It became clear from the start of their search that Toph had been serious when she claimed her turn for a 'Zuko field trip'. As soon as they had split from the others she had become more vocal than Zuko had ever known her to be. Going into detail about her home life, the times she ran away, her Earth Rumble fights. Far more detail than Zuko had expected.
"I know I shouldn't complain. My parents gave me everything I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing I really wanted, their love. You know what I mean?"
Zuko sighed and turned to face Toph, "Look, I know you had a rough childhood. But we should really focus on finding Aang."
Zuko turned and walked away but stopped when he heard Toph sad sigh, "This is the worst field trip ever."
He stopped, "I didn't mean it like that."
"Sure you did." Toph was quick to snap,
Zuko knew the young girl well enough not to be dissuaded. "No, I didn't. For everyone else, there was something that only I could help them with. Aang and I needed to gain control of our firebending. Sokka needed help breaking into a Fire Nation prison, and I helped Katara track down one of the Navy ships."
Toph cut in, "Yeah, and in the process everyone got to experience a life changing moment." The sarcasm in her voice still covering her wounded pride.
"But that's just it. I didn't pull each of them aside and show them, I was along for the ride as much as they were. And the thing is, I can't help you. You don't need my help. You're this amazing kid. You've got so much confidence and willpower, a great sense of humor. You're the greatest earthbender I've ever met, so much so that you even invented a new form of bending. Being blind would cripple anyone else, but you turn it to your advantage in every aspect of your life."
Zuko paused for a moment, "Toph, I'm touched that you wanted to spend time with me. I really am. And I'm amazed and grateful that you were so trusting of me so soon after I joined the group. Especially after…after what I did to you. But you don't need my help. Your parents are something you need to take care of on your own."
Toph's original disappointment faded and her shoulders slumped. Turning away from Zuko she sighed. "Yeah, I know. It's just…It's just hard. I can't get them to see who I really am."
She tensed when she felt Zuko pull her into a hug. "Tell you what," he said, "any time you need to talk about it. Just come find me."
"You mean that?"
"Absolutely. We can swap stories and everything."
Toph returned the hug, "You've got a deal Sparky."
The pair separated and resumed their trek down the beach in companionable silence. Or they would have, except that after a few steps Toph punched Zuko hard enough to stagger him.
"What was that for?"
"I don't do hugs. I already told you how I show affection. Now let's find Twinkletoes."
I honestly felt bad when I saw this scene in the finale. Toph was clearly so eager to have a chance for her field trip, and Zuko just shot her down. I know the situation wasn't exactly the best time for it, but I still couldn't help but feel sad when I saw Toph's forlorn expression. She was like a little blind puppy.
At any rate, what I wanted to show was what I felt might likely be some of Zuko's reasons for why he didn't give Toph the field trip she wanted. Again, it wasn't the best time. But for one, he didn't bring about the personal realizations for Aang, Sokka and Katara, he just happened to be there at the time. And secondly, Zuko isn't the best person to go to for parental advice. Seriously, Iroh played no small part in Zuko being half as well-adjusted as he is. Just imagine how easily he could have ended up twice the sociopath Azula is.
Complete dissection of my own story aside, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Don't hesitate to review or otherwise contact me with anything you'd like to say. I'm working on more Avatar stories and other fanfics, so check back soon.