A/N: I needed to write more Kataang, so you get this. It's from Toph's perspective, so it's sort of a different view. Rating is PG-13 if you tend to... I don't know, make the best use of presented imagery. Nice!
I actually wrote this out and typed it up, but then my harddrive crashed, meaning that everything I'd written of the past year was gone. How wonderful! I'm just glad my most important original stuff were backed up, so I only lost my WIP's. D:
Also, note that they are their normal ages in parts one and two, but part three is five years later. Please note this please!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Thanks for reading!
Three Times Toph Saved Kataang
Part I: With Words
Straight-faced and contemplative, Katara slid the door of the Ba Sing Se room closed and plunged the room into almost complete darkness. Her hands fumbled around the wall until they found the lamp and spark rocks, whereupon striking them she lit a small flame and turned to her blind friend. Both were donned in their finest robes, having just returned from the Earth King's Bear's party, but neither looked as if they had attended a celebration of any kind. On the contrary, in addition to their fancy clothes, each girl also wore a heavy frown. While Katara assumed Toph's was from their most recent news, Katara hadn't thought much about Long Feng's speech since they'd left the grand ballroom.
"I'm worried about Aang."
Toph turned around in the soft glow of the lantern's dim light, one eyebrow furrowed upward in bemusement. "Come again?"
"I'm worried about him," Katara sighed.
After taking another moment to light another lantern, she approached the bedside. Toph had already begun unceremoniously pulling the fancy (and expensive, Katara thought with a wince as she heard a number of the stitches pop) dress off. Once stripped to her underclothes, Toph took the dress in one hand and held it out at arm's length as if it were disgusting, then deposited it on the floor.
"Aang, I mean. Did you see his face after we left the hall?"
"Looked fine to me."
Katara, in her worried state, missed the sarcasm completely. Pulling the dress over her head in one graceful, fluid motion, Katara turned her back to Toph (more out of habit than anything else; it were not as if Toph could watch her get changed, and they were both wearing underclothes anyway) and said, "Well he's not—I can tell. Every time I looked at him during the party, his face was all red. And he wouldn't even keep eye contact with me, like he knows I know he's sick!"
A particularly amused snort made Katara spin around and state at the back of her friend, bewildered.
"What's so funny? He could be sick!"
Toph shook her head, simultaneously pulling the headpiece from her hair with a wince. "He's not sick," Toph assured her. She tossed aside the headpiece and gave her whole head a shake. Katara frowned.
"So what is it?"
"It's you, Sugar Queen," Toph said simply.
"Me? But why—"
Toph's shrugging shoulders caused Katara to end her sentence without finishing her question, a look of dawning comprehension spreading across her dimly-lit features. It seemed so obvious now that she wasn't quite sure why she hadn't realized it hours—no, weeks—before. She'd thought about it before, obviously, but only in a fleeting sort of dreamlike way. Now she stared, so deep in thought that she was only half aware that she was watching Toph struggle as she attempted to force her head through the sleeve of her shirt. Once Toph realized her error, she muttered "stupid shirt", corrected the problem, and pulled it over her head the right way.
"D-do you really think so?" asked Katara, hesitantly.
"I know so," Toph answered, tugging on one of her long braids to free her hair. "He's crazy about you. I feel his heart jump every time he sees you, which is pretty impressive since we all live together. And you know what else? You're not so innocent yourself."
Katara trailed off, all too aware that her cheeks were red. Her eyes watched but did not really see, following Toph's hands as she guided the tunic into place and tied it off. Katara searched her mind for the words, but came up empty. After all, the sudden jolt in her stomach—tingly in a pleasant way, but also apprehensive—had said what words could not.
Part II: With Love
First, there was an annoying buzz in her ear. She swatted it with a vague, half-hearted wave of her hand, mouth twitching downwards with a grunt of pain, unaware that the noise was not a bug but a very concerned Avatar. Slowly, his incoherent tones began to materialize into words she could understand through the fog in her brain as she regained consciousness.
