Unspoken Words


“Um, thanks, Dad. I’ll do my best,” Asami said. She was back in her father’s office now, though the room wasn’t quite as clear as before. Once more, she felt a bit disconnected from herself as she spoke, watching it occur more than experiencing it. “But, um, about the Pro-bending match? Would you maybe like to come with me?”

Something flashed in Hiroshi’s eyes momentarily. Asami caught it, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it... until her father let out a heavy sigh and began speaking. “I suppose now is as good of a time as any to tell you, Asami,” he said, catching Asami off-guard. That wasn’t supposed to happen. “The truth is, ever since your mother was killed by benders, I haven’t been able to forgive them. Pro-bending is simply not something I would enjoy.”

Asami blinked. Her father’s statement had caught her completely off-guard. It felt like a sudden weight had attached itself to her chest as she processed his words, realizing this new side to the man. She tried to process this, but she simply couldn’t wrap her mind around this way of thinking. After nearly a minute of silence, she said, “So, because some benders killed Mom, you hate them all? I mean, they were also all men who broke in that night, so are you going to hate all men? They were all firebenders, so are you going to hate all descendants of the Fire Nation?”

Hiroshi shook his head, a scowl crossing his features. “Of course not, Asami. This is different.”

“Why?” Asami said, narrowing her eyes. She could feel anger beginning to build in her now. She wasn’t sure if it was simply because her father was against Pro-bending, or if it was something else. “Because you’re a man, so you can’t hate men? We’re both from the Fire Nation, so that’s out? You could have just hated gang members, you know. Or maybe just the people who did it! Of all the benders in the world, less than a dozen had anything to do with Mom’s death. Hate them with all your heart, just like I do, but let it end there!”

“Enough!” Hiroshi said, his face tightening. “I understand you’re upset, Asami, but I will not have you speaking to me like this. Leave my office. The next time you enter, I expect you to have learned the proper respect, understood?”

Asami glared at her father. “...Understood,” she said. She spun on her foot and marched out of his office. This wasn’t over.

“We had that fight before you left… remember?” Mako said. He was steadfastly avoiding Asami’s gaze right now, which wasn’t a good sign. Asami had already begun her mental countdown for how long Mako had to straighten this out, and he was quickly running out of time.

“No, not really,” Korra said. “I got attacked by a dark spirit and I lost my memory for a little while. Maybe it hasn't all come back yet. Was it a bad fight?” Well, that at least explained Korra’s actions. It didn’t make seeing the kiss hurt any less, though.

Mako seemed to tense up as he considered this. “Umm… well… yeah….” Mako let out a sigh. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them up, he glanced quickly at Asami, then back to Korra. “You broke up with me, Korra. I’m with Asami now. We’ll talk in private, okay?”

Asami’s eyes widened. She couldn’t believe Mako had actually said that. She’d already been steeling herself for another round of heartbreak at his hands. Had Mako… actually handled something right when it came to his feelings for her and Korra? It was almost unbelievable. Perhaps impossible.

Asami gave a slight shrug. “It should be interesting. I wanted to experience the spirit world, after all. Maybe I should consider myself lucky to get to meet a spirit like him. Maybe I can even get him to think of me as something other than the ‘companion to the Avatar,’ or whatever his exact words were.”

Korra let out a laugh at this. “Yeah. I really don’t think that title will catch on for you. We’ll need something better.” Korra’s eyes narrowed, and Asami caught a slight spark within them. “The Avatar’s Right Hand, perhaps?” she said, her eyebrow rising as she spoke.

Asami’s eyes narrowed. Korra couldn’t possibly think that would do. “Perhaps not,” she said. As she tried to find the right words to say next, the moment passed her by, and Korra let out a scoff.

“Fine, you win,” Korra said. “I can be your right hand if you want.”

This got Asami to grin. “Thank you, but I have a much more interesting role in mind for you,” she said, giving Korra a quick wink. “How about… ‘partner,’” Asami said. It might not have been the perfect word - it certainly couldn’t describe all that Korra was to her - but it was good enough for a start. “With the specifics of that partnership to be renegotiated on an ongoing basis. But for now, as we’d say in Future Industries if we handled this type of thing, I’d call it an ‘entry-level romantic partnership.’ Sound good?” The words came out easily now. Almost too easily.

