Chapter 1: Room for two
Asami reaches up to slide her helmet off, shaking her hair out as she does. It's sticking up a little; she reaches up to smooth it down automatically, a force of habit. She's been driving for a long time, she's used to helmet hair. Her body feels a little sweaty, in a good way, in a hard-job-done way, and she lets out a content sigh. There is nothing, nothing like just letting go and driving, in the end. "What do you think?" Asami asks, turning to look at Iroh. "Not bad, huh?"
He's staring at her.
"You want a go next time?" she asks, smiling. "There's room for two."
He keeps staring. The faintest brush of pink is starting to show on his cheeks. She bites the inside of her cheek to keep from giggling; he looks younger than before like that, and a lot less... impressive. Ah. So it's like that.
Well, never let it be said Asami Sato looks an attractive gift horse in the mouth.
"Uh," he manages finally, "sure. Good. I mean- that'd be good. Fun. Right?" he asks, helplessly.
"Right," Asami says, smiling reassuringly. She'd smirk, but he's so endearing like this that it's hard to muster it up. "Fun. C'mon, let me find you a helmet."
He trails after her like a turtleduck after its mother, and Asami lets her giggle escape this time.
Chapter 2: Responsibility
"Come on, Tenzin," Bumi says, wheedling, flopped on the grass in front of Tenzin. It's thoroughly grating, and Tenzin can't keep the focus necessary for the airbending kata he'd been assigned for the day in the face of it. "It's no fun if we don't have you there to tease."
"Thank you, Bumi," he says tensely in response, dropping all pretence of trying to practice and releasing a sigh. "I can see why you can't possibly go to the beach without me, with logic like that." He levels what he hopes is a severe glare at his brother; from the amused look on Bumi's face, however, he's not succeeding.
"You're no fun," his brother says, but it's good-natured. "You practice too much. You need to take a break."
It makes Tenzin bristle. His tone turns uglier than he'd like. "Some of us have responsibilities." He doesn't mean it to sound like it does, a condemnation, and for a moment he wonders if Bumi will bristle in return.
"And some of us need to take a break," is all his brother says. Tenzin relents.
I have Feelings re: both Bumi being a non-bender and Tenzin being the only airbender sibling, I cannot deny.
Chapter 3: Pretty lady
Korra has never been on a date before.
There wasn't exactly a lot of time for dating in the White Lotus compound, let alone enough of an actual dating pool. More than that, the topic had never been one regularly broached. On some level she knew people did it, dated and went out together and married and so on- but it was just the sort of thing she heard about and then didn't dwell on.
She suddenly wishes, so much, that her father were here, or her mother. She wants them to reassure her, make bad jokes, threaten to interrogate Asami. Anything.
They aren't, so Korra squares her shoulders and plucks at her dress, her hair. Wonders if it's really as OK as she'd told herself that makeup is still a no-go. Goes to answer when Jinora shouts- "Korra, Asami's here!", inhaling deeply.
"Korra," Asami says, smiling sweetly, disarming. "You look amazing."
"Not bad yourself," Korra says with a grin, ignoring how Jinora claps a hand over her mouth in unabashed glee in the background. It's a shaky grin, mind you, but she hooks an arm through Asami's determinedly. "Where to, pretty lady?"
Chapter 4: Names in history
Iroh has a great many memories of his grandfather. The ones that are burned most clearly into his mind, though, those are the ones of hearing about the war as a child, sat down by the old Fire Lord's feet at dusk.
"The history books get the important parts wrong," he'd said once, mouth skewed with disapproval.
The stories Zuko gives Iroh are certainly better than the ones his tutors do, full of anecdotes and things that make his grandfather cringe with the memory of embarrassment. But more than that, they feel more real. Iroh thinks at the time that it's because his grandfather was actually there. Later on, he thinks it's because they don't omit the nastier parts, the scars and mistakes and blame and hurt.
His grandfather is the one to teach him honesty. "Maybe try and be more tactful than me," he says, sounding wry, "but don't lie, Iroh. Even when it makes you look bad."
