A Taangsty one-shot. This is based on the Ummi-Taang theory that I read on Deviantart. So you might want to read that in order to understand the reasoning behind this. Here is the address: .com/art/The-Kummi-Taang-Relation-87315835
Toph listened to the wind as it blew past her and around the rest of the Southern Air Temple. The vibrations from the stone building caused her bones to hum with their rhythm. She should have found the place comforting despite its great height. It was built into the side of a cliff and composed entirely of stone cut from the mountain itself, but something about the place seemed off. The blind girl loved her privacy and solitude as much as the next person but in the Air Temples there was always an unnatural silence that filled the rooms. Sometimes her ears would catch the edges of an echo as if there was supposed to be noise in the Temples but there wasn't. It was odd but no matter what she did she could never find herself at ease in the Air Temples, especially the Southern one.
She sighed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. That was another problem. There was a constant draft in the place no matter how many times she plugged up one hole another always appeared. Despite all these things, she had lived here for the past seven months and had learned to deal with the problems. She'd tried to convince the Avatar several times that something wasn't right about the temple, but he would always shrug it off and tell her it was because it was just so different for her. She would then let the subject drop. Aang had that effect on her. For no one else but Twinkle Toes would she have tolerated such living conditions. If anyone else had suggested she go live in a drafty creepy old building she would have earth bended them into the nearest wall. But here I am, she grumbled internally to herself.
She heard Aang pad up behind her and wrap his arms around her waist. "What are you up to?" he said as he nuzzled her neck.
"Admiring the view," she drawled as she relaxed against him.
He let out a laugh that sent her heart tumbling over itself. She both hated and loved the fact that he could illicit these kinds of responses from her. It was one of many contradictions in their strange relationship.
"How did I know you were going to say that?" He lifted his face from the side of hers and stared out over the mist covered ocean below them.
"Maybe you've developed a new mind reading ability on top of mastering all four elements and the Avatar state?"
He chuckled. "No, I think maybe it's because I'm finally starting to understand you."
"Keep dreamin', Twinkle Toes, keep dreamin'."
"Maybe I am," he murmured above her head. After the war, Aang had grown like a weed. Toph had not been so fortunate.
"Don't get all philosophical on me now."
"I'm not," he answered. "Sometimes I just wonder how it all ended up like this."
Her brow furrowed in concern. She didn't like it when he started talking like that. It usually meant he felt guilty about something, felt that he wasn't living up to the high standards that were required of Air Nomads. She decided to cut to the heart of the matter, the core of her unspoken fears. She detached herself from him. "Listen, Aang, if you're questioning this whole relationship we have going, just tell me. I know that those monks wouldn't be keen on you having a live in girlfriend. If you want to end it then let's do it now." She hoped he couldn't hear the aching in her voice. The earthbender hadn't expected it to hurt so much saying those words.
She listened as his heart rate soared. That wasn't a good sign. Toph mentally prepared herself for the hammer to fall.
"No, that's not it," he started.
She held up her hands to stop him and shook her head in understanding. "Don't spare my feelings, okay? If you want to end this then lets just-"
"Would you let me explain myself?" He interrupted, his voice angry as he spoke. "I don't want to end this between you and me. I just meant that this is so different from the life I had imagined five years ago. Before I defeated Ozai I thought that I wouldn't even live to see this day much less imagine myself rebuilding the Air Temples with you. I would have never thought this could be." She felt his hand wave in the space between them.
"Of course, you couldn't," she snapped, "you were too caught up in Sugar Queen." She knew it was a low blow, but it was still a sore spot for her after all these years.
"And you with Sokka," he shot back.
She sighed and felt her shoulders slump.
"I'm happy, Toph." He moved forward and placed his hands on her upper arms. "I'm happier then I can remember ever being." He wrapped his arms around her and drew her to his chest. "And it's because of you."
Once upon a time, Toph would have squirmed in his embrace but over the years she'd gotten used to his displays of affection. She'd even come to enjoy them. "Ditto, Twinkle Toes," she whispered against the front of his robes, the fabric soft underneath her cheek. She heard the beating of his heart like a great drum in her ear. "But what's up with all the lovey-dovey stuff?"
"What I can't show you affection?"
"You're lying," she said as she looked up into where she assumed his face was. "What did you do?"
She nodded slowly. "Alright, where are you headed off? You always try and butter me up right before you have to go away for some long trip."
"Nowhere," he answered.
"Then you have something planned." She poked him in the chest with her index finger.
