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What I Learned at SRU
Chapter 19 - A Formal Thing


- Monday, October 11th, 2010 -

"This weekend? How could I-...? How did I miss that?"

"It's just Homecoming, Kat, it's not like it's-"

"Exactly! It's Homecoming! I need to...I have to get ready for it."

"You're actually going?"

"Wh-? Of course we're going. You're not?"

Jane's eyes wandered to the side and she shrugged with apathy.

"Nah, I've, uhh...never been to somethin' like that..."

"Really?" Katara gasped as she tied her hair into a ponytail. "Are you serious?"

Jane's eyelids lowered as her olive orbs glared.

"Do I seem like the type who'd give a fuck about that kinda thing?" she grumbled.

"Er...N-no, I...I guess not," Katara conceded sheepishly. "But...You should totally come with us. Bring Johnny, we'll all go as a group! I'm sure he can get out of Freedom Fighter...stuff...to go to Homecoming with his lovely girlfriend."

Jane rolled her eyes at her friend's words but a smirk found its way to her face regardless.

"I dunno, Kat. We'll see." Said with a tone that conveyed a hint of desire to give in and go.

"Let me know. I could help you pick out a dress," Katara advised with a wide grin.

"D-dress?" Jane sputtered, suddenly off-put. "Like a...dress dress?"

With a laugh, Katara ruffled Jane's shaggy orange mess of unkempt hair.

"Yes, a dress, JayBee. It's a formal thing - I'll help you look real nice, I promise. You'll knock Johnny's socks off, Hun."

Katara could see Jane's confidence wither idea at her suggestions, but she was determined to play them out - Jane would thank her later.

"Listen, don't worry about it right now," she calmed her redhead friend. "Let me figure out what we're doing first and I'll get back to you tomorrow on that." She patted Jane's slender shoulder with encouragement. "If you don't want to go, you don't have to, but you'll be missing out - it's a lot of fun, and you'll have us with you, you know?"

A brisk nod from Jane concluded the discussion for the time being, and Katara had a good feeling that her friend would eventually come around. They'd been peeling her shell off piece by piece over the past few weeks, and now that she was officially inducted into their 'clan,' she seemed to be progressively more open to doing things outside of her comfort zone.

"Anyway, I have to head off to work now," she explained to Jane as she popped on her shoes.

"Yep."

"I'll see you tonight, all right?"

"Sure thing."


Sokka sighed as he slipped his phone back into his pant pocket and grabbed his pool cue.

"What's up?" Aang wondered in reference to the text Sokka had just surveyed.

"It's my sister, she's bugging me about Homecoming." He slid the smooth stick between his fingers before popping the white ball forward.

"Yea, that's coming up, like...This weekend?" Aang surmised, watching as Sokka sank a striped ball.

"Sure is. And you know how Katara gets with dances and dinners and crap like that," mumbled Sokka, shaking his head slowly.

"Haha, she can get kinda crazy about them, huh?"

"Not kinda." Sokka plopped another stripe into a corner pocket. The gentlemen enjoyed the slow rolling sound of the ball traveling back to the open compartment in front of the pool table.

"So what is she bothering you about?" Aang inquired, sensing that Sokka wasn't frustrated merely by the idea of Homecoming.

Having just scored a scratch, Sokka huffed and scooped it out of the tray, handing it to his roommate.

"She's trying to get our help setting her up with a date."

"She is?"

"Sadly, yes.

"Who with?"

"She asked me if Haru has asked anyone out yet."

"Haru?" Aang spat out in shocked amusement. "Ha! Are you kidding?"

"Sadly, no."

"But..." Aang slammed his ball with precision - it richoted off the side and perfectly slid a solid into its place. "He's not her type."

"I know!" Sokka cried out, relieved that someone else shared his opinion. "Neither was Jet," he snuck in with some dismay.

"Weren't you encouraging her to go out with Haru, like...last month?"

"That was before," Sokka dismissed.

Aang's face dried up into a solemn frown.

"When she was with Jet," he deduced. "So...What? You don't want her to date anyone now?" he irritably accused.

