AN: I don't own ATLA. I wish I did, cause that'd make me a genius. Or at least incredibly rich.
Secondly, this is a TophxZuko story, set a few years in the future. I'm going to leave details about the end of the war kinda blurry, since I have other fanfics in the making describing my version of the war's end. So just sit back and enjoy.
Blind Are We Both
"Iroh, I'd be glad if you came back to Gaoling and set up a tea shop there. Perhaps your nephew would like to join us as well." Toph grinned.
Both Iroh and Toph turned to Zuko, who was currently sulking. The war had ended and his father had died before he could ever restore his honor. Sadly the young man was at a loss for the next step he should take, and perhaps such advice from Iroh would help guide him in his future decisions.
"I'll come." He reluctantly agreed, his arms crossed in a surly fashion.
Iorh smiled and nodded. "Good. Gaoling will suit you well, Prince Zuko."
"I'm no longer a prince!" Zuko practically screamed and stalked off to go get his and Iroh's luggage.
"He's got a lot of adjusting to do now." Iroh attempted to explain his nephew's rude behaviour.
Toph nodded. "I understand."
THE WHOLE GAANG met up one last time to make arraignments to stay in touch. Katara and Aang decided to go back to the Southern Water Tribe. They had plans to help restore the Tribe back to its former glory. They knew it would take a while.
Sokka and Suki had reunited towards the end of the war, and Sokka decided to go to Kyoshi Island to be with Suki. He didn't think he'd miss the cold climate of the South Pole too badly. And his homeland was always a boat ride away. The whole group pretty much knew Sokka would propose to Suki any day now.
Mai and Ty Lee and both returned to where they had came from before Azula had dragged them into the war. Haru and Song, having met during the war, started a family together in Haru's home town.
Toph convinced Iroh to bring Zuko and himself to Gaoling. They both agreed, and everyone parted ways. They all agreed to meet in Kyoshi in three months time, where Sokka and Suki's wedding ceremony would take place. (Unbeknownst to Suki.)
So they all parted ways and began the journey of something none of them were accustomed to: a normal life without a war looming over their heads.
TOPH, AFTER HAVING helped to save the world, had finally earned her parents' trust and respect. They finally viewed her as a capable girl and trusted her to make wise, educated decisions concerning her own future.
She convinced them to be investors in Iroh's new tea shop: The Darjeeling Dragon. After tasting Iroh's tea, they quickly agreed. Zuko, however, remained silent throughout this whole process and barely regarded anyone.
Iroh, while leaving the Bei Fong residence, pulled Toph aside. "Is there anything you can do for my poor nephew? He has no friends here yet and knows no one but you."
Toph sighed softly. "I'm not sure there's much I can do. My parents kept me too isolated to make any friends."
"Then can't you and him discover this new life together?"
Toph blushed. "What?!"
"I merely meant that you and him had to learn this together. Nothing more." Iroh smiled softly.
Toph nodded. "Good, because there's someone else I already like." She crossed her arms and nodded once more.
Iroh smiled knowingly. "Who's getting married to another woman in three months."
Toph frowned and stamped her foot warningly. "Looky here, Uncle. The wedding isn't going to happen. He'll realize what a…a…" Toph struggled to find something, anything wrong with Suki and found she couldn't. She admired Suki's strength as a warrior and her perseverance during the war. And just judging by her voice, Toph suspected she was very beautiful. No wonder Sokka was enamored with her.
Toph sighed brokenly. "You are right." She admitted reluctantly. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and faced Iroh. "I'll stop by the shop tomorrow at closing time to take Zuko out for some fun."
Iroh sighed contently. "Very well, see you tomorrow." And he left, beckoning to Zuko who was sulking in the Bei Fong courtyard. Zuko followed his uncle, not even bothering to say goodbye to Toph. Which was well enough for her. She still had to get used to the fact that Aang's enemy was now their friend.
Well…now she'd have to try.
IROH WAS ALL smiles lately, and it was starting to grate against Zuko's last nerve. How could he be so content to never return to the land of their birth? Didn't he miss it at all?
"Zuko, what is wrong?" Iroh questioned, concerned for his nephew's welfare. He knew how much they needed one another and wanted to be sure he could guide Zuko in his adaptations to this new life.
Zuko frowned and resisted the urge to grit his teeth at his beloved Uncle. "I've lost everything. My life is in shambles. I hate everything. Is that good enough of an answer for you?" He resisted the urge to burst out in tears. Lately he found himself to be so emotional. This wasn't just anger, but also a deep depression. But Zuko was far from willing to admit such a thing. Crown Princes of the Fire Nation did not become depressed.
Iroh laid a gentle hand on his lost nephew's shoulder. "Zuko, if you had not been banished, you would have become the next Fire Lord. And you would have ended many lives and caused despair to the ones remaining. And Azula would have made your life a living hell."
Zuko bowed his head. "Uncle…"
Iroh ignored Zuko and continued. "Having been banished, you have seen the suffering of the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribes, and the last Airbender left alive. You have built compassion for these people less fortunate than you. And now you have something that you would have never had if you chose the Fire Nation."
Zuko blinked in confusion and looked at Iroh curiously. "And what is that?" the contempt was fading out of his voice.
Iroh smiled warmly. "Free will. To live as you want. To do what you want. To marry and start a family with whomever you want. Isn't that better than any position or title?"
Zuko took in all that Iroh was saying. "You're…you're right…as usual, Uncle." He smiled faintly, then it faded as something dawned on him. "Uncle, no one will want to marry me…" he touched his burned face. "Not with a scar like this."
