One Lonely Summer

Chapter 9

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.

Chapter 9

"Zuzu..."

He turned around but couldn't see anything around him.

"I'm right here..." came the voice again. He knew that voice and it unsettled him completely. He turned and saw two amber eyes staring back at him.

He tried to attack the figure but he couldn't. He had no power over it at all. It laughed and he knew who it was.

"Now, Zuzu, is that any way to treat your dear little sister?" asked Azula, finally coming into focus.

"What do you want from me?" he asked. She simply laughed and a light came on beside her. Toph was in a wooden cage trussed up and gagged. He feet were covered as well so she was practically helpless.

"Let her go Azula!" he yelled.

"Or what?" she smirked and formed a little blue flame on her finger.

"I wonder how fast this cage can burn..." she said and set one bar alight.

"Toph!" he yelled as he watched the cage flare up and burn. Toph began to scream, but he could do nothing to save her...

"Hey... Wake up. It's just a bad dream..."

He heard the voice as if it was far away. He opened his eyes and they slowly came into focus. Toph was sitting beside him on his bed. She touched his face with her cool hands and smiled as he became a little calmer. She had taken the room next to his since they had become a couple. She must have felt something wrong and come in to check on him.

"Want to talk about it? Your heart's going so fast it just might expl..." he kissed her cutting her off and hugged her to him. She was safe. His Toph was safe and sound right beside him.

"That bad huh?" she asked hugging him back. She lay his head on her shoulder and kissed his temple.

"Worse. Azula had put you in a wooden cage. She set it on fire. I couldn't..." he stopped and tightened his hold around her.

"Relax Sparky. I'm alright and I still will be. I can take anything your crazy sister can bring." She smoothed back his hair gently holding him. Zuko remembered his mother once doing the same thing. He was glad that Toph was there. He wasn't quite sure what he would do without her.

"What would I do without you?" he asked softly kissing her hand.

"Well, I don't know what the rooms for loony royalty are like, but I'm sure you'd be comfortable enough," she chuckled.

He sat up and looked at her smiling.

"I'm serious though Toph. I don't want to lose you. You mean too much to me," he said touching her cheek. She put her hand over his and moved to lay her head on his shoulder.

"You never will Zuko. I'll be right beside you always. I'll kick your butt when you get crazy and beat some sense into you when you need it. If you try to push me away, I'll stick to you like a chameleon-monkey to your hair. You'll get rid of me when you die, got that?" she asked squeezing his hand. He chuckled and lay back on his pillows, dragging her down with him.

"Yeah. I got it."

"Good, now go back to sleep. I'm sure you have a dozen boring meetings and things to do tomorrow," she said getting up. He tightened his hold on her hand.

"Please stay?" he asked. She smiled and nodded getting comfortable beside him. He sighed and held onto her tighter. Toph meant the world to him. He hadn't felt this strongly, not even for Mai whom he had loved with all his heart. He would do everything in his power to keep Toph safe even if it meant facing his sister and taking her down.

OoOoOoOoO

"You've gone soft," she taunted and bended a rock towards him.

"You think so?" he asked dodging each of her attacks in sequence.

"Yup. I don't think I've had such a boring sparring partner before!" she exclaimed bending the rock around her to form body armour as a shield against his flames.

"Oh, so you want it rough, eh?" he asked, "well, you asked for it." He gave her a full dose of his fire bending and smirked when she began to struggle to keep up.

"Now we're talking," she said with a smirk.

They had come to the mutual decision that they could spar for practice, to ease Zuko's nerves, to keep Toph active thus making her happy and to give them both something to do to pass the time.

At the end of the battle, she had Zuko pinned to the ground with his arms in rock shackles. He smiled and caught his breath as Toph came towards him. She stomped on the ground and he was promptly raised to standing with a wall of earth behind him. She smiled and reached up to kiss him as she released his hands.

"There now, are you satisfied that I can take care of myself?" she asked.

"I know you can," he said wrapping his arm around her waist and tipping up her chin. She was wearing clothes much like the ones she wore ten years ago as they travelled together but these were custom made for her to fit her mature body, and Zuko loved the way she looked in them. The pants were still baggy and she was still barefoot, but her top shirt had been cut to show off her smooth flat stomach and the extremely well-hidden emerald piercing there. He'd almost fallen out of his seat when he first saw her in these clothes for the first time.

"I'll have to go out tomorrow," he said softly and twined his fingers with hers.

"Another boring meeting?" she asked making a face.

He laughed gently and nodded against her forehead.

"Yes. I have to see some foreign dignitaries and an ambassador from the Northern Water tribe went out of his way specifically to see me. I won't be gone too long though, just a few hours in the morning..."

She lifted her fingers to his lips.

"Stop worrying. I'll be fine." He smiled and hugged her. She would be fine. He knew she was able to more than protect herself. She could probably even capture Azula if she had a mind to do it.