Korra’s eyes were glued to Asami as the latter woman spoke. Eventually, Korra let out a laugh she’d been suppressing. Her face lit up, giving Asami a grin that could have brightened her darkest day. “Sounds perfect.”

A moment later, Korra pushed up Asami’s pant leg, and there was a brief flash of concern on her face. It quickly faded though. “Ah, this isn’t bad,” she said. “A bit of a cut and bruise, but I don’t think the bone’s damaged.” Holding the pant leg up with one hand, Korra pulled out her canteen and bent some water onto the wound. Asami soon felt a soothing warmth where she’d been injured, and she let out a soft hum.

“Mm, thank you, Korra,” Asami said, smiling at her friend. As Korra put her canteen away, Asami pulled her pant leg back down and replaced her boot. As she looked back up, she found her gaze suddenly meeting Korra’s. Her friend’s soft gaze caused Asami’s heartbeat to pick up. The moment seemed to linger, and Asami felt herself being pulled toward Korra’s face. This was a perfect opportunity.

Asami began to lean forward, her eyes focused on Korra’s lips. She watched for any sign of hesitance or nervousness, but she saw none. She even saw Korra tilt her head just slightly so their noses wouldn’t bump together. It was so easy. It was the perfect timing, the perfect invitation, and Asami couldn’t help but lean forward, bringing her lips to Korra’s.

“Wait,” Asami said, forcing herself to stop. “I’m sorry, Korra, but this isn’t right.” Asami pulled back, taking a moment to take in details around her. She focused on Korra’s hair. This was one good test she’d heard of. She tried to discern individual strands of her friend’s hair. No matter how much she focused though, they all blurred together.

One more test to be sure. Asami took off her pack and dug in it for something with writing on it. Her flashlight, that would do. It had the Future Industries logo on it. Or at least, it should have had it. Right now, the rough shape of it was correct, but all it had was a blur where the text should have been.

“It’s a dream. And not a very subtle one,” Asami said, looking back up at Korra, who’d been uncharacteristically silent as she waited for Asami. “Though I usually find myself waking up around the time I realize that I’m dreaming. So, what’s different this time? Something to do with the spirit world perhaps?”

“I don’t know,” Korra said. She wasn’t quite Korra anymore, though. Her features had seemed to shift since Asami had realized she was dreaming. The left side of her face had paled, and part of her hair had darkened to black. “There’s something different now, certainly, but I don’t know if it’s the spirit world alone doing this. I probably would have mentioned it if I knew something about dreams being different in the spirit world, wouldn’t I? Then again, maybe I do know that this doesn’t happen here, and that’s so mundane I never bothered to tell you.”

“...Right,” Asami said. She eyed the figure in front of her for a moment longer. The change in her appearance seemed to have spread, though she couldn’t remember noticing it doing so. Now nearly half of her face had changed, and Asami could see that the figure was starting to look more like herself, and less like Korra. She was speaking more like Asami as well. “I suppose you can’t tell me anything I don’t already know, can you?”

“In a sense, no,” the figure said. As she spoke, the change in her appearance grew to include her mouth as well. The hybridization of her own features with Korra’s in this manner should have been a rather disturbing sight, but in the context of a dream, it didn’t seem that odd. “But I can tell you things you don’t know that you know. I can tell you things you’ve just forgotten, such as reminding you of the three dreams you had prior to this one. Do you remember those?”

With the reminder, memories of her earlier dreams filled Asami’s memories. She nodded. “I do now. And I’m starting to notice a pattern. Except this is the first time I’ve realized I was dreaming.”

“Probably because you’ve noticed the pattern, at least subconsciously,” the figure said. As she spoke, her transformation suddenly completed. She was now Asami as well, though not a mirror image. Rather, she was a few years younger, and wearing a casual outfit that Asami hadn’t worn in many years. “The problem is, I’ve got work to do storing memories for you while you sleep, and this series of dreams is keeping me from it. So, let’s get down to it. What do you think the message of all of this is?”