"N-no, that's not it at all," defended Sokka, flailing his arms. "I'm just...-" He drummed his fingers along the edge of the pool table as he hunched over it, watching Aang fling score another solid. "-...real sick of seeing her get her heart broken again and again. I just know it wouldn't work between her and Haru."

"Maybe...Katara knows that, too?" Aang pondered.

"Huh?"

"Maybe Katara just wants someone to go with - to have some fun."

Sokka stared at Aang with low-set eyebrows, perplexed by such a notion.

"I'm just saying," Aang shrugged, carrying along with their pool game. "You don't want her to feel left out, do you?"

Sokka scratched his hairy chin carefully, acknowledging that of their group, Katara would be the only one without a date.

"Ehhhh," came his gutteral groan of admittence. "No," he whimpered. "I don't want her to feel left out..."

"Exactly." Aang lined up his next shot. "Eight-Ball, corner pocket."

Pok. Clat! Tak.
Clackle-kat.

"Heh."

"Why did I let you convince me to play pool?" Sokka growled. "Next time? Chess, Aang. Chess. And you are going down."

"I am totally going down," Aang chuckled.


- Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 -

"What'll it be today, Toph?"

"Oh, hi, Ginny."

"It's Jin."

"Right," Toph flinched. "Sorry, I forgot."

"Heh, it's fine. So what can I get you today?"

"Oh, r-right, um..." Toph's mind fumbled around to a drink she knew she preferred at the Jasmine Dragon.

"Did you want me to read off anyth-?"

"No, no, I'll have a Raspberry Truffle Espresso, please."

"What size?"

"Oh, um, Large. Normal. Nothing special."

"That'll be $3.50."

"'Kay." Toph dug her hand into her back pocket, retrieved her trusty card, and stuck her arm out to the girl at the register. She waited for the shhhnk of the card through the scanner, the whrr-ka-kurrrr of her receipt being printed off - a lot of good that was for her - and held her palm out to receive her magical piece of plastic money back. She did not take a moment to reflect on how nice and convenient it was to waltz into shops and buy whatever food or drink she wanted - that would be unbecoming of a Beifong. In fact, Jin pondered this very idea instead, wondering how life would be different with rich parents like Toph had.

"I'll get on that for you, Toph. Thanks."

As Jin shifted to the counter to start preparing Toph's drink, the various sounds of metal, plastic, liquids and machinery filled the air. Toph shifted a few steps to her left and stood idly by the receiving counter to take her order when it was completed.

"So...Jin," she began with a quaint tone outside of her standard pallette of expression. "I, um...I heard you guys do, like...a thing here...Thursday nights?"

"What was that?" Jin requested as she finished Toph's drink. "Here's your drink, by the way." Toph held out her hand to receive the coffee cup. Its warm, dry surface was comforting and energizing at once as she clamped it tightly in her fingers. "Got it?" Jin checked.

"Yup."

"Now, what were you saying?"

"Oh, um, I was just...You guys have a special thing you do here on Thursday nights, I heard."

"Yea, we sure do!"

"What...is that. Exactly?"

"It's sort of an open-mic thing. Readings, music, comedy acts...whatever you want."

"How does it work?"

"Well...We put the sign-up sheet out Monday, and you sign up for a time slot."

"Sooo...If I wanted to sign up for this Thursday...I could just...do that?"

"Of course! You want me to put you in for a time?"

"Yea. Yea, let's do that." Toph lifted the cup to her mouth and pressed her lips around the opening. Too hot. She lightly blew some air through it to cool it off a bit. She heard Jin's footsteps move across the room and return.

"Welllll...We have an opening from 8:15 to 8:30 this Thursday. How about that?"

"Perfect. I'll take it."

"Great!" A pen scratched the surface of a clipboard. "So what are you going to do? Some music, I take it?"

"How ever did you know?" Toph kidded, slipping out her tongue jokingly.

"I look forward to it, Toph. I've got another customer though, soooo...-"

"Catch you later."

"You, too."

