"Wow this place sure is fancy." Toph tapped her bare feet on the rich carpet of the Firelord's Palace.
"Uh, yeah," Zuko said, awkwardly. "Thank you for coming, Bei-"
"If you call me Beifong I will punch you." Zuko bowed his head slightly, sheepish. Toph laughed. "Lighten up, Zuko, seriously. I think saving the world with someone puts you on a first name basis."
"Right, right. Sorry, Toph. Really though, it is nice to see you."
"I wish I could say the same," Toph deadpanned. Zuko's eyebrows rose in shock and confusion before lowering as his eyes narrowed.
Zuko and Toph walked through the halls, Toph commenting on the flooring every time it changed. "So Zuko, heard you broke up with Mai." Toph spoke casually as the two stepped onto the balcony connected to Zuko's room.
"Yeah, I did," Zuko said. "Uh, why do you ask?"
"I didn't ask, I stated. Also, I'm over here to have a nice chat and we all know how terrible you can be at conversations. Just tryna break the ice." Toph sat on a chair and propped her pair feet up on the balcony railing. Zuko rubbed his left arm. "You're nervous. Do you wanna talk about it?"
"Look, I'm actually a really good listener," Toph said, turning her head to face Zuko and waving a hand in front of her eyes, grinning. "But if you don't wanna talk about it, I'll drop it." Toph and Zuko sat in silence as two minutes ticked by. "Okay, I'll d-"
"NO! Wait uh, sorry I shouted um, hang on can I start this sentence over?" Toph nodded, trying her hardest not to laugh. "Toph, you've never dated anybody, right?"
"Nope! Not a one," Toph replied, grinning.
"Well... have you ever wanted to?" Zuko glanced at Toph, who's eyebrows were raised.
"No, I'm aromantic." Toph tilted her head towards Zuko.
Zuko turned his gaze back to the view from his balcony. "Right, I thought you might be."
"My stellar attitude towards romance give me away?" Toph said, laughing. Zuko chuckled too, remembering many times where Toph had made her feelings about other couples well known, complete with sticking her tongue out and often interjecting loudly. She had even been known to earthbend walls to separate couples about to kiss before, if she was the mood to.
"Yeah, kinda," Zuko replied. "Well I've been thinking that I'm uh..." Zuko inhaled. "That I might be demiromantic." When Toph didn't respond, Zuko anxiously turned around. He had no real reason to be anxious, but Toph was usually always ready with a quip or at least a mildly funny gripe.
"Are you nervous because of how I'll react or because you might be demiromantic?" Toph finally asked. The questions surprised Zuko, so he mulled it over.
"Both, I guess."
"Why the hell are you worried about how I'd react?" An aggressive sentences, but Toph's tone was her normal light, joking one. "I just told you I was aromantic, buddy, get with the times." Zuko sighed, rolling his eyes as his lips turned upwards in a smile. "I mean, so you're demiromantic. That's chill."
Toph socked Zuko in the arm. "Honestly, I probably could have guessed that. You did always seem like someone who didn't actually know what a crush was."
Zuko narrowed his eyes. "That sounded a lot like an insult."
"Does it really matter if it's true?" Toph responded.
Zuko grinned. "I guess not. What even is a crush anyways?"
"No clue, m'dude. Honestly every time someone talks about their crush I zone out because it makes absolutely zero sense to me," Toph said.
"Right?" Zuko agreed emphatically. "Sometimes people will talk about nothing else! Just their crushes and they go on and on for hours! Once I had to listen to this guy tell me about some chick and I thought they must already be dating but it turns out they had never even spoken! I don't get it at all."
"Finally, someone who understands my pain," Toph said in an overly dramatic voice, smirking. "I don't tell many people that I'm aromantic because so few people even know what that is. So people assume I know exactly what they mean when they go 'Oh, Toph! It was love at first sight! Oh wait... you can't... sorry.'" Toph's hilarious reenactment of the scene she described, complete with facial expressions, hand gestures, and funny voice, had Zuko doubled over laughing.
"This is the first time I've said it out loud, actually," Zuko said, once he had recovered from his fit of laughter. "That I'm demiromantic."
"I feel ya. I've only told like, a handful of people. It can be much more of a hassle than it's worth," Toph replied, matching Zuko's more serious tone.
Zuko closed his eyes, sighing. "I just... don't know. I wish it was all more simple. More of the... well the fun part, I guess. Less of the confusing, am I going to die alone with no one who cares about me bit."
Toph was silent for a moment. "Well, unless you do something really, really atrocious to me personally, you'll always have me at least. But you're right, it's sorta nerve-racking for things to be so uncertain." Toph shrugged, lightly punching Zuko's arm. "But really, it's going to be okay. You have friends, and whether you end up with someone or not, that'll be enough. Right?"
Zuko opened his eyes, looking over at Toph. His face reflected hers, a smile forming. "You're right. Thanks, Toph."
"No problem, buddy. Life is messy and scary. But enough sappy stuff, you do plan on feeding me, right? If not I'm rebelling."
Zuko laughed, inviting Toph to stand and follow him into the great hall. Toph and Zuko both had people in their corners. No matter what happened, friends and family would be there to support them both.
They could standing side by side, walking forwards into the uncertain future. Theirs was a bond of a punch in the shoulder and a voice of reason. After all, they both knew love was so much more than just a kiss and a tender touch.