Title: Good to be Toph
Word Count: 1565
Challenge: Talking in your sleep
A/N: Would you believe I started this fic with the intention of it being a serious drabble? I did—it was all serious, no-nonsense in my head. Toph was almost seductive. But then I started to actually write it, and she turned snarky instead, and Zuko proved to be a moron on paper, so I just ran with it. I'm sort of happy with the results. Enjoy!
"Wow, so Twinkletoes isn't the only one with a crush on Sweetness?" Toph let out a low whistle from the tree she had been hiding behind. "Getting to be awfully popular with all the boys these days, isn't she?"
Zuko whipped his head around so fast Toph was surprised he didn't get whiplash.
"Toph?!" He squealed in an unnaturally high voice for Zuko. "You—you—"
"Relax, Firefly," Toph laughed, in an almost-evil sort of way. "I won't tell anyone about your little 'crush'."
She could feel the blood rush from his feet to his face, and knew his whole head must have been tomato red. "I—I don't have a crush on Katara!"
"Right. And I have perfect vision."
He stomped his foot on the ground stormily, his male pride feeling slightly tarnished. "I do not have a crush on her. I—I just admire her, that's all. She's an amazing woman."
"You admire certain parts of her anatomy, you mean."
His face, if anything, turned redder. "That too." He whispered, so low that Toph had to strain to hear what it was he said.
She smirked happily. "So you admit it then? You have a crush on Sugar Queen?"
His poor ego was getting stomped on by the minute by the little blind girl, and she was pressing all of the right buttons to tick him off further. "Yes." He gritted beneath his teeth. "Can you not call it a crush, though? It—it makes it sound so…juvenile."
The blind girl laughed harder. "Fine. You're infatuated with Sugar Queen. You like her. She turns you on and keeps you up late at night thinking dirty thoughts about her. Does that sound better, Firefly?"
He scowled and ignored her, and instead focused on his own romantic woes. "She doesn't like me, though."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, she likes you well enough, Firefly. Especially considering you're, you know, not on our side, and uh, working for our enemy."
"I suppose." He sighed quietly. "You know, I'm surprised you haven't attacked me yet. Given that we're not on the same side and all."
"I thought about it." Toph replied, with the tone of someone who was completely serious. "But taunting you sounded so much more fun. Besides, if I'd fought you then everyone would've woken up and gotten involved, and then everyone would've known about your secret love affair with Katara."
Zuko scrunched his face up pathetically. "It was hardly a love affair." Though he really wished it had been. "She screamed at me, froze me to a tree, and told me if I ever came anywhere near her ever again she'd freeze my man-parts off."
Toph cackled; Zuko felt the last of his dignity fly out the window.
"Freeze…man-part…Oh man, I gotta remember that one…"
The broken prince sighed, and sat down on a nearby log. "I don't stand a chance in hell, do I?"
A tiny, nearly non-existent wave of pity hit Toph suddenly. "Oh, you stand a better chance with her than Aang does." She said pathetically, and knew as soon as she said it that it was the completely and utterly wrong thing to say.
"The Avatar?!" Zuko squealed again. "I'm competing against the Avatar for her affections?"
He buried his head in his hands. "I'm screwed."
Toph winced, and attempted to pat his shoulder sympathetically. "Not really." She told him bluntly. "Katara doesn't like Aang like that."
"That doesn't matter! He's the Avatar! I can't compete against the Avatar!"
For some reason unbeknownst to her, Toph was feeling the sudden desire to be nice, a feeling that she hadn't felt in years. Maybe the concept that, yes, she was one of the good guys and was therefore expected to act compassionate every once in a blue moon, had finally set in. She sat next to Zuko tiredly, and put her arm around her enemy in a completely platonic, friendly-ish manner.
"Look, Zuko, I like you." She said plainly. "You're a good guy. I mean, yeah, you totally betrayed our trust and sided with your psychobitch sister, and have aided her in chasing us halfway around the world, and you still haven't taught Aang any firebending…But, well, I listened to Zuko Alone. I know you have a soul buried somewhere deep inside that hulk of meatflesh of yours…" She paused, thinking deeply for a moment. "Then again, you still haven't rescued your Uncle, and I really liked him…"
Zuko frowned. "Do you have a point?"
