After finding her Cho had taken Toph back to her chambers where she was delicately brushing Toph's hair as she sat in front of the vanity. Toph hadn't said a word as she was too busy wrapped up in her thoughts, so Cho had thought it best to leave her to it for the time being.
'You're extremely beautiful and I think I'm in love with you!'
Zuko's words kept swirling around in her head like a tornado. How long had he had these feelings for her? What was she supposed to say to him now after she walked off? Why did she feel so comfortable when he kissed her? So many different questions were buzzing around, she was so confused. She didn't know how she felt about Zuko, sure she liked him more than a friend, even though she wouldn't admit it to anyone, but did she really love him like he said he loved her? She'd never though of them as being anything but friends.
"M'lady?" Cho questioned hesitantly,
"Are you okay? You're very distant tonight," She said,
"Yeah, I'm fine Cho don't worry, just thinking that's all," She replied, her voice trailing off a little at the end before she changed the subject,
"How is my hair styled tonight? In another complicated fashion that you seem to enjoy doing with my hair?" She asked smirking; moving her hands to the vanity in front of her and fiddling with some of the objects on it that were closest to her. Cho shook her head,
"Actually M'lady I've only tied a few of the front pieces back, the rest I've just left loose," She said,
"That's unlike you Cho, you almost always tie my hair back complicated," She replied, moving her hands up to her hair to feel it.
"I just thought that it might be nice for a change tonight that's all," Chi said smiling as she watched Toph feel her hair, gently running her fingers along the two plaits that lead from the front sides of her head to meet in the centre at the back of it. It reminded her of when Katara had her hair loopies, she knew this because she wanted to know what they were whenever Sokka or someone else from the group had made a reference to them, so Katara had let her feel them once to know what everyone was on about.
Toph ran her hands all the way to the flower that helped keep the plaits in place; it was a beautiful, vibrant red fire Lily. Cho then walked over to the bed where she had laid out the dress for Toph that she had bought earlier that day, as Toph stood up and stretched before walking to stand next to Cho.
"And what am I going to be wearing tonight?" Toph asked, stretching a little again then casually cracking her knuckles, a small habit that she had developed,
"Firelord Zuko gave me some money to go into the city and buy a dress for you and also one for me, oh that reminds me, he wanted me to tell you that he was sorry and that he would apologise to you tonight, but I assumed he had already done that when I found you," Cho said as she helped Toph take off her dress,
'Sorry? What for? This afternoon most likely….' Toph thought, again getting lost in her thoughts as Cho proceeded to put the dress she had bought on Toph, before moving to lace up the back of the bodice. After about half an hour of getting Toph ready, making sure that she looked presentable, Cho stepped back a couple of paces from Toph to look at her.
The dress that she had bought for Toph was floor length, like pretty much all of her dresses were apart from a small selection of them. It was a rich deep Emerald colour with gold embroidery around the hem, décolletage and cuffs, the embroided patterns mainly consisted of a variety of complex swirls intertwining with each other, occasionally leading to a small flower. The skirt of the dress had a second layer to it, a soft see through netting that flowed with the dress, a light green colour that went unusually well with the rich deep Emerald colour of the rest of the dress. The bodice complimented Toph's figure perfectly, emphasising her thin yet toned waist, the sleeves were long and flowing just like the skirt of the dress.
"How do I look?" Toph asked, her hands moving over the silk fabric of her dress so that she could get a better understanding of what Cho had picked out for her. Cho smiled,
"Absolutely beautiful M'lady," She said still smiling,
"I'm sure that the Firelord and his uncle will think the same," She carried on,
"Wait, Iroh's here?!" Toph asked,
"When did he arrive?" Se asked again, not letting Cho answer the first question,
"Yes he is and this afternoon I believe," Cho replied to both questions. This brought a smile to Toph's rosy red lips. She hadn't seen Iroh in ages and she always loved to have a god chat with him usually over his new concoctions of tea that he had created by combining different thing to see if they would work and Toph didn't mind tasting them for him, Iroh knew she'd always tell him the truth about what she thought of them.
Cho then went into her chambers so that she could get herself ready. Toph walked across her room to stand outside on the balcony. She rested her forearms on the cool stone and breathed in the sweet smell of blossom that came from the trees in the courtyard below, dismissing all thoughts she had of Zuko for the time being and instead focusing on what she'd talk about with Iroh. About 10 minutes later Cho came back into Toph's room after getting herself ready, she didn't need that much time to make herself look presentable.
"You ready to go M'lady?" Cho asked as she stood in the centre of Toph's room. Toph turned around and leant back a bit resting her elbows on the stone railings instead,
"Only if you stop calling me 'M'lady' and just call me Toph like I keep telling you too," She said, her eyebrows furrowed a little in annoyance. Cho nodded and apologised,
"I'm sorry, it's just difficult for me to get used to calling you Toph when I've spent so long as dressing you as a lady which is your proper title, it just feels disrespectful for me to call you Toph,"
"Cho it's fine, It's not disrespectful if I've asked it of you, I much prefer just being called Toph," Toph answered moving over to Cho,
"I mean I don't class you as a servant, I class you as a friend and you know that none of my friends address me as Lady, just Toph," She smiled to Cho, giving her a gentle jab in the arm before walking to the door,
"Let's celebrate!" She shouted with a grin before leaving her chambers, Cho sighed shaking her head and smiling a little before following her out.
