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|More from Fruipit||Friendship/Romance||G||None||No update page|
|In the Moonlight|
13th February, 2013
Yeah, I know this is early (about 2 hours early for me), but Happy Valentine's Day!!
She wasn't his first choice—not by a long shot. Heck, for a time, she hadn't even been a choice. He had always been so distracted by Katara that he hadn't even noticed his best friend growing up right in front of him. Even when they split up—a mutual thing that still saddened the both of them—he didn't notice her. Looking back, he supposed he should have. Her brisk brisk manner, and abrupt attitude remained, but she still had changed in more than just looks; where she was once vulgar and unrefined, her personality developed into a mature young woman, with subtle wit and a sarcastic humour that was so refreshing. He found himself spending more and more time around the gorgeous warrior, everyday an excuse to be with her. He loved her own unique way of seeing the world, and her answers to his questions never seemed to sate his curiosity. As when they were younger, he still didn't—couldn't—understand her. And he loved trying to figure it out.
Alone with her, looking over a dark and gloomy forest, he couldn't fathom the reasons why she brought him out here. In the pale moonlight, he could make out great pines and bat-owls flying in the night. He could hear the cries of cicada-crickets calling through the night and a small brook bubbling over a little river of stones.
"It's beautiful, isn't it Twinks?"
Looking at her in the dim light, he could honestly say that it was, with her there.
"Yeah, you- it is..."
She looked at him curiously, titling her head slightly. She gave him a small smile from the side of her mouth that made his heart melt down to his shoes. His breath caught in his throat and he looked away embarrassed. She turned her sightless eyes back over to the landscape in front of them, indicating that he should do the same. Giving his own small smile, he turned back to the scene in front of them.
Instead of focussing on what he could see, he imitated his teacher, and used his energy to feel what she could. The change was instantaneous. He could sense so much more—he could feel the entire forest living in awareness of the creatures and trees around it. The family of jerboa-rats sneaking out if an underground burrow, watched carefully by a lynx-fox, waiting in the shadows. He could feel the small stream that he had heard earlier, the flowing water over the stones smooth and soothing. It didn't matter his own inner conflict, right here and now he was going to enjoy the peace and serenity the little forest held. Well, he would try.
"So, what do you see?" Toph's voice appeared right next to him; he could feel her hot breath on his face. Opening his eyes, he could see her milky green orbs only centimetres from his own. In the faint moonlight, she seemed even paler than usual, any scars or blemishes hidden by the drastic shadows. His breath caught in his throat for a second time, and it took all the self-control he had not to lean over and kiss her then and there. He looked away quickly before he did something he would regret—if only because of the giant punch she would throw at him.
"Everything..." He replied in his own whisper, barely able to push the air from his lungs.
"Are you okay? Your heart is going... Really fast..." She still hadn't moved away from him and he looked back at her, savouring her small frown of worry, the way her mouth became really small as she scrunched up her nose.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine..." he replied, noting with satisfaction that his voice wasn't as breathless as it had been.
"If you're sure..." she said doubtfully. "Thanks for letting me stick with you, Twinks..."
He looked at her again, this time more in shock than anything else.
Did she just... Thank me?
He had no time to dwell on it, as she was talking again and he didn't want to do anything that would take him away from the melodious sound.
"I know you needed my help after... what happened... I just want to say... Thanks for not sending me away... I really liked spending these months with you..."
A blush had formed on her cheeks, and she looked away from him, embarrassed.
"I wouldn't send you away, Toph! I love... having you around," he told her, hesitating through it. He hoped she hadn't noticed, but the Universe wasn't on his side tonight.
He had tried to stop himself saying something more powerful than the words he had, and he had succeeded, although it had a far worse effect than he intended. Toph wasn't sure what to makes of it, only that it confirmed her worst fears; while she had gone off and fallen in love with the goofy airbender, he saw her as nothing more than a hindrance, someone who he couldn't get rid of no matter how he tried. He didn't have the heart to tell her that he didn't want her around anymore—what other reason was there? She felt her heart breaking, and did the only thing she knew—she his her vulnerability behind a wall of anger.
"Oh, well if you wanted me to leave, you just had to say so. I didn't have to follow you around and he you. The least you could have done is tell me how much you hate my company!"
