened impulsively around Zuko's neck. "Nothing is going to stop me from having my way with you tonight," he whispered, his voice even huskier than usual.
Zuko walked over toward the bed, not even bothering looking where he was going because he couldn't tear his gaze away from Katara's apprehensive yet desire-filled eyes. It was for this reason that he didn't see the rather large rectangular package that was leaning up against the bed until it was too late. "That just might stop you," Katara joked nervously as Zuko let out a muffled curse.
"What in Agni's name is that and why is it in my bedroom right now," Zuko fairly roared, the myriad of candles that he had sent for and arranged himself in order to create a romantic atmosphere for their wedding night, flaring violently into life. For some reason the words which Aunt Wu had once told Katara echoed fleetingly across her brain. You will marry a powerful bender.
Indeed she had, Katara thought as she watched the flames of the candles dim, sending the room into a shimmering haze of flickering light which reflected off of the red silk sheets like fireflies. It was sublime.
"Well, I would have said give us some light and we'll find out, but you already did that," Katara commented dryly. She smiled for a moment, able to sense the shift in mood and intercept it before it ruined the wedding night she was sure he had worked so hard to achieve.
"This is amazing Zuko." Katara pressed her head into the crook of his neck trying valiantly to fight down the wave of nervousness that had been plaguing her since they left the celebration. It wasn't that she didn't want to consummate their marriage. She was simply incredibly nervous about disappointing him. They had done things before but this was something entirely different. To distract herself, she pecked Zuko warmly on the cheek. "Did you do all of this yourself?" she asked, amazed that he could still surprise her.
"Yes," he replied sheepishly, a light blush dusting his cheeks. A powerful wave of love filled Katara suddenly and she was astonished to discover that she was no longer nervous.
"It's incredible, Zuko." Katara smiled when his blush deepened in pleasure that he had made her happy. "Now, put me down and let's find out what it is so we can get on to doing other things." A race of heat shot through Katara as Zuko slowly placed her on her feet, deliberately creating as much contact between their bodies as possible. Zuko then lifted the package and carrying back into the next room, propped it up on one of the armchairs with Katara following at his heels. There was a note attached in the middle of the ornately wrapped package. Katara pried the note off and broke open the green wax seal.
"It's the Bei Fong family crest," she remarked intrigued. "That must mean it's from Toph, I wonder why she didn't just leave it with all of the other gifts at the reception." Katara unfolded the note and held it so that Zuko could read it over her shoulder.
Sweetness and Royal Pain in My Ass,
Congratulations on your wedding day. I know that I have probably already told you this in person, but I decided that it was proper to include it again. I know you're wondering the reason why I didn't just leave this at the reception, Sweetness, but I decided that I wanted to make sure that you actually received this present, so I delivered it myself to the Fire Lord's bedroom knowing that you would make it there eventually. (Stop blushing you two, honestly, it's not as if the entire world doesn't know what you're going to get up to tonight). I picked this up two years ago on our little vacation to Kyoshi Island and I was waiting for the perfect opportunity to give it to you. I figured this was it.
I know you'll treasure it always,
P.S. I had my secretary write this for me, so you can stop wondering, Zuko.
"How did she know I was thinking that!" Zuko exclaimed indignantly while Katara laughed, her cheeks still flushed from the lewd comment in Toph's letter. It had never occurred to her that everyone knew exactly what was going to occur tonight.
"Should we open it?" She asked, her curiosity piqued. Zuko reached one arm up and tore the paper off of the package with one swift yank by way of response.
"What is that?" Zuko asked his voice a deadly whisper as Katara burst out laughing, unable to contain herself as the paper fell away revealing the painting beneath.
"Posterity," she breathed out as her gaze raked over the image depicted in vivid detail. The young art student they had hired (now a well-sought after artist) had captured the perfect moment. It was Sokka lying flat on his back, his arms pinned above his head by Zuko who was straddling his hips. Both were in full Kyoshi warrior make-up which only highlighted Sokka's wide eyes and slightly parted lips as well as Zuko's scarlet smirk and arched brow. Sokka's well muscled chest was partially exposed as the front of his kimono was ripped and a sleeve missing. Those not familiar with the features of the Fire Lord or those of the Water Tribe ambassador would be unable to distinguish their identities behind the make-up, but the artist had made no effort to disguise the fact that they were men. Those who had not been there would undoubtedly assume the painting was of something other than a mere duel. It was well…erotic, a fact that wasn't helped by the painting's title which was printed on a small gold plaque at the base of the elaborate frame.
