A/N: Hello again, guys! Now that Amethyst is finally over, I can focus my efforts on this story! Unfortunately though, I'm super super busy now that school has started again, so this won't be updated that often. But, thank you guys anyway for all the lovely feedback you've given so far, and thanks especially to those of you who reminded me that this story existed. :)
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From his seat in a secluded table upon the second story of the club, Iroh casually sipped at his drink, legs crossed and one arm resting upon the back of the booth. From across the table, Asami had her chin propped up on one hand, her other hand drawing lazy circles around the edge of her half-empty martini glass. Their table overlooked the dance floor, but the high walls of their small, secluded seats dampened the heavy bass coming from the ground floor below them. The lights still strobed and flickered with the beats, but the low light emanating from the lamp upon their table changed the atmosphere between them from daring to sultry. Something dark was worming its way into Iroh's chest as he watched the way her neatly manicured finger trailed along the edge of her glass, and despite the fact that he knew she was watching him, he couldn't keep his eyes off of her. Casually, she leaned back, lifting her finger from the glass. His eyes followed, darting up to watch her carefully wet her lips with her tongue. He swallowed thickly and her lips quirk up a bit.
She was teasing him, and he was playing right along with her. All the better to get her to feel more in control. He reached for his drink and took a long drag, trying to drown out the strange curl worming around in his belly. Placing the glass down again, he looked at her.
"Do you always come to places like this?" he asked.
She gave him a thin smile. "Not always."
"Then where do you go?"
She kept his eyes with hers, narrowing them slightly so that her green eyes glinted a bit in the low lighting. "That's my secret."
Iroh shrugged. "Fair enough."
"Now I have a question," she said, leaning forward slightly so that the front of her dress dipped down a bit. Iroh tried not to stare. "We've been sitting here for nearly twenty minutes and I have yet to learn your name."
He gave her a smile. "That's not a question."
"And that's not an answer." Asami took a drink of her martini, catching his eyes again with hers. "What's your name, stranger?"
He lifted his lips a bit, his alias on the tip of his tongue. "Iroh."
She quirked a smile and his heart dropped to his stomach. "That sounds a bit Fire Nation to me."
Internally, he cursed himself for spitting out his name automatically rather than using his carefully stitched together alias. He schooled his features into an indifferent expression to cover his mistake. "My mother was big on traditional sounding names. I'm not too partial on it. I prefer Li."
"That's too bad," Asami said, lifting her drink again. "Iroh's a nice name." Iroh couldn't resist a small smile despite his slip up and joined her with a sip of his own drink. "Now," she continued, setting her drink back on the table with a sharp clink. "How about we end this transparent small talk and get down to grit of things. I'm not really the reason why you're here, now am I, Li?"
He placed his glass down upon the table. "You're sharp."
Her lips lifted fractionally. "I have to be."
He leaned forward. "Alright then, Miss Sato. I'll confess." he said. "I heard from some very reliable sources that you're the one to talk to about getting in on the more… profitable lines of work around here. Even you can admit that times have been tough lately and a man's got to do what he can to get a one-up in the world. So, whatever it is you have to offer, I'm interested."
Through his speech, he watched her expression minutely grow colder. Her eyes narrowed slightly and she lifted her shoulders until he no longer saw the flirtatious heiress girl before him. Now, she was all business and secrets. A woman with a plan, and a deadly sharp tongue.
"Well," she said carefully, folding her hands upon the glossy surface of the table. "Straight to the point, I see."
He gave her a ghost of a smile.
For a long moment, she studied his face, searching for something. A flicker of falsehood, a twitch of an eye. Iroh kept her calculating gaze, hiding his true intentions behind the mask he was carefully weaving together. His fingers tapped lightly against the surface of the table. Asami hummed lightly and leaned forward, hands rising up to rest under her chin.
"Look, stranger," she said with a slightly teasing filter over the edge in her voice. "I'll let you in on a small secret, because I like you. This is not the kind of deal you can just walk into. You have to prove your worth. We only let the trusted into our circle, and quite frankly, I don't trust you."
"And there's no reason that you should," Iroh agreed. "I have given you nothing that proves my loyalty. But," he said, sitting forward. "I'm willing to do what I can to gain your trust."
She eyed him carefully, a suspicious look filtering over her features. "Why?"
Externally, he leaned back fractionally. Internally, he was severely backpedaling. It wouldn't help to have her wary of him before he could do anything worthwhile in this mission. He needed a different approach. Leaning against the leather of the booth again, he lifted his drink, averting his eyes downward to watch the amber liquid swirl around in his glass cup.
