14. Until we Meet Again

Toph leaned back on the roof of the Tower. A couple weeks ago, she'd told the others what she'd learned, between Beast B-Garfield and Terra. Their reactions had surprised her. None of them were amazed at the notion that she came from another Earth. In point of fact, Raven and Cyborg had promised to find a way to build a machine that could connect the two earths so she could go back and forth as she pleased, so she could see her old friends. They didn't know how long it would take, but they were going to try.

Toph couldn't believe how many tears she had shed since coming here...and the vast majority of them were of joy. She had such good friends here...and a guy who loved her, and who she loved in return. She almost told them not to bother with the gate device, but...she knew how much Aang and the others had to be worried about her. If...if she had to choose between the two worlds...

Suddenly, there was a tearing in the air, and she ducked under the overhang. Then there was a strange howling in the air, and voices approached from above.

"You sure this is the right world?"

"That's what the spirits said."

"Has to be! Look at that giant T!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"We're looking for Toph, and there's a giant metal...thing shaped like a T. It's gotta be a message from her, telling us she's here!"

"Except for one thing, Sokka. Toph can't read!"

Toph stepped out from under the overhang, waving upward towards the source of the voices. "That's what you think, Twinkletoes! Down here!"

She smiled as she heard them all calling out to her. She recognized everyone who was there by voice. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Suki, Zuko, Mae, Tai Li, and even Iroh! She also heard Momo's chittering and Appa's happy bellow. Then Appa landed, and she stiffened as she saw two unexpected passengers. Pointing at them, she rounded on Aang.

"What are THEY doing here?"

"Toph...your parents just want to set things right-"

"I'm sure!" TOph turned around in a huff. If there was one thing she didn't want right now, it was her parents judging her like they always did.

"Now, Toph," her mother began, "I know we've made mistakes, but surely you can give a chance to set things right."

Toph started to waver. Then her father spoke.

"Yes, dear, it is time for you to come home and take your proper place in the Bei Fong household. Now, once we get you home, we can begin some negotiations, and-"

"NEGOTIATIONS!" TOph knew what he was talking about. The Bei FOng's were an important family, and she knew how family alliances were determined. "YOu haven't seen me in years, and the only thing on your mind is marrying me off! Get out of my life, old man! I'm not going back! I'm happy here!"

"I'm soory, Toph, but I do this for your own good." Her father snapped her fingers, and something seized her arms and legs, lifting her off the tower. She recognized floating hands of stone.

*Dai Li agents!* She struggled, and she heard a lot of shouting from several people...followed by a sudden howling and a rush of wind.

"Silence!" a deep, gravely voice snarled, and everyone froze.

Sokka whispered, "Aang! Go do your Avatar stuff with the spirit beast!"

"What makes you think it's a spirit beast?" Aang asked.

"Cause it's talking!"

The gravely voice spoke again. "Release her...or I rip out his throat!"

The hands let her go, and she landed on her feet and one hand. Everyone was braced, watching everything that was happening. SOmething she would describe as a wolf-bear stood over her father, pinning him to the ground by one claw at his throat.

"Back, villains!" That was Starfire's voice. "Back through the portal, or I will be forced to place very large holes in your abdominal cavities."

She heard the sound of Star's starbolts energized, then the sound of two somethings passing through...something with a strange slurping noise.

Suddenly, Toph recognized the scent the wolfbear was giving off, and grinned. "BB, you can let my father up now."

Beast Boy stepped back and shifted back to his normal state. "Oops. Kinda bad first impression on the prospective in-laws, huh?"

"I don't know," her mother spoke up. "I was impressed." Toph could feel BB's grin.

Toph's father stood up and brushed himself off. He started to open his mouth, but his wife smacked his shoulder.

"You have said enough. I will not allow YOUR overcompensation queer what may be the last time I ever see MY daughter!"

Toph froze and stared...sort of. "What...what are you talking about, Mom?"

"The Avatar tells us he can only keep the portal open for so long...and he won't be able to open it again. And clearly, you wish to stay here with this young man, yes?" She gestured to Beast Boy.

"Yes...I am staying with Garfield. But that's not what I was asking about." She could tell her mother was dodging the real question.

Her mother sighed. "YOu would catch that...and I suppose you do deserve the truth, if you are going your own way." She shook her head. "YOu've grown up so much, my dear." SHe pulled Toph into a hug, then stepped back. "My husband is impotent."

Toph was silent. "Say...what?"

"Indeed, has been since before our wedding. When I found out, I was quite upset, but I made a deal with him. He still needed an heir, so I offered to provide him with one...as long as he never questioned how I went about it. Today, I will tell you how this came to pass."

"In that case," Starfire spoke up, "I think he should go back first." SHe picked up Mr. Bei Fong. Toph's mother nodded, and Toph heard a spinning through the air, followed by her...legal father's scream, cut off by that strange slurping noise.

Her mother turned towards her again. "One night, I did myself up as a...lady of the night, and went to seek a strong man who would give me a strong child, one who could be claimed as the family heir. I know not who he was, but...I know him to have been a fire nation soldier."

Toph was stunned. "My real dad...is fire nation?"

"Indeed. He was strong and viril, and possessed a seeming nobility. But he also had a great sadness in him. Over drinks before...well, before...he spoke out, asking what purpose were honors in war when you had no one left to share them with. After...I encouraged him to have hope for the future."

SUddenly, Iroh spoke up. "Your exact words were, 'The future is full of surprises, and the spirits have their own way to balance the books,' if I'm not mistaken."

TOph's mother looked at him. "How...how do you know?"

Iroh smiled at her. "I believe that night, you went by the name of...Mai Ren. You're still just as beautiful as you were that night."

Toph stared at Iroh. "You?"

Sokka suddenly laughed. "I always said we were like a big family. Now I know we really are. COme on, Zuko! GO give your cousin a hug!"

Toph suddenly shuddered. "Ew! Zuko's my cousin, and I used to have a crush on him!" Everyone laughed, and Toph realized that all the Titans were up there.

Introductions and comparisons were made all around, especially when Starfire and Katara got into a hug fest. Then the portal started to make some noise, and Aang cleared his throat.

"Time's almost up, Toph. I take it...you're staying?"

"YEah, Twinkletoes. I'm staying. I'm...happy here. I'll miss all of you."

"YOu won't miss me," Iroh stated mysteriously.

"What are you talking about? Of course I'll miss you! You were the closest thing to a loving Dad I had, and now I know you actually are my Dad! It hurts to say goodbye..."

"No, I mean you won't miss me because I'm staying, too."

"EH!" everyone shouted.

Iroh smiled. "For many years now, I have mourned the loss of my son. I have done all I can for all of you, but other than my tea shop, I have little to look forward to. Here, though, I have a daughter who has found a loved one. I may have grandkids before long! I have every reason to stay, and little reason to go." He nodded to them all. "I know this is sudden...but Toph needs me here far more than all of you do."

Teary eyed farewells were given all around, and Aang and the others took off on Appa through the portal. Iroh turned, wiping his eyes. "So," he said, changing the subject, "who here knows how to brew a proper cup of tea?"

Raven laughed. "Come on, old man. Let's get you settled in."

Everyone turned and went into the Tower, as the halls filled with joyful laughter.

The End