"Morning Toph!" Katara said, tapping noisily on the earthbender's rock tent.
Toph growled under her breath. Oh get lost! She thought. Gathering the will to get up, she rubbed her head; nursing a headache that had snuck up on her. She hated mornings, especially early mornings like these, when the Sugar Queen would wake her with that annoyingly happy tone of voice that went right through her ears. She stretched out her arms and legs, and rolled her neck until she heard a small cracking sound. Stretching usually drove away the annoying stiffness of a deep sleep that had been so rudely disturbed, but this time her limbs still felt heavy and every movement took a lot of effort. She moodily got dressed, trying to ignore the numb feeling in her body.
I don't see the point in getting up this early… She thought, bending earth around her fingertips into claws as a makeshift comb, and brushing her hair into a bun. Only a few moments passed before she instinctively gave up. The earth fell from her fingers and her raven hair flowed freely past her shoulders Today was one of those days where she really couldn't be bothered. It's not like anyone would notice if she left her hair down for once anyway.
"Meh…" she groaned.
She touched the underside of her feet. They were moderately healed from the burn that Zuko had accidentally inflicted on her, although she could feel some scarring in the arch of her left foot. She had started to use them to see as she used to, but even so, everything was still quite foggy and it bugged her to no end.
Earthbending was all she had, and even though she still had use of her hands, it just wasn't the same without her feet. While there was no doubt that Zuko had made a good effort to atone for his actions, she still felt angry at how helpless the scorch marks left her. She sighed and thumped on the floor with her fists. The earthen walls around her fell back into the ground.
It couldn't have been more than an hour since daybreak; the scent of sunrise was soft but sweet, like blueberries, and lingered for some time afterwards. It was something she almost never smelt until she ran away from home with Aang and the others – something she hoped she wouldn't experience too often – so much for that idea.
All the usual noises that she heard in the mornings somehow seemed far louder than normal, and with her hearing being so acute, it meant that everything she heard was magnified ten fold. She rubbed her forehead again. As she stood up, she found herself being plucked from her standing position and cradled in the toned arms of someone who distinctly smelt of meat.
"Sokka! I can walk you know! I don't need to be carried everywhere!"
"But your feet…"
"My feet are okay enough for me to walk on,"
Sokka grabbed her right ankle and looked at the ball of her foot. Toph instinctively – and unsuccessfully – kicked at him for yanking her leg without permission. She thrashed and squirmed and tried to break free, but quickly stopped when she realised how easily he dodged any attempt to clout him, and that she wasn't getting anywhere by struggling.
"No, I have to disagree," He said. "You shouldn't be walking for another few days, a week at least."
"Since when do you know anything about burn wounds?"
"You want a second opinion? Let's go ask Katara…"
"Hmph! Fine," Toph pouted. The pounding in her head was slowly going away, talking to Katara – in all her 'oh what a beautiful morning' sickly sweet goody-goodyness – would probably make it worse. She growled again.
"You look different…" Sokka announced as he carried her to the fountain and set her down gently.
"I wouldn't know; it's not like I can see what I look like normally." She snapped.
"Hey Toph," Haru said, approaching cheerfully. "Sleep well?"
In no mood to give a proper answer, she simply snorted at him.
Sokka looked at her carefully, sat there with her hands curled into angry fists, and tried to figure out why she looked different. She wasn't wearing anything unusual – no make-up or jewellery, bar the piece of 'space earth' he'd given her that she'd forged into an arm-bracelet. He felt kind of flattered that she'd worn it every day since. It was strange, to be suddenly overcome with an urge just to look at her, he could've easily sat and observed her for hours on end. Bearing in mind her foul mood, however, he decided on a different course of action.
"Well… How about I go get some breakfast for you…" Without waiting for an answer, or an argument that she could get her own breakfast, he walked away.
"I'll come with." Haru offered, leaving Toph all alone with her bad mood.
Now she was feeling even angrier. Damn Zuko for burning her feet, even if it was an accident. Damn Katara for waking her so early. And damn Sokka for making her feel useless enough that she needed to be carted around like a big stuffed animal. Not that she enjoyed being foul-tempered, she decided that today it would be best if she just stayed angry, get all the rage out and hopefully be in a better frame of mind tomorrow.
Sokka, meanwhile, had no idea why Toph was being so moody. Maybe it was too early for her to be awake, maybe he should talk to his sister about not waking her up unless it was really necessary, or maybe it was him. He knew he was being a touch overprotective, and he knew that – despite being blind – Toph was a strong, fiery and independent girl who didn't need protecting. But in the past, he admitted to himself of the occasional sleepless night, when all he thought of was what would happen if something damaged her feet; her way of seeing without the use of her eyes. He didn't like Toph's moody days, no matter how hard he tried he just couldn't stand the thought of her being so angry, when he knew how happy she could be.
