There was a soft knock on the door, and Korra called out her permission to enter. When the door creaked open, Korra’s face split into a grin when she saw a flash of green eyes and raven hair.
“Hey,” Asami said as she sat down on the bed. “You sleep okay?”
“Actually, yes… Sorry about that by the way,” Korra finished sheepishly.
Either she was imagining things, or she saw the flash of a blush creep across Asami’s cheeks. Korra couldn’t tell for sure though because her friend dipped her head at the comment, thoroughly obscuring her face by a veil of thick hair.
“No, it’s okay. I’m glad I was able to help.”
Asami tried to give Korra an encouraging smile, but her eyes were heavily lined with worry.
“The nightmares are still that bad?”
The dreams that plagued Korra regularly had been absolutely terrifying. Over and over, she relived the experience of waking up chained and helpless. While the details sometimes varied, the dreams always ended the same way. The poison would rip through her skin and everything would go black.
Last night, the Red Lotus acolyte had just bended the silver concoction out of its stone bowl when a gentle and soothing hand and soft words of reassurance had pulled her consciousness from the dreams embrace. Waking with Asami’s face only inches from hers had grounded her and chased the shadows of the dream into the far reaches of her mind. Asami’s calm and comforting presence had banished the remnants of the dream quicker and more efficiently than any remedy Tenzin and Kya had ever attempted.
Korra remembered little of Asami’s nighttime visit other than the profound relief the other girls presence had given her. With Asami holding her hand and rubbing her back she felt safe, and the sleep Korra had eased back into had been more restful than she had experienced in weeks.
Korra slowly and carefully pulled herself into a sitting position.
“I’ll be okay. I didn’t… hurt you, though,” she trailed off, biting her lip in worry. “Did I?”
Asami seemed genuinely confused by the question until Korra gestured to Asami’s wrist. Korra felt her heart sink when she noticed there were indeed a row of slightly bluish dots along the back of her forearm. Asami looked down with a frown.
“I honestly wouldn’t have even noticed if it weren’t for you pointing them out.”
When Asami looked back up and saw the mortification on Korra’s face, she hastily reached out and placed a comforting hand on Korra’s shoulder. Asami’s hand was cool on Korra’s flushed, bare skin.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Asami cracked a smile. “You’ve given me worse bruises when we used to spar. This is nothing.”
Asami’s words made Korra feel a little better, but what truly calmed the Avatar was the light touch on her shoulder. Korra had never been one to initiate excess physical contact. She was fine with hugging and, of course, had no problem whatsoever punching someone when they deserved it... But for comfort? Asami seemed to be the exception to her rule. Few things had as calming effect on the high strung Avatar as Asami’s touch.
Asami slid her hand down Korra’s arm until she was gently clasping her hand. “Let’s get you up. Are you hungry?”
Korra looked down at the thin and delicate fingers between her own. Yep. She was definitely more than okay with Asami touching her.
Korra considered the question as Asami stood and helped ease her out of the bed and into her chair.
“I think so. Yeah.”
Asami smiled in delight. Korra usually put up much more of a fight when it came to eating anything, but she felt in very high spirits and her stomach had begun to growl at the thought of breakfast.
Asami wheeled her out into the hallway and turned towards the quiet and private room Korra had insisted she take her meals in ever since returning to the island. She hated the looks of pity and concern everyone always gave her, so she had intentionally limited her interaction with the other inhabitants of the island to a bare minimum. She guessed Tenzin and the others had also warned everyone else away as well for she couldn’t even recall the last time she had seen Ikki nor Meelo. She reached up a hand to lie it gently on Asami’s where it gripped the back of her chair. Asami jumped at the contact and looked down at her questioningly.
“Can we eat in the main dining room?”
Asami blinked in shock. “Are… are you sure?”
“Yeah...” Korra paused for a moment to catch her breath. Just those few words she’d spoken seemed to have lifted a weight off her chest she hadn’t even known was there. “I think I am.”
Asami looked at Korra for a moment longer, her brows knit in an expression Korra couldn’t identify.
“I don’t know. I think I just... kinda miss everybody. We don’t... have to if you don’t want to…”
Asami’s gaze softened into a smile, and she wordlessly turned them around.
