Title: Best laid plans

Author: Ah Hael

Genre: Romance

Rating: Mature

Pairings: Aang/Toph, Sokka/Suki, with Zuko/Katara towards the end

Spoilers: Sokka's sword maybe

Summary: The day Aang has waited for has finally come. He's finally old enough to propose to Katara, but circumstances get in his way and he ends up married to Toph instead.

Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. I checked, definitely not mine.

The Best Laid Plans – Chapter 1

Aang carefully rechecked his packs and belongings making triple sure that he hadn't forgotten anything. He wanted everything to be perfect for this trip. He felt like he had been planning it for years.

Four years, to be more precise. He was finally of the age to legally propose to and marry Katara. There were times that waiting had been torture waiting, wondering if Katara would wait for him.

Admittedly, he'd been a nervous wreck the past two years since she had reached marriageable age. There had been a nonstop stream of suitors for 'The Great Master Waterbender Katara' as she was now known.

Since Ozai's defeat, there had been dozens of supposed true accounts of their travels and the battle that ended the hundred year war. With each retelling, the story became more fantastical and outlandish.

Some versions made it sound like he could have used his Avatar powers to just simply drop the entire fire nation into the ocean, wash off all the nasty fire nation citizens, and then pull it back out clean. Like washing buckfleas off of Momo. According to some, it was only his noble dedication to pacifism allowed him to spare the king's life and his citizens.

Sokka was elevated from brave, but goofy warrior to proud and fearless Sokka of the Blacksword or sometimes even General Blacksword. And Katara… well… no matter what version, all accounts agreed on two points.

The first was that she was the most powerful waterbender alive and the second was that only thing that surpassed her power was her beauty. Aang already knew she was beautiful. He didn't need texts to tell him that she had a face that was 'as delicate and lovely as the rare snow lotus flower' or that she had 'beauty rivaled the stars and moon'. He didn't need to others to tell him how pretty she was but with publicity like that, there was no end to the marriage offers for Katara. Thankfully, she or her father or brother calmly rejected them all.

Now it was finally his time to shine. He would have asked her sooner when he turned sixteen a few months ago but peace keeping duties kept him and his friends on opposite sides of the globe. It was only now that the annual summit in Ba Sing Se was approaching that their schedules coincided. And once they were all together he would propose to Katara.

The Young Avatar allowed himself a small daydream picturing how Katara would leap into his arms with a huge grin on her face when she accepted. Then they and the rest of their little family could celebrate.

The only problem was one of their family was missing.

At first no one thought anything was wrong. The war had ended, and the first year had drifted by in a blur of appearances, summits and a never ending sea of faces. He couldn't even remember half of the things he'd done, or the people he'd met. He's spent most of the time being the centre of attention while he tried his best not to squirm while faceless people heaped praise, awards and titles that he didn't really want or felt he deserved.

Toph was no different, by her thirteenth birthday she carried the titles Lady Be Fong, Master Earthbender Toph and General Be Fong. All of them fully recognizable in the new history texts of any nation. The blind girl could walk into any town, in any country, use any of those names and be recognized. Everyone could all tell that her parents were less than thrilled about their daughter's achievements, but they seemed to take it in stride.

The second year after the war was still pretty busy so no one really noticed that communication with the earthbender had significantly dropped off. When a letter did arrive it was filled with very un-Toph like words. Certainly due to her blindness, she couldn't write letters on her own, but after a while anyone who knew Toph could tell that it was more than a scribe trying to take some of the edge off of Toph's more abrasive qualities. The letters were filled with nonsense about dresses, and parties. Things Toph wouldn't want anything to do with much less write about. That was when Aang started to really worry.

When everyone else was together at last year's summit they started comparing notes and realized that she hadn't been truly in touch with any of them for over a year. Even more alarming was that none of them had even seen her in person since the first summit, just after the war.

After that revelation, their little gang made several more serious attempts to get into contact with her. They wrote twice as many letters to Toph and they tried to politely arrange time with her parents that would be convenient to visit. When those failed, Aang, Sokka and Suki had all made attempts to just pop in unexpectedly but were refused because Toph was unavailable or too ill.

Initially, the rejections were polite, but firm refusals, after a while though they became distinctly less polite and more firm, in the past two months, the rejections had crossed over the boundary from rude into openly hostile.

By now they had all had enough of polite attempts and had agreed to meet three weeks before the summit at the Be Fong residence. They had even managed to get the earth kings to send an official letter advising them that a representative was going to visit them. One way or another, they were going to see Toph and they were going to get to the bottom of her disappearance.

