Hand of Fate
Thirteen months ago, Asami Sato’s memories…
“Yaaahoooooo…!” came a cry from Bumi as he flew toward the observing station. Asami grinned, relieved that he’d finally been able to lift off successfully with the wingsuit. Although… he was ignoring her directions to land immediately if he managed to take off. As he passed the station, she could hear him yell, “Look at me now, Dad! Bet you never thought I’d be flying li- wha-agh!”
Asami winced as she witnessed Bumi suddenly pulling up, turning into a corkscrew, and crashing headfirst into the ground. She was tempted to drop her face into her palm at this. There was a reason, after all, that she’d told him to land if he did get airborne - he’d only gotten a basic overview of how to handle anything that might go wrong once he was in the air. The idea was to keep him at low speeds at first while he learned the skills, so Opal would be in range to catch him if anything went wrong.
Though really, it was Bumi. Asami probably had herself to blame for not seeing this coming. She let out a groan. At least this time she had a healer on call, for just this sort of eventuality.
“I’m really sorry Asami,” Bumi said, looking over at her with an apologetic smile as the healer worked on his shoulder. The apology was actually surprising enough to catch Asami off-guard and help defuse her frustration with him, though part of that was her suspicion that this wasn’t actually Bumi in front of her. She exchanged a surprised glance with Opal at this, then turned back to Bumi as he continued. “But I swear, if that tornado hadn’t appeared when it did, I would have been able to make it out without a scratch. This suit really is something else.” Okay, it was Bumi.
“A… tornado. On a clear day, without a cloud in sight,” Izin said. He narrowed his gaze, staring at Bumi for a moment, then looking over at Asami. “Do you have some other invention in the works that can create tornados? I think they call this burying the lede.”
Asami shook her head. She’d forgotten that Izin wasn’t very experienced with Bumi yet. “No. Just the wingsuits today. Bumi has a… creative memory.”
“Creative memory?” Bumi said. He nearly stood up, but the healer quickly put his hand on Bumi’s good shoulder and held him down. “Everything was going great! I was flying like a bird, then suddenly I spin out of control! How do you explain that if not a tornado?”
“Well, I couldn’t see you from where I was,” Opal said, crossing her arms, “which, by the way, was why we told you to start off slow - but it might have been your form. At that speed, you have to keep the right form to remain stable.”
“The right form?” Bumi said. As he replied, Asami caught sight of Izin heading over to a nearby desk and pulling out some paper. He began to work at something while Bumi continued. Asami followed Izin, curious about what he was up to right now. He seemed purposeful in his movements, so this wasn’t just busywork he was occupying himself with. Behind her, she heard Bumi and Opal discuss flying forms, but she wasn’t giving it much attention.
Izin seemed to notice that Asami was watching him. “Just an example,” he said, glancing briefly back at her. He took a couple sheets of paper, and quickly folded them into a pair of identical paper airplanes. He then grabbed a paperclip and attached it to the nose of one of the planes, then turned back to Bumi and Opal. “Let me show you,” he said, once there was a break in the discussion.
Bumi looked over at Izin, and his eyes shot between the airplanes and Izin’s face. “With those?” Asami found herself nodding, even though Bumi wasn’t looking at her. It was actually quite a good idea for showing basic flight principles.
“Yeah. Stability is all about balance,” Izin said. He moved up beside Bumi and showed the planes to him. “You want to have your center of mass as far forward as you can, with as much wing area behind it as possible. This way, when you’re moving forward, the wind mostly hits the wings behind the center of mass, and it keeps it pointed in the same direction. It’s the same way a weather vane works. So look at these. Which of these planes do you think will fly better?”
“Hmm…” Bumi eyed the two planes. He brought up his hand to rotate each of them in Izin’s grip. “Well, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say the paperclip is just weighing that one down. But I like the look in your eyes, and I didn’t get where I am without knowing when I’m out of my league. I’m betting you wouldn’t be showing this to me if you didn’t expect the one with the clip to fly better.”
