Disclaimer: Ah, what it must be like to own Avatar...
Author's Notes: Because I like OCs. Because I like Sokka more.
This is an idea I've had for a long time now and finally got around to writing. I didn't mean for it to be this long, but I had such a fun time writing it and it came so easily that I couldn't help the length. Besides, I like long oneshots. xD And for anyone who's read Ba Sing Se from my Tokka collection Just Him and Her, this is not the same Mamoru. I figure that it's a pretty popular name in the Earth Kingdom (plus I really like the name lots), so I used to again. And as much as I love Foamy, I like this Mamoru better (though some may not).
So, please review and let me know what you think!
"Um… excuse me?"
Toph Bei Fong, head bent down and eyes lowered, picked up a mango—at least, she thought it was a mango—from the cart in front of her and squeezed it, just like Katara had taught her to do. Toph had never really gotten the logic of squeezing the fruit before you bought it, but did it out of habit anyway. Deducing that it was a worthy mango, she put it in the basket she was carrying and reached for another one to test.
Toph tossed another fruit in her basket and frowned. Whoever was in charge of this mango cart ought to answer that annoying person's question—he'd been standing behind her for nearly a minute, repeating himself over and over.
"Excuse me, Miss—erm—Blind Bandit, ma'am…?"
Toph stiffened. Blind Bandit…? But—that was her!
She spun on the spot and observed the boy. He was about her age, she guessed, for his height and weight. He was strong, and definitely a Bender—she could tell by his stance and the way the Earth twitched just a bit beneath his feet. He was nervous, though—his heart was beating wildly in his chest.
Finally Toph answered. "Yeah?"
"Uh—hi. You—you're the Blind Bandit, right? 'Cause you look just like her and I just wanted to make sure I had the right person 'cause it would be really embarrassing if you were just some regular—"
"I'm the Blind Bandit, kid, don't worry about it," Toph cut in, quickly growing irritated with his chittering.
"Ah!" He literally jumped, a few pebbles bouncing up when he landed. "Um—hi! I'm Mamoru, and when I saw you I knew I had to talk to you since you're only, like, the greatest Earthbender of all time and everything." He took a deep breath and continued on. "I saw you in Earth Rumble 10 and you were amazing. You took out the Badgermole like he was nothin' and when that guy—mm, the Boulder—challenged you at the end and you just said, 'Whenever you're ready, the Pebble!'—that was the best! Can I have your autograph?"
Toph blinked blind eyes and tried to focus on something else to get the buzzing of his voice out of her ears. She didn't understand how one person could say so much in so little time.
Suddenly he gasped.
"How stupid of me! How could I ask for your autograph—you're the Blind Bandit! Ooh, that was so rude of me! I'm so sorry, please, let me make it up to you—are you buying those mangos? Let me pay!"
"Mamoru." He stopped the instant she spoke. "That's your name, right? I like it."
"Ah, thank you!" Mamoru exploded. "My mother picked it 'cause it means Earth and she's an Earthbender!"
"You're a Bender, too," Toph said, setting her basket of fruit on the ground.
"Yes! How can you tell?" asked Mamoru eagerly.
Toph stomped her foot and used her hands to lift a thin slab of rock before replying, "I can tell by your stance. You stand like an Earthbender."
"Thank you! No one's ever told me I stand like an Earthbender before!" He grinned brightly, like she'd just given him the greatest compliment.
"I've never done this before…" Toph muttered to herself. "Mamoru, what d'you want me to write?"
"Huh? What're you talking about, Miss Blind Bandit?"
If she hadn't been quite as annoyed with his cheery disposition and constant chattering, Toph might have found his nickname for her slightly endearing.
"For your… autograph," Toph said. "I've never had anyone ask me for one before, so—what d'you want me to write?" She sounded slightly embarrassed and yet proud.
"Ah! Just your name is okay!" Mamoru quickly said. "But—uh—if you want to write more, you can!"
Wrinkling her nose in concentration, Toph pressed her finger into the rock and carved out the letters of her name in neat, curving lines. She held out her work in front of her.
"Toph," said Mamoru from over her shoulder. "Hey, is that your real name?"
"Oh." She shook her head at her own stupidity. "Sorry. D'you want me to change it? I can write 'the Blind Bandit,' too."
"Ah, no, you don't have to change it!" he cried. "Please don't ruin all your hard work! You can—you can just add the Blind Bandit next to it!"