"I have no idea what you're-"
"Yes, you do. Spit it out now, and I might go easy on you."
"You're impossible you know that," he muttered. He ran a hand over his bald head.
"Actually, I do, now out with it."
"I was going to wait until later, but if you insist. . ."
Aang knelt on one knee and pulled something out of his pocket. Toph raised her eyebrow in suspicion. Her stomach was tying itself in a knot.
"I-I don't really know how to do this. The monks didn't explain this kind of stuff to us when I was still around them but. . ." He pressed something into the palm of her hand. Her fingers slid over the silk band and found the stone pendant hanging from the middle. It was smooth and cold against her finger tips, marble.
"Is this what I think it is?" she asked, her voice trembling.
"I don't know Earth Kingdom customs so I went with what I knew, Water Tribe. Toph will you marry me?"
She let out a breath through her nose as her thumb rubbed along the symbol engraved into the stone. She felt the rectangle of the Earth Kingdom with the swirls representing the Air Nomads etched into it instead of the typical one swirl. "You did this yourself?" she asked.
"Yes, I did it using earth bending. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to shape marble like that."
"I can imagine," she answered. He was still expectantly kneeling in front of her.
"I. . . I. . .-"
His heart fluttered erratically in his chest.
She held her breath for a moment longer before responding, "Of course, I'll marry you, you dope."
"You will?" He surged to his feet.
"I just said I would, didn't I?"
He grabbed her around the waist and lifted her into the air, spinning her around in a circle.
"Hey, blind girl here. I can't see when I'm off the ground."
He set her down again and sealed her lips in a kiss. She reciprocated the action, holding a hand to her head to steady her sense of balance.
Aang broke the kiss, grinning like an idiot down into her sightless eyes. Toph didn't have to see the expression on his face to sense the rush of joy running through his veins.
"You know my parents are going to have a hippocow, right?" Personally, she didn't give a damn what her parents thought of the marriage. They'd been far from pleased when she'd announced to them that she was going to go live with the Avatar in his drafty old temple, but this was a whole another level. With this, they would lose any and all hopes of marrying her off to a man with as they put it "a respectable family". She knew there was going to be trouble, and while it wouldn't bother her, she knew it would bother Twinkle Toes. He actually cared if people liked him or not.
"Not an issue," he said happily. "I sent out a letter asking for your hand, and I've already sent them the bride price."
"You what?" Her jaw unhinged.
"I've had this planned for a while," he answered sheepishly, pecking her on the cheek before turning on his heel and striding away.
"Wait a minute," she yelled as she stomped after him. "You're telling me you asked my parents for permission to marry me first? And you paid for me?"
He stopped and turned to face her. "Toph, it was necessary. I knew that they would be even more likely to object to the idea if I didn't come to them first. They'd never forgive me if I just up and married you without informing them."
"You shouldn't worry about them forgiving you. You should worry about me not bending you into the side of this mountain."
"Oh c'mon," he pleaded, taking a step forward. "You have to admit you're just a little glad that you don't have to deal with it yourself."
"That's not the point. The point is that you asked them before you asked me, and you paid for me like I'm a . . ."
"You're not okay. It was nothing like that. You're parents just happened to demand something like that, and so I did. And admit it, you're relieved you don't have to face them."
"Maybe a little," she said under her breath.
"What was that?" He turned his head to the side to hear her better.
"I said maybe a little alright."
"It's nothing to worry about. Everything has been set up. Now we can live our lives together how we want to without worrying about them interfering."
"You win this round, Twinkle Toes."
Aang only laughed and watched her retreating back as she marched into the temple.
Toph felt Aang slide into the bed they shared, his arm enveloping her waist. She pressed the line of her body to the front of his. The Avatar sighed contentedly into his fiancé's neck.
"What's got you in such a good mood?" she asked, stretching her neck so he could place a kiss at the junction of her throat and shoulder.
"I just still can't believe you said yes, that's all."
"Had you scared there for a minute, didn't I?" she gently teased.
"Maybe." His lips moved from her shoulder to her ear lobe.
She made a small noise in her throat at the action. She rolled over on her side to face him so their lips could meet. His hand moved from her waist to her hip, his other hand tangling in her long, dark hair. Toph let her fingers wander over his shoulders and back, feeling the muscles glide underneath the skin. She could feel his heart thundering against her own, sharing the same beat.
