Korra was usually a sound sleeper, aside from the occasional stress induced nightmares. Her grueling physical training regimen always left her bone tired and ready to hit the hay at the end of the day. However, tonight she had been tied up in a meeting with President Raiko downtown managing the spirit vines and had completely missed suppertime on Air Temple Island. Tired as she was, she was simply too hungry to sleep and kept waking up disgruntled with her stomach growling.
According to Tenzin, it was Air Nomad custom to eat all food communally to nourish the body and spirit together. He enforced that rule on the island strictly; no one was allowed to keep food in their chambers or snack on their own. However, at this moment, Korra decided it might be worth risking Tenzin’s wrath if she could fill her belly enough to get some quality shuteye. After all, it was her Avatar duty to be alert enough during the daytime to respond to whomever needed her help. Therefore, sneaking down to the kitchens for a few of Pema’s leftover rice balls was perfectly justifiable.
Mind made up, Korra arose and slipped quietly through the door into the hallway, careful not to stir Naga. As stealthily as she could, given her normally loud footsteps, she made her way through several corridors of the women’s quarters towards the food storage area at the center of the temple. Surely, no one would still be awake now. Korra guessed that it had to be at least two dial notches past midnight, and the Air Acolytes were notoriously “early to bed, early to rise” in their daily lives. Grabbing a snack to fill her aching stomach should be a cinch. No one would ever know it was her.
Swiping two leftover rice balls was a breeze. Ungracefully, she wolfed them down in just a few bites. Hunger abated, Korra quickly but quietly slunk back towards her room. She had just rounded the corner and was almost home free when suddenly, a door opened several rooms down from hers.
Korra instinctively leapt behind a potted plant and crouched down. Who could it be? She was back in the women’s quarters, so it was unlikely to be Tenzin. Maybe it was the White Lotus making nightly guard rounds? Or Pema, taking fussy baby Rohan for a walk? Regardless, Korra did not want to be caught and have to explain what she was creeping around the hallway at this hour. Tenzin would surely hear about it and suspect she was sneaking out to the mainland again or worse, having secret afterhours rendezvous with Mako.
Korra sighed and shook her head. That relationship was over and done with, for good this time. She loved Mako, but in a way that suggested loyalty and protection and sacrifice, not romantic poetry and certain… urges. Perhaps she had felt that way about him once, but fighting and growing apart through long periods of separation had cooled things off considerably.
Not that they’d ever gone further than furtive make-outs and maybe a fleeting fondle or two. There hadn’t been much opportunity for the sort of trouble a man and a woman could get up to together, and Korra would not have wanted to take the risk anyway. Her minders back at the South Pole had warned her that such conduct could result in pregnancy, and she definitely was not ready for that. Her cheeks reddened at the thought of Tenzin, her most respected mentor, thinking she was up in the middle of the night on her way back from… laying with Mako or any other man.
Luckily, whoever had opened the door did not seem to be coming her way. Korra’s ears perked up as she detected soft voices. Carefully, she slowly craned her neck around the potted plant and spotted a woman’s silhouette facing an open door and speaking to someone inside. Recalling her mental map of the temple, Korra realized that the doorway was the entrance to Kya’s quarters. What was going on? Who was the woman talking to Kya?
Although she was in shadow, the way her robes draped indicated that she was not an Air Acolyte. In that case, what on earth was she doing coming out of Kya’s room in the wee hours of the morning? From this distance, Korra could not quite make out what they were saying. Still nervous about being caught but undeniably curious, Korra painstakingly tiptoed out from behind the plant and darted behind another doorway a few yards down, careful to keep herself hidden in the shadows. At last, she could faintly pick up their soft voices.
“It really has been far too long since your last visit to the city, old friend. I do hope you plan to stay awhile. I have enjoyed the… pleasure of your company.” There was something suggestive about the tone of the stranger’s voice. Korra heard Kya’s slow chuckle in response.
