A/N: Well! Long time no update!
I wasn't really expecting to continue this past its first chapter, but it got such good reception. So here's one last chapter of prompts to entertain you all. Thank you all who suggested prompts (I have used them!) and I hope you enjoy this last little installment.
Toph got her tea-drinking habit from her mother. They both brewed hot tea when they were stressed. Whether it was because Toph was sketching out her senior art portfolio, or whether her mother was sitting her down in their living room to go over college lists, the two of them were always breaking out the tealeaves.
Thinking on it, it was probably the only thing the two of them had in common.
"Come on, sweetie," her mother urged, placing her cup down on its saucer. "It's my alma mater, and you'd do so well there! They have an amazing business degree…"
Toph shrugged and swiped the pencil shavings off of the counter and went right back to sketching. "Mmhm. Sure, Mom."
Her mother sighed dramatically and collected the pamphlets and orientation folders that came in the mail this morning. "I wish you cared a little bit more about your future. You know what your father and I want for you. I only wish you'd get a little excited about it!"
Toph left the admonishment hang in the air as she took a sip from her Earl Grey and smudged a line on her sketchbook with her thumb. There was no use in arguing or putting up much of an effort. Her life was pretty much planned for her. Might as well go with the flow.
"You know, I still find this disconcerting," Katara admitted.
Aang looked up from his notebook. "What? Your abysmal talent when it comes to calculus? I agree."
"Oh, shut up." She pointed accusingly at the notebook in Aang's lap. "I had to have gotten at least one of those right!"
"Actually, they're all wrong," Aang told her with a small smirk. "But it's fine. We'll fix it."
Katara pouted and buried her head in her pillow. "I meant that I'm two years older than you, and we're both freshman at the same college, and you're helping me with homework." She sighed in frustration and peeked over Aang's shoulder, trying to understand the differential equations he was writing on the top margin. "I mean, skipping two grades? That's inhuman."
"It's perfectly within reason," Aang shrugged, twirling his pen in his hands. "And besides, this isn't about me. We have to teach you math."
Katara looked like she was about to cry. She pulled her quilt over her head and let out a fake sob. "I'm going to fail this midterm tomorrow. Goodbye, med school," she sighed forlornly.
Aang rolled his eyes and peeked up at the window. It was nearing close to midnight, and the full moon was already high up in the sky. It was going to be a very long night. "You know, the moon was always associated with lunacy and irrationality," Aang informed his pouting friend.
Katara lifted her head from the covers. "Yeah? So?"
Aang jutted his chin towards the windows and started writing notes for Katara in the margins. "Full moon. It's making you act stupid. Stop stressing."
"Excuse me?" Katara gasped, sounding affronted.
"You're not going to fail anything," Aang explained calmly. "You're plenty smart, you're just getting caught up in the road bumps. Stop thinking you're an idiot and get over here. I'll explain it to you."
Katara crawled out of her cocoon and sat in front of Aang. "You really believe that moon stuff? Because if you do, I'll argue the same applies to you," she argued. "I mean, today with selling your parents' house…that's probably the craziest thing I've ever seen you do."
Aang shook his head, not wanting to get into it. There was no sense in keeping a house only for himself. And besides, there were too many reminders of the life he no longer had. Keeping that house would only remind him of his parents even more and bring back bitter feelings. At least this way he could use the money to get that teaching license he'd always wanted. Sure it was reckless. But sometimes a little recklessness was called for.
"Sometimes, you just have to do something crazy in order to get your life moving," Aang replied sagely. "But stop getting distracted. Look, here's where you're messing up…"
Toph had a lot of things she wanted to do. She wanted to get a degree in architecture. She wanted to go study abroad in Europe in order to take in the culture and gain some inspiration. She wanted to own her own firm in the future. And more than anything, she wanted to be able to walk down into the kitchen, get her father to disconnect himself from his newspaper, get her mother away from the telephone, and let them look at all of her sketches and ideas and just be proud of her for once.
"Mom, I really just want you to look at this. I'm taking this Architecture and Design elective at the university and we're doing this project where—"
Her mom put her hand over the mouthpiece to the phone and regarded her daughter distractedly. "Could you just wait a moment Toph? I'm on the phone."
Toph rolled her eyes and grabbed an apple off of the counter. "You've been on the phone for the past hour," she muttered quietly.