"Rape of the Kyoshi Warrior?" Katara giggled uncontrollably as the fire in the grate roared in imitation of Zuko's temper.
"That little earthbender is going to get it the next time she even sets foot inside this palace," he snarled. "We'll see how well she can defend herself against fire."
Katara turned and placed a hand on Zuko's arm. "You are not going to attack Toph," Katara stated firmly. "Besides, she can defend herself admirably from any element. It's just a painting Zuko and there's nothing in it that identifies you, no scar or anything. At worst, people will think that the artist modeled one of the warriors after you because she found you so sexy."
She wrapped her arms invitingly around his waist and pressed close against him. "But everyone knows that already. All of the women in the world are jealous of me tonight." She leaned up and kissed him slowly. "And they have every right to be. Fire Lord Zuko is about to have his evil way with me." Allowing himself to be distracted, Zuko returned her kiss and pulled her flush against him.
"Indeed I am," he murmured. "Right after I do this―" Zuko smirked triumphantly as he extended his hand, two fingers outstretched and released a small spurt of flame onto the canvas.
Allowing him his moment of satisfaction, Katara waited until the figures in the canvas were no longer distinguishable before dousing the fire with some water she'd bended out of a nearby vase.
"Zuko that could have been expensive. What if Toph finds out you burned our wedding present and it hurts her feelings?" Katara patronized half-heartedly. She figured she would not ruin Zuko's good mood by informing him that Toph had donated the original painting to a museum, where it would be safely guarded from his wrath.
Zuko snorted. "Please, Katara, she probably expected it to be destroyed anyway. Besides, why should I care about her feelings tonight of all nights." He ran his hands lightly down her sides, causing Katara to shiver.
"Tonight is supposed to be about my feelings, our feelings." He continued as he bent down to nibble lightly on her neck before capturing her lips once again. Breaking away, Zuko reached down and swept Katara up in his arms once more, walking determinedly toward the bedroom.
"Now if there are no more surprise packages in the bedroom, there are no more excuses you can use to prevent me from having my evil way with you." Zuko met her blue eyes with his golden ones. "Just give in to my powerful charms," he whispered playfully, seductively against her lips before meshing them together once more.
And with a small sigh of pleasure, give in is exactly what she did.
"Suki!" Sokka cried in panic as he entered their elaborate ice house in the newly rebuilt city of the Southern Water Tribe to find his wife easily lifting a rather large wooden box stamped with the seal of the Bei Fong family. "What are you doing?" Sokka lifted the large box out of her arms much to Suki's annoyance. "You can't lift things like that, you're pregnant!"
Sokka set the box on the kitchen table and turned to face his parka-clad wife, who was fixing him with a rather irritated glare. "I'm pregnant, Sokka, not an invalid." She huffed in exasperation. "I'm not even showing yet! Are you going to coddle me like this until the baby gets here?" Sokka looked at his wife in disbelief.
"Of course I am!" he crowed looking horrified at the prospect of a self-sufficient pregnant woman. Frustrated at her husband and at herself for finding him so adorable when petrified, Suki pushed her way passed him with in a wave of cold silence and stalked over to the kitchen table where the package rested.
She began to open it roughly, the weight of the unknown she had been carrying for the few weeks she had known of her condition, bearing down on her until tears welled in her eyes. Damn hormones, Suki swore silently as her hands gripped the package tightly, fighting valiantly to hide her emotions from Sokka who was still standing frozen in shock behind her. Suki had always been a rational, autonomous person; capable of defending herself against almost any attack life threw at her. It was terrifying for Suki to not be totally in control of what was happening to her own body and she found herself grasping at any task large or small that would aid in squelching the relentless feeling of uselessness that had been welling up within her heart. Then there was the inescapable guilt that accompanied those feelings. She should be completely happy; she was young, healthy, and newly married to Sokka as she had always imagined she would be when she was a teenager. She was carrying his child for the love of Kyoshi! It didn't help that he had to be so damned caring and concerned while she was fighting this inner struggle.
