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30th May, 2013
noun [pl. families]
1. [a] group of people related by blood or marriage
Leaping high over the blockade, Toph could feel the benders catching up. She cursed under her breath, berating herself for being caught; not once had she ever been found out, and yet one simple mistake had the entire guard after her. She was surprised The Lord of the house hadn't come after her; they didn't realise who she was, and after sneaking in a good dozen times, she knew he could earthbend. She knew he was good at it.
Diving down into the stone, the blind earthbender quickly changed direction and began burrowing beneath the men following her. She sunk a little deeper and curled up, panting heavily. She couldn't afford to be found out, no matter how she wanted to face them, those people. She was safe in her little burrow, and she would stay there until she knew it was safe to make her way back to Aang. None of her friends knew of her rendezvous at the property, and she wanted to keep it that way. They would only be in the area for another few days while Aang sorted out some uprisings, and then they were on their way.
As far as any of them knew, she had no interest in travelling to the house she was underneath, and making amends with her parents.
Growling, Toph rolled her head back and slammed it into the wall of the small cavern. Of course she wanted to see them! They were her parents; but by same token, she was their daughter, and they had never tried to contact her. Well, not after Xin Fu and Yu.
Toph had been sneaking into their house for a little under a month, hidden in walls as she watched her parents interact. It was strange; it barely felt different to her life when she was there. But, then she began noticing little nuances. Her mother had stopped painting, moving onto pottery. Her father began reading aloud. It took her four visits to realise that it was because they missed her. They never spoke to each other about it, never uttering the words, but she still knew. Her excursions became more frequent, staying longer as she listened to her father's voice (even if he was just reading tax reports, or going through his portfolio). She would remain behind after her mother had finished for the day and sneak into the arts room, going around and touching all the little pieces as she felt their texture and shape (and fixing a few that had cracked through the middle, or had a natural weakness in the clay). That's what she had been doing when the guards caught her.
It wasn't something she had ever expected to happen. She was making the usual rounds as she felt all the new pieces with her calloused fingers, when she felt it. Unbidden, tears formed at her eyes, and she laughed out loud at the adorable, loving, pathetic attempt of her mother to create a person, to create her. The guards had come running and she had tried to escape through the walls.
They hadn't recognised her, the guards. Crawling through the dirt, she could understand why. No longer was she the short, petite twelve-year old. Four years had matured her, in ways even she hadn't anticipated. Almost as tall as Aang, and taller than Katara, Toph had developed into a willowy youth, fierce green eyes peering blindly from behind her raven locks—the only tough physicality she sported. Even her hands and feet were cute, small. She had a peasant's perspective and drive, but to anyone looking at her, she was a noblewoman (an aspect she didn't argue too much, as it allowed her certain advantages such as drinking and access to parties that had even more alcohol).
Feeling the weight of her hotel above the ground, Toph angled upwards, waiting just below the surface until she couldn't feel anyone. Popping up (and surprising the old concierge), she brushed the worst of the dirt off and made her way to her room. She could feel a few people still up, so it couldn't be too late. Sighing relievedly, she walked to the room she was sharing with her friends, blessedly situated on the ground floor for her convenience.
She hoped that her friends were out or asleep—it wouldn't do for them to catch her (again) walking through the door covered in the dirt. The first time it had happened, she had forgotten to wipe the smile from her face. It only took her a few seconds to think up the lie of her beating the spit out of a street rat for trying to pickpocket her, but where Katara had sighed, and Sokka accepted it, Aang had looked at her curiously; it was then that she had remembered he could read heartbeats almost as well as she could.
"Toph?" Aang's voice shook her from her reverie, and she cursed inwardly.
"Hey, Aang! What's up?" she responded, biting the inside of her lip.
"I was just looking for you! I managed to stop the uprisings! Sokka figured out that the farmers weren't angry with the Fire Nation, but the Earth Kingdom. Apparently, they weren't compensated for the loss of their paddy fields, so we're heading out to Omashu in the morning to get Bumi to sign off on extra aid. I just wanted to- Toph?"
Aang peered questioningly at the girl in front of him. Toph's face had fallen, and she began to chew her lip again.
"Aang, can we hold off one more day? There's som- I... There's something I need to do..." she trailed off, upset that she was even considering it.
"Sure! Uh... do what? I mean, we've been here for a while, and there isn't a lot to do here..."
"I- I want to go and see my parents," she mumbled quietly, interlacing her fingers in front of her body, desperate for some action. She felt Aang cock his head—he must have been questioning her decision. She felt her heart sink a little at his less-than-enthusiastic response, and before he could say anything she blurted out an angry, "I can do it on my own. You go to Omashu," before turning around and exiting the small accommodations, and walking past the concierge, not entirely sure where she was going. Maybe she would face her parents tonight? Or find Katara and get her to come with her. Toph had reached the end of the short street when she felt Aang running to reach her. She stopped and turned sharply, glaring at him as he took a tentative step forward, definitely invading her space bubble.
"What?" she seethed aggressively.
"I just... well, Omashu isn't going anywhere—and I thought since they think I kidnapped you..." He made no move to come closer, but Toph got the impression that had he had room, he would have taken another step forward. "Can I come with you?"
"Don't you have more important stuff to do?" she asked angrily, although the sneer was wiped from her face when he answered, with the utmost truth and honesty,
"No, I don't."
Her face relaxed, and she looked for all the world a child again, not a teenager marked by war.
"I- I dunno how long I'm gonna stay... But if you want I guess you can come," she said, feigning nonchalance.
"Of course I want to, Toph. We can stay as long as you want..."
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