Izin nodded. “Well let’s see then,” he said. He looked back up, and Asami moved out of the way to make sure he had a good place to throw along the length of the room. One after another, he tossed the two planes, using a quick, nearly identical throw for each. The one without the clip soon flew off its path, hitting the wall off to the right of where Izin had been aiming, but the one with the clip managed to keep true, hitting the far wall in front of him before dropping to the floor.
“Huh, amazing… wouldn’t have called it if I hadn’t seen it…” Bumi said. Asami glanced over at Opal, who seemed to have a relieved expression on her face at this. Perhaps now Bumi would be a bit more receptive to her tips on flight form.
Izin shrugged. “Eh, that’s simple. If you want to see something cool, I’ll show you how to make one that’ll return to you when you throw it, without any airbending.”
“Well, that might be ‘cool,’” Asami said. She moved over beside Bumi’s chair. She turned her head to look at Izin, her hair flipping out of her face as she turned. “But what if I insist on seeing something that you consider amazing? What would you have in store for us then?”
Opal gave Asami an odd look, but she didn’t say anything on it before Izin began to speak. “Amazing?” He said. He considered this for a moment, and then a smirk crossed his face. “You’ve already seen it: gravity. What’s amazing is how much people just take it for granted and never really think about.” Izin paused, then shook his head. “Though I don’t think I really have time to get into it all here. I really should be getting back to the office, after all, now that I’ve seen the wingsuit in action and confirmed it works as designed.”
Asami’s face gave a slight pout before she caught herself, though thankfully Izin had already turned away to collect his briefcase, and so he didn’t notice it. “Another time then,” she said.
Izin turned back, his briefcase in hand, and he nodded at Asami. “Another time,” he said. He didn’t move to leave just yet, though. He seemed to be considering something for a minute, and then he tilted his head and said, “Though you might have to make it soon. I got offered a position at a university back in the Fire Nation, so I’m not going to be around here much longer. You may have to start requesting a different patent clerk.”
Asami’s eyes widened. “Oh.” She blinked, quickly reminding herself of just what the situation was. “Well, I should congratulate you, then,” she said with a smile. She reached her hand out to him. “I hope you do well there.”
“Thank you,” Izin said, smiling back at Asami. He stepped forward and shook her hand, then turned to Opal and Bumi, nodding at each of them. “Best of luck to you two, and try to keep the crashing to a minimum.”
“Hah, don’t worry about me, I’ve taken much worse!” Bumi said, a wide grin crossing his face. “Just watch out for yourself. I’ve seen tiger-dillos in the Fire Nation the size of volcanoes. Trust me, you can’t take those things lightly.”
Izin raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t have a chance to reply to this before Opal cut in, stepping between him and Bumi. “Right. In any case, I’m sure you’ll do well there.” She gave Izin a polite bow, smiling at him. “Good luck in your new job!”
Izin nodded at Opal, then turned and nodded at Asami one more time before heading off. For just a moment, his eyes caught hers, and seemed to linger, but the moment passed, and he was gone.
“Asami, can I ask you something?” Opal said. “Something personal, I mean.”
“Hmm?” Asami glanced up briefly at Opal, only partly paying attention right now. Most of her mind was focused on going over Opal’s wingsuit, which she’d spread out on her desk now to inspect. The clasps on it were beginning to show signs of wear already. She’d need to come up with a more durable solution; if they failed at the wrong moment, it could lead to real trouble.
“Let’s say I hypothetically knew that Izin would say ‘yes’ if you asked him out on a date,” Opal said. “Would you ask him out?”
Asami blinked. She probably hadn’t heard that right, though she was hard-pressed to think of what else Opal might have said. “Um… excuse me?” she said, turning away from the wingsuit to face Opal.
“Don’t try to hide it,” Opal said, narrowing her gaze just slightly. “I saw the hairflip earlier today. Problem is, Izin’s as bad at picking up signals as he is at sending them out. Trust me though, he’ll agree if you ask.”
