Chapter information

When Past Meets Present



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Release date

2nd May, 2013

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The Fireflies


The sunlight streamed through the various windows, hitting a particularly grumpy firebender in the face. Rolling over to cover his eyes, he unknowingly rolled on top of a rather skittish airbender, who had the misfortune of screaming ridiculously loudly, and waking up the only earthbender he knew with a natural propensity to hurt people when she was happy, and hospitalise them when she wasn't. Fortunately for said airbender, his girlfriend woke up in time to grab the earthbender-meets-Hulk and prevent her from caving in her boyfriend's skull.

"Agh, lemme go, Sugar Queen. I need to beat some brains into your boyfriend. I was finally having a good sleep!" Toph cried, attempting to squirm out of Katara's grip. The waterbender relented only when Aang had jumped up onto a table. When the blind girl realised that she had no way of hurting Aang (well, no easy way), she flopped back and pulled the covers over her eyes.

"I'm going back to sleep," she said, her voice muffled by the thick winter blankets.

"We really should get up," Sokka muttered, rubbing his eyes. Suki was already standing, and with a sickly groan she ran to the bathroom.

"I'll go see if I can help," Katara told her brother. "Just get Toph up, okay?"

Looking from the lump that was Toph to the other boys' faces, Sokka wiggled his fingers and pointed to the bed sheets. With a similarly evil grin, Zuko wrenched the blankets off Toph. Before she had a chance to cry out, Sokka had plucked her up and was holding her aloft, away from the ground she needed to see. Jumping off the table, Aang grabbed one of Toph's flying feet and began tickling it. Soon, Zuko joined in with the other foot, ignoring her threats interspersed with outbreaks of giggles and shrieks of laughter.

"Ack, lemme go!" Toph cried. "I'm... I'm gonna pee myself!"

Relenting immediately, Sokka put her down gingerly, shying away when her fist came into contact with his stomach.

"I know this was your idea, Snoozles," she said, smirking.

Stretching, she rubbed her stomach.


As expected, Sokka nodded eagerly, with Zuko and Aang mumbling agreements. Baring her teeth in a wolfish grin, Toph said, "Kitchen's that-a-way. I'll go and get the girls," before turning and walking out the back to see how Katara and Suki were faring.

As the warm sun hit her face, Toph let a small smile appear on her face. It had been so long—too long—since she had felt so happy and at peace with everyone. Surely she hadn't laughed like that since, well, since she moved in with Iroh. That had been what, five months ago? Something like that.

Thinking about it, Toph even felt a little guilty (although not nearly enough to quell the bubbling feeling of just overwhelming joy that she had felt). That was the way with the world, though; someone shouldn't be happy, a survivor shouldn't be happy, because there were those that had been lost—and Toph had lost so much.

Shaking her head of the remorseful thoughts, Toph immediately turned her attention to the problem at hand. Namely, calling the girls for breakfast when Suki was sure to be puking whatever she had in her stomach. And when that stopped, dry heaving that the blind girl knew to be ten times worse than actual regurgitation.

"Hey, is she feeling okay?" Toph asked Katara during one of Suki's brief respites from vomiting.

"It's just morning sickness. It should pass soon."

"Iroh has a special tea blend that can help with the sickness. Well, any type of sickness really. There was a really nice customer who helped us perfect it, so it should work..." Toph said thoughtfully.

"Do you think I could take it?" Suki asked while wiping her mouth with a damp cloth. Toph looked at her and nodded.

"I'll go see if he has any left. It doesn't keep for very long, but it isn't hard to prepare from scratch," the blind girl said idly.

"Thanks Toph," Suki said gratefully, receiving a small blush from the younger girl as response. Backing out of the bathroom, Toph waited until she was around the corner before smacking herself in the head.

"Go ahead and make it obvious, why don't you?!" she muttered to herself angrily. "Now I know what Katara meant last night, though..." Sighing, she slid down to the ground. The cool stone had helped her through so many sleepless nights; be it here or her home in Gaoling, Toph had never had something so stable and comforting as the earth she bent. Well, not until-

No! Not thinking about it!