Her skin started to prickle, but it wasn't because of Aang's ministrations. She felt like she was being watched, something malevolent hovering around the edges of her senses. She'd felt it before while in the temple alone but never this strong and certainly not when she was with Aang. He seemed to drive off the spirits that lurked in this place.
"Aang," she mumbled, placing a hand on his chest to stop him.
"Can we leave this place soon?"
"Why? We just started working on repairing everything."
"It's just . . . I don't know why, but I don't feel comfortable here. I feel like something's spying on me."
"Yes," she whispered as she buried her head against him.
He tucked his fingers beneath her chin, drawing her face to his. "Toph there's nothing here."
"But I feel something, Aang. I can't explain it."
He silenced her with a kiss. "I promise you, I'll protect you from anything that's here. You have nothing to worry about."
She reluctantly nodded.
"Good." He smiled.
He ran his hand up her back, fingers lightly tracing patterns on her skin. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her mouth to his. He threw one leg over her hip, positioning himself above her.
"Have I told you how wonderful you are?" He breathed into her ear.
"You could stand to say it a bit more," she replied smugly.
"How bout I show you."
She giggled. "That's the smartest thing you've said all day."
Something tickled the sole of her foot. Toph curled in on herself, thinking it was some joke of Aang's. "I've had enough tonight, Twinkle Toes. We can resume in the morning after breakfast," she muttered against her pillow.
The tickling persisted. She yawned and sat up on one elbow. "Aang, seriously," she scolded, only to find that his heart rate and breathing were steady. The Avatar was sound asleep.
She jerked her leg back, turning her head frantically from side to side. Something slithered in the dark. "Aang," she whispered, afraid to speak too loudly for fear that she would alert the thing. He didn't respond. She shook him, still nothing.
She sat still on the bed and listened as something rustled against the stone floor. The thing click-clacked across the floor like a giant insect skittering. Her breath hitched in her throat. Instinct told her that this wasn't normal. This wasn't from her world. She jumped down to the floor, her arms sliding back in a bending stance. She could feel the vibrations of it moving. She'd never felt anything with that many legs.
She was about to raise a pillar of earth to go shooting out at it when something hard wrapped around her ankle. Her feet were ripped out from under her. She panicked soundlessly. Her legs thrashed. Her fingers dug into the stone, leaving furrows in her wake as it dragged her back from the bed.
She could feel the blood trickling from her broken fingernails as she clung to the ground. She slammed a hand down, sent a wall of rock shooting out behind her. The thing, the monster, the nightmare, whatever the hell it was, twisted around it like it had no spine. She felt it briefly. It seemed to possess no bones or cartilage or blood or anything that made up a physical body, and yet it was as real as anything she'd ever encountered.
Then her tongue managed to free itself from the shackles of fear. "Aang!" She screamed that one harsh syllable, put more effort and strength and rage into it then she had ever any other word in her life. In her ears, it seemed to strike the air like an arrow shot from a bow or a stone thrown from a sling.
The Avatar sat bolt upright then. "Toph?" he cried out.
Help was all she could reply back as she felt herself being pulled away from all that she knew. It wasn't pulling her into another room. It was pulling her through the room, through the wall, through the mountain itself. It was pulling through the thin fabric of the physical world and into a new foreign one.
She felt his feet thumping towards her as the tips of her fingers gave up their grasp on the stone and she felt herself sucked into a hideously frightening world.
"Toph!" Her name rang out like a bell in her ears. Then it faded to a dim echo, a soft breeze, until it was gone completely.
The insect-like leg gripping her ankle let go, and she stumbled to her feet. The ground was soft and mucky beneath the soles of her feet. The air smelled queer to her nose. It was humid and thick like syrup seeping into her lungs. Oddly, it didn't bother her. Here she knew she didn't need to breathe. Her heart didn't need to beat. It merely did so out of habit. She had heard Aang speak of this place. The Spirit World she'd heard him call it.
Her captor scuttled behind her in a tight circle, its stick-like legs making suction noises in the mud. She turned on her heel to face it.
"Blink," it commanded in an androgynous voice.
"Why should I do as you say?" She tried to make her voice sound angry and defiant, but it was a meek thing that crawled out of her throat.
"Because it will do you no good not to." She could hear the smirk in its voice. She knew it was wearing a smile, if such things could smile.
Against her better judgment, she blinked. The blackness of her world dissolved. In its place was the strangest experience she'd ever had. She could see. There were lumps and shapes and things unnamed before her. Things she could have identified with her fingers and feet but didn't know the names of with her eyes. And there were intensities covering these things. What were they called? How would the seeing label them? Yes, they were colors. The seeing called them colors.
