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31st January, 2014
Aang is running through lower Ba Sing Se. He knows Toph, better than anyone else, and through personal experience he knows that she likes to drown out her problems with strong alcohol and weak opponents.
He searches for half an hour before a sudden thought halts him in his tracks. He has seen a new side to Toph tonight; one that must always have been there, but had been kept hidden. Who was to say that she had other hidden depths that he did not know about?
The realisation jolts him, and swaying slightly he sits down on the footpath like so many other drunks he's passed that night. His mind drifts back to earlier, and the strain on his heart tightens further. Guilt claws at his stomach to grab at the frantic organ in his chest, squeezing it. Even his lungs seem to be affected, and with all the air in the world he can't get them to inflate properly.
His whole body has turned against him as he fights the tears that are building up.
He hurt her.
He hurt her.
Her! Toph. The wussy airbender hurt the tough earthbender, and he doesn't know how to make it better.
Aang doesn't know why he laughed. Perhaps it was shock. The strangeness of seeing Toph in a dress, and the difficulty he had in reconciling the image of the girl in front of him with the girl he sparred with; the girl who taught him.
The guilt burbled like bile in his belly as Aang recalled, mere hours earlier, the idea to bet on the prettiest girl; they hadn't because Sokka refused such a wager when his sister was involved, and–Aang felt like throwing up at the thought–no one wanted to bet on Toph.
He lets out a small, choked cough at the memory.
It was true that when Katara appeared, she looked gorgeous and dazzling, with a light pink blush coating her cheeks and thick, red lipstick on. Aang heard Zuko's breathy sigh and couldn't help but agree. Katara looked... beautiful. And then Toph appeared.
The blind girl was wearing the barest hint of make-up–a soft green above her eyes and a delicate pink on her lips. Unlike Katara's own intricate up-do, her hair was loose and pulled back by what must have been a small clip. Aang wondered if she realised she was biting the inside of her mouth, and the small curves that appeared in her dress made the airbender think very un-monkish thoughts, pertaining in particular to the removal of said clothes.
Perhaps that was why he laughed; Toph, in all her tomboyish roughness, was still a girl. He wondered why he never noticed it before, before realising that Toph had never shown it.
And he laughed because of it, not thinking. There was a reason Toph never showed it, and that would be why; because she was met with laughter.
Aang rouses himself from his thoughts as he realises a tear has slipped down his cheek. He wants to find Toph and tell her exactly what he was thinking the moment she stepped from the room, but he doesn't want her to reject him, as he knows she will. After his earlier actions, he doesn't blame her.
It has been almost forty-five minutes, and while there is still much of the city to look through, Aang knows that if Toph doesn't want to be found, there is nothing that he can do to find her.
The foreign urge to give his brash teacher a warm hug overwhelms him, and Aang stumbles slightly as he begins making his way home. He needs her to know that he regrets his actions, his words. He needs her to forgive him.
He needs her.
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