Asami woke to warm lips on her neck and a gentle hand caressing her side. She sighed, lashes fluttering, but kept her eyes closed. Just for a moment, she wanted to savor this: relaxing in bed, with her mate’s arm draped around her waist, lying amidst tangled sheets that smelled like them both.
“Good morning,” Korra murmured, brushing Asami’s hair aside to place a kiss under her ear. Asami did open her eyes then, because doing so meant she got to see Korra’s face — one of her three favorite views in the morning, as well as any other time of day.
“Good morning to you, too.”
Korra beamed. She leaned forward, and Asami tipped her chin for a kiss, moaning happily as their lips met. It was sweet, how gentle Korra was with her in the mornings, as though the alpha almost believed she would wake alone, and was pleased to find she hadn’t. Asami could relate. She’d spent her share of mornings alone, wishing things were different.
Reluctantly, she drew back before the kiss could become too heated. Things were quiet, suspiciously so, and getting deeply involved in one another was just asking for trouble. Korra whimpered and tried to chase her lips, but Asami caressed her face to keep her at bay. “Have you checked on the pups?”
“Not yet, but I haven’t heard a peep.”
That only made Asami more suspicious, but she didn’t see any sign that Hiroshi was awake in his crib, and didn’t hear any sounds that implied Yasuko had snuck out of her room. Naga was still snoozing at the foot of the master bed, snoring softly. From the slant of the morning sun shining through the window, Asami knew it was time for everyone to wake up, but maybe they’d been granted a rare reprieve.
Undeterred, Korra leaned in again. As they kissed, Asami let her morning grogginess transition into a different kind of haze. Warmth gathered in her lower belly, and she slung a leg over Korra’s hip, shifting forward until their breasts brushed.
“Love you,” Korra mumbled, tugging softly at Asami’s bottom lip.
“Love you too.”
Korra’s tongue tried to push deeper, and Asami allowed it, not caring about the taste of morning in her mouth. Her mate’s hands, which had roamed lower to squeeze her rear and hitch her pelvis closer, were far too distracting.
The slow descent Korra made down her body after detaching from her lips was even more distracting. Asami soon found herself flat on her back, although she didn’t release the hook of her knee from Korra’s waist. She dug her heel into the small of Korra’s back as a warm mouth suckled her neck, lingering on her mating mark before skimming along her collarbone.
“You’ll have to be quick,” Asami whispered, running her fingers through Korra’s messy hair. “They won’t stay asleep long.”
Korra switched to the other side of her neck, trailing several kisses there as well before moving down her chest.
Asami spread her thighs, gasping as Korra’s muscular stomach pressed between her legs. It was the perfect surface to grind against, warm and firm, and she was already wet…
Korra released Asami’s nipple, burying her face in the pillow of her breasts and moaning in disappointment. “Tell me I didn’t just hear that.”
A soft whuff from the foot of the bed confirmed it. Naga lifted her large head and gazed at Yasuko’s door with baleful black eyes, her tail thumping gently on the floor.
“You did,” Asami said, rolling out from beneath Korra’s comforting weight and pulling the sheets under her arms. “Get ready. Here she comes.”
Korra’s face brightened immediately. Her annoyance was instantly forgotten, and her smile shone brighter than the sun as she scrambled out of bed and threw on some underwear from a pile of discarded clothes on the floor. Naga wagged harder, climbing to her feet and trailing after Korra, pushing aside the rest of the clothes with her big, fuzzy paws.
Normally, Asami disapproved of that kind of mess. The only clutter she tolerated was office or garage-related — the kind of clutter she was more likely to be responsible for. But with Korra, she found that she didn’t mind. She fell a little more in love as Korra tiptoed to Yasuko’s door on quiet feet.
Korra waited, then yanked the door open, lunging forward to grab their eldest pup around the middle and tickle her tummy.
Despite Yasuko’s protests, Asami recognized the joyful giggling as encouragement. Korra scooped their daughter up, twirling her around while avoiding the kicks of her chubby legs.
“Yasu! How’s my little Otter Penguin?” She tossed Yasu into the air, then caught her safely, cradling the little girl against her chest. “Ready for breakfast?”
“Good. ‘Cuz I’m hungry.” Korra gave Yasuko a toothy grin that made Asami’s heart melt. “Know what I wanna eat?”
Korra pressed kisses all over Yasuko’s face, making om nom nom sounds and causing their pup to devolve into another round of delighted squeals. Naga’s ears perked, and she trotted in a circle around them, sneaking in a few affectionate licks on the side of Korra’s arm. Korra laughed and held Yasuko up for the polar bear dog to sniff, which Naga did, tickling Yasuko’s face with her whiskers and giving it a thorough tongue bath.
