Title: The Princess and the Bandit (G)
Notes: For knight_ander. Before the events of A New Hope, before the events of Avatar: Book Two, Toph's family is visiting the Organas, and young Princess Leia catches Toph Earth-bending in the mountains near the palace.
Leia Organa and Bei Fong Toph met during the former’s Ninth Naming Day. Really met, that is. A few days before then, they had brought forward and introduced to each other but they hadn’t really met in the true sense of the word.
It all happened because Princess Organa’s Ninth Naming Day was also the day of her debut as a Speaking Legislator at the Royal Council Hall: her first time of formally speaking during a Royal Council meeting. She had barely slept all night in anticipation for the great moment and when she had woken up, she had been so visibly high-strung that Bail had wondered silently if she was ready. But when the moment came and the white-clad Princess stood before the Elders, flanked on both sides by members of the Bei Fong family she was representing; her face and composure had been perfectly calm as she delivered her improvised speech.
“I noticed you added a few things to the speech,” Bail commented as the two families strolled back to the Royal Palace.
“Yes,” Leia said carefully. “Did I displease you, sir?”
“No, Leia, the opposite as a matter of fact.”
Leia was still blushing as the elder Bei Fong spoke up. “Considering how recently the Omashu invasion happened, bringing it up was strategic.”
Leia stumbled a little at his last word. She was about to turn back but her father started speaking:
“You referred to recent events and brought home the point of Galactic intervention better than any speeches of the evils of the hundred year war. I just wondered what gave you the idea…?”
Preening a little and trying hard to stop herself from preening – which made it even worse – Leia tried to explain the sudden inspiration that had come to her mid-way through the speech. Bail and his friends were paying so close attention to her that they didn’t notice the other nine-year-old girl slipping away.
“There you are! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
Toph started and the carefully constructed cocoon of rock collapsed all around her.
“What… what was that?”
“Oh, go away, won’t you?” Toph snapped, scowling hard as she got to her feet, brushing the dirt off her clothes.
“No, really. How did you do that?”
“Oh, you mean there’s something you don’t know? Little Miss Grown-up?”
She could almost feel Leia Organa’s face frown. “What is your problem?”
“What is my problem?”
“Yes! I try to be nice to you and if our parents aren’t there, you’re borderline rude. I know you’re the one who nearly tripped me when we were coming back from the Council Hall. What have I ever done to you?”
Toph lost it. “What have you done? What haven’t you done? You’re a Legislator to the Alderaan Council. You’re an Organizer at the Refugee Relief Movement. You’re an honorable member of the Earth Kingdom Elite Youths. Everywhere I go, it’s Leia Organa this, Leia Organa that. We’re exactly the same age but you get to do everything while they keep me in a cage like a doll! Do you know how it feels like to-”
“I won’t stop! You wanted to know my problem and now you’ll hear them!”
“No, I mean it. Stop! I can’t move!”
Toph paused. And then her stomach jumped in alarm as she realized what she had been doing in her tirade. With each stamp of her foot, the smooth rocks of the Alderaan hill sides – uncannily similar to the ones back at home – had been rising and falling, consciously or unconsciously, around Leia.
Gingerly she stepped forward and confirmed that yes, the other girl was neatly trapped in a rough cylinder of rock.
Despite herself, Toph felt her lips twitched. It wasn’t funny and she’d get into serious trouble if Leia reported to her parents, but the mental image of the prissy girl’s doubtlessly bewildered and frightened face cheered her.
But she would get into trouble if her parents knew she was bending. Sighing a little, she prepared to let Leia free.
“Clearly, I have hurt your feelings without meaning to, Toph. I am sincerely sorry. Please can you let me out now?”
That did it!
“I’m not a little girl,” she screamed. “Don’t talk to me like a baby!”
“I was just being polite!” Leia retorted and her voice sounded like if she was forcing the words through clenched teeth.
“Well you can be polite all by yourself!” Toph snapped and stamped hard for good measure.
Toph spun on her heel.
“You are not leaving me here!”
“Oh yeah?” Toph yelled and happily strolled off.
“Toph! Toph! Come back! Come back this moment, you Little Brat!”
She was half-way down the hill when she felt them – not with her feet but the hairs on the back of her neck. She barely leaped back in the nick of time as they passed her – large, rock-sounding missiles flying past her to land in bounces on the ground before her.
She swung round, feeling for whoever had let Leia go, still trying to think who amongst her family’s companions was a Bender…
…only to realize that Leia was exactly where she had left her a few seconds ago… Only completely free of her earth prison.
Toph gasped. “Are you an Earth bender, too?” She didn’t know what she felt the most – delight at meeting a human Earthbender or dismay that Leia Organa had the one thing that made Toph better than her.