Suki stiffened as she felt Sokka come to stand behind her, the warmth of his body inviting. She had to fight off the urge to lean back into his toned chest and lose herself in it.
"Suki," Sokka said gently, placing his hands tenderly on her shoulders. "I'm sorry. It's not that I don't think you're strong because we both know you could still probably take me down, even though you're pregnant." He paused here, his grip tightening slightly.
"It's just, I feel so damned useless," he croaked. "I have to watch you carry our baby and there's nothing I can do to help you except take care of you the best way I know how."
Feeling her body relax into his, he wrapped his arms around waist and rested his chin on the top of her soft, dark hair.
"I'm not going to do anything to hurt the baby, Sokka," Suki assured firmly. Sokka splayed the palm of one large hand flat against her toned abdomen. He was still slightly stunned by the knowledge that there was a tiny life in there.
"I know, Suki," he confirmed as he turned her gently in his arms to face him. "But please, for the sake of my sanity, let me take care of you." He bent down and placed a soft kiss on her upturned lips lifting her so that she was sitting on the surface of the table. Suki suddenly felt much better, knowing that Sokka was sharing some of her scrambled feelings regarding her pregnancy.
"Alright," Suki acquiesced wrapping her arms around his neck. "You take care of me, and I'll take care of the Bei Fong family fortune," she replied flippantly, bringing his lips back down to hers for another kiss this one longer and more playful.
"Mmm," Sokka fairly hummed in pleasure before his delayed brain processed her words. His eyes widened and he broke the kiss off abruptly. "What!" he exclaimed astonished. Suki merely rolled her eyes in a familiar gesture of affection-filled annoyance.
"You heard me. I'm the new financial manager for the Bei Fong Estate." She tapped the box lid pointedly. "Toph doesn't want anything to do with the family business, even though she inherited everything after her parents died in that accident."
She removed a file and held it up for Sokka's inspection. "So," she continued breezily, "Toph spoke to me at Katara's wedding and asked if I wanted something to keep me occupied while I was 'waddling around that ice box in boredom' I believe were the words she used. I agreed and now I have something both profitable and productive to do around here since I can no longer help to train the warriors or travel with you."
Sokka wanted badly to protest, wishing for the umpteenth time that he had a wife who was content to be lazily pampered like all of the other pregnant women he'd met. However, he could see that she needed this distraction, as well as how happy the prospect made her. He reluctantly agreed.
"Okay, fine. Just as long as you don't work too hard." His brow furrowed with a sudden thought as he watched his wife begin to start inspecting the files interestedly. "Where's Toph going to be that she can't take care of her own business?"
Suki rolled her eyes once more and arched an eyebrow at Sokka. "With Aang of course." She placed the file she was perusing back into the box and returned the lid. "Did you honestly think she was actually going to settle down and take over the family estate?"
Suki sighed when her husband nodded his head in confusion, his ponytail bobbing up and down with the motion. "Men," she commented dryly. "Honestly, it's incredibly apparent to almost everyone who saw the two of them dancing together at Katara's wedding that the pair of them are head-over-heels for each other. They were only apart for six months before that. The way they never left each other's sides you would have thought that they were never going to see each other ever again. The day Aang left after the wedding I could have sworn I heard Toph crying in her room." Sokka's eyes widened further and his brow creased yet again.
"I can't believe I missed this." He shook his head and grinned. "It must be serious if Toph was crying. Toph does not cry." Sokka tapped his chin in an exaggeratedly thoughtful manner then winked at his wife. "I wonder if he'll give her a betrothal necklace…" He eyed the dark green and gold ribbon which hung gracefully around Suki's neck from which a delicate and deadly-looking golden fan was crossed with a flashing silver boomerang. "No matter what it is, it can't beat mine for craftsmanship."
Suki reached up and fingered her own necklace thoughtfully. "I suppose he'll give her one, even though it's a water tribe tradition. He's been around you two for so long, he probably won't even think twice about it. As for the charm, I suspect it'll have to do with their travels…." She trailed off and hopped down from her position on the kitchen table and turned to pick up the box.
