Zuko is part of the Avatar's group, and is trying to get along with everyone. After a misunderstanding, they conclude that Toph and Zuko like each other, and Toph gets back at Zuko by refusing to clear that up; two can play that game. ZukoxToph toko
I merged Magma and Lucky Cat into one continuum and rewrote the concepts of Lucky Cat to fit in as a sequel to Magma. Volcano I: Earth is the original story of Magma revised and Volcano II: Fire is Lucky Cat rewritten as the next part of Magma. It's all posted here. The first few Eruptions (chapters) are like little one shots, but it turns into a continuous from 09.
Volcano I: Earth
Eruption 01: Colors
The palace shook violently as the end of the battle approached. The Avatar had defeated the fire lord with help from his friends and companions. Aang and Katara appeared to be in a trance, as if he was amplifying her healing powers while in the Avatar state. Their eyes glowed and a wave of energy was released.
Sokka and Suki's injuries began to disappear. It was victory and a chance for peace; it would all finally end well. In the chaotic battle, Toph was thrown against a wall at one point. Her earth bending still present, they knew she lived, even if consciousness slowly faded away. "Toph, Toph!"
"Hmm..." Who was it, helping her stand up? Zuko... it was Zuko, she recognized him before opening her eyes. Then she opened them and stared at the swirl of colors before her, until they became a face.
"Your eyes..." Green, they were the most brilliant shade of green, not colorless as they had been before. He wondered if she could see him now.
Toph blinked. She didn't know what was going on but she liked it. "You're really handsome."
xoxox xox xoxox
"Hmm... hehe... hehehe, haha!" Toph woke up to feel a tickle on her feet.
"Sounds like you're regaining the feeling on your feet, that's a good sign." Katara? She was healing her?
Toph's eyes remained closed after waking up to a healing session. She opened them and saw no whirl of color, no caring golden eyes, nothing. Of course, it was just a dream; all of it was only a dream.
Eruption 02: Touch
Later, Zuko passed by in the hall outside her room. He saw the door open and Toph sitting on her bed. "Toph?"
She hated not being able to see with her feet. Her hands had been absentmindedly playing with her hair out of boredom. "What is it?"
"Nothing, I just wanted to ask how you're feeling." The tensions between the group were still running high and their interaction was mostly awkward.
"I'm very bored, come here for a second." Toph motioned with her hand for Zuko to come closer.
He approached but her hand movements did not cease. "I'm here."
"Closer," He leaned closer and she pinched his cheek.
Toph laughed. "Because of you I have to see with my hands now, so don't complain."
Though irritated by it, Zuko didn't complain about being poked as he carried Toph around. He was only trying to make things up to her after all.
Eruption 03: Heat
The days passed slowly, Zuko was glad to have been accepted into the Avatar's group. Slowly, the tensions started to melt away and daily interaction became more natural. But even if he was happy to be there, a little private time wouldn't hurt.
Zuko heated the water in the tub and prepared for a relaxing hot bath. He heard soft foot steps approaching and jumped into the large stone tub Toph had made earlier.
"You splashed me," the earth bender wiped the drops of warm water from her face.
"You shouldn't come in here without knocking when there's someone trying to take a bath," Zuko had been almost constantly watched since he arrived and his alone time became rare.
Toph shrugged. "Don't be such a whiner, princess. It's not like I can see anything anyway. Clothes or no clothes, the vibrations are the same; all I can tell is that you're Zuko." Toph's feet had finally healed. She could walk normally and feel the vibrations of the earth and all the living creatures on it. "Everyone is cold and they want you to start a fire. Twinkle-toes is still a little traumatized from today's training, Sokka said there's no reason for him to try to make a fire if there's a fire bender in the group, and Katara-mom said you had to help by making the fire so she can cook dinner."
"Fine..." It couldn't be helped; the hot bath would have to wait until after dinner. Zuko noticed that Toph had not moved an inch. "I'll be there in a minute."
Toph shook her head. "I can't go back without you." When the group wanted Zuko to do something, they had already learned that sending Toph to ask was the best way to make Zuko get to it right away.
"Could you at least look away?" Even if she couldn't really see him, Zuko would be embarrassed to dress with her blind gaze on his skin.
"I can't look anywhere, why do you people keep forgetting that?" Toph shook a hand in front of her colorless eyes for emphasis.
Zuko knew this wasn't going anywhere; Toph had to be one of the most stubborn people he had ever met. He finally got out of the tub and dressed as quickly as he could, then followed Toph towards the rest of the group.
"That's nice," Sokka spoke sarcastically, "while you take a hot bath until your face turns red, we're all freezing because you're not here to start a fire!"