Toph rolled blind eyes and carefully formed the words "the Blind Bandit" under her real name as Mamoru continued to chat.
"So, is Toph your real name? I like it! I once knew a girl named Toph. She worked at a tea shop near my house and me an' my mom would go there every Sunday for tea. She was really nice and always gave us extra refills!"
Toph pressed the stone in his hands. "Here," she said, pausing to pick up her basket. "Well, I gotta go."
"Wait, you still have to pay!" Mamoru shouted dramatically before Toph even had the chance to walk away.
"Right." Toph pulled a few coins from a purse buried deep within her basket and began sorting through them.
"So, where'd you learn to write like that, Miss Toph the Blind Bandit?" he asked, hovering over her shoulder as she searched for a bronze coin.
"My friend taught me," Toph said absentmindedly as she handed the money to the vendor. "It wasn't that hard to learn."
"Hey! Didn't you travel with the Avatar, too?" Mamoru questioned, bouncing along next to her as Toph began her search for the next item on her list.
"Yeah, I did," Toph muttered. "Tell me when you spot a vegetable cart, okay?"
"Sure thing!" he cried, accidentally kicking up a rock. He quickly melted it back into the ground and said, "Did the Avatar teach you how to write?"
"No, my friend Sokka did," Toph corrected. "Actually… I'm supposed to be shopping with him right now, but I lost him ages ago at some cart that sold jerky."
"Hmm… isn't he the one from the Water Tribe?" Mamoru wondered out loud.
"Yeah. He's from the South Pole. Is that a vegetable cart?" Toph pointed to their left at a large cart.
Mamoru gasped. "It is! You're good at this!"
Toph marched up to it and tapped her foot. "Help me pick out some carrots, would you?"
There were a few moments of precious silence as they picked out carrots before Mamoru cried, "Hey, I think I see Sokka! He wears lots of blue, right?"
Toph dropped a carrot in her basket and shrugged. "So I've been told."
"And he's really tall!" went on Mamoru, all thoughts of selecting carrots long gone. "Much taller than me. But I've never really wanted to be that tall. Hey, Sokka!" he shouted, thrusting his hand up in the air and waving madly. "Hey, Sokka, over here!"
Toph heaved a sigh and handed a few coins to the vegetable cart vendor.
"Ah, Sokka! Toph, Sokka's here!" Mamoru announced, tugging on her sleeve to draw her attention away from what felt like a squash. Didn't Katara want squash…?
"Hey, Toph." She felt a hand on her shoulder and recognized the vibrations as Sokka's. He tossed a thumb in the direction of where Mamoru was bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"Who's the kid?"
"That'll be five bronze coins, please."
Sokka eyed the pile of jerky that the vendor was wrapping with eager eyes and stuck his hand inside his money bag. A frown appeared on his face as he pulled out three lone bronze pieces.
"Hey, Toph, you wanna give me two bronze coins?" he asked, fishing around in his pockets and finding nothing but a length of string and something that could have been either a leechy nut or a rock. He pulled on the string and noted that it was definitely attached to his pants—the unknown object went back in his pocket.
Sokka looked up at her unusual silence to find that the only person standing next to him was a very old woman with her very long hair in a very long braid. He peered around the woman, but there was no Toph to be found. Sokka dropped his chin to his chest in defeat and turned to the vendor.
"I'll take whatever I can get for three bronze coins."
The vendor—a rather large man with a belly that Sokka was sure could bowl him over—gave him a rather blatant frown and began pulling large chunks of jerky from the package. Sokka could feel tears welling up in his eyes as his jerky pile shrank.
Once he had paid for his pitiful package of meat and bid the vendor a tearful goodbye (to which the vendor had merely grunted), Sokka began his search for Toph. It wasn't as if she needed his help shopping (she was getting quite good at distinguishing different carts and foods), nor did she need his guidance—if anything, he was more of a hindrance to her. In fact, she was better at shopping than Sokka was, to which he really didn't mind admitting. The only qualm he had was what Katara would do to him if he came back without Toph—she was more concerned about what would happen to Toph than Toph herself was.
Trying to ignore the glorious scent of meat that was drifting from his package, Sokka scanned the surrounding area for a dark bun and green Earthbending clothes. This proved pointless, however, as a majority of the people in Gaoling were dressed in green and had dark hair. Sokka sighed and began walking in hopes of bumping into Toph eventually.
But, he decided, if worst came to worst, he would head back without Toph and find her at the house. What's the worst that could happen?
