The glass rolled between the woman’s thumb and forefinger, catching gleams of sunlight through the open window that glittered and glinted in the exquisite icy blues of the marble.
Asami stared into the thing with a solemn composure about her as she held it into the light.
A custom creation, purchased by the most celebrated of firebender artisans, the trinket had long been an item held close to her heart.
It had been created in the image of Korra’s eyes. Bright and blue and clear. Such a color that was both heat and ice. In times of fear or loneliness or uncertainty, the woman would turn it over in her hand and gaze into its glistering color, and a feeling of calm and comfort would take her heart in its radiance.
It had never been a perfect replica, of course, but in this way Asami was for a time able to take the thing in her hand and gaze into the eyes of the Avatar whenever she wished it, and the glints and the glisters of sunlight that caught in the icy hues instilled in her a calm and a security that little else—short of the real thing, at least—could provide.
But the color was all wrong now.
It was too bright, too clear. And above all, it was far, far too close.
Such were not the eyes of the Avatar.
At least, not anymore.
A figure moved through the open doorway, and Asami pocketed the item, turning to face Kya as she offered a small, soft smile.
“We’re all done for today.” She said.
Asami bowed her head slightly to the waterbender, and with her clearest and most level of voices thanked her. Kya offered only a gentle nod, and the healer regarded her with a tender and compassionate gaze that Asami in part hoped she had only imagined.
As Kya started down the hall, Asami entered the room, where settled in her chair, gazing out the window, Korra waited.
“Hey there,” Asami called out gently, edging her voice with a willful brimfulness.
The eyes of the Avatar turned and fell upon Asami, and again she felt her heart leap and sink within her.
Somehow, both the heat and the chill were gone from them, and though the color was ever as blue and skylike, the light did not seem to catch in them the same way, and the solemn drowsy shape of her eyes sent pangs of hurt through her.
Asami smiled. “how did it go?”
Korra offered the meekest of shrugs as her friend approached. “Alright I guess.” She said, her gaze falling toward her lap.
“I know it might not feel like you’re making big strides, but I know Kya and Katara’s work is helping.” Asami offered.
The Avatar offered no reply.
Asami chewed her thoughts, a glum familiarity washing over her as she once more felt a loss for what to say to her companion.
What was there to say?
She kneeled and took Korra’s hand in her own, running her thumb gently over her skin, but as she opened her mouth to speak, Korra’s voice—more quiet and acquiescent than Asami had ever heard it before—cut her off.
“What if I’m like this forever?”
It was a question asked without a hint of sadness or despair. A quiet, steady, sobriety took form in the Avatar’s level tone, and the gravity of it chilled Asami.
She feigned a small smile as she moved to swallow the unease that had fixed itself in her throat. “What do you mean?”
“I mean what if I never recover?” She said. Her voice was stronger, more full, but held still that firm staidness. “What if I can never fulfill my role as the Avatar?”
Asami stared up at her companion, seemingly frozen in place. She searched frantically for words of comfort, but no words came to her.
Once more, Korra opened her mouth, which curved upwards into something that resembled a smile, but held to it a broken and crooked quality of some kind, and spoke again in a voice that was quiet.
“It would be better for the world…if I let the new Avatar come into creation.”
A sudden dizziness overcame Asami as the sound of those words turned her veins to ice, and both hands reached out to grasp her friend’s—perhaps too tightly, as though by holding onto her, she might affix her in place.
“Korra, no. Even if you can never walk or fight again, your spiritual work as the Avatar is invaluable. The world needs the Avatar.”
A sharp, bitter bite of a laugh escaped Korra’s lips. “My spiritual work? So far I’ve managed to destroy my link to the previous Avatars and combine the human and spirit worlds, without any idea how to actually make that work out for anyone.”
She took a deep breath, letting it blow slowly through her lips, still turned up in that absinthal smile. “Yeah, the greatest act I can do as the Avatar now, is recognize that it’s time to let the cycle continue.”
Asami stared up at her companion in silence. Head bowed and hair hanging loose over her forehead, Asami could not see her eyes, but she did not need to see them to know the dull, empty weight they held.
After a long moment, Asami, too, bowed her head, and her grip on Korra’s hands tightened.
“I don’t give a damn about the Avatar.”
Her words sparked a genuine shock in Korra’s heart, and the girl straightened in her chair a bit, gazing down in confusion as Asami’s forehead rested upon her knees, and it takes her a moment to notice the small quivering and quaking of her shoulders, and realized with a pang of guilt that Asami was crying.
She stared down at her companion with a quivering panic in her chest, and considered opening her mouth to speak, but before any words could escape her lips, the woman spoke again, this time in a voice far closer to a yell than a whisper
“I do give a damn about you, though.” She said, her voice unstable and broken through her silent sobbing. “So what if you can never be ‘the Avatar’? Even if you can never fulfill that role the way you think you need to that doesn’t mean you should give up on living. It doesn’t mean your life doesn’t have value. I don’t care what happens to the Avatar. I don’t care if ‘the Avatar’ is no help to the world anymore. None of that matters to me. But I do care about you. I don’t want you to die, and I don’t want you to want to die, Korra. Your life, who you are, is worlds more important to me than this whole damn concept of ‘the Avatar’ and her ‘role’ in the world, and maybe that’s selfish and small-minded, but I don’t care.”
She was silent for a long moment, her head buried in Korra’s lap, and when she spoke again, her voice had quieted, what she said came in so low and level a whisper, that Korra marveled how such small and gentle words could shatter her wall of glass.
The two sat in silence together for a long while, Asami still curled over her lap, shaking quietly and gripping fistfuls of the girl’s skirt as her walls of pretense came crumbling down around her.
For a while, Korra just stared down at her, but after a small while, she lifted her hands and began stroking the long, soft tangles of Asami’s hair.
“You’re right,” she said gently, petting the woman’s hair as she yet clung to her. “I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.”
No more words to pass between them, they sat entangled in one-another for a long time in that quiet corner of Air Temple Island, for once together in a way that way void of all performance.
Though Asami would not come to know it, the sound of her voice speaking the ongoing platonic masquerade of theirs into extinction had for the briefest of moments inspired that light to quiver into life in Korra’s eyes, as she came to admit in her heart of hearts, that Asami’s words were true of her as well.