Toph carefully tread her walking stick along, located an empty table, and sat herself down for a session of what Sokka had dubbed a "Think N' Drink." She considered her musical exploits. Things had been off to a slow start this year. Having a robust social life was obviously the primary cause, but even so, Toph was sure she could be doing better. Practicing with their still un-named band a few times was frustrating in its own right - not even because of how apparent it was that they were not coordinated as a musical group, but because it made it easier to see her own flaws in her performances. Perhaps the problem was that she needed a reason to practice on her own, alone, playing songs that were not for a lesson or class. The more time Toph spent playing music for others, the less the notes she played exuded her own spirit. Maybe this 'open-mic' business would help out. And the best part? It was on Thursday, when everyone split off to get homework done, so it wasn't like she had anything better to be doing.

Thursday nights would become her musical canvas.


- Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 -

"You have no idea how much of an idiot my brother can be..."

"Dude, I have kind of an idea, Kat. We both live in Aero. I've probably seen parts of the guy you never have."

Katara had a sneaking suspicion he was literally referring to body parts, given some of the frat-boy activities Aero Men were known for participating in on occasion, but derailed that train of thought immediately.

"I'm sure you have, Haru," she murmured with embarrassed humor. "Do you know where I could find him tonight? He's not in his room and he's not answering his phone."

"Ah, yea," Haru assured, waving her to follow. "I saw him down in the basement, he was takin' care of laundry."

"Oh my God," Katara laughed. "Sokka? Doing laundry?"

Haru acknowledged her joke with a chuckle as he proceeded down the stairs.

"Sokka was telling me your little gang is all going to Homecoming together, huh?" Haru observed. Katara felt her stomach lurch nervously. She knew he was about to ask her out. But she hadn't completely decided how she'd react to it.

"Y-yea. We are. One big happy family. Ha."

"Sokka's going with that Japanese girlfriend of his, right?"

"Suki."

"Right. And then...your roommate...is going with his roommate. Yea?"

"Mm-hm."

"What about that one boy I see you hanging out with all the time? Are you, eh...-?" He waggled his finger left and right, and Katara realized what he was implying. But who was he talking about?

"Huh?"

"Ya know, that redhead. You two...-" Haru shrugged meekly, glancing away down the basement hall. "-...seem real close. Like, always holding hands, and-"

"Pfff," Katara spilled out in disbelief. "Redhead? You mean...You must mean Jane," she giggled in an irregularly giddy manner. "She is our neighbor in Aqua."

Haru's head flicked from side to side in a twitchy double-back as he processed this correction.

"Dude, I...am totally sorry, man, I...-" He shrugged, slowly shaking his head and fiddling his hands around in defense. "The way that girl dresses, and, like, acts...I didn't even think...-"

"It's OK, Haru," Katara chuckled, amused by the whole thing. "Jane kind of asks for it with the way she carries herself - I'm getting her to work on that, heh." Katara smiled peacefully and shrugged as they hit the laundry room - no one in sight, but half of the driers and washers were running idly, creating an oddly soothing racket.

"Soooo, I'm gonna guess the redhead is not your date, then?" Haru joked, sitting atop one of the driers, it's timer marked [00:03].

"Haha, no, she's taking her boyfriend," Katara pleasantly explained.

"Then...what about you?"

"I..." Katara tossed her arms out to her sides and chuckled, overcome with a strange sense of confidence and comfort. She let her hands drop to her hips and coyly grinned. "I'd be up for going with you, if that's what you're getting at."

Haru's face heated up and he ran his hand over his slick, greasy hair. A laugh escaped him and he cocked his head to the side with an embarrassed smile.

"Sh...Sure! Yea. Totally!"

"All right, then," Katara brightly concluded. "There's still an empty seat at our table, so just sign up for it and I'll see you there Saturday night. Sound good?"

"Sounds...pretty good to me, Kat." Haru was clearly flabbergasted at her straightforward approach, and Katara was relishing the sense of empowerment as they exchanged heated glances of anticipation. "Er..." Haru tore his eyes away from her and directed them to the drier. [00:02] "This was the machine your bro put his clothes in, so...yah." He rapped his knuckle against its metal surface and popped his body off. Katara kept her eyes glued on his shaken and stirred demeanor with some satisfaction.

