::edit:: I fixed something I hadn't been quite happy with, and I think it's better now. Not a big deal, only a few sentences, but it gave me peace of mind :P
Aang's gray eyes opened to a rising sun, his internal clock buzzing at his senses. He sat up in his makeshift bed on Appa's back, causing the still sleeping bison to fidget, and try to scratch away the 'nuisance'.
With a smile and the slight tensing of his legs, Aang lifted himself out of the way of the massive paw, having no intention of being thrown to the ground like some over-grown flea this early in the morning. He landed lightly on his feet, a fleeting memory of 'twinkletoes' flashing through his mind. He grinned anew and thought that maybe he should opt for a bit of earthbending instead of meditation. So, instead of the stream he had noticed when he landed the night before, Aang headed in the opposite direction, toward a clearing.
He strolled to a clearing, and took his stance. Being sure to root himself to the earth as he had been taught. After a moment of mental preparation, and reminding himself that he had to be solid, to break completely from airbending teachings, he lifted his left foot and slammed it into the ground. Through the shock of dust and dirt three massive brown boulders rose up. They were a little larger than he, and Aang quickly jabbed his fists forward sending the outside two flying off into the distance. He sent the third one flying away with a spinning kick. Quickly obeying his senses and using the flow of his airbending to maximize the use of momentum, Aang hovered, preparing himself for his next move. As he came back to the ground he slid into a crouch, bending his body back then around in a quick circle, and using his foot he struck up a curved wall of stone.
He paused after erecting his wall, deciding to try a bit of earthbending he had nearly given up on. He knocked down the wall easily, and brought one medium sized rock up leaving it to hover near his face. He relaxed, letting his mind glance back to his fight with Ozai, and his use of condensed rock as projectiles. Ever since then he had tried to replicate the technique, without the avatar state, but had never been able to actually condense the rock without watching it crush itself. He took a deep breath, and tried to mimic the hand movements he remembered from the battle. The rock shuddered in the air, not turning to rubble as his previous attempts had, and he felt a surge of accomplishment. That was quickly squelched however, when the rock abruptly turned to dust, and fell to the ground.
"I'll bet Toph could do it," he grumbled to himself.
He continued his training for another hour, letting the sun fully rise. As he threw the last boulder away, he wiped the sweat from his brow and turned towards the stream. On his way to wash up he passed Appa, who was now sleeping on his back with Momo curled up on his stomach. Aang let out a small chuckle as he passed the two, pushing his way through the dense brush. Once through, he quickly stripped off his clothes, and leapt eagerly into the running water. Seconds later, he came shooting straight up in the air, covered in goose bumps. He hung in midair for a moment, before beginning his speedy descent back to the water. He hit the water on his back, a painful slap resounding throughout the small cove. His limp form sunk slowly below the waterline, leaving only a small circle of bubbles. He splashed to the surface a moment later, taking in a large breath of air.
"I'm a bit out of practice acting like the Avatar," he said to the river, which didn't seem to care much. "But the water's not so bad once you get used to it."
He dunked under the chilled water a last time before swimming to the bank. He climbed out, the chilled morning air not helping to warm him up. He quickly heated the air around him with a small burst of flame, the sent the warm air flying past him to dry himself off.
"Much better," he said as he put his clothes back on, and walked back to the campsite. He arrived to find Appa trying to eat a bush, and Momo sitting on a rock, eating berries and watching with amusement.
"Come on you two," he said as he leapt on top of Appa's head, "we can make it by noon if we hurry!" Appa voiced his excitement as Momo landed on his usual perch on Aang's shoulder.
Appa pushed off the ground, sending a cloud of dirt sweeping through the trees. He quickly passed above the tree line, and flew in the new direction, as guided. Aang turned inward to his thoughts for the last few hours of the trip, wondering how the first of his companions would react. It had been three years since he had seen Toph. He had been able to swing past Gaoling in his travels, but ever since his last visit, he had been unable to do so. His face paled considerably as a thought struck him.
"I hope she isn't angry," he murmured.
He shook his head, clearing his mind of thoughts as he meditated for the last leg of their flight. A roar from Appa brought him out of it some time later as the city came into view.
"Let's go buddy!" Aang called as he grabbed the reigns. The bison roared his agreement and sped towards their destination.