As adorable as the sight was, Asami was tempted to put a stop to it. They were being quite loud, and if they weren’t careful…
A cry from Hiroshi’s crib confirmed her worries. With all the speed of a concerned mother, Asami abandoned the warmth of her bed and hurried to comfort her youngest. “That was a little much,” she said, arching an eyebrow in Korra’s direction as she cradled Hiroshi in her arms.
“Sorry,” Korra mumbled, with a sheepish grin. She set Yasuko on the floor, holding the pup’s hand in one of her own and scratching Naga’s head with the other. “Hey, Yasu? How about we get dressed and start making your Mama breakfast? She has a big day today.”
Yasuko’s green eyes widened. “Big day?”
“Uh-huh. Mama is going back to work at Future Industries. But don’t worry. I’ll spend all day with you and your brother and Naga, and she’ll be home tonight for dinner.”
Asami couldn’t help but be grateful for Korra’s excited tone. Phrased a different way, the news might have been very upsetting to Yasuko, who had always been rather attached to her and disliked being parted from her. Getting her used to staying with Pema before Korra’s return had been a trial in itself, although the omega’s experience and warmth had eventually won the fussy pup over.
This time, Korra’s enthusiasm worked. “All day?” Yasuko said, bouncing on her tiny toes.
Korra nodded. “All day. Just the four of us. Then, after dinner, the five of us can have Mama’s favorite dessert. Except Naga.” She gave the polar bear dog a sidelong look. “She’s getting a little fat under all that fur.”
Naga snorted at the sound of her name, still wagging happily.
“Dumpins? Yes!” Yasuko scrambled back to her room to get dressed, while Korra trailed after her, blowing Asami a saucy kiss goodbye on the way. Naga trotted along as well, her blunt claws clicking on the floor.
Asami smiled and sat on the bed, nuzzling Hiroshi’s thin, sweet-smelling brown hair. Although he didn’t have Korra’s dark skin tone, he had her stunning blue eyes, and his dimpled smile melted Asami’s heart just the same.
Unfortunately, his smile didn’t last long. Hiroshi began hiccuping, and his round, squishy face turned bright red. He wailed, flailing his fists, and Asami quickly brought him to her breast. Although she no longer needed to feed him as often as she had a few months earlier, he was still a very hungry, demanding baby.
She leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes, stroking Hiroshi’s head. Nursing her youngest was soothing, and she’d never actually gotten out of bed, so the temptation to drift off was strong. Her breaths deepened, and the remnants of Korra’s scent amidst the sheets put her even further at ease…
So much at ease that she almost wasn’t nervous about returning to work. Almost.
Although she’d visited Future Industries several times since Hiroshi’s birth, usually with both pups in tow to show them off to her more family-oriented business associates, she had yet to stay for an entire day. She’d kept up with the most urgent paperwork and phone calls, of course, but it had been a long time since she’d spent more than a few hours in her work office.
Part of her was looking forward to it. As much as she adored being a mother, she also loved her job and her company, and she was eager to dive back into work. On the other hand, the thought of leaving Hiroshi for more than an hour or two was quietly excruciating.
“You’ll be okay without me for a while, right?” she murmured, clutching her son a little tighter. At times like this, she really missed her father. Their relationship had been complicated, especially at the end, but he might have had some reassuring words for her…
“We’ll miss you like crazy, but yeah. We’ll be fine.”
Asami opened her eyes to see that Korra had returned. The painful ball in her chest loosened, and she sighed quietly. Hiroshi unlatched at the sound, gazing up at her with alert, curious eyes, and Asami passed him into Korra’s outstretched arms so she could stand up.
“It’s hard,” she murmured, letting her forehead fall on Korra’s bare shoulder.
“I know,” Korra said. She leaned in close, allowing Asami to hug both her and the baby. “But you’ll be amazing. You always are, Asami.”
Asami kissed the crook of Korra’s neck. “Thank you.”
“What for? I’m just telling you the truth.”
At that moment, Yasuko scampered back into the room, clutching three jumpers in her hands. “Mama! Which one?”
A laugh bubbled in Asami’s chest. She had to admit, seeing her daughter so excited to spend the day with Korra eased some of her worries. “Hmm. How about the blue one? The one with the otter penguin on it.”
Yasuko made a face. “Nooo!” She threw the blue jumper on the ground, along with a green one, and held up a red one with a Fire Ferrets logo on it instead. “This.”
“If you already knew which one you wanted, why are you asking my opinion?”
“Because I gotta match.”
Asami discovered what the pup meant when Naga came back into the room, looking rather put out. Yasuko had pulled two large, Fire Ferret themed socks — some of Korra’s, Spirits knew how Yasuko gotten them — over her ears. The polar bear dog whimpered, her tail drooping between her legs.
“Aw, Naga,” Korra chuckled. “You don’t wanna play dress up?”
