I started work on this back when season one was still airing, and it was sitting unfinished on my computer until I showed the scraps to Amira Elizabeth several weeks ago. She asked me to finish what I had, and so here it is! Since by then the series was long finished, I was able to put in a bit more for the show as a whole rather than the one book and, though the piece is quite short, I am very pleased with it and proud of how it came out.
Set during Book 1 of Legend of Korra, with spoilers for "Turning the Tides".
They had been traveling together for a few months by the time they found the little Earth Kingdom town rather far from Ba Sing Se. It was one they'd never been to in all their years of traveling, and both were delighted to finally take seats in the tiny restaurant and order food that was a far cry from cooking over a campfire like the old days - noodles for Toph, and flavorful steamed dumplings for Zuko. Not that either would complain about their lives now, really. Especially since they were traipsing across the world with one another without a care, not like before, on the run with Aang during the reign of Zuko's father.
Toph slurped up a mouthful of food before grinning widely. "I still can't believe that kid from the last village didn't recognize you. Man, Sparky, you are getting old! Old and wrinkled."
"He was barely a teenager," Zuko mumbled in way of an excuse, ignoring her barbs at his aging looks she was unable to see. "And besides," he added with a quick glance around the restaurant's current patrons, all of whom were not paying them any attention whatsoever. "I don't think anyone here knows us, either."
Toph frowned and set down her bowl. "What's the point of being the greatest Earthbender in the world if no one knows who I am anymore? Oh, and you, too, I guess, the silly old Fire Lord." She prodded her food with a chopstick. "I miss the hero worship."
"You mean you miss people trying to challenge you, so you can put them back in their place."
"Bah." She gave him a dismissive wave of her hand, turning her head away and closing her sightless eyes. Somewhere behind them in the kitchen, a radio crackled on, the person who owned it tuning through the static to find the station they wanted. "I have no idea what you are talking about. Making up stories about me. Really, Sparky -"
The radio settled in on its station, stopping Toph short when it broke through her concentration.
"- worsening in Republic City! We want to repeat here that we've just received the devastating news directly from Amon himself that our ex-Chief of Police and current leader of the resistance beside the Avatar, Lin Beifong, has been overtaken by him and her bending stolen! Her whereabouts are currently unknown! Other sources tell us she was captured while protecting Tenzin and his Airbending family as they made their daring escape from the city, giving her life for theirs! We are still waiting on word for the location of the Avatar!"
Toph's voice was hardly even a whisper, scratching out of her throat.
Zuko watched her, horrified as the news sunk in. "Toph..." He reached across the table toward her, wanting to give some kind of comfort, not knowing how he would react if he were in her place and this were her daughter, but suddenly she stood, her hands flat against the tabletop as she leaned heavily against it.
"That's my daughter." Despite the soft words, a few people glanced over in her direction, drawn by the fury in them. All Toph could feel then was that fury, pure anger and a deep sadness radiating throughout her body. In a breathless instant, her feet shifted a fraction. "That's my daughter!"
Shouts erupted from behind them when, with her own wrathful yell, she brought down the back wall of the building without a thought, opening it to the cloudy night sky. People ran past them in a panic. She felt Zuko rush around her, directing everyone outside without even trying to calm her, and she drew her foot back, pulling the left side of the floor forward so far that a crack tore upward enough to shift the restaurant a foot on that side. She didn't care. All she could think about was Lin.
She wasn't angry at Lin for getting herself into that situation. At least, she didn't think she was. She knew she'd have done the same for Aang, or for Zuko or Sokka. Probably for Katara. She couldn't be angry at her for protecting her friends when the time came - and that time had definitely come, if those news reports were correct, if all the rumors she had heard over the last few days were anywhere near as true as she believed. Toph had taught her everything she possibly could. Lin was her prodigy. To have that stripped away...
For her daughter to be left like that, her daughter -
Toph cried out, flinging her arms wide.
The other side of the building blew outward with the force of her bending, and suddenly Zuko was there again, behind her, his hands gentle on her shoulders as he very quietly murmured to her to take a breath, to center herself, find herself.
She focused on him around the last memory she had of her daughter, still in her twenties, and her arms dropped heavily at her sides as she panted through her furious anger. After several long moments, she jerked away from him and stalked out of the ruins of the restaurant, her feet easily stepping around chunks of rocky debris and wooden remains of tables or chairs.
"Where are you going?" Zuko called after her, remaining behind in the devastation she had wrought with her pain.
It was the only answer he would receive, sharp and bitter as it was, and, knowing their journey together had come to an end, he turned away and began to soothe the frightened people left behind.