You let my precious daughter wander the streets alone? She would have been hurt, or even kidnapped! This is the last time I let her out of the house with you! In fact, this is the last time I let her out of the house at all!
Lao Bei Fong's normally pleasant face turned an angry shade of red and Sokka winced at his mind's rendition of his return to the Bei Fong estate. He was already on poor terms with Toph's father for the countless things he and Toph had snuck out to do—Earth Rumble 10, for one—and he could only imagine what would happen to him if he didn't return with Toph.
Sokka picked up the pace as he sought out the tiny form of Toph—should it be this hard to find her? What if he couldn't? What if he had to go back without her? Would he be sent to sleep in the servant's quarters, or worse—would they refuse him food—?
His head snapped up at the sound of his name and he searched the crowd—it hadn't been Toph that had called, that was certain, but then who—?
"Hey, Sokka, over here!"
Sokka's eyes landed on a boy—brown hair, bright face tanned dark—who was waving at him madly. And next to him was Toph, paying for what looked like carrots.
"Ah, Sokka!" The boy turned to tug on Toph's sleeve. "Toph, Sokka's here!"
Sokka stood behind her and, placing a hand on her shoulder, gave her a quick greeting. The boy bounced on his heels as Sokka eyed him. The warrior threw a thumb in his direction and asked, "Who's the kid?"
Toph, after shrugging his hand from her shoulder, turned and pulled the package of jerky from under his arm. "This is Mamoru," she said, bringing the package up to her nose. She gave it a small sniff and warned, "There better be enough for everyone."
Sokka was just about to tell her that there would be enough, if someone would've stuck around with the money, but he was interrupted by the boy before he could open his mouth.
"You're Sokka!" he cried, and stuck his hand out in front of him—the other was clutching a stone tablet under his arm. Sokka shot a side-long glance at Toph, but she was busy asking the vegetable vendor about his squash.
Left with no other choice, Sokka grasped the boy's hand and offered him a half-hearted smile. He shook Sokka's hand enthusiastically and smiled brightly in return.
"And you're... Mamoru, right?" Sokka asked apprehensively, still having his hand pumped eagerly.
"Sure am!" Mamoru replied, finally releasing Sokka's hand. "You know," he said, placing a finger on his chin and staring up at Sokka through squinted eyes, "you look lots taller up close. Don't you think so, Toph?"
Toph, who was placing two squashes in her basket next to Sokka's jerky, said thinly, "Yep, he looks taller up close, alright."
Mamoru grinned at her cheerily for a moment, then gasped. "Ah, I'm so sorry, I did it again! How inconsiderate of me! Um—let me carry your basket to make it up to you!"
Sokka raised his eyebrows at the boy's actions. He would have gotten by with a simple apology, but now he was attempting to tug the basket from Toph's hands. Sokka smirked—Toph would never let him carry the basket for her, not when she could do it herself.
"Fine," she snapped, relinquishing the basket. "Just don't drop it or Katara'll have my hide."
Sokka felt his jaw drop. If he ever tried anything like that—!
"So, where are we going now?" asked Mamoru, basket swinging dangerously from his hand as he stared at Toph with eyes that Sokka had only seen on Arctic seal puppies.
"You have anything left to pick up, Meathead?"
Sokka paused from apprehensively eyeing Mamoru (who was stuffing his autograph in the basket) long enough to reply, "I'm ready when you are."
Toph nodded. "Then off to my parents' we go." She set off down the street and Mamoru trailed after her like a baby turtle-duck. Sokka resisted the urge to snort.
"So, Toph, where did you learn how to Earthbend?" asked Mamoru, now using both hands to carry the basket. "Didn't Master Yu teach you? 'Cause that's what I heard at Earth Rumble, but then I saw that you don't use regular Earthbending moves. Did someone else teach you, or did you just make up all those new moves by yourself, 'cause that would be amazing!"
Sokka, jaw hanging in amazement at the boy's lungs, was sure Toph would be irritated by such a stream of never-ending questions.
But instead of chucking a rock at his head (concerned about the vegetables, perhaps?), Toph gave him a half-grin and said, "Master Yu was my sifu, but he never really taught me anything. You know the story of Oma and Shu?"
"Ah, yes!" cried Mamoru, nearly losing a mango, which Sokka caught. "That's my favorite story of all time!"
"That's the same way I learned."
