Author's Notes: It's been about two years since I wrote an Avatar fanfic, and since I've recently gotten sort of into this fandom again I decided to participate in Taang Week (is it Taang Week here? It is over on Deviantart, I'm not sure how these things work exactly). This is for the final day, prompt "Box." Hope you enjoy!
"Come on, Bumi! Please?"
"I'll be your friend!"
"You're already my friend."
"I'll—I'll let you do that experiment where you try to breed Appa will a badger-mole!"
"Hmm...tempting, but no."
"In here," Minister Chao said calmly, motioning Katara and Sokka into the room.
King Bumi's Earthbending arena was even more disheveled than usual—rocks were thrown out of the battle area, rubble was everywhere, and in the middle of the fighting area Aang stood facing Bumi, hands balled into fists and an uncharacteristically angry look on his face. Behind them Katara could make out a long metal box held up on a table, chained shut with about ten large locks.
Bumi and Aang both looked up as the Water Tribe siblings entered, and while the king grinned amiably, Aang continued to sulk. "Sokka! Katara!" Bumi said, spreading his hands in welcome. "And how are you two doing today?"
"Uh, alright, I guess," Sokka said. "Although you know, room service in this palace is a little slow, I—"
"What's going on here?" Katara interrupted, waving Sokka's words away. "Minister Chao told us you two were having some sort of fight."
"More a slight disagreement about royal prerogative, really..."
"Katara, maybe you can talk some sense into this maniac!" Aang said, waving angrily at the old king. "Bumi is being completely unreasonable!"
"Who could have seem that coming?" Sokka mumbled, rolling his eyes.
"About what, Aang?"
"Toph! He won't let her out."
"Huh? Out of where?"
BANG BANG! "Hey! Hey!"
Katara and Sokka both jumped as the metal box on the table began to jump, a muffled but familiar voice calling from inside. Katara's eyes widened as she rushed over to it, knocking.
"Hey! Stop that!"
"Toph is in there? !"
Katara just gaped at Bumi. After a moment, the silence was broken as Sokka started to giggle. Aang shot him a dirty look, while Toph continued to bang from inside the chest. "Let me out of here, you crazy old coot!"
"Don't worry, Toph, I'm gonna get you out!" Aang called.
"No he's not!" Bumi snapped, suddenly pointing at the box angrily and sounding like a petulant six-year-old. "And you knew what you were getting into, so don't you try to monkey-weasel out of the consequences now, little girl!"
BANG! "Who you calling a little girl, you nutjob! Let me out of here, and I swear I'll—"
"I can't believe you're doing this, Bumi! This is insane! She's probably scared to death in there!"
"I am not!"
"Really, Aang, she has it better than most people," Bumi said, shrugging. "That box was designed for a full-grown man, a little girl like her has more than enough room—"
"That thing is like a coffin!" Aang cried, and from his tone Katara got the feeling he was more claustrophobic about the idea than Toph. "You can't lock somebody up like that!"
"She agreed to this! Just because she's trying to get out of her responsibilities—"
"Okay, okay, what is going on exactly? !" Katara said, growing impatient as she spoke over Aang and Toph's yelling and her brother's increasingly loud snickers.
It was Minister Chao, standing calmly off to the side, who explained. "The young Lady Bei Fong expressed to His Majesty her belief that she was, and I quote, 'the greatest, kick-butt-enest Earthbender who ever lived,' end quote."
"So Bumi locked her in a box?"
"He's a nutcase, Katara!"
"Thank you, Aang."
"I didn't mean that as a compliment!"
"To be fair, Lady Bei Fong was not immediately placed in the metal casket for her words," Minister Chao said, keeping his face and voice emotionless as he addressed his statement to Katara. "However, the laws of Omashu are very clear."
"Clear about what?"
"Challenges, direct or indirect, impugning the power or authority of the king." Minister Chao removed a scroll from his sleeve and unrolled it. "And I quote again: 'If any man, woman, child or talking parrot-shrew should boast to being a greater Earthbender than King Bumi, it shall be assumed that said challenger is an ignorant outsider who shall be warned against further insane insults to the Crown. If, however, said man/woman/child/talking parrot-shrew chooses to continue ranting their completely idiotic delusions of grandeur, he/she/it shall be required to face His Illustrious Majesty, King Bumi the Sexy and Amazing, in an Earthbending duel, and upon their sure defeat shall be locked in a chest of iron for a period of no less than twelve hours, to be mocked continually as is befitting of an insipid moron of their caliber. Also: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, nyeh-nyeh, take that, you loser.'"
Minister Chao rolled up the scroll, depositing it in his sleeve again without any show of emotion. Katara sometimes suspected he had been hired on the sole criterion of being able to quote King Bumi's declarations while somehow keeping a straight face.
Toph banged on the insides of the box again. "I am not a loser! Bumi cheated! Let me out!"
"Lady Bei Fong has not accepted her loss well."
"Yeah, I figured." Katara glanced down at the box again, distaste evident on her face. She certainly wouldn't have wanted to wind up in there. Aang was right, it reminded her too much of the coffins that some Earth Kingdom peoples used to bury their dead in—it was large for Toph, as long as a tall man and wide enough that she could apparently move her arms, but she clearly wasn't able to sit up in there...
