Beware the super-long A/N from hell!

No, really, you might want to read this Author's Notes before reading. It'll help, I promise!

Okay, so you may or may not remember that I wrote a little something in "Oneshot Shorts" back in the day that involved an AU. Well, I was once again plagued by the plot bunnies and wrote this over the course of, like, a month. It took so long because I'm incredibly busy and procrastinating as I type! Wonderful. So, moving on, here's everything you need to know about what you're going to read:

First thing you need to know: I hate Avatar AUs, so I want to make this as authentic as possible. If you don't like AUs, give this a chance anyway because who knows; maybe you'll like it!

AU Description: The world of Avatar is the same, only more technologically advanced, sort of like in the 90's of our world. Aang's goal is the same: he is the Avatar, and must master the elements before the comet comes and the Fire Nation uses its power in combination with their (secret) nuclear warfare project to finish the war.

The mechanics of how things happened in the past will be explained in different oneshots that highlight different parts of the AU, like screenshots. Please notice that these oneshots are not in chronological order. For example, The first oneshot takes place in Season Two, whereas later I might post something from Season One. Of course, I won't give away the ending or anything; at the moment, I'm just transforming the story according to the "What if..." AU. Yay!

For each oneshot, I shall describe the scenario before the actual oneshot, just so you know what season we're in and everything.

And now, a little something about the main characters that you sort of need to know before you read:

Aang (Age 17): Aang is still the Avatar, though in these more modernized times the Avatar is also trained in the art of computer science. Aang is the same character as we know him, except he also happens to be a very capable hacker. He was not found in an iceberg, but how exactly he was found you'll discover later on.

Katara (Age 19): Katara is the same capable Waterbender that we knew in the first season. She can Waterbend, yes, but the only person who can teach her anything in the South Pole happens to be a woman from the Northern Tribe, so the woman only knows how to heal. Before Aang came along, she was attending the Southern Water Tribe University (or SWTU), and was a brilliant Waterbender in the Nursing Program, which is the only program offered to the very few Waterbenders at the South Pole. Katara still wants to learn how to fight, and therefore tries learning on her own. Without a Master, though, she is little better than she was at the beginning of the canon Season One.

Sokka: Our beloved Sokka is not a Bender, but is a very able mechanic as well as a weapon's specialist. While he has a vast collection of modern weapons, he also collects old school weapons like the boomerang. He is very capable with just various weapons, but he favors the classic boomerang because it was his first weapon and he has a bit of an emotional attachment to it, much like in the show. Also, and though you may not like this, Sokka does have a bit of a nasty habit: he smokes. You'll find out why later, but he does it whether or not you like him to. Sokka is still the responsible, slightly paranoid guy as in the show.

Toph: Toph is more or less exactly the same, only with a tad different back story. Just before she joined the gang, Toph ran away from home because she was sick of living her life as she was. So, living off her earnings as the Blind Bandit, Toph continues to attend illegal Earth Rumble tournaments, avoid being caught by the police and Master Yu, who is being paid to find her. Toph, like Sokka, has been known to smoke, but her reason is vastly different than Sokka's, and she doesn't do it as often as the latter.

Much like in the show, the characters have a sort of "standard" outfit that they wear on a regular basis. Here's a quick description of what you'll see, since describing it in the actual oneshot would make it seem extremely cluttered:

Sokka - Blue beater, baggy khaki pants, blue sneakers. His hair is what it looks like when it's down. Leather belt, same old necklace.

Toph - Green beater, green plaid Bermuda shorts (I bought myself a pair after writing this. xD), green sneakers with the bottoms cut off so she can Earthbend (I came up with this idea before "The Headband". I feel smurt!) Hair in two braids, and has bangs.

Katara - I had a bit of trouble with her outfit, but decided that she's wearing light blue sweatpants rolled up to the knee, and her Water Tribe University Nursing Program t-shirt, which is white. She's got on a pair of white sneakers. Hair and necklace the same.

Aang - Bald, still has arrows, and dresses in monk attire when he's first found. When he realizes that he has to go incognito, he dons a black sweatshirt with a red Air Nomad symbol on it - he bought it in a Southern Water Tribe gift shop that sold all different types of nation clothing. He's wearing loose jeans (though not saggy gangsta jeans), tied off with a black belt, like Sokka's, only not leather. The jeans are zip-off after the knee, and he's wearing red Puma sneakers to match his Air Nomad symbol.

