Mornings on Air Temple Island are somewhat hectic now that Bolin, Mako, and Asami have moved in. Well—even more hectic than usual, so. That’s really saying something.
Korra wanders downstairs with Tenzin sometime around mid-morning, yawning into her palms. Lately Tenzin has insisted that she wake early—at dawn, what is he trying to do, kill her?—so that she can meditate before breakfast. Korra tries, she really does. You’d think it’d be easy to sit cross-legged in the early morning sunlight and think about nothing, which is really all she has gotten out of this whole meditation thing anyway, what even is it. Tenzin’s never properly explained that to her. So Korra just lets her mind wander like a kite whose string has been cut, and eventually Tenzin sighs and helps her up and they go down for breakfast with the others.
Jinora is sitting straight-spined at the table, reading, though Korra cannot fathom how she can focus amidst what can only be described as chaos. Meelo’s spinning around the room on his air scooter, laughing manically and chasing Ikki, who’s pelting him with fresh fruit. Bolin is slumped against the table, snoring, while Mako tries to shield him from the fruit projectiles that Meelo has taken to rocketing across the room. Pema stands in the corner, her face contorted—Korra thinks she’s going to shout at her children before Pema suddenly clamps a hand over her mouth, turns, and runs from the room.
And Asami—Asami just stands there in the doorway, staring, like she doesn’t know what to do with what she’s seeing. Korra can’t blame her. As Tenzin struggles to decide whether to follow his wife or prevent his children from upending the table, Korra sits down next to Bolin and elbows him in the side, sharply. He lurches awake, flails, and knocks his glass of water all over Mako’s breakfast. Mako glares at Korra. She smiles sweetly and bends the water from his plate and through the open window, figuring that Bolin probably wouldn’t care to drink it after what it’s been through.
“That’s a fine way to wake a person,” Bolin grumbles. “Some of us need our beauty rest, you know.”
“You? Never.” Korra pinches his arm. “Look at this chiseled bicep!”
“Well, you do have a point there,” he admits, and he strikes a pose for her. Mako rolls his eyes so hard that Korra wants to tell him that it’s okay to have fun sometimes, you know, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t tell Mako a lot of what she thinks anymore.
Asami carefully navigates her way across the room, avoiding Meelo and Ikki underfoot, and sits on Korra’s left. Jinora peers at her over the cover of her book, nods her approval, and then goes back to her reading.
“So is this what it’s like to have siblings?” Asami wonders aloud, bemused.
At that moment, Ikki runs out of fruit to throw. Meelo takes the opportunity to grab the pitcher of leechi juice in his sticky fingers and upend it over her head.
“Oh, no,” Mako says over the sounds of Ikki screaming at her brother. “This is pretty tame, considering.”
“Huh,” Asami says, slowly, before she, Korra, Bolin, and Mako all have to dive out of the way of Meelo and his air scooter. The table doesn’t make it out unscathed. Or upright.
Bolin joins Korra at airbending practice later that day, after Ikki and Meelo have cleaned up after themselves and gone to their respective rooms. Bolin can’t be of any help, training-wise, but he wants to watch a master airbender at work. Korra suspects he actually just wants to watch her screw up everything Tenzin tries to teach her, which—she can’t blame him. It’s pretty funny.
“This is worse than when Katara started teaching me how to heal,” Korra says. She doesn’t mention that she still hasn’t mastered healing, or that learning new techniques still sucks. Katara sends her a letter every few days, bearing news from the White Lotus compound and Korra’s parents and giving Korra a new lesson to study. “Do you know how long it took me to learn to heal a paper cut?”
“A month? No, no—a year?”
“Funny,” Korra says, and sends Bolin reeling with a blast of air to the face. He falls over backwards and laughs his ass off.
Tenzin finishes his lesson early; Korra’s having more trouble focusing than usual. Her concentration is poor, her improvement minimal, and finally Tenzin gives up and departs to check on Pema, leaving Bolin and Korra in the training ring.
“You know, this whole Avatar thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Korra moves light on her toes, gliding across the practice pavilion like she actually knows what she’s doing. The wind from the bay is in her hair and seems to lift her off her feet, guide her to where she should be—sometimes she thinks she might actually be getting the hang of this. Not often, but sometimes. “Why all four elements? Why not two or three? I mean, really, talk about overdoing it.”
