The burn of the whiskey felt good on her throat. Asami knew she would be the only person to think that, but it was better than whatever came from the keg in the tub of ice in the basement. STEM students worked hard, but they partied harder. If there was one thing Asami learned during undergrad, it was to attend the engineering student house party. And after the board meeting she had, followed by standing in her father’s office for his yelling, Asami wanted nothing more than to be around a bunch of loud, drunk twenty-somethings and forget her Friday.
“She here yet?” Opal’s voice cut through the thumping bass of the music.
Asami checked her phone for the sixty-fifth time, seeing the screen devoid of notifications. She downed the rest of her glass of whiskey and shook her head at Opal. Korra would brighten her day. Thinking about the athlete’s eyes and that smile warmed her. Or perhaps that was the alcohol. Asami honestly wasn’t sure.
“You said her name’s Korra?” Bolin leaned on Opal, one arm around her waist and his other hand holding a cup of what Asami could see was the jungle juice from the fishbowl on the counter.
“Yeah. Soccer player with eyes so blue you’d swear they were fake.” Asami hated shouting, but it was the only way she knew she could be heard by her friends through the music. She found the handle she kept nearby – taken from her father’s liquor cabinet at his house because she knew he wouldn’t miss it – and poured herself another glass.
“Dark skin, nasty scar on her cheek? Super loner?” Bolin added.
Asami frowned at the words Bolin used. “Is all of that really important?”
“I mean it as no offense. Just wanted to make sure.” Bolin put his chin on Opal’s shoulder. “We went to high school together. Sounds like she hasn’t changed much.”
“You went to school with her?” Asami straightened up, interested in anything Bolin could tell her.
“Yeah. She was as busy then as Opal told me you told her she is now.” Bolin frowned at how confusing that sentence came out but waved it off. “I tried to talk to her a few times. No dice. She kept her head down other than her soccer abilities.”
Asami sighed. She felt her phone buzz in her hand and saw the text from Korra. She squinted at the screen and then tapped out a quick answer. “She’s coming.”
Opal blinked. “We get to meet her?”
“Oh! What does she like to drink, I’ll get it for her?” Bolin perked up, a huge smile on his face.
Asami waved her hand. “Soccer player, she can’t drink. But she’s coming. Here.” Her eyes roamed the party, taking in the classmates who were dancing, or making out, or talking in boisterous groups. Asami’s face felt hot and she grabbed the handle and added more to her glass. She wandered the house a time or two to check in with some friends before she settled into a corner of the kitchen with Bolin and Opal and a bag of chips snagged from some cabinet. The three of them could see the front door, giving them ample ability to spot Korra when she walked in. Asami kept calculating the velocity of a soccer ball coming off of Korra’s foot, making assumptions about the ball’s weight and the different strengths Korra could kick it. It calmed her to run through these numbers, but giddy because it was math that revolved around the athlete.
“Relax! She’s here to see you, or else she wouldn’t have come.” Opal put a hand on Asami’s shoulder, which pulled her from the numbers spinning in her head.
“She’s going to get here and I’m going to get lost in those eyes. You’ve seen them.” Asami looked at her best friend. “They’re so blue. Nature does that color and her justice.”
Opal snickered at her friend. “Save the sweet talking for her, Asami.” She pointed toward the front door.
Asami whipped her head around, her eyes landing on Korra. The world felt like it slowed down as Korra sidled through the crowded hallway and into the kitchen. Compared to her usual athletic attire, Asami found the dark wash jeans and black leather jacket with a grey hoodie rather enticing. Her cheeks grew hot as she briefly thought about that jacket ending up on her bedroom floor. She shut her eyes and thought about the process of how to perform an oil change on her car to try and focus her mind.
That voice made Asami open her eyes to take in her favorite shade of blue. “Hey, you made it.” Asami gestured to her friends. “This is Opal and her boyfriend Bolin.”
“Nice to meet you.” Opal shook Korra’s hand with a smile. “Great jacket.”
“Hi! I’m Bolin, I was a theater kid at our high school.” Bolin grinned, shaking Korra’s hand with as much enthusiasm as a golden retriever puppy.
Korra glanced between the two. “Thank you, and I think I remember you.”
