"I need you to sit up."
The voice seemed so very far off and yet strangely familiar. Sit up. Bolin knew how to do that. So why did it seem so very difficult?
With a groan, he rolled into a sitting position and immediately found out why. His head was pounding. He imagined a hoard of fire ferrets perched on his shoulders, beating on his temples with tiny hammers. The image made him laugh and the tiny chuckle that escaped his lips only made his head hurt worse. A thick wave of nausea ripped through his cut, like an uninvited house guest who brought along his obnoxious friends. The shivering dry heave that rippled through his body ignited flares of pain through his chest. Bolin screwed his eyes shut, pulling his arms against him and trying to block everything else out.
Hands pressed down on his back and chest, and that familiar voice cut through the pounding once again. "Hold on, let me check your arm."
Holding, yeah. Holding he could manage.
He stayed still, feeling the warmth of familiar breath on his neck. "I think the joint's rolled out of the socket. I used to have issues with my shoulder after I rolled one of my Dad's test cars. Let me see if I can pop it back in."
'Pop it back in?' Bolin's lips formed the shapes but the first word never came. Small, strong hands grasped his shoulder. There was a light pressure and a burst pain before something snapped and rolled into place. He didn't manage holding for much longer. His good arm flew to his shoulder as he rolled back, biting out an inelegant "Ow, ow, dammit! Ow!"
"Bolin. Calm down." That voice was so close, so steady, Bolin found himself obeying without thinking. He even took a breath when commanded. Things seemed to swim less, slowly focusing on the face in front of him.
Asami. He blushed, furiously, realizing she was right there, hands on his shoulders to keep him upright. Maybe, if he was very lucky, the darkness would cover his awkwardness. Then again, even if she saw, she wasn't making any comment.
"How do you feel?" The question was plain and simple, something he could anchor on.
"My head hurts." He reached up slowly, wiping a smear of blood away from his brow. A test, one arm moved and then the other, he added "shoulder's sore, but it feels ok."
She frowned a little, pulling the light up near his face. Her fingers prodded the joint area, and she listened for any pops – or reactions before turning to the cut on his head. Bolin flinched, more from embarrassment than pain as she placed a hand upon his cheek to draw his face to one side.
"Is it bad?" No matter how hard he tried to keep his voice sure and steady he ended up sounding like a pitiful little brother. A deeply disappointed frown etched across his face as Asami carefully parted his blood-matted hair.
"It's the same shoulder you zinged in the semi-finals. I think it'll be fine in time, but try to keep that arm still. I'm not sure about this…" she trailed off. Her fingertips were feather-light, brushing against his scalp. "The cut isn't large." She sounded so calm, so self-assured.
He anchored himself to that voice. "Still hurts." The complaint slipped out and he frowned again, trying to take it back. "Nevermind…"
"Never mind?" she canted her head, watching him. "Bolin, shush. Take it easy. I think we should find Lin and Tenzin."
He sat up, hope surging through his veins. "Did they follow us?" Pain and sickness followed his movement and he found himself dizzily slumping back against Asami's arm.
She clucked her tongue at him, pushing him back into a reclining position. "Yes, they did. But I'm pretty sure they're still above ground." She paused and cast her gaze upwards. "That explosion must have attracted police attention."
"I don't think Chief Saikhan is interested in helping, like Chief Beifong would be." Bolin murmured. The nagging ache in his head was swiftly turning his usual optimism into darkened pessimism. That pessimism seemed to give him clarity of thought. "He'll probably roadblock Tenzin and the Chief."
"We just have to get out." Asami replied, still the buoy in Bolin's foggy sea of thought. "Can you walk?"
He stirred and felt the floor spin like being drunk and trying to get footing on a rickety ship at sea. "Can you give me a few minutes?" his voice was steady but the words were slightly slurred.
"Sure." She couldn't keep the note of worry out of the simple reply. Bolin furrowed his brows.
She snapped her attention towards him, as if he had been shouting rather than whispering. "Are you all right, Bolin?"
He scrunched his nose as if to say he had not intended to be whiny. "Yeah I just…" he trailed off, his cheeks flushing red. "I wanted to say that I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" She leaned closer, her pale green eyes full of confusion. "Why are you sorry?"
Bolin smiled lopsidedly. "Well, I did get you into this, didn't I? Had to go off and try to be the hero."
Her brows knit together. "We're looking for your brother. Bolin, I volunteered. There's no reason to be sorry."
"I mean, you know…" Bolin trailed off as his train of through violently derailed. He found himself rubbing his fingers across the red scarf he had stowed safely in his pocket. "I didn't expect we'd be here, now. Sitting. In a rock."
"Bolin," she chuckled despite the situation, "you're not making much sense."
He thrust his chin in the air. "Hey. I was awesome… and stuff… back there." He waved a hand vaguely towards the direction they had run from. "I think I deserve a little leeway."
