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|More from Wonderfully_weird||Action, Mystery, Romance||PG-13||None||As they come|
This is the first chapter of Fanon: Deadman, written by Wonderfully_weird.
"Remember when we first met, all those winters ago?"
Four years to the day. He saw the young girl wandering about the slums of the Lower Ring, barefoot, and in white and gold no less! And she was alone. Alone? In that part of town? Madness!
"...I remember you asking where my mother was..."
Though he chuckled at her comment, who wouldn't have asked that upon seeing a young child by herself, especially one that was barefoot in the snow?
"...and I thought it was strange, if not gross, that you kept insisting I come to the apartment complex you were staying at until you figured out where I lived..."
The whole process was Fire Nation custom regarding finding lost children: ask where their parents were then offer them to stay with you until their parents were found. Apparently, such action in the Earth Kingdom denoted one as a pedophile, but how would he have known that?
"...you tried to convince me that what you were doing was something chivalrous and proper and blah, blah, blah, but I kept walking, then running, away from you! Ha! And you still chased after me in the snow! You remember what happened after that, don't you?"
"You twisted your ankle."
He carried her to the apartment, and laid Toph on a long pillow in a spare room. His heart wrenched whenever Toph screamed in pain.
"Thought I was gonna die, too! Which was quite the statement considered what had happened to me just that past summer."
He sat right across from her and refused to leave her side.
"I felt responsible for your injury. The landlady insisted that she take over for a bit, thinking that my scars were scaring you."
"'But I'm blind!' I told her."
They all laughed. He did leave the two ladies for a little to get some fresh air. In that time, the landlady found out that Toph was staying with her mother and the owner of the Jasmine Dragon in the Upper Ring. And questions starting to fly out of the woman's mouth.
"I had to convince her to leave you alone. I was starting to feel even worse for you."
The landlady left to write a message to the Jasmine Dragon. Meanwhile, Toph and the man talked.
"I remember you lied about your name. And you still do to everyone else but me."
Now, here they were in his apartment, the afternoon sunlight quickly waning. Toph was sitting, cross-legged, on top of his futon, picking her toes, as he gazed upon her entirety, then traced over all the scars that crisscrossed his face, like roads and rivers would on a map. And the scar on his right eye, a vertical slit that traveled down to his throat. If only Toph could see him. If only.
"Hey what's wrong?"
She casually stood to her feet and walked over to her friend. Toph wrapped her arms around his waist, put her head against his heart. She then cocked her head a little bit and raised her hands to reach his face. He grasped the hand now touching the right side of his face.
"How wha—oh gosh, really? You know I don't care about that."
Toph drew herself away from the body, grabbed his shoulder, turned him around before he could face away from her. He couldn't help but laugh.
"Do Iroh and your mom even know you're here, or that we're even friends?"
"Are you really gonna change the subject like that?"
An awkward pause. Then boisterous laughter.
"You know I like you, man! And... it always saddens me that you don't think you're lovable because of a few scratches you got in a fight."
"They're battle scars, Toph. And when these things were pumping out blood, I was mistaken for a corpse. I was left for dead."
He plopped himself unto the hard wood floor, leaning his head against Toph's hip. Toph hated when he went into this depressing state. She couldn't blame him though; war did strange things to the brain. Bad things at that. In suit, Toph sat down at this level, and turned his head.
"That's all the past stuff. Ten years ago right? Well, this is ten years later! And you're still here, alive and—"
"I wish I died. I probably should have died, too."
Toph would always hear him say those words, in all the years that they'd known each other. She put her head on his shoulder.
"Why do you always keep saying that?"
Silence. Rather than answer Toph's question, he simply stroked her hair. They looked at one an other, drew in close, almost, almost, came in for a...
"I can't do this."
"Look at us! Trying to fake a romantic relationship!" Toph rose to her feet. "You're twelve years older than me, and, recently, we've been all...Augh!"
"Toph, I'm sorry—"
"It's not you, it's me, and me letting you—"
"Toph, wait! Don't—"
She slammed the door in his face. Fire began to flicker from his hands and mouth. His eyes teared. The sun was set. The room was dark.
As for Toph, she stormed out of the complex to the train station, growling with fists clenched, not sure whether she should be angry, or sad, or something else entirely.
"Now boarding. Train leaving in two minutes."
Toph rushed onto the train, only to find that there were no seats available. She didn't mind standing though. Toph had to do it before. Many times.
"Train now departing."
Silent tears poured from her open eyes, and rolled down her cheeks.
"Toph! My goodness, darling, where have you been?"
Poppy ran to her daughter who was standing before the entrance of the Jasmine Dragon. Iroh couldn't help but chuckle to himself at the scene he was witnessing. ("Every time Toph gets back from teaching," he told himself.)
"Mom, relax! I'm fine. I was just...attending to my students in the Lower Ring, like I always do on Tuesdays."
And that was true. What she wouldn't tell her mother or Iroh was that she'd always go to her friend's apartment for some tea and food.
"I'm not fond of that pause, Toph. Were you up to something else, too?"
"I was hungry after teaching so I got something to eat, and then I came back here."
