Her First Kiss
"That's an interesting rock you have there."
The girl made no sign of hearing Suki— save for a curious pulling of her lower lip, distorting the thin line into a terrible grimace. A dark metallic rock hovered above the bender's hand, smaller than Suki's fist— but no less dangerous. It was hard to believe that this short girl was capable of the mighty feats Sokka had ascribed to her— but there she was, calmly defying the laws of nature, bending a chunk of metal.
Maybe Sokka was right, Suki thought, impressed with the show. Taking the fact the girl hadn't sent her flying as a backhanded welcome, Suki hiked her skirts above her knees and settled beside the cantankerous girl. A fine cloud of dust rose, settling down on Suki's hands and clothes. It was hard to see if any had landed on Toph— the girl was positively covered with dirt. But sitting this close to Toph, Suki was surprised with a delicate aroma of fresh lotus filled her nostrils.
Despite her grubby appearance, Toph actually smelled like a girl. Which, Suki thought with an inward smile, was better than Suki had smelled when Sokka (and everyone else) had rescued her.
"Not much for talking, are you?"
The small lump descended into Toph's hand; her small fingers clenched tightly around the object. Suki watched, fascinated, as the girl's hand opened to reveal a beautiful golden bracelet, which she nonchalantly pushed over her upper arm. No words were spoken, but the slump of the girl's shoulders told Suki all she needed to know.
"I wasn't much, either, when you and the others found me," Suki continued, eyes never leaving the tilted face of the blind bender. The grimace was gone, replaced with an immovable mask. But between the shadows of her dark bangs, Suki could make out surprise in Toph's pale green eyes.
So Toph's eyes weren't useless— only, Sushi thought with a sigh, to the girl who wore them.
Suki pulled her eyes away from Toph. It was hard to believe Suki had been in a prison only two weeks before— and harder to believe, sometimes, that she was free now. But now was not the time to dive back into the harsh memories Azula had forced upon her. "I couldn't touch anyone. Couldn't look anyone in the eye. Everything felt wrong— just talking to people was awkward and hard, because who would understand what I had gone through?"
A snort— proof the blind girl was paying attention.
"So I stayed away, kept to myself. But I was stupid," Suki concluded, shaking her head so hard her tassels struck her chin. "Because avoiding people just made things worse."
Toph's mouth opened wide, face flushed a vivid red, and Suki prepared herself to be thrown from her seat. But no attack came, and the bender's mouth stubbornly shut again.
Suki breathed deeply— getting injured again was why she'd followed Toph.
"It wasn't fair what Katara said back there. But by running away, you gave her words power, let her know she was getting to you. And that isn't something the girl Sokka has told me so much about would do."
Toph gently reached up to touch the bracelet, closing her eyes tightly. "I don't want to talk about it." She finally croaked out, tilting her head down. A thick thatch of black hair fell, obscuring her face.
Suki shrugged— wondering, idly, if Toph's ability to sense vibrations would pick so subtle a motion. "You don't have to. But if you do want to talk, you've at least got another woman at the camp besides Katara."
That brought the earthbender's head up, twisting to point half her face towards Suki; her ear, Suki assumed, was trained right on Suki's mouth. "Why are you being so nice to me?" Toph demanded in a blast of surliness.
"Because you saved me. And because Sokka says the two of us are a lot alike. I can see he's right— I've got a bit of a temper, too."
Toph said nothing, but her face was no longer so vividly red, and her flat palms drumming lightly against the dusty earth. Catching vibrations? Suki couldn't tell, but the small gesture was reassuring— fists meant pain.
Suki sensing her absence in the camp would soon be noticed (which would send Sokka running, and that would just make things worse, what with Katara still healing the broken nose he'd earned trying to calm Toph down), so she stood, patting the dust from her clothes. "And don't feel so bad, Toph. No matter what Katara says— first kisses aren't everything."
"You didn't waste yours on the wrong person," Toph grumbled, leaning her head back, unfazed by the bright sun above.
"No. But hopefully you'll have plenty more. And now you'll make sure to give them to the right person." Suki smiled, then impulsively held out her hand. "Come on, lets go back to the camp. I'm sure Katara's ready to apologize— and her groveling is going to be entertaining."
Toph's head leaned farther back, her hands tapping the earth again, this time with exaggerated care. Then, unerringly her hand snapped out and clutched Suki's, exerting so much force to pull the small girl up that Suki nearly fell down. Toph's eyes were still hidden beneath the short forelocks, but her smile was thin and wide.
"Yeah. I guess, if it had to be someone else, I'm glad it was you and not Katara— she smells like fish."