Naga growled and shook her head, sending both socks flying off into the distance.
Asami laughed. Her worries dissolved, and she savored the moment, taking joy in her family. As long as she had them, everything else would work out.
“I’ll take care of the kiddos,” Korra said, holding Hiroshi upright against her chest. He peered over her shoulder at Naga, who had returned to the foot of the bed to sulk, and gave a gurgling smile. “You should grab a shower and get ready for work.”
The thought of a hot, steamy shower, and a few precious moments to herself, sounded like perfection. Asami planted a firm, grateful kiss on Korra’s lips, then moved on to Yasuko, who bounced excitedly on her toes. “Come here, my love,” she said, crouching down to draw the pup into a tight hug.
Yasuko crashed into her arms, and Asami held her close, inhaling her daughter’s scent. Yasuko squirmed, obviously too excited for a long hug, but Asami struggled to let go. As wonderful as the shower would undoubtedly be, her instincts as a mother demanded she linger.
“Mama,” Yasuko whined, “too tight!”
“I’m sorry.” Asami let her go, kissing her mop of sleek black hair. “Go help Mom with breakfast. I’m going to shower.”
“Why? Did you get dirty?”
Korra snickered, and Asami shot her a look. “Unfortunately, no.” With a playful tousle of Yasuko’s hair, she headed into the bathroom, stretching along the way. She sighed in relief as her spine and shoulders popped. All in all, it was shaping up to be a pretty perfect start to her first official day back at work.
This chapter is short, only 2000 words, but it said what it needed to say.
Unlike Bonds of Metal, this isn't quite a Kuvira In Leather Pants story (although I do enjoy those once in a while). While Korra can empathize with Kuvira to a certain extent, just like in the show, she's still an authoritarian dictator who belongs in prison.
I haven't read the new Kuvira comics or viewed leaks, so if there are any similarities in plot or Kuvira's behavior, it's purely coincidental.
Korra ran her hand through her mussed hair, surveying the mess that had overtaken the kitchen. When she’d enlisted Yasuko’s help in cooking breakfast, she’d thought it would be an adorable bonding experience. Now, she saw the flaws in her plan: flaws like the batter dripping from an overturned mixing bowl into a steadily growing puddle on the floor, and the smoke streaming from a pot she’d removed from the stove a few minutes too late.
She’d ignored all those problems in favor of serving Asami a delicious and filling breakfast, but now her mate was gone, headed off to work with her belly full of fresh, warm dumplings, leaving Korra with a nightmare to tame before evening. She could technically ask the servants, but since the mess was much bigger than usual, not to mention all her fault, she felt responsible.
Yasuko leapt at Korra’s legs, throwing both arms around them. Korra barely managed to steady herself in time.
Not to mention looking after two overactive pups. At least only one of them can walk…
A shrill cry came from the high chair where Korra had seated Hiroshi, and she winced.
… but the other one sure has an impressive set of lungs.
She took a deep breath.
Come on, Korra. You’re the Avatar! You’ve faced bigger challenges than this. You can take care of your own babies without anyone else’s help. Asami did it on her own with Yasuko for three years.
“Mom? It smells like burning.”
Forcing a grin, Korra decided to handle things one step at a time. Hiroshi was crying up a storm, and Yasuko was covered in flour and batter. Cleaning the kitchen could wait for a quieter time in the afternoon, preferably while they were both napping, but cleaning the pups themselves needed to happen soon.
“I know it does, Yasu. That’s left over from the first batch of dumplings we cooked for too long. There isn’t any actual burning…”
A plume of smoke wafted from the burner as a stray speck of batter simmered in the stove’s dying heat. With a sigh, Korra bent some water from the sink and splashed it over the smoldering remnants before anything could actually catch fire.
“How about we clean this up later and give you and your brother a bath?”
That seemed to pacify Yasuko. “Bath! Yeah!” she bellowed, bouncing excitedly on her toes. Korra was pleased to note that she’d single-handedly changed her daughter’s opinion on baths, mostly because it was a chance for the two of them to practice waterbending.
One down, one to go.
Hiroshi was easier. He stopped crying as soon as Korra unbuckled him from his high chair and rested him against her chest. He waved his pudgy fists, grabbing onto both sides of her hair and pulling mercilessly.
“Ouch! Hiroshi, please—”
The booming sound of the Sato Mansion’s doorbell rang through the halls, echoing all the way to the kitchen. Korra sighed. She really should go see who was calling, but with one pup pulling on her hair and the other tugging at her pants, she wasn’t exactly in a position to do so.
“I know, Yasu. One of the servants will answer it for us…”
Yasuko sprinted out of the kitchen, completely ignored Korra’s statement in her haste to get to the foyer. Korra hefted Hiroshi in her arms and hurried after, unwilling to be left behind. She wasn’t in any sort of state to receive company, but her pup’s enthusiasm left her little choice.
