“Well, what do you think? Am I awesome?” Toph stamps a foot, makes her voice low. “Or am I awesome?”
Azula thinks she moves like an ostrich-horse--albeit one with years of military training. As usual, Toph gives herself too much credit: Azula’s the one who spent days teaching her how to earthbend properly instead of like a dumb beast, all without being able to actually do the thing in question. (Perhaps Li and Lo weren’t as foolish as she’d always thought. Or maybe they were--she had Father to watch, after all). A benefit of...madness is that her memories, like her senses, are sharpened to points. Her old guards’ straightness, the way their fingers flex in their rock gloves, the position of their chins, are as clear as her own flame.
“I think it’s a shame I’m not the Avatar,” Azula says, and nothing in her voice suggests it’s because she wants to go with Toph rather than instead of her. Instead, she crosses her ankles, examines her green-and-gold fan. Azula thinks that if she must wear Earth Kingdom clothes, she looks best in mint. In her eyes are bits of glass, tinted blue. They had to be blue, Sokka had said, before launching into some nonsense about waves of light. “I know that blue and gold make green," she’d told him during a digression about rainbows. "As do all small children who aren’t Toph.” (Toph had pointed a pinky-finger at her then, like she was doing now). Still, she supposes green eyes might’ve been useful during the coup all those years ago. “Perhaps you should practice some more,” she tells Toph. “I don’t feel like telling Mai how your bones were ground to dust because you got arrogant and stupid. She’d blame me, surely.”
“Yeah, you are the pinnacle of arrogant stupidity.” Toph’s still speaking in the same deep voice. Before Azula can manage a “Why, you--” or a blast of fire, she stamps again, quick and sharp, and Azula suddenly sees (no, imagines; imagines) the calf muscle pulsing under her tunic. It’s like a fist crushing the throat of some small animal, and Azula wants it. She wants it as she has wanted anything--as fire consumes in a drought. Shoulders square, Toph marches toward the middle of the room, continuing to crush imaginary animals under her feet. Then she stops, crouches in clean, deadly angles, and her stone-gloves go flying. Her arms, just briefly, make her see Chan’s. (Think of, damn it).
“Decent enough,” Azula says, crossing her legs so as not to feel the tingle between them. “Stand at attention now.”
Toph snaps her feet together, lets her arms fall. “This is sexy.”
“What.” She must be hearing things; her brain has a way of making it seem like other people know all her secrets. However, she cannot grind the edge out of her voice.
“I said, pretending to be a Dai Li agent is sexy. Zuko should get himself kidnapped more often,” Toph says. “Shall we be off, Lady Qing?”
Azula offers her elbow. “I’ll tell him you said that.”