Toph was surprised that she woke up first. Since she had met him, Zuko had always been awake before her, even when he was the one who knocked her unconscious. Now that she was actually awake before him, she found herself cuddled up into Zuko’s side and, she had to admit, he was quite warm and comfortable. She found those odd thoughts entering her mind again, especially now that he was still sleeping and her hand was resting on his stomach. His well-defined, muscular, stomach, she realized, feeling her cheeks heat up. She knew what he had done the day before, willingly letting the curse take over to save them both, shielding her from the barrage that was fired at them that she couldn’t see. She found herself tracing his stomach and scooted closer, only to have something pointy stick into her side.
Zuko moaned slightly as well, but didn’t wake up, so Toph investigated the offending object, finding it to be the broken shaft of an arrow in his upper leg. Knowing she shouldn’t do anything until he awoke, she decided to explore some more. She could feel his back, legs and arms through the earth he was on, and knew he still slept soundly. Everything about him told her that he kept himself in top shape, though he was more wiry, as she had noticed on their first meeting. He might appear thin to most Earth Kingdom men, but Toph could tell that Zuko had more strength in his muscles than most of the men who liked to show off. Her hand settled on his stomach again before starting to trace little nonsense patterns on his chest before heading up towards his neck. She could feel a few faint scars on his chest through his shirt, as well as on his neck. Stopping momentarily on his neck, she was curious about his face and wondered if she should ask first.
Deciding it was a mute point since he hadn’t woken yet, she let her fingers trace up over his chin and onto his mouth. He had a gentle mouth, fine and soft, just as a noble’s should be, yet there was a coarseness on the edges that told her he had spent quite a lot of time out in the elements until recently. A few course hairs on his upper lip suggested that he might need to shave soon, though it seemed an irregular duty. Zuko had high cheekbones, and a long nose. Her fingers inched farther up his face, finding his right eye easily enough. His eyebrow was thin and fine. She thought him quite handsome, and from hearing her sister and other young women in her father’s house speak of young men, Toph thought that they would consider Zuko handsome as well. Her fingers strayed to the left side of his face, and instantly felt something different, something entirely different from his right side. The skin around his left eye was marred and had waxy feeling, and he had no eyebrow. She felt the skin, feeling out the edges, surprised that it was such a large area, extending past his ear. So focused was she on exploring the strange skin that she didn’t notice him waking until he had grabbed her hands and flipped her onto her back, pinning her hands above her head.
“Uh…Zuko?” she asked gingerly after a moment of him being on top of her, his body holding her down and breathing heavily above her. Of course, she could have had him off of her in a moment with earthbending, but there was a part of her that knew she needed to go slowly, and a part of her that kind of liked it. Besides, she may have crossed a line she hadn’t known existed.
Another tense moment passed before his grip on her hands loosened, though they still held her in the prone position.
Frowning at not being able to tell what was happening, she let out a phrase she didn’t use often. “I’m sorry.”
Zuko stared down at the small earthbender underneath of him as she apologized. It had been a reaction to someone touching his scar that had caused them to end up like this, though he wasn’t sure it was such a bad thing now. Now that he was past the adrenaline surge of protecting himself, he knew that logically Toph hadn’t seen his scar, so wouldn’t know about it. Her feather-like touches had teased his dreams, until he had realized the fingers on his face were real and actively exploring his mark of shame. He had forgiven her instantly, once he was fully awake. Would she forgive him for what he wanted to do? Every inch of him screamed at him to kiss her. Though he knew that she was tough, she looked fragile at that moment.
“Uh…anyone there? Is it Zuko on top of me, or Mr. Dragon?”
Her little quip and trademark smirk made him smile. “It’s me,” he replied softly. “It’s all right. I’m sorry I reacted the way I did.”
“Ok,” Toph said, looking like she wanted to squirm, yet still controlling herself. “Can I get up now?”
Zuko paused. He really should let her up, but he didn’t want to. “Not yet,” he answered, leaning closer to her. Her lips were full and her face was flushed, making her even more beautiful. She looked surprised, causing him to smile once more as he brushed a feather soft kiss onto her lips.
Wanting more, yet knowing he shouldn’t push the issue, he let her hands go as he moved to get off of her. He was more than surprised, though also ecstatic when she grabbed his shirt and pulled him into an innocent, yet powerful kiss. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but then they were kissing more fervently, holding onto each other and he was on top of her again. He rolled, trying to ease his weight off of her and gasped as pain shot through his leg.
“Oh, yeah, you have an arrow in your leg,” Toph said, sounding a little disappointed that they had stopped. “Crap, and Twinkle Toes just arrived.”
Zuko glanced at the entrance to cave, and saw the giant bison’s shadow block out most of the light. Looking back to Toph, he saw that she was truly disappointed that they were being interrupted. Before the Avatar could enter, Zuko decided to tease the earthbender once more. He leaned over quickly to kiss her lips, whispering, “We’ll have time later.” Seeing Toph turn a bright shade of red was worth having her pull the arrow out as Aang walked in.