Appa landed just after lunch time and Aang wondered if any of the others had arrived yet. They may not have had to travel as far as he did, but he was also the only one flying.

His question was answered when he air bent himself down from Appa only to have Suki barrel into him and crush him in a raccoonbear hug.

"Aang! You're here!" she yelled happily in greeting then pulled back allowing him to breathe. "Wow you've gotten taller! I think you may be as tall as Sokka now."

"Who's as tall as me?" asked the unmistakable droll tones of a certain goofball warrior turned General. "Oh sure I turn my back for one minute and you're already in the arms of another man." Sokka walked up and mock glared at his new bride before turning to look at Aang. The Avatar was surprised to find that he could look his friend directly in the eyes now. Even Sokka looked shocked. "Wow Aang she's right, you really did grow. How can you grow that much when you don't eat any meat?"

Aang just smiled warmly at one of his closest and dearest friends before grabbing him in a hug. "I kept telling you that you should eat more vegetables. It's good to see both of you. Is Katara here yet?"

Suki nodded "She's resting. She only arrived an hour before you did, but apparently she has been travelling all night to make it on time."

"So then we are all ready to do this?" Aang asked them.

Both of his friends nodded this time "We can do it tonight if you want." Sokka added not bothering to hide his worry from his face or his tone. Ever since their last letters threatening to arrest them if they set foot anywhere near the Be Fong estate they had all been very worried.

"I'll be ready." He agreed.

None of them were foolish enough to think that they would be allowed to freely pass though the gates, but they weren't expecting an armed response either. As their luck would have it, their names and descriptions had been distributed to just about everyone in town and the Be Fongs had left standing instructions to be informed immediately if either of them showed up in town.

The captain of the guard gave them a haughty look. "I advise you to turn around and go back the way you came. You have already been told that you are not welcome here."

By previous agreement the friends had decided to allow Sokka to be their spokesperson. "Stand down soldier or risk treason."

The captain seemed a little taken aback but recovered quickly. "Treason? I hardly think that protecting the Lord and Lady's precious daughter from the people who kidnapped and took advantage of her qualifies as treason. If anything, it is you that should be arrested."

Aang grit his teeth at the insult. The guard (and therefore Toph's parents) had made it sound like they had been engaging in something lewd and inappropriate instead of fighting a war. Righteous fury on Toph's behalf wanted to bubble out of him but he reined it in knowing he could never help his friend if he lost his temper.

Sokka scowled darkly at the guard. "Have a care what you insinuate soldier, Toph is like a sister to me and if you continue to speak like that I cannot guarantee your continued health. Now I believe the Be Fongs have already received notice of our arrival from the earth king and have been ordered to meet with us."

"Nonsense! The king said a representative was coming! He mentioned nothing about the Avatar or his companions!"

"We are the representatives." Sokka glared at him coldly. The captain of the guard looked a little less sure of himself and Aang watched his expressions flit across his face while he tried to find a reason not to admit them. Finally, he cast a suspicious glare at them.

"Which king are you representing?" he asked as if hoping to catch them in a lie.

"Both actually." And Sokka pulled out the official gold seals of Omashu and Ba Sing Se. "Now are you going to let us in or are we going to have to arrest you for treason?"

The guard's shoulders slumped a little in defeat. The seals were like a direct order from the king. If they wanted to, have the entire town arrested they could with the authority those seals afforded them. Aang hated being forced to into such a move but it was the guard's own fault for not listening to them in the first place.

The garrison was kind enough to escort them to the house where they had to go through almost the same scene with the steward. Another flash of gold seals and they were told quite bluntly that they would have to wait as the lord and lady had a dinner guest.

By now Aang had reached his limit and he spoke up. "Oh that's all right; we already know where it is. Don't we guys?" he said jovially, but none of his friends missed the steely glint in his eyes. Without waiting for permission, or having to listen to another carefully disguised insult, he made a beeline for the dinning room. Behind him he heard the others rushing to catch up. Without waiting for them or for someone to warn Toph's parents, he barged in.

The dinning room was exactly as he remembered it. Mr. and Mrs. Be Fong were sitting in exactly the same spots as the first time he was here. There were three other people present. One very large, very wealthy looking middle aged man who was probably a merchant or a noble himself given the amount of jewelry he was covered in. Across from him was a pretty young woman sitting demurely and next to her was a very thin old woman with several parchments spread out before her.

It was only after a double take that Aang realized what he was looking at and even then his senses didn't want to believe it.

"What have you done to her?" he yelled at the people sitting at the table.