TezTra: Here's a cookie for trying! Hehehe! And the title of Part I is also based on Toph's name.
Toph is also the Hebrew term for "Tamborine", which is essentially how Toph can "see", by sensing the vibrations from the ground, much like the way a tambourine is beaten while played. – Courtesy of Avatar Wiki
So, here's part three! I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Not mine
Part III: Lady of the Bei Fong Clan
"Zuko!" Zuko turned to the voice that called out to him. He smiled when he saw who approached him. It was his old friends; Aang, Katara, Sokka and Suki. He met them half way, pulling them all in a hug. How he had missed his friends. They were in the grand hall of Omashu's Palace.
"It's good to see you again, Zuko," Katara beamed up at him. She had grown more beautiful, her dark brown hair falling in waves behind her and the blue of her eyes seemed to sparkle brighter than he last remembered.
"How's the head honcho doing these days?" Sokka slapped him on the back in greeting. Sokka had matured in more ways than one: He had grown goatie and his muscles seemed more developed, rippling just a bit as he draped his arm around Suki, which Zuko noticed was holding a bundle of blue in her arms.
"Is that her?" Zuko leaned forward, trying to look at the small bundle better. Suki was more than happy to show him what the blue cloth held, smiling proudly. Zuko's breath hitched as his eye took in the fair skin of a baby, a dark brown tuff of hair peeking out from her covered head. "She's beautiful."
"Her name is Toki," Suki supplied, then she turned to glare teasingly at him. "You and Toph were supposed to be her God Parents along with Aang and Katara. But you and that little brat never showed up."
"Where is Toph, anyway?" Katara looked around, hoping to see the blind earthbender.
"It was a pretty busy year." Suki and the others looked at each other in surprise as Zuko turned away from them and started to leave. "I have to go find uncle."
Just as he was nearing the door to King Bumi's throne room, a hand on his shoulder stopped him. When he turned he saw Aang. The airbender was now as tall as he was, still bald and well built. His childish face matured with his chin and jaw looking a lot stronger than it was when he was still in his preteens. The young Avatar smiled up at him, "You can tell me anything, Zuko."
Sighing, Zuko nodded to his friend and lead him to a corner. If there was someone who could advise him about his dilemma, it was Aang.
"So, what's this whole brooding nonsense?" Aang started when they were out of sight and were out of earshot from most of the people in the Hall. "I thought by now you've outgrown that."
"She left, Aang," he huffed in frustration, rubbing his face with a hand to help ease his temper. "She said something about being able to present herself without needing help to prepare or something like that."
"Who?" Aang's eye furrowed, showing his confusion to Zuko.
"Toph," the prince finally said. Then he started a rant, "She said she would come back. But it's been a year! I haven't seen hide or hair of her! She should've been back by now, right? Spirits, what if she went back to the Fire Nation now? When I'm here in Omashu? I would've missed her!"
"Calm down, Zuko." Aang patted his friend on the shoulder, trying to pacify him. "I'm sure she knows that there is a celebration here in Omashu. King Bumi sent her an invitation, too, right?"
"What if she didn't get it? What if no one was there to read it for her? What if she gets lost?" Zuko paced in the little corner, his path smoking as he was unconsciously bending out of frustration. Aang looked at his friend as if he grew a second head. Toph getting lost?
"She's worth more than you give her credit for, my friend," Aang finally said, holding back a laugh. Zuko looked flustered and upset. Why was the little earthbender affecting him so much? "Why are you so affected by her anyway?"
Zuko stared at the Avatar. Is Aang really this thick? Aang is the only person aside from his uncle that he openly showed how he felt about Toph. He let out a sigh, stepping closer to his friend. He began, "She thought I was changing her, by giving her this," he showed the ivory comb to his friend and continued. "I never meant for it to look like I was changing her. I just wanted to give it to her as a birthday gift. I never wanted to change her. I just wanted to show her that she's loved."
Aang smiled, finally grasping the situation. He was about to tell Zuko that destiny will always have a way to bring them together if so decided, but was cut off by the sudden blowing of horns as a noble family was announced.