I'm also going to need a title for the AU as a whole, though I haven't the slightest idea as to what it should be. Help me?

First oneshot:

- Season Two.

- Scenario: How Toph got involved with the gang.

Disclaimer: I own (almost) nothing.

Happy Reading!


Roadblock

Sokka's fingers tapped a nameless tune on the steering wheel of his car in a tired fashion. Night had just about fallen over the city's great walls, and he wanted to get back to the apartment before the darkness reached the point at which his dying headlights could no longer pierce through it. He sat back and sighed, tired. For a while now he'd been working a low profile—that was the way of things these days. They had to lay low and "avoid publicity at all costs" according to Katara—job as a mechanic's apprentice that hardly paid enough for them to pay rent to their equally low-profile landlord, whose reasons for being low profile were not half as noble and very much illegal.

The silence lost its peacefulness after a little while, so Sokka clicked on the radio in an attempt to clear his head of the troublesome thoughts. A strangely familiar song began to fill the car, though to Sokka it was almost as if he were hearing it for the first time.

"Jump into my arms, Baby,
We got ourselves some blind love,
These hands been workin' hard for ya,
'Cause it's you that work reminds me of."

'Weird lyrics', he thought, turning up the volume nonetheless and indulging in the clear-voiced male singer on the radio. He wasn't really one for the "Blues-rock" genre—Aang liked it more than he. But then again, Aang liked and appreciated everything he listened to, including yodeling—but the tones of the electric guitar seemed to ease his worries a bit. His eyes drooped. He forced them open again and struggled to keep his focus when a deer-wolf sprung across the road farther up, scaring him for a second before it was gone. Boy, after spending his day beneath a number of cars and hauling crates for his good-natured but businesslike employer, he was so tired…

"Meetin' downtown late at night,
Underneath those streetlights bright,
My work's been keeping us apart,
But that don't stop us none, sweetheart.

"It seems that lately we've been here,
Stuck in this time and this place,
But it don't matter what the cost,
So long as I can see your face."

Oh! Now he understood why it was so familiar. Sokka had actually heard it the first time the day before, when Katara had been making a feeble attempt at cleaning their run-down apartment. Then Aang had offered her a hand and somehow the two of them had ended up dancing and laughing, all cleaning abandoned, while Sokka rolled his eyes and sharpened his knife. The idea of his sister being so close to someone was not a happy one for the warrior, but he had to admit that he hadn't seen her laugh for quite some time…

"So jump into my mind, Baby,
We've got ourselves some Blind Love,
Troubled times, they lie ahead,
But it's you that I've been thinkin' of.

"(Blind love)
(Blind love)
(Blind love)
Oh, you tantalize me with your love,
Your kiss is all I'm thinkin' of!"

The loud crash of the symbols in the song brought his attention back yet again. Sokka shook his head and blinked a few times, switching his headlights to low beams as a car drove past. Staying awake would be difficult, but home—and by home he meant a meal and bed—was only about ten minutes away. To keep himself occupied, he reached across the passenger seat, snatched up his lighter, took a cigarette from behind his ear, and lit up. Then he began to sing along with the radio (the words that he did know, that is) in hopes that it would keep his eyes from closing.

"So what if we're too different?
Our personas tend to clash,
But every time I look at you,
My mind, it starts to crash.
Crash!"

"Crash!" He sung loudly and off-key, hitting one palm against the steering wheel with a sort of drunken enthusiasm that he was sure his sister wouldn't approve of. If Katara or Aang could see him, he mused, they probably would think he'd snapped.

But I didn't, he assured himself as he stifled a yawn. I'm just…tired…

Sokka's eyes drooped again. The sounds of "Blind Love" buzzed, unheard, in his ears. His head tilted forward slightly. And then—

When he opened his eyes, Sokka became immediately aware of several things, the first of which being that he was sideways. Next he realized that he had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel, if only for long enough to get himself into a mess. And third, his cigarette had fallen from his mouth and was burning the side of his face—

"Aaagh!"

Sokka scrambled around for a few seconds, trying desperately to unclip his seatbelt and find a way out of his truck at the same time. Somehow his car had ended up on its side and both his driver's seat and front windows had shattered. Glass lay all about; while climbing out of his front window, his hand slipped and was gashed by the jagged glass still attached to the pane. Gasping, he fell forward and landed on his face outside.

"Oh... Oh man!"