She trudged back into the living room and sat down in front of the fireplace. Her father was sitting at the desk in the den, rifling through a bunch of papers that he probably brought home from work. He turned his head to the right. "Is that you, Toph? Didn't notice you come down."
Not that that was at all surprising. She was home for Thanksgiving and it's like they didn't even notice. "Yeah, I just came down to sketch…"
"Oh, you and that old book again huh?" her father chuckled at the dog-eared sketchbook. "Never got out of your habits from when you were a little girl." Toph scoffed to herself. So now it was a childish habit. That was encouraging.
"Well, anyway," her father continued. "When your mother gets off the phone, I want to hear about how you're liking the business school. Promise?"
Toph nodded distractedly and looked into the flames of the fireplace, still hearing snippets of her mother's conversation with a neighbor down the street. She didn't dare argue with her parents anymore. There was no use in wrenching herself open and showing them all the ideas she had and the things she really wanted to do with her life. For now, she was shut up tight like that annoying silver locket her mother gave her for Christmas that she could never get around to opening. It was too hard to try and see what was inside.
But sitting there, Toph suddenly realized that maybe she wasn't trying hard enough.
Katara always criticized Aang for always being so absorbed in his work. Every weekend, whenever there was a huge party and the older girl had shots ready and lined up for him—"Eh, we're all under aged anyway. Doesn't matter that you're still sixteen!"—he always declined and went back to annotating whatever novel he was reading for class that week.
He always assured everyone that it was because he was taking six classes and always had a lot of work. But the truth was, he really just wanted to absorb himself in his work to forget about the stressful months he had right before college started. There was no sense in getting attached to too many people and freaking out over meeting girls at parties when relationships are so easily disposed of.
Better to absorb himself in something that he could control.
"And you're sure about this, miss?" the secretary at the Student Advising office asked her with a quizzical stare.
Toph nodded emphatically and finished signing all of the appropriate forms. "Positive." Nothing had ever felt this right.
"I just want to warn you that most of the credits you accrued this semester won't transfer over," the secretary advised her. "You'll have to start fresh. That'll be a heavy course load for you."
But nothing was persuading Toph out of this decision. "Don't worry. I'm bright, I think I can handle it," she promised with a small smirk.
The secretary smiled at her and shook her head. "Alright then. Well, all you have to do is give your approved proposal to the Dean of the Business School and notify him of your transfer to the Liberal Arts school. You'll be given a new advisor and they'll update you on the classes you'll have to take and when you'll declare your major." She paper clipped all of the forms that Toph signed and handed them over to her. "A pretty daring move, I must say."
Toph laughed and winced, taking the paper and stuffing them in her bag. "Thanks, but don't congratulate me yet. My parents are gonna be pissed."
"Oh, they can't stay mad at you forever," the secretary assured. "I switched my major at college too. I know what you're going through. They'll understand someday."
Someday, huh? Toph laughed to herself and waved the secretary goodbye. As happy as she was about this decision, she wasn't too sure about that part.
"I am not giving out my phone number to girls. I told you this Katara. I'm not interested in that kind of stuff at all."
"…hey, you're…I mean…you're not…? Because it's totally okay if you are!"
"Katara, if my four year crush on you wasn't an indicator enough of my preference for females, I don't know what is."
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. But come on! This girl is adorable. And she's 18! Helllloooo? Older girls interested in you? You might as well be the luckiest guy on the planet."
"I meant what I said Katara."
"Ugh, I know. I just…I worry about you, you know? Ever since your parents died—"
"We promised not to talk about that."
"I know, but you've been so shut up lately. I haven't seen you talk to many people other than me. And you're starting to worry me. You can't hide in fear forever, Aang. You've got to let someone in eventually."
Their reactions were actually sort of comical. Toph knew there was going to be an explosion at the news of her officially and newly declared Architecture major, but she figured she might as well revel in the hilarity while it lasted.
And boy, was it a sight to see! Her father looked like he had just swallowed a whole lemon, and she didn't think her mother's pale complexion was capable of taking on that hue of green. The poor woman looked like she was going to be ill.
Being a senior started to make Aang think about his future a lot more than usual, and it was starting to make him feel older than he actually was.