After slumping back up to his room, Zuko's servants had helped him get ready in his best robes and had done his hair neatly with the Firelords traditional top knot and hair pin, he had then been trying to calm his nerves for the speech he was to give that evening, he could already hear people beginning to gather in the enormous courtyard at the front of the palace as they awaited to see him.
The room Zuko was in lead to the balcony that looked over the courtyard below to where everyone was gathered, Zuko only tried to remember the good times he had stood up there to make appearances and to give speeches, all of which were after the war had ended. He took a deep breath in then exhaled shakily,
'Come on, pull yourself together!' He muttered to himself as he took another deep breath in. A few minutes later a knock sounded at the door before it opened,
"Someone's nervoussss!" Zuko's head turned to the door where he saw a smug looking Toph leant against the doorframe; Cho was stood a few feet away in conversation with the guards, she wanted to give them a bit of privacy so she had decided to question them about the security for that night, so when Toph went into the room she quietly shut the door behind her. Zuko looked at Toph, his tense posture relaxing a little and his nerves calming slightly,
"Toph, you look-"
"Don't say anything," Toph cut Zuko off as she walked over to him and clamped her hand over his mouth to stop him from speaking. Her hand tingled slightly as she felt the subtle warmth radiating from Zuko, so she quickly moved her hand away. There was an awkward pause of silence,
"Look Toph I'm sorry, I know things this evening were sudden, and I'm really sorry for acting off around you, It's just when I've been with you since you arrived, I'm so happy, my heart stutters because of how beautiful I think you are and I genially think that I'm in love with you, I haven't felt this way about anyone and that includes Mai, I just wanted to let you know and I know I went about it in the wrong way and I truly am sorry," Zuko explained, rather quickly since he wanted to get it off of his chest, but it left him rather breathless,
"Didn't I tell you not to say anything?" She asked playfully before hooking her arm around his neck, which was quite a feat since he was quite a bit taller than she was, she kept him held there in a headlock,
"You've turned into such a sap Sparky," She said to him grinning, she didn't want to think about the things he just said to her right at this minute in time,
"Careful with the hair," Zuko said, struggling to get free from the petite Earthbenders vice like grip,
"Oh that's right, my bad, I forgot Firelord matches has to look squeaky clean for his awaiting audience," She said with a smirk as she let go of Zuko, who immediately checked his hair after standing up straight, then his nerves kicked in again which Toph noticed of course, his heart rate having shot up yet again,
"Sparky relax, it'll be fine and you'll do fine," She paused for a brief moment before adding,
"I'll be stood next to you the whole time," She smiled at him to relax his nerves again before smirking,
"I'll even hold your hand if you get too scared." Zuko was confused at how Toph seemed to be her usual witty and sarcastic self, was she not bothered about today anymore like he was?
"Toph, you feeling okay?" He asked her, watching her as she walked over to a table in the room where a bowl of fruit was situated. She hovered her hand over it before picking up an apple,
"Absolutely fine, why?" She asked, taking a bite of the apple, a bit of juice escaping and dribbling down her chin. Zuko walked up to stand next to her before picking a napkin off of the table and putting it in her free hand,
"A lady like yourself also needs to look squeaky clean for the public," He said softly,
"And I asked if you were okay because you don't seem at all phased from today's…. Events," He added. Toph thanked him for the napkin and delicately dabbed at her mouth,
"What's done is done and what's said is in the past, no need to dwell on the past so let's move on," She merely responded. Zuko was a little hurt by what she had just said,
"What about the way I feel about you?" He asked quietly, his tone saddened a little. Toph remained silent, she didn't know how to respond, she had been thinking about her feeling for Zuko since he'd told her that he loved her, and she really did like him. She liked the fact that she could be herself around him, she like the way he made her feel safe and comfortable when she was in his arms or around him,
"Zuko…." She paused thinking of how to word what she wanted to say,
"I do like you, more than I've liked anyone else…." She paused again,
"But I don't know if I love you like you said you love me, I'm not ignoring the feelings you have, I just …. I don't know what you expect of me," She said, placing the apple she was holding in her hand, down on the table on top of her napkin.