So Iroh doesn't. He owes the man that much, even when people tut about how unsophisticated, how blunt, how ill-equipped for rule the crown prince may prove to be.
Chapter 5: Oiled
Asami the mechanic.
Korra's never seen Asami like this before; her lipstick is smudged, there's oil in a long dark streak up one pale arm, and her hair is pulled back messily. The latter makes her face look somehow more open, and the look of intense concentration on her face does the same. Korra finds her gaze flicking between Asami's face and her hands, delicate but certain, striking against the oily machinery.
She swallows. "Hey," she says, breaking the silence, heat rushing to her face. "Wanna take a break?"
Chapter 6: Standards
Iroh sets the cup in front of Asami carefully, full to the brim. "I can't believe you've never had a proper cup of tea before," he says, sounding genuinely shocked. She stifles a smile and picks it up, warming her hands, smelling it.
"Hey, I've had tea," she protests- teases.
"Teabags," he says dismissively.
"Snob," she retorts, mouth quirking up at the corners. She takes a sip, then blinks. "Oh, wow."
"See," he says, smug. She rolls her eyes, but takes another, and then another.
Chapter 7: Strategic planning
Lin raises an eyebrow in his direction, and Iroh fixes the hopeful, hopefully-charming smile onto his face. He prays it doesn't look as terrified as he feels.
"Discuss things," she says, flatly. "Over... dinner."
She says the word like another woman might say 'rat' or 'filth'. He swallows and nods.
"And what, precisely, do you mean by 'things'?"
How ridiculously attractive you are when decimating entire groups of equalists on your own? he stops himself from saying.
"Strategy?" he tries instead, and it's not untrue, really. It's not the entire truth, but he's trying to pretend it is to himself so he pushes onwards. "You seem to be the woman to go to in Republic City for getting things done." Definitely true, that part.
"Hm." She hasn't bought it, he can tell, but to his surprise she gives a single nod. "All right. Why the hell not, kid."
I cannot believe I wrote this ship and sort of kind of ship it.
Chapter 8: Dusk
The day is warm, late in summer; the sun is lingering on the horizon, orange and yellow. "It's too hot here," Katara complains, laid on the grass with an arm thrown over her eyes. She's sweating, even as the air begins to cool, evening starting to settle.
"You always say that," Zuko says, propped up on his elbows.
"It's always true."
"I like it," Aang says, smiling, as he picks at a pile of flowers at his feet. He's making some sort of flowery structure, Zuko thinks, though he can't quite tell how. "Hey, Mai, try this on."
Mai sighs, but bends her head and lets the flowers drop around her neck. Zuko has to stop himself from laughing, mostly out of self defense- she looks exasperated, and exasperated with flowers around your neck can never be anything but funny. But laughing at Mai is never anything but dangerous.
"Just because it's not a frozen wasteland," Mai intones, plucking at the flowers distastefully. "Aang, what is this supposed to be?"
"Wuss," Katara says, but she giggles a moment later. "And I think you look lovely, Mai."
"Lovely," Mai says, blank, and Zuko can't help it- he laughs at the look on her face as well, consequences be damned.
Chapter 9: You don't have to live your life in fear
SPOILERS for the LoK finale. AU for Tarrlok and Noatak.
They go to the Earth Kingdom, in the end. The North Pole holds too many memories and the South Pole would be close but not enough; neither of them wants the heat of the Fire Nation. "A clean start," Noatak says over and over, desperation only just audible. Tarrlok stays silent each time, grows more hopeful it might, just might be possible. He can't even think about what a clean start entails. His entire life has been a cold icy landscape and his brother's retreating form, a spectre he can't outrun.
They find a village, exchange their clothes for green and brown. Tarrlok feels like a traitor in them, but if Noatak feels the same he hides it well.
"No bending," Noatak says out of the blue one day, on the road. They're going to settle in the first city they find; neither of them wants the tight-knit life of anything smaller, and it seems they picked a bad landing spot for cities.
"No," Tarrlok agrees, even though he can't quite quell the sinking feeling at the thought. "No bending."