"Oh my—Toph! Toph, can you hear me?" His voice was higher than usual, almost childlike with panic and relief. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Judging by the low hum of machinery all around and the moderately nauseated feeling in her stomach, Toph assumed that they were on a ship, far out on the ocean. Unfortunately, she had no idea how she had gotten there, or why Aang was presumably waving his fingers around in front of her pale face.
Toph coughed feebly—her sensitive ears were already on the fritz, and Aang sounding like a scared little girl wasn't helping matters much—and made an attempt to bat away his hand from her face, but as soon as she jerked her arm up an explosive pain erupted in her side. Toph gasped. It was like fire, searing from the side of her right hip all the way up her side to her underarm, where when the searing ended a numb sort of sting remained. The clatter of a chair toppling over told her that Aang had shot out of his seat and was most likely doing a worried dance in place.
"Ah, you're still hurt! Hold on, I'll get Katara and she'll—"
"Aang—" Toph tried, but he would not hear her.
"Just wait one second Toph, I'll be right back and—"
Suddenly regaining the feeling in her right arm, Toph reached blindly out and snatched at the first part of Aang she could grab, which happened to be the side of his tunic.
Aang began to protest—at the slightest move on his part, a stab of pain jolted her entire side and she winced—but she did not relinquish her grip on him and he stopped moving, helpless against her even though he was three times as strong at the moment. Instead of running, he nodded once, turning to face her.
"Sit," Toph ordered.
Aang sat, gently finding her hand and prying her tight fingers from his tunic as he sat the chair up the right way. She released her hold with a pained expression, and he gently took her hand in his from where he sat. He was trembling, she could feel, but she was not so sure why. All she could remember was a sudden feeling in her heart, a desperate sensation, and then a shockwave of agony and nothing more. Aang, reading her expression, sighed where he sat.
"What happened?" she asked, hesitantly but without fear.
Instead of replying, Aang countered, "What do you remember?"
A thoughtful pause ensued as Toph closed her blind eyes in an attempt to remember. Finally, though, she could only respond, "Not much, I guess. We were fighting in the palace, and the Comet was due any second, and..." she trailed off. Then, suddenly, her eyes grew wide and she exclaimed, "You! And--and Azula! You were focusing on fighting with Ozai, and then Azula tried to get you with lightning from behind and I... and I...l"
She couldn't say it aloud. Sure, she had gone forth willingly (albeit without thinking much beforehand, in a mere second), but the magnitude of what she had done did not ring properly in her mind until Aang, his voice soft and filled with awe, reached her first.
"You saved me, Toph," he breathed to her, his hand closing more tightly on hers where it sat on the bed. She pursed her lips. "Azula tried to hit me and you jumped between us with a barricade, only it broke and hit you instead. You almost died! Actually, you probably should have, and you definitely would have if Katara and the rebel medics hadn't been able to save you."
Toph felt numb all over, save for the still-throbbing side. So much had happened, so why wasn't it all clear to her? Upon thinking a little harder, the images began to piece together in her mind—the feeling of necessity, the sound of Azula's lightning, the pain—but they only caused Toph to realize how stupid she'd been, acting on raw emotion without thinking first of the consequences.
"Didn't sound as heroic when I did it," she observed to herself, softly. In truth, at the time she'd hardly put more thought into it than 'Aang has to live' before she'd jumped. At any rate, she was paying for it now; she made to sit up, stifled a small gasp, and dropped herself back again.
"Well it was," said Aang sternly. "And we almost lost you. If the Fire Nation wasn't so advanced, you wouldn't have made it."
"What did they do?"
Toph heard him give a contemplative sigh, imagined that he was scratching the side of his head in thought as he leaned his elbows on the creaky bed.