It hadn't changed in all his time away, and Toph's house was exactly as he remembered. He set Appa down just outside the estate's walls. He leapt off his seat and started walking towards the front gate. He hadn't made it but a few steps before the wall in front of him blew out in a storm of dust and rock. He reflexively shielded his eyes from the blast, and uncovered them after the dust had settled. He blinked a few times to find a woman in green, her dark hair pulled into a loose ponytail, standing atop the rubble. She stood still for a moment, while the gears in Aang's head lurched into motion. Her head snapped his direction and she ran at him, full speed.
"Twinkletoes!" she called as she tackled him in a hug. "It's been years!" she paused for a moment before stepping back. "And you've gotten taller too."
"I hadn't noticed," Aang laughed. "The only one I have to compare to is Appa."
Toph raised an eyebrow before turning back towards the hole in the wall.
"Come on in, bring Appa around by the stable, we've got plenty of food for him."
Upon hearing the word, Appa sprang into motion, flying over the wall with a bellow of thanks.
"He didn't get much to eat this morning," Aang explained as he followed Toph through the hole.
"Hold on a second," she said, turning back to the wall. With a quick series of hand movements the rubble was blasted away and the missing section had been replaced by a solid piece of earth.
"That should do it," Toph said, "at least until it can be completely repaired."
Aang expected to head up to the house next, and was therefore surprised when he was rounded upon by the earthbender.
"So. Twinkletoes," she said, her voice menacing.
"Y-yes," was all he could stammer to the fearsome woman before him.
"Why didn't you visit? I thought we were friends?" she growled taking an earthbending stance.
"Answer wrong and you'll be buried up to your neck."
"We were friends-are friends," he corrected himself holding his hands in front of him.
"But not good enough to visit?" she shot back with a raised eyebrow.
"I had Avatar duties," he explained lamely.
"Every day for three years?"
"Thought not," she said, moving faster than Aang had expected, and he quite suddenly found himself up to his neck in the earth.
"Come on Toph," he begged, struggling unsuccessfully against his prison.
"I'll be back in an hour or two when I'm calmer," she said, smiling as she walked back towards the house. Aang pleaded with her, fruitlessly, until she had disappeared inside her mansion.
The next two hours were quite possibly the longest and most uncomfortable two hours of his life. Between the worms that found his body fun to slide past and the bugs that thought his head was a nice place to climb across, it wasn't his idea of fun. He blew what bugs he could off the front of his face, looking quite ridiculous as he did so. His second tactic was rolling his head around on the ground, scraping the bugs off. He soon realized, however, that they got squished more than they got scraped off. With dirt and squished bugs covering his face, he began the long wait for Toph to let him out.
To his surprise Toph came striding out a little after the second hour of his punishment. He saw that she had changed into a sleeveless emerald green top, with baggy matching pants. The outfit was obviously made for relaxation.
"Alright Twinkletoes, you're free," she said, raising one hand, palm up, from her hip while his body followed suit.
"I'm really really so-," he began.
"Save it," she said, holding up a hand. "You've been mostly underground for a few hours, so you could probably use a bath. Go get clean, then we'll eat and catch up."
"Sounds good," Aang said, looking more forward to the bath than the food.
There was silence as she led him to the bath, not an awkward one, but one of familiarity.
"Here we are," she announced, stopping in front of a door. "Go on in, leave you clothes in the middle room, and we'll wash them."
"The only reason they're dirty is because of you," he grumbled.
"And I'll bring you your pack, so you can change." she finished, talking over his complaints.
"Then we eat?" he asked.
"Then we eat," she affirmed. "My room is down this hallway," she pointed, "second on the right."
She strode off towards her room, while Aang opened the door to the washroom.
He knew the Bei Fong's were rich, but after living in a monk's temple for a few years, the fancy room came as quite a shock. There were mirrors on either side of the room that took up the entire wall. An elaborately designed table held a variety of soaps, shampoos, and bath oils. He eagerly stripped off his mud-covered clothes, and placed them in the basket next to the door. He assessed the various soaps, smelling each one before deciding on a flowery scent. He picked a flowery shampoo, deciding it was the nicest one there, and grabbed the bath oil labeled 'muscle relaxant.'
He opened the second set of doors, bottles in hand, to be amazed once again by the grandeur of the bath. Though not especially large, the all marble bath was far roomier than he was used to. He slid into the warm water that had been prepared for him and felt himself relax almost immediately. He grabbed the bath oil and poured some into the water with him. He felt his muscles relax, and figured it would be alright to close his eyes for just a moment.
