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2nd August, 2013
not changing; remaining the same
It was almost like a fairytale—and one she never expected to happen to her.
She was (as much as she loathed to admit it) the princess. The—ugh—damsel in distress. Doomed to be locked away in the tower forever (because honestly, who rescues people who don't exist?). The people outside her prison had no idea there was a (let's face it) tiny girl locked away—until a mystical power in a swamp showed three strange children that she was real, that is.
She was trapped, you see. She could escape, for sure. It was Toph Beifong, the greatest earthbender. What could a few measly guards do to her that she hadn't already done to most earthbenders in the Rumble tournaments? Well, it wasn't the earthbenders that kept her there. The reason, actually, caused Toph to choke up and generally just feel sick.
It was love.
Her parents loved her; she should be grateful that they wanted to keep her safe. She should be happy; she received everything she wanted. Well, except for freedom, but that was the price, wasn't it? Love or freedom. That was like asking her if she wanted sight or earthbending—with no way to compare the two, how could she pick anything other than what she already knew?
But, she did choose freedom... and lost the love she had so relied on. It was a strange feeling. Liberating. But, with the discovery of finally not being bound to anyone by those ties, she began to feel lonely. There were several cold nights in which everyone forced her to create a tent to share, and those nights were the worst. She was constantly reminded of sneaking into her parents bed as a scared, blind child, where they would comfort her and the sounds of their breathing would drown out the monsters she would never be able to see. Those nights would remind her most keenly of the home she had left.
But, she would remember she left it for a reason. Love was not ownership. It was not meant to trap people, and yet it did. Toph steeled her heart against such pitiful emotions, but of course, it didn't work. Eventually, she was floundering in a sea of feelings, being pulled further from the shore as the tide swept her away. Literally. Once again, she was helpless against the current, praying someone would rescue her.
Was it any wonder that she panicked? Being dragged down to where she had never been able to survive on her own. Her mind screamed at her to push through it, to be stronger, but it didn't work. She couldn't break free. She needed someone to save her.
She needed him to save her.
When he pulled her from the murky depths of grief and indecision, and carried her ashore, he saved her. He gave her the strength to hope, to try, and to trust and forgive. She gave up fighting, instead allowing the current to carry her along, and into his waiting arms. Still covered by the stench of friendship, Toph refused to smell it as she allowed the small seedlings within her to take a firm root and grow.
She couldn't believe it when, barely a half-year later, she could no longer taste the aura of calm dependence they had developed together. She could feel panic and fear in every step that he took. Her fairytale was ending, her prince was leaving. She remembered the sinking feeling, and refused to allow it to take a hold of her once again. The iron was cooling down, but she would still strike!
And so, Toph Beifong, heir to the Beifong legacy, proclaimed (and proven) greatest earthbender in the world, acted.
She saw her opportunity during a rather intense game of Pai Sho. It didn't matter to her that Zuko and Mai were lounging around, looking on with mild interest. Her care factor remained obstinately set to 'zero' as Aang and Katara walked up, hand in hand with a pot of tea. And she had no regard for the sand trickling away in the upturned hour-glass, marking the time for Iroh. With clumsy movements that she was only able to complete due to the looming dread dragging her heart down, Toph twitched, intertwined her fingers, and lunged at Sokka, grabbing him by the lapels and dragging him forward to meet her halfway. A gruff laugh and a small squeak was heard, but Toph hadn't the presence of mind to pay it any attention.
He was kissing her back.
He was kissing her.
He was kissing her.
It was at that point she realised that the fear she had harboured of the strange emotion of "love" was unfounded. It wasn't ownership, and he had never claimed to own her. He had offered her the role of 'best friend', and she had accepted; they had remained that way all throughout the years.
She was still trapped, she couldn't deny. But, he wasn't the one trapping her. She had tethered her heart to him, given it to him. That wasn't imprisonment. Imprisonment shouldn't make her feel so complete.
Notes: did you see the pun?
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