The Law of Attraction
"Whatever you think about and thank about, you bring about."
Subconsciously, both of them knew it would never work out.
She was much, much, too small.
And he was much, much, too scarred.
Neither of them were made to last for more than a couple of hits, but he was broken and she was only cracked. There was a world of differences between them, but also a galaxy of similarities.
He wasn't afraid of fire, he had no reason to be-- plus he was the prince (never mind the ex-) of the nation named after it, and neither was she, fearless earth bender as she was, but sometimes, when the night was quiet and sleep had claimed everything around them, he wondered to himself what could have been.
If it were something else that he could move and bend and control. Wonders what it would be like to have something sturdier, something smoother and something that did not feed on emotions he could not tame.
She wonders as well, and fancies seeing him in robes of white and gold and perhaps a darker shade of green, still a prince and still far too serious than necessary, but with an extra addition:
If he weren't a fire bender, it would be so much easier for her to ride the day away on his back.
Darkness was nothing to either of them.
She was blind, thus she lived her life in it, using what she could to her advantage and ironically seeing more than those who could actually see.
He was full of it, a swirling dragon in his very being, unknown and unnamed and fierce, like the rest of him. He wasn't lost, but he didn't always know where he was going, which in itself was a form of that darkness within as well.
When they closed their eyes, they didn't see the absence of light, they saw the thousands of opportunities for its creation instead.
They met each other whilst dreaming, and perhaps that was a hint.
Stubborn, hard headed and never one to give up so easily-- it was hard to point out which one of them had more guts.
Casual smiles and pats on the shoulder marked the beginning, the habitual happenstance of seeing them sitting beside each other, finding their bed rolls closer than anyone else's.
Then came the walks away from the gang, the nights and days spent elsewhere and the secret smiles and grins and furious frowns marred with deep blushes that told everyone else what no one had to know. The game had escalated into a full-fledged war, and no one was about to give up this early on.
It wasn't a romance, as much as the rest wanted to think, it was an arrival at as battle ground, a test of their abilities, and it just so happened that the contestants didn't settle for anything without a fight.
They knew what time meant, knew what time lost signified, hence they knew that it didn't matter that they were some years apart. They were equals, and that was that.
She never told him how happy she felt when he admitted it, and even though he was blushing like mad and stuttering like a pubescent brat, he was secretly happy as well.
They actually had someone.
But she was short.
And he was tall.
So the first kiss was, admittedly, a bit awkward at the beginning.
But when he lifted her effortlessly by her waist, and when her arms instantly wound around his neck and her legs around his waist, and when his hand found the pin holding her hair up, and when he pulled it away just like that, it didn't matter anymore.
They had other things to focus on, now.
She should have known his lips were soft, for all the times she'd managed to get him quiet and fumbling for words. So soft, almost like a girl's, only not because this was Zuko, and even if his lips were as soft as she'd imagined them to be --perhaps, softer-- there was still the matter of his tongue, which she knew to be almost as sharp as hers.
But his lips were so soft.
He'd wanted to let the kiss be chaste, and remain chaste, but apparently, nothing with Toph was going to go that way.
She opens her mouth and pries his lips apart with her tongue, and he's surprised enough to open his eyes a little, but then the feeling of something sliding over the roof of his mouth takes his concentration away completely, and for the next few minutes, they find it a bother to even breathe.
She tasted like Toph, like freedom and fears not yet acknowledged, like the wind on a chilly day and the warmth of the camp fires made in Emerald Isle lurked underneath everything he couldn't name. Didn't want to name.
(Like unrequited love not fully forgotten, like bitterness and resentment fiercely hidden, like uncertainty that would not leave)
She tasted like everything he'd missed and everything he was being given a second chance to have-- she tasted like life, the way he'd always wanted to live it.
She tasted of something he wasn't about to get tired of, but he expected that.
It was Toph, after all, nothing could get away from the Blind Bandit.
Air is a necessity, and space is mildly consolable as such as well, so they part with a sigh with their arms still around each other, and they press their foreheads together seconds later, thinking that perhaps this would do for now.
There are smiles on their faces, and Toph gives a breathless little chuckle.
Zuko mouths 'wow' and if his smile is any wider than before, he doesn't notice.
The feeling was indescribable.
They aren't like Aang and Katara, all cuddles and smiles and sweet-nothings whispered into an ear.
They're sparring matches and taunts and jibes meant to annoy and irk, lazy grins that said more than whispers ever could. They're scowls and smirks and pinches and scratches and threats of broken bones, but that was the way they rolled.
They didn't hold hands, but Toph allowed herself to be seated upon the older boy's shoulders, and Zuko thinks that this was infinitely safer than before. She didn't try to pull his hair off now.
She liked the view, she would reply, but at the end of the day when he'd said not a word about his shoulders that ached from the weight placed upon them since the sun rose, she found herself falling asleep quite peacefully, and nothing was said about that.
Their bed rolls are closer than before, and they seemed to have forgone the other pillow.
Food is an issue, because Zuko doesn't eat as much as the little earth bender would like him to. He had ten seconds of silence during every meal before the girl started on him, and by the end of it, two bowls had been emptied but only one pair of chopsticks were used.
Though tea was an exception, as they both enjoyed it more than anyone else in their group.
And for a while, Sokka didn't have to fear being hit by either Toph's cup or Zuko's rice bowl.
Unlike Sokka, Zuko did not go to the shooting range of the fair to win Toph a trinket. It was to beat Toph, then give her the trinket.
