The first time Korra kissed her, Asami didn’t see it coming. Breathless after a fast drive—Korra was a fantastic student—with the streetlights shining on the glass and chrome, Korra said, “I really like you, Asami,” and Asami said, “I like you too,” and just like that, they seemed drawn together. It was a thrill better than the drive, better than anything, the girl who’d been making her heart race for weeks said she liked her, really liked her.
First kisses are supposed to be awkward, a little uncertain, a little unfamiliar, and it was, but…it felt right, too, when her lips touched Korra’s, feeling the soft crush against her, Korra’s hands wrapped around her, Korra’s warm breath, Asami knew that whatever came next, she could never regret this moment.
Then Korra pulled back, grinning, eyes shining. They didn’t say anything about it, not that night or the next day, though they smiled when they saw each other in a way they didn’t for anyone else. Asami wanted to ask her what they were now, if they were dating, if she would kiss her again like that, but somehow felt afraid to dispel the magic of it.
She’d almost started to wonder if she’d dreamed it, but when Korra was kicked out of Republic City, Asami didn’t hesitate to put her duties to her company on hold and follow her. She’d never been irresponsible a day in her life before. The dutiful daughter, overachiever, best in her class, helping out with her dad’s company even when she didn’t have to, even choosing the side of justice, all business…and now here she was, following the Avatar to look for airbenders in the Earth Kingdom.
She never knew what would happen next with Korra, and she thought that was part of why she loved her. With Korra, she never knew what kind of adventures they’d have, who they’d save, how the world would change…or when it would end.
The silence was the worst. If Korra would just cry, if she would voice her worries, Asami could wipe them away, she could listen and offer comfort. Instead, Korra went on saying “I can handle it” until the day when she couldn’t, and no other words took their place.
On the deck of an airship, the wind is not just a cool breeze, but a hum along every inch of exposed skin, a roar in the ears, something that can’t be looked straight into. It’s a rush, just standing in the flow of that energy, with the landscape falling back below and new mountains rising on the horizon, and the thrum of the engines vibrating in your chest. It was there, leaning against the railing, that Asami put her arm around Korra, and Korra turned to her and smiled.
“I’m glad I came with you,” Asami said.
“I’m really glad you came too.”
Just a little kiss then, but the vertigo was dizzying, Asami’s heart was pounding and she was falling into the sky, tumbling over the railing, falling so hard for this girl.
Korra’s body was crumpled three paces from the wheelchair. She’d been there a while, but not called for help. When Asami walked in, she looked somehow caught in the act, but resigned.
Asami knew not to make too much of a deal of it. It would only embarrass her. She knelt by Korra, to help her up. She resisted the temptation to ask what happened, or say how worried she was. But she couldn’t think of anything else, either, so she helped Korra back to her wheelchair in silence.
We need to talk, Asami thought, and not even about anything in particular. We just need to be speaking words to each other.
“Korra….” she ventured.
“I just wanted to try walking,” Korra said, her hands on the well-muscled thighs that had failed to hold her weight. “It seemed like…I should be able to do that, if I tried hard enough.”
“It’s okay,” Asami said. She wanted Korra to keep talking, but not to feel she had to justify herself to her.
But Korra just said “Yeah,” in that way that meant it’s not okay, nothing is okay, but she wasn’t going to argue about it.
Asami sat with her and held her hand. Even if she couldn’t say the right things, surely Korra would feel her love.
When Asami got the news of Korra’s injuries, she’d refused to accept that anything had really changed at first. She would do whatever she had to do, but the most important thing was the same.
I'd do anything for her.
It wasn't until later that Asami began to worry. It wasn’t that Korra asked too much of her. Asami meant it that she’d give her anything. What hurt almost too much to bear was that anything might not be enough.
One night, a little after they usually went to sleep, but both of them still lying awake, Korra said, as if to herself, “Sometimes I feel like every day takes me a little bit further from who I really am, and one day I won’t even remember.”
