After finishing the paperwork that had taken him the rest of the day, Zuko found himself wondering aimlessly through the corridors of the palace. The chambers for Toph had been prepared, and he had assumed Cho was still with her so he had, had the chamber next to Toph's prepared as well.
He eventually found himself standing on one of the balcony's that overlooked the city beneath him, his arms resting on the cool marble railings as he stared at the moon. He didn't really have a lot on his mind, but he wasn't paying much attention to what he was doing either. He tore his gaze away from the moon and looked down at the city, hundreds of small gleaming lights shining brightly in the darkness beneath him, as everyone was getting ready for the upcoming festival, it reminded him of when he lived with his uncle in Ba-Sing-Se all those years ago. His uncle had decided to live in Ba-Sing-Se rather than coming back to live in the Fire Nation, and he had expanded his tea shop to twice it's original size.
Zuko sighed, he hadn't seen his uncle for a while but at least he knew he was happy with his life, maybe Toph saw him on a day to day basis since they were great friends. He'd ask her when she arrived. He smiled again excited about Toph's arrival, before turning his back to the city and heading back inside to return to his chambers.
Toph lay on the bed that had been made for her wide-awake. It had gone midnight and she hadn't gotten a wink of sleep, having to run to the bathroom every ten minutes thinking that she was going to throw up. The weather had picked up, and the waves had become a lot rougher causing the ship to rock a little violently, which wasn't helping Toph's current condition in the least.
She leapt off the bed again and rushed to the bathroom, her hand covering her mouth, veering off to the sides a little as the ship rocked with the waves. She placed her hands either side of the sink and leant heavily over it. This time though she was sick as she hunched over, throwing up. She didn't have enough strength to make her way back too her bedroom, and thought it would be pointless anyway since she would probably end up back where she was currently, so she spent the remainder of the night sitting against the cold metallic sink, finally drifting of once the weather had calmed down.
The sun began to rise casting a subtle light on the small waves of the crystal blue ocean, and shining through the windows of the helm of the ship, glinting faintly off the many metal and shiny objects. The ship moved through the water swiftly, it's bow cutting through the water like a sharp knife slicing through butter.
A knock sounded at the door to the quarters Toph was in, when the knock didn't get an answer the door squeaked open and Cho walked through, quietly shutting the door behind her. She glanced around the room until her gaze cam to rest upon the empty bed, with covers that looked like they'd hardly been touched.
'Hmm she must already be up' Cho thought,
'Although, it's unlike her lady to be up at such and early hour, she's not a morning person.' Cho dismissed her thoughts and carefully laid the fresh clean clothes she had bought for Toph, neatly on the chair in front of the dresser in a folded pile. She turned and opened the door to go and see if Toph was training up on deck, or had gotten up because she was hungry and wanted breakfast, (which would be the more likely reason, Toph only trained in the afternoons since she'd be busy helping sort out Earth kingdom matters in the morning). That was until she heard a groan come from the direction of the bathroom.
Cho shut the door and walked towards the bathroom, she craned her head around the doorframe once she was there, only to be greeted with the sight of a pale faced Toph, with her back slumped against the base of the sink. She had noticeable, large dark circles under her half closed eyes, which were also partially covered from her matted bangs which clung to her forehead due to the sheen of sweat that covered her face, and the sleeves of her emerald green silk dress she wore as one of her many pieces of clothing she used for pajamas, were stained with small amounts of vomit.
Another groan escaped her dry lips as she hunched forwards, her hands clasped around her stomach. Toph knew that Cho was stood in the doorway, but she couldn't be bothered to let her know that she acknowledged her presence,
"My lady!" Cho finally cried out once she had pulled herself together. She quickly rushed to Toph's side, grabbing the nearest towel and running it under the cold water, then proceeding to dab it across Toph's sweaty forehead, gently brushing her matted bangs aside.
"Cho, stop fussing I'm fine," Toph muttered, pushing Cho's hand away. Cho sighed but went back to dabbing her forehead. She rung the towel out and put more cold water on it, by which time Toph had decided to stand up, supporting herself on some metal ridges she had bent into the wall.