They walked into the restaurant toward the entrance of the kitchen, the two seeming to disappear behind the curtain. Poppy knew something was up and could tell by how swollen red her daughter's eyes were.
"Honey, what happened? I know something is wrong; I see it in your eyes."
Toph passionately loathed her mother's prying interrogations. Even more so since she did this every single time Toph came back from anywhere, even the toilet! However, since her father had died almost three and a half years prior, her mother was very protective and cautious. At least Toph knew her mother loved her, no matter how annoying those displays of affection were.
"I was eavesdropping on some of the conversations going on in the train. Some woman's son is very sick, and she was on her way to the hospital in the Middle Ring to visit him."
Poppy glared. "Lie."
If there was one person who could detect a lie better than Toph, it was her mother.
"I really don't want to talk about it. You wouldn't understand."
Poppy smiled. "I think I would understand. When we get back to the apartment later, we'll talk."
"Fine," Toph groaned, walking a little deeper into the kitchen, Poppy trailing behind her. "We'll...talk. But now, I have a shift to start."
Toph walked over a small closet to unhook her apron from the rack. Before Poppy could ask if her daughter needed any help tying the strings in the back, the young woman was already walking past her, drawing back the curtain, and off working. She sighed. Poppy knew her daughter was, by Earth Kingdom standards, a grown woman, and was wondering whether or not she should be interfering with whatever Toph was going through. Yet Poppy couldn't help but see the little girl she had known—or though she knew—all too well, the fragile, precious, beautiful child she secretly revered more than she would a son. She felt a slight guilt in not knowing her daughter's inner being and wished she knew what her beloved Toph was really feeling and thinking; kind of a difficult task when your child refuses to speak with you. Alas, Poppy was starting to feel as if trying to make a connection with Toph was a lost cause.
"Poppy, you seem sullen. Is everything alright?"
She lifted her head to face Iroh.
"Not really. You had children, right?"
"Did you, at any point, feel as if you...how do I explain this feeling...had an emotional disconnect with your child?"
It was quiet for a moment, then Iroh gestured Poppy to follow him out toward the back room. Once there, door closed, Iroh offered her a chair.
"There were times when my son and me could not stand each other, so yes."
"What did you do?"
"I did everything I could. But we still fought."
A deep silence followed.
"Your son died, didn't he?"
Iroh began to cry a little bit.
"All before I could apologize for my actions and make amends. It was then that I knew I needed to change."
"Change? But Iroh, you're such a wonderful person."
Another deep silence. Iroh sighed, "What you must realize is that I was a different man then. It's because of the man I was that my son died so prematurely; he was barely eighteen."
After hearing what Iroh just said, Poppy was afraid to ask her new, slightly modified question, but then decided to ask it anyway: "What would you have done differently, looking back on it all?"
Iroh laughed thunderously.
"I actually never though of that!"
Three knocks on the apartment room door.
"Khan, do you have the rent?"
The man shuffled to the door, clutching the hundred gold pieces he needed to pay. He then opened the door, letting the landlady in.
"Here. Two months worth."
She took the money and then insisted she stay for a little while longer.
"To chat," she told him. Khan hated his landlady for this, but liked it at the same time; it allowed for the both of them to have a conversation with someone that could never judge them.
"Khan, you know what I like about you? You always pay your rent on time, even in advance! You still work for the police department?"
"Yes, as a detective like I have been. Though I only work if there's been a kidnapping or a disappearance, when I do work, I get good money."
"Then why you staying here? Why not move to the Middle Ring?"
"Living in the Lower Ring is cheaper and it's closer to the cases I work on."
"I remember those days when you were never at the apartment, for months it seemed like."
"That was a rough case too. We actually had to get the homicide detective involved! A year and a half, it took."
"Oh, before I forget, how is she? Your friend, the little lady?"
"The gir—you mean Toph?"
"Of course! Yes, yes! She's been coming to your apartment almost every Tuesday for...I don't know how long now—"
"Wow! Impressive. I remember when you brought her here after she twisted her ankle. Wasn't that four years ago? Yes. How old is she now?"
"Sixteen. She'll be seventeen by spring."
They couldn't think of anything to say after that, especially the landlady. Then, she remembered something.
"One of the men in this complex told me that your name isn't 'Khan.' I thought it was a rather queer remark, seeing that, out of all the tenants, you're the most honest and the most likely to pay the rent when it's due."
"Why thank you."
"The man also said that you're a fire bender. Isn't that absurd?"
"Well...yeah...very. What's his name?"
"Guiren, I believe. He's new. Well, I must be off. Need to collect money from the others!"
He knew the name all too well. Guiren. A tall, tanned, man, with eyes that could pierce the soul, as well as flesh. One fierce warrior without a doubt! He almost lost his life fighting that man. Guiren. Khan thought about heeding the landlady's advice of moving to the Middle Ring, get out of this dreadful place. He'd definitely be closer to Toph, but would be that much farther from work.
Three knocks on the apartment room door.
"I'm coming!" Khan hollered. The man shuffled to the door, then opened it. He shouldn't have answered the door. He felt like a real idiot now.
"It's been a while! So, Khan, how has life been treating you?"
For the collective works of the author, go here.