When I'm Gone
Six Months Later
"If you don't get your rear end out of this bathroom in fifteen seconds or less, I'm busting the door down." Well, maybe a little bit higher a number than that in the end. Zuko was just that kind of guy, the type that worried about his appearance and fussed over this or that detail. Everything had to be perfect, down to the last button, and if it wasn't it was officially the end of the world. This was especially true considering what today even was. Indeed, finally, the Fire Lord was getting married. The entire nation was buzzing with the news, stories were told, rumors were passed, invitations were given out; surely, it would be the largest event in the Fire Nation for years in both directions, barring of course the end of the War which was rather big a thing yes.
"Zuko, I mean it."
"Just one more thing," he answered, a loud clack partially drowning out the words.
"No, not one more thing. Get out here. YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE FOR YOUR OWN WEDDING!"
Really, Azula hoped Hakaea and Katara were having an easier time with the bride. It had taken him far too long to get the courage to ask, and even longer than that to actually do it. Part of the reason why was Zuko insisted on visiting Kaijin again. He had to make her ring himself, and had thought it best to ask a blacksmith named Shin Yu for help in making this ring. The end result was absolutely stunning, and Azula thought it a shame Toph couldn't actually see it. Sure she could sense it just fine, felt it alright, knew what shape it was in and how many stones were in it. But she couldn't see the colors, the contrast of the silver against the gold, the red and the green, all entwined together in an endless loop.
I heard you two talking.
Oh. Sorry you had to hear that.
I don't mind. ... I expected you two to run off in the middle of the night. I'm glad you didn't.
"How's everything in here?" Azula's gaze flicked up to Ursa, smiling calmly but under that she knew their mother was very happy. She had been during the last wedding she was present for as well.
"Zuko won't come out of the bathroom," Azula promptly reported. Ursa frowned slightly.
"Zuko, the guests are already streaming in, you'll be late if you push it much further."
"I already told him that, it didn't work." The younger girl flopped into the chair by the door, booted feet dangling in front of the golden door handle. She was even nice enough to wear some of her mother's old clothes rather than her own; by now she'd outgrown her own royal dresses, and thus the only garments she had to wear were things Suyis had either bought or stolen, depending, and none of it was particularly suited to a wedding. More for swabbing the deck; he was rather picky about how shiny his Kyrie Eleison's deck was.
She was the maid of honor; Aang was best man. Suyis had thrown a tiny little fit about not being best man, but then he would probably be drunk most of the night anyhow, so in the end it was for the best. He was still in the lineup, just not at the front, that was all.
I should stop running. As easy as it is, it never really gets anyone anywhere.
You know I denied your request for a reason.
I know. I accepted it then and I still do now. I haven't made myself to be particularly trustworthy and that's no one's fault but my own. As easy as it is to believe it was his fault I ended up that way, it was my own.
"Alright, I meant it, I'm seriously busting this door down now." She really had spent far too much time around Suyis and his overly pushy habits. But if it got the job done, well, damn it, it got the job done that was all she needed to know. And she stood up, pulled her arm back, and right then, the door opened. One look at him, and both her and their mother let out a very loud sigh. "You look like a train wreck."
"That's the first thing you say?"
"Seriously. Mom, tell him he needs better taste. And for Agni's sake, learn to dress yourself, back in you go." She turned him around (seriously, he did look like something the hunting dogs had dragged in, but it was fixable) and shoved him back in. Ursa followed, intending to help speed the process up somewhat in hopes of getting him standing at the altar by the time Toph was done.
You've grown a lot over the years.
Mm. I owe that in part to him. I did tell you he taught me a lot. I meant every syllable. I think, without trying, he gave me all the answers I'd gotten lost in the search for. And then he became my first real friend.
I see that.
"Azula, hand me that comb." She reached around him, plucking the comb off the counter and passing it to Ursa. With any luck, they'd have him presentable in a few minutes max. A pause here, as both women tugged the shirt off him, and Azula went to searching for a different one while Ursa redid his hair.
"Guys, come on, you said I'll be late!"