After Meelo spilled bison milk not once, not twice, but three times over Korra’s lap in his excitement, Korra was earnestly wondering what on earth she’d thought she was missing. The lack of peace? The insanity? Food all over her clothes? Ikki had literally been bouncing up and down all breakfast, and twice Meelo had caused Korra to drop her chopsticks due to the fact that he was climbing all over the wheels and back of her chair. Asami looked a little overwhelmed as well, but seeing as the kids were mostly focusing their energy at Korra, she was spared most of the spills.
Just as Meelo was zooming his way around the room for the fourth time, one of the stone blocks of the floor suddenly popped out of the ground. The hyperactive airbender crashed into the unexpected roadblock with a strangely satisfying “OOMPH!” and slid dramatically to the floor. There were enough earth benders in the room for it to be impossible to know who the culprit was, but Korra couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the glaring look the small child gave to the green clad individuals in the room.
Crazy airbender children and bison milk baths aside, Korra was in a great mood as she enjoyed her first meal with the rest of her “family” since she had returned from her near death experience. Even Kuvira’s presence among the other earthbenders wasn’t bringing her down.
“It’s very nice to have you join us, Korra,” Kya said with a wry twist of her lips as she bent some water out of her glass to - once again - help clean up the Avatar’s sodden pajamas.
“Yeah! We really missed you,” Ikki chimed in.
Korra nodded at Kya in thanks before smiling warmly at the young airbender sitting to her right.
“I missed you too, Ikki.” Korra couldn’t help but laugh at the huge grin that spread across the little girls face.
Ikki turned to her father and crossed her arms. “See, Dad? I told you Korra hadn’t forgotten how to laugh. How can someone forget how to laugh?”
Tenzin blushed in embarrassment and rounded on his youngest daughter. “I didn’t say- What I meant was-”
Pema placed a hand on her husband’s arm and turned to Korra with a smile. “It’s just nice to see you smiling again, dear. We’ve all been hoping to see more of your old self.”
Korra felt suddenly overwhelmed at the warm sentiments and bowed her head. She knew everyone was worried about her, but mostly just assumed they all felt pity at her inability to walk and bend and were anxious to have their Avatar back. Asami placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and came to her rescue by filling the silence.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Korra looked up in gratitude at her friend, and Asami smiled back with warmth and compassion in her eyes.
Pema stood and gestured for Ikki’s and Meelo’s attention. “Alright, kids. I think it’s time you go play outside. Give poor Korra a rest.”
Both kids groaned in unison and dramatically slumped their shoulders as they filed out of the room, and Korra shot Pema a grateful look. Pema smiled with a wink and closed the door behind the airbending terrors.
“You survived,” Asami whispered, as she leaned in conspiratorially.
“Barely,” Korra muttered back.
“Su told me about the talk you two had the other day,” Tenzin said. He had regained his composure and was back to his stiff-backed self.
Korra was still looking at Asami as Tenzin said the words and watched as Asami’s eyes flashed over to the metal bender with a curious expression on her face. She looked almost… embarrassed? No. Panicked? Both? Korra tore her eyes from Asami’s face as she turned to answer her old master.
“Yeah. She thinks that the reason I can’t walk is that there’s still some of the poison in my body,” Korra said by way of explanation to the curious faces looking her way.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Asami sigh in what looked strangely like relief. What had Asami thought she was going to say?
“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Kya said with a thoughtful pursing of her lips. “I mean, I know she was hurt, but I’ve been having a hard time believing that even my healing would have so little-”
“Can you help her?” Asami interrupted, leaning towards Su with an urgency that warmed Korra’s heart. She seemed to be over whatever it was that had bothered her and was looking at Su with hope shining strongly in her eyes.
Su looked at Asami in confusion. Korra realized that it probably seemed strange that this was the first Asami was hearing about all of this, but in light of the events of the past couple days, Korra had forgotten all about filling her friend in.
“She doesn’t think she can. But she’s going to try and find Toph to see if maybe the original metal bender can do something,” Korra explained.
Su nodded in agreement. “The particles in Korra’s system are just too small for me to be able to bend. When I examined her, I was barely able to feel anything in the first place. However, I radioed some of her usual haunts yesterday, and I think I may have found my mother.”
Asami’s excitement at the news rivaled Korra’s as she leaned forward, jostling the table in her enthusiasm. Korra warily eyed the tipping cup and reached out, just managing to catch one of the only cups of bison milk in the near vicinity that hadn’t already found its way onto her lap.