With a flour-stained face, and Hiroshi still pulling mightily at her hair, Korra stumbled down the hall and into the foyer. She’d mostly overcome her awkwardness at living in such a large home over the past year, but the feeling of insignificance closed in on her again as she approached the front door. Perhaps it had to do with the mess — surely visitors to the Sato estate weren’t accustomed to being greeted in such a manner.
Yasuko had no such reservations. She stood all the way on her tiptoes and reached as high as she could to turn the knob and open the door, peering up at their visitor with wide, curious eyes. “Hi!”
The person on the other side of the door was a courier, dressed in emerald green reminiscent of the Earth Kingdom. Korra didn’t recognize his uniform, but that was no surprise. Couriers weren’t as common since the invention of the telephone, and the ones she’d seen wore Future Industry colors. Asami employed several to escort important paperwork, when the risks of the regular mail system wouldn’t do.
The courier seemed a little startled by Yasuko’s boldness, but he gave her a friendly smile before setting his face back into a neutral expression — which promptly vanished when he laid eyes on Korra. She grinned sheepishly. The Avatar was very well-known around Republic City these days, but he probably hadn’t expected to see her chasing after pups, covered in the remnants of breakfast.
“Hi. Do I need to sign for Ms. Sato?”
The courier cleared his throat. “Actually, I have a letter here addressed to the Avatar.” He eyed her up and down. “I believe that’s you.”
Korra blinked. She received mail at the Sato Estate from time to time, but nothing as seemingly important as this. The influencers and world leaders she did know either called, or wrote her off as being more trouble than she was worth.
“Er, yes.” She stepped forward, ruffling Yasuko’s hair and gently urging her to step back.
The courier offered the letter, and Korra noted the return address with growing curiosity. She recognized it right away, thanks to the letters Asami occasionally dug out from a secret wooden box: Republic City’s prison.
Who could possibly be writing to me from prison?
She signed the offered clipboard, gave the courier another smile, and waved goodbye. Yasuko waved as well, calling out a cheerful farewell as he returned to his Satomobile, which was parked a short distance down the private road leading away from the mansion.
“Who sended it?” Yasuko asked once the door was closed, standing on tiptoe to try and see the letter.
“Sent,” Korra corrected absently. “Let’s find out.” She shifted Hiroshi to one side, letting him drool on her collar as she opened the envelope with the opposite hand. The message inside was brief and to the point, in neat and precise handwriting.
We have been enemies in the past, but I humbly request your presence in order to discuss an important matter.
If you are willing to see me, please contact the prison warden at your earliest convenience. I believe he will grant permission, due to your position.
In spite of everything that has happened between us, I hope this letter finds you well.
Korra read the signature, then read it again. She still couldn’t believe her eyes. Kuvira, of all people, was writing to her? Part of her was shocked. As Kuvira had so plainly written, they had been bitter enemies in the past.
Or maybe not so bitter, at least from Korra’s point of view. Kuvira was dangerous, certainly. Misguided, most definitely. Guilty, without a doubt. She had done truly awful things for which amends could probably never be made.
In spite of all that, however, Korra understood her. She understood the fear that had driven Kuvira to become so militaristic. She understood the terror that had pushed her to collect power, at the expense of other people’s rights — and other people’s lives. She understood that fear because she’d felt it in her own bones, even though she had reacted far differently.
Actually, I probably understand Kuvira better than almost everyone else in the world…
There would be a trial eventually. Raiko and the council were organizing something, although she hadn’t received much word on the subject. They probably wanted to involve her as little as possible, which Korra could understand. Were she to testify against Kuvira, she might be more of a distraction than a help.
Is that what Kuvira wants to talk about? The trial?
Doubt niggled in Korra’s mind. Kuvira was the type to stand alone, if only because she didn’t trust anyone else. She would undoubtedly stand alone at trial, too, just like always. It was probably something else, and from the urgency of the firm, blocky letters, Korra suspected it was important, as Kuvira had said.
Korra blinked, coming back to herself. “Sorry, Yasu. It’s from someone who did a bad thing to Mom and Mama… and everyone in Republic City and the Earth Kingdom, too.”
“What bad thing?” Yasuko asked.
Korra sighed. There was no easy way to explain authoritarianism to an almost-five year old, but Yasuko was Asami’s daughter, after all. She was already incredibly bright. And I suppose I have to explain the basics sometime. “It’s a long story. Let’s get you and Hiroshi in the bath first. Then I’ll explain, okay?”
Yasuko sprinted for the staircase without further prompting. Korra followed behind, far more reluctant. This wasn’t a story she was keen on telling, and she still had no idea what, if any, response she should give to the letter.
It can wait. I’ll talk it over with Asami tonight.