"Yes, but it is not so pressing a matter as we will allow you out of this room looking like that," Ursa replied tautly. Oh no; her son was not looking like a drunken beggar at his own wedding. She made a note to ask Azula to start training him in the various ways of Fire Nation fashion. The woman was hardly around the capital anymore, being very careful not to fall back into the same patterns she had been stuck in before, but when she was around, she spent a good deal of time with her brother. It was a change that Ursa had to admit she was fond of.
It's like... having a part of you missing, and not really knowing it is until you find it again, in someone else.
You know if you were lying, I don't think you would be able to think about it that way.
Oh Zuzu, how do you know I'm still not lying? But I guess you have a point. Before the War ended I don't think I'd seen anyone as much more than a pawn.
"Blue or green?"
"Is there a silver?" Azula blinked, rummaging through the pile of clothes the two had brought up earlier, before he'd locked himself into his bathroom for all eternity it seemed.
"Yep, silver and gray."
"That will do. Here, quickly, get it on before I get his hair done all the way."
Don't make me regret this Azula.
Didn't anyone tell you yet? It's time to stop regretting, and start living again.
"I am not wearing that." No way. Toph Bei Fong was not getting in that. They could shove one of the bridesmaids in it, certainly they would be quite a bit more interested in wearing it. That was not to say it wasn't gorgeous, rather, it very much was; the top was form fitting, made to fit Toph of course, green and gold sequins sparkling along the halter style collar that came down in a v shape. Hakaea's mother was kind enough to create a beaded design at the crook of the v, the Earth Kingdom symbol with the Fire Nation's flame blazing before it strung between the hemming. A gold panel fell down from there, lined in fire red, dangling all the way to the knees.
It was the skirt that annoyed the bride; the top layer was a smooth silk with a slight train in the back, but under that was several layers of ruffly lacy stuff, making it gradually poof outward. And the ruffly lacy stuff was where it became a no fucking way in the nine worlds. That was where Toph drew the line. It was bad enough already, considering what kind of crap her mother wanted to stick in her hair, and then they wanted to stuff her in that. She could handle the sparkly stuff and the tight fit, but the lacy ruffly stuff was where it became a no-no, just for Agni's sake no.
"Come on Toph, don't make this harder than it needs to be," Hakaea pleaded.
"Nope, not getting me in that."
"It won't suck your soul out, we promise," Hakaea added. Toph still stubbornly shook her head. Well, desperate times called for desperate measures. Katara sighed.
"Alright," she started, "just so you know, we love you very much. Think of this as payback for all those months of teasing." And with that, the Waterbender tackled the slightly taller young woman, resisting her struggling; Hakaea promptly pulled the dress over the girl's head and tugged it in place, a move that really only worked because Toph had stopped struggling after that for lack of interest in shredding a dress her friends had made her.
"Now that you're in it, I bet you can't stay in it," Katara snickered.
"... I know that ploy." And indeed she did know that ploy. It was a trick aimed at her love for a challenge. Maybe just this once, she'd just play along with it. "You think Zuko will like it?"
"Toph, you're gorgeous. He won't be able to take his eyes off you."
"Hehe, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets all tongue tied like guys do sometimes," Hakaea giggled. Since she and Jiva had finally started getting serious with their romance, she didn't seem quite so inclined toward giggling so much. Except at weddings. At her own, she giggled from here to the South Pole. Then when Suyis and Azula got married, she giggled from here to the Northern Fortress. No doubt, she'd do the same here. Come to think, it was mildly sad to know Zuko's sister had gotten married before he did. Something about the perfect ring; and yet he could have handed her the simplest, most basic and cheaply designed hunk of metal anyone had ever seen and she would still have been overjoyed.
She sighed a bit, flopping into a chair, careful not to shred the silk. It felt like a million gold pieces, and it meant even more knowing Katara, Hakaea and her mother Kariya had made it. It was not a dress like everyone else's; it was a dress made specifically for her, for this day. Probably one of the biggest days in all of the ones she had, and maybe it was a little less the revolt at the dress being ruffly and more her nerves twisting around. Who would have thought, Toph of all people, nervous on her wedding day. This had to go down in the history books. First of all, she was nervous.
Her mother peeked her head in the door. "I see we're ready then," she said, her voice all a cheer. With all the grace befitting her station, Poppy wandered over and plucked a hairbrush off the side table, taking her daughter's hair out of the mess of a bun it was in and carefully working her way through the knots and tangles. "You're beautiful Toph."
