Air Temple Island overview
Chapter 2: Drop Off
Chapter information

Altered Perception



Written by


Release date

September 9, 2014

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Chapter 1: Desperation

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Chapter 3: Mementos

Drop Off

"Not you too."

"You know, I thought I was supposed to be the one complaining." Toph paused a minute. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

Katara groaned. It was way too early for her to deal with Toph's attitude for the day. Silently, she asked the spirits what she did to deserve this. As usual, the voice in front of her interrupted her thoughts.

"Don't mind us. There is only a five year old here slowly contracting hypothermia."

Katara diverted her eyes to the bundle of blanket covering the child within Toph's arms. Lin's head was lulled over the earthbender's shoulder and she was fast asleep in a deep slumber. The waterbender shook the remaining sleep from her head.

"Of course, of course." Katara stepped to the side of the doorway. "Please, come in."

"Took you long enough, Cranky." Toph entered the Avatar's home, finally escaping the morning chill. Skillfully, she removed her coat without disrupting the child in her arms. After hanging it on the coat hanger, Toph began to make her way down the hallway, Katara at her side.

"So what is this about 'not you too'?" Toph started, her speech directed to her right.

After wiping her face of remaining grogginess, Katara answered. "Aang has been up since like five."

Toph raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know Twinkle Toes was an early bird. What did you do?"

"Excuse me? What exactly are you implying?" Katara said irked.

"I don't know." Toph turned her head halfway to her companion. "Maybe you didn't satisfy him enough last night."

"We did not have sex last night!" Katara had stopped entirely.

The yell had caused Lin to jostle slightly in her mother's arms, the only thing soothing her back to sleep being her mother's comforting back rub. "Hey, Katara, I don't think they heard you in Ba Sing Se. Make sure you project your voice better next time."

The sarcasm came out in every word. Katara didn't even try to fight back. The two finally made it to the kitchen. Sitting at the dining table, Aang stared into the open air. He seemed deep in thought, but he was aware of the two women at the doorway.

"What's this about our sex life, Katara?" The Avatar seemed to have no discomfort asking the question.

"Not even the slightest bit embarrassed, Twinkle Toes? Something is definitely wrong with you." Toph inferred.

Aang didn't move a muscle. "I could say the same about you. You may be a master earthbender and metalbender, Sifu, but hiding your emotions is yet an untrained skill." Finally the bald headed thirty five year old turned around and looked at his childhood teacher. "What has gotten your heart to beat faster today?"

Toph didn't answer right away. Internally, she scolded herself for teaching her pupil how to read heartbeats. After years, she knew she wasn't going to get away with this one. The chief of police walked over to the far end of the table. She pulled out the chair and sat down. Her feet stayed firmly on the ground, mimicking her arms that tightened around Lin's small form.

"I need Katara to watch Lin for a day or two. I need both of you guys to watch her." She confessed. Before anyone else could speak, she quickly added, "If that's okay."

"Toph Beifong asking for permission? Must be serious." Katara was truly intrigued.

Holding her strong will to make a snarky comeback, Toph continued. "I have, what most officers consider, a long term mission. If I let even my most exceptional captains direct it, the mission will probably take a week at least. With me leading, the threat should be gone in no time."

"I've never heard of the police force going on missions that last more than a day." The water bender commented from the other side of the room. "That sounds brutal."

Toph scoffed. "Well, these aren't the normal gang members that lounge around the city."

"It's much worse." Aang interjected. "Moon Med Triad."

Aang and Toph observed carefully as the other's heartbeat quickened at an alarming rate.

Out of the loop, Katara immediately questioned the two before her. "Who are the Moon Med Triad?"

"Healers." The Avatar didn't even need to look at his wife to see the confusion in her expression. "Technically speaking."

"A triad group consisting of healers?"

"They're loons. I think they earn about an eight on the Azula scale." Toph commented.

"I was actually going to give them full on Azula crazy." Aang informed the two women.

Toph put one of her hands in the air to emphasize the amount of insanity. "And there we have it. They are officially Azulatics."

Katara squinted her face in utter confusion. "How can healers commit crimes? Is there a limit to healing people?"

"Sweetie, they may be healers, but they don't even do anything close to tending to wounds."

"That's right, Sweetie." Toph supported. "The members are skilled at mutations."