"Here you go Sokka," Katara interrupted his train of thought by handing him two bowls of hot pudding rice.
"Dessert for breakfast?" He asked.
"Toph likes it, and who knows, it may sweeten her up a bit," She smiled.
Sokka smiled back at her. He had a much better idea about how to improve Toph's mood.
He returned to the edge of the fountain where he had placed Toph, only to find that she'd fallen asleep. At least, it looked like she was asleep; her eyes were closed and she was very still. She was rather cute lying there, her body curving with the stone rim and her toes just skimming the surface of the water. He put the two bowls down and moved closer to shake her shoulder.
"I know you're there," She said, keeping her eyes closed.
"I thought you were sleeping."
"Well I'm not."
"Uh… here," He mumbled as he handed her a bowl of pudding. He hastened to add that she should be careful because the food was hot, but knowing that she'd either growl menacingly or earthbend him into the stratosphere, chose to keep his mouth shut.
"It's dessert," Toph remarked as she tasted a spoonful. "Your sister get confused or what?"
"No, I think she just wanted to be different and have something sweet…" He watched her eat her meal quite quickly, either she really liked it or she just wanted to sling it down her throat and be done with it.
"It tastes kind of strange," She licked her lips.
"Maybe she made it extra sweet," He smirked, knowing that she couldn't see the cheeky grin he wore.
They finished eating in silence, but Toph couldn't help thinking that Sokka was up to something. She sat completely still for minute, trying to read his vibrations. His heart was beating a little faster than usual – although it usually did when he ate things he liked – and his left leg was twitching slightly. She didn't like it; it was as if he was scheming, not so much against her, but perhaps forging a plan that had something to do with her. Sokka came across as such a meat-brained idiot most of the time but there was clearly more to him than that.
"We're gonna go watch Aang's firebending lesson soon," He mentioned. "You wanna come with?"
She didn't answer straight away. She sat quietly and felt his vibrations; his heart was getting faster now. Something was up and she didn't like it, not one bit.
"No, I've got better things to do," She growled.
If only she knew that by saying no, she'd played right into Sokka's hands.
"You sure?" He questioned, so as not to draw suspicion to himself.
"Yes I'm sure!" Toph snorted like an angry bull. Imagine that meat-head thinking she couldn't make a decision!
She was feeling very irritable again. Surely the very idea that Sokka was plotting something was unfounded. Why would he be scheming anything at all? And why did she feel that she was the target? They were all on the same side, it just didn't make sense! No, she was being paranoid. But was she? What if she wasn't being paranoid? What if she was really on to something? What if that something was so bad it would break them all up? No, no, that was ridiculous, but then again…
"You won't be all alone, Haru doesn't want to go watch the firebending either," Sokka mentioned, not entirely sure whether she was listening or not.
"Whatever," She gave him her empty bowl and turned to put her feet in the shallow water.
The water, cool and soothing, touched her slowly healing feet and chilled them. She refused to let anyone know how much it helped, so she kept any sighs of relief to herself until she was alone. What was so fascinating about going to Aang's firebending lesson? Nothing, that's what. Never mind that she couldn't see – though she could feel the heat and sense the movements – no one made such a fuss when she was teaching the young avatar to earthbend. It irritated her that everyone was suddenly going out of their way to accept Zuko, when it was she that had first trusted him. The rapid thoughts took almost all of her attention. She hardly noticed Sokka walking away and Appa taking flight.
Her head started spinning. Not so much a headache, more a ball of energy whizzing around inside her skull; distracting her and throwing her off balance. She could feel her body swaying side to side at first, but soon it changed to a full circular motion. Her body appeared to be moving in time with the energy ball in her mind. She fell back and hit the floor. She felt no pain. Her arms rose up and stroked the air, waving gently. What was in that rice? This had never happened to her before. She pondered for a moment, and then decided that she really didn't care. It was quite nice really, to feel so loose and free within herself. Her ears picked up the sound of footsteps and a male voice spoke out.
"Are you okay?" Haru looked down at the little earthbender curiously.
There was something very wrong with this picture. Barely half an hour ago she was grumpy and her short fuse had burned out, now she lay on the ground of the temple with her arms in the air and her legs resting on the fountain's border, a large (and frankly creepy) smile adorning her face. She raised the floor to help herself move from her sitting position to a standing one. He could see that she was walking oddly, as if she were sleepwalking and no control of her legs.
"Toph?" He went to touch her forehead; if she had a fever it would explain her weird behaviour.