"No! I didn't say that! I never even thought that!" Even furious, she was beautiful. Unwillingly, his heart sped up and Toph, unable to see his terrified expression completely mistranslated what it meant.
"Don't lie to me! I tell you what I'm feeling, and you lie to me?!"
"No! No! I'm not lying, I really like spending time with you!"
No, no, no, this isn't right! I'm supposed to tell her how much I like her, and then she finally opens up to me, and we get together!
"Oh, stop lying to me!"
She was furious; she had finally created a door in her fortifications, and he hadn't even deserved it. He didn't want her around at all. She wanted to hit him, punch him. She wanted to scream at him until her throat was hoarse. She couldn't, though; she couldn't hurt him, no matter how much he hurt her.
Her fury was feeding his own anger and frustration. He wished she would strike her, because then he would have an excuse to fight back.
"Don't have a go at me just because you can't tell when you're being lied to, or given a compliment. I guess after Sokka you never thought anyone could ever like you. Well, maybe you're right!"
Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, should not have said that. Why did I do that, that was stupid. Oh, my god, I'm such an idiot!
He didn't look at her, he couldn't face her. She had said something similar to him only months before about his infatuation with Katara, but that was different. He had needed her harsh words if he was going to get over her. He had missed his chance with the waterbender, but at that moment he refused to let the earthbender slip from his grasp, using any method he could to have her stay. This time, though, he crossed a line. She had never said anything so emotive before, never told him how much she loved spending time with him. She just misunderstood what he mean, so why, why did he have to yell at her for it?
"Toph, I'm so sor-"
"Go away." He could hear tears in her voice, and wanted nothing more than to apologise until his throat was raw, beg for her forgiveness until his hands were red.
"I didn't mean it, I was jus-"
"Of course you meant it. The Avatar doesn't say things he doesn't mean!" She threw her head back and blinked rapidly, letting out a loud laugh that was so unlike her. "God, I like someone, he's taken. I like someone else, and they don't even notice! You're right, who would look at a blind tomboy?"
"I would!" He moved closer to her before shrinking under her withering glare.
"Oh, don't patronise me, Aang. You've never noticed anyone except Katara—so why do you care who I like? I told you because I thought you wouldn't laugh at me, or judge me. I guess I was wrong, you're just like every other guy out there!"
She was sitting right in front of him now, jabbing her index finger in to his chest angrily. He looked into her eyes and was shocked to see tears falling freely. He wanted nothing more than to wipe them away and hold her.
"I'm not! Toph, I'm sorry! I really lik-"
"Don't say another word. I'm sick of you and your perfect life. I'm sick of you lying to me, keeping secrets from me; I can feel it all the time. I stayed with you because I thought you needed me to get over Katara, but I was wrong. You used me so you wouldn't have to. You let me follow you around like a lost goat-dog while you pined after her. I'm sick of this crap!" Pounding her closed fists on the earth around her, she created a small hole that swallowed her, before closing up and leaving Aang alone. He held back the tears that threatened to stream down his face as he tried to make sense of what he had done.
He had to go see her before she did something that they would both regret. Opening his glider, he sprung into the air searching for his teacher. He didn't have to look far. Circling above the camp, he saw that she had walked into the centre of their small camp and was packing up her belongings.
Oh, no! You can't run away!!
Landing lightly in a tree, he carefully made his way to the ground. He didn't want to startle her further—he had first hand experience with the earthbender when she was emotional. Lets just say that it didn't end well, for Aang or for the Foggy Swamp Tribe.
"I'm leaving, don't try and stop me."
"I couldn't, no matter how much I want you to stay. It's my penance. I deserve to be left..."
He sat down on the edges of the camp, not trying to stop her or persuade her to stay. She put down her pack and turned to face him, a confused expression written on her face.
"... What? Don't lie to me, either!"
He sat in silence for a moment, thinking, opening his mouth several times before becoming scared and closing it again. She glared at him angrily for a second longer before roughly grabbing her pack off the floor and turning away. She was almost at the edge of the camp before he cried out.
"Wait!" He didn't mean to shout at her, but he couldn't help it. No matter what he just said, he couldn't just let her walk out of his life like so many other people had. He was going to fight this time.
