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Another Place

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She wrote to Asami at first because every other option was too complicated; too many balls in the air, left uncaught. She wrote to Mako and Bolin and Tenzin at first, paltry little notes about getting better. I walked today. I took a bath. By myself. To Tenzin, maybe I’ll see you soon.

But the words got more difficult to write, and in all this myriad of the things she should say, the things she shouldn’t, eventually she chose the easiest route, and just stopped writing to everyone, except Asami, who she’d never known that well, despite all their time together. The most Korra had ever done with her was learn how to drive.

The first one said, I’m sorry for everything. She thought it might as well be said. That was at the end – postscript, a little addendum, but really the rest of the letter had been a sleeve for it, made of how are you’s, how is everyone, hope you’re all coping without me! Asami wrote back, Don’t mention it. It went on like that, friendly and shallow, comforting, for a while after.

It’s not to say she wrote often, or that she often told the truth. If she’d told the truth, she wouldn’t have wanted to read the letters herself, let alone send them to another person. Who wants to hear that you need help going to the bathroom? That your arms are getting smaller? That your body is starting to feel useless, starting to feel like a prison, and you’re not sure you could get out of bed tomorrow, let alone save the fucking world again?

She wrote, eventually, half truths. If Asami asked what she’d been doing lately, she told her,working. Trying to get better. No more white lies about how fast she was improving, how she’d probably be back in Republic City within the year. She said, instead, I’ve had a few bad weeks.Asami wrote back, Tell me about it.

Three years is a long time not to see someone. Asami sent pictures sometimes, or newspaper clippings – little milestones in the lives of the people they had in common.  Mako in his new uniform, Bolin in the news (but when was he ever not). Asami herself, dressed up with the boys, at one ceremony or another.

After six months or so, the letters started getting longer. She told Asami how hard therapy was, how frustrating it was to be staying inside, away from her family and friends. She left a lot out, but mentioned the pain. Asami replied in kind, talked about passing the prison every day, the guilt and fear and anger at knowing her father was inside. How every day she flipped between wanting to shake him, wanting to hurt him, and wanting to patch things up just so she felt like she still had a family.

Three years, almost, and a few months before they ended up seeing one another again, Asami wrote Korra a shorter letter, the first in a series between them. She started, I went on a date today, describing a girl from the city that she’d met by chance in a bar. How she’d been sweet, a brief mention of the sex – Korra laughed at that. They’d long passed that discussion about Mako, a pro/con list written between them – and then Asami said, I miss you. Then she said, Come back, for the first time. At the end, in smaller lettering – like an afterthought, like she didn’t really want it read – she wrote, I feel like we missed out on something here. Or I feel like we will, if we’re not careful.

Korra read it over and over – left the letter folder neatly in a drawer in whatever place she stayed. In her room at home, at first, then in hotels, in her pocket, in her bag. She wrote back. She didn’t mention it.

Months later – in the midst of everything, home again but still in pieces, they saw each other sometimes, alone. Asami would come over with a bottle of something sweet, or they’d just go for a drive. She never asked her to explain – she didn’t need her to. She just didn’t know if they’d missed out. If she’d been so reckless she’d actually killed something this time.

They drank together, but never kissed drunk. They went out in the car and Korra begged for the driver’s seat, making Asami laugh even as she relented. She woke up some mornings beside her, hair blossom-spread out on the pillow and swept over her face in knots. Always drenched in the scent of sweat - and whatever else she could get around her mouth the night beforeher hands grasped around Asami’s hips, touching her stomach, sweeping up the backs of her thighs. Korra’s face buried deep in her cunt, breathing and laughing and never even wanting to come up for air - or leaning her forehead on Asami’s, hands on her face, Asami’s fingers inside her, grinning so hard at her; her eyes, the dark sea and sky behind them.

Sometimes she’d turn over and Asami would already be up, eyeliner smudged, blinking slowly but smiling. “I don’t have to work today.” and Korra would laugh darkly, “Me neither,” and curl them together again.  Sometimes darker, less easy. The pain was back and she’d leave without much word – kiss on the forehead, see you soon. Sometimes Asami would be up and dressed and gone by the time she woke, leaving notes around the kitchen – here’s coffee, borrow some clothes. There was a sense of loss in this whole ritual - from the lonely shower, last night washing off, to simply the absence of the body in the bed. Asami with her hair and her elaborate underwear strewn, the reading glasses Korra found so fucking cute she had to remind herself to make fun, rather than gasp with delight. Walking home in Asami’s clothes, people didn’t even recognize her. It was the kind of dissonance she hated most, that separation of perceived self and actual. The avatar, wandering home at midday, not turning a single head.

