Korra was barely aware of her surroundings as she was wheeled into a small room near the infirmary. Her mind was a swirling mess and she found herself unable to hold onto any single thought for longer than the briefest of periods. Asami’s anguished face and the sight of her being intimately embraced by Kuvira flickered back and forth with a speed that was dizzying. Opal slowed to a stop next to a high wooden table, and rotated her so they were facing each other in the cramped space.
“Korra …” Opal hesitantly started.
Korra robotically turned her head to the young airbender. She couldn’t begin to guess what her face was doing in the moment, but judging by Opal’s slightly alarmed gaze, Korra guessed that she didn’t look too good.
“Korra. I’m not sure what I heard, but… Well…” Opal ran a nervous hand through her hair as she searched for something to say.
Korra was only half listening to the words, barely able to focus past the swirling mass of confusion that was pooling sickeningly in the pit of her stomach.
“If you want to talk… I mean… I don’t know if it’s the best idea for you to go through with something like this healing when you’re so…” Opal let her sentence fade, and Korra canted her head, vaguely curious as to how Opal was going to finish.
While Korra was so what? What was she? Confused? Hurt? Shocked? Those words didn’t seem big enough to describe the mass of feelings that were flashing through her body to the point of making it numb.
When Korra didn’t respond, Opal took a deep and shaky breath.
“Korra. It sounded like Asami said she was—”
Before Opal could continue, she was cut off as the wooden door slid open. Two figures entered the room. Korra could tell that there were more people behind them, but Korra didn’t care. The ache in her chest had spiked at Opal’s hesitant mention of the one thing Korra was trying the most desperately to avoid. When Asami had said she was… When she had told Korra that she was…
Korra grit her teeth and shook her head roughly, trying to fling the memory out of her head so that she could deal with it later.
Korra turned her head to survey the two people who had entered the room. Toph and Su were standing a couple feel in front of her. Su was looking at her in concern, and Toph’s head was tilted to the side in that alien way she had that made it feel as though she was looking into your very soul. Korra grit her teeth. Toph’s look made her feel transparent and weak, and the last thing she wanted at that moment was for the abrasive and blunt blind woman to open her mouth.
Taking a deep and steadying breath, Korra spoke.
“Let’s get this over with. What do you need me to do?”
Korra’s voice sounded strange to her own ears. It was as though every word were dragged across rough stone and burned to a crisp before escaping her lips. They were ragged and raw and out of the corner of her eye, the Avatar saw Opal flinch at the tone.
Both Opal and Su took a hesitant step towards the Avatar, mouths open. It was obvious they were going to voice some concern over Korra’s alarming state, but before either were able to complete their journey or say anything, Toph’s hands reached out with lightning speed and grasped both of the younger woman’s wrists. Su and Opal halted in their tracks and looked to their matriarch questioningly.
Toph looked at Korra, unnecessarily squinting her blind eyes.
“You sure you’re ready for this, Twinkle-Toes? It won’t be any easier than last night.”
Korra drew herself up as much as she could in the restricting confines of her chair, and gave the older woman the most defiant stare she could muster in her broken and defeated state.
“Just get this shit out of me.”
The raw rasp of Korra’s voice made the words come out as more of an animalistic growl, and both Su and Opal flinched. Toph however held the gaze for a moment longer, surveying Korra as though seeing her for the first time. In that moment, Korra could see that Toph understood. She could see the confusion and pain Korra was feeling. She could see that Korra was desperate for a distraction. She could see that Korra needed the healing session, but not because she wanted to regain use of her legs. She needed the pain. She needed everything to be drowned out.
After a beat of silence, Toph nodded curtly and motioned for her progeny to help Korra out of the chair and onto the rough wooden table.
Toph approached the table and lightly ran her hands along the length of Korra’s body. Everywhere her hands passed, a slight and vaguely unpleasant tingling followed. As Toph worked her way up, then back down Korra’s body, the tingling slowly intensified until it was a steady burn, and Korra grit her teeth at the uncomfortable sensation.
Toph grunted, and removed her hands. The low burn remained however, and Korra frowned as she looked up at the ancient metal bender.
“It’s really in there. This isn’t going to be a very pleasant experience,” Toph said to no one in particular.
She walked over to the foot of the table, and firmly grasped both of Korra’s feet in her hands, furrowing her brow as she concentrated on the limbs beneath her fingers.
The burn immediately intensified in Korra’s feet, and the Avatar fought the impulse to squirm in her discomfort. Toph began slowly running her hands up Korra’s legs, and the burn escalated with every rising inch.
By the time Toph had reached Korra’s thighs, the Avatar had to bite her lips to keep from crying out. It felt as though her insides were on fire, and the flame was only being stoked to a higher and higher frenzy as the metal bender worked her way up Korra’s broken body.
When she reached the Avatar’s stomach, Korra jerked violently on the table. A hand reached out and grab hers, but the hand was all wrong. It was too big. Too calloused.
Toph ghosted her hands up to Korra’s shoulders, and gently, but firmly, grasped Korra’s face between her palms, her fingers curling around the back of her neck.
Korra whimpered pitifully as the fire under her skin lapped at the sensitive underside of her throat.
Without warning, a blinding pain lanced through her skull making her gasp and arch harshly up and off the table. Dimly, Korra was aware of a couple of alarmed yells, and heard Toph roughly bark out some orders. Almost immediately she felt two hands press down on her shoulders attempting to press her back into the table, but Korra lost all control of her body.
The pain was blinding. Her vision wavered like rippling water before her eyes and a bright white light lanced through and dotted with red and sickly black began to cloud the room in front of her. An annoying ringing began to play in her ears, but when she drew in a shuddering breath, she realized it was the sound of her screaming ripping through the small room.
Toph’s grip tightened once more and the pain amped up one more impossible increment. The ringing in her ears escalated to a deafening screech as she felt her body lurch up once more, taking the people trying to hold her down with it. Her lungs stretched and pulled as she filled them to the utmost capacity before releasing it in a rush in the most deafening and anguished scream imaginable.
Her throat convulsed as she felt a thick and viscous fluid slide sickeningly over the back of her tongue. She tasted blood and bile as the material left her throat with an obscene sucking sound. Without warning, the red and black in her vision swallowed her whole.
With a sickening lurch of her stomach, Korra felt as though she was ripped from her body. The black and red quickly receded to an impossibly bright white, and all her senses save one were abruptly cut off. She was deaf and blind and dumb, with no recollection of anything other than the pain. She wasn’t Korra. She wasn’t the Avatar. She wasn’t a teenager with confusing feelings for her best friend. She wasn’t a savior, or a broken body.
She was pain.
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