Huffing, she sat down on the opposite side of the fire, only a few metres away from him. He marvelled at the way the orange glow bounced off her porcelain skin. She was no longer crying, but her cheeks had a slight blush to them that he loved and if he looked closely, he could see that her eye colour had changed, from a milky blue-green to a sharp lime colour. Unwillingly, his heart began to speed up. If he screwed this up, he could say goodbye to their friendship.
"I, uh... I deserve anything you choose to do to me. I was wrong, I shouldn't have said those things."
"No, you shouldn't," she retorted, her face set in a hard frown.
"I know, and I regret it! I'm so, so sorry, Toph..."
"Why did you do it?" she asked him, her voice soft, but not gentle.
His heartbeat never slowed—it was make or break time. He had to tell her though, had to try. If he didn't try and right the wrong that he had done, he would never forgive himself.
"I said it... I said it because..." Ah, to hell with it. "I like you, Toph. I really like you, and I'm so sorry for what I said. I truly hope that you don't leave... But I understand if you do..." He hung his head low, unwilling to meet her piercing gaze. It didn't matter that she couldn't see him, the effect was still the same.
Putting his hands on the floor, he couldn't feel her sitting across from him. Looking up, he saw her standing in front of him, before he saw nothing at all. Sprawled on the dirt floor, he raised a hand to his cheek, his own fingers aligning perfectly with the reddening mark. He looked up at Toph, the fire reflecting angrily in her eyes.
"I said, no lying!" The broken way that she said it cut him deeper than any slap, tears spilling over her face again.
"I didn't! Why would I lie about something like that!"
"I don't know! Another sick joke, playing a prank on the blind girl. I thought you were above this," she sneered.
Aang stood up. No, no, no! It can't end like this! How can she think it was a joke? Couldn't she sen- oh, spirits...
"Toph, I would never do something that cruel," he said, stepping forward and placing his hands on her shoulders. She shrugged him off and stepped away.
"I can feel your heartbeat. I can tell you're lying!"
"You mean, when my heart races when I tell you that I do care for you, that I think you're the most amazing person in the world and I can't believe it took me four years to even notice that you were even here?"
"Stop it! Stop lying to me!" She flung her fisted hands down and stomped her foot, angry tears pouring down her face.
Taking a shuddering breath, Aang forced his heart to stop racing, drawing on his meditation skills to bring it under control.
"Toph," he said, moving towards her again. This time she didn't back away, instead holding her ground and her head up as though he wasn't really breaking her heart.
"Toph, I never lied to you about any of that. It's the truth." He waited while she felt his heart for any deception. Shaking her head ever so slightly, she refused to believe him.
"I really like you..." He felt his heart fluttering again, the butterfly-dragons in his stomach multiplying. He stepped forward, barely a foot away from the woman in front of him and wiped away the tears forming in her eyes. She quivered slightly under his touch and he drew a deep breath. He moved his hand to her cheek and she closed her eyes, leaning into him. He could feel her warm breath on his face as he leaned forward, their foreheads touching. Opening his mouth, Aang let out a shuddering breath, savouring the close contact that he had longed for since he worked out his own feelings. This could be the only chance he had—she could be gone in the morning. He had to make the most of it.
"I love you Toph..." He whispered to her, eliciting a small gasp from her. He didn't want her to feel obligated to love him, he didn't want her to lie. Another shaky breath later, he stepped away, the cool air overwhelming him after their close contact. He could see her sway slightly on the spot, as though dizzy and for the second time that night it took all his willpower to not take her in his arms.
"I'm not going to stop you leaving... I never was very assertive. I just hope you're here when the sun rises. If not... Good luck... Toph." He walked away to his tent slowly. Lying down on the thin cotton, he could still sense her with his earthbending. She was standing where he had left her, her heart beating erratically.
Perhaps she would stay?
Even as he had that thought, he knew it was futile. No-one could control Toph, no-one could cage her—least of all him. He felt her lean over and pick up her pack, before slowly walking out of the camp, towards the spot she had taken him to that night.
The place where all this started...