Of course they saw each other with friends, and of course it felt like lying to let it go on unsaid; a thousand times she almost mentioned it off the cuff, Hey Mako, guess what, but there never seemed to be an opening she could use for it. Eventually she told Bolin, and he nodded in that wise way he sometimes got about him and said “Yeah, I can see that.” But in the trouble after she returned, she missed the simplicity; wished she’d stayed under wraps just a little longer, to cling to Asami in some private moment and let her know how much it had meant that she was still here, after everything.

The wedding was lovely, if a little strange;  all faces of people she’d never met, and herself (for once) just another body in a ceremony, all but unnoticed. She got dressed at Asami’s as she’d asked for a ride there – getting ready didn’t take much effort, especially with her shorter hair. She slipped into her clothes, made sure nothing was askew, and she was done. Asami, swift with lipstick but slow at choosing shoes, eyed her from the mirror while she sat on the bed. “What now?” She said, softly, always good at asking the poignant questions. Korra shook her head.

“What now for what?” that only got her an eyebrow in response – she supposed she deserved it. “I don’t know.” She replied, honestly, and Asami nodded, at her own reflection as she dabbed at her lips, at Korra as well.

“We have great sex,” She noted carefully, and Korra barked a laugh.

“That’s true.”

“You wanna make a pro/con list?”

“No,” she shook her head, deliberately. Did not rise from the bed, but looked at Asami, through the mirror, at her eyes – one half of the eyeliner done, one poised to be finished in Asami’s hand.  “I like you.”

“So you’re my date to the wedding?”

“I am?” 

“Yes. If you like. And after this, maybe we’ll get to know each other.”

“Like date?”

“Like talk.”  She laughed. “If that’s okay. I’m happy how things are, I just. I want to know you. I feel like I know you, letter-you, but it’s,” she paused. “It’s not enough sometimes.”

Korra was silent. She played with the bedspread between thumb and forefinger, worrying the threads. At moments like this, she always got the urge to flip out, run away, or distract people. She could go over and kiss her, drag things another way, or have a discussion like a normal person – like a braver person. “Let’s talk later.”

Asami nodded, clearly unsatisfied, but wry. “Okay. We’re running late.”

The wedding, in all its blue-hued evening splendor,  brought boozy clarity to everything. She felt like it was a proper closing – the epilogue, final pages of a (very) lengthy book. She’d fallen in love once, made a mistake once, ended up with a friend. She’d hurt Asami, confided in her and found, in the midst of it all, some kind of absolution.  She hung out by the food tables all night, lingering for a chance to catch her eye.  She wouldn’t dance – somewhat in deference to Mako, primarily because she wasn’t the dancing type – but as the evening grew deeper she drifted further from the party to the water, playing with it in thin, weblike strands. It was a game she played sometimes, making things – spindled wheels of ice, delicate little sculptures she would never show anyone else. A leaf skeleton, a snowflake (of all things). Clumsy, inaccurate, but she liked making them. Putting her hands to simple use.

She stretched out her hands, stretched out thin droplet-strings of water, like beaded necklaces, and wound them around her fingers. This little bubble of joy was building below her lungs. It wasn’t like saving the world, where everything after just felt like another threat; it was calmness. Peace, of a sort. Asami sat beside her, and a holiday sounded like a really good idea. She thought maybe she’d earned it.

Asami kissed her by the water, hands on her face warm. She held her hand for the rest of the night, folding their  fingers together. That evening they curled together in Asami’s bed, Asami’s body wrapped around the back of her, arm slung over her waist, fingers still wrapped together. In the morning, they left straight away.

Asami insisted on writing letters – Korra would have been happy to leave it be. They let everyone know where they’d gone, but not when they’d be back. She offered her thanks and her apologies for the suddenness, but really all she felt was a hesitant sort of joy.  Sitting in the car as Asami sped towards their destination, the joy burbled inside her, widening, strengthening with each successive second. They left the car – they packed nothing. On the way to the portal, hardly any words passed between them.

Asami’s feet thudded on the dry earth and Korra’s beat beside her. In the light, expanding – as the portal drew them in – she leaned close, took her face in her hands.

“Now we see what happens.” She said softly, hoping Asami would understand.  Asami nodded, smiling – leaned close to kiss her – as the light engulfed their bodies; as they stepped into another place.