Noatak clasps his shoulder tightly, like a drowning man hangs onto a lifeboat. They walk on.
Chapter 10: Not how we did it in my day
So someone asked for Korra/Asami and babybending pregnancy. Crack is not my usual, but how could I not, seriously.
"What the hell," Asami says, flatly.
"Okay, none of the White Lotus guys ever mentioned this," Korra says frantically, eyes wide. "Babies... don't count as an element, right? They don't. I mean. That's just... they don't."
"Go!" Asami says, pushing Korra out the door. "Meditate! Ask what the hell is going on!"
"I don't think Aang will-"
"That's... uh, that's not how I did it," Aang says, looking around frantically. "Hey, Kyoshi? Can you take over here?"
Chapter 11: A girl like you
Asami watches Korra train, earthbending this time; she'd sparred with and lost to Lin, and she seems determined to engineer a rematch. The movements are solid, are powerful, are mesmerising. Asami can see every movement perfectly, and she finds herself watching as Korra pushes forward, entire body twisting, and Asami ignores the blast of rock in favour of examining the sheen of sweat outlining Korra's biceps.
She's never seen a girl like Korra before, not in her entire life.
Asami settles down and makes up for lost time on that front.
Chapter 12: Beautiful friendship
"You're with the Wolfbats?" Asami asks, elbow propped on the bar.
"That's right." His voice is a little too close to patronizing for her tastes, so she sharpens her smile.
"You guys aren't bad."
He feigns outrage- feigns, she notices with a flicker of interest. "We're a lot more than not bad."
"True. You're a pretty face, as well," she says, sly. "Pretty enough for me to buy you a drink, if you like."
He doesn't bat an eyelash. "Sure thing."
This, she thinks, might be the start of a beautiful friendship. Literally.
Chapter 13: Ties that bind
Someone asked for Iroh convincing Asami she won't end up like her Dad, because Zuko managed to reform; I'm gonna take this opportunity to hope that someone writes a longass Zuko-Asami fic, tbh. Shitty dads, man.
Asami's eyes are burning, sat across the table from him, and she blinks tears back. Iroh looks as though he wants to comfort her, but his hand freezes halfway to hers and he pulls it away. She's glad. She doesn't want platitudes. Her own hands grasp each other, nails digging in.
"No," he says, folding his hands instead in a mirror of her own. "You aren't like him, Asami, you have to realise that."
"Maybe not now, but what happens if- if- it's just a matter of time?" She pushes the words out past the burn in her throat. "He did it for Mom. I- you don't know how angry I was when she died." It had been the same anger as she'd seen reflected in his eyes before he gave up on her for good. She knows it instinctively; they are the same, in some way.
"It's not about what you feel," Iroh insists, leaning forward. "It's what you do about those feelings."
He sounds like he's echoing someone from a long time ago, a lesson learned by rote until it became a part of him. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure," he says. "I've seen it before."
She thinks about that for a while, and then she nods. "I guess you have." It's not that she quite believes it, but she's on her way, she thinks, and that will do for now.
Chapter 14: Carved on me
Korra builds the tattoo design up herself, one part at a time. Her father balks when she shows him. "Are you sure?" he asks, brow creasing. "One that large will hurt."
"Nonsense," her mother interrupts. "I think it's a lovely idea, Korra. When do you want them done?" Senna seems almost as excited as Korra, and in the face of them both her father yields, spreading his arms wide in surrender.
In the end it's on her sixteenth birthday, a gentle woman Korra remembers dimly from childhood called Aga pricking her with a needle over and over, talking all the time to distract. It hurts, but she grits her teeth and bears it, lips set in a thin line. She's the Avatar, but she's Water Tribe too, and she wants something to remember that by, something to remind other people of the fact. She comes from ice and sea-salt, no matter where she goes.
In the end, her father has tears in his eyes when he sees, proud. "My baby girl," he says, breath hitching and hands gripping her shoulders hard.
Prompt was basically this picture. Title from Gravity by Vienna Teng.
Chapter 15: Roads
Prompt was 'travelling'.