Without a word, Zuko started a fire in the middle of the room for his new friends to keep warm, and another in the stone stove to be used for cooking. The entire time, Zuko refused to look at Toph's amused expression; she knew his blush was not due to heat.
Eruption 04: Inner Fire
It was something that he read about in the dragon catacombs, something that Sozin could do. Focused on teaching the Avatar, redirecting lightning and trying to make lightning, Zuko had never tried such a technique before, to manipulate heat.
He could manipulate his own body heat, but he was trying to take it beyond that. He circled the small flame with his hands, trying to manipulate its heat, to absorb it until it was extinguished. Zuko was so focused that he didn't hear Toph approaching just outside his door.
She rubbed her arms up and down and wondered why she felt so cold. The climate was not supposed to be particularly cold in that area, and there was a fire bender near by. In fact, she was feeling hot not too long ago. She quietly entered Zuko's room and asked, "what are you doing?"
Zuko snapped out of his deep concentration and heard Toph yelp. "Toph!" He didn't do anything, or at least he thought he didn't. There was no fire other than the tiny flame he was experimenting with on the small fireplace and she didn't have any burns. "Are you alright? What's wrong?"
Toph shivered uncontrollably. "C-cold..." It felt as if the very heat of her body was stolen away.
Zuko stared at her for a moment before reacting and feeding the fire to try to provide a source of heat for Toph. "I'm sorry."
"You-u?" Toph had never felt that way, she didn't know what Zuko did, but apparently he was admitting it was his fault since he apologized.
Zuko mentally kicked himself. He hated those foot in mouth moments, like when he mention he was the one who sent the assassin known to the Avatar's group as Combustion Man. "I don't know what I did, I was trying to learn how to manipulate heat."
"He-eat? With-o-out fire-e?" Toph couldn't get warm even if she was close to the fire.
"Yeah, I read Sozin could do it. Removing heat from a fire can weaken it, I thought it would be a useful skill to have in the Fire Nation, but it's harder than it looks. I think I accidentally took away your body heat, sorry." There was no use in hiding it, since he had already admitted it.
"You-u're a-an ac-cide-ent wa-it-ing to hap-pen, prin-cess," though her voice was cut off by her constant shivering, Toph managed to sound somewhat threatening, as if warning that she would get back at him for all his little accidents eventually. "Gi-ve it ba-ack."
"Your body heat? I don't know how..." At that moment, Zuko understood Aang's fear. He was always jumpy and nervous about using fire, he always held back, remembering the accident he had with Katara. Now Zuko didn't want to try to return Toph's body heat by means of bending out of fear of taking away more, and perhaps taking away her very life. He held her freezing hand and tried to warm it with his own. She moved closer seeking vital heat. He opened his arms and held her; she made no efforts to break away.
Zuko realized that he had stumbled upon a dangerous power and decided not to use it anymore. He would use it on fire if he mastered it, but for that he had to train alone, away from people who might be accidentally hurt. He would never aim such a power at a living being.
Zuko remembered Katara's tale about blood bending under the full moon. It was a story she had told everyone during one of Sokka's campfire therapy sessions, when he wore that fake beard, since several members of the group were not there at the time, and Katara herself insisted that sharing their fears and joys would help them become a better team.
Zuko noticed that the sun was at its highest point in the sky, maybe this was the equivalent deadly technique of the fire element.
Eruption 05: Caught in the Act
When Aang arrived to tell them lunch was ready, he paused and stared at the scene before him. Toph was sitting on Zuko's lap and they were tightly hugging each other. Aang's jaw dropped and he stared.
After a moment, Sokka went to see what was taking Aang so long. The first thing he saw was the Avatar standing in Zuko's doorway, with wide eyes and an open mouth. "You look like you saw a-" Upon entering the room, Sokka now could see what Aang was staring at.
Zuko's eyes snapped open at the sound of Sokka's voice. "She was cold! That's all, really!"
"Cold in a hot summer day, right," it was obvious Sokka didn't believe it.
Zuko didn't want to inform anyone else about his little accident, so he wasn't sure how to reply to that. "Toph, why didn't you say they were here, didn't you feel them with your earth bending?" Zuko had closed his eyes and tried not to feel awkward hugging Toph, until the position became comfortable.
"I knew they were here, Twinkle Toes has been there for a while and Sokka just arrived. But I didn't know we were supposed to be hiding. You make it sound as if we're having an affair or something." Toph was not easily embarrassed, and she had learned that Zuko was. It probably came from his growing up under pressure, and her growing up disregarding a similar pressure. This was only a small part of her revenge and she was enjoying it greatly, she wished she could see his expression, and Aang and Sokka's expression, they must all be priceless.