"Well, they had this—this machine powered by steam, and… well, I'm not sure how it worked, exactly—Sokka and the mechanic did most of the technical stuff with the group of medics—but I guess they plugged it into your arm—" Toph pointedly ran her fingers over her sore arm, but felt nothing there, "—You lost a lot of blood during the fight, and nobody could help you until the Fire Lord and Azula were taken care of, so when we finally could help you without getting killed, you were already half dead and unconscious. Katara was trying to heal your side when we rushed out to the nearest place with medicine, and when we got there they rolled out this machine and we tried it."
Toph, who had been listening silently without expression, felt her eyebrows shoot up, her head cocking slightly in his direction. "What do you mean, 'tried it'?"
Aang let out a nervous laugh and replied shyly, "I… was a sort of experiment, you could say." Toph made to sit up all of a sudden, but Aang, being swift as he was, forced her gently back down by her shoulders and added hastily, "But we were sure it would work—pretty sure, I mean—a-and if we hadn't tried it, you would have died!"
Even so, Toph couldn't suppress a twinge of annoyance at being the object of an experiment, though it had apparently worked in her favor (she hoped, at least; for all she knew, her feet had fallen off and she hadn't felt it yet). She made another, more calm attempt to sit up and this time Aang assisted her, slipping an arm around her back and helping her to sit upright against the wall. She sighed, winced, and grabbed her right side with the opposite hand before shaking her head once.
"So how did this—machine thing work, exactly? Does it make blood or something?"
"No, it just transfers it," Aang answered, voice lighter with the change of subject. "And it worked, which means it's a medical breakthrough that can help all sorts of people! You just need someone to give the victim some of their blood, or else you can't do anything."
"Oh." She made to cross her arms, but stopped upon realizing that it would only hurt more. "So who's the lucky person who got to give me some life?"
She felt Aang shrug as he replied, very simply, "Sokka." He paused. Toph became oddly silent, stricken by the one word. "He sort of passed out halfway through, but besides that it went really well." When Toph said nothing—Aang didn't seem to realize that her silence was a pensive one, and missed completely the unreadable expression that crossed her features—he continued, "But anyway, you've been unconscious since then."
Her face turned in his general direction, and she asked, "How long was I out?"
"A few weeks," he replied, then stopped. Both he and Toph had recognized the familiarity of this very conversation, and neither liked the prospect very much. Nevertheless, he shook it off and finished, "We took care of all the final agreements with Zuko—well, I guess he's Fire Lord Zuko now, but Sokka wouldn't stop calling him Zuzu—and we're on our way to the South Pole for a quick stop before we go to the Earth Kingdom for a little while."
Finally, after a dignified cough to clear her throat, Toph regained her voice. "So it's all over, then?"
"Good, I was—agh!"
Toph's side suddenly have a very strong objection to her trying to move and she, caught off guard, contracted forward with an uncharacteristic yelp. Aang shot out of his chair again as if in the last few moments he had forgotten that she was injured. Meanwhile Toph gasped for breath, clutching at her side as splitting pains began to spread up and down once more.
"What am I doing, sitting here and talking!" he cried, shocked at his own carelessness. "I've got to get Katara—"
At the sound of Aang beginning to run for the door, Toph struggled to regain her breath long enough to shout his name. When she did, his feet stopped just short from the door, his hand already extended for the handle. He, torn between listening to Toph and helping her, cast a pained look over his shoulder at the heavily-breathing Earthbender.
"Aang, wait! About Katara…"
Aang gave a nervous hiccup, dropped his arm from the handle, and turned around. "Yes?" he responded warily.
"You know, I jumped in front of you for more than one reason, and Sugan Queen is one of them."
"… I know," said the Avatar, at long last.
"So did you do anything about it?"
A pause. Then: "I told her."
"And?" she pressed impatiently.
"Toph, I… thank you," he sighed, defeated but not unhappy. "So much. You have no idea what you did."
Toph smirked and gave her side a pat, then grimaced. "Oh, I know."
