IT'S THE FINAL CHAPTER!
There was a glare in the dim, grey colored room where Aang sat waiting. He wasn't sure what answers could be given, or if there were any, but he still had to try. He took deep measured breaths trying to calm his shaking hands and fluttering stomach and thought of something that calmed him immensely.
It was near agony in having to separate that morning after the night they spent together. He hadn't felt more alive or loved or secure than he did waking up in the early hours of the morning to see her stretched across his bare chest. He'd never been more nervous in his life, and after the first awkward embarrassing attempt, they finally found their rhythm and the rest had been…
A warm flush had risen to Aang's cheeks at the memory of Toph's soft sighs.
"He's here," an officer interrupted poking his head into the interrogation room. "Come to the door when you're done and try not to upset him too much."
Aang raised an eyebrow. "Upset him?"
"He had a crazy night. Damn near busted his head open trying to escape."
The officer stepped out to hold the door open for Ozai, hair ragged and all over his head, striking yellow eyes as blank and dead as the set of his mouth. He was handcuffed and flanked by two officers. They sat him down roughly on the chair across from Aang and left the room, the heavy door closing loudly behind them.
"What do you want?" he choked in that hollow voice.
"You said you killed my parents."
Ozai choked out an empty unsettling laugh. "And so you've come here demanding answers?"
Aang's answer surprised them both. He stared down at the tiny imperfections on the cool table, wishing he were someplace, anyplace else.
"I want to know how you could sleep at night for so many years. What could you possibly gain by killing them? What have they ever done to you?"
Ozai rolled his eyes. "I'm not telling you anything. You're wasting your time, boy."
"They have mountains of evidence against you," Aang prompted. "A confession won't even be necessary."
"Is that so? And I suppose you've got it all figured out, don't you?"
Aang shrugged. "Whether I get an answer or not you'll be locked away for decades. Maybe even life. I hear your lawyer is working on a plea bargain."
"Your threats will do nothing. Though…" he paused long enough to make Aang squirm. "I suppose you do deserve to know why." He stared at Aang across the table, allowing his mind to take him back to the broken scene of a fatal car wreck that had been deemed an accident until recently.
Ozai smiled. "How does a school teacher get his students to respect them?"
"Are you kidding me?" Aang shouted. He couldn't keep his voice from rising. "You killed them for respect?"
"Now, now," Ozai chastised, still smiling. "Don't make me out to be a monster-"
"You are a monster!"
He laughed again then continued. "I killed them to show that I have no tolerance for weak people. I killed them to-"
"To keep your pathetic street credit?" Aang interrupted again. "To show those low lives and criminals that you have no soul or respect for human life? That you're an animal?"
"If you would just let me finish-"
"No!" Aang yelled, rising from his seat and leaning across the table. "You murdered my family! You're psychotic daughter gave my grandfather a stress induced stroke, and your idiot lackeys kidnapped my girlfriend! What the hell have I ever done to deserve this?"
Ozai was no longer smiling. "Nothing. I don't need a reason to do the things I do. I don't need motive or revenge. Your parents were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all it took was a little convincing of a stupid little girl to get them out of the way for good. I was much younger then, you see. No one really took me seriously what with my prestigious background and appreciation for finer clothing.
"I didn't need to prove anything to anyone. They feared me, loathed me, but they all begrudgingly respected me. I rose to the top in a matter of weeks, with those ignorant addicts following my every order. But no one understood what was really going on. They were so strung out I don't even think they noticed when people started to go missing. The ones who tried to get clean, the ones who messed things up; they were the first to go. I made it into a game of sorts, wondering which method was best for silencing them for good, each game getting more and more complex.
"You young naïve people will never understand what it's like to have true power. To be invincible and to have the very utterance of your name feared. Still, I was unhappy. I crave the feeling of dominance. The only way to sate my thirst was…"
He stared at Aang as if waiting for him to see something painfully obvious. Aang was stunned to immobility, making Ozai sigh and continue.
"I saw your pitiful parents and their friends often, but never thought much of them. They were just like the rest of the useless sheep like people in this town. I could see the superficial love in their eyes- quite the likeness between yours and your mother's, I might add. Once I picked a person, my game began. It took me a couple weeks to put the pieces into place, and to make the damage to that car seem as natural as possible. The whole plan could have been ruined if they'd just stayed home.