Toph knew it was a futile effort, though. She had spent so long denying what had happened—she still did. It was the only way to get through the days. The nights and the nightmares brought it all back, and she was tired of fighting it. She was exhausted. Drained. It would be so easy to just stop caring, to stop trying. Who knew, one day she may even forgive herself for giving up—anyone else would have done it under the same circumstances.

Well, no, that wasn't true. She knew of one man who, through insurmountable odds, had overcome the very same problem. Issue. Predicament.

She needed to get Iroh to read to her—she was running out of good words.

Sighing to herself, Toph picked herself up off the now warm concrete, and ambled back inside. To her surprise, she was greeted by the smell of cowbacon and turkey eggs.

"What are you doing?" she asked, closing her eyes and sticking her small nose in the air. "Are you cooking?"

"Well, you made food last night, so we thought we should try it," came the reply.

"Is Suki okay?" Sokka questioned, leaving the kitchen to sit next to Toph on the ground—she had figured that they wouldn't need her help.

"Yeah. Iroh has some tea that should help with the morning sickness. It's in the corner cupboard, called Hǎo Qǐlái. I didn't think of the name."

Smiling gratefully, Sokka got up to try and find it. Probably due to the fact that it was a tiny kitchen, with three grown men (well, two and a bit. Toph would never be able to think of Aang as a "man"), Sokka was having difficulty locating the tea. It could have also been due to the fact that he wasn't a very domestic person, and in a tea shop, run by a veritable tea guru, he had no chance.

"Toph!" he whined, sounding remarkably like a baby rabbaroo. "I can't find it!"

Sighing good-naturedly, she got up from the ground, swaying slightly as a small jolt ran through her stomach and up to her head. Pressing her right temple lightly as she waited of the sharp but brief pain to be forgotten, she walked into the now absolutely flooded kitchen.

"Aang, what are you doing?" she asked, feeling his strong heartbeat flitting around the kitchen and not actually helping at all.


Smiling, she pushed him out of her way and earthbent a small step for her to stand on. Reaching into one of the cupboards, she carefully sniffed the small containers of tea before handing one to Sokka.

"Here. Put it in the water while its boiling—it'll be sweeter and the leaves won't burn." Pushing herself up to sit on the bench, she cocked her head and said, almost as an afterthought, "Make me one, too. Please."

She could feel Sokka's wide-eyed gaze on her. Smiling softly to herself, she was somewhat prepared for his choking question of, "You aren't pregnant, are you, Toph?" It was unexpected for everyone else though; Zuko managed to burn himself (he was a firebender after all), and she heard something loud fall onto the floor, presumably Aang.

"No, Sokka, I'm not pregnant. It's good for any type of sickness, and I just like that tea," she said. "Why, would it be a problem if I was?"

Sokka was quick to raise his hands in what would have been a peace offering had she been able to see it.

"No! No, I mean, if you want a kid, go for it. It's just uh... You need a guy for that..."

She snorted, and smiled directionlessly. "You know, Snoozles, I am sixteen. I know all about the butterfly-birds and hornet-bees." If she could have seen how the three boys' faces paled at the thought of the youngest member of their group knowing about that stuff, she never would have let them live it down. As it were, she had to make do with imagining it, because at that moment Katara and Suki decided to return, and wasted no time in pointing out the boys' sudden lack of colour.

"What's up? You look sick—Toph isn't cooking the food, is she?" Katara joked, patting the blind girl on the arm when she uttered an indignant "Hey!"

"Sorry, sweetie, but you aren't the most domestic person I know," Katara said, laughing. "So, what's with the faces?"

Sokka offered a strangled sort of laugh, completely devoid of humour, and Aang seemed to have lost the ability to speak. Zuko sighed and wiped his hands on his clothes, taking the food off the stove.

"Sokka seems unable to comprehend the fact that Toph is now a grown woman and able to have kids if she wants to."

The blind girl smiled smugly as Sokka found his voice.