“Airbending looks pretty great to me.” There’s a note of wistfulness in Bolin’s voice. “I wish I could do it.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m a jerk,” Korra says. “Sorry.”
“Not a jerk,” he says. “Well, actually—not all of the time. Well, actually….”
“Shut up or I won’t show you any of the stances Tenzin’s been teaching me.”
Bolin shuts up and follows Korra through the movements, light and quick on his feet like a natural, graceful in a way no earthbender should be. Korra can’t figure him out, and she likes it.
“You ever think some of us got the wrong element?” she asks. “I mean, I’ve always felt—not mismatched, I guess, considering the whole Avatar thing, and I love the Water Tribe and my people. But sometimes I feel like, why waterbending?”
Bolin considers. “No,” he says, simply—“I don’t think either of us is the wrong element,” and they find they don’t need to talk much after that.
“How do you think Asami’s doing?” Korra asks later, when the sun has begun to turn the sky pink and orange at the horizon and she and Bolin have collapsed against the stairs to rest.
Sweat runs into Bolin’s eyes, and he swipes it away with the back of his hand. “She’s tough. But I don’t know anyone who’s tough enough to confront their father like that and come away completely unchanged. That’s gonna leave a mark on you.”
“Have you always been this smart?” Korra grins at him even as her stomach feels like it’s turning in on itself. She can’t imagine what Asami’s going through; she hates that, hates not knowing, not understanding. “I bet it’s my influence. It’s okay. You can tell me.”
“I am a dignified intellectual,” Bolin says in an upper-class accent, and he holds out his right pinky and pretends to adjust a pair of glasses on the bridge of his nose. “In fact, I might go so far as to say that I am the smartest, nicest, buffest, most handsomest person you will ever meet in your entire life.”
“Well if that’s true, then I feel sorry for my future.”
“Aw, don’t be upset, Avatar Korra.” He’s lost all control of the accent by now. “You are impressively buff as well, my dear lady.”
Korra bows low, sweeps her arms to the side. “Thank you kindly, my good sir.” Together, they make muscles at their reflections in the bay for a while, and when they grow bored, they wander off to see what’s for dinner.
Korra notices right away that Asami isn’t there.
“Where’s Asami?” she asks Mako. He shrugs and hunches over his plate protectively.
“How should I know?” he says, his voice flat. “I’m not her babysitter.”
Korra glares at him. “What is your problem,” she says, and then she attacks her own dinner, pointedly ignoring him. Bolin—in an attempt to smooth things over—asks Mako what he did all day, but this only worsens Mako’s mood. The three of them sit in uncomfortable silence while Pema and Tenzin argue about baby names and Ikki and Meelo eat their dinner with contrite politeness.
After he finishes, Mako gets to his feet, thanks Pema and Tenzin again for their hospitality, and leaves without another word.
Korra and Bolin glance at each other. Bolin looks upset. “There’s something wrong. There has to be. Mako wouldn’t just….” He trails off.
“Or,” Korra says, “maybe—and stay with me on this one—Mako’s just being a jerk. Like usual.”
She immediately regrets it. Bolin’s face flushes beneath his sunburn. “Of course. Mako’s always the jerk, and you’re perfect.” He gets to his feet and storms from the room after his brother.
“Um,” Korra says.
Jinora looks up, vaguely intrigued. “Is this a lovers’ quarrel?” She sounds excited.
“Sure, kid,” Korra says, and she becomes the third person to storm from the dinner table. She catches Tenzin and Pema looking at each other before she leaves, as if to ask what have we gotten ourselves into?
She should probably apologize to them later. First, though, she goes after Mako.
“We need to talk,” Korra tells Mako when she finds him, and she tries not to sound too aggressive. She’s pretty sure she fails. Aggression is sort of her thing.
“Oh, great,” Mako says. “I love all our conversations that start this way.”
He’s standing in the bedroom that Pema and Tenzin have prepared for him and Bolin, looking at his half-unpacked bag. “This is everything I own,” he says. He picks it up and tosses it onto one of the beds. “I can carry every single thing I own in one bag, and it’s not even heavy.”
“So can I,” Korra offers, but Mako glares at her. She backs down.
“So…sorry I yelled at you,” she says. “I was sort of frustrated.”