“There are drinks on the counter and downstairs, but since you can’t have any, we stole chips if you want some.” Bolin held out the bag.
“Did you win?” Asami inclined in Korra’s direction and took a sip of whiskey as she watched the other woman.
“Yeah. A tough one, but we pulled it off.” Korra smiled which made Asami’s heart flip. She reached into the bag of chips and pulled out a small handful.
“You scored.” Asami stared at Korra and caught the lopsided grin that spread on the athlete’s face.
“Scoring is my specialty after all.” Korra smirked, giving Asami a wink.
Asami balked at the gesture and her cheeks heated up even more than merely from the whiskey.
The four of them talked, Bolin disappearing a few times to get more alcohol for himself and Opal, or to steal another bag of chips. Asami found herself keeping close to Korra as they stood in the kitchen. A few classmates to Asami and Opal would come by and talk before disappearing into the throng of people with drinks sloshing over their hands.
“You okay?” Asami leaned into Korra’s side, her lips close to the athlete’s ear. She noticed how little Korra seemed to talk to the newcomers of the circle, her eyes wandering the people as she sipped a cup of water.
“I should get going. It’s getting late.” Korra turned to Asami. “Are you going to be okay getting home?”
“Should be fine. Opal, Bo and I got dropped off by Bo’s brother. He’s a cop.” Asami smiled at Korra, her arm looped through Korra’s. “What about you?”
“I can jog to campus. It’s not far—“
“Who invited a Southie?” A voice cut through the kitchen and all eyes turned to the source of a guy walking through carrying a red solo cup in one hand with a babe at his side.
“I should go.” Korra’s voice came out quiet to Asami. A hand on Korra’s shoulder turned her to him.
“Who the fuck invited you, Southie?” The guy stepped into Korra’s face.
“I’m leaving, I don’t want any trouble.” Korra held up her hands and made to step around him but the guy’s bulk and his arm shot out and stopped her.
“I invited her.” Asami moved forward and put herself next to Korra. “Is there a problem here?” She glanced at this wannabe frat boy.
“Asami, it’s okay I’ll head out—“ Korra started.
“STEM students only. Not some poor dumbass Southie trying to score some free booze.” He shoved his finger into Korra’s chest. “Go back to your snowy wasteland and genocide since apparently, they failed the first time.” The guy pointed at the scar.
Asami’s jaw dropped. Her hand tightened around the neck of the handle in her hand and she took a large drink from it. She passed off the empty glass of whiskey to Opal without looking. “Who made you the party police? She’s a marine biology student, which if you needed a dictionary to help you, is part of the STEM department.” Asami leveled her glare at him.
“Hey, it’s fine. I’ll just g—“ Korra said again, but Asami cut her off when she raised her hand.
“Being an asshole is a choice, just as much as being a racist. Society taught you everything you need, like how you learned to plagiarise someone’s research to cover up your poor excuse of career options for being a mediocre student.” Asami kept her focus on him, ignoring the people in the small circle around them that murmured. “I suggest you walk away before a dean finds out.”
“Couldn’t fight your own fucking battles?” His eyes turned to Korra as if he tried to pretend what Asami said didn’t happen and cause the whispers around him.
“Korra is my friend and I’ll defend her every instance I can.” Asami took a step forward, pushing a firm finger into his chest.
“I didn’t realize you were a tribe fucking cun—“ The guy started to say.
Asami didn’t hear him finish. She didn’t see Korra’s fist fly and slam into his face. The realization that something happened was the collective gasp as he hit the ground and blood blossoming on his face. She glanced between Korra and the guy, whose girlfriend knelt over him as he started swearing.
“Time to go.” Korra started a hasty retreat through the party, Asami quick on her heels without so much as a wave to Bolin or Opal.
“Korra!” Asami rushed to keep up with her, the bottle of whiskey still in her hand. She managed to snag the sleeve of Korra’s jacket when they made it a block from the house toward campus. “Korra, stop.” Her head swam and she slowed them to a street corner. “Hey. Talk to me.”
Korra shook her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come.” She ran her hand through her short hair. “Fuck this place.”
Asami steadied herself on a light post. Her eyes followed Korra as she paced, trying to focus on her. “He’s an asshole. Forget him.” She reached out to pull Korra to her but the athlete stepped out of her grasp in her constant movement.
