"Guys, I'm telling you! I just got the best idea ever!"
The ever ecstatic voice of Sokka had to exclaim, definitely catching the attention of his friends.
Katara and Aang glanced at one another as they surfed using their Waterbending, before deciding to land back on the beach's shore. Toph tilted her head in the direction of where the Water Tribe warrior's voice had come from, also curious as to what he was so excited about. She had been working on another one of her complex 'sandcastles' utilizing her Earthbending, because for obvious reasons, she didn't much care for swimming.
Suki, who was lying down tanning in the Sun, turned to look at her boyfriend Sokka, her expression just as curious as everyone else's. She was also the first one to ask the inevitable question on everyone's minds,
"What is it, Sokka?'
"You'll see! Now come on, everyone sit right here, in a circle." Sokka grinned, leading Suki along after taking her hand. More curious than ever, she followed, wondering just where he was going with this.
Katara and Aang shrugged, before also sitting down together. When it came to Sokka, they honestly had no idea what to expect.
"Why so vague, Snoozles?" Toph tried her own hand at trying to get Sokka to elaborate, though she too turned around, taking her place in the circle.
"I'll explain in just a second. Trust me, it'll be the best thing ever!" He grinned, before looking off into the distance. "That includes you too, Zuko! Come over here!"
Zuko sighed, putting the scroll he was reading higher over his face, though he knew it was in vain. He had been trying to just keep quiet so maybe Sokka wouldn't notice and he could keep out of it.
"I'm busy…" The Fire Lord stated flatly.
"Busy? On a vacation? That you brought us on?" Sokka reminded with a grin, his arms folded. It was clear he was trying to make sure everyone had a good time. "Come onnnn! We don't get together that often like this, you know! This Ember Island vacation is the perfect time for some Team Avatar bonding!"
"You're still calling it that?" Katara cocked a brow, though also had an amused smile.
"Hey, I've said it before… It has a ring to it." Sokka openly shrugged.
Aang chuckled, certainly having missed Sokka's antics, and really… everyone. It had been a long five years of fulfilling his Avatar duties, but only recently was Katara able to convince him and everyone else to take a break so they could all catch up.
To their surprise, Zuko was very open to the idea, and suggested they could all go to Ember Island if they so chose to. It was on a private beach, so absolutely no one would bother them. But it seemed that ever since they got here, Zuko was busy reading over some kind of document or sending some kind of message back to the Fire Nation. No doubt because of his duty and obligation as Fire Lord.
"Oh come on, Zuko! Put the scroll down and come join us!" Sokka insisted.
"Yeah, Zuko…" Aang spoke now in agreement, a slight smile on his face. "I was unsure at first too, but I'm really glad to catch up with everybody… I'm having a really good time."
Katara smiled, certainly glad that this could raise Aang's spirits. Just a week ago, it seemed he had quite a lot of built up stress… Not to mention pure exhaustion. Being the Avatar was definitely not easy, especially in a world just recovering from a century long war.
And neither was being the Fire Lord, of the very nation that started said war…
"Look… just…" Zuko sighed. "I have things to do. Just do whatever it is you're doing without me. It'll be fine." He immediately goes back to reading the scroll in his hands.
Aang, Katara, Sokka and Suki all glanced amongst each other, frowns on their faces as Sokka gave a hint of a shrug. Sure, they always knew Zuko was a tough nut to crack, but they definitely didn't like the fact that they all seemed to be having fun except for him.
"Come on, Sparky!" Zuko heard the familiar voice of Toph, seemingly right next to him.
"Wha- hey!" He exclaimed, as she grabbed his arm, leading him along towards the rest of the group.
Memories began to return. Rather familiar ones.
It was 5 years ago, also at Ember Island, when she had grabbed his arm like that. And for whatever unexplainable reason, he had a notable blush on his face! Very akin to the one he had right now…
And for reasons unknown to him, he couldn't place exactly why!
Maybe it was because most girls he knew weren't this… touchy-feely around him. Or rather comfortable around him enough to do anything like that.
It was still strange to him even to this day… actually having close friends like this.
"Hey, Zuko. You alright?" Aang questioned.
"Uh, y- yeah…" The Fire Lord responded as Toph sat back down, with him just deciding to concede and follow her lead. "Why?"
"Looks like you got a sunburn or something on your face." Sokka seemed to notice it too, pointing in the general area where Zuko's cheeks were flushed.
Realizing that they had noticed his involuntary response, Zuko scowled a bit in annoyance, deciding to play defensive,
"It is not a sunburn! And there's nothing wrong with my face!"
