The week after graduation was littered with parties and random guests dropping in to congratulate Toph and Aang. Letters from long-lost relatives came in the mail, especially for Toph, all congratulating the two on their success.
And to Toph's happiness, with said letters came checks.
"You're already rich."
"I'm richer!" Toph greedily yelled after she tallied up the cash the checks would yield. "I'm saving this for New York."
"Okay. Can we go now? I told Gyatso I'd be home a while ago."
"Fine, fine. Head on out." Aang walked and Toph followed. Aang was visibly discouraged by something. Toph ignored it for a minute before bringing it up. "Oh, what now?"
"Huh? Nothing. I'm just…I want to enjoy my summer vacation. College talk can wait."
"Yeah, but not for long. Time's-a ticking twinkle toes."
"I know! But…forget it. It's a lot to think about." Aang went silent. Toph got the message.
"Fine. If you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to." Toph punched his arm.
"Uh…yeah okay." Aang felt bad avoiding the problem, but was also relieved that Toph wasn't pressing the issue further.
"You'll handle it. Just don't leave it to the last minute."
Toph sighed happily. The sprinkler across the street clicked as it spat water.
"This ain't bad." She said as she kicked her foot on her knee, resting on the reclined chair. The sun beat down on her.
Aang walked outside with a pitcher of lemonade.
"Sup." Toph didn't move. Aang sat on the lawn, next to her and put the pitcher on the little table they moved outside.
"Better than yesterday." She stretched. Aang's eyes wandered. Toph wore short-shorts and low cut tank-top. Toph knew what Aang liked, even the things he didn't tell her.
"It's better than winter. That's for sure." Aang mumbled.
Toph took her sunglasses off and noticed he looked more stressed than anyone should be on such a beautiful day. "Oh what now!"
"What!? What happened?!"
"You've been in a weird mood for like two months."
"No I haven't."
"Yeah you have. You're not jumping up and down like an excited puppy and last week we were at that museum thingy and you only gawked for like two minutes."
"So, you're not half the spaz you usually are."
"Thank you?" Aang shrugged at that backhanded compliment.
"What's eating you?"
"I'm…nothing. I'm fine."
"Uh-huh. What's bothering you?"
"What is bothering you?"
"Toph, nothing is bothering me."
"What is bothering-"
"Are you going to ask me that until I answer?"
"Yep. What is bothering you?"
"Forget this, I'm going inside." Aang stubbornly stood up, walked inside, and closed the door behind him.
He knew he was upset, and knew why, but didn't want to think about it more. It had been bothering him for weeks.
"What is bothering you?" Toph stuck her head through the living room window.
"Give me some space!" Aang went upstairs. Toph clumsily climbed in through the window.
"Tell me what is bothering you airhead!" She ran up the stairs after him. Aang shut himself in his room before she could enter.
So Toph knocked rapidly.
And rapped on.
And on. And on. She knocked in quick procession for five minutes straight before Aang threw his door open.
"Toph! Cut it out! I don't want to talk about it!"
"So something IS bothering you. I knew it." She let herself in his room and fell on his bed. "Just spill the beans."
"Can't I just get some time alone?"
"Nope. Start talking or I'm gonna do stuff."
"I can't begin to tell you how annoying this is." Aang fought the justified urge to yell at her. Toph's unshakable coolness made starting an argument difficult.
"Uh-huh." She stretched on his bed, grabbing his attention in a different way. "You're not making it easier if you say nothing."
"I just don't want to talk about it." His head tilted.
"Sure you don't." She fiddled with the sandal on her foot. She said nothing. And waited.
"…fine! I'll tell you!" Aang growled.
"Good." She sat up. "So spit it out."
"…I'm scared. "
"What do you mean why? I'm leaving my home. This is the last summer before thigns get really crazy. I'm leaving Gytaso. What if something happens to him while I'm gone? New York isn't exactly down the street."
"Yeah. What else?"
"I don't know. Everything. Money, the work, the…it's the everything. Okay? Everything. It's all so big. It's bigger than I am. What if I can't do it? What if I fail?"
Aang sat down. Toph crawled nest to him, put her hand on his shoulder and, as softly as she could, said "I don't know."
"What do you want from me? A road map? An instruction manual? Aang, it's a risk. And there's a chance it might not work out." Aang groaned. "But knowing you, it probably will. And I'll be there to help out."
"I don't think-"
"You think too much. Like, you think all the time. So stop thinking about 'what if' and start thinking of what you need to do when you get there. We still have months to get it all figured out."
"I guess so…" He trailed off, not quite satisfied with Toph's simple answer.
"…not really." She rubbed his back and rested her head on his shoulder.
"You've got until September. Maybe you need to, you know, forget about it for now. Have fun while you can? Make memories?"
"…yep." Aang nodded. Toph knew she couldn't say what he needed to hear. Not one for sappy talk, she jumped off the bed and spun around a bit.
"Let's go somewhere. Find some trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"I bet Azula hates water balloons."
"And you love it. Come on, let's get out of the house twinkle toes! I want to have fun."