“My company, you say? My my, aren’t you rather subtler than the bold young tongzhi 同志 I picked up in the Lavender Lounge all those years ago! Don’t be coy. You came for far more than that.”
The stranger laughed softly and put one hand on the door frame, leaning forward and speaking in a soft purr. “Well, I won’t deny that your scintillating conversation is far from your only appeal. Quite frankly, with your talents, there is no one on earth who can provide a more… rejuvenating massage than you. I’m amazed that the ladies aren’t lined up outside your door.” The woman sighed wistfully and her tone shifted from impish to wistful. “You know, you’re still as striking as when I first met you. You could have your pick of anyone in the scene if you wanted.” There was a certain hesitance to the stranger’s words, unspoken emotions bubbling underneath.
Kya’s form came slightly into view in the doorframe. She was standing awfully close to the other woman now. “Maybe in another life, if I had spent more time here in my prime. At my age, I’d rather not dally with inexperience and passivity. I prefer… a firmer touch from familiar hands.”
Kya paused and seemed to gather her nerves. She gently laid her hands on the other woman’s shoulders. “You see, I’ve already made my pick: you, my dear, for however long you’ll have me.”
The stranger started to tremble and she reached up to cup Kya’s cheeks with both hands. “Really? Are you certain? I just… so many times you’ve said it wasn’t possible, you couldn’t get attached, not while living halfway across the world… am I dreaming? Do you really mean it?”
Instead of answering with words, Kya did something that made Korra’s jaw hit the floor. She pulled the stranger close and kissed her passionately. On the mouth. The other woman responded with vigor, tangling her fingers through Kya’s hair and groaning in a way that sent strange tingles down Korra’s spine. Korra had never seen anyone kiss like this. There wasn’t a hair of space between them, and although the kiss was intense, it was slow and perfectly coordinated in a way that indicated this definitely was not the first time these two had embraced in such a manner.
Korra’s mind was racing a mile a minute watching them in stunned silence. She had not known that women could kiss like that. The idea had never even occurred to her. Did all women do this? Was this a part of adult friendships between women no one had ever told her about? Korra had not really understood the conversation that had led up to this moment, but she gathered that some fundamental shift in the relationship had happened.
After a short eternity, Kya pulled back, panting hard. “Xinlang 信朗, stay with me.” Xinlang gasped breathlessly. “But what about your brother?” Kya placed her hands soothingly on Xinlang’s shoulders. “Tenzin’s been looking the other way for decades. Let me worry about him. I want you to come to breakfast tomorrow morning and I don’t care what he has to say about it. Life’s too short. If I can’t hold your hand downtown, at least I can be seen with you in the company of my family. Is… is that okay?”
Xinlang nodded wordlessly and leaned in, wrapping her arms around Kya’s waist in a tight hug. Kya nuzzled her neck softly, planting light kisses in Xinlang’s hair before pulling back slightly again. “Come back in now. There’s still plenty of water left.” Xinlang laughed gaily. “Cheeky old broad.” She allowed Kya to pull her inside with a giggle and the door slid shut firmly behind them with a soft thump.
Korra all but threw herself back into her room, no longer savoring the remnants of the rice balls. All she could think about was Kya and Xinlang and the way they had kissed and embraced each other. It was clear they weren’t just normal friends. If she didn’t know any better, she would say they were lovers. But that was impossible. Right? Only a man and a woman could fall in love and care about each other in ways that would make them want to touch and kiss and… do things behind closed doors in the dead of night. She had never heard of two people of the same gender being a couple while growing up in the Southern Water Tribe. Maybe it was a cultural difference in Republic City? Even after living in an urban environment for over a year, there were still many customs that Korra did not understand.
Laying down on her bed, Korra tried to relax and fall back asleep. However, her mind kept hitching on the way Xinlang had cupped Kya’s cheeks and way their lips had moved against each other so sensually and the little pleasure sounds each of them had made… what would it be like, to kiss a woman like that? Gasping, Korra’s eyes popped open as she realized that her breathing had become increasingly labored. There was an ache blooming between her legs that she had seldom experienced before. It reminded her of how she used to feel after kissing Mako, but this sensation was now much more urgent, as though her stomach’s hunger had been transferred to far more sensitive parts of her body.
