Hello hello hello! This is my first piece on FFN (so try not to judge too harshly you mongrels of the world!). I'm hoping to get some reviews on this so I won't feel as if I've totally wasted my time and are a complete and utter failure to the fanfiction world (oh, woe is me!). If I seem to be melodramatic and picky, it's because I am. This is basically just a recount (retelling, viewer's depiction, whatever feeds your hogs...) of an Avatar; The Last Airbender episode. Book Two; Earth. The Blind Bandit. I've taken the characters, the story, the plot, the events, and twisted them to fit the workings of my twisted and diabolical mind. Though (sadly) I own nothing, rejoice! For on here, we authors and freaks of the world can twist the dialogue and people to our liking. So, if you're still with me after that atrocious intro, read on!

Disclaimer; I own nothing. Nada. Zip. Cero. Zero. ZILCH! (Besides, if I did, Book Two and Three would have gone SOOOO much differently. I'm not quite sure that's a good thing...)

He didn't even know who he wanted; just that he wanted an Earthbending teacher. Check that- needed. Someone that "waits and listens before striking", like King Boomy told him. He didn't have much to go by, anyone could wait and listen before "striking". Momo waited for his next meal- and he probably had to listen for it too; that didn't mean Aang should learn Earthbending from Momo. But then he had his dream…vision thing. He didn't even know who she was- how was he supposed to find her? What was he supposed to do if he found her?

But they pushed on, regardless. So here they were, listening to Sokka debate with himself over getting that green bag or not. Aang didn't think it looked all that great, but if it made Sokka happy….whatever.

Aang was convinced; it was never gonna happen. He had tried this Master Yu's class, but Aang didn't think it was working out. Now, they were at the Earth Rumble Six, and so far Aang still hadn't found "the one". They had seen The Big Bad Hippo, Fire Nation Man, The Mole, that skinny dude with the green mask, and countless others. Aang knew The Boulder had defeated them all, but he just wasn't sure that The Boulder would be the best teacher for him. A suspicion that was proved to be just too true when he saw her….the last contender. The Blind Bandit. She was really blind, too- it wasn't just a part of her theme.

"The Boulder feels conflicted about fighting a young, blind girl." Yeah, his ego seriously needed to be taken down a notch. If Aang could've, he would have smacked some humility into The Boulder.

"Sound to me like you're scared, Boulder!" Huh. Seems this Blind Bandit had the same feeling.

"The Boulder is over his conflicted feelings, and now he's ready to bury you in a rock-alanche!" The whole third person thing was starting to freak Aang out.

"Whenever you're ready, The Pebble." She then proceeded to laugh in his face. Aang had a tickling sensation in the back of his mind. He'd heard that laugh before, in his vision. But, they couldn't possible be the same person, could they? The girl from his vision seemed delicate, and playful. This girl seemed like she could take on the world, and laugh while she did so, and was just so…so confident. But, they had the same eyes, those milky blue-green eyes. They had that same quirky smile, though in the vision it had been spirited, and carefree. Here, that laugh was haughty, and challenging.

"It's on!" The Boulder declared, and they took their stances. Aang saw, as if in slow motion, how she deflected his advance, making him play the part of the fool. She wasn't flashy, and didn't use big, showy moves. She simply stopped him, and then took the offensive, knocking him out of the ring. There was no more verbal foreplay, there was no great shows of strength. She just simply….won. And it astounded Aang how she could do so, so easily and without preamble.

Katara seemed as amazed as he was. "How did she do that?"

Aang smiled. "She waited, and…listened." It was just like Boomy said! She must be it!

Aang vaguely heard the host talking about gold and a challenger, but he was busy. He needed to talk to her, but how? How how how how how?

"What? No one dares face her?" That was it! Aang could walk up there, and pretend to fight her, but in reality he'd be convincing her to teach him! It was a perfect plan!

"I will." His statement rang out loud and clear throughout the stadium as he walked up to his "rival".

"Do people really wanna see two little girls fighting out here?" She was smirking. This wasn't exactly how Aang pictured it, but he plowed on regardless.

"I don't really want to fight you," he explained, "I want to talk to you." He heard the crowd booing, but all he could see was how her eyes lit up and how smirk just widened.

Aang suddenly had an unexplainable sinking feeling in his gut.

Aang felt the ground rumble and a mini-mountian erupted under his feet. He quickly floated off it, though not so slowly so as to tip people off he was the last airbender. Just so that it looked like he had jumped, sort of.

"Somebody's a little light on his feet." Well, obviously she had noticed. "What's your fighting name- The Fancy Dancer?" Okay, if that was how she wanted it, fine. He'd just have to lighten up the mood. He goofily smiled and shrugged.

