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Night's Unfolding Arms

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It all happened so fast. Asami knew driving angry wasn’t smart, much less speeding-sixty-kilometres-over-the-speed-limit angry, but she really needed to let off some steam after that disastrous… ugh. Besides, it’s practically midnight; no one’s on this street at midnight.

But then there’s a glaring light and a piercing screeeech and pain, so much pain, and Asami knew speeding on a motorcycle was bound to bite her in the ass eventually, but not like this. Distantly, Asami hears a muted, panicked shout, and she thinks she sees someone running towards her, but she can’t tell through her scratched up visor and rapidly fading vision.

Well, at least she had a helmet on.

The whole world seems to be made of white. White walls and white lights are the first thing Asami notices upon waking up. She turns her stiff neck to get a look of her surroundings, and predictably finds white blankets, a white hospital shift, and, oh, a white cast on her leg. That would explain why she can’t move it. She leans forward to try and touch it, but the moment she moves her shoulder, white hot pain lances through her, and she gasps and screws her eyes shut. Asami doesn’t move, just takes deep, even breaths as the pain fades to a dull throb. At least it isn’t her writing hand. She’ll take her small victories where she can get them.

Something shifts off her right side, alleviating pressure and bringing pinpricks of sensation back to the area. Asami opens her eyes slowly, expecting a numb right arm, but is met with a dishevelled mass of chocolate hair instead. The dishevelled mass grunts and shifts again, just enough to reveal a pair of squinting eyes blinking up at her. Asami gives her a confused look. She’s never seen this girl in her life; what was she doing sleeping at her bedside?

Suddenly, those eyes widen and that head jerks up, and the girl topples backwards on her chair with a shout, a bang of her head against the wall, and a mess of limbs and chair legs. Asami shouts in alarm and bolts upright, reaching for her. She completely forgets about her injured shoulder, and cuts herself off with a sharp “Ah!” Groans of varied degrees of pain echo in the little room.

“Are… are you okay?” Asami asks cautiously, propping herself up more comfortably and peering over the edge of her bed.

The girl groans again, but holds a thumb up. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. Ugh…” Suddenly, she seems to remember something, and scrambles upright again. The chair clatters against the floor and wall as she swears and tries to disentangle herself from it.

When she finally stands so that Asami can see her, Asami is a little stunned. The girl is a complete mess; her shoulder length hair sticks up where she had slept on it, there’s a nasty, purpling bruise on her forehead, and a line of drool makes some of her hair stick to her face. And yet… though she’s clearly tired, her eyes are a beautiful, bright blue, and a pretty pink blush tints her cheeks.

And then Asami realizes she’s staring, and is probably even worse for wear than this strange girl, and she blushes, too.

“I’m so sorry,” they both blurt out at once. “Spirits…” they sigh. Their gazes lock for a second, and then they’re both laughing at themselves, at each other, and at the ridiculousness of the situation. Asami clutches her ribs with her working hand, cutting herself off because of the sudden pain, then whimpers when doubling over stretches her shoulder injury.

Immediately, the girl is by her side. “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” she rushes out. “I’ll heal it up a little more for you, just give me a second…” Glass clinks beside her, and then a pleasantly cool sensation washes over her ribs. It’s waterbending healing, Asami realizes, and she relaxes as the sharp jolts fade, then disappear.

“Thank you,” Asami says. “Sorry I hit you with my bike.”

“Are you kidding?! I’m the one that should be sorry! I ran you over! I literally sent you flying!” She punctuates her point with an animated re-enactment of the accident with her hands. “I’m so sorry; I knew I was going too fast!”

“No, no, it was my fault. Even if you were going fast, you couldn’t possibly have been going sixty over the speed limit.” She winces; saying that out loud made it sound so bad. “I’ll pay for the car repairs and the hospital bills. It’s the least I can do after making you go through that trauma…” She trails off when she realizes that the girl is staring at her with a dumbfounded expression, her mouth completely agape, and has to resist the urge to squirm. “Is something the matter?”

The girl snaps her mouth shut. “No, uh. I just. You nearly died a couple hours ago and now you’re offering to pay my bills? Are you some sort of angel?” She blushes furiously at the last question, and Asami can feel her face heating up a little, too. “I—uh—I mean—are you okay? You looked horrible before I started healing you, and the hospital healers were only able to do so much, and I went straight to check on you after I got discharged, but the healers said they didn’t expect anyone to visit you, and I thought that was just so terrible—you almost died and no one’s going to visit you?— so I stayed the night with you and Spirits, oh no, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry!”

Asami snaps out of her stupor, and wipes maybe a little too aggressively at her eyes. “I, um,” she starts, but then her voice warbles and it’s like the dam that had been holding back her disastrous prison visit, the emptiness of this room, and a year of non-stop work and stress breaks—shatters—and her emotions surge out in great white waves.

“Oh jeez, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” the girl mutters, gathering her up for a tight hug, which only makes Asami cry harder, because how long has it been since someone’s hugged her like this? Her good hand pulls the girl in, and she clutches the back of her navy sweater like it’s a lifeline. She shakes as she sobs, and it’s pathetic, so utterly pathetic, crying into a stranger’s arms like this simply because she can’t even remember the last time someone had held her, had pressed their warm bodies together with sincere comfort. The girl’s reassuring murmurs and stroking hands make Asami feel like she’s seven again and her mother is dead and that only makes the tears come even harder. She doesn’t know how long she cries for, only that when she’s finally done, she feels hollow and tired but also better, much better than before.

“I’m sorry,” she sniffles into the girl’s shoulder. “I ruined your sweater.” She expects some mocking remark about her sudden outburst, or perhaps her ugly sobbing, but the girl—this gracious, blessing of a girl—only squeezes her tighter. She pulls away with a sympathetic smile.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop blabbering and made you cry.”

“You didn’t—“

“I did. It’s okay; everyone needs a good cry every now and then.” Her sentiment is so genuine that Asami starts to tear up again. “Besides,” says the girl, her lips curling into a crooked smile, “I haven’t washed this sweater in a month. It probably stinks like sweat.”

Asami laughs and shoves the girl’s shoulder, albeit weakly, then wipes her tears away. ”Gross!”

The girl laughs, too, and Asami finds herself lost in the way her eyes crinkle in the corners, and the way her left cheek dimples, and it’s ridiculous, really, how emotional this girl has made her in less than an hour, but Spirits… she loved it.

The girl, however, catches her staring. Asami fumbles for a cover up. “You, ah, have a little…” she gestures at the corner of her mouth, and the girl turns bright red and hastily rubs at the dried drool from when she woke up with the back of her hand. She’s so adorably flustered that it makes Asami laugh all over again. The girl pouts a little, but eventually succumbs to chuckles of her own.

“You have a nice laugh,” she blurts out, then blushes again. Asami blinks in surprise. “I mean, um, I’m sorry again that I hit you with my car. I’m Korra.” She holds out a hand with that pretty, crooked smile from before.

Asami doesn’t need a mirror to know that her make-up is either smudged all over the place or completely gone, and she doesn’t need to check to know that her breath probably stinks. But Korra’s eyes have dark bags underneath them, and her sweater had actually smelled like wet dog and sweat. She’s a mess, alright, but so is Korra, and somehow, that makes it all okay.

“Asami,” she says, taking Korra’s hand with a firm shake. She smiles warmly, Korra’s hand a comforting weight in hers. “You have a beautiful name.”