First of all, I just wanted to say thanks for all of the nice reviews and favorites I received from my first Avatar one-shot. You guys really made my day because of it.
Okay. Basically, I watched the NYCC trailer. Not only did I feel lasting effects up until now, but my brain went into overdrive and this entire story took a sharp turn with all of the new twists the trailer had to offer. I personally am irritated with the way the Avatar people seem to enjoy screwing both Kataangers and Zutarians over, but I do have to admit that, while I'm a Kataang shipper and firmly believe that footage in the trailer was simply put out of context, I'm glad to see that Katara doesn't seem so out of character anymore and is finally warming up to Zuko as a friend. (Yes…that's what I perceived it to be while watching the trailer. Not all that "OMG EVIDENCE THAT ZUTARA'S GONNA HAPPEN!" nonsense.)
On another note, I'm especially glad they had that scene with Katara and Zuko going bending-crazy with those rocks. I had already typed out something similar to it by the time I watched it, as you'll soon read, so all I really had to do was tweak a few things. Yay for coincidence!
Anyways, this one's in Toph's point of view. I seem to enjoy having her in my Kataang stories. Happy reading!
Ever since I was little, people have always had this annoying perception of me, like I can't do anything on my own simply because I was born without the ability to see. I guess I can't blame them, though. If it weren't for the pure brilliance of earthbending, that's probably what I would've been – a helpless little blind girl, doomed to live the rest of her life with her overbearing, overprotective parents.
But with earthbending, I'm far from being helpless. I'm even far from being blind. With earthbending, I see things better than any person with eyes. I sense things that people don't even notice within themselves. If you had asked me about my gift of earthbending before I left on this crazy "Avatar adventure", I would've said I was luckiest blind girl in the world.
Ask me now, and I'd tell you that the world just loves proving me wrong.
"Okay, Toph, all set!"
I heaved a groan and slid off the boulder I had been resting on for most of the morning. Today was the first time we were attempting a three-way bending training, since Twinkletoes had been the only one getting all the special treatment lately. And as luck had it, I was the one who got to push up some rocks from the ground and let everyone else hone their skills.
Well, not everyone. My foot shifted a bit on the ground, trying to feel out where the others in our group were. Those three that joined us after the invasion are always disappearing during the day, so far off exploring that I can't even sense them anymore. Today wasn't any different.
And then there was Sokka, practicing with that stupid sword of his on the other side of the temple. My eyes narrowed in annoyance when I felt the vibrations of a light, girly, and undoubtedly delighted laugh. He was showing off. To her.
"Toph, are you alright?"
I blinked and hastily turned my attention back to Katara. "Yeah, sorry." I raised my hands and slid my feet into position. "You guys ready?"
Three nods, and hearts beating in anticipation. Yep, it felt about right. Without another word, I sent an army of pillars shooting out of the ground, and the training began.
It was a war of bending, to put it lightly. All three of them were back to back, casting fireblasts and waterwhips and air slices so quickly that it probably looked like nature's greatest elements gone wild. All the racing heartbeats and temperature changes from hot to cold…it was hard to keep track of, I have to admit, and I was beginning to think that this wasn't a good idea after all.
As soon as the thought left my mind, a bunch of things happened all at once. Aang let out a small shout and left my radar, and in response I sent a pillar high into the sky where he had been standing. At the same time, though, Katara gave a sharp intake of breath. Both she and Zuko abruptly stopped bending. Then I was hit with a heaping wave of emotions - I could already tell from their breathing patterns that Katara was both terrified and dangerously pissed, and Zuko was apparently regretting it, big time. As for me, I was a little confused, to say the least.
Then I heard rock connect with solid, Aang's grunt of surprise and pain, and another one of Katara's gasps.
Uh-oh. That didn't sound good.
The pillars disappeared into the ground in a flash. Katara sprinted off to the left and jumped into the air, Zuko right behind her. And then they were all back on the ground in a heap, Aang tight in Katara's grasp and Zuko crushed beneath the both of them. Their heartbeats were so loud it almost made me deaf.
"Uh, guys?" I asked hesitantly. The emotions and temperatures and heartbeats were only heightening. "What's going on?"
I could have been talking for a wall, for all they cared. Katara quickly got to her feet and let go of the airbender, a glowing hand already hovering over his bruised chest. Zuko pushed himself into a sitting position, his breathing a little shallower than usual.
"I'm sorry, it was an accident!" He blurted, pulse racing. He was obviously panicking. "I didn't mean to burn him!"
Oh. Now it made sense.
Katara didn't give any indication that she had heard him. She placed a hand on Aang's shoulder and gently pulled him towards her, reaching around to heal the burns that apparently ran across his lower back. Aang's breath hitched in his throat, but not because of the healing process. I rolled my eyes when I felt, not one, but two pounding heartbeats.
"I-I'm okay, Katara, really." He insisted nervously, and I felt Katara shudder from his warm breath brushing against her neck. I suppressed the urge to gag. No matter how much I silently rooted for those two airheads, this was gonna make me sick.
Apparently I wasn't the only one. Sensing the discomfort, I turned my attention to Zuko, who had gotten to his feet and was watching the two in awkward silence. He rubbed the back of his neck uneasily. "Uh…"
"It's alright," Katara interrupted quietly, her back still facing him. "I know you weren't intentionally trying to hurt him." She sighed, sounding defeated. "This whole 'three-way training' just didn't work out as well as we thought it would, that's all."
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. Sugar Queen being nice to Hotman was definitely something new. Hotman himself must've been thinking the exact same thing, because I felt his whole body tense up even more in shock. He slowly let out the breath he was holding and continued to stare at her. I didn't need to see his face to know that he probably looked beyond confused.
