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The Fireflies
Chapter information

When Past Meets Present



Written by



Release date

6th May, 2013

Word count


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The Fireflies

Toph had always assumed she didn't dream as other people did. When she spoke to her friends about it—many, many years ago—this assumption was proven accurate. She spent several hours with Katara, Sokka and Aang just discussing the different effects of the night-visions. She felt as though only she had learnt something—that her descriptions weren't vivid enough for people so used to creative and concise descriptions. They just couldn't imagine it. She could imagine everything they spoke of (except colours, of course, but she had received a fairly energetic explanation of them from Aang several months prior to the 'dream' conversation).

When Sokka spoke of dreams, he talked of different foods, eating them but not tasting anything—he didn't realise it at the time, of course, but he was essentially hallucinating in his sleep. The only time he came close to dreaming like her was when he explained his nightmares. He only had them during the full moon, and only for a few months. He explained his feelings of complete dread, the utter suffocation of loneliness, and then laughed a little at the thought of Toph knowing what being alone felt like. She hadn't laughed.

When Aang told her his dreams, he always went off on a tangent. He would begin to talk about his adventures in his own mind, and then talk of things he wanted to do and try. His explanations of his dreams would be filled with colours and experiences; the moods of his past lives influenced his dreams, apparently.

When Katara dreamed, it was of sights and sounds. Places she had visited and heard of, from different realms of the Spirit World (courtesy of Aang) to the different lives of her friends. She would envision places that her friends had been—Zuko had an amazing voice for storytelling, and when he spoke of the Sun Warriors' Temple, she felt as though she had been with him during the adventure. Heck, when he spoke of lush green fields, and changing leaves of autumn; the red robin-sparrows in the trees and just the complete beauty of his homeland, Toph felt as though she could see it too.

Toph never told her friends of her dreams, of her nightmares. There was no way they could grasp how she truly dreamt—even Aang relied on his eyes too much to really understand seismic sense as a way to perceive the world. He could see with it, but he couldn't see. It was pointless trying to talk about the happenings in the deepest recesses of her mind when they couldn't fathom it, in the same way that she didn't understand the concept of colour.

As a result, when she awoke in the middle of the night, crying out as she trembled from head to foot in cool sweats and feeling as though she couldn't breath, there was no way they could comfort her. She sat, shivering against a stone wall in the darkness that was her world, not daring to move or make a sound should she remember what she had dreamt of. She sat there, wrapped in her blankets just focussing on the breathing of her friends as she calmed her own shuddering breaths.


The blind girl didn't jump at the soft voice of Katara piercing through the air, dulled with the breathing of sleeping teenagers. She raised her head a little at the sound, but made no other acknowledgment.

"Toph, are you okay?"

Katara stood up and made her way to where Toph was sitting, walking over the prone forms of her sleeping friends. Her face was lit with the glowing embers of the fire and the fireflies that had gathered in a vain attempt to see what the fuss was about—people sleeping outside in the Upper Ring? Preposterous!

"I'm fine, Katara. I just had a nightmare," Toph told her, although she wouldn't have been able to convince a blind person—she couldn't even convince herself. The denial came out weak and breathy, and although it wasn't the first time she had awoken in such a state, Toph was quite unprepared for how to react when one of her friends saw such a display.

"You wanna talk about it?" she asked, sitting down and wrapping her arms around the slight girl. Toph leaned her head onto Katara's shoulder.

"Not really. I just wanna go back to sleep," Toph told her, but made no move to push her off.

"Toph..." Katara began, trailing off before she could say something and ruin the heavy peace between the two.

"There's something you wanna ask me, isn't there?" Toph deduced, and Katara gave a wan smile.

"Yeah, but it can wait. Can't we just talk?"

Toph sunk further into Katara, and took a breath.

"Where is Appa? Or Momo?" she asked quietly, the small voice dispelling the lingering feeling of malcontent as the fire glowed next to them. There had to be at least thirty of the little glowing creatures now, dancing around one another and playing on the soft breeze that flowed through their makeshift campground. At once, Katara felt an immense amount of sadness for the young girl who would never get to see such sights.

"We've been here for three days and you're only asking now?"

Toph shrugged and made a small motion with her hand. Slowly, a rock wall rose behind them, and she leaned back. Katara followed suit and draped a blanket over the two of them.

"I didn't think of it," Toph said simply.

Katara raised an eyebrow and answered the question. "Aang and I took a ferry and a train here, because we, uh, we found a colony of sky bison... there were only about a dozen, and Appa became really attached to one. Soon, we're going to have a few little baby bison flying around. Momo stayed with them too."

Toph let out a small sound, no louder than an aww, but she didn't sound happy.

"What's wrong Toph? Is it because of what I said this morning? Or what I did? I didn't realise...."

Toph shook her head violently against Katara and sighed again. "It wasn't you. I have those headaches occasionally. It gets worse around this time of the month, but I'm not sure why..."

"Well.... It might be because its your time of the month," Katara suggested as delicately as possible.

"....I- I don't get it," Toph replied, and Katara opened her mouth to explain.

"Well, your body changes during that time, and it might be affecting your chi..."

Toph snorted and Katara looked at her in surprise.

"I know what you're talking about, Katara. I'm sixteen. What I mean is that I don't get it. It doesn't happen to me anymore."

Katara's eyes widened. "Oh... Oh! ... uh, it'll happen, don't worry. Unless... it did- oh my spirits Toph, does that mean- really? I didn't think you would- oh, but it doesn't matter!" She beamed as the blind girl looked up at her, confused.


"I felt a whole heap of energy in your body today—congratulations!"

Toph could feel the sunny disposition radiating from her friend and frowned.

"I told you to forget about what happened, Kat. I said I don't want to get into it..."

"Toph, it's okay. I won't tell anyone—wait, hold on. Do your parents know about this? I mean, you are unwed, and having a kid is- oh, spirits! Who's the father?! We should get you some maternity clothes. And I'm going to need to have a look to make sure it's not putting too much strain on your body—you are very slight, you know, an-"

Before she could get too carried away, Katara was stopped by a hand covering her mouth. Toph glared up at her, but it wasn't all anger; something undefinable sparkled in her green glowing orbs.

"Stop, Katara. I mean it. Don't do anything. Pretend like this never happened, okay? I don't need you writing letters to relatives or making a fuss over nothing. I don't need healing, or check ups or anything, okay, so live out your midwife dream on Suki, not me."

Katara cowered slightly under Toph's stern glare. Even though she hadn't shouted, the blind girls voice brooked no argument and Katara at once felt guilty for meddling.

"Toph...?" she asked cautiously. "Are you... ashamed?"

"Ashamed about what? You keep saying these things that don't make sense. I think you should go back to sleep." Toph slid down the wall and lay at its base, her back to Katara. The waterbender's heart fell a little at the sight, but she refused to let the stubborn girl hide away for much longer.

"Toph... Can I tell you something?" Katara requested gently, reaching a hand over to play with Toph's hair. The earthbender gave a noncommittal shrug, and Katara took it as a positive sign.

"I was so excited when Zuko invited me here. I wanted to see Sokka and Suki—I mean, my big brother was going to become a dad! I'm going to be an aunt! I couldn't wait for us all to be back together with Iroh... but you wanna know what I was most excited about—and upset about?"

Toph remained silent, although she turned a little further away from Katara. The waterbenders soft hands began rubbing circles into her back.

"I was excited because I would get to see my little sister again. And you know what I was sad about? I missed you growing up. Us, the whole gaang, we promised we'd be there for each other whenever someone needed a hand to lead them, or a shoulder to cry on. I don't know what happened to you, and I don't know why you won't tell us... but I wanna give you my hand or my shoulder... " she trailed off, her hand still rubbing up and down her back.

"I'm sorry, Katara..." Toph mumbled. "But I only need myself. I'll get through it..."

Katara looked at the back of Toph's head, trying to get inside it and understand.

"I don't want you to need me, sweetie," Katara soothed, her hand never leaving her friends back. "I want you to want me to help..."

Toph whispered something that was lost to Katara, and she had to lean in to hear it.

"Sorry, sweetie?"

Toph repeated herself, and Katara was surprised to find her voice trembling.

"Ther-theres an old Earth Army saying. I for-forgot about it... It held battalions together, d-during the darkest m-moments of the war... Maybe I was wrong..."

She sniffled, and Katara began stroking her hair.

"What was it?"

Toph turned and faced Katara, eyes meeting for a fraction of a second.

"Wh-when you can't run, you cr-crawl. And when you can't d-do that..."

Katara finished the sentiment for her.

"You find someone to carry you..."

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