Just then, more earth exploded from beneath him. He flipped in midair and landed- Jeez, all he wanted to do was ask her a question!

"Please," he begged, "Wait!" He sensed rather than felt her smile, and heard her murmur, "There you are!"

She pulled a huge boulder from the earth and launched it at him- and he meant launched. Gah, he thought, she's actually gonna kill me! He jumped into the air and did what he did best; blasted her with a gigantic gust of air. He was feeling pretty good until he saw it hit her full force in the chest and knock her out of the ring completely. Oh crap….

"Please, wait! I need an earthbending teacher and I think it's supposed to be you!" Aang skidded down the steps after her. Wow, she could move. He was barely ten steps from the arena, and she was an outline in his eyesight, though he could still clearly see her. He could apparently hear her too, which was proven when she called back to him, "Whoever you are, just leave me alone!" He saw her open a door in the rock wall, and then disappear through it, slamming it shut after her. "Wait!" Aang knocked on the rock, but it was useless. It was just another wall again. Slumping his shoulder in defeat, he morosely plodded over to join his friends.

They were walking through the village, and Aang was back to his chipper self. After all, he reasoned, just because they had lost the Blind Bandit yesterday, who was to say that they wouldn't find her again, today?

"If we wanna find the Blind Bandit, the Earthbending Academy is a good place to start." The Blind Bandit was an earthbender, who knew? Maybe she was a student there. They walked eagerly towards their new destination.

Twenty minutes later, and all they had was "The Blind Bandit's a mystery; she shows up to fight, and then disappears." Two boys were the only residents in the Academy at the moment. Katara threatened them, and they swore that was all they knew. Just then, something clicked.

"That's because we're asking about the wrong person! In my vision, I saw a girl in a white dress, with a pet flying boar. Know anybody like that?"

The boy looked skeptically at Aang. "Well, the flying boar is the symbol of the BeFong Family, they're the richest people in town. Probably the whole world."

Just then, the second boy who was cowering behind the first spoke up. "Yeah, but they don't have a daughter."

It didn't matter- at least they had a clue now! "A flying boar is good enough for me! Let's check it out!"

Two guards shielded the enormous house's doors from intruders, an elegant flying boar carved into the wood above them. Aang and his daring posse hid behind a small hill, out of sight range for the guards, but placed just so that the three companions could see the grandeur that was part of the BeFong legacy.

"That's the flying boar from my vision! C'mon!" He knew it! She was meant to teach him, he'd felt it from the moment she stepped into that arena. Stealthily, Aang, Katara, and Sokka retreated from their hide-out and skirted around to the side of the property.

Not only was the house itself large and awe-inspiring, but around the estate sat an imposing wall; taller than three men standing atop each other's shoulders, and shingled so that any stray burglar would think twice about coming in. The bottom half was rock, tightly packed and with not a hole in sight. The upper half was smooth, pearl white stone, so that there were no handholds, and anyone could be seen against the pristine background.

Aang airbended himself over the wall, watching as Sokka landed in a heap beside him. Katara came over as Sokka was picking himself up, and together they ran to a clump of trees to survey the area. All around them was green- green trees, green grass, green flowers, green bushes. Aang felt as if he were in a totally new world, even more foreign than the spirit world to where he was often unceremoniously transported to. He looked at the land before him, soaking it all in. What a peaceful, what a tranquil-

"WHAAAAAA" The ground burst from under them, an earth volcano- literally. Really, Aang thought, how many times is this gonna happen to me in one day? They were thrown almost a league into the air, hanging suspended for a moment before falling back towards the grass.

"Oof!" Both Aang and Katara landed on their backs in some sort of leafy bush with red flowers. Sokka, being Sokka, landed on the ground with a flinch-inspiring thud. Typical. Looking up from his position, albeit a tad bit dazed, Aang saw an upside down girl; an exact copy of the one in his vision. No, she is the girl from my vision, not some cheap copy.

"What're you doin' here, Twinkletoes?" At least until she opened her mouth anyways.

"How'd you know it was me?" Maybe she could sense it. Or maybe, said some sly voice in the back of his head, she can sense it! Aang thought he must've been suffering brain damage from all the hits he'd taken from that girl.

Piping up from his position on the ground, Sokka said "Don't answer to Twinkletoes, it's not manly!" Because he was in such a dignified and manly position himself, of course…

"You're the one whose bag matches his belt." Katara; one. Sokka; zip.

Everyone's attention was drawn back to the Blind Bandit as she finally spoke the inevitable, "How did you find me?"

Aang airbended his self from the awkward position he was currently residing in, to stand up. As he talked, Sokka and Katara stoop and joined him. "Well, a crazy king told me I had to find an earthbender who listens to the earth, and then I had a vision in a magic swamp, and-"

"What Aang is trying to say," Katara interrupted, "is he's the Avatar, and if he doesn't master earthbending soon, he won't be able to defeat the Fire Lord."