"M'lady, you need to rest," Cho said as she tried to push Toph gently back down,
"Cho, I said I'm fine would you just leave me be, and how many times have I told you to call me Toph, Seriously," Toph groaned, some of her words getting slightly mashed together. Toph wavered slightly and Cho managed to catch her before she fell to the cream and black tiled floor,
"Fine are we?" Cho muttered as she gently lowered Toph onto the floor. She then hurried into the bedroom and came back with a couple of pillows and some blankets from the bed that Toph hadn't slept in.
"Don't move," She told Toph as she propped her head up with the pillows, and laid the blankets over her,
"I'm going to see if there's a Doctor on the ship, I'm sure it won't take long," Toph was about to protest, but Cho had already got up and gone out of the room. She came back fifteen minutes later with a short plump man in green robes. He had pure white hair tied neatly back in a topknot, with a long white beard to match, and gold rimmed half moon spectacles. He followed Cho into the bathroom then knelt beside Toph, his knees cracking slightly as he did.
"Toph can you hear me?" He asked, his voice full of wisdom, as he looked at Toph's pasty face, her eyes closed.
"Mmm," Toph sighed in response.
"Good," He said. The man placed his palm on top of Toph's forehead to check her temperature, then he pressed to fingers to the inside of her wrist to check her pulse,
"Has she thrown up or anything like that?" He asked, checking Toph's temperature again, getting a frown from Toph in response, as she really didn't want people to fuss over her, even if she was sick. Cho shrugged,
"I don't know, I only found her like this, this morning except she was leaning against the sink," She had forgotten about the vomit that was on Toph's sleeves, but the blankets Cho had put over Toph covered them. Toph nodded her head once to answer the mans question,
"Has she had anything to eat or drink since you've been with her?" He asked,
"No," Cho replied bluntly. The man sighed then pushed himself up off the floor, his knees giving two little cracks again. He moved his hand round to the base of his spine and leant back a little, causing his back to pop a few times.
"Old age really takes its toll," He chuckled before carrying on,
"Anyway, well the weather was pretty harsh last night, so her sickness could be dues to that, or she might've eaten something at dinner last night that didn't agree with her too well, and her body is trying it's best to get rid of the substance," He explained. Cho nodded understanding, then looked down to Toph,
"So what should I do?" She asked looking back up to the old man,
"Well a nice long hot bath should relax her, she needs to drink a lot of fluid, maybe try and eat something, and then she needs to rest," He advised her.
"We'll be arriving at the Fire Nation later on this afternoon," Cho said,
"Plenty of time then," The Dr. said with a kind smile. Cho smiled back and thanked him with a bow, as he gave a bow to Toph with a 'Get well soon Lady Toph' before leaving. Once he left, Cho walked over to the generously sized bathtub and started running the hot water. She then turned back to Toph who was now sat up stretching, a small amount of colour returning to her cheeks as she stood. Cho helped her undress; casting her silk robe to the floor, then helped her get into the steaming hot bath.
Zuko was outside going through his Firebending forms, his shirt discarded at the side of the courtyard he was on, on one of the stone benches that were situated on the sides of the square of earth. He had, had this made shortly after he had become Firelord, and had many cherry blossom trees planted in the area, it was a good place for him to train, and also it was somewhere he could relax when he wanted to, listening to the birds that nested in the blossom trees. He had also discarded he shoes, which where also by his shirt, leaving him clad in only his lose black pants, showing just how toned his arms and torso were. His hair was still the same as it had been when he had helped to end the war, and he hadn't wanted to grow a beard like the Firelords before him, he thought them to old fashioned, but most of all he didn't want to look like his father.
Zuko was too busy with his Firebending to notice that most of the female servants were stood in various places, some on the balcony's of the palace that surrounded the courtyard he was in, others peering out from doorways on the ground floor, or hiding behind some of the blossom trees, watching him. Even if Zuko did notice that they were watching him, he wouldn't have really cared.
