Disclaimer: I don't own ATLA. Kataangers do.

Warning: This piece is rated M. It is an erotic and intimate tale. An exercise of sorts to push my own envelope. In-your-face eroticism is something very difficult for me to write. However, it became a need for me to write a piece that would allow me to exorcise some demons from my past. I chose Toph and Aang because by now I'm comfortable writing them. This is a detour from the other story I'm writing, but now that is out of my system, I can find my humor back and finish that one.

This piece is un-betaed. I felt embarrassed about sending this to Caroline, my usual beta, so please accept my apologies for my usual grammatical mistakes. I do appreciate when people point my mistakes.

Please be advised that if you are younger than 17 or if you get uncomfortable with erotica, this piece was not written for you. I have no idea what the rules are, and in the event I'm asked to remove this posting, I hope you enjoy it while available.



He wanted to keep her, even though he was not supposed to. He promised her freedom, and she promised him sanity in his own household. She kept her part of the bargain, but he found a way not to keep his.


He was looking for her, his wife. He had come home, tired and hopeful after more than five weeks away. His entire body ached with her absence, and he was looking forward to sitting by a fire made by him, to cuddle her and tell her about everything that had transpired during those long weeks. But she was nowhere to be found.

He had landed Appa in the middle of the night, high in the Southern Air Temple, definitively expecting the silence due to the late hour. What he didn't expect was the absence. He entered their room, anticipating to see her sleeping on her stomach, the light of the moon on her back, maybe one or both of the twins curled up next to her. When he went on trips, the little rascals would always come up to her in the middle of the night, to cuddle with mom until the morrow. But this time there was nothing. No wife, no children, no moonlight on her naked back.

Aang felt his heart contracting, but refused to feel fear. He had been gone for almost six weeks this time, odds were that she got bored and decided to visit her parents. He was about to jump out of the window and get Appa off the ground again, when he noticed the opened door. He stopped, thinking, and then decided to go through the door.

He didn't like the idea of going to the other side of the temple, the side with the concubines. He had nothing against the concubines, truly. He did love the children born from the arrangement, and he understood in his mind that the arrangement was necessary to restore balance. But understanding in mind was not the same as understanding in his heart. And the arrangement, as he kept calling it in his head, had already cost him too much.

The first time he was approached by his past lives about it, he thought they were joking. They were not. They had given him long speeches about restoring balance and about duty, honor and responsibilities. They had quoted Air Nomads laws that were long past, and invoked traditions from way before the war. The worse had been when the heads of the other nations, prompted by their sages and their own visions, appeared with the volunteers. The maidens that were given the task of helping him restore the balance of his race. (In his eyes, offering themselves as sacrificial lambs to right past wrongs). And he could do nothing but stand there, in full ceremonial dress, silently acquiescing to becoming a stud.

Katara couldn't handle it. And he couldn't handle her disappointment. It was not only the absurdity of being offered women as vessels, something that went against the tenets of his beliefs; it was also the impossibility of saying no. And they both understood that personal feelings had nothing to do with this process. And that she was not built for sharing and that he was not built for dishonesty, so they had to break it off. At the beginning they thought they could handle his obligations. They were very young at the time. Young teenagers, full of the righteousness given by big ideas and ignorance of the ways of the world. But they couldn't.

No amount of love from a proud woman can withstand having a boyfriend that goes to someone else's bed every night. At the beginning, Katara acted as if it was okay. After all, he was not doing anything with her; he may as well do it with someone else. But it was not that simple. His duties kept him immersed in the world, and his obligations towards the concubines kept him away from her and the South Pole the rest of his scarcely free time. After half a year, he let her go. He was sixteen at the time, too young to be facing the loss of the love of his life – or so he thought at the time – and too old to play stupid regarding their current situation.

It was not fair to her. Her tribe practiced monogamy, and it was a tradition in her world that men kept to only one woman. Sharing her boyfriend, maybe eventually her husband, with the women of the world was an unfair affront that she did not deserve. Besides, her father and brother asked him to: If you love her, they said, if you truly care for her, let her go. She may have your heart, but she's not used to the ways of nations that treat women as property. And they were right. Katara couldn't even handle the ways of the Northern Water Tribe; much less stomach the parade of women sharing his temple.

No amount of meditation assuaged the pain. Only time, that healer of all wounds. He did the right thing by her, he knew it. She knew it too. And eventually, pain gave way to nostalgia and the pangs of lost opportunities, and he learned to let it go. The same way he had let go of his hatred for the murder of his people, and for the new burdens placed on him as a result.

And then the day came when the heads of state, her father included, sent him a letter asking him to intervene as the Keeper of Peace. He was to broker a marriage, another arrangement to assuage the current stormy political situation brought by trade disputes and to build ties between the nations. When he saw the names in the correspondence he had to stop reading. He stood up and walked to one of the balconies of the temple, to look beyond the mountains while containing the myriad of feelings threatening to swallow him alive. He was to broker the marriage of former enemies, separated by duties and status, but who carried the promise of peace between themselves.

It took him a week. A week of meditation, of making peace with the reality of his circumstances, of assessing the value of the arguments presented to him to understand that such outcome was not only adequate but desirable. He took the trouble of traveling in person to talk to the Fire Lord. Of discussing with his former enemy, and now friend, the pros and cons of such alliance before getting on Appa and going south to breach the topic in person with Katara.

She had been reluctant at the beginning and then, out of the blue, said yes. When everything pointed at her refusing to be a pawn for international politics, she said yes, looking at him in the eye, defying him to say no and to oppose the idea. And he knew then that she was closing a door on him, and that she wanted him to know. And he felt like crying in silence, but there was nothing to do. Just to let her go, again. And again. And again. Until the day his heart would finally stop bleeding at her leaving.

The wedding, against all odds, was a merry affair. It was held at his temple, at the request of the nations that wanted a neutral ground for a marriage of convenience. He had the opportunity to take Katara for a ride on Appa one last time, laughing like kids, before relinquishing his youth and his past forever, stepping in to officiate the ceremony between the Fire Lord and the daughter of the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe.

While lacing their wrists with the official red and blue ribbons of the wedding ceremony, Aang thought that they made a beautiful couple. Zuko was dressed in armor, disdaining the regalia that had made his father infamous, and she was dressed in white furs and blue wools, defying the Fire nobles with her statement as to her heritage. Zuko seemed to approve. Age had given him temperance where before there was only fury, and it showed in the bemused smirk he gave her, and the way he winked at her when he saw her dress. Katara was in tune. She winked back and right in front of him, Aang saw complicity being built between his friends. Complicity soon to be sealed by marriage vows and sex, and he understood from the emptiness of his harem that they were about to build something good.

Aang was an Airbender monk after all, so he steeled himself and let go of the jealous envy that was gnawing at his heart during the ceremony. Afterwards, the festivities in the temple lasted several days. Days of merriment, alcohol, food and entertainment paid by the two nations, while the bride and groom remained locked in one of the temple master bedrooms – those reserved for the important guests – consummating their marriage. It was tradition, a Water Tribe tradition, to keep with the celebration until the couple decided to show up. It was Fire Nation tradition to wait until the Fire Lord gave a counter-order to the partying. And it was Air Nomad tradition to be an understanding host regardless of the circumstances.

All these traditions were a recipe for disaster. The most absolute disaster in the story of his life, because the groom and the bride truly got along, apparently, and the cross-traditions forced everyone to keep going on with the merrymaking, forgetting about time.

The Avatar, though, as a non drinker, was alone. The concubines were drinkers and he gave them all the leeway – and permission – in the world to go and enjoy themselves, provided he was left to his solitude in his study, located in the highest room of the temple. Aang sighed, looking down from his balcony at the guests playing musical instruments, singing and dancing. This was the second day of the festivities. He had done his duty and mingled well past his bedtime the day before. However, he was now forgotten, a quiet party pooper with his non-drinking ways and his grave eyes.

The only good thing about the festivity had been the fact that he didn't have to keep track of which concubine he was supposed to visit this time. Not that he disliked the sex, far from it. But he was never sure what the story was with the giggling, and of the fact that the concubines would call him Master and bow to him every time, even though he knew it had nothing to do with martial arts.

"What's the story Twinkles?" a known voice at his back asked him that afternoon. He had jumped in surprise. He wasn't expecting anyone to come all the way to the top tower. His only condition, when the concubines, the household staff and the sages moved to the temple, was that his study was out of bounds. But Toph was not part of his household; she was a friend and a guest. And now that she was here, he was happy that she did not care, or paid attention, to other people's rules. Particularly his.

"Watching the party," he answered knowing that she would immediately pick up on his sadness.

Yes, he was glad that she had come all the way to the tower. He had seen her before, among the guests at the ceremony, dressed as it befitted an Earth Kingdom heiress, looking like a porcelain doll but not behaving like one. They had screamed at each other, threw boulders at each other heads for fun, and then recovered the dignity of their stations, still giggling.

Seeing her here gave him the opportunity to deal with his feelings and his melancholy without having to put on a mask.

"I'm sorry," she said suddenly, coming over and sitting on one of the long chairs that were a gift from the Fire Nation. He thought it was amusing how she could pick up, by instinct, the only expensive piece of furniture in the room.

"Don't be," he said honestly, coming over and sitting next to her. "I made peace with this years ago."

"Katara didn't for a while, though," his friend said. He nodded in silence.

"I know. The decision was made for us." He paused, and then asked, soberly. "Do you think they have a chance?"

"At being happy?"


"They do. A huge one. I was feeling them during the ceremony and both seemed in high spirits at the prospect. They are friends and respect each other, and neither is currently emotionally attached to anyone else. There are no obstacles to letting go and loving each other."

Aang swallowed and accepted it. He had to let it go, like everything else in his life.

"Hey, are you okay?" Toph asked concerned.

"I am. I'm just opening my heart at the reality of their love. It will be hard, but it's still easier than making peace with their absence."

Toph nodded. Aang noticed that she was lacing her fingers tight.

"What's going on?" he asked, letting go of his own concerns. "You seem tense."

"My parents are brokering my own marriage," she blurted. "To an Earth Kingdom aristocrat." He grabbed her hand in understanding. "They're afraid that I'm becoming a spinster or something."

"I know exactly how you feel," he said softly. "Cornered, with no escape."

"That's the thing," Toph said matter of factly, "there's an escape."

He was interested.

"Really? Anything I can do to help?"

"Yes," Toph said. "You can marry me."

Aang stood there emotionless for a moment. His hand was still covering hers and he noticed that hers were trembling. It struck him that she was afraid that he would say no.

"Why me?" he said after a pause, his hold on her hand becoming firmer.

"Because you already have several wives. You won't care about me, you won't bother me and you will let me be free. You're my friend." She said with assurance and apprehension at the same time.

He tapped her fingers with his.

"What about your future happiness, Toph? You may find someone to love eventually."

She shrugged.

"If I do," she said. "You wouldn't intervene. Remember that I don't see, I sense, and I've sensed you with your wives, Twinkles. You don't mind if they seek entertainment somewhere else."

That gave him pause. He didn't mind, true, but he did care if it was public knowledge.

"Is it that obvious?"

"Not to the rest of the world." She then added. "I meant it."

"They are not my wives, Toph. They serve a purpose. I don't see you as a vessel of convenience. Anyway, airbending children will drive you crazy."

"That's the thing, Twinkles. I'm not asking you to take me as your concubine. I'm asking you to take me as your wife. It's ideal; you don't even have to have sex with me. And anyway, for what I can sense, your domestic life is not idyllic. You can use the help."

He could, honestly. Not only he hadn't been excited about the idea of the several concubines, the women kept their own drama going on that he had no idea how to moderate or solve. It was maddening. They had developed their own hierarchical understanding, and when he showed up at night, the right time of the month, to visit whomever he was supposed to visit, they had their own arrangement, calendar in hand, regarding whose turn was next. It was maddening. It wasn't that he didn't care about them as people, of course he did, but regardless of how nice he tried to be, they still acted as if their world was a secret to be kept from him.

"They scare me," he accepted after a moment. "Ling was the first to get pregnant and somehow, she appointed herself First, and got everyone to obey her. Then Mai-Lin was the first one to have a boy, and it doesn't matter that I've told them many times that airbenders don't make differences regarding gender, they seem to think that it's important. So they started fighting, each calling herself First. Until last year, when Koko became of age and then declared herself First – and believe me, she's fearsome – and Meng, who can be sneaky, declared war. I mean, there's always something brewing with these women, someone is always screaming, someone is always weeping, someone is always not talking to someone else. I don't get it!" He paused, and added bleakly. "They make me uncomfortable."

Toph was amused.

"I didn't know that uncomfortable and miserable were synonyms," she said. He didn't answer. "You used to find the attention flattering, Twinkles." She reminded him casually.

"That was before. We're all adults now and they get emotional." He let go of her hand, stood up and walked towards the balcony. "You have no idea how it is. When I think I'm making either one of them happy … they cry. I mean it. Tears. They cry either if I give too much attention or too little. They complain if someone gets to spend more time with me than the other, no one cares to ask me what I'm thinking. And afterwards, they all get really … attached. Professing so much love and passion for me, to then turn and be mean and horrible to each other." He sighed deeply. "I'm supposed to keep peace in the world and I cannot keep it in my own house." Aang turned to Toph. "I'm not accepting any more concubines, T. I have enough."