"I've always wondered what it would be like to have sex on a flying bison. Probably very exhilarating." Suki took advantage of her husband's slack-jawed shock at her comment to lift the box and head toward the study without him stopping her.
"Toph's been a bad influence on you!" Sokka called to her retreating form. She merely smirked over her shoulder.
"Speaking of Toph," Suki continued loudly as she made her way toward their study. "She left you a present, it's by the staircase." Suki placed the box with a loud thunk on the large desk and began to unload the files, grinning as the sound of ripping paper could be heard from the entryway. She couldn't resist bursting into laughter when Sokka's angered voice echoed thunderously through the house, "RAPE OF THE KYOSHI WARRIOR!"
Toph Bei Fong, greatest earthbender in the world, sat perched upon the thick stone wall that ran around her family's estate in Gaoling. She was dressed in an expensive summer kimono befitting her station as one of world's wealthiest heiresses. Her waist-length ebony hair was down and dancing slightly in the gentle breeze of the early summer day.
Toph turned her face upward toward the warmth of the sun, her sightless eyes closing as her sensitive ears took in the gentle rustling of the nearby cherry blossom trees and the lilting mating calls of the garden birds. She smiled slightly as she caught the nearby sound of metal chipping away at stone, grinning at thought of the looks that would be on her parents' faces if they could see how she was spending their fortune.
The smile faded from her face and Toph lay back on the wall, propping one knee up while allowing the other leg to dangle lazily off the side. She had no fear of falling, she had bended the earth to get her up here, and she would bend it to catch her if she fell. The earth would always be there for Toph, just like she would always be there for a certain airbender…
Toph sighed in frustration as Aang flitted across her mind once more. She didn't like to admit it, but damn did she miss him. This had been the longest time she had gone without being near him everyday since she was twelve. Almost six months. It was near torture.
She had been at the family estate almost immediately after she had received word of her parents sudden deaths. They had died in a tragic accident at sea, caused when a fire nation barge, which had been heading toward port for repairs to an essential part of the steering mechanism, collided with the trade ship her parents had been on. Aang and Toph had raced her to her parents' house after receiving the letter containing the fateful news when they were on a diplomatic mission for Fire Lord Zuko in a small trading village on the other side of the kingdom.
Toph had returned to an empty house, only to discover that her parents had been given proper burial weeks ago, and been dead even longer than that. In a surprising defiance of convention, Toph discovered that her parents had willed her everything, including the thriving family business, instead of giving it to another close male relation.
With no other choice, Toph set aside her well-loved traveling clothes and took up her mantle as head of the company. Contrary to popular belief, Toph had loved her parents, even though she could not bear to continue to live as their helpless blind girl anymore.
After the war they had reached a tenuous truce, sending mundane letters to each other every couple of months. Toph's parents would never admit that they were wrong for stifling her and Toph would never apologize for leaving them and never looking back.
Wracked with grief and guilt at having not even been able to say goodbye to her parents, Toph had put up a stony façade and refused to let anyone see how badly she was truly hurting. That was until Aang had found her, sitting in this exact spot on a chilly winter night, sobbing quietly. He had merely enveloped her in his strong arms, airbended them gently down from the wall and carried her swiftly inside the house.
Wrapping her tightly in a warm blanket, he sat down near the large hearth in the great room, in which he kindled a fire with just a spark from his fingers. Pulling her close onto his lap, he had held her until she had finally drifted off into sleep. The entire time they had sat there he said only one thing. You don't need to hide how you feel from me Toph; I'll never think you're weak. You've always been there for me, and I plan on always being here for you. She had been struck by how well he understood her and the words had echoed in her mind for weeks, long after Aang had been forced to leave, in order to help maintain order in a fire nation trade dispute.
Months had passed in which Toph did nothing but throw herself into her appointed duties, trying to quell the emotions within her that had steadily been developing since before they had journeyed to Kyoshi Island, two years ago. She longed for the freedom that only traveling with Aang and Appa provided, but refused to accept that her longing had more to do with the company of the bald airbender, instead of the excitement of the nomadic lifestyle.
