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-"Korra, that's really not necessary, you know that."
"And you know that I won't take no for an answer, so you might as well stop arguing."
Pema sighed, and Korra smiled. It was the same ritual every month. Korra would give Pema 100 yuans, which she desperately needed, and Pema would be reluctant to take it, but in the end, she did anyways. "Alright, but then you are staying for dinner. I will not have you give us this money and send you off to eat frozen pizza or worse."
"Fair enough." Korra took a seat at the head of the table, next to Ikki. "Why do you always give us money? And why don't you keep it yourself? And where do you even make it?" The little motor mouth rattled of her questions at her usual machine-gun fire speed. Korra adored her, though. Ikki had been this way since she learned to talk, always extremely curious even if she did have an occasional lack of restraint. She had a voice and was set on making the most of it. D'oh well. That's to be expected of someone that eager.
"You know why I give you the money, because you need it more than I do." She was trying to think of way to get herself out of the last question without lying too much, when she was thankfully interrupted by the front door opening. Korra turned around, looking to see what her unofficial little sister had been up to. "Evening Jin."
-"Korra!" Jinora quickly spied at the table, seeing that it had mostly been made, and that her mother was still in the kitchen to get the last of the food. "Good to see you. That time of the month again?" she said with a slanted grin on her face.
Of course she was referring to the money, but Korra played along anyway. "Yep. And to make up for it, your mom makes me join you for dinner. You're just in time, so have a seat."
Jinora smiled and took the seat on the other side of Korra, opposite of her little sister. Korra sniffed suspiciously as Jinora walked past, as it was the unmistakable smell of smoke. She leaned over, pulling her in close so that no one else would hear it. "I thought I warned you not to smoke right before you come home."
-"Oh shush, it's not that bad," Jinora whispered back. She leaned back into her chair again. "Tuyen pulled me aside, you know how things work."
Ikki looked up at this. "Tuyen? That slut who dumped Meelo?"
-"Ikki!" Pema chastised, who just walked back into earshot with a bowl of rice. "Watch your language."
-"Well, just because Meelo no longer gets along with her, doesn't mean I can't," Jinora came to her own defense.
Meelo mixed himself into the conversation. "Well, you better watch out for her, or she'll use you and throw you away."
-"Enough. Meelo, you know why Tuyen broke up with you, and Ikki, you are not really in a position to judge your sister for her friends." Jinora made a smug grin towards Ikki, who returned it by sticking out her tongue, all of which their mother missed.
"Guys, why don't we all stop bickering for a minute and eat?" Korra said. She was genuinely hungry, and her pretty much monthly dinner at Pema's was always a highlight. While the single mother was struggling to keep her head above the water financially, she was still able to cook an excellent meal with very limited means. That's where Korra came in. She had been going over to the Gyatso's for years, and they had been struggling since Tenzin died. So ever since she was making enough to take care of her own, Korra had been helping them out with a small monthly injection of cash.
What Korra told Ikki was true. They needed it harder than she did. She didn't take any pride in her work, but since she only had to take care of herself and not drag around four children, it was a lot easier for her. Even though she didn't have to use her imagination to think of what she could do with 100 yuans a month extra, she always gave it to Pema. The remaining Gyatsos were good people who had just been dealt extremely shitty cards.
Dinner went over quickly. The turn fell to Ikki and Meelo to do the dishes, leaving Jinora some spare time to take a walk with Korra. They casually walked down the streets, as the sun was beginning to set. "Jin, why do you always come home so late? Your mom tells me you miss dinner a lot."
Jinora sighed. "No space to think in that broom cupboard. And how am I supposed to do my homework in there? Rohan is yelling in his room, Meelo is being obnoxious in the living room, and Ikki is bouncing up and down in ours. That leaves me at pretty much zero places to work at home. So I just stay in the library to do my homework, and hey, it helps that I'm on good terms with the librarian. She likes me, so she often lets me stay half an hour longer."
"All valid points."
-"Hell, why do you think we even go out here all the way? If space and money weren't a problem, we'd hang at my place all the time."
'Time' prompted Korra to check her phone for it. And of course, she was already running late. "Shit! Jin, I gotta roll. See you later." She started walking away, when she turned around again. "And straight back home! No detours to Tuyen!"
-"Would I ever?" Jinora replied sarcastically.
Korra smiled, knowing that she probably wouldn't. Jinora was smart enough to know that walking around this part of town after dark was a bad idea, especially for a sixteen-year-old girl.
