such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (avatar: toph angel)
Amy ([personal profile] such_heights) wrote2011-02-21 05:17 pm

FIC: Something Built To Last (A:TLA, Toph)

Something Built To Last
Avatar: the Last Airbender ; Toph ; PG ; 1300 words ; no content notes
Toph helps rebuild after the war.

Written for [personal profile] zephre in the [community profile] white_lotus Lunar New Year exchange, with thanks to [personal profile] eruthros for the beta.



In Ba Sing Se, there's rebuilding to be done in more ways than one. Toph spends most of her time focusing on the physical side of things, helping to rid the palace of Fire Nation trappings and reconstruct the buildings and homes that were damaged or destroyed by the city's conquest and the subsequent battle for its freedom.

It's good, dirty work, solid rock and metal under her hands and feet, easy and responsive to her commands. Aang and Iroh help oversee affairs while Toph marshals legions of the Earth Kingdom's finest benders, who quickly have to adapt to her abrasive management style. Toph reckons it's good for them; earthbending was never meant to be a graceful expression of royal favour, the way the Ba Sing Se soldiers see it. It's mucky and tough and that's why she loves it, and why other earthbenders ought to love it too.

Toph isn't used to this teamwork and leadership business, but even she has to admit that this is more than a one-girl job. She's stubborn about spending the majority of her time actually doing physical work and not getting too caught up in management, but she does find there are new rhythms she can adapt to.

She spends her mornings in the Lower Ring, where there are teams working to open up the streets and make them safer and sturdier for their inhabitants. Aang is determined to break down the social and geographical divisions of the city, and although Toph knows it's not as easy as he thinks, she also knows that space is important. Creating open squares for markets and better housing for the refugees who want to settle here is already making a difference, and Toph is glad to be a part of it.

After tea and conversation with Iroh, she usually spends the rest of her days going where she's most needed. Wherever metalwork has collapsed or particular finesse is required, there she'll be.

And although Toph's glad to do the work for all the right reasons - she's helping people, acting on behalf of the Avatar and all the rest - most of all, every time she makes a change in this immense and ridiculous city, it gives her enormous satisfaction to know that she's sticking it to the old elite.

---

They call the anniversary of the war's end Avatar Day. Toph never misses an opportunity to point out that Aang didn't save the world all by himself, but it's not like she begrudges him the credit. Especially not when he has to make nice with all kinds of dignitaries and meet random strangers' kids. Toph's happy to lurk in the background being intimidating, acting as a kind of bodyguard.

She shares that job with Suki a lot of the time, and they put up a fairly decent 'fierce warrior women of the Earth Kingdom' front that does a lot to cow anyone overly enthusiastic into submission. A twitch of Suki's fan or a meditative roll of the rocks Toph's taken to carrying about her person, and more or less everyone backs off. If they don't, if there's an old Fire Nation soldier not quite in line with Zuko's new message of peace and harmony, or some upstart kid looking for trouble, then, well. Then it gets interesting.

The day itself goes relatively without a hitch, though. Sokka gets a little exuberant on the rice wine that Zuko sends over in dozens of barrels, which results in Katara and Suki having to team up and make him drink a pitcher of water or two before he completely embarrasses everyone sitting up at the top table with Aang. Momo happily skips between platters and bowls and cups, and Appa lies regally in a corner. Aang had insisted on having him inside, being as much of a hero as anyone else.

It's the first time they've all been together in at least six months, and so it's weird not to have Zuko there. Toph misses Iroh, too. Katara says that it's for the best, really, the people of the Earth Kingdom are still healing, and no matter how much Iroh and Zuko helped liberate them, they're still symbols of their oppression. Toph decides she'll go visit the Jasmine Dragon tomorrow.

Being at a fancy dinner doesn't really bother Toph. It's not exactly her first choice of activity but at least she knows what to do, whereas some of the others look either uncomfortable or nervous. Aang, for his part, is oblivious to any social awkwardness at all, instead occupied in laughing uproariously with Bumi and feeding Momo from his plate. But in the end perhaps even he notices not everyone is having as good a time as he is, because he gets up and claps his hands together with enthusiasm. Once he's got everyone's attention, he starts airbending chairs and tables out of the way and transforms the dining room into a dancefloor.

Toph groans. She should have known.

As it turns out, it's not so bad. Aang does know how to get people moving, and soon even the stuffiest old Earth Kingdom family representatives are letting loose a little. Aang and Katara lead them all in a few traditional dances, then it all gets a little chaotic from there.

Suki and her warriors put on an impromptu display, fans swishing through the air, until Suki spots Sokka returning from the corner where he's been sobering up and twirls him into the middle of the dancefloor, dipping him to laughter and cheers.

It's almost overwhelming for Toph's feet with so many people and so much movement, and she gets caught up in it soon enough. By the time Katara and Aang gang up on her and take her hands, her protests are entirely for show, and she's happy to be swept away into the foot-stamping singalong that takes over for the rest of the night.

---

Over time, the rebuilding comes to an end. The physical side of things, at least - Toph reckons that Aang and Zuko probably have their work cut out for them for the rest of their lives, as they try to restitch a torn world and bring four nations back again.

There is progress, though. Katara oversees the re-establishment of regular trade routes and cultural links between the two poles. Ty Lee ends up being something of an accidental goodwill ambassador for the Fire Nation, held up as an example of Azula loyalist turned good, with her heartfelt adoption of the Kyoshi Warriors' traditions. Teo leads volunteers from the Northern Air Temple in a series of expeditions to the other Air Temples, restoring and preserving them so that the history of the nomads is never forgotten.

The Kyoshi Warriors remain in Ba Sing Se and the surrounding area, once again helping refugees, though this time they're helping them go home. Toph stays with them, because they need a bender to deal with the rockfalls and treacherous terrains that have arisen since Ozai nearly destroyed the world. The ground itself still senses just how close to destruction they came. So Toph leads groups of refugees back to their villages, making herself useful through geological defence during the day, and speedy camp set-up at night. It reminds her of travelling with Aang, Katara and Sokka, and she's always smiling when she beds down for the night.

Soon this will be done too, and Toph doesn't know where she'll fit in after that. She gets messages from her parents sometimes, asking her to come home, but Toph figures that if they really want to see her she's easy enough to find. In the meantime, she has friends spread out over the whole world, and people who need her help, and so she figures that she's going to be all right.
jonesandashes: (happy dinosaurs are happy)

[personal profile] jonesandashes 2011-02-21 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
This is entirely lovely. Oh, Toph being her amazing self and helping everyone pick up the pieces. <3
thegorgon: Graffiti: I love you but I've chosen disco. (a:tla)

[personal profile] thegorgon 2011-02-22 03:52 am (UTC)(link)
This is a really lovely story, and perfectly Toph. She really will be all right.
elsane: clouds, brilliance, and the illusion of wings. (Default)

[personal profile] elsane 2012-06-08 01:12 am (UTC)(link)
I liked this a lot. Oh, Toph!