DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, NOR DO I CLAIM ANY RIGHTS TO IT, ANY OF THE CHARCTERS, OR LOCATIONS IN THIS FAN FICTION STORY. I ONLY OWN THE PLOT.
The week that followed, Zuko slept better than he had in the last ten years. His mind was completely at ease. He and Toph went out by day and sat together until late into the night just talking. She was coming to mean a lot to him, his brave little earth bender. He sighed leaning back beside her and watching her warm her toes in the morning sun.
"We should go and visit the others sometime," she said, "I want to know what Twinkletoes has been doing without us." Zuko chuckled.
"I think he'll be fine, but we should definitely make a point of it. I haven't seen the babies since they were born. I'll bet they're pretty big by now."
"Tell me about them," she said turning to him. All the happy memories came back to him as he told her about the new children and all that was happening in the Southern Water Tribe and in the Air temples. She listened with rapt attention, laughing every now and again at Sokka's antics. He may have become a man, but there was still a part of him that would forever be silly.
"I do miss Sugar Queen," she said tucking her feet under her, "She was always so perfect. I guess I was... a little jealous. Everyone said she was beautiful..." then she turned to him with a mischievous smile, "Tell anyone, and you'll pay."
Zuko looked at her and sighed. She was lovely. In the morning sun, she was like an enigma, too good to be true. She had held her hair up out of her face, but some unruly locks fell out of their binding and down her back where the wind played gently on them.
He shifted closer and Toph turned to him.
"What..." she began but broke off when he leaned closer tucking her hair behind her ear.
"You're beautiful," he said. She could feel his warm breath on her cheek and her heart was beating wildly in her chest. He was going to kiss her again. She just knew it. His warm hand cupped her cheek and turned her face towards his.
"Zuko..." she whispered and he silenced her with a kiss. His hand caught hers pinning it to the ground and the other claimed her waist pulling her closer to him. Her hands rose into his dark hair raking tangling themselves in the long black silk. She let out a little whimper and he smiled against her lips. Toph leaned against him. Her whole body was awash with flame – and it wasn't the bad kind. She had never felt more feminine nor more wanted, loved and cherished than at that moment, not even when she was with her parents.
Finally, they pulled apart breathing hard. Zuko leaned his forehead against hers and touched her cheek. Toph turned her face and kissed his hand then turned back towards him with a small smile.
"You will always be beautiful to me Toph," he said, the vibrations of his husky voice causing a shiver to run through her. She took a deep breath and shut her eyes.
"Always?" she asked slowly.
"Always," he said and kissed her lips again. Putting her arms around his neck, Toph shifted and sat in his lap.
"So, what does this mean... you know, for us?"
"It means," he said putting his arms around her, "I think we can start something beautiful together." She hugged him and took a deep breath. His answer to her next question was of vital importance to their relationship.
"What about Mai?" she asked gently, hoping and praying to the spirits that she wasn't making a mistake. If it weren't for the fact that she was so close to his ear, he might not have heard her. Zuko sighed and tightened his hold around her.
"There is nothing I can do about her. Mai is gone, Toph, she has been for a long time. I still love her, I always have, but I have to let go..."
Toph smiled and leaned back in his embrace. She took his hand and patted it.
"And I'll be here to help you every step of the way," she said. He pulled her so that her head lay against his chest and smiled. Toph would keep her word. He knew she would.
A figure in the distance watched the scene unfolding. She had to stay on the sand otherwise the earth bender would feel her presence like she had twice before. The time was right. She would strike soon. Smiling evilly, she turned and walked away back down the beach. She would get more revenge for everything the Fire Lord had put her through.