Toph rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know what just did? What you are?”
“I just… stretched out my hands… and the rocks flew away from me…” Leia’s voice was slow, wondering.
Toph scowled. “So you are a Bender. Congratulations.”
She walked away as quickly as she could.
“I still don’t know why you can’t teach me a few things.”
“I still don’t know why you can’t take no for an answer.” But there was almost a smile on Toph’s face as she said that and Leia thought that was a good sign.
“I’m a Princess of a pacifist state. I have to be able to negotiate in all circumstances.” The reply was automatic. It was one of the first rules of state she had ever learnt.
“Well, I’m a spoilt Little Brat and I have to do what I please. Except when I can’t do what I please.” And that almost smile disappeared behind an impressive scowl.
Leia bit her lip. The idea had been half-forming in her mind for some days now, ever since she made up her mind to win Toph’s good will and ‘Bending’ tutorship, but she wasn’t sure she had thought it through enough to sell it to the other girl now. If she wasn’t convincing enough, Toph would laugh her to pieces and Leia would lose whatever modicum of respect she had painstakingly worn from the other girl.
On the other hand, the Bei Fong family would soon be leaving Alderaan. If she didn’t get Toph to train her soon, she might not get the chance again.
“So Bei Fong Toph can’t do as she pleases… what if you weren’t Bei Fong Toph? Could you do as you please?”
“You’re not making any sense, Princess.”
Toph had a way of saying Leia’s title that made it sound like an insult. Not for the first time, Leia resisted the urge to smack the other girl. Hard.
“Have you ever heard of a secret identity?”
Celia watched the dirty girls tramping down the hill and smiled even as she wondered if they needed to get quite so dirty.
“It was good that we insisted on the Bei Fong family bringing along their little girl. I worry about Leia sometimes, that she’s growing up too fast.”
“She’s growing up exactly the way we grew up, sister,” Bail said gently.
Celia sighed. She privately believed that they all grew up too fast, that the galaxy as a whole made children grow up too fast, but it was an old argument and she was tired of it.
At that moment, one of the girls looked up and Bail waved. She waved back, and after a moment, so did the other.
Celia smiled. They should do this again.
Lao and Poppy exchanged smiles as they watched the two small girls approaching the vessel. Toph looked especially radiant, her delicate green-and-yellow dress glowing beside the Princess Leia’s white gown.
Lao was glad he had brought her to Alderaan. He had worried when he got the Organas’ request. Toph was such a different child from Princess Leia – so fragile, so innocent – and he worried that she would be overwhelmed and unhappy. To say nothing about the perils of inter-planetary travel – something that was rarely embarked upon in their world.
And at first, he had thought his suspicions were proved right and he should never have brought his daughter here. The Alderaan climate had clearly not agreed with Toph. She looked unwell, she wilted and Princess Leia was a charming child, but it was clear that she and Toph had very little in common.
But these past few days, something had changed. She had eventually adapted to Alderaan weather and her health had improved. She looked happier, acted happier. It was a testimony to Princess Leia’s skill, of course, that she had managed to draw his soft-spoken, reserved daughter out of her shell and make her laugh on occasion.
The two girls said their farewells and he caught Poppy’s eyes again. They were dancing and he knew she was thinking the exact same thing he was:
We should do this again.
“Good bye Princess Leia.”
“Good bye –” Princess Leia coughed and Toph patted her back consolingly, only just managing to muffle her own giggles.
Later on the ship, she laughed at what Leia had called her and hugged herself tightly. Life was about to become very interesting.
In the end, Leia hadn’t taken to Bending very well after all. At the end of her short apprenticeship, she could just manage to fling back small bits of rock when Toph threw them at her. But she hadn’t been able to move the rocks out of the ground as Toph did so flawlessly: A skill that Toph repeatedly reminded Leia was the most fundamental aspect of bending.
Still, she had learnt that she was completely averse to going barefoot and like her father said, every bit of self-awareness was useful.
Leia watched the ship vanish through the clouds and her grin broadened, imagining the adventures Toph – no, the Blind Bandit – was going to embark on.
So, I was browsing through LJ and I read a post about the Octuplet Mommy. This particular journal was filled with consensus comments about how anti-feminist the Octuplet Mommy’s decision was.
Which made me pause.
I don’t think that the actions of this woman are a topic for feminism debates or any discussion about political correctness. Technically speaking, the fact that a woman can walk into a fertility clinic without a ring on her finger or a man at her side is a form of female empowerment. Consequently, like any form of power, it comes with responsibility. That is the issue or should be the issue: responsibility – of the individual who undergoes the treatment, the people who dispense the treatment, the technology behind the treatment – and not political correctness.
[my two cents]