Mako just laughs, harsh and mocking. Korra’s blood starts to pulse hot beneath her skin, but she forces herself to remain in control. “I didn’t mean to take it out on you,” she presses on.
“You’re frustrated?” Mako’s voice doesn’t sound like his own—it’s higher pitched, less controlled, like it’s decaying into a shout around the edges. “You’re frustrated? I lost my home and pro-bending in the same day, and then I had to watch my girlfriend electrocute her own father right after he told me I was nothing but a useless street-rat. Oh, and guess what, because this is the best part right here—he’s right—and I don’t even know how to talk to her anymore, she doesn’t want to see me, and Bolin’s always with you….” His voice trails off. His hands are clenched into fists at his sides, and Korra thinks he might be shaking.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
He makes a noise in the back of his throat, derisive. “Yeah, that’s what everybody says. They’re always so damn sorry.”
“I wanted us to be friends,” Korra says. “I don’t know what happened to that. I’m sorry.”
“Stop saying that.”
“Okay.” She looks down for a moment, considering. “Look. About Bolin….”
“I don’t want to hear it. He likes you, you like him, you guys are now the greatest friends who have ever lived, whatever. It’s fine.”
“No, it’s not,” Korra says. “It’s not like that—well, it kind of is. We are really good friends.” She only says this because that’s what Bolin has told her, and she believes him. “But I never meant for you to feel left out.”
“I don’t feel left out,” Mako says. “I’m not five.”
“Because only five-year-olds have feelings.” Korra forces herself to take a breath. “I only meant that it’s not what you think. Bolin still cares about you, Mako. That’s not going to change because of me.”
Mako is silent, standing with his back to her.
“I mean that,” Korra says. “I haven’t known you and Bolin that long, but if I know anything, it’s that you’re a family. In the ways that really matter. Not just—oh, we’re related, that’s that. You’re there for each other. No one can take that away from you.” And if she feels the slightest ache of jealousy at that, well—she’s never really had a family of her own, has she? She wasn’t allowed to see her parents much once she moved to the White Lotus compound. She thinks of the letters from Katara and is suddenly, fiercely grateful.
“I know you probably don’t want to hear me talk about this anymore, so I’ll go,” Korra says. “Just—can you tell me where Asami is, at least? Please?”
Mako’s stance softens, his shoulders sloping down. “I don’t know. Really.”
“Okay,” Korra says. “I’ll go, then.” And she backs out of the room, closing the door gently behind her.
She finally finds Asami after a good half hour of searching. She’s in the kitchen with Pema, helping her clean up after dinner. Whether or not Asami actually showed up to eat, Korra cannot tell, though she doubts that Pema would have let Asami get away without doing so.
Korra lingers in the doorway for a moment, not wanting to interrupt. Pema and Asami are talking in low voices as they do the dishes. Asami’s sleeves are rolled up to her elbows, her arms covered in soapsuds. Pema is smiling; she looks grateful for the company, the conversation.
“I hope breakfast today wasn’t too much for you,” Pema is saying, and Asami is smiling to herself, her eyes cast low. “It can get a little hectic around here sometimes.”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” Asami says. “My house is always so quiet. It’s just my dad and me. I like having this many people around.”
Pema gently takes the dish from her and puts her arm around Asami’s shoulders. “Well, you are welcome here for as long as you want to stay.”
Korra takes this as her cue to leave—she is so not needed here right now—but that’s when Asami turns around to reach for another dish and sees her. “Korra,” she says, half in greeting, half in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“I…came to help clean up?” Korra attempts.
Pema looks at her discerningly. “No you didn’t.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.” Korra shifts on her feet, uneasy. “I was actually hoping I could talk to Asami, but you look busy, so I’ll just….”
“It’s all right,” Pema says. “We’ve nearly finished here. I release you from my service, Asami.”
Asami smiles at her. “I don’t mind helping,” she protests, but she dries her hands and rolls down her sleeves and follows Korra outside anyway. The night has settled around the island, bringing with it a chill in the air that will only get colder as the night goes on. They walk in silence for a while, side-by-side, before Korra finally speaks.
“So,” she says. “Mako told me that you don’t want to talk to him about—last night.”
“I told Mako that I didn’t want to talk,” Asami says. “Not that I didn’t want to talk to him. He assumed.”