She settled her hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly. "You were awesome back there." Silence settled in between them and she stared off into the darkness for a few seconds.
Seconds dragged into minutes. Bolin pushed himself to sit straight. This time nausea didn't follow. His green eyes narrowed and slowly the room went from slightly blurry to crisply in focus. A tiny glitter drifted down Asami's cheek as she closed her eyes. It took a second before he realized those were tears.
"Hey… are you ok?" He reached out, his fingers gently brushing against her cheek. She turned away, letting the darkness melt over her features. Bolin grimaced. "I am sorry, you know. I didn't just say it."
She turned back, choking down the remaining tears with a small stifled breath. "I know." She wiped her eyes, squaring her shoulders as her voice grew stronger. "I never grew up with anybody after my mother died. Only my father. I always thought he'd be there for me, through anything. But you and your brother have done more in a few weeks than he has in years."
"Well, to be fair, I sorta got you into this." He offered a light smile.
"To be fair, I took the keys from you." She returned. His smile was reassuring, she found it slowly mirrored on her own features. "What I mean is we've only known each other for a few weeks. But back there you put yourself on the front line for the both of us. That's more than my father would have done for me."
Bolin's lips creased into a deep frown. "Asami, maybe your father was wrong. I mean you're brilliant and I was only being a decent friend. You deserve a decent friend. You deserve a decent father." He paused and for a moment his eyes went wide. "I didn't mean it like that."
She turned her face to the ground. "No. It's ok. Sometimes I think you're right. I only wish he would see that."
Feeling steady enough to move, Bolin drew himself forward enough to put a hand on Asami's shoulder. "Maybe someday he will. But for now, I swear you have the best friends possible."
For a second she stared at him, tears brimming in her eyes, but refusing to fall. It took a few moments of leaning on the big, goofy earthbender for her to regain her equilibrium, but it worked. There was something solid about his promise that eased the pain she felt every time she thought about what her father had done. When she spoke it came out barely above a whisper. "Thank you, Bolin."
"Don't thank me yet. Let's get out of here, first." To punctuate his intentions he slowly worked his way to his feet, leaning against the rough rock until he was sure his legs would hold him.
She rose to her feet, following him, her dark brows furrowed. "Are you sure you're ready?"
"Right as rain." He offered a convincing smile, despite lingering by the wall for a few more seconds of support. But this time it was an unusually fortuitous wait.
Bolin held up a hand, and Asami stopped in her tracks. The earthbender pressed his ear to the stone wall, and stretched his hands out to feel the vibrations in the earth. Someone was coming. He put a finger to his lips and let out a melodramatic 'shhh!' which earned him a soft cuff on his head from the silent Asami. Taking the hint he followed suit, barely daring to breathe.
"This attack's got everyone riled up. Sato's time is running out. The authorities are gonna swarm this place." A gruff male voice spoke from the other side of the rock.
"Well then he better decide what he's doing with that street rat firebender." A second, youthful voice piped up.
Bolin swallowed, feeling his throat go tight. The first voice grew closer and then slowly passed. "If you ask me he should just haul him to HQ and hand him over to Amon."
"Nobody's askin' you." The voices bantered on and faded.
As the goal asserted itself clearly and painfully nearby, Bolin and Asami shared an unspoken exchange. She wavered a bit, her face going pale at the mention of her father, while Bolin's eyes darkened. Asami was the first to break the silence. "What should we do now?"
Bolin felt the world snap to clarity. The pain in his head dulled to a nagging ache as his feet rooted to the ground. "Sometimes in a match you get one chance. Either you take it and win, or you ignore it and end up in the drink." He caught Asami's gaze and locked it. "I'm not ending up in the drink and I'm not forfeiting."
The earthbender's resolve burned into her mind and she gave a silent nod. "Do you have a plan?"
"Uhm, I was thinking follow them, knock them out with rocks upside the head, bust any prisoners out and run." He bit his bottom lip as if admitting it wasn't the best plan.
Asami considered this for a few moments. "Let's do it."
"I was hoping you'd have a better plan."
"I don't." She admitted extinguishing the light. "At least you have a plan."
Bolin carefully broke the wall of rock that had protected them, pausing to consider their chances. "Right. We should move before we lose them." He took in a breath, his mind racing, and he forced himself into a game face. No use in worrying about what could happen, just move and get the job done.
He took Asami's hand and pulled her into the shadows against the wall as they crept forward, keeping their foes in earshot.
A/Ns: While I am not a shipper by nature, I do believe in a strong Bosami friendship. I can see those two having quite a complex relationship over the next few seasons. I had the desire to play with that just a little bit. .
Also mad props shout out to Flicker of Candlelight who wisely reminded me that yes, indeed, Bolin needs more time to take lead and be awesome.