A/N. For some reason, I can't even put brackets in my summary. Annoying... That aside, I'm still working on a better summary, since this one sucks.
I actually wrote this half-way through August, but I didn't think it was the time of the year for this kind of story back then. By now, I'm glad I saved it, because that means I'll have something to post and it won't seem like I've abandoned my account. Which I haven't. It's just that I've been very sick for quite some months now, and it's onlt getting worse. I can hardly read or draw because it hurts my head too much, and as I have zero concentration like this, I can't write, either (or solve a simple math problem. You have no idea how weird all this is for me). Until I feel better, I'm afraid I won't be able to upload or update anything. Thank you for understanding. :)
Anyway, about the story. I'm not very happy with how it turned out, but I suppose that doesn't matter. It's a modern AU, Taang Christmas one-shot with some Zutara, that I wrote during the summer after three of the series I follow aired a Christmas episode playing this very song. I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.
Merry Little Christmas
Christmas parties, Toph decided as she dropped back down into her chair, were definitely not her thing; no matter what Katara said.
Under normal circumstances, the earthbender wouldn't even have considered coming at all. She hated parties. They were too crowded, too noisy, too warm… They threw off her whole seeing system. It was nearly impossible to make out vibrations when there were this many people around, and if the music were any louder, she swore she would go deaf as well.
The only reason she had agreed on coming was to get Katara off her back, anyway. She had been very persistent when asking her to come, claiming it just wasn't right to spend Christmas Eve all alone (Toph's parents had other business to attend to) and complaining that since she hadn't been to a Christmas party before, she couldn't judge them. Toph had brushed her off at first, but after Katara kept on asking for nearly a full week in a row, becoming more and more annoying every day, she had given in.
By now, she really wished she hadn't. This party was just plain boring. She had been sitting in a corner all evening, her arms crossed tightly and a scowl on her face. People were dancing, talking, laughing and getting in each other's way everywhere around her, and for some strange reason, they all seemed to be having fun.
Well, maybe not all of them.
Aang dropped down in a chair next to hers, looking rather out of spirits as he poured himself a drink.
Toph turned her blind eyes in his direction. "Having a good time?" she asked sarcastically.
"No," Aang replied flatly. He nipped at his soda and returned her gaze with his bright, grey eyes. "You?"
Toph rolled her eyes at him. "What do you think?" She tried to reach past him to get herself a drink as well, but discovered her arms weren't quite long enough.
Aang chuckled. "Not really, I'd say." He nodded at the glass Toph was trying so hard to reach. "You need help with that?" he offered.
Toph snorted loudly. "I can get myself a drink, Twinkle Toes," she huffed.
Aang shrugged. "Okay." Amused, he watched her trying to reach the table for a little longer, before giving her a hand anyway.
Scowling, Toph straightened up again. "Thanks," she murmured.
"No problem," Aang said cheerfully. He glanced around. "A lot of people turned up, huh?"
"They probably had nothing better to do," Toph shrugged. She emptied her glass in one draught and handed it to Aang to put it back on the table. "This," she then stated, "is boring."
"Hmm-mmm." Aang nodded absent-mindedly. Coming from his best friend, that comment wasn't unexpected. He'd never seen her at a party before – he knew she preferred to avoid them whenever she could. He was happy she had decided to come, though. As he was a lot easier for Katara persuade, he normally spent his time at these kinds of parties alone on the side-lines. It was good to have a friend with him for once.
His eyes strayed off to the earthbender next to him. She looked very different than normal tonight: Instead of her usual, more alternative clothing, she was wearing a rather formal blouse and skirt in traditional Christmas colours, and her usually lopsided bun was now neatly put up with matching pins. The only logical explanation for this he could come up with was that Katara had gone over to her house before going to the party; he knew Toph would never have chosen such an outfit for herself.
Not that it didn't look good on her.
Toph narrowed her eyes at him. "What are you looking at, Twinkle Toes?" she demanded.