Getting Yasuko in the tub was even easier than usual. She hopped in before the water had properly warmed up, and she splashed around contentedly while Korra filled the small basin she and Asami used to bathe Hiroshi. He wasn’t big enough for the regular tub yet, but he seemed just as happy as his sister to kick in the shallow water while Korra supported his head.
Adorable, Korra thought as she looked between her pups. Yasu loves the bath. Maybe she’ll forget about…
“Who sended — uh, sent the letter?” Yasuko asked again.
No such luck, it seemed. Korra stalled by tending to Hiroshi, bending a small wave of water over his belly. He kicked some more and gave a gurgling smile. I never saw Yasuko like this, as an infant. She’s grown up so fast… Korra looked at Yasuko, who peered over the side of the tub with wide eyes.
“Her name is Kuvira.”
It was the first time Korra had spoken the name in front of her children, but Yasuko didn’t react other than to repeat, “Kuvira?”
“She was a soldier from the Earth Kingdom, and she was always afraid something terrible would happen to her home. So she built her army as big as she could to protect it… and she forgot how important balance is.”
“We must find balance in ourselves before we bring balance to the world,” Yasuko iguana-parroted from memory.
Korra gave a tight smile of pride. “That’s right. But Kuvira didn’t have balance within herself. She conquered all the cities and towns, and even tried to conquer Republic City. She was so afraid of being attacked, she attacked everyone else first. A lot of people got hurt.”
Yasuko nodded, although Korra wasn’t sure how much her daughter actually understood. Enough, apparently, because her next question made Korra’s stomach twist into a nervous knot. “You and Mama?”
“Yes, me and Mama, and your grandfather, too. Not grandpa, but Mama’s sire. You’ve seen his picture in Mama’s office.”
Yasuko’s chubby face fell. “Mama cries sometimes.”
“When she looks at the picture?”
The pup hung her head and nodded yes.
“Yes. That’s when we have to give her extra hugs and kisses, so she won’t be so sad.”
That seemed to brighten Yasuko’s mood. “Okay.” She lost interest in the conversation, swirling one of her hands over the bathwater and drawing a small tendril from its surface. It swayed back and forth, threatening to disintegrate a few times before it solidified.
Korra smiled. Her problems hadn’t gone anywhere — the letter, broaching the subject with Asami — but she loved her family. Asami and I earned this happiness. I won’t let anyone spoil it, not even Kuvira.
She bent a tendril of her own, twining the tip around Yasuko’s. Yasuko giggled, and the two of them engaged in their own watery version of a thumb wrestle. After a few moments, Korra allowed her tendril to be overcome and splash back into the water.
“Oh no! The Mighty Moose Lion was too strong for me.”
Yasuko’s squeals laughter filled the bathroom. “Again!”
“You want a rematch? You’re on… right after I wash your brother’s hair.”
This might take one or two beats from the comics, but for the most part, it's its own story.
Asami looked up from the paperwork she’d been poring over, noting the stiffness in her spine. “Yes, Hai Yun?” she asked, putting a hand on her lower back and arching in search of comfort. “Sorry, I’ve been sitting longer than I thought. What time is it?”
Her assistant, a short, round-faced omega of Earth Kingdom ancestry, smiled politely. “Twenty minutes to seven.”
“Really?” Asami winced. “You should’ve left almost an hour ago. You know you don’t have to stay late whenever I do.”
Hai Yun dipped her head in acknowledgment. “I know, Mrs. Sato, but I had calls to return and receipts to file—”
“Go home, eat dinner, and spend time with your family,” Asami insisted, rising from her chair. “I’ll be doing the same.”
“I’ll walk down with you,” Asami offered, before Hai Yun could protest. She grabbed her purse, sliding the strap over her shoulder. Her back was still a little tense, but the mild discomfort was more than worth it.
She’d enjoyed her first day back at work just as much as she’d hoped — both her trip to one of Future Industries’ many factories that morning, and even the paperwork she’d done in her office that afternoon. She had to admit, she was a lot more productive without a toddler and infant clamoring for her attention.
But Spirits, I miss them! As energizing as she’d found her day, she was already looking forward to seeing her family’s smiling faces when she arrived home. My family. I have a family to come home to…
“So, what will you be doing this evening?” she asked Hai Yun as they headed for the stairs. “Anything fun or relaxing?”
Hai Yun’s face fell. “Just the usual. Dinner and bedtime stories.” She hesitated, then added, “By the way, I won’t need that time I requested off next month. Thank you for approving it, though.”
“What? Why not? I thought you were taking the pups to see your mate’s parents?”
“We were, but…” Hai Yun’s voice trailed off. “They live in Yi, and the news coming from that part of the Earth Kingdom has been concerning.”
Asami’s brow furrowed. “Concerning, how?”
