A/N: Fic #3 for the Purimgifts event.
Life Without Choice isn't Life at All
There had been many things missing from Toph's childhood. Freedom, that was the obvious one. From the way her mother constantly hissed at her not to do that or the way that they assumed she was a fragile, delicate thing that shouldn't, couldn't, wouldn't do anything more difficult than sit around and be attended to, Toph wasn't given an inch of freedom.
She might have been able to stomach the lack of independence if she had someone else to draw her parents' attention. Or even her own. The Beifong family had chosen not to have any other children once they realized their firstborn was blind. Their fear at having a second child with the same tragic malady - her parent's words, not Toph's - deprived Toph of any other siblings.
For a while when she had first started learning from the family's tutor, Toph had been in a small group of other well-to-do Earth Kingdom children. And then it became too difficult or too public for Toph's parents to send her there, so even that small chance to interact with others of her own age was taken away.
She hadn't been given the opportunity to know what it was like to have an annoying, pushy brother or a kind-hearted sister who would do anything to support her. No, Toph got the short end of every stick. Until she took matters into her own hands and ran off to forge her own path.
Running away had been the easiest thing that Toph had ever decided, maybe because it was the first thing that she actually got to decide on her own.
When she'd stumbled into the Avatar's rag-tag crew, it took her a while to realize that they were exactly what she had been looking for in her life. It clicked one at a time, one person at a time.
Sokka had that protective, albeit fumbling proclivity that was cute. Never mind the fact that Toph was one of the most powerful Earthbenders in the world, the fact that Sokka was always there with a ready hand to help never failed to reassure her.
His sister loved just as fiercely as he did, though in her own slightly maternal flavor. There were times where Katara's tone hit a little too close to Toph's own mother's, but she made up for it in spades with each time that the girl paused to just listen and acknowledge Toph's feelings. That was never in her mother's skillset.
Of course the loveable, bubbly Avatar was the easiest to like. Yet it was through teaching and watching over his journey to Earthbending mastery that Toph had a connection that she would never have gotten from home. She couldn't have felt that kind of pride for anyone in her family's sheltered little home.
Once she realized just what she had, Toph made the decision never to lose it. She didn't hope. She didn't have to. It was her call to make, her choice to stand by. Running away from home had instead brought her the best family a girl could hope for.