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|More from Wonderfully_weird||Action, Mystery, Romance||PG-13||None||As they come|
This is the second chapter of Fanon: Deadman written by Wonderfully_weird.
The Story So Far
As the two remember the first time that they met, Toph and Khan contemplate having a relationship. However, the conversation leaves the two of them more being more tense and stressed than before.
After the two part ways, Poppy tries to comfort her daughter, but Toph tries to talk herself out of her mother's help. Poppy then asks Iroh for advice as for how she should handle Toph.
Meanwhile, Khan is visited by his landlady and, later, an old rival: Guiren
Toph was unable to sleep for she couldn't help but think about the talk she'd had with her mom. Good riddance! That was perhaps the most uncomfortable thing she'd ever gone through since Sokka and Suki's wedding. Perhaps the most awkward aspect was that her mother knew about her "friend" now. She didn't tell her mother the man's name, his age, the "incident" or any other minor details since Toph knew her mom would be satisfied with simply knowing there was someone. And, of course, her mom just had to tell Iroh about it right afterward. Mothers.
Then, of course, there was the whole incident at the apartment. Toph wasn't sure if she loved him like that or not yet. She knew that they'd grown to be great friends, and that he was kind, and witty, and gave good advice. Toph also knew his secrets (despite her never understanding why he so secretive), which was a big deal on his part. It meant that Toph was the only person he could genuinely trust.
"Tomorrow," she whispered to herself. "I'll see him tomorrow, we'll get something to eat, drink tea, and talk this out."
Perhaps it was that self-promise keeping her awake. Realizing that she couldn't sleep with all these thoughts haunting her, Toph decided to do something risky.
"I'll see him tonight! Yeah!"
Sneaking out wasn't going to be easy though, seeing that Iroh and her mother were still awake. However, Toph realized there was a window in her room. No need to bypass the parlor whatsoever. But then she'd be jumping from about three stories onto some thistles.
"There goes that idea," she said. So she tried to sleep. Though it took some time, sleep eventually came. ~
Guiren sat at the small table near the window, sipping tea that had just been poured. It was decent enough. He'd definitely had better, however. Guiren didn't realize that running into Khan, as the fire bender referred to himself in these parts, would be so strange. In fact, Guiren thought it was rather odd that the man welcomed him so warmly, like a family member. Perhaps the past decade had changed him? Nah. Those savage, lying firebenders! They all act the same. Khan couldn't any different.
"So, G-G-uiren, w-w-what br-rings you to Ba Sing Se in the dead of winter?"
"Job offer: a body guard for Princess Ryh, the Earth King's daughter. It's the most wanted job in the kingdom!"
The two men sat across from each other, somber in expression, anxious in temperament.
"Boy, why you being so nice? We were enemies once. Or do you not remember?"
"Oh, I remember. But the war's over now. Hate isn't necessary anymore. Besides, after what the...never mind."
"What? Come on, speak up!"
He repeated to Guiren what the landlady had told him earlier. Guiren laughed hysterically.
"Damn! I had a feeling the woman was on the chatty side, but a blabbermouth! Ha!"
Khan nervously gulped at Guiren's remark.
"So any way...Khan...aside from the war being over and the landlady's big mouth, why you acting so nice? If I recall, you weren't exactly a nice guy back in the day..."
The men glared at each other.
"'A good man shows hospitality to his friends, but a great man shows hospitality his foes.'"
"Is that some Fire Nation proverb, there?"
"Yes. Specifically, a proverb of the Ur Salim minority."
"The Oor Slim mu-what?"
"How DARE you insult my mother's people!"
"Yikes kid! Take it easy! I just never heard of them before!"
A long pause.
"You know, Khan has to be the worst cover name I've ever heard! The only Khan's I knew were Earth Benders under Fire Nation rule."
Guiren stopped to formulate his next thought. Khan clenched every hinge and joint in his body, bracing himself for whatever this man was about to throw out.
