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01 March 2008 @ 06:28 pm
Chronology  
Title: Chronology
Character: Zuko & Toph
Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender
Genre: General, Friendship
Rating: G
Word Count: 756

Chronology

Across the ocean of roofs I can see a middle-aged woman, her face already lined, who is forever bending over something and who never goes out.

Windows; Charles Baudelaire

1.
how do you feel tonight?
in all its lonesome

She was born blind. He became blind. And together, it seemed like they would never see.

Toph had a secret (that she wasn’t supposed to reveal). On the day before Aang nearly died, on the day before she learned to contort and rip apart metal like she did earth, she went to a place. Just in Ba Sing Se. Just beyond the corner.

Inside was crowded and noisy, and outside was humid and sweltering. And so, Toph went into the little teashop and ordered a cup. A drink. A kismet was ending and another beginning.

“Thanks,” she said, automatic—rehearsed, like all her politeness ever was.

Not once did she think to find out who the boy was, just two feet away with an apron for a warrior’s shield.

And months later, when she did find out, when he’s come to them filthy and exhausted and begging to be forgiven, she regretted meeting him earlier (only not really).

There was nothing to forgive. He hadn’t done a thing.

2.
some things grow on you
while others need to die

In the last of the last, in the upside-down, turned head-over-heels sanctuary, Toph tried to be nice. For the first time in ages. She cleared her throat, made herself aware, and set down next to Zuko. Felt the tension rising up from his skin and only wished that she knew what he looked like. What a grimace was.

“It’s okay, you know. It’s okay to miss them, even if they were all cutthroat crazy. Even with all that, they’re still family. I know how you feel.”

Zuko turned his head, away, then realized that she couldn’t see him anyway. And sighed. Long and drew from deep resources he didn’t know he had. “I don’t miss them. I hate them. They’re all alike, it’s in the blood. Tainted.”

“Well, do you hate yourself then?”

The fire crackled, burn up the oxygen around and devour the sticks and timber. He never gave her an answer. And things were left at that, like they always were—around here.

3.
perfection comes not with practice
but force

Today, they fought (mocked). Trained Aang, taught him new tricks and deceits. Where Toph was solid and rooted with infinite branching and extensions, Zuko leapt from here to there to over there. With grace she would never know.

And so, she kind of envied that. For a moment. Just until he fell from the floor to roof, scraped from wall to tile. Then, Toph simply laughed. Really laughed, like she had never understood what humor was. Not before.

She visualized the whole thing through from a perspective far, far away. Behind mountains and underneath streams, someone else’s head and sight. Watched the familiar and strange through dirty lenses, cracked.

Time blended together like a meadow in this realm, and what friendship was—was not so easily defined.

4.
made up, made fake

The stink crawled through the air and into her nose.

The stench of flesh rotting, overwhelming and surrounding. There was no escape, no coward’s way out.

Toph was scared (she’d never admit). Shit-scared that she was dreaming and not-dreaming. Maybe it was all make-believe. Yeah, let it be that.

And then, he shook her back to the world, grabbed her arm and pulled her awake.

And the rot was still there. And so was the war.

She smiled at him (hoping it was sincere, was believable and un-pained). Backwards they walked, back to face against-all-odds.

5.
nobility is ill-bred in disguise
perpetual from when it
starts

Sitting in the aftermath was him and her. He’s feeling terrible, guilty. Again. And she’s trying her best to be nonchalant, bored, like nothing mattered anymore.

Toph held her head high in the air, button-nose up and arrogant. She shook the hair from her eyes—habit that was never quite so right but weird if she stopped.

“At least you’ve got us,” Toph said, sealing it formal, official, that he was accepted. Sort of. Because some things never changed, but that was between him and the others.

Between them, things were the same. Never altered in the first place.

“Yeah,” and Zuko half-grinned back, thinking that she saw that one too.