Chapter 47 - Cut Loose
- Monday, December 20th, 2010 -
"Ohhhh, come awwwnnn," Sokka roared at the TV screen. "I swear, the computer has it out for me..."
"That's why it's called 'Chance Time,'" Aang teased. "There's a chance you can get screwed."
Sokka fumed, gripping his controller in his hand like an angry drunk holding a half empty bottle.
"Yea? Well...Princess Peach is...a whore," he grumbled. "Sooo...Hmph. Who needs her, anyway? Stealing my damned stars...grumgpllgflff..."
"Now we can both have zero stars together," Aang laughed.
"I never beat you at Nintendo stuff," Sokka whined. "I was finally winning for a change, too..."
"There's still, like...ten turns left," Aang shed optimism. "We still got this. Now c'mon, there's another minigame coming up."
"Aang had brought his Nintendo Wii along for the vacation, and Sokka had decided that morning that it was high time to make use of it. The two of them were knee-deep in a retro game Aang had downloaded onto his system, sitting on the floor in front of the TV.
"Dude, you guys are losing," Korra observed casually as she came from the kitchen, munching on a package of snack crackers.
"Not for long," cried Sokka as the screen changed.
"Whoa, what the hell? You're...riding in tanks?"
"We sure are," Aang chuckled, navigating his slow vehicle with care, a green shell with treads, a canon, and a Yoshi head sticking out on top.
"You guys are still playing that?" Jane mumbled with a sigh as she and Katara came from the stairway.
"It can take a while," Aang explained.
"Ahahaha, suck it, Peach!"
"Nice one, Sokka."
"Oh, oh, ohhhh! Who's gonna win?" Korra called as Aang and Sokka were the last two left, firing canon shots at one another. Sokka's Donkey Kong tank was sent flying through the air in a comical fashion, leaving Aang the victor and the recipient of some cheers.
"You got served," Korra picked on her cousin.
"Second place is better than third."
"Anyone else want to play?" Aang wondered, receiving some shakes of the head. "We could save and turn this off and put on something else," he added.
"Like bowling?" said Katara.
"Haha, like bowling."
Katara gave Jane a curious glance and Jane shrugged in compliance.
"Sure, I'm down."
"Let's do it, then," Aang declared, entering the Wii Home menu and exiting the game.
"Heyyyy, we weren't done!" Sokka groaned.
"It saved our progress, crybaby," Aang poked, smacking Sokka on the arm. "We've been hogging the TV for a while. We should share."
"Yea, yea, OK..." Sokka let out an exaggerated huff and shrugged. "I guess women are allowed to play video games, too..."
"You guess?" Jane snipped, giving her friend a sharp jab on the back.
"I guess," Sokka reiterated. "Besides, what do you need to worry about? You don't count as a woman, anyway."
Jane flashed him a surprised look of offense and punched him again.
"All right, children," Katara mocked them as she sat down beside Korra on the couch. "Let's settle down."
"Yes, Mother," Sokka taunted back.
Aang booted up Wii Sports Resort and dug out his Wii remote, handing it to Katara.
"Hey, you guys can play, I'm gonna go check on Toph," he explained to her quietly while Jane and Sokka traded insults.
"Yea, all right," Katara gently responded, taking the controller.
As Aang quietly retreated upstairs, he could hear Toph plinking away a gentle melody. It was cut short, started back up again, stopped...She repeated the part she was tripping up on a couple of times before she took off. Aang lingered just outside the door and listened for a bit, taken by her voice, the bare emotions she sung out as he recalled their talk from the day prior.
"~I took my love and I took it down~I climbed a mountain and I turned around~"
His hands reaching out, only to be pushed aside. Rejected. Undesired.
"~And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills~'Til the landslide brought me down~"
Guilt on her shoulders like a massive weight. Insecurity over his head like a thundercloud.
"~Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?~Can the child in my heart rise above?~"
"What do we do from here, Toph? Where do we go? What can I do to...make this better?"
"~Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?~Can I handle the seasons of my life?~"
"Well, maybe you need to...fucking grow up, Twinkle-Toes...Shit happens...I don't know...Why are you asking me?"
"~Well, I've been afraid of changing~'Cause I've built my life around you~"
A sigh from her cold lips.
"Like I know what the hell I'm doing...I thought you'd know..."
"~But time makes you bolder~Children get older~And I'm getting older, too~"
His body lunging forward, squeezing her in a rough embrace.
"All I know is...I'm afraid of losing this, Toph..."
"~I'm getting older, too~"
Aang cracked the door open slowly and entered. Toph's fingers continued to pluck away, her eyes glazed and solemn.
"Who is it?" she forced out over her own music.
"That's, a...er...It's a nice song. Kind of...sad..."
"Yea...Kinda the point. I guess."
