Rating: K+ for swearing
Summary: Zuko has fears. Toph fails to allay them. Meanwhile, Aang still hasn't learned firebending. Spoilers for the Western Air Temple.
A/N: Here's fair warning for you lot, this is silliness that might border on crack if I didn't think this conversation might actually take place if only Avatar weren't a kids show. This features spoilers for the events in the Western Air Temple, and is meant to take place sometime afterwards. This will almost certainly be proven far, far out of canon by the episode afterwards, but I enjoyed writing it, so maybe you all will enjoy reading it.
"Have you noticed," Toph posed casually one day, nearly startling him with her odd ability to tower over him despite the fact that they were pretty much the same height – when he was kneeling or in a meditative stance, "that Katara has been hogging an awful lot of Aang's training time lately?"
"Nngh," responded Zuko, because he'd been in the middle of a meditation-turned-daydream about Mai. He was not pleased about being disturbed, but he also knew better than to further alienate one of the few people who'd been friendly towards him.
"And have you also noticed," Toph continued doggedly, tapping one foot as she considered the waterbender and the Avatar training in front of them, "that Aang continues to express interest in firebending, even though you've done next to nil to teach him?"
"Hmm." Zuko nodded, vaguely more coherent.
"And finally," Toph finished off, her voice still keeping that quasi-casual tone even as she threw herself down onto the ground next to him and brought one foot up to her chest. "Has it occurred to you that you've done absolutely nothing to stand up to her? Because Aang sure isn't going to."
"Why haven't you said anything?" Zuko inwardly cursed himself for the defensive tone.
"Hey!" Toph flicked a piece of lint at him. At least, he hoped it was lint. He hadn't been paying attention to where she'd picked it from. "You're the firebender. Don't you specialize in positive jing? We earthbenders are the masters of neutral jing."
Zuko was silent for a long moment while he watched Katara and Aang train. He wasn't exactly sure if Katara was putting Aang on a grueling training schedule or if she was merely trying to prove to Zuko what she could do, but today's session was particularly brutal. Aang's face was flushed and he already looked tired, but Katara's eyes were bright, and she was already directing Aang into a new stance. Then, he took a deep breath, and said quietly, with the most heart-felt honesty he'd managed to convey since he'd asked the Avatar to allow him to teach firebending, "I think she wants to kill me."
"Really?" Toph exclaimed, and Zuko couldn't tell if the surprise in her voice was because she was genuinely astonished by the news or if she was disappointed that Katara hadn't asked her to assist. Then, after a minute of bobbing her head and considering the idea, she sucked in a breath between her teeth as if trying to dislodge a piece of food and finally wondered out loud, "I wonder how she'd do it."
"Huh?" There was definitely an alarmed tone to his voice, but that had not been the response he'd expected from the little girl. He wasn't actually sure what kind of response he'd been waiting for – Toph wasn't the type to clutch at her bosom and demand that he carry her off to the fainting couch – but he hadn't been expecting musings upon how his suspicions might actually come to fruition.
"Well… to drive Katara to murder, I don't think she'd be subtle about it." Toph laid back completely, her head pillowed on one forearm as she stroked her chin with her free hand. "I don't think she's the type to slink into your bedroom all stealthy like in the middle of the night – though I think she could do that if she wanted to. But I think if Katara decides to actually kill you, she's going to want you to know she's doing it. I'd expect a head-on confrontation."
Zuko mouthed at her silently as she continued her torturous musings. "Still, I'm not sure how she'd actually do it. Bloodbending freaked her out –" Zuko felt a chill go down his spine at the mere suggestion. "- so I'm thinking maybe an icicle through the eyeball or something? It's interesting to consider."
She trailed off, a dopey little smile on her face, and finally Zuko swallowed hard. "I don't know if I should worry more about you or Katara," he finally remarked wryly.
Toph granted him a wide, toothy grin in response. "Oh you don't have to worry about me killing you," she said cheerfully. "I'll just dig your grave."
Zuko sniffed and pulled himself back into a meditative stance, trying hard not to growl low in his throat and instead making a noise resembling a choking catowl. The blind girl was being ridiculous and he had better things to do than sit there and listen to her. It wasn't like she was making him nervous or anything – no sir. He was merely irritated with her general existence.
There was a full five seconds of peace, and then Toph arched her back and prodded him in the shoulder with one of her bare feet. "Hey," she said sharply, "Can I ask you something?"
Zuko gritted his teeth and banished thoughts of Mai to the recesses of his mind once again, hoping that this time he could actually get rid of the blind girl. "Yeah?"
"Well." Toph paused as if considering her words carefully, and once she spoke again Zuko saw why. "Sokka told me you have a big honkin' scar on your one eye."
"What about it?" Zuko asked warily, wondering if he was going to have to throttle the Watertribe warrior so soon after it appeared they had made a tentative truce.
"Well I was just wondering." Toph stopped to think again, and then haltingly continued, "I mean, you can't have much feeling around there, right?"
"Not really," Zuko said shortly.
"And it wouldn't really provide any protection if Katara shot an icicle through your eye." Toph was chewing on her index finger now. "But like, if you got punched in the eye, would it hurt?"
Zuko looked at her, then up at the stone cavern they were currently housed in, then back at the recumbent girl. "I am a Prince of the Fire Nation," he said haughtily. "People generally don't punch me."
"Fair enough," Toph conceded, sitting up again and drawing herself to her feet. "Well then," she muttered, patting down her thighs and knees and turning away from him.
With a relieved sigh Zuko drew himself back into a meditative position one more time and closed his eyes.
He never saw it coming when Toph slugged him.
"Ow!" he protested, falling onto his back with both hands clapped over the offended eye. "What was that for?"
"That was for being the worst example of positive jing I've ever met!" she bellowed, hands settled firmly at her hips. "Now!" she ordered, jabbing one impatient hand behind her towards Aang and Katara, who by now had stopped what they were doing at the sound of Toph's yelling. "Go over there and stand up to the Avatar's waterbending teacher and prove you're worthy of teaching him firebending!"
And with those words she stomped off, storming back into the temple.
Zuko sat up, still holding his injured eye. "Damnit," he cursed to the earthbender's retreating form. "That was my good eye."