"Okay, okay…" Sokka put his hands up. "Just wondering…"
Katara and Suki glanced at each other with a knowing smile. They both knew exactly what was going on… or at least had a pretty good idea.
Toph couldn't see his blush of course, but she did notice a shift in his heartbeat… This was also very familiar to her, as she remembered this happening to him five years ago as well. Internally, she had to wonder just why that was.
"Okay, well… you have me here, Sokka…" Zuko folded his arms. "Now what is this all about?"
"Okay, so get this…" Sokka began to build suspense, just to make things dramatic. "How about… we play…"
He paused for a couple seconds.
"Truth or dare!" He finished excitedly.
There was silence from everyone for several seconds.
"Didn't I tell ya?" Sokka grinned. "Fun, right?"
"You had me literally dragged away from my work… so that we could play truth or dare?" Zuko's eyes widened.
"Actually, that was Toph that dragged you… But yes." Sokka answered straight up.
Zuko went silent, his face having gone blank.
"I think it could be really fun!" Suki showed her support. "I was getting tired of tanning in that sun, anyways."
"See? Suki likes it!" Sokka boasted.
"Hm… Well, it's a wonder why…" Zuko sarcastically muttered, which earned a snicker from Toph.
"Right?" The Earthbender agreed.
"Well hang on! What does that mean?" Sokka questioned.
"We all know you want to play this game, so that you two can suck face…" Zuko answered bluntly. "Surely no one else here wants to-"
"I'll play!" Katara grinned, as her and Aang look at each other.
"Yeah! Me too!" The Avatar quickly hopped on board.
The Fire Lord could only slump his shoulders, before he facepalmed, looking defeated.
"Why does that not surprise me either…" Zuko sighed.
"Well, I guess I could play too. Beats making a sandcastle for the millionth time." Toph shrugged, seemingly also in agreement.
But she also wanted to test a theory…
Zuko gasped, as once again he felt Toph grab onto his shoulder.
"You're playing too, right Sparky?" She questioned him.
'Agni, no…' Zuko internally thought, as he once again blushed for all to see. To him, it was the most embarrassing thing ever. Because he couldn't help it!
Toph listened, and as expected… his heart beat greatly increased once again. This all but confirmed it for her. Every time she did that, it made him get either super excited or nervous. But why?...
Sure, she could guess why. But the thought of Zuko crushing on her? That was simply unrealistic… He was the Fire Lord of the entire Fire Nation. He wouldn't even have time for someone like her.
And yeah, maybe she did have a crush on him too once upon a time, but that was nothing more than puppy love! She was over all that now…
"Alright, fine!" Zuko yelled out, prying Toph's arm off of him before he could flush any further. "I'll play this stupid game…"
"Alright! That's the spirit!" Sokka was glad to see Zuko come out of his shell a bit… even if it did take a push to do so.
Noticing Zuko's reactions to Toph, Katara and Suki knew this was going to be a really interesting game. Not to mention for their own personal reasons…
"Though I must admit… I thought we were beyond childish games such as truth or dare. Couldn't we do something better instead?" Zuko asked.
"Like what?" Aang wondered.
"…Pai Sho?" Zuko said the first thing that came to mind.
"Pft, Pai Sho?" Sokka quickly dismissed it. "Come on! Like we haven't done that before… Don't be such a possum chicken."
"I am not a possum chicken!" Zuko declared with narrowed eyes.
"Then are we playing or what?" Sokka asked the group as a whole.
No one seemed to have any real objections.
"If we're starting, then go already." Toph said, growing impatient.
"Okay, so I'll ask the question to anyone I want in the circle, they answer truth or dare, then I'll make something up! We'll go around the circle so everyone gets a turn. Easy, right?" Sokka explained the ground rules.
"Yeah, I think so." Aang nodded.
"Go, Sokka!" Katara said.
"Right…" Taps his chin in thinking, before looking next to him. "Suki… Truth or dare?"
"Here we go…" Zuko complained.
"Dare." Suki seems to respond immediately, a grin present.
"I dare you to kiss me!" Sokka dared her excitedly.
"That's not much of a dare." She teased knowingly, as he shrugged.
"Them's the rules."
Soon, the two of them began to kiss to complete said dare.
Aang and Katara couldn't help but blush, knowing something like that was sure to happen between them soon enough.
Zuko merely sat there, a look of annoyance on his face as he sighed. That's all this game was… It was all the same to him.
Toph lightly tapped Zuko's shoulder, causing him to cock a brow and look her way. The Earthbender then made fake vomiting motions, clearly in jest of this as well.
The Fire Lord couldn't help but smirk, at least amused by that, and the fact that someone else saw it the same way.