Upon looking up, he saw that his car was in fact on its side. The truck was more or less drivable-looking, though; it seemed as if it had merely tipped onto one side and the force of the impact had shattered his windows. His eyebrows furrowed. This thought was strange, since he was pretty sure that cars didn't just tip themselves over.

And then he noticed that, half beneath the car and half in front of it, there was a large mound of risen earth that took the shape of a collapsed dome. Sokka suddenly became very aware of his surroundings as adrenaline coursed through him. Katara had told him time and time again to keep a low profile, and now it seemed as if someone had tipped his car over via Earthbending. What reason would someone have to do it have unless to uncover the Avatar and his secret location? Sokka did a slow circle on the side of the road where he stood, peering into the darkness but unable to see into the forest. That strange tingly feeling in the back of his neck asked if someone was watching him from the trees. Sokka pushed an array of swears from his mind, tried to notice neither his bleeding hand nor the burn on his face, and struggled to think clearly.

Could he call Aang and Katara and tell them what had happened? His fingers twitched towards his pocket, but then stopped. Calling if someone was watching him was risky business, and doing so would let him know that he was actually involved with the Avatar. So, yes, he would have to run. He had to run before the Dai Li or whoever had tried to catch him caught up with him. He would have to leave his car…

At this thought, he turned and looked at his old pickup. He really loved that thing, as junky as it was. If he tried, he would have no problem fixing it—he was a mechanic, after all, and he could get the windows replaced for cheap. A little pang of sorrow shot through his chest at the prospect of abandoning his old metal friend.

Sokka strode now, limping slightly from the crash and quivering with adrenaline, climbed over the domelike pile of earth in front of the car, and somehow managed to get to his vehicle. He slipped his fingers over the dented bumper and beneath the license plate and pulled. It didn't budge. He then adjusted himself so that his feet were on either side of the license plate's fixture and gave a hefty tug, prying the telltale Ba Sing Se license plate from his fixture until the plate finally snapped from its holder, sending him backward through the air until he landed on his rear end a few feet away.

The warrior rubbed his behind as he clambered to his feet, grumbling mostly inaudible comments about his karma. At any rate, and though he was still a few miles from home and had a copious amount of blood dripping down his arm from his palm (which, he decided upon inspection, would be no matter for Katara to heal) he tucked the license plate under his arm, glanced at the hand he saw poking out from beneath the pile of earth, and began to jog towards—

Wait a second.

Tripping as he did so, Sokka stutter-stopped and whipped around. Surely his mind, which was not functioning properly under the stress of being potentially jumped by a bunch of enemies, had been playing some sort of trick on him; there was no way someone was… beneath that mass of rock and stone. And yet…

He blinked, hard, but when he opened his eyes the hand was still there, half-buried under the rubble, palm up and fingers dramatically angled as he had seen in so many action movies. His heart raced in his chest. He couldn't just leave… whoever it was… could he?

No.

Aang's horrified expression flashed through his mind's eye, and at that moment Sokka knew that he was about to go on an excavation.

Sokka jogged over to where the hand was, uncovered it from a bit of rock, and took the wrist's pulse with his unharmed hand. The slow and steady heartbeat beneath his fingers sent a surge of boldness through him. He began to dig at the rock and dirt, throwing them to the side like lightweight bits of Styrofoam. Dirt got into his open wound and caused an intense pain, but he ignored the excruciating sensation, jaw set and eyes narrowed in the dark. For minutes he shifted through the rubble until finally he uncovered the upper half of what turned out to be a girl.

She looked only a few years younger than he behind the nasty gash below her eye. Her face and clothes were caked with dirt, her hair a mess. Sokka carefully reached out to her and wiped some of the dirt away from her eyes with his less bloody hand, then gave the side of her chin a light tap. Her skin was warm, he noticed gladly.

"Hey, are you okay? Come on, wake up…"

Why this girl was practically beneath his truck was beyond him, really, but it didn't matter at the moment, and the question of how she got there made him no less relieved when she opened her eyes and coughed.

The girl did not look around as she suddenly sat up—Sokka fell backwards with a shout of surprise at the motion—and nor did she ask what had happened. He, desperate to do something other than stare in shock, grabbed her by the shoulder, and held three fingers up in front of her eyes; her head turned towards him, eyebrows furrowed under a dirty face.

"How many fingers am I holding up?" he demanded.

She paused before responding, "I don't know."

Then the girl jumped as Sokka let out a yelp, throwing his hands into the air and yelling in anguish at the sliver of moon, "I've killed her! Yue, how could you let this happen—!"