Aang cleared his throat and laid down on the bed behind where Toph sat on its side.
"So, uh...You can, ya know...keep playing. I'd like to hear the rest."
"Y-yea. All right..."
- Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 -
"Between us, I'm honestly thinking of quitting before the year is out."
"Say what? Quit?" Jane seemed appalled. "Why would you quit?"
Korra shook her head, staring thoughtfully at the floor.
"The big cheese and I don't see eye to eye, which is gettin' outta hand. And I need to stretch my fuckin' wings, ya know? Try somethin' new, be my own boss."
"I hear ya..." Jane paused, contemplating an idea that popped into her mind. "Ya know, hell, you should look into the bar downtown by our school. They need new management."
"Yea. They literally got shut down 'cuz the old manager got the boot. I bet they need a new one."
"Damn." Korra tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I'm not picky right now, and there's nothin' out here for me, no openings right now."
"Seriously, look into it. And hey, you'd be right nearby, we'd get to see you all the time."
"Heh, not sure I want that," Korra laughed, shoving Jane on the arm.
"What don't you want?" Katara inquired blindly, coming into the kitchen from the living room, where the others were watching a Christmas comedy.
"Oh, ha. The Irish one here says there's bar near your school that needs new management."
"Oh?" Katara cast a curious glance to Jane.
"Yea, the Treetop," Jane quickly confirmed. "Sneers got the boot. Fuck, he got arressted," she added with a satisfied chuckle.
"Really?" Katara was instantly intrigued.
"The whole Freedom Fighter op is done. Over."
"Wow...That's...great. How did you find out?"
"It was in the newspaper," Jane was fast to explain.
"Oh, wow." Katara nodded, crossing her arms thoughtfully.
"Wait, say what now?" Korra mumbled, lost.
"What happened?" Katara asked, brows furrowed.
"Uh, well, the paper said some serious shit went down. Shots fired, whole nine yards."
Katara's eyes popped wide.
"Whoa...W-well...God, is everyone OK?"
"Er, I-I'm not sure, some got put in the hospital, and...-"
Katara glared at Jane with concern with a look that expressed fear for Johnny's safety.
"Johnny got...pretty messed up," Jane sheepishly admitted.
"My God, I'm sorry," Katara murmured, rubbing Jane's shoulder.
"Who are we talking about?" Korra firmly demanded with impatient.
"Oh, the Freedom Fighters, they used to be this gang that hung out at the bar all the time."
"Yea, Jane used to be one of them," Katara pointed out. "Good thing she left..."
"Yea, no kidding," Jane sighed, feeling queasy at maintaining a veil of ignorance about the entire thing. Perhaps she should've been more careful about bringing the whole thing up and waiting until Katara wasn't around. Too late to take it back, though.
"Whoa, wait...This the same gang that...-?" Korra gave cautious pause.
"Yea, my ex," Katara mumbled with dismissal, filling in Korra's blank.
"It's how I met Kat," Jane explained solemnly.
The television teamed up with laughter from the next room to interrupt their conversation.
["PUT DAT COOKIE DAHOWN! NOW!"]
"Whoa, don't get between a man and his cookie," Toph giggled.
"Yea, no kidding," Sokka agreed.
"Sounds like he cares more about the cookie than his wife," Aang observed, humored.
Katara lingered her attention on their banter in an effort to avoid confronting her memories.
"So, erm...About the bar, then," Korra poked in, setting things back on track. "I should call this guy, you're sayin'?"
"Totally. Couldn't hurt. Would you really wanna make the move, though, if you got it?"
Korra balked at Jane's concern.
"Listen here: I'm sick of this place I'm working at these days. Retarded hours, psycho customers, blow-hard boss...And I can't find a God damn opening anywhere around here. Skipping town wouldn't hurt a bit. Fuck, probably would be a good thing."
"Have a history you're trying to get away from, too, huh?" Jane theorized with an observant glance.
"Maybe," Korra conceded with a shrug.
"Heh. I know how that goes...Let's go hop on one of the computers, look up the guy's number for ya."
"Let's do it up." Korra strolled out to the living room to ask Aang if they could borrow his laptop.
"Hey, uh...Kat?" Jane tapped her friend on the shoulder, stirring her out of her stupor. "I'm gonna go help your cousin and crap. You, uh...need anything?"
"Huh? Wh-...No, I'm fine." Katara gave her a perplexed glance, as if to ask what it is she looked in need of. She briskly pushed it aside. "Yea, go ahead and help her."
"Go take a seat or something," Jane eased. "'Stead of standin' around the kitchen staring into the next room like an idiot." She slapped Katara's back as she took off, and Katara smiled warily.
"Yea, come watch the movie with us," Aang called out to her.
