There is beauty all around her, at least, that's what Katara says.
She goes into long rambles featuring fanciful adjectives (yellow; small; round) and different sceneries and Aang, always Aang. Through these descriptions, Toph knows that Aang is just slightly taller than Katara now and that he has soft lips and that he has arrows, blue arrows, running through his hands. She tries to grasp the meanings of these new words.
The only thing she can think of is that Aang has a pretty voice.
Stupid, stupid. That doesn't matter. You can love people and smiles and nice-looking things. Not voices. Not stories. Not sizes and textures and the small beats of hearts.
One thing Toph wishes is that she could master descriptions, grab them and shape them like Katara can. She is the greatest earthbender in the whole entire world, but she cannot speak poetry. Words run through her mind like hummingbees, taunting her with their alluring syllables and escaping her with their meanings.
If she had been someone a little different, someone a little less familiar with the art of holding emotions in, she might have started crying. But she is not one to break down. She is unyielding, like the element she chooses to move. She is headstrong and stubborn and all too broken.
At one point, Katara explains that being around Aang, for her, feels like falling. It feels like being light. She says that Aang is her affinity. Toph doesn't know what that word means, but it sounds like a song, like the taste of sweet tart pastries melting on her tongue. She feels like she needs to know the meaning, so she looks around for someone to ask.
Zuko is the one closest to her, both figuratively and literally, so she starts with him.
"Affinity, huh? It's...it's like a weakness. It's something you need. Something you can't resist."
This could be a lot of things, for her. She has been so many people under so many names-she is the Blind Bandit, the Avatar's sifu, the daughter of the Beifongs. There has never been a time for her to simply be Toph, to shape her own destiny. As consquence, she does not know herself. Her own weaknesses.
"What's your affinity?" she presses delicately, in a way she was not familiar with. Funny, how she learns new things about herself every day.
He closes his eyes, like something is gnawing at him from the inside; he closes his eyes, like he it is physically taxing for him to answer the question.
"It's feeling like there's no one that cares. Like no one would give a damn if I died."
Toph does not understand many things, like colours and faces and dreams, but she does understand what it's like not to belong. There is nothing she cannot relate more to: a family that doesn't accept you. For Zuko, this is because of his goodness. For her, it is the opposite.
"I think that's mine too."
The would-be Firelord shuts his honey eyes again, because of different reasons. He has never seen Toph like this. She was always supposed to be the strong one. It feels wrong to see her this way. Spontaneously, unthinkingly, he pulls her into a half-hug. Things with him are never quite full or sure, anyway. He thinks it's fitting.
"Thanks, Mr. Inferiority Complex," she whispers a bit breathily into his ear. Something in the tone of her voice makes him want to shiver.
"Anytime, Ms. Family Issues," he jokes, and then adds, "And, for the record, I would care if you died."
She nods, a silent affirmation that she would care if he had somehow left her as well. He is the first person to mention actually caring about her and the first to give her a nickname.
She thinks it's fitting.