"The Lord and Lady of the Bei Fong clan," Zuko snapped up in attention, his eyes following the Bei Fong couple as they entered the grand hall. But when SHE was announced, he found himself staring at a completely different person than he remembered. "And their daughter Lady Toph Bei Fong."
She entered right after her parents did. Her hair was neatly put up in an elaborate bun, a headpiece made of jade and gold set on top. Her face were as serene as he remembered it when he last sat with her by his favorite pond, her cheeks dusted to blush, her eyes brushed with a light shade of green and her lips painted pink. Her dress was of green silk that was extravagantly embroidered with Peony flowers in golden threads, a lace shawl draped around her bare shoulder as the dress barely concealed them.
"I told you she'd be here." Aang smirked, nudging Zuko by his side. "She looks different, don't you think so?"
Zuko could only nod. The when she turned her head to their general direction, Zuko froze. He knew she knows where he is. After all, the hall's floor was made out of stone. But her expression never changed and she turned away. Zuko let out a breath he never realized he was holding. He stared after her as a smile broke from her face and she hurried to where Sokka, Suki and Katara were, pulling each of them in a demure hug.
"Different," Zuko echoed Aang's words, his eyes following the length of the earthbender's body. Then he nodded, "Very."
"C'mon, Zuko," Aang called back to him. Zuko realized Aang was already making his way to the group. He walked to follow the Avatar, still staring at her as Sokka laid her down on the floor after spinning her around in a fierce embrace. She was still laughing as Aang pulled her in a hug, closing her eyes as the Avatar greeted her.
When they finally let go, Zuko was already a few feet away from them. Her sightless eyes stared up at him, waiting for him to make a move. He stepped closer to her, his breathing labored. "Toph," he said, reaching out, hoping to hug her as their friends did. But she stepped back, bowing ever so slightly to greet the Fire Nation Prince.
"Prince Zuko," she replied, raising her head from the bow and staring back at him. She had half expected him to reprimand her for not telling him of her sudden departure a year ago. But he stood there, looking at her impassively. She could hear his heart thumping madly, she knows he was upset. She waited, but she never felt him move.
Sokka and Suki stared at them puzzled and then at each other trying to find a reason why the two did not break into an argument like they always did when they were young. Katara looked at Toph then Zuko, then back at Toph, wondering why their youngest friend did not allow the young prince to pull her into an embrace.
She felt his heart slow down, his breathing long and deep. He was trying to calm himself down before he would speak to her. She felt him swallow, and then the stone beneath her feet shifted as Zuko bowed back to her in reply. "Lady Bei Fong," he addressed her.
Their friends felt the tension between them. And they decided to make themselves scarce.
"Katara, I wanna go see Bumi," Aang turned to the waterbender, offering her his arm. "Want to come with me?"
"Sure, Aang!" Katara happily accepted, lacing her arm through his, letting him lead her to the throne room. "I'd love to see the old bat again!"
"I'm sure Uncle Iroh would want to see Toki," Suki turned on her heels to follow the pair, her free hand grabbing Sokka's arm. "C'mon, honey, let's head off."
They stared at each other silently, waiting for the other to speak. Toph was beginning to grow impatient. She expected him to have a lot to say. But it seems he was being his stubborn self again. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she started to turn away from him, ready to follow her friends to see King Bumi. But then he spoke, holding out his hand, "May I speak with you?"
She found herself sitting on a stone bench at the Omashu Palace garden, primly folding her hands on her lap as Zuko sat beside her. She felt his heart rate go faster again, letting his frustration radiate from his entire body. She sighed, "What did you want to speak to me about, Prince Zuko?"
Zuko sharply turned his head towards her, glaring. He hated the way she addressed him. Prince Zuko? She had promised to change herself, he remembered. She did, judging by the way she referred to him. The way she sat now, her back straight and her legs together, hands folded ever so neatly on her lap. Her chin held high, as if rubbing it in his face that she CAN be the noble of the family she was born into. This was not the Toph he had come to love. "Who are you?"