"Why you hiding, anyway? With the war dead and done, wouldn't you wanna creep out back into the light? Or is that little present of mine getting in the way..."
Guiren tried to lean his hand in to touch Khan's face, but before Guiren could make his move, Khan seized the hand at lightning speed. He warmed Guiren's wrist, making him squeal.
"Asshole," Khan hissed under his breath, noting Guiren's pained expression, "you haven't changed a bit."
"Hey! What about your mother's prov—"
"You've stayed your welcome, Guiren. Now take yourself and your foul intent back to your apartment or I will burn you in the way you scarred me. Are we clear?"
Guiren shrieked with a nod. With that, his throbbing wrist was released.
"Bastard!" Guiren screamed as he walked out the door. "You haven't changed either!"
The door slammed with an echoing thud; so much for trying to talk things out.
Toph awoke earlier than expected, but sensed that she was not the only person awake.
She drowsily meandered to the parlor, where she felt Iroh sitting by the balcony, holding a large piece of parchment in his hands, some packaging and a wax seal on the floor near by.
"My goodness! How did he find this?"
Toph perked a brow at what Iroh said.
"It's just flattened koala sheep's skin. What's so valuable about that?"
Iroh snorted out a chuckle.
"I know you can't see this, but Zuko had found an old family portrait of my wife, son, and me. I haven't seen it in years!"
Toph plopped herself next to Iroh.
"When was the portrait done?" she asked.
"Nearly twenty years ago, I believe. Let's see. Jasmine would have been...thirty-six, which means Lu Ten would have been eight, and I would have been forty-eight."
"You had children late in life!"
"What is it?"
Iroh smiled, "You don't need to be concerned about my past, but thank you."
The last things Iroh wanted to talk about that early in the morning were the two miscarriages and the stillbirth he and his wife painfully straggled through before Lu Ten was born. When he did come into the world and their lives, goodness! What a precious miracle! But, like his potential siblings before him, Lu Ten, too, passed on far before his time. And as if he had never existed, too, for Iroh searched the Spirit World all over for his son, only to find nothing. Perhaps it was a curse? Or destiny?
"Iroh...what did my mom exactly tell you after she had...the talk...with me? I know she bugged you for the longest time last night."
Iroh sighed out a chortle, rising from his seat to check on the pot of tea he'd prepared, "I forced myself to tune her out after five minutes of pestering and begging for advice she didn't need. However, from what I didn't ignore, you appear to have a boy friend...Toph?"
"It's nothing," Toph sighed, burying her head into her hands. "I feel like an idiot for not telling about him earlier, but, he's...a recluse you could say. Very timid and secretive. Self-conscious about his deforming scars and battle wounds. It took me two months to pry his name out. But...there's a lot of you in him, which is why I felt...so attracted and drawn."
Toph cringed. It was like admitting she had a crush on Sokka all over again; she'd done so at Sokka and Suki's wedding reception. The rest of the evening, she recalled, was rough.
"Toph, if you don't want to talk about this now, that's fine."
"But I want to though. Iroh...I'm just...confused. I mean, I feel this strong, almost spiritual connection to this guy and...I don't know what the feeling is, because these emotions I'm having are different than the ones I had for Sokka...I didn't mention Sokka by the way, remember that...but, ugh! There's just problems."
The room fell quiet for a bit. Iroh offered Toph a cup of tea. She refused.
"He's older than me. By a lot. And he's a detective, so sometimes the work he does can get to his head and affect how he feels. I also remember him saying something about fighting for you during the Siege of Ba Sing Se, so he's afraid of meeting you in the state he's in."
"Interesting; one of my very own soldiers living in Ba Sing Se!"
"Yeah...specifically the Lower Ring. Oh! And it's the same guy who found me when I twisted my ankle a few years ago!"