Then had come Katara and Zuko's wedding. Wearing a dress Katara had commissioned especially for her, Toph had felt well, girly for the second time in her life. It wasn't until that moment when Aang had sought her out of the crowd at the large ball that had followed the ceremony and quietly asked her to dance that Toph realized how much she had missed him, his deep voice, graceful hands, and light footfalls. She had even missed the feel of his bald head, which she often used to smack in playful frustration. She had spent the night twirling gracefully in Aang's strong arms, her dress swishing around her in elegant arcs as they whirled together under the stars.
When they had parted the next day, Toph felt like someone had landed a particularly well-placed punch in her gut. Aang had hugged her tightly and promised to come visit her as soon as he was able. Toph knew then that she was in love with the young Avatar and vowed that the next time Aang came to visit he wouldn't be leaving without her.
Immediately upon her arrival back at the Bei Fong estate Toph had boxed up the files with the most pressing business and sent them off to Suki, her new business manager, along with her 'surprise' for Sokka. With the business now in Suki's capable hands as well as those of the numerous trusted Bei Fong employees, Toph had packed her bag with her sturdy traveling clothes and set about spending a small portion of the Bei Fong family fortune remodeling her childhood home. She'd had walls knocked down and had a large practice area installed. More improvements were underway, though the grounds were rather quiet now, as most of the workmen were enjoying their lunch break. Toph was startled out of her thoughts by a familiar set of vibrations accompanied by a rather loud whumping sound. Toph smiled widely and sat up as the wall beneath her tremored with a muffled version of her favorite footsteps in the world.
Aang paused a few yards away from the wall on which Toph was sitting, her face turned towards his. Aang was sure that this was what people meant when they used the term 'breathtaking.' Toph was wearing a figure-hugging, sea-green and white kimono that was rustling gently in the breeze, every now again exposing her small earth-dusted feet for view. In a rare sight, her hair was down and flowing around her, as she sat framed by the golden sunlight of the afternoon, the last of the cherry blossoms dancing around her invitingly. Aang's heart skipped more than a few beats at the sight.
"Are you going to just stand there all day Twinkle Toes or are you going to get up here?" Toph drawled lazily, a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. Aang grinned and let air propel him up the wall to land gracefully in a sitting position beside her. He knew she must be able to feel his heart skipping worse than a rabbiroo and forced himself not to wrap his arms around her and kiss her like he'd wanted for so long.
"Hey, Toph," he said softly wrapping one of his larger hands around her smaller one and squeezing it in greeting.
"Hey yourself," she replied returning the squeeze. Aang noticed that she didn't let go of his hand and the hope that had been blossoming in his heart ever since he had started the return trek to Gaoling, a little over three nights ago, soared.
"I missed you," Aang said sincerely, his eyes coming to rest on their intertwined hands. "Appa and Momo are alright for a while, but then I start to get lonely." It was true, he was terribly lonely without Toph, a fact that had been made even more sharply apparent in the few weeks since Katara and Zuko's wedding. A pretty blush crossed Toph's face and Aang couldn't help but smile.
"I've missed you too, Twinkle toes," Toph admitted, ducking her head to hide her deepening blush. "Things get pretty boring around here without having your around to wreak havoc with." Aang glanced around the property, noticing for the first time the obvious signs of reconstruction.
"Look like you've managed to wreak a little havoc without me anyway," he commented, eyes wide. "What's going on?" Aang asked as a fierce panic seized his heart and a horrible thought took hold. He couldn't prevent himself from voicing it. "Toph, are you going to keep the house?" Toph looked at him quizzically.
"Of course I'm going to keep the house," she replied. Aang felt cold dread settle in his stomach. He had been so stupid to think that she would give up the house and family business, even though he was fairly certain that she wanted no part of it. Suddenly the feel of her hand, which he had relished just a few moments ago was too painful to bear. He quickly withdrew his hand from hers and cast his eyes around hurriedly, searching for a subject, missing the look of intense hurt that had crossed Toph's face at his abrupt gesture. Aang's eyes fell upon the large hunk of rock, on which a young man was chiseling away intently. The man moved and Aang was able to make out the beginnings of a sculpture.
"Is that man sculpting what I think he's sculpting?" Aang asked fighting to keep his voice unstrained. Even he could tell he wasn't succeeding.
