Title: Sand to Stone
Characters: Toph and her father.
Word Count: 558 words
Summary: It's the little things that undo you, when it comes to remembering home.
When she is quite small, Toph plays the simplest of earthbending games with her father. Since it is such a basic thing, both her parents feel quite assured she will take no harm from it, and her natural sickliness will not be exacerbated by her using the bending skills of her birthright. At night, before mother sends her off to bed to dream whatever a child may dream, she sits peacefully with her father, a hand on his hand to feel the movements he makes when he sets up the game, and listening to the quiet and familiar sounds of slow-running streams and blowing wind and the subtle, half-silent shifting of the home.
The game itself is meant to help a child learn basic control- rock to sand, sand to rock. There is a wide, deep tray of sand, (pure white quartz, not like she can see the purity and whiteness of it,) in which her father drops several of the small game-pieces for later discovery. She still remembers the shape of them around her fingers: weighty things for their size, made of heavy gold, and shaped like badgermoles.
"Turn it to stone, Toph," her father instructs her gently, guiding her hand to rest just atop the sand. It shifts beneath her touch for a moment as she focuses, and then something wrenches and she feels the grains fuse into one smooth, solid block of quartz.
It's pure magic: the control, the mastery she has over the sand and stone. She could do this trick forever, sliding and shifting earth. Toph feels, almost, that she could very easily become like this sand and fuse herself into the earth. Become a pillar of stone- solid and implacable. It's a dream she has, at night when she is meant to be having visions of silk-candy and soft things.
The object of the game is to find the most badger moles, dipping into the stone with bending and withdrawing the pieces. Her fingers, tiny and deft, glide across the quartz slab. She taps a finger on the rock, much to the confusion of her father, and finds the most each time. (Honestly, a finger tap is barely enough. She would very much like to kick a foot at it, but that would be taken as a fit of pique and she would be sent to bed early.)
(She knows this because she has tried it.)
This is a subtle moment in her memory, stable and solid. It's not a burst of joy like the memories of her friends' homes, nor is it a wrench of pain or the twist of the heart that comes with insecurity. It is a slight trickle of smiling serenity in her life. All good memories of her parents speak so quietly. Remembering it is like listening to the song of earthworms underfoot.
Toph keeps a little badger mole for the journey. She doesn't know why, honestly. It's just something she snatches up along with food and blankets to take along the way. Sometimes she takes it out and strokes it in her fingers and feels how it hasn't grown dull or smooth at all since she was small, and misses for just a little bit the sounds of a wooden house settling and the flow of a nearby stream and the familiar, familiar smell of home.