"Thanks, Haru. I'll see you later," she bid with a sly and syrupy tone.

As the door to the laundry room closed, Katara paced back and forth, her stomach queasy from their encounter.

God, what's going on with me? He seems like a nice enough guy, but...No, no. This is just a simple date. Nothing more. Yea. I can't let myself fall into that same trap again, but...I can't do what my brother did, either. This is just a single date, and we'll...see how it goes. That's all.

[To: Sokka]
[Your laundry's done. =P ]
[Sent: 4:12pm]

[Inbox: 1]

[From: Suki]
[do you guys mind if we start practice an hour early on sunday? could you check w/toph&jane plz?]
[Sent: 1:38pm]

[Reply]
[To: Suki]
[That's OK with me. I'll check with the girls and get back to you. =) ]
[Sent: 4:13pm]

[From: Sokka]
[WTF?]
[Sent: 4:14pm]

[Reply]
[To: Sokka]
[Get down to the laundry room. Bum.]
[Sent: 4:14pm]

Katara was relieved that her brother showed up shortly after their phone exchange. Sitting in the laundry room alone got very boring very quickly. Katara watched as her brother dumped clothes from the drier into his basket.

"Whoa, hey, wait," she interjected. "Aren't you going to fold those?"

Sokka sighed and shook his head.

"They're going to be all wrinkled, though..."

"So?" Sokka spat irritably.

Geez. Someone's in a grouchy mood.

"I could help, Sokka..."

"I don't care, Katara. Not everyone has to be all perfect all the damned time."

She was tempted to spew back a counterpoint, but she wasn't going to let her brother's frumpy words sour her mood.

"OK, fine. Calm down, Bro."

Sokka stuffed his mass of clothing tightly into the basket to prevent it from spilling out.

"Sorry. I'm stressed out."

"Really? You know, I couldn't tell," she noted with sarcasm and a pat on the back, opening the door for him on the way out.

"Thanks," he muttered, hefting the weight of his clothes into the hall.

"What's going on?" Katara wondered, blazing their trail to open every door in their path.

"Had a bad day at work, class sucked, stupid test on Friday. Grah."

"Sorry, Sokka. Anything I can do?"

"Nope," grunted the older sibling as they hit the stairs.

"OK." Katara tapped her finger against her chin thoughtfully as they climbed up to the second floor. "Sooo...I got a date to Homecoming."

"Haru, right?"

"Heh. Yes."

"You sure that's such a good idea?"

"Sokka, please. It's just an innocent date. It's not like we're going steady all of a sudden."

"Yea, yea...Just be cool about it."

Katara frowned at his overprotection.

"Excuse me," she grumbled, "but you were the one telling me to give him a chance in the first place."

Sokka sighed out an exhausted, "I know..."

"Good. Then...don't worry about it. I'm not going to be stupid. OK?"

"I know. Listen, did you need something?" Sokka groaned as they entered the second floor of Aero. Clearly, he wasn't in much of a mood to talk with his sister today.

"Oh, right. I need my share of the spending money for Homecoming that Dad sent us last week."

"Right," Sokka huffed. "Sure thing, Sis. I'll grab that for ya in a sec..."


"Who did he think you were going with?"

Katara grinned from cheek to cheek, eyelids narrowed sneakily.

"He thought that I was going with that 'redhead boy' I'm always hanging out with," she teased.

"Me? The fuck?" Jane spat out in humored disbelief. "He thought I was a boy?"

Katara grabbed Jane's hand and squeezed it tight for a second before going back to wading through the rack of dresses.

"Sorry, Jane. But you have to admit...the way you dress and act most of the time, it doesn't exactly help."

Jane shrugged, letting it roll off with a laugh. "Not my fault I'm so hardcore..."

"Come on, though, it's kind of funny, right?" Katara egged, insistent on finding comedy in the matter.

"I guess," Jane sighed, rubbing her eyebrow.

"I mean, he thought we were, like, into each other, or something," Katara slapped her wrist against Jane's arm in humor. "He didn't even know that...-" Katara's joyful prodding gave way to concern and regret. "Are you OK?"