"Uh…thanks," He finally managed to say. "For being so forgiving, I mean. I…well, I really appreciate it."
At the word "forgiving", I felt Katara bristle, and I raised an eyebrow again in interest. Aang must've felt it too, because he suddenly let out an uneasy laugh and took Katara's hand in his. Her cheeks flared and her heart skipped a beat, but she remained silent, and still incredibly tense.
"It's no problem, Zuko," Aang said brightly, and I was slightly amused at the nervous tone hidden beneath it. "Uh, can you excuse us? I need to talk to Katara for a bit."
Without even waiting for his answer, he raced away with Katara in what felt like a gust of wind, leaving Zuko to stare after them, probably with the same confused look from before. A few moments later, he turned to me, and I felt him jump in surprise. "You –"
I gave him a smug grin. "Yeah, I'm still here. Forgot about me, didn't you?" Before he could reply, I shoved a hand in front of his face. "Sorry, Zuko, you're either gonna have to keep quiet or leave. I'm trying to eavesdrop here."
He was silent for a moment, then let out a sigh. "You know what? I think I'll just go…drink some tea or something," He mumbled, and with that he was gone. A sad smile flickered across my face for a split second at the thought of a wise old friend, and I immediately felt sorry for brushing the poor guy off.
"Katara, are you okay?"
Oh. Time to tune in. I knew I shouldn't have been listening, but the curiosity was getting the better of me for once, and that's what this gift of mine was for, right? I earthbended a pillar to lean against and adjusted my ears a bit to hear the conversation more clearly. Apparently Aang had whisked the both of them off to the far edge of the temple.
"Hm? Yeah, I'm fine." Katara sounded evasive. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, if suddenly being nice to Zuko wasn't enough, you sort of almost turned around and unleashed your waterwhip on him."
"Oh." There was a moment of silence. "Right." She let out a weak laugh. "That obvious, huh?"
Aang sighed. "Listen, Katara, I know this is hard for you. And you know, I gotta say that you're actually doing a pretty good job of getting along with Zuko right now." He paused. "Well, sort of, besides that last part."
Both of them went silent again for a moment, and I waited a bit impatiently. This was turning out to be less interesting than I –
"I just…I can't help it, Aang."
Her voice was so soft that I almost didn't catch it, and I actually walked a few feet in their direction to hear the conversation a little better.
"What do you mean?"
Katara let out an exasperated sigh. "I try to trust Zuko, I really do! I've tried to forgive him, to be nice to him, especially since he's helped you out so much with your firebending…but…"
Her voice dropped down to a whisper again. "But…every single time the two of you train together, it's like I'm watching him trying to capture you all over again. And…I know him burning you was purely by accident, but the moment I saw it happen...it was like I had lost you all over again, too." Her voice began to break. "And then...he talked about me...forgiving him for it, and I just…snapped…"
If she had wanted to say anything else, it was completely forgotten, because Aang had pulled her into a tight embrace. Suddenly, I felt like I shouldn't have been eavesdropping anymore. Unfortunately, my earthbending instincts kept me rooted to the spot, and I couldn't have moved even if I tried. Oh, what a convenient time to be an earthbender. My eyes rolled at the irony.
"I'm so sorry, Katara," Aang said softly, running a hand through her hair. It was apparently all he could think to say, though, because there was another long moment of silence that followed. Well, silence for them, at least. All I could hear were the deafening heartbeats jumping out of both their chests, and frankly, it was beginning to drive me a little insane.
Katara must've felt it, too, though, because she hastily pulled away a moment later, temperature skyrocketing. "I-I just remembered, I didn't even get to finish healing your burns –" Swiping at her eyes to brush away the tears, she quickly uncorked her waterskin and pulled him close again, reaching around to his lower back.
Except that she didn't make it that far, because Aang had caught hold of her wrist halfway there. Her breath hitched, and the water fell to the ground with a splash, forgotten.
"I'm fine, Katara," Aang said softly. "I've always been fine with you around."
They were unbelievably close, those two, and their combined temperatures along with the earsplitting heartbeats were almost unbearable for me. So I guess it shouldn't have been so surprising that I pretty much fell over from the shock of Twinkletoes and Sugar Queen locking lips for the very first time. It was way too much to handle, and I practically sprinted back to camp just to get away from the madness of unspoken emotions.
Zuko was sitting by himself in front of his makeshift fire when I got back, tea kettle in hand. "I wouldn't eavesdrop on those other two, if I were you," He stated simply, jerking his head towards the backside of camp before pouring the hot liquid into the tiny cup beside him. "Trust me."
It was too late for that, of course. The racing heartbeats and explosion of temperatures invaded my senses all over again, and the thought of him making out with her made me absolutely livid. I slammed my foot into the ground once before dropping down next to Zuko, who handed me a cup of steaming hot jasmine tea without a word.
Needless to say, the resounding thunk of rock hitting head and Sokka's girly shriek of pain were the most wonderful sounds my senses had taken in all day.
A/N: Yes, I am aware that Aang and Katara have kissed already by this point. But, seeing as Toph doesn't exactly know that and this is in her perspective, I'm sure she'd be very freaked out to be "feeling" their so-called first kiss, don't you?
But finally, it's finished! I may NEVER write in first person again, it's so incredibly difficult to keep someone like Toph in character while still telling a story like this…
So, how was it? Good? Bad? I'm not too sure myself. I started out loving this one shot, then by the middle I absolutely hated it and wanted to trash it completely, and then it was like half-ashed redemption near the end. I'll really have to wait a while before I read it again and decide for myself.
Anyways, reviews are appreciated, as always!