She blinked again. Her sight remained.
"How is this possible?" Toph asked the monster in the shadows.
It spiraled around her until she saw its face. A white face with red lips and dark circles around the eyes that would have reminded her of bruises if Toph had known what bruises looked like.
"We are in the Spirit World," it answered. It turned its back to her, swaying rhythmically to its own internal beat.
"Why am I here?" She didn't like this. She didn't like it all. She might have gained her sight, but she'd lost her bending. There was not a question as to which she'd rather have.
"Because you are."
She frowned. "Of course, I'm here. If I weren't here I wouldn't be asking why the hell I'm here."
It chuckled, suddenly sounding very female. The thing turned back to her. It had a woman's face now. Toph had never seen a face before in her life, not even her own, but this woman's seemed familiar. The eyes were incredibly sad, but she knew this was not the monster's emotion she was seeing.
The woman's lips quirked into a reluctant smile as if she were doing it against her will. "Do you recognize this face?"
"Liar!" The woman's face vanished and was replaced by an animal with a long rippled snout and yellow eyes.
The earthbender swallowed and took a step back. The mud squelched and slid beneath her feet. She fell onto her hands.
"Do you know who I am?" the thing asked, returning to its original façade.
The thing smiled, and Toph suddenly felt sick. "I am Koh. I am an old acquaintance of yours and the Avatar's."
"That doesn't explain why I'm here."
Koh spoke, "Let us just say you are an unfortunate victim in the pages of history."
She frowned. Koh's smile widened and then everything went blinding white.
She felt him rip through the veil of the Spirit World. She felt the vibrations with her whole being. It was as if she were a string wound tight and plucked forcefully. Her soul trembled violently with it. She rejoiced and despaired all within one moment. Part of her thought that he would save her. Another far older part of her knew that he would not. She looked down dispassionately at the small, crumpled figure lying in the mud. It looked so utterly pitiful to her now. Were her hands really that small? Her arms that thin?
She now found it hard to believe that her body had somehow managed to house her spirit and her bending. It seemed so fragile like an egg shell.
Are you not glad that I took you from that corpse? Something that she thought might be Koh whispered in her mind.
Toph felt something pushing for her to say yes, but that was a lie. Toph was not ready to accept Koh's lie yet.
No, she thought.
You will in time, was all that Koh replied, but she had a feeling that she would not.
She felt the rush of wind against her and the body that she was trapped in. The Avatar had come.
The atmosphere seemed to seethe and writhe with his anger, his fury.
"Where is she?" He demanded.
She felt Koh's lips twitch into a sick smile. If she'd still had a stomach it would have churned.
"Look for yourself, Avatar," she felt herself being forced to say, her voice added to Koh's now.
Aang gasped and collapsed to his knees beside her body. Toph watched as he cradled her head in his hands, laying her torso across his knees. He let out a strangled gasp as his fingers brushed away her bangs. Her face was gone. Where it had been was as smooth as porcelain, as smooth as the marble necklace he'd given her. It was still around her neck. Something that had once been her heart contracted in her center. The agony was familiar to her, terribly old.
He laid her down gently in the mud, careful to cover her blank face with her long bangs. He stood and straightened his robes. His face was free of all expression.
"Give her back, Koh," said Aang in as dead a voice as he could manage.
"Now why would I want to do that?" Koh climbed up the tangled roots of the hollow tree they stood in. He slipped and slithered easily through them.
"Why did you want her in the first place?"
"Why would I not want the face of a beautiful young woman? She had such unusual eyes. I've never had the face of a blind woman before."
"I'll make a deal with you," the young man said. Toph thought she'd never heard Aang sound so tired and desperate.
She felt Koh's interest pique. "And really what could you offer me that might be worth more to me then the face of your beloved?" The spirit's greed was overwhelming.
Koh stopped swaying for a moment. Toph felt the whirring burn of the wheels of his mind turning. He was weighing his options. She wanted to scream at Aang. She wanted to tell him to leave her behind that it was hopeless. And yet, she also wanted to be free of this imprison. She could already feel it suffocating her. Memories that had once been warm and close to the surface were cold and distant like stars.
"Do you know what the consequences of your action would be, Avatar?"
"The Avatar cycle would stop completely after three or so generations. With no Air Benders left to continue it, it would die out and stop. Balance would be lost." Koh stated all of this as fact. Toph knew he had no personal interest in any of it. The spirit only cared about what he could gain from it all. Koh was not good or evil, merely selfish.