Aang snapped out of his thoughts, blinking rapidly. "What?" he stammered. "Oh!" His face turned a very bright shade of red and he swallowed hard. "N-nothing!" He quickly focussed his attention on his glass again, making a point of avoiding her eyes.
Toph leaned back in her chair, unable to fight back a vaguely pleased smile. She hadn't agreed with Katara dressing her up for the occasion at all, but the waterbender had proven herself a good lot stronger than she had given her credit for – and thus the fancy getup. And as Toph hadn't felt comfortable in this outfit one bit all night, she couldn't deny a positive reaction like this was rather pleasing.
Especially from Twinkle Toes.
"Do you want to go outside?" Aang suddenly asked her.
Toph frowned, turning her face towards him again. "What do you mean?"
"Just asking." Aang shrugged, his eyes still focussing on the soda in his glass. "Neither of us is having a good time, and I'm about to melt in here." He gave her a pleading look, without realizing she couldn't really see it.
"Well…" Toph bit her lower lip as she considered the offer. She wanted to get out of here, of course, that part she couldn't deny. But she'd also promised Katara she'd stay at the party tonight, and a promise was a promise. Then again, she hadn't even seen Katara so far (she was probably off dancing with Zuko), and she had already been at the party for quite a while.
And, judging by the hopeful beating of his heart, Aang really did want her to come.
As the speakers started bellowing the song 'Merry Little Christmas' for the tenth time that evening, she reached her turning point. "Sure," she said, getting up from her chair and stretching her limbs. "Let's go."
Aang beamed. "Great!" he said. "I'll go get our coats." And he disappeared into the crowd.
"Toph!" Katara waved cheerfully at her as she rushed over. She was very out of breath, her cheeks flushed with the heat and her hair askew.
Toph raised her eyebrows. "Hi, Katara."
Katara smiled brightly. "How are you?" she asked, panting. "I haven't seen you around all night! Where have you been?"
"Just sitting here, the whole time," Toph said, in mock offence. "It's not my fault you've been too busy with that Hothead boy to notice."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Katara said apologetically. "I didn't mean to neglect you. Zuko and I were just – "
"I really don't want to know what you two have been doing together," Toph interrupted her bluntly. She smirked as she felt Katara's heartbeat double.
"Anyway," Katara said quickly. She grabbed a glass and filled it with punch on the other side of the table. "How've you been? Oh, hi Aang." She smiled as the airbender approached them, but raised an eyebrow at the coats he was carrying. "What are you up to?"
"We were just about to go outside," Aang said, handing Toph her coat. "This place is too stuffed. I brought you the right one, right?" he added, turning to Toph. He scratched the back of his head. "I wasn't sure."
"This one's good enough for me," Toph replied shrugging, as she hastily buttoned up.
Katara looked between the two, and then smiled slyly. "A moonlight stroll on Christmas Eve?" she asked, trying hard not to chuckle. "My, isn't that romantic."
Toph felt both Aang's and her own heartbeat rocket up, but knew for a fact that she was doing a far better job at hiding it.
"W-w-w-what?" Aang stammered, the heat rising to his face. He waved his hands dismissingly. "No! That's not it!"
"You're crazy, Sugar Queen," Toph stated, shaking her head. She grabbed Aang's hand, causing his heart to completely miss a beat. "C'mon, Twinkle Toes. Let's get out of here."
Katara stifled a laugh as she watched the two teens walking away, Aang's face bright scarlet and Toph merely scowling, but also faintly pink. Then she turned to face Zuko, who had just appeared beside her. "Why don't we do those things anymore?" she asked him with a fake pout.
Zuko frowned in confusion. "What things?"
"Walking through the snow at night, moonlight strolls…" Katara shrugged. "Things like that."
"If you want to go now, I'll gladly come," Zuko said promptly. "This place is too crowded to be healthy."
"Really?" Katara raised her eyebrows at him. "You'd willingly walk me through the snow when the full moon's out?" Their walks through the snow usually ended up in a snow war, and with the full moon on her side, she'd easily overpower him; an advantage she knew he wouldn't appreciate.