"What do you mean?" she turned her face towards him, hazy green eyes emotionless as their sightless gaze lingered on him. "You know who I am," she continued. "I am Toph Bei Fong."
"No," he snapped at her angrily. She didn't even flinch. "You are just a physical imitation of her! What have you done to her?"
"What have I done to her?"Toph had to keep her temper in check. Not yet, she thought to herself. "I made her grow up. To fit into the world of the people she loved most."
When he didn't reply, she continued, "She never did fit into the world where they belonged." She turned away from him, standing up, she walked a few steps away. "They held high status in society. They were proper. They were well-mannered. They were clean." She suppressed a laugh that threatened to escape. "She was rambunctious. She was ill-mannered. She was dirty." She didn't bother to hold back a sad sigh.
"She was everything they were raised not to become." She faced him again, "So she decided to grow up. So she can finally belong to their world without them being ashamed to have her around."
"What are you talking about?" Zuko stood up and approached her, taking her hands in his. He was surprised that she let him, but was glad nonetheless. "Why would you change yourself just for the sake of what others thought of you?"
"Wasn't that what you wanted?" She accused, the corners of her eyes glimmering, a sign of suppressed tears. "Wasn't that the reason why you gave me the comb? So you would not be ashamed to stand next to me because I had an expensive ornament in my hair?"
"Toph, I didn't mean it like that." She felt his heart slow down, she felt the corners of his lips turn up. Why had he become so happy all of a sudden? That made her angry.
"What did you mean then?" she demanded, pulling her hands free from his. "If not to change me?"
"It was your birthday," he said gently, pulling out the said comb from his pocket. "I thought… You would like it…"
"I hate it," she spat. Then he felt the earth beneath them start to shake gently. Clearly she was upset when she felt him holding the item that started this mess. "A lotus? The very flower my parents named me after. A supported lotus. Weak and fragile."
"You are nothing but weak and fragile," he attempted to approach her again, but his feet sunk into the earth, preventing him another step. "I just thought, that maybe…"
She raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to continue. He did, "That maybe you would know how I felt."
"How you felt?" she questioned, hope in her voice. "You expected me to know how you felt when you asked a servant to give it to me? With firm instructions that I SHOULD wear it?"
Zuko exhaled loudly, his patience wearing thin. Could she be any denser to the whole situation? Or was she simply trying to veer off the subject? When she inclined her chin and started to walk away, the last strand of his patience snapped, "I love you! That's why I wanted you to wear it! I wanted to see you wear something that came from me! I wanted you to know that I would give you everything and anything that you wanted! That I would hire the best and give you the best! And here now I see that you have changed the person I love to someone she's not! To someone completely different to whom I know her to be!"
He shook his head, aggravated. "You didn't have to change, Toph. You were perfect the way you were, bare feet and all!"
She stopped on her tracks and smiled. That was what she was waiting for. She let her shoulders drop as she felt him come closer to her again. When he held her had, she turned to face him, revealing her smile to him. She looked down to her feet, tugging at his hand to indicate for him to do the same. When he did, her free hand lifted the hem of her gown, showing her feet. They were bare. Just as they have always been ever since he met her.
"Just as they will ever be." She told him, as if reading his thoughts.
"Can you give her back to me?"he asked hopefully.
They faced each other, the same smile playing both their lips.
"That depends, your highness," she teased. He chuckled at the way her eyes seemed to dance mischievously. He reached up to remove the elaborate hairpiece on her head, letting the long black locks fall in waves down her back. Then, he took a lock of her hair, brushing it back and securing it with the ivory comb.
"How easily I know those nations and cities fall," he whispered as he pulled her in an embrace. She shivered as she felt his breath on the skin behind her ear, "For true beauty like yours is hard to find, my lady from the north."
Iroh smiled as he saw the young couple embrace. He looked upon them from the balcony of Bumi's throne room. Happy to see that his two favorite people have finally found each other again, he turned to the Avatar and his friends, "Let me share to you the legend I have heard about the Lady from the North."
I felt like I rushed it. If any of you feels the same way tell me and I will revise it on my day off. That's all folks! My three part story of Toph and Zuko!