DISCLAIMER: We do not own any characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender, nor do we own the show. We're simply writers manipulating them for our own twisted, fictitious use.
Giving a long, weary sigh, Katara kicked the door shut as she walked into her apartment. It had been a long day, but she was finally home, at least for a little while. All was calm as she flicked on a light.
She dropped her purse by the door and rotated her shoulder blades and did various stretches. With her hands outstretched above her head, she yawned. Earlier on her way home, she stopped and picked up some errands at the corner store. Tonight, she was going to have breakfast for dinner. You could never go wrong with cereal. After that, she would jump into a nice, steamy shower, throw on a clean set of clothes and have a half hour before she left for her next job. Come back home, shower up, drop down exhausted on her bed. Sometimes she never even made it to bed, but camped out on the couch. And other nights, she wouldn't even have the slightest clue why she ended up in the wrong bedroom in the wrong bed.
This was her basic schedule five days a week.
She hated it.
Trying not to make herself depressed, she steered her thoughts in another direction. She knew that she wasn't anywhere close to living in her dream house, but she could dream about it during the years it took to save up for it. There would be a fantastic view, a spectacular room useful mostly to just lounge in, a two layer ceiling in a comfortable room that could slide open so you had a view of the stars through crystal clear glass, a giant bathroom that had a spa big enough to swim in… Just thinking about it made her happier. It would be silly of her to tell herself she'd be one day to afford it—her dream house would be one with a price tag of multiple zeros behind the first few digits. Even if it was a childish fantasy, it made her feel better to hope.
Minutes later, she had stripped down and stepped under the running water. Steam surrounded her, fogging up the glass. Closing her eyes, she let the tension roll away. If only for ten minutes, life was good.
Katara felt great.
By the time she had dried off, she had a smile on her face.
Tonight would be over in no time.
Of all the places that she just had to work, why she didn't just pack her bags and move on? Oh. That's right. This was the only one available. That and the fact that it was the only one that had the kind of pay she had in mind.
She also had the kind of job her brother hated. Somehow, she had found herself being put in a clingy back outfit and waiting on other people. Waterfalls, chandeliers, exotic foliage that bloomed year round, romantic-candle-lit tables, foreign-barely-able-to-understand chefs (who couldn't cook if their lives depended on it...), and a boss whom she'd never met…. The list went on and on. Katara didn't even want to know how much money the owner had invested in this exquisite place. If she'd asked, the answer would probably be more then she'd ever see in her life. Either someone either had a bad case of OCD, or oodles of cash. Probably both. It was a place people dined at when they had a broad amount of money. If she wasn't an employee, she probably couldn't even afford to use the classy bathrooms
Tugging her necklace, she heaved a sigh.
Walking around tables and dodging other waiters and waitresses, she had ferried dishes to and fro. Some of the single meals of food she served probably cost as much as she made in one night, perhaps more. Another thing her meager pay couldn't cover. Well, the job paid well enough, but the bills her life style had — along with shopaholic brothers — kept her managing the budget as close as could it came.
Ugh. It made her angry that people could throw money around like that. Rich people lived in one world, and the rest of the crowd lived in another. It was unfortunate she was the responsible one in her small family. With her savings, if either she or one of them had problems, she lends them the money but have to pay for it in the end. They paid her back fully in their own way, but it wasn't the same.
"We've got a situation, Katara."
Katara jumped at the closeness of the sudden voice.
The taller figure behind her had a sheepish grin. His eyes were fixed on hers, filled with something she didn't recognize. His brows were furrowed and his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Confused, Katara frowned.
"Aang, what's wrong?"
Grabbing her wrist, he led her to a secluded alcove. She had to crane her neck to keep his gaze, and smiled at the irony. There had been a time when she and Aang were twelve and ten, both still at eye level. When they had been growing up, Aang had become a brother to her — he had actually been adopted into her family.
"Shang just quit. He turned a funny red color and threw a knife at the poor new guy. Good thing he ducked though, or else he might be in a serious need of medical attention." Pausing, Aang heaved a frustrated sigh. "Katara, more half of staff walked out with him, how are we going to manage? There's only three in the kitchen, six serving, me, you, no chef, and a lawsuit waiting to happen."
She could hear the hushed voices drifting around it the muted light. It appeared that the customers were completely unaware, happily dinning on their entrees and meals as they chatted over bread and wine with fancy names she couldn't pronounce. Blue eyes wandered towards the entrance, where the two new girls were chatting animatedly, unaware of their settings as well. High school drop outs, one training to do hair, the other makeup. The duo had come together to get jobs, and hired to work the same tasks. No one else wanted that job.
Another thought crossed her mind.
"Please tell me there's someone manning the bar."
His gray eyes widened.
Katara felt the color drain from her face.
A few of their regulars were intense drinkers. More than not, they could be found sitting or lounging near or on the bar, with shot glasses littered about them. One or two were also desperate enough to pick up a bottle or two and guzzle it down, making the penalty even worse. Aang was the main bartender, and although he did his job well, there was still the chance of him making a mistake that could get him sued or fired. Knowing the outcome, either or both could happen.
Though they had never met their boss, they had heard rumors of him. One rumor hinted that he wasn't much older than Katara. Another went along the lines of him being one of the wealthiest bachelors alive. Both probably true, she didn't doubt it. If someone could afford this kind of up keeping bill, they had to have serious money to spare. As great as this restaurant was, this was the only one of its kind. No franchise, no chain of restaurants, just this one.
A small thing Katara wondered was — what was his name? Not many people seemed to know, and most people just called him "Boss" or "The Man". Some other males even called him "The Big Guy." You understand who they're talking about after a week of working at "The Boss's Place". That was what the regular workers called it. The new ones picked up quickly because it was the only thing they could do.
There was just one thing that ran odd about the Boss's story for Katara. She had heard gossip in the changing rooms occasionally. It was hard to tell if it was true or false. He (supposedly) lived in seclusion, and (supposedly) hadn't been seen by the public eye in nearly four years. Then why did he have such a busy restaurant? Surely he kept up with it. Why start something this involved if he would just sit back and hide away? What sane, rich bachelor would do that?
Katara realized she had zoned off into space, and as she looked into a pair of silvery gray eyes, she realized the seriousness of the current situation.
"Go find someone to handle the bar then go gather up the people that we still have. Meet me back in the kitchen in ten minutes. Got it?"
"Got it," he nodded, before swiftly heading off.
"Good," Katara sighed. Stupid Murphy's Law.
Katara watched as the last of the guests left. Seconds passed as she turned to look at the other workers. Grinning from ear to ear, they smiled at one another.
"We did it." Aang grinned. "We actually did it!"
Katara laughed as he threw his arms around her. Katara returned the hug as she breathed her relief.
With only eight employees still remaining, they'd held a meeting in the kitchen. A quick pep talk and a basic plan later, she and her coworkers had split up and manned their stations. To anyone else, it would seem that nothing was out of the usual. The food was even delivered in the same time as normal. Katara had never in her life tried to do something along those lines. Of course, this was probably the only time in her life she would. When Aang had walked back in the kitchen with dirty dishes, her wide eyes had been filled with disbelief.
One person had told him to pass it along to Chief Shang that his food was excellent, that he'd outdone himself tonight. Once hearing that, Katara had whistled. Nobody had noticed the difference. Katara had taken place of the terrible chef, working her butt off trying not only to cook, but to keep her cool. Aang also showed her a tip that made her jealous. She wondered who could have possibly lost common since to give Aang that much money. A hundred bucks to be definite. She knew exactly what he would do with it too. Worthless stuff was bound to find its way in her apartment if anymore extra cash went through his hands.
Katara vaguely heard the others chat about their night. She still couldn't believe that they had gotten away with it. She sent a smile when two tried to start a conversation, but had shook her head when they had tried to get her to talk. Her body whirled with exhaustion, both mentally and physically.
His silver eyes sparkled as she plopped down on a seat. A substitute took Aang's place behind the bar, nodding understandingly. Aang, along with three other people stood in the kitchen with her, haphazardly doing the best they could. The other three were taking turns serving and showing people to their tables.
Both of them had been in over their heads as they had worked side by side in the kitchen, sweat and tears and all that junk. Yeah, right. Katara was covered with all sorts of various ingredients. The only place unscathed was the kitchen itself. She'd made a mess, but she and Aang had cleaned like there was no tomorrow — which right now, they didn't quite know about.
This night was one that would always be remembered as justified and self inflicted misery. It had been a miracle that her grandmother had forced them both to learn how to survive on their own. While Aang had never been one for cooking, he still made delicious dishes that Katara had trouble figuring out. Her interest of food ran more along the sweets, but she knew how to make plenty of other things that Aang had almost blown up her apartment's tiny kitchen with. What one lacked in one area, one hopeful made it up in another.
Shaking her head, she gave a soft chuckle. After tomorrow, it would be a miracle if they still had their jobs. Two more of her coworkers had walked out when the stress of improbability had proved to be too much. At least it had been the new ones, they weren't as important as the ones that stayed. Each person that did stay, she'd known as long as she'd been working there. But there was no way only eight of them could handle a bistro as big as this for much longer.
Katara whispered, "You know that someone's going to be the unlucky one."
"Unlucky?" His smile shrank back a little. His blue tattoos glistened; shadows flickered beneath the low light setting.
Katara shook her head.
"The Boss is gonna find out sometime."