Katara gave in and entered the living room while Korra and Jane scurried upstairs. Toph was on the recliner while Sokka and Aang sat on the couch with Hakoda. Hakoda rose up with a yawn and passed by his daughter, giving her an affection pat on the arm.
"This old man needs his sleep," he groaned. "Try not to stay up too late tonight, guys. I've got an early start tomorrow."
"No problem, Dad," Sokka assured. "We'll head to bed as soon as this movie's done."
"Good night, everyone." Hakoda waved as he entered the hall where the stairs rested.
"Good night, Dad."
Katara plopped herself down inbetween the boys and ignored the ongoing film for a few seconds to relish the moment: it was like good old times the year prior, the four of them and a movie - Toph was even off to herself, just like she had used to be in the earlier days. It had been a year since the blind girl had joined this group of theirs, and while a lot had changed, the past few weeks had seen a lot revert to the way they had once been. Katara couldn't help pondering the possibilities of what another year could rearrange.
- Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 -
"Say what? I've been...-" Toph's jaw dropped. "We can drink out here?"
"Uh, yea," Korra muttered with a shrug. "Why not?"
"I thought we weren't old enough!"
"Didn't you just turn, like, twenty?" Sokka recalled.
"Oh, ha." Sokka chuckled and nodded his head up at Korra. "Down there they have to be twenty one to drink."
"Shit, that's retarded..." Korra rolled her eyes. "OK. We're going out tonight, and I'm gettin' everybody some drinks. That'll be my Christmas present to all you."
"Sounds good to me," Toph cheered.
"I'm down," Jane concurred with a grin.
Katara, hiding in the back of the crowd, scowled at the prospect. The age for drinking in their region meant that everyone present was officially legal.
"Let's go, then," Sokka encouraged calmly. "You comin', Sis?"
"I think I'll go, too," Aang decided after some hesitation. With affirmation, he set down his sketchpad and wandered to Toph's side, clutching her hand. Her excitement was diluted at their contact and she calmed herself with a sullen sigh. Katara got the inkling that Toph wasn't expecting Aang to come and his presence made her feel less excited about it.
"You're not going to stay here alone, are you?" Hakoda skeptically wondered from the kitchen while everyone shuffled into their coats. "Go on, Katara."
"But...Dad," Katara grumbled, leaving her brother's side and sneaking to her father in the adjacent room. "You...You're OK with this?"
"Why shouldn't I be?"
"Be-because-...Well, it's-...What about...-?"
"Katara." Hakoda gave his daughter a quick hug. "Your brother's learning to cope with it. I think you should, too. Go out, you'll have fun."
Katara shrugged and offered a nervous smile.
"Sure...Y-yea, I'll...give it a shot."
"Ha," laughed Toph. "She means literally."
Katara's eyes dulled at the comment. She had no intentions of drinking any shots, she simply wanted to be a part of the social event. As Katara sighed to herself and trudged behind the group that was piling out the door, Hakoda bid them farewell.
Since Akiak was a pretty small town, the bar that Hakoda had suggested Korra visit was within walking distance, so the group made smalltalk as they trudged through the bitter winter evening. Sokka made sure to point out that they had yet to watch through the "proper" Christmas films and bragged of how he still had VHS tapes containing the 60's classics "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman," while Katara pointed out that if they were going to watch those then "Winnie the Pooh and Christmas, Too" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" were musts, as well.
"If we were Winnie the Pooh characters," Jane theorized, "then Katara would be Rabbit."
"What?" Katara whimpered.
"You know it's truth," Jane countered, squeezing Katara at the hip and smirking at her blush.
"That makes me Tigger, then, doesn't it?" Sokka boasted.
"Then Aang's Piglet," Korra teased.
"Hey, Piglet is awesome," Aang contested. "Don't diss Piglet."
"Well, who am I, then?" Toph demanded.
"Gopher," Sokka decided quite quickly. "Obviously."
"The guy who whistles when he talks?"
"Hm..." Toph frowned, clearly confused.
"Korra can be Roo," Katara concluded, "And if I'm Rabbit, that makes Jane..." She slyly tapped at her cheek. "...Kessie."
"Who the fuck is that?"
"Why do I feel like I'm being mocked?"
"Who's Kessie?" Aang wondered.
"Are you making up Winnie the Pooh characters?" Sokka called her out.
"No way!" Katara defended. "It's not my fault none of you are up on your Pooh lore."
"Good God," sighed Sokka.
"Hey, don't even give me that," snipped Katara competitively. "You had your...your Digimon obsession, and your-"
"Hey, I grew up when Digimon stopped being cool."
"Winnie the Pooh never stopped being cool," Katara defied with a boisterous "Hmph."
"What about a Charlie Brown Christmas?" Aang inquired.
