2: New Friends and New Places
Four Years Previously
The gathering at the funeral the following week was dismally small: the general consensus included herself, Mako and Korra; Toza; Tenzin and the kids; Chief Lin Beifong and a few of her police officers; the other members of the Fire Ferrets, Kurt and Aniyah; plus about twenty screaming and sobbing fangirls who didn't know Bolin as well as Asami, Mako or even Korra did, but still displayed a more prominent show of affection to Bolin than his brother did. He (and the ever-present Korra) arrived late. To his own brother's frigging funeral. Asami wanted to bang their heads together until they fell to the ground unconscious. What was wrong with them?
She had offered to pay for the funeral, feeling it was the least she could do and a good apology for the broken nose and black eye she had given Mako in the hospital, after all. Korra had stared daggers at her for an entire week.
After the preacher had finished giving his speech and Lin Beifong peeled the last fangirl off of Bolin's coffin, Mako stepped up to the podium to give the eulogy. "Thank you—" his voice was so thick that the words came out as a croak. "Thank you all for coming. It means a lot.
"Bolin was my little brother. And he was a good man, a good probender." Turning to Bolin's coffin, he now spoke to it. "Bo, I've known you my whole life, from when you were a little kid bending pebbles to when you could knock the Triads onto their asses when you were sixteen. You never complained—not that much, anyways." The crowd laughed softly, including Korra. Asami didn't laugh. "And I—" he hesitated. "Um, never mind. Anyone else want to say something?" asked Mako, looking like he'd much rather be somewhere else. Asami's mouth dropped open. What the fuck? No. No, no. That is not it.
Before she could stop herself, she walked up to the podium, shoving Mako out of the way, and leaned towards the microphone. "Bolin was one of my best friends. He saved my life from my own father. He didn't have to. He could've left me to die and run for his life, but he didn't. I admired his resilience, his bravery, whether it was saving me, or even out on the probending arena. He was funny and naïve and sweet and kind, and I—" she sniffed, letting a couple of tears wash down her face, "I'm going to miss him so much. And I'm glad that I actually had the guts to say so."
Coolly gazing around the members of the funeral, who stared at her with open mouths, she stated firmly, "Anyone else want to speak?"
Surprisingly, Korra came to the stand. In a simple, winning matter, she spoke about how Bolin had helped her get into the probending arena when she'd snuck there for the first time, how they had eventually become friends, and more. She pretty much gave his entire life story, and Asami was almost impressed until she swiveled around in her chair to see a few reporters taking pictures of Korra by the coffin of one of her friends. And Korra waved to them.
If Asami hadn't controlled herself, the citizens of Republic City might have had to wait for the next Avatar reincarnation.
"May Bolin rest in peace," said the preacher once Korra had gotten away from the podium and back to her seat next to Mako. "And may the Spirits kindly receive him."
"Amen," mumbled the gathering.
Asami made her way out of the funeral to a sniffling girl who looked around twelve years old and sat on the steps of the funeral home. She wore a raggedy tunic and worn, laceless combat boots. Her curly brown hair was extremely dirty and in need of a wash. "Are you alright, honey?" she asked the girl, whose bloodshot blue eyes shot up to Asami quickly.
"Fine, ma'am," she said respectfully. "I'm so sorry, I'll move. I just—" she gulped. "Sorry." She made to leave.
"Wait," Asami called in surprise. "It's alright. Don't worry." She stuck out her hand. "I'm Asami Sato."
The girl nodded. "I know. You're the CEO of Future Industries. And you paid for Bolin's—for his funeral."
"Did you know him, um…"
"Oh, sorry, Miss Sato. I'm Midori." She hesitated. "Um, I dunno if I should bow, or what?"
Asami laughed. "Not necessary. If you want to bow, try it for her." Asami thrust her chin at Korra, who was speaking to a few reporters, making Asami madder than ever. Who invites the goddamn press to a fucking funeral? "You don't have to call me Miss Sato, call me Asami."
"Yes, ma'am—oh, sorry. Asami."
"So, Midori, did you know Bolin?"
Midori nodded fervently. "Yeah! He used to deliver food to my family in the streets. He kept my little sister, Hisui, alive during the winter."