Asami narrowed her eyes a bit. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of this figure, or her mention of work to do, but she did at least pick up on the pattern. “The pattern is simple. Four dreams, four memories replayed, but with events playing out differently at one key moment. Probably all leading to better outcomes, to one degree or another, though the scene with my father is debatable on that. Maybe in the long run I’d have been able to dissuade him from supporting the Equalists, but it didn’t work so well in the short term.”

“That’s the pattern,” the younger Asami said. “What’s the message? Focus on the choice being made in each case.”

For a moment, Asami debated whether to go along with this. The figure in front of her was an aspect of herself, though. She knew that. She wasn’t sure how she knew it, but she did. But there was another hand at play here. Something else wanted her to get a message. Probably a spirit of some sort. It might be that it couldn’t communicate normally, and so it had to do this. Or perhaps it was trying to trick her in some way. That was the thought that made her wary.

Well, she didn’t have to go along with the result of all of this, whatever the message was. With a sigh, Asami decided to go along with it for now. “The choice. Alright. In the first dream, my father chose instead to reveal his bias against benders. In the second, Mako chose to tell Korra the truth about what she’d forgotten. In the third, I made an attempt at finding the right words to describe my relationship with Korra. And in the fourth, I moved in to kiss Korra instead of freezing up and missing my chance. Although, that last one did get interrupted when I realized what was going on.

“The common thread, then…” Asami shifted her position, placing the palms of her hands on the ground behind her and leaning back. She looked up into the sky as she thought over it. “...In the first three, the change was to reveal something. Or at least put an assumption to words. That doesn’t work for the final dream, though.”

“A kiss says a lot as well, remember,” the younger Asami said.

“Hmm. True. Alright,” Asami said. “So the dreams are all showing me that things go better when things are revealed, the truth is told, things are made clear… I guess that makes the message pretty obvious, especially considering that the last two dreams were about my relationship with Korra. Something is telling me to get over myself and speak up, and things will go better.”

“That’s what I believe, yes.”

Asami looked back at the figure. “The only thing I don’t get is, why do you look like that? Why aren’t you just a mirror image of me?”

“Because I’m who you need to talk to right now. I’m you, from four years ago.” The younger version of Asami leaned forward as she spoke, her gaze meeting Asami’s. There was almost a challenge in that gaze. “And I certainly wouldn’t have missed a chance to kiss Korra, just like I didn’t waste any time kissing Mako.”

“And so that’s the message. I should be you again,” Asami said. Her eyes narrowed. She didn’t think she liked where this was going. “Or at least, I should be like you, and make a clear move. Okay, I get it. Message received. Is it time to wake up or go back to regular dreams now?”

A few seconds passed, but nothing happened. “Apparently not,” Asami’s other self said. “Perhaps you need to make a decision. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of waiting until your body wakes up. Though as I said, I do have some work to do while you dream, so I hope we can get you back to that soon.”

Asami did find herself making one decision now: She did not like this. Someone or something had decided it was their business to meddle in her relationship with Korra and tell her what they thought was best. Maybe they were right, but the context of hijacking her dreams to get that across - and the implication that someone had been listening in on her memories to know enough to do so - was seriously off-putting.

“Fine,” Asami said, standing up. Maybe whoever was behind this was listening in now. Or maybe she just had to say something to end this. She looked up and spoke, using her public-speaking voice. “If anyone is listening in, I would like to speak to you directly now. Please show yourself.”

Asami waited. She looked around, waiting for something to happen. She gave it a minute, but she got no response, and nothing appeared.

“Very well,” she said, speaking out once more. “Then here’s my message. I consider this form of communication very rude and intrusive, but I can understand that you may not be familiar with humans, and so you may not have realized this. I will tell you now, though: Let me do this on my own. I can make my own decisions regarding my relationship with Korra, and I ask that you leave us to our privacy.”

Asami paused once more. Still nothing. Maybe there wasn’t actually anyone or anything listening in. Maybe she wasn’t even asleep. This could be some spirit world trap, like the Fog of Lost Souls. Well, if that was it, it had to follow some sort of logic. Korra had told her there was always a way out. For the Fog, it was about accepting one’s own fears and overcoming them. So, if this was something like that, what was it about? Insecurity, perhaps? Inhibitions? If that was it, then the only way out was to confess to Korra, or at least be prepared to.

