A/N - "Avatar the Last Airbender" is not my propertehh, of course. But I just thought I'd mention it. Okay ready? Once upon a time...
Chapter 1: Well This is New...
"Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap!…Look out!"
"Hello! Vision impaired over here! And besides…I see it"
Toph swiftly raised a wall of hardened earth, blocking a stream of fire shot from Azula's clenched fist. Azula's face was cracked past its usual placid exterior, now bordering on crazed. Not that Toph could tell…facial features were a non-issue for her.
Katara on the other hand, was not handling the situation quite as well…
Azula and her minions had caught up to the Avatar once again. In the resulting commotion of flying elements (and boomerang), the gang had become separated from one another. Ty Lee had found Katara first – and suddenly the young water bender was defenseless. Without the ability to bend she had little else to fight with. She was pinned, paralyzed, and not ready for the end that seemed to be closing in on her…
But then she arrived on the scene.
Toph was born defenseless, and therefore had to become anything but. If there was solid ground below there was no way in Hell she was going down.
Amidst the whirlwind of fighting the tiny earth bender still managed to sense her friend's frantic heartbeat trapped within a motionless body.
"Katara! Try to relax, I'll take care of this, promise!"
Ty Lee's usually successful sneak attacks were no match for Toph's feet. She was quickly sucked into a hole in the ground before she could make a jab at the blind girl's shoulder.
Katara watched with wide eyes – never in her life had she been so petrified with fear. Even more so than when the Fire Nation attacked her tribe – and that was hard to beat. She forced all her attention on the earth bender, tried to focus her mind on the spoken promise. She'll take care of this, she'll take care of this….over and over again like a mantra. And as she watched her savior fight, she actually started to believe it. Toph was taking care of it.
Ty Lee was gone, where the hole exit was anyone's guess…if it did at all. Toph and Azula faced each other in final stand off. Azula looked insane, a ragged breath her only sound. She was no match for Toph in her current condition – who she had found and fought before this match was a mystery…hopefully whoever it was had survived.
Azula managed to somewhat gather herself, her breathing regulated. "I tire of this fight. You have talent earth peasant, I give you that. But I have bigger fish to smash."
"Peasant? You have no idea who you're talking about, you crazy chick!"
At the word "crazy" a flash of insanity reappeared in Azula's eyes, before she quickly willed it away. "Say what you will, I have absolutely no need to concern myself with the likes of you. Not now, not ever." With that, Azula dashed off through the trees.
A smirk appeared on Toph's blind face…"You're lyinggg….."
Katara watched Azula run off, a wave of relief washed over her and with it, the last of her need to cling to consciousness. Her eyes snapped shut and she was gone. She knew Toph would take her body to a safe place. Toph always seemed to make things right.
Toph walked over to Katara "You pass out Sugar Queen?" No answer. Toph nudged her slightly with a tiny foot. Still no response. "I'll take that as a yes." Toph began to haul Katara up onto her back, before quickly realizing the size difference, and Katara's 'sack of potatos' state, wasn't going to work. "Gah, okay putting you down now!"
Toph exhaled, "Okay Sweetness, I guess I can't leave you or take you with. So we're staying put." Toph roughly plopped herself down next to Katara in a huff, wriggling the tension of the fight out of her toes. Katara had landed in a way that clearly showed she had no feeling in her body. Toph felt her friend's positioning with a palm to the ground, "Whoops".
Very gently (given the source), the young girl moved Katara's tan arms out of their twisted orientation above her head and under her waist and rolled her onto her back.
Toph stared at Katara, whose heart rate had slowed to a peaceful rhythm. "Jeez Katara what am I, your mom?" Katara remained silent, a small smile gracing her face, not that Toph could tell. "Well…I guess I can play the role for once"
The two sat in silence for a long while, Toph feeling the ground for signs of her two remaining friends. She began to grow nervous when nothing caught on her radar. She started to talk to Katara more and more for self-comfort.
"Hey remember that time we got all dressed up and fancy in Ba Sing Se? That was pretty fun, well…not really – but then when we dropped those stuck up girls off the bridge, it got better." Katara stayed asleep. Toph remembered what Katara had said about her that day: that she was beautiful. She could have been a gorgeous, national treasure of a girl and it wouldn't make a difference in her blind eyes. Thinking on this, Toph suddenly felt compelled to learn a little more about her one true female friend…
Being careful, as if now would finally be the moment she regained consciousness, Toph ran a hand over Katara's face.
But as luck would have it, she did wake up. Katara felt a foreign hand on her face and forced her eyes to stay shut, pretending to still be asleep so whoever it was wouldn't hurt her. Her heartrate spiked, Toph felt it. "Uh oh Sweetness, you having a nightmare?" Realizing it was Toph and not a stranger, Katara began to calm down. But for some reason, only slightly…
Toph ran a small yet strong hand over Katara's face. The skin of her palm had been blistered so many times that smooth calluses had formed below her fingers and on the heel. The juxtaposition of the strong rough hand and the silky fragility of the skin on Katara's face felt pleasant to her. She wanted to let Toph know she was awake, but something inside seemed to hold her back.