"Their friend was easy to get rid of. Flashing a couple of bills her way and promising a date home was all it took. Of course, I never showed up. Well, personally I didn't. I had someone come to her house and explain what would happen if she told anyone we'd even spoken that night. Finally I followed your parents home. They already had a couple drinks in them thanks to the generous bar tender who gave them more than enough on the house to get them in a dangerous level of inebriation. Still, they were stupid enough to drive. We were nearing the overpass when my associate walked out at the precise moment, making them swerve into that tree.
"It was beautiful, that second. I've never seen a body be thrown clean through a windshield-"
"Stop it!" Aang said.
"-though, it wasn't really clean. Your father was barely hanging on when I stepped out of the car. He was trembling hard enough to shake his teeth loose, or what was left of them; there was so much blood it left puddles in the street. Your mother was already dead by time I made it to her. Such a pity for a face like hers."
"I said stop!" Aang stood up, ignoring the paper cup that tipped over. A clear stream of water spread across the table and dripped over the edge.
"I saw her brain, splattered across the hood of the car. It was really quite unsettling. Her thigh bone was jutting through her skin."
Aang turned towards the door, knocking over his chair and blinking back the tears that stung the back of his eyes. The door unlocked with a loud buzz and Aang jumped and yanked the door open, ignoring the sadistic chuckles behind him.
"You wanted to know," Ozai sang teasingly.
Aang stopped, jamming his sneaker in the door before it could close. He walked back in, shoving the table to the side and getting dangerously close to the man he hated. He could hear the officers standing anxiously by the door.
"You're pathetic. You're a soulless monster and you deserve nothing less than the death penalty."
Ozai laughed again. "You've been spending time with Zuko, haven't you?"
"So what if I have? It's more time than you've spent with him! You wanted him to be stronger? Look what happened to your favorite child- the prodigy. She's mentally insane and you don't even care! You've destroyed your own family and when that wasn't enough, you came after mine!"
"Actually I destroyed your simple little family years before mine was-"
Neither expected Aang to punch the man in the face. The officers flinched, but didn't intervene. Aang ignored the pain that spread through his knuckles and clenched his fist tighter.
"Shut up!" he screamed. "I hate you! You're a sociopath with a war lord complex and I hope you suffer unimaginable pain. Even that will be too much of a gracious punishment for you. You've ruined countless lives and you'll pay for that one day."
Aang turned and left, brushing past the policemen that stood guard and marched right out of the station. He was shaking uncontrollably and he might have fractured his hand, but despite the angry tears that fell from his eyes, he never felt more proud of himself for standing up against that monster.
Toph met him hours later after escaping her parents who felt the need to know her every location. She couldn't blame them for their sudden overprotective nature. Still, she managed to escape when her father retired to his office and her mother mulled over fabric samples.
She barely knocked on Aang's door when he yanked it open and pulled her inside, crushing his lips to hers while closing the door by pressing her against it.
"I missed you," he said, pulling her closer. "So damn much."
She laughed against his mouth. "I can see that."
She kissed him back, running her hands over his arms and stopping when she felt the rubber of an ace bandage over his hand.
"What'd you do, beat the answers out of the guy?" she teased.
Aang lifted her to his level and she wrapped her legs around his waist instinctively. "Actually I sucker punched him. He was giving me more than I asked for."
Toph laughed for a second before the situation fully hit her. "Wait, what did he tell you?"
Aang sighed and put her down. He led them to the couch in the center of the living room. Toph plopped down and kicked her feet up on the coffee table, just like it was any other day. Aang sat next to her, draping his arm over her shoulders.
"It was… it was so bad, Toph. He's way more messed up than either of us realized. He called their murders a 'game' like it was entertaining to him or something."
"Oh, Aang," Toph said, leaning her head to his shoulder. She couldn't imagine what he was feeling.
"I can't believe he'd do something like that, Toph. I knew he was sick in the head but… wow. Even after hearing it it's still hard to believe."
She swung her legs around to his lap and wrapped her arms around him. "He's caught, Aang. It's over. I'm actually proud you punched the guy. You must've did some damage if you messed your hand up."
Aang smiled, kissing her hair. "I'm not as weak as you think, Toph."
She squeezed his toned bicep playfully. "Never thought you were. So are we seeing about this chick or not? She ditched your parents so she must know something."
"We really don't have to. Ozai confessed everything so the cops will be crawling through the city looking for whoever else was involved."
