So. It has arrived. The last chapter. I just wanted to say that I love every single one of you that left a review. You are what kept me writing and if it wasn't for you I would have never been able to keep up my once a week (most of the time) updating. I thank every single one of you for leaving a review. For those who haven't yet: this is your last chance. XD
So here you go. Knock yourself out.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar
Toph could feel Katara watching her like a hawk and it was getting uncomfortable. Okay, she had said she would tell Zuko but that didn't mean she was going to do it here and now. No, she would take her time in this, preferably forever.
She hated feeling this way, hated feeling so trapped and helpless. Love was stupid, it was a stupid emotion. It made you so dependant on another person. She was Toph, she carried her own weight. But the most stupid thing about love was that it made you want to feel this way. It made you want to be dependent; it made you want to wait for that one person to speak to you, to touch you, to be close to you. It made you want the whole thing, the ups and downs, the emotionality, all of it.
Piece of shit. Toph growled and felt like kicking the wall but that probably wasn't such a good idea. It would provoke unnecessary questions from the rest of the group.
The four of them were currently at Zuko and Toph's house outside of town since Katara had demanded to see it. Zuko had been reluctant to go at first, not wanting to leave Iroh all by himself but the Waterbender-Healer and the Doctor had finally managed to convince him that it was perfectly safe.
So they were touring the house, which seemed suitably delightful to both Katara and Sokka and then Katara and Toph had sparred a round with Zuko and Sokka (they were becoming quite a team). But in a way it was more difficult for Toph to interact with Zuko now that she had admitted she loved him. Sometimes she thought she could feel his gaze on her and heartbeat would quicken, blood rushing through her and pounding against her temples, making it so much harder to concentrate on anything.
However it wasn't only Toph that was struggling against a horde of feelings. It was Zuko as well. Ever since Sokka had declared him to be in love with Toph yesterday he had set about analyzing his own emotions, trying to come to a conclusion.
What he felt for Toph was like what he had felt for Mai but whether that made Sokka's statement any less true he wasn't sure. Toph was important to him, that much was certain. She was important and she had become a part of his life, a driving force, something that wouldn't let go.
Toph was just so there, pushing him when he needed to be pushed, keeping him from falling into the brooding that was so nature. She wasn't afraid to attack head on, him or anyone else, to say what she thought. She had, in way, become a core part of his being.
So yes, he did love her. He loved her for being who she was, for being there. But he didn't only love her, he needed her. Zuko was very much, well not exactly afraid but apprehensive, of what would happen to him if Toph ever decided to pack her bags and leave.
And here was the crux of the whole situation. As much as Zuko loved Toph, as much as he wanted and needed her to stay, there remained the fact that she had been forced to come here against her will. She was here for now, but if she ever decided that something else was better Zuko held no doubt in his mind that she would be up and out of here in a moment.
In a way it wasn't fair of him to place this love he had for her on her. It would seem, to him at least, like he was trying to tie her to him in order to make her stay with him. It wasn't fair to Toph.
Suddenly he became aware of Toph and Katara whispering together intently. The four of them were sitting out in the garden, tired from their sparring match, and they had been talking but Zuko had lost track of the conversation at one point, too caught up in his own thoughts.
Zuko glanced at Sokka who shrugged.
"Don't ask me," he said, "The conversation sort of died down after you went off thinking and I was just laying here enjoying the sun. Then Katara and Toph start whispering and at one point the whispering turned into hissing and that's where we're at now."
"Huh," Zuko looked at the two. Toph was glowering at whatever Katara had been saying, "Hey what's going on?"
Two heads snapped in his direction. "Nothing," Toph growled, though there seemed to be a light tone of red reaching her cheeks.
"Actually," Katara sprang up, "Sokka and I are going to look for something to eat since Toph has something she wants to tell you."
"I do not!" Toph sprang to her feet, glaring at Katara.