"But wait," Sokka said, getting over his giggles just enough to be able to speak. "Toph can Metalbend. Why doesn't she just Bend her way out of the box?"
"Because Bumi tied her hands behind her back!"
"What? A king can't be too careful, can he? Especially with that one."
"She is also wearing slippers," Minister Chao said.
Sokka turned to him, his smile widening again. "Slippers?"
"To impede her using her feet to Earthbend, yes."
"Thick, woolly slippers," Bumi said, his grin matching Sokka's.
Sokka snickered. Aang growled as Katara gave him a slap on the arm.
"Bumi, can't you just let her out?" Katara asked. "I'm sure Toph didn't mean to insult you."
BANG! "Yes I did! I could take that old weirdo any day of the week!"
"You're not helping your case there, Toph," Sokka said, rolling his eyes. Then he paused, tapping his chin. "Wait...if she's stuck in there until tomorrow, then how does she go to the bathroom?"
"Hey, she knew the consequences when she made the challenge."
"Bumi, let her out!" Aang said, and this time there was a note of desperation mixed in with his anger. "She can barely move in there! This isn't funny!"
"Wha—yes it is!" the king said, looking at Aang like he'd grown a second head.
"Well, the crazy old dude's got a point there, buddy."
Aang let out an angry roar and stomped his foot—a small earthquake seemed to go through the stone floor beneath them, making everybody but Aang and Bumi jump. "Let Toph out of there, Bumi! Now!"
"You know, Aang, you're taking this rather personally," Bumi mused, bending down to be more at his "younger" friend's level. "What's eatin' you, boy?"
"Nothing! Just that you have one of my best friends trapped in a metal casket!"
"But I don't think you were quite this upset even when I had these two up to their necks in rock candy."
"Hey, that's a good point," Sokka said, sounding slightly indignant.
"Is there something more going on here that you're not telling us about, Aang? Something between you and that little Earthbending lady, hmm?"
Bumi puckered his lips and began to make kissing motions in Aang's face. Aang sputtered for a moment, a red tinge coloring his cheeks.
"It's not anything like that! It's just—you've got her locked up in there, and—with her feet covered up she can't even see, feel, whatever, and—tiny bladder—just let her out of there, Bumi!"
The arena shook again; Toph banged angrily ("Stop shaking me!") while Sokka actually had to grab onto Chao to keep from falling. "Aang, be careful with that! You're Bending the entire stadium!"
"Well, I—wait a minute," Aang said slowly, eyes widening for a brief moment before his jaw set angrily again. "That's it! Bumi!"
"Yes?" he said calmly, as if they were doing nothing more now than sitting down for a pot of tea.
"I challenge you to a battle! You and me, and if I win, you have to let Toph right now!"
"Oh-ho-ho!" Bumi said, eyebrows shooting up as the others looked at each other in alarm, Minister Chao included. "You think you're a better Earthbender than me, do ya?"
"I'm the mortal incarnation of an all-powerful deity, I think I can handle a crazy old man who wears feathers on his head."
"Tough talk for a little kid. You and your girlfriend have a lot in common, eh?"
"Do you accept or not? !"
BANG BANG! "Hey! What's going on out there? !"
"Alright," Bumi said, ignoring Toph's cries as he bent down and gave a smirk that made Aang suspect he had been secretly hoping for this outcome the whole time. "But this'll be an Earthbending competition, understand? Stone against stone, none of those other fancy elements you like to throw around."
"Got it," Aang said, leaning forward to glare right in his old friend's face.
"Heh, you really think you're gonna win this, don't you?"
"Like I said, I'm the Avatar. I was good enough at Earthbending to use it against the Fire Lord, so I might just be a little bit tougher than you expect."
Bumi grinned, a mad twinkle in his eyes.
BANG! CRASH! RUMBLE! FYOOSH!
"Hey! What's all that noise? ! What's going—dang it, would somebody answer me? !"
Toph doubted anyone outside the box could hear her over all those noises anyway; she stopped screaming and listened, hearing a series of shouts, rumbles and screechingly high-pitched screams—every few seconds the ground seemed to be lurching under her prison, making her slam into its sides—she had no idea what was going out there, but—
Suddenly the loud rumbling stopped, though she could still hear some panicked cries. She froze, then, all of a sudden, heard a series of clicks—before she could even figure out what was happening she suddenly heard the creak of the metal chest opening, and felt cool, fresh air pouring in from where before there had been only a few small holes to keep her from suffocating. She gasped and struggled into a sitting position, her arms still tied up behind her. "Huh? What the—"
Toph banged her head, falling back as a huge weight fell on top of her. "Hey! What the—who is that? !"
Her sightless eyes blinked. "Aang? !"
He chuckled nervously, squirming a bit as if he, too, couldn't move himself fully. Which was rather awkward, as he was currently lying on top of her; Toph felt a furious blush spread across her cheeks, and could feel a similar head radiating off of Aang's face.
From over their heads, Toph heard Bumi chuckle. "Heh-heh...have a good night, love birds!"
And he laughed uproariously as the lid of the box closed, trapping them together inside.
A/N: I'm not sure if the character settings should list this as Aang and Toph or Aang and Bumi...he sort of stole the show, didn't he? ;-) Plus part of it sort of goes into Katara's point of view...anyway, hope you enjoyed, and please review! :-D