Asami was barely awake herself, but that seemed like more than Korra had said in the last few weeks put together, so she tried to pull herself together. The first thing she wanted to say was that Korra didn’t lose anything, she was exactly who she always was, but even through the sleepy haze she didn’t think that was the right thing, to negate the first thing Korra said when she had just started to open up. But the heart of it was that it didn’t matter, because the Korra lying next to her was the one she loved, not only the ideal she was mourning. “I love you,” Asami said, raw around the edges and difficult, the way honesty always is.
But Korra only started to close off again. She said, “I love you too,” and Asami didn’t doubt she meant it, but it seemed somehow perfunctory, ending rather than beginning the conversation. Asami began to doubt…she’d meant to reassure Korra, but maybe she’d somehow refocused things on herself, when this hadn’t been about her. But that was frustrating too. This was about her as well, at least a little bit. This was hardest on Korra, but it was hard on her too, and while that wasn’t Korra’s fault, pretending it didn’t hurt for her sake was exhausting. She’d put so much into taking care of Korra, maybe she was neglecting her own needs. But…that wasn’t Korra’s responsibility. Korra already had more than she could bear.
“You knew that, I guess,” Asami said, pulling herself closer, her face nestled in the crook of Korra’s neck. “You can go on.”
“That was it,” Korra said, sounding slightly impatient, as if she didn’t think Asami had understood.
Korra wasn’t giving her a lot to go on, so Asami said, “I think you’re a lot more than what you can do, though. The real you is still here.”
Korra turned over and banged her head on the pillow in frustration. “People keep saying that, but, that kind of isn’t how people work! If you…if you hit your head and couldn’t understand how machines worked anymore, wouldn’t you feel like you’d lost a part of yourself? It’s kind of normal to feel like you are the things you do, at least a little…and having that change is hard.”
“Of…of course,” Asami said. “I know it’s hard.”
“And I know you feel it too. It’s not just me, it’s us…we’re different now.”
Asami couldn’t say anything, but her silence itself was damning.
“You won’t even talk to me about it…” Korra continued. “Don’t I drive you up the wall? Don’t you get tired of feeling burdened by me?”
“You’re not—” Asami cut in.
“Are you really telling me you’re still happy…? If you’d known it was going to be like this, would you have started dating me?” Korra pulled herself up on her elbows, and Asami saw she was crying.
“Korra,” Asami said, stricken by the sight of her like this, her own tears starting to flow, “Of course, if I chose a hundred times I would choose you every time….”
“All you see is my weakness,” Korra said. “Someone who can’t even stop crying….”
“I’m crying too,” Asami said, “are you calling me weak?”
Korra sighed, sinking back down on the pillows. “I just want….”
“Yes?” Asami said.
Korra shook her head. “Nah. It’s stupid.”
“Asami…if I asked you to hit me, do you think you could?”
Asami’s eyes widened in surprise. “Hit you…Korra, I love you….”
“That’s why I’m asking you. It’s…it’s not what it sounds like…how do I explain it…?” Korra was silent a moment. “I miss fighting, I miss doing things…and there’s this feeling you get after a really good match, after getting knocked around a few times…it feels really good, even though it’s supposed to hurt, you know?”
Asami nodded hesitantly.
“And not just that…I also miss people looking at me like I can take it. I’m a lot stronger than anyone gives me credit for, even now. Maybe I can’t walk, but I live with pain every day, and everyone walking around on eggshells around me or afraid to say anything that could upset me couldn’t even handle a tenth of what I do. Don’t look like that…I’m proud of my strength, Asami…whatever you dish out, I can handle it.”
“I think I understand,” Asami said. “Do you want to do it now?”
Korra’s eyes lit up. “Yeah. Yeah, that’d be good.”
“So…do you want it with my bare hands…or maybe a stick?”
“All sounds good to me.”
“And…if it does get to be too intense….”
“I’ll just say enough.”
“You’re sure you will…?”
“Yeah. Asami, I like that this is something I can control. Can you trust me that I know my own limits?”