“That’s amazing! How long do you think it will be?”
Su smiled at Asami’s enthusiasm, but when she responded, it was to Korra. “As soon as I have any news, I’ll make sure to tell you immediately.”
Korra looked up at the sound of a chair scraping against the stone floor.
“Thank you for the breakfast,” Kuvira said with a bow. Though the Captain still had her usual countenance of confidence and calm, Korra could see that the corners of the metal benders mouth were pulled down in the tiniest hint of a frown.
“I am going to go meet with my lieutenants and make sure everything is in order. Su. Tenzin. I will see you at the War Counsel.”
“War Counsel? Did something happen?” Korra asked.
Though it had been a while since she had heard any update on the Earth Kingdom situation, she had just assumed that meant nothing had really changed.
Su and Tenzin shared a look that made Korra extremely uneasy before Su turned and met Korra’s stare from across the table.
“We’ve just been discussing the logistics of the plan we have decided on for dealing with the riots in the Earth Kingdom.”
“Don’t you think someone should have told me about this?” Korra asked in shock. She knew she had been out of the loop, but the idea of everyone deciding on a plan of action without at least telling her about it bothered her deeply.
While Su seemed ignorant to the effect this revelation had caused Korra, Tenzin obviously was not. He turned to Korra.
“Now Korra... The most important thing for you to do is to focus on your recovery and wellbeing. We thought-”
“Tenzin, I’m the Avatar.” Korra interrupted. “The most important thing for me to do is to help the Earth Kingdom... in whatever way I can.”
“And what, exactly, is it you believe you can do to help the Earth Kingdom in your present condition?” Kuvira snapped.
She slowly turned her head to look at the Captain, rage and disbelief welling in her chest with a staggering velocity.
“I’m just wondering what you’re thinking you can accomplish,” Kuvira clarified boldly.
Korra felt like she had been punched in the stomach. The ensuing silence was almost oppressive, and everyone’s eyes were widened in shock. You could have heard a pin drop.
Asami placed a comforting and calming hand on Korra’s arm and squeezed. The touch banked the tidal wave rising within her, but only enough to curb the string of insults that were resting anxiously on the tip of her tongue. Korra took a deep breath and leveled her gaze on the metal bender across the room. Kuvira looked passive and calm, but Korra could detect the glint of something almost malicious in her eyes.
“Unless you have a specific reason you don’t want me to go the meeting, I can’t see why my condition is an issue. This fight is just as much mine as it is anyone else’s. Probably even more so. It is my right and responsibility to take part in this in whatever way possible, and if all I can do right now is sit in a meeting and voice my opinion, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Korra looked pointedly at Su and Tenzin.
“I know I haven’t been much use lately, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to exclude me from this. If you’re having meetings in which you are deciding to move forward, I want to know about it.”
Surprisingly, it was Kuvira who was the first to respond.
“I’m sorry, Avatar Korra,” she said with a slight bow. “I meant no disrespect.”
Korra raised her eyebrows in skepticism.
“Really.” It wasn’t a question.
Almost immediately, her suspicions were proven correct.
“It was my understanding that you had ceased attending any meetings concerning the problems in the Earth Kingdom due to your fragile state.”
Dear Spirits! Was this woman intentionally trying to set her off? Korra felt the control on her anger start to slip. Just when we opened her mouth to reply, the hand on her arm gave another sharp squeeze. Korra looked up and found a pair of jade eyes flashing a warning. Korra understood the message.
Asami obviously knew she was at a point where anything that came out of her mouth would probably only make things worse. Instead of telling Kuvira exactly what she’d like to do in her ‘fragile state’, Korra took a deep breath. Asami’s eyes warmed in relief before she turned to the rest of the room.
“Obviously Korra is doing much better, and I think it’s safe to say that she isn’t too fragile to handle sitting in a meeting and voicing her opinion. If this Toph solution actually works, she’ll be back on her feet very soon, and I think everyone can agree that it would be a good idea for our Avatar to have a grasp on the situation before then.”
There was steel in Asami’s voice that Korra rarely heard, and Kuvira seemed to notice it as well. Korra looked over at Kuvira in smug satisfaction and waited anxiously for whatever argument the metal bender was going to try and make.