“I don’t get to forget him. This is my life, Asami.” Korra rounded on the woman her jaw clenched. “People are always going to see my skin for what history and society dictated. You don’t get hated like that when you’re beautiful and pale.”
Asami never thought she’d see those eyes filled with so much anger, a dark blue like when a storm rolled into Yue Bay from the deep sea. She chuckled at Korra’s last statement. Oh, how wrong this woman was. Her laughter must have caught Korra off-guard because the next time she looked at the athlete, all Asami saw was her frown.
“What’s so funny?”
“I might not understand what it’s like to experience racism, but trust me I know hate.” Asami shut her eyes and shook her head as a few tears slid down her cheeks at the thought, and wanted the murky feeling in her head to go away. Her mouth felt weird, and then her stomach rolled. She dropped the whiskey and took two steps to the nearest bushes where everything came back up. Someone was at her side, holding her hair back and rubbing her back in a slow line.
“Let me get you home.” Korra waited for Asami to straighten up before she held out a crumpled napkin.
Wiping her mouth, Asami laughed a bitter forced sound. “This is not how I imagined tonight to go.”
“You and me both.” Korra put an arm around Asami’s shoulders.
Asami looped her arm around Korra, letting the athlete lead her to her apartment. She felt more steady against Korra, but she still felt her head swim and her feet would catch on the slightest crack in the sidewalk. Korra didn’t seem to mind the closeness, which Asami relished because the chill in the air made her shiver and leaning into Korra for support and warmth was an experience she hoped to remember when she was sober.
They made it up to Asami’s apartment where Korra started to get Asami a glass of water. Asami went to her liquor shelf and poured herself a glass of whiskey.
“Oh no, you’re done for tonight.” Korra walked over and snatched the cup from Asami and held out the water.
Asami shook her head and grabbed the bottle instead. “I’ll pass, thanks.” She took a large swig from the handle and carried it with her to the couch.
“What happened today?” Korra followed and sat next to Asami, water glass still in her hand, the whiskey glass abandoned on the shelf.
Running her hand through her dark locks, Asami leaned into the cushion and stared at the ceiling. “My fucking father happened.” Alcohol made her walls drop in a way Asami knew Korra never experienced. She didn’t catch the slight flinch at the dropped swear.
“Whatever it was, I’m sorry.” Asami could feel Korra’s eyes on her as she spoke in a voice soft with concern.
“You and me both.” She drank down another mouthful of whiskey and set the bottle down hard on the coffee table. Asami dumped her phone next to the handle and dropped her jacket on the floor.
“At least drink this glass of water.” Korra held it out.
Asami swallowed back some more whiskey before she accepted the glass and drank it. “Do you jog everywhere?” Her eyes focused on Korra’s scar, the first time the woman ever sat where it faced Asami.
Korra took the empty glass back. “Yeah. Or the bus if it’s too far.”
“Don’t you ever want to jump in a car and go somewhere?” Asami squinted at Korra, trying to figure this woman out.
“Not really. It’s all about the journey, so why expedite the process?” Korra shrugged off her jacket and hung it over the back of the couch.
Asami shut her eyes, her head swimming again and the alcohol making her feel warm. She yawned and slouched down.
“Let’s get you to bed before you sleep here.”
Asami could hear the athlete get up and move around, pouring more water. From the creak of the floor, Asami knew Korra stopped by the couch waiting for her. She opened her eyes and pushed herself up. Her arm automatically went around Korra’s shoulders, appreciating how solid the woman felt as they went to her bedroom. Asami sat on the bed and pulled off her shoes before she slid under the duvet. Korra set the glass on the nightstand and puttered around the room.
“You’re a good person, you know.” Asami settled into her pillows, her eyes attempting to focus on Korra. “Those people are assholes, so don’t listen to them. But you’re so good. Like, so good, Korra. If they just looked into your eyes, they’d see it.” Her mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls and Asami wondered if you could taste clouds if this is what it would be like. She also knew clouds were frozen water in the sky, so realistically she wouldn’t taste anything except disappointment.
Korra chuckled, a deep sound that made Asami smile. “Thank you, Asami.”
Asami didn’t hear the door shut after the lights were shut off. Her eyes closed and she sunk into sleep.