He finished, breathing heavily outwards and lowering his hands in front of him. A petite girl with long black hair neatly braided and waist length was immediately by his side with a towel and an ice-cold glass of watermelon juice, his favourite refreshment after a hard morning of training and working out. He thanked her whilst taking both items with a charming smile, before gulping down the juice then wiping the sweat from his brow. He lowered the towel from his face allowing himself to see, and quickly noticed the female servants gathered around watching him from their various places. He grinned to himself and then cleared his throat, pretending that he hadn't noticed them, giving his hair a quick ruffle, before he spoke,
"If you'll please excuse me ladies, even though I'm quite fond of you watching me, I must be going seen as I have a lot of work to do before our guest arrives, but please, I'll be happy to have you come and watch me any time you want," He watched as almost every single one of the girls blushed with embarrassment at having been caught, their cheeks flushing a variety of shades of red and pinks, before they quickly scurried off back to their duties.
Truth be told, this was the first time that Zuko had ever noticed the women and girls watching him, even though it happened everyday. He chuckled to himself before handing the towel and glass back to the petite girl, who was patiently waiting next to him, with another thanks and a warm smile. She bowed with a blush and a smile of her own before turning and leaving Zuko by himself.
He watched her walk away into the palace before he went over to the stone bench where his shoes and shirt were situated and sat down, breathing in the fresh air and reveling in the sweet scent of the blossom around him. He closed his eyes as a gust of cool refreshing air blew through the courtyard, causing the fallen blossom petals to dance round his bare feet. He enjoyed the breeze as it gently swept through his ebony hair, stray stands of it dancing in the wind, then he sighed and opened his eyes. How he wished he could spend time like this more often. Zuko looked down at his shirt beside him, ruffled his hair again then picked it up and slipped it on over his head. He had made sure he had gotten the one with no sleeves and a low cut neck, which exposed the muscles on his chest, so that he wouldn't get hot. He then stood up and picked up his boots, he couldn't be bothered with the hassle of putting them on, and then made his way back into the palace.
He didn't actually have any work to do since he had completed all of it the night before, so that he wouldn't have any to do when Toph arrived. He wondered towards the kitchen, wondering what would be on the menu for breakfast. He walked down one of the corridors pausing at the end to look at the painting that was hung on the wall before him. It was a painting of his family, when he was young and they were actually what he thought to be happy. He looked at his mother's face saddened at not having found any trace of where she could be, then he looked to the faces of his sister and father and shuddered.
"Your highness, are you alright?" A female voice asked quietly from behind him. Zuko turned around to see the same girl that had bought him the stack load of paper and letter from Toph the day before, this time though instead of paper she was carrying a pile of towels in one hand and under her other arm she held a rather heavy looking basket. Zuko saw she was struggling to carry them both and took the basket off her holding it up with ease,
"Yeah, I'm fine, I'll take this for you, you seemed to be struggling a little," He smiled at her, when she nodded in agreement before thanking him,
"Oh and by the way, would you please find someone to take this picture down, I don't want to keep being reminded of my past," He said, just as she was about to walk away to carry on with what she was doing. She looked at Zuko as he absentmindedly put his fingers on his free hand onto the scar that covered his left eye. Even though Katara had done as much as she could to heal it, it was still there even though it was considerably better then it was. She nodded and bowed before leaving to find someone. Zuko sighed at the memories of his past then shook his head, trying to shake the memories away, before making his way towards the kitchen again.
He walked through the double doors that led into the large kitchen, placing the basket on one of the counters, listening to the many servants and chef's that were bustling around and calling to one another. He grabbed an apron, which was hung on a row of hooks on the wall beside the doors and tied the straps around his neck and waist.
It was thought uncivilized for a member of the royal family, especially the Firelord to be seen doing servants chores, but Zuko couldn't really care less. When he has nothing to do he liked to help out and he liked to do so, because it made him feel like a normal person again, someone without a title and a status, just plain old normal Zuko.
He walked over to what appeared to be soup, it smelt delicious. He peered into the pot, and could detect faint hints of tomato and basil, before picking up a spoon and giving it a stir.
"Good morning your highness," A husky voice called out from behind him. Zuko jumped at the sudden greeting, catching his elbow on the pot of soup causing most of it to spill down the front of his apron,
"Morning chef," He called back as he clumsily tried to put the pot back onto the stove it had been sat on. He knew it was the chef since he had gotten used to the husky voice that he had, and because he liked helping out in the kitchen, so he did whenever he got the chance. Zuko turned round to face him, shaking his soup-covered hands to try and get it off, but ended up wiping them on his already stained apron. It was a little difficult for him to try and find a clean spot for him to wipe them on.