"Yes, you do," the Waterbender rose as well, "Come on Sokka."
Willingly at the mention of food her brother pushed himself off the ground and since Zuko felt silly as the only one sitting he followed the suit. The two siblings moved away towards the house, Katara shooting Toph one last look. Even though the Earthbender couldn't see it she crossed her arms defensively and glared back.
Zuko looked at Toph who pressed her lips together, seemingly determined to remain silent. But he was curious now, what could Toph have to tell him that she didn't want to say?
"Well?" he asked softly but Toph's face remained silent. He looked her for a while then his gaze shifted, wandering our over the garden and to the house. Katara and Sokka had already disappeared inside. Hopefully they would find something to eat quickly, Zuko thought, because this situation was more than slightly awkward.
"Listen up 'cause I'm only going to say this once," Toph spoke suddenly, her face furrowed. It was her prickly, outward expression of toughness.
"I know this is going to sound strange, especially coming from me," she said, the words pouring out of her mouth too quickly, "since I was the one who was going to leave in the first place. But yeah-" she stopped, trying to find the right words to go on, to express what she felt. Zuko's gold eyes had snapped back to her face, drinking in her words, not letting anything escape him.
"I don't know…I've grown really comfortable here and I guess it's a good place to stay. If you want me to that is," she added hastily.
"This is your house as much as mine," Zuko sounded slightly confused, "you can stay as long as you want."
"That isn't what I meant," Toph growled, slightly angry. Why was he making this so much more difficult than it needed to be?
"Then what did you mean?" Zuko's voice was growing thick and husky.
"I meant-," she ran a hand through her hair, tugging at a knot, "I-damn it- I love you Zuko, okay? I fell in love with you and I want to stay here." Her voice almost broke at the last bit, but just almost, because this was Toph and Toph's voice didn't break and she wasn't going to cry, not even as she stood here waiting for Zuko to say something, waiting for the second love of her life to reject her, waiting for her heart to break, but she wasn't going to cry, she wasn't because she was Toph and Toph-
Suddenly Zuko crossed the few steps that separated them and put a hand on her shoulder. Now, Toph thought bitterly, now he's going to say something like 'you're a very good friend Toph but-' and then Zuko pulled her to forward, leaned down and kissed her.
And within a heartbeat Toph was kissing him back and suddenly it was all worth it. Everything, the whole being-in-love, was worth for this. For this knowing that the other loved you back and wanted you. For this kiss that was receiving as much as it was giving, that was sweet and strong and then Zuko wrapped his arms around her, pulled her closer and broke the kiss, laying his head onto her.
"I wasn't going to say anything," his voice was husky in her ear, his head heavy on her shoulder, his breath softly tickling her hair, "It didn't seem fair to me, like I was trying to make you stay because I loved you."
Toph laughed, at him a little bit, a lot because she was just so happy, "I guess it doesn't matter now, eh?"
Toph raised her left hand to caress his face, running her fingers over the soft skin, the scarred tissue, entwining it in the black bangs. Something was swelling inside her, a huge bubble of bliss, that this was true, that this was hers, Zuko was hers. "You're nation is going to have one strong first lady," she chuckled suddenly.
Zuko pulled back from her shoulder to look at her, the golden eyes bright and intense searching her face for a hint of regret of having chosen a life she seemed to hate so much but he didn't find any. There was only delight there, pure and simple joy radiating from her face and he kissed her forehead, underneath the heavy black bangs, "They'll get used to it."
And then Toph got onto her toes to kiss him on the lips again and as he returned the kiss he too felt the well of happiness deep inside him uncover and a pure pleasure flooded his being.
They celebrated their wedding again. It was Katara's idea because that was what she did and what she was best at. And she was still of the opinion that a wedding ceremony should be celebrated in a circle of friends.
Toph resisted of course. But in the end, mostly by promising to keep it small and relatively informal, Katara had gotten her to agree. A bet and a duel might have been part of the process but Zuko wasn't exactly sure.