Asami furrowed her brow. “Okay, putting aside for the moment the fact that he just told us he’s going to be moving away, what makes you say that?” she said. After looking at Opal for a moment, she quickly turned back to the wingsuit, trying to focus on it for a moment, or at least look like she was focusing on it. Perhaps it would have been better to put a quick end to this conversation, but it was a bit late for that now.
“I talked with him,” Opal said. “After you introduced me to him a couple weeks ago, when you brought him to the estate with the paper-thin excuse of getting Bumi to apologize to him for the incident in the park, I went out for lunch with him a few times. So, I found out a few things.”
Letting out a sigh, Asami leaned back in her chair. She wasn’t actually making any progress with the wingsuit. It wasn’t worth the effort of trying to work during this discussion, or to pretend she wasn’t interested. “Alright,” she said, looking back over at Opal. “In any case, he hasn’t said anything to me, and he’s going to be leaving soon anyway. So… thanks for letting me know, I guess.”
Opal’s gaze softened. Apparently Asami wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding her discomfort right now. “Okay. I just wanted to let you know. If you get it off to a decent start, a long-distance relationship can survive. It’s worked for Bolin and me so far. It’s up to you. I just don’t want you two to miss out on something because neither of you makes the first move. And well… you’re a good person. You deserve to be happy.”
Asami smiled a bit at this. “Thanks, Opal,” she said. She glanced away, thinking back over her interactions with Izin. She hadn’t noticed any indications that he was interested in her, although Opal had mentioned that he was bad at sending out signals. It was a bit hard to believe that he was actually interested in her, from what she’d seen. “Not that I’m committing to anything,” she said - and she certainly wasn’t - “but if you’re so certain he’d say yes, mind explaining why he hasn’t made any moves himself?”
Opal was silent for a minute, but she eventually let out a breath. “I don’t know if it’s really my place to say…” she said at last. She walked over toward Asami, then reached out a hand and placed it on her shoulder. “There’s a reason. I’ll say that. Just trust me on this. Maybe ask him yourself sometime, if things do work out. Though… I guess if you’re this uncomfortable with it, maybe it’s for the best not to lead him on. Just pretend I didn’t say anything.”
Asami’s eyes slid over to look at Opal again, and she cracked a grin. “No, it’s alright. Thank you, Opal. Sorry, things are just a bit complicated for me romantically - long story. I’ll figure it out, don’t worry.” She reached a hand up to Opal’s, giving it a squeeze to thank her friend for her support.
Almost two years have passed since I’ve last heard from you. I’m not entirely sure what to make of your silence, but I can’t imagine it means anything good. As always, you have my unconditional support, and a promise that I’ll do anything for you if you need it.
There’s something I need to tell you, Korra. I tried heading to the statue of you in Avatar Korra Park, but I couldn’t say it there. I have to write it down, even if you might never read this. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll even send this letter; I suppose I’m writing this more for my own sake than for yours.
Well… for my own sake, then, I’ll say it: A bit over two years ago, while we were searching the Earth Kingdom for new airbenders-
An explosion of blue fills the world, but this time I’m expecting it. I wasn’t sure when it would happen, but I knew this was going to happen again. I was taken out of Asami’s memories before at a sudden, peculiar moment. I don’t know what it was that I was blocked from seeing, but I think now I know why it happened.
Somehow, Asami’s sound chakra had gotten closed off or restricted, and it’s been blocking her communication ever since. Even inside her memories, it showed up, blocking me from experiencing what had happened after she spotted her letter to me in the memory from earlier. Whatever was happening here, it wasn’t making things easy on us.
Fine then. We’ll do this the hard way. As blue fills my world, I twist my body, pushing back against it. I was able to get back to Asami before by heading downward, so that’s where I’m going now.
-I fell in love with you. By the time I figured out my feelings, though, things were getting too out-of-hand with the Red Lotus, and I never got a chance to truly act on it before you sacrificed yourself to them. After that point, with how much the battle with Zaheer had hurt you, there was no way I could burden you with my feelings. Perhaps if you returned them, hearing my own would have been helpful, but I judged it far more likely you weren’t there yet, if you could ever love another woman.
