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28th May, 2013
1. [mass noun] an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
Toph groaned and rolled flat onto her stomach, squeezing her eyes shut. Her head was pounding, a dull dunthdunthdunth, and her seismic sense was all fuzzy. She couldn't see anyone, and she crawled from her tent, stumbling slightly. Reaching a filthy hand up, she wiped it across her forehead, surprised when it smeared across the perspiration.
Pulling herself to her feet, Toph only managed to take a couple of steps before she fell forward, landing roughly and painfully on the hard earth that had refused to yield to her. Sitting up groggily, she twisted her hand in an attempt to raise the earth underneath her. It didn't respond.
Eyes wide, headache forgotten, she pulled herself into a standing position, wobbling as she sunk low into her earthbending stance. She could hear movement and the snkkk-krrr of a snoring Sokka—they must be waking up soon—and she took a step forward, kicking the ground in an attempt to make it do something, anything! Suddenly, a jolt through her stomach rendered her incapable of remaining on her feet. Falling backwards, she felt her eyes prickling as she clutched her stomach, confused and lost.
There was a yawn in the distance—much too loud for Katara, and Sokka was still snoring.
"Morning, Toph!" Aang called out to her. She could hear him digging through the bags, probably trying to find food. The very thought made her feel even sicker, and she desperately wanted to crawl to her earth tent and ignore the world—and him. Unfortunately, her legs seemed to be unwilling to respond, and she sat miserably in the dirt, trying desperately to hold back the tears.
Why wasn't it working? Why couldn't she bend, or move, or do anything? The last time I felt this helpless, she thought disconsolately, was when I ran away to the badgermoles for the first time. She heard a loud clatter, and then a vzzwhooshff, and suddenly Aang was next to her, probably smiling or some nonsense.
"Are you okay, Toph? You look really pale..." he asked, the worry in his tone both nauseating and strangely comforting. She glared up at him, pride demanding that she announce she was fine and leave before common sense (not something she conversed with regularly) pushed its way into her mind.
What purpose would it serve if she said no? Everyone became sick at some stage, and she wouldn't be doing herself any favours continuing in such a state. She couldn't protect herself, let alone the Avatar (who couldn't even lift a decent sized boulder yet). She wouldn't be helping the group, especially if they were attacked. She could barely walk. The very thought of being helpless, subject to anything anyone wanted to do to her brought the tears to her eyes and she looked away quickly.
"I can't see..." she whispered, barely audible even to herself.
"Sorry?" Aang knelt down, his knees making an audible crk, and her heart caught in her throat.
Slowly, a tear trickled down her cheek as her innocent face crumpled in on itself, much like the death of a star.
"I- I can't see, Aang. It's not working." She tried so desperately to keep the tears at bay, but as her voice cracked on the last word she found it to be impossible. Ashamed of her own weakness, she wiped her eyes clumsily and began crawling away, not really sure where she was going but just desperate to get away from him.
For his part, Aang merely sat there, looking after his friend confused and curious. He had no idea how to help, because he didn't know a lot about her—they had only been travelling together for several weeks, and neither had ventured further than a strictly professional relationship. Well, she had rebuked his attempts to become friends. He knew that she was hard-headed and strong-willed, that she didn't like people thinking that she was weaker because she was blind, and she always felt the need to prove herself. But this was different—she was a twelve year old girl suddenly without vision. He couldn't imagine losing his sight; there was no way he could fathom exactly how much she relied on her (honestly, far superior) way of seeing. He was dragged from pondering the correct course of action, however, when a loud aaahh! sounded from the forest they were camped next to.
Running towards the source, Aang stumbled on the sight of Toph stuck in a large shrub. She had just kept crawling straight ahead, and somehow had managed to get herself snagged on a plant. The tugging had only served to tangle herself further, and lost and confused, she had begun to panic. He could see her face, red and wide-eyed as tears fell while she battled the plant, its' leaves rtsllstsing as she continued to squirm.