She kept her relaxed posture, languidly reclined in the chaise-lounge.

"I'm telling you Twinkles, I won't be your concubine. I'm too rich and my family is too powerful to barter me to you as a child breeder. However, they still think they can pimp me out to someone else, so I need a husband that won't get in my way and would allow me freedom. You did it for Zuko and Katara, Twinkles, come on, do it for me."

He looked at her thoughtfully. She had grown in the last few years. She was two seasons younger than him, so she must have turned twenty in the spring. And her looks had flourished to match her intelligence.

"I could use a friend, Toph," he half pleaded, half warned her. She smiled a wicked smile.

"Me too. And anyway, you also need a household manager. I cannot promise you that I will stay here all the time, but I'll sort your harem for you."

He hated the word, but was grateful at her sense of humor.

"What makes you think that your parents will let you marry me instead of your fancy suitor?" he asked.

She had laughed.

"Simple, leave the negotiations to me." He raised an eyebrow in silent question, which she sensed. She shrugged. "We will tell them that I'm pregnant. They will rather have me married to you than dishonor the family."

He was speechless. That was so improper.

"That is so improper," he started but she shushed him.

"Pipe it, Twinkles. Don't spoil the help by becoming reasonable." She stood up, her elegant dress going down to her feet, her hair made up in a bun with tiny flowers. She looked regal. "Come on; let's talk to my dad before we start making any sense. We can tell them that you came to visit me in secret two months ago or something."

He had gone along with her insane plan because his solitude in the temple was screaming at him to get her to come over at least for the company. So they did. Get married that was. And she had changed his life.

Aang went to the other side of the temple, and still couldn't find her. The nursery was empty. He did something else; he opened the door to the concubine wing. This night, the concubine wing was also empty.

He stopped on his tracks, thinking. He knew his wife well. She would not have deserted him taking their children, and his, without telling him first that she was leaving and why. That was just the way she was, and there was no note waiting for him in the room. Furthermore, she would have accompanied him in this trip if it wasn't for the fact that she was feeling poorly and anyway, she didn't like leaving their kids for that long. So he was certain that it wasn't about a hidden grudge. And besides, the day she decides to leave him, she wouldn't take the concubines with her. That was a fact. Aang decided to check the lower part of the temple, towards the gardens. She was in the building, he knew it.

Their wedding had been an entertaining celebration, as it was warranted for such an occasion and thanks to the fact that they were tagging along someone else's wedding. He wouldn't call it pretty darn uncomfortable, but his father-in-law did not smile once during the entire service, probably still recovering from his hangover and wondering what had happened that he had said yes to this nonsense. Aang had to get the attending Earth Kings to remind the Bei Fong family that marrying an Avatar was a great honor.

It had definitively helped that the entire affair was decided, arranged and accomplished during the party that followed the Fire Lord's wedding. When the Fire Royals had finally showed up – both looking particularly joyful, having reached a quiet understanding that spoke of future happiness – everyone was tipsy, and guests from all the nations were singing karaoke out of tune. As a result, everyone was too in a romantic-happy mood.

Toph, witchy expert manipulator that she was, gathered their closest friends and informed them in confidence of the current plan.

"Twinkles needs a concubine-manager and I need sanctuary from that rich guy over there who gives the vibrations of a piece of wood," she whispered to Katara, Zuko, Sokka and Suki. "So follow our drift. Sparky, Twinkles needs money to buy my dad's approval. You're in charge of the fundraising. Sweetness, you have credibility, go and tell everyone that my dad is getting in the way of 'true love'. Suki, the concubines are going to flip, get your warriors and threaten them. Sokka, you're in charge of the drinks. Make sure to get everyone drunk." She turned to him and snapped her fingers under his nose. "Snap out of it, Twinkles. Those women had sucked the joy out of you, let's get your groove back."

The plan was a success. The Fire Lord got the Earth Kings, the Water Tribe Chiefs and Uncle-turned-tea-Tycoon Iroh together and between all of them they made a 'pool' for Aang's dowry. After that, they went after Lao. Poor guy never had a chance. Sokka was so good at his job that all the conversations and negotiations happened, literally, under the tables because that was where the guests were. Katara had Toph's mother crying a river within minutes, after giving her a heartfelt speech regarding 'the most romantic story she had ever heard between stone and air', or some sappy sounding thing like that. And, thanks to Suki, not a single concubine dared to utter an opinion or give any grief to Aang regarding the fact that he was getting married. Which meant, a new sheriff in town. (Aang learned, eventually, that Suki had locked Koko in the pantry while all of this was going on. It made sense, Koko really was fearsome.)

He had proposed to travel to Gaoling for their wedding instead, to avoid having the concubines attending and thus making her family uncomfortable, but Toph dismissed the idea.

"No," she said. "Too complicated. Easier to do the thing right here, right now, that my dad is drunk and the heads of states are giving us money. Anyway, I'm already wearing a dress, and you're all wrapped in your blankets. Let's not waste the paraphernalia. Strike the iron while is hot, Twinkles."

So, they got married by two Tribe Chiefs, two Kings, a Fire Lord and a Tea-Tycoon during the third day of the Fire Lord's own wedding celebration.

After the ceremony they locked themselves up in his study, purportedly to consummate their marriage, but instead played games and talked for five hours straight, before falling asleep on the floor. Everyone eventually woke up from their drunkenness to the fact that the Avatar, who already had a full harem, was married now to the richest heiress in the Earth Kingdom and was getting money from everybody to boot. It was the longest remembered hangover of the four nations.

As soon as the last guest left the temple, his brand new wife-manager started her work. The concubines were expecting a long caravan full of luggage, expensive furniture and maids to appear, justifying the presence of the rich wife but none came. All they got was a barefooted woman, dressed like an earthbender master, with a satchel over her shoulder. Her first action was to assemble them in the main courtyard, making sure the children were secured on another side of the temple with the nannies, and gave them the new law.

"I'm the wife, you're not. That means, I'm First. Also, I'm a mean earthbender and I can listen to thoughts. Cut it with driving the Avatar crazy. He has better things to do than solving your silly dramas."

Some of the concubines had hated her, some had liked her. All of them, however grudgingly, respected her.

Second thing she did, was to change the arrangement of the nocturnal visits.

"You don't have to do this often if you don't feel like it," she told him. "And if there's one of them you don't particularly like, tell me."

He had felt guilty at first, but she was his trusted friend from childhood and soon he was telling her everything. The good, the bad and the ugly. Like how, at the beginning, he had been so dazzled with the discovery of sex itself that he did not much care about the 'whom'. Then he had learned what he liked and didn't while having sex, and how there was more chemistry with certain women than with others.

"It's a matter of skin," Toph said as if she knew what she was talking about.

"How do you know? You told me you have never been intimate with anyone," he asked, honestly seeking understanding.

"I sense, silly. Everything. And I sense when people have chemistry and it's always a matter of skin. If touching the skin of a particular woman makes sense to you, odds are that you're going to have chemistry with her."

"Even if she scratches?" he asked, shuddering. One of the concubines liked biting and scratching, every time.

"That's a chemistry killing if you're not into it," Toph shrugged. "I agree, intensity is good at times, not all the time."

Aang then told her how the tenderness he used to feel at the beginning, during the first years of the encounters, gave way to a deep tiredness which seemed to come from within. He had become jaded, emotionally drained with the petty squabbles, with how high maintenance the women were, and with the constant struggles for his attention. Not that his attention was worth much, honestly. He was barely there in body, after all. Maybe that was the reason he traveled so much, going away in chunks of time, to come back after he had forgotten his weariness.

"You resent them," Toph concluded. He gave her a surprised look that she didn't see but sensed. "You do. They cost you Katara. You may be grateful to them because of your kids, and yes the five of them are adorable, but let's be honest here. The mothers are a nuisance."

He had felt so relieved when she said that out loud. It was not only him who felt that way after all, and guilt had been gnawing at him from the inside at such ungenerous thoughts. Sometimes, however, he felt less ungenerous, particularly when he would hear about the things the women would do or say to each other.

Koko, particularly, disliked Toph's presence and did everything in her power to make Toph's life difficult. He learned about it from the staff, not from either of the women.

"Toph," he asked her when she came to his study one afternoon. "I heard that Koko is giving you trouble?"

"Is she?" she asked shrugging, apparently not interested.

"I don't know, you tell me."

"If she is, Twinkles, it's my problem, not yours." Toph went to recline on the balcony. "I'm taking a brief vacation, by the way. There's something I need to do."

Aang immediately felt sad.

For the last several months she had become an indispensable part of his life and he was grateful of her presence at the temple. She has always been his friend, but now she has become his only available friend. To be able to talk to someone else with complete freedom, about anything, trusting that person blindly (no pun intended) had become as important as breathing. He couldn't remember how it was before, but now that she was here, giving him the assurance of solidarity, he couldn't conceive his reality without her.

"When are you coming back?" he asked, not betraying any emotion. Or so he thought.

She turned, giving him a smirk, and he wondered if she had picked up his disappointment.


He tried one more time.

"Are you coming back?"

"Yes, Twinkles, it's a brief vacation, I told you. I made you a promise, I'll see it through," she walked pass him, punching his arm fondly, and then stopped at the door before adding. "Do me a favor and don't ask questions while I'm gone. Ah, and by the way, I'm taking Koko with me."

Yes, Toph had been a breath of fresh air in the stuffiness of his household. Koko had returned from the impromptu vacation with Toph if not changed, at least less contentious. He didn't ask and Toph didn't offer any explanations.

She definitively seemed to know how to handle the concubines. Even on the occasion when the concubines – thanks to Meng's spying habits – finally confirmed that she was his wife in all aspects except one. He was truly surprised when he heard the commotion. Not only the why shocked him, he also found their reaction baffling: the concubines, resentment following surprise, complained that Toph had no authority ordering them around if she was not sharing his bed. Toph soon corrected their views, and not in the gentlest way.

Aang smiled to himself while going down the stairs to the courtyard, full of shadows under the light of the moon. They should have been grateful that she was not his wife in that sense, because the day he had finally made love to Toph had ended up throwing the order of things in the temple out of whack.

He stopped in the middle of the stairs, thinking.

The day he had finally made love to Toph had been in the highest tower of the temple, where his study was.

He was upset that day, after having received a letter from his father-in-law, who dared to say that his marriage to Toph should be annulled because he was not performing his duties as a husband. His father-in-law had received reports from several sources that even though Toph traveled with him to all his political assignments, they did no share accommodations and that even though she lived in his temple and did her duties as the Avatar's wife, he did not visit her in her rooms. The fact that they were always together, that neither did anything without the other, that they got along and seemed content, had nothing to do with Lao's anger, which had been brewing since discovering that Toph had never been pregnant.

Toph came to his study, as she did daily when they were not traveling, and sensed his rage immediately.

"What's with you?" she asked and he told her, brandishing the letter in the air. "Hey," she warned him, "get hold of your inner pacifist right now, Twinkles before you have a stroke."

"What right does he think he has to mess up with our lives, ah? He's right now starting the paperwork to take you away from here, and from me!" Aang complained, pacing back and forth. "He doesn't need you as much as I do, and all he wants is either to lock you up or to marry you to some disgusting man!"

Toph laughed, amused.

"I've been telling you, Twinkles, that my dad is a pain. I'm happy you believe me now." She walked to him and put her hands on his shoulders to get him to stop. "Relax. He's not taking me away," she said with assurance and let her hands travel from his shoulders to his waist. She tiptoed and kissed him. She was probably aiming for his mouth but missed and kissed him on the chin instead. He stood there, motionless, realizing what she was about to do.

A year and three months after their wedding, she was about to seduce him.

The memory of that afternoon raced through Aang's brain and instinct told him where his wife was. Aang turned and started going up the stairs instead of down, towards his study in the tower.

That afternoon had been a surprise. After failing at kissing him, she had kneeled directly in front of him and started pulling at the strings of his pants while he gasped.

"What are you doing?"

"I need to make you interested in doing what I need you to do right now," she said factually, and to his utter surprise she pulled down his pants and her hands went for his penis with no embarrassment. He covered her hands with his.

"Wait, wait. We need to talk about this," he said.

"No, we don't," she answered slapping his hands away. "Either we do this or my dad annuls our marriage. I'm not letting that happen. I'm not going back to wood-guy." She removed his fingers and took him inside her mouth without hesitation.

"Toph, wait … oh Spirits, where did you learn to do that?" he asked grabbing the desk behind him for support. She removed her mouth from him and smiled.

"Your concubines are a chatty lot," she stopped and added before taking him into her mouth again. "They talk about you a lot."

That made him apprehensive, but her tongue felt so good, and it was so intense to have her kneeling in front of him, focused only on him, that he didn't have the strength to say no. He caressed her hair, mumbling encouragements in approval, wondering about how she would look with her clothes off and that thought sparked an immediate reaction from him. His member jumped on its own accord and she noticed.

"Wow," she said surprised. "It can do acrobatics!"

Aang laughed and took the opportunity to grab her hand, pulling her up on her feet to kiss her fully in the mouth. She responded to his kiss and he was undone.

