A/N: This is the continuation to Lava and Hurricane, so if you haven't read those, go read those first. I decided to go back to my strong pairing and what I had in mind needed another pov, so please, R&R! Thank you.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar.
She woke to the sounds of voices from the side room where the two baths were. Rolling over, she could make out Katara and Suki speaking quietly about clothes and dresses and how to make a great impression to a guy. Toph smiled as she thought about when she had worn the dress for Zuko in Omashu.
His reaction had been more than she had even hoped for. She had wanted to wear a dress again for him, but not while they were on the verge of attack. Now that they were safe for the moment, maybe.
She sat up, thinking about dressing nice for once out of her own desire and heard and felt the little girl, Jasmine, and The Duke playing tag up and down the hallway. With a smile she also felt the vibrations of Zuko's footsteps walking down the hallway and dodging the younger kids outside of her room. He paused outside her door, but continued on as Katara and Suki came out of the second room.
"Good morning," Katara said, seeing Toph up.
"Morning Sweetness," Toph replied, stretching. "Is there a bath for me?"
"Yes," Suki replied. "It's ready whenever you like."
With that, Toph hurried into the other room, stripping her clothes and earthbending all of the dirt off of her before getting into the warm water, sighing as her muscles relaxed.
"Katara," she called once she was settled. "Can you come here for a second?"
She heard Katara come hesitantly to the door between the two rooms and step inside.
"Yes, Toph? What's wrong?"
Toph grinned. "Nothing Sweetness. I just wanted to ask you something."
She heard Katara sigh as the waterbender relaxed and almost wished she could feel her heartbeat. She loved teasing them all, but had to get down to business.
"Can you help me dress nicely? In a dress?"
Katara's breath drew in sharply but when she spoke, Toph heard a smile in her voice.
"Of course Toph! But…why?"
"I just want to look nice," Toph said, shrugging. "Thanks, I'll be out in a bit."
Katara took the hint and hurried out of the room and Toph could hear her rummaging through their belongings as Toph relaxed in the tub. The water was getting cooler, but it was still nice and warm, just like Zuko.
Her thoughts went to the night before, after they had come back from rescuing Jade's daughter and defeating the Combustion man, Hou Long. Zuko had led her to the boys' room as Sokka, Suki and Aang and Katara had gone their separate ways. Zuko had sat her down on one of the beds and took her hands in his.
He had apologized for everything he had done in the past that had hurt her and promised to be more forthcoming and honest in the future. She had laughed at the honesty remark, saying that she could tell when he was lying. He had then told her that if she wanted to be left alone, he would give her space, to which she promptly replied by grabbing his shirt and pulling him in for a kiss.
"No, no space, only you," she had told him as she cuddled into his embrace.
They had talked through the afternoon as they sat together of their pasts and their hopes, but out of an unsaid agreement, did not talk about the upcoming invasion and final battle with the Fire Lord. They had been interrupted, along with everyone else by Jade's entry into the house and then been sent to bed by Liz, the other Kyoshi warrior.
Toph sighed as she felt a warm feeling in her heart as she rose out of the tub and toweled off. She then felt Katara hurry back into the side room. The waterbender grabbed her hand as soon as she had the towel wrapped around her and pulled her into their room, exclaiming on how beautiful she was going to look. Toph smiled and let Katara dress her, and then do her hair and makeup.
"How do I look?" Toph asked her when Katara finally exclaimed that she was done.
"Beautiful," Katara sighed.
Toph smiled, but put her hands on her hips. "No, Sugar Queen, explain it to me. How do I look?"
She felt Katara lean back as she examined the earthbender.
"Hmm, you have a light green dress on with just a faint pattern of roses. There's three shoulder knots of darker green holding it closed on your left shoulder. You look like a porcelain doll with light creamy skin, gorgeous red lips, and just a little bit of green eye shadow. Your hair is like black silk, falling to your waist and the dress brings out curves that make you look like a woman."
Toph smiled. "Thanks Sugar Queen. Now lets' get out there and surprise some guys."
Katara giggled and led the way out of the room. Toph followed, reaching out with her senses for the others. She found them all at the dining table except Suki and Jade who were in the kitchen. She walked gracefully with the stride her mother had taught her that made her look like she was gliding into the room and heard everyone quiet down.
Toph knew they were all staring at her, but only Zuko's heartbeat was erratic, beating much faster than normal. Toph grinned at him and went to sit next to him.
"So, what do you think?" she asked him as normal conversation started around the table again.
"Wow," he whispered.
Toph grinned even more as his heartbeat seemed to speed up as he looked at her.
"Don't over exert yourself, Hothead," she whispered to him. "Wouldn't want you to die of a heart attack."
She smiled as Jade and Suki came in with breakfast and Zuko took a deep breath to calm himself. Toph heard Aang and Sokka snickering across the table. She was still smiling as she got some toast and fruit from the trays in font of her, and moved her foot, earthbending, and causing Aang and Sokka to fall on their backs.
Toph heard the girls snicker as the two boys sat back up, grumbling. She was sure they were sending dark looks her way and was glad she couldn't see them as she continued getting breakfast. Zuko also laughed quietly at the boys, low enough so that only Toph could hear.