After what seemed like an eternity, the two finally stopped kissing.
"Satisfied?" Suki teased, as Sokka looked almost in a trance.
"Uh huh…" He responded, a dumb looking grin on his face.
"Can we move on now?" Toph insisted.
"Please…" Zuko crossed his arms.
"Oh, alright…" Sokka relented, before looking to Suki. "Your turn."
"Hm…" Suki tapped her chin, before her gaze shifted to Toph. "Toph, truth or dare?"
"Aww…" Sokka whined, a bit disappointed.
"Oh… Uhm…" The Earthbender was a bit surprised she was chosen. "Truth, I guess."
"Out of the three boys here, who do you think is the hottest?" She asked with a smirk.
"What?" Toph's cloudy eyes widened, a small blush forming on her face now.
Sokka seemed to yelp out in surprise of Suki's question, Aang was silently amused, and meanwhile Zuko for whatever reason couldn't help but flush up again as well.
It was just a stupid game… Why was he so curious as to what the answer would be?
"H- How am I supposed to know!?" Toph tried to make excuses. "I'm blind! It's not like I know what they look like."
"True, but you still formed connections with them." Suki shrugged.
"Yeah, and you did say it yourself, Toph. Back in Ba Sing Se." Katara reminded. "Because of your blindness, you don't need to worry too much about looks. It's all about your connection and their personality."
"Okay, let me rephrase…" Suki said. "Who do you find the hottest, not related to looks? There. Better?"
"Ugh… do I have to answer?" Toph groaned.
"No…" Katara sighed. "If it truly does bother you that much, then I suppose not."
"Unless you're a possum chicken!" Sokka quickly cut the Earthbender off.
Sokka suddenly found the Earth beneath him shoot up, as he was launched several feet away.
"Aghhh!" Sokka screamed, before crashing into some sand nearby.
"Fine, y'know what? Snoozles is right." Toph shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm not afraid of some dumb question, so I'll answer."
Katara and Suki glanced at the other, before the latter questioned again,
Toph's cheeks flushed red, before she simply decided to answer,
"What?" Zuko's eyes widened, as Suki and Katara exchanged knowing glances.
Aang appeared a bit shocked, but also quite amused by this declaration.
"Oh, come on. Really?" Sokka feigned offense, as he returned to the circle. "We all know I have the best personality."
Zuko's heartbeat was in overdrive now. Toph… really thought that about him?
"Yeah… Heh." Toph forced an embarrassed chuckle, trying to find a way to backpedal. "Y- You know… because Sparky's a Firebender! Doesn't that automatically make him the hottest?"
Everyone seemed to shrug.
"Eh, true." Suki conceded.
"Hey, I'm technically a Firebender too, though-" Aang tried to remark, before Toph cut him off.
"Can we just move on to the next person? Please and thank you…"
"Fine, fine…" Sokka sighed, before looking to Katara. "Sister, I do believe it is your turn." He referred to her in jest.
"Thank you, brother…" She returned the gesture, before looking to Zuko. "Zuko, truth or dare?"
"You're kidding me, right? Why me?" Zuko made his annoyance known, still blushing from the last question.
"Yeah, Katara… Why him?" Aang frowned, expecting Katara to choose him instead.
"Don't worry, Aang. Your turn is next." Katara reminded with a smile, before she asked the Firebender again, "Truth or dare, Zuko?"
"Ugh… Fine." Zuko relented, knowing they would keep asking regardless. "Dare."
Gaining a mischievous grin on her face, the Waterbender dared,
"I dare you to kiss Toph."
"WHAT!?" The Fire Lord and Earthbender exclaimed simultaneously.
"Oh come on…" Katara grinned. "It's not that bad, is it?"
"Yeah, it's just a kiss." Suki shrugged.
"I'm not doing that!" Zuko protested.
"Yeah, no way!" Toph blushed right along with him.
"Is Zuko even capable of kissing anyone?" Sokka wondered aloud.
"What a ridiculous question! Of course I am!" Zuko defended.
"So prove it!" Suki stoked the fire, really wanting these two to realize their feelings, which from an outside perspective, was pretty obvious by now.
Toph tilted her head in Zuko's direction, internally wondering to herself just how he would respond. If she was being honest with herself, she was kind of… hoping he would do it.
It seemed those feelings she felt on Ember Island just before Sozin's Comet came were now beginning to resurface after all.
Zuko was about to protest further, before he soon caught a glimpse of the Earthbender. It would be a lie to say he didn't find her attractive… at least a little bit. She had grown into quite a stunning woman, her Earthbending and Metalbending more refined than it had ever been.