Asami turned around, looking back at the younger version of herself she’d been conversing with a few minutes ago. Something suddenly hit her. “Maybe I was wrong,” she said. “I thought you were a part of me. I thought I knew it simply, and if you were part of me, I would indeed just know it. But it might also be a trick. And if it is, then you’re the one I have to confront to end this.”

The younger Asami stood up. “I think you know I’m not a trick,” she said.

“Yes,” Asami said. “That’s certainly what my mind is telling me. But that may be part of the trick, and so I have to allow for the possibility that I’m wrong. So, let’s say you’re the one behind this. Let me speak to you for a moment.

“First, this is coercion. If I’m being forced to remain here until I decide I agree with you, I’m being forced into it. Second, if I’m coerced into anything in my relationship with Korra, even something for the better, it will taint it. This relationship has to be ours and ours alone, even if I make wrong choices along the way. Otherwise, Korra won’t be dating me, but whoever’s guiding me.

“So, if you want to do the right thing, let me forget about this dream, and let me do things my way,” Asami said. “That way, I can make the choice on my own. If you won’t let me out without making a decision…” Asami paused. She took a breath to steel herself, then looked into the eyes of her younger self. “I choose not to speak. It may be the wrong decision, but it’s the only choice I can make that I know will be made of my own free will. I can always explain it to Korra later.”

It took a minute for Asami’s mind to catch up to where she was when she awoke. Over the past few weeks, things had been so hectic that it was rare she slept in the same bed two nights in a row. But for once, she found herself in quite a pleasant sleeping arrangement, with no pressing issues on her mind. She was on vacation with Korra. A vacation Korra had invited her on, in fact - just the two of them. And right now Asami found herself waking up with her arms around Korra, who’d crawled halfway out of her sleeping bag in at some point in the night to get closer to Asami.

Oh yes. This was a nice way to wake up.

Asami was in no rush to move, so she didn’t wake Korra up just yet. She instead spent a bit of time thinking back on their previous day. She hadn’t had much time to imagine what it might be like in the spirit world, but it she certainly hadn’t imagined this. She’d have to ask Korra if the spirit world had pushed this kind of introspection on her in her previous visits.

Asami furrowed her brow as her memories caught up with when she’d gone to sleep, and memories of a series of dreams came back to her. There was more introspection, and then it turned into a nightmare about being trapped in the dream just as she’d been about to kiss Korra. Asami shook her head and let out a breath. Just a dream, nothing to worry about now.

“Mm… that’s nice…” Korra said softly. Asami’s eyes shot down to her friend, and she smiled at this. She certainly would agree with that sentiment, though it did sound a bit odd to hear Korra admit it so easily. Perhaps her early-morning grogginess had resulted in it slipping out of her. “I know… c’mon, Naga…” Korra continued. Asami’s eyes narrowed at this, giving her friend a warning glare even though Korra’s eyes were still firmly closed. “Later, Naga… with Asami now. Asami first, then you…”

At this, Asami lost it. Korra’s fake sleep-talking was both so transparent and so cute she couldn’t help herself, letting out a chuckle at this. She gave Korra’s shoulder a light slap to “wake” her friend up.

Korra chuckled as well, probably realizing that Asami had figured her out. She pulled back and looked up at Asami, blinking her eyes a few times. A hint of a grin was already on her lips. “Oh, morning Asami,” she said. Asami narrowed her eyes just a bit to let Korra know she wasn’t fooling her. “Sleep well?”

“Not bad. I woke up quite nicely, though,” Asami said... or at least, tried to say. Her voice didn’t seem to be coming out clearly. She blinked, trying to speak up as she continued, “And it seems you woke up in an interesting mood…” she said, trying again. It felt like she was speaking, but she wasn’t hearing anything. Her heart beat began to pick up as she tried again, “Korra!” She could definitely feel it in her throat, but no sound came through her lips.