"Where's your family now?"
"Dead." Midori's voice was hard. "Agni Kai's killed them. They kept me alive because I'm a non-bender, but…Bolin always visited me, even invited me to stay the night at his place. His brother, Mako, doesn't like me very much."
"That's not surprising." Asami laughed. "Mako hates anything that stands still long enough."
Midori giggled before staring at her feet. "I'm going to really miss him. He was really nice." Midori's stomach suddenly growled and her cheeks flushed. "Sorry."
Asami suddenly felt very ashamed of the fact that she had eaten out at Quong's Cuisine before coming here and this young girl had to scavenge and relied on Bolin for food. "Midori, you know, it's getting kind of late, and I haven't eaten any dinner yet. Would you like to come with me?"
To Asami's surprise, Midori shook her head fearfully. "I—I can't. I'm too dirty. Someone like you can't be seen with an orphan like me. It'll ruin your reputation."
"Who told you that?" Asami asked in shock, and her rage fueled when Midori silently pointed at some of the crying fangirls. "They said that?"
"I wanted to say hello to them in the streets the night after Bolin let me stay at his place, but they kept walking by me. I thought they maybe hadn't seen me, so I cornered them after the next match to say hi. But she," Midori pointed to the prettiest one, "said that someone like her couldn't be seen with me because it could ruin her reputation and, um, she called me a dirty street brat."
Asami wanted to punch something, but maintained her composure. "Well, not everyone is like them, Midori, I promise you that."
Midori hesitated, and Asami could see she was mulling it over. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," Asami said firmly. "But only if you want to."
Finally, Midori nodded, her blue eyes lighting up with happiness as she followed Asami to her Satomobile. Asami drove to Sabian's Bistro, a small restaurant that she and her parents had always gone to as a young child. The owner and chef both knew her very well, and immediately presented her with a table, bringing the two women plates of seafood and rice and noodles and roasted duck, followed by. Midori shoveled forkfuls of the savory dishes down her throat like it was the last meal to acknowledge her. Asami sipped her complimentary tea, thinking about this young girl. Once the two had gotten back into the Satomobile, the two sat in silence. "How was the meal?"
"It was awesome," Midori said quietly. "Thank you."
"No problem." Asami started the car and began driving. "Where should I drop you off?"
Midori pointed to a heap of refrigerator boxes in alleyway about five minutes later. "That's my place."
Asami was dumbfounded. "Midori, that's not a place. That is a heap of refrigerator boxes."
Midori shrugged, and said almost as an afterthought, "Well, I've lived there for a few years now…"
She almost threw her hands in the air in frustration. "Midori, do you want to stay at my place? At least for a little while," Asami offered. "It's cold out and I don't want you to stay out here for the night."
"Yes," Midori said without a moment of hesitation.
They drove to Asami's house in silence, with Midori fiddling with a thread on her tunic and mumbling a small tune to herself. Once the duo arrived, Asami showed Midori to a guest bedroom, gave her some winter pajamas that she had worn when she was Midori's age. Midori curled up under the linen covers of the bedspread and wiggled there for a while before getting up with the blanket and pillow and putting them on the floor. Asami frowned. "What's wrong with the bed?"
"I'm not used to beds," explained Midori. "It feels like I'm sleeping on a scoop of mashed potatoes."
Asami laughed. "Okay, you can sleep on the floor if you want. I'm going to go to bed too, okay? Call if you need anything."
Midori nodded before lying down under the blanket and closing her eyes. She was out like a light in seconds. Asami turned out the light and snuck out of the room, careful not to wake her newfound friend up. She walked back into her own room and caught a glimpse of the clock and almost leapt out of her skin. Oh, Spirits! I forgot to get him!
A clock in the hallway chimed half past twelve in the morning, the curtains in the hallway swished with the wind coming in from the windows, and a stranger clad in black crept down the hall. Frightened, she swore under her breath in multiple languages. Agni, why did I agree to this? I need to have my head examined, she cursed, adjusting the black ski mask which covered her face.