At those words, Mamoru came to a dead stop and Sokka nearly tripped over him.
"Oy, watch where you're going!"
But instead of apologizing profusely like he had done for Toph, Mamoru's jaw instantly dropped and his eyes grew to take up what seemed like half of his face. Toph was grinning as she turned to face them.
"That—is—AMAZING!" Mamoru cried, basket abandoned as he launched himself at Toph. She looked surprised, but—Sokka noted with horror—hardly displeased as Mamoru spun her in a circle before finally releasing her so that he could jump up and down.
"It must have been so incredible to learn like that!" the boy cried, looking as if he was indeed near tears of joy. Sokka wondered what learning "like that" entailed as he picked up the forgotten food and followed the two, who had seemingly forgotten him as well.
"And 'cause badgermoles don't need to see to Bend, I can use more of their moves, too," Toph informed Mamoru.
"Yes, that's right!" He gave a little bubbling laugh. "You're just like a badgermole, Toph!"
Sokka frowned as Toph laughed—if he had called her a badgermole (of all things!), he would've been eating dirt.
"—using vibrations through the Earth, so it's just like seeing."
"That's so smart! I didn't even know you could Bend like that!"
Sokka raised his eyebrows at Mamoru—he seemed genuinely awed by Toph and just about everything that came out of her mouth.
"That's how I learned to Bend metal," Toph continued as they neared the gates of the Bei Fong estate.
Mamoru looked as if he was about to collapse. "You can... Bend—metal?" he asked faintly.
Toph punched a hole in the metal gate as proof—Mamoru gasped loudly and Sokka tutted.
"Toph, you know your parents hate it when you do that."
She turned and shot him the first grin in what felt like ever and said coyly, "That's why I do it." She pressed both hands against the gate and returned it to its former glory.
"Besides," she said, dusting her hands, "I can fix it anyway."
They both turned to Mamoru, who was staring at Toph as if she was Oma incarnate.
"Do you want to go get tea some time?" he asked breathlessly. "'Cause I would really love it if you could—"
Mamoru's eyebrows shot up. Toph clenched her fists and turned on Sokka.
"What did you say?"
Sokka blinked nervously. The word had slipped out of his mouth without his consent, but he was going to stand by it—Toph was not going anywhere with this kid. He was a little too friendly for Sokka's taste and Toph liked him just a bit too much for comfort.
He swallowed. "I said no." He slung an arm around her shoulders and continued boldly, "As Toph's big brother—"
"Moron!" She planted a hand in the center of his face and pushed—he stumbled away with a cry. "You're as much my brother as Katara is!"
"Well—" Sokka rubbed his pink nose. "I'm not gonna let you!"
"Why not?! Who are you to stop me?"
"Because—'cause..." he stumbled over his words. "Uh—go out with me instead!"
"What?" she cried shrilly.
"Toph, will you go out with me?" He was spouting off whatever came to his mind first and he knew it.
Her eyes were narrowed into dangerous slits and her cheeks were turning progressively pinker.
"You're just saying that so I won't go out with Mamoru! You're such an idiot!" she shouted, stomping her foot. "Why would you say that?!"
"'Cause I don't want you going out with him and that's final!"
A heavy silence fell over them and Mamoru made a choking sound. Suddenly Toph turned to the boy and flashed him a smile.
"I'd love to go out with you, Mamoru."
He made the choking sound again and said meekly, "I just wanted to see some Bending moves…."
A beat of silence before a flat "What?" came from both Sokka and Toph.
"Yeah…. After hearing about all the stuff you can do, I just wanted to see it," explained Mamoru. "I thought—you know—you might be able to teach me something!"
Toph blinked. "Ah... sure, I guess."
"Oh, wow, that's great!" exclaimed Mamoru, seemingly over the shock of Toph and Sokka fighting. "Well, I'm gonna go home before my mom worries! Bye, Sokka! Bye, Miss Blind Bandit! I'll see you later!"
He gave them a breezy smile, plucked his autograph out of the basket, and waved. He got five feet away before he paused and turned back.
"Oh, yeah—mmm… I think you should say yes, Toph. You two would make a very cute couple!" Mamoru gave a contented laugh and walked off, whistling a faint tune as he did so.
There was a moment of silence. Then: "Wanna go throw rocks at something?"
"Yeah." Toph paused, then quickly added, "But it's not a date."
"Aww, why not?" Sokka grinned.
Toph punched his shoulder. "Shut up." But she was smiling.