“Just, concerning. There have been incidents.”
“Not involving my in-laws, but there’s been fighting close by over resources. Things still aren’t settled in the Earth Kingdom, you know? And without my husband…”
Asami offered a sympathetic nod. Hai Yun’s mate had died during Kuvira’s attack on Republic City, which was also the reason she’d returned to the workforce. She was also the sharpest assistant Asami had ever hired, which made her very glad she’d overlooked the time gap in the omega’s resume.
“I hadn’t realized,” Asami said, more than a little embarrassed. Before Hiroshi II’s birth, she’d read the paper every morning with breakfast to stay on top of current events. That habit had fallen to the wayside somewhere between night feedings and changing diapers. And maybe I’m understandably exhausted with politics after everything with Kuvira…
She made a mental note to look into the matter later, but noted Hai Yun’s discomfort and decided to change the subject. “You should still take the time off. Goodness knows you’re invaluable, but I can make it on my own for a week. You could invite your in-laws to visit you instead of the other way around. Have they been to Republic City?”
Hai Yun brightened. “They’re fairly set in their ways at the farm, but I suppose it couldn’t hurt to ask.”
“Pretend you’re asking for help,” Asami said. “When Korra asks her parents to visit us in Republic City, they always claim to be busy in the South Pole, but as soon as we ask for a break from the pups, they show up at our door for two weeks and refuse to leave.”
“I’ll try that,” Hai Yun laughed. “It might actually get my mother on a train.”
Asami winked. “I happen to know the person who operates Republic City’s railroads. I can get her in first class.”
“Oh, that isn’t necessary—”
“Consider it part of your bonus.” They arrived at the first floor, where Hai Yun rushed forward to hold the door even though Asami went for it at the same time. “Thank you,” she said, adjusting her purse and giving Hai Yun a cheerful wave. “Tell your family hello from me.”
“Of course! My boys loved you at the last Future Industries picnic. They couldn’t stop talking about your motorcycle.”
Asami laughed. “Maybe at the next picnic, I’ll let them ride my go-karts.”
The drive home seemed to stretch longer than usual. Asami found herself leaning on her horn once or twice, even though the other drivers’ offenses weren’t all that reprehensible. Work had kept her mind busy, but now that she’d left it behind in the office, she longed to see her pups and her mate. Hopefully Korra had prepared or ordered something for dinner, because her stomach was growling. She’d fallen back into old habits and worked straight through lunch.
Finally, after waiting for much too long at the last red light, she sped up the long driveway to the Sato Estate, parking in her usual spot. She unfastened her seatbelt, killed the engine, and gave her Satomobile an affectionate pat on the dash before heading inside to see her other beloveds.
A pair of tiny arms flung around Asami’s legs as soon as she opened the door. She laughed, bending down to scoop wiggling her daughter into her arms. “Yasu!” She propped the pup against her hip, catching sight of Korra heading down the stairs, Hiroshi cradled in her arms. He was awake and alert, and he reached for Asami with his chubby fists.
“Hey, Mama. Good day?” Korra arrived, planting a chaste kiss on Asami’s lips before offering her Hiroshi’s head. She kissed him as well before answering, taking a moment to inhale his familiar scent. She really had missed him, had missed them all, but he was just so little…
“An excellent day, Mom. Thanks for asking.” Yasuko started to squirm, so Asami set her back on the floor and took Hiroshi from Korra, holding him to her chest. He rooted into her sternum, obviously hungry. “How about you three? What did you do?”
“Bath and reading,” Yasuko crowed, her voice echoing through the foyer.
“Oh? Is that so?” She looked at Hiroshi for confirmation, and he stopped his nuzzling to reach for a lock of hair that had escaped her ponytail, trying to stuff it in his drooling mouth. Asami didn’t bother resisting. “What else?”
“A green letter man came,” Yasuko said.
Asami’s brows rose, and she glanced at Korra, who wasn’t smiling anymore. The happy expression had fallen from her face, although she hurried to slap it back on. Too late, Asami said with her eyes, giving her mate a knowing stare.
Korra sighed. “A courier,” she confirmed. “Can we talk about it after dinner?”
Asami sighed. From Korra’s tone, she suspected it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation. “Of course. What are we having?”
“Fish!” Yasuko hollered.
“Oh? Just fish?”
“Fried seaweed,” Korra added. “Gotta have the greens.”
They went to the kitchen together, with Yasuko running ahead before darting back to tug on Asami’s jacket. “C’mon, mama. Hungry.”
“Me too, Yasu. Be patient for another minute.”
“You didn’t eat lunch, did you?” Korra asked, giving Asami a suspicious look.
Asami could only offer a sheepish grin. “I had tea.”
“That isn’t lunch. Come on, you’re eating for two for another month.”