“...Asami?” Korra said. Her eyes widened, and Asami could clearly see the growing worry there. “Okay okay, I’m sorry about my joke,” Korra said. “You fooled me, okay? You can start talking again…. please?” It took Asami a moment to realize what Korra was getting at. But no, unfortunately this wasn’t simply a strange attempt at joking in turn.

Asami’s gaze met Korra’s, and she shook her head slowly. She wasn’t joking with this. She had no idea what was happening, but there had to be a way to figure that out.

Korra’s eyes showed worry for a moment, and then her expression hardened into one Asami had seen hundreds of times before in her friend’s features: Resolve. “Okay,” Korra said. She took a steadying breath, and then adjusted her position. She pulled back a bit from Asami and pulled herself out of her sleeping bag. She pushed herself up into a sitting position as she continued, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to figure out what’s causing this, and then we’ll go from there. We’re going to fix this, okay? Are you with me, Asami?”

Asami nodded, almost on instinct. Despite the situation, she actually found the corner of her lips being tugged up into a grin. This was the Korra she couldn’t help but admire, who she’d follow into battle without question. Of course she was with her. Letting Korra’s confidence help keep her calm, Asami sat up as well, facing Korra.

“Okay. First things first, can you remember anything from last night, after I went to sleep? Did you wake up in the middle of the night and notice anything, perhaps?” Korra said. Her voice was steady, and her body betrayed no nervousness or fear. Her eyes, though… No, Asami forced herself not to look into Korra’s eyes right now. If her friend was truly worried, perhaps it was better Asami didn’t know it.

Asami took a deep breath. She leaned back and looked up as she tried to recall everything that had happened since Korra had fallen asleep. No, she couldn’t recall waking up at all. That nightmare, though… That could be something. Asami looked back at Korra, trying to figure out how to communicate this to her friend. Well, she could start by answering Korra’s question. Asami shook her head: No, she hadn’t woken up. She moved her head down slowly while looking at Korra, bringing up a hand with a finger raised, trying to get across a “but.”

She paused for a minute, trying to think of a way she could mime “dream,” but it wasn’t coming to her. With a frustrated huff, Asami turned to find her backpack. She rifled around in it for a minute, trying to look for something she could write with. She hadn’t thought a need to write would come up when she was packing for this trip, and so she hadn’t specifically packed anything for it, but she was pretty sure there was a pencil at least in one of her supply kits.

“Is something missing?” Korra said, distracting Asami in her search. That possibility hadn’t occurred to her, but now that Korra mentioned it, it was worth looking into. Asami quickly went through all the major items in her bag, then shook her head. It was all there. She then grabbed out her toolkit and opened it up, letting out a sigh of relief as she saw a small pencil and pad of paper.

Asami pulled them out. It wasn’t a particularly large pad, so she might have to conserve it in case this lasted for a while before she got back to the human world and could resupply. Depending on what they found out, they might not be able to spare the time to go back. So, Asami began to write in as small a script as she could manage and with as few words as possible to get her message across. “Had dream. Remember it clearly, trapped in it for a while.”

Asami was about to write more, but she paused as Korra moved around to look at what she’d written. “Um, Asami?” Korra said after a moment, looking over at her friend. “I, um, think it’s affected your writing too.”

Furrowing her brow, Asami looked back over what she’d written. While she’d thought it made sense and had been coming out clearly as she initially wrote, her sentence was in fact a complete mess. She couldn’t even pick out a single legible word in it. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Asami tried again. She’d do it one word at a time if she had to. She tried to slowly, carefully write out the word “dream,” trying to keep it making sense as she wrote, but what made sense as she wrote was suddenly gibberish as soon as her pencil left the paper. Asami closed her eyes, grunting in frustration despite herself.

“Asami?” Korra said. Asami opened her eyes back up and looked over at her friend. Korra’s face showed surprise, but of a good sort, considering the situation. “I heard that,” Korra said. Asami tilted her head slightly and raised an eyebrow. “Your grunt,” Korra explained. “I heard it. Maybe your voice is back?”