My feelings for you haven’t changed, Korra, even after all of this time. It’s hard to believe it, but it’s actually been longer now since I last heard from you than you were actually in my life for. It doesn’t feel that way, though. I’ve been holding you in my heart this entire time, and I imagine I’ll continue to hold you there for years to come, even if I never hear another word from you.
The reason I’m writing you this now is, for the first time in two years, I’m starting to feel like it might be possible for me to feel something for someone else. I’ve had more than a few men - and one woman - ask me out on dates in the past couple years, but I turned them all down. But perhaps now enough time has passed that my heart has opened itself up to the merest possibility of feeling something for someone else.
The letter. I can see it, and Asami’s hand writing it. Most of the words are blocked out from my vision, but I can pick out bits here and there. I can still feel resistance, but I’m making progress. I reach my hand out to Asami’s, struggling, straining to reach her.
“I’m not giving up on you, Asami!” I call out. I get just a bit closer to her, but not close enough. I narrow my eyes, focusing on the specific goal. I have to be with her, even if most of the memory is blocked from my view.
I don’t love you any less. But if I continue down this road, and I develop true feelings for someone else, will my feelings for you fade? If they don’t, it would feel like I’m being unfaithful to my new partner. Perhaps the best scenario would be if my feelings for you shift to loving you as a friend. I’ll admit, my heart doesn’t quite want to give up on you yet. But if I don’t do something now, I may miss my chance.
I guess I simply don’t have enough information to know I’ll be making the right decision, whatever I decide. If I knew how you felt about me, or how you might feel about me given time, I could decide easily. But I don’t. And so I have to work with what I know, and face the fact that whatever decision I make, it could be the wrong one.
To speak up, to get in at least one date with Izin, to explore the possibility of something with him… even if it might mean letting my heart drift away from you… or to keep silent, to give up on that possibility, even though I know he’s likely interested, but keep my heart faithful to the possibility of something with you.
The world strains against me. Blue ink seems to cover most of the letter, and I can only pick out a few sentences from it. Enough to tell Asami is struggling over the decision of whether or not to ask out Izin, but not enough to figure out why. I’m getting closer to her, though. My hand has almost reached hers.
“We can do this, Asami. I got every letter you wrote while I was recovering in the South Pole,” I say. I don’t know if she can hear me, but I’m saying it for myself, in any case. “You never gave up on me. Now it’s my turn. I’m not giving up on you. I’ll never give up on you, Asami.”
My fingertips touch the back of Asami’s hand. A golden light spreads from the point of contact, and the resistance around me suddenly vanishes. I snap forward, my body merging with Asami’s, my mind taking a backseat to hers once more.
Logically, I guess it doesn’t make much sense to keep waiting on you after all this time. Maybe if I speak up now, years later my heart will thank me for doing so, and you and I will be back to simply being best friends. Or maybe things won’t work out with Izin, but you do develop feelings for me later. It could still work.
I guess that’s it then. I have to speak. It doesn’t change my feelings for you, Korra. I’ll never love you any less. But perhaps someday I’ll love you in a different way. That might actually be what you’d prefer.
Alright, there’s no way I can send this to you, not knowing what state you might be in there. Who knows how much harm I could cause. Maybe later I’ll show it to you, though, and you can tell me if I’ve made the right decision.
Asami put down her pen. She couldn’t leave herself much room for doubt right now, or she’d go back on the decision she’d just made. Surrendering to uncertainty wasn’t an option. With a nod to steel her resolve, Asami folded up the letter she’d just written and took it to her filing cabinet. She’d have to remember to show it to Korra eventually, but for now it was best she focus on Izin.
Finding a way to ask him out might be a bit tricky. She’d never gotten his home phone number or address. She might be able to find one or the other out somehow, but that might add a bit of awkwardness that would be best avoided. It was past hours at the patent office now, so if she wanted to go through there, she’d have to wait until the next day.