"Have that one, too," Sokka complied. "Of course. Another classic."
"The only Christmas cartoon I ever liked was the Grinch," Korra scoffed.
"Have you covered, as well."
"What, do you collect kid's movies, or something?" Toph accused with amusement.
"I did when I was a kid," Sokka clarified. "No use throwing away perfectly good films, you know. What about you, then?"
"What about me?"
"Didn't you have any Christmas stuff you liked as a kid?"
"My parents weren't exactly big on getting together around the TV with me, for obvious reasons." She suddenly bit with a defensive tone.
"Er...Y-yea, sorry," Sokka eased. "No worries, we'll introduce ya to some good ones."
"A lot of the classics have lots of music," Katara tossed in. Toph sighed at this, blowing her bangs from her face.
"We take a left here?" Korra probed, slowing to a stop at the street corner they reached.
"Yea," confirmed Sokka, pointing out their destination in the distance.
"Ya know what I need to do?" Korra randomly threw her thoughts out.
"What's that?" Jane took the bait.
"I need to go fucking snowboarding."
"Oh yes. Hell yes, I do."
"Why, do you?"
"Baha, like hell I do," Jane chuckled. "I've never even been on a mountain, or...snow...boarding place."
"You're missin' out, man."
"I have to agree with Korra, for a change," said Sokka. "There's nothing quite like the icy outdoors."
"You Canucks are fuckin' crazy to live out here," Jane belittled with a shiver.
"Yea, it's cold," Toph concurred. "Like, more cold than PA. I'm not a fan."
"We gotta get some spirits in you kids," Korra taunted. "That'll warm ya right up."
"Kids?" Toph questioned with skepticism. "Aren't you just a few years older than us?"
"Hey, while all you have been takin' classes and livin' in dorms, I've been out in the real world makin' my way," said Korra testily.
"Come to think of it," Aang once again tried to break the tension, "Korra, how come you're not spending Christmas with your family?"
"I am, Aang. Hello?" She spread her arms to her cousins.
"No, I mean...Like, your parents."
Korra shrugged and turned her head back to the sidewalk.
"They live too far away," she explained simply. "Over toward the west coast."
"Oh, wow," Aang muttered. "How'd they end up over there?"
"Once I graduated high school, I was ready to tear it up, take care of myself. Guess they...had plans elsewhere." She stared up at the sparse street lamps they passed.
"You always did need space," Katara sympathized.
"Ain't that the fuckin' truth?" said Korra quietly in recognition. "Enough about that. We're here," she announced as they approached the steps to the bar.
"Woot-woot," Sokka chimed with glee. "Time to cut loose."
"Noooo, no-no-no," Katara moaned as she shook her hand, her head spinning. She rested it in her arms on the counter and sighed warily.
"Bahaha, we've finally done it," Korra declared pridefully, setting down the glass she had been trying to push on her cousin.
"Whudwee doo?" Jane wondered from Korra's left, scratching her scalp roughly.
"We got Kittie-Kat drunk," Korra affirmed, nodded her head to her cousin on the opposite side of Jane.
"So freegin bawss," Sokka cried from Korra's right. "How...-? Howzit do it?"
"Howz...-" Sokka waggled his finger. "Wit da drunk. Howz it get drunk?"
"I'm...I'm not drunk," Katara insisted, lifted her red-faced head from the counter with a huff. The world seemed constantly off-balance by just a bit - enough to make walking require effort.
"I fuggin am!" Toph squealed with a maniacal giggle.
"Yes. Yes, you are," Aang patronized her with a gentle shoulder pat. He seemed to be the only one who was clearly sober, having only taken a single drink a while back.
"Twinx. Yo. Yo, Twinx," Toph pushed at his arm, gripping it tight. "I ever sed how bewtifool yer eyes werr?"
"Hahaha! Awwwww, fuggin' kiddin' dood. I can't...seeeee anything! Geeeezz, idiot..."
"Drunk dohn feel so bad, rite?" Jane encouraged Katara, nudging her knuckle on Katara's arm. Katara smiled sheepishly, running her hand through her hung down hair.
"It's, uh...It's different," she admitted. "Not as...Um...It's not so bad as I thought it'd be..."
"You really have never been drunk before, have you?" Korra realized.
"Haha, nope. Nope..."
"The hell, woman? Why not?"
"I just...-" Katara shrugged, her eyes drooping as her head bobbed around slightly. "-...ya know. Never drank enough. At...at once, I mean..."
"You're a pansy, you need girlie drinks," said Korra. "Some fuckin' flavored vodka. That's what you drank. That's your weakness."
"Heh. I...guess so," Katara admitted.
"I liek drung Kat," Jane's raspy voice concluded. "Yer all...reelax and shit."