"I wasn't... that isn't... don't think that... nobody jump to conclusions!" Even if she couldn't see his face, at least Toph could hear Zuko's incoherent speech and be amused by that.
"Is lunch ready? I'm starving," Toph casually asked, while smiling from ear to ear.
"Oh right, that's why I came here. Aang was taking too long getting everyone to come eat lunch and Katara won't let us start until everyone's there." Though Sokka was still in shock, at least he could actually speak. He had decided to keep an open mind about Zuko, and Toph seemed to be alright with this, so Sokka decided that it would be okay in his book.
"Great, let's go, c'mon princess!" Toph ran off towards their usual dining room with Sokka following her.
The water tribe warrior stopped and looked back at Aang who had not moved. "Come on Aang, it's not the first time you've seen people kissing, snap out of it!"
"We weren't kissing!" Zuko defended, his voice echoed around the nearly empty temple, much louder than he thought. He cringed, Toph with her sensitive hearing much have heard that. Actually, it was so loud that maybe the others heard it too. Furthermore, Katara wanted everyone to eat their meals together, and it would be hard to come up with an excuse to skip out that she would accept.
"Right... Anyway, let's go eat lunch!" Sokka went on his way; he intended to directly ask Toph if she and the fire bender were a couple. It was something that Toph did not intend to accept nor deny, for the sake of bothering Zuko, and without a straight answer, there was only one conclusion Sokka could come to.
Zuko finally decided he might as well face his companions and try to have some lunch, even if his appetite had disappeared after that embarrassing misunderstanding. How could Toph keep a straight face so easily? "Aang, we really weren't kissing..."
Aang finally woke up and smiled. "No it's okay, actually it's great! Finding true love and all, it's wonderful and I'm very happy for you!"
Zuko sighed and shook his head. Misunderstandings were becoming his specialty lately.
Eruption 06: Revenge
When Zuko first joined the Avatar's group, he felt that he was constantly being watched, by an angry Katara, by an awkward Sokka, by a curious Aang, and by Toph in whatever mood she was in. Toph was the hardest to read.
Zuko had accidentally discovered the true potential of the power to manipulate heat. To steal one's body heat could signify death, if taken completely. He had accidentally left Toph shivering and clinging to life by only a little, though she was strong. She playfully got back at him and showed no fear and no intentions of avoiding him because of their accidents. Her feet were healed, her natural body heat recovered, and revenge had been fulfilled with an embarrassed Zuko.
Toph's revenge was a lot less physical than he first thought it would be. Zuko was not buried under a mountain of boulders, but he wished he was. Aang and Sokka had caught Zuko and Toph when he was trying to keep her warm, their interpretation was based on romance, and though the fire bender denied it; they only tried to be supportive to help him admit it. They refused to understand that there was nothing to admit, there was no secret affair, only vengeance.
Toph was calm, serene and amused. Zuko was constantly embarrassed by the group's knowing looks and remarks. This was entirely different from the beginning. They were no longer watching him out of distrust, now they simply wanted to know what he would do; they wanted to see the love story unfold.
Needless to say, Toph was rather satisfied with her vengeance, hearing everyone's comments and feeling the vibrations of Zuko shifting uncomfortably.
"I give up," Zuko decided that he had enough. He was constantly being teased and his temper was becoming harder to control. Before he incinerated everyone, starting with Sokka, Zuko needed this misunderstanding to be cleared. "What do I have to do for you to tell the truth?" It was clear that everyone would only believe it if they heard it from Toph, Zuko was just thought to deny things out of shy embarrassment and they refused to believe otherwise.
"I don't know, it's kind of fun hearing what everyone has to say. It's especially amusing when you go all tongue tied and don't know how to answer, and when Sokka tried to give you that man to man talk about girls and love." Toph couldn't help it but to laugh.
"Enough, I'm embarrassed, humiliated and mortified. I apologize for the accidents and I think I've been punished enough. When are you going to be satisfied? If this keeps up, I'll-"
"Blow your temper and incinerate someone?"
"Don't be a crybaby, princess," Toph never imagined Zuko could be this sensitive about being teased about her. She wasn't sure why, but somehow she liked it.
Zuko had enough, "fine, have it your way. Two can play this game."
"What ever happened to beginning forgiveness? If that's the way you want it, fine by me. Let's see who snaps first, but I assure you, it won't be me," Toph accepted the challenge.
It was a declaration of war, a very odd type of war. For the days that were to come, Toph and Zuko would be the most loving enemies.
