Title: Flight

Pairing: hints of Toph/Aang

Summary: If there's one thing Toph never imagined growing up (nor particularly wanted to), it was flying.

Word Count: 554

If there's one thing Toph never imagined growing up (nor particularly wanted to), it was flying. She had never freely flown, though she knew Aang sometimes took Katara and Sokka up on his glider for fun. Katara always shrieked and Sokka always hollered, both coming back from it with heartbeats racing and gasps of laughter on their breath, but Toph had never gone. Aang was wise enough to never offer.

But she had ridden often enough on Appa's back, clinging (terrified, for the first few times) to the saddle and feeling the soft, shaggy fur beneath her feet and nothing else. She wasn't quite sure how to feel about riding on Appa. It was comfortable, mostly, and she enjoyed the speed, but -- because she couldn't quite say it was like losing her sight when she'd never had that to begin with, really -- it was like losing an arm or leg. She clung to Sokka, to Aang (never to Katara, if she could help it; the boys were much less likely to start with the coddling), to anything that would grant her some bearing until she could be restored to the earth once more.

It wasn't until well into the journey that she really flew.

It was sudden, the attack; Toph barely had time to hear Katara shriek a warning before an explosion battered them, sending licks of flame and heat around them all. Toph reached out for a handhold, but Appa dodged and she slid, too fast to tell, blindly ramming into the other side of the saddle before she could even think to call out. And even then, it would have been fine -- she could have grabbed onto something else, but then there was the cackle of lightning and Sokka yelled; the sound of water rushed by Toph's ears along with Katara's light footsteps, and suddenly Appa darted back left and --

There was nothing.

Nothing but the rushing sound of air by her ears, whipping through her hair and clothes; the sound of battle growing too rapidly distant. Toph couldn't even find the air to breathe. Her chest was tight with fear, especially as she began to sense the earth below -- not enough to control it, not enough to save her, but just enough to know that even if she couldn't see it, she was falling. She felt horribly frozen, falling and spinning in the air, and she wondered, absently, if it was better or worse that she couldn't see.

She felt tears well up in her eyes--

And suddenly she was snatched out of the air, strong arms wrapping around her waist. She could smell Aang's dusty clothes, feel the smoothness of his neck as she buried her head in the small of his throat and wrapped her arms tight around him; she could hear the desperate sounding gasps he was making as he tried to clutch her back and steer his glider at the same time. They zoomed through the sky and she took no enjoyment, felt no urge to laugh, simply clung to him and felt their hearts racing together.

Later they were safe on dry, solid, dependable earth, but Toph held onto Aang's arm for the rest of the night anyway, and silently appreciated when he didn't mention the way her shoulders trembled as they flew.

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