When he spoke next, she knew that a slight, sheepish smile had crossed his face. "If you hadn't done what you did, I would be dead now. I would never have gotten the chance to tell Katara how I felt about her, and I never would have known that she..." he trailed off. "It was great."
Through the twinges of pain, Toph managed to smile. "That's great, Aang."
"Can I go get some help for you now?" he pleaded.
Toph waited until the door had opened and closed again before allowing her head to fall backward against the metal wall, her arm still clutching at her side. The price had been this agony for however long as well as several weeks of her life, she thought, blinking tears back from her eyes and turning her head away from the door so that nobody entering would see the smile spreading across her face, but it had been worth it after all.
Part III - With Persuasion
"You know, I think I can go for another one."
Toph shook her head at her companion, whose steps were already slightly off balance as it was.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Sokka," she replied calmly, reaching out and grabbing his sleeve when he tipped sideways. "I've got such a headache right now—I couldn't even have two drinks!"
"That's true," he replied, nodding. Sokka had only had two drinks (damn lightweight, she thought) and his perception was already slightly distorted.
"All I want," she continued, her arms stretching out and up, back arching. She gave a small sigh, then relaxed, "is to have Katara heal my headache, and then I want to go to sleep."
"And then we go out tomorrow night?"
They pair was now walking up the front path that lead to the apartment, the last light of day sinking below the house they shared with Aang and Katara to make way for the first starts of night. A pleasant breeze wafted by in the perfect silence between them.
"Yeah, tomorrow maybe. Even though tomorrow we've got to leave for the Fire Nation and Zuko's 'The war is over for five years, so let's get together and make boring speeches' party. Maybe we can escape early and go harass the bartender."
"Sounds like a good idea to me!" exclaimed Sokka.
Toph almost laughed, but as she opened her mouth to do so, her feet stopped abruptly just short of the wooden porch steps that lead to the front door. A very distinct thump! had reverberated out of seemingly nowhere, so faint that Toph would not have bothered to pay attention to it had she not known exactly what it meant.
She wanted to smirk, but the next second Sokka collided with her abrupt halt and she realized that there could be some trouble—Sokka had a reputation of attacking people who caught him off guard, even after just two drinks, though she wondered if this habit was more of an excuse to harass people, for he could think more or less straight even then.
Next to Toph's sensitive ears came a noise, so faint through the several doors that Sokka could not have heard it. This time she did smirk, but more with terror at what they had almost barged in on. Apparently Katara and Aang had abandoned their cleaning and had moved on to much more... exciting things. By the sound (and feel, she noted with a slight twitch), they would not be expecting an intrusion for quite some time and Sokka, who didn't know any better, would surely have some choice words and maybe a weapon demonstration with them if he were to find out exactly what was causing that noise.
"Hey Toph, what'sa matter?"
The aforementioned lightweight, having just noticed that Toph had stopped in her tracks, scratched his head in confusion. Another thud followed, then the sound. Toph felt her jaw clench, a blush rising in her face. Of all the times she had to come home early with a headache...
"You arite, Toph?" asked Sokka hesitantly.
"Yeah..." Toph turned around suddenly, and Sokka stepped backwards in surprise. "You know what? I think we should go back to the bar."
This sudden turnaround prompted a suspicion from Sokka, who had objected to leaving the bar in the first place. His blue eyes narrowed to slits in the looming darkness, and he dropped his face closer to hers to better scrutinize her blank expression.
"What about your head?" he asked. She could smell those two drinks on is breath, but it only made her head twinge worse instead of make her crave a drink like is usually did. In truth, her head was still pounding, but she could do nothing about it if she wanted to save Katara and Aang from certain death via machete.
Toph sighed. "It's feeling better now—I think it's because that drink is finally kicking in."
Sokka raised his eyebrows; Toph almost let out a sigh of relief at the change in position of his frame, and then a second later he concluded, "You look kind of sick, Toph. I'll just go get Katara and then we can go back to the bar." In other words, the two last things she wanted to do at the moment.