"You're my mother, you're supposed to say that."
Poppy just giggled at her, patting her shoulder. "I was nervous when I married your father too. We'd been friends for a long time before then, and yet I was still nervous."
"You and dad turned out alright."
"Mm, we have our days when we would rather not be married, but I think that comes with the territory."
She paused, gently twisting Toph's hair into a bun wrapped in a braid; under it, Poppy would slide a comb in that held a half ring of white rhinestones and a sheer veil bunched at either end.
"It's a big step, getting married. I never thought we'd be here, but here we are."
"I thought you and dad would have put up a bigger fight than this," Toph admitted. Sure, she was marrying the Fire Lord, kind of a big deal that, and besides, it could be construed as an international symbol of peace, her and Zuko's marriage forever going down in history as a union of Fire and Earth rather than just a man and a woman. But she was getting married and really, she'd never thought her parents would ever let her, regardless of who it was. But they'd accepted it rather easily.
"Oh, dear, your father and I just want you to be happy and safe, that's all." Another pause, and she secured the braid in place with a thick silver pin. "I think it taught us something, you being gone so long during the War. And when you came back it was obvious there was a whole other side to our daughter we'd never seen before. It was... a bit scary, finally realizing here was this young woman, perfectly capable young woman at that, whom had grown right before our eyes and we'd never seen it because we were too busy trying to protect her from things she didn't need protection from." Poppy sighed. "And knowing that, our little girl had turned out alright in the end, had become someone we didn't even know, it was a bit of a harsh smack in the face by reality. Whether we like it or not, I have no doubt you'd marry the man, no matter what we said. We may as well make it easier for everyone involved and be happy for you hm?"
Toph smiled a bit, partially amused, partially sad. "I suppose. But I'd like to think you're really alright with it because you're alright with it, and not just because it's easier."
"If you're happy, so are we. Zuko's a nice man, not... quite what we had in mind for you but then this conversation slides outside being happy for you and being overly protective again. And I certainly wouldn't have wanted my parents choosing my husband for me, I don't imagine you'd have taken too easily to it either."
"Probably not." She paused, following her mother's movements, turning her head here and there to make it easier on her. "I love you mom."
Poppy just smiled. "I know. I love you too. And for goodness sake, come and visit once in a while hm?"
Shuffle shuffle. Nervous Avatar was nervous. Why was Aang nervous anyway, it wasn't his wedding. Suyis being, well, Suyis, he decided to simply not think about it too much. "Oi, hand me that scarf over there, would you Jeevs?" The man in question tossed said scarf at the pirate and went back to braiding his hair; how the heck that guy could manage to braid his hair was beyond Suyis' mildly lacking comprehension, but then he was a pirate, he just tossed his hair into a ponytail and left it at that. Arr matey. Besides, Azula seemed to think it was sexier when it was a mess, and hey he couldn't really complain about that.
"And Aang, if you don't quit it I'm gonna hurt you."
"This is a big deal!"
Sokka snorted. "He'll get over it and it'll pass eventually," he said, straightening his shirt. "He did the same thing at my wedding."
"He didn't do that at mine..." No, actually, Suyis was not even sure if Aang was there at all. It all got lost in the very heavy haze of wine; that was most of what he remembered of his wedding, lots of wine and Azula dragging him off for their honeymoon a wee bit early. Not that he'd been complaining then either.
"Actually, I think he did," Jiva said, pondering. "Well in any case, it's best to just let Aang be... Aang. And excited."
"How do you do that anyway?" Suyis pointed at the braid.
"Oh, three sections, this one goes over that one and then -"
"You lost me at 'this one'."
The Airbender just rolled his eyes, finishing his braid quickly and then strode over, snagging a comb and untangling the mess of red and black. Oddly, it took only a few minutes and then Jiva went to braiding it. "And don't whine at me about 'Azula likes it messy'. Azula likes it regardless. And I bet you she'll like it like this too. Girls dig it for some reason."
"Think Suki would too?" Sokka's gaze flicked up to the ceiling in thought.
"Probably," Jiva answered. "Like I said, girls dig it for some reason."
Azula and I had a nice chat earlier.
I don't think that's really any of my business your Fiery-ness.