“He does that,” Korra agrees, and Asami smiles slightly at her. Even in the dim light, she’s as gorgeous as ever, her dark hair bound at the nape of her neck and her pale green eyes lit by the faint light of the stars above them.
“So I guess that means you don’t want to talk to me either,” Korra says.
“No.” Asami is still watching her. “Not really.”
“I can go, then. I didn’t mean to bother you. I was just….” Checking up on you, Korra almost says, but then she doesn’t. It sounds too weird. But she doesn’t leave, either. The two of them walk down to the water and listen to the swell and fade of the waves against the shore for a while without speaking. After a few minutes, Asami reaches down and starts to unlace her boots.
“What are you doing?”
“Going for a swim.”
Korra begins to toe off her own boots, and she catches the surprised—but delighted, too—glance that Asami gives her. Korra doesn’t see why she should be taken aback. Does Asami really think she would argue against a nighttime swim? Please.
Asami strips down to her underclothes, apparently unconcerned about the cold night air against her bare skin. “Catch me if you can, Avatar,” she says, and without missing a beat she swan dives off the dock and into the bay.
And Korra laughs, without even thinking about it—“I’ll do you one better than that, Miss Priss”—and she cannonballs in after her.
The water’s warm, still retaining the heat of the day, and when Korra breaks the surface again, the night air raises goose bumps on her skin. She’s about to look around for Asami when a wave breaks over her head and forces her under. She spins, summoning the wave around her, and then she’s swirling up, and up—she launches twenty feet into the air and does a backflip, grinning, her ponytails wheeling wet around her face.
“Show off!” Asami calls, right before Korra splashes into the water next to her and dunks her under. They struggle, bubbles swarming loud around them, and Asami wriggles away, her arms moving strong and sure through the salty water. When Korra rises to the surface again, Asami is laughing, uncontrollably. Water streams from her dark hair and into her eyes, along the edges of her smile.
She swims towards Korra, biting back against her laughter. Suddenly, her face becomes grave, and she puts her hands on Korra’s shoulders to hold her still. Korra, to her own surprise, doesn’t move away.
“What’s up?” she asks.
“I have something very important to tell you,” Asami says, her eyes wide, her eyelashes smudged wet and dark above her cheekbones. “Very, very important.”
Her fingers tighten against the bones in Korra’s arms, and then—just as Korra is about to raise her hands to Asami’s and take them in her own, reassure her—she grins again, wildly, and shoves Korra under the water.
Spluttering, Korra thrashes free. “Be more unfair!”
Asami just sweeps her hair over her shoulder and gives Korra a look, intense and unwavering. “Be more gullible,” she says in return, one of her eyebrows angled, and then she starts to swim back to the docks. Korra follows and climbs out of the water first so she can reach down and help Asami up.
“Let me dry you off,” she offers. “Waterbending, you know.”
Asami holds out her arms and throws back her head. The light of the newly risen moon glows soft on the expanse of her throat. “Give me your best shot,” she says, and Korra bends the water from her underclothes and hair with a practiced crook of her knuckles.
“Damn, that’s useful,” Asami says. “I’m going to need you after I’m done bathing tomorrow, if you’d be so kind.”
Korra’s face goes suddenly hot, and she doesn’t know why. She’s grateful for the darkness. “You know where to find me,” is all she says.
Asami offers her arm and Korra slips hers through it, and together they walk arm-in-arm back into the house.
Korra wakes up the next day to gray, early morning sunlight and the prospect of her morning meditation before her. “This is the worst,” she grumbles to Tenzin as she fidgets uncomfortably, cross-legged. “You know that? You’re doing this to me on purpose.”
“Indeed I am,” he says serenely, and somehow he manages to sit even taller than before. Korra scowls at him.
When Tenzin finally releases her—“We’d better go see the havoc being caused this morning,” he says, weary—she walks out of the meditation pavilion to discover Mako leaning against it, his arms crossed.
“Hi,” he says.
“Um, hi.” Korra waves Tenzin on. “Need something?”
“I just—wanted to thank you.” Mako’s staring at a spot over her shoulder, like he can’t stand to look her in the eye right now. “For what you said last night. It—”
“It’s okay,” Korra says. “Seriously, Mako. You don’t have to explain anything. Let’s just go get some breakfast, all right?”
“Yeah, all right,” he says, and they set off.
“You were right about Asami, by the way,” Korra says. “She didn’t want to talk.”