Eruption 07: Dance
"Magma, earth and fire together, a volcano waiting to erupt; that is the love of Zuko and Toph!"
Zuko wanted so badly to kill Sokka at that very moment, that he seriously considered throwing away the Avatar's trust and siding with, well with himself; and just rid the world of the annoying water tribe warrior. However, the exiled fire prince, managed to hold his temper in check, if only so Toph would not receive the satisfaction of seeing him, or rather feeling him, lose his cool. "Thank you Sokka," Zuko managed to say with an air of sarcasm and clenched teeth.
"You're welcome!" Sokka smiled, either happy to be an annoyance or truly proud of his poetry. "I performed at a poetry theatre when I was in Ba Sing Se."
Zuko's opinion of Earth Kingdom poetry dropped like a boulder at that time. A small moment of silence passed and Zuko thought he would be able to escape to the privacy of his room, but he was mistaken. Zuko noticed that his companions were holding things that looked like musical instruments and they were musical instruments. He had never been a fan of music night.
"Let's dance!" Aang cheerfully called out as he pulled Katara to her feet, eager for a little improvised dance party.
Zuko still stubbornly held on to the hope of escaping, but Sokka, honestly making an effort to form something akin to a friendship with the fire prince, stopped him. "Aren't you going to ask Toph to dance?"
Toph did not dance, she rather liked listening to music, but Zuko got the impression that she did not like to dance, and he felt relieved with that knowledge. "I think we'll just listen."
Toph felt the change in Zuko's heartbeat and the stabilizing of his breaths, he was calmer, and she would not allow that. "Actually, I want to dance this time."
For the second time that night, Zuko had to resist the urge to kill Sokka and it was not easy. While Sokka and the others, played their instruments, and in Momo's case banged two rocks together at a rhythm, Toph hopped to her feet and took Zuko's hand, leading him to the designated area that was their dance floor, making it clear that she was leading, and if he didn't like it he better go along with it or face the wrath of an elite earth bending master.
Karma, it was karma, Zuko was sure; a punishment for all that he ever did to the Avatar and his friends. Maybe it reached the magnitude of everything the Fire Nation ever did to the world. All his ancestors' sins were being paid for by the prince in his endless humiliation and he didn't see the end of it coming any time soon.
Then Zuko noticed the sly grin that played in Toph's face feeling his clumsy footsteps. She felt his breaths and heartbeats that reflected discomfort and she was enjoying it. Determined not to let her win by any means necessary, Zuko tried to dance, though this was not how he was taught to dance. This so called dance was, in Zuko's opinion, not artistic at all, it was erratic and wild.
At Sokka signal the music slowed down, maybe influenced by Zuko's killer glare. The prince wanted it to stop, not slow down, but he was misinterpreted as wishing for a more romantic dance, and he would not be allowed to forget his supposed request, nor would denial serve any purpose.
Aang and Katara adapted to the new rhythm and pace, though Aang didn't seem to enjoy it as much, and neither did Toph. Zuko was at least thankful that, despite the misunderstanding, this was a dance he knew. Zuko tried to be optimistic, as a flood of memories returned to him. His mother had taught him a similar dance, elegant and artistic.
Toph had taken dance lessons against her will at the insistence of her parents, so she too knew how to dance gracefully and elegantly. She noticed Zuko's breathing becoming even and peaceful, his heartbeats reflecting a pleasant emotion.
Toph imagined that Zuko's eyes must be closed, and maybe he was remembering something. Maybe, just maybe, in his mind, they were not at an old deserted temple. Perhaps they were in his home, in a grand hall with a large orchestra and elegance all around. Maybe he was the prince again, or even the fire lord, and she was his queen.
Toph pushed the imaginary image away. She didn't know what was going on in Zuko's head, but he seemed to have calmed down enough to enjoy their little dance.
"Ouch, Aang, that's the third time!" Katara stopped dancing, and without realizing it broke Toph and Zuko out of their dream.
"Sorry, I'm just not use to dancing like this," Aang apologized for stepping on Katara's feett, but the music night seemed to have reached its end either way.
Even if Zuko and Toph would never admit it, they had enjoyed their dance.
Eruption 08: Unreal
I'm sure you've all heard of water conducting electricity, it is a well known fact. But what if electricity conducted water? Sometimes, in the dream world, logic is twisted and bent so much that benders and non-benders alike, can bend just about anything, even reality.
Zuko stood next to a small pond and called forth his lightning. He smiled at the light produced from his hands. He finally mastered it; he could bend lightning even better than his sister. He then directed the lightning at the water, surrounding it with electricity and moving it all around.