Aang could almost anticipate her reaction from her facial expression, the way her brows creased, and her lips twisted as if she was sucking on a lemon.

"Not my problem!" she said, throwing up her hand in Katara's face. "Now get out of here, or I'll call the guards." She walked away, leaving the three travelers staring at her backside.

"Look, we all have to do our part to win this war; and yours is to teach Aang earthbending." Sokka tried, putting as much honesty in his voice as possible, while simultaneously pleading for her help.

Aang saw her back stiffen, and then relax. Maybe she had reconsidered, maybe she saw how much they needed her skills, maybe-

"Guards," the Blind Bandit called, "Guards, help!" Her voice was high-pitched, and filled with fake distress and helplessness.

Aang, Sokka, and Katara all scrambled for cover as she called to her protectors. Two men clad in green and an off white ran to her, the one in front calling out to her. "Toph, Toph what happened?"

"I-I thought I heard someone…" She tucked her hair behind her ears, still talking in that innocent voice. If Aang hadn't seen her destructive and competitive side first-hand, he might have believed she was a sweet child in need of dire protection. "I got scared." Pfft, scared! More like violent.

The guard's faces softened, and the second put his hand on her shoulder, comforting her. "You know your father doesn't want you wandering the grounds without supervision, Toph." Together they walked towards the mansion, Toph in the middle with the guards standing protectively on either side of her.

Back on the top of the wall, Aang furrowed his face in concentration. It was clear to him now that Toph wouldn't come without a fight. She was clever, cunning, wily, smart, and devious, and obviously knew how to work the "helpless child" act to the max. She had money, guards, and ignorance on her side; all Aang had was a hang glider and blue arrows. He drummed his fingers against the roof tiles in agitation. What to do, what to do…

Aang heard the man announce him faintly- he wished he were in the room to see the look on Toph's face when she realized he had outsmarted her! He heard another man say something, then a "Yes sir!" The first man came back into the room, and led them to a formal sitting room, where he said the head of the BeFong family would receive him shortly. Who he assumed was Toph's father came into the chamber moments later and, after the proper introductions and formalities, invited Aang and his friends to dinner with his family. Aang, being the gracious Avatar that he was, politely accepted and inquired as to how they were faring. He listened as his suspicions were proven correct as the proud noble thanked him and answered that his wife and only daughter, Toph, were quite well in fact, and that he made sure every need they might possibly have was taken care of. Aang could tell he was fond of his family from the tone of voice he used.

All was quiet in the spacious dining room. Toph's father sat at the head of the table; Aang, Katara, and Sokka sat on his right; Toph, her mother, and Master Yu sat on his right. The numerous servants silently sat down, took up, refilled, and replaced their dishes with swift, practiced precision. The hush was broken as Toph's father finally spoke. "Blow on it, it is too hot for her." A servant had placed a tea cup filled to the brim with sweet-smelling liquid, steam rising from its surface.

"Allow me." Aang said, sticking out his palm. He conjured a minuscule wind tornado and sent it to Toph's cup. He smiled as the steam was effectively quelled. He heard a dainty gasp, then "Oh my!" followed by gentle applause from the patrons of the table, all except for Toph. He smiled at her, though she couldn't see it.

Toph's mother picked up her spoon, and spoke. "Avatar Aang, it's an honor to have you visit us." Her voice was soft, like a spring breeze, and she talked with a grace that bespoke of gentile breeding and money. Her father spoke up, not to be outdone by his life partner.

"In your opinion, how much longer do you think the war will last?" A tricky subject, the war. Not only did it affect people personally, it was the choice topic in politics as well. But this was to be expected from ones such as the BeFong's; from any wealthy family really.

"Well, I'd like to defeat the Fire Lord by the end of summer, but," He had to be careful now, so as to not startle them. He must word it just right… "I can't do that without finding an earth bending teacher first." He leaned forward, smirking at Toph. She must have known, because she frowned, and a deeply unsettled look came over her face. How adorable… Aang thought vaguely.

"Well," Toph's father spoke up again, "Master Yu is the finest teacher in the land." He gestured grandly towards the preening man. "He has been teaching Toph since she was little." This was too easy; the man practically set the mood for the Big Question.

"Then she must be a great earthbender!" Aang could barely control his excitement- he was so close, almost there! Just a bit more talk, and then, BOOM! Aang would have a his earthbending teacher! And she was perfect; strong, like the rocks which she could control so easily. Wild, like the earth on which she stood so magnificently. Determined, like all the masters were. Aang could tell she was the one- he could feel it in his heart!