Instinctively, Korra’s hand drifted down between her thighs. It was as though someone were bending a warm, pleasurable fireball in her pelvis that yearned to explode into a bonfire through the right friction. Korra’s thoughts shifted from what she had seen to imagining herself and another female figure entwined on a bed. She pictured smooth kisses free from stubble, stroking her hands over womanly hips, pillowing breasts pushing against her own…
Her breath was coming out in ragged pants. Korra had never felt anything like this before. She was so hot… did this happen to all women? What would it be like to not only kiss and embrace a woman, but take her clothes off and touch her between her legs? At that thought, the burning sensation reached a fever pitch.
Korra’s off-hand clamped over her mouth to stifle a loud moan as the fiery bubble in her loins finally burst. Her flailing limbs produced a large gust of airbending, sending clothes and possessions flying across the room and knocking a small vase of flowers into Naga’s head just outside the window. Predictably, Naga immediately began yowling in shock and confusion. Korra, dazed by the endorphin rush of her orgasm, quickly leapt up in a panic. Naga would likely wake up the whole island, and everyone would think she was in danger.
Korra had just enough time to yank her bottoms back on and scamper over to the window to hush Naga when several female members of the White Lotus burst into her room.
“Avatar Korra! Are you all right? We heard Naga make an awful racket.”
Korra felt her cheeks burn bright red in embarrassment. But before she could say a word, Kya burst in, looking quite disheveled herself with her robe haphazardly fashioned and her hair mussed and dripping wet. “What is going on here? Korra, were you attacked?”
Hurriedly, Korra tried to allay their concerns. “No, no, everything’s fine, I promise. Naga must have seen a shadow or something and gotten scared. You can all go back to bed now. Sorry to disturb you.”
The White Lotus bowed and left at once, eager to get back to their scheduled patrols. Kya, however, lingered for a moment, her eyebrows raising in a scrutinizing way. Korra watched helplessly as she took in the disarray in Korra’s normally tidy room, the broken pot shards sticking out of Naga’s fur, and Korra’s own physical appearance, still flushed and slightly breathless. Kya’s nose twitched and she inhaled for a moment before staring directly at Korra, her mouth slightly open in shock. Korra’s eyes widened and she slumped her shoulders in mortification, aware that Kya knew exactly what she had been doing. Words of explanation came stumbling haltingly.
“I was…you know… and then… I sort of lost control of my bending… and that’s what woke Naga up. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Please don’t tell Tenzin.” As she spoke, Korra realized how scared she was. Scared that the pleasure she’d just experienced was somehow wrong or shameful. Scared that Kya or anyone who knew that she had… enjoyed herself in such a way would think less of her. Scared that somehow how word would get out to the Republic City press and tomorrow the papers would come out with headlines about ‘Avatar Korra the Secret Self Caresser’. She couldn’t look at Kya and she wrapped her arms around herself defensively. Kya must have noticed this, for her next words were extremely gentle.
“Korra, you haven’t done anything wrong. This is your room, your private space, and doing that is completely normal. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Immediately, a weight lifted off of Korra’s chest. What she had done was okay. Kya wasn’t going to judge her. She didn’t need to be afraid. Kya’s voice then took on a more teasing tone.
“And you certainly are not the only bender to lose control during *ahem* private moments. In fact, given that you’re the Avatar, I’m honestly shocked that a broken pot is the worst of the damage. When Tenzin was fourteen, he caused a small tornado in the middle of the night while we were traveling that launched all of our bags off of a cliff. Dad was furious.” Korra managed a weak chuckle, finally looking Kya in the eyes again. “You’ll learn to control it. All right, I’ll leave you be. And don’t worry- this will stay between us. Good night, Korra.”