She herself didn't really have a choice. As it was an equally bad idea for a nineteen-year-old girl to do that, Korra first went back to her apartment, which was empty. That could only mean one thing: Opal was already at the club. Korra quickly grabbed her .45 and cocked it, hoping that she didn't have to use it. Didn't mean she wouldn't if it wasn't necessary, but still. She hid it in the front pocket of her hoodie, and threw on the hood itself, as she didn't want to attract any unwanted attention when she went to pick up a shipment.
Berating herself for not looking for a place closer to the den, Korra picked up the pace, and was slightly out of breath when she finally made it to Iroh's. She took the stairs two at a time, bursting into The General's office. This did not please him.
-"You're late. The Triangle Club is long open, and you only now come in here."
"I know, I know. Lost track of time. Have you got the product?"
He frowned. "If you're late again tomorrow, I'll send Tahno there in your place next week. At least he'll be there."
Korra sighed. Iroh said that just to get on her nerves, he would never do that to her. She hated Tahno and Tahno hated her. Hell, she landed The Triangle Club, making good money for both herself and for Iroh. "Yeah, will do. Can I go now?"
-"Product is on the cabinet. Make it work, Korra." She picked it up on her way out and stuffed it in her backpack, and didn't turn around to Iroh again. He was in a bad mood today.
The walk over from Iroh's den to The Triangle Club was thankfully short. It would have been even shorter, but Korra had to make a few stops on the way there, so it took her some considerable time. Not everyone looking to buy some product was very precise when it came to paying, but somehow always ended up short.
If it hadn't been for the fact that she couldn't show up back at the den with just the money she made at The Triangle Club, she would have walked away.
When she did finally get there, the bouncer was outside, and recognized Korra when she walked up. "Evening. Another delivery?"
"Do you even have to ask, Zhu Li?"
-"I suppose not. Alright, you know the drill: put your piece in the locker, and I'll give Varrick a call. Enjoy."
"Thanks." Zhu Li stepped aside, letting Korra through. She unloaded her gun, and put in a locker as instructed. The second bouncer in the hallway followed her every action, but did let her in.
The music was nearly deafening, as always. Even Korra could see the pecking order in this joint. The further you are from the door, the more popular you are. Several girls were dancing on the tables near the door, as they were the least experienced. Opal was in the middle, which was already a lot better. The circles of men around her table were tighter packed, and tended to tip bigger. But the real place where the girls wanted to be was on the center-stage, which was where she was right now.
Asami was moving those goddess-like hips against the pole, completely entrancing the three-thick hedge of fat middle-aged guys who were waving money around like toilet paper. That, and she also stole Korra's attention. Clad in nothing but black lacey lingerie on her pale skin, Asami made Korra zone out for a moment, before she was pulled back into reality by a particularly loud drop in the bass. Right. Varrick.
Korra made her way to the back of the club, where she saw the owner of the joint literally twirling his moustache as he smiled at her. She quickly eyed him up. As ever, he was wearing a suit, but no tie, since it was already smoldering hot in the club. For some reason, he always wore a black shirt under it, never a white one. Still, he looked better than Korra with her baggy pants and worn hoodie. Since they were still in the music, which was loud enough to make sensitive ears bleed, they retreated into Varrick's office. He sat himself down in his chair, spinning it around like he was some sort of Bond-villain. "So Korra, brought the usual?"
Korra reached into her backpack, taking out the large bag of pills and gently placing it on the desk. "One shipment, as requested. You got the cash?"
Varrick got his usual sly smile on his face again. "What are you taking me for, a deceiving businessman?"
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't."
-"Have I ever lied to you?" he asked, while taking a bundle of bills from the top drawer of his desk.
He handed the money over to Korra, who quickly counted it and nodded as it was what they agreed on. "No, but you do have a reputation."
-"So do you, Avatar," Varrick deadpanned, and Korra smiled. "Pleasure doing business," she said, while shaking his hand. For some reason, she always did that with Varrick, and only with Varrick. Truth be told, she didn't trust him, even though she didn't trust any of her clients. But never let it be said that he wasn't professional, so Korra was professional around him too.
-"Well then," he continued. "Now that business is over, let's move to the pleasure part of the night. Asami will be done in a few minutes, so why don't you go and have a drink? On the house, as per usual, if you send the Fabulous Dealing Brothers my way."
"Will do. See you next week." Korra went down to the main floor again, where she looked around, and soon spotted the brothers hanging around in the corner. Mako was the first one to see her. Not that she was hard to spot, as she was the only girl there who wasn't a stripper.
-"Korra! Another load for us to distribute?"
