Title: A Family Trait
Spoilers: The Day of Black Sun
Summary: (AU) Toph gets a reunion with her parents a little earlier than expected.
Notes: A fic I wrote awhile ago and forgot about. Enjoy!
The group stared at the man currently poised to step off the ship onto the dock, who was staring down at the moist earth with an expression of barely concealed disdain. Aang's face was blank, showing only the faintest confusion, and Katara gasped a quiet "Oh!" in surprise. Sokka didn't consciously think to do it, but he found himself grabbing Toph's upper arm and pulling her closer to him, frowning all the while.
"What?" Toph asked, making a face. "What are you-"
And then the man stepped on the ground-dock, and her expression changed from confusion to shock to a strange sort of wistfulness before settling on something carefully guarded. She straightened up and stepped out in front of the group with a defensive set to her shoulders that Sokka usually only saw at the beginning of a battle, and said, "What are you doing here?"
The man looked straight ahead at the dirty little girl in front of him - Sokka could see with a sudden start that her hair was mussed and she had caked mud all the way up her left arm, and he wasn't precisely sure how long it had been there -, and he said simply, "I've come to see you, Toph."
He took a step forward, and, as though encouraged by the way she didn't immediately run away, added, "I was worried about my baby girl."
The tension in the air was palpable, and clearly even Sokka's father sensed it, despite not knowing the whole story, because he suddenly said, with some hesitation, "Mr. Beifong here has been providing a great deal of funding for the war effort. He, uh, insisted upon coming along."
There was still more silence. Sokka chanced a glance at Toph, whose face was little more than a mask, and worried his lip nervously.
Finally, Toph said, "You sent men to kidnap me."
"Technically," her father replied, "I was sending them to kidnap you back, after the Avatar kidnapped you first."
"I ran away," Toph corrected him. "Twinkletoes couldn't kidnap me if he tried."
Aang chuckled nervously under Mr. Beifong's cool, questioning look, and muttered, "Yeah, I really can't argue with that."
"You were missing," Toph's father finally concluded, and Sokka could see the anger in his eyes. He resisted the urge to grab Toph's shoulder, mainly because he knew she wouldn't see it as support, but as a sign of weakness.
"But," Lao Beifong said quietly, reaching out a hand to his long-lost daughter and letting hang there when she didn't move to grab it. "I'm not here to take you home."
Toph's eyes widened, and she frowned curiously at the tone of her father's voice.
"I'm here to watch you fight, Toph," Lao Beifong said simply, the warmth in his voice matching the small smile on his face. "And I'm here to help you in the one way I can."
Sokka felt a rush of heat behind his eyes as he saw the smile that crossed Toph's face, and could barely keep his vision clear as he saw her launch into her father's chest for a hug. Sokka suspected, somewhat sadly, that this was the first real conversation the two of them had ever had. Beside him, Katara was actively sniffling, and Aang was watching on in wonder, a smile wide across his face.
The moment was broken by the sound of shouting coming from below deck, and the group looked quizzically at the ship's exit. Lao Beifang turned slightly, still holding his daughter tight, and an even fonder smile graced his lips.
"Besides," he added with a hint of exasperation as the sound of shouting drew closer, "your mother has really taken to a life at sea."
"I TOLD YOU TO GET THESE BOXES MOVED OFF THE SHIP IMMEDIATELY!" came the clear, commanding voice of Poppy Beifong, who looked nothing like Sokka remembered from the awkward dinner at Toph's house the first time they had met. She had traded her fancy dress in for a simple traveling outfit, her hair pulled back into a simple up-do instead of some complicated style, and she looked as though she had gained a few needed pounds. A pair of bedraggled looking young men were carting large boxes in their hands as they followed her ashore. She directed, "Now, we're going to be setting up camp along the upper hillside, and I don't want any mix-up on these boxes. I swear, if I open YET ANOTHER box of exploding jelly when all I want are rations, there will be hell to pay! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"
"Yes m'am!" the two young men, both in earth-bending uniforms and easily twice her size, replied smartly and with just a little bit of terror. They hurried off with the boxes.
Poppy stood with her hands on her hips and a smile on her face as she turned to regard her husband and daughter, and said, "Lao, dear, I can't organize the ammunition all by myself. Toph, sweetheart, come help Mommy sort the explosives." With that, she promptly turned back around and vanished into the ship.
Lao Beifong patted his daughter on the head and said, "Well, you know how your mother gets."
From Toph's expression, she really, really didn't, which made Sokka feel a little better.
"Well, uh," Lao Beifong said, "I'd better get in there before she starts ordering someone else around. Come in when you're ready, sweetheart."
He left and ducked into the ship after his wife. The rest of them were left standing there, frozen in shock and staring at the ship in question as though waiting for yet another mirage to appear from its depths.
Toph, appropriately, broke the silence.
"What. The hell was that?"
Sokka shrugged. "I have no idea. They're your parents."
"They've gone insane."
"Actually," Katara said, tilting her head and looking thoughtful. "I think your family is finally starting to make sense."
wot? IT COULD HAPPEN.
i mean, BECAUSE REALLY. where ELSE would she get it from? (THE BADGERMOLES DON'T COUNT. :D) Also, Poppy totally rules the Beifong fortune with an IRON FIST. trufax.
Lao: I'm not here to bring you home, Toph.
Lao: No. (Though if you wanted to leave, I can have a ship ready in two minutes flat. No joke, I timed it. I have water-benders standing by.)
Lao: HA, HAAAA, SEE, I'M HERE FOR YOU SWEETIE. (No but seriously I WILL INVENT AN AIRPLANE RIGHT NOW. I have money.)