Asami’s eyes widened. “Let me try to speak,” she tried to say, but once again nothing came out. Her heart fell, and she let out a sigh. Then, after a moment, she let out a grunt. It wasn’t a sound she particularly enjoyed making, but it was a sound. She heard it. Maybe it was just speech she’d lost? Asami looked back up at Korra and held up her hand as she tried something. “Aaaahhhh…” she said, simply trying to make a solid tone. Once more, she could hear it. Asami closed her eyes, finding relief in this development. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

“There we go!” Korra said. Asami opened her eyes and looked at her friend, who was grinning widely now. “Our first clue. It’s just speech you’ve lost. And writing. So… just words. You can make sounds…” Korra looked down, pursing her lips as she thought, then she looked back up at Asami. “Can you draw?”

It was worth a shot. Asami nodded at Korra and then brought her pencil to the pad again. Okay, she wanted to get across “dream” to Korra. Not the easiest thing to draw, but not impossible. Asami started simply, sketching a stick figure on its side. She pulled her pencil back when she was done with it, looking at it for a moment. It worked. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

“There we go!” Korra said. Asami felt her friend’s hand on her knee, giving it a soft squeeze, and she smiled back at Korra.

Asami went back to her drawing, trying to fill in the rest of the needed details. She drew in a face on the figure with horizontal lines for closed eyes, trying to get across that it was sleeping. Above it, she drew a cloud, representing thoughts, as done in newspaper comics. Inside it, she sketched a smaller stick figure inside a cage. When she was done, Asami looked back up at Korra, motioning to the cloud with her pencil.

“A cloud, no… thoughts? A dream?” Korra said, narrowing her eyes as she tried to make it out. Asami nodded her head quickly as Korra hit on “dream,” and she gave her friend an encouraging smile. She pointed again at the figure in the cage she’d drawn within the cloud. “Okay, in the dream… Someone’s trapped?” Asami nodded again, then pointed at herself. “You. You were trapped. You dreamed you were trapped somewhere?” Asami nodded at first, then pointed back at the cloud she’d drawn. A look of confusion crossed Korra’s face, and so Asami drew in a line connecting the cage to the cloud, with arrows at both ends. “The dream was the cage?” Korra said. Her eyes widened suddenly, looking at Asami. “You were trapped in a dream?”

Asami nodded, letting out a sigh. That was the key part. There was still more that might be useful for Korra to know, though, about the message she felt someone was trying to get across to her, but that would be trickier. She’d have to think about that a bit to figure out how to communicate it.

“Okay,” Korra said. Her hand shifted, coming to a rest on Asami’s knee. “So then, how did you get out, do you remember?”

“So, if you want to do the right thing, let me forget about this dream, and let me do things my way,” Asami said. “That way, I can make the choice on my own. If you won’t let me out without making a decision…” Asami paused. She took a breath to steel herself, then looked into the eyes of her younger self. “I choose not to speak. It may be the wrong decision, but it’s the only choice I can make that I know will be made of my own free will. I can always explain it to Korra later.”

Asami remembered all too clearly. She could remember every word she’d spoken then, as if it had been engraved in her mind.

“I choose not to speak.”

Was that it? Had Asami’s words been taken too literally by whomever or whatever had trapped her in her dream? Asami felt a sinking feeling in her chest. She’d done this to herself. She’d gotten careless when dealing with something powerful here, and it had cost her.

Asami suddenly felt Korra’s arms reach around her torso. Her friend pulled her in close, and Asami soon felt Korra’s body press up against hers and her friend’s head coming to rest on her shoulder. Letting out a breath, Asami reached her own arms around Korra’s back, returning the embrace. Somehow Korra knew just what Asami needed right now, even if Asami couldn’t say it out loud. For that, Asami was grateful beyond words.

“We’ll figure this out,” Korra said. “And we’re not going to let it ruin our vacation. I’m showing you a good time here, whether you can thank me for it or not.”

Asami let out a light laugh, just barely audible. Her chest filled with warmth at this reminder of just why she’d fallen for Korra. She definitely had made the wrong choice, but she had to deal with it now. She was certain they could find a way out of this. And when they did, Asami knew what the first four words out of her lips would be. “I love you, Korra…”

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