He was always told that he was meant to help people, even when he was little. Let it be because he always offered to babysit in his neighborhood or because he was always the self proclaimed "protector" of all of the younger kids in grade school who were bullied, Aang knew that he was meant to change lives. How, he wasn't quite sure. But surely if something was so imbedded in his nature, it was meant to be, right?
Researching high schools to teach in after he graduated was probably the most fun he'd had in a long time. Katara teased him for it, but he knew that she was just as excited about getting into the medical school she wanted to all along. He admitted that he often put himself on the back burner and dealt with everyone else's problems before he dealt with his own. But strangely enough, he didn't mind such things.
Getting excited about teaching ignited a need in him: a need to give others the chance to be happy and fulfilled, even if it meant he didn't have time to indulge himself.
"Toph, you get back here right now!"
But Toph wasn't listening. Oh, she was so beyond listening to anything her mother had to say at this point that she was functioning on tunnel vision right now. And it felt amazing! Her mother barged into the den and started sneering at the pictures of the wooden models she had made for one of the Architecture assignments while her father stayed silent at his desk and had nothing to say. She even went so far as to accuse Toph of throwing away her entire life for the sake of a few scale models that probably weren't going to make her any money at all.
"You could be running the family business and instead you're playing with art projects. Do you actually think that's going to get you anywhere?"
That had done it.
Toph locked her door and started throwing all of clothes in suitcases. She already called a cab and planned to book a hotel for three nights. She needed to get out of her house. She still had two weeks left of her Christmas vacation, but she couldn't spend it in this house anymore. Not when her mother was so critical of all of her achievements and not when her father was too aloof and disconnected to show his daughter anything other than indifference. She didn't need any of this. She still had plenty of money in her bank account that her parents routed her when she started University. She'd just use that and take some time off for a while. Clear her head. Calm her temper.
She heard her mother pounding on her door, demanding to know what she was thinking and what she was doing locked up in her room. But Toph zipped up all of her bags and set them by her door, waiting for the cab to honk in front of her house. She was absolutely fed up, and this was the last straw.
"…and you wouldn't believe how bright some of these kids are!" Aang gushed over his plate of waffles. "I mean this one girl is so quiet when the teacher is giving the lesson, but when I was helping check all of their math problems, she just does it all with such ease. I mean it's amazing how quickly she picks up on things."
Katara laughed and sipped at her coffee. "Wow…"
"What?" Aang questioned, still smiling from the memories of his first day of assistant teaching.
"Nothing," Katara grinned, pulling her anatomy textbook closer to her. "I just never expected you to get so excited about this. I mean, I knew you always talked about it, but I've never seen you this happy."
Aang tilted his head and brought another bite of breakfast to his mouth. "…really?"
"Yeah, really," Katara assured him with a smile. "I don't think you realized, but you were in kind of a weird place all through college. I thought you were going to stay that way forever, but I think this teaching job is good for you. Puts a smile on your face. Makes you look brighter. You should see it, it's pretty amazing."
Aang wasn't really understanding where Katara was coming from. "A weird place?"
She nodded and twirled her hash browns around in her plate. "Mmhm. But not anymore. This is a good look for you. Stay this way, alright?"
"Mother, I am not coming back until you apologize."
"What, apologize to you for telling you the truth? Think about this Toph. You have a bright future we've lined up for you. An architect? That's just as useless as being an artist. There's no stability in a career like that!"
"But I love doing it! I love the idea of creating projects on my own one day. And it's not like this is a whim of mine. I'm really really good at this. All of my professors tell me I have so much potential. This could be good for me! Why can't you just be happy for me?"
"Toph, I just want what's best for you. Our business is a clear road to success. With this…there's just too many variables. So much can go wrong!"
"Don't you believe in me just a little? That I can handle a little obscurity?"
"Of course I don't believe in you, not after you betrayed us the way you did! Honestly, switching out of the business school your father and I worked so hard to get you into."
"…it's not like I switched universities…"
"It doesn't matter! You lied to us. And I cannot stomach that kind of betrayal."
"You betrayed me first! I'm trying to figure my life out, go after what I want, and I need you and Dad there to help me through it. You're as good as abandoning me!"
"I won't accept this, Toph. I do not approve of what you're doing, and I can't make that clear enough. You need to come to your senses and quick."