"Khan? I never would have thought! I didn't see the man though when I came to get you. I remember the landlady telling me that he was running errands for her. In fact, I can't remember whether or not I had a 'Khan' amongst my troops, aside from my brother-in-law. Poor man passed away some time ago."
Toph blushed, her ears and cheeks a vibrant ruby hue.
"Didn't see him again 'til I was fourteen, though, when I started my Earth Bending lessons for the kids in the city," Toph restarted. "I was really hungry, I recall, but I was also broke. Khan recognized me and then offered to get me something to eat. I kept telling him no. I still thought he was a bit of a creep, but hunger overcame my logic. That was the best street food I had.
"So, every Tuesday it seemed...unless he was working really hard on a case...we'd drink afternoon tea or get something to eat. We always talked about stuff, about our work and the personalities we had to deal with..."
Toph's voice trailed off.
"Do you still have that cup of tea?"
He handed her the small cup.
"Thank you. I think that's all I'll say about him for now."
Iroh remembered when Lu Ten was like this. How his son would babble on and on about some girl he'd met at the academy or boot camp yet was too timid to admit his love. How he had tried to confess his feelings and the drama that ensued since the plan was executed so badly. Reliving those moments, just for a little bit, with Toph made Iroh smile. However, it made him miss Lu Ten even more.
"Wait, you son's name was Lu Ten, right?"
Toph had said enough.
There was a rapping at the door of the apartment.
He leapt from his bed, flung the door open, and strangled the man.
"Sung Jie, I'm gonna kill you if you do that again, boy!"
He released his grip of the scrawny man's neck. Sung Jie was gasping for breath, using Khan as a balance to place his hyper pigmented, elongated hand on.
"I know you were promised a month off after the last case."
"The kidnapping that took eighteen months to figure out?"
"Yeah...well...I know it's just been about a week and a half into your break, but—"
"Something bad has come up, yes?"
"How'd you know, Khan?"
Sung Jie was not very bright.
"Is it another kidnapping or a missing person or a—"
"But I though Hye covered those—"
Sung Jie hushed him. Khan nodded.
Great. So the city's best homicide detective is now a homicide victim. Just great. And I'm probably going to be the guy who has to figure out who killed her. Even better.
The two men ran toward the direction of the Middle Ring, running around or crashing into any person that was in their way ("No! My cabbages! Curse you, scar man and spotty!"), knowing that trying to get on the train at nine o'clock in the morning would slow them down.
Now through the gate, Sung Jie led Khan to a small house swarming with officers, Dai Li Nouveaux agents, and curious passerSby wondering what had happened to their neighbor. Inside the house, Sung Jie and Khan were met the Chief of Police and the Head of the Dai Li Nouveaux.
"Khan, my boy," began the Chief of Police, his gray mustache moving more than his talking lips, "it's good to see that you came on such short notice! Well, one of the neighbors reported suspicious activity near the house, heard some grunts. So, we came in, searched the place, and..."
The four men walked out of the parlor into an adjoining room.
"...and we found her here. Knife in hand. Which is odd, since she has no markings on her body denoting of any kind of injury or struggle. And we also saw this haiku on the wall. It seems to have been written in blood, but seeing that Hye shows no sign of being cut up, we can't be too sure."
Khan read the graphemes:
The Pale Autumn Moon
Gives way to Cold Winter
Suns Before Spring's child comes. "The whole city could be in danger!" Sung Jie shrieked. The other men grumbled.
"No shit, Sung Jie!"
"Calm down, Detective! Now, noting the strangeness of this riddle," the Head of the Dai Li Nouveaux noted, "I know that could be of assistance."
A young woman walked into the room upon the Head's gesture, kind of short, kind of curvy, kind of tan.
"This is Ari," the Police Chief said. "She will be helping you two with the case."
Khan gawked at the thought of working with Sung Jie again; he hated that man. However, he was open to working with this "Ari" girl.
"Alright then," The Chief perked, "work your magic!"
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