Asami nodded, and got up to straddle Korra. “I trust you, babe. Do you trust me?”
“With my life,” Korra said, looking up at Asami with an anticipatory grin.
“Where shall I start?” Asami asked.
“Wherever you like.”
With both a thrill and an ominous sense of crossing a line into the forbidden, Asami slapped Korra on the cheek. “How was that?”
“Are your arms getting weak?” Korra asked. “I’m worried you won’t be able to defend me if that’s as hard as you can hit.”
Asami slapped her again, throwing her back into it this time. Korra’s face was knocked to the side, but she looked up from it, a flush in her cheeks that wasn’t just from the slaps, a wild excitement in her eyes that Asami had seen before, but not for a long time. “Yes,” Korra said somewhat breathlessly. “Good. More.”
Asami began to unfasten Korra’s clothes, and Korra helped her remove them as much as she could. After turning on the light to better appreciate the sight, she realized with a pang that she and Korra hadn’t really made love since it happened. Maybe it was that Korra still wasn’t comfortable with her body as it was now, or maybe she really had been treating her as though she were made of glass….
She wouldn’t tonight, though. Asami opened a drawer in her desk, and found a coil of wire with rubber casing. She examined the tip, making sure there were no loose or frayed ends of copper that could scratch Korra’s skin, and held it up. “How about this?”
“Well, you hardly need to bind me, I’m not going anywhere.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to use it for,” Asami said, and cracked the length of wire in the air like a whip.
“Ohh,” Korra said. “Yes, good idea.”
Asami thought about asking Korra if she was sure, but thought the better of it. Korra was never less than completely sure about anything, once she’d decided on it. She swung the cable, landing it brutally across the tops of Korra’s thighs. Korra only made a slight, satisfied grunt, and waited for her to continue. Asami didn’t disappoint her, and the blows rained down without hesitation.
After perhaps half a dozen blows, Asami turned her over to begin striking her back and well-rounded rear. But it was only a few strikes into this that Korra suddenly gasped, “Wait, stop.”
Asami put down the makeshift whip. “It’s all right, Korra. You don’t have to do it.”
Korra pulled herself up to face Asami. “It’s not that. I was enjoying it. But then…suddenly I felt like I was back fighting Zaheer…” She grit her teeth. “He ruins everything. I won’t let him ruin this.”
Asami put a hand on her shoulder. “Maybe it was because you were faced away from me?”
“Maybe,” Korra said. “You know…Zaheer used airbending to suck the air out of my lungs…and when I get like that, it gets hard to breathe, like my throat is closing off.”
Asami nodded. “Is there anything I can do to not make you feel like that?”
“I don’t know…maybe what I need is the reverse. If you choked me….”
“Choked you…” Asami said dubiously. “Is that really a good idea?”
“I just thought…” Korra said, “If I could experience that feeling, while looking into your eyes, knowing for sure I was safe with you…that way, when I start to feel that throat-closing-off feeling…I could remember something sexy instead of something awful.”
“Okay,” Asami said. “I get that, but I’m worried you won’t be able to tell me if it starts to go wrong. I know you’re tough, but if I did end up hurting you for real, you realize that wouldn’t just hurt you, it’d hurt me too.”
Korra nodded. “Come a little closer.” Asami did, and Korra raised her hand with difficulty to grip Asami’s sleeve. “If I let go, then you stop. As long as I’m holding on, you know I’m okay.”
“Okay, I can work with that,” Asami said. Her hands closed around Korra’s neck. “I love you.” But Korra didn’t get a chance to answer, because she began to apply pressure.
For a few very intense seconds, during which Asami held her own breath as well, they looked into each other’s eyes, seeing each other more deeply than they had in months…perhaps more deeply than they ever had. Then Korra’s gaze drifted, and fearing she was seeing the past that haunted her, Asami leaned forward and kissed her, to bring her back to the present. Korra’s lips came to life under hers, and she knew Korra was here again, in this moment, with her.