"…well then maybe I just won't back home if I'm such a disappointment to you."
"…then maybe you shouldn't."
"You know, dude. You should get a roommate."
Aang laughed out loud and turned back to the television. "Sokka, don't be stupid."
"No, I'm being serious," Sokka insisted. "Looking around this place is just…depressing. It's not even cool looking like a bachelor pad should be. It's just sad."
Aang looked around the apartment. He didn't think it was that bad. Sure it was just a small studio apartment, but it was all he could afford even with all the life insurance money he got from his parents. It was quaint, but it was all he really needed. A television. A couch. A table in the kitchen to eat his meals. A bed. All his books piled up in a corner. That was it. What more was he missing?
"You know, there are nicer ways to tell me that I'm crap at home decorating," Aang deadpanned. "Just hit me with it. I can take it."
Sokka rolled his eyes and took a swig of his beer. "You're the only guy I know who willingly stays single. I mean, at least do what I do. Get a chick as a roommate. Have you seen my roommate Suki? Holy shit…"
Aang smacked Sokka upside the head. "I'm not getting a roommate just to perv on her. That's gross."
"It wouldn't be perving on her!" Sokka argued back, rubbing his head. "It's just taking advantage of rare beauty. Seriously. Put out an ad. Hot chick wanted. Rent not necessary. May pay with her body."
"You're disgusting," Aang frowned. "And I just don't feel like complicating things with a roommate right now. Work is going well, and I just want to focus on that."
"You know, usually people jump into work after a super bad breakup," Sokka explained. "You don't have that as an excuse. You're acting like a forty year old loser."
Aang forced a grin and tried not to let the comment bother him. "Thanks Sokka."
Aang had seen Katara cry before, but not like this.
Seeing her mother in a casket must have really gotten to her. Aang completely understood. But there was something just so miserable about the way Katara was silently crying in the corner of the funeral home, wearing a black get up that she would have never allowed into her wardrobe under any circumstances. Family members were coming up to the body in order to pay their respects, and Katara and Sokka's father was still kneeling in front of the casket, his hands folded together and pressed against his lips, as if he was trying to desperately control the storm of emotions riling up inside of him.
But it wasn't even the sight of Katara crying that really got to him. It was how attached she was to Sokka. She was trembling and shaking at one point during the service, but Sokka quickly walked over to her and hugged her close, pressing comforting, brotherly kisses on the top of her head. And suddenly, as if by magic, Katara's trembling ceased. She looked up at Sokka smiled sadly, and wrapped her arms around his waist.
Aang looked on at the sight intrigued, unable to understand how someone else was able to offer such comfort. Aang just held everything in and hoped that he would be strong enough to handle everything on his own. For so many years, he'd just been hugging himself at night when the grief became too much, and resolving himself to just worry about himself and not worry about company. He was his only priority. No more worrying over other people.
But…perhaps some company wasn't such a bad thing. Letting someone in might actually be…nice.
"I'm sorry, but you're not authorized to make that transfer."
Toph froze and reached across her coffee table, grabbing the bank statements she was collecting. "That's impossible. Both accounts have always been opened. I've been making transfers back and forth for years."
The bank clerk cleared his throat over the phone. "Yes, but recently the account in question requires security clearance in order to be accessed, and you just don't have such clearance."
Toph cursed loudly and rifled through more papers. Figures that once her parents found out that she used most of her college money to find an apartment that they would spite her by closing out the main family account. Now, whatever money she had left in her private school account—which was probably only a little over $20,000 that was supposed to last her for…well forever—was all she had left. Her parents weren't wiring her any more money. She was officially on her own.
"Come on, I'm on my knees here," Toph begged. "Isn't there anyway I can get access to the accounts? This is an emergency." It may have seemed like a lot of money, but Toph still had to pay for grad school and books, and now rent on top of anything else she may have needed such as groceries and daily essentials. Maybe if she was lucky, the scholarships that she applied to would give her some money. She could look into the few grad schools that offered financial aid, however little it was. But that was being hopeful. Three quarters of what she had was going to get sucked up by school regardless. The money she would have left over wouldn't last her very long.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. But unless you can gain clearance from the original owner of the account, there's nothing I can do for you."
The girl sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "No, I…I understand. Thanks anyway."