"Probably," he continued, "good enough to teach someone el- OW!" He jumped up in his seat- something had hit him! He didn't need the smirk that stole across Toph's face to tell him who or what had smacked him though. He'd become quite familiar with the sting that accompanied Toph's attacks (unfortunately). He glared at her- the little minx!

Glancing worriedly between the clashing teens, Master Yu quickly put the idea to rest. "Toph is still learning the basics."

"Yes," agreed her father. "And, sadly, because of her blindness, I don't think she will ever become a true master." Wait. From what Aang had seen, she was damn close to being a master, if she wasn't there already. She'd taken down men twice her size, and who had probably been twelve times her weight! If that wasn't at least on the way to being a master, then Aang didn't know what was! The grief in her father's voice wasn't faked; wasn't hiding anything. And from the look of sorrow on her mother's face, Aang could tell they really thought she was as helpless as she portrayed herself to be. They didn't know- what she was capable of, what she could do, was doing, had done; they were as clueless as an outsider!

Aang and his friends looked at each other questioningly. "Oh, I'm sure she's better than you think she-HAWA!" His chair rushed forward and Aang's face smashed down into his soup. She was gonna get it this time- no more Mr. Nice Avatar! That dirty, rotten, stinking, no-good… Aang straightened up, pushing the bowl and its contents to the top of his head. In his periphery he saw Toph's father glance at her, but he was too riled to really take notice. She just smiled and went on eating her rice. Aang wiped his eyes and smiled deviously; if that was how she wanted to play…

"A-A-ACHOOOO!" Aang let loose the biggest sneeze he could muster, sending all the food on the table flying all over Master Yu, Toph's mother, but most importantly Toph herelf. Aang could see her eyes widen with fury, see her anger in the set of her muscles. She wiped herself and flicked the food to the floor.

"What's your problem?" she shouted. She was standing up, her hands against the table. His problem? He nearly screamed with indignation- he wasn't the one with the attitude here!

"What's your problem?" he fired back, with all the sting she had. They were in the same position now, chins jutted out, eyes bright with rage, hands braced on the table, both standing. They glared, neither backing down. Her father just looked back and forth, as lost as the other residents of the table. Master Yu grimaced and dumped the food from his bowl, watching it drip from its confines. Sokka and Katara shifted uncomfortably, embarrassed and totally oblivious of the silent battle that had taken place.

But Toph's mother just smiled serenely, and soothingly inquired, "Well, shall we move to the living room for dessert then?"

It was dark outside when Aang and his crew settled in the nice room the BeFong's had provided for them.

"G'night buddy." Aang patted Appa outside his window, letting the day's events play through his mind. Nothing had gone as planned! No one except them knew of Toph's skill, her parents thought she couldn't do anything on her own, Master Yu was an idiot who thought so highly of himself as to suggest several more times throughout the night that he was the perfect one to teach Aang, and with all the servants and guards constantly hovering aroung Toph, he couldn't even talk to her alone to explain why he'd done all of this!

Shoulders sagging, he tensed as he felt a familiar, pain-inducing aura fill the room. "HUAAAA!" Aang took a defensive position as he saw Toph lean in the doorway, in her nightgown no less. Not that it wasn't pretty, but…it was kinda clingy. He discreetly glanced at Katara and Sokka; they didn't seem to notice.

"Relax," she bit out. "Look, I'm sorry about dinner. Let's call a truce, okay?" Aang wasn't buying it. She didn't sound tired, just weary with a hint of crankiness.

But Aang relaxed nonetheless. She had that effect on him; he wanted to do what she said, find out where it lead them. Would she suddenly throw a boulder at him, smile, walk away, stay and talk some more with him? He hoped it was the latter; he was pretty sore from all the "excitement" today. Aang didn't think he could take any more, in fact. And that was saying a lot, coming from him. How was it this small, seemingly fragile creature could drain him of energy so easily, and still be cool and collected after it all? The logic was beyond Aang.

She gestured to him, and walked out. Raising his brows, he looked at his friends, but they just shrugged and made shooing motions with their hands. Well, Katara did; Sokka gave him a big smile and a thumbs up. He wasn't exactly sure what it was for, but he shrugged and hurried to catch up to the phantom from his vision.

"Even though I was born blind, I've never had a problem seeing." Toph was walking on the stone railing of the bridge running over the bubbling river in the garden. The moonlight caught her hair perfectly, illuminating her form, giving her a hazy, almost dreamlike quality. Aang wanted to catch hold of her and hold her tight, to make sure she wouldn't disappear. He had just found her; how would he be able to get her back if she vanished?

She jumped from the railing, her arms splayed out for balance. "I see with earthbending. It's kind of like seeing with my feet. I feel the vibrations in the earth, and I can see where everything is. You, that tree, even those ants." Aang looked around- there! About seven feet away was a tiny anthill, with its patrons walking into the hole. She saw all of that? Aang hadn't even noticed.