It does concern you, you know.
... that never bodes well.
"Forty silver says Zuko comes out lookin' like the wrong end of a mop."
Sokka snickered. "Somehow, I doubt Ursa and Azula would even let him."
"Probably not," Jiva agreed. Deftly, he tied the end of Suyis' braid. "Ta, probably the best you've ever had your hair looking."
"I resemble that remark." Honestly, it was a surprise Jiva had even managed to de-tangle the mess Suyis called his hair; it was a rare occurrence, Suyis brushing his hair out, mostly because he was often too busy either drinking, spending time with his wonderful wife, making sure his ship crew didn't break anything and or sail hopelessly off course, haggling with merchants when they were docked... it just never came up. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for him huh?
Just this once, I think it does.
Did I miss something?
You missed a lot. There was a reason I denied your marriage request at first. And now I think I know what I need to.
"I take that back then," Suyis said, eying the rather long black braid now hanging over his shoulder (he would never get used to that; it was a good thing it would only be there long enough to be impressive). "Forty silver says Toph looks absolutely stunning."
"Don't they always?" Sokka asked.
"Maybe, but her in particular in a dress being all fancy and pretty, now that's something you don't see every day."
Mm, pulling a sneaky were you?
Heh. I'm taking back the deny. Azula is free to go wherever she pleases now, and if she wants to marry you, you both have my blessings.
"You've got a point there. I think the last time I saw her in a dress was... well hell she didn't even wear a dress for my wedding either."
"Don't feel too bad," Jiva chuckled, patting Sokka's shoulder. "I don't think she wore a dress for anyone's wedding."
"Does a skirt count?" Aang wondered. "She did wear a skirt when Katara and I got married, sort of. Well, it was a skirt with pants under it but it was still a skirt."
"... no, doesn't count," Suyis deadpanned.
Just do me a favor.
And what would that be?
Take care of my sister. I should have, but it's something I failed at and it's too late to fix it, so instead, maybe you can do that for both of us.
"And if they put her in red and gold, I'm seriously going to laugh myself to death."
"Somehow," Jiva snickered, "I get the feeling it'll be red and green."
"What a combination."
"Hey, it's better than white."
Aang frowned. "I happen to like white."
"Nothing against white of course, your Avatarness."
It's only too late when you've given up. You're her brother. You're someone I can never be, and someone I can never replace, or be a substitute for. And now that you have the chance to, make it up to her. Be the brother you should have been, build the relationship you wanted to have. Nothing is over until you've let go. So don't let go.
"Well, I am heading downstairs now. I want some of that wine down there." Suyis brushed himself off, straightening his sleeves a bit and headed that way. Jiva followed.
"I'd better go with, make sure you don't end up in more trouble than you can handle."
The pirate just laughed. "Oh please, I need not worry about trouble my friend. Trouble need worry about me."
"Well that's rather disconcerting."
I feel a lot better about this now. You're a good man, Suyis.
Heh, only when you least expect it.
"Who picked this thing anyway?" Mai wrinkled her nose a bit, patting the silk down. At least she could be thankful knowing it wasn't annoyingly ruffly. Compared to the bride's dress, the bridesmaids looked boring, but that was half the point. She'd seen the dress Katara and Hakaea had somehow managed to stuff Toph into. Points to them for getting her in it, but it was certainly a fancy looking thing. Their dresses were plain white with gold at the hems, the same style of halter top only theirs had a Mandarin styled collar and sheer fabric covering the diamond shape the hem made. And the skirt did not have all that ruffly stuff under it.
"I'll have you know, I did," Katara answered, dark hands highly busy getting her hair up in a bun. Mai was so not wearing flowers in her hair. Maybe a little ring of flowers around her wrist but she was not going through the trouble of getting them in her hair. Toph would not even notice (and even if she did, she probably would not care either), she could get away with it.
"Girly," Azula finished for her.
"Yeah, girly. And white, very white."
"White is a good thing," Katara started, somewhat defensive. "It's supposed to symbolize purity and new beginnings. A good thing."
"Yeah yeah, good thing."
Mai paused, eying the dark red and gold dress Azula had pulled herself into that morning. "And how come you get to wear that and we have to wear white?"