Her cellphone clicked shut, and Toph officially had no idea what she was going to do. She was supposed to be excited about her impending graduation, not stressing over finances. Not that it really mattered that she was graduating anyway. It's not like her parents were going to be attending.
Toph leaned back on the couch and sighed. She shouldn't have spent so much of the money furnishing the place. Sure, it looked gorgeous and probably made it seem like she had more money than she actually did, but maybe if she had held off on the "I'm on my own!" vibe, she wouldn't be in such a hole. Money was never a problem for her, coming from such a rich family. But now, Toph needed to do something quick in order to relieve the financial burden. Going to grad school at this point was completely out of the question.
She pulled her laptop off of the floor and started Googling local job openings.
"Alright, so that's pretty much everything you need to know. Think you're ready to start waiting tables?"
Toph finished tying her apron behind her back and pulled a hairband off of her wrist. "Yeah, I think I've got it covered," she assured with a smirk, piling her hair on top of her head and smiling at her new boss. "I mean how hard can carrying a few trays of food be?"
Her boss chuckled. "Not everyday you see someone so enthusiastic about customer service."
Toph shrugged, but didn't say anything. If she was being completely honest, this was going to be a nightmare. She had never worked a day in her life, and suddenly realized how much her spoiled lifestyle was affecting her. But she needed the time to make some money in order to keep paying rent and save up for school. She knew this. But she also had no idea how the hell to be a proper waitress.
Maybe she shouldn't have bragged about how personable and patient she was during the job interview. She was more likely to smash a plate in frustration.
Toph whipped around and saw another girl in a similar apron with thick brown hair and bright blue eyes. The green-eyed girl laughed nervously and looked out towards the diner filled with customers. "Yeah. To be honest, I don't think I'm too cut out for this."
The girl waved off Toph's apprehension and pushed her out of the kitchen. "Ah don't worry. Just smile, and learn how to scream internally. And try not to snap at people. You'll be fine."
"Famous last words," Toph muttered.
The girl looked at Toph's apron and frowned. "Oh, and you have to wear your name tag. Otherwise people can't thank you properly."
Toph rolled her eyes and pinned the nametag she was given this morning on her apron. She held out her hands and spun around in a little circle and waited for the girl's approval.
"Perfect," she smiled. She held out her hand. "Name's Katara, by the way."
Toph reached out and shook her hand. "Toph. Nice to meet you."
"Okay," Aang told himself, scratching out the line he just wrote down. "I don't know how to write advertisements."
Katara chuckled. "You'd think you would, considering you're an English teacher and all."
"But what does one even put on a roommate ad?" Aang asked perplexed. He leaned his chin on his knuckles and stared at the copious amount of scratches and cross-outs on the legal notepad in front of him. "Hey, I need someone to help pay rent. As long as you're not homeless or a homicidal rapist or whatever…"
His friend stared at him incredulously and snatched the pen away from him. "Man, you're really bad at this aren't you?"
"I just don't know how to go about this," Aang whined. "I mean, I'm letting someone else into my home. It's like…being married or something."
Katara burst out laughing. "Okay, Aang. It is not even that serious. This is just someone you have to share a kitchen and a bathroom with. And they'll be helping you pay rent. That's it. There's no commitment ceremony you need to go through or anything."
Aang sighed and drummed his fingers against the table. "No, you don't get it. I just…I didn't plan on living with anyone this soon in my life. It's just a little nerve wracking."
"Can I be honest with you?" Katara said honestly. Aang nodded and let her go on. "I really think this is going to be good for you. And I'm so proud of you for taking a step. I know you're not really used to having people care about you, but people do. I do. Sokka does. And who knows? Maybe this new roommate will be a new family for you too. You won't know until you try it." Katara shrugged her shoulders. "And you kinda need the help. Money wise and all."
Aang breathed in deeply and flipped to a new page on his notepad. He turned the notepad towards Katara. "Alright, then you write it. You seem to know what's good for me, so you do it."
Katara smiled proudly and uncapped the pen with a flourish. "Fine, I will! Hold on tight, because I am going to find you the perfect roommate."
"Whatever you say, Katara." Sometimes, the girl got too excited about things. A new family for him? He wouldn't go that far. This was just someone he was going to live with. That's all.
"God, I am this close to quitting!"