"Huh?"

"You just look...all angry and upset..."

"Oh..." Jane realized suddenly that her face was hot, her arms were crossed, and her lips were puckered out in a finnicky pout. Perhaps this dumb guy's inaccurate assumptions were more irritating than she originally figured they'd be.

"I'm sorry, Jane," Katara murmured solemnly, twirling a fidgety finger through her hair. "I...thought you'd find it kind of funny. I didn't mean to-...Gah," she turned away. "I shouldn't forget how sensitive you are about-"

"Naw, it's cool, Kat. It is kind of funny. I don't really care what people think, and it doesn't bother me if you guys pick on me about it 'cuz...I know you're just kidding."

"O-OK...That's what I thought, but I don't want to make you feel self-conscious or...-"

"Ha. Self-conscious? We're trying to pick out a fucking dress, Kat," Jane snickered, scratching her ear. "Pretty sure being self-conscious comes with the territory." She thrust her arms out to the assortment of colorful clothes that washed around them like a sea.

"Right." Katara had become focused on her task, and finally presented Jane with a dark piece of fabric.

"Christ," Jane snickered with a face palm as she inspected its measly form. "Seriously?"

"Seriously," Katara iterated, lining the dress, still on its hanger, across Jane's chest to estimate its fit.

"I'm not sure here, Kat," doubted Jane with a sigh.

"Come on, JayBee, it's your size. I even found one in black for you."

"But...But it's so...-" She huffed, sliding her jaw to the side in frustration.

"Revealing?"

"Yea!" Jane blurted wih indignance.

"Ohhhh, it's not that bad! Come on."

"There's like...fuckin' strings holding it up."

"Spaghetti straps, Hun."

"But...My whole...-" She quickly waved her palm over her collarbones. "Half my body will be showing in that thing!"

"Jane, it's not going to kill you to dress like a girl for once."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jane growled in a pout.

"Don't you want to really make Johnny go crazy?"

Jane's icy olive glare burned into Katara's enthusiasm to no avail, the sapphire optimism winning out in the end.

"Yea...I guess..."

"He'll love this, Hun. I promise."

"My shoulders are going to be showing," Jane whimpered quietly, her eyes nervously shifting around to ensure no one else was nearby in this section of the store. "And my fuckin' twig legs, and-"

"Jane." Katara slowly insisted, grabbing her friend by the shoulders. "It's OK."

"But my legs are hairy," Jane hissed, running her hand through her hair in frustration. Katara giggled in reply. "It's not funny! I'm not sure I'm cut out to play dress-up and shit, Kat..."

"Jane, I'll help you wax your legs or something, it's-"

"And my shoulders are fuckin' freckly, and my collar bones stick out, and-" Jane's shaky ramble was cut short as Katara slapped her on the arm - it was a gentle slap but with enough force to catch her off guard.

"Careful, JayBee," she teased, jabbing a finger at Jane's nose. "We're trying to girl you up, but we don't want to go back to high-school territory, haha."

Jane's innards gurgled with unease as she realized how bizarre her reaction likely seemed. Rough and tumble GI Jane, having a fit over her looks for a dance? What the hell? That was messed up.

"Sorry, Kat, I'm...kinda freaked out here. Not exactly my sorta thing."

"I know it's hard for you, Hun," Katara empathized softly, leading Jane to a changing closet. "But I swear, this will be good for you. I know you have have bad self-esteem about your looks."

"No, I don't," Jane instinctively growled with a grouchy roll of the eyes.

"You were just freaking out over your freckles and your collar bones, Jane. Yes, you do."

"Fine...Maybe..."

Katara nudged her into a changing closet and closed the door behind her.

"Try that on."

"Fuck," Jane huffed through the door.

"What?"

"My boots...You know how annoying these are to take off and put on?"

"Baha...Ohhhh, JayBee."

Jane unlaced her intricate footwear and paused to contemplate how to even get herself into this puny black...thing. A mirror glowered over her through the entire process, so she had no choice but to turn away if only to avoid getting overly self-conscious about things. Jane abhored mirrors, a vicious reminder of her body, that thing which she constantly insisted on avoiding thinking about. She coudn't deny Katara's joke: she felt like she had regressed back to high school when she had cared more about looking like a 'girl,' only to ultimately dismiss the effort as futile based on her peers' reactions.