"Pff. I'm...freakin' dizzy, I don't have a choice," Katara belted out, humored by herself.
"Myyyy lil' siss is grownupp!" Sokka wailed. He choked out dramatic sobs. "Sheez founduh joyz o' booooze."
Katara felt a pang of guilt form at his words from within her somewhat inebriated stature. Even in her slight stupor, she couldn't understand why her brother could go from being so dead-set against alcohol to encouraging his sister and friends to become intoxicated.
"Aang!" Korra shot out her index his way, her movements a bit slow and off balance. "What's this? Huh? You don't look drunk at all."
"Errr, I-I'm doing fine," Aang shakily replied.
"Naww, come on, we're here to have some fun, Kid."
"I am," Aang insisted firmly.
"He's happy," Katara assured Korra. "Just...leave him be."
"Mehhh, you wimps..."
"Oooooh," Jane suddenly hooted, dredging up her cell phone. "Kat-Kat-Kat...Kenya texx?"
"Texxin', how good kin ya texx when yer drunk? Eh?"
Katara followed suit and got her own phone out. She opened it up.
[woooooooo yrr fruunkl]
Katara burst out a laugh at Jane's illegible words.
"Wh-...What is this?" She chortled.
"Iz me cheern ya on..."
"OK. OK." Katara shook her head and navigated her buttons to form a text herself. She focused and managed to type out a complete sentence with no errors, just as she normally could...It was just a lot more difficult when her hands moved like they were weighed down. "There...I can still...text right," she bragged.
"Oh, shoot," she spat, slapping herself in the head.
"I just...told everyone on Facebook that...that I'm drunk," Katara sheepishly mumbled, hand over her eyes.
"How is it that the Irish girl can't hold her liquor as well as Kittie-Kat can?" taunted Korra.
"Heeeyyy, yeaaa," Sokka chimed in. "Are you suuuure yoor drunk, Siss?"
"Pfff..." Katara nodded, still clutching her head as it stung for a moment. "I'm...sure as hell not sober..."
"Ha! HA! HAHA!" Toph trilled. "Shoogah-Queen said a bad werrd! Hoohoo..."
"Shut up," Katara giggled with embarrassment. "You guys are a bad influence..." She gestured her hand around herself.
"Mohsly mee. Mohsly I am," decided Jane, pointing to her own collarbone as she sucked down another shot.
"Yea, mostly you," Katara laughed. "A hell-raising ruffian," she referenced an earlier conversation with a sly smirk.
"Whhrrr," uttered Sokka, scratching his fuzzy chin as she eyeballed Katara cautiously. "Shee duzz seem pritty relaxxed..."
"Yea, she must be a bit smashed," Korra agreed with him. "How is she holding it down better than you two, anyway?"
"Aapphhhhblll," Sokka spat - literally. "I've...bin dringen sooo much moar...Helloh?"
"Yeh, yeh," Jane agreed. "I been...takin' shotz, n' shit..."
"I've only had three drinks," Katara held up her fingers.
"You drank 'em fast," Korra pointed out.
"They...tasted good," Katara squeaked with a shrug. Her sight blurred even more and she planted her head back into her arms on the counter.
"Sweetniss needz sweetniss in'er drinkies," said Toph, slamming her empty bottle of stout on the wood.
"K-Katara, you OK?" Aang checked.
"Mm?" Katara rotated her head to look up at his concerned face. In her leaning down on the counter her body had tilted over toward him, and he seemed bashful at her proximity. This hadn't been her intention, so she corrected herself and scooted over to the right until she seemed straight. "I'm just...really dizzy," she mumbled dismissively.
"We needa make ya morre dizzeh," Jane grunted.
"Noooooo," Katara whined playfully.
"-way more than you."
"Whuuuh?" Sokka growled. "No way. Noooo way..."
"Face it, Sox, I can hold it down better 'n you."
"You drunk-dialed your girlfriend yet?" Korra picked.
"Psshhh...Dat...is a grate idea..." Sokka slyly tapped his finger against his nose and pulled out his phone.
Katara's attention was pulled back to her left.
"...Noo, no...I meeeen it. I'm...so fuggin' sorry," Toph was near bawling, her arms wrapped around Aang's waist. "Gawd, luv yoo so much...'M a fuggin' bitch...I am..."
"H-hey, it's...it's OK, Toph..." Aang rubbed the back of her neck solemnly.
"'S not okayy. How kin...-? Fuuuckkk. Imma worss gurlfrend ever...fuggin'...urgh." Tears were building in her eyes, while Jane and Korra laughed at the message Sokka was leaving on Suki's voicemail.
"Everybody messes up sometimes," Aang comforted with a sigh.
"Argghh, so sorry, Baybe...so fuggin' sorrie..."