"Because," Azula replied, tone matter of fact, "I am the sister, I get away with stuff you can't. ... well, more like I'm maid of honor, and you're... well, not."
"Pf." Mai flopped into a chair, attempting to care enough about her hair to get it fairly decent. "Why was I made a bridesmaid anyway? I would have figured Toph hated me."
"Ha, no," Katara shook her head. "Toph doesn't really hate anyone. Besides, you two got along well enough before your... supposed death... thing. I doubt a few years really changed much."
"Either that or we just stopped silently waging a war over the same guy and that was all that changed."
"Oh don't sound so bitter," Azula chided. Her hair was already done of course, courtesy her mother, and rather impressive indeed. As expected from a member of the royal family of the Fire Nation. "Toph is allowed to like you, and I bet she made you a part of the festivities for that reason and no other."
"Unless of course it's her way of rubbing Mai's nose in the fact she's marrying Zuko and not her," Hakaea pondered aloud.
"... Hakaea. Anyway, I say enjoy it while you can. Who knows, you might actually have fun for once. Besides, it took a lot of Dragon Hawks to track you down. Zuko still sees you as a friend. At the very least, try for him."
"I had no problem coming. It's the putting me in a white dress part I'm having trouble with."
Katara snickered. "You sound like Toph. You're a little more alike than you'd first believe." She slid over, nicking the brush from Mai's hand and took to doing that for her. It was probably for the best; Mai didn't tend to do anything fancy with her hair most days and really could not care less if it was attractively styled or not. Mai had spent the last few months wandering, more or less due to Azula suggesting it and, well it was the best idea she had at the time. Later, probably sometime after their wedding, Mai had run into Azula and Suyis. First off, that was an impressive ship; it honestly did not look like a pirate ship, despite technically being one, and the crew wasn't so bad. A bit rough around the edges and they enjoyed remote islands and rum far too much for their own good, but what could you do. The Kyrie Eleison even had all its wood stained a nice tint of caramel brown, darker brown accents and gold leaf detailing. Half that ship's wealth was the ship itself no doubt.
They had offered at the time to integrate her into their ship crew. She knew Linhao was dead now, and maybe that didn't make much of a difference, but she had still felt the need to wander around some more. Maybe it was a strange sense of mourning, who knew. Sometime after that, Jiva and Hakaea had finally gotten engaged and married, and now it was the Fire Lord's turn. After all, everyone was married but him. And her, but that didn't matter much either. Maybe she would have married Linhao. Maybe not. There was no sense in thinking about it too much.
Yet, maybe after this, maybe she'd join their crew. It would probably be a little less boring than wandering around aimlessly on her own. At least she would have the ship crew for entertainment, and if Suyis himself was anything to judge his crew by, they were certainly an interesting lot.
"There," Katara said, her tone beaming pride. Mai's charcoal gaze flicked to the mirror. It was up in a half bun, a braid wrapped around it, bits of it left to fall freely in the back. That was certainly better than anything Mai herself could have done with it, merely out of disinterest in the doing part. "We'd better go get in place. Poppy works rather quickly, I bet she's already done getting Toph's hair up in all those sparkly things."
"You'll see what I mean when she gets there. I highly doubt anyone will ever forget that thing. It about blinded Sokka."
"Eugh, sparkles and happy and cake, did anyone make a cake?" Not that Mai was interested.
"Of course," Azula snorted. "That was the first thing done and that's only because mom made sure it was done yesterday. My brother sucks at planning ahead, we all know this; his garments were chosen at the last second. He tried to come out in the simplest ensemble I had ever seen. Heck, I've seen Suyis wear better, and that, ladies, is sad."
Mai gave an appreciative smile. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
"We are gathered here today to celebrate the joining of not only two people, but two nations, as one..."
No one was really listening. It figured as much, as everyone else was far too excited for what came after the wedding itself, and they'd sat through plenty of these ceremonies the last six months. First of course was Suyis and Azula's wedding, which had been... well, quite the story to tell mom, what with half the then newly rebuilt Kyrie Eleison crew getting into the champagne, and never mind the other half and what they were doing. For the record, no one wanted to know. Then it was Jiva and Hakaea's, quieter and less of a riot, but still a story to tell. And now it was this one, Zuko and Toph, tying themselves together until the end of their days. And may Agni have mercy on anyone who had a problem with it.