Asami sighed. Korra had a point. She should manage her meals better, for Hiroshi’s sake at least. Once they entered the kitchen, which smelled heavenly enough to make her mouth water, she sat in one of the chairs, passed Hiroshi to Korra while she removed her jacket and unbuttoned the top half of her blouse, then took him back so he could have his dinner first.
As Hiroshi suckled and Korra prepared their plates, Asami began to relax. The mystery of the courier, and her odd conversation with Hai Yun, still lingered in her mind, but she forced herself to push them away. This was family time, and she wouldn’t let her worries ruin it.
“Here,” Korra said, setting down her plate. “Eat, please? You look pale.”
“I had a great day,” Asami insisted, but she took her chopsticks and dug into the steaming bowl of fish and seaweed. As usual, it tasted wonderful. One of the only positives about Korra’s three year absence was that she’d learned how to cook, and made use of those skills often.
With Korra’s help, Yasuko climbed into her high chair and started on her own food, eating with messy fingers rather than her child-sized chopsticks. “Use the chopsticks, love,” Asami chided.
Yasuko aimed a pout in her direction. “It’s squishy.”
“It goes in your mouth, not on your hands,” she said, trying to conceal her laughter. If she let on that she thought the display was cute — especially cute because Korra would probably help Yasuko wash up — her daughter would only get worse ideas.
Korra was last to the table, but she didn’t touch her bowl. Instead, she took Hiroshi from Asami’s arms and tucked him over her shoulder with a cloth under his chin. Once he was taken care of, she settled him in the portable seat Asami had designed for him and finally joined them.
“So, Yasuko,” Asami said, curiosity getting the better of her as she re-buttoned her blouse. “Tell me about the green man.”
“The kor-yer,” Yasuko said, seemingly thrilled to correct her own mother. “He bringed—” Her face screwed up. “He brought a letter.”
“Oh?” Asami asked, pretending not to notice Korra’s silent gestures to stop. “And who was it from?”
A chill raced down Asami’s spine, and the air rushed out of the room. Even though she knew Yasuko was watching for a reaction, she couldn’t stop the look of anger that twisted her face. Words bubbled up in her throat, but she didn’t know what to say, so she swallowed them, working against a painful lump that had lodged in her throat.
Still struggling, she looked at Korra, unsure whether her expression was furious or helpless. Both clawed at her insides, worsening her confusion.
“I was going to tell you later,” Korra said, sounding apologetic.
Asami took a deep breath. There was no need to direct her anger at Korra just because someone had mentioned Kuvira. What kind of example would that be for Yasuko? “I see,” she said, returning to her food without another word. She ate silently and quickly, trying not to get caught up in a spiral of dark thoughts.
While she finished dinner, Korra did an admirable job of keeping Yasuko distracted. She laughed and joked with their daughter, putting in extra effort to keep her engaged. Dimly, Asami was grateful. She was in no frame of mind to entertain their pup.
What could Kuvira want? Is she trying to torment us? Is she going to offer an empty apology before her trial, to make herself look more sympathetic? What could she possibly have to say to us?
She poked the bottom of her bowl with her chopsticks, scarcely realizing she’d finished her meal. She’d barely tasted any of it, although her body had obviously been desperate for fuel.
“I think it’s time for a story, and then bed,” Korra said, speaking loud enough to draw Asami out of her daze.
“Oh. Of course. Would you like me to read to you, Yasu?”
That put a smile on Yasuko’s face. “Yeah!”
“I’ll clean up in here,” Korra said, standing up to bring the first round of dishes to the sink. “Hiroshi and I have it covered. Right, buddy?”
Upon hearing Korra’s voice, Hiroshi turned his head toward her and gave a big, toothless smile. The knot of tension in Asami’s chest didn’t unravel, but it did loosen. She stood and ruffled Yasuko’s hair. “Come on. Which story do you want tonight?”
Settling Yasuko down was easier than Asami expected. Normally, her daughter protested the moment bedtime was mentioned, but Korra must have worn her out, because she fell asleep before the end of the story. Asami closed the book about the otter penguins and the polar bear dog, returning it to Yasuko’s bookshelf and tucking the pup’s blanket under her chin. She lingered for a few moments, staring down at her daughter with an ache in her heart.
It seems like she was in a crib just yesterday. Now she’s got her own bed. She’s growing up so fast… fast enough to know who Kuvira is now . Asami frowned as she considered what Korra might have told their pup. Hopefully not much. She couldn’t overcome the impulse to shield Yasuko from the scars the war had left. She’s only four. That’s so young. Too young to understand.
Reluctantly, she left Yasuko’s bedroom, casting one last look at her slumbering pup before closing the door. Korra was waiting in their own room, bent over Hiroshi’s crib. He was sleeping peacefully, and Asami gave a small smile, approaching to stroke his hair. His eyelids twitched, but he didn’t stir.