He would always love and hate that little hill, overlooking a beautiful forest, even if they were the only two people who could see it. It would be their spot, a little piece of their history that he would never forget. He always knew she would leave. She loved freedom, but she also needed stability. An earthbender couldn't be a nomad. The were rooted and unyielding, their own personalities in direct contrast against his own; that's why he loved her. She was his rock. She kept him grounded when he wanted to blow away and she had kept him sane during the worst months of his breakup with Katara. She had always known what he needed, and when she had needed him to understand her most, help her, he had been blinded by his own jealousy. She was right to leave. He was a terrible person. She had only ever tried to help him, and all he wanted to do was help himself.
But, he had to stay true to his word. He had to let her go, just as he said he would. No matter how painful. Perhaps if they meet again, things might be different?
He had to hope. He had to have faith, at least for the future. Tonight, he would focus on what the new day would bring, instead of what the moon had taken.
Pulling his blankets over his head, he let the first of many tears leak out from under his lashes.
Walking away from the camp, she didn't understand what had happened. She had never understood, not really, but this was ridiculous. Even for an airbender, he had always been especially evasive. What was that, tonight? He was so... Forward. And there was she, blubbering like a baby moo-sow who had lost its mother. Why did he have such an effect on her? She was sixteen, surely old enough to be in control of her emotions by now, right? Wrong. She had felt something developing for Aang, the months she had spent punching him, bullying him, waiting for him to get over Katara paving the way for her own feelings to develop. Honestly, she didn't know why she said anything at all. She knew she would get hurt, she always did—but for him to lie so blatantly to her! How stupid did he think she was? She could sense him!
Are you sure he was really lying?
His heart sped up! If that wasn't proof, she didn't know what was. He had lied to her so much lately. Whenever she was around, his heart would speed up as though he was keeping a secret. This must be it. Wait for her to open herself up to him, and then pull a prank... Did Sokka plan it?! It's something he would do!
Arriving at her destination—the small knoll that she had taken Aang to earlier—she sat down, hugging her knees to her chest. She didn't know what to think. She was conflicted, a feeling that didn't sit well with her. Her heart ached, but she didn't understand why. He had lied to her, used her, and then done something like this. She couldn't feel this way.
But... what was that then, after you slapped him?
The little, treacherous voice at the back of Toph's mind was right. What was that? The way he had held her felt so... right. All her heart had wanted was to be closer to him, but her head wouldn't let her move. She had felt weak at the knees—she didn't know why she had let him get so close. The way he held her... It had made her heart melt, and she had wanted nothing more than to close the distance between them. It had become easier and easier to let down her guard around him.
And look where that got me...
Lying down on the soft, dewy grass, she sent out tendrils of earthbending, smiling slightly as it returned, bearing the vibrations of so much life, before being drowned out by a larger, stronger beat; her heart. Curling up slightly, she forewent her traditional earth shelter, instead lying with the stars looking down on her as her own heartbeat lulled her to sleep.
The sun had risen. She could feel it on her face, gently warming the tearstained cheeks. It was only soft; it couldn't have been too long past sunrise. The birds were singing a gentle song, the tune made up as they whistled to each other. Sitting up, Toph realised that she still had no idea what to do. Plagued with dreams and nightmares alike, she felt as though every angle had been scrutinised by her subconscious, as though it too was annoyed with her indecisiveness.
And why wouldn't it be? An earthbender is decisive! I can't toss and turn over every issue! You've never had a problem this big before...
Standing up, she picked up her pack and looked around her. She couldn't sense whether or not the camp was still there. She knew what she had to do, and both wanted and hated to do it. Letting out a slow sigh, she began walking back to the small clearing.
She didn't know what she was going to say to him when she faced him again. Perhaps she should tell him how she felt? But, she didn't even know how she felt. Yeah, that conversation would go down well.
Hey, Aang. Sorry I slapped you for saying you like me. I may or may not like you, too. Lets find out!
No, thank you. She was trying to avoid awkward conversations. She had participated in enough with Sokka to last a lifetime—and they were all pointless! Perhaps Aang would have packed up and left? That would solve one problem, but create hundreds more.
Coming closer to the clearing, she could feel the airbender moving around, packing up sluggishly as though he was putting it off.
He's hoping I will return...
She wasn't sure how she felt about that. She wanted him to be angry with her for leaving—she knew how to deal with that; she didn't know what to do if he wanted her. She had never been wanted before. Needed, yes, but that didn't mean that the people she was with appreciated the company, just her skills. Creeping forward, she walked to the edge of the camp, still partially hidden in darkness.