"What about that Jin girl? She liked you." Iroh argued.
Zuko blushed. "She…I couldn't tell her I was the banished prince of the Fire Nation." He looked down, feeling embarrassed about discussing his love life with his Uncle.
"What about Katara?" Iroh inquired. He was almost certain that Zuko and the young Waterbender had shared something akin to love, especially after all they had been through together.
"She's very beautiful, inside and out…but…I felt that I shouldn't interfere…" Zuko trailed off.
Iroh blinked. "What? Interfere?"
Zuko nodded mutely. "The Ava- I mean, Aang…he loves her dearly…who am I to take away the one thing he cares about the most?"
Iroh smiled wisely. "I'm very proud of you Zuko."
Zuko seemed almost startled. "Really? Why?" He was sure Iroh would have berated him for letting a beautiful girl like Katara go.
"You showed both Katara and Aang respect in choosing to back down." He squeezed his nephew's shoulder reassuringly.
"I hate to break up a tender moment, but I'm here now." Toph's strong, almost annoying voice grated against Zuko's ears.
"What are you doing here?" Zuko demanded.
Toph took a seat close to Zuko and Iroh's register. "I'm here because I was invited. Not to mention my parents are funding this shop initially, so I do actually have a right to be here." Toph retorted. She disliked Zuko sometimes. His surly teenage angst was a bit too much.
Iroh immediately jumped in. "I'm glad you're here Toph. Would you like tea?"
Toph shook her head in a 'no' and tilted her head towards Zuko. "Are you coming with me or not?"
"Going with you? Where?" Zuko demanded. He wasn't going anywhere with this Earthbending peasant. Well…more like noble, but whatever.
"Zuko, she is going to show you around town. Maybe you'll make some new friends?"
Zuko shoot a look as his Uncle as if to ask; "Do I have to?".
Iroh replied with a stern look of confirmation.
Zuko resigned himself to an unpleasant evening with the young Earthbending brat. "Yeah…let's go."
Toph was unfazed by Zuko's negative feelings towards her and proceeded to show Zuko around the extravagant town. However, without fail, Zuko always found a rude comment to say about everything.
Finally, Toph stopped, turned to face Zuko, and knocked him over with her Earthbending. He sputtered indignantly and promptly returned with a blast of his Firebending.
"What say we finish this somewhere more…deserted?" Toph inquired.
Zuko nodded in agreement, and followed Toph to a more desolate area of the town. They faced one another and Zuko, growing impatient with Toph's 'waiting and listening' act, finally attacked, only to be knocked down by Toph.
"You never have any plan, you just charge forward recklessly." Toph critiqued.
"And you're just a stubborn, well kept brat!" Zuko retorted angrily.
Toph blinked. "And you aren't?" she sounded almost incredulous.
Zuko frowned. "I haven't been in over three years!"
Toph seemed almost thoughtful, then replied: "You're right, you're just a peasant now."
Zuko sent an enormous wave of fire at Toph and the battle continued.
BOTH WARRIORS SAT down panting after nearly two hours of dueling.
"Okay dirt girl. Truce?" Zuko relinquished his pride.
"Okay fireboy. Truce." They shook on the agreement.
"I have to admit, I quite like sparring. It will keep our skills sharp." Zuko continued.
"Then we should do this more often." Toph replied. She laid down in the soft sweet grass and looked up at the sky, though she could not see anything.
Zuko did the same. He tried to relax, but this young girl Toph had brought out such a thrill. He had not fought in such a carefree way in so long. He realized that he had come to love Firebending and he knew that Toph missed a good reason to Bend as well. This would prove to be a good arraignment.
"How does three times a week sound?" Zuko questioned. Despite the fact that Toph wasn't his favorite person, he knew she would help him to improve on his own Bending. No one would do worse by this agreement.
After a moment, Toph made a noise of agreement. "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?"
Zuko smirked. "Why not Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday?"
Toph threw a rock at him.
Zuko laughed slightly and waved his arms in defense. "Mondays stink and Fridays are too good of a social opportunity for us!" Zuko explained.
Toph stuck her tongue out. "Since when have you cared about social opportunities?"
Zuko shrugged, knowing full well that Toph couldn't see it. "In the Fire Nation…we used to have events on Fridays…dances, concerts, festivals…" He looked back to the sky, wanting to hide from Toph. Hide his feelings. But she couldn't see his expression anyway.
Toph remained silent, figuring she should allow Zuko his thoughts.
"My mother…" Zuko began, then hesitated. Did Toph really need to know this…? Oh, what the hell…
"She would be very excited. She loved plays, concerts, dances…all sorts of things." Zuko smiled at the memories. He looked at Toph, and she appeared to be listening, so he continued. "She'd dress up…she was a very beautiful woman. She'd hum, looking in the glass, smiling at her reflection. She'd turn to me, I'd be sitting in her and father's bed, watching her. She'd ask, 'Well, how do I look?' Every time she asked it, it seemed like she really wanted to know my opinion; like it really counted. And, every time, I'm sure she could tell by the way I looked at her that I loved her and thought she was beautiful. And I would say so to." Zuko found it hard to swallow, and he looked at Toph.
She had her head tilted, seemingly staring straight through him. "Zuko…" her voice was strangely soft, as if he had struck emotion into her. "That's…keep that memory of her.. forever."
Zuko nodded. "I will."
Toph sighed softly. Not an exasperated sigh, but one of contentment. She had enjoyed the spar with Zuko immensely, and was looking forward to their Monday, Wednesday, Fridays together. Or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays. Whichever.