“So what’d you do?”
“We went swimming.”
Mako frowns at her, bemused. “I can’t begin to understand either of you.”
“You got that right, city boy.”
Asami’s not at breakfast. Bolin isn’t, either.
“Oh, come on,” Korra says, and she slams her plate down onto the table so hard that the silverware rattles. “…Sorry.”
“This is all your fault,” Korra grumps later, though she doesn’t mean it. It isn’t really true either. Not even, like, a little bit. It makes her feel better though.
“Are we seriously starting this again, Korra?” Mako asks.
“No you’re not.”
“Aw, see, you do know me.”
They find Asami in her bedroom, looking down at her possesions strewn across her bed. She hasn’t put on her makeup yet. Korra, secretly, thinks she looks even more beautiful this way. (Wait, what the hell?)
“I need my motorbike,” Asami says, apropos of nothing. “I just—I need my motorbike, all right, I have to go get it right now and there’s nothing either of you can say to stop me, so don’t even try.”
“Um, okay?” Mako says, unnerved.
Asami whirls on him. “Okay?”
“Whoa, all right there.” Korra nudges Mako out the door. “You go find Bolin. I think he and I are currently not speaking.”
“It’s a long story,” Korra says. “Actually—no, it’s not. I called you a jerk. My bad. You deserved it.”
“Probably,” Mako says, but he does as she says.
“So,” Korra says when he’s gone. “You. Motorbike. Now?”
“All right, then. Let’s go get it.”
The Sato estate is bone-chillingly empty. Asami and Korra’s footsteps echo solemnly off the high ceilings, like the murmurings of ghosts. Asami’s lips are pressed together, her jaw tight and set, and she doesn’t look around, her gaze focused directly before her.
Korra thinks she should say something, anything, but she doesn’t know what. “Asami….”
“Let’s just get this over with,” Asami says, and Korra falls silent. They walk past the sweeping staircases that lead to the upper floors and down the cold tiled hallway, the sounds of their footsteps following them as they go. When they reach the garage, they find several Satomobiles and a few motorbikes, untouched. Asami is immediately drawn towards one of them; Korra can tell that this one in particular is her favorite, perhaps the only one that she ever rides. Asami runs her fingertips over the handlebars, and Korra doesn’t miss the way her hands tremble a little.
It’s not about the bike, really.
“You’re really brave,” Korra tells her, because it’s been on her mind for days. “Like, ridiculously brave. I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“I find that difficult to believe.”
“No, really. I can’t figure out what it is about you that’s so….” Korra’s voice trails off.
Asami tucks a smile into the corners of her mouth. “Is this a good or a bad ‘so’?”
“Good,” Korra says. “I mean, I think. I can’t understand what goes on inside your head, no matter how hard I try.”
“You think about what goes on inside my head often?”
“All the time,” Korra says, honestly. “Ever since I realized I was wrong about you.”
Asami smiles in truth now, her teeth at the edge of her mouth—“You want a ride?”
“Hell yes I do,” Korra says, and takes the helmet that Asami offers her.
“You ride on the back,” Asami says, and Korra gets on the motorbike behind her. “And put your arms around me like this. Hold tight, okay?”
Korra’s heart pounds in the hollow of her throat. “Got it,” she says, breathlessly.
“Great,” Asami says, and then she peels out of the garage at breakneck speed.
Korra tightens her arms around Asami’s waist and grins into her hair. “You’re crazy!” she shouts over the roaring in her ears.
“You love it.” Asami leans far to the left to bring them out of the estate’s long driveway and into the city traffic. Korra whoops at the passersby that gawk at them, open-mouthed, as Asami weaves in and out of the cars in front of her, still steadily gaining speed.
“This all you got, Sato?” Korra shouts.
Asami revs the engine to a low whine and banks hard to the right, the tires screeching on the asphalt as her hair streams into Korra’s eyes as she speeds down the streets towards the ferry. The sound of her laugh, carefree and boundless, lifts some of the worry that’s plagued Korra since she watched Asami, outlined in blue and silver lightning, raise the equalist glove to her father’s face. I love you, dad. The taste of metal in the air, crawling and clawing down Korra’s throat; the hair on the back of her neck standing on end when Hiroshi Sato had fallen to the floor.
