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03 May 2008 @ 10:45 pm
Hamartia  
Title: Hamartia
Pairing: Zuko & Toph
Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender
Genre: General, Supernatural, Future!fic
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,197

Hamartia

…in deep character, the bad becomes the good…

I. Humility the sludge of ruin (centuries old) sweep across here

His scar is hurting something bad, something brilliant tonight. The dried-out blisters are acting up. And his heart is beating to keep up the pace. Red blurs, red emerges. And Zuko is gnashing his teeth—to keep up the pace—

In his sleep.

And she can hear the enamel grating, up and down and down and up. It does not stop. And Toph is not pretending to know otherwise. But she doesn’t go and talk to him—at him. Because some things (some bundles, some fardels) are meant to be hurled across.

The chest. Or jettisoned. Whichever one comes first.

So, Toph returns to her secret letters and secret woes. And there’s a tear streaming down her cheek too. Because she is thinking: we’re all in the same boat.

Washed up, ashore. And drowning in our lungs.

But she is humble now, and she does not presumptuously hold up the pedestal. Or the cleaver (for the sacrifice, butchered). And Zuko can cry all in his lonesome.

And Toph couldn’t care less.

Not anymore.

II. Kindness compassion goes a long way—coincidentally

“I am guessing…I am seeing…that we’re gonna fail.”

Zuko turns around and stares at her. Glares. Virulence and venomous—contends. Together, forming the unified whole.

“Can’t you be a little more cheerful?”

“No. Because that’s stupid. And false. And I hate lying.”

“So that’s your excuse.”

“What excuse? Are you stupid or something, stupid? I just said: I Don’t Lie. Not when it matters, at least. We’re gonna lose, and you’re gonna die.”

“Why am I going to die? What about you, and them. And everyone else?”

“We’ll just be tortured,” Toph laughed, “You’ll be much, much worse.”

And Zuko joined in (not dubious, not envious, and certainly not-not assiduous).

He could feel and hear the sarcasm, but for some reason, he’s not retorting back. Not shouting back.

For once, he’s being nice.

Like vice. Rhymed too.

III. Abstinence we don’t play drunks to your monks

In the end, Toph was wrong. And Zuko felt no better.

They won. That much he could ascertain, could leap up in the air and shout with joy and wonder and wonder how the hell they pulled this one off.

But they did. And he is glad. And tonight (Katara announced) they’re all drinking to victory. Till they’re deliriously, imperiously, seriously drunk with royal booze pouring out everywhere. Zuko smiled and complied.

Because he’s feeling guilty and revolting and cannot say. Azula, that was him. That was the one he burned up into ashes and threw the dust into the rivers—where her remains could float and travel.

To Hell.

(Or perdition, if they were merciful, if Aang kept his promise and prayed.)

And suddenly, Katara’s passed him a cup and Sokka is urging him to down the whole thing. And suddenly, Toph is shaking her head (like she knew exactly what just transpired, exactly what she could not see and could see too).


And suddenly: He got this horrific image of Azula flaring with seven horses (set on fire) behind her. Rearing and running and coming to take their revenge.

And finally, his vision becomes true because there’s a cacophonous crash (and hit) in the near-by courtyard where Azula’s cut-off head opens her mouth to laugh.

Then all the windows shatter. Then all they could do is shudder.

IV. Chastity whores and mores are the same

Sokka and Suki are kissing and touching and doing a million other things. And Zuko thinks of Mai (when he hears the slide of the other two’s legs).

They’re not quiet, and they’re not discrete. They’re a ruckus coming undone. And Zuko is angry that he’s living vicariously, jealous of something that isn’t his.

Hiss, the lantern goes out. Hiss, the door to his room glides smoothly open. And he sits up (ramrod straight, in perfect rectitude) because he thinks Mai is here. Waiting for him. Waiting to elope.


Waiting like she hadn’t died, long time ago.

And he nearly runs to the shadow, his arms ready and heart on silver. But it’s only Toph. Standing in a thin, cotton dress and deadly blind.

She reaches up and kisses him, and for an instance, he thinks there should be a response. But there isn’t, so she leaves. Smirking.

He is too, when she is gone. This was-is closure, a decade too late but still filling.

V. Patience stealth and wealth make up health

Unlike what everyone thought, what was practically augured and pragmatically mandated, Katara and Aang didn’t end up married and anciently happy with a hundred kids running between their legs.

But they were both there for his wedding. And so was Toph. But she was like a ghost, so she didn’t really count.

“She’s like a substitute, isn’t she?” Zuko asks the Ghost, and Nobody.

“Yeah. Does she know that?”

“I think. Wait…no, I don’t know.”

“Katara will be mad. And she will be mad.”

“So?”

“Don’t you think you’re too old, Fire Lord, to play the idiot? Don’t you think you’re gonna get it in the end?”

“No. I’ll just execute them all.”

And two months later, that really did happen. The blade shaved off the head easy as ice. No mess, no fuss. Less is more. There was no one watching.

(The Fire Lord was in the south on a proposal—the village where the Painted Lady lived. He’s waited long enough.)

VI. Liberality one-bit stretches to encompass the world

“Pardoned. Completely.”

His minister stares at him, vacuous and demented (conspicuously shocked). “Are you sure?”

“Are you questioning me?”

“No, sir. As you say, so it will be.”

But Toph was not happy, not at all. She was seething from the sidelines (and so is the Other Advisor). But there was nothing to be said now that Zuko had made his choice. His great, eminent choice.

And so, Toph could only sigh until the same minister approached Zuko again (some time later) and told of a revolt. Now, Toph could laugh and point openly. And ridicule the Fire Lord for the worthless little boy he still remained.

But that night, in private, she explained kindly what he did wrong and made him promise To Never Do That Again.

Which he failed. The very next day.

VII. Diligence candle trimmings fill up the cast

Toph grumbled viciously as Zuko begged and pleaded and importuned she look over the tax revenues from the previous year. But when all the frustrations have been expunged and all the fire snuffed out, she agreed. Again.

Still, Toph plowed through the years, shifting paper and erasing ink. While Zuko was not there and suffering along.

And at three in the morning, Toph could’ve sworn she saw seven horses (bright and glowing in red-hot light) outside in the garden. In Ursa’s garden.

And when she called out for the figure leading the horses. Equestrian, a scion. The lion(ness) roared.

Soon, Toph vanished, and in her place was a vindicated cackle.

Elsewhere, far, far away, Zuko felt his spine crawling—dreading—and continued to nobly walk.

South.

 
 
 
Alice: hakutenshiyaki on May 4th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
W-what is this? I feel like this fic ripped out my soul and danced around with it in front of a fire. You're genius, girl.

I always love the way that you explore the darker, bent path of Avatar yet still never fail to deliver what we love and always wanted to know about all the characters. Toph and Zuko really do have an interesting connection and you did a great job with them here! And I can't gush enough about the surreal atmosphere of your writing. :D Wonderful work. &hearts
Augustus totally pwns Willendorfhellesque on May 4th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Thank youuuuu. *luffs* :)
zenjamen on August 2nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Seems a bit OC to me.
But thats OK... still beautifully written, and we never know who the charcters will become.