Korra wonders if this is what she had looked like when she first came to Republic City; eyes wide, shining, flushed cheeks; mouth hanging a little open and turned up at the corners. Asami is amazed, and she looks amazing.
"I've never even been outside the city before," Asami says, voice a little awed. The Fire Nation's most impressive architecture looms above them, and Asami tilts her head up to stare at it. Her throat makes a long, pale line that is infinitely distracting, and Korra clears her throat.
"C'mon, I wanna try Fire Nation food," she says, taking Asami's hand.
Chapter 16: Lifetimes
"You knew Avatar Aang?" Korra asks, before mentally kicking herself. Of course Iroh had known him.
"As a child," he says, smiling a little; he doesn't seem to mind. "He visited my mother sometimes. And my grandfather, of course."
Korra opens her mouth for a split second and then closes it again, sharply. There are so many things vying for attention in her mind, on her tongue, things that she wants to ask him; things it had seemed wrong to ask Tenzin, or Katara, like she was intruding somehow. Iroh seems to sense what she's thinking, and he watches her, waiting patiently, brow faintly crinkled.
Eventually Korra starts again.
"Can you tell me about him?"
"What do you want to know?" Iroh asks gently, and they settle into the conversation together, friends.
Chapter 17: A mother knows
Kya discovers Katara is a waterbender.
Every mother thinks their child is special, Kya knows, and she is not averse to indulging in that herself. It is one thing to believe your child is extraordinary, however, and another to see it. When Katara's hand flicks in some peculiar way and suddenly she is drenched in melted snow, blinking with confusion, Kya doesn't have the faintest clue how to feel.
Pride swells in her chest, sits heavy and warm there, because her daughter is wonderful, and so young, too- but fear joins it after the first disorienting split-second of discovery. She knows what happens to waterbenders. Or rather, she doesn't, not quite, which is ultimately far worse. She just knows that a new waterbender won't last, not for long, not a child. Not in the face of war.
She draws Katara into her arms, sopping wet, and buries her face into the girl's hair. "You're a very special little girl, Katara," she says, and means it in every way possible.
Chapter 18: Friend
Korra brings home Naga.
Senna stares at the sight of her daughter, all scrawny limbs and wild hair, clinging to the back of a mass of white fur. The animal is jerking like it wants to throw her off but not quite sure what the consequences would be; Korra has a mess of bruising on one side of her cheek and blood on her knuckles, but otherwise seems fine. Senna's immediate reaction is to grab her and take her away from the thing, aware of just how nasty those dogs can be. But Korra's grin is wild and she knows her daughter well. Trying that will just get her a tantrum.
"Korra, get down from there," she says instead, peering up. She makes her voice stern. "Whatever have you been doing?"
"I made a friend, Mom!" she gets in response, voice excited. Senna feels her resolve melting away, but she keeps her voice sharp.
"Well, come down here and we can talk about it inside, OK?"
Chapter 19: Haze
Prompt: gaang kids growing up not always sure if something was a bedtime story or if it actually happened.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kya's aunt tells her stories about the war, about before the war, about after the war; her Mom tells aunt Suki to stop, she'll give Kya nightmares, but it never works.
"She's a big, brave girl, aren't you Kya," Suki says. Kya nods as her mother sighs and gives in, every time.
The stories are exciting, scary, sad, funny- everything that makes Kya sit enraptured with her blankets tangled about her legs, the room dimming softly as the sun sets. They're better than any of the stories she's read and just as fantastical. She's sure her aunt is embellishing for the sake of the story, of course, but they're such good stories that it hardly seems to matter.
"Really?" she asks every time, toes curling in contentment.
"Really," aunt Suki says. This time, Kya thinks she sounds a little sad, or- no, not sad. Empty, maybe. Her face is a mask, even with the paint peeled off. Kya feels her own smile fade a little.
"Cool," she says, trying to bring the smile back up, and her aunt snaps out of it, smiling back.
I have a lot of feelings about the divide between the Gaang as basically child soldiers and their kids growing up in peacetime CAN YOU TELL.