"That's amazing!" He was truly amazed; she was like a part of the earth, flowing and feeling with it. They were truly one. She had learned what earthbending master toiled to learn for centuries, in just these few years of her life. All because she had a "disability". People thought she was weaker for it, needed to be taken care of because of it; though in reality, it was the complete opposite. Because of her blindness, she had become strong, become an extension of the earth itself. She was more capable of defending herself than a lot of grown adults.

He looked at her, but all he saw was anguish. "My parents don't understand. They've always treated me like I was helpless." She walked over to the walls. Now that Aang saw from her perspective, they seemed more like bars, caging her in from the outside world; coddling her, trapping her, smothering her.

"Is that why you became the Blind Bandit?"

She slowly nodded, and whispered, "Yeah."

Aang didn't get it; "Then why stay here, where you're not happy?" She was a free spirit, just like him- that much he could feel. She was like a wild animal; she should never be cooped up in some place like this. She was meant to sing with the wind, and dance with the trees. To talk with the grass, and play with the sky.

"They're my parents. Where else am I supposed to go?" She had a point, Aang knew. He knew what it felt like, to want to leave a place, but at the same time be loath to go. It was a hard decision, to leave it all behind; memories, friends, family, home. Even if your experiences weren't good, they were still yours, they were still made here. But in the end, it would be better for her to leave. Outside this life of money, was the real world. And though it was harsh and unforgiving at times, it was a place where everyone could be themselves, and grow and learn, and live! That was what he wanted to give her, what she needed to be given. Because alone, she might not be able to take it.

"You could come with us." It was spoken softly, with kindness and the promise of a new life. A free one.

"Yeah, you guys get to go wherever you want. No one telling you what to do, that's the life. It's just…not my life." This wasn't what Aang had expected- she wanted to be able to earthbend, be herself, didn't she?

He never found out as he suddenly crouched and felt the ground. "We're being ambushed!" She grabbed his hand and pulled him, running swiftly over the soft grass. If Aang wasn't so freaked out right now he would've totally been grinning like an idiot. Toph was holding his hand! True, it was because she thought their lives were in mortal danger, but hey! He had hormones too, Avatar or not!

Aang heard the rumble before he saw the mound chasing them. It was just like a mole's tunnel, only bigger. And faster. And it was coming after them.

It circled around in front and cut them off. Toph gasped and backed up, her hand leaving his. Aang followed suit, hormones and affectionate gestures forgotten.

The Mole jumped from the hole that had burst forth from the tunnel. He crossed his hands at the wrist, baring his nails like a cat. Toph backed away from him, clutching her arms against her body in a defensive position. Aang didn't blame her. The Mole was built like a friggin' weightlifter! Or maybe it was the smell, he wasn't exactly the cleanest man on earth; nails black with grime, face smudged with dirt, dried mud caked in his mustache. He smiled then, a malicious grin that showed off his yellow teeth.

Aang felt Toph shift beside him, and he followed suit, not really knowing what she was doing until he felt himself doing it. They had both crounched into attack position, hands at the ready. Toph tensed and Aang thought, this is it-concentrate! Back her up; she's on her turf, she knows what to do, she'll-

WHAM! Two concrete cells slammed over them from above, encasing them in concrete. It was solid, with one tiny window at eye level, though it was marred with bars. Aang barely reached the window, though if he stood on tiptoes he could see out the window completely. He was pretty sure Toph wouldn't be able to reach the window, and if she could it would be only just. It didn't really matter though, she couldn't see anyways.

Aang felt someone jump onto his cage, jumping up and down, embedding the cells into the earth below. Someone walked into his line of sight then- Shin Fu, the host of the Earth Rumbles. He smiled, and Aang felt a chill go down his spine. He was glad Toph couldn't witness it either way. He didn't want her to become frightened, or more than she probably was at this point.

"I think you kids owe me some money." Shin Fu said, still smiling.

Aang opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by Toph and her smart mouth. "Whatever you're blabbin' about, I don't care! Lemme out!" How diplomatic. On the bright side, at least she wasn't afraid.

Shin Fu frowned, turning around and barking out orders to the other scumbags, who Aang now realized were the beaten competitors from Earth Rumble Six. Figures, Aang thought, I had a feeling they couldn't lose graciously.

The two kidnapee's groaned as they felt the dizzying sensation of being lifted into the air too quickly. Aang pushed down his queasy feelings though- it must be even worse for Toph, who used the ground to see those around her.