Desire. A different desire than the one he would feel with the concubines, such desire the result of their touch and his duty. But this one, this was a craving resulting from his brain at the thought of her, his best friend, naked in front of him. Not that he hadn't thought about it before. He had, many, many times. He had made a portrait of her in his mind, that he would dress and undress at will, especially in the dark, when he was sleeping in his room alone. After spending all day with her, talking and laughing, sometimes he would pay a required visit to a concubine and get off, literally, imagining that it was Toph under him. Closing his eyes and putting words in her mouth that he was sure she would never say to him.

Until now, when he was finally kissing her like if she was about to run away. He let go of her lips and started kissing her face and neck while letting his hands roam freely over her body, fondling her breasts, her waist, her hips, her buttocks. She was surprised about his reaction.

"Twinkle-Toes," she whispered. "You've been thinking about this for a while, haven't you?"

Yes, he had. Probably even more than it was proper for a husband, definitively more than it was proper for a friend. The result of her laugh, or of his emotional solitude. Who knew? Maybe, even, just the result of him being over-sexed because of his repopulating duties. He didn't want to think of any other reason lurking underneath. Of a reason so powerful that would scare both of them. So, for all response, he removed her belt and took off her outer robe. He went back to kissing her while fighting with her shirt. He wanted to touch her breasts with no fabric in between. To suck her nipples until raw, and to make her so aroused that for once in her lifetime she wouldn't be able to utter one of her wiseass remarks.

Aang reached the door to his studio and opened it quietly to confirm his instinct. There she was, asleep on the chaise, half covered using one of his own robes as a blanket, probably seeking his smell on the fabric. He smiled. The room was lighted by the moon, and she was at rest, as beautiful as a porcelain doll. He came over, kneeled next to her and caressed her black hair, long and loose, they way he liked it. She moved and half opened her sightless eyes.

"Aang?" she asked, still half asleep.

"Hi T, where's everyone?" he said leaning to kiss her forehead. She woke up now and threw her arms around his neck.

"Twinkles, you are back!" she said with glee. He nodded, holding her tight. Wow, he had missed her so much.

"I am. Where's everybody?"

"I sent them on a holiday. To my parents beach house in the southern islands. You know how much the kids love the sea. Jin-Jing and Chunhua are in charge."

He was missing his kids too. All ten of them. Their pranks, their voices, their laughs and their airbending. All children of airbenders where born airbenders, and Toph had found challenging dealing with the kids when they could hide from her by creating an airscooter. Particularly, when she was about to punish them. That invention of his had cost his wife more headaches than anything else he had ever done in his life.

"I stayed here waiting for you. We're going too, as soon as Appa rests," she informed him yawning and stretching. "You need a holiday too, you've been working too hard."

He smiled content to be alone with her. He cupped her cheek and moved her black hair from her eyes, looking at the face that had cheered him during their six years of marriage. Six years and three kids and she still looked the way she did when she was barely twenty, lying to her father about them. He kissed her.

"I've missed you," he said.

She smiled, kissing him back, opening his mouth with hers to let her tongue enter him, moving her lips like an expert.

"Did you miss me?" he asked softly, separating from her.

As an answer she pulled down one strap of the slip she was wearing, uncovering her breast and placing his hand on it. He squeezed the breast, and leaned to start sucking at the nipple. She loved that, he knew it. She would squirm and sigh, and force him to suck both her breasts alternatively, which he would do, feeling the strain on his pants as the result of his own excitement.

The thing about his wife was that she was shameless. She was completely unabashed regarding the fact that she liked sex and that she liked him, which meant that she was always willing to engage in sensual games, at any time or place, if so he wanted. And she was generous to a fault. Generous with her kisses, her touches, her body, her willingness to pleasure him and let herself be pleasured. From the first time he had entered her body, and without wanting to be mean to anyone else, his sexual interest became a focused obsession with first and last name.

Toph's hand darted down his body to the front of his pants, caressing his bulge through his clothes, and quickly pulling at the strings, trying to free him from his pants. He stopped licking her nipple to do several things: first, he lowered the other strap of her chemise pushing the garment down to her waist and exposing both her breasts. Full and erect, with pale pink nipples that looked bright in the night. Second, he grabbed her legs and moved them from the chaise until her feet touched the floor. Third, he raised the hem of her chemise to expose her thighs. And finally, he stood up, untying his pants freeing his erection, and removing his upper clothes exposing his upper body to the night.

Her reaction was immediate. She grabbed his member with one hand and his hip with the other, and started kissing and licking the tip and length of his penis with devotion and care. He liked it.

"Did you miss me?" he asked for a second time, caressing her hair, the sounds of her sucking him his only answer.

The afternoon when they had made love for the first time in his study was a bright one. After kissing her until her knees buckled, and removing her shirt and bindings he stopped to look at her, half dressed, propped against his desk. With slow deliberate movements he removed the pins from her hair, letting it loose over her shoulders, taking in the view of her breasts, marveled at how close she was to the way he had imagined her. She wasn't embarrassed in the least at the inspection. He suspected that it had to do with her blindness, but did not mention it.

"Do you want to see the rest, Twinkles?" she asked, more amused at his silence and heavy breathing than anything else.

"Yes," he answered.

With the tips of her fingers she started pushing down her pants and her loincloth at the same time. Slowly, over her navel, her flat stomach, around her hips, down to her white thighs that moved with controlled grace when she raised her knee to remove the pants. He watched mesmerized how she removed her ankle bands, one by one, the light from the window making her perfect skin glimmer. When she was finished, she started removing her wrist bands with a casual gesture, until she finally stood in front of him, completely naked, wearing only her arm bracelet, which made her look incredibly sexy.

His gaze stopped at her belly button, an innie, and then went down to her pubis, amazed at the carefully groomed patch of hair. He approached her and carefully left his fingers trace her shoulder, and her arm, which he made her raise to kiss her armpit. Why he did that, he had not idea. He had the intention to kiss her all over, maybe that was the reason. His hands then went to her waist and he encircled it with his fingers, measuring how tiny it was before letting them go down to her hips, rubbing them before reaching out and grabbing her butt. He grabbed her two cheeks firmly and she laughed a little. She turned, giving him her back for him to see.

He was impressed. It was a sculpted back, the color of marble, the shape of the spine going down to her buttocks like a snake, where she had a beauty mark, a simple black dot. He touched the beauty mark and felt a sudden urge of being inside her, a need so strong that he had to brace himself.

"Do you want me to bend over?" she asked, but he turned her over to face him. He kissed her on the mouth.

"No," he said, grabbing her hand and walking her to the chaise. He sat her down and kneeled in front of her. "I want you to open your legs," he requested and she gasped, for the first time. But she complied, separating her thighs of her own accord, exposing herself to him.

She was beautiful. The same pale pink of her nipples, the same delicacy of lines as her face. He was impressed. He had gotten to know women bodies in depth. Each guarded a secret, some of them guarded a challenge. Sometimes, he liked them, sometimes he didn't. But he would treat them all with equal care. Particularly at the beginning of the arrangement, when he would spend hours kissing and pleasuring the women with his hands, mouth and body. And then something happened to him. As he grew tired of the women and their fighting, he grew tired of their bodies. Even if they were beautiful, (and some of them were, very), he would still feel like a stranger to their bodies, an invader. So he would get straight to the task, his mind sometimes wandering while having intercourse, making sure to finish and kiss the woman goodnight before leaving to spend the night in his own bed.

Right now, looking at her and smelling her scent, he thought that it was easy to have sexual intercourse with any woman, but that it was hard to want to have foreplay with any woman. And right now he wanted to play with her. No, correction, actually he wanted to screw her senseless but she was a virgin and he didn't want to spoil the experience for her. Because regardless of her reasons for wanting to do this, he wanted something else. He wanted to make sex (with him) something she couldn't live without, so she would choose to stay in his temple instead of leaving.

Delicately he opened her folds with the tips of his fingers and she gasped again. Her clitoris was small, a tiny bud hidden that he wanted to coax out in the open.

"You're beautiful," he whispered, meaning it, before licking her. She jolted and gasped even deeper, surprised. He grabbed her thighs and without ceremony kissed her slit as if it was a vertical smile. She squirmed, surprised at the sensation, and tried to move away but he grabbed her firmly.

He had learned how out-of-control women would get with this; he had also learned that the sensations would make them wet and eager, making penetration so much easier. But it was an intimate act, so intimate that it had been several years since he had done it to anyone. Truth be told, he just didn't feel like it, and anyway not all women were pleasant to kiss in such a way.

But Toph was exquisite. Maybe it was the fact that her looks were so opposed to her personality and her element, maybe it was that her smell was sweet and not pungent. Maybe it was that her clitoris, which he was sucking so conscientiously right now, was small and shy, blossoming in his mouth, getting prettily engorged. That was the word and it was a weird one, because no one can seriously say that a clitoris is pretty, but hers was. And he liked it. As he kept going, he could hear her breathing getting ragged in crescendo, for once not saying anything, just her deep sighs that sounded almost like sobs. Aang decided that if he was finally kissing her there, he wanted to do it properly.

He wrapped her thighs over his shoulders, feeling her fingers grabbing his head, while she started mumbling something that sounded like his name. By now, cautiously, he was helping himself with his fingers. First he inserted one, not all the way but enough to stroke the pad of her flesh. She instinctively started moving her hips with a rhythm that followed his, and made a deep moan when he introduced a second finger, delicately fondling her insides, while alternating licking and sucking her labia, her clitoris, and the entire length of her slit. She was meeting him with soft thrusts and that was when he realized that she was a natural at this. He helped himself bending her fluids while heating his fingers inside of her. That made her to start losing it too, which was good. It meant that it was easy for her to reach orgasms, and he also knew from experience how frustrating it was to be with women who couldn't reach those peaks.

Toph had no problem with that. She suddenly grabbed his head, pushing him towards her even more, while filling his study with her whimpers. He grabbed her hips to stay her while lapping at her with hunger, her thighs trembling on the sides of his face. When he finally let her go, she slumped, her outer lips a deep pink now, her nub enlarged and her pubic hair glistening with her juices and his saliva. He liked her like that. Open to him, like a present, moist with want and need, both of which he knew he could fulfill.

"Lay down," he told her and for once she did what she was told without a single retort or back comment. He had succeeded in leaving her speechless and he felt proud of that. But she didn't lay down in the chaise, she slid to the floor and laid down on the stone. He knew the stone was cold, but at this moment she needed the company of her element and he understood that as well. After all, it was his element too. So he put a hand on the floor and warmed the stone for her.

"Did you miss me?" he asked a third time, reluctantly removing her face from his body, looking at her enraptured expression. She smirked, and putting her hands behind her to keep her balance she deliberately opened her legs for him. The flimsy fabric was bundled at her waist, her breasts erect towards him and the hem of the slip now so high over her thighs that he could see the patch of dark hair teasing him.

She knew he liked it when she slept without underwear on. Infuriating woman, there was no easy way to get her to admit that he drove her crazy too. He extended his hand and slowly reached for her folds, opening them, stroking her clit before starting to masturbate her with one finger.

"Answer me, please," he finally requested.

She writhed under him, closing her eyes.

"Furiously," she said. "I thought I was dying."

Any other day, he would have knelt in front of her and eat her out until she was begging for him to stop, but right now he just wanted to enter the comfort of her body. Her pliant body, always damp for him. He kneeled and placed the engorged tip of his penis at her entrance, stroking her up and down. She put her hands on his shoulders, tilting her pelvis forward to help him, but he didn't go into her immediately. She whimpered.

"I missed you," she said in a whisper, capitulating. "Every minute." He kept stroking her with his tip, dripping all over her thirsty opening. "Every second. You're not leaving again without me."

This time he pushed in, entering, adjusting his girth to her. She was always tight at the beginning. She would twist a bit, moving her hips, letting her thighs fall wide to the sides to get him to slide inside her with minimum discomfort. Her sigh was deep and contented.

"I need you so much," she murmured while he kept gliding in her guided by her wetness and the way her body would squeeze him in yearn. Once he was buried inside her, she moved her hands to his hips as leverage and started rocking, slithering up and down his erection like an expert, exactly the way he had taught her. "I get so horny when you're not here."

He grabbed her ass with both hands and carried her with him, still inside her, lowering her to the floor. As soon as she touched stone her body arched in pleasure. He put one hand on the floor and warmed the stone for her, before grabbing her knees over his arms so he could start thrusting in her faster and harder.

"You're always horny," he reminded her, seeking her mouth with his.

Aang watched Toph on the floor, recovering her breathing in the aftershock of what was probably her first climax. Well, at least her first at the hands of someone else. Aang quickly removed the rest of his robes, getting naked and laying next to her. He passed one arm under her head to make her comfortable, and caressed her neck with his other hand, before slowly, with opened fingers and measured movements, letting his fingers wander down from her throat to her sternum to her breast while leaning to kiss her in the mouth.

She kissed him back anxiously, licking his lips.

"Is this the way I taste?" she asked in between kisses. He was rubbing one of her nipples now with the tips of his fingers, noticing how her entire body arched on the floor, asking for more.

"Mmhmm" he assented, moving his hand to her other breast.

"It's not bad," she said in wonder. He smiled.

"You're delicious," he affirmed and then felt her hand seeking him again, wrapping around his member with certain level of possessiveness. She started moving her hand up and down and then stopped, realizing something. Fascinated, he saw her seek between her legs with her hand, wetting her fingers with her own juices and then stroking him again, easing the movement with her own lubrication. He knew by intuition that no concubine had taught her that. This was all her: pure instinct. He kissed her again, his hand moving from her breasts to take refuge between her legs, where she was hot, like a firebender.

