Riches to Rags

Chapter 23

The storm’s getting pretty bad; I’ve just turned the heating up and brought out extra blankets for my two guests. All three of us are watching the television, and when the weather forecast reports that this is the worst snowstorm for several years, I’m pretty sure that all three of us reach the same conclusion.

“Shit Korra, how long are we gonna be stuck here!?” Kuvira asks, whilst absent-mindedly tapping the same key over and over on my laptop.

“I guess it’s a good job I just got groceries. We could be here for days…” I whisper the last word in my most sinister voice.

“Har-har. Very funny. By the way, your shitty laptop is broken,” Kuvira says, slapping the space bar in disdain.

“What? It was working fine, what did you…”

“I was just talking to Bo and the whole damn thing froze, see for yourself!” Kuvira pouts.

I stand up and take the laptop from Kuvira’s outstretched arms. It feels unusually warm underneath, or maybe it’s the room that’s cold in comparison; it’s hard to tell. I sit back down on the sofa and chew on my cheek, pressing keys and clicking buttons to no avail. The screen just sits there, frozen half way through a conversation that I start to read and then quickly wish I hadn’t.

“Grrrr… Kuuuv what the hell?” I growl.

“I can… probably have a look at that…” Asami mumbles. I’m glad to hear her voice. She’s been unusually quiet ever since I put the television on, like she’s afraid of something.

“Be my guest,” I say, passing it along to her, and trying to catch her gaze. As though to answer my silent plea, she looks at me, and I quickly grin at her. I feel the slightest flutter in my stomach when she smiles back at me, and the flutter burns into something brighter when I watch Asami go to work. She has a fiercely focused expression, eyebrows furrowed, whilst she looks underneath the laptop at the service tag.

“Oh, I know this model,” she says, matter-of-factly, and flips the laptop back around, “You might lose some work, is that okay?” she asks, looking at Kuv.

“Work? Hah. I was just talking smut-smut with Bo on skype. That boy is hotter than a volcano blowing up in the sun, I swear, this once time he flipped me over an...”

I cough, “Thanks, Kuv. Too much information.”

Asami doesn’t flinch, still focused on the task in hand. I watch as she holds down a combination of keys, and I lean over to see which they are because this could be useful if I ever need to do the same in future. I slip, and almost fall straight into Asami’s lap, managing to right myself at the last second by grabbing onto the sofa cushion. Asami doesn’t notice, and I breathe out a heavy sigh of relief.

“Okay, it’s booting,” Asami says, then turns the laptop screen towards me and smiles.

“Oh, so you really are a genius?” I say, grinning at her. If she can build cybernetic arms and legs, I suppose this would be nothing to her.

“I wouldn’t go that far. It’s just a simple hard boot. You should probably check for malware in case something sinister caused the freeze,” Asami says. I understand at least half of what she’s saying, though I’m a little transfixed on her lips as she speaks.

“Okay, malware, booting hard, got ya,” I grin, taking the laptop from her and logging in. I hear Asami laughing at my words, and turn to face her, raising an eyebrow, “Something I said?”

“That was just… erm, I mean you were…” Asami suddenly looks a shade pinker than usual.

“Do you two need a moment? Want me to go outside and build a snowman?” Kuvira drawls the words whilst idly kicking her feet in the air, and I shoot her a vicious stare. She’s sunk so far back into the beanbag that she might as well be on the floor.

“Oh, frozen!” Asami chirps, “I love that movie. It’s the last one I watched before… before...”

“Hey, it’s fine. You’re here now…” I try to soothe her, but I can see Asami’s withdrawing back into herself. I figure it’s time for desperate measures. “You know what? They brought out a sequel. And I have it.” I see Asami’s eyebrows lift at the words.

“R… really?” she asks, open jawed.

“Yes, really. Want me to stick it in?” I ask.

Asami nods vigorously, and Kuvira chuckles. Somehow, the laugh sounds dirty, and sure enough when I look at Kuvira, head tilted way back and out of Asami’s view, she’s flicking her tongue at me in a positively filthy manner. I scowl at her, “Kuv, why don’t you stick the blu-ray in?”

“Yes ma’am, right away ma’am,” Kuvira says, rising from the beanbag with a firm salute and then grabbing a case from the shelving unit. She pops open the plastic, eyeing me once more with a smirk, then feeds the disc into the slot. The player accepts the disc hungrily, with a loud buzz, and the TV switches itself to the relevant channel.

“Oh, adverts, hang on,” I say, grabbing the remote and pressing the skip button repeatedly, trying to get past all the stuff that wouldn’t be on there if I pirated the damn movie. I give up eventually and throw the remote to the side, resigned to the fact that we’ll have to watch trailers. Asami doesn’t seem to mind - I gaze upon her face, watching as she visibly relaxes. It would seem that movies put her at ease... that’s good to know.

The movie starts with loud fanfare and music, Asami’s smile deepens, and I feel a little bit lost just watching her.

This… this is temporary, I know it is. At some point, the storm outside will be over, and I’ll have to help Asami find a way out of her situation. There’s still a chance she’ll run, retreat back to the streets. The battle is far from over, there are no guarantees. Yet none of my inner monologue, not one word, explains why my heart glows in my chest every single time I glance at her, nor how I feel a little dizzy watching her lips curve ever-so-slightly into a beautiful smile the very second that the movie starts proper.

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