Kuvira looked at Asami, and something unidentifiable flashed across her face before she bowed her head in respect.
“Of course. I hadn’t considered that. You are absolutely right, Miss Sato. The Avatar is absolutely welcome to join any and all efforts.”
Korra frowned at Kuvira’s sudden change in stance. What in the helluvit kind of friendship did she with Asami have that a small argument from Miss Sato would have such an effect?
She looked up at Asami, but the heiress gave no indication she thought anything was out of the ordinary. Instead, the heiress gave Kuvira a friendly nod.
Kuvira turned to the rest of the room. “Thank you again for breakfast, Master Tenzin. I will see you all shortly.”
With one last shallow bow, the Captain exited the room.
Korra was only able to release her pent up breath once Kuvira had cleared the room and shut the door behind her.
“I don’t like her,” Korra growled.
Asami sighed and finally removed her hand from Korra’s arm. “Korra. You know nothing about her.”
“I don’t need to!” Korra replied in exasperation, looking around for a sympathetic face. However, all she was met with was a uniform sea of frowns.
“Kuvira has been very instrumental in our efforts to control this situation,” Tenzin said, his voice calm and steady. “She has done nothing but provide unwavering support in our efforts to manage this crisis.”
Korra shook her head. “No. There’s something not right about her. I can feel it. What do we even really know about her?”
This time it was Su who spoke up. “Kuvira can be a bit… direct, I’ll give you that. But I have known that woman for a very long time. I would trust her with my life.”
“I know you guys got off on the wrong foot, but I think you should give her a chance,” Asami piped in.
Korra rounded on Asami with wide eyes. “You’re going to take her side, too?”
Asami eyes flashed, but that was the only sign that the heiress was anything other than the calm and collected image she portrayed.
“Why do you think we are on different sides? We all want the same thing.”
“I told you! Something’s... not right.”
“If she wasn’t on our side, why would she have saved your father’s life?” Su asked.
“All I know is- wait. What?”
Su’s words sunk in, and her explosive anger deflated in a dizzying rush leaving her frustrated and confused.
Korra whipped her head around the room searching for answers in the sea of silence around her.
“Korra, when your father was thrown off the cliff that day you were captured by Zaheer, Kuvira was the one who caught him. Now I realize the Captain may have said a few things that set you off, but I can assure you there is nothing nefarious about Kuvira. She’s been on our side from the beginning,” Tenzin explained.
Korra closed her eyes while she tried to process this new information. There was something about Kuvira that set Korra on edge, and she wanted so badly to feel vindicated, but she couldn’t ignore this new piece of evidence. Kuvira had saved her father’s life. How could she hate and distrust the woman who had saved her father’s life?
No. Asami was right. She didn’t know Kuvira, and it was very clear that everyone else around her did. They all trusted her. Asami trusted her. Though it caused a painful twist in her stomach, she owed it to her friend to trust her judgement.
Taking a deep breath, Korra opened her eyes and met the expectant gaze of everyone in the room.
“Alright. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”
Su smiled and Tenzin gave Korra a nod of respect, however Korra barely noticed as she watched for the only reaction that really mattered.
Asami was frowning, but by the way her eyes were glazed over, Korra suspected that the expression was not meant for her. Shaking herself from whatever deep thought she had been submerged in, Asami drew in a quick and deep breath and released it in a rush. She reached out and laid a soft hand on the plane of Korra’s cheek and smiled. However, when she focused her eyes on Korra, they were tinged with sadness, and she would have given anything at that moment to know why.
“Thank you, Korra.”
When she removed her hand, Korra felt as though half her body heat left with it.
Asami rolled Korra back to her room in silence. Once inside, Asami helped her out of her chair so she could sit on the bed. When Asami started to walk away, Korra reached out and grabbed one of her hands and pulled her down.
“I feel like all I’ve been doing is apologizing to you lately. But I’ll say it again. I’m sorry about... this morning.”
Asami rubbed her hair out of her face and leaned forward so she was resting her elbows on her knees. “No. This one I understand. I know you Korra. I know that the things Kuvira said hit a nerve. I’m actually pretty proud of you.”
Korra started in surprise. “You are?”
“I can only imagine the things you wanted to say when she made her comments. But you didn’t. That was really good.”
Korra sighed dramatically and let herself fall back onto the bed, throwing her arms out to the side.
