title: parade's end

summary: Katara nurses an awkward Zuko, post-lightning hit. Aang is moping. Toph can only take this bullshit for so long. "Godamnit Twinkletoes!"


Parade's End

She finds Aang moping on the steps of the Firelords Palace. Poor kid, Toph sniffs, not for the first time. It's finally hit him, the awkward, undeniable bond between Katara and Zuko – the one that had always been there, even when they were enemies, even when she was angry and he was contrite. Even when they were both in wavering denial.

And people say I'm the blind one?

"What's up?"

"Go away, Toph," his voice has reverted into that of his most melancholy mood. "I just want to be alone."

Toph, as usual, ignores him. Instead she plonks herself down beside him and leans leisurely back on the steps. "For someone who just ended a hundred-year-long war, you're acting like a kid who's just had his favourite toy taken away."

She can feel the ripple of anger that goes through him, feels it in the tensing of his entire body, from head to feet. She can feel his despair through every particle of the surrounding earth between them.

"Katara isn't a toy," he mutters, glancing back towards the Palace, the open window of Zuko's room.

"Are you sure? Because it's like you think Zuko's stolen her. Or something."

Not true of course; you cannot steal one person from another, not unless you kidnap them, and even then they will never be yours. Toph knows this all too well. Her parents can try time and again to drag her back in a metal box, but even if they succeed, she'll never be their precious little dove, their blind little darling to protect. And Katara has never belonged to Aang, anyway.

"He saved her life," her little baldy says, glumly, resting his chin in his hand. It's a mark of how young he is, she thinks. She wonders how someone who has been alive for a hundred and twelve years can think of a way to defeat the Firelord without killing him, and still be so immature where people are concerned.

"You should be glad. If Zuko hadn't been there, Katara would have died."

"If I had been here, she wouldn't have gone with Zuko at all."

Toph snorts in a most unladylike way. Silly boy. "Don't kid yourself, Twinkletoes. Katara does what she wants."

"If I'd been there she would have chosen me, Toph. You don't know what you're talking about. I've known Katara longer than you."

She wants to slap the back of his head and knock some sense into him, make him let go of this idea he has that he is entitled to Katara's love, that she would never dream of giving it to anyone else. The world doesn't work like that, not even for miracle boys who can bend all four elements and survive one hundred years as an ice cube.

I know her better, she might say. Or she's known Zuko about as long as she's known you, Aang.

Or, I would have chosen you, if you'd stuck around that morning.

Aang rescued her from the gilded prison of her parent's house, swooping in and demanding she accompany him on an adventure. That's all she's ever wanted – to be allowed to live. To him it's never mattered that she's blind; it's no reason that she still can't be sassy and fierce and a force to be reckoned with.

"You have," she agrees at last. "So why can't you just admit it? She's in love with Zuko."

He doesn't answer, but the increasingly glum look on his face is one that concedes defeat. Aang is moping and after a hundred years of war, this is not good enough. Toph will not stand for the petulant pouting of a little boy when they've fought so long for peace and justice and the power of love and all that yucky stuff.

The wet sniffle, though, pushes her over the edge.


She tugs him along by the hand, stubborn and awkward and she has no idea how to deal with a not-break-up, because the relationship never happened. Zuko and Katara will be happy together, she thinks. And they'd better name at least one of their kids after her.

"I don't want ice cream, Toph," Aang whines.

"Too bad." She smushes the cone in his face and he licks it half-heartedly. He'll be alright, her little baldy.

Toph will make sure of it.