This was one of my famous, "Wrote this up on a wim" stories. This storyline takes place before The Boiling Rock and not even a few days after The Firebending Masters. To which you will see things that make references to TBR, and let's say that this is the reason why Zuko was so very Iroh happy during his adventure with Sokka. Yes, this time things stay in canon, although this is what would have been my take on some sweet Toph/Zuko bonding in season three. And for one final time. Yes this contains Toko, because it rocks. 3
(C) I don't own anything at all. These amazing characters belong to the awesome Bryke. So don't think that they are mine. :)
The sun was setting over the trees that hid the long forgotten Western Air Temple, and the Avatar and his friends were in the middle of their long discussion of how they would continue on with their lives once the one hundred year war was finally over.
"Well I know one thing; I'm going to set my dad free from that Fire Nation prison as soon as I can!"
"Ha! Don't think that you're going in there alone; they probably have our dad locked up there somewhere too! Whenever you go, I'll go with you!"
"Oh be reasonable Sokka! It's not like you can take on a whole Fire Nation prison by yourself…"
"I can with my SPACE sword! HI-YA!"
For some, discussing what they will do with their families was a relief, a moment to think ahead to a time of peace, when things would finally be set right. For others, it was an annoying and painful. Hearing friends talk about their "perfect" parents, as though they had nothing to worry about the way they would judge them once they faced them again. It took all the strength that one single member of the group had to just walk away, and isolate himself from the world. It was beginning to become a normal habit that he found himself doing as the weeks passed by.
He sat himself on the edge a cliff, a broken piece of the temple, and stared out into the sunset which rested above the tree tops; it reminded him so much of times that had already gone and past. Times of when he was a simple refugee in the Earth Kingdom, when he struggled just to survive in life, when he was still with--
"Hey! What are you doing out here by yourself Sunburn?!"
The voice startled Zuko from his memories and caused him to shout in surprise.
"Yaah!" He turned to face the young Earthbender who stood in the shadows. "Toph! What are you trying to do, make me fall off this temple?!"
Her mouth curved into a small grin. She began laughing dryly as she walked up behind him.
"Ha! As much fun as that sounds, I couldn't possibly do that! Who else would be stubborn enough to teach ol' Twinkle Toes the "beauty" of Firebending?"
Zuko scoffed, he was obviously annoyed. "Why did you come out here Toph? I wanted to be alone."
"I didn't see you at the family discussion; I figured you might've been out here. You always seem to run off on your own when the guys bring up their families."
The scowl that he wore on his face hardened so deeply that it almost hurt Zuko's skin. He turned away from the girl's blind gaze and focused back on the view. He didn't want to talk about this, and Toph could feel him tensing up, yet she did not leave. A small defeated sigh escaped him and he spoke softly.
"Family really isn't my best subject…"
"You know…I kinda figured that. But hey, consider yourself lucky."
The word "lucky" caught his attention and he found himself turning to her once again. "And why would you say that? You know me better than half these people; you know I'm not exactly what you call 'Lucky'."
Toph hesitated, but moved herself closer to him until she forced herself to sit down at his side.
"Because Zuko…" A sad, yet sly smile formed on her lips as she spoke his name, "At least you have a mother that cares enough about you to give up her own life for yours, and a father who would still love you no matter how many times you mess up."
Toph waited for his reply, knowing that he would not react in such a calm matter. She felt him tense up so fiercely, that his hands began to crack the side of the cliff.
"You're wrong. My father would not—"
She placed her palm on her forehead and let out an annoyed shrug. "Pft. You know, I thought you would be a little smarter than that." Zuko eyed her oddly and Toph could nearly see his confused face.
"Jeez Sunburn! Do I really have to spell it out for you?! It wasn't the Fire Lord I was talking about!"
Only then did Zuko understand what she had meant. He felt heat reach the corners of his cheeks and looked away. His embarrassment faded the moment he felt a pang of guilt strike his heart.
"As great as that sounds…" He inhaled deeply, trying to contain his emotions threatening to spill out in front of the girl, "I don't know if he would still…love me after everything I've done."
Toph heard his voice crack and she sighed. She knew that Zuko had often suffered from his betrayal of Iroh; she felt his heartbeat rise and his whole frame shake every time a member of the gang spoke of him.
She would never admit it, but something in the back of her mind made her feel sorry for him. She talked with Iroh, had a connection to him, strong enough to call him her friend. She felt the same fear and sadness as Zuko did when his wicked sister Azula shot him down so long ago. But Toph never thought she, the rock hard Blind Bandit, would feel this compassionate for one single person and his nephew.
"Okay so what? You betrayed him, the only man who ever cared for you. And you feel you're your world has ended because you did that to the guy you really can't live without. What's the big deal?"
Her words struck him and Zuko felt his anger pulsing through his body; he was inches from turning and screaming at the girl for having the nerve to think that the mistake of his life was not a "big deal". He grit his teeth and spoke harshly.
"How dare you even think that that's not--!"
She slapped her hand onto his mouth, stopping from speaking any further. "You really can't go a day without letting that anger of yours out, can you?" She started to speak softly, and with an uncharacteristic smile. "I meant…why are you making a huge fuss about it. If I know Iroh, and I think I do…I know that he'd forgive any stupid mistake that you'd ever make. And I think you've made some pretty bad ones."
"Not like this one…"
"Yes, even this one. It was a mistake. You were confused. That ignorant sister of yours played you! Iroh probably knows that! He'll forgive you. This is Iroh we're talking about here."
Zuko looked over at her and saw a small playful smile resting upon her lips, and surprisingly, he found himself cracking a small grin. "This is your own special way of being nice…isn't it?"
"Be lucky that talking about your Dad is one of my favorite subjects."
Toph jabbed her finger into his shoulder, emphasizing each word. When she reached the word "dad", Zuko fell silent.
"Oh stop blushing already. Just get used to the name; you know he is like that."
Zuko began to laugh. "Yes ma'am." Zuko looked off into space for one final time, looking beyond the trees and the mountains with several things on his mind at once.
"You're thinking about him aren't cha?"
"You could say that."
"Well. He misses you too. You know…he's probably looking for you right now."
"…How do you know?"
"Because whenever you run off somewhere, Iroh isn't too far behind you."
"And…again I say—how do you--?"
She placed her hand on his and smiled, "Well…because I once had a long conversation with the guy…"