Toph Beifong knew she couldn't see in the same way everyone else did, but after nearly eighteen years of feeling vibrations through her feet, she often wondered if she was the truly blind one.
The world was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Hundred Years War's end, and it was determined to celebrate it in style. Everywhere, from the smallest Earth Kingdom town to the beautiful Northern Water Tribe, people were throwing parties in honor of the small group of people that had liberated them from Ozai's reign of terror.
In the heart of the Fire Nation, servants put the finishing touches on the stunning ball room. Or so Toph had been told. She never understood why everyone insisted on making a big deal out of the day, and knew Zuko agreed with her, but they were in the minority. She often complained about the waste of time and resources to do so, but Iroh or Katara or Aang always overwhelmed her with their obvious reasons as to why they felt Zuko's palace needed a new this or that.
Zuko, the little peacemaker that he was, usually told her to just go with it. This time, she had to put her foot down.
"Why does the Fire Lord need another new foot towel? You've already dragged five of those things in here!"
The servants' heart rates quickened, putting off a new feeling of dread, and Toph figured they were probably glancing at each other. One of them stepped forward and bowed his head respectfully. "Master Toph, these tapestries were commissioned by the illustrious Dragon of the West himself, and depict the events that occurred on the day of Sozin's Comet."
She snorted. "Iroh orders new ones of those almost every time we throw one of these things. Anyway, I know Zuko doesn't like looking at them." She grinned, and the quiet one's heart beat tripped. "And you wouldn't want to do anything to upset your Fire Lord, would you?"
The servants both stammered, caught between an order from the Fire Lord's uncle and the impending wrath of his only earthbending soldier, who also happened to be the captain of his personal guard.
Toph crossed her arms and tapped her foot, a stance she knew made her soldiers nervous. It worked like a charm; the silent servant's heart beat so fast she worried for a moment about his health.
Finally, the first man bowed again. "As you wish, Master Toph. We will remove the tapestries from the palace."
"Good!" They hurried away before she could change something else. "And I told you guys to stop calling me that!"
They continued scurried and didn't answer; her shout, however, had attracted Katara's attention. Toph groaned, knowing her ploy to avoid her friend was over.
"Toph!" Katara scolded. "Did you just tell them to get rid of Iroh's commemorative tapestries?"
She groaned again. "Oh, not you too Sugar Queen."
Katara ignored her, summoning another servant to tell the first two that they should keep the foot towels on the wall. After that was done, the older woman faced her once more; Toph just knew she was frowning.
"Okay, Master Beifong, I think you've caused enough trouble for one day." Toph felt her vibrations lighten (it was a hard feeling to describe, but she could literally feel Katara's happiness). "Anyway, it's time to get ready for tonight!"
She screamed in pretend horror, causing many of the workers to jump. Katara slapped a hand over her mouth and apologized to them before dragging Toph away.
They encountered Zuko in the hall leading to the guest rooms; his heart was pounding, as if he had run there.
"What's wrong?" Katara explained the situation to him, and he chastised Toph as well. She was too busy grinning over the fact that her waterbending friend's vibrations had spiked into oh gods while talking to Zuko to notice his lecture.
Finally, Katara bade him farewell, and they entered her chambers. Toph winced and readied herself for at least an hour of hair pulling and eye poking.
Later, long after the sun had set, Katara relinquished Toph from her grasp. The two had fought over every little thing her friend had tried doing to her. Katara wanted full makeup; Toph said blush only. Katara tried to squeeze her into a fashionable Fire Nation gown; Toph nearly busted its seams because it was too tight on the legs. The only thing the two agreed on was hair and shoes- Katara could do whatever she wanted, so long as she didn't force Toph to cover her feet.
So that was how Toph found herself: with her hair unbound and flowing down her back, feet free of any type of shoe, and, most importantly, alone on the edge of the dance floor.
She didn't mind being alone- preferred it, actually, because that meant there was no pointless small talk to distract her as she tracked her friends' movements throughout the room. It was her day off, but that didn't mean she would allow the people closest to her to go unprotected (and don't get her started on the almighty Fire Dragons- the soldiers that were reserved for protecting the palace. She had defeated all of them with her hands tied, it was how she had gotten the position of Captain in the first place).
Aang was flitting around, talking to everyone he could. Katara stood with Suki, most likely complaining about their earlier disagreements. Zuko, from what she could tell, was occupied by his uncle, but his heart raced in the same way it had earlier. She wondered if he was looking at Katara.
And Sokka- well, he was approaching her.
She sighed; he meant well, but didn't always realize when he wasn't wanted. In Toph's case, that was most of the time. She hadn't recovered from her infatuation with him for a long time, and on some days was still a touchy subject.
"Hey, Toph! How's it going?" He threw an arm around her shoulders and she refrained from pinching the bridge of her nose. Today was one of those days, when she had Zuko and Katara's growing attraction obnoxiously presenting itself every time they were in the same room, and the knowledge of Suki's unannounced pregnancy pressing on her heart. Even Aang had more love luck than she did; he was married to a woman named Meng, and they were also expecting.