She stopped struggling and looked up at the sound of his voice. Light cuts and grazes were peppered over her arms and face, becoming more defined as blood seeped from them, getting lost in the tears. He bent down and began unhooking her clothes from the curved thorns and twigs of the oppressive bush. She sat stock still as he worked, although he noted that she trembled every so often.
"There, done," he announced quietly as the last of the twigs were removed and he gently pulled her from the plant. "You have leaves in your hair," he commented casually, "and some blood..."
Tapping the top of her head cautiously, Toph brushed the vegetation from the tangled mass of hair, scowling when it only caused it to get more stuck. Aang laughed lightly and began plucking the leaves from her knotted hair, pulling the tangles from it as gently as he could. He was surprised when she roughly pushed him away.
"I can do it on my own. I don't need help," she said angrily, eyes narrowed.
"Toph, you can't even see!"
"I said I can do it on my own! I don't need your help!"
"Well fine! I suppose you can make your way back to camp on your own then too, huh?" he demanded, and without waiting for an answer stormed off back to camp to prepare breakfast.
Toph stood alone in the forest, heart already pumping, threatening to break through her ribs. She started walking in the direction she heard Aang leave in, but tripped over a large root, landing roughly in front of a skunk-possum. Naturally, she had no idea that it was there until the foul smell invaded her nose and she sputtered away from it. Coughing violently, Toph clambered to her feet—only to realise that she had absolutely no idea where she was heading. Spinning around in place, she couldn't hear Aang, Katara or Sokka. Not even Appa's rather loud breathing penetrated the still forest, and she felt panic rising in her chest again.
She wanted to prove that she could do things on her own, that she wasn't dependent on anyone to survive. That plan had completely fallen through as she stood trembling in the middle of a forest, on the earth that had never failed her until now.
Taking deep, sucking breaths, Toph attempted to still the pain in her chest, not wanting the tears to drip again. She slowly lowered herself to the floor and following the root she had tripped on, worked her way back to the tree is was attached to, leaning against it with her knees tucked under her chin.
That was the position she was in when the first sob escaped her throat, a loud snk-khrb that was followed by many more.
She knew she was rough, a loner that didn't like relying on others for help. She knew that Aang had only wanted to help her and she couldn't put her pride away long enough to accept. Now she was stuck in this spirit-forsaken forest, crying pitifully like the other noble girls she had met briefly. She really was a weak, blind girl, and she was surprised that Aang had even wanted her help anyway. She was mean and loud and cruel, and that was probably why her parents never let her out—they didn't want to frighten away people, or have to explain that no-one wanted to be friends because she was a horrible person.
Suddenly, a loud crack resounded through the still forest, and she looked up sharply, quickly wiping her eyes.
"Toph?" Aang's voice appeared only centimetres from her face, and without thinking about it she flew into his chest, wrapping her arms around him tightly. He gently rubbed her back as she shook in his arms, wiping her messy face on his robes before mumbling something into his chest.
"Don't leave me again."
"I'm so sorry Toph... I didn't-"
She sniffled again.
"Don- just please don't leave me..." His hand was still making the soothing circles and her grip loosened slightly.
"I wasn't thinking. I know you don't like relying on people," he whispered gently into her ear, "but you aren't weak. You're stronger than anyone I know, even without sight."
"I could've made it back on my own," she replied defiantly, and heard Aang's light laugh as it travelled through his chest with a gentle rmmbmm.
"I'm sure you could have. But I got worried that you'd have too long to think up revenge. This way, I get it over and done with," he played along, and she finally pulled herself away, still pink-cheeked and swollen eyed.
"Revenge, huh?" she asked, laughing a watery laugh. "I know! For being mean and yelling at me, I—your Sifu— demand you give me a piggy back ride all the way to camp and you have to give me your tent tonight."
"I don't have a tent."
Toph groaned and rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Fine. But you have to create an earth tent for me. Let's see how you do."
"Whatever you say, Sifu T..." Aang replied, and she knew he was smiling. She knew she was smiling, too.
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