Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: the Last Airbender. Darn?
Author's Notes: Completely different from anything else I have ever written, I'm pleased to say. This is a companion piece to Kiss from my Tokka collection Just Him and Her, but I felt this one could stand on its own so I didn't stick it in there. And much thanks to Daughter of Atlas for beta-ing!
Leave a review and let me know what you think of the new style!
The moon glowed with an almost ethereal light, spilling a pale silver radiance on the city so far below it, as if it was reaching into another world itself and sharing its secrets. The city—Omashu—was like a beacon to the lost in the sea of velvet black universe and inexhaustible darkness, a pinprick of warm light in the endless terrain like the first faint star to break the night.
At the peak of the city, built into the very mountain itself, was the king's palace, filled with the riches of the Earth Kingdom and radiating simplicity and luxury. A wide terrace wrapped around the sturdy fortress, weaving among floors and windows with staircases and jutting platforms that seemed to reach into heaven itself on a night like this, when the stars seemed close enough to touch if you could only reach out to them.
Leaning against the stone railing with a practiced ease was a boy, nearly a man, hands curled reflexively around the ledge, shoulders thrown back as bright blue eyes searched the celestial spaces for answers to questions he wasn't sure he had. Behind him, beyond the closed doors and tucked into the warmth of safety and comfort, was his family—his sister, his almost brother, his… friend. They were in bed, sleeping, resting for the coming days, dreaming on clouds of calm and reassurance—and he was here, outside, with no one but the dying city and Yue to guide him. In front of him, as deep and dark as the endless abyss of the sea, was the world. Beyond the glow of the city, where light couldn't penetrate and darkness ruled, was the world and the universe, joined together for what seemed like the first time but would never be the last. His eyes searched for the horizon, for the comfort of separation (of Earth and sky, of day and night, of good and evil), but all he was met with was a blackness that was at the same time familiar and yet so alien.
Silence ruled, outside of the gentle whisper of the wind on his skin and the yawning depthlessness of the entire universe above him. The sound of his own inhale, exhale was enough in the emptiness to cloud his mind from everything, his eyes still trained on the splendor of the round, full moon as it warmed his skin and sent chills down his spine and through his heart. He didn't notice her until she was upon him, and even then, with the moonlight reflecting from her glossy hair and chasing away what little color brightened her cheeks, it seemed as if she was nothing more than a spirit, the embittered work of his imagination toying with his mind and with his heart.
She leaned against the railing next to him, her body relaxed as she soaked in the brilliance of the moon in her own particular way, her head dropped down, moonlight pooling in her clouded eyes. Pale lips parted, and her voice threw into sharp relief the world around him, the rock beneath his feet, his boomerang sheathed on his back, the gentle whisper of drifting voices from the city far below.
"What're you doing out here?" Her voice—light, sweet, rough around the edges and everywhere else—broke into his subconscious like the sound of shattering glass being sprayed across steel. "Aang and Katara have quite the match of Pai Sho going on that you're missing."
His eyes traveled back to the sight before him, one of unperceivable space and time, and found his gaze lingering on the moon, the cold, calculating, encompassing moon that seemed to fill the entire sky.
"I was just" —he paused, his own voice startling him— "just looking at the moon."
Silence stretched between them like space between the stars, a silence more like listening to Katara breathing than waiting for Yue to, and the choking emptiness of the sky seemed that much smaller. Everything that had, not more than a minute ago, felt overwhelming and incomprehensible to him now seemed more tangible, at his fingertips, and things that had seemed insignificant next to the moon and the idea of the entire universe beyond the world shook his mind like an Arctic storm, until all he could think, feel, understand was white, unending white, cold, intrusive, strangling white. Suddenly the rattling of his own labored breathing filled his ears like white noise; all he could taste was the lingering tang of fine wine; all he could feel was the coarse sandstone gritting into his palms; all he could see was the way the moonlight played off of Toph's hair; all he could smell was the warm scent of Earth and Toph, one but not the same, together but as different as steel and iron. Suddenly the stars melted away into nothingness and the texture of Toph's tunic was the most captivating thing he'd ever seen, like watching waves break on sand, ever-changing, never the same.
Then something changed—something in the air, something surrounding him, something about her. She still looked the same—dirty feet rooted shoulder-width apart, strong, sturdy, like a rock; midnight black bangs fluttering in the nonexistent breeze over misty pale eyes, focused on nothing other than her thoughts; thin lips curled into the faintest of frowns, brow puckered in the slightest show of disapproval—but something about her had… changed. He felt it, he realized, more than he saw it, felt it crashing over him like the crash of the sea against the rocks. It was something inside of her—a thought, an idea, a realization, her heart, her mind—and it made her seem different, like something had suddenly clicked into place.
As if she had known that he was studying her—by some preternatural skill, some uncanny ability he would always be in awe of—she swung her head in his direction, her eyes lifting to find his with a grace and precision unthought-of, misty green meets piercing blue, a touch of something surprisingly old, something that had gone unnoticed, something that could be beautiful. She held his gaze for what seemed like the longest moment of his short life, for what could have been a sparing glance or a million light-years of life, and even if they were clouded and pale, he felt as if he could see Toph in those eyes, see everything about her, every fear, every memory, every love.
