I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender
Sea of Chi
"Aang." A voice came from behind. The young avatar turned his head and saw his firebending teacher behind him.
"Hmm?" Aang grunted curiously.
"My uncle's looking for you. He's by the cliffside." Zuko told him while pointing towards the area he was referring to. He then walked away towards the rest of the gang who were a little ways off.
Aang stood up from the rock he had been thinking on for the last half hour and stretched. He had been contemplating the only thing he had been able to think about for the last month or so.
Aang sighed as he took the first few steps toward the direction that Zuko had pointed. The only reason that Master Iroh would want to see him was to teach him more about the spiritual aspect of the Avatar or possibly a bit of lightningbending training. He personally hoped it was the latter, he didn't feel like hearing about the spiritual duty of the avatar anymore. It always brought memories of Guru Patik telling him he wouldn't be able to hold onto Katara if he was to control the avatar state. Of course his feelings for Katara had dissipated several months ago, especially considering that she and Zuko were now together.
It was a surprising day when Aang realized he didn't have feelings for Katara. Toph was the one that talked his ear off about his true feelings for the waterbender. They both had come to the conclusion that the reason that Aang felt attracted to her was because she was the one who pulled him out of the iceberg, thus being the first girl he'd seen since he ran away. He told Toph that airbenders weren't allowed to date each other until a certain age and since Katara was the only girl he knew that wasn't an airbender he felt an automatic pull towards her. They had also realized that the biggest reason that Aang liked Katara was because she was off limits, being watched by her older brother on a daily basis and also being two years older and more mature than him set appealing drama and obstacles in the young airbender's mind. When Aang became conscious of his absurd reasons he no longer felt the attraction toward Katara that used to be there.
It was that same day he first felt attracted to Toph. It was as if he had been the blind one all along. For the first time he saw Toph's beauty and her intelligence by having her help determine his feelings for Katara. Before, all he saw was a girl with hardness in her personality that intimidated anyone to not speak more than a few words to her. Then he understood that the only reason she had that front was because of her upbringing and the need to stay guarded and silent whenever referring to her existence in the Bei Fong's mansion. Aang saw her soft side that day, and that's what motivated him to get to know her better. Ever since that day the two of them had talked more frequently and had deeper conversations with one another than what Aang and Katara ever had. The young avatar knew that he loved her. Even at age thirteen he knew what love was. He didn't dare tell anyone. Who would believe that a young teen could feel love, especially to Toph Bei Fong.
Aang found Iroh waiting for him at the side of the cliff that they had set up camp on. Iroh had been severely injured by Azula when he and Zuko espaced Ba Sing Se. He was no longer able to spar, so whenever he taught Aang a new technique he would tell Aang how to move, instead of demonstrating. His entire upper body was bandaged and he walked with a limp in his left leg. He never asked for people to help him, even though sometimes he needed it. Aang felt sorry for him, but he tried not to show it as he walked towards his mentor.
"Good afternoon, young avatar." Iroh greeted him with a nod.
"Good afternoon, Master Iroh." Aang bowed in response. "Uh…what are we going to be practicing today?"
Iroh laughed. "Not wanting to hear a lecture today?" Aang blushed. "Not to worry, today is a lightningbending exercise."
Aang sighed in relief. "Ok, which exercise?"
The old man scratched his chin. "It is a technique I had tried to teach my nephew in the past, but he was unable to master it. But being the avatar, I'm sure you'll find it easier than he did. I made this move up myself, back in the times I was living with waterbenders and they taught me a bit about waterbending. This will teach you how to redirect lightning, a valuable tool if your were to fight Azula again." Aang listened intently; he knew this was an important lesson, especially if it was a move Iroh had created. "Now watch closely." Aang was shocked. Iroh never showed him how to do a technique; this was putting his fragile body at risk for further injury.
"M-master, are you sure? You can just tell me how to do it." Aang said, not caring to hide the concern in his voice.
Iroh smiled at him. "I am aware of what I am doing. This needs to be shown to you if you are to do it right. If done incorrectly, this move can kill you." Aang's eyes widened slightly. "Now, follow my movements."
Iroh brought his left arm out straight to the side, and then brought his right arm to his left. He moved his right arm down his left, then down to his stomach, and finally shot his right arm out to his right side. He then did the reverse with his left arm and shot his left arm out to the left side. Aang followed along making sure to copy as identically as possible, but always watching his master to see if he would stumble or cry out in pain, but none came. Iroh stopped demonstrating and motioned for Aang to continue without him so that the old man could see him do it on his own. Aang repeated the technique a few more times before Iroh nodded his approval.
"Good, you've got the fluidity of a master waterbender, which I would expect by now. Also, you did well in bringing your hands to your stomach, not through your heart. If you bring the lightning through your heart it can be fatal." Aang nodded in understanding. "One thing to keep in mind, however, only use this move as a last resort. Even if you perform the technique correctly your body takes a beating. Having lightning thrown at you is no delight."
Aang nodded again. "Uh, Master Iroh, can I ask a question?"
"Why is it that you pass through your stomach? Is it the Sea of Chi?"
Iroh gave a small smile before responding. "Where did you hear about that?"
"The monks told me a bit about it. That's where your energetic center is located, where all chi radiates throughout your body and life-force. The monks told me it had something to do with love, too, but I never understood that part." Aang explained.
