Disclaimer: I in no way shape or form own Avatar: The Last Airbender. I profit only in happiness and warm fuzzies from this fic. No money. Definitely no money.

AN: I can't believe my foray back into the fanfiction world would be in the form of ATLA fic. The last couple episodes of the season (series?) has whet my appetite for Toko, of all things, though, so there's no help for it. I must support this most wonderfully name-smushed pairing because it doesn't get enough love. Here's a little...mutated drabble. Please excuse the rampaging fluff which makes OOCs of us all, especially Zuko. I -needed- the romance.


Redeeming Favors

By: Tler


"Hey, Fire Lord Hotman, got a minute?"

Retainers flapped ineffectively around the young woman who had barged into the throne room, every second getting more and more outraged on their Fire Lord's behalf. The nerve of this, this woman barging into the palace, dressed like that and tracking in mud and fires know what else, and addressing their Fire Lord in that way. They had never seen such a breach of formality.

Of course, these retainers were new.

The Fire Lord smiled and flicked a hand to dismiss the hysterical men nearly hyperventilating and tripping over themselves to explain. "What brings you here today, Toph?"

The girl who stood before him had changed much in the past four years and yet very little at all in what mattered. Her hair had grown too long to wrap up in the bun she had sported throughout their quest to defeat the Fire Lord. She had complained it was too heavy and so simply left it down but held back with the same headband as before. At sixteen she had grown a little taller and filled out just enough to soften her silhouette with the curves of a woman. What hadn't changed was that she was still outspoken and crass. She had no patience for fools and, unfortunately for most of the population, had high standards for those to be deemed otherwise. She was fiercely independent and defied anyone who would tell her no. She was also still beautiful and awe-inspiring and the woman he found himself caring for so much more than he had expected to.

"You owe me."

He blinked. "I owe you?"

"Yes, you owe me."

"What exactly do I owe you?"

"I've done a lot for you over the years, right? Helped get you that shiny throne, put out a few hotheads, did some Earth kingdom liaisoning. Not to mention, you already owe me for the god awful field trip you took me on which you have yet to make up for. So as I see it, you owe me. A lot, actually."

Zuko couldn't stop a smile from taking over his features, softening his eyes and the angles of his face. "Alright. I suppose you have something in mind you want to redeem as your due?"

"Yep, you" she grinned evilly, "are going to come with me to meet my parents."

"What? Why??"

"Because they got it into their thick skulls that I'm of marriageable age now so if I don't bring home a man soon, they're going to start arranging things for me."

Zuko's smile fell off his face as his blood ran cold. "That is unacceptable."

"I know!" said the blind woman, now pacing with how much the prospect of an arranged marriage was working her up. She didn't even notice the icy tone her friend had taken on. "I mean, it's one thing if they cared at all about my happiness and actually tried to find a guy who would suit me, but all they're trotting out are rich pansy boys who wear more make-up than I do and would probably faint if I so much as pick my nose."

Through her rant Zuko calmed himself down, running a mantra through his head that had something to do with not hunting down the "rich pansy boys" who had dared to think of marrying Toph. If for no other reason, it would ruin tenuous relations with the Earth kingdom. "So, why am I going to meet your parents?"

She stopped mid-pace and turned to face him again, a sly look on her face. "Well, you're really the only guy available."

"What do you mean?"

"I need to bring home a guy to convince them they don't need to do it for me and hopefully get them off my back about this whole marriage thing. Aang and Sokka are out of the question so that leaves you."

"So," Zuko said slowly, "you want me to pretend to be your boyfriend."

The girl started to look vaguely nervous, but said bluntly, "Yes."

Warmth stole through him that had nothing to do with the flames surrounding the chamber as he got up from his throne and began walking nonchalantly towards her. "And what would I have to do, precisely?"

Toph waved a hand randomly, the only proof she was starting to become flustered. There was something in the tone of his voice that sent shivers through her and she had yet to decide whether it was good or bad. And he was walking towards her. Why was he walking towards her?

"I don't know. Boyfriend-y things? Look, I've never dated, so how would I know what a boyfriend acts like? You should know; what did you do with Mai?"

He stood not two feet from her and she was seriously about to tell him off about personal space but her tongue got tangled up in the deluge of thoughts rampaging through her mind. What was happening? Why was he standing so close? Why did she mind but not really? Why was her blood rushing so loudly through her veins? And then he touched her and all thoughts fled as if blown away by air bending.

"So, you would like me to do this?" Zuko said softly, taking up her hand and brushing a kiss across her knuckles.

"Or this?" He swept her bangs from her face, gently tucking it behind her ear before trailing his fingertips down her cheek to grasp her chin, tipping her face up.

"Or how about this?" He slid an arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him. Toph was in so much shock she actually stumble a bit against him, hands coming up to brace against his chest. The moment passed, though, and she smiled, bringing her hands up to ghost her fingers over his face, feeling the curve of his own silly grin.

"You know, maybe you should save some time and just do this," she said, pulling his face down to meet hers for a shy kiss. Embarrassed and not sure what she was doing or if she was doing it right, Toph tried to pull away but Zuko followed, sealing his lips more firmly over hers for a deeper kiss. Everything was a whirl of sensation, so soft and hard, warm and electrifying. When they finally parted, Toph drew a deep breath and she could tell without 'seeing' that Zuko probably had a goofy look on his face and smiled knowing she was the one who put it there.

"Think I'd get your parents off your back if we do that in front of them?"

"No, definitely not," she mumbled, still secure in his embrace and resting her head against his heartbeat, "The point was to get them to stop pushing me towards marriage, idiot."