Toph shrugged off his arm and ignored the hurt feeling that vibrated off of him. She knew he didn't understand why she was sometimes cold with him, but Suki did, and she truly didn't want to start a fight.
…Even if she would totally kick Fan Girl's butt, if it came down to that.
"Sokka, why don't you go find Aang? I'm just not in the mood right now." She winced as his hurt vibes increased. However, Sokka ignored her and started jabbering away. She sighed again, but half listened to him in spite of herself.
Eventually, she was so enthralled by his story of his latest invention that she stopped monitoring the rest of her little family. That was why, when he paused and excitement soured to suspicion, she felt a little wounded. But only a smidge.
"What is it, Sokka?"
His head had turned away from her (she could tell because she could no longer feel the faint touch of his breath on her cheek), but he didn't answer. She poked him in the side.
He growled slightly, and then she could feel it. Two stuttering, fluttery heartbeats had detached themselves from the crowd and were making their way to the center of the dance floor. Sokka grumbled under his breath, and turned to face Toph once more.
"Why, exactly, is Zuko dancing with my sister?"
She decided to play dumb and scratched the top of her head. "Well, custom is that the host initiates the dancing by performing the first one."
"I know that Toph. But why is he dancing with Katara specifically?" She smirked and began to answer, but he continued. "And why does he look like he's going to set her on fire with his eyes?!"
She burst out laughing at his ignorance. Anger became floundering bewilderment and panic; in the distance, she picked up on heat and nervousness from Zuko; from Katara, it was slight embarrassment and what she interpreted to be her friend's bodily version of oh my god I'm touching Zuko right now and he's touching me and oh my god. But it was a rough translation.
Toph focused her attention on Sokka again. "Well, I'd imagine that's how Sparky always looks at Sugar Queen."
He remained quiet for three whole heartbeats, then shrieked, "What?"
He lurched forward, but she wasn't about to let him ruin what could finally sort out all of their jumbled feelings so she didn't have to deal with them anymore; with a flick of her wrist, the marble floor of the room liquefied and hardened, trapping Sokka's feet.
He spluttered, waves of indignation rolling from his body. She only said can it in response, and twisted to face the dancing pair.
Zuko, she knew, had received dancing lessons as a child, and she had been to enough balls as his personal bodyguard to know he wasn't clumsy. Katara, on the other hand, flopped around like a platapus-bear on ice, despite her bending prowess. What Toph wasn't used to, however, was feeling Zuko be just as clumsy. He must be really nervous to be stepping on her toes this much, she realized.
The two jerked around the dance floor, no doubt apologizing whenever one of them stepped on the other's toes. Some people, Toph knew, had noticed the Fire Lord's odd behavior, but most thought nothing of it. It annoyed her to no end that after all those years, dancing around each other and their obvious feelings, Zuko and Katara failed to produce something that looked remotely like actual dancing.
When the last notes of the song faded away, the pair separated. Zuko bowed, holding Katara's hand (from her friends' hearts, Toph figured he had kissed it, like the sap she knew he secretly was). He escorted her to the edge of the dance floor, then released her into the hands of Meng, who was radiating enough eagerness for Toph to feel. Zuko continued on until he was forcibly stopped by Aang.
Vaguely, Toph heard Sokka threatening her in the background, but didn't free his legs until she felt Suki and her freaking determination coming for her husband. Iroh appeared not long after, asking for a dance.
For the rest of the night, Toph monitored both Zuko and Katara. Though they only came into contact once more, their hearts continued to beat at ridiculous paces for the rest of the night.
The next day, she called a group meeting (minus the Fire Lord, who was unfortunately stuck in a meeting with the Southern Water Tribe ambassador over a false claim of tensions between their… nations). Iroh, of course, brought tea, and so Sokka sprayed them all with a mouthful of it when Toph announced her plans. Everyone else agreed to it, overriding his complaints, and began to discuss the finer details of how to get the two together, once and for all.
Toph sat back and grinned. The blind lovebirds wouldn't know what hit 'em. And one day, Katara would totally thank her for this (she didn't), and Zuko would finally give her that promotion and raise she'd been bugging him about (he did).
I took some liberties with this one: I decided that Toph was around five when she discovered the badger moles (as I couldn't remember if the original series said anything about her age). Plus, of course, the lack of Kataang relationship, and all of those other pesky little canon things I don't like.
This has been really fun (and also difficult; it's been a while since I was required to write something daily), and I'm glad I decided to take it the way I did. Maybe next year, I'll actually center it around Zuko and Katara, but there's something absolutely addicting about not really writing the story about them. I love building the story around them- knowing inherently that they are together, or want to be together, is enough. The thrill, for me, is layering everything else on top of that fact.
Oops, sorry for being so long winded. Anyway (and for the final time): thank you for reading! Could I ask for a few reviews, now that my tales are (temporarily) finished?