"Yes, that it precisely why you pass the lightning through your stomach. The chi in your stomach can cushion the effect that lightning has in your body, the heart cannot." Iroh said. "As for the portion on love, yes, the Sea of Chi has everything to do with love."
Aang cocked an eyebrow. "How so?"
"Lovers can press the ears to each other's stomachs and hear a sound that tells them whether or not that person is the love of their life."
"What sound do you hear?"
"It depends on the person. I have never tried it myself, but I have heard from reliable sources that it is a sound or feeling that only the person themselves can decipher." Iroh explained.
Aang began to think. He wanted to try this out. The question was, how was he supposed to bring this up to someone and not sound like a complete lunatic without telling the complete truth. Because how awkward would it sound if he asked, "Hey, can I put my ear up to your stomach? It's so I can see if you're the love of my life or not." No, he would have to be a bit more subtle than that.
Aang nodded again, signaling that he understood. "Let's continue with the lesson."
Aang walked back to camp and hour later, eager to try out what he learned about the Sea of Chi. He immediately began looking for Toph, but she was no where in sight. He spotted Katara close by and walked up to her and asked her, "Hey Katara, do you know where Toph went?"
"Yeah, she went to go earthbend near the cliff." Katara told him.
"Oh ok." Aang began to move back toward the cliff, until he thought of something. He knew he no longer felt feelings for Katara anymore and he knew that she and Zuko were together, but he still wondered if he ever really loved her like he had told Guru Patik. He thought that if he could listen to Katara's stomach he could finally determine whether or not he should be focusing on her anymore. It was worth a shot, and practice for when he would listen to Toph's stomach. "Uh, Katara?"
"Yes, Aang?" Katara responded, looking up at him.
"Can I…" Aang hesitated, how was he supposed to ask this?
"Can you?" Katara urged him on.
"Can I…uh…can I listen to your stomach?" Aang mentally slapped himself for not thinking of something different. But to his surprise, Katara looked understanding.
"Some new avatar exercise that Zuko's uncle wants you to try?" Katara asked.
"Uh…yeah, yeah that's it!" Aang responded eagerly.
Aang knelt down and gently pressed his right ear up to Katara's stomach. There was silence between them as Aang tried to listen for something, or feel whatever feeling Iroh was talking about. The avatar began to feel awkward just sitting there pressing his ear up to a girl's silent stomach, but he kept it there for a few more seconds before giving up. He stood back up and met Katara's gaze.
"So, did you get what your needed?" Katara asked.
"Uh…yep." Aang responded.
"What was that for, anyway?"
"Er…it was, uh…um…you have a nice stomach…that's all." Aang gave a nervous laugh before walking away from Katara and back towards the cliff, leaving Katara with a confused expression.
Aang walked along the cliff's edge for what seemed like forever. The sun was setting in the distance and he started to head back towards camp. He knew that he would see Toph later at night anyway; he figured he must have been searching for her in the wrong area.
Suddenly he heard something behind him. He flipped around and saw nothing but the cliffside. He listened intently for another sound, but heard none. He turned back around and continued on his way.
A few minutes later he heard the same sound, leaves rustling. Aang turned around again and called out, "Hey, who's out there?" There was no response. He couldn't see any leaves moving in the surrounding bushes and trees. He waited several minutes before moving on again.
Aang could smell the campfire close by; he knew that dinner was probably ready too. His pace quickened slightly at the thought of food. Then suddenly he was tackled in the side and pinned to the ground by an unknown attacker. He was about to airbend the person away when he heard a voice say to him, "Jeez, Twinkle Toes, did you not see this coming?"
It was Toph. All of Aang's battle instincts were thrown out the window when he recognized her. "No, but didn't you see this coming?" Aang asked as he got out of her grasp and pinned her instead.
The two benders began wrestling in the dirt. Each one pinning the other until they we're countered and found back on the ground. They laughed at each of their attempts at pinning the other permanently. It lasted for a few minutes until both simply collapsed from lack of air. Aang had "accidentally" landed with his head on her stomach. He closed his eyes and began listening for the sound.
Toph noticed what Aang was doing and asked, "Enjoying yourself?"
"Shhh." Aang shushed her softly, trying to listen.
"Aang, what are you doing?"
"Shhh." The airbender shushed even harsher. Surprisingly that quieted her down and he was able to concentrate.
Just like with Katara there was a silence between both of them and Aang couldn't hear anything from Toph's stomach. Aang was crestfallen. He so badly wanted to hear that sound coming from Toph.
Aang sighed as he lifted his head and softly placed a hand on Toph's stomach. "Sorry, I was just trying something…wait a second." Aang thought he felt something. His hand was shaking like mad on Toph's stomach without any reason. A feeling of warmth radiated through Aang's hand. He smiled from ear to ear. This was the feeling, he was sure of it!
"What are you doing?" Toph questioned with complete wonder. Aang looked up at her. He knew what he wanted to do, he knew that he shouldn't, but his want was too great. Aang raised himself up and placed his lips upon Toph's. Toph's muscles tensed in surprise and slowly relaxed as she allowed the kiss to continue. Aang was amazed how soft her lips were, considering how vigorously she trained and how hard of a front, no matter how deceiving, she put up.
The young avatar broke the kiss and looked at Toph. She had the expression of shock, but mostly pure joy. She quickly kissed him again and rolled him over onto his back with herself on top. Aang wrapped his arms around her and didn't let go of her for a long time.