Quick Author's Notes: Personally, I think Toph was overreacting with the whole burned feet thing. I mean, come on, Zuko was just being defensive. I'd lash out too if anyone woke me up from a nap…
At any rate, this was written in response to the latest episode, "The Western Air Temple". Because I've concluded that Toph and Zuko would make a wonderful couple, screw my love of Taang and Tokka!
Change of Heart
He was a mysterious and poor boy, Toph thought. She wondered what he was like. All the others seemed to hate him, and from what Toph gathered, they had good reason to. This boy was the one who had been chasing after them, their main enemy for so long…it was probably very hard for any of them to be the least bit trusting. But he wasn't Toph's enemy. Toph only had a vague idea of who Zuko was. He was a Firebender; not just any Firebender, the Firebender: the crown prince of the Fire Nation, older brother of the treacherous Azula, nephew of the wise Iroh, son of the horrible Lord Ozai. Enemy of the Avatar, as was his father and grandfather before him.
Toph was good at sensing feelings. She knew things. She knew that Zuko led a difficult life. She knew that he strove to be good. With a sister and a father like that, it was really no wonder he was so messed up. Toph wondered about his mother. Was she just as bad? Or was she good, like Zuko wanted to be? Toph didn't know, and she didn't think Zuko was going to tell her any time soon.
Later that night she went to visit him again. Even after being "accepted" into the group, his bed-room was the farthest away and closest to the sheer rocky face of the cliffs. He was slumped over the cracked marble balcony, arms waving absently, his head lying in the crook of his arms. Toph heard him sigh; she could feel the tiny motion brush against her feet. He mumbled something, but she could not make it out.
"Zuko," Toph said. He gave a start and whirled around.
"What do you want?" He snapped, but then quickly recoiled. He bowed his head. "Sorry. I-I didn't mean to be rude. Don't go away."
"I'm not going to go away," Toph assured him. She folded her legs comfortably and leaned against the door. "I just wanna talk to you."
"Why?" Zuko asked, and Toph thought that this was an excellent question; why was she here? Even she didn't know. She shrugged one shoulder absently.
Zuko ran a hand through his hair. Toph concluded that his hair must be long, but not quite long. She blew a strand of her own hair out of her face, uncomfortable with the awkward silence. Zuko was uncomfortable, too; his stance was defensive and too still and tense for a relaxed person. He wanted to say something, but for some reason he was holding back.
"You want to say something," Toph spoke up. "Say it."
"I can't," Zuko replied. "It would be…mean…and I want you people to know that I'm a good person…"
"I know you're a good person," Toph said. "It's the others you need to convince. Especially the sugar queen. I think she hates your guts."
"I know she does," Zuko said glumly.
He sounded so...defeated. It tore at Toph's heart. Her facial features softened somewhat as she straightened up and hesitantly walked to where he was on the balcony. The summer night air was surprisingly cold; autumn was coming. The cold marble of the balcony deck pierced her feet sharply and her shoulders shook slightly. She went over to where Zuko was.
Zuko was looking at her questioningly, but Toph paid him no mind. Instead she traced a pattern in the cracks on the railing, moving her finger idly, her expression solemn. Zuko, she noted, relaxed a bit and tilted his head upwards to stare at the stars. The silence between them was warm and comfortable. For a long while neither spoke, lost in thought, merely enjoying each other's company. When Zuko finally started speaking, his voice was soft and quiet, almost a whisper.
"You know," he said, "I've never learned your name."
"It's Toph," Toph replied simply, with a hint of a smile tracing her lips. "Just…Toph."
"I'm Zuko. Just…Zuko."
Toph gave a bitter laugh, a retort on the edge of her tongue—'Just' Zuko, not Prince Zuko?—but she bit it back. Something in her heart told her not to ruin the moment with sarcasm.
Instead, Toph reached out so the tips of her fingers were touching Zuko's. Toph was not a very affectionate person, and fingertip-touching was unusual. But it was not unwelcome. His fingers and hands felt nice. One could tell a lot about a person from their hands; his were callused, with long since healed over burn scars and rough skin. He knew what it was like to fend for yourself, and he knew about the pain of failure and the pride of accomplishment.
"You have nice hands," Toph said. "They tell a lot about yourself."
"Oh?" Zuko said, genuinely surprised.
"Yeah," Toph said, and gave him a smile. A real one, with no hint of bitterness or defeat. God knows that Zuko already has enough of that in his life.
It didn't quite turn out like I expected. Certainly not my greatest story, I think…but it turned out better than I thought. I wanna write sum more Zuko x Toph...
By the way, the change of heart the title is referring to is Zuko's, despite the story being set in Toph's point of view.