Katara admired their moment of bonding, her hope for them rekindled. They were still trying. That was more than others in their position would've done. A surge of snickers brought her back to the right, where Sokka chirped out his farewell.
"'Kay, I luv yoo bai-bai~" He hung up and let his own laughter spill out.
Katara smiled at her brother's foolishness and rested her head back down with a peaceful sigh. This really wasn't so bad. Maybe not something she'd want to make a habit of, if only for the sake of those around her having less self-restraint, but...This was fun.
- Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 -
[Facebook - Katara Kesuk]
[Katara Kesuk would like to prove that she is perfectly capable of texting complete sentences while intoxicated.]
[12 hours ago]
[Korra Kesuk, Jane Fitzpatrick, and 6 others like this.]
[Hakoda Kesuk - Sounds like you had fun after all right?]
[3 hours ago]
[Katara Kesuk - -^_^- Maybe... ]
[1 hour ago]
[Suki Kyoshi - haha, tell your brother he's a complete idiot. now it makes sense.]
[1 hour ago]
[Tylee Moretti - wooooww did you get drunk? for reals?]
[47 minutes ago]
[Sokka Kesuk - Tylee Moretti She sure did. ;D Suki Kyoshi If it makes you feel any better, I meant every word.]
[43 minutes ago]
[Suki Kyoshi - how would that make me feel BETTER? ]
[34 minutes ago]
"I already did my Christmas shopping," Katara pridefully remarked with a wink. "I'm all set."
"Aagghhh," Jane growled. "I haven't been able to do most of mine yet..." She scratched her head in contemplation. She'd only gotten Katara's present so far, but she wanted to get the others something, too. "What about you, Aang? You need to go do shopping?"
"Nope," Aang calmly responded from the recliner, drawing away. He clearly wasn't just scribbling this time because he was using his fancier pencils. Prior to his drawing, he'd asked Korra what her favorite animal was, seemingly out of thin air, so Jane had a pretty good idea of what he was doing.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Sokka shouted along with the snowman on the television.
"You fuckin' memorized all of these?" Toph picked on him.
"I could take you," Katara offered to Jane, sidestepping the conversation Sokka and Toph were having.
"Sure," Jane immediately agreed. "Sounds good."
The morning had consisted of lots of water drinking to help alleviate the varying degrees of hangovers the group experienced. Aang was entirely free of this burden, naturally, and by now the only two still feeling the effects were Sokka and Korra, the latter of whom was taking a shower to wake herself up. Katara finished off her coffee and nodded her head to Jane.
"We can head out in a few minutes, get it out of the way."
"Make sure you're not out too long," Hakoda advised. "Your grandmother will be here this evening."
"Yea, no problem. We should be back in time," assured his daughter. "Anyone else need to go out and get stuff?"
"I'm set," Sokka called.
"Actually..." Toph crossed her arms thoughtfully. "I, uh...haven't gotten everything yet."
"OK," Katara was quick to agree. "Then we'll make it a girl's day out."
Jane didn't approve of this but wasn't going to make waves. If Katara was willing to go out to a bar, then Jane was going to be willing to go out shopping with girls and...crap like that. As long as no nail-painting was involved.
"So, yea..." Toph took a bite of her fast-food french fries. "I've had his ready since Thanksgiving break..."
"That sounds...really sweet," Katara cooed, sending Toph her encouragement. "I'm sure he'll really like it, Toph."
"Yea..." She sighed with a sullen slump, leaning her head against the window in the backseat.
"So what are you gonna do about it?" Jane asked. There was a moment of silence with no reply. Katara gave Jane a quick sideways glance of confusion. "About Aang," Jane clarified. She laughed through her nose. "I mean, you really fucked things up, Dead-Eyes..."
Toph's expression hardened.
"Did I ask for your opinion?" she snarled. "It's none of your business, back the hell off..."
"You don't know what you're gonna do," Jane concluded. "You better get your ass in gear soon, then, or he's gonna have no reason to stick around."
"Jane..." said Katara with disapproval.
"You have some shit you've been meanin' to say?" Toph barked back.
"Guys, come on, let's not-"
"No, let's," Toph hissed. "I know you're all talkin' about me behind my back, you oughtta let it all out."
Katara sighed, her fingers adjusting around the steering wheel of the car while Toph munched more of her fries down.
"We're talking because you fucking cheated on Aang," Jane snapped. "And I'm sorry you can't see it, but he's heartbroken."
"I know that! You think...that I don't know that?"
"Then stop trying to pretend like nothing's wrong and do something about it!"
"I'm trying! OK? Christ!" Toph shook her head as she dwelled on her thoughts. "I mean, what am I supposed to do? Huh?"
"Show him that you're still interested, maybe?"
"The hell does that mean?"