"Quiet!" The girl reached out and struck his shoulder with surprising strength. "I can't see because I'm blind, not because you almost killed me," she snapped.

She reached out as if searching for something and grabbed Sokka by the ear. The warrior could only splutter in surprise and then fall silent while she ran her hands over his face. What was she doing? He, wide-eyed and mouth slightly ajar, felt her fingers of one hand trace his jaw line and twitch behind his ear in a way that he almost felt could be sensual. Her thumb ran over his cheek, pausing for a moment over the cigarette burn on the side of his face before continuing on to the back of his head. Sokka, bewildered beyond all meaning of the word at being touched by a complete stranger, opened his mouth to ask what she was doing when she pushed him roughly away with the announcement that he wasn't suffering any head trauma.

The girl, with no assistance from Sokka, climbed to her feet and brushed herself off; Sokka stared as the dirt and rocks seemed to melt away from her in a rush of dust, leaving her more or less clean.

Sokka was then struck full force with an epiphany. "You—! You're an Earthbender! A blind one! Which means…" He sat back and let out a low whistle. "Wow, I almost ran over the Blind Bandit!"

"You would have, too, if I hadn't been able to stop it in time," she quipped.

Even though she was a (quite literally) bleeding mess, her somewhat proud manner shone through the cuts and bruises. Sokka wasn't quite sure if he liked it or not. The girl—now 'Miss Blind Bandit' to Sokka, who could only stare—began to explain to him that she'd tried to raise his car up once it came off the road, but when that failed she'd made a dome around herself—which had evidently collapsed on her and knocked her out, but she failed to mention that part—but Sokka wasn't listening; it had just occurred to him that the Dai Li wasn't after him after all (yet), that he had overreacted for nothing. That rising feeling ballooned in his chest and he couldn't help but smirk at the girl's expense.

"So you are the Blind Bandit, right? So you can feel things with your feet like I've seen in Earth Rumble?"

"Sure can." Again, that proud tone. Only, it seemed to Sokka that she was only using it because they were complete strangers, if that made any sense.

He rapped his fingers contemplatively on his chin. "So why didn't you just feel the car coming and avoid it?"

If she could have glared into his eyes, she probably would have done so. Instead, she countered, "How come you didn't just drive on the road like a normal person?"

"I…" Sokka trailed off, a wave of embarrassment washing over him. "I fell asleep."

Again, the Blind Bandit stared over his left shoulder before turning away and half-limping in the opposite direction, the sole-less shoes on her feet flapping and something that sounded suspiciously like "Narcoleptic idiot" barely audible from her lips. This woman was certainly something else, he mused. Perhaps the slightest tad arrogant, yes, but there was something about her that made him chuckle even while the adrenaline was still subsiding from his veins.

Sokka watched her limp away for a few more seconds before he realized that he had been given the opportunity to change Aang's lately less-than-fruitful search for an Earthbending teacher. In a flash, he darted to catch up with the girl, who turned around upon feeling him approach.

"What is it?" she asked, tone riddled with a false annoyance.

"You're hurt," he said. "There's a cut right here." He pointed to just beneath his own eye, waited for her to respond, and then blushed when she merely stared, expressionless, at the general area of his face. "Sorry. I mean here—" now he reached out and smeared the blood under her eye with his thumb so that he could see the gash underneath, which had already begun to bruise and clot; she winced "—Underneath your eye. I think you need something for it."

Sokka reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He examined it, determined that it wasn't broken, and flipped it open. The girl, who seemed to have recognized the gesture or the sound of the phone opening, reached out a hand and grabbed his wrist. The phone fell from his hand and landed on the ground with a clatter.

"Wait."

He stopped and looked expectantly at her, hoping that she couldn't sense his smile.

"Who are you calling?" she asked.

"The police," he replied. "You definitely need stitches or something and—"

"Sorry, no can do." Just as he'd expected, the Blind Bandit cut across his suggestion with an air of simplicity that suggested their topic was actually the weather. "I'm known for participating in illegal tournaments, which you probably know since you've been to Earth Rumble. If I get involved with the police, then I'll have to pay a fine or something stupid; I'll just take care of it when I get to wherever it is I decide to go."