"Rape of the Kyoshi Warrior?" Toph asked feigning amusement. "It's a little present for Katara's private garden that Zuko just commissioned. I hope to have it shipped off and installed before the newlyweds return from their honeymoon." She frowned. Something was bothering Aang, she could feel it.
"You do know that he probably burned that the moment he opened it?" Aang queried stonily.
"Yes, it's a good thing that wasn't the original." Toph quipped, becoming seriously bothered by Aang's sudden shift in mood. He was speaking in his 'Avatar voice' which was never a good sign when used in her presence.
"I've already donated it to the Ba Sing Se Museum of Contemporary Art," she continued, not knowing what else to do. "It fetched quite a profit too. They recently began printing reproductions of it; soon it'll be all over the kingdom." Toph finished with a smug smile.
There was a long, awkward silence. Unable to take it any longer Toph finally heaved a sigh of frustration and asked, "What's wrong with you Twinkle Toes? Your heart keeps skipping random beats and your voice is all strange. I've traveled with you long enough to tell you're upset about something, so just spit it out already!" Aang swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat and shook his head.
"It's nothing I'm just… hungry. Let's go get something to eat." Without waiting for a reply Aang airbended his way off of the wall and began heading towards the house. Toph, extremely annoyed, rode a large column of earth back down to ground level with a loud slam and ran to catch up with Aang's long strides. She grabbed his arm roughly, stopping him.
"I don't know what the hell your problem is, but I'm fed up with this attitude," she practically yelled. "I'm willing to listen to whatever it is that's eating at you when you're ready to stop acting like a dejected dog and behave like an adult." She let go of his arm and brushed roughly passed him.
"In the meantime, I want you to come look at your room. I hired some artisans to paint it in the style of the air temples. They came recommended but since I can't actually see the work, it would make me feel better if you could tell me if they did it correctly." Aang's eyes widened as he took in what she just said. This time it was he who ran to catch up to her.
"Why are you having a room remodeled for me?" Aang asked incredulously, trotting behind her.
"I'm expanding the number of rooms in the house so that everyone can fit when they come to visit. I thought that it would be nice to have everyone get together sometimes, even if most of the time it'll only be you and me staying here. Even we won't be here that much," Toph added as an afterthought.
His brain still fumbling over Toph's explanation, Aang managed to stutter out, "What do you mean you won't be here a lot of the time?"
Aang grunted as he slammed into Toph's back when she stopped abruptly. She whirled around to face him, her hair whipping his cheek.
"Have you gone deaf in the weeks since I last saw you?" she demanded. "I said we won't be here all the time, meaning that I will be with you. I'm remodeling the house so that we have somewhere comfortable to stay in between trips."
Toph took in a shuddering breath of indignation. "Although I'm beginning to rethink my decision to hand the business over to Suki just so I could travel with you, if this is all the thanks I'm going to get!" Toph struggled to calm down her breathing. Despite the haze of annoyance at Aang's thick-headedness, Toph couldn't help but notice when his heart rate sped up once more.
"You mean," Aang began in a strangled whisper, "That you're going to stay with me?" Toph snorted and slapped him across the head in a gesture that had a broad grin breaking out on Aang's face.
"Of course you idiot, how many times do I―" Toph was cut off as Aang, in an impulsive wave of relief and happiness crushed his lips against hers. Toph's heartbeat increased to echo Aang's as she felt his warm lips press against hers. His arms wrapped tightly around her waist, pulling the shocked earthbender closer, savoring the feel of finally kissing her. When Toph's addled brain was finally able to once again function slightly, she returned the kiss with fervor wrapping her arms around his neck. Aang shifted his head slightly, deepening the kiss as blood pounded in his ears and sparks exploded behind his closed eyelids. He caught Toph deftly when she jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and continuing to kiss him with wild abandon.
"Whoa," was all Toph could manage a few minutes later when they finally broke apart. Aang set her gently on her feet and rested his forehead against hers, grinning from ear to ear.
"I've been waiting to do that for a long time," he admitted squeezing her waist affectionately. "I probably should have waited for a better moment, but I was just so happy that you were actually going to stay with me that I couldn't help myself."