He blinked, just long enough for her to act, and he sensed her touch before actually feeling it, before actually opening his eyes and seeing a wisp of black hair dancing before him. Her lips, warm, soft, dry, the palest pink, pressed against his skin, her breath whispering in his ear, the strange hollow sensation of being able to hear from only one ear—she pulled away quickly, suddenly, as if horrified, eyes wide and cheeks tinged a soft pink.
"What" —he swallowed, his tongue thick in his mouth, his palms itching to touch her face, heart beating a warrior's cry in his chest— "what was that?"
Her mortified expression (agape lips, rosy blush dancing across the bridge of her nose, perfectly round orbs) gave way to a mollified one (pursed mouth turning up in a devious smirk, eyes crinkling at the corners with Machiavellian laughter, dancing blush tingeing to sunset pink), and she took a daring step toward him. Bells, whistles, tiny screaming voices were exploding like Earth Kingdom fireworks in his eardrums, but it all sounded like nothing more than the distant roar of a river, surging between his ears in neat circles as she took that one step forward. A voice that reminded him vaguely of Katara's rang faintly through the din, accompanied by dulcet tones reminiscent of the Avatar's, blaring Spirits-only-knew-what at him like the nonsense garble of a foreign language. White noise filled his brain and blotted out every conscious thought, and all he could hear, see, smell, feel, taste, think, realize, understand was the way she was—looking? Not looking, no, of course not; sensing, more like—the way she was sensing him.
He should have seen it coming (clear as glass and a summer sky, it was), but he didn't, he couldn't, and even more so couldn't help the shiver of thrilling surprise traveling down his spine and through his legs, out his arms, reaching to his very fingertips as lashes brushed against his eyelids and a warm, dusty hand touched against his jaw.
For one breathtaking moment, with her mouth hot against his, he forgot how to breathe. For a single second, with fingers tracing his cheekbones, his heart stopped beating. For a stretch of time that seemed to encompass the entire universe, he forgot to keep on living.
Then he kissed her back.
Hands moved to her pale, round cheeks, more to feel the soft skin than anything, and a small hand slid up to rest on his chest, the short body to which it belonged leaning forward, leaning against him. He felt his cheeks flush against hers, and he squeezed his eyes until white dots danced across the black plain of his mind vision. His heart engraving an ever-quickening pulse against his ribcage, he pulled back from the half-kiss and willed his eyes to open and his lungs to keep breathing.
Misty pale eyes, like the faded color of jade or a steaming cup of green tea, fluttered open to find his forehead, and a single thin line grew between her eyebrows. The hand that had found its place on his cheek fell to her side; he felt his breath leave him as it did so, replaced with something not quite akin to loss but that could be described with no other words. One hand—his right, and with a mind of its own, it seemed to him—reached up and brushed against her temple as it pushed dark bangs from her eyes, which widened for a moment, then seemed to smile at him. The other hand—which he watched in slow motion from his aerial view—touched against her elbow and traveled down to her hand, where fingers pushed against hers, slipping between them, lacing them his hers, his hers, his hers.
And they stood in the pale silver of the moon, him and her, he and she, the warrior and the Bandit, Sokka and Toph. Hands laced together for what wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last, the infinite black sky around them, pinpricked in white gold, the city asleep beneath them, something so very much alive and awake within them, and nothing more than the soft rasp of shallow breath ringing gently in their ears… love mingled in the warm breeze and was carried away, like the light fragrance of new flowers in spring.
A soft sigh, one of content and beauty, escaped her lips. Still hesitant, still cautious, she slipped arms around his middle in an uncharacteristic show of affection, so different from the Toph that had kissed him not a minute ago, so different from the Toph that mocked him and flicked pebbles at him and called him Meathead. She pressed the side of her face delicately against his chest, unsure of how to handle this new thing that she had started but they had created, this thing that could break or could break them, this thing that could rip open hearts for better or for worse.
Bare arms, long and thin and warm, wrapped around her shoulders as he shrugged her closer. A dark cheek pressed against darker hair, and a smile slowly unfurled on the face of someone who had, for so long, been denied the heat of someone to love and hold close.
Her voice, the same voice that was still light and sweet and rough, yet now distinctly underlined with something that had always been there but never been noticed, slipped into his conscious like waves lapping against bare ankles, a gentle whisper of a voice that made him smile all the more, that broke the silence like sweet relief.
"I can hear your heart," she murmured, ear rustling against the thin fabric of his tunic, eyes drifting shut.
Fingers danced along her shoulders, and his breath was warm on her cheek as he whispered, "I can feel yours." Right between his own heart and his stomach, in the no man's land of his body, her heart seemed to beat in perfect harmony with his.
Far above them, above the palace, above the city of Omashu, above the world, the moon and her stars shone with a glow that lit the night-world. Spilling radiance and cold beauty, the moon watched over her world, reaching into the farthest ends of the Earth with her splendor.
Beyond the moon, beyond the sun, the discernible void of the universe filled the heavens, reaching as far as life had lived and farther. Points of light peppered the never-ending darkness, and the chilling realization of eternity seeped into the corners of imagination's reach.
Endless time upon endless space, and the world was nothing but a point, one second, upon hundreds of thousands of points and seconds. People, millions of them, were nothing in comparison to the vast emptiness of the heavens' extent.
But at that moment, tucked in each other's arms, the world didn't seem quite as small, and the universe quite as big. The only thing worth understanding was each other. The only thing worth knowing was what they were feeling. And that was enough to fill a million universes.
It was their genesis.