"Yeah, but you can't have a child without a husband!"

Huffing, she blew her hair from her face.

"Relax, Snoozles. I'm not having kids," she told him. "I'm hungry, and that food smells like its done. Come on!" Without waiting for a reply, she jumped from the bench top and walked out of the room.

"Care to help?" Sokka shouted after her, looking at his friends. They only shrugged.

During the fairly uneventful breakfast of bacon for the meat eaters and eggs for Aang, it was decided that if they were to attend the ball briefly mentioned the night before, the girls would need to go to a spa and the boys would go to the palace to collect/ask/beg for passes. Mai had declined the invitation for a 'girls day out', instead preferring to go with the boys so she could visit Ty Lee, who was serving as the Kyoshi Warriors liaison to the Earth King.

Suki guzzled down her tea, and congratulated her husband on not burning it. Toph had taken her own sip, and had to concede that perhaps Sokka wasn't so bad at making tea after all. It was nowhere near the quality of Iroh's though, and she was almost ashamed to admit that she had become very fussy regarding her tea. Almost. Katara pulled out her healing water, hoping to ease some of Suki's discomfort. While she worked, the boys packed up the room and Mai did the dishes—for reasons she couldn't fathom, Toph seemed unnecessarily worried about Suki, and refused to leave her side. After several minutes, in which Suki's pained expression lessened as Katara worked the kinks in her back, the waterbender turned to Toph.

"Do you want me to have a look at you too, Toph?"

The blind girls eyes widened momentarily. "Uh, I'm fine..."

"Well, if you're sure. You said the tea helps with other sickness, so I thought you might want a healing." The two girls sat there as Suki quietly excused herself to help Mai finish the dishes.

"I get these headaches.... D- d'you think you could help?"

"Sure!" Katara said, a little too excited to be able to help her friend. Surrounding Toph's head in the cool liquid, she slowly rubbed it up and down trying to get the chi flowing through her crown chakra. Moving her hand, Katara could feel a rough buildup of energy in the very centre of Toph's head. Pushing and pulling at the scab, she gasped as a small node of energy burst. The girl groaned and fell back onto the floor, curled in a foetal position with her hands on her head as she rode out the spasms.

"Oh, spirits Toph, I'm so sorry!" The episode went unnoticed by the boys, and Katara shot a glance at Aang. Even when his chi flow was interrupted after Azula shot him, the energy had been nowhere near as powerful or as volatile as the one in Toph's head. Reaching out for her gently, Katara lay her water covered hand on Toph's head and slowly brushed it down her back, feeling the energy within Toph's body as it swirled and contracted. Katara gasped at the complete mess of her insides, and the younger girl trembled under her. Katara wasn't sure if it was the aftermath of the pain, or something else. Working her hand back up the girl's body, Katara wasn't game enough to try and do anything else to heal her. The release of energy in Toph's head had done nothing to affect the girl physically, but Katara didn't want to take any chances.

"Woah, Toph. I didn- I'm sorry, I don-"

Toph sat up, looking as though she would be sick. She had turned ghostly white, and she trembled occasionally as though cold. Picking up Toph's cup of tea, Katara manipulated the water within it so it heated up, and gave it to the small girl. She took it greedily, and when she finished with it, a little colour had returned to her face and she had stopped shaking.

"Trust the cure to be Iroh's tea," she laughed quietly as though trying to forget what had just happened.

"Toph, I don't thin-"

"Hush, Sweetness. I'm used to it now, I just wanted to know if you could help."

Katara would have argued with the young girl, but at that moment Iroh wandered into the shop. His top knot was askew, and he had bags under his eyes (presumably from the racket the teenagers had made the previous night). The marks seemed to vanish when Toph ran up to him to wish him a good morning, although she stumbled a little. They wandered into the kitchen, oblivious to the looks of surprise her open affection for him had garnered. The gentle clinks of tea being poured into a cup was heard, and the murmurings of conversation not necessarily a secret, but perhaps not for everyone to hear.

Toph soon reappeared, a smile on her face as Iroh followed behind. He quickly explained her expression.