Since it wasn't an official ceremony they decided to celebrate it at Zuko and Toph's home. Iroh, finally recovered from the virus, was to preside over the service and Aang had been tracked down and invited (ordered) to attend. Suki had joined them from the Kyoshi Island and somehow Ty Lee had gotten wind of the ceremony and was coming as well. Everyone was staying at the house or the palace, wherever there was space to fit them.
Katara and Hana had collaborated in decorating the house, setting up the buffet and arranging the ceremony and clothing and when they were done Zuko had to admit that they had done a very good job. Everything looked beautiful.
The official part of the celebration was taking part outside in the garden, after which they would have dinner (Sokka would probably hold a speech) and Aang wanted to dance.
A sort of aisle had been erected along which the few guests would sit leading to a small elevation, which Aang raised with Earthbending (Toph had refused to help) where Iroh was to be standing.
Zuko was standing there too, in cloths that weren't exactly official but they weren't his everyday cloths either. Only his hair really felt official, done up into the topknot with the hairpiece of the Crown Prince. Aang was sitting closest to him and grinned, "You ready?"
"Yeah," Zuko felt a light grin form on his face, "already been through it once."
Aang laughed. But this was different, so different from Ba Sing Se, Zuko thought as looked across the aisle. He saw the faces of his friends beaming up at him, Sokka looking ridiculously proud. There were so few of them in comparison to the grand hall in the palace, yet these people meant something to him and this was something he wanted to share with them. Only Katara was missing, still with the bride.
Then she hurried up and slid into a seat beside Ty Lee signaling at Iroh that everything was ready and throwing Zuko a wink. He could imagine what the delay had been after he had heard Katara and Suki talking about the wedding dress yesterday.
Then Toph appeared at the end of the aisle and Zuko's breath caught. Her dress was white, just like it had been in Ba Sing Se but this dress didn't swamp her, didn't drown her and make her look like a doll. It was cut pure and simple, flowing along her form. Her hair was up in its usual bun (Katara hadn't gotten her way there) but the headband was white too, contrasting with the deep black of her hair.
Behind Zuko Iroh gave a slight cough and Toph began moving along the aisle. In Ba Sing Se she had been led, walking slowly and hesitatingly. Here she sauntered, her chin thrust up proudly, a smile gracing her features. The white fabric of the dress whirled around her as she strode and Zuko could see that her feet were still bare.
Toph reached her place beside him and they both turned to face Iroh. The old man was wearing fine red clothes and he smiled at them both, tears glistening lightly in his eyes as he looked at them. Finally he cleared his throat.
"We have here," he began, "A couple that has wed once but wishes to do so again. I ask you, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, do you take Lady Toph Bei Fong of the Earth Kingdom as your wife?"
Zuko glanced to the side at Toph. A grin was playing around the corner of her mouth. "I do."
"And do you, Lady Toph Bei Fong of the Earth Kingdom, take Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation as your husband?"
"I do," her voice rang true and clear. Zuko heard a sniffle behind him and he thought it might be Sokka.
"Then, in my power as Fire Lord," Iroh's eyes were shimmering more and more now, "I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
And as he turned and to kiss Toph, now truly his wife, Zuko had to think of the symbol of their first marriage, of two Nations coming together, a symbol of unity and of a new beginning. That symbol had been messed up, they had been two parties forced somewhat against their wills that had stayed together for mutual benefit. But they had grown together, become something more; something greater and maybe their countries could do the same. Maybe their countries would one day grow to love each other like he and Toph had grown to love each other.
And maybe, Zuko thought as his lips touched Toph's and she pulled him farther into the kiss, maybe that was the true symbol.
Actually I'm not really good at the romantic stuff. I hope it was okay. My next project will probably be some Death Note yaoi stuff if you're interested but it's probably not going to come out until sometime December (I have a big paper I have due then). So until then: have fun!!