"You think you're so tough? Why don't you come up here so I can smack that grin off your face!" Toph was being Toph, sarcastic and rough even as they hung Aang didn't know how many feet in the air, suspended from their cells by thick chains. Turned out, Toph could see out the window. She was even tall enough to stick her hand out and flip Shin Fu and The Boulder the bird. Oh, if her parents could see her now...

"I'm not smiling." Shin Fu was correct in this; he wasn't. Aang wouldn't have been either if he'd had to listen to Toph's ranting and threats, being the butt of her taunts for almost an hour.

"Toph!" Aang glanced behind the two kidnappers and saw Toph's father, Sokka, Katara, and Master Yu. Sokka held up a bag, yelling out loud and clear.

"Here's your money! Now let them go." He threw the sack on the ground, and Master Yu earthbended it over to The Boulder and Shin Fu. He reached down and opened the bag, inspecting what Aang assumed was money. It must have been satisfactory, because Shin Fu made a gesture up towards Toph and Aang. Aang became slightly worried as Toph's cage clicked down, out of his line of sight. He stood on tiptoe and strained against the bars, and was rewarded as he could somewhat see the goings on down below again. He saw Toph cage open from the bottom, two claws splitting open to dump her on the ground. She scrambled up and ran to her faher. He hugged her and ushered her off the sidelines.

"What about Aang?" Go, Katara, go! Yeah, ask about the last airbender still trapped in the cage hanging from the ceiling!

"I think the Fire Nation will pay a hefty price for The Avatar." What? Come one! Couldn't he get a break? Just once? And why was it always the Fire Nation? Why not some pirates, or thugs or something? Were all the people he could actually handle broke?

"Now, get out of my ring!" Shin Fu's voice was cold, laced with menace and authority. Aang could no longer see Toph, Master Yu, or the head of the BeFong's. All he could see was Katara and Sokka slip into offensive positions, ready to rescue him and take down bad guy butt. They never got a chance however, as quickly they were surrounded once more by the very ones who kidnapped them not even a hour and a half ago. Even Aang could see that they were hopelessly outnumbered; he saw that Sokka and Katara knew it too. They looked around, assessing their opponents. Aang knew if they tried to take them all on, they would lose. Who knew what Shin Fu would do to them? Aang he could get money for- but two weak water tribe children? Not a chance.

"Go!" he called down to them. "It's alright- I'll be okay." Not that he really believed it, but still. He saw them run to the mouth of the tunnel, saw Katara call in to it; to someone. He heard vague replies. Who was she talking to? Master Yu? Toph? Toph's father?

He forgot about it as he was lowered onto The Hippo's shoulder, and they walked towards the exit. It wasn't the most comfortable of positions, either. In fact, Aang would have rather eaten slugs and snail slime than be in that particular angle again. Not to mention, the window was facing down, towards The Hippo's stomach. And being sideways, bumping along, with the only sight for you being a sweaty man's belly rolls, was not helping him in the act of keeping his supper down. Quite the opposite in fact. He could smell the sweat, and could see the grime between the layers of fat on The Hippo. Oh God, Aang thought he was going to throw up.

He heard an explosion then, a familiar one. Toph! He knew that sound- it was the promise of pain! Oh, how he loved that sound right about now!

"Let him go! I beat you all before, and I'll do it again!" Yep, it was Toph. Her voice help part contempt, part sarcasm, part cocky assurance, and part determination, and part if-you-don't-gimme-what-I-want-I'll-kick-your-butt-so-hard-you'll-be-burping-the-dirt-on-my-foot. Yes, only she could incorporate such controlled rage in her voice, could induce such anger. Aang loved the sound of it.

"The Boulder takes issue with that comment!" Aang could just bet he did.

He felt The Hippo lift him, and heave him through the air. Aang hit the ground and rolled over a few times before coming to a rest. Owww...

At least he was on his side, so he could see it when Toph threw out her arms to stop Katara and Sokka from rushing into the fray. "Wait!"

All the contestants ran towards Toph, the ground shaking beneath the force. "They're mine." Aang could just see her mentally smiling. She was probably gonna enjoy this too.

Toph firmly stomped both feet on the ground and crossed her arms, a look of deep concentration coming over her face. She may have been blind, but she had the concentration of a monk. She then threw her arms towards the ground, placing them palm up, and pulled them up to the sky, slowly, as if she were pulling up hell itself. Suddenly she flung her hands back down, and curled in on herself, as if she were going to cannonball into the ocean.

The ground shook, and what looked like a rock ocean came up from underneath the oncoming men. They were thrown into the air, as dust and chunks of tan earth permeated the atmosphere. They writhed and squirmed like worms, and then screamed when they plummeted back to the hard ground below. Aang saw The Boulder almost gingerly pick him self up, rubbing his head. Yeah, Aang knew the feeling.