With that, Sokka bolted for the door, tripping only a little over the three steps. Toph, frozen with horror, didn't find her voice again until he had reached the door and grabbed its handle.
"Wait!" She exclaimed hastily. "Sokka, don't—"
Sokka pulled the handle, only to find that it wouldn't budge. They both stopped.
"Why's the door locked?" muttered Sokka to himself, now sticking his hand in his front pocket. "And where did I put that key...?"
"Sokka..." At least they had been smart enough to lock the darn door first, Toph thought with a scowl as she bounded up the steps and pulled him sharply around by his sleeve. A brief look of confusion flitted across his face. "Sokka, I don't need Katara's help, I need rum. Now come on."
She gave his sleeve another tug; Sokka stumbled slightly towards her, but otherwise did not move, one hand still clenching the door.
"But you said—"
"I know what I said!" she countered quickly. "But I really want a drink all of a sudden and Katara and Aang are probably really really busy having—cleaning, I mean—and it takes a long time to heal a headache, so why bother?" She paused to take a deep breath, the first since her ramble, setting her gaze somewhere near his face. "So let's go. I'll pay."
Although she could not see it, she was sure that his face held a torn expression. For a few seconds, she thought she'd won him over, so when he sounded unconvinced, Toph was entirely surprised.
"I don't know, Toph. I've you're sick and we've got to walk all the way back into town, then we might as well at least bring Aang and Katara."
Time for plan B, Toph mused. Turning sideways at an angle to him, Toph lifted up the side of her tunic to reveal part of the long scar that ran from her hip to her underarm. The instant reaction was that Sokka's eyes immediately dropped to the patch of pale, exposed skin on the side of her waist.
"I'll let you poke my scar..." she persuaded in an almost teasing tone. Generally speaking, she liked to keep it to herself (unless, of course, she required leverage for bragging rights at the bar), but desperate times called for desperate measures, and if the cost was letting Sokka put his hands on her, then she wasn't going to argue.
"Ooh..." Like a child persuaded by candy, Sokka dropped his hand from the door handle and began towards her, his eyes moving up to her smirking face. "I do love poking," he said, considering. "And you never let people touch your Azula-lightning scar!"
"Nope," Toph replied with an ironic grin. "Nobody but you, Sokka. Come on, let's go." Once she'd leapt down from the porch and dropped her shirt back to normal, she felt the ground tremble beneath her feet again. Sokka, after some quiet consideration in which Toph prayed that he wouldn't hear the couple inside, ultimately hopped down beside her and began for the path.
"Let's go get some rum!" he cheered.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Toph started after him with only a moment's hesitation. They had just come to close to chaos that she had begun thinking up a good eulogy for Aang, but with a little sacrifice on her part, everyone was happy—Katara and Aang for sure, with one another, Sokka with his drink and poking rights.
Toph winced as a bolt of pain coursed through her head, followed by a jolt as Sokka began to sing one of his favorite bar songs in a very loud, very off-key voice. Scowling, she grudgingly began singing along with him. Everything for friends, right? At least Katara and Aang didn't have to die, and she would never have to explain exactly how she knew what they were up to.
'You two owe me,' she thought, then Sokka hit a particularly terrible high note and she grimaced. 'Big time.'
A/n: So yup, that's it! Er... I basically combined three ideas I've been wanting to write into one story, thinking that it would be sort of cool to show Toph interact with each other main character as she "saves" Kataang, or has a conversation about how she has saved Kataang. At any rate, in case you're wondering, Kataang is still my favorite, even though I write a lot of Tokka. It's got the LOVE, man!
Anwyay, thanks so much for reading! Crit is welcome, unless you're going to make a snarky comment on blood transfusions because I TOTALLY thought of that already, haha!
Also, if you've seen the trailer, you must be as pumped as I am. Honk if you want your Avatar NOW!