Toph perked up at the thought. "So….it's over?"
Aang nodded. "Looks like it."
"No more mysteries? No more breaking in or sneaking out?"
"Yup. Not that I mind you sneaking out from time to time," he said, lowering his face to kiss her again. His lips trailed to the corner of her mouth, across her jaw to her neck.
"We're seriously at peace right now? No vengeful mob boss will burst in and try to start shit up for no reason?"
"No, Toph. Now shut up and let me kiss you."
She laughed at his boldness that had certainly grown since they'd been together. Her heart fluttered at his hands at her waist, pulling her closer against his lap while his fingers danced across the exposed skin on her lower back and stomach.
"How long can you stay?" he murmured against her throat.
She took a deep breath trying to clear the think hormones fogging her judgment. "They'll notice I'm gone soon." She managed to squirm her way out of the circle of his arms and stood up, straightening her shirt.
"Come back," he said. It was almost a plea.
She couldn't have been angrier if someone paid her, not that she wouldn't mind the extra cash. It was entirely too sunny outside, and a warm mid-summer breeze blew by, blowing the wisps of her hair into her face. She didn't bother moving them. She sat on that vomit inducing floral patterned cushion of that damned porch swing, forcing her legs still so it wouldn't move. Swinging meant she was relaxing, and she could not relax here. Not on the white porch of the cheery yellow house, with its ugly fucking daisies and stupid trimmed lawn. It was smaller than the one she grew up in. Smaller, yet cozier with its three bedrooms that were filled with bright furniture from the makings of a perfect home. Behind her, the bay window was opened wide, and she could hear that vile woman humming some distant tune while she moved about the kitchen.
The bitch was humming.
Still, she'd ignore her mother the best she could. Pretending she didn't like the brand new clothes she was bought, or the way her mother brushed her hair, telling her how beautiful it was like when she was a child. As if everything were fine. As if nothing had changed.
Azula looked around for something to throw. Of course everything changed! She was ripped away from her home and forced to live with her stupid mother!
"I hate you," she whispered to no one.
Ursa appeared on the porch then, holding a tray with tiny cut sandwiches and two glasses of lemonade. Azula's frown deepened when she saw the little orange bottle of pills next to her glass. Her mother sat it down on the ornate table in front of them. Azula reached for the bottle automatically, knowing it was useless fighting any longer. Her mother opened a book and started reading.
"I was thinking we could go to the Garden Show later on," Ursa said absently. "The flowers are so beautiful this time of year."
Azula sighed. "You've always managed to bore me with the most dreadful ideas. Let's go to the gardens, Azula!" she mocked in her mother's voice. "Let me brush your hair! Let me take care of my mistake!"
"Let me baby you since you're too unstable to take care of yourself!"
"You were never a mistake!" Ursa shouted. She closed her book, bringing her hands to rest on her daughter's face and holding them in place when she tried to twist away.
"You were never a mistake, Azula. Always remember that. I love you more than anything in this world and if that means taking care of you then so be it. I love you, Azula, because you're my daughter. I want nothing from you except for you to be well. To be the teenage girl you've never gotten to be. I have nothing to gain from you. There is no benefit besides being your mother and doing my duty. My only regret was leaving when you all needed me so much."
"It's because you were weak!" Azula spat, trying to move away from Ursa's soft gaze.
"It's because your father never learned how to truly love. But I'm here now and I'll do my absolute best to care for you and your brother."
With the embarrassment of crying in front of the woman she loved, she buried her face in her mother's chest and sobbed, her exterior finally broken down.
Ursa stroked her daughter's hair, gently rocking them both on the porch swing. It was the first time she'd seen any other emotion besides anger from her daughter. Her walls were slowly coming down one by one. For once, Ursa felt hope that her child would be okay.
One month later
Aang risked a smile in Toph's direction as they sped down the winding coastal road. Her hair was blowing in the wind behind her, and she'd given up hours ago trying to tame it. The top was down on her mustang, and she was holding the hand that Aang wasn't using for steering. She couldn't wait to get to the beach. It felt like ages since she was able to hang out with her friends without some sort of plotting involved. The woman who never came forward was arrested and charged with accessory to murder. Ozai's enemies came out of the wood work, telling each and every trade deal they'd ever done; whether it was a hit man, or an ex drug user. There was enough evidence to put him away for life. The judge ruled on 75 years without parole, collapsing Ozai's evil empire once and for all.