Oh, all right.
"My point is that I'm on your side! I want you to get the girl! As much fun as it is to see you embarrass yourself, I do believe in happy endings. And I want to help."
He stood, frustrated. "How, though? She won't listen to me. All I'm asking for is a second chance—"
("Might have better luck asking for a third or fourth chance, 'cause I think you used your second one up in Bai Sing Sei." Toph commented cheekily. Zuko glared. "What? It's an honest suggestion!")
"—a chance for friendship, even. Ever since Bai Sing Sei…" He sighed, looking up at the stars in hope for an answer. "Ever since Bai Sing Sei, I can't help but to think about her, all the time. It just keeps getting worse and worse."
He kicked a loose rock in anger. "Gah! Who am I kidding? She hates me! She'd never even consider liking me like that…"
At that moment, Toph felt strangely powerful. As though the gods themselves had blessed her with divine insight into this little heartbroken romanticism, and were leaving it up to her to decide the end of it.
"Hey Firefly?" She called out, remembering suddenly why it was she had let Zuko know she had listened in on his little encounter with Katara in the first place. "Stop your pacing for a moment. I got something to tell you."
He stopped pacing at once, and stared at the blind girl with mild interest.
"Now, what I've got to tell you is something pretty important, you hear? Almost life-altering. So listen closely, got it?"
He nodded slowly; Toph paused slowly for a dramatic effect before telling Zuko what she had to say.
"Katara likes you, you idiot."
Zuko stared at her blankly. "You're a damned liar, and you should feel horrible for playing with my fragile human emotions like that."
The world was silent.
"I'm serious." The blind girl continued. "She likes you." She breathed in deeply before continuing:
"And she hates herself for it."
Zuko stopped, and considered her words slowly.
"After all, why wouldn't she? You betrayed her trust. You belittled her companionship. She offered you redemption, and you turned around and threw it in her face. By all rights, she should hate you."
"How do you know she doesn't?" Zuko whispered softly, almost disbelievingly. "Did she tell you—"
"Oh no." Toph laughed soundly. "Aang, Sokka, and I may be Katara's best friends in the entire world, but she tells us nothing when it comes to the matter of the heart. No, I know she likes you because she talks about you in her sleep. She doesn't dream about you every night, but she does so enough that I've caught her more than once. She'll whisper your name in her sleep. She sighs, she giggles, she snores—and your name always pops up somewhere in the middle. And it never fails…come morning, she'll be depressed. She won't talk to anyone all day, preferring instead to beat herself up subconscious feelings she can't control."
"You really hurt her, you know." Toph added as an afterthought.
Zuko winced. "I know." He whispered into the darkness. "I've tried to apologize, but she never gives me the chance to!"
Toph huffed. "Are you Fire Nation or what? Don't take that crap from her! If she starts mouthing while you're trying to apologize, then find a way to shut her up."
"I'm trying to get her to like me, Toph, not hate me even more." Zuko complained. "Besides, I was under the impression that girls didn't like being pushed around."
Toph blinked. "They don't like being pushed around. But they love a guy who's forceful. Well, sometimes. Not too forceful. I mean, if you hurt her, I'll basically have to kill you," or better yet, sick Sokka on him, that'd get him good. "But girls like strong guys. Guys who ooze power, who don't let other people boss them around. Why do you think she's never had an interest in Twinkletoes? Boy's got absolutely no authority in his voice. But you? You can pull it off. Give her some of the arrogant, 'I listen to no one' princely attitude of yours next time you try to apologize, and see if things don't go differently."
Zuko nodded. "Okay. Okay, I'll try that. Uh, thanks, Toph. For the advice."
She grinned. "Oh, you're welcome, Firefly. Now go get your woman. She's still awake, and I believe she's right by the stream over there."
Taking a bath, she conveniently forgot to add, and grinned even wider.
"Right." He said excitedly, now sounding positively giddy and hopeful. "Thanks again, Toph!"
"Don't mention it." She said, waving goodbye as the prince ran off in the opposite direction, towards the half naked girl in the woods.
Oh, it was good to be Toph!