This time he didn't hesitate. He stroked her delicately, rubbing her swollen flesh, before sliding his fingers inside her, deeper this time. She held her breath on his mouth, panting, while he scissored his fingers delicately, stretching her. Her own stroking of him stopped, and her hips buckled in surprise and pain. He was still kissing her, swallowing her mute complain with his own mouth, while softly but relentlessly preparing her to receive him. Somewhere between the stretching and the stroking she became comfortable again because she started doing the rocking, thrusting motion of her hips against his hand. Now he wanted her doing that with him inside her.

After being satiated to the point of tedium, until having completely lost his appetite, Aang was suddenly hungry again. For the skin of a specific woman, a skin that made sense to him. For the delight of a body without any reproductive obligation. Not only he didn't care about repopulating his race with her, he didn't want her to conceive from him. At least, not now. He wanted to be able to enjoy her as many times as possible without duties and constraints. He wanted to make love to her for the sake of pleasure, not for children. Truly, he also wanted to do it for the sake of love, but he knew that that was a loaded word. It used to be an easy word. Simple, short, effortless. And now it was a choked word. One that would get stuck in his throat and his chest, like a hard-to-swallow leechy nut.

He pushed the thought to the back of his mind and focused on her. He could see her arousal in the blush of her face, in the movements of her body, in the abandonment with which she was stroking his penis, exciting him. He reminded himself in wonder that she was his wife, that this was the right thing to do to get her father to back off and that maybe, if he did it right, she would become attached to him, they way the concubines had, but differently. Because this time, he wanted the attachment.

Aang removed his hand from her and she grabbed his fingers and sucked them, one by one. He laid on top of her, carefully accommodating his stiff erection at her entrance, while she relaxed her body in a welcoming pose. He kissed her, tasting her in her own mouth. Spirits spare him, she tasted good. Like sex and honesty, and perhaps some flower that he had smelled in the meadows once but whose name he couldn't remember. Aang carefully stroked her with the head of this cock, which was thick with anticipation, ironically making the process more difficult. She was very wet, and he carefully started pushing inside her. She tensed her body, biting her lower lip, bending her legs towards her chest to give him unrestricted access, while grabbing his shoulders hard.

He was looking at her face, sketching every line of her expression in his head, while advancing the excruciating inauguration of her body, which was slippery, hot and tight. He slowly stretched her canal with his own member, muttering soft endearments. "You fill this place with joy. You fill me with joy. You're beautiful." She could pick up any lie from him, so he made a point of only telling her the truth. But he wanted to tell her more than that. He wanted to tell her that she felt better than anything he had ever felt and that he wished he would have kept himself only for her.

He finally broke through, burying himself completely in her. She uttered a little yelp, from the bottom of her throat. He kissed her eyes, and stayed still, giving her time to get used to him, to his size and to the foreign sensation of a man between her legs. He didn't have to wait long. Almost immediately she started moving, kissing him, wrapping her legs around him. Whatever pain she may have felt was either short lived or she didn't care about it. And now that she was comfortable, now he could act.

The night pouring through the open balcony doors carried with it its own sounds, which were swallowed by Toph and Aang's noises, loving each other with five weeks of accumulated lust.

"You feel so good," she was saying, having gotten into the habit of telling him what a great lover he was since the day she realized that that turned him on. Sometimes she would say racy things, using strong language, but not all the time. Just when she wanted to take him over a particular edge, because that made him really excited, but only when used sparingly. She knew those things about him because she was an expert at sensing him and at gauging his reactions. And right now he was feeling particularly keen and not in the mood for soft, slow love-making, but for the energetic sound of flesh slapping flesh. "Wait, baby," she said stopping him and moving from under him to get on all fours and offer him the beauty of her ass. Oh yes. That was what he was in the mood for: taking her from behind. But before, he helped her remove her chemise and threw it to the side.

"Yes, like this," he said with approval kneading her cheeks, then nudging her thighs open before grabbing her hips and penetrating her with a swift motion, fascinated by her naked back under the silver light. Now he could act, letting go completely.

The afternoon light drenched the balcony and tried to reach inside to where they were.

Aang was moving with Toph, on top of her and against her. They had been trying to find their joint tempo, while she was following his rhythm hesitantly, not clear if she was supposed to improvise or just to receive. That didn't last long, because Toph was not the passive kind. She pushed him on his back, straddling him and started moving enthusiastically but way bumpier than expected – or required. That made him laugh, a little. She stopped, panting.

"Am I doing something wrong?" she asked, sounding so vulnerable that he felt his breathing contracting. He cupped her face with both his hands.

"You're doing everything perfectly," he said caringly. She frowned.

"You're lying," she affirmed. He laughed again and flipped her once more under him, starting to move in a very specific way, slowly, taking advantage of how wet she was.

"Close your legs," he said and unhurriedly started the rocking motion of his hips, letting her feel the length and girth of his shaft as it went in and out. She held her breath, and her fingers dug in his shoulders at the unexpected sensations. He did this until he felt her getting aroused again, her self-consciousness suddenly forgotten.

"Now, spread your legs," he suggested, grabbing her waist and tilting her body forward a bit, this time making sure to rub her clit directly with his member, controlling every movement as if it was a martial art, knowing perfectly well that the direct stimulation, lubricated as she was, would take her over her own edge. And he needed to concentrate because he himself was feeling the pressure of his release building inside, with the combined stimulus of her tightness and her tenderness. His movements and the sensations he was causing on her made her respond in that instinctive way that was perfection, moving with grace, seeking pleasure with him, not in spite of him and not to impress him.

He knew she was very close again because of her ragged breathing, her flushed face and the way she reached for his own buttocks, pushing him towards her as if trying to fuse him with her. He was so close too that he prayed internally that she would be able to get there soon because he didn't want to stop the rhythm they had. He knew, from experience too, that stopping the pace cut the build-up and generated frustration where there should have been satisfaction. He considered himself lucky because she started moaning while her body exploded in involuntary contractions, tight and hot, around him, making him burst inside her with a deep groan. He kept thrusting, emptying himself in her, moaning too.

Toph on her hands and knees drove him crazy for many reasons, but the best was the way she would meet his every thrust, forcing him to plunge himself into her, without inhibitions. He was grateful for the freedom of being able to make love to his wife with no hang-ups. No mental games, no domestic dramas, no using her body as a bartering tool, like other women liked to do. Not that he had to deal with that in a while, thankfully.

"I missed you, T.T." he heard her say proactively, now supporting herself on her elbows, her voice carrying low because of her position. He reached between her legs, starting the needed incentive to help her come. He rubbed her clitoris in soft circles, thrusting into her.

"What else, T?" he asked, while she made her soft whimpering sounds of pleasure.

"I need you, T.T.," she gasped. He moved faster.

"What else, T, what else do you want to tell me?"

She sighed deeply.

"I love you, T.T." she moaned, "I love you with all of me."

Aang and Toph stayed in each other arms, wrapped around each other like a vine. He was giving her butterfly kisses, enchanted by her afterglow. For what he could see, she was stunned.

"Is it always like this, Twinkles?" she asked, amazed.

He couldn't lie, so he told her the truth.


"What do you mean, No? Don't you always have to, you know, finish to be able to produce babies?"

"Yes I do. That doesn't mean that is always like this."

That gave her pause.

"What made it different this time?"

He could have said 'You', but didn't.

"Did you like it?" he asked instead.

It was her time to say something and then decided against it.

"Now what?" she asked instead, her tone concealing something.

"Now we let your father know we are husband and wife," he said kissing her hair.

She stayed silent for a moment.

"Are we?" she asked finally and he felt her retreating, getting away from him and he felt that that was unsupportable.

"Yes," he said firmly, blanketing her body with his. But not to make love to her, but to make sure that she wouldn't escape to where he couldn't reach her. "And friends. And lovers."

She stayed there, under him, considering something.

"Am I going to be part of the roster now?" she asked casually but this time he heard it. The concealed bitterness underneath.

"No," he said. Her face flinched and he felt strangely giddy to see pain there, even though he didn't like making her suffer. "I'm taking a vacation from the roster." This time he managed to surprise her.

"What do you mean a vacation?"

"I'm not going to do my repopulating duties for a while. I need a break."

This time he saw a flicker of disappointment in her face.

"Ah," was all she said. He caressed her hair.

"What are you doing tonight?" he asked. She was surprised again. He was on a roll.

"What I do every night, sleep. Why do you ask?"

"Do you want to do it with me?" This time she frowned.

"Do what with you?"


"Are you asking me out to sleep?" she asked, trying to piece together the level of crazy. He chuckled.

"Yes. You can come to my room and sleep with me or I can come to yours. If you want, we can do something before. Like going on Appa to the nearby town. Today is market day."

He removed strands of sweaty wet hair from her face. She was now processing his words.

"Wait, are you asking me out on a date?" she finally caught on.

"Yes. Just you and me."

She thought about it.

"What about the roster?" she asked, finally. "I thought you were taking a vacation from it."

"I am. I'm not taking a vacation from you, though. You're not part of the roster after all. The vacation benefit does not apply to you."

This time he saw humor coming back to her mouth.

"So everyone gets to take a vacation while I get to work?"

"Pretty much, yes."

"But if I am the only one working, that means that I get stuck with double shifts."

"Yep. That's true. Would you like to form your own union?"

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed him until he rolled over on his back, with her on top. She straddled him, her naked lithe body almost transparent in the afternoon light.

"I'll get perks I assume?" she asked.

"And bonuses. But only if you are a good worker," Aang moved his hands up and down her sides, noticing her amused expression.

"For how long am I supposed to be the only worker?" she asked impulsively, and then bit her own lip. She regretted the question, immediately. He couldn't lie to her.

"I don't know. I have no idea what the rules are."

She nodded, suddenly serious. He continued, thoughtfully.

"I have six children and Jin-Jing is expecting. For someone my age, that is a lot I guess. I think I can take a break from it." He removed hair from her shoulder, and then said it. "You don't have to carry my children if you don't want to. I know you want your freedom. I made you a promise. I'll see it through."

She nodded again, pensive.

"A date, ah?" she said instead, and he felt sad that she hadn't refuted his affirmation. The promise so lightly made more than a year ago, when he married her, felt like a heavy burden in his heart now. But there was nothing to do. She had kept her part of the bargain; he would have to keep his.

Aang kept moving in and out of his wife, rubbing her swollen nub, until he heard her cooing like a dove, the sounds of her climax simultaneous with her muscles tightening around him, doing her amazing milking job. He let go – her coital contractions finishing him – coming inside her while calling her name.

They collapsed on the floor of his study, panting. He spooned her and started rubbing her belly.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. She was now getting sleepy again; relaxed and happy that he was home.

"Very well. Funny you ask now. If I wasn't feeling well, it would be kind of late, you know?"

He reached for his robes to cover their bodies as an impromptu blanket. Good that they were both earthbenders, because sleeping on the stone floor was unbearable for people from other elements.

"I can feel the bump already," he told her softly. "Last time you had the bump this early, we had the twins."

Aang delicately removed Toph from top of him and stood up to get a jar with water and a basin, which he always kept in his study in case he wanted to wash his face.

He came over, with a towel in hand, to where she was sitting.

"Lay down," he said gently and she did, but not before asking.

"What are you doing?"

He bended water from the jar on his hand, making a glove before carefully starting to wash her inner thighs.

"I'm cleaning you."

She reached between her legs with her fingers and took them to her nose.

"Smells like blood, and something else," she said wryly.

"Yes, there's blood," he reached delicately between her legs, cleaning her. "Are you in pain?" He asked, tenderness in his voice.

"A bit. More sore than anything. Like my skin is throbbing."

He bended the dirty water in the basin, and bended more on his hand, moving her legs apart to reach her buttocks. She was reclining on her elbows, tilting her head, feeling him and everything he was doing.

"You seem to have a lot of experience cleaning the aftermath of lost virginities," she said finally, and this time she managed to conceal everything. Her voice was neutral.

He shrugged.

"Some," he made a movement with his hand, and this time he bended his seed out of her, together with the water. He couldn't tell if she had noticed what he just did. The concubines wouldn't notice that he was doing it. But the concubines were not Toph.

"Some?" she repeated. "Some of your women didn't need cleaning?"

He was finished now, and started drying her with the towel.

"They volunteered for this, Toph. Virginity was not a pre-requisite. As far as I know, proof of fertility wasn't required either."

He finished drying her, and then started washing himself.

"Good for you," she said cryptically. He focused on removing her blood and his semen from himself.

"Good for me what?" he asked, tiredly. The topic was tiresome for him. One of the reasons he had stopped visiting Sokka for the last two years. Because it was all he wanted to talk about.

"That fertility wasn't proved. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to get away easily with what you just did," she said.

He stopped his ablutions. And then, resumed them.

"I thought you wanted your freedom. Having my child will tie you to me and this temple." He bended the last of the dirty water in the basin, and turned to her. "Children are irrevocable, Toph."

She was still supporting her weight on her elbows, the sun of the late afternoon finally reaching her with long shadows.