Katara widened her eyes and put a hand to her heart. "Aw! Your first quitting threat! Oh, damn, I wish I had a camera. This is a milestone for you."
Toph glared at her and dropped a tray of dishes roughly on the conveyor belt. The dishwasher in the back barked at her, but she completely ignored him. She was in a terrible mood. "Funny," she replied blankly. "Did you see what that guy just screamed at me over there for? He was yelling at me for serving him a blueberry pie because he thought it would taste different than it did. Like it's my fault you're too stupid to realize what a goddamn blueberry tastes like. And he wants his money back? Please!"
Katara patted her on the back. "Hang in there, trooper. It's only been a few weeks. Just think," she smiled, staring dreamily into the distance. "That paycheck is going towards something important."
Important was an understatement. More like necessary for the future of her existence and happiness, but she supposed Katara had a point. Toph untied her apron and hung it on one of the hooks in the kitchen. Katara did the same, since she always joined Toph for their fifteen-minute break. They walked outside into the alley next to the restaurant and leaned against the wall. Toph turned to Katara and asked her, "So what's keeping you here? What's the magical paycheck for?"
Katara's darkened a little and she looked down at her feet. "Well, um…my mom died last month, and…well, my dad's always away for work, so it's just my brother and I. We need a little extra money around the house, and plus the work distracts me from being too depressed. So I took a leave of absence from med school for family reasons just to clear my head."
Toph frowned and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Sorry to hear about your mom."
Katara shrugged and smiled. "It's okay. I'm healing, and I know she wouldn't want me to worry too much about her. It's all good. But thanks," Katara grinned. She poked her elbow in Toph's ribs. "So what's your story?"
"I need money for school," Toph explained. "Let's just say my parents aren't too thrilled with me and don't feel like helping out. So I'm taking a gap year before I got to grad school to try and make some money for school and rent and whatnot."
"Ouch," Katara winced. "I feel you, though. Med school is not cheap. My loans are gonna kill me one day."
Toph laughed and nodded. "Yeah. But it should be okay. I mean, it'd be nice if I had someone living with me to help with rent and whatnot, but I'm sure I'll be able to handle."
Katara paused and stared at Toph quizzically, a small smile forming on her lips. "What did you just say?"
Toph raised her eyebrows. "Help with the rent? You know, like a roommate. Don't know where the hell I'm going to find one though. I mean, it's not like they just land in your lap or anything like that."
"Mm…is that you, Katara?"
"Yeah, it is. How are you?"
"Well, I was sleeping until you woke me up genius."
"Oh, right. Sorry about that. I just needed to ask you something important."
"Well, whatever it is, can't it wait until morning?"
"I suppose. But I remember you saying that you needed a roommate to help you pay the rent."
"Alright you have my attention. Now talk."
"What if I told you that I have a potential roommate for you?"
Aang walked down the hallway, clutching his two suitcases in his hands. His father's car was downstairs filled to the brim with boxes and boxes of books that he kept piled up on the floor in his house. Hopefully, he'd get around to buying a bookcase or something in order to hold them all and keep them neat and organized. And if what Katara was telling him was true, he'd definitely have the room for it.
There wasn't much that he knew about this girl he was moving in with. Sokka was excited when he heard that his new roommate was indeed female, and immediately started leering at him and asking him if she was hot. But Aang was more worried about the two of them getting along.
From what he heard, she was pretty volatile. Very stubborn and opinionated, but apparently had her heart in the right place. She was the same age as him and just graduated from a college right outside of the city. Her apartment was much bigger, so Katara suggested that Aang get rid of that teeny apartment he'd been renting out and just move in with her. The girl apparently said that she had an extra room he could use, plenty of furniture, and just required half of the rent every month. Aang could certainly live with that.
However, he was terribly nervous. What if they didn't get along? What if she was this terribly sloppy, rude person who made him clean up all the time and made co-existing impossible? He was an only child, and opted out of having roommates in college. He'd never had to live with anyone before in his life.
But his friends insisted that company would do him well. And honestly, he had to agree. He was tired of being alone in his apartment all the time and just having work to look forward to, no matter how much he enjoyed it. No matter what, he was going to give this roommate thing a try. Who knows? He may just make a friend out of it.