"Young Mistress Toph has requested your presence until such a time as you decide to go back to saving the world and whatnot," he told them, smiling in a way that even Zuko couldn't tell the purpose behind it.

"He said you can stay here," she told them, her own face mirroring the old man's. Katara was the first to speak up.

"Are you sure? We don't want to be an imposition..."

"Nonsense, Katara! As long as you allow this old man a peaceful night's rest," he told her, laughing easily. "Now that is sorted, you must allow me to get the store prepared for trade today. Toph mentioned a spa?"

Suki nodded. "We thought it would be something fun we could do together," she explained.

Toph moved forward and grabbed the hands of Katara and Suki, and told them, "You need to get changed. You can't go out in those clothes. Pick the nicer ones. You too, Mai, even if you're just going to a giant palace."

Watching the girls leave the room, Iroh turned to the boys and gave a hearty, "Take care!" before returning to the kitchen. Calling out their goodbyes, they quickly left for the palace—the girls would never forgive themselves if they went to all the trouble to get ready for a party, and were then unable to attend.

It was when the girls, sans Mai, arrived at The Fancy Lady Day Spa that Katara found an opportunity to ask Toph of her strange behaviour.

"So, Toph..." she asked as they walked up the stairs into the spa.


"What was with that this morning?"

"What part? The part where my brain exploded, or was it when you discovered that Sokka actually could make reasonable tea, and your fear of him poisoning you all these years has been unfounded?" Toph had taken a seat on one of the plush couches, and had proceeded to rub her filthy fingers and feet gloriously into the pale green silk. With an expression torn between laughter at the younger girl's antics, or horror that she had ruined a perfectly good lounge, Katara sat next to her while Suki booked the treatments.

"The whole pregnancy thing. What started it?"

"Oh, that." She waved her hand dismissively. "That was nothing. I wanted some of the tea that Sokka was making to help with the morning sickness, and he jumped to the conclusion."

"Oh," was all the response Katara gave. "You- you aren't, are you?"

Toph turned her sightless eyes on Katara, the blank green orbs glazed over with repressed emotion.

"I'm not ever having kids, Katara..."

"Toph, I could see, when I tried healing you, I saw-"

"Look. I don't want to talk about it. If I want you to know something, you'll know it—until then, can you please just not say anything about rumours, or theories, or things you think you've seen. I know what's happened to me, Katara, and I don't really want you to know."

"You know what happened to you? So something did happen. Toph, I'm your friend! I can help you, you know. You don't always have to do things on your own!" Katara cried, pleading with the younger girl.

Toph glanced in her direction, a scornful expression on her face. "That's what Aang said too, you know. He said he can help. I'll tell you what I said. He can't help. You can't help. The only person who could possibly understand is Iroh, and even then... Just, leave it alone. Please."

The waterbender would have questioned Toph's suddenly dour mood, however Suki chose that time to approach them.

"They're ready for us. First, Toph, you have a mud bath while Katara and I get pedicures—I know you don't like people touching your feet. Then, we all have manicures and I have a facial. You two have a session in the sauna. Is that all right? I can't have a mud bath or go in the sauna because of the baby, and I know how fussy Katara would be if she got dirt in her hair." Suki offered a small laugh and an apologetic smile. Toph only shrugged, before following one of the attendants to the bathhouses. Katara watched the young girl until she was out if sight, before hitching up the bottom of the borrowed kimono and following Suki into another room.

"What's up with Toph?" the Kyoshi Warrior asked, as soon as she was sure the blind girl wouldn't overhear them.

"Honestly? I don't know," Katara admitted, reclining luxuriously as one of the attendants took a hold of her foot. "There's something really, really wrong, and she won't talk about it. I don't think it's connected to whatever happened those years ago with Aang—at least not directly."

Suki nodded, looking away so she wouldn't meet Katara's eyes. "I guess..." she said softly.

"You think she has a problem with you, don't you?" Katara guessed, watching Suki's eyes widen, looking away again almost as soon as she noticed the change.