Korra’s hand slipped off her sleeve, and Asami let go, and they both breathed again.
“That was good,” Korra said after the first few deep breaths, “can we do it again?”
So they did, several times, their lips meeting in a world without air. It made Asami think of CPR in reverse, somehow instead of breathing air into her, she was sucking the void out of her, but the result was the same, she knew was bringing her back to life.
When Korra was satisfied, she said she was ready to continue where they’d left off, and Asami picked up the whip.
She’d missed this—not the violent play, which was mostly new aside from a few spirited sparring sessions—but the freedom and joy of touching Korra wherever she liked, her body as her canvas. She gripped Korra’s breasts tightly enough to leave clusters of bruises, red handprints along her thighs, pulled her hair, bit her lips when she kissed her. The lash left lines winding all around Korra’s body, a red string binding them together. Korra seemed almost drunk on it, and Asami didn’t fail to notice the wetness gathering between her thighs. She suspected she could finish her off with a few strokes of her hand.
But instead of doing that, Asami pulled down her own pajama bottoms to her knees. “You’ve gotten me all worked up now, you’ve got to fix that,” Asami said sternly.
“Oh, do I?” Korra said, playing coy.
Asami grabbed a fistfull of Korra’s hair and pulled her closer, Korra’s body struggling to keep up with the sudden movement. “Yeah, did you think this was all about you? You can still handle getting me off, can’t you?”
Korra glanced up at her from between her legs, and Asami knew this was the most right she’d ever gotten it. “When I’m through with you, neither of us will be able to walk,” Korra said, and dropped her head down to get to work.
Whatever weakness her body had suffered, Korra’s tongue seemed wholly unaffected. If I had known this, and known she would love it, Asami thought, I would have made her do this months ago. And somehow it was an immense relief too, to not have to think of Korra as fragile or worry about her too much. It didn’t suit either of them.
Asami gripped the sheets, left scratches on Korra’s shoulders, and when she found her release, Korra raised her head, ocean-blue eyes shining with victorious satisfaction as though she were the one who’d left welts and bruises all over Asami, and said, “That enough for you? Get back to work.”
Asami laughed. “Korra, Korra, I’m wiped out, my arms are too tired. You win, you can take more than I can give.”
“Quitting already? But…” she said, and Asami knew Korra was disappointed to end the session without coming, but withheld acknowledgement of that.
“I had fun,” Asami said. “Let me see you.”
Korra struggled to stretch out her body for Asami’s gaze, raising her chin proudly. “You got almost every inch of me,” she said. “Almost.”
“People will think I’m a monster,” Asami said, stroking the bruise on Korra’s cheek, already starting to deepen to a purple.
“I can heal it later,” Korra said, “I’m still a waterbender. But…I want to enjoy it right now.” She cupped her own breast, admiring the coin-sized marks from Asami’s fingertips, the little crescents where her nails had dug in, the criss-cross of two welts from the wire whip. “These are the best bruises I’ve ever had.”
Asami smiled. “I know you’ll just get rid of them later, but while they’re here, I’d like to clean them up a bit. Seems a waste of a good welt to not rub salve on it.”
“Oh, is that your game,” Korra said with a smirk. “I thought you seemed more into it than I expected. Are you the type that likes to hurt someone and then clean them up?”
“Maybe I am,” Asami said. “I’m a lot of things I didn’t know I was when I’m with you.”
“Okay then,” Korra said. “I could go for some salve.”
Asami went and got the first aid kit, and began tenderly rubbing the salve into all Korra’s scrapes and bruises, bandaging anything that had drawn blood with gauze and medical tape.
“You’re using that one…” Korra said. The spicy mix of herbs was already thick in the air, and she must have felt the sting in her wounds. “You know it stings, right?”
“But it feels even better after, doesn’t it? Warm and soothing.”
Korra nodded, surrendering to this treatment. When Asami got to the welts on Korra’s thighs, she wiped the salve off her fingertips and rubbed Korra’s groin instead. “Looks like there was a really deep cut here I missed,” she teased.