It was then that Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph walked by and stared, marbled at the image of Zuko, apparently water bending. For obvious reasons, Toph did not stare, not only because she couldn't see, but because she already knew what was going on. Ironically she knew it before anyone else who could actually see. Toph could feel the vibrations of the electricity carrying the water, and she smiled, happy that Zuko had mastered it.
Zuko realized he had an audience. Aang and Katara were staring wide eyed and open mouthed, while Sokka rambled incoherently about the illogicality of Zuko being able to bend water, and the possibility of two Avatars co-existing at the same time.
To all of this, Zuko simply replied, "electricity can conduct water," and as if they had remembered a vital piece of common knowledge, the group accepted what they had seen without further questioning, with a collective, "oh."
"For a second there I really did think there was another Avatar," Aang sounded like he hoped there was. Being the last of his kind was not easy; but even if he continued being the last air bender, then at least he wouldn't have to be the only Avatar. Yet the thought was silly, since two Avatars could not possibly co-exist in the world of the living as far as they knew, the spirit world was another story.
Zuko joined the group, walking next to Toph, and it was then that he realized where they all were. Why the fact eluded him before, Zuko did not know, but he decided not to give it too much thought. They ventured deeper into the large yet relatively simple, odd park.
There were swings and slides, and children playing, running and laughing. The atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed. As they walked, they saw something that caught their attention. There was a giant inflatable whale, with many kids jumping on it; it looked like so much fun! "I want to play on the whale!" Aang pointed at the gigantic inflatable toy with a big smile on his face. "Let's all go play on the whale!"
Oddly Zuko felt as if some unknown entity somewhere was watching them and being very amused with Aang's antics, but he didn't give it too much thought. The fact still stood, that the fire prince was not going to play on he whale.
"C'mon Aang, let's do something else." Katara dragged the Avatar away. Though she had to admit that playing on the whale did look fun, she was at an adolescent age where she felt she was too old for certain childish games, even if she still enjoyed them.
Toph shook her head, noticing Katara was, in a way, forcing herself to grow up, and dragging Aang along, which was inevitable for him anyway since he was the Avatar. Sokka made no comment about the whale, with his silence being a miracle in itself, as he walked along with Aang and Katara, followed by Zuko and Toph.
The group reached a park within the park, an area marked as reserved for a game of earth bending baseball, with boulders being thrown and pillars sticking out of the ground to bat the boulders away and make a the run for the hills that marked the bases. The baseball area was quite large, which highlighted the huge space that the entire park occupied, since the baseball area was only a section of it.
The bleachers surrounding the playing area were rather full. Once again proving that Toph had no trouble in perceiving her surroundings, even without seeing them, she easily found some empty bleachers and headed in that direction along with Aang, Katara and Sokka, who seemed to be exited about watching the game.
It was then that Zuko felt the presence of that unknown entity again, as if someone was watching him. Then he felt as if there was a voice in his head, it was a woman's voice but he couldn't quite figure out whose voice it was. It was not Toph, or Katara, and certainly not Azula, or Mai, or Tai Lee. Who it was he did not know, but she told him to go buy some snacks, more than he could eat actually. He did it, almost automatically and unconsciously; then struggled to carry everything he bought to where the group was sitting without dropping anything.
"You bought a lot of things," Toph felt Zuko placed his deliciously unhealthy purchases on the bleachers.
"You're planning to share, right?" Without waiting for a reply, Sokka snatched some popcorn and started eating it, under Katara's disapproving look of not even waiting to be told it was alright, though Zuko did not protest.
"Do you want some too?" Zuko asked Toph.
"Sure," naturally and casually, Toph picked up the snack food of her preference and ate. Zuko sat next to her to watch the game, and then he woke up.
Realizing that it was already day time, and the morning had nearly ended to give way to the afternoon, Zuko rushed to get ready for the day. Seeing his companions once again and seeing Toph, his mind went back to that odd dream and he came to a realization.
It was as if they were all in some kind of group outing, but as time progressed, little by little, with small shy steps, it would eventually turn into a date between him and Toph. Zuko was quick to disregard the thought; it was only a dream after all. Yet he couldn't help it but to feel, that someone somewhere, maybe beyond his world, was amused by all of that.
Eruption 09: Nicknames
As peaceful and apparently safe as the abandoned temple was, the group of young travelers knew they would occasionally need a change of scenery. It was one of those days when Sokka missed his grandmother's sea prune stew more than ever, and Katara didn't quite feel like cooking, not that she had any sea prunes to cook anyway, a fact that Aang was thankful for.
"Can't the princess just roast something?" Toph's complaints matched the growling of her stomach. She wanted food and she wanted it right away.
