The Other Side of Me

4: Shot Through the Heart

Two Weeks Previously

As the sun set in the distance, Bolin strolled off of the college campus, laughing with Vanek and Tukka, all of whom were waving their final exams around in the air—much to the amusement of all the younger students. "Hallelujah, it's all over!" exclaimed Vanek, collapsing underneath the shade of the trio's favorite tree.

"I know," added Tukka, sitting down next to Vanek. "Feels like forever since this all began." Bolin nodded, sitting down too.

Tukka and Vanek's girlfriends, Madoka and Akari, ran to the boys with grins on their faces also. "Hey, babe," Madoka purred to Tukka, lying down on his lap. The dark-haired, blue eyed beauty was also a psychology major but was a couple of years behind the boys. "How's the exam?"

Bolin cracked up. "You aren't going to get a reaction out of him this week if you keep seducing him, Madoka."

Akari, the redhead with piercing green eyes, smacked his shoulder playfully. "Shut up, Bolin." She turned to Tukka. "So, how did you guys do?"

Tukka grinned. "How'd we do? How'd we do? Akari, we did incredible, our professor even said so." He gave his girlfriend the exam with a flourish. "Milady, check it out."

Madoka's mouth dropped open. "Ninety-five? Tukka, that's awesome!" She kissed him on the cheek. "Great job!"

Akari stole Vanek's exam playfully. "Hey!" Vanek protested with a grin. "Hands off, babe."

"Ninety-seven," read Akari proudly. "Ha, my boyfriend's smarter than yours, Madoka." She punctuated the statement with a wide grin. Madoka rolled her eyes at her best friend. "Yeah, yeah, what about you, Bo?" Madoka asked curiously.

Bolin yawned mockingly. "Oh, I think what I got is acceptable enough." Vanek and Tukka snickered.

"What'd you get, Bolin?!" Akari and Madoka both berated him. "Come on!"

"Yeah, Tanahi, give the pretty ladies the info that they want," cracked Tukka.

Bolin nodded slowly. "Hmm…you really wanna know?"

"Yes!" they shrieked spiritedly, bouncing up and down next to their boyfriends.

"A one-hundred percent," he exclaimed proudly, giving both of them his final exam with the red penciled 100% in the top right hand corner was written in loopy handwriting followed by an Excellent Job. Madoka and Akari's jaws dropped. "Oh. My. Spirits," Madoka said slowly, gazing at the pristine exam, clear of check-marks.

Akari squealed. "Bolin, that's amazing! Congratulations!" She kissed him good-naturedly on the cheek. "We have all got to celebrate this! Guys, Madoka and I are taking you out tonight. I don't care what you're doing tonight—make room for this!" she said happily.

Vanek put his arm around her. "Where're we gonna go, baby?"

Akari raised her eyebrows and pouted her lips in a way that was strangely seductive. "It's gonna be a surprise, Vanek."

"Oh, really?" Vanek continued.

"Ooh, ooh," Tukka catcalled. "Akari, Vanek, there're kids around!"

Vanek rolled his eyes. "Hang on; hold your ostrich-horses, fellows. Tanahi, are you gonna bring that good-looking dark-haired broad—what's her name again? Gadara?"

"Gainika," Bolin corrected, feeling a bit shy talking about his girlfriend of almost a year and a half. "And yeah, maybe. Maybe so."

The two of them hadn't gotten to go out on Bolin's proffered dinner date until almost six months after he'd asked her. On that date, the two of them had learned a lot about each other—Gainika was originally from Omashu, with two brothers and two sisters (Daichi, Masao, Yukiko and Lei, respectively). Her parents had met and had actually fallen in love in Republic City—both of whom were from the Earth Kingdom. She was commuting to a different college not too far away from his own, studying to be an orthopedic surgeon. She was an open book, kind, gentle, and a bit naïve. It was one of the things he liked most about her.

Bolin, on the other hand, had been a bit vague about his life at first. He'd said that he was from Republic City, that he and his brother were estranged, that he'd played on a probending team as the earthbender, etcetera. But as time went on, and his trust in her deepened, he'd told her all about his and Mako's strained relationship, how his parents were dead, how he'd assisted the Avatar in her mission against Amon, and how he'd faked his death and was on the run from his brother, the Triads and the Agni Kais. Gainika hadn't even blinked; she'd simply asked if she could do anything to help him. Bolin had sat across from at a restaurant, frozen, before breaking out into a grin and saying that she already had. He'd even introduced her to Asami and Midori a few times, and they'd hit it off splendidly.

He loved her, every bit of her from her hair to her expressive eyes to the mind-blowing kisses they had shared. Who knew, perhaps someday he'd ask her to become Mrs. Tanahi…

"Bo?" asked Tukka curiously.

Bolin snapped out of his trance. "I'll ask her today, and maybe we can all meet up around seven?" he offered, and grinned when his friends all nodded. "Wicked," he nodded. "I have to go and get my girl, then. See you later."

Giving his friends a wave, he grabbed his final exam and jumped into his Satomobile and drove back to the apartment complex. Bolin parked the car in his usual spot, ran past Kaito and Vahni with a quick hello, stood in the elevator with Asa Kimura making a bit of awkward conversation, before finding himself outside his apartment, fumbling with the keys and cursing under his breath until the door creaked open.