"Tonight's clouded," Zuko shrugged. He smirked at her. "I can take you."
"Hmm… That's awfully sweet of you." Katara smirked as well, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You shouldn't have said it, though," she then said spitefully, leaning closer. "Now I'm not letting you go anywhere tonight anymore."
Toph shivered as she stepped out into the thick layer of snow. She had completely forgotten about the white mass; she might have thought twice about going outside if she hadn't. Mentally scolding herself for being so stupid, she rushed after Aang, who had already started walking.
He gave her a curious look. "What's wrong now?"
"Snow," Toph said curtly, wrapping her coat closer around herself.
Aang nodded. "Oh, right." He knew she didn't like snow; it had something to do with messing up vibrations, she'd told him once. He felt sorry for her for not being able to really see it. If she could, he didn't think she'd dislike it quite as much. Somehow, everything looked so much more magical when it was covered in a thick blanket of white snow – especially around Christmas time. "You know," he then said slowly, feeling his face redden again. "About – "
"Forget about what Katara said," Toph cut him off, waving her hand dismissingly. "She's just trying to get back at me for that comment I made about her and Zuko. She didn't mean it."
"Oh." Aang paused, and then smiled relieved. "Okay." He gave her a sideways glance. "So, what do you want to do?" he asked.
Toph shrugged. "I don't know."
So they just continued walking in silence; Aang looking around to see as much of the Christmas decorations as possible, and Toph just following the sound of his footsteps, unable to make out any clear vibrations through the snow.
Even though he generally preferred conversation over silence, Aang couldn't help but enjoy the moment. It felt… nice. This wasn't an awkward silence; it was comfortable, almost snug. Just walking together like this, they didn't need words: The moment already felt perfect.
After some time, though, he felt the need to speak again. "What are you doing tomorrow?" he asked curiously. "Besides celebrating Christmas, I mean." They had reached the edge of town: He recognised the fence separating the path from the meadows at the foot of the mountains.
"I don't really know," Toph replied thoughtfully. She wiped the snow off the wooden surface and lifted herself onto the fence, pulling at the pins in her hair. "I guess mom and dad will be trying to go to as many of their colleague's parties and dinners as they can manage in one day. They've always been keen on keeping up important connections. And I'll probably be grounded." She sniggered softly. "They'll kill me once they find out I've gone to a party, never mind straying around at night time." She looked at him with her unseeing eyes. "What about you?"
"Gyatso and I were planning to take a look at the fair." Not thinking the fence would be able to hold one more person, Aang just flopped down into the snow. "Y'know, just spend some time together," he continued. "We hardly have time to do that anymore lately, with all the homework and Avatar-stuff."
Toph shrugged. "I guess not." She swung her legs up and down.
Aang bit his lower lip. Stupid thing to say, Aang. Toph never really spent time with her parents or family at all; even though the Bei Fongs were the richest family he'd ever heard of, her parents were always busy with their work. He didn't know much about it: Only that as far as Toph was concerned, they were both reluctant to let her out of the house and never home with her. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to – "
"Oh, can it, Twinkle Toes." Toph rolled her eyes at him. "I don't care. Whenever my parents are around, they just treat me like a six-year old. It's a lot better this way." She tied her scarf a little higher around her neck. "Being alone's good with me, Christmas or not."
Aang shook his head at her. "That's not the Christmas spirit," he told her sternly. "It's all about being together and – hey!" Spluttering, he wiped the loose, dripping pieces of snow out of his face. "What was that for?" he asked indignantly.
Toph sniggered, brushing the snow off her gloves. "That's also a part of Christmas, right?" she said innocently. "Throwing snowballs and all?"
Aang grunted, giving her a very displeased look. Then he smirked. "Of course it is."
Toph yelped loudly as a cold whip grabbed her around her ankle and pulled her down into the snow. Glaring, she scrambled to her knees. "Now you're bending it," she said accusingly.