The air became thick with floating dust mites, and it looked like there was an earth mist converging over the place. It was like fog only...earth. It was an odd sensation, you could see the dirt in the air, but when you breathed in, it was like it was clean. Aang wondered if Toph had done this purposely, or if it was just an aftereffect of the rock explosion. His musings were cut short when he heard a loud thud and saw the Fire Nation dude go flying, landing just below where Master Yu and Toph's father were sitting. There was a hole where the Fire Nation man had landed, and Aang wondered how big of a bump he was gonna have on his head come morning.

Just then, Sokka and Katara ran over to the perimeter of the...fog where Aang was. Katara pulled at the edge of the door, all to no avail. Sokka frantically looked around, trying to fid something to try and weaken the metal contraption with.

"I can't find anything!" he called, still searching uselessly. How on earth could he not...

"There are rocks everywhere! We're in an earthbending arena! The contestants use rocks! Toph just made the ground spew stones! Grab a stinkin' ROCK!"

Nodding, Sokka bent to the ground where, lo and behold, there was a rock. He ran back to Aang and started slamming the rock onto the lock under Aang's window. Aang could see the sweat coming off him, the effort he was putting forth.

It still wasn't working! "Hit it harder!"

"I'm trying!" And try he did. Aang saw him desperately pound the rock on the unyeilding metal, again and again.

Three more thuds, and the green masked man flew out of the ring...and into the Fire Nation man just as he was getting up. They both crumpled into a tangled heap. Another thud. The Mole shot out of the wall of the arena, and right into the other two who had previously went down. All three were thrown back into the hurt pile.

Meanwhile, Sokka was still pounding away at the lock, Katara still pulling at the door. Sokka was shaking with the effort, and his arms were losing the vigor they once possessed, though he was still going strong. He must have been strong enough, because Aang saw him wearily bring his arm down once more, and the lock shattered with a sound akin to glass breaking. The clawed bottom popped open and Aang shot out faster than a bullet, arms at the ready to defend Toph and help kick ass. Flustered, he looked around. No one was in sight. Sokka shook his head and pointed to the side of the ring, where The Hippo was pounding his chest and The Boulder was glancing around as well.

He heard rustling, and Toph came out from the dust cover. She looked like some avenging angel, though small and a bit rough. Her clothed were still in their pristine condition, all white and flowing. He could see a slight sheen of sweat, how it caught the light and made her skin glisten like bronze. She was...beautiful. Not to mention the sweat made her clothed cling, and they did that job magnificently in Aang's opinion. He could see her curves, slight but there, and the outline of her thighs, slim and strong, and the dip of her breasts, oh sweet mother of all airbenders, her breasts! They may not have been as big as Katara's, but they made up for that by being on Toph. What a woman...

"YAHHHH!" Another masked man swung from nowhere, making a beeline for Toph. She didn't react however, except to made more hand gestures and move the ground that encircled the three on it. It formed a ring, Toph on one side, the other two opponents opposite her, and the masked man swinging towards her. Just as Aang though she was in for it, the ring moved, rotating the position of the patrons. Now Toph was in the clear, and The Hippo and The Boulder were about to be- "UAH!"

The wanna-be Tarzan ran right into his allies, landing them all in a pile. Toph advanced on them, and all three went flying into the former three, who were currently helping each other up. All six tumbled down (again). Aang honestly felt sorry for them. They had no idea who they were messing with.

WHOOSH. The cloud of dust cleared at Toph's signal, leaving her and Shin Fu the only remaining people. He cracked his neck, and Toph spit on the ground beside her.

Both circled the other, caution evident in their steps.

"HUYAH!" Shin Fu sent eight boulders flying at top speed right at Toph's head, the wind whistling around them. Talk about going in for the kill...

Toph threw up a rock tent, the boulders hitting harmlessly on it, bouncing off leaving only small dents. She flung out the left side of her tent, sending it sliding at Shin Fu. He jumped up, twisting into the air, his hand digging into the earth below him.

His hand came up, and he threw yet another boulder at her. She sidestepped it, and flung a boulder of her own at him, hitting her target smack dab in the face. He sailed through the air, landing right between Master Yu and Toph's father.

Smiling, Aang ran over to congradulate her; she was amazing. Sokka opened and closed his mouth, doing a wonderful imitation of Appa chewing. Then he promptly fainted. Katara laughed and ran over to join Aang and Toph. What a day! And Toph had kept her cool and not even worried, and, and- wow! She really was like an angel, or Goddess, or something. Wow. Just, wow. Aang was speechless, just patting Toph over and over again, smiling like a fool. Of course, so were Katara and Toph, but Toph had a reason to, and Katara always smiled like that, so...

But Aang had never smiled this big, this much, and meant it! He felt like his face was going to split in half!