She flattened herself against the wall when she heard voices echoing down the hallway. "It's too bad, really." She recognized the voice as Sonali, one of the nurses at the hospital. "That boy was too young to die." Sonali's broke on the last word.
"There, there, Sonali," soothed the other, who the stranger also recognized as Isamu Yamato, one of the lead surgeons in the place who had also operated on her friend. "It'll be alright, I promise. I've lost people on the table, I promise you get used to it eventually." Isamu put a hand on Sonali's shoulder. "Come on. Want to go back to my place?"
Sonali sniffled. "Thanks, Isamu." The two friends walked down the hallway, passing her. Once the two were gone, she let out a visible sigh of relief. Thank the Spirits. My presence here would've been a bit hard to explain.
She snuck down the remainder of hallway into the morgue, where she let out a sigh, taking off her ski mask, feeling the wonderful whoosh of cool air down her face. "Doc? You guys still in here?" she whispered.
Someone yawned from the corner of the morgue, flickering on a light. "Miss Sato? That you?"
"Yeah, it's me," Asami whispered. "Sorry to keep you waiting for so long, Kono. I kind of lost track of time."
"It's alright, Miss Sato."
"So, how is he?" asked Asami, leaving no room for chit-chat. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he's okay." Kono stood up and walked towards a locked door near the other end of the room, Asami following. "He's been keeping down food well, and his stab wound healed up quite nicely. We had a bit of trouble two days ago because he somehow pulled out his stitches, but we fixed that up." Kono opened the door, gesturing Asami in. Once her eyes had adjusted to the dim lighting, she saw Bolin resting on a cot, reading the Republic City Herald. Asami instantly relaxed. "Bo!"
His head jerked up and a goofy grin decorated his face. "Asami! Thank the Spirits you've come to get me out of this place. They won't let me have any good food!"
"I've been told that our food is incentive enough to get better," deadpanned Kono. "Mr. Bolin, are you feeling your best?"
"Never better, Doc," chirped Bolin, bringing Asami back to that fateful night one week ago when this entire endgame had started.
/Asami rushed into the warehouse, where Bolin was lying on the cool floor of the warehouse, Lin Beifong at his side, taking his vitals. Mako stood, frozen, like an idiot about twenty feet away from the pile of blood that was leaking out of his brother. "Give him here, I'm taking him to the hospital!" babbled Asami, grabbing him out of Lin's grip. Lin nodded firmly. Her hands were caked with Bolin's blood. "I'll give you a police escort," she said stiffly. It wasn't until half of the officers had left after Lin that Mako actually blinked and moved after the two.
Asami broke any and all speeding limits getting Bolin to the hospital. "'Sami?" he mumbled.
"I'm right here, Bo, you'll be okay," she prattled, making a hard right.
"'Member…the promise," he whispered, his green eyes welling up with tears of pain. "Help me."
/After the confrontation at the hospital and Mako's pseudo-suicide attempt, which almost impressed Asami, she went back into the operating room where Bolin still lay, the heart monitor beeping steadily. "Thanks a bunch, Kono," she said. "I really can't repay you for this."
Kono grinned; the box full of yuans that she had given him rested on the floor next to Bolin's bed. "S'alright, Miss Sato, you already have."
"Is – is he okay?" Asami asked, a bit frightened that perhaps something had gone wrong, perhaps Bolin might die…
"He's alright. Your friend's a fighter, Miss Sato, and he'll most likely be okay in about a week. Then you can come collect him." Kono motioned Asami closer. "Why exactly can't we tell his brother that he's alive?"
Asami sighed. "It's a long story…"/
Kono helped Bolin out of the bed, and he staggered over to Asami, giving her a bear hug. "I can't ever repay you for this, you know, 'Sami," he said seriously. "Thank you so much."
Asami smiled sadly. "It's no problem, Bo. Of course, I still think I've lost my mind, but what else is new?"
Bolin laughed, but didn't say another word until the two were in her Satomobile ten minutes later. "So how long does it take to drive to Ba Sing Se?"