As Kya turned to go, Korra called out. “Kya?” Kya turned on her heel in the doorframe. “Yes?” With a bit of a half grin, Korra replied shyly. “Thanks.”
Kya’s eyes twinkled and her lips curved up into a genuine smile. “You’re welcome” As Kya left and shut the door, Korra went over to the window to brush the pot pieces of Naga and get her settled down again. At last, body and mind at ease, Korra collapsed on her bed into a dead sleep.
Korra felt a little sheepish going to breakfast the next morning, but seeing as she never had gotten the opportunity to eat supper the night before, she was absolutely ravenous and had no choice but to deal with the inevitable awkwardness of sitting next to Kya at the table. However, despite arriving fifteen minutes after the unspoken meal time had begun, Korra was relieved and a bit puzzled to see that Kya was noticeably absent. Of course, Tenzin’s entire family was already seated and halfway through their tsampa, moon peaches, balep bread, and stewed lentils.
Tenzin was always up shortly after sunrise for his morning meditation, and Pema usually rose soon after to tend to Rohan and begin cooking breakfast with some of the Air Acolytes. The three older kids were all still natural early risers and had far too much energy for this time of day. Bumi was also habitually punctual for breakfast due to his many years of military schedules and his love for food.
Even Mako and Bolin had become used to the Air Nomad rhythm of life since moving to the island and were digging in enthusiastically; Bolin kept cutting off little pieces of his moon peaches and feeding them to Pabu on his shoulder. Asami had already finished her meal and was thoroughly ensconced in several documents, much to Tenzin’s obvious annoyance. The whole table greeted her in unison when she sat down. Predictably, Tenzin frowned at her tardiness.
“Korra. How nice of you to finally join us this morning.”
Feeling a little defensive, Korra gestured at Kya’s empty place setting. “Hey, at least I’m not the last one.”
But before Tenzin could reply, Kya walked into the room. Well, walked wasn’t really the word for it. It was more like she sauntered into the room on a cloud. And she wasn’t alone.
“Good morning, all. Sorry we’re late.” Kya’s voice sounded positively carefree and floaty. The woman next to her, whom Korra instantly recognized as Xinlang, seemed far more apprehensive about this situation.
As Kya moved towards her seat, she addressed Jinora. “Would you be a dear and fetch an extra plate please?”
Jinora gave Kya a curious glance but did as she was told. Korra noticed how Kya’s hand rested possessively on Xinlang’s back as she guided the other woman to sit right next to her. They settled down joined at the hip, with hardly any space between them.
Korra cast a glance around the table. The kids and Mako all looked confused and Bumi and Bolin seemed largely oblivious, engrossed in their food and pets. Asami’s inquisitive stare peeked over the papers in her hands. Pema’s eyebrows were knit together in concern and Tenzin… Tenzin looked absolutely livid, great red blotches coloring his cheeks.
“Kya, may I speak to you privately, please?”
Kya looked her brother dead in the eye and shook her head. “No. I’m staying right here and having breakfast. Ooh, are those moon peaches? What a great treat!”
Tenzin stood up in a huff. “Don’t change the subject. Just what do you think you’re doing, exactly?”
Kya shrugged nonchalantly. “Having breakfast with the people I love most in the world. Isn’t that what you’re doing?”
Ikki interrupted their standoff with a chirpy question. “Auntie Kya, who’s this?”
Kya slid her arm around Xinlang’s shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “This is Xinlang. She is my companion. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of her around because she’s very special to me and I want her to get to know my family.”
Korra watched in fascination how Xinlang visibly relaxed at these words. Ikki seemed puzzled for a split second and then clapped her hands together. “Ooh, so she’s like your best friend? That’s so cool!”
Kya shook her head. “Not quite like that, Ikki.”
“Enough.” Korra whipped her head back around to Tenzin. “Kya, how you decide to live your life is your own affair. But I will not have you influencing my children in a lifestyle that counterproductive to the future of the Air Nation. Procreation is absolutely essential for our survival as a people!”
