PART ONE: Slow Healing

Toph curled herself into her rock tent. All the others slept peacefully at the campsite. But not Toph. She couldn't even bare to go to sleep. Maybe leaving her parents wasn't such a good idea after all. No one to tuck her in at night, to tell her stories. Sure, they were safety freaks, but they did love her. Isn't that all that matters?

Tears rolled down her cheeks, dripping on the ground. She shivered just thinking about what could be going on with her parents right now. Were they worried? Did they even care? Did they even notice she was gone?

As ridiculous as that last one sounds, it did ocassionally pass through her mind. And Toph liked to shove it out. Try to make it go away, just leave it behind. But it followed her. No matter where she went. No matter what she did, it followed her.

Toph, now sitting up, putting her head into her knees, let out a studdering sound. Like she couldn't get it out. Her eyes dried now. She had used all the moisture she had. Toph cried herself sick. I can't do it. she thought. I just can't do it.

Aang stood up from laying on Appa, and stretched a bit. He looked around, not feeling tired anymore. Suddenly he heard a small moaning sound. Soon after it turned to a sob. Where's that coming from? Aang thought. He wasn't used to hearing things at night. Normally he'd be asleep, having a dream.

After a few moments it stopped. Aang scratched his head curiously and was about to try to go to sleep again. But as soon as he was about to close his eyes, the groaning-sobbing noise rang in his ear again.

This time he perked up from his resting place, and jumped high from Appa. The currents around him made him land slowly and softly on the ground.

"Is someone out there?" whispered Aang.

Toph, at the time, continued to cry. Missing the love she got from her parents, even if at times they were annoying. Normally she was the tough one. The fearless earthbender. But she had been so far from home, for such a long time, she began to miss the life she had. Thinking this hard of her family made her weak, like she was now. How could she let her friends see her like this? So weak and broken down.

Aang tip-toed from Appa, making sure not to wake anyone. As he progressed, the sound increased, becoming clearer to his hearing. He was close. Very close. Suddenly, he approached Toph's tent.

The young monk put his ear up against the rocky surface. When his ear made contact, he could hear the whimpering, crying. "Toph?" he asked.

Toph heard him and immediately began to pull back on her emoitions. Aang, who didn't get his answer called out again, "Toph? Is that you?" Toph sniffed a little, brushing the last of the tears on her face. "What do you want?" she asked in a tough voice.

Aang cleared his throat quietly, and pitched his softest voice into action. "May I come in?"

Toph thought for a moment. Seeing no harm in letting a friend see you, she pulled down one of the doors. Aang crawled in through.

His friend was turned the other way when he came in. Toph just wiped another tear from her eye. "I heard crying." Aang said, breaking the silence between them. Toph clutched her fists. "You were imagining things. Go back to sleep." she snapped. Aang inhaled and exhaled slowly, attempting to keep himself from losing it.

"Toph, there's nothing wrong with feeling sad or mad. There's nothing wrong with how you feel. It's who you are." said Aang. Toph wiped off another tear, and turned to face Aang. "What would you know?" she replied.

Aang didn't know what to say for a moment. Toph's attitude kept her from fully opening up to people. But nothing he couldn't handle. "Listen to me," he began. "I lost my people, my home. I lost everyone I loved." Toph turned the whole way around. "I'm sorry." Toph muttered, feeling she had offended her friend.

"It's okay." answered Aang. He rested his hand on her shoulder.Toph lowered her head, her eyes closed. Aang let go of her shoulder. He motioned up, ready to go. "Wait!" She grabbed his hand. She tightened her grasp. "You don't have to go, really."

Aang stopped, instead sat back down. Toph was finally opening up to him. "It's my parents." Toph began. She let out a sigh, trying not to work herself up again. "What about them?" asked Aang. He held on to every single word that left her mouth. Everything. "I miss them. I miss my home. And I'm starting to think that coming here was a big mistake."

He moved closer to her. Toph's eyes opened the whole way. "That's alright." Aang began cheerfully, trying to make her feel better. "I miss Monk Gyatso." Toph turned her head sideways. "Who's he?" she wondered curiously.

Aang snapped in his mind. Of course! he thought. I never told her about Gyatso. "Gyatso," he started. "My guardian one hundred years ago. He was like my father." Toph squinted her eyes a little. She now moved closer to him. "W-What happend to him?" Toph continued to ask.

She knew she had asked the wrong question when Aang didn't answer, but cuffed his hands together. "Oh, right." she answered herself, dumbfounded.

"But what if something happens to my parents? What if I'm not there when they need me? Who will protect them?" Tears began falling from her eyes again. And Aang didn't want her to feel the horrible pain he was burdened with. "'ll be okay. Trust me." he placed his hand on her cheek. He slowly moved it down.

The tears were vanquished, for now. She sniffed, trying to let it all out. "I know it will be okay." Aang assured her again.

Toph reached out her arms, and rapped them around Aang. Her head rested by his shoulder, and tears of joy escaped from her in his embrace. "Thank you." she sighed. "For everything."

Aang smiled when they broke away from each other. "Hey," he started out of her tent. "What are friends for?"

Hey, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for part 2.