Toph had finished cleaning her room, or rather what little needed cleaned. Being blind didn't leave you much chance to toss something somewhere and expect to find it later. She wiped down a table with a damp cloth. She didn't usually eat in her room, so the table was prone to gathering dust. Once she was done she wiped her hand across it to feel if she had missed anything, and after inspection she deemed it fit to eat off of. She grabbed the edges of the table and pulled in more to the center of the room.
She knew she had people that would do this for her. Her parents had badgered her for a long time about having people do things that she couldn't do herself, or rather what they thought she couldn't do. It had taken time, and more than one reminder of her title of 'General Bei Fong', and a few earthbending demonstrations, but they had finally backed off. She sighed, not really wanting to mentally relive the long arduous fight with her parents about her 'disability.' Flopping down on her bed, she mentally thanked Twinkletoes for his timing. He had showed up while her parents were away on a rare vacation to their private island. She knew that he had showed up because he needed something, but so long as he got her away from this place, she wouldn't hold it against him.
One of the cooks carried in a tray of food, and set it on the table. Toph could tell by his footsteps that it was her favorite cook, Stick. His real name was Stark, but with her penchant for nicknames, she had dubbed most of the staff. The ones she liked anyway. His name was pretty self explanatory as he was so tall and lanky that he looked as though the wind alone could snap him in two.
"Lady Bei Fong," he said after setting the table. She rolled over, ignoring him.
"Lady Bei Fong," he repeated, though he knew full well why she hadn't replied.
"No one here by that name," she said loudly, not moving. "You must have the wrong room."
"Mistress Toph," he said, after a moment's hesitation.
"Better," she said, sitting up and flinging herself off the bed. "But one of these days I'll get you to call me Toph."
"I doubt that ma'am," he said with a smile.
"Then I'll squish you with a rock."
"Yes ma'am," he said, turning his attention to he food. "Everything is here as you requested, and I made sure the Avatar has a vegetarian meal."
"Thanks Stick, do you know if the Avatar's pack has been unloaded yet?"
"I do not think so. Shall I send someone to go get it for you?" he answered.
"Thanks, but I'll go get it and give him his clothes."
"Very good," he replied with a bow, taking his leave.
Toph made her way outside to where Appa was lying in the sun, his saddle off and lying next to him.
"Hey big guy," she said as she walked past him.
He let out a grunt of acknowledgement, not wanting to move out of his comfortable position.
Toph rifled through the packs on the saddle until she found the one containing his extra clothes. She pulled them out and draped them over her shoulder. She made her way towards the bath, suspecting that her friend had fallen asleep in the tub, and that's what was taking him so long.
Toph stopped outside the door to the bath, and decided to have a little fun with her Avatar friend. She slid open the door and walked right into the area with the bath.
"Hey!" shouted a startled Aang, who reflexively submerged himself up to his neck.
"It's just me Twinkles," she said, staring right at the source of the shout hoping to unnerve him.
And unnerve him she did, Aang felt his face heat to a dangerous level, before he was able to speak again.
"I'm in the bath," he mumbled lamely.
"And I'm blind," she replied with a grin.
"Doesn't matter," he said pouting. "You're still a girl."
Toph quirked one of her eyebrows, sending waves of dread through the Avatar. He didn't exactly know what the eyebrow meant, but he knew that it only meant trouble for him. He would need to be very careful with it.
"Anyways, food's ready," she said, stepping out and closing the door behind her.
Aang hastily climbed out of the tub, and dried himself off. He found the clothes Toph had laid out for him folded neatly on the table in t he middle room. He pulled on his clothes, depositing his towel in the basket as he left the room. He exited into the hallway, and followed Toph's instructions form earlier. He knocked on the second door on the right, to be beckoned in by Toph's voice.
"Come on in," she called.
Aang slid open the door and joined her at the table, sitting in front of a delicious looking meal.
"Eat up," she said, starting in on a meal of her own," and tell me everything that's happened with you these past three years, starting with Katara."
I know, I know...where the hell is Ed....well, he's in the next chapter, complaining because he hasn't made an appearance yet.
and also, to brag, I met Ed's voice actor for the English dub. Vic Mignogna....and got his autograph ^.^
if anybody has any ideas toss them my way!