"Guilty as charged." Aang stifled a laugh, and she scowled. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet with a little too much power; she nearly tripped forwards again. "Sorry."
Toph frowned lightly as she straightened up. Although she'd never paid much attention to it, Aang had actually grown a lot since they first met; both in size and strength. When they were ten, they'd been about the same height, and she had definitely been stronger. But he was easily stronger than her now, and at least one head taller. And that was something she often forgot.
Shrugging those differences off, she stomped her foot hard against the ground, sending the Avatar face-down into the snow. "You had that one coming," she stated.
"I kind of had," Aang admitted, airbending himself back to his feet. Toph nodded, satisfied, and he chuckled. She wasn't looking quite as formal as she had earlier that evening anymore. Her neatly put-up hair was coming undone, with strings of black hair hanging loose over her shoulders, her black bangs back in place and three of the five hair pins missing, and her skirt was all wrinkled and dirty from the fence. Smiling silently, he decided he liked her better this way. Not fancy, not formal; just Toph, the way she really was.
"Snow," Toph stated suddenly.
Aang blinked. "What?"
Toph rolled her eyes and held out her hand, showing him the tiny snowflakes that landed on it. "What else?" she scoffed.
"Oh." Aang looked up, watching the snowflakes whirling down from the dark night sky. Then he looked back at her. "How did you know?" he asked.
Toph snorted indignantly. "Just because I'm blind doesn't mean my other senses don't work, Twinkle Toes."
"Oh, right." Aang nodded comprehensively, feeling stupid for having forgotten about that. It was the thing that had always amazed him most about Toph, after all: She never let her blindness get in the way of anything. It didn't matter she couldn't see; it didn't mean she couldn't appreciate things.
Suddenly, his eyes brightened. "That's it!" he exclaimed.
Toph raised an eyebrow. "What's it?"
Aang merely smiled. "You'll see," he said, beaming.
"I doubt that," Toph snorted, but Aang had already snatched her hand and started running, pulling her along behind him. She nearly stumbled over her own feet. "Twinkle Toes, what are you doing?" she yelled, turning faintly pink. He didn't answer, and she scowled. "Aang!"
Aang frowned lightly at the use of his real name; she hadn't called him by it in a very long time. He smiled at her over his shoulder. "Just wait," he said. "It's not far from here."
Toph continued to scowl as he said this, but didn't ask any further; something he was grateful for. He wanted it to be a surprise.
The snowfall became heavier as they ran down the empty streets, and by the time Aang spotted his destination, the already thick, white layer had gained a good two inches. He slid to a stop in front of a small, wooden building, Toph gasping for breath beside him. She gave him a puzzled look. "The church?" she asked, vaguely recognising the huge building further ahead of them.
"Well, yeah," Aang agreed. "But that's not what we're here for." He glanced around to make sure the square was empty. Then, still leading her by hand, he pulled her forwards, climbed over the low fence that separated the inside of the small building from the square and waited for her to follow his example.
Toph's eyes widened as her feet touched the ground. The floor was free of snow here, allowing her a nice, clear view at the inside of the tiny building in front of the church. It was a stable, but not an ordinary one. There were large, plastic figures placed in a circle around a small crib, containing what she figured must be a baby doll. Living animals were sauntering around calmly, chewing on the hay on the floor. The place was pleasantly warm, and in the corner stood a small radio, quietly playing Christmas tunes.
A grin cracked on her face and she shook her head. "A nativity scene?" she then asked, turning to face Aang.
"Yep!" Aang smiled brightly, relieved to see she was smiling as well. "I didn't think you'd seen it yet, and you didn't really seem to be in the Christmas spirit, so I thought I'd show you. There's normally people in here instead of dummy's, but I guess they don't do that on Christmas Eve."
"And we are allowed to be in here?" Toph smirked.
"Er…" Aang shifted uncomfortably in the hay. "Not really," he admitted. "But… well, there's no one around now anyway, and you can't see it from outside with all the snow, so…"
Toph laughed softly, stepping around the stable. "It's great," she stated simply. "Thank you."