She slapped his hand away and earthbent a small pillar to stand on so that she was level with him. She reached out her hands, poking his face with her fingers and using them to study his facial characteristics. Unsure where the urge came from, but not particularly concerned, she continued to investigate him. Her milky blind eyes were cast downward. Her eyes were of no use, so she used her hands to piece together what he looked like.
"I really don't think you should be standing up,"
"And I don't think facial hair suits you," she replied.
She jumped down from the mini pillar and rolled into a ball on the floor like a frightened tigerdillo. He stared at her, puzzled. She sniggered quietly. Her body, still curled up, started to move slowly along the tiles. Stunned, Haru tried to pry her from the strange mood she was in by leaning down and poking her. Toph rapidly lunged up, stunning him further, and ran laughing through the temple. He shook himself out of his confusion and worriedly took off after her.
"Toph slow down!" He yelled.
"I'm not slowing down for anything!" She squealed.
"Please," He pleaded.
She completely ignored him and ran madly up a small flight of stairs, also ignoring the stinging in the balls of her feet. She felt like a bird. A small, caged bluebird that had finally escaped her steel prison and was now learning to fly. The freedom of running again, regardless of how much it hurt, filled her with a dizzying happiness. Once at the top of the stairs, she sensed that she might be out of places to run to, but since it was still difficult to believe her scarred 'eyes', she challenged what her feet had told her by placing her hands on the floor. As it happened, her feet were right, but she wasn't discouraged; still on all fours, she threw herself over the veranda with enviable speed.
Haru, who was only half way up the stairs, saw Toph imitating a Momo-style launch off of a very high up balcony and sprung into action. He climbed onto the banister and thrust his arms forward, forcing a long platform out from the wall, directly in Toph's path of descent. He ran out onto the platform and held his arms out to catch her, and she landed dead on target. She laughed loudly as the impact of catching her made him fall backwards.
"That was fun!" She giggled, getting up and running out of the room.
"For heavens sake," He muttered tiredly to himself. "I hope that firebending lesson ends soon…"
Some time later…
Appa landed back at the temple and Sokka was the first to dismount the giant sky bison. He helped his sister down and decided to go see if Toph was okay. What's the worse that could've happened? He secretly dreaded finding out, especially as the memory of his own encounter with the hallucinagenic fluid flooded to the front of his mind. He didn't get three yards away from the others when she appeared, tearing around the corner on her hands and feet and then diving into the fountain. She rolled around laughing in the water, receiving a lot of confused looks from all but Sokka, who had covered his eyes with his hand and peeked between his fingers.
"What got into her?" Zuko asked.
"Maybe we should have pudding rice more often," Katara beamed with pride, believing that it was her plan that had brought Toph out of her moodiness.
"Uh, yeah," Sokka agreed nervously.
"Toph!" Haru cried out.
As soon as she heard his voice, she dove out of the pool of water and carried on bounding about on all fours. She wasn't the type to give in and get caught. Making him play tag was fun. Much time had passed since she'd had a decent game of tag; earthbending was usually a lot more interesting, but today was different – she wanted to play. Not to mention that using her hands to support her painfully scorched feet while playing gave her more propulsion as well as extra speed. Haru put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath, watching Toph disappear into another part of the temple.
"How… can she… be… so fast?" He panted.
"How long has she been like this?"
"Since you all left," He stood up straight and cleared his throat. "She was alright at first but then she just lost it. What the hell did you give her Sokka?"
All eyes turned to the now sheepish Water tribe warrior.
"Yeah, Sokka," Katara growled "What did you give her?"
"Must've been pretty strong to make her go crazy like that." Aang commented.
He was right. There weren't a great deal of things in this world that could make Toph, the world's greatest earthbender, so completely hyper and out of control. Aside from a strong fever or maybe a snake bite or some kind of allergic reaction. Katara's eyes widened. The only time she'd seen anyone go that mad was when they were all stuck in the desert and Sokka had been drinking some weird milk from a cactus…
"Oh Sokka, tell me you didn't…"
"Didn't what?" He warily grinned.
"Don't give me that! You put cactus juice in Toph's food didn't you?!" She yelled.
She didn't need an answer, the guilty look on his face said it all…
My first Tokka fic, and it got so long I had to put it into two parts. The other half will be up soon
Don't ask where he got the cactus juice from, maybe he bought it while he was in town getting a messenger hawk in 'The Runaway'. Maybe he saved some for later in 'The Desert'. Either way, he had some and used it to spike Toph's breakfast lol.
I'd rather not have criticism, but since it's my first Avatar fanfic I'd like to know what you all think. Constructive criticism only please, comments like "Dis fic sux major! You shuld just qwuit now!" really don't help.