The chef was a jolly man with rosy red cheeks, it contrasted with his voice quite heavily but it was something Zuko was used too. He was quite plump and just the slightest bit smaller than Zuko was, and he held a steaming hot batch of fresh Fire Flakes. Zuko's stomach grumbled, he hadn't eaten yet, and he didn't realize he was so hungry,
"Mind if I have some of those?" He asked, eyeing up the steaming flakes in front of him,
"Of course not, the Firelord needn't ask," The chef replied cheerily. Zuko smiled slightly and muttered under his breath,
'The Firelord needn't ask, I wish everyone would just call me Zuko, and not by my title.' He walked over towards the chef and took a big handful of the flakes,
"Careful, they're hot," The chef warned when Zuko quickly picked up a nearby empty bowl and put the flakes in it, after burning his hand.
"Thanks for the warning," Zuko replied,
"Not at all," The chef chuckled, putting the tray of fire flakes on the surface beside him grinning. Zuko looked around the kitchen, putting his hand into the bowl that he was holding in his left hand, and grabbing a few flakes first before popping them into his mouth after making sure they were cool enough to eat. He chewed them enjoying the contrast of the sweet and subtle chili taste before swallowing,
"So chef, what d'you want me to do?" The chef hesitated for a brief second, then smiled at Zuko,
"I know how much you like helping out in the kitchen your highness, and it's kind of you to offer, but everything is pretty much done already," He replied, nodding over to the servant who was just finishing washing up the last few of the pots and pans.
"Oh," Was all Zuko replied with. The chef smiled at him again, and put his hand on Zuko's shoulder,
"Don't worry your highness, I'm sure there will be another time, but for now, don't you think you should be preparing yourself for when Lady Toph arrives?" He asked, nodding to Zuko's soup stained apron and hands. Zuko looked down at himself then sighed and nodded. He popped a few more flakes into his mouth before putting the bowl down, then taking off his apron. He smiled slightly at the chef as he put the apron in his outstretched hand then walked out, only to come immediately back in and grab the bowl of flakes, before shoving some more in his mouth and leaving again with the bowl and the jolly chef chuckling after him.
Toph was feeling considerably better after her bath, and after she had rested for a while like the Dr, had advised. She was stood on the deck of the ship, breathing in the fresh air as they neared the Fire Nation capital. She hadn't wanted to eat anything but she had been drinking, so she wasn't quite up to full strength yet so Cho was with her supporting her.
The boat slowed as they pulled into the docks, before stopping with a small jolt, just a couple of inches away from the front of the dock. The crew immediately got to work, securing the ship and putting the ramp in place for them to get down onto the wooden piers of the docks. Cho looked over the side of the ship over the railings and sighed. Toph wasn't going to like that in the slightest. Toph noted Cho's sigh,
"You alright?" She asked her, Cho nodded,
"Yes M'lady," She replied. Toph rolled her eyes and blew a few stray strands of hair out the way of her face as they swayed in front of it with the wind,
"Seriously Cho, how many more times do I need to tell you, just call me Toph," She huffed, Cho didn't answer but just nodded instead then helped support Toph off the ship, down the ramp and onto the wooden planks before going off to help unload the luggage. Toph groaned,
"God I hate wood!" She sighed in frustration, then swayed a bit as a wave of nausea and dizziness swept over her, and heard the quickening pace of footsteps across the wooden planks coming towards her,
'Oh shit' She thought to herself as she felt herself falling sideways. She had no earth or metal to soften her impact, so she waited for the cold hard wood to come in contact with her, the wave of pain it would surely bring and how she would ignore it as best she could, but instead she felt a strong pair of muscular arms wrap gently around her waist. One arm then moved so it was directly behind her knees, and the other arm moved to support her back. Seconds after this she realized she was being carried, not that she wasn't grateful, but she really didn't like it,
"Hey! Put me down I don't need to be carried!" She protested, a few of her words getting mashed together again as she struggled weakly due to her sudden lack of strength, and the fact that the arms holding her were like iron bars.