"I was wondering," she said instead, sitting down. She started shaping her long hair on her usual bun at the nape of her neck. She was completely oblivious of what a beautiful picture she presented, naked with her arms raised, her hands behind her head, her legs demurely closed and bent close to her body, hiding her pubis. She had a gorgeous torso. That was a fact. "I was wondering why is your hit ratio so low. You have enough volunteers to fill this temple with airbabies, but the production seems low. They are very into you, and you are very precise at keeping with the schedule. And they are all supposed to be in their fertile periods when you visit them." She finished tying her hair, and lowered her arms. "What is it? You don't want to over-populate or you like choosing the mothers?"

Aang picked the basin and the jar and walked to the corner to put them back in the stand. He came back and picked up his clothes, getting dressed in silence. Toph sensed him quizzically.

"I don't blame you," she said finally. "I wouldn't sire Koko's child even if it meant stopping the end of the world. Honestly, some gene pools should just die."

He was tying his sash now. He knew that she was feeling his demeanor, taking in his detachment. After a moment, she exhaled her breath and stood up, walking to where her own clothes were. She picked them up and dressed in silence. It was his turn to study her quizzically. When she was finished putting her arm bands back on, she turned her head towards him.

"Pity we didn't save the blood. I could have sent it to my father in a letter." She was not trying to be funny, that much was obvious. She was addressing an open question.

"I'll write to your father letting him know that we are husband and wife," he said firmly. She was thinking about something else.

"Make sure to ask him to come visit us and see for himself. That will confuse him."

"Why don't they, Toph?"


"Come and visit us?"

"You know why, Twinkles. My mother cannot stand the idea of me being married to a man with more concubines than the Earth King. If she comes, she'll be crying the entire visit. She was also drunk when Katara convinced her, you know?"

"I don't have more concubines than the Earth King."

"I know." She turned to leave.

"At what time?" Aang asked, walking over to look at scrolls. She stopped on her tracks.

"What?" she asked, frowning.

"At what time you want to go out?" he said, putting aside the scrolls. He was not interested in them after all.

She raised an eyebrow.

"Is the date still on?" He didn't answer. She sighed once more. "Meet me in the stables in an hour. I need to change." She stopped at the door. "The concubines are going to flip, you know? Once they find out what's going on." She tapped the door with her fingers. "I wish I could see just to be able to see Koko's face when that happens."

Aang kept rubbing her swollen belly. Toph yawned, somnolent.

"We should start looking for names," she said. "Maybe keep with the tradition of naming them in old Air Nomad language. You guys have like fifty-five words for air. We already have Atmosphere and Breeze. Let's be originals and call these two Air and Sky."

He grunted, feeling the tiredness of the trip in all his limbs. This was what he was missing, falling asleep cuddling his wife.

"You've nerve. I don't know what are you complaining about. Kuuki and Kaze are very pretty names. And you got to name Ishi. Let's talk about originality, you named our daughter stone."

"And I was right, wasn't I? She's as stubborn as one," she noticed him moving a bit. She raised her head. "Do you want to move to our bedroom and sleep on a mattress?"

He immediately stood up.

"Let's do that." They picked up their clothes and got dressed. He walked to the balcony and extended a hand to her. She came and hugged him, about to be airbended to their window.

"How do you say Air and Sky in old nomad language?" she asked.

"Ea and Sukai," he answered, jumping from the balcony.

Aang showed up at the stables late. He had been detained by a member of the staff who had questions regarding the cataloguing work in the library. Deep down, he dilly-dallied too, wondering what she could be thinking about. As honest and transparent as Toph was, she was very hard to read. He was never sure how deep things went with her, but he knew that her undercurrents were bottomless.

She was patting Appa when he finally arrived, and he took her appearance with surprise. She was dressed in tan colors and earthy greens. An autumn palette that brought out her eyes and that honored his own heritage. Her hair too was loose, held from her face by two combs and falling straight over her back, like Air Nomad women used to wear it. Except for her unshaved hairline, she looked like a memory from his youth, like an Air maiden.

"What?" she asked, sensing him. He hesitated. She was blind, so he was wondering. "It's not my fault!" she said about her appearance. "Macmu-Ling did it!"

Madame Macmu-Ling was Toph's lady-in-waiting. A month after their impromptu wedding, a palanquin had arrived carrying a stern looking woman, followed by ostrich horses burdened by luggage. She was a haiku-sputtering Earth Kingdom noble, the widow of a general hard on her luck. She was sent by the Bei Fongs to be Toph's lady-in-waiting and keep her company in what her mother called "that forsaken temple."

Toph ignored Macmu-Ling for the most part, but often allowed the woman to take care of her toiletries. For the first time Aang understood something.

"She's the one who has been telling your father stories about us," he affirmed. Toph shrugged.

"Who cares?" He stood there looking at her.

"You look beautiful," he said. Toph touched her dress, self-conscious.

"So you have been saying all afternoon," she answered. With a stomp of her foot she created a column propelling herself on top of Appa.

"Let's go." He airbended himself to the top of Appa's head and grabbed the reins.

The nearby town was a quaint village that became lively on market days, lit with lanterns and food stands. The old people in the town still remembered the airbenders from time past, and the young people looked with awe at the Avatar, who was their local celebrity, their respected judge and in their opinion, their most valued adopted citizen. In a strange way, that also made him a local curiosity, a tourist attraction of sorts and he hated that.

They landed Appa and got to walk around the town, both quiet for once. He was thinking about the irony of sex. About how close you can be to someone and then, less than two hours after, act like it never happened, an unknown sea between them. They walked past a scroll seller, and he stopped.

"I need to get something from here," he said. She nodded, and tilted her head towards the building next to it.

"I need to get something from the Apothecary. Meet me in ten minutes?"

"I will," he then did something impulsive. He kissed her forehead. She smiled and suddenly grabbed his face and kissed him, right there in the middle of the street. She partially missed his mouth, but her aim was getting better.

Feeling strangely lightheaded, he went into the store. He was looking for a gift for her. An adventure scroll to read aloud to her. She liked stories, and if there was something that had given him solace through his self-imposed emotional isolation during the last several years, was reading. He was browsing the scrolls behind a stand, when he heard voices carrying over.

"I'm the Avatar's First Consort," he heard Koko say. "You should be grateful of my patronage and lower the price." Aang hated that. The name dropping (his name). He went out into the street, and he saw them before they saw him. Koko, Tamiko and Meng, in a jewelry stand. Toph was there before he had time to intervene.

"And I'm the only wife and I don't go around asking for discounts. Koko, what are you doing?" Koko turned to her, not in the least embarrassed.

"Shopping. And what are you doing here? You can't see what they sell in the stores."

Tamiko and Meng gasped. Toph shrugged.

"And you don't have enough money to buy what they sell in the stores, and yet here you are." Toph turned to the uncomfortable looking seller. "She's not First Consort either. Don't give her any discounts, the Avatar doesn't approve of such shameless behavior."

Koko was a fighter that was for sure.

"And you're not his real wife. Everyone knows that he doesn't sleep with you because he doesn't want you having his children. He married you for your money."

Toph's answer was as immediate as his anger. She stomped her foot and created a tight stone cage around the young woman.

"Hey!" Koko screamed, "get me out of here!!"

"You'll get out when you learn civility," Toph said unruffled. Aang was next to them in a split second.

"Aangy!" Koko yelled angrily. "Look what Toph is doing! She's mean, Aangy, get me out of here!"

Aangy unbended the stone cage with a movement of his hand, his face a mask. As soon as Koko was free again she ran to embrace him but he kept her at arms length. Spirits, he loathed the drama.

"You dishonor me, and my entire household with your behavior," he told the young concubine, his voice unemotional. "I chose Toph as my wife, she did not volunteer for the job."

He turned from them, grabbed Toph's hand and walked away. He could feel the stares of all the bystanders that had gathered around to watch the scene. Their eyes bore holes in his back. There it was again, a twisted and ugly version of his private life out in the open. He turned a corner, and walked the streets looking for a place, any place on the condition that it was empty. He spotted a semi-hidden teahouse, out of the beaten path, and entered. He found a table in a dark corner, with a long bench and made Toph sit, slumping next to her. He was still holding her hand.

"You can let go of my fingers now, Twinkles," she said dryly. "I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to bend with this hand again."

He stopped squeezing but did not let go of her hand. She put her other hand in top of his and caressed it.

"Tell me," Toph asked and for a moment he didn't know what she was talking about. "All of it."

She made a gesture to the attendant, who rushed over, and ordered two cups and a huge teapot of jasmine tea.

"It's like my body and I are different people," Aang said finally, looking fixedly at their intertwined fingers. "I don't like some of those women, and I still can have sex with them. Koko is a good example. When we were kids I used to like her devotion. She was always forceful, is true, but she wasn't particularly malicious. Then this entire arrangement happened, and next thing I know she's a volunteer to bear my children and restore balance. Since she came of age she's been relentless in her quest for whatever little power having kids with me may give her. I know that she alters the roster, and manages to bully the other girls into giving her their turns so she can spend more time with me. I have nothing to say to her, and I can still be inside her." He lowered his head feeling wretched. He was telling all this to the woman he had wanted to impress, because he didn't have anyone else to talk to.

"That's biology, Twinkles. It's the reason why there's so much people in the world and so many unhappy marriages."

"It's more than that. You're right. I've been careful about who gets pregnant from me. In six years of this, six children have been born and there is one ongoing pregnancy. As you say, my hit ratio is very low. And that taking into account that three of my kids were born within the first eighteen months of this understanding. That was before I truly comprehended the consequences, and learned how to avoid it."

"And they are all from different mothers," Toph pointed out. "Once a woman bears your child you stop visiting her. Why?"

He didn't raise his gaze from her fingers.

"Because they volunteered to restore balance, not to have a relationship with me."

Toph caressed his face. He reclined his head on her shoulder, hating himself for letting her see this pathetic side of him.

"The problem is that you currently have two factions in your temple. The Mothers and the Hopefuls." Toph said softly. "The Mothers resent the Hopefuls because you don't visit them anymore. The Hopefuls resent the Mothers because they gave you children and that is considered a great honor. I need to give it to you: you have good taste. Most of the Mothers are nice enough not to act on the resentment." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "It's not a bad business for them, Twinkles. After they have your child, they are held in high regard in their communities, and they are set for life. I mean, the nations compensate them, it's part of the arrangement. And they're free to leave at any time if they want to. You do know that some of them had gotten involved with other people, don't you? Well, while it's true that they also resent that you don't care, I recently realized that they stayed because, one way or another, they fell in love with you, Aang, and they don't want to leave you alone."

He nodded on her shoulder.

"I know."

The attendant brought them their tea and some pastries, and walked away leaving them huddling in their corner. Aang heard the attendants whispering in the empty teahouse.

"That's the rich wife, isn't she?" the woman asked.

"Yes, the earthbender. She's a sweet looking lady, that's for sure."

"First time I see him kissing someone publicly," the woman said but didn't sound judgmental.

Aang shook his head in her shoulder and Toph chuckled.

"It doesn't matter that last month I solved a trade dispute that would have resulted in an armed conflict and that, thanks to me, there won't be a shortage of wool this winter," he murmured half resigned, half embittered. "No. People are more interested in my private life than my accomplishments. It's exhausting."

"That's not true. They care about your private life precisely because of your accomplishments," she said. "And I was present in that negotiation, don't forget whose advice you followed to solve the problem."

He raised his head from her shoulder and kissed her, fully and openly in the mouth. She answered to his kiss, and he felt like drowning in that same unknown sea he was thinking about before. He cupped her cheek with one hand and she let her hands wander to his chest. Their kiss was immersed in tenderness and knowledge of each other. He removed his face from hers and touched the ornate combs that kept her – usually messy – hair from her face.

"Your birthday is coming soon," Toph said suddenly. "And I have a present for you."

"You gave me your present today," he reminded her. She blushed at the memory and he thought that it was a charming reaction.

"I don't know who got the present today," she murmured. "If you act with all your women the way you did with me today, no wonder they keep falling in love with you." Aang bit his lip and was about to say something when she continued. "How was it for you?"

He grabbed her face in his own two hands, her hands still in his chest where she could feel his heartbeat.

"You woke up things today in me that I thought were gone forever," he answered with absolute and utter honesty. She denied with her head, blushing again.

"No, I mean, how was your first time for you? Were you as lucky as I was?"

Aang paused, remembering.

"I was lucky, yes," he said softly. "My first time was with Kumi."

"The Water Tribe woman who manages the staff?" Toph asked surprised. She hadn't seen that one coming.

"Yes. She's seven years older than me, and she's a widow. She never had children from her husband, and she wanted a family, so she volunteered. I chose her as the first because …" he paused and then braved it, "because she reminded me of Katara. And she was patient, and sweet and took so much trouble about teaching me things. You see, she learned to make love while in love, and that made all the difference."

"You don't sleep with her anymore, though," Toph observed.

"She couldn't conceive me with me either, and after a year of trying she asked me to stop visiting her. She found hard to separate our physical encounters from her feelings and she didn't want to love a man that she had to share."

"She stayed in the temple, though."

"She had nowhere else to go, and I needed someone I could trust as a housekeeper."

"She's with Fung the cook now. Funny, he's from the Fire Nation and sometimes, he reminds me of Sparky."

While talking, they had moved even closer to each other, and she was now sitting on his lap, her arms around him and his arms around her. They were talking while their foreheads met, sharing secrets.