Toph said the same thing to Suki, and that was when Suki knew they were meant for each other.
In the end, they'd won the booth out of its displays, equally matched as they were. Aang thought they were going to charge at each other, but then Toph smirked and Zuko lifted an eyebrow, and the trinkets were forgotten as they moved on to the stand that sold sweets of every kind.
This game was a draw, but then, almost all of them were like that now.
Some days, Toph was scared.
Scared of the way the ex-prince was making her feel, scared of the way it was affecting her skills and her bending, scared of the way she thought of him all the time, even when he was right beside her.
It terrified her, the thought of him meaning more to her than anyone else did, more than being free did. She had the oddest dream about them being thrown into a prison, and in the dream, she'd clung to him and whimpered like a girl, acting like she wasn't the Blind Bandit and the greatest earth bender alive. He'd freed them, but for some reason, she did not let go. Would not let go.
(and neither would he-- that night, though no one noticed, Zuko held Toph's small frame to him closer than he had before-- but all this done whilst dreaming)
Being with Zuko made her pulse speed up, made the blood rush to her face, made her tremble at the most inappropriate times, made her think of what her parents would say when they saw him--
But she was Toph, and she would fear nothing.
Besides, this was Zuko: he was afraid of her.
Somehow, that made it easier for her to breathe, the fact that he felt the same things as she did.
He was sure he wasn't going insane, but for the past few days, all he could think about was Toph.
But then he realized, he was thinking about Toph, so his sanity wasn't the big question.
The question was, what was he going to do about it?
The word is so foreign, to both of them, that there are no insults in the air between their lips.
Their hearts are beating so fast, so loud, they both wonder if the other can hear it.
At the very least, she had the excuse of being blind, that she could not look at him with questions in her eyes. But he could, and she could feel him waiting.
Butterflies in her stomach since the time he'd called her name, saying that he wanted to talk to her. Wild butterflies now as he waited for her to speak.
She turns away and runs, because there was nothing she could say back.
He watches her with golden eyes clouded with worry, but after taking one step towards her, he stopped.
The pain in his heart never hurt this much before. It paralyzed him.
Their bed rolls are far apart, and the pillow once discarded had returned. They lay facing away from each other, and the fire crackled listlessly at their feet.
No one could say anything, since no one knew what to say.
She thinks her heart is about to burst.
He knows his is on the verge of breaking.
They're waiting for a sign, but nothing's coming.
And that's when they stop, and that's when they start to move again.
She's Toph and he's Zuko and they're both a lot of things, but a coward isn't one of them.
Neither are they patient people, so the next time they're left alone, she jumps on him and maps out his face with her hands, touches the scar with a foreign gentleness, runs her fingers over his lips-- and she sighs loud and long before she crumples on top of him, sobbing like the child he knew she was (deep down).
He holds her, gently, amidst the curses that flew past her lips and the punches that hit him hard. He's the only one who can.
"Toph," he whispers, "I love you."
It's the second silence, and it stretches longer than the first one.
Or it would have, had she not broken it almost immediately after he spoke.
"I love you, too, so shut up about it!"
She punches him again, but he's smiling, so there is no pain. He pulls her down for a kiss and she complies, despite her earlier fit.
He missed this.
She did, too.
It's not chaste for long, either.
When the gang comes back, it's to find a certain earth bender asleep on top of a certain ex-fire prince in what could have been a provocative position, if only they had enough time to think about it.
Cool stares of nonchalance were directed at them, and they wisely choose not to speak a word.
Except for Sokka who, after recovering from the initial shock, went on a ranting spree about age gaps and patience and true love until Suki shut his mouth with her hand and dragged him away from certain death.
Katara smiles and goes off to prepare dinner while Aang stays for a few moments before hearing Appa's call of companionship and hastily leaving the scene.
They are alone again, so they see it fit to pick up where they left off.
In seconds, they were asleep once again.
Two bowls, one pair of chopsticks.
Two bed rolls, one blanket, one pillow.
Two people, one shadow that's impossibly taller than the rest when they set off the next morning.
Two hearts, one beat.
He closes the story book and the child on the bed frowns sleepily, rubbing a golden eye with his small fist. His raven locks held back by a green band fall over one eyes as his head lolls forward.
"But I'm not sleepy yet..."
She pokes his forehead, letting gravity push him down on the bed, and smiles.
"Of course you're not, kid."
He leans over and kisses his forehead, and she does the same seconds later.
"Goodnight, Honlon." he whispers, as the boy's eyes drift close.
"Sweet dreams." she mutters, tucking the covers under his chin.
Later, as they walk down the hallway of the palace, her arm linked with his, the silence is broken by a simple question:
"Wonder if he can earth bend?"
"If he can fire bend as well, Aang will have a field day."
"And you won't?"
"If he can do both, I'll have to remember how I beat you."
"You never did."
"Then I'll have to try, won't I?"
"Takes one to know one..."
Laughter, through the silence.
Light, through the dark.
Author's Notes: done for my dear BoTMF, Lui. ^ ^ This was my first time writing for this pair, in this fandom. Hope it's not too confusing. ToKo rules, as far as I'm concerned. Which is saying something, since I'm a yaoi-fangirl. :D This is the inedible part of my White Day gift, and I hope you liked it, Lui. Hope you did too, dear reader. :D
Review? Happy (belated) White Day! 03-14-09