Pema placed her hand on Tenzin’s wrist and tugged him back down into his seat. “Honey, stop. You’re not seeing reason. Your sister has found love. Can’t you just be happy for her? The kids are better off seeing a little more happiness in the world after everything we’ve all been through.” Pema turned towards the couple. “You’re very welcome at our table, Xinlang. Please make yourself at home.”
“Thank you.” Xinlang replied shyly. After an awkward silence, Tenzin excused himself from the table, muttering about needing to attend to security matters with the White Lotus. Pema smiled compassionately at Kya and Xinlang. “Don’t worry. He’ll come around. As you know, your brother can be quite stubborn about his traditions. You wouldn’t believe how upset he was when I stole his thunder and asked him to marry me first. He has a hard time adjusting to changes to his world order, but he always does, given enough time.”
Xinlang dipped her head in gratitude. “Thank you kindly. I look forward to getting to know all of you better.”
Bumi grinned in his slightly offbeat fashion. “Well, I for one am glad to finally meet the woman brave enough to take on my little sister! Welcome aboard!”
Conversation returned to normal after that, and soon, breakfast was over. Xinlang and Kya departed for Republic City, Pema went to change baby Rohan, and the kids scampered off for their morning lessons. Bolin left with Pabu off on some sort of caper. Soon, only Korra, Mako, and Asami remained at the table. Asami was still seemingly engrossed in her morning reports, unfazed by the unusual confrontation at breakfast.
Mako was the first to break the silence. “Well, I’ve got to give Kya credit… that was a bold move. I had no idea she was onabe オナベ though. She doesn’t look it.”
SMACK. Asami slapped her papers down and stood up quickly, her features having changed from businesslike focus to a scowl in the blink of an eye, heat rising in her cheeks as she stared at Mako. “Don’t use that word.”
Mako held up his hands. “Hey, I don’t have a problem with it! That’s what everyone called the ones who hung around the pro-bending rings. You’d think they were guys, until you got a second look. Kya’s not like that at all- it’s a surprise, is all I’m saying.”
Korra looked back and forth between them. “O-na-be?” She sounded out the term.
Asami crossed her arms. “It’s a Fire Nation slur for women like Kya and Xinlang. Mako, I can imagine you heard it around the rings- sports aren’t known for being tolerant of any kind of tongxinglian 同性恋, after all. If you’re going to use any word, say tongzhi 同志 or lala 拉拉.”
Mako raised his eyebrows. “You seem to know an awful lot about this subject.”
If possible, Asami’s cheeks pinked a little further. “Well, you could say… I might have a bit of a personal interest in this topic. I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t go spreading that around.”
Korra’s jaw dropped and she felt almost lightheaded. Was Asami saying that she might have an interest in women? In that way, in a way Korra hadn’t even known existed until last night, when she had seen Kya and Xinlang kiss and had then touched herself to the idea…? Oh Spirits, she was in trouble.
Mako also seemed rather taken aback. “But… what? I mean… we dated. We… made out. We… ‘swam’… in the pool at your place that one time. Does that mean… were you just faking it? Was our relationship a lie the whole time?!”
Asami huffed, looking deeply uncomfortable but determined to get through the conversation. “Has it ever occurred to you that it might be possible for a person to enjoy the company of both men and women? Honestly, for a scrappy kid who grew up on the streets of Republic City, I’d expect you to be a little more aware of this shit.” The uncharacteristic expletive was a clear sign of how anxious Asami was about the disclosure she had just made.
Despite the conflicted emotions swirling within her own stomach like a swarm of restless spirits, Korra instinctively felt the need to reassure Asami. She stood up and carefully shuffled around the table to stand facing Asami. Asami turned to her with an inscrutable look in her eyes.
“Hey Asami, it’s okay. It doesn’t make a difference to me who you like, and I promise I won’t tell anyone- and Mako won’t either, or I’ll give him a good Avatar beatdown at the gym.” She gave Mako a sharp look. He slumped back into his seat, still looking quite rattled, but no longer accusatory.