"Why does it matter so much?" she grunted, pulling down her baggy cargo pants.

"Huh?"

"Trying to...to look girly and crap." Off with the shirt.

"Wh-?...You are a girl, Jane. Sometimes it's fun to just...look nice. You know?"

"Don't really care." She squirmed into the black cloth, letting its straps rest on her shoulders. This felt entirely awkward. Bare, cold, breezy...but freeing. She felt unprotected and vulnerable, her bony arms showing, her stick legs - hairy - and freckly shoulders all exposed. Who could find this attractive?

"You done?"

"Yea..."

"Let me see!" Katara cried with excitement. Jane rubbed her tired eyes and opened the door, refusing to exit the changing room. She felt her stomach empty and her face heat up at Katara's elated expression.

"Ohhhh, wow," Katara whispered, wide-eyed. "It's perfect, Jane!"

"R-really...?"

"So cute. Black was a great choice. Accents your hair. Do I know how to pick 'em, or what?"

Butterflies filtered through Jane's intestines as Katara inspected the dress with care, placing palms flush againt Jane's bony hips to determine the fit.

"See?" she insisted, twirling Jane to face the mirror. "You look great. Johnny will eat it up."

"'Kay..." Jane sighed shakily, simply relieved that Katara was happy, at least. She couldn't bring herself to survey her own form, instead glancing at her own petrified eyes and bright pink cheeks. Maybe now she could get back into normal clothes.

Fifteen minutes later, she was back in army boots, cargo pants, and a sweatshirt, and Katara had purchased the simple black outfit for her. It hadn't all too expensive, Katara had assured, but Jane still couldn't comprehend spending more than $20 on any piece of clothing, period, so it baffled her that Katara was so eager to contribute finances to the cause.

"Thanks, Kat."

"No problem. We'll tidy your hair up, and wax your legs...You're going to look amazing. Johnny won't know what to do with you."

Jane smiled slightly at the idea of her boyfriend being equally fancied up in a tuxedo, unable to take his hands off of her. The idea had its appeal, she could admit.

"Are you finally looking forward to this?" Katara encouraged. "Have I finally cracked that shell of yours?"

"A little," Jane replied with a smirk. "But I'm gonna wear my boots with this dress."

"Whaaaa?" Katara moaned. "But...You're gonna look...-"

"Like myself. Heh."


- Thursday, October 14th, 2010 -

"I'm kind of in the middle of something here, Azula. Could this not wait?"

["No, ZuZu, as a matter of fact it cannot wait. Plans must be made tonight because I'm not going to have any time tomorrow."]

"What are you talking about? What plans?"

["I'm hurt, Little Brother."]

"Could you just get to the point?"

["This weekend is Homecoming, Zuko. And I am an alumna of your University. I intend to be coming 'home' tomorrow for the festivities."]

Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose in dread. He could feel the migraine building already.

"Oh."

["Well, don't sound so enthused,"] came the rapid bitterness. ["I know that seeing your own flesh and blood is so very, very inconvenient."]

"I didn't say th-"

["Spare me your excuses, Dum-Dum. I know when I'm not wanted."]

"So...What? Now you're not coming?"

["Are you joking? Of course I'm coming, I just told you. I swear, sometimes you can be such an imbecile..."]

"Then why are you-?"

["I'll meet you at the Avatar at 6pm tomorrow. We can catch up over supper."]

"Ugh...Fine. But I...I have a busy weekend, so don't expect-"

["You're a Kurosawa, Zuko. I expect you to be busy."]

Zuko bit his tongue. It was no use when she was acting this way, he could never get a word in edge-wise.

["Oh, and...Take Mai and Ty-Lee tomorrow, we can have a happy little reunion. Ciao, ZuZu."]

Click.

"Soooo..." Mai poked her head out from behind her laptop. "Based on the whole...you getting interrupted constantly...That must have been Azula," Mai decided.