They were all in another formal sitting room. He, Katara, and Sokka were on a bench in the back of a room. Toph's parents were sitting at the front with a servant on wither side of them, and Toph was standing in front of him like some convicted criminal. It seemed so unfair. Aang had thought Toph's father would have been ecstatic, but he didn't even smile, not once!

"Dad, I know it's probably hard for you to see me this way, but the obediant little helpless blind girl who you think I am just isn't me." She smiled then, and continued on. "I love fighting, I love being an earthbender. And I'm really really good at it. I know I've kept my life secret from you, but you were keeping me secret from the whole world. You were doing it to protect me, but I'm twelve years old and I've never had a real friend. So now that you see who I really am, I hope it doesn't change the way you feel about me."

Dang. Aang knew about the smothering parents, the secret life, the unwillingness to leave, but he never got it that this would have been her big fear. She was afraid her parents wouldn't love her if they knew the real her?

"Of course it doesn't change the way I feel about you, Toph. And it's made me realize something."

"It has?"

"Yes. I've let you have far too much freedom!" WHAT? Toph's mother was nodding her head beside her spouse. These people were crazy!

"From now on you will be cared for and guarded twenty-four hours a day." This wasn't right!

"But Dad-"

The bobble head finally spoke up beside her delusional husband. "We're doing this for your own good, Toph." Yeah, right. And Aang was an idiot.

"Please escort the Avatar and his friends out. They are no longer welcome here." A servant hurried to do his master's bidding, ushering Aang, Sokka, and Katara out.

Turning around, Aang said softly, "I'm sorry Toph."

She looked at him, and Aang saw unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "I'm sorry too. Goodbye Aang." The tears finally broke free, and he turned his head, feeling like crying himself.

Aang looked out upon the BeFong estate, eyes searching for a light, for her, for anything. Nothing. He felt like screaming! It wasn't fair! She didn't deserve to live in that prison!

"We'll find you a teacher." Katara had come up beside him, probably to try and confort Aang. What she didn't understand was that nothing could help him right now. No one but Toph. "There's plenty of amazing earthbeners out there." Not as good as her. Never.

Aang voiced as much. "Not like her."

They turned back to Appa, he just airbending up into the saddle, and Katara climbing up Appa's tail. If only she were here with him, beside him. She could call him Twinkletoes and throw rocks at him for all eternity. He could almost hear her breathing. She would be panting hard, and-

WHAT? Aang looked behind him, and there she was. She was out of breath and in her Earth Rumble clothes with a bag slung over her shoulder, hair all over the place; she was beautiful.

"What're you doing here?" Not that he was complaining.

"My Dad changed his mind, he said I was free to travel the world!" She was standing beside Appa now.

Everyone looked at each other, smiles coming over their faces.

"Well, we'd better get out of here before your Dad changes his mind again." Aang wholeheartedly agreed with Sokka.

She smiled. God, he loved her smile. "Good idea."

Aang felt like his face was going to split in two, his grin was so wide. "You're gonna make a great teacher Toph." I wonder just what she can teach me besides earthbending... Huh. Guess the little voice wasn't gone after all.

Toph smirked suddenly and looked up at him. "Speaking of which, I wanna show you something."

Had she heard him? Were they talking about the same thing? Maybe he shouldn't-that might be like taking advantage of her...

"OK!" Aang jumped down from Appa and grinned at her. She grinned back. Wow, but she was pretty. Her short black hair, her slender arms, her slim legs, her... her feet were moving. No, just her foot. What was she-

"AAUUGGGHHH!" A blunt tipped rock came and smashed into Aang from below, sending him flying through the air. Again. His foot caught in a nearby tree, and she smiled at him hanging upside down.

"Now we're even." Touche. "Oh, and I'll take the belt back."

Sokka's mouth looked like he'd been sucking on lemons. He took off the belt and threw it at her with a careless flick of his wrist.

"OW!" The belt hit Toph on the head and sent her tumbling to the ground. Maybe Sokka had been a bit too careless...

Meantime, Aang was trying to get out of that cursed tree. He swung a bit and wriggled his ankle. Just a bit more, and he'd be out!

"ARGH!" Aang fell in a heap a few feet away from Toph. This day just kept getting better and better.

Shaking the dust from his clothes, he got up and went to Toph. She groaned and accepted the hand he held out to her. Together they climbed up onto Appa, though Aang noticed Sokka stayed on the opposite side of the saddle as Toph. What a wimp.

"Yip yip, Appa!" With a grunt for an answer, the giant bison smashed his tail on the ground and took off, the night sky streaming past them. Aang glanced back once, just briefly. Toph was in the back, leaning against the saddle, with her face to the wind. Her hair was blown back and her eyes were closed. She looked content, free. She looked happy.