Katara's eyes bulged out and she let her head rest atop her left hand. "I didn't even know we had that kind of power."

"Two weeks ago, one of my squads brought in a victim. He had three thumbs. That's right. Three thumbs." The chief of police reported to the husband and wife.

"They added an appendage? That's...impossible." The waterbender said in disbelief.

Aang turned directly towards Toph. Even he had heard several rumors regarding the group. "What about that first guy you guys caught like a month ago?"

Toph sat up straight, careful not to make a gigantic movement. Even with the adults talking, Lin was snoring quietly. "Now that guy, I feel sorry for him. Poor sucker will never smell again."

Katara made a face saying I don't even want to know.

"Point is," The chief of police proceeded. "I need you guys to watch Lin. By now, the triad is aware of my arrival and will probably try to trip me up the best they can."

"Such as attacking your greatest weakness." The Avatar answered.

Toph face turned into some kind of pout. Both Katara and Aang were amused, having this argument countless times. "I have no weakness. Lin just means a whole lot to me."

Katara had somehow made it over to Aang and hand her hands atop his shoulders. "Toph, we all know you love Lin and if anything were to happen to her, it may be you we would have to bring out of the avatar state."

"Okay, okay. I get it. Just don't use the word weakness. I'm trying to rid that particular word from my vocabulary."

The bald monk in the room smiled. "You know, I don't think I've ever heard you tell Lin that you love her."

The earthbender's eyebrow raised. "I tell her enough at home."

"You never say it in front of Katara, Sokka, Suki, Zuko, Mai, and I. I just want to hear it once."

Toph stood up, ignoring her former students pleas. "Well will you look at the time. It's about time for me to head to work."

"How would you know? You can't see the clock." Katara said in a playful outburst.

"Sorry! Can't hear you." Toph made her way down the hall. She turned left and entered a room, the one Lin and her usually occupied whenever they stayed overnight at the island. There was a draft, strong enough to cause Lin to hug her favorite green blanket tighter. Sensing her daughter's shivers, Toph quickly made her way to the bed and laid the small girl down. She took the green blanket and tucked it tight into Lin. Next, she took the heavier blanket, provided at the edge of the bed, and covered Lin once again. Afterwards, Toph crouched down next to the bed.

"I know you're awake, badgermole."

A shining green eye popped open and it stared directly at the blank eyes in front of her. The child made no sound.

"How long have you been awake?"

Finally, Lin brought her hand outside the burial of cloth, took Toph's hand and placed it on her own cheek. "Why do you have to go to those bad men, Mama?"

Toph caressed her cheek, the soft skin comforting her. "Remember? It's my job. The chief of police is your mom."

Lin's eyebrows furrowed. A frown crossed her young face. "Then go beat them up and come home later. Like you always do."

"Sorry, badgermole. I have to be gone a couple days this time." Toph tried hard not to show the same saddened expression. She had to be strong.

"How long is that, Mama?"

The blind earthbender held up two fingers. "Two Yues. Maybe one or two more."

The five year old yelled out severely. "That's forever!"

"It's not too long. You won't even notice I'm gone. You'll be having too much fun here with Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin. You'll also have Katara and Aang to play with. Doesn't that sound good?" Toph tried to comfort her as best she could.

The green gems upon Lin's face started to glisten and her lip quivered. "What if you don't come back?"

Something wet fell onto Toph's hand. "Come on, badgermole. What did I say about crying?"

Lin gave a small sigh. "Crying is for sissies."

"Exactly. And are you a sissy?" Toph wiped the tears away with her callused hands and grinned. The small girl seemed to lean into the touch. She felt Lin shake her head. "Good."

"You didn't answer my question yet." Lin's voice broke as she spoke. "What if you don't come back?"

Toph couldn't hold her smile. Her lips pressed together tightly before talking. "Who is the greatest earthbender in all of history?"

The younger Beifong's expression didn't change. "Mama."

"That's right. So if I'm the greatest earthbender ever, there is no way I won't come back. It's a fact."

"You promise?"

"Promise." Toph brushed her thumb across Lin's right cheek. The next movement was so quick that Toph was surprised to be tackled in a crushing embrace. Lin's arms were linked around her as if her life depended on it. Toph copied her daughter's desperation and hugged back fiercely.