"Don't you?"

Sighing, Katara leaned back in her chair. She had noticed the difference—Suki had too, obviously, but it seemed as though none of the boys thought her any different. That set off alarm bells as in the waterbender's experience, boys were only oblivious about certain things—love, growing up, and fashion. If they hadn't noticed anything wrong, Katara assumed it had to be one of those things.

"I can talk to her, but I don't know how much she's going to tell me... She's all sort of closed off—I think she only really talks to Iroh..."

"What if I try talking to her?" Suki offered carefully. "I mean, she doesn't have a problem with you..."

"Look, we don't even know if it is a problem! She did offer you tea..."

"Katara." The way Suki said her name made Katara sit up just a little straighter. "She hasn't said anything to me—she won't even answer my questions. You can't say you haven't noticed that she's barely spoken to Sokka either."

"You don't think-"

Suki cut her off impatiently. "All I'm saying is, that letter Aang sent? Maybe he was right."

The two friends lapsed into silence, each keenly aware that there was something—and something big—that their youngest friend was keeping from them, and neither was happy about the possibilities of what it might be.

When the two girls finally reunited with a very pink looking Toph, both were absolutely dreading a conversation with her. Thankfully seated on wooden furniture, Katara and Suki made sure to keep their feet off the floor so she couldn't sense how nervous they were.

"I'm going to go to the bathroom!" Katara declared suddenly, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Toph and a panicked expression from Suki.

"Good luck with that, Sweetness..."

Katara backed out of the room somewhat awkwardly, shooting Suki a pointed glare.

"So, Toph..." the pregnant woman trailed off as Toph raised her eyebrow. "Uhh.... Thanks, you know, for the tea... It really helped."

The blind girl stared straight ahead, but offered a small smile. "It's good tea."

"Yeah, it really helped. I didn't know you knew anything about tea!"

Toph turned her head slightly to face her companion, before looking away. She did this several times, as though fighting with her own intentions—did she want to answer? Opening and shutting her mouth, it took a few more seconds for her to answer.

"You pick things up, living with Iroh."

"He's a lovely man. How long have you lived with him?" Suki pressed, her fears assuaged for the time being.

"A few months," Toph admitted, the words coming easier the longer she talked. Suki smiled a little. It didn't matter that she wouldn't look at her—she was blind, after all—and wouldn't strike up a conversation. They were talking.


The innocent word slipped out, and Suki knew immediately that she shouldn't have asked such a question. Toph's brows furrowed, and she sunk low into her chair. The smile had been wiped from her face, and she had retreated into herself.


"... Do- I wonder where Katara is? She's taking a long time..." she said more to herself than the pregnant warrior. Suki didn't make any more attempts to talk to her, even as the young girl perked up when Katara reappeared. Whatever fragile emotional strings kept Toph together, Suki didn't want to be the one to severe them, even accidentally.

She was fearful then, when they arrived back at the tea shop and Toph walked straight out the back to find Iroh, barely acknowledging the regular customers who loved the sweet girl as her two friends located a table in the corner.

Suki knew that Katara was burning with curiosity—she could see it in her bright blue eyes, and feverish expression. The warrior bit her lip, not needing any verbal prodding from her friend. Before she could say anything, there was a small cough, and they looked up to see Sokka standing over them, a tray of tea in his hands. Aang waved over to them from the Pai Sho table with a goofy smile.

"Zuko went to get Mai—he wanted to say hi to Ty Lee too," Sokka said, laying the tray on the table.

"Did you manage to get us on the list?" Suki asked her husband, who broke out into a giant smile. Scowling, Aang sat down and answered the question for him.

"Zuko and I did. He managed to locate the largest kitchen and proceed to eat all the contents. I think the Earth King has doubled his catering order now that we're coming."

Katara giggled whilst Suki admonished her husband.

"It doesn't start until tomorrow night—we were lucky to get in. Did you have any plans for tomorrow? Toph hasn't said anything about her plans here," Aang said before frowning and looking around. "Where is she?"

At once Katara grew silent and Suki solemn.

"She went out back, probably to find Iroh. I can go and look for her..." Katara said, looking at Suki. The warrior shook her head, and waved her hand.

"I'll do it," Suki told her, shuffling out of the booth. Katara could fill them in with the recent developments.

Walking out into the kitchen, Suki watched as Iroh kneeled in front of Toph, hugging her. He was talking, but she only managed to catch the proverb he spoke—louder than his usual timbre, she noted with a small smile.

"Do not allow this to drag you down once again—a broken ship will sink if it has too much to carry. However, if you throw overboard that which is pulling it down, the ship will survive to see another day."

Iroh moved away from Toph, and both he and Suki watched as she ran past the warrior and over to Sokka. She leapt onto him, wrapping her arms around his throat as she whispered something that no-one else could hear. They could see him whisper something back to her, and hug her tighter. Smiling at the scene in front of him, Iroh knew he would go to the ends of the world for that girl, but he also knew that he couldn't do it alone. If she wanted to truly get better, she would need to let her friends in too. She was still clutching onto Sokka, and Katara was rubbing her back.

Looking away from the intimate, childlike scene in front of him, he caught the eye of Suki. She gave a small smile, nothing more than a twitch at the corners of her mouth, but it was enough to convince him that she didn't take it personally. He watched her approach the table. With a start, Iroh saw Toph unlatch herself from Sokka, only to place her arms around Suki's neck, careful not to put too much force behind it.

Finally, Iroh smiled.

She's getting better.

Scowling at the pond, the spirit struck it with a feathered wing, erasing the image.

She's getting better. How is that—after this morning she should be wrought with pain! Boy!

She whipped her head around, searching the wilting tree's roots and underbrush in a frenzy, looking for any trace of the poor soul trapped with her.


Pushing reeds to the side, she found the small spirit lying in the mud. He was sleeping safely as the dirty arms surrounded him. She hissed at him, and he woke up with surprise. Now she knew why the blind girl was feeling so content.

I'm sorry, she said, fluttering her lashes. I thought you were a dangerous intruder. Come along—it isn't safe here.

He looked up at her with wide eyes, believing everything she told him. Following obediently, she brushed the mud from him.

You have to look nice for your date. We haven't got long, only one more mortal moon cycle, she crooned.

Thank you. You don't know what this means to me.

Her lips curled up in what she thought must have been a smile, and she opened her mouth slowly.

Now, run along. I have a lot to prepare, she told him.

He bowed at her feet, and moved off to the pond. He would be there for hours—she had time to get everything ready. She was about to fly to the top of her tree, when she heard a noise not found in her lair for many centuries.

That was unnecessary...

The Bird Spirit whipped around, an angry snarl on her feminine features.

What are you doing here?! Leave me! This is not your business!

The uninvited guest laughed, a deep hollow sound devoid of humour.

Xié Jiàng, by doing this once again you have made it my business. I will not hesitate to intervene.

And they say history doesn't repeat itself. They say that we spirits are too wise to make the same mistakes...

My dear, you are not doing this by mistake. I will not sit by, I will stop you.

The Bird Spirit let out a laugh of her own. Her light laugh contained all of the humour that her counterpart's had lacked.

You won't stop me—you couldn't last time. I merely play with them; you wrecked his life.

Ah, but he did not kill me, did he? And this time, he will be prepared. You will not succeed again. Your games don't work here.

And what of your games? You play with the mortals too. And you enjoy it.

I enjoy it because it is a game. There are rules that even I follow. You are rogue—it will not be long before a spirit greater than I steps in to stop your meddling. Consider yourself warned.

Without another word, the intruder left, scuttling across to his own part of the Spirit World in which he called his home.

Just try and stop me, she thought to herself.

Iroh had one condition when allowing everyone to stay over—don't break his tea pots. Considering how hectic things had been the previous night, it was decided that to give him peace of mind, Aang would erect and earth tent for them to sleep in. Zuko returned not long after the plan was decided, and was promptly put to work creating a fire in a small pit Sokka had dug. While Katara and Aang, along with Mai, went back to the hotel to collect their clothes and belongings (which would be stored in Toph's room), Suki began preparing dinner with the help of the blind girl, although Toph wouldn't (or couldn't?) speak a word to her.

The group was far more subdued that night, choosing to sit around the warm fire and bask in each other's company. Katara couldn't stop chatting about the party, going into great detail the clothes she would wear—it would be a flowing blue gown, with different layers that swirled around her—, while her brother explained all the different sorts of food he wanted to eat—even the vegetarian options. Aang was discussing with Zuko and Mai the vastly different customs of the Air Nomads regarding marriage ceremonies and the different ways in which elders were treated and respected—Mai in particular was interested in their propensity for flinging pies at the elders of the community, an action tantamount to treason in the Fire Nation.

Toph, for reasons that none but her knew, seemed unwilling to leave Suki's side now that the two had (somehow) made up for all the ignoring and awkward silences they had shared in each other's company. Toph had made her bed next to the Kyoshi Warrior's, and was sitting on her other side, hand placed firmly above the warrior's own. No-one dared breach the subject with her, although many sidelong glances and surreptitious nods conveyed the message between the seeing members of the Gaang that they couldn't continue the charade of normalcy for too much longer.

Eventually, as does happen with pregnant woman, Suki yawned a final yawn and announced her intentions.

"I'm beat... I think I'm gonna go to sleep..."

She kissed Sokka on the cheek and stood up slowly. Katara glanced over at Toph—she had a worried expression to rival Sokka's on a bad morning sickness day; she made no action to move to her own bed however, choosing to remain in her seat by the fire.

Aang was still talking to Mai and Zuko, and so the glances shared by the Water Tribe family were missed by them in Aang's storytelling fervour. Without warning, Toph stood up and made her way towards where Suki was settling in for the night. At the sight of the earthbender, she sat up looking slightly confused. Toph kneeled in front of the warrior with her head bowed. They shared a few whispered words, unidentifiable to the Southern siblings, when all of a sudden Suki leaned forward and kissed Toph gently on her forehead. She released the younger girl and lay down on the thick blankets, hand resting protectively over her stomach. Toph stood up and made her way towards the group, sitting in Sokka's lap when he opened his arms out for her.

"Are you okay, Toph?" Katara asked quietly, the unspoken vow that they wouldn't try and force her to tell them fluttering at the edge of her mind. The earthbender nodded, sinking deep into Sokka's protective arms.

"I'm okay. D'you think I could spend some time with you tomorrow, Sokka?"

"I don't see why not," he whispered in her ear, loud enough for Katara to pick up what he said. "I think it's time for us to go to bed, too. We're going to have a long night tomorrow."

Giving her one last squeeze, Sokka let go of Toph and stood up. The actions attracted the attention of Aang, who stopped talking to send them a questioning glance.

"It's getting late—we're going to bed," Sokka explained, helping Toph to her feet before holding a hand out for Katara to grab.

"Good idea."

As Aang made his way towards the earth tent, followed slowly by Mai and Zuko, he felt a tugging on his sleeve.

"Toph? What's up?"

She had her face pointed towards him, but her blind eyes kept glancing away. In a quiet voice, she said, "Could you light those candles for me again?"

He nodded, confused by her actions and her words; she seemed almost afraid of asking for his help.

"'Course I can. Why do you-"

She cut him off with a friendly punch to his shoulder.

"Thanks, Twinkletoes."

That night, the nightmares came back.

A/N: Hey, look! The Spirit has a name now. And then I had to screw with you. Sorry about that, but again, important.

Also, the line about Toph wrecking an expensive couch was just supposed to be filthy feet, but I was listening to Flithy Fingers by Florrible and Misrabella when I wrote it, so I had to add it in (coincidentally, if anyone can get a hold of their album, 'Someone Spilt Snakebite On My Espadrille', I will create a character of you. I will write a story about you. I will bath your feet in myrrh and hand feed you grapes. I really want that album).

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