Bad And WorseEdit
Three days later, Toph left the very crowded infirmary visibly upset. Katara hadn't left Aang's bedside since the battle. She hadn't eaten anything and Mei had only just managed to convince her to eat something, so Toph was on her way to find some food, and try to calm herself. It wasn't easy being one of the only ones still able to stand.
Zuko was only awake for a few moments at a time between hours and sometimes days of sleep, and his head was still almost completely covered in bandages from his burns. Sokka was mostly awake now, and he was hobbling around on crutches a little from time to time, but the effort clearly and quickly exhausted him. The Kyoshi Warriors were for the most part recovered, with the exception of a handful of broken bones, but like everyone else, they were still covered in bruises and half healed cuts, and for all their effort, they still grew tired very quickly and easily. Mei was on crutches from where the shapeshifting man had put one of her knives all the way through her thigh. The doctors hadn't wanted her walking at all, but she had demanded a crutch and been hobbling around for over a week, being very careful not to put any weight on her leg, collapsing and nearly passing out from the pain as her wound opened back up when she did.
Aang wasn't waking up. The doctor's had quietly confided in the others when Katara wasn't nearby that they weren't sure he would ever wake up. His heartbeat was steady, but it was faint. He only had a few ribs that weren't completely shattered, possibly beyond repair, and those few were all at the very least cracked; most were broken. He had a nasty bruise on the back of his head and the doctors had found fractures beneath it in his skull.
They had been amazed his spine hadn't been broken by the immense impact, but now they had found a spot in his lower back where it was. Even if he did wake up they said, he might never walk again. Katara had lost it again when they found the break in his back. She had had the doctor by the front of the shirt and been right in his face screaming at the top of her lungs. It had taken Mei slapping her and chewing her out while Toph and Lei held her back to shock her out of her rage and into a fit of crying, and then it took five minutes of sweet talking to calm her down while the doctor slunk off to examine his next patient. Strangely, they had gotten along much better after that.
"Hey Toph!" Sokka called now as he hobbled along the hallway, Suki walking along beside him in case he collapsed. "Hey Sokka. Hi Suki," Toph tried to smile, "Mei finally talked Katara into eating something, so I'm gonna go get her something." "That's great," Sokka exclaimed, then he sobered slightly, "How's Aang? Is he awake yet?" Toph's eyes watered and her fists clenched at the mention of Aang. She scrunched her eyes shut and shook her head slowly, "They just found out his back's broken. Even if he wakes up, he may never walk again."
Suki gasped and Sokka's expression of horror might have been comical in other circumstances, "That's terrible!" Suki exclaimed. "His back," Sokka said quietly, "But if he can't walk, how's he gonna be the Avatar? How's he gonna save us from those monsters?" "I'm not sure he is," Toph said quietly before sitting down and leaning against the wall, the sobs finally breaking free. "But without Aang," Suki said quietly, "How can we survive?"
That evening as the sun went down and Toph sat on her window sill listening to the sounds of the city in the aftermath of the creature's attack, forlornly smelling the smoke from the funeral pyres rising through the still night air, her mind drifted to another time, another place, and a different fire she had sat by in a happier time.
Kyoshi Island, six months earlierEdit
Toph raised three fingers, with one hand on the rope that would bring down the camouflage veil that Sokka and Ty Lee were hiding behind. The Gaang was on Kyoshi Island for the island's Harvest Festival, and they had been there for nearly two weeks. A few days after they got there, Suki had come down with a nasty cold and hadn't been out of her house since. In the mean time, Toph and Sokka had become embroiled in a prank war which had quickly encompassed nearly everyone in the village.
As everyone had begun to take sides, Toph had recruited Aang and Sokka had recruited the ever agile Ty Lee to balance the score. The pranks had ranged from stolen clothing hung from trees to covering each other in buckets of honey and pighen feathers. This most recent one must have been one of Sokka's ideas, Toph thought with a smile. He and Ty Lee had been sitting behind the camouflage veil for over an hour, no doubt waiting for Toph or one of her team to walk by to spring out and scare them.
Toph knew it had to have been one of Sokka's ideas. Only Sokka would have so completely forgotten that camouflage was useless against her. Now she had gathered Aang, Katara, a freshly recovered Suki, and nearly everyone Sokka had pranked (which was half the village), all armed with mud pies to reverse the prank and bury Sokka in mud. They had all crept up ever so quietly, and now Toph was ready to bring down the curtain and let the mud storm begin. She lowered one finger, then the second and when she lowered the third she yanked the cord and leapt away as the veil fell.
There was a gasp as she landed and she turned, unable to see, "What? What is it? Why do I not hear the happy sound of mud pies?" Suddenly Suki shrieked some very unpleasant things, hurled her mud pie with such force it knocked Sokka flat on his back and stormed off, everyone clearing away to make room for her. Toph blinked in confusion, "Was she talking to me?" Then there was a chorus of booing and mud pies rained down on Sokka and Ty Lee, who as Toph discovered later had been making out behind the camouflage curtain.
Two days and many heartfelt apologies later, Suki still hadn't forgiven Sokka. So it was fortunate for Sokka that the band of singing nomads had shown up when they had. Apparently Sokka had met them before, something about a tunnel, and when they had heard what had happened, they had agreed to help him win Suki back.
That night around the Harvest Festival bonfire, the nomads had provided the music, and Sokka had sung a song he had written himself apologizing. Toph had made faces throughout the whole thing because Sokka's singing sounded like a dying walrus, but it had had the desired effect and Suki had forgiven him after promising to kill him if he ever did it again.
Toph chuckled as she remembered Sokka's horrible singing and the cheerful viciousness of the prank war. Then the smile faded as a disturbing thought occurred to her out of the blue, what had happened to that Spirit girl? Nobody had seen or heard from her since the attack.
Meanwhile, the Kimarehto StrongholdEdit
Yue's eyes flickered open as she regained consciousness. She was immediately aware of how heavy she felt, almost as though she had been covered in mud. Then she became aware that she could actually feel the sheets she was tucked between. She sat up in horror as numerous sensations washed over her, all of which could mean only one thing: somehow, she had a body again.