“Yeah. It was really really hard, though... She pissed me off.”
Asami laughed and reached over to rub Korra’s knee. “I know.”
“How long do we have until the meeting?” Korra asked.
The events of the morning had made Korra extremely anxious, and she desperately wanted some time to calm down and steady her nerves.
“A couple hours. Do you want me to leave you alone?”
“No,” Korra replied without hesitation. “Please, stay.”
“Oh,” Asami said in a small voice. “Okay.”
They sat in silence while Korra did her best to try and relax. The revelation that Kuvira was her father’s savior had rocked her more than she was willing to admit. It seemed strange that no one had told her.
“Did you know?”
Asami looked down in question.
“Did you know that Kuvira saved my fathers life?”
Asami’s eyes glazed over as she shook her head. “No. I didn’t.”
Asami took a deep breath and released it on a sigh as she lowered herself until she was lying next to Korra on the bed. Her head landed on Korra’s bicep, but when she immediately started to sit back up, Korra hastily grabbed onto Asami’s shoulder.
“It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Asami looked at Korra with pursed brows as she propped herself up on her elbow and hovered slightly over Korra’s side.
Korra scrambled for a way to justify the proximity and felt her cheeks slowly start to burn. She had never had a close girl friend before and guessed that she had just crossed some line.
“I just… feel better when you’re close. I’m sorry. I know... it’s weird. You don’t have to. I just… you just… never mind…”
Asami continued to stare down at her, and Korra’s stomach tightened in a sudden rush of anxiety. For a second it looked like Asami was going to say something, but instead she lowered herself back down so she was laying on her side, pillowing her head with the crook of her arm. The fingers of her other hand were resting easily against Korra’s shoulder, and just that little bit of contact was enough to settle her nerves.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” Asami replied softly.
“It just helps having you around,” Korra continued, feeling as though it were very important that she explain her self.
“Korra. It’s okay.”
“You sure?” Korra asked, turning her head to look at the prone woman next to her. When she did, her stomach did a funny flip-flop as she realized how extremely close Asami’s face was to hers.
Korra could feel Asami’s steady breath against her face, and every puff of air caused her stomach to clench in a weird though not quite uncomfortable way. Asami’s eyes were soft as she smiled, but that sadness Korra had noticed earlier was back. Asami gently squeezed Korra’s bicep before turning onto her back with a sigh, pillowing her head on the soft spot where Korra’s shoulder melded into her chest.
“I’m sure, Korra. I’m glad I can help.”
Asami’s hair draped across the curve of Korra’s throat and tickled her nose. Korra lifted her hand and was about to twist a strand between her fingers before she realized what she was doing. To cover the true intent behind the movement, she rubbed her eye with her thumb and tried to remember what it was they’d been talking about.
Having Asami this close to her absolutely helped ease her nerves, and it also seemed to have the interesting side effect of making her completely forget about everything else. Her stomach had yet to cease its dance of flip-flips, and everywhere Asami’s skin was touching hers had started to tingle. A distant part of Korra’s mind was confused and worried about this weird reaction she was having, but most of her just hoped the other girl didn’t decide to get up.
“Do you really feel up to going to this war counsel?” Asami asked, breaking the silence that had settled over the room. She rolled herself back onto her side, but was still using Korra’s arm as a pillow. If possible, their faces were even closer, and Korra had to close her eyes at the onslaught feelings the heightened proximity suddenly flared. The feelings were both exciting and terrifying, and Korra had no idea what any of it meant. With considerable effort, Korra wrangled her thoughts to the question Asami had just asked.
“I don’t know. I kind of feel like I have to.”
“I hope you know no one expects you to.”
“No. I need to go. I want to feel like... I’m actually doing something. I need this.”
Asami nodded in understanding.
The movement caused a tug around Korra’s fingers, and she realized she had absentmindedly been playing with Asami’s hair without even realizing it. She dropped the silky strands and let her hand drop back to the bed.
Korra opened one eye and looked down. Asami’s eyes were closed as well, and she was smiling sweetly.
“Do you really trust her?”
Asami took a deep breath. For a moment, she didn’t think Asami was going to answer at all, but all thoughts of her question fled her mind when Asami inched a little closer until their bodies were pressed together from hip to shoulder.
“Can we just lay here for a bit and not talk?”
Korra breathed out a short laugh. “Yeah.”