It seemed Korra was even more ready than Asami realized. She gasped, and groaned in pleasure deep in her throat. “Oh…Asami…Asami!” she moaned.
Asami went on rubbing, but Korra said, “Asami…I can’t believe you…with the salve still on your hand…..”
In sudden horror, Asami stopped, and pulled her hand away. Korra just groaned in frustration. “I was almost…you’re the worst,” Korra said.
“I’m so sorry,” Asami said. “I didn’t realize…I thought I wiped it all off!”
“Are you kidding? It felt great. You’re killing me here, are you going to finish or just see if I explode?”
Asami shook her head in disbelief. “You’re something else, Korra.” She brought her hand back to its former business, and pressed a kiss to Korra’s cheek. She held her there, on the border between pain and pleasure, until pleasure at last won, and Korra came with a guttural cry.
After a moment of rest, Asami finished treating Korra’s wounds, and dressed her again in her pajamas, yet somehow it was different from all the other times Asami had tended to her. There was a certain dignity to it, this was a body willingly shared, not a burden to either of them but a source of pleasure and pride. Through the bruises and welts Asami had made herself, she could see Korra’s spirit shining again.
Asami woke the next morning feeling refreshed, and hoped Korra felt the same. The bruises had deepened, but if she wasn’t enjoying them anymore, as she said she could always heal them. She got up for tea, and was just returning to the bedroom when Korra first stirred.
Korra smiled when she woke up, but when she met Asami’s eyes, suddenly she turned away, and Asami was filled with the sudden worry that Korra regretted it. But she tried not to project her own worries onto Korra. The whole thing had been Korra’s idea, and she’d been an active and happy participant every step of the way. Surely she wouldn’t regret it…unless I disappointed her somehow? Asami wondered. But she sternly reminded herself that Korra was capable of speaking for herself, and didn’t need her guessing what she might be thinking.
“Good morning,” Asami said. “How do you feel?”
Korra hesitated, looked at a bruise on her arm, and blushed. “I’m sorry….”
Alarmed, Asami drew closer. “What could you possibly be sorry for?”
“I…made you do weird stuff last night. Sorry, I don’t know what got into me…I don’t know what I was thinking, you must have thought I was a freak….”
“What…Korra, I loved doing that with you! You’re not the only person in the world who likes that stuff, believe me.”
Korra glanced up at her, hesitant. “Really?”
“Really. I’m glad you had the idea to do it, it’s one of the best things we’ve done.”
Korra relaxed slightly. “I thought…I thought I made you do it….”
“Korra, I know you’re a badass, but so am I. You can’t make me do anything I don’t want.”
“But…you’re not really a sadist, Asami. What did you get out of it?”
“Well,” Asami said, sitting down next to Korra, “it means a lot to me that you trust me so much, and can be so honest with me. And…seeing you having such a good time is also really sexy, it feels good to make you feel good, whether it’s with a kiss or a whip. I also…well, I like seeing you be tough and strong, but at the same time I like seeing you vulnerable.”
“Vulnerable?” Korra repeated.
“You know, being vulnerable and strong aren’t opposites of each other,” Asami said. “Sometimes you even need to be one to be the other. I think it’s intimate, to be vulnerable with someone willingly, and that takes a kind of strength too.”
Korra finally started to smile. “Yeah, I get that,” Korra said. “I know it was hard, but I’m really glad we’re talking now. I felt like I couldn’t really talk before, because you were so scared of hurting me…it was impossible for either of us to be honest.”
Asami nodded. “Yeah,” she said, “I feel the same. I love you, Korra.” She leaned forward to hug her.
“I love you too, Asami,” Korra said, and when she wrapped her arms around Asami, Asami thought that perhaps they had a little more strength in them than they had yesterday.
“Do you want some water to heal your bruises?” Asami asked.
Korra considered. “Yeah, a little, for the ones on my face,” she said. “Let’s leave the rest.”