Asami’s face softened and her hand gently reached out to clasp Korra’s. “Thank you, Korra. You have no idea how much your support means to me. You’re a really great friend.”
Camelephants. Camelephants rampaging through a thunderstorm in the metal lined streets of Zaofu. That was how Korra’s heartbeat felt, pounding in her chest. She felt like she was seeing the whole world with new eyes today, but especially Asami. She was no longer oblivious to the effect of Asami’s soft hand in hers or the intensity of direct eye contact. How had she not noticed this before?
Touching Mako had been like firebending on a stove to light a kettle – sparky and warm, yet ordinary and comfortable. Touching Asami was like a firebending to try to control a forest fire – blazing hot and wild and utterly overwhelming. It certainly did not help matters that Korra’s vague fantasies from the night before, awakened by the sudden knowledge of the possibility of such intimate congress between women, now were starting to morph to decidedly more specific fantasies starring the woman standing in front of her. Korra could feel her palms sweating and a flush creeping up her neck. She had to get out of there.
“Hey, I just remembered – Tenzin asked me to meet him after breakfast for some meditation exercises. You know, important Avatar spirit-y things. I’d better get going.”
Asami’s brow furrowed in confusion at the abrupt change in mood, but she gently released Korra’s hands. Like an ostrich horse being chased by an armadillo lion, Korra bolted from the room, Mako and Asami looking on with concern and bewilderment. “Since when is Korra ever that eager to meditate?”
This day needed to end now. First, her efforts to find some sort of solution for Republic City’s largest infrastructure problem had once again been undermined by Raiko’s typical political waffling to play to both sides of the escalating conflict over preservation of the spirit vines. Then, Chief Beifong had pulled her into an operation to bust several triads disrupting local businesses. On top of it all, some genius from the ‘Unified Gan Jin-Zhang Cooperative’ (a fringe hippie group that worshipped some kind of ‘sacred orb’ of all things) had decided that bringing a 'domesticated' canyon crawler into the downtown area was a brilliant idea.
Korra groaned and rubbed her back as she slowly rode Naga back to Air Temple Island. Canyon crawlers were notorious for their tendency to go completely nuts around food, being indigenous to areas where sustenance was scarce. She didn’t know if that poor baker in the Dragon Flats borough would ever recover from watching his entire day’s display of pastries being sucked into the crawler’s gaping maw in a matter of seconds. It had taken almost two hours to trap the wretched animal, after it had finally eaten enough to collapse under its own weight.
The Avatar’s frustration of constantly being expected to work miracles to resolve everyone’s problems only seemed be getting worse. In some ways, it was actually easier when Amon was menacing the city; no one expected her to focus on anything other than the Equalists. But now, she was supposed to be human ambassador to the Spirits, city planner, special forces cop, inspirational speaker, and even a zookeeper all at once. Sometimes Korra just wanted to tell everyone to leave her the hell alone so that she could just deal with the ordinary concerns most 18-year-olds did as they transitioned into adulthood. Korra shook her head ruefully. Who was she kidding? From the moment she was born, she had never once been ordinary.
As Naga neared the docks at the base of the island, Korra noticed a lone figure sitting at the edge. Upon second glance, she realized it was Kya.
That was the other thing. Today had been so wretchedly, exhaustedly frenetic that Korra hadn’t had a chance to think about breakfast or the events of the previous night. Yet now, seeing Kya, everything came flooding back with perfect clarity – Kya kissing Xinlang, Kya catching her in her room, Kya standing up to Tenzin, and Asami… and Asami… Asami maybe probably liking women. It was all a swirl of intense emotion jumbled in her head.
Kya waved as Naga climbed up onto the dock, wincing slightly at the spray of water as the polar bear dog shook her fur out. Korra dismounted and patted Naga’s back.
“Go on up, girl, and get some rest. You’ve earned it.”
As Naga bounded away towards the temple, Korra somewhat tentatively approached Kya and motioned at the space next to her.