"How old were you?" Toph asked.

"Sixteen. The age of dealing with compulsory crap, apparently." She chuckled.

"Who else taught you how to be a good lover?" she asked. He closed his eyes, remembering and placing in his mind the women he had known intimately.

"All of them, I guess. It was easier with some, true, but the extraordinary thing is that sometimes, even with those whose personality I disliked, the act itself was strangely intense." He turned red confessing this, and she must have felt it because she kissed him lightly, letting him know that if she was not ashamed by listening, he shouldn't be ashamed by telling it. "I went through a phase early on with Ling, who used to be really aggressive, in every sense. She has mellowed down now, but back then I couldn't stand her scheming and I think I took it out in our encounters. I was a different person with her than with Kumi, per example. Maybe that's the reason why she was the first one to conceive. Because I was so angry." Aang held on to her and then asked something he had been wondering. "Did you ever had someone, Toph? I mean, besides your teenage crushes."

"Yes. A soldier in Sparky's army, actually. A very interesting man. But I was a moron and couldn't understand that he was a serious guy. I mean, someone who took love seriously. At the time I was playing at kissing and moving on. And by kissing I mean it literally. Just kisses, nothing like what you and I did today." It was her time to pause. "I don't think I understood how deeply can sex snare you until I moved to your temple and started talking and listening to your concubines. I think that for the first time in my life I understood the feelings he awoke and that I was too chicken-turkey to face at the time."

He caressed her back.

"Were you thinking about him today?" Aang asked and realized a second too late that it was a loaded question.

"Just after I left you," she confessed. "When something he said to me once made sense."

"What did he say to you?"

"That I needed to get my heart broken so I could set it right." Her voice became a whisper.

"And do you think I'm the one who's going to break it?" his voice was as low as hers.

"You won't be able to help it, Twinkles," she said sweetly and then he was kissing her again, fusing her against him, losing his hands in her hair, and feeling a resurge of his desire from before. He was oblivious to the fact that the shopkeepers were looking at them, and that the way they were kissing spoke of more than just sex or duty.

Aang stopped kissing her and removed her from his lap, standing up and leaving money on the table for the untouched tea and pastries. He held her hand and they walked together out of the teahouse, neither holding any doubts as to where they were going. They mounted Appa and made it to the temple, and from the stables directly to his room.

None of the concubines had ever slept in his room. It was easier for him to keep things clear in his head and life if he had spaces that were only his. Toph had been in his room many times, but she was just his friend at the time. Now she was his lover. And that changed the meaning of her presence in the middle of his sparsely furnished room. He removed the combs from her hair and her autumn colored clothes, to find underneath a delicate slip made of bright emerald silk that barely reached her thighs and showed enough cleavage to make time stop.

"Are these your pajamas, T?" he asked, unbelieving it. Just two weeks ago, when they were in the Earth Kingdom solving the trade dispute, he had seen her in her jammies and those were everything but sexy.

"Courtesy of sour-sounding Madame Macmu-Ling." Toph said proudly. "I went to see her and told her that you and I were an item and that I needed to look good tonight. She's the one who thought this up."

Aang smiled.

"I assume your dad will be hearing all about it before breakfast tomorrow. I guess I don't need to give him details in my letter."

She suddenly remembered something because she bent over to pick up something from the pocket of her dress on the floor. It was a satchel.

"Here," she said, handing it to him. "This is what I got from the apothecary. You should know. I've been spiking Koko's morning tea with this. Well, not me directly, Kumi is helping."

"What's this?"

"Contraceptive herbs." She must have felt his horror because she added, while sitting on the bed and crossing her legs. "Don't give me that look, is not different than what you've been doing to her, just less yucky. And anyway, I assure you she cheated first. She has been putting some of this stuff in the food that some of the Hopefuls eat. Madame Macmu-Ling is very sharp, she has been cooking my meals separately to ensure that I don't get poisoned by a jealous concubine and she noticed it." Toph balanced her leg in the air casually. "Weren't you surprised to see Meng and Tamiko with her today? I mean, Meng is an annoying stalker, but she honestly cares for you. And Koko has been sabotaging the girl from day one. The same with Tamiko, which is one of the few Fire Nation girls that I've met that don't make me wish we were still at war. Well Koko can afford being friends with them now because she's impairing their chances."

Toph moved her shoulders at his silence, for the first time seeming uncomfortable.

"Listen if you disagree, by all means, tell me. I thought I was doing you a favor because you seemed so overwhelmed with the situation and …" he stopped her by sitting next to her in the bed and putting a hand in her knee.

"It's not different from what I've been doing myself, you're right. I should have never said yes to the arrangement if I wasn't willing to see it to completion. I realized years after saying yes what it meant for me." He caressed her naked knee with newfound familiarity.

"What does it mean for you?" Toph asked.

"Solitude." He kept caressing her knee, moving his fingers up her thigh soothingly. "I've grown disaffected. What was easy at the beginning it's now hard, and each day I find myself less and less capable of separating sexuality from feelings." His hand traveled the distance on her outer thigh, raising the hem of her slip, and then going back to her knee. In a whisper, he added. "I need a touch that moves me. I can be with any woman if I have to, but I want to be with a woman that I yearn for." He paused. "I crave you, T. What do you think this means for us?"

"That I'm going to be doing double duty at least until you get to your point of saturation." She said it with a light tone, and there was humor in there, but also a warning to herself.

"What if it takes me years to reach my point of boredom?" he asked, his hand getting closer to the apex of her legs. The slip she was wearing was the only thing she had on. He thought about her walking all over the village with no underwear on and felt his erection growing. It was a stupid thought, because everyone in the world was naked under his or her clothes anyway. But as stupid as it was, it was exciting to him.

"Years? Don't think so. Your track record says otherwise." She moved a bit and then finally uncrossed her legs to give him access. "And anyway, the sages will make a ruckus threatening the end of the world or some religious crap like that if you stop your duties for longer than the span of one of your trips. And that's not counting how your women will kill me, and maybe even you. I'd say a month and a half, tops."

His hand has reached his destination and he found her sensitive, her face flinching a bit when he made contact. He removed his hand from her tender flesh; after all she had been a virgin until a couple of hours ago, and focused on caressing her inner thighs with feather light touches. He started kissing her neck.

"A month and a half, that's all you will give me?" he asked her. She enjoyed the kissing of her neck, because she closed her eyes and squirmed a little.

"No need to fall in love, Twinkles," she said. "More than that and we'll both be in trouble. You have duties to your women and the world, and I have the duty to live my life."

She turned her face to him and nuzzled his neck and ear, until he reached for her and she started kissing his lips, cheeks and eyes. Soon they were giving each other heart-stopping kisses. He knew perfectly well what he was doing. He was kissing her like this because he wanted to, of course, but also because he wanted her to want him. And want they did. Soon her slip was down to her waist and he was licking her nipples while she caressed his head and ears. Her skin was like breathing marble, and every pore responded to him like a heartbeat. He suddenly understood what she meant about a skin that made sense. It was, after all, a matter of touch. But this was also a matter of understanding each other and of not having secrets. And he thought about the danger of demolishing walls when there was nothing to shield you from the open space.

This time it was easier than their first time. She was still sore, so she wanted to do other things. Like kissing and touching his body all over, and licking him until he was begging for mercy. She was proactive, curious and with no other ulterior motive than to enjoy him.

"When you dump me, Twinkles," she said half jokingly. "At least I would know what to do if I ever run into that Fire Nation guy again."

He hated hearing that, but he accepted that it was part of their warped reality that no jealousy was allowed. The only thing he could do was to give her everything he had to offer, turning their encounters into opportunities. When she was giving him oral sex, he took her hand and placed it delicately in his own sack, guiding her fingers on how to do it. She turned out to be a little prodigy, maybe precisely because she was blind, with a dexterity that spoke of liking and affection. Soon his sack, his member, his inner thighs were under the unlimited curiosity of her mouth and fingers. He tried to stop her when she was getting him too close, but she refused and he decided to let her continue, to relax and let himself go.

Finishing in her mouth was mind-blowing. He had done it before, yes, but it was different. The first time was at the beginning of the arrangement, when he didn't have that much control of himself. The woman was as new to this as him, and her gagging had made him feel dirty. Eventually, other women showed him that it could be very agreeable but eventually he had decided that it was impolite, somehow. Deep down, he suspected that denying himself such pleasure was one of his ways to keep his emotional distance. With Toph the rules were different: she wanted to try it, and he had decided not to deny her anything she may want to try. And she was great. She would take pleasure and give it back without any preconditions.

When he was recuperating his breathing, she cuddled up against him.

"I always hear that you're no supposed to talk about your other lovers with your current one," she said. "But I'm curious. How is it with, let's say, Meng?"

"Spirits, don't ask me that!"

"Come on, I'm curious!"

"It's … challenging."

It was. Meng was not appealing to him at all in a sexual sense, but her unconditional desperation for him broke his heart. He needed to keep a careful balance with her. If he gave her too much, she would get into her obsessive stalking phases. If he gave her too little, she would do strange things. For the last year she had been dressing, and combing her hair like Toph's. Moreover, sometimes she would play blind. Meng had concluded that because Toph was the only person with emotional access to him, she needed to look like Toph to make him like her. Thank goodness Toph was blind and didn't notice. Even though he would only visit Meng twice a year, he was extra careful at the post-coital bending.

"And with Koko?"

"Demanding. Taxing."

It was too. Koko liked giving orders. And he had never been good at following instructions.

Toph thought about his answer.

"What's the craziest thing you have ever done?" She asked. He caressed her hair.

"I've never done anything crazy," he answered. She raised her head from his chest for him to look at her face. She had an expression of complete disbelief.

"You're a such a lousy liar," she told him, "and for your information, I know about Jin-Jing and Chunhua."

He sputtered, surprised, removing her from his body and sitting on the bed.

"Whaa? How did you …?"

"I told you, they're chatty. Anyway, they told me in confidence, they know they can trust me."

"So you know that they…?"

"Are a couple? Yes, I do. They keep it secret from the rest, which is a good idea. So, how was it?"

Aang was swallowing hard. It served no purpose lying to her.

"It was an educational experience," he ventured. She gave him a look, so he went forward. "I mean, at the beginning it was sexy and exciting, but they were more interested in each other than in me. After the novelty wore off, I sort of found myself just watching from the sidelines, wondering what was I doing there. So I told them good night and went to my room."

"I think is mighty generous of you to grant them their wish to be mothers." Toph assured him. "I mean, Jin-Jing is really excited that they are going to have a baby. And that is going to be a lucky child, because is going to have two mothers, or two fathers, depending how you look at it." She paused. "Or very unlucky, now that I think about it."

Aang scratched the back of his head.

"They asked me together. I mean, we've become friends and they are grateful that I don't mind about their relationship. Jin-Jing really wanted to have a child and Chunhua is more the masculine type. I think the poor girl really saw her time with me as a sacrifice."

Toph reached for his shoulders, gently pushing him on his back again so she could rest again on his chest.

"So," she continued the interrogation when they were entangled again. "Anyone you liked enough to fall in love with?"

He paused.

"There was On Ji."


"A Fire Nation girl, I met her during the war when I was enrolled at school over there, remember?" Toph nodded on his chest. "She was not really a volunteer. I ran into her again three years ago, when we all went to Zuko's birthday party in Ember Island, do you recall?" Toph nodded again.

"I remember you being really detached from everyone. And cranky. That's when I knew something was wrong with your life."

"Well, things were wrong for her as well. She married this guy called Hide, her school sweetheart, and she is unhappy in her marriage. Very. So after you guys left, I stayed in Ember Island and we sort of got together."

Toph was surprised, and interested. She raised her head and propped herself on her elbow.

"How long did the affair last?"

"Two weeks. I had to go the Earth Kingdom and she needed to go back to her husband."

"Did you ever see her again, or heard from her?"

"She writes once a year," Aang started playing with her hair. "To tell me how she's doing, about the baby she had from her husband, about the cherry trees blossoming in her orchard."

"It sounds sad," Toph said sincerely. Aang nodded.

"It is. Her letters are sad. They are formal, polite and always about minutia. She never says anything that wouldn't pass the scrutiny of a husband. But they arrive every year at the same time."

"Which time is that one?"

"The last day of the summer season. On the anniversary of our departure."

She considered in him silence.

"And, did you fall in love?" she asked finally.

"No, not enough time," he said.

Toph laid her head back on his chest.

"You have the saddest stories I have ever heard. Is there one with a happy ending?"

"My kids," Aang said. "The reasons why they were conceived may be iffy, but they themselves are not. You know them, they are the wickedest set of airbenders that I've ever encountered. Each is unique and carries the heritage of his or her mother. I like my children."

He saw her moving her lips counting something.

"You know what? None of the mothers is an earthbender. Your set of kids is incomplete," she affirmed.

He grabbed her face and kissed her deeply. He knew she was just stating a fact, not volunteering. As the kissing continued, she flushed her body against his and he fused his against hers until she rolled him over, straddling him. He grabbed her flimsy green slip, all bundled at her waist, and removed it while she raised her arms to make it easier form him. Under the light of the lamps, her skin glowed like alabaster, flawless. He touched the patch of pubic hair with the tip of his fingers.