"That hard to figure out, was it?"

"Aaaand...She's going to be here for Homecoming, isn't she?"

"Argh..."

"At least it won't be boring, right?"


The wooden stage was cold to the touch, grimy from the shoes of others before her. She carefully arranged a bar stool borrowed from a table in the shop so that it rested before the microphone. She felt her hands up the metal pole and around the mic. She tapped its bumpy surface and relished the pumph-pumph sound that radiated from the speakers to her sides. She had gotten plenty of practice in the night prior while Katara and Jane had been away doing dress-shopping and was pretty confident she had the song down pat.

"So, umm...-" she murmured into the microphone, unfazed by a crowd whose size she couldn't quite determine. It seemed like a sleepy night at the Jasmine Dragon, so no pressure, right? Pff. Like she gave a damn about pressure. She introduced herself with blunt nonchalance. "I'm gonna play a song. And stuff. Hope ya like."

Well. Here we are, Toph. Play your Emo-Pants heart out. For the sake of love, and shit.

She plucked at her acoustic guitar strings and played out a melancholy prelude. A song that Aang had introduced her to during their summer, separated, which she had been periodically listening to from time to time. He'd sent it to her along with a number of other songs, but this one had been the only she'd bothered to listen to more than once. She didn't know where it had come from - he'd told her it was from a video game, or something? She didn't recall the specifics, she just knew the song had a special place on her iPod and that she liked where her mind went when she listened to it. Even though it spoke of things she could never perceive, she had a hunch it was still entirely appropriate.

"~Sometimes I lie awake at night and wait~
~The shadows changing on the hollow wall~
~And moonlight streaming through my windowpane~
~Leaves me cold, under the shroud of nightfall~"

Days past, nights gone by - alone.
A practice room - a fortress.
A bedroom, quiet and isolated.
No friends, no fellows, no family.
Just a lonely, angry girl, a piano, a and a guitar.

"~You're there beside me in my deepest dreams~
~A ghost of all the weight I feel within~
~And floating endlessly, my heart believes~
~That we are one, ready to touch, to begin~"

"It's ruined! It...It's destroyed."

"I-I'm sorry! It was an accident!"

"It's going to take me all weekend to fix this!"

"I know. I know!"

"Urgh, and this is...totally shot. It's going to have to be replaced..."

"I'm sorry, Aang, I...w-wasn't thinking!"

"Ugh. No, you weren't! You always do this! You always think you can take care of everything all by yourself. But you can't!"

"~Imagine how your lips would taste on mine~
~And how your breath would feel against my eyes~
~My heart is racing for the millionth time~
~Don't let go of this thought, otherwise~"

His scrubby hair, dry skin, gentle hands.
The way he used to get all nervous when she'd start kissing his neck.
How his earlobes felt between her lips.
His warm breath against her face, deepening when they'd get close.
Her hand on his chest, his heart pounding, just like hers.
Neither of them knowing what to do with this all.

"~There's a...~haze, a...~feeling...~that I get with you~
~And~this hand~Won't let go...~
~Lead me...~Show me...~just how...~love's supposed to feel~
~So that I won't be...~
~Dreaming...~"

A smattering of light applause sealed off the performance, and Toph bobbed her head before removing herself from the stage. She overheard murmurings and whisperings as she left the Jasmine Dragon.

"Wow...Isn't that the blind music major chick?"
"Yea, isn't she good?"
"I'm diggin' it."
"It's like...you can tell she's really feeling the music, ya know?"

While no one had said anything to her directly, a proud smirk found its way to Toph's face while she reflected on their awed words.

Fuck yea. You still got it, girl.


- Friday, October 15th, 2010 -

"Trust me, Aang. That's the stuff you want."

Aang stared at the spray bottle, scratching his head as he followed his roommate through the store.

"Axe?" he muttered aloud the product's name.

"Scientifically proven to make girls go crazy," Sokka informed, inspecting a shelf of flamboyant hats.

"That so?" chuckled Aang dubiously.