Aang looked passed his girlfriend's shoulder and saw the photo of them at the New Year's Party on his bookshelf. He remembered making the memories then too, and how back then he was scared of opening op. If he had given into his fears back then, he would be where he was now.
"Alright. You win." He stood up and towered over her. "Let's go do something."
"Buzz kill. Then let's those Nerf guns and invade Sokka's lawn."
She dragged him out of his room, feeling like she won. But Aang's doubts were still there…
"Goooooood bless Americaaaaaaa!" Sokka yelled over the crackling noise of his sparkler. "My hoooooommme-AAH!"
Toph threw a water balloon at him, dousing his sparkler and his patriotism. "Cool it Uncle Sam."
"Why? Why must you ruin my good times?"
"Because it's easy." She chomped into her burger. Katara rolled her eyes.
Sokka's barbeque attracted everyone more than just the close-knit Gaang. Teo rolled down the street when he heard there was a party, and the remaining Freedom Fighters came when they smelled food. Though uninvited Ty Lee showed up, jabbering something about a big fight with Azula and Mai.
"Veggie burger, order up!" Sokka yelled to Aang.
"Thank goodness. I'm starving!" Aang rushed to the front of the line and grabbed his special request.
"I still don't know how you eat that." Sokka complained.
"With a smile on my face. Where are the onions?"
"They're right hereeee…uh…they *were* here. I think there is more inside."
"I'll get them." Stomach growling, Aang rushed into Sokka's house, only to be bumped into Katara's boyfriend.
"Looking for this?" Zuko held up a plastic container of onion slices.
"Yeah." Aang said. Zuko put in it Aang's hand. "Thanks."
"Sure." And Zuko left. Toph silently watched the exchange from the porch.
"That was awkward." She said slyly.
"Why?" Aang sat down next to her.
"Cause. Don't you hate each other?"
"Not anymore. We're not *friends* but…" Aang looked over at Katara and Zuko. They looked happy together. Aang knew they were happy together. "…it doesn't make sense to not like him. Not anymore." He put his arm over Toph's shoulder.
"Good. Now listen. I've been doing some thinking."
Aang sniffed the air. "Is that's what's burning? OW!" Toph pinched him. "I was only joking."
Toph pulled out a poorly folded map from the back of her khaki shorts. "Check it out." She unfolded it and revealed a subway map of The Big Apple. "I've been reading how the trains work In New York. It's really confusing at first, but I think I got it now. Grand Central is for trains inside the city, and Penn Station is for trains that go outside the city."
"That makes sense." Aang understood that much, but that map was puzzling even to him.
"See, if you need to get back here…for whatever reason…you can get on any train out of the city. It's only a four hour ride. It's not cheap, but you can do it."
Toph was sure that would make him feel better. And while it didn't get rid of the other scary things New York had, Aang kissed Toph's forehead still.
"Yeah, no worries." She kissed his cheek.
Katara looked over at Aang and Toph. They looked happy together. She knew they were happy together.
"It. Is. Hot." Toph preached as she fanned herself. Her shortest tank-top couldn't get rid of humidity. Aang's cheap air conditioner only cooled off people who sat right next to it, which is exactly where Toph sat.
"Complaining won't make it cooler." Aang went shirtless. This bothered Gyatso, but on days like this he let it slide.
"I can't wait for winter! I want ice and snow again!"
"You say that now, but in winter you'll be complaining about how cold it is and wishing for summer."
"…never mind." It was too hot to argue, so Aang went back to writing.
"What is that?"
"A budget plan. For school. I got a work-study in University library. That'll help a lot." He scribbled down a few notes, doing the math in his head.
"Just buy pizza every day. I hear it's awesome over there."
"I am *not* buying pizza every day." Aang said that, but weighing how much everything was going to cost, 'cheap' would have to be status quo for a while. He was used to cheap, but not used to budgeting that.
Toph hugged him from behind and put her chin on his shoulder. "Still worried?"
"Of course I am. That is why I am planning it out now. I want to be somewhat prepared."
"I guess so."
"You're not worried?"
"Nah. I'm looking forward to getting as far away from here as I can."
"Here? Or your parents?" Toph scolded him, then went back in front of the air conditioner. "Have you talked to them since graduation?"
"Once or twice. They're gonna keep my phone on. That's a plus."
"Are you going to keep in touch after you leave?"
"No more talking."
"Why do you always shut down when I bring up anything that bothers you?"
"Because Aang! Because! I'm allowed to shut up and be angry and you're not."
"How is that fair?!"
"Because I need…" She stopped for a second., "…I need you to be the strong one sometimes. Okay?"
"…okay." Aang gulped. Toph grumbled and went back to fanning herself.
"I'll call my mom every now and then. Alright?"
"I hope you do. I don't want you to never speak to them again." Aang went back to writing. Toph stare out the window as her hair blew around.
After a few minutes of saying and doing nothing, she stood up, grabbed her cell phone, and left Aang's room.
Through his window, Aang in his backyard, talking to someone in private.
"Good…" He thought