"Is this Macmu-Ling work too?" he asked curious. Most of the concubines, depending of their culture or socio-economic background, were more au naturel. He found the grooming and the lack of body hair really, really sexy. Toph shrugged.

"Totally. That woman waxes me raw every week I swear. My mother's orders. I've been telling her that there's no purpose in tending a garden that no one visits, but she takes it personal."

He laughed quietly. The thing with Toph was that she always made him laugh. He raised her arms over head, looking at the shape of her breasts, the pale nipples and the perfectly hairless armpits. Her legs were also hairless and soft, like silk. He let his fingers roam all over her. She squirmed, laughing, ticklish. And he grabbed her hair with one hand bringing her down to his face to kiss her, while reaching between her legs with his other hand, confirming that she was ready.

Seizing her hips, he raised her body and helped her accommodate him, lowering her down on his erection, which was throbbing like a living thing. She moved slowly, adjusting to his size, letting him slide within her. This was the second time he had experienced her tightness and heat, and being inside her felt amazing. She felt incredible because he knew her well, because during the last fifteen moths she had been his compass, because she knew all the ugliness inside him as well as all the beauty he had to offer, and in spite of all, she stayed.

She started wriggling – less bouncy than during the afternoon – learning from the way he was guiding her, his fingers firmly on her hips, moving her up and down. When she got the tempo, he let go to caress her chest lovingly instead, rubbing her nipples with the pad of his fingers. She whimpered in pleasure.

"What was my present?" he asked her suddenly, watching her in fascination.

"It's a surprise," she panted. "Now shush, Meng is probably at your door stalking you. Let's not talk now."

He brought her down to kiss her again, to stop himself from telling her what he felt for her.

They became secret lovers. Meeting in his study in the afternoons, and in his room at night.

He was sitting by his window looking at the night the first time she opened a hole in the middle of his room, like a badger mole. He jumped, startled.

"Toph!" he said. "What are you doing? The temple is newly reconstructed!"

"Come on! I'll fix it better, you know that!" She removed some debris from her shoulders.

"This is ridiculous. You're my wife. There's no need to hide!"

"Well, I just let your Hopefuls know that you're taking a six week trip to the Fire Nation and they gave me these looks, I was fearing for my life."

"You're blind. You didn't see any looks. And I don't have plans for any trip to the Fire Nation."

"You do now," Toph said sultrily, coming over to him. "You promised me a month and a half, with no sharing. We're making our lives easier this way."

He had made no such promise, they both knew it. She had offered him a month and a half, and was now acting on it. He didn't call her on that, he just accepted her proposal.

The trip to the Fire Nation was first to the island where the new Avatar temple was being built. They stayed there for over a month, taking advantage of the solitude of the place, to roam the island, get into bending battles, swim in the sea during the day and make love at night. When he was not working in the temple plans or talking with the Fire Sages, they would play like kids, have long discussions, or just cuddle in front of a fire at the beach. Slowly but surely his old trickster self started resurfacing. He was soon playing pranks, alternating work with enjoying life. When Aang was occupied, Toph would keep herself busy helping the builders with their work until it was time for either to get the other one to stop, say goodnight to everyone, go to their cabin and focus solely on each other.

He loved every minute of that month. Not only was Toph eager, inquiring and interested in everything related to sex, she was enthusiastic about talking and asking and getting him to tell her everything that was going inside his head too. Their lovemaking became intense and sloppy at the same time. He would take her at any time in any place that suited his fancy at the moment, and she would seduce him into trying any position imaginable on the face of the earth. Like the images on those forbidden scrolls that he had found at the temple library, and studied in earnest the first year of the arrangement. The same scrolls that now laid forgotten in his study, a silent testimonial of the empty tedium of the last years.

He was also careless when making love to her. After she called him up on his bending that first afternoon, he decided not to worry about it. She had the herbs from the apothecary anyway, and knew how to use them, so he let go of that concern. He would finish inside her, not let her wash, and then make love to her again, still wet and sticky from their previous encounter. There was no secret left to uncover when he would finally let her rest, both hot, drenched and clammy, her lips puffy from his kisses, her clitoris swollen from his rubbing, her nipples red from the friction of his tongue. They would sleep for hours, her body satiated, just like his.

The final two weeks of their trip took them to the capitol, to visit Zuko and Katara. During the last days of their visit there, Aang found out what her present was: a surprise party. His one hundred and twenty-second birthday and his tenth year out of the iceberg. All his friends from the war were there, the young and the old. Everyone a bit busier, a bit more mature, even a bit jaded. Toph, in combination with the Mothers, had managed to get his kids to travel from the Temple to come to the party too. And for the first time in a long, long time, Aang felt as he did when he was a kid, just after winning an impossible war.

At the end of the evening, when most of the guests had gone to bed, he found himself talking to Zuko and Sokka, the girls nowhere to be seen. They decided to look for them, and their search took them to the gardens. Aang saw them sitting in a semi-circle, Toph in the middle of Suki and Katara, before they saw them.

He heard Suki.

"Oh no, Toph, no!" her voice so sad.

"Guys, I married the guy, remember?" Toph reminded them.

"Yes Toph, but we didn't know that you would fall in love with him," Katara said, her voice choked with sympathy.

The cheerfulness of the evening suddenly left him. He interrupted the scene, pale.

"What right do you have to tell her that?" Aang asked, making the girls jump in their seats. "Is it loving me something to be pitied for?"

Katara covered her mouth with her hand.

"I didn't say that, Aang," she said.

"You didn't have to," he said turning his back.

"Wait, Aang," Zuko intervened, grabbing his arm. "You're being unfair!"

"No, I'm not. You only have to remember one name at night, Zuko. And that name that you remember, you can say it aloud to the person that's with you." Aang said, and understood at that moment that the anger accumulated for years had never really left him and that he needed to let it go, now. Before its weight would crush him alive.

He left them in the garden, he needed to go somewhere else to unbend the anger out of his system, before he would do or say something that may cause regret.

Toph found him away from the palace, in the middle of a field, meditating. She must have walked a lot, sensing the earth to find him, because he had glided all the way here. The sun was coming up, a new day for a new Aang.

"So?" Toph asked, sitting next to him, caring two figs about breaking his meditating session.

He was calm, having done what he was supposed to do years ago. Letting the anger, self-pity and resentment go away. He was strangely at peace right now with his lot in life.

"I want you to leave," he told her softly. "Everyone thinks that I'm only going to cause you pain, and they're right."

Toph shrugged.

"Our time is almost over anyway, Twinkles," she said lightly and he felt the pain of having to let go not only of the negative feelings but the good ones too.

"Are you leaving from here?" he asked. She shrugged. He added nicely. "You should. It would be easier for you."

"I'm a sucker for pain, obviously. Listen, I'm a grown woman; I knew what I was doing."

"Did you? I don't think so." Aang tilted his head, studying her. "I think you were playing at kissing and moving on, like you did before."

Toph tilted her head too, unconsciously mimicking his gesture.

"What if I was? I'm not playing now."

"It seems like is time for you to move on," he said gently, peacefully.

She grabbed some earth and started to sift it through her fingers.

"You're not lying right now, but you don't want me to leave. If you really wanted me to, you wouldn't have made love to me in a way that would spoil me for everyone else." He had to give her credit. Of course she would pick that up. And then she added, in a voice so low that only the silence of the early morning allowed him to hear it. "It's too late, anyway."

He wondered if she was talking about her feelings or about the hour. And then he thought of something else she might be talking about. Of course. He kept having her over and over during all those weeks without any interruptions. Not even her courses. He did not move from his lotus position or acknowledged her comment. His mind was racing, though.

"Love is a strange feeling," Toph continued. "I've loved you since I met you, but that has nothing to do with being in love with you." She paused. "Each nation has a different culture. You know that the Earth Kingdom upper class practices polygamy. My father never had other concubines because he fell in love with my mom, but he could have if he wanted to. That's why my mom gets so sad with the idea of me with you, because she was lucky and avoided that fate. Water Tribes and Fire Nation cultures are different. What I am trying to say is that no one, besides us, needs to understand."

"I'm not sure if we understand," he said finally. She finished playing with the earth and he noticed that she was lacing her fingers tight again. She was nervous. Wait, she was nervous? Why? "What's on your mind, T?" He asked kindly, reminding himself that he was at peace with the fact that she may not want him by her side.

"Back there in the garden, that reaction of yours," she asked finally. "Was it because it was Katara doing the pitying?"

That gave him pause. Of all the things that could or should be bothering her, his reaction to Katara was the one stinging her.

"Yes," he said finally, his breathing serene. "I felt that she shouldn't be begrudging any solace we may be able to find in each other. She and Zuko struck lucky. It made me angry that she wouldn't wish the same for us."

"For you, you mean. No way Katara will wish upon me, her friend, to be one of many in the life of a man." His tranquility didn't waiver. He was done feeling shame for what were the circumstances of his life and his duty. "Katara's concern was of a different type, Twinkles," Toph continued. "Selflessness requires for you not to use your body, and mine, as a trap."

This actually brought a reaction out of his serenity-place.

"Spirits be dammed," he whispered surprised. "They're a year and a half too late. Why did they go along with your insane plan if they were so afraid of the consequences?"

"Because they also thought that you could use a friend," Toph said softly.

He wondered about that. About the day of Katara's wedding when Toph came to visit him in his study. The thought occurred to him that all his friends knew by then that his study, besides his sanctuary, had become his prison.

Aang sighed and closed his eyes.

"So, do you consider yourself one of many in the life of a man?" he asked her.

"I consider myself lucky that you gave me a month and a half," she answered. "Whomever happened before me, whomever happens after me, no one else happened during me. I'm happy with that."

He opened one eye and looked at her. He knew what was coming. He was supposed to steel himself for her goodbye, to be selfless and gracious. And she would say her stupid line "No need to fall in love, Twinkles." He despised that line.

"Come back with me to the temple," he said instead, surprising both of them. He knew she was expecting his 'When are you leaving?' full-of-understanding line. "You need time and space to make some decisions before starting your life anew. You won't have to resume any of your duties. The concubines managed themselves before you, they would do it again. And don't worry about me, you know I'm good at giving people space."

Aang saw doubt and other feelings crossing her face. She was debating something, and then gave in.

"I could use the peace," she said.

Aang lowered his head, a faint smile on his face. Her coming back to the temple gave them more time. Her reasons may well be to wait out the pregnancy she was not telling him about, but he could do a lot with just a little bit more time. He could shape a chance for him, for them. He extended his hand towards her. He refrained from asking her about Katara's comment regarding her feelings. He knew that Toph would deny it. "No need to fall in love, Twinkles," she would probably say.

They came back to the palace in harmony with the reality of their relationship, or at least that was what it looked like to the world. Their friends were waiting for them. Aang understood that they were concerned about Toph and about him as well. And even though he knew what their argument was about to be, he was done with selflessness and ready to immerse himself in selfishness.

When they got back to the temple, Jin-Jing had given birth to a healthy baby girl and there was a happy celebration waiting for them. They re-inserted themselves in the domestic landscape of the temple. Aang's attitude, though, changed after their return. Instead of avoiding any daily interaction with his concubines, he went to visit that side of the temple, spending time with his children and their mothers. In the past, he would usually spend time with the children alone. Now, he opened the door to know them, and letting them know him. After six years, he had finally made peace with the arrangement and was willing to come down from his tower to be more than a myth in his own household. What he did not do, though, was to resume his nocturnal visits to the Hopefuls, as Toph kept calling them.

The third night after their return, he had dressed with his Air Nomad robes (the blankets, Toph would say), put on his ceremonial necklaces, and walked from his rooms to Toph's rooms. In theory, he was supposed to pick up the visit schedule where it was left off since that fated afternoon when he had received his father-in-law's letter. He ignored the reminders from the sages that resided in the temple, and just went to his wife's rooms.

He knocked on the door expecting the Spirits knew what. Toph had been silent the entire trip back, and as soon as she got home, she went to her rooms and locked herself in. He hadn't seen her in three days. So finally, when the third night came and the lamps were lit, he broke the already broken rules, and went to the rooms of the First Wife. Actually, his only wife. He knocked on the door again, and the face of an intimidating looking woman appeared. Dressed in Earth Kingdom apparel, her intricate hairdo decorated with flowers, she seemed distant and in a bad mood.

"All green in the buds, I see snow trees in the spring. Hush! The flower rests."

"Uh?" Aang said. And then remembered. Macmu-Ling liked haikus. She spent her entire time coming up with that stuff, like non-stop. He thought about it, and then came up with, "All cold in the night, I seize dark trees in the mist. Flick! The moth has passed."

He had no freaking idea what was it that he had just said. He just wanted to appease the guard dog to be able to pass. The lady scrunched her nose giving serious consideration to his words.

"The cryptic, sweat pouring and heart pounding, going nowhere fast." She concluded.

"You're freaking kidding me," Aang said losing his patience and pushing the door open. The lady tried to stop him offended, but he was having none of it. He walked decisively to where Toph was, resting, asleep in her bed. He carried her in his arms and left the room towards his. Toph half woke up, smiled and went back to sleep in his arms. Aang knew perfectly well that the staff and the sages were looking but he ignored them. He took her to his empty room, put her on his bed and slept besides her the rest of the night.

