It had been a long day, and Britt Reid wanted nothing more than to bury his head under his pillows and never come out again. Everywhere there had been total chaos, and even the people at The Sentinel were too wound up and shocked to settle down and do their jobs.
And who could blame them? It was completely unthinkable, and merely trying to wrap his head around it made him completely numb. But it HAD happened. Pearl Harbor had been attacked. America had been attacked. By Japan.
He shook his head and poured himself some whiskey, swirling it around and watching the ice cube clinking into the glass on every lap around it. It could have been over there. It should have been over there. People should have been horrified, and mourn it, yes, but the war should be fought by the armies. Not by civilians. But everywhere on the streets mobs of furious people craving blood for the blow to their American pride and solidarity drifted around, screaming hateful words and attacking every even remotely Asian-looking person they ran into.
The phones at The Sentinel had been ringing non-stop with people demanding that they made it their headlines what monsters the Japanese were and that they should all be exterminated, and other people begging them to find a way to somehow stop all the violence.
As if they had any real power over people.
Even Scanlon had looked more harried than Britt had ever seen him before when he tried to talk to him, rushing past while shouting at his men in a desperate attempt to gain some order. Apparently the police station was crammed with Asians pulled in for bogus charges, many of them roughened up by angry cops, and people arrested for vandalism and assault -majorly on Asian people- which of course led to an all-out war between the two groups catching police and random other criminals in between.
Britt sincerely hoped that Scanlon would be able to get at least the police in order, it was bad enough without men of the law going rogue.
With a weary sigh he moved up the stairs to the tempting comfort of his bed, when a soft sound reached his ears. He frowned and tried to hear it again, but everything was quiet. Almost too quiet. Where was Kato? He should have been downstairs meeting him when he came home, ready with a heavenly cup of coffee to soothe his frayed nerves. No wonder something had felt odd to him. He blamed it on the terrible day that he hadn’t immediately been able to put a finger on what it was.
His frown deepening, he moved down the hallway and past his own bedroom to the small room Kato inhabited, close enough to his own that he would be able to carter to any of his needs –at least in the eye of the public.
And there the sound was again. Just as soft, and just as unintelligible. But it definitely came from Kato’s room. With a small burning knot of foreboding in his gut he reached out and slowly opened the door, almost unsure whether or not he really wanted to see what was on the other side.
Thankfully, it was nothing like the dark, trembling horror scene his mind had whispered into the very outskirts of his conscious, blood covering every part of the small and spartan bedroom, but somehow it was almost more shocking.
Kato was sitting curled up on the low bed, arms wrapped around his knees and silent tears running down high cheekbones, a small tremor running through his slight frame every now and then. A dark bruise was forming on his jaw and blood had trickled down from the split lip and a small cut over the eyebrow, and the left wrist looked red and swollen.
But Kato never complained over injuries, not even when he had been shot had he done much more than grind his teeth and keep silent until they had gotten the bullet out and patched him up. In fact, Britt had never seen his friend cry before. Silently trembling with fury or hopelessness, yes, maybe even a slight wetness in his eyes, but never full out crying.
Hesitating in the open doorway Britt chewed on his lower lip and tried to come up with something intelligent and hopefully witty to say, so that he’d make Kato scoff and roll his eyes at him again just like it was supposed to be. But his tired mind came up blank, and after another few minutes of nervous fiddling with his fingers where Kato still didn’t seem to notice him he slowly moved into the room and awkwardly sunk down on the irritatingly low bed.
A glance over at his friend revealed that he hadn’t even twitched his hand at his presence, and that was beyond worrisome. A Kato that wasn’t ready to take up a fight at any moment was, well… not Kato.
After a few more seconds of looking around the room, studying the small paintings Kato had made and hung up on his wall -one of Britt himself, but most of birds in beautiful colours- he took a deep breath and turned fully towards the silent man, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
”Is… everything… all right?”
He wanted to hit himself. ’Is everything all right?’ Obviously not, considering the whole crying bit. Shuffling his feet and trying to find a more comfortable position he tried again.