Zuko suspected that the earth bender became cranky if she was hungry, as must people did when hungry, but she was much more dangerous than most people in such a state. Still, he didn't appreciate being called princess, it reminded him of his sister, and he didn't want to be compared to her. "It's Zuko."
"Princess," Toph used the nickname again, defiantly.
Zuko was becoming quite frustrated, seeing as she was winning their little war before it really got started. He wouldn't allow that, he couldn't allow that. He decided to swallow his pride for the sake of victory. The truth was he was more easily embarrassed than Toph and he knew that. He accepted that little weakness after much thought, and decided to work on conquering it. Toph couldn't very well be immune to humiliation, Zuko assumed no one was. He pushed away any reminder of Azula and tried to look past his anger and frustration. "Fine, call me whatever you want my beloved sweet flower."
Toph raised an eyebrow, taking the sweetly spoken remark as a challenge, which was what it was truly meant to be taken as. "Aren't you feeling romantic today my dancing dragon?" Maybe if Toph made fun of his new favorite fire technique, Zuko would snap.
The new name was still somewhat annoying, but a welcome change from the last. Being called dragon, even if it was a dancing dragon, reminded Zuko of his uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West. It was definitely a better comparison than Azula. Although Zuko had forgotten Toph's ability to sense lies by feeling the vibrations on one's heartbeats and slight change in the breathing pattern.
"Like that name better, dancing dragon?" Toph grinned, proud of her abilities.
Zuko realized he was at a great disadvantage. He was by nature rather expressive of his emotions, which in the past consisted mostly of anger, but that was different now. Even so, his expressiveness had remained, if not increased. He was sure that Toph could easily see through his tricks with her special abilities, but that did not mean he wouldn't strike back. "Have I told you that you look like a beautiful porcelain doll?"
In Toph's book, that was low. Not only did Zuko mention Toph's looks, which she herself could not perceive beyond vibrations and thus did not care about despite Katara's efforts; but he also compared her to the fragile porcelain doll that her parents wanted her to be. Her anger boiled and the ground beneath the group's feet was filled with her energy, ready to burst apart. But the shake was so light and so repressed, that did not notice it at all.
From their points of view, Toph was flattered and maybe a little embarrassed, but nothing big. "Why thank you," Toph's reply was spoken through clenched teeth, but the audience, composed of Aang, Katara, Sokka and the others, only assumed it was all due to slight embarrassment from Zuko's public declaration of affection, and in no way due to anger.
Zuko felt victories, and Toph felt Zuko's change of mood, he was so very easy to read. She had to use that to her advantage, she refused to let him win, absolutely refused. "I'm sure you're very handsome, it's too bad I can't see you. But I guess I can always see you with earth bending," Toph approached Zuko confidently.
Zuko noticed right away that Toph had a counter attack to throw at him, but he did not turn away. He didn't even say anything; instead he stood his ground, or rather, continued to sit in his current position, and refused to react. He was sending the message that he was not afraid of anything she could dish out. He wanted her to know he could take it and strike back, he felt brave, maybe foolishly so.
"Or I could see you with," Toph gently placed her hands on the sides of Zuko's face, "tact." She could feel the heat of his cheeks in the palms of her hands. She would just have to teach the fire bender that he could not win against her.
Zuko was simply speechless. Whatever witty comeback he had in mind a mere fraction of a second ago, was now gone, as if the thought had never even occurred. Katara had a dreamy look on her face, watching the apparent romance take place. Sokka was surprised that fire and earth couple had already become so close, and Aang was simply amazed at the wonders of love.
Then Toph's stomach growled and broke Zuko out of his trance. The blank that filled his mind was replaced by thousands of racing thoughts that he couldn't keep up with, and he simply sat there until Toph removed her hands from his face.
The earth bender decided that her victory would suffice for the time being, and it was time to focus on tending to her hunger. "Let's get some food." There was an air of victory in Toph's simple request that made Zuko's blood boil, thankfully not literally.
"Right, food, I'm starving!" Sokka remembered his hunger now that the public display of affection had apparently cooled down, "forget the sea prunes, I'll eat anything!"
That was when it was decided that the group's mutual need for a change in scenery, their hunger and their unwillingness to cook, could all be solved by setting off on a journey to a restaurant; and so it was done.
Eruption 10: Table Manners
After arriving in a small town, the Avatar's group headed towards a restaurant, ordered some food and sat down to eat. Everything was apparently normal until they noticed the special attentions the young waitress was giving them.
"She knows who I am," Aang proudly concluded. He gave the girl a happy smile and listened attentively to her ramblings about waiting for her hero. "I'll do my best to restore balance to the world, and I know I can do it."
