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"You are safe now."

The blanket wrapped around him only makes him shiver now, the familiar thrum of the Satomobile soothing him enough to not break out into sobs. The brown fabric of the seat in front of him holds his vision steady.

"Worry not. Mental trauma can often cause abandoned children to lose the ability to speak. I heard you speaking earlier; I presume your speech issues are temporary, caused by the sudden shift of your environment. Is not that so?" The woman in the driver's seat, her pink scarf reminding him starkly of Mako, brakes and glances backwards to smile warmly at him, her sapphire eyes honest and sincere. Astonished by her kindness, he grins back, finally letting go of the hem of the blanket, which falls away. She purses her lips. "You require a haircut, my poor dear. Tell me, do you have a name? How old are you?"

"I'm Bolin, and I'm only six and a half years old!" He blinks and cocks his head. "Did you find my brother, too?"

The Satomobile picks up speed, the view from the window enticing, vehicles and people and shops passing by more quickly than he can focus on any one of them, a blur of colour and light. "Your brother? But you were alone when I rescued you . . . ah, I see." Swerving to the right, she parks in front of a restaurant, a Jasmine Dragon with several tables outside, the umbrellas shielding the handful of customers from the sun. "Well, Bolin—" Enunciating the syllables, she pronounces his name correctly. "—are you hungry?"

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a whole zebra pike!" he answers brightly, his fingers fumbling to open the vehicle door, and when he manages it he tumbles out and sprawls on the ground, laughing. The woman taps his shoulder.

"Bolin, you are unusually optimistic for a young boy surviving in the harsh winter for goodness knows how long. Tell me, what length of time have you survived on your own?"

He shakes his head, enjoying the feel of his hair bouncing against his head. "Where's Mako?" She takes his hand, leading him into the Jasmine Dragon. "I wasn't on my own. I had Mako."

The woman sighs. "Bolin, I know that expirations can be harrowing to deal with, and I presume it is easier to imagine he is still out there for you, but you are alone. Worry not, for you are now safe."

"What do you mean?" He notices the happy family in the line in front of them: A mother, a father, two sons, one of them little enough to have to be carried in his mother's arms. "I really want Mako right now. Do you know where he is?" She reminds him somewhat of the blue-eyed woman, her name something like Nonny or Nanny. Could all blue-eyed women be lying? "You're not going to try to do awful things to me, are you?" he inquires suspiciously, pouting. "Like those bad guys did?"

She chuckles. "You are sweet. I must say that I am curious to hear to which bad guys you refer, but that shall wait for later." Of the bored-looking boy occupying the counter she asks for two cups of tea and noodles for each of them. Bolin leaps onto the bar stool, discovering with delight that it twists and twirls, and he naturally spins himself about it. When the meal arrives, he sets upon it anxiously, wolfing it down to satisfy the emptiness of his belly. At the same time something nags in the back of his mind:

"Where's Mako?" he quizzes again, the steam from the noodle bowl obscuring the woman's face.

"Oh, my poor dear." She sips her tea, her glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. "Do not you know that your brother is—"

Bolin shakes his head adamantly, dropping the chopsticks. Drops of hot liquid splatter his face and arms. "He and I were swimming in that pond where you found me, and then he went off thataway to get his scarf. He's got a scarf kind of like yours 'cept it's red instead of pink. Anyway he had just left for maybe five minutes when you showed up." The delicious taste of noodles fades away on his tongue; he attempts to push the stool away from the counter. "I thought you were helping me go look for him 'cause he wasn't coming back and I was scared. He's been with that scarf for a year now. It's the lucky scarf you know? So I went with you 'cause I thought you'd help me but then you didn't."

The woman puts her chopsticks gently down, the wooden tips clattering slightly when they make contact with the rim of the bowl. "Bolin, you are safe now. Please worry not of your brother."

"You're just like the bad guys!" Others in the Jasmine Dragon are starting to raise their heads, the boy at the counter flipping them a rude hand gesture. In response the woman shushes the earthbender with a finger to her lips. "No! Promise me you'll go back and help me find my brother! Promise!"

"Cry not, my poor dear." She beams at him and pats his head. "You are safe now. Very well, after we finish eating, we may return to search for your . . . lost brother. Now ssh. Please enjoy the noodles."

Relieved, Bolin sags on the seat and noms the noodles, the slippery strands lovely in his dehydrated throat. Although he tries to eat normally, his ravenous body causes him to slap the chopsticks onto the bar and tip the bowl over to drink it, gulping without caring of the burning sensation in his stomach or the damage done to his mouth. Thirsty for more, he lunges for the tea, but the cup slips from his grip and crashes to the floor, spilling over the tiles.

The counter boy groans.

Bolin grins to himself.

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