AN: Like I said, this will have more chapters. The bulk of the story is fluffy, so sorry if you don't like that. So here it goes. Chapter 1. Hope you like it :)
Background: Two years after winning the war, Team Avatar went their separate ways to fulfill the rest of their lives. Sokka, Katara, and Suki are living in the Southern Water Tribe adjusting to life as royals. Also, Katara and some waterbenders from the North are rebuilding the tribe. Zuko is getting used to being Fire Lord with his uncle Iroh as his personal consultant and ambassador for the Fire Nation. Aang and Toph are traveling together, showing the Avatar to the world and keeping the peace. They've also sort of adopted the three-year-old named Hope, whose parents died of pneumonia shortly after the war ended. Toph shows surprising motherly instincts. Aang and Katara have ended their relationship so they could tend to their separate responsibilities.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," Toph huffs with an exasperated sigh. "You know I hate the city…" Aang shrugs his shoulders innocently.
"Hey, you agreed to come," he says. "You don't have to, you know." Toph glances at his general direction, and then motions towards the small person holding her hand.
"And leave her fatherless?" she says in a hushed tone, referring to Hope. "You know we can't do that." Aang stays silent for a moment before saying, "You mean you see us as parents?"
Toph hopes he didn't notice her face flush. "Well, if we won't look after her, who will?"
"You're right." Toph can hear the smile in his voice. "But we're still going to Ba Sing Se. They need me."
"What for exactly?" Toph asks. Aang doesn't answer.
A high-pitched, cheerful laugh rises above the sound of the howling wind. Hope holds her arms out like a reptile-bird as Appa glides through the clear blue sky. Toph tries her best to keep the little girl seated in the flying bison's saddle. Every time Hope has flown, which has been almost every day for about six months, she has reacted like it was her first time in the air, screaming with joy and bouncing around so much it has Toph worried that she'll fall out.
"We're almost there!" Aang shouts over the loud wind and child. Toph sighs in relief and holds Hope close to her.
Appa touches down right in front of Team Avatar's old Ba Sing Se estate house. Some residents on the street stop and gape at the giant fuzzy monster as two teens with a child slide off its back.
Aang speeds through the house, unpacking their few belongings and catches Toph smiling at nothing. He approaches her silently and folds his arms.
"I thought you said you didn't like this place," he says with a smug tone. Toph jumps slightly, not having heard Twinkle Toes enter the room. She puts on a smile just as smug and says, "I don't. But I never said anything about this house." She opens her arms, gesturing around the room.
"So you like this house?" Aang asks rhetorically. Toph rolls her cloudy eyes.
"I love this house." She feels Aang's mood darken for a moment, as if he has thought of something he'd rather not think about. He lays his hand gently on her cheek, just the pads of his fingers touching her. Toph's first instinct is to slap his hand away, but she remains motionless.
"I have to go." His voice is barely a whisper.
"Where?" Toph asks, even though she knows the answer.
"The Earth King has asked to see me personally." There is almost an apologetic tone in his words. "But that's all I can tell you, as I said before." Hope rushes into the room, crashing right into Toph's legs.
"What do I care if you talk to the Earth King?" she asks, doing her best to mask her disappointment. "It's probably boring political junk, anyway." Without waiting for Aang's response, she takes Hope's hand and leads her away, promising berry cookies and tea parties. It takes all her willpower to not return to the room.
"Where did Aang go?" Hope asks randomly while they were playing "house".
"He just has some work to do," Toph replies with a sigh. "He'll be back soon… I think." Hope keeps her gaze on the small ceramic tea set she's been playing with.
"Okay, Mommy." Toph freezes instantly. A heart wrenching pain in her gut brings tears to her eyes. Mommy? She holds the little girl as the tears quietly slide down her cheeks.
One day, as Aang returns from yet another meeting with the Earth King, he strides into the house happily.
"Hey, Toph," he says. "How was your day?"
"Fine," she answers coldly, irritation lacing her voice.
"What's the matter?" Aang asks innocently. Toph turns rapidly, glaring at where she suspects his face to be.
"Oh, I don't know," she says a little too sarcastically. "What could be the matter when I can spend day after day in this house with nothing to do? By the way, how's the Earth King? You spend so much time with him, it's like you're his best friend." He voice rose with each sentence.
"That's no fair," Aang retorts just as loudly. "He needs me for a very important mission!"
"You've been seeing the guy every day for a month! When are you actually going on this 'mission?'" Toph feels a change in his mood when he doesn't say anything right away. He steps closer and reaches for her but she backs up.
"I can't tell you anything about it. I gave the king my word." He's quieter now.
"So your loyalty to him is more important to your loyalty to me?" Aang is silent for a while again.
"You're right," he says with a sigh. "You mean way more to me than he does. Forgive me?" He makes another move toward her, but, again, she evades him. She turns to hide her slight blush.
"Whatever." And she walks out of the house.
Fuming, Toph randomly stomps her way into a local market. Her tense posture clashes with the elegance of the pale green kimono she's wearing. Lost in angry thoughts, she doesn't notice that she's being followed.
Angrily, Aang kicks the bedside table in his room. It flies into the wall and shatters instantaneously. He was so stupid! Toph was the only one in the group that cared enough to stay with him. Sure, the others had responsibilities, but they seemed too caught up in them that they didn't even write. He knew Toph was easily upset, and he had to be careful with her. Beneath her tough attitude, she was someone who needed to be cared for. Someone extremely sensitive. He had to find a way to show her he cared. He had already lost Katara. He wouldn't lose his earthbending friend, too. Aang left the house with a determined glint in his eyes.
AN: Tell me what you think. Should I continue writing this? What do you think about Toph and Aang adopting Hope? It's going to be hard to go from here; this is the longest fanfic I've planned to finish.
I hope you liked Chapter 1. #2 coming soon... if you want it. :)