"Up in Varrick's office. But first we're gonna do a drink, on me."
-"Ooh, kinky," Bolin deadpanned. Korra playfully punched him in the shoulder, and they made their way over to the bar. She ordered them each a shot of vodka, which they all threw back on Korra's cue.
"THERE!" she loudly announced, while slamming the glass back onto the bar. "Now that's over with, you need to get down to business. Varrick is sitting on a load of product and there are more than a few customers waiting to get coked off their balls."
Bolin let out a gush of laughter, and it even got a small smile out of Mako. "You're probably right," he said with his usual stoical demeanor. "Let's get to work, bro."
He and Bolin walked off to Varrick's office, while Korra lingered at the bar a little while longer. She threw back a few more shots, starting to get light headed, when she walked up to her.
-"Hey gorgeous," Asami whispered into Korra's ear. Well, what passed for whispering over the thrumming music. "Here for some private time?"
Korra smirked, as her eyes roamed over the pale beauty. "You read my mind."
Asami dragged her to the far back, where she knew a special room. It was in an unused part of The Triangle Club, where the music didn't reach so much. None of the girls ever used it, because there was little supervision from the bouncers in this part. Not that Asami needed any with Korra, as they were... Well, no one really knew what they were.
They were not exactly a couple, as they never saw each other outside of the club. That, and Korra didn't think dating a stripper was a good idea. But Asami didn't want Korra to tip her, as she almost enjoyed it more than Korra did.
Mostly though, they just fooled around for a bit, as they were doing right now. Korra had thrown off her hoodie, ditching it somewhere in the corner while Asami pushed her onto the deep sofa of the private room, climbing on top of her in the process.
She gently cupped her face, pulling her in for a warm kiss. Asami slid her tongue past Korra's lips, who returned the gesture. Definitely not normal lap dance protocol. But hey, I'm not one to complain.
Asami moved down, sensually kissing Korra's neck. Not that it was hard for her to do that, her lips were softer than a pillow made of cotton candy and clouds. Coupled with the large amount of alcohol running through Korra's body, the warm room, and the spongy sofa, she nearly fell asleep.
Suddenly realizing that she still had Iroh's money, she jolted awake again, nearly head-butting Asami in the process. "Shit! 'Sami, I'm really sorry, but I have to run."
She sighed. "Iroh again?"
Korra nodded. "Yeah. I really liked what you were doing, but I don't have a choice. I already fucked up once tonight, if I make that two, he'll have my head." She quickly reached out for her hoodie, and threw it back on along with her backpack. She pressed a quick kiss on Asami's lips, leaving a startled stripper in her wake.
It was mighty cold for an early fall night, so she was glad her hoodie was warm enough. Snuggling tight into it, she made her way back to the den.
Iroh looked up as she walked back in. "Varrick give you any trouble?"
"No more than usual," Korra deadpanned, while she threw the money on his desk. He quickly counted it, giving Korra her share. "You sell it for a good price, Korra. But are you sure that little black-haired plaything is worth it?"
Korra raised an eyebrow at this, which made a smile crack across Iroh's face. "Don't be surprised Korra, I have eyes and ears everywhere."
She sighed. "Well, who I decide to fool around with is not really your concern, now is it?"
-"If it's blinding your professional outlook, it is." Korra frowned, and Iroh stood up from behind his desk, walking over to the fridge in the corner. "I don't want there to be any hard feelings between us, Korra. I like you. You're productive, and you know when to keep your mouth shut." He reached in, picking up two beers, and handed one to Korra. "But I need to know that I can trust your judgment. I got a lot riding on you."
Korra took a sip of her beer and let herself fall into an old barcalounger. "I know. You can trust me, and my judgment. I got the Gyatsos depending on me, so I can't screw them over by getting my dumb ass caught."
-"As long as you know it," he said while taking a swig of his beer.
They finished their beers with some hollow banter, and Korra went back to her own place. Iroh really wasn't a bad guy, but he was risking it all. Korra didn't blame him for being careful, or even for being strict with his sellers. If Iroh didn't make sure they would keep quiet if they were ever busted, he would have been out of commission long ago. He always made sure to have some sort of leverage over his workers. Korra's soft spots were the Gyatsos, but of course, they didn't know that.
She was fortunate enough not to have any run-ins with shady characters so she made it home quickly. Opal was back too, already soundly asleep on the couch. Korra smiled draped her hoodie over her, and made her way over to her own bed.
In the most unceremonious of ways to fall asleep, Korra let herself fall onto her bed fully clothed, and fell asleep then and there.
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