She wanted to get this done today though, or at least start on it, so she wouldn’t go back on her decision and end up regretting it later. As she turned back to her desk, her eyes fell on her telephone. She didn’t have Izin’s number herself, but perhaps Opal did. She did mention that she’d met up for lunch with him a few times. Nodding to herself, Asami headed to her desk and picked up her phone.
Time stretches out as Asami reaches for her phone. Colors blur out, melding into one another. I know what’s going. An invitation to step outside of Asami for a moment. Perhaps I could use it after seeing her decide to go on a date with someone else, but I don’t move.
“No,” I say. “Let’s continue. No way I’m giving up on you, Asami. Wherever you were back then, it’s alright. I can handle it. I know I said it was awkward before, but I’ll work through that for your sake.” I let myself relax, emptying my mind so that Asami’s could take over once more. “Let’s continue, Asami.”
Asami ticked off the final box on her checklist. Everything was perfect. Once she’d started moving, things had fallen into place one after another. Opal had been more than eager to help get Asami into contact with Izin, and she’d been right: Izin had been pleasantly surprised at Asami’s invitation and had accepted. Although the timing was tight before Izin left for the Fire Nation, Asami was able to book them a private table at Luzao’s, one of her favorite restaurants, thanks to another reservation having been cancelled just minutes before she phoned.
Perhaps it was the universe confirming that she’d made the right decision, or perhaps it was simply a stroke of good luck. But things were going well, and Asami found herself hopeful that they’d continue to do so. It probably wasn’t the best idea to get ahead of herself too much, but a bit of hope probably wasn’t going to be a problem. She just had to hold out until her date this evening, and see where things went from there.
In any case, it was time to get back to work. Asami reached out to take the stack of letters from her inbox, quickly rifling through them in case there was anything marked urgent. As she did so, a pale blue envelope caught her eye. Her first thought was that it might be an update from Katara or someone else at the South Pole on Korra’s recovery, and so she eagerly pulled it out, hoping for the best for her friend.
Asami blinked as she read the return address, and the world around her seemed to freeze. Korra.
After a long minute, Asami slowly turned over the envelope, and she peeled it open. Her mind was blank as she did so, possible thoughts battling against each other so ferociously that none could win out and manifest itself within her mind. All she could do was pull out the letter and begin to read.
I'm sorry I haven't written to you sooner, but every time I've tried, I never know what to say. The past two years have been the hardest of my life. Even though I can get around fine now, I still can't go into the Avatar State. I keep having visions of Zaheer and what happened that day. Katara thinks a lot of this is in my head, so I've been meditating a lot, but sometimes I worry I'll never fully recover.
Please don't tell Mako and Bolin I wrote to you and not them. I don't want to hurt their feelings, but it's easier to tell you about this stuff. I don't think they'd understand.
Asami’s eyes went over the letter again, and she could feel tears trying to push their way out. The letter wasn’t long, but it still managed to say so much to Asami. How hard must it have been for Korra to write this? And what did it mean about her feelings for Asami that she’d written it?
It couldn’t have been easy for Korra to write this. Asami could feel her friend struggling for words. No wonder it had taken Korra so long to reply, if she was holding in this much pain. But she finally had replied… to Asami. Only to Asami.
That did it. There was no use fighting the tears. Asami pushed the letter away to keep it safe, and then quickly buried her face in her arms, letting the tears flow.
Pain swelled within Asami’s chest. She hadn’t felt anything like this since Korra had resolved to sacrifice herself to the Red Lotus. All the worry about Korra came back to her, twisting at her heart. Her feelings hadn’t faded in the slightest since they’d parted. Not even the hint of developing feelings for Izin had managed to make the slightest impact on what Korra meant to her.
And with this letter… despite all the pain from Korra, and how much it hurt Asami to hear about it… there was the fact that Korra had written to Asami alone. Through all the pain Asami felt for Korra’s mental state, a guilty sliver of hope had managed to wedge itself in. This could mean there was an actual chance Korra might feel something for Asami in return, or even just a chance that she might be able to in the future.