"I'm sure you've heard it all before. The world is falling apart. Those on the streets do what they can to survive. The political campaign grows more greedy and corrupt with every passing month. Honestly, I could care less. But something inside me is telling me that something's going to change soon. And I want to be sure I'm on the right side when that happens." He looked up at the beautiful yet calculating woman sitting in before him. "You know what I'm talking about, don't you, Asami Sato?"
Her answering smile was thin and unamused. Despite that, she gave a soft chuckle, her lips pulling up slightly. "I'll tell you what," she said after a moment, reaching to open the small handbag she carried with her. Iroh's eyes followed her hands, watching her sift through her stash of bills, make-up and a folded up switch knife to pull out a pen. Reaching across the table, she gestured for him to give her his hand. He did so with cautious slowness, trying to suppress the spark that seemed to skitter across his skin at the touch of her soft fingers against his. He stared at their joined hands as she held his hand open, the pen biting at his palm as she jotted down a string of numbers in elegant handwriting.
"Call this number," she said, releasing his hand to close her pen. "Tell the man who answers that you're interested in getting in on the business. If he gives you trouble, tell him I personally sent you. He should understand. If you can manage to get on his good side, then we'll speak about this again."
Iroh pulled his hand back to look at the number, quickly registering that she gave him a number that he knew to be connected with Lightening Bolt Zolt. Closing his hand, he looked up at her again. "That's a promise?" he inquired.
She smiled. "Only if you can perform."
He looked down at the number again, reading it again. Already he was memorizing the unique curve to her handwriting. He wasn't sure if that was a result of his training, or the fact that there was just something that was drawing him to her. He looked up at her again.
She chuckled softly. "Don't thank me yet, stranger. It's all uphill from here on."
He quirked a smile, knowing she was right. "I think I can handle it."
She hummed thoughtfully, lifting her martini to finish off the remaining blue liquid left in the glass. Placing the empty cup down on the table with a soft clink, she lifted the olive between two neatly manicured fingers. "We'll see about that."
Catching his eyes, she gave him a slow smile before popping the olive in her mouth. Unintentionally, Iroh's eyes darted down to the dark curve of her lips, watching as they moved with her chewing, her tongue darting out to wet her lips as she swallowed. A knot curled tightly deep in his belly and he forced himself to pull his eyes back up to hers. Her green eyes were dancing in amusement, completely aware of the effect her actions were having on him.
"Well," she said slowly. "This was a pleasant chat, but I'm afraid I have things I must attend to. Thank you for the drinks, though." She began to stand up and it wasn't until she was fully on her feet that Iroh's mind caught up to him.
"W-wait." His voice came out grittier than he intended and he coughed slightly to clear his throat. She paused, handbag over her shoulder and her green eyes glittering in the low lighting. Her silver dress shimmered at the slightest movements of her hips, and Iroh struggled to keep his eyes on her face. "Will I see you again?"
She made a small, laughing sound and her dark painted lips turned up into an amused smile. Unexpectedly, she leaned in close to him, a hand falling upon his closest shoulder as she breathed into his ear. A dark shiver raced down his spine and tightened the knot already pulling in his stomach. He swallowed thickly as her warm breath tickled his skin.
"Don't sound so desperate now, Iroh," she whispered. "You'll see me soon enough."
With that, she pulled away, her hand falling from his shoulder and without so much as a single passing glance, she turned on her heel and walked away. His eyes followed her form until the crowd swallowed her up, but he remained in his seat. Slowly, he pulled himself back together, passing a hand through his hair as he leaned back against the booth. To say Asami Sato wasn't a force to be reckoned with would be a severe understatement. The woman had a fire of her own and was more than aware of the way she affected those around her. Calculating and sharp, he really had no idea what he was getting into when he walked up to her earlier that night. He knew she was beautiful, but he hadn't expected to become so drawn to her. There was something so magnetic about her actions that just drew him in. The thought of it alone sent recursive shivers down his spine.
Idly, he looked at the string of numbers written across his palm again. Somehow, he managed to get what he came for, and while it wasn't the Equalists, it was a step in the right direction. Starting that next day, he would finally put his hard work to use and get cracking down on how this crime syndicate really worked. There was so much he still had to do, but his mind felt hazy and unfocused. The only thing he could really think of was a pair of electric green eyes that seemed to shoot lightening bolts straight through his chest every time they made contact with his. Already he could tell that if anything brought him down in this undercover mission, it would be her. But despite his reservations about how dangerous it would be to become involved with Hiroshi Sato's daughter, he couldn't help but be drawn to her.
Logic be damned, he wanted Asami Sato.
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A/N: Whew. Finally finished it! I did mention that the rating of this story may go up, didn't I? Yeah, keep that in mind. Anyway, we're onto the meat of the story in the next chapter. So stay tuned, and please review! :)