The Rolling Girl is a mere shadow of who she once was
Unable to reach the color on the other side
The overlapping voices mixing
Mixing with each other
"There's no problem,"
The words she muttered were lost
How can she possibly turn out fine
When hilly roads entice her
And cause her to make mistakes
-Rolling Girl, Hatsune Miku (English Translation)
She convinces herself. Tells the quiet room how tired she is, how much she wants to sleep and not wake up.
And so she tries. Closes her eyes and tries to stop the incessant whir of her mind. Tries to stop breathing, tries to complete the silence. But still her heart beats, strong and loud in her chest.
Without another thought, another word, her fingers creep up to wrap themselves around her throat. They constrict, and she opens her eyes again, wishing she could see black spots clouding her sight. Her head aches and her lips seem to swell, like her face might burst from the building pressure. Too soon, her body tries to swallow, and her grip is broken, leaving her coughing and gasping for air.
Oh, well. Maybe next time.
A rock hits Zuko on the back of the head, followed by a call of his name. He frowns and turns to face his attacker. "What, Toph?"
The blind girl is visibly startled by the anger in his voice, but only slightly, and she covers it easily with a grin. "Just thought we could talk. Cool it, Lord Hotpants."
His frown deepens. "Look, Toph, I really don't have time-"
"What, you got a big date or something?" There's a flicker of doubt behind her smile, but Zuko's got his mind on other things. He doesn't see it.
"Actually, I have a meeting with my generals that I have to get to." He folds his arms across his chest. "Can it wait?"
"A meeting? Ooh, what's it about?" She teases him, trying to buy time.
"Confidential, can't tell you." He says curtly.
"Won't tell me, you mean. That kind of secrecy'll get you in trouble someday. Make the other nations suspicious." She waves her hands at him.
"Either way, I'm already late enough. I'll see you later, okay?" Without waiting for an answer, he turns and hurries away.
"…it wasn't important, anyway." She says, once she's sure he won't hear.
Her fingers are tangled in her hair. Near the top of her neck, where no one will see. Dark strands are wrapped around two of them so tightly that they've begun to grow numb. She hesitates, only because she knows from experience that this will hurt.
But that's exactly what she wants.
There's an audible tearing noise as she pulls, and a small clump of hair comes away with her hand. The ends are frayed where they ripped away from her scalp. There's a sharp pain, slowly followed by a dull throb. It's not enough. She twists her fingers further into her hair, grasping more.
This time there's blood.
"So, great and wise Avatar, what's married life like?" She punches him in the shoulder, a little too hard to be considered completely playful.
Aang laughs and rubs the sore spot on his arm. "Not much different from normal life, I suppose. Except now we live together."
She nods, because she understands what he's trying to say, not because she knows how it feels. She's never been in a relationship. Never been shown any romantic interest, never been told how beautiful she is by a boy. She's fairly certain she'll be alone the rest of her life, but she's not about to tell Aang that.
"I'm going to be the best aunt ever."
Aang sputters, and flushes. "What?"
She punches him again, lighter this time. She doesn't want his wife wondering about a new bruise. "Oh, come on. You've been married for a week or two, don't try and tell me you're 'taking it easy' in that department. I'm just letting you know, I'm gonna be the coolest aunt once you guys start having kids."
Having recovered from his sudden embarrassment, he grins sheepishly. "Well, she wants to wait a few years, but I…I really don't. I'm excited."
She can hear in his voice how nervous he is as well, and she's reminded of the kid he used to be. "You're gonna have the cutest kids." She says softly. "You're lucky."
He nudges her. "Thanks, 'Aunt Toph.'"
It's just a piece of stone. She's smoothed and shaped it, so now it's the length of her hand, and as thick around as her thumb. She strokes it lightly, making sure she's flattened all the ridges.
She pulls her arm back, holding the stone above her leg. She swings it down, but stops it just before it can make contact. Her hand is shaking, and she takes a deep breath to steady herself. She needs to do this. Otherwise she won't be able to sleep tonight. She tries again.
There's a sharp noise when the stone hits her skin, like a slap. Her leg jerks under the impact, and her shoulders tense as the pain reaches her. It hurts, but not enough. It never hurts enough when she does it this way. She pulls her knee to her chest and wraps one arm around it, splaying her toes against the ground. She doesn't need to be able to see in order to aim correctly. So she swings down again, knowing she's put too much force into it, even before she feels the small bones in her toe shatter.
"…how did you say you did this again?" Katara asks, carefully bending water onto the injury on the other girl's arm. She sighs, wanting Katara to hurry up and leave.
"I told you, I didn't do it. Some guy in a bar did it in a fight. Hurt like hell, too."
Katara looks at her, and then nods and goes back to work. "I'm glad you got to it right away. It could've gotten a lot worse." Katara smiles brightly, clearing away the water. "But, you should be good for now. Let me know if it starts bothering you."
She nods, and runs her finger along her arm. There's a small raised line curving along the outside of her wrist, all that remains of a deep bite mark. It had bled quite a bit, so she had wrapped it in one of her shirt and sent for Katara. She knows her story doesn't make much sense, but she won't tell the truth. She isn't that person during the day.
The air is filled with tension, and finally Katara speaks again.
"So, do you wanna tell me what's going on?" Her voice is soft and gentle, not wanting to accuse.
She doesn't move. Doesn't tense, doesn't show any signs of hearing the question.
"What are you talking about?" She laughs, suddenly. This is who they know her to be. This is who she'll be, for their sakes. "You know nothing's going on. I don't do anything exciting these days."
Katara is quiet for a long moment. "Except get into bar fights."
She laughs again. "First one in ages, sweetie." She stands and walks to the door. "Thanks for helping me out. I'll see you later, okay?"
And then she's gone.
This time, this time, this time, she repeats silently to herself. She's stolen a knife, and has pressed the blade between her palms. The metal has lost its chill, now warm from the heat of her hands. Her breathing is heavy, thick with anticipation. She's never done it like this.
With a steady hand, she presses the point of the knife against the skin of her thigh. Nothing's happened yet, and it doesn't quite hurt. She draws it back lightly, and shivers at the feeling. She tips the blade, and pulls with more force. The metal doesn't yet slice through her skin, and she bites her lower lip.
She pushes harder. Only a small scratch appears, and it swells closed immediately.
She saw the blade back and forth. She can feel a thin line of blood well up, but soon that is swelled closed as well. Her hands begin to shake. Why…why can't she do it? Can't she even do this right? Is it so much to ask? The knife is flung across the room, and she pulls her legs to her chest, hiding her face against her knees.
Only then does she cry.