(A/N) So here's the last installment of 'Drowning in Dreams'. I decided to make this a little more wordy and awkward, just because that's how I picture Zuko's inner monologue as being- a socially inept sixteen year old boy. Any how, this is it, I will not be updating this story an more, though I may elaborate upon it at a later date. Please review, and I do take requests! Just mention what you want in a review and I'll get right on it, kay? As usual, chracters are not mine.
Despite the many hours of 'bonding' Prince Zuko had invested in getting the gaang to like him- or at the very least hate him a little bit less- the only one that seem to accept him was one earth bending master, Toph Bei Fong. So, when Zuko received the invitation to join the rest of the group for tea, the young fire bender jumped at the chance to buddy up with everyone else. Things weren't all bad, Aang seemed to like him okay, Sokka was more or less apathetic about the whole situation- Katara, on the other hand, outright despised him. It had been Aang who suggested Zuko come along, most likely in the misguided attempt to get the resident water bender to take more of a liking to the fiery youth. Zuko, however, knew that it would take more than an afternoon of tea to win over the water-tribe girl... but he might as well try.
The young man's efforts, however, proved to be inadequate. Toph had decided to stay 'home', and without her to provide the normal cushion between himself and Katara, flames (metaphorically) flew. Barely five minutes of insult filled torture passed before the raven-haired royal decided to ditch the tea party and just have lunch with Toph, like he normally did. Better stick with routine rather than upset the balance (balance referring to, of course, that of his head upon his shoulders- a precarious relationship that was sure to be ended swiftly if he missteped around an angry Katara.)
And so, Zuko turned tail and moseyed on back to the cove where he had left the noisy girl he had come to call 'friend'. Zuko did enjoy his private musings, having so little time to accomplish them now-a-days, and his thoughts at present were directed at the aforementioned friend. It seemed odd, Zuko pondered, that the onyx-haired beauty had accepted him so readily while everyone else was still on guard. Well, perhaps not that strange, considering the fact that she was the last of the group to join (excluding himself, of course) and had therefore been spared from the bulk of his wrong doings… regardless, it was nice to have an ally among what he still considered to be an antagonistic camp.
Zuko shook these less-than-pleasant thoughts from his head as he reached the gaang's current hide-away, a nice, spacious, private cove. The prince ducked to enter the smallish hole that had substituted for a door, scraping his head a little on the way in… he was far to tall for this.
Upon entering the strangely quiet cove, Zuko cocked his still aching head in confusion- Toph was supposed to be here. Making his way further in to the damp recesses of the cove, Zuko noticed a pile of dirt-encrusted green garments… definitely Toph's. So, what, is she running around naked? A light blush made its way on to the slightly prudish teen's cheeks, warming his otherwise deathly pallor.
Creeping over to the edge of the crystal clear water, the young fire bender peered down in to its depths- he could just barely make out the quickly diminishing figure of his little earth bender.
"You never fail to impress me, Toph," Zuko chuckled under his breath, "I didn't know the blind could swim." He shook his head disbelievingly before sauntering over to his knapsack to dig out some tea leaves.
Now, when Toph was under for one minute, Zuko was impressed with how long she could hold her breath- two minutes he was concerned- three minutes and he was stripping as fast as he could to jump in and save her.
The water hit Zuko, cold, like a million pins and needles all over his body. After the first momentary paralyzation, the fire bender regained control of his limbs and kicked frantically to the bottom of the not-so-shallow cove. Zuko caught sight of Toph, her feet were held down by the marble floor of the cove. He watched in horror as the pale girl bended the marble away from her feet, a look of panic crossed her delicate features before a burst of air left her lips- bubbles floated up to the surface and Toph's body went slack.
Frenziedly, Zuko swam over to the earth bender, enveloping her slight body in his firm grasp. He gently pressed his lips against her own, forcing air back in to her lungs. Zuko pulled back, Toph's dazed countenance was drifting further and further away by the second. The panicking prince clutched his prize to his chest as he fought his way back up to the surface. Zuko had always been a strong swimmer, but then again, the last time he went swimming was months ago on that god awful 'vacation' he had taken with Azula. Despairing his quickly depleting oxygen, Zuko barely managed the last few yards to the edge of the water.
After what seemed like an eternity, the young royal dragged himself and his limp companion out of the chilly water. He lay her down, checked her breathing… and found none.
"What the hell," Zuko held Toph's nose, hoping he remembered how to do this- he forced air into her mouth, drawing back to press firmly on her chest. "Were you thinking," he continued, completely disjointed from the fury present in his previous tone. Zuko fell in to a steady rhythm of breathing, pressing, cursing and breathing again.
"Stay with me Toph. Come on." Zuko growled, he pressed his lips over Toph's pale ones. "Toph." The youth chocked on a half sob, half gasp. Slowly, the frantic rhythm died down and a blanket of despair fell over the youth. An angry snarl rumbled from his chest, he punched the marble next to him, leaving his fist embedded an inch in the cove floor.
A quiet coughing came from Toph, alerting Zuko. Water gushed from her slightly parted lips, "Oh spirits, thank you…" Zuko murmured, wrenching his fist from its spot in the rock. As gently as he could, Zuko shifted the young girl onto her side, rubbing her back as she coughed up water- much more than he thought possible for such a small body.
Zuko tried not to notice that Toph was clad only in her white wrappings, tried not to pay attention to the soft curves that had developed under her silky soft skin pale as moonlight and just as mystifying. Above all, Zuko ignored how very transparent Toph's curent clothing was, and how very cold it seemed to be in the little cove. The young man blushed heavily, averting his eyes.
Zuko's careful hands stayed on the younger girl's back, long after she had cleared her lungs. "You could have killed yourself, you moron," the Prince grumbled, helping the blind girl sit up. She nodded, her cloudy eyes inexplicably found his own. "I'm sorry," she answered, completely out of character with her usual gruff demeanor Zuko was shocked in to silence at her confession of guilt.
"Er, Toph? Are you feeling alright?" Golden eyes blinked, puzzled at this show of humility. The pale beauty grinned up at Zuko, "Just fine." She punched her savior, harder than her normal 'thank you' blows. Feeling only slightly victimized, Zuko winced, rubbing his shoulder.
Toph put one small hand on Zuko's broad shoulder, using his support to hoist herself up. She stayed still for a moment, steadying herself before drawing back the appendage and turning smoothly on her heel.
"Hey princess, make me some tea," Toph commanded as she sauntered over to her clothes.
Zuko paid no mind to the slight sway of newly developed hips that were all but hidden under her clothing, nor did he notice the way the setting sun provided the perfect light against her skin still slick with droplets of water.
"Sure thing," Zuko jerked himself out of his hormone-induced stupor, decidedly looking the other way as the slim figure before him bent down deliberately to pick up her discarded garments.
That girl will give me a heart attack before I'm twenty.