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Stay Frosty, Royal Milk Tea

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“Sokka, I swear, get your sorry butt out of bed now or I'll leave you at home!” 


Katara banged her fist against the door to the room she shared with her idiot brother, wincing at the sharp pain in her knuckles. Never mind that he was the one with the driver’s license and the car, not her - he knew all too well that she’d leave without him if she had to, license or not. 


He didn’t respond, though. It was a wonder that she hadn’t already woken him up with all the noise she made while getting ready before sunrise, but that never seemed to be able to stir him. Nothing could, it seemed. Mornings were a struggle in their household: Katara woke up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast - a responsibility Sokka could not possibly be bothered to take on - and then spent a good half-hour trying every available tactic to get him out of bed in time to drive her to school on time. He usually pulled through, but whether she’d be late was always in question.


She tried to keep thinking positive, as she always did, but keeping up a front and smiling for the world was getting harder every day. She was tired of listening to Gran-Gran complain about back pains, and she just couldn’t work as much anymore. And though her father, constantly on the road for work, brought in enough to support their basic needs, Gran-Gran’s medical bills were mounting, she knew it wouldn’t be enough to put even one of his children through college, let alone both. Which brought her to her next concern: how was she going to rework her schedule to fit in the part-time job she’d need to fund her education?


Both paying Gran-Gran’s bills and saving for her college fund were non-negotiable, though, so Katara would have to find a way to fit in a few shifts at Jasmine Dragon Tea & Treats around swim team and student government commitments. The kind, aging owner of the Jasmine Dragon, a run-down but homey boba shop near her school, had hired her on the spot after he heard of her family’s plight, so she had the job, but making it work would be up to her. 


“You’re quiet today,” Sokka said, bringing her back into reality as he glanced over from the driver’s seat on their commute to school. He turned down the death metal he played in the car every morning solely to annoy Katara - both because she hated the music, and because he’d spent money that “could have gone towards your tuition!” on the speaker system that he was using to play it. (Aside from the deep irony of such a powerful subwoofer in such a beaten-up car, Katara was convinced they’d both go deaf from the constant pounding of the bass in their ears.) 


“I'm just thinking. Can you drive Gran Gran to bingo after school or not?” 


“Why can't you do it again?” He said, focused on the road. Sokka might’ve been a careless person, but he wasn't a careless driver, fortunately.


“I start working today, remember? Come on, you can just do it after practice. Right?”


Sokka groaned. “Alright, but you better behave at work. No snapping or no losing your temper like you do with me, okay? Can’t lose this job. Not if you wanna pay your tuition.” 


What?” Katara shot him a venomous look. “I have to save!”


“Sure ya do.” Sokka rolled his eyes. She knew he understood, but he’d rather die than admit it. 


“That's rich, coming from you. Besides, isn't that my line? You’re the one who’s always losing your temper.” 


“Whatever,” He replied, parking and getting out of the car as quickly as possible. “See you at lunch, loser.” 


The siblings did not, in fact, see each other at lunch, or at any other given time of the day, although she did steal the football hoodie she knew he kept in his locker before spending an hour in English class, which was always freezing. But she didn’t run into Sokka at lunch - Aang needed help with his biology homework, and she spent the half-hour lunch period trying to explain the Krebs Cycle to her best friend. Aang was often too busy disrupting class to learn much from it, and he often asked his older and infinitely more responsible friend to fill in the gaps; Katara knew she shouldn’t - how would he learn the material if he never paid attention on his own? - but she couldn’t help it. Their friend Toph often joined them on such occasions, snapping up any available opportunity to mock her friends - Aang for his lack of discipline, and Katara for her inability not to be the mom friend. Today, though, she was conspicuously absent, and their little group - usually five, with Katara, Aang, Toph, Sokka, and Sokka’s so-out-of-his-league-it-wasn’t-even-funny girlfriend Suki - was down to two, mostly because sokka and sukki and decided to go join their jock friends for lunch.


"The Sonic down the street is selling 50-cent milkshakes. Wanna go?” Aang asked, his expression full of excitement. Even at fifteen, he had the joie de vivre of a much younger child, and she loved him for it - even if said enthusiasm was applied to cheap dessert.


“You know I’d love to get five flavors of milkshake and mix them all together,” Katara replied, because she knew Aang too well to suspect he’d want to do anything else with such an abundance of cheap food, “but I can’t. I have work.” 

“Oh yeah, I forgot about your new job. You’re so old,” He whined, which made her laugh.


"No, I’m just the closest thing to a responsible adult in my family while my dad looks for another job," she sighed. Aang’s face fell; he always got like this when she mentioned her family’s financial hardships, and she hated it. So she shoved him playfully, which made him laugh in return.


“Well, maybe it’ll be fun,” he told her, ever the optimist. “You love boba, right?” 


“I guess.” Katara smiled tightly. “We’ll see.” 


All she could do was hope for the best.