Aang beamed. "You're welcome." Curiously, he took a look around as well. He'd never been inside the small building before either; he'd only seen it from the outside. A koala sheep nudged him in the back, and he stumbled forwards. "Careful," he muttered, gently patting it on the nose.
Then he froze. From the ceiling, he now saw, dangled hundreds of tiny branches of mistletoe, all neatly tied up with red and gold ribbons. His mouth went dry as he stared at the ceiling in horror. This he hadn't seen coming.
"What's wrong?" Toph popped up behind him again.
"Huh?" Aang whirled around, now furiously red. "Oh – uhm!" He opened and closed his mouth like a fish, but no words would come. Oh, she was going to kill him for this… Finally giving up his attempt to speak, he pointed up at the ceiling.
Toph merely raised her eyebrows. "What?"
Aang groaned and hung his head in defeat. This was positively the most embarrassing moment of his life. "Mistletoe," he mumbled.
"Oh." There was a short pause. Then, much to Aang's surprise, she placed her hands on her hips and frowned. "Well?"
He goggled at her. "W-what do you mean?" he stammered, his heart racing.
Toph rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Well, it is tradition," she shrugged.
"I-I-I-" Aang just stared at her with wide eyes, mouth hanging open. Of all the scenarios he had imagined, this was definitely not one of them. For one, he'd never imagined to be in this situation at all; but it was Toph's reaction that shocked him the most. He was expecting her to be angry, or at least irritable, but she wasn't. On the contrary: For some strange reason, she seemed to think it was all rather funny.
He mentally groaned. He couldn't possibly do this, could he? She was his friend – his best friend, and it would be… awkward, to say the least. He'd never be able to look at her again. Besides, she was probably just humouring him. She couldn't be serious. The whole idea was just ridiculous.
Her eyes seemed a lot softer when she looked at him.
And he had stopped fighting the fact that he didn't really see her as 'just a friend' anymore quite a while ago.
And all the people they'd scowled at for reading too much into their relationship had actually never really done much more than simply pointing out facts.
He bit his lip. Was it really that crazy?
Toph snorted and shook her head, grinning amusedly. "Twinkle Toes, you're just so-"
She'd wanted to say 'predictable', but was forced to retract that as he seized her by the shoulders, pulled her close and kissed her. For a moment, she stood like a statue; by the time she fully realised what was happening, he had already pulled away.
He blinked nervously, not even daring to look at her. He had no idea how she would react – maybe she'd yell at him, or punch him, or just make a sarcastic remark and laugh it off like she usually did. Or maybe she'd just walk away without saying anything.
He suddenly felt himself going cold inside. Had he just ruined everything? Why, why had he even kissed her? What had he been thinking? Any second now she'd give him that silent, icy glare of hers she'd been perfecting for years and stalk off. She'd probably never say a word to him again.
Much to his surprise, however, that was not what she did at all. She grabbed hold of his scarf and yanked, forcing him to lean forwards. Then she stood on tiptoe, flung her arms around his neck and kissed him again, and, as he got over the surprise, he kissed back, wrapping his arms around her middle.
This second kiss was very different from the first one – and definitely better, both would later agree on. It was infinitely more passionate and longer, and it wasn't until they really started to need fresh air that they broke apart.
Toph turned away, her face flushed. Aang's eyes roamed around the small place, as if expecting the right words to say on a moment like this to just appear on the walls. Outside, the church bells started striking loudly; throwing a side glance at his watch, he noticed it was twelve o'clock already. And so he just smiled and said the first two words that came to mind.
In the back of her head, Toph vaguely heard the radio playing the song 'Merry Little Christmas' again. It was odd. Back at the party, she'd hated it with all her heart. But now, somehow, she couldn't help but think it was the only song to fit the occasion. "Yeah," she then nodded, returning his smile. "Merry Christmas."
A/N. Our village actually had a Nativity scene like the one I described here, a couple of years ago. It was so cute, but they never did it again for some reason... Meh. I hope you liked it. Merry Christmas!