"A few hours, but it's twelve o'clock in the morning, and since I doubt that anyone but us is driving by now, then it'll probably only take an hour and a half," explained Asami, her eyes focused on the road, her hands tight on the steering wheel. "I rented an apartment for you, it's right on the outskirts of the city and close to the school you'll be going to. It's rented under the name Bolin Tanahi, and a woman named Vahni will be there to check you in, okay?"
"College for you starts next week, and you'll be majoring in…" Asami glared at her friend. "Bo, are you even listening to me?"
"You've got around seventy-six percent of my attention, so yes."
"Repeat what I just said to you."
"You rented an apartment for me. School starts next week and I'm majoring in psychology," parroted Bolin with the air of someone who had given this speech a thousand times before.
"Bo, you have to take this seriously. D'you have any idea how much I've put my neck on the line for you? I told Mako you were dead, paid off a doctor, helped Midori—"
"You met Midori?" asked Bolin with a small smile. "Is she okay?"
"Yeah, she's sleeping at my place now," Asami said, thinking of the young, brown-haired girl. "That's not the point though, I actually wanted to help Midori. But still—"
"Kono told me that you had a funeral for me," Bolin suddenly said. He looked a bit sheepish. "Um, did Mako…do anything?"
Asami was silent, but Bolin had to know. "Um, he gave a speech, but I don't know if he, uh, cared?" She sounded stupid, even to herself.
"She invited the goddamn press to your funeral," Asami said furiously. How could anyone have the audacity to do something like that?
Bolin's eyes grew hard and his jaw was set. "Figures."
The two friends sat in silence for almost an hour. Asami, out of desperation, turned on the radio, where a deep-voiced male was singing a jazzy song that fit their situation perfectly. "Hard to be sure, sometimes I feel so insecure, and love so distant and obscure, remains the cure…"
"Bo, I'm sorry that you have to do this," Asami finally said. "It's not your fault that the Triads are bastards and that your brother's a sanctimonious bastard."
"It's okay, 'Sami," he replied. "I mean, this was my idea in the first place. After all, I'm not leaving anyone but you and Midori behind."
"We'll come visit you," Asami said urgently. "I promise, I'll even tell Midori that you're alive."
"Don't feel obligated—"
"Bolin, you're my best friend, I'm not feeling obligated to do anything!" Asami half-shouted. "I want to visit you in Ba Sing Se. Contrary to popular belief, not every girl in the world acts like your brother and Korra."
Finally Bolin grinned, and Asami knew the ice had been cleared. "Thanks, Asami. You're my best friend too."
The sun rose over the horizon as the two rode into Ba Sing Se, and pulled up to a small apartment that looked rustic but cozy. Bolin grinned up at it. True to Asami's word, a tired looking woman that reminded Asami of Eska let Bolin into his apartment and even helped Bolin and Asami lug his things into his new apartment.
"Thanks again, Vahni," Bolin called after the departing woman who left to go get a cup of coffee.
Asami checked the clock on the wall and almost had a heart attack: it was about five in the morning, by the time she got back it would be around seven…what if Midori was awake? Oh, Spirits, how would she explain this to a twelve-year-old girl? "Bo, I gotta go," Asami said tersely to her friend. "I'll come visit you later this week, okay? Should I bring Midori?"
"Yeah, sure," said Bolin, collapsing on the couch. "See you later, 'Sami."
Asami tore out the door, nearly running over Vahni, jumped into her Satomobile and roared off down the street. She made it back to Republic City with time to spare, and as she snuck towards her bedroom for a few quick hours of sleep, she saw Midori still sleeping in her bedroom and let out a sigh of relief. Phew.
She didn't even have time to take off her shoes before collapsing on the bed and letting sleep overtake her.
At around eleven a.m., both Asami and Midori woke up, and the two had breakfast with one another, maids scurrying around the dining room. "Did you sleep well, Midori?" asked Asami, knocking back a cup of coffee. She grinned at Asami. "It was great! I didn't even have to wake up in the middle of night to protect myself from getting kidnapped by the street gangs! How'd you sleep?"
"I slept good," lied Asami, wishing she'd had at least a few more hours. "Like a rock. Listen, Midori, there's something I need to tell you…"
Midori swallowed a spoonful of rice porridge. "What is it, Asami?"