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01 March 2008 @ 06:29 pm
Invincibility Cloak  
Title: Invincibility Cloak
Character: Zuko & Toph
Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender
Genre: General, Friendship
Rating: G
Word Count: 737


Invincibility Cloak

come & try…
you can’t hurt me, I’m unshakable

1.

Toph was born invincible.

Unyielding and indestructible, she stood, her core deep inside the ground and would not let go. Feet and toes, bones and veins, groove and indent, diverge on and out, cut, dug into the earth and made themselves a home.

And so, her legs grew stout (elongated only underneath, where no one saw, where no one mocked).

And so, she became sturdy like thousand-year-old tree trunks long over due. Skin knobby and calluses rough like bark, ash wood—pale and white. Scabs building on scabs till everything became a great, murky mess.

Like that—careless and gouged-out, whipped and gutted, Toph rode high with mountains for shoes, and pebbles, she consumed those like rice.

2.

The Fire Nation’s royal family had a hushed-up ugliness.

There was a madness breeding and all the children were afflicted.

The mother sighed and wished she could’ve strangled her first-born and the next one too. Because her husband was what they will be come. Because he was vile and oh, she-couldn’t-get-the-damn-words-out.

But Ursa raised and nurtured them, to the best she knew (she wasn’t demented like the rest of them). And even at night when she reconsidered all that was “true” or supposedly “true” she asked herself: whatever happened to the remembers and whens and ifs?.

—Remember that year when she was ten? Young and pretty, her mother showed her future spread out in silks. This one, the old lady pointed, this one Ursa would love. And this one, she would marry.

—When did she realized that innocence equaled stupidity that equaled better-forget-it-now? Twenty and married, to the revolting one told in the dirty gauze.

—If she had died from the disease, four and three months, barely sucking for life. If she had died, that would’ve been the end. How lovely, how quaint. How unfortunate that wasn’t the case.

“It’s so sad that you have me for a mother and him for a father,” Ursa said. Ursa cooed. Ursa kissed Zuko on his cheek, gentle like all fallacious mothers did. Her façade dolled up nice, veneer sugar-sweet and melting, hanging from the ice.

“But don’t worry, you’ll be gone before long!” she sang and cuddled him full of warmth.

And it really was a kindness she did him that day. Out of compassion and love (and just a little pity).

3.

Katara recited her tale, then Aang reenacted his. They both nodded and fervently agreed that Z——(Toph couldn’t recall his name) was evil and bad and the worst person in the world. The worst, Katara added. For dramatic effect, for emphasis, for as if Toph couldn’t understand what “worst” meant.

And maybe she didn’t.

Or maybe she did. Or there was nothing wrong with him, that much she thought. Or maybe one lie attracted another lie, and another and a third and a fifth and—

Till they rolled, rolling, will roll over the last and cancel each other out.

Maybe.

4.

When the blood had gone slow and low, insipid without half-a-mind to move and make things anew, Zuko left.

On accident.

On a regret and a walled up ill and sick, secret, pre-condition.

(Toph left too, much later and much harder. But she had parents and a home. He had nothing to lose.)

-x-

fatigue is like a dream…
when you’re awake & about to scream
no one really notices or cares
it’s only when it’s all over
& buried & rare
that things come out
unexpected & long-hurting
like a doubt

-x-

“It’s not so bad after a while,” Toph said, “I didn’t like them at first either. Katara was too bossy and mean, and Aang…well, he was just annoying.”

She meant it as a comfort, and Zuko looked at her in the strangest way. Like their roles could be reversed, like he was ever not-enemy.

“Thanks, I guess.”

Toph scoffed, “You’re not royalty anymore. There’s no need to be refined and stuff.”

And for the first in a spun too thin while, Zuko smiled.

His jaws felt the tension, the weird feeling crawling back. The guilt was gone, for a moment. Like a little ghost coming back alive, Zuko realized what was real.

Like unreachable, unbeatable limbs and necks, the knife fell and nothing was cut. Hard like steel, and doesn’t rust (weaken) too.

And Zuko grinned, big and wide, a bit too naïve and wild.

forgive and forget…
the second comes in waves
anchored the ribs
so it won’t catch and go