Rather than slow to a stop when they reach the docks, Asami spins the bike to the right, brakes, and plants her foot on the ground. The back tire arcs left, raising smoke, before coming to a stop at last. She’s trembling in Korra’s arms, whether from adrenaline or not, Korra can’t tell.
Korra takes off her helmet, her heart racing fast in her chest, and barely hears what Asami says next, her voice shaking. “Good thing Chief Bei Fong just stepped down. Otherwise she would be all over me for—”
Korra tosses her helmet aside and takes Asami’s face between her hands. “You’re so fucking amazing,” she says, and kisses her on the mouth, hard. She doesn’t think she can breathe.
A moment later, Korra pulls away. Asami runs her tongue over her bottom lip, dazed. “I thought you said that you couldn’t figure me out.”
“No, I really can’t,” Korra agrees, and she kisses Asami again. Her pulse is thrumming beneath her skin, and every part of her brain screams at her, what are you doing, why, why, WHY—
Nothing makes sense right now: she can’t understand anything that she’s feeling, she doesn’t know whether Asami hates her for what happened with her father or not, and she has no idea what she’s doing, but—she doesn’t care about any of that. It’s all, in this moment, unimportant. All that matters to her is Asami’s laugh, her smile, and preserving them for as long as she can.
Asami pushes Korra away with the tips of her fingers, gently. “So,” she says, her mouth crooked. “Motorbikes rev your engine, do they?”
“Um,” Korra says, “what?”
Asami just keeps smiling her crooked smile. “Help me get this thing onto the ferry,” she says, and Korra does, gladly. Afterwards, they lean against the gunwale on the way back to Air Temple Island, the spray of the sea in their hair, and Asami’s fingers find their way between Korra’s, wordlessly.
“You actually got her motorbike?” Mako stares at Korra as she helps Asami lower the bike off the ferry, his brow furrowed. Bolin’s standing beside him.
“Of course we got the motorbike,” Korra says. “Some of us are not opposed to fun.”
Bolin scowls. Korra quickly adds: “And by that I mean, um, Naga. Yeah. Naga didn’t want me to get the bike because she wanted tummy scritches. My bad, Naga!” she shouts to no one in particular, and she prays that Naga doesn’t decide that this would actually be a great time for tummy scritches. Those can take upwards of an hour on a good day.
“I’ll make it up to Naga later,” Asami says, but she’s looking at Korra in a way that implies something very different. Korra’s whole face goes hot, and she coughs.
“So,” Mako says, still frowning but apparently willing to accept Korra’s explanation. “Are you apologizing to Bolin yet so he can stop complaining to me about how bored he is without you, or….”
“Who said anything about apologizing?” And Korra drops to her knees, her hands clasped over her heart. “I’m groveling.”
A grin flashes across Bolin’s face. “Sweet.”
“Do you want me to kiss your feet?” Korra says. “Because I’m not going to, but I just thought I’d ask. If you had a ring or something, that would be better. Sadly, I see you are ring-less.”
“Nah, this is fine,” Bolin says. “Get on with it.”
Korra draws a deep breath. “Dear Bolin, I humbly apologize for upsetting the smartest, nicest, buffest, and most handsomest person in all of the world—which is you by the way, in case you weren’t getting that—and also please forgive me, otherwise my days shall be forever lonely and sad and empty and Bolin-less, and I will have to wander all over the island and lament my grave loss for the rest of my days, and the world shall tell stories of my tragedy in whispers—”
“Damn, Bolin, put her out of her misery already,” Mako says, but he’s laughing.
Bolin beams. “I could stand to hear some more,” he says, but he helps Korra to her feet anyway and hugs her.
“Thanks,” he says softly, so that only Korra can hear him. “It’s just—he’s my brother, and—”
“I get it,” Korra says, and claps him on the back. “He’s family.”
“Aw, guys,” Asami says. “How heartwarming. How touching. Let’s go ride my bike some more to celebrate.”
“I don’t think—” Mako begins.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Asami finishes, and she pulls Mako onto the motorbike behind her, thrusts a helmet into his hands, and puts the engine into gear.
“She is really, really not allowed to do that here,” Bolin says in awe as Asami speeds off towards the airbending pavilion.
“I know,” Korra says. “Isn’t it great?” And the two of them run after the motorbike, whooping and cheering when Asami gives them a sharp salute.