Turning on the lights, he walked over to the phone and dialed his girlfriend's number. After a few rings, she picked up and he grinned despite himself at the sound of her upbeat voice. "This is Gainika."

"Hey, babe, it's Bolin," he said.

"Hi, Bo." He could almost hear her smile through the phone. "What's up?"

"We got our final exams back—I got a perfect score, Gainika."

"Holy Tue and La, Bo, that's incredible! I'm so happy for you, honey!" she said excitedly. "We have got to go out to celebrate!"

"That's what I wanted to talk about, actually." Bolin played with the corner of his final exam as he talked. "Vanek, Tukka, Akari and Madoka are talking about going out tonight, and I wanted to know if you wanted to come too."

"Yeah, definitely!" There was a small pause. "Hey, do you think you can come over now?"

"Probably, why?"

"I need some help—ouch, goddamnit—moving some furniture. Could you help me?"

"Sure, no problem," Bolin agreed easily. "I'll be there in two minutes."

"Thanks a million, babe. I love—" She coughed hard, sounding almost like she was gagging. "I love you."

"Love you too, bye." Bolin hung up the phone, stuck his exam up on the refrigerator, and immediately exited the apartment—but not before grabbing his keys and turning off the lights.

"Gainika?" he asked, opening the door to find his girlfriend lying on the couch. "Hey, babe."

"Hi, Bolin." She smiled, but it looked rather forced. Bolin didn't even have a chance to ask her what was wrong before three men jumped out of the shadows of Gainika's modernly-furnished apartment. Bolin's panic alarms set off a tirade, and his instincts took over, trying to bend something, anything, trying to find some earth…but found nothing.

Then he remembered. Gainika had insisted something a long time ago about not having anything remotely earth-related in the apartment, something about superstition…oh my Spirits.

Two hulking giants of men grabbed him, and as he struggled in their rock-hard grip, the last man, who seemed to be their leader, held a metal pipe in his hands. Bolin immediately understood what was going to happen and thrashed in the grips of the hulks so hard that one of them growled, "Someone knock him out!"

"With pleasure," said the man with the pipe eerily before whacking Bolin across the head so hard that stars were the only thing he saw before he blacked out.

(*) (*)

Bolin moaned, waking up to what felt like hours later. He was in a small room with stone grey walls, a padlocked door, and one tiny window that he couldn't slide out of even if he was greased. Shit. Fuck.

Where am I? He tried to move, only to find that he was handcuffed to the wall and let out a string of angry curse words. Who put me here? It must've been those guys in Gainika's apartment. But why? And who in the ever loving hell are they? He swore furiously. When I get my hands on those idiots, I'm going to kill them. I hope Gainika's okay, though…

"Oh, honey, you never were much of a curser," purred a female voice from the now open doorway. Bolin did a double-take. "Gainika!" He tried to move towards her, only to remember his handcuffs. "Are you okay—" He trailed off, suddenly praying that he was wrong. "No. No, you can't be—"

"Bolin, baby, you've always been so smart," droned Gainika, "and you're right again."

"But you can't be one of them!" begged Bolin, praying that he would somehow wake up from this nightmare. That was all this was. A nightmare. His pulse began to slow down.

"And yet, I am," his girlfriend replied in a sing-song voice. "Sorry." She didn't sound particularly sorry.

"You bitch!" he swore. "And all this time you've been deceiving me, pretending to be my girlfriend! You little fucking bitch!" He glared at her. "I was going to ask you to marry me! Was everything a lie? Is Gainika even your real name?"

Gainika's face turned hard and her brown eyes were dark. "Yes. Gainika is not my real name. It signifies who I belong to."

"Well, what is?" Bolin demanded. "And who the hell do you belong to? What does that even fucking mean?"

Gainika shrugged mockingly. "I'll stand here until you get it, if you'd like."

Beads of sweat poured down his face, stinging his eyes. Suddenly, his eyes flashed as he understood. Gainika smirked. "You've gotten it, haven't you?" It wasn't even a question. She was testing him, mocking him.

Gainika was an anagram, he'd realized. His girlfriend's name was an anagram for one of the most dastardly gangs of his own hometown.

Gainika was an anagram for Agni Kai.

"The Agni Kais and the Triads paid me to…spy on you, if I may," she said, leaning against the wall casually. "I never anticipated for it to go this far…"

Bolin let loose a tirade of angry curse words. Gainika—or whatever her name really was—was not affected. "My, temper, temper," she grinned. "I'll leave you here until morning, my love."

"Don't call me that, you little whore," Bolin snapped in anger. He turned away and missed Gainika exiting his cell and only caught the slam of the door that shook the room. "Bastards, you're such cowards that you have to send bitches like her to spy on me?!" he yelled, feeling for sure that there was someone spying on him.

The reaction was immediate as the dim lighting in the room flickered out; leaving it so dark that he couldn't even see his legs. Fear enveloped the young earthbender as his rugged frame shook. "Wait, not that! I'm sorry! Please turn the lights back on! Please?!"

Crying despite his best intentions not to, he tried to bury his face in his knees and succeeded. He'd been reduced to a whining child once more, just like he'd been on the streets with Mako. He wept in the unrelenting darkness, calling for his friends. "Asami...Midori…Vanek, Tukka…Kaito, Vahni," he sobbed. "M-Mako…anyone…please, please, someone help me…"

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