”Kato, you… please, tell me what is wrong.”
”Please, Kato. Tell me what to do to make it okay again. I need you to be okay. Please. You’re my friend, and I hate to see you like this. Please, Kato. Talk to me.”
Taking a deep breath and biting his lip he decided to throw all strict and macho male etiquette rules out the window and risk getting his ass kicked, carefully scooting over until his side was flush with Kato’s and hesitantly sliding an arm around the smaller man.
For a brief second Kato tensed, and Britt had the time to think that he was going to flee before his body relaxed and, to Britt’s huge surprise, leaned into him. He tightened his grip around the trembling shoulders and rested his chin atop of the raven mop of hair.
For a few moments they sat in absolute silence, but before it had a chance to grow awkward Kato’s soft voice filled the emptiness.
”I… was buying groceries. And everywhere… everywhere, people running around, screaming, destroying things. And they were saying… that Japan had attacked America. That we were monsters. That we should die.”
He took a deep, shuddering breath.
”A little girl… I was in Hiyashi’s Tea Shop, buying miss Lenore’s favourite tea when… they were so many, and they destroyed everything… and there was a little girl… she… I think she was Hiyashi’s granddaughter…”
Britt waited for Kato to start speaking again, but the small man had fallen silent and seemed unwilling to start speaking again, lost in the horrors of his mind. When the minutes stretched out without any interruption Britt carefully nudged his friend, silently asking him to continue.
”Sorry… it’s just… they… She was so small, you know. Only five. I should have been able to help her. I’m the Green Hornet’s partner! I’m an expert at martial arts!”
He clenched his fists and bowed his head, more tears slipping out from under closed eyelids.
”They had weapons… knives, and iron rods… and it happened so fast… he hit her in the head. There was so much blood. She didn’t move. And they attacked us… I fought back, I took them out, but she was already dead. She was just a child! Innocent! None of us had done anything, but we… because of that attack…”
”And your groceries… you asked me to buy groceries, but I forgot them. Most of it was destroyed, I think, but I was supposed to buy food, you asked me to, you-”
”-told me we need food, and I wasn’t able to do even that, and she was dead, and I, and I…”
Britt drew the smaller body closer to himself, clutching it in an iron grip and slowly rocking it, burying his nose in the soft hair, desperately trying to remember everything he knew about consoling and comforting somebody.
”Shh, Kato… it wasn’t your fault, I’m so sorry. I should have called you when I found out about the attack, I should have warned you not to go out. I knew about all the violence against Asian people, but I didn’t even think… God help me, I should have thought about you.”
Small sobs escaped Kato’s mouth, and he seemed to curl up impossibly tighter, burying his face in Britt’s shirt.
”I’m sorry, Mr Britt, I should have… I’m pathetic, I’m sorry, bothering you… I’m… sorry”
”No Kato. I’m sorry. It’s okay, nobody needs to know, okay? You’re not pathetic. Everybody needs to let it out sometimes.”
He lifted a large hand to run it through the short black hair, settling it against the nape of Kato’s neck and slowly massaging the knotted muscles down his neck and shoulders. A quivering moan was let out of the slim man’s mouth and he seemed to melt into his friend’s comforting grip. No more words seemed necessary between the two friends, and the silence was only broken by a small sob every now and then followed by a murmured reassurance from Britt.
Later, when Lenore hurried inside the Reid residence to find some comfort from her friend and big crush after the most horrible day, she was met by a sight that would warm her heart for years to come whenever she thought about it.
Curled up together on Kato’s small bed were the two crime fighters, Kato’s head resting on Britt’s chest and tear tracks on his cheeks. Britt’s arms were protectively cradling the smaller form of his friend, and loud snores erupted from his half-open mouth.
With a hand covering a fond smile Lenore slowly and silently backed out of the room, wishing she had a camera to capture the moment forever. As silently as she could she closed the door and hurried downstairs to intercept Scanlon, who was supposed to show up soon, before he could disturb the sleeping duo.
Maybe she could even call Axford and ask him to get a camera for her…