Asami’s throat swelled up on her, and she squeezed her eyes shut. She shouldn’t be focusing on that. She should be worried about her friend, wanting to help in any way she could. It didn’t feel right to be happy about this letter.
Asami pulled her face back from her arms, shaking her head. She couldn’t control how she felt. She could only control her actions, and so she had to make sure that she did what was best for Korra. She wiped tears from her face, trying to find some semblance of focus. Korra wasn’t going to be ready to hear Asami’s confession of love, at least not in a romantic way. But she needed support. That was something Asami could do, at least.
Trying to swallow down her conflicting emotions, Asami forced herself to breathe slowly. It was Friday, and the next letter pick-up wasn’t until Monday, so she wouldn’t be able to rush a reply out before then. That was probably for the best. She could take her time and make sure her reply was just right before sending it to Korra. She had the whole weekend to work on it.
As she visualized the weekend before her, Asami could feel her chest constricting on her. Izin. Her date with him. Tonight. It was too soon, she couldn’t… she couldn’t move on from Korra. Not now. Perhaps not ever.
She should never have asked him out. It had seemed like the right decision at the time… but so much in her life had. It had never prevented her from facing heartbreak before. This might be the first time she found herself causing a broken heart, though. She wasn’t going to get out of this unscathed, but Izin would have it worse.
There had been so much hope in his words as he’d accepted her offer of a date. She’d given him that, and now she had to take it away, before anything even began. How would he take it? How much heartbreak had he faced in his life? Would he be able to take anymore?
Asami looked over at her phone. She had his number now. She could call him, cancel it, apologize, try to explain. It wasn’t fair to him, but none of this was. It was Asami’s fault for speaking up, bringing him into this when her heart was still fixated on Korra. She owed him better than this. She couldn’t make everything right, but she at least owed him better than a phone call.
It would be harder for her this way. She probably deserved it, though. No… that didn’t matter. She had to do what was right, whether it was hard or easy. A call might be easier at first, but she couldn’t trust herself or him not to hang up if it got difficult. She had to meet him, try to explain in person what had happened. She’d booked a private table at the restaurant, and she could ask the waitstaff to stay away for a bit when she met with him.
It wasn’t a good solution. Maybe it was the least bad one.
In the year after the Equalists’ rebellion, Asami had gotten quite a bit of progress covering up her emotions in public. It started with the betrayal and imprisonment of her father, which led to Asami taking over what was left of Future Industries and trying to rebuild it while hiding her pain over what had happened with her father. It got worse with Varrick’s efforts to take over Future Industries, which caused its slow descent into bankruptcy due to the thefts he’d arranged. In private, she’d fallen apart, but she got practice in never letting the public see what she was going through.
She had to put that practice to use now, covering up her conflicting emotions as she arrived at Luzao’s. The first part was easy - give the host a generous tip while requesting some privacy until they called for a waiter, then apologize in case she had to leave early. With the tip, no questions were asked, and she was able to keep up her mask long enough to reach the table she’d reserved.
The first crack appeared in her mask as she caught sight of Izin, already seated at the table. She quickly covered it up, though, smiling gently at him as she approached. “Good evening, Izin,” she said, making an effort to keep her voice neutral, as if she were just here to conduct business.
“Asami,” Izin replied. His face showed only a polite smile, but his eyes betrayed his excitement. After Asami took a seat across from him, he continued, “I feel I should be thanking you already for treating me to dinner here. There’s no way I would normally be able to afford eating at a place like this.”
Asami shook her head slightly. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, meeting his gaze. She felt a bit of a spark again as she did so, a reminder of why she’d asked him out in the first place. She did feel something for him, but it simply couldn’t compare to the love she’d built up for Korra. “You deserve a bit of a celebration for your new job, after all,” Asami said. As soon as she finished speaking, she cursed herself for delaying the inevitable. It would be so much easier to simply go through with this date and pretend the chemistry just didn’t work at the end of it. But it would be a lie.