"And you would trade all of this for her?"
"Yes," he answered without hesitation.
"You are not going to fight me? You are not going to swear eternal vengeance against me? You do not wish to see my blood on your spear?" Koh curled around Aang, studying his movements carefully.
"No, I am here to make a deal. My face for hers. Fighting you would do me no good."
The creature laughed. A coldness entered her then. Koh's laugh was a cruel thing to hear. Aang seemed indifferent to it. "I see you have learned something after all these years, all these lifetimes."
The airbender said nothing.
"But what you offer is not enough. I do not want your face. Bring me the face of someone else that you hold dear, and I will let her go."
Aang's mask shattered. "What? I can't do that! That isn't fair, it isn't right. Take me, Koh! I am worth more to you than any stranger."
"That is true, but you value your own life less than that of those around you. Your sacrifice is noble, Avatar, but ultimately, meaningless. You are willing to give up your life, but not your principles."
"Please," he begged. "She means more to me than anything."
"No, Avatar. She does not. I know that you once offered this for another woman at another time. I saw you then as you tried to access the Avatar state. I watched you as you refused to give up your water tribe girl and thus imperiled the world. Bring me her face, and I will give you the other. Prove to me that she is worth more than anything to you."
Aang looked down at his hands helplessly. Toph knew his answer before he said it.
"I-I can't do that. It's not my right to trade the life of one person for another's."
"It is not that you can't do that, it is that you won't," Koh and Toph said. This time she allowed him the use of her voice. Anger and bitterness boiled and bubbled in her. In the end, she had always known she would lose to Katara some way or another.
"Please, I'll do anything but that. I can't do that. You can't expect me to bring someone else here against their will. Is there any other way?" The Avatar was clutching his hands to the sides of his head as if it were all too much to comprehend.
Koh's smile widened. The spirit could taste Aang's despair, his confliction, his overwhelming anger. Toph could taste it too on her tongue like a snake. It was overwhelmingly bitter and yet satisfying to Koh. He fed off of this as much as anything else.
She opened her mouth to tell Aang to get quit being such a coward and grow a spine but found she didn't have a mouth or tongue to speak. Her face and voice belonged to the monster now. She was merely another specimen in his menagerie of souls.
"There has to be another way. . ." the boy whispered.
"There is not. I have already told you this, and you do not listen. That is why I took her, Avatar because you do not listen to anyone or anything."
The airbender looked up at Koh questioningly, obviously, no longer afraid of having his face stolen.
"It has been a pattern in the tapestry of your life. You did not listen when the monks told you that you were needed as the Avatar all those years ago. You ran, and the world plummeted into a century of war. You turned away the advice of your friends . You spared the life of a tyrant after your past lives told you to finish it. Your stubbornness had never cost you anything. I decided to remedy that."
Aang's hands balled into fists. He slammed them against his thighs. He glared up at the Spirit. "I will find a way to free her from you, Koh. Mark my words. I will save you, Toph. Don't worry."
Koh chuckled. "I believe I've heard that before. Make whatever threats you like. In the end, they are empty."
The airbender growled and pointed a menacing finger at the spirit. "I will find a way. I found a way to defeat Ozai, and I will find a way to defeat you."
"You forget one thing, Avatar. The Fire Lord was mortal, and I am not. I have outlived all of your previous lives, and I will outlive this one and your next."
Aang gave a roar of frustration before gently picking up her empty shell in his arms and turning back to the opening in the tree. "I promise you I will come back Toph." Without another word he left then. She desperately wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that he would find a way. If anyone could it would be him. But she also knew somehow that he wouldn't. That he would fail. Someone else had failed like this before. She knew it, but she couldn't quite remember it exactly.
She felt him leave, felt the rush of his energy part from the Spirit World across the rift into the physical world. For a moment, she wondered how Koh had managed to sneak into the Spirit World, and then suddenly she knew. The Southern Temple having been the living quarters of the Air monks had already had a stronger than usual connection to the Spirit World, but when all the Air Nomads were slaughtered this connection strengthened with their violent deaths and bitter spirits. This had created holes in the veil between the worlds, and Koh had slunk through one of these holes.
Seconds, days, millennia passed indifferently to her. It was a slow and strange process. First she thought she could still hear the beat of her own heart and the murmur of her own thoughts and then they started to fade. Soon there was only the quiet.
Please review to tell me what you thought and thank you for reading.