"Science never fails." Sokka decreed, glancing at the various accessories. "Flowers? Ribbons? Bleh. No-no-no, what we need is-ha." He triumphently lifted a navy blue fedora up from a low spot on the shelving and showed it to Aang.

"That's, uh...That sure is a fedora," Aang observed.

"Damn right it is!" Sokka cocked it across his head and nodded at the fit. "Aw, man. This is perfect."

"Was that everything we needed?"

"Hat, body spray, snacks, er...Wait, didn't you need a tie?"

"Yea," Aang recalled. "Already got one." He lifted his elbow to draw attention to the black tie draped across it. He clutched the Axe spray in the corresponding hand, while a shopping basket containing small bottles of fabric paint, White Cheddar Cheezits, Twizzlers, and an Origami book was held in his left hand.

"Oh. Well, then. Sweet. Let's be off with us, then!"

On the way back, Aang had to keep Sokka away from the electronics department, reminding him that he didn't have money to buy anything expensive, anyway, and the two managed to check out with nary an issue.

"Why the paint, anyway?" Sokka wondered as they shuffled through the parking lot. "Don't you have paint already?"

"Not fabric paint."

"Why do you need fabric paint?"

"For the tie. Duh."

"Heh. Ya just can never leave well alone, eh?" Sokka patted him on the back. "Do you own any ties that don't look psycho?"

"Have to add my own touch to things, Sokka."

"What about the book?"

"Origami."

"Since when were you into origami?"

"I've tinkered with it here and there...I need to make something for tomorrow."

"For Toph?"

Aang smiled and shrugged.

"Maybe."

"You're such a sap, Aang, haha."

"Hey, Toph can be sappy, too."

"Pssh. Like when?"

"She has her moments..."

"Well, as long as you do what I tell you, she's going to be 'having moments' all over you tomorrow, dude."


A/N: Toph's song is "Still Dreaming," a remix from OverClocked Remix based on a song from Chrono Cross.

[link]<--Previous Chapter
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[link]<-<--Chapter 1

I can't really find a good English vocal combined with the guitar for the song Toph is playing.

Here's the original Japanese:
[link]

And here is a version with English lyrics Toph is singing:
[link]

Soooo...I guess you can try to blend them together in your head like I did? ^_^;

Also, I have a commissioned piece being worked on that is a scene from the next chapter. I don't know if it'll be done by the time I finish the chapter, but you can bet I'll be showing it off as soon as it is. =)
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:iconthetaleof2sisters:
SORRY! I meant to type :)
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:iconflamingtunapictures:
I can relate to Jane's feelings towards dresses EXACTLY XD From the notion of having to wear one, to the feeling of showing to much, (I can't even wear anything that reaches above my knees without feeling I'm too exposed XD) to having friends saying they will force me into one XD
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:iconflamingtunapictures:
Gyahahaha XD I read it again. Yes, I am EXACTLY the same in almost every aspect XD Same thoughts, feelings--right down to the paying more than $20 bucks for a piece of clothing XD
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:iconalura-the-sage:
Alura-the-Sage Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Great chapter, but what was that part in the middle of Toph's song about her messing something up and Aang getting mad? Or is that something that is going to be in a later chapter?
P.S. Are all those houses - Terra, Aero, etc. - either fraternities or sororities, or do they have, say, Aero Fraternity and Aero Sorority?
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Uh, well, they can kind of act as such, but they're not officially. That's how the dorms at my college were. No official Fraternity or Sorority but each dorm kind of functioned like one in a way.
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:iconshodanallen:
favorite thing: icy olive stare vs. sapphire optimism..... sapphire optimism would be a great band name.
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:iconshodanallen:
CHRON.......O......CROSS! Excellant!
I leaned how to play Nikki's Melody (whatever the mermaid song was) for a girl once... still love to play it...... 1 out of 2 ain't bad for girls and video game soundtracks...
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:icondestiny-smasher:
Destiny-Smasher Dec 20, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Chrono Cross' would be one of the ones that girls who are familiar with game soundtracks like the most. It's quite beautiful all around.
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:iconariatwi:
ariatwi Jul 22, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
that's a great song u chose toph to play!^^
i wonder what she ruined though...
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