Azula was beaming happily, Aang just barely containing his excitement. Of all people, Toph was absolutely stunning, and there wasn't a head that did not turn and follow her every movement up to the altar to take her place beside Zuko. And he of course still had yet to tear his eyes away from her. She'd grown a good deal since the War, and, if a little tomboyish still, had matured into a lovely woman. Dark eyeliner framed sightless eyes, only making them stand out more, a light dusting of pale green across her eyelids. One almost had to wonder exactly how Poppy had managed to make her daughter sit still long enough to do such things, but then it was Poppy, and in more recent years the two had become quite a bit closer than they'd been before.
From her seat, Kariya seemed highly proud, no less so than Katara and Poppy, happy to see Toph in the dress they'd worked so hard on. It fit her absolutely perfect, hugging all the right places and accentuating all the right curves. Curves that, at one time, no one believed would ever be there. And for once, she seemed positively content, standing before Zuko and clinging to his hand, their wrists tied together with a red ribbon symbolizing eternal unity. Maybe she was. It was very rare a thing, Toph looking content, and that was the best anyone had to go off.
"Do you Fire Lord Zuko wish to take this woman as your Fire Lady?" Several friends' gazes flicked to Toph rather than Zuko, expecting her to interrupt with a brusque 'of course he does duh', yet she didn't, sightless gaze seemingly trained on their hands, joined together.
"And do you Lady Toph wish to -"
"Put up with his depression, nasty temper, pessimism and otherwise annoying little antics that oh so make him who he is?" And there was the so very Toph-like outburst. Azula giggled. "Of course."
"Do you two have your vows in order?"
"Sort of..." Zuko fidgeted a bit.
"You really do suck at planning ahead," Toph mused. "Wing it Sparky."
"You asked for it," and he let out a puff of breath. "Fire Lords are supposed to be good at this, this whole public speaking thing and all that nice shindig stuff, but... I guess I've never really thought about it until now. Love I noticed is just one of those things that sweeps you up and carries you away before you realize you're even off the ground. And I don't want to lose that. Every morning I wake up and I think about you, and what you're doing, and what kind of things you might say to me as I grumble about this or that meeting, and I realize now you're a very big part of the reason I get out of bed. I don't tell you I love you enough. I want to fix that."
"Oh stupid dunderhead," Toph shook her head. "You tell me that all the time. Every time you hold my hand, every time your arm wraps around my shoulders, every time you laugh at something I said or did, with every game of tag you let me pull you into. You say it every time we fall asleep holding each other in front of the fireplace, every time I wake up next to you and your fingers have threaded through mine while you were asleep, every night you wear yourself out with Fire Lord stuff and yet still have time to ask me how my day was. You tell me all the time Zuko. And it's more than enough."
With that, Toph reached up and wrapped her arms around Zuko's neck, pulling him down to her level (not so far anymore) for a very passionate kiss. Azula of course was the first to erupt into cheering, and when the two had finally broken apart, they remained in close proximity, leaning against one another.
"... well, I think my work here is done now. I now pronounce you husband and wife?" Suyis chuckled, finding the Fire Sage's confusion quite amusing indeed. Yet, Suyis found everyone's confusion amusing, even his own.
"We were waiting for it, my man. Here, have a glass of wine. The good stuff from Gaoling." Azula laughed again, and he winked at her.
"Don't you all go getting drunk at my wedding reception, I will kick some shins. Nice and hard too. Don't think I can't whoop you in a dress!" Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Toph stepped around to Zuko's side and promptly hefted him up into her arms.
"Oh, startled by a little girl picking you up!"
"What are you doing?"
"This is the part where we enter our humble abode to begin our honeymoon," Toph answered matter of factly.
"I am aware of that but I'm supposed to carry you!"
"Excuse me? I think everyone knows who wears the pants around here!" The bride didn't bother responding to her groom's various disgruntled mumbles about 'de-manning', and simply turned and headed for the palace.
And just before she entered the hall, she stopped and tossed her bouquet over her shoulder. A slight tish sound was heard as it landed right in Mai's lap. The woman blinked, dark gaze flicking from her lap up to what she was expecting to be Toph, but instead, found herself staring at one of Suyis' new crew members. He gave her a little nod of his head, and a rather suggestive smile.