"I came to celebrate with you, and then out of the blue you tell me that you love me? What did you expect me to do? Leap into your arms and confess some sort of mushy undying love for you too?!" Toph's tone sounded like it got a little angrier with each word, Zuko sighed,
"No Toph, I didn't think any of that, but I wanted to let you know before you left again, I'm sorry that it was so sudden, I was just stupid, understand if you need time and that's completely fine, so…." Zuko said then paused before smiling a little,
"Let's just forget about it and celebrate," He said, the not all to real smile still there. Toph nodded in agreement, then a knock sounded at the door before Cho walked in rather hurriedly,
"You're highness and M'lady, you're about to be announced," She said, giving a quick bow before nodding towards the large open doors at the other end of the room. Zuko and Toph had been too caught up in their conversation that they hadn't realised the announcements had begun and the crowd that had gathered outside had fallen silent. Again Zuko's nerves picked up,
"And now, please welcome Firelord Zuko and The Lady Toph!" A voice shouted from outside. Zuko took a deep breath being shoved a little from behind by Toph as they both made their way outside and onto the balcony. They were greeted with a tremendous roar of cheers, applause and whistles, some people occasionally shouting 'I love you guys!' Both Toph and Zuko waved as they stood next to one another and the crowd shortly fell silent for Zuko to speak.
"Good evening! I am honoured to welcome everyone from all nations that have travelled to be here for this esteemed occasion this evening, especially to my good friend the Lady Toph, who has made a surprise trip for this occasion," Zuko's voice was loud and unwavering as it echoed throughout the courtyard so that everyone could hear. He gestured to Toph, who smiled and waved as she was greeted with more cheers when Zuko introduced her.
"It's a great honour to have one of my very good friends standing here with me tonight, to enjoy this ceremony, celebrating these glorious few years of peace and harmony between the nations," He said again once the crowd had become quiet yet again. Toph could feel his heart rate remaining steady and calm, Zuko was fine once he started talking, it was just the thought of doing it in front of so many people that made him nervous.
"So without further ado, let the festivities begin!" He almost shouted with a smile as he raised his hands, signalling hundreds of Fireworks to be lit and rocket up into the sky. There were ooo's and Aaahhh's that were heard in amongst the cheers of people gathered in the courtyard.
Zuko and Toph gave a final wave to the crowd before going back inside. Zuko received polite congratulations for his speech, (Even though he didn't say much), by Cho and some of his guards and servants, as they came back into the room,
"See sparky, nothing to have been worried about," Toph said with a grin as she punched him in the arm, a little softer than usual though. Zuko rubbed his arm where Toph had hit him, frowning a little bit before he smiled,
"It was better knowing that I had a friend up there with me, if I had been speaking by myself it would've probably have been a complete disaster," He said, before he was embraced from behind and lifted off of the floor a little by his uncle, taking Zuko by surprise.
"Congratulations Zuko!" He said, still holding him a few centimetres off the ground,
"Uncle … Can't … Breathe," Zuko struggled to say since Iroh was accidentally crushing his lungs, not realising that he was holding him so tightly. Iroh laughed and put him down before patting him on the shoulder and apologising, then he turned his attention towards Toph,
"Toph! It's wonderful to see you again, it's been a while," He beamed at her, then embraced her in a bear hug, a custom she was used to now from Iroh, she got one every time she went to see him. She laughed,
"It's nice to see you too old man,"
"Who you calling old? I'm still young at heart," He grinned putting her back down.
"Oh, I have a new blend of tea for you to try, it's a mixture of Jasmine and plum blossom, I think you'll really like it!" He exclaimed as he remembered. Toph smiled, she'd missed Iroh and how excited he managed to get over tea.
"I'm sure it'll taste great just like your tea usually does, I wouldn't expect anything less anyway from the finest tea maker in the world," She replied, straightening her dress out. Iroh smiled again watching her,
"I'll let you try it in the morning, but I think that you and my nephew should go and enjoy the festivities whilst they last,
"Wait, you're not joining us uncle?" Zuko asked confused. Iroh turned and grinned at him,
"I'll have plenty of fun here I'm sure, besides, I wouldn't want to intrude on the little time you two have to spend with each other since you're both busy most of the year," He replied smiling before hugging them both again then walking off to go and talk to Cho. Zuko looked at Toph, a little unsure of what to say but luckily she spoke first,
"C'mon Sparky lets go get some food, I'm starving." She grabbed him by the sleeve of his robes and pulled him with her into the city. She wanted a night of celebrating that's what she had come for, to see Zuko and to celebrate, she didn't want to dwell on the events that had happened previously in the day, especially the kiss. Zuko thought it best to also not dwell on the events that had happened due to him, he knew that Toph needed some time to think and tonight was to celebrate peace, the last thing he wanted was an argument or something else to happen that night, so he smiled and walked beside Toph into the city, focusing on the night ahead.
Little did they know, everything was about to change.
GAHHHHH! Sooooooo sorry about the ridiculous update time, i've literally had no time to myself v.v Hopefully i have a bit more time now since i handed work in for 3 deadlines on Friday for uni, 1 more project then summer! So hopefully i'll be able to update more! :D
Latest chapter anyway guys, sorry if it's a bit weird, got a bit out of touch with writing -.- But please R&R It's much appreciated! (: