The Tiniest Heartbeat
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The Walking Inferno






The Walking Inferno

This is a story submitted for Fruipit's Taang week competition. This follows the prompt of Family.

Toph was leant against a wall, feeling the 'excitement' around her. Twinkle Toes was bouncing around, giddy as he was when he was twelve, disappearing from her view every time he leapt up in glee. Snoozles was doing what he did best: snoozing after passing out and being dragged out of the delivery room after he managed to pluck up the courage to go in. Toph asked Aang why Suki giving birth was such a hectic event. She wondered why it was apparently the 'best feeling in the world' to carry a child.

Twinkles just replied with what she imagined was a goofy grin and a simple, "You'll see." After that she punched his arm and made a remark about herself being blind whilst he muttered the familiar awkward sorry with a scratch to the back of his head, all the while she was sensing the pain and mapping out the delivery room as it all went on. It sounded like agony when the screams made it through the doors. It felt like agony with all the writhing vibrations given off. A question loomed in the back of her mind when she processed it all: is this what Aang wants? I don't think I could, no matter how much I care for him.

She put a hand on her head, wiping away the thoughts. She hated doubting Twinkle Toes, even in the slightest. She was everything to him; his best friend, his love. He gave her freedom and the courage to stand up to her parents again, and for that reason she loved him too. He was the guide when she needed it and she felt safer when he was around, though she would never actually tell him that. It was then when Snoozles finally woke up and jumped to his feet, looking left to right quickly and grabbing Aang's collar. "Is the squidgy thing out yet?! Is Suki okay?" He yelled whilst shaking Twinkles like a rag-doll.

"No, it isn't over yet. And yes, she's okay," Aang replied, putting a calming hand on Sokka's shoulder. "Just calm down."

"I am calm!" He shouted, going back to the breaking voice that he harboured all those years ago.

"You're still shouting."

"Sorry!" Another yell before he quietened himself and repeated the apology. He was nervous; his heart was pumping faster than Aang's, and that was something. "I just can't keep waiting. It's killing me."

Sugar Queen's dancing steps came closer to the door and Toph finally took off from the wall. "It looks like you won't have to wait any more, Snoozles," she said with a nod to the door. He seemed to instantly calm, whilst still staying irate as he ran to the door before Katara could even open it. Sweetness was bombarded with questions about Suki and the baby, and food for some reason.

"Just come in and see for yourself," she happily relied and moved a hyperventilating Snoozles inside. Twinkle Toes then took her hand a walked her in, his heart flipping in his chest.

Toph blocked out much of what happened next as the cooing and constant 'awwws' kept circulating as each person held the child. During the middle of her zone-out, Twinkle Toes pulled her back with the offer of holding the child. "I don't know, Twinkles. I can't even see her, what if I drop her?"

"It's okay, I'll just put her right here..." Before she had any time to remark, Aang nestled the baby in Toph's arms and she immediately cradled it. How did she know how to hold a baby all of a sudden? And why was it only moving now? Then she realised what Aang meant by finding out.

The tiniest heartbeat chimed from the baby, enveloping Toph in one of the greatest melodies of life she had ever felt. Its movements became a part of her, as did its life. She couldn't help but smile, after all, she was alone in this dark world with the small, white form in her arms. Is this what Aang wants? I think I could do it. How hard could it be? She freed a hand to tickle the little one's stomach and it made an indescribable gurgle. "Hey," she spoke in the softest voice she ever made. She would have scolded herself for speaking like that any other day, but now she was in her own world with this child.

A hand on her shoulder brought her back to every-one else's movements now. They were all turned towards her. "Toph? Do you want to hand her back to Suki now?" Twinkle Toes asked softly, almost as if he shared her serenity. That question was one of the most difficult ones she had to answer in her life. She wanted to say no, to keep holding the little girl for all eternity, but how could she keep this feeling from Suki, her mother?

Reluctantly, she placed the child into Suki's arms and immediately felt empty. The warmth was gone. The life in her hands was gone. The day was uneventful after that, and so were the days after.

It was only when Aang offered to walk her through the park when she decided something good had finally happened. Although she always said it was stupid and not exciting enough, she secretly loved the walks, especially in a time like this. It gave her time to think, to console her own mind. And, if it was serious, she would ask Twinkle Toes for help. Today might be one of those serious days.

After walking for a good thirty minutes, they decided to rest under a tree next to a pond, enjoying the shade on a hot day. Toph nestled herself under Aang's arm and rested against him. They sat in a companionable silence until a turtle duck started quacking loudly, looking for something. The call was answered with a higher-pitched, but quieter one. Though she couldn't see it, she knew it was a mother looking for her child. Even nature wanted her to bring up the nagging thought out of her head.

Then she heard the laughter of children playing with their parents. Why couldn't she block it out now like she always could? Wait, why was she scared of this? She was Toph Bei Fong, the greatest earthbender in the world, and she did't run from anything, especially not a simple conversation with Twinkles regarding their entire future. Okay, maybe when she phrased it that way it wasn't simple, but talking was always simple. Most of the time. "Aang?" It seemed that he was stirred from a light sleep and he turned to Toph, tensing slightly from the lack of nicknaming; Toph only called him by name when she was serious. "What do you see when you look at them?"

She pointed in the direction of the laughing children, hoping she got it right. His arm around her tightened as he leant closer to her. "I see happiness. A joy that no one else could truly have." Toph closed her eyes, drawing an image using what she could read from the vibrations. It was strange, she never really tried to 'see' anything in her mind before, but now she needed it. She needed something to make it perfect. She imagined feeling the lightness in her stomach when she was happy, the warmth of the child she was holding days ago.

"I see two people who thought they couldn't have any more happiness in their life, only to find that they could make room for more. It's perfect, Toph."

Yeah, it sounded perfect. She was happy with Aang, and if having a child would make her feel what she felt the other day, then she was willing to sacrifice nine months and a little freedom for that, despite what her inner voice was screaming about being tied down. "Do you think we could be like that one day?" His heart leapt in his chest and the same feeling emitted from him when she agreed to be with him.

Aang kissed her head and rubbed her arm. "Definitely."

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