Toph squeezed Aang's hand as they drove on, wishing they were preoccupied with another activity rather than driving. It made them the last ones to show up at the end of summer party in the first place. About a half hour later, she and Aang arrived at Uncle Iroh's beach house.
"How many houses do you own?" Aang asked, gaping at the enormous property and the beach behind it.
Zuko, embarrassed, scratched the back of his head. "Well if you count the cabin in the mountains, and the one in the ski resort, plus the-"
Toph clamped a hand over his mouth.
"Alright, alright, don't give the kid a heart attack."
Zuko smirked. "How many houses does your family have?"
Toph waved him off with her hand. "That's not the point. No need to show off, Zuko. That's what Sugar Queen is for."
Zuko led them to the backyard, or rather the beach where Iroh was at the grill turning shrimp kabobs that smelled mouthwatering. Katara was splashing in the water while Suki sunbathed and Sokka was waiting anxiously for the food to be served. Aang smiled and squeezed Toph's hand. The scene was absolutely perfect.
Zuko tried not to choke on his soda at the tale Sokka just told of Katara as a baby.
"I thought she was possessed at first!" Sokka laughed. "She'd get so angry if you took that stupid dolphin from her!"
"I'm not the one who cried whenever Dad left the closet door open at night!" Katara shot back, flicking the tail of a shrimp at her brother. He draped a lazy arm around Suki who was still giggling at the story.
"Oh man, Toph would have a field day with this," Suki smiled. "Where is she anyway? And Aang?"
The four looked around, noticing the first time in hours that their younger friends were absent.
"Probably touring the house," Sokka guessed with a shrug. "Or maybe they went to the store with Uncle a while ago."
There was a moment of silence at the table while they mentally guessed where their friends may be.
Suki's face scrunched up. "You think…?"
"Nah," Katara said. "They're what, seventeen going on eighteen? They can't be…"
Sokka was the first to react. "Ew!" he said, covering his ears. "Whatever they've gotten into I don't want to hear about it! I'm barely used to the fact that they're dating."
Katara smiled. "It was bound to happen, Sokka. Look at all of us. High school was the best times of our lives. Everything else should be a breeze compared to what we've just been through."
Zuko nodded. "Just let them be. They've earned it, as disgusting as that sounds."
"Fine, but when she gets pregnant, I call first dibs on naming it after myself."
Toph planted a lazy kiss on Aang's lips, struggling to catch her breath. His hands roaming across her back did nothing to help her fast paced heart. Still, she smiled.
"Would you be offended if I said you've gotten much much better?"
Aang laughed, pulling her close and holding her to his warm chest. "Nope. Face it, we both didn't have the slightest clue what the hell we were doing."
"Still," she said. "It feels like each time there's something…I don't know, new? Something different and fresh."
He tilted her chin to seek her kiss swollen lips. "I honestly don't have an answer. Especially now with you naked right next to me."
Toph grinned and traced his eyebrow with her fingers. The room was dark, save for the bright moon coming in through the windows. She closed her eyes when his lips went to her neck again, whispering his love for her against her skin. It was absolute bliss.
Except that it was August.
"I'm hot," she said, squirming in his grasp.
"Yeah you are. Come here."
She kicked the covers from around them, blushing when his breath caught. She was breathtaking.
"You're glowing," he whispered, trailing a hand from the side of her face, down her chest and across her stomach to rest on her hip.
"Twinkle Toes, you've seen me naked about a hundred times," she said nonchalantly, but there was still something humble in her voice.
"And each and every time it's just as amazing."
He kissed her with need and covered her body with his, enjoying the silk of their skin together.
"You're the only person I've ever felt this way about." He kissed her with a strangled gasp, rocking down just as she pushed up in time with him. "I love you with everything in me."
She smiled the best she could under the fresh flow of hormones sparking under her skin.
"I love you, too."
I'd like to thank each and every one of you who reviewed, favorited, and alerted this story. You all have made this incredibly journey worthwhile, and without you, I would have never finished it. This is the end of my first full length story. We've had some ups and downs, and quite the two year hiatus, but I love you all for hanging on with me. It's been one hell of a ride. It's nearly one in the morning, so I guess this is goodbye. Please alert and review because I won't be gone for long! Thanks again, guys. It's been fun! For the final time, I don't own Avatar. XOXO, Twi.