"I think what she's talking about," Katara butted in as gently as she could, "is that you seem to be keeping Aang at a distance. Like you don't want to be around him. He's been trying to...well, you know...initiate. Things. And it's like you don't want any of it."
Toph winced at this truth being shoved in her face.
"Gah...It's hard, I don't-...It's so damned difficult. I can't stop thinking about how I've hurt him..."
"I know you feel guilty, Toph," Katara sympathized. "But if you keep trying to avoid that, you're going to avoid him, and he's going to give up..."
Toph huffed and went about her eating.
"I'll level with ya," said Jane. "I'm pissed at you. OK? I thought you were better than that. I've been cheated on. Dumped his sorry ass the second I knew."
"Jet?" Toph guessed.
"Yea," Jane grunted. "But Aang, that guy's a...God damned nice guy. He should've kicked you to the fuckin' curb by now. But he didn't. You need to be working your ass off to show him that he's not making a mistake by giving you a second chance."
"I've kinda got a lot going on right now," Toph snapped. "It's not so easy."
"Don't even give me that," Jane countered. "Don't act like you're the only one who has to deal with shit. We all do. Grow up and get on with it."
"Toph. I'm serious. Listen, I don't like having reason to want to punch your face in. You're...cool. Your whole...being 'you' thing. And not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks. That's sweet. I dig it. But sometimes you can't pull that shit. If what Aang thinks does matter, then you gotta prove it."
"W-well...Maybe if Aang told me what the hell was going on with him I'd know what to do..."
"Toph, Sweetie..." Katara glanced at her frustrated face through the mirror. "I think Aang feels like when he tells you how he feels, you just...put him down."
"What do you mean?"
"Like...W-well, I mean, you're always making fun of him for...for being a 'pansy,' and...and things like that..."
"That's...-! He needs to...man up a bit! I mean, I don't get his deal, he gets all fuckin' wishy-washy any time I get anywhere near his schlong. What kind of guy avoids that?"
"Toph, how could you say that?" Katara sighed. "After what he's been through?"
"I just...ugh. I don't get why that would stop someone from...-" She trailed off.
"You don't get it, do ya?" Jane growled. "Ya know, I see it now. You're the kind of girl who's always on top, huh?"
Toph's face turned pink and she frowned.
"Yeaaaa. Ha. Yea, you're one of those. You don't get what it's like for him."
"Oh, like you do?"
Jane paused, her teeth grinding together as she settled herself from bursting out.
"Yea, I think I do. I don't know...exactly what the guy's gone through...Because if that's my business, then I'm sure he'll tell me. But I don't need him to tell me to know what it's like."
"What are you talking about?"
"All right, Toph. I'll tell you. But not a God damned word to anyone else, OK?"
"I was raped," Jane bluntly explained. "That kind of thing, that...changes how you feel about that stuff."
Toph's mouth was slightly agape now.
"Fuck," she mumbled. "I...didn't know..."
"Now ya do. I'm tellin' you this because I know how hard it can be when you're with someone who doesn't give you space, who tries rushing you into that crap."
"But...I've been...trying really hard to be patient..."
"Toph, you've been, just...-" Katara bit her lip and considered how to phrase this. "You're either hot or cold with him. Either you're pushing him too much or you're keeping him away. He tries to be affectionate and you just...reject it."
"He does the same thing!" Toph objected.
"I-I know, I'm-...That's what I'm getting at."
"I've got needs, ya know? I can't be...putzin' around forever."
"Yea, clearly," Jane bitterly remarked. "And ya put your needs before his."
Toph puffed out angrily, her head bobbed.
"It feels like we're running on different engines," Toph grumbled. "Whenever I'm ready to go, he needs a pit stop, and...when he gets in gear, I'm outta gas."
"Not on the same wavelength," Katara commented.
"Exactly...I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do?"
Jane shrugged and shook her head, while Katara drummed her fingers along the steering wheel.
"Maybe...-" Katara squirmed through her words hesitantly. "I don't know, Toph...I-I mean, have you considered that...that maybe this isn't...working...?"
And here she was, presenting to Toph the same notion she'd brought to Aang's mind.
"Sometimes," Toph timidly admitted. "But I'm not gonna just give up. That's for losers."
"R-right, I wasn't...meaning to say that...-"
"You think we should break up or something? That's bullshit, Katara."
"No, no, I didn't mean-"
"You love someone, you fuckin' work it out. You stand your ground."
"Y-yea, that's...what you two should try doing."
"Just a second ago it sounded like you were saying somethin' else," Toph testily observed.
"I know, I'm sorry...I was just...bringing up the possibility, because...W-well, sometimes there's things you can't work out...Right?"
"This ain't like that," Toph insisted. "If Twinkle-Toes didn't think we could fix this, Jane's right - he woulda took off by now."