Toph felt Katara's forehead "Wow, you kinda' have a big noggin!" Katara struggled not to narrow her eyebrows in anger. Toph's hand moved down to her eyes, gently gliding fingertips over the lids with a touch so light, Katara questioned if she was only imagining it. How can this be the same girl who smashed a boulder with her face five minutes ago? Or, had it only been 5 minutes? Katara knew she should be worried about how long she'd been out. But strangely, her mind could only focus on the moment - otherwise she might miss the whisper touches happening across her face.
Toph moved down to Katara's nose, running a finger lightly over the bridge to feel the size. "Hmm, well at least this isn't as big as your megabrow…" Grr…don't do anything Katara, fight the urge to smack!
Toph then cradled the side of Katara's face in her palm and rubbed her thumb along the right cheek, slowly and gently, as if afraid that when pressed too hard the skin would crack. Katara knew Toph was only feeling what she looked like, but the move felt…strangely intimate, and Katara felt the urge to push her cheek further into the warmth of Toph's hand. Woah, what? NO…Toph, this is Toph here. Not Aang, TOPH.
Katara began a tangent of convincing herself the feeling was simply one of friendship and comfort. And after the horror of a day they'd had, she just wanted to be by someone, anyone, kind and soothing. Yeah, that MUST be it.
But then Toph moved down to Katara's mouth, running her index finger along her bottom lip in a soft, fluid motion. The movement was slow, wanting to absorb every delicate detail. Toph began to feel along the top lip but stopped short. There was no way Katara could reason her way out of this one, because immediately, she was blushin'!
Toph couldn't see the redness but she sure could feel the heat. "Oh no Katara, you have a fever now too?" Before the Water Bender knew what was happening Toph had her cheek pressed against her forehead in an attempt to get a clear temperature read. "You do! Well that's it, obviously we're gonna' have to find you some water!" With that Toph hopped up and started to lift Katara by the armpits. Katara's eyes shot open. Ahh what just happened? I must be losing my mind! The blind girl began to drag Katara by her torso – the gentleness was gone, back to the same old Toph. As Katara's butt hit a particularly sharp pebble in the ground she snapped back to reality. Time to "wake up".
"T..Toph, is that you?"
"Katara! You're finally awake!" In her jubilation Toph released Katara's arms. The taller girl fell onto her back with a thud. "Whoops!" Toph dropped to her knees to help her up, "Sorry bout' that."
"It's okay. How long was I out?"
"About 2 hours, I was starting to get kinda' freaked out…"
She was..worried about me? Wow I…wait, OF COURSE she was worried, we're friends aren't we? You'd be worried about her too…nothing weird about tha…..
"Yeah, you must have been really scared, burned up all your adrenaline."
Katara remembered the fight, the heat resonating off the battle, that look on Azula's face, and then Toph, with those pale eyes that somehow managed to radiate complete confidence and strength when she stared at you like…
"Katara your fever's getting worse!"
"…Huh? Oh, oh no..it, it's nothing really! I just.." Toph jumped up.
"That's the final straw!" With a stomp of her foot a three-sided box appeared around Katara, however, this box had a roof. "Toph, what is this?"
"I have to go look for the boys, and some water for you. Now that you're awake I can't wait around here anymore, but you can".
Katara suddenly realized the boys were nowhere to be seen, a terrible tightness clutched her chest. "Oh no, where's Sokka and Aang!" In her frantic state Katara shot up and hit her head on the roof of the "hut", knocking her back down. Toph quickly sent her creation back into the dirt and approached Katara, who was rubbing the top of her head and wincing in pain.
Toph gently removed Katara's hand and massaged skilled fingers into her hurt scalp. "Don't be scared Katara, I'm sure they made it okay. Sokka always comes through in a pinch and Aang is..well, the Avatar." Inside Toph was actually quite worried for Sokka but right now she needed to be especially strong for her friend.
The combination of worry, fatigue, hunger, and confusion over certain strange new feelings became too much a load for Katara to bear. Bursting into tears, she thrust forward and wrapped her arms tightly around Toph's waist, sobbing deeply into her emerald robes.
Toph stopped massaging and started stroking Katara's head. She began to whisper, "You're very brave Katara, you know that?" Katara managed to interrupt her crying, "How can you say that! I've been completely useless this whole day, you had to save me, and take care of me…and you still are now!"
"Hey everyone has off days. Some days you just seem to bump into everything, some days you can't stop tripping over your own feet…and some days, a perky girl from the circus ambushes you in the woods."
Katara let out a tired chuckle, "You never have days like that." Toph smiled, "Yeah well, we can't all be the Greatest Earth Bender Alive."
Toph gently removed Katara's already loosening arms and raised the earth hut once again. She kneeled down and "looked" into Katara's eyes. Toph found that people with vision seemed to like when you met their gaze.
"Regardless of what I find, I'll be back for you…" Toph extended her hand to feel Katara's face. When she found her forehead, she leaned forward and gave it a small kiss. "soon." Katara didn't respond. Toph stood up and turned away. As she walked off she raised the fourth wall of the hut, leaving a small window in the front. Katara stared after Toph as she walked off. Her third eye chakra tingled where Toph had left her mark.
And indeed, Katara did feel enlightened.
A/N - Well what do you know, love's a bloomin'! Or is it? Are Aang and Sokka still alive? We can only hope so...I'd really love to hear from you guys so if you have the time, please let me know what you think! Suggestions are always welcome as well.