“Would you mind if I join you? I’d… really like to talk to you, if you wouldn’t mind the company.”
Kya smiled and gently rested her hand on Korra’s shoulder as she sat down.
“Of course, dear. What’s on your mind?”
Korra blushed and looked away, training her eyes on the twinkling lights of the city back across Yue Bay. Her hands shook a little as she tried to find the right words.
“How did you know that you were… tongzhi? Is that the right word?”
Kya nodded and ran her hand through her long gray hair, messy at the end of the day. “Well, it wasn’t so easy to figure out at first. Like you, I spent most of my childhood in the Southern Water Tribe, surrounded mostly by the Northerners who’d come to rebuild and brought their very ‘traditional’ viewpoints with them. Nobody talked about these sorts of things down there – especially back in those days. As a teenager, I’d started to have an inkling that I wasn’t interested in boys the way my friends were, but it wasn’t until we started traveling more with Dad that things became clear to me.”
Korra nodded wordlessly. The isolation of growing up in the Southern Water Tribe was all too familiar.
“Let’s see… it must have been when I was about 18 or 19 years old. That was when Tenzin and Lin started dating… the first time, anyway. They broke up and got back together many times over the years, you see. Lin had been my friend first. When she fell in love with my brother, I was consumed with jealousy. I realized that I felt the same way about her that Tenzin did.”
Korra was staring at Kya with her mouth agape. “You had feelings for Chief Beifong?”
Kya chuckled. “Hard to imagine, huh? She was quite a looker back then. Still is, actually. But anyway, that’s all ancient history now. I couldn’t stand to be around either of them at the time, so I left. I went off traveling on my own for several years, mastering my healing skills all over the world. It didn’t take me too long to get over Lin. I’m grateful to her, actually, for helping me to understand that I care for women in that way.”
Korra sighed. “I wish I was as sure of my feelings as you are.”
Kya gently took Korra’s hand and rubbed it comfortingly. “It’s okay if you’re not sure. As long as you know that whomever you love, it’s okay. And if Tenzin gives you any flack for it, I’ll freeze a sphere of ice on his head until he chills out.”
A weak chuckle erupted from Korra’s throat. She swung her legs aimlessly off the dock. “Thanks, Kya. You’re… really awesome. I hope you know that.” Korra paused, and then her expression turned coy. “Soooo… Xinlang. How’d you two meet?”
A soft smile lit up Kya’s face in against the sunset. “Oh, we go way back. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I knew the Republic City scene pretty well. Which bars to dance at, what accessories to wear when flagging, and how to tell if a woman wanted to come home with me for a ‘nightcap’. You could say that I was pretty ‘free-spirited’ at that age, although I was discreet enough to avoid making bad press for Dad.”
“Wow, I had no idea you had such an interesting past.”
Kya smirked. “What can I say? I was young, and the world was my oyster. Anyway, there was this place called the Lavender Lounge that I used to stop by whenever I was in town. It was a bit of a dive- the liquor was pretty bad, the music was usually some Fire Nation cover band with a loud sunghi hornist trying to get the crowd to dance the Phoenix Flight, and you’d better hope you didn’t need to pee because the bathroom always smelled like swamp gas.”
Korra snorted. Kya continued. “However, it was one of the few places we could go without getting harassed – the bar paid a triad to keep the cops away. One night, I was dancing with some hundred-footer from Kyoshi Island I can’t even remember when I spotted Xinlang across the room. Suffice to say, we went home together that night.”
Korra whistled softly. “You sure moved quick.”
Kya smirked again, but then her face grew serious. “What was different is that I saw her again. And again. I started to realize that I wanted to commit myself to her, but I didn’t think I could. After my healing studies were complete, I had every intention of moving back to the Southern Water Tribe to teach healing to the next generation of waterbenders. I thought she deserved better than a long-distance relationship. So, I saw her whenever I was back in town, but I refused to make any promises. I thought I was freeing her to find someone else, but I really just ended up wasting so much time keeping us apart. I was a fool.”