Aang located the correct apartment, gathered up his nerve, and rung the doorbell.
He heard a pair of feet pad against the floor behind the door and suddenly the door flew open to reveal…
Aang never really had a crush on anyone besides Katara, and that was years and years ago. Maybe it was because he just didn't care to look, or maybe he really never found anyone he was interested in or found particularly stimulating.
But this girl was absolutely stunning.
The brightest green eyes he had ever seen stared up at him from six inches below. She was short, but the tank top and jean shorts get up she had on was nothing short of adorable. Thick black hair was sticking out of her bun in waves, and she was biting her lip as she started to roam her eyes up and down, appraising him, and suddenly stopped at his eyes. He felt extremely exposed what with her staring straight at him, but for some reason he didn't mind the attention. He couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face when he cleared his throat.
"Ahem. You're Toph Bei Fong, right?"
The girl shook her head and crinkled her forehead a little in a very endearing way. She must have realized she was spacing out because she suddenly straightened up and held out her hand. "Yeah that's right. You can just call me Toph. And you are?"
Aang was secretly thanking Katara profusely in the back of his head. Not only was the girl gorgeous, but she seemed polite and sweet enough. He was sure that he could handle a little stubbornness and hardheadedness in his life. It might make this whole arrangement more interesting.
He shook her waiting hand, suddenly very excited for the future.
"This is some apartment you have," Aang commented after they had unpacked all of his books, trying to take in all his surroundings.
Toph turned around with furrowed brows and looked around the living room. She shrugged and plopped down on the couch with her feet tucked underneath her. "Think so? I think it's pretty ordinary."
He shook his head and sat down on the spot on the couch next to her. "Are you kidding? My old apartment was a matchbox compared to this place. It's perfect."
"I guess I just had a lot of money to furnish it," Toph admitted.
That earned her a quizzical stare. "If you had all the money to furnish the place, why did you need a roommate?"
Toph frowned and huffed in frustration. "Let's just say I had a bit of money on me when I bought the place, but now the current of cash has severely downsized."
Aang took a shot in the dark. "Parents?"
"How'd you guess?" she laughed.
"I figured," Aang admitted. "Did you have a lot of money growing up?"
Toph raised her brows and nodded. "You could say that. But I don't like admitting that. I take pride in the fact that I am now taking care of myself by myself."
Aang nodded and got the feeling she didn't want to go into the whole money thing much. So he changed the subject. "So I heard you want to be an architect?"
Her eyes lit up immediately. "Yeah. Katara told you?"
"Mmhm. That's pretty cool, by the way."
For some reason, the girl froze up for a moment and looked at Aang in shock. He was about to ask her if he offended her before she reached underneath the couch and pulled out a sketchbook with some photographs leaking out the sides.
"I'm trying to build up a portfolio when I apply to grad school," she explained quickly in excitement. "I mean, this is just stuff I've been working on for a few days, but I wanted to get an extra opinion just because I don't want to keep all this in my head."
Their first afternoon together in the apartment was spent with Toph showing off all of her old undergrad projects, and Aang being superbly impressed and telling Toph so. The girl must not have been very used to praise, because the blush that rose to her cheeks when he complimented her skills was intense. This must have been new to her, and it sort of saddened Aang that this was the case. She was extremely talented. He even took the time to take her back to his room and show him some of the books he was thinking of teaching his students, and she listened with rapt attention. They got along well, and the rest of the day was spent wonderfully
Aang had a good feeling about this set up.
"So? How is he?"
"Not bad. I mean, he's amazingly smart. He was telling me he skipped two grades in middle school. Can you believe that? But man, he's great. He's neat, he helps clean up. Katara, he does the freaking dishes because he wants to! I didn't know guys were like that anymore."
"I'm telling you. He's the most polite person you'll ever meet. Trust me. I knew you'd like him."
"Easy on the eyes too."
"Hahaha, what?! Is there something I should know?"
"Hey, just making an observation. I mean, we clash sometimes, but I guess that comes with the territory."
"To be fair, you're not the easiest person to get along with."
"I'm being honest. Oh, hold on, I gotta let you go. I've got another call."
"No prob. I'll see at work on Monday."
"Sure thing. Bye Toph."
"Hey, Aang! Oh, how's Toph?"