Korra reaches the pavilion breathless and light-headed, the air burning in her lungs. Bolin throws his arm around her. “I need to get myself one of those.”
“Yeah,” Korra says, but she’s still watching Asami. Mako has tightened his arms around her waist and is shouting something into her ear that neither Korra nor Bolin can hear. Asami throws back her head and laughs, and something in Korra’s chest turns tight and painful against her will. What was I thinking? What had happened before—what she’d done—what did she expect would come out of it, really? She remembers the touch of Asami’s lips, watches the curve of Mako’s hand around Asami’s waist, and she hates herself, fiercely. What have I done?
Korra breaks away from Bolin. “I’ve gotta check on Naga.”
He stares at her. “What—?”
But she’s already gone, jogging back towards the house, the midafternoon sunlight warm and hot against her back. Her heart is in her throat and she rubs her eyes with the back of her hand, stupid, stupid.
Naga growls affectionately when Korra walks in, raising her head to meet Korra’s hand. Outside the window, the sun has fully set.
“Hey, girl.” Korra presses her face to Naga’s fur, breathes deep. “How you been?”
Naga woofs contentedly in the back of her throat. Korra smiles. “Time for some tummy scritches for real this time,” she says, and Naga rolls over, her tongue rolling out of her mouth. Her back feet kick the air as Korra rubs her belly with both hands, settling in for the long haul.
“Who’s a good girl?” Korra says. “Who’s a good girl?” She laughs when Naga licks her face. “Yeah, that’s right, you nut, you are.”
Naga barks again, louder.
“All right, all right, I’m getting on with it,” Korra says. “Sheesh.”
But then Naga barks louder still, and someone behind Korra speaks. “She’s beautiful.”
Korra turns. Asami is standing in the doorway with her helmet under one arm, watching Naga.
“And spoiled rotten,” Korra says, trying to ignore her rising anxiety. “Hour-long tummy scritches are not for the faint of heart.”
“Want help?” Asami puts down her helmet and walks towards Naga, holding out her hands for Naga to sniff.
Naga lowers her head, sniffs Asami’s hands for a moment, then looks up into her eyes. She woofs, softly.
“Good girl,” Korra murmurs, and Asami pets Naga behind the ears.
“So,” Asami says. “You ran off in a hurry.”
“I didn’t run off. I had tummy scritches to give, remember?”
“Sure.” Asami goes quiet for a moment, not quite meeting Korra’s gaze. Then: “I thought maybe I freaked you out.”
“Um, I don’t see how,” Korra says. “Considering I was the one who…you know.”
“That’s what I told myself, but I never listen to me.” Asami fluffs the fur behind Naga’s ear and grins when Naga nips at her fingers. “You didn’t get to see me show off.”
“You had enough of an audience.”
Asami’s hand drops to her side. “I wasn’t trying to show off for Mako,” she says, seriously, and Korra’s stomach twists in on itself.
“Yeah.” Asami’s eyes are bright, as always. “There’s someone else who I wanted to be there.”
“Hm,” Korra hums. “Well, whoever they are, I can fight them. Like, we’ll just throw down.”
“Maybe.” Korra hates the way her voice stumbles over the word, like she’s never said it before.
“Well, don’t be,” Asami says, and then she leans into Korra and kisses her, gently. “I’d hate to see you hurt yourself.”
Korra’s mouth goes dry. “So is this—” she gestures between herself and Asami, struggling to speak “—what is this, exactly, because, I don’t know, Mako seems to think you’re making out with him and not, you know, me. Not that I’m arguing or anything. Or that we’ve made out yet, because to be fair we haven’t really gotten to that point—”
Asami presses her mouth to Korra’s again to shut her up. “This is real,” is all she says. “I’ll talk to Mako.”
“Okay, good,” Korra says, and why won’t she shut up, holy shit, she cannot stop talking—“because I don’t know if you’ve noticed but he really doesn’t like me lately, and who can blame him, I’ve probably called him a jerk like eighty times in the past week, no wonder Bolin was mad at me—but I think we might be okay now, because he did say thank you after I apologized for stealing Bolin, and—”
“Korra,” Asami says. “Shut up.”
“Okay. Good. That’s a good idea,” Korra says, and she is only too glad to let Asami kiss her silent. She runs her fingers through Asami’s hair, still wild after her ride on the motorbike, and thinks—this might work out, after all.