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27th August, 2014
Out of every possible thing that could have happened, having Azula sob brokenly into her daughter's neck wasn't what Toph expected.
She kneels just outside the cell, aware of everything. The two little girls in front of her, the officers whispering loudly down the hall.
"Lin," she whispers, voice croaky. "Lin, come away from there."
This is the first time Lin has outright ignored her.
Azula's hand has dropped from her neck. The older woman's shoulders still shake, though, her head buried in the little metalbender's should. Lin lifts her hands and squeezes Azula's tiny frame tightly. They are the only two in existence.
"The bad man who gave you bruises... is he here?" she asks softly. She doesn't realise her voice carries, that Toph has cocked her head and is listening intently. Lin lifts her hand and runs it over Azula's face. Toph swallows; it's what they do together. It's their system.
But, as Azula's breath evens out, she can't begrudge her daughter.
The firebender breaths in deep through her nose, the sound echoing throughout the cell. There is the sound of shuffling before a hiss interrupts. The sounds move further back until she can't hear anything else.
Azula glances from behind her long hair, sharp eyes piercing. She's alone with the child and the familiar woman, and Azula thinks somewhere that it's nice. There's a little girl holding her, trusting her. It wouldn't take much to grab her head and break her neck. It wouldn't take much to remove such a stupid child from the world. It wouldn't take much at all.
"Lin, come to me."
Toph tries once more, and this time, Lin seems to listen. Her head pricks up and she stands up, turning her face towards the bars.
"Lin, it isn't safe there."
The little earthbender shakes her head, bottom lip poking out. "No, Mama. The bad man is out there. He's not in here. You let him in here, Mama. You let him be bad."
Oh, Lin... Toph thinks, heart sinking.
"You have to make it better, Mama." She leans down and whispers in Azula's ear. "Can my mama make it better?"
Azula doesn't know what to say.
Days later, after Lin is safe and sound and staying with Katara because spirits what the hell is that girl doing, playing around with Azula?!?, Toph truly becomes aware of the problem. Her officers are breaking the law. Her officers know she's aware of them breaking the law. And they know she doesn't know who acted.
But, the more pressing concern is that Azula won't talk. She refuses to eat, sitting in the corner, holding something to her chest. She won't say who committed the crime, setting off alarm bells in Toph's head.
And Lin is right in the middle.
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