OoOoOoOoO

The guards had been looking around town for Azula and were also searching the nearby villages. Azula had to pass through a dozen alleyways before she came to her little house. It wasn't much, and she hated it. Her stupid brother was living a life of luxury and he had stuck her in the hospital, not even bothering to visit her once. Now she was forced to live the life of a common peasant, with barely even enough to feed herself. If she wasn't an expert thief, she might have starved!

What did he know? He didn't care about her. He didn't have to live knowing that his mother thought of him as a monster. If anything, it was the absolute opposite.

"What are you going to do to him Azula," asked her mother standing sadly behind her.

"I'm making sure you love only me this time. He had you when he was little, now you'll love me too," she said and took out a dagger, "you'll love me too!"

She hurled the dagger behind her in the direction of her mother. The dagger sunk into the wood at the far end of the house with a determined thunk. Azula smiled. She would get her revenge. If she died, it was the last thing she would do!

OoOoO

Toph walked on the beach feeling the warm sunshine on her skin. She loved the beach house. It was always so calm and quiet around. Sometimes infuriating, but it gave her time to practice her sand bending. She had learned from one of the sand benders who had come to Ba Sing Se having to relay a message and seeing no reason to rush back to the desert.

She didn't get to learn a lot though since he was called away immediately afterwards, but she liked to practice. She was getting better on her own. She could even feel a more vibrations from the sand than just the particles. That was how she could tell she had been followed. She could faintly tell that there was another heartbeat not fifty paces behind her.

She bent down and picked up some sand. It helped to have the sand vibrations in her hands. She could differentiate the vibration in her hand from all the others around her. She gasped as the heartbeat came into sharp focus. It was Azula. Feeling a shift in her position, Toph raised a wall of sand between her and Azula, just in time to protect her from Azula's fiery blast.

"You're more talented than I thought," said Azula not letting up on her attack. Toph stomped in the sand and raised a wall in the sea making all the water rush towards Azula to knock her down. She raised mounds of sand and compressed them as hard as she could. It was a move she had perfected in the last year since she had needed to use it to save her friends from the sinking library.

"What do you want with me?" asked Toph, now angry.

"What do I want? I want revenge against my idiot brother for stealing the throne from me..." she made a flame in her hand and aimed it at her. Toph jumped away as Azula got up. She aimed her flame at the earth bender and put flames in her way to trap her should she try to avoid the first attack.

"Not bad for a blind girl," she said maliciously as Toph dodged each of her attacks, you're putting up more of a fight than Mai did..." she added. Toph gasped and her hesitation cost her. Azula's flames managed to sear a bit of her shirt and burn her stomach in the process. She cursed under her breath and stood slowly digesting Azula's words. Then it hit her.

"You killed Mai, didn't you?" Azula just laughed.

"It's amazing what a little poison can do, you'd be surprised how easy it was. And she felt all the pain of her body slowly dying while she was in labour. The best part is, nobody could tell the pain she died in... Nobody except me!" Azula cackled and formed blue flames in her hands.

Toph, suddenly angered, thrust a wall of sand Azula's way. Azula jumped and aimed at Toph from above. Her blasts managed to singe some of Toph's clothes, but there was no way she was going to be beaten now. She would take Azula down if it was the last thing she did!

"You'll be more fun to kill. I won't have to resort to underhanded tactics. I'll make sure you suffer and this time, Zuzu will know it!" she said and bended flames at Toph from all sides. Toph raised wet sand to put out the flames and when Azula let up, she let it down.

She had killed Mai and put Zuko through so much misery. Azula had hurt her own brother by killing his wife. It was now a personal matter because it would crush Zuko to find out.

Then Azula took up a familiar stance.

"Let's see how you handle a little lightning," she said and thrust it at her. Toph jumped out of the way managing to get a burning scar on one of her arms. She tried to find a way out of this one. She had to take Azula down. She had to survive no matter what. Zuko would never forgive her if she died. As she raised a small wall of sand, Toph felt something small and hard thunk into the sand in front of her. It felt slippery and strange. Then she remembered something that her master, Lee Gong had taught her...

"Earth and fire came together to make beauty," he had said and showed her a piece of smooth earth. It was earth because she could bend it, but it was in a strange form. It felt like a hard rock made out of sand... glass!

"This is glass," he had said confirming her suspicions. "Be wise when fighting fire with earth little friend. It may save your life, some day..."

Toph smirked and took up her stance. Lee Gong hadn't known then how right he was. She would have to think fast though. A cage would be appropriate, but then again, a shell would be better and much easier to plan. She ran straight towards Azula who aimed her lightning at her. Toph jumped lithely over the fire bender bringing a wall of sand with her to cover Azula. Having already shot her lightning and following Toph to try and get her, she had struck the sand around her forming a glass encasement around herself. Toph smirked and hardened the ground around Azula's feet and making sand shackles to catch her flailing hands and stop her from doing anything more.

"Let me go you worthless peasant! I'm warning you! When I get out of here, you will be sorry!" she screamed at Toph. Toph sighed and held her position. She would have to stay where she was to handle Azula until help came. She hoped Zuko wouldn't be too mad with her. She had caught Azula after all. Azula wouldn't be causing any more mischief soon.

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