Izin let out a brief chuckle. His eyes held Asami’s for a moment, and she could practically read what he was thinking: No reason a celebration had to be just the two of them. This was intended to be more than that. Izin then tilted his head slightly and said, “Fair enough. In any case, thank you.”
Another crack appeared in Asami’s mask as Izin thanked her. She couldn’t accept his thanks. And she couldn’t let this go on. She took a breath, and then forced herself to speak. “Izin… I’m afraid I don’t deserve your thanks,” she said.
“What do you mean?” Izin said, furrowing his eyebrows.
Asami took another deep breath. She had to do it. It was the right thing, however much pain it might cause in the short term. “I’m afraid that matters have changed somewhat since I asked you out for this dinner. Not in regards to how I feel about you, but how I feel about another. My best friend.”
Izin blinked slowly. His face seemed to have frozen, as if he was putting up a mask of his own. He wasn’t as practiced at it, it seemed, as Asami could easily see the growing disappointment in his eyes. She didn’t know how much heartbreak he’d seen in his life. Hopefully he would be able to weather this. Hopefully his feelings for Asami hadn’t gotten too strong yet.
After giving Izin a chance to say something if he wished to, Asami forced herself to press forward. “I fell in love with her a couple years ago, but she’s been in no place to return my feelings, or even hear my confession.” There was a momentary flicker in Izin’s eyes at the word “her,” but it was quickly gone. Most likely just surprise. “I held onto my feelings, in case something might change. But when I asked you out, I’d decided it was time to try to move on. Today… I received a letter from her. It brought back everything I felt before, and also gave me a ray of hope that she might one day return my feelings.”
Izin’s body was stiff, but he slowly nodded. “I see,” he said. It was only two words, but it sounded as if his voice was nearly cracking. Certainly his eyes were showing distress. It was hard to say just what it was, though. There seemed to be some anger there, but it didn’t feel like it was directed at Asami. Perhaps simply at fate, which had dealt them both this hand.
Asami reached out, taking Izin’s hand in hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze as she considered her next words. “A while ago, you said that you don’t believe the universe plays dice with us. If you’re right, then the timing of this letter is no coincidence. I don’t know what the purpose of it is, though. Right now, it simply seems cruel that I didn’t receive the letter a week ago or a week later. I can’t imagine that the universe wants to hurt you, though. Whatever the meaning is, I hope you find it someday.”
Light glistened off of Izin’s eyes. Perhaps tears were trying to push their way out, or perhaps it was just the way the light hit them. He nodded weakly, but didn’t speak any further. His eyes dropped down to the table.
Asami had to fight to keep herself from breaking down right now. Was this what it felt like to break someone’s heart? Asami squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then swallowed her pain and tried to speak. “I’ll… I’ll leave you if you want. I asked the waitstaff to give us some privacy, and to expect that we might disappear before eating. Whatever you want to do, I’ll handle it. I’ll cover the costs of the table, or your meal. Leave if you want, and I’ll explain it to them.”
Izin simply nodded again. “Alright,” he said. He closed his eyes and took a slow breath. “Right. Do that then.”
Asami nodded, though he wouldn’t see it with his eyes closed. She released his hand, then stood up. “Alright. I’m sorry, Izin. You deserve better than this,” she said. She stepped away from the table, then pushed in her chair and began to head off.
“Asami,” came Izin’s voice from behind her, after she’d taken just a couple of steps. Asami paused in her step, turning back toward him. He’d opened his eyes again, though for once Asami had trouble reading them. “Your friend… it’s the Avatar, isn’t it?”
Asami had to suppress a wince. She’d been careful not to say that part. After the way she’d met Izin, she didn’t want to give him a reason to go back to hating Korra. This wasn’t her fault. Asami considered lying to him to protect Korra, but… no. There wasn’t anything here Korra needed protection from. Heartbreak wasn’t going to turn him into something he wasn’t. “Yes,” Asami said. “It’s her.”