A single tear slowly slid down Kya’s cheek. Korra turned towards her and squeezed her hand gently. The conversation she had overhead the night before was starting to make a lot more sense now that she had context. “But you’re together now, right? Isn’t that what matters?”
Kya wiped her cheeks. “Yes. It does me no good to stew over the past. What matters now is what I make of the time we have left. But if I could speak to my younger self, I would tell her that she deserved to allow herself to be vulnerable, to be in love. I would tell her not to care so much about what people might think. I would tell her to be brave and fight for the life that she wants.”
There was a pregnant pause as both women looked away to stare out over the bay. Korra wrapped her arms around herself protectively. “There’s this person… this woman… whom I think I might like as more than a friend. It’s confusing, because I used to like Mako and I think I still like men too. But right now, I can’t stop thinking about her. I don’t think I’m ready to tell her though. I don’t think I’m brave enough.”
Kya twisted around and grabbed Korra by the shoulders. “You are brave. You just told me. That’s huge! If you’re not ready to tell anyone else, that’s fine. Give yourself permission to breathe, dear.”
Korra hesitantly smiled. “But if I’m not ready to tell her yet, how do I manage until I am? I mean, I see her every day. I don’t want to be a stuttering, blushing wreck around her all the time.”
Kya removed her hands from Korra’s shoulders and shrugged. “Why don’t you just focus on growing your friendship for now? Enjoy her company, continue to get to her know her, and let things develop naturally. And maybe someday, you’ll ask her to go ‘parking’ in one of her Satomobiles.”
Korra gasped. “How did you know it was Asami?”
Kya tipped her head back and cackled. “You’re talking to a veteran of Republic City’s bar scene, remember? I’m an expert at picking up on chemistry between women across a room. And just between you and me, when you do decide to broach the subject with our resident businesswoman, I have a feeling she’ll be receptive to the idea.”
A grin slowly lit of Korra’s face as she pictured a more suave, confident future Korra smoothly asking Asami Sato out on a date. Maybe it would really be possible someday. Not right now… she really wasn’t ready yet… but she might be if she gave herself time to get used to the idea.
“Just, whatever you do, don’t shut her out. Even if you’re scared, even if you’re unsure, don’t push her away entirely. You will regret it. I know I do.”
Korra felt a sense of calm wash over her. It was like the trance of a good meditation session, without almost falling asleep listening to Tenzin’s voice. “I can’t thank you enough, Kya. I feel a lot better already.”
Kya beamed at her. “Anytime you need a listening ear, I’m here.” Korra leaned over and hugged Kya tightly.
A loud gurgle from Korra’s stomach broke the mood. She pulled back and stood up, blushing sheepishly. “Sorry… I think I’d better head inside. I missed dinner last night, and you know how Tenzin is about eating outside of meals.”
Kya rolled her eyes playfully. “All too well, I’m afraid. Shall we go in? I heard that Pema might be making laping tonight – it was always one of my favorite soups growing up, although Uncle Sokka always swore it would be better with meat. Any meat.”
As Kya and Korra made their way back to the Air Temple with their silhouettes framed by the twilight sky, Korra knew for the first time since the events of the previous night that she could handle whatever lay ahead for her and Asami. Her entire life had been a headlong rush forward – to master the four elements as quickly as possible, to get out of the South Pole compound, to master the Avatar state, to move forward with Mako, and to defeat every foe who threatened the balance of the world. But finally, finally, here was one thing that she didn’t have to rush.
She was Avatar Korra, Master of Four Elements. She was the Great Bridge between the Spirit World and the Human World. She was the mortal vessel of Raava. She was a daughter, a student, and a friend. And she was a young woman who might just want to go out with another young woman. She was okay.
She would be the best friend she could to Asami. She wouldn’t push her away, even if things got rough. And when the time was right, she’d summon Kya’s courage and lay it all on the table. For now, she could just eat dinner with her loved ones, breathe… and keep an open mind to the possibilities.