"I'm gonna miss you, Mama."

"I'm gonna miss you too, badgermole."

"Are you lying?"

Toph brought their foreheads together, forcing Lin to stare straight into her pale green eyes. Although they saw nothing, Toph knew that in front of her was the most beautiful thing she would never see. "Look at me. Does it look like I'm lying?"

For the first time this morning, Lin giggled. The woman before her could only smile. Toph picked the five year old up and just like before, she laid her down and covered her with blankets. This time, Lin relaxed into the bedding. "Mama has to go now."

Lin tried her best to keep a strong face. "Kick butt."

This time, Toph chuckled. "You got it, kid."

The chief of police stood up and started walking to the door. As she did, the burning stare of a child hit her back. Toph's fingers slowly gripped the door and she stopped her movements. The realization hit her hard. Never since the time Lin was born had Toph spent more than a day away from the little girl. The front of her mind doubted Lin's ability to withstand the separation, but in reality, it was her doubting her abilities for once. There was a first for everything. Motherhood.

Toph walked back to the bed and leaned down to plant a kiss on Lin's temple. "I'll always come back. I love you."

"I love you, Mama."

The smell of seawater traveled up her nose. She knew they were near the docks. "I'm capable of walking to the docks myself. I don't need the almighty avatar protecting me."

Said Avatar seemed to have walked closer to her. "Can't a long time friend be polite?"

"You know how polite works so well for me." Toph replied.

The two continued their stride towards the boats. It was around seven o'clock now and the sun was slowly coming back from its hiding place in the distance. Their feet stopped before the wooden boards of the dock. The boat was being tended to and quietly waited for the war heroes to bid their goodbyes.

"So why was Twinkle Toes up so early today?" The chief of police asked.

Aang held his hands behind his back. "I had an eerie feeling."

"Avatars and their spiritual mumbo jumbo. You'd think I would be used to it to by now."

"Toph, I'm being serious. This wasn't some regular Spirit World thing."

The chief of police's face remained emotionless. It was going to take a lot of convincing in order to believe what was going to come out of the airbender's mouth next. "This has to do with the Moon Med Triad, doesn't it?"

"I had a vision." He started. "There was red. Blood red. I saw their crest. The half moon. And I saw your eyes."

Toph crossed her arms, the furthest bit amused. "If you are trying to tell me my future, then I have no idea what it means."

"It means," Aang emphasized loudly to halt Toph's speech. "Something is going to happen to you."

The master earthbender's eyebrow raised. "I'm not scared. How do you exactly know this?"

"I don't. I told you I had a bad feeling. That's it."

Toph scoffed. "Yeah, cause that means anything to me."

His hand came to her left shoulder. Trying to talk to Toph was sometimes like telling a tree to move. "Just please be careful the next few days. I don't want to wake up one morning and find out something happened to you."

The chief of police shrugged the contact away. "I've said this a million times. I can handle myself and can take care of myself."

"But you aren't taking care of just yourself anymore."

The earthbender straightened her posture at her friend's words. He hit something, and Aang couldn't give up now. His voice came out both serious and gentle. "You have someone to care for and come back to. Don't let her grow up parentless too."

Toph stayed silent. It was a sad fact, but she really had never made up with her parents until Lin had been born. Even now, thanks to her situation, the elder Beifongs had looked down upon their daughter being a single mother. The family wasn't exactly fighting. However, they were most definitely not pleased with the relationship they had right now. Toph argued that she didn't need her parent's "words of wisdom" to raise Lin. She had grown up just fine, but if she were telling the truth, she would never want Lin to grow up without the love of both parents. Things just...weren't working out very well so far.

Gathering herself once again, Toph spoke. "I'm going to come back. We both promised."

Knowing exactly who we was, Aang replied. "By the way, how is that case going?"

For the first time in years, she cringed. She hated when people asked her that as it stabbed at her caged emotions. "Nothing."

"I know you loved him, Toph."

She shook her head from tears that she could feel emerging. "I have to get going."

"Right," was all the Avatar replied. They walked across the dock to where Toph stepped onto the boat.

Aang looked directly are her sightless eyes. "Be careful."

"Don't worry Twinkle Toes. You haven't seen the last of me."

As the boat distanced itself, Toph's smirk was still clear as day.

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