“Of course…” Izin said. He closed his eyes again. Oddly, it looked like there was a hint of a smile on his face. After a moment, he spoke, his voice weak and nearing its breaking point. “...I hope it works out for you two then.”
Asami shut her eyes, turning half away from him. “I do too…” she said.
The world slows to a crawl. Perhaps it’s time for me to step outside of Asami’s memories again, and have a moment as myself. After the fight it took to get in, however, I don’t know if I’ll be able to return if I leave.
The world stops. Nothing’s moving, but I still don’t take the invitation to leave. Eventually, though, I do notice one sound: a heartbeat. Asami’s heart. Right now, it’s still twisted in pain, but I know it will recover. After the first letter I sent to her, I do manage to write a couple more before I head off to the Earth Kingdom to try to find myself. And then I return, and I’ve barely said “hello” before I start acting like we’re a couple.
Neither of us ever said anything about our feelings. I was stuck being blind to how she felt about me, until it finally struck me as we entered the spirit portal together. And Asami… she knew how I felt, but…
“You were afraid to speak, weren’t you?” I say. I guess there’s no fighting it. I allow myself to step outside of Asami’s body. There are some things I need to say to her. “With Izin… and Mako before him, you spoke up. You were assertive, you asked them out, and it ended in heartbreak.”
I smile weakly at Asami’s frozen body, then look over my shoulder at Izin. It wasn’t Asami’s heart that was broken this time, but she still felt it just as acutely. And it just had to happen when my first letter to her arrived. I turn back to Asami, thinking over what I saw before, in my last vision. Mako wasn’t the first person I saw her with; he was just the first one I recognized. There were two people before that, when Asami looked younger. One boy, one girl. The same pattern had showed itself: Energy flowed through her sound chakra in a burst, followed by her body wincing in pain.
“Did it happen before, too?” I say. “Before Mako, I mean. You asked someone out, and faced heartbreak in the end?” I glance downward, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry it happened, Asami. I really don’t know what it’s like. I’ve only ever been with Mako before, and I never faced the kind of heartbreak you did with him. I can see why you’d be hesitant to speak up after all of this.”
I take a step toward Asami. Her body is still frozen, but I know she’s listening to me. I reach a hand out, placing it on her shoulder. I look up into her eyes for a moment, remembering the way they looked as we entered the spirit portal together. She didn’t need to say anything then. And before, she’d made the right choice not to say anything to me. I wasn’t ready to hear it. But after we started this vacation, I was ready, and she was still afraid. Not speaking with me had worked, while speaking up in the past had led her to heartbreak. Something must have happened to amplify that, turning her choice not to speak into an inability to speak.
I lean forward, planting a soft kiss on Asami’s cheek. “You can speak whenever you’re ready,” I say. “If you still need to work through things, I understand.” I reach my hand down, grasping Asami’s hand. I give it a squeeze, smile at Asami, and say, “Let’s wake up now, ‘kay Asami?”
Asami’s eyes slowly peeled open. A blurry form in front of her slowly took shape, focusing into Korra, her hands still joined together with Asami’s, and with Light curled up asleep on her lap. Asami gently smiled as she saw Korra’s eyes opening as well, and she opened her mouth. She had to try. “I love you, Korra.”
Nothing. Only air passed through her lips. Asami looked down, taking a slow breath. No. She wasn’t going to give up. Korra had said she wasn’t giving up on her, so Asami couldn’t give up either. For now, her voice could wait. There was something more important to do first.
Asami looked back at Korra’s face, and then she leaned forward. There was a moment of surprise on Korra’s face, and then a smile, and then Korra closed her eyes, tilting her head to the side. Asami’s lips made gentle contact with Korra’s, and the rest of the world faded away. Her throat swelled up with emotion as she moved her lips slowly against Korra’s, making sure her friend knew how much Asami loved her.
No. Not her friend. Her girlfriend. Her partner. Her love.