Thus far, this girl had played right into his trap. He'd laid out the bait and she'd bitten, and now came the hard part: reeling her in. When he spoke, he didn't mean to sound exaggerated, but it happened anyway. "What a coincidence! It just so happens that my friends and I are supposed to be keeping a low profile too, and my sister could fix you up in a second—she went to nursing school, see, and—"

The term "nursing school" seemed to appeal greatly to the Earthbender, for she held up her hand, effectively silencing him, and agreed that perhaps she did need some help after all. Sokka couldn't help but grin again and hope that she couldn't tell. He'd known all along that she wanted help from someone who knew what they were doing, without actually having to go seek help from people who would get involved with her Earthbending.

"Great!" Sokka clapped his hands together enthusiastically, then winced as his hand seared with pain. "Now how's about you put my car right side-up so we can get going?"

The girl paused, shrugged, and stomped her foot on the ground. Out from underneath the sideways car popped a slab of rock that lifted the vehicle and dropped it right side-up; Sokka couldn't help but grimace at the thunk of his car's old tires hitting the road. Somewhere inside, the broken glass clattered around. He watched, somewhat exasperated but more intrigued, as she ran her hands along the car's exterior, evidently checking for major dents.

"I am a mechanic, you know…" His statement faded into nothing, as he figured that she didn't give a care what his profession was, even if it was relevant to discussion. That was just the way about this girl: skip the small talk and get moving.

Just as predicted, the girl shrugged and opened the passenger seat door. "I hope you don't need to go far, because your hunk of metal is probably pretty messed up underneath."

"I figured as much," Sokka deadpanned in reply.

Nevertheless, he gaited across the still-unleveled stretch of road towards his car. He pulled open the door (determinedly avoiding the sight of a new batch of dents from where the car had tipped), brushed away from the seat some of the glass with his good hand, and hopped into the car. The girl followed suit, slamming the door closed behind her. Sokka frowned as a bit more glass fell down from the window from the resounding slam of the door. He started the car—which stalled only for a moment, thank the Spirits—put it into gear, and began to drive. Besides a few here-and-there mishaps, the car seemed more or less drivable.

An awkward silence fell upon them and he busied himself by turning on the radio—which, he assumed, had turned itself off during the accident—and heard that blasted song again. Didn't they have a limit to how often they could play the same song? Or perhaps his little adventure had taken longer than he first thought, he realized with a grimace. Trying not to think of what Katara would say when he arrived at home (He could already hear her annoyed and worried exclamations running through his brain), Sokka snapped off the radio again. Occasionally his eyes would dart over to the girl in the passenger seat, but mostly they stayed on the road, lest he run over someone for real this time.

Then, out of nowhere, she broke the silence. "I'm sorry about your car. My real name is Toph, by the way," she said.

Somewhat surprised by the sudden modesty in her voice, he could do little more than nod and reply, "The name's Sokka, and no problem."

The girl, now Toph, smirked. "Sokka, huh? I thought you might be foreign; you walk differently than most people around here."

Sokka's eyebrows shot up, eyes still glued to the road. Just wait until Katara heard that they walked foreignly. She'd get a kick out of that, for sure. "Really?"

"Yeah. I'll bet it's obvious that you're not from here," she continued. "You probably dress differently."

"True enough." Sokka glanced down at his own clothes, which were blue instead of the usual Earth Kingdom green; his appearance had been one thing that he could not bring himself to change in the city. And besides, they blended well enough anyway with the people. Aang merely had to wear a hat when out in public.

Sokka opened his mouth to comment further on her perception, but upon glancing at her he fell silent. Her head was turned slightly away from him, her eyes staring out the cracked window but not seeing what passed by. Her dark hair, which had once been in two braids down her shoulders, had become untidy and fell over the cuts on her face. Perturbed slightly for reasons he couldn't quite put his finger on, Sokka tore his eyes off of her and set them once again on the road.

The truck lapsed into a comfortable silence. All the while, Sokka heard that same song in his ears, the lyrics of "Blind Love" pounding themselves a symphony into his head, and for once he didn't seem to mind.

-


A/n: Whew! Sorry to throw all that information at you! The title of this is subject to change as I figure out what to call it. Heck, this story sat in my Document Manager for two weeks because I couldn't figure out what to call it. For now it's "Parallel Lives", but it's subject to change once metro.max comes up with a brilliant idea for a title (kidding!).

This oneshot also included that I do something I haven't done in years, which is write my own song lyrics. My goodness, I hated every second of that, though I was relatively pleased with the final outcome. I wish you guys could hear how it sounds in my head!

Anyway, if you chose to stick with me through this, I think it might end up being a rewarding experience. Feel free to ask any questions or make any comments you need to, and thanks for reading!