Since that day, he would make Toph come to his room every night, and stay until the morning, until everyone was aware of the new arrangement. She complained about the hassle he was putting her through just to make a point, and in response he moved her clothes and belongings to his room. She shrugged resigned. He did not discuss with her the fact that the sages were fuming or that basically, he was breaking the temple's protocol. Their relationship crossed the line of a mutual physical trap into a domesticity of sorts, where they would really act like husband and wife during the day, to find themselves back as lovers at night.

The combination of him making a point regarding the status of his wife, his refusal to continue with the arrangement and his newly open availability to his concubines brought unexpected reactions from the girls, too. Usually only Toph would come to his study at any time, but one afternoon he had a visit from several of his volunteers.

"Aangy," Koko opened the conversation. "You're not doing your duty anymore towards repopulating your race. We all understood that it was our religious responsibility to the planet and to what you are and represent, but we can't do what is expected of us if you don't lay with us."

Aang was sitting in the middle of his study, looking at the faces of the four young women.

"I'm curious," he said instead looking at them with an honest and open face, "why did all of you volunteered for this?"

"It's a great honor to be chosen as the Avatar's concubine," Tamiko said demurely. "It's our spiritual duty to have your children and help restore what was once destroyed."

"I like you," Meng said instead, her homely face candid. "You're nice, and kind. And at least here, I don't have to work. Besides, Aunt Wu prophesied that I would fall in love with a man with big ears and yours are humongous."

Song, the last concubine he had accepted into the temple, who was a quiet, shy young woman said it.

"I come from a small village. We suffered during the war. We wanted to thank you for ending the war, and then I got this opportunity. We consider it an honor to be able to do this for you."

He turned to Koko.

"And you?"

Koko played with her obi. She was eighteen years old now, maybe nineteen. She had never been the most beautiful girl in the room, true, but she had an assurance beyond her years.

"Aangy, I volunteered because I've loved you since I was eight years old. I always knew that you and I would be together one day." He could see that at least for her, what she was saying was the truth.

"Koko, you don't know me. You know what I represent, but you have no idea what's lies beneath."

Koko made a gesture of impatience with her hand.

"I know that you're a good man. And that there was an understanding that we would volunteer for you and you would keep us safe and secure. You're not honoring your part of the bargain. No one ever mentioned that you could get married and ignore us."

"I will keep all of you secure and safe, and while here you'll want for naught. But right now I owe a duty to my wife. And I'm honoring that duty." He concluded nicely, but firmly.

Koko gave him a shrewd look.

"What's the duty, Aangy? To give First Wife a child to avoid her father removing her from here?" 'As if he could,' Aang thought. He made a gesture, refusing to answer.

"Thank you all for letting me know how you feel. I hope you'll understand."

After they left his study he turned to the balcony.

"I know you are there, T," he said. "Come in."

Toph's head popped out from the balcony door.

"How do they know about my father's letter?" she asked aloud, in shock. "I'm telling you, we should get Meng a job with Zuko's secret service. Does she know how to handle any weapons? Maybe we can train her."

"Stop trying to get Meng a job," he warned her, amused. "Now tell me, what were you doing there?"

"I came to talk to you and then felt all of you coming up the stairs and I hid. Don't ask me why, okay? I just didn't feel like having to deal with Koko and her crap today."

They paused, both silent for a moment. Then she said, a bit defiantly.

"Your duty to me, ah?"

"No, my duty to us," he corrected.

"It's not going to get you very far telling your women that I'm the only one when you still need to deal with them after I'm gone."

"I didn't say that. I'm not stupid. Koko could have killed me right here with my own scroll-opener. Why would I confess anything to another woman, for Spirits sake?"

She paused. He stepped closer towards her.

"Do you want a definition of duty, Toph?" he asked warmly. "Because Spirits forbid that I make the mistake of telling you that I love you unless you say it to me first. Because if I were to say something like that without you feeling the same, I'd never see you again."

"You did tell them that your only duty is me."

"So? I didn't say it was anything else." She flinched a bit, and then got angry. She started walking away but he grabbed her arm. "Are you expecting my child, T?" He asked point blank. She didn't answer. "You can give me custody." Aang insisted, still softly. "It's my job to raise them, it was never your job to have one. Just in case you think that it's a mistake."

"You're a mistake!" She said exasperated. "Having kids with you is a mistake. Getting stuck with you, and your obligations and the domestic drama in this temple is an insane mistake. Don't give me reasons I know, stupid, I would still make the same mistake!"

He held her tight against his chest, burying her face in his robes.

"Let me tell you my definition of duty, T. My duty is to invent new ways to get you to stay."

She mumbled something and he relented a bit.

"Suffocating me is not the best way to get me to stay!" she complained, without pushing him away.

"Having children with me is not the best way to get your freedom either," he answered still holding her. They stayed there, for a long minute, and then he said. "Tell me. All of it."

"I just came over to tell you that I've brokered Mei-Lin and Xifeng's marriages to two good tradesmen," Toph said, raising her chin as if daring him to say anything. Mei-Lin and Xifeng were two of the Mothers. He had known for a while that they were seeing other people. "The children stay with us, of course."

He nodded. Her hair was back to her messy style – who knows how many crazy haikus was Madame Macmu-Ling sputtering right now – and he found her charming.

"Of course," he accepted, without commenting on the 'us'. "I spoke to the sages this morning."

"Really? What did you tell the zealots?" she asked surprised. Toph had no built-in respect for religion and hated the sages.

"I told them that I've no intention to make my wife jealous, to give her reasons to leave me or to deny her body to me." He told them more than that, actually. He told them that destiny had given him a second chance, and that detaching himself from the people he loved in the past had not made him a better Avatar, just an incomplete one.

"And they accepted that?" she asked astonished.

"No, but right now they have no choice. I'm not doing this again."

"Again means … Katara?" Toph asked and her voice stirred against her will. He noticed.

"I thought that I had lost something I couldn't replace," Aang admitted.


"No. The capacity to be happy. If you were so once, you can be happy again. That is a fact. And this is my promise to you: I learn from my mistakes."

All the time that he was telling her in veiled form that they would be defying sages, past lives, old traditions and the balance-seeking forces of the planet, he was holding her. She had that expression of hers, the open one that he couldn't read. He wanted to kiss her and shake her a bit at the same time. Exasperating woman, it was a full time job to get her to say what she felt for him. He had it on good authority, though. Katara had said it aloud.

"What's going to happen with the Hopefuls?" Toph asked. "As soon as they learn that I'm pregnant, they're going to expect the visits to re-start. They will assume that your duty is fulfilled."

"If they want to stay, they're welcomed. But what I said stands true. I don't want to separate my feelings from my sexuality anymore. And right now, my feelings are focused in one person only and my sexuality bears a name and last name."

Aang kissed Toph with love. She returned his kiss with deep tenderness, caressing his face and both blushing under the sweetness of the gesture. Passionate sex in extreme positions, while trying crazy, kinky, wild stuff taken from forbidden books had not been able to cause the level of flush that this single kiss, given with care and received so lovingly, was bringing out in their faces.

He put his forehead against hers.

"If I were to make the mistake of telling you that I love you, and how much, who knows what may happen. You may freak out and leave this place for good," he said casually.

"But you learn from your mistakes," she affirmed.

"Yeah, but I'm like you. I keep making the same stupid mistakes."

She was holding him too, embracing his waist, her head in his shoulder. They had reached their own arrangement, their particular understanding.

"First mistake to fix, we need to get Koko an alternative husband," Toph said from his chest. "The Earth King may have availability. Let's write him a letter. Ah! And let's ask Zuko about that elite counter-intelligence group he was talking about. We have an expert that can teach them a thing or two."

Aang tried to keep a straight face on her hair, but couldn't.

"Third mistake: Macmu-Ling," Aang said. Toph raised her head, not to look at him because she couldn't, but to make a point.

"You like the sexy wax and the smooth skin?" she asked gravely.


"Then the haikus stay. Deal with them."

That night, he watched her undress in silence, noticing her settling down in his own space. Or what it used to be his own space. He had moved her in, literally. He brought her stuff and put it in his room, to her exasperation because being blind she needed to know where things were to be able to find them. Macmu-Ling had helped, reorganizing the space for both. He was okay with it. Like him, Toph didn't have or needed much stuff, and Macmu-Ling kept most of the fancy stuff in her own rooms.

He watched her removing her robes, her bindings, letting her hair loose. She left all her clothes in the floor in a heap. Sometimes she would do things like that. The careless gestures of a spoiled child, but those didn't last long. Eventually, she would pick everything up.

He watched her profile, while she was removing the ankle bands, the roundness of the pregnancy not showing yet on her trim figure. The sinuous movements of her lean muscles under the silky skin a visual stimulant. She finished undressing, and stood there naked, touching her belly. She then yawned, walked towards the bed and lay down. He remained sitting where he was, looking at her. She turned her head towards him.

"I'd have given a more interesting show if I knew that you like to watch."

"It was perfect," he said honestly, standing up and undressing as well.

When he was naked he lay down on the bed next to her, propping himself on an elbow and looking at her. With the back of his hand he caressed her face, her shoulder, her chest, going down to her waist, her hip, her thigh. He didn't feel the urge he had felt before, the need to possess her through sex as a way of keeping her. Ownership was not love, they both knew that. She was staying with him under their silent understanding. For as long as they didn't have to share each other, they were both staying. The day would come when they would need to face the questions again, deal with the sages, the past lives, and the crap. But for now it was what it was. And it was great.

"I think your ex was wrong," Aang said. "You don't need to reset your heart. Your heart is perfect for me."

"Maybe because is perfectly crooked," she joked. He kissed her ear, spooning her.

Their love making that night was slow, and soft and tender. Compared to their sexual experiences from before, it was boring. But at the same time it was splendid. Awesome. Sweet. Deep. Hot.

He was spooning her when he started to get an erection and she immediately started rubbing her buttocks against the length of his shaft. He grabbed her inner thigh separating her legs, and took her from behind, his fingers lost in her beautifully groomed patch of pubic hair. She raised her arm to grab his head while he moved in and out, so happy that she was not a virgin anymore. The freedom to do everything he felt like doing with her. And as she got wetter and easier to love, he carefully rubbed his penis from her slit to her buttocks, stimulating her.

Soon he assumed her favorite position. He removed himself from her, ignoring her complaint, and laid her on her back, to enter her from the front. She liked having him on top, he knew that. She loved his weight on her, while he pushed her knees apart, making her legs fall wide open to the sides first, to then wrap her thighs around him, squeezing him. That would give her the most friction, the direct contact that she needed to get to where he wanted her to go. She would invariably grab his buttocks, pushing him towards her even more, moving her hips in a way that left no doubt that she was screwing him as much as he was screwing her. They would kiss the length of the act, his mouth all over her face, while she rubbed all of herself against him. This time, when her breathing and her little noises of pleasure were in crescendo, she finally broke.

"I love you, Aang," she said, biting his shoulder lightly. "I love you with all of me."

He rewarded her by rubbing her core directly with his own. He moved in her, kissing her, until she climaxed all over him, squeezing him with her insides.

"I love you, T," he told her before letting himself go. "I love you with all of me."

Aang and Toph made it to their room in the night, the empty temple feeling enormous. Both were tired and sleepy, and collapsed in their bed entangled. He was looking forward to the holiday on the beach. Aang automatically placed a hand over her swollen little belly. I was a tiny bump, but it was there.

"I know, I know," she said somnolently. "If I keep giving you twins you don't ever have to go back to your duties." She half woke up for a moment. "You're lucky I have elastic skin, last time those two had me looking like the Hippo. I can't believe I went back to normal." She curled up again. "And thanks to Katara who did some amazing healing down there, because I don't imagine you would have liked the loose situation."

"You're as taut as ever, stop complaining. And these are airbending babies, they are tiny."

"Don't use the fact that our kids are bird-boned as an excuse. Look at my frame, I can't barely carry a sparrow." He laughed and grabbed one of her breasts. They were starting to get bigger. Good, he liked the swollen breasts.

"It's good to be home. I made sure to let everyone know that I'm not taking any more trips until the babies are born." He moved the hand from the breast to caress her belly again. "If you're pregnant with twins again, that will mean five kids with me. I know I promised you your freedom, but I don't think you're going the right way about it."

She was almost asleep.

"I think giving birth to five of our kids is enough Twinkles. That makes twelve children. You can build a nation with twelve children, can you not? I heard a story once of a proud nation that started with one man who had twelve kids."

"I can build a nation with only you, Toph. We can be a nation of two and I wouldn't need anything else."

"Let's invent a country for the two of us, Twinkles," she said dozing off. "As big as the sky, and as small as us. A nation with open borders: to the east, our friends, to the west our passion, to the south the sea, and to the north …" she fell asleep muttering something.

"To the north our secrets," he finished for her, falling asleep too. "The world is what we make of it."



Old Air Nomad language: Japanese. (Kuuki: atmosphere; Ea: air; Ishi: Stone; Kaze: Breeze; Sukai: Sky)

Madame Macmu-Ling: Sokka's nemesis in 'The Tales of Ba Sing Se'.

Koko, Meng, Song, and On Ji are all canon characters.

The twelve tribes of Israel were born out of Jacob's twelve children. (The twelve boys, of course. The story of his daughter is a sad one.)

Aang and Toph's nation inspired by the song "Geografía" by the Spanish group La oreja de Van Gogh.