"Whoa," Toph reiterated as she rested her cheek against Aang's collar bone, luxuriating in the loud and rapid beating of his heart, the rushing of his pulse. "Do they teach all monks to kiss like that?" she commented breathlessly. Aang blushed and buried his face in Toph's hair, despite the fact that she couldn't see it. She pulled away slightly and looked straight at Aang, her sightless eyes seeming to read every thought flitting across his own, in spite of the fact that he knew it was impossible.
"Did you seriously think that I was going to leave you?" Toph questioned her voice serious. "So that's what the weird mood shift was all about. Twinkle Toes," she said softly. "At the risk of sounding mushy," Toph made a slight face. "You should know by now that you can't get rid of me that easily."
Aang reached a hand up and stroked her face gently, still amazed that she didn't draw away from his touch.
"Even so," he began hesitantly, "I'd like some assurance on that promise." He reached into the folds of his shirt and carefully drew out the necklace he had so carefully crafted into perfection just for her.
"I know you don't realize this but, I've noticed it a lot in our travels. You're well, stunning Toph and I don't like the way other guys look at you most of the time. But this," he grasped one of her hands and slid the necklace into it, "This would tell them that you're taken." He covered her smaller hand with both of his own, too nervous to look at her face.
Toph's breath hitched as her finger ran the length of the ribbon, lingering over the charm. "Is this what I think it is?" She questioned her voice a mere whisper. Aang swallowed nervously before continuing; maybe he was pushing his luck.
"If you think it's a betrothal necklace then, yes it is." He squeezed her hand tightly. "I spent a lot of time thinking during the last six months. I even went and visited the Guru again. Despite the fact that I love you more than airbending, I'm still able to master the Avatar State. The Guru believes that since I am confident that you are able to take care of yourself, I am still able to free myself of earthly attachment. He claims we balance each other out nicely. And― and I have to agree with him. I can live without you Toph, I just really don't want to." He leaned in and pressed a soft and measured kiss to her lips. "Toph Bei Fong, greatest earthbender in the world, will you marry me?" he concluded, his voice cracking slightly.
There was a long silence which was broken when Toph launched herself at Aang, kissing him fiercely and knocking them both down to the ground. Toph broke the kiss suddenly and sat up, taking her hair in one hand and holding it up. She turned her face toward where Aang sat, admiring the graceful column of her neck.
"Well, aren't you going to put it on me?" she demanded expectantly. Complying with her wishes, Aang sat up and secured the ribbon around her neck, pride welling up as he took in how well the sea-foam ribbon matched her eyes, how the charm rested perfectly in the hollow of her throat. Letting her hair fall, she fingered the charm at her neck, trying to feel its shape.
She grinned when she was able to make out the outline of a delicate flying bison. "Appa, huh?" She was touched by how long it must have taken him to carve the animal she had come to love in such detail. She turned to face his direction.
"You once told me Appa represented freedom for you," Aang responded, his fingers brushing the charm. "To me, home is wherever you, Appa, and Momo are." Toph bit her lip, refusing to let girly tears of happiness fall. She pushed herself off of the ground and held out a hand in Aang's direction.
"Come on, Twinkle Toes, you still have to see your finished room." Aang grasped her hand and airbended himself off of the ground. Toph released his hand and began walking swiftly towards the house, her hair swishing in her wake. "Oh, and Twinkle Toes," she called airily over her shoulder. "Did I mention that I took the liberty of installing a rather large feather bed in the room?"
Aang's eyes widened at her suggestive comment, his mouth falling open slightly. "Toph!" he exclaimed.
"What?" she demanded indignantly. "We're engaged…" she trailed off with a bark of laughter and began streaking toward the house.
Well, Aang thought, now that she mentions it… And he was off, running after her, their laughter ringing in the clear afternoon sunshine as Aang swept Toph up in his arms and carried her into their home.
A/N: That's all folks! Fourteen pages of fluff that I hoped you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. Also, if you enjoyed this story keep your eye out for Purple Steam, the new fic I'm starting with contera-san. It's promised to contain more laughing, fighting, flirting, and pointless fluff. It's a main dish of Zutara with a healthy side of Taang (We think, but the plans might change).