The girl disregarded Aang's heroic words with little to no interest. "Oh that's nice, but what I really need is my own personal hero, I just know he'll come for me some day!"
The seating arrangement in the round table had Toph next to Zuko, then Sokka, Katara and Aang, not counting Momo who was sitting on Aang's head and Appa who was outside. Sokka noticed where the waitress' gaze was heading and pointed at himself. "You mean me? We'll I kind of have-"
"A girlfriend? Well good for you," once again the waitress was unaffected. That's when Sokka realized that she was looking at Zuko, not him, and grumbled something about bad taste which thankfully, Zuko didn't quite catch.
Time went by slowly as the girl stalled in the process of bringing their meals, one item at a time, so as to make more trips to the table and have more chances of the talking to the young man with the golden eyes. Yet Zuko remained blissfully unaware of the advances. It was the story of his life, though several girls had expressed feelings for him, he either did not return them at all, or tried to return them thinking that he should, and failed miserably at keeping up the act for too long.
All the food was finally set at the table and everyone focused on their meal. The waitress occasionally walked by, even if it meant taking the long way around to tend to her customers in the other tables. Toph finally had enough and decided to end her silence. "Don't you realize what she's doing?"
The fact that she elbowed him, led Zuko to believe that Toph's question was not generally directed at the group, it was directed at him. "Yes, I noticed," well of course, how could he not notice something so obvious, "she must really want a tip."
The group stared at Zuko, with Aang, Katara and even Momo blinking. Sokka expressed his frustration with the fire bender by slapping his own forehead, as he often did when people just didn't get something that they should plainly know.
Toph simply shook her head, the saddest, yet happiest part being, that Zuko was completely sincere about his theory regarding the waitress. "You wouldn't know flirting if it hit you on the face." Toph's words were somewhat amused, more so when she felt Zuko's confusion.
There was that moment of silence, and held breath that always happened when he became confused. The carbon dioxide was not released to be replaced by a new supply of oxygen until Zuko either came out of his confusion, or automatically let out his breath and breathed deeply again in an involuntary function.
Momo made some noises, and hopped off Aang's head and onto the table, tired of waiting for the Avatar to hand him another piece of fruit. The flying lemur would get it himself while the humans busied their complicated little heads with their species' odd pre-mating rituals, as Momo would refer to flirting if he could speak.
Zuko was basking in his confusion, a feeling that had become so familiar to him it was starting to become annoying. What did Toph mean when she spoke of flirting? He took in his surroundings and tried to figure it out.
The waitress wasn't even in his thoughts, so he did not consider her when coming to a conclusion. The fire prince assumed that Toph was continuing their war, and that she had done something to get his attention which he might have missed. Then it hit him, table manners!
Toph was eating like she was taught today. She was hungry and possibly a little upset at her own stomach for growling when it did. Maybe eating slowly as her parents taught her and reminded her her whole life, was Toph's way to force herself to control the hungry noises, while at the same time filling her stomach.
"I see..." Just as the group had thought that Zuko noticed the waitress, his thoughts were flying elsewhere. Zuko assumed that Toph was being lady-like at the table because she wanted to show she could fit into royalty. He did not notice this at first and thus did not reply to her supposed challenge. Well, he wasn't going to give her the last word. "Toph, I'm sure you'll make a great queen one day." There, that should make it clear that he had not given up.
Toph paused, blinked despite it not making much of a difference, and concluded that Zuko's mind was far more complicated than she had ever imagined. Whatever was going on in Zuko's head, Toph could only interpret the compliment as a challenge. "Is that a marriage proposal?"
The angry screams of several customers were heard, as the waitress clumsily spilled their food on them, in shock from what she overheard.
Zuko paled, he did not understand how Toph was able to turn everything he said against him, but he would not give up. "For the future," was the only thing he managed to say at the time, but he would get even. One way or another, Zuko intended to seek payback.
Sokka was open mouthed, Aang gasped and Katara sighed and went off on a mental trip to happy-happy lovey-dovey romance world. The water bender was seeing the relationship between Zuko and Toph in a new light; she was starting to see them both in a new light as well.
Aang summarized the group's thoughts rather well, "wow."
Eruption 11: Food Fight
The customer, whose clothes were soaked in hot soup, grabbed a chicken leg from her sibling's plate and started hitting the waitress on the head with it. The waitress slapped the chicken leg away, causing it to go flying and collide with the chest of a young woman sitting in a neighboring table with her boyfriend.