"Actually, it's going really well. She's hilarious. Cooks like a professional, too. I mean her vinaigrette salad is to die for. She's a little messy but she helps clean up the place on the weekends so I can't complain. I mean, it could have been so much worse."
"What did I tell you? I'm always right!"
"You weren't kidding about the stubbornness though. She left the door unlocked the other day and swore that I was the one that left it open! Can you believe that? It turned into this whole shouting match. She's seriously got a temper on her."
"Yeeaaah, I tried to warn you about that. But don't get too frustrated with her. It's just how she is."
"Eh, it's not too bad. I mean…her getting angry is kind of adorable."
"…nothing. Forget I said anything."
"Haha, okay Aang. Whatever you say."
"I gotta go back to reading up for my next class. I'll call you later though okay?"
"Sure, sure. And have fun, okay?"
"Did you honestly expect us to end up here?"
Aang dragged a hand across Toph's hip and looked down at her face that was still half buried in his chest. "Well, you did kind of jump me first when I got home."
She smacked his chest, but smiled through her next sentence. "You know what I mean you smart aleck. I mean us…winding up here in the same apartment, and then…you know…"
Aang smiled and tried to lift Toph's chin up so that she could look at him. "Know what?"
"Nothing," she mumbled, embarrasses. "It's stupid."
He grinned and kissed her shoulder. "You're happy. It's okay to admit it."
Toph rolled her eyes as he started kissing up her shoulder, up her neck, and up to the corner of her mouth. He was pouting, waiting for her to turn his way and running his fingers across the edge of her underwear, distracting her immensely. She giggled girlishly—something she only ever did around Aang—and relented, letting him gently cup her chin and pull her in for a kiss. Something about kissing Aang was always the most comfortable and right thing in the world. She didn't know how she had lived without his touch for so long.
"I don't know," Toph said distractedly. "I guess I never expected to meet someone so…accepting, you know? You never criticize me for anything. What you see is what you get, and you take it. I guess I'm just not used to that."
"Well it's a damn shame you're not," Aang admonished. "You are beautiful, talented, kind, and strong. It kills me that you grew up thinking none of that was true."
Toph shrugged offhandedly. "Well, that's what stubborn parents will do to you."
Aang shook his head and pulled her closer to him, splaying his fingers out against her lower back and stroking the birthmark she had there. "That's no excuse. You deserve so much more than that. And I'll spend the rest of my life showing you that."
Her eyes shimmered for a second before she smirked up at him. "I swear, you have a serious way with words. It's kind of incredible."
"Well, I've never had anyone that I ever wanted to say such things to," Aang replied honestly. "I really did think I was going to go through life just going at it alone. I was by myself, and I thought that staying alone was good for me. But I was an idiot. I met you and…I didn't want to be alone ever again."
"And you don't have to be," Toph told him quietly, bringing her hand up to cup his strong jaw line. "Just because you lost in the past doesn't mean that you have to go on being strong for everyone else. It's okay to need people. Hell, I don't know what I would have done duking it out on my own." She smirked and poked him on the nose. "You're loved, damn it. Take it and accept it."
Aang grabbed her hand and kissed her fingertips one by one. "Oh, trust me. I know. And I cherish you every second of the day."
Toph sighed at the wonderful sensation of his lips against her skin and snuggled into his chest again. She felt it rumble as he spoke up once more. "Tell me you love me."
She wasn't really fond of saying those three words—it was always difficult for some reason, and it never came out right when she tried—but when he sounded so content, and so charming, and so absolutely happy, she couldn't deny him.
She sighed against his skin. "I love you." And she meant it. She really did.
He kissed the top of her head, and she felt him smile against it. "I love you."
Some days, it really hit the two of them how much they really needed to thank the other. Nothing was very easy for either of them, and there were days when they felt like giving up and letting their problems drown them. But moving in together taught them both one thing: they were important, they were special, and they were worthy of love.
A/N: And there you have it! Roommates is all wrapped up! Thanks for everyone who reviewed and read thus far, it really means a lot.
If you're eager for more of this AU, not to worry. I've got plans for some cute one-shots and maybe even some chaptered stories in the future. Without realizing it, I've grown extremely fond of this universe and I really don't feel like abandoning it anytime soon. So keep an eye out for future continuations. Love all of you, and thanks for reading.