Could there have been a sense of… longing in her expression.
'No… That's ridiculous.' He mentally came to the conclusion.
But still… she didn't seem that vocally opposed to it. Would everyone really judge him if they-
"Look, Zuko. I'm sorry." Katara apologized, taking into account what discomfort might be there. "If you don't want to do that, then I won't make you-"
"No!" Zuko exclaimed, which surprised everyone.
"I mean…" The Fire Lord began to backpedal. "I'm not afraid of some ridiculous dare. Suki was right. It's just a kiss."
Suki and Katara then beamed in excitement, as Toph's cheeks somehow went even redder. Though that one was a two-way street…
Even Aang by this point was taken aback by Zuko's response, internally wondering if he would actually go through with it. Sokka merely sat there, not caring all that much. He was just worried about getting to his next turn.
Looking into Toph's cloudy eyes, and Toph glancing in Zuko's general direction, the two both instinctively began to lean forward, closing the distance slowly. Their eyes closed, and after much anticipation from themselves and the others, their lips met.
"Woo!" Katara cheered, happy for them.
"Go, Zuko! Go, Toph!" Suki teased.
Zuko's eyes suddenly widened, as the adrenaline and hormones began to calm down, and like that… he quickly pulled away.
Toph's eyes slowly opened back up as she sat there in total silence, stunned by what had just occurred. All she knew was whatever had just happened… she liked it a lot.
Zuko returned to his defensive and embarrassed demeanor, saying,
"Okay, there's your kiss! Now can we move on?"
"Sounds good to me." Katara smiled, satisfied.
"Yep." Suki noticed Toph's starstruck face, which she had to find amusing.
"Ugh, finally…" Sokka stretched, before grinning. "Your turn, 'Avatar Aang'!"
Aang grinned, before glancing at Katara. But… if he was being honest, his curiosity began to grow concerning Zuko and Toph as well. He knew he could share his love with Katara any time, but he just had to know…
"Zuko, truth or dare?" Aang asked his Firebending teacher.
"What!? Me again? What is it with everyone and coming after me?" Zuko complained, fed up at this point.
"It won't be bad, Zuko. Promise." Aang grinned softly.
Zuko's face softened up a bit, his fists loosening up as he sighed.
"Fine… Truth." The Fire Lord gave his answer, learning from last time.
"How do you feel about Toph?... Do you like her?" The Avatar gave his question.
"Seriously, Twinkletoes? You too?" Toph's eyes widened again.
"I thought you said it wouldn't be that bad!" Zuko growled, with Aang responding with a meek shrug.
"I didn't think it was…" He honestly replied.
"Well, do you Zuko?" Katara butted in.
"Yeah, do you?" Suki added on.
"Does it really matter!?" Zuko defensively retorted.
"Yeah, to me it does." Sokka answered straight away. "You know… so I can get back to my turn."
"Sokka…" Katara scolded, rolling her eyes in annoyance.
"You do like her, don't you?" Aang grinned, trying to gauge a response.
"Ughh, no!" Zuko denied, standing up to his feet. "I'm over this game… I'll be back at the beach house if you have need of me."
"Zuko, wait!" Aang called out, but it was in vain. "Hm… Think I went a little too far?" He questioned.
"A bit, yes. But it'll be okay… once he's had some space." Katara reassured, before her gaze shifted to Toph, whose head seemed to be tilted towards where the Fire Lord's footsteps retreated. "Oh, and… sorry by the way, Toph… We didn't mean for things to get too personal."
"Yeah." Suki agreed. "Maybe it wasn't the best idea in the world."
"No, no. Hold on… I still believe it's my turn." Toph surprised them with a smirk.
They glanced amongst each other, before they smiled.
"Okay… Go for it." Katara said.
"Snoozles, truth or dare?" Toph asked.
"Ooh! Dare! Definitely dare!" Sokka excitedly declared.
"I dare you to jump in the Ocean…" Toph dared bluntly. "For coming up with this ridiculous idea."
Sokka's smile faded, and his shoulders slumped.
"Is it too late to say 'truth'?" Sokka softly questioned.
"The rules are the rules, Sokka." Suki smirked, as he got up with a sigh.
"Fine…" Sokka said, throwing off his shirt and running towards the water.
"So…" Aang began, as a sudden splash was heard. "I have to wonder, Toph… Was Zuko lying? You know… when he said that?"
Toph's cheeks lit up, before she glanced back at where Zuko had left.
She remembered how his heartbeat shifted again… How great the kiss was…
And just what exactly the truth was when he denied Aang's question.
"Yeah…" Toph admitted, butterflies in her stomach. "He was…"