Trying not to laugh, the young man picked up a napkin and attempted to help clean the barbeque sauce off his date. With the war cry of "pervert!" the young woman punched her date in the nose, effectively breaking it, and sending the poor man tumbling down.
The man tried to hold on to the edge of the table to avoid the painful fall. His hand rested on a spoon placed at the edge of a large bowl of ice-cream they had been happily sharing not so long ago. The spoon served as a catapult, sending a scoop of ice-cream flying into the face of a muscular man in the next table.
The strong, tall, muscular man angrily got up and picked up the younger man by the shirt. Upset that someone other than her was about to beat up her boyfriend, the young woman delivered a sift kick to the muscular man's behind with her odd pointy shoes.
The large muscular man screamed like a little girl and ran around in circles holding his behind. He ran into another waitress who was dumbly staring at the show. The tray she was holding went flying, with the meal falling all over the place and the dessert, a banana split, landed on Zuko's head.
The fire bender angrily got up, but the Avatar was quick to stand in his way. "Calm down Zuko. Remember how you said you didn't want to draw your power from anger anymore?"
"I didn't have ice-cream on my head when I said that!" Zuko yelled in Aang's face.
Aang stepped back and swallowed. Katara felt the need to intervene. "If you would just stay calm, I'm sure there's a better solution for all of this."
"You're right, and I know what that solution is," Sokka had a serious expression, with the glow of hidden genius in his eyes. But the expectations for a smart solution were soon dissolved when Sokka tossed his steak into the air. "Food fight!" Everything went into chaos from there.
Aang felt the need to help restore peace to the restaurant, since he was the Avatar. But it backfired and he ended up covered in everything from hot sauce to ice-cream. They decided that it was best to let the chaos calm down by itself and escaped while they still could.
A short distance away from the restaurant, the Avatar's group was leaving of trail of pieces of food as they walked and brushed it off their bodies. Their clothes, especially Aang's, would be terribly stained, they were sure of it. Being the resident water bender, Katara often did the laundry; she certainly wasn't looking forward to that.
"I want your banana." Toph was the first to break the silence.
A young man who was passing by overheard and stared at the young girl with wide eyes.
Zuko realized that the banana from the ice-cream dessert was still sitting on his head. All those hours in the past of practicing walking like a prince with books on his head gave him the ability to walk around with a banana, or another item, on his head without dropping it.
The random passer by laughed and shook his head, then continued on his way, smiling about some obscure joke that no one else caught.
Zuko took the banana and quietly gave it to Toph who ate it.
They stopped in front of a small food stall and got some snacks, since they didn't get to finish their meal. "What are you ordering, Toph? They have-"
"I know, I can smell it," Toph interrupted Aang's question. "I think I'm alright with what I ate at the restaurant and the banana." Unlike the others, Toph had witnessed the series of events that started the food fight with her earth bending and continued her meal while doing so. The others had left their food unattended to stare at the domino effect that ended in a massive food fight.
Those who wished to finish filling up their stomachs, bought some food to eat along the way, plus edible supplies for later. "Are you sure you don't want to eat either?" Aang noticed Zuko didn't seem to have any intentions of ordering something.
"I'm not in the mood to eat anymore," Zuko replied with a pout.
"You being cranky is not good, and most likely not safe," Sokka shoved a small fruit salad bowl into Zuko's hands. "Have a fruit salad!"
The fire bender managed to mutter a thank you and follow the group as they continued out of town and hopped on Appa.
In mid air, Zuko thought of a great way to relieve his bad mood, taking revenge on Toph. She was a bit surprised to feel a cool piece of fruit pressed against her lips. "Try it, it's good."
Toph could sense Zuko's challenge. He was stubborn and refused to give up, she should have known. She gracefully ate the piece of apple, lips gently brushing his fingers, and she thought she felt him tense up at the contact. Honestly, Zuko was too easy to read, being close made him nervous, it was so obvious.
Toph decided to remind him just who was going to win their secret little war and scooter closer resting her head on his shoulder. "Pretty good, but you need to eat too." Toph reached for the salad bowl and missed it on purpose, instead tracing Zuko's hand around the bowl. She felt his grip start to loosen and took the bowl before he dropped it.
That's how it went the entire way back, with Toph and Zuko feeding each other. Zuko realized that he was getting too nervous around Toph, and vowed to break her nerves of steal. The first step was to put an arm around her shoulders and hold her close. Zuko thought Toph would have to start feeling awkward eventually; she simply had to, but she did not.
To be Continued
Disclaimer, I don't own Avatar: The Last Air Bender. Eruption 08 is based on a dream. Thanks to ThumperMiggles for the idea behind the restaurant scene in Eruption 10.
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