"So Jade," Aang asked once Jade was seated. "What are your plans now?"
Toph turned her attention to the former assassin as everyone quieted and did the same.
"I think I'll try a quiet life now," the woman stated, and Toph knew from the affectionate tone in her voice that she was looking at her daughter. "I'd like to learn the ways of healing now, just as my father did."
"I'd be happy to teach you," Shawn stated with pride in his voice.
"Thank you, father," Jade replied.
Breakfast went quietly after that and the conversation moved around from where they would head next to training sessions for Aang. Toph put her two cents in occasionally on the training aspect, but knew that Zuko was waiting to get away and be with just her. She felt the same way and as soon as The Duke and Sokka started clearing dishes, she and Zuko excused themselves to the front room, away from the others.
"You look gorgeous," Zuko whispered as they sat on the cushions in the corner of the room.
"Thanks," Toph whispered, ducking her head as her face heated up. "I'm glad you like it."
"What's the catch?" he asked, and she knew he was smirking at her.
She gave her best innocent look and acted astonished. "Why would there be a catch? Can't I dress nice if I want to?"
Zuko backed away and she knew that he knew she was lying. He leaned in close again, his mouth centimeters away from hers.
"There's always a catch with you," he whispered. "So, are you going to let me know, or do I have to pry it out of you?"
Toph grinned wickedly and moved a little closer, just enough so that they still weren't touching. "Pry away."
She felt his hands leave the ground and was sure he was going to pull her in for a kiss, but instead, he poked her sides, tickling her.
"Hey," she said between laughs as his hands became surer and the tickling intensified. "No fair."
"All's fair in love and war," he stated, and she heard the smile in his voice.
"Oh, so it's war you want," she said, twisting out of his range. "Then its war you get."
Toph jumped at Zuko, tackling him to the floor and tickling his sides. He started laughing and was reaching to tickle her as well. His laughter was music to her ears, a rare sound that she found precious. She evaded as much as she could, but he had a longer reach and was tickling her too much. Toph backed away and started at his feet, pulling his boots off. Zuko sat up and was about to reach and tickle her sides again when a loud, urgent knocking sounded at the door.
"Coming," Shawn called from down the hall.
Shawn came and passed them and she was sure he was giving Zuko a stern look as Zuko hastily sat up and tugged on his clothing, running a hand through his hair. Toph was about to laugh at him as the knocking continued, but she became aware of the people on the other side of the door.
"No, not now," she whispered, her smile turning into a frown instantly.
"Who is it?" Zuko asked as Shawn opened the door.
"Sir," Lao Bei Fong's voice came, "I want an explanation as to why my daughter was fighting that criminal and why she's staying here of all places."
"Of course, Mister Bei Fong," Shawn said as he opened the door further. "But I think you're daughter would be the best to explain everything to you. And young man, you would be…"
"Master Tawn," the boy said, his voice breaking as he followed Lao Bei Fong inside.
Zuko growled as he sat up and Toph could tell he was glaring at the boy who claimed to be her fiancé. Toph placed a reassuring hand on Zuko's arm and rose to greet her father.
"What are you doing with that piece of fire nation scum?!" Lao Bei Fong cried as he saw his daughter rise.
"It's none of your business, old man," Toph stated. "I don't want to talk with you if you're going to talk that way about my boyfriend."
Toph turned to leave, but her father yelled at her. "Don't turn your back on me! I want to talk to you, now! You are going to come home and be a loyal daughter and do what's right for your family."
Toph turned and sent a glare to her father. "I am not going to be a good, loyal daughter and come home to marry that imbecile! I am going to help my friends and end this war. Get out, now."
Her voice turned low and deadly as she and her father glared at each other. She felt Zuko stand and the boy step away from him as Zuko walked past him and approached her.
"You don't need to listen to this," Zuko said as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
His voice was hard as steel, as his face was turned towards Lao, but Toph also heard a softer undertone meant for her.
She smiled up at him when she felt his breath on her face as he turned back towards her and she placed one of her hands on his.
"No, I need to do this."
"All right," Zuko said as he stepped back.
Toph heard and felt Aang and the others come into the room behind her and survey the scene. She turned back to her father.
"I told you I would only talk to you if you wanted to speak reasonably. Since you don't, get out, and take that imbecile with you."
"How dare you," Tawn stated.
Toph turned to the boy, a smirk pulling at the corner of her mouth. "I dare, little boy. I've faced men four times your size and won. Now I told you before, get out."
"No," Lao said. "I will not leave without my daughter."
"Sorry, old man," Toph said, frowning at her father once more. "But you're daughter isn't leaving."
"You claim you're the world's greatest earthbender. Will you face your father?" he asked.
Toph thought there was something different to his tone. He was still angry, but it was more controlled. Also his tone had that demanding touch to it when he faced his competitors, and his heartbeat was calm and even. She felt a little nervous, but didn't let it show. She'd show him who she really was.
"You bet, just tell me when and where."
"Now, outside, and to up the stakes, if I win, you come back home and marry who I want. If you win, you get to live life the way you want."
Toph thought there was a catch. Her dad's heartbeat was too even, but she knew she could win.
"You're on, old man. I'll be right there."