"You did that on purpose!" Mai screeched. Toph just cackled.
"Looks like you're next!"
Rather unceremoniously, Toph flopped him on the bed and proceeded to flop onto it herself. Comically, she made a mock wheezing sound. "You Princess, you need to lose weight, and quit eating so many moon peaches."
"Hey, I'm not that heavy. And you were the one that picked me up, no one made you do it." A pause, and he sat up, shifting around to face her. "Did you mean that?"
"Mean what, the part where I said quit eating so many moon peaches? Considering you don't eat too many of those anyway -"
"No," he interrupted, a bit of a laugh in his tone. "I meant the part where you said... basically, just being around me was enough for you."
Toph let out a small puff of air, sitting up as well. "Honestly, if it wasn't, do you really think I would have married you? And for that matter, let Katara and Hakaea stuff me in this dress to start with, and for the record, yes, they did stuff me in it. Literally." He almost laughed at the mental image that came to mind while attempting to envision this little scenario. "I'm not really after your money. I've got plenty of my own. I can live without being Fire Lady, that's a minor drawback to be honest, I hate dressing up and being pretty and friendly with this or that person so that wasn't it. The international influence boost can go away."
Carefully, so as not to shred the silk in the process, she flopped over onto his lap, smiling at him a bit. "I married you cause I love you, and yes, all of that, that's enough for me. You know I've never really been particularly picky anyway."
He snorted. "This depends upon one's definition of 'picky'."
"Hey now." A pause passed. "... but I suppose you're probably right."
"I can live with it." His hand reached over, claiming hers, fingers intertwining seemingly of their own accord.
"I should hope so," she answered. "You are the one that married me after all."
"So I did."
It was strange to him now that he thought about it, just how quickly she could pick up on his various moods. "Just thinking."
"Uh oh. That's rarely ever a good thing, Sparky."
"I resemble that remark."
"What are you thinking about?"
"Mm. The usual." That wasn't much of an answer, of course. He smiled a bit, trying to find the words to explain. "How odd it is that we've gotten to this point. Whether I can be a good husband or not. How the heck we're going to make this work to start with, there are aspects of my life I know you really don't care for, and -"
"Ahh, ah," Toph interrupted. "Listen to me okay? Just be you. I love you, not who you think you should be. The changes will come of their own accord over time, and that's alright. That said, if it's for you, I'd put up with almost anything."
"Yes, almost. For instance, I really don't care for even the mere idea of Sokka on cactus juice again. As amusing as it was, it was also very very freaky."
A definite laugh wrenched itself out. Her smile became a bit brighter, and she shifted around to sit in his lap instead, resting her arms on his shoulders. "That's better. Quit worrying so much. My job as your Fire Lady is to tell you to knock it off."
"Are you sure that was in the guidebook?"
"What guidebook?" She snickered a bit. "Ah, wait I remember now. The same one that said something about now that we're married we can have heirs and all that."
Despite mentally willing himself not to, he still turned a slight tinge of pink. "Heirs?"
"Yep. Hey, one more thing I can make you work for."
One of his brows quirked upward. "How does one make their husband work for that?"
"Oh very easily, Sparky."
Her characteristic devilish smirk crossed her face, that same one he swore he loved so much, and without much further ado, she promptly plucked the flame-shaped gold topknot ornament from his hair and took off toward the door. "If you're man enough to catch me, we might start tonight!" A click and a thack signaled she'd made it to the door and was now speeding down the hallway. Zuko, on the other hand, just laughed and flopped over onto his back, staring at the ceiling.
"Girls are crazy." At least his love life would never be boring ever again.
I need you.
Like the sun needs the sky.
Like the ocean needs the tide.
Forever and always.
Until the end of time.
Notes: Welp, there we have it, the end of LTS! It's been a wonderful journey with you! I look forward to starting Monochrome back up and hope to see some of my LTS readers over there. I'll be taking a bit of a break before I get Mono running again though, need to get these essays I've been avoiding for LTS done. xD! I hope I didn't end it horribly and that everyone enjoyed the ride!
This one is "When I'm Gone" by Eminem, I was thinking just the instrumentals. Adieu tout le monde! =3