"Ah, now you see, the Toph that I know would've had me flat on my back by now," The person carrying her said. Toph recognized the voice immediately, even if she hadn't seen them in a while,
"S-Sparky?" She questioned just to be sure, her voice not sounding as loud as she had liked it to of been. He chuckled,
"Well this certainly wasn't the arrival that I'd been expecting Lady Toph," He answered her jokily as he began to walk down the pier towards land, keeping her held in his arms,
"You're not the only one matches," She replied as he carefully sat her down on the ground which she immediately dug her hands and fingers into, and began molding shapes of it in her hand,
"I can't believe how much I miss earth," She sighed, happy to be back on it. Zuko just chuckled as he watched her. She breathed in the fresh air to help clear her head, and it helped tremendously, then she gave the earth a quick hit with the heel of her foot, bending it up underneath her until she was stood back upright on her feet. She then proceeded to dust the light coating of earth she had acquired when she had gotten up, delicately off of herself.
Toph had changed a lot since Zuko had last seen her, her figure had become more womanly and curved, she had grown and slimmed out quite a bit, and she had boobs, even though they weren't very big but Zuko didn't mind. Her impeccable figure was shown off by her beautiful floor length, silk green dress, her sleeves and bodice of the dress were intricately patterned in silk gold thread, and so was the hem. It had been tailored to fit her, the fabric flowing down her body like water, hugging the slender curves of her waist. Zuko was speechless,
"Hey Sparky, something wrong?" Toph asked after noticing how quiet Zuko had become. Zuko just couldn't help but stare at her, a few stray strands of her ebony hair, that had become lose from the complicated way Cho had tied her hair back in, blew harmlessly across her face, her sightless eyes framed with long think black eyelashes, having no need for additional makeup, her cheeks had a light rosy glow to them and primrose lips had a slight smirk on them,
"Y-Yeah," He stammered coming back to reality.
"Then what you stammering for?" She grinned and punched him in the arm, Zuko was glad the old Toph was still there, but by god could she pack one hell of a punch. He rubbed his surely bruised arm, smirking,
'So…shall we be off?" She asked going over to Cho to help with the luggage. Zuko waved his hand to some of the guards that had accompanied him to greet them, as a gesture for them to get the luggage, and they hurriedly moved to Cho and Toph as Toph began staggering again. Zuko quickly moved to her and steadied her gently,
"Perhaps it would be best if you got a bit of rest first, I think you need it," Zuko suggested to Toph. She could feel the gentle warmth that radiated from Zuko as he supported her, it felt weird but in good way, which she found quite … nice,
"Yeah, maybe that's a good idea," She agreed, her voice not as powerful a it had been just a moment before as she swayed again. A good sleep in a proper bed in something that wasn't sailing (Or flying) seemed like a very good idea to Toph. Zuko picked her up again gently, Toph frowned at the sudden gesture,
"Sparky, you know I do have two perfectly good feet of my own, I can walk," She said, wiggling her feet to emphasize her point. Zuko just shrugged and proceeded to carry her over to the palenkeys that were waiting for them. Toph folded her arms and huffed, blowing the stray bangs out the way of her eyes again. Zuko looked down at her, her lips pouted slightly and her eyebrows furrowed over her pale green eyes. Toph felt his heartbeat stutter slightly before picking up a normal rhythm again, since she was held against his chest, but she decided to ignore it.
When he reached the palenkeys he carefully placed Toph on the soft velvety red cushions and fabric, behind the gossamer white curtains, before turning to Cho who had been following behind. She bowed to him respectfully as he held the curtain back for her, so that she could get in with Toph.
Once she was sat comfortably next to Toph he let the curtain fall with a warm smile and a 'See you in a minute,' before he went and got into his.
A sudden wave of exhaustion passed over Toph as she relaxed into the lush soft fabrics, and before she knew it she was fast asleep, dreaming deeply as they made their way to the palace.
. Didn't actually realise it had taken me this long to update D: Sorry about that, anyway here's the second chapter, finally hope you like it ^^.
Advance warning: It might take a while for the next update since i draft out the chapter first in writing before typing it up, and i'm also getting things ready for uni D:, but i'll try and take as little time as possible for the next update ^^
Note, I don't own avatar.