"Of course, he's...a great guy. He wants to make things better, too," Katara hastily agreed, regretting her decision to bring up the possibility. "I just want to see both of you happy, that's all."
"I don't see how breaking up would make us happy..."
"If you're so fuckin' determined about it," Jane cut back in, "then follow your own advice and do something about it."
"That's great, Toph."
"What do I gotta do to get you two off my back?" Toph confronted. "I'm fed up with this soap opera bullshit."
"Maybe tone down the attitude," advised Jane. "Face up to your mistakes, be a God damned grown up."
"Toph, I hate to say it, but I'm with her. You've been...really acting immature, and...saying a lot of hurtful things lately."
"Is this about that God damned birthday party?"
"No, Toph. Urgh. See, this is what we're saying!" Katara slapped the steering wheel in frustration and had to let her foot up on the pedal as they dipped over the speed limit. "You need to turn everything into this, like...personal battle. Yes, OK? I was ticked off about the birthday thing...I put a lot of time and work into that, and it was...-"
"You just shitted all over it," Jane concluded.
Katara sighed but nodded.
"Yea...It really got on my nerves..."
"OK," Toph complied. "I...was in a pissy mood, and...maybe I shouldn't have been such a bitch. I'm sorry."
"I appreciate that," said Katara with some relief before continuing. "But, Toph...this is way more than that. It just seems like you're practically trying to start fights with everyone, and you're always passing the blame."
"I guess," said Toph begrudgingly.
"And it's like...it isn't all your fault, you are going through a lot, and we know that. What makes it so hard is that when we try to help you, you bite our hands off..."
"That's because I didn't ask for anyone's help. I don't need anyone taking care of my problems."
"That's...fine. Then I...won't try helping you, if it's such a freaking problem..."
"Katara," Toph snorted. "I meant, like...I'm trying to take care of myself, I'm sick of feeling like I need to rely on everyone all the time."
"Part of being an adult is knowing when you do need others to help you," Katara advocated.
"Thanks for the lesson, Mom."
"Toph...Drop it, OK? Drop this tough act. For five seconds. Just hear me out."
"...Go on, then. Say what you gotta say."
"We all love you, Toph. I know it's hard, your family's...kind of gone. Aang knows what that's like."
"I know what that's like," Jane added.
"Right. And me and Sokka, we've lost some family, too. We get it. That's why we're this...tight group, you know? We have each other's backs to...I don't know...to compensate, I guess."
"Being part of the group means...-"
"-being part of that, too," Toph finished Katara's oft-recited line.
"Right. I mean, we're all...still learning."
"I sure as hell still am," Jane sympathized. "I'm used to only lookin' out for myself, this whole process has been...odd."
"What I'm getting at, Toph, is that if you need us to do something - or need us to not do something - you need to be more open about it, instead of just...barking at us when we screw something up. That goes double for Aang, because I know he's not feeling too great about all of this, he's lost."
"It's like you've given the worst to him because he's the closest to you."
"Yea...I've been quite a heartless bitch," she chuckled to herself. "Every other guy's smart enough to take a hike once they get that."
"Aang is not every other guy," Katara commended her friend with a smile.
"He sure ain't," Toph sighed longingly.
"Things look bleak right now, Toph, but they'll get better. I promise."
"I've been pissed at you, Toph," Jane further explained, "because I see you giving shit to Aang, giving shit to Kat, here. You wanna give me some? I'll take it. And I'll give it back. We're both like that. But the other guys, they don't do that. I'm not gonna sit around and let these goody-two-shoes get dumped on when they don't deserve it. You get that?"
"I get that," Toph repeated her understanding. "I'm sorry, guys," she groaned, grabbing at her forehead. "I don't wanna keep doing this, the arguing and...crap."
"It's going to happen once in a while," Katara knowlingly cautioned. "But I'm trying to be here for you."
"I know, I can tell..."
"And I'm a fellow bitch, I feel ya," Jane laughed.
"Yea, thanks for that," said Toph, humored.
"So let's try puttin' this bullshit behind us," Jane decided. "And then we can save Christmas, or whatever the hell."
"Sounds good to me."
"Here, stuck out your hand so I can fist bump you."
"Ow, that was my hand."
"Geez, Dead-Eyes, you're supposed to be tough."
Katara felt some peace as the clouds in her mind cleared a bit, the banter between Jane and Toph reminding her of earlier days. She realized that from the beginning of the conversation, it had been Jane, in fact, who had brought all of this up, likely with the intent of this very result. She felt pride at how her red-headed friend was changing.
A/N: I'd like to point out that I'm 24 and I only just got drunk for the first time a few weeks ago, so you can probably guess what elements are borrowed from that experience.
Appropriate cover of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac:
Ahnold loves cookies: