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6th February, 2014
They are all of them waiting. Sokka is asleep (and has been for some time), while Katara and Zuko wait on the couch, taking turns to prepare pots of tea to share. It has been hours, and yet still Aang and Toph have not returned. The old adage, 'no news is good news', runs through the minds of the remaining benders, however it does nothing to quell their uneasiness.
There is no conversation; nothing that might prevent the onset of drowsiness, followed by sleep. Katara is feeling the effects, and from the way Zuko is swaying slightly in his seat, so is he. The waterbender allows a small smile to appear on her face as Zuko gives up trying to stay awake, mumbling a quiet, "Wake me when they get home," that actually sounded more like, "Wayme gome," to Katara. She levels a glare that quickly softens as he nods off, his head landing gently on her shoulder. Katara cannot help but notice that he doesn't smell at all like the smoke and ash she thought he would; rather, he has the warm smell of a field of flowers on a hot summers' day. His body isn't feverishly warm the way she expected it to be, but rather like the dying embers of a fire, low and subdued. All in all, the only reason Katara would have to complain was over the fact that it took no time at all for him to fall asleep while their friends were still roaming the streets of the biggest city in the world.
She cannot suppress the blush when she realises that, despite Aang and Toph having disappeared, Zuko was still able to fall asleep on her.
Katara lifts her arm up slowly to rest atop his shaggy hair. She had told him once that it looked much better down, and now she barely ever sees it up unless he was on official business. Tonight, he had put it in the customary top-knot, decorated with the Fire Nation royal headpiece, however as their plans fell down, he had taken the piece of metal out and let his hair hang loose.
Katara runs her fingers through the silky tresses, carefully untangling the tiny knots that are beginning to form. It is incredibly soothing, and soon she finds herself drifting towards sleep. There is no urge to move as she allows Zuko's deep breathing to calm her further...
...only to be pulled out of her doze by an extremely loud BANG! that resonates from one end of the building to the other. Katara jolts up, although miraculously neither Zuko nor Sokka seem to have heard the noise. Rubbing her eyes, Katara regretfully extricates herself from the firebender as she stumbles slightly towards the door. She isn't afraid of a thief or a burglar, although call it 'women's intuition' but she doesn't believe the guest is either of those.
She cannot see anyone or anything, but the feeling in the back of her head refuses to go away. Shooting the still-sleeping boys a look, Katara retreats into the girls bedroom, quickly throwing on an overshirt and collecting her waterskin from its place on the vanity. Not that it would serve the master waterbender well when she was practically rooted to the spot as the cause of the noise stumbles haphazardly into the room, a half-bottle of vodka spilling the remains of its contents on the floor.
Katara can barely recognise Toph from the girl who had fled only a few short hours previous; she can feel her heart breaking at the sight of Toph's sorry appearance, although it's nothing compared to the shock that erupts as, with a final swig of the strong liquor, Toph grabs a handful of the silk and just rips it. It almost manages to distract Katara from the tears that have begun to fall anew, marking tracks in the blind girl's muddy face, but even as the waterbender attempts to approach her friend, she is pushed away with a feral snarl. There is another rip as Toph's left arm is wrenched from the sleeve, and while the sound makes Katara wilt a little, it seems only to fuel Toph's desire to be free of the restricting thing. Katara watches helplessly as the blind girl attempts to step free of the fabric, only to misjudge her position and tip forward, landing heavily on the floor. In the following seconds, no one moves. Toph utters not a single noise, and Katara is lost between her desire to help and her desire to give Toph the space she likely needs in order to calm down.
Katara watches as Toph slowly sits up, her bottom lip quivering as she attempts to hold back the rush of emotions that threaten to consume her. Neither speak and neither move as the seconds drag on; unexpectedly, Toph is the one to break their stalemate. With glassy eyes, covered in a film of salty tears, she looks towards the waterbender. Their voices remain unused, however Katara understands what the other girl needs, likely better than if Toph had tried to explain it.
Sitting in front of the younger girl, Katara doesn't even bother looking her over; she just pulls the blind girl into a tight hug that she hopes will be enough.
From the shakes that begin small but build into something bigger, Katara knows it's working. Toph latches onto her upper arms with all the strength of an earthbender, but inside she's breaking.
Inside, she's broken.
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