He whipped around, and she could feel his breath increase, his heart threatening to break from his ribcage.
"You came back..."
She nodded her head, not moving closer to him.
"It felt wrong to leave like this," she told him, her voice low and quiet. "I'm sorry about last night. I shouldn't have slapped you... I shouldn't have said anything about- I mean, I shouldn't have thought you were lying. I was... Confused. I still am... I don't know what I feel about myself... Or you...."
He looked at her, but her head was down, long black hair concealing her eyes. She had apologised—something unheard of. She had tried to right her wrongs. It was now his turn.
"Toph... I shouldn't have said what I said. It was wrong of me, and cruel.... Nothing will ever excuse my behaviour, and I'll never forgive myself for hurting you.
Drat, here came those accursed tears again. He really did care about her, and she hadn't told him how she felt. This whole situation was way out of her comfort zone—at this moment, for the first time in her life, she just wanted someone to hold her.
She didn't try to hold back the tears. The ones she had shed last night were nothing compared to the ones now leaking from her useless eyes. She felt... happy. Her heart ached, but she relished the feeling, like stretching muscles after a good workout. She stayed rooted in the spot, tears slowly dropping to the floor. Aang was walking towards her slowly, before dropping the small bag he was carrying and running to her, pulling her into a tight embrace.
"I forgive you..." she whispered to him, lifting her arms up to return the hug. She nuzzled her face into his chest, right above his heart. Aang gently rubbed her back, not saying anything. He didn't want to ruin this moment.
"Everything I said last night was the truth... I love you, Toph... Pease don't leave me," he whispered into her ear. She shuddered, his warm breath sending chills down her back.
"I can't stop you from being you, leaving if you want and going wherever you please. I hope that you let me come too, though, because... Well, it won't matter. I will follow you to the ends of the earth if that's where you're going."
A strange sound came from the young girl, and he pulled away slightly so he could see her. She still had tears on her face, but was she... smiling? And was that a laugh? Albeit a choking kind of gurgle, but he would take an upside down frown at this stage.
"Twinkletoes... Aang... I couldn't stop you even if I wanted to. I don't want to. I want you to stay with me... To make sure I keep walking, to... help me... if I fall, I want you to pick me back up, because without you I don't think I could do it on my own..."
She wasn't laughing anymore, the tears she was shedding changing from ones of pure joy and ecstasy to ones of fear and grief. She had never opened herself up so much, had never allowed anyone to see that underneath her hardened exterior, she was a blind little girl, terrified of herself and of the world. Pulling her close again, Aang knew it wasn't words that she needed to comfort her. For the first time in her life, she needed, not wanted, needed, someone to hold her and tell her how much she was needed.
Taking her hand, he lead her to one of the stone benches she had bent during their stay in the clearing. Gently setting her down, he knelt in front of her. She wasn't sure what he was doing, but trusted him. She was in her element, she wasn't blind, and she was with a man that she would die for. It was still a surprise when he leant over and kissed her, gently, delicately, right in the centre of her forehead.
It came as a greater shock when he repeated the action, this time on her left temple, then right.
"Toph Bei Fong, I love you-"
"I will never, ever leave you-"
"-... It would kill me..."
He placed the last kiss on the tip of her nose, and watched amusedly when she slowly lifted her fingers to touch the places where his lips had left searing impressions.
"Aang... You don't need to... I'm blind... I can't ever-"
"Toph..." He silenced her easily—she really had no idea what she was going to say, only that he must be making a mistake. What she had screamed at him earlier was true—no one liked blind tomboys.
"Toph, I don't care that you're blind. You're amazing, as amazing as a spider fly. You learnt to create a home, you learnt to see on your own, with no one to help you. You taught the Avatar how to earthbend, how many people can say they can do that? It's not what people see you to be, it's who you show them you are, that defines who you truly are."
Softly, he moved his head forward and kissed her on her closed eyelids before removing them painstakingly slowly, leaving her short of breath.
Reaching out her own fingers, she deftly moved them around his face, getting to know the general layout. There would be time enough to memorise his features, she didn't need to know the shape of his eyes to do what she had next planned. Taking his face in her small hands, she leaned forward, her lips making contact with his for the first time.
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