“Hey,” Korra said, offering Asami a sad smile.
Asami looped her arms around Korra’s neck and kissed her. It was close-mouthed and chaste, but still full of affection. Despite everything, she’d missed her mate desperately during the day. “Hi. We should probably talk.”
“Probably.” Korra dipped her head, nuzzling the crook of Asami’s neck. “But I don’t want to.” She latched onto a sensitive patch of skin and began to suck, but Asami tugged her hair.
“Don’t try and distract me with sex. It won’t work.”
Korra shuffled back with a guilty look. “Worth a try.”
“Why did Kuvira write you?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. She says there’s a matter of ‘great urgency’ she needs to discuss with me.”
“Discuss?” Asami’s stomach sank like a stone. “So she wants you to visit her in prison.” It was a statement, not a question.
“If it’s so important, she could have included it in the letter. This is manipulation, plain and simple. She wants something from you, maybe help with her trial…”
Korra touched her arm, and she went silent. She was venting, and for no good reason. Or maybe a lot of good reasons. She had every reason to hate Kuvira and everything she stood for, and she could feel that hate churning in her gut the longer she sat with it.
“I don’t think it’s a trick, Asami. Kuvira and I have an understanding.”
The word tasted like bile in Asami’s mouth, even though she wasn’t the one who’d spoken it. Korra had told her about the final confrontation with Kuvira in the Spirit World, how the Great Uniter had admitted to her misdeeds and surrendered — but surrendering was the logical thing to do with the Avatar staring you down. Even someone as strong as Kuvira wasn’t immune.
Korra’s power even intimidates me sometimes, and we’re mates. Surrendering doesn’t mean Kuvira’s actually sorry. And even if she is, who says she deserves forgiveness?
“What kind of understanding could you possibly have with someone like her?”
Korra sighed, pinching the bridge of her forehead. “I’m not excusing what she did, but her actions came from a place of mistrust and fear, and I want — I need to believe she would’ve made different choices in different circumstances. It’s like I told Yasuko: Kuvira didn’t have balance. You have to have balance within yourself before you can bring balance to the world.”
“Yasuko?” Asami worked her mouth in disbelief for a few moments, struggling to form words. Her hands shook, and her jaw clenched. Their daughter. Korra had exposed their daughter to Kuvira’s ways of thinking. To the awful things she’d done. “You told Yasuko about what Kuvira did?”
Korra’s eyes widened. “Well, yes. She asked, so I explained—”
“She’s four years old!”
“I know, but—”
“Four, Korra! Kuvira had war camps. She destroyed Republic City. She killed my father. Did you tell Yasuko about that, too?”
“I didn’t give any details—”
“I don’t care.” Asami didn’t notice the angry tears streaming from her eyes until they dripped from her chin. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, sniffing to try and regain some control. I won’t give Kuvira this much control over me. Not ever. Especially while she’s in prison and I’m here.
“Go see her if you want,” she said, her throat stinging as she forced the words out. “Do what you think is right. But I’m not going anywhere near her, and I don’t want you telling Yasuko anything else about her.”
A wrinkle furrowed Korra’s brow, and she narrowed her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about this first. It just happened. But Yasu’s my daughter, too. My opinion matters here.”
Asami gritted her teeth. She almost blurted out something cruel. Something about how Korra had abandoned the right to make such big decisions regarding their child when she’d abandoned them. But she pushed that resentment aside, struggling toward calmer waters like a swimmer stranded at sea. She had long-since forgiven Korra, and resentment wouldn’t make her feel better.
“I’m going to take a shower. I need to cool off.”
Korra’s serious look faded, and she gave Asami a weak nod. “Okay. I’m sorry things happened the way they did.” She hesitated, then added, “If you want me to sleep in one of the guest rooms—”
“Of course not. Just because I’m mad at you doesn’t mean I’ll kick you out of bed. We’re past that kind of immaturity, aren’t we?”
“Yeah.” Hesitantly, Korra reached for Asami’s hand, and Asami let her take it. They both squeezed, and Korra brushed a kiss over her knuckles before letting her go. “I’ll be in bed, okay? Take as long as you want. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Asami gave Korra a forced smile and headed for the shelter of the bathroom. Once she was alone, concealed by the drumming hiss of the water hitting the floor, she allowed herself to keep crying. She stood there, trembling, for Spirits knew how long, thinking about her father. About his absence. About Yasuko and Hiroshi II. About how her children would grow up never hearing his voice, or seeing his smile, again.
My son will never know his namesake. Yasu only met him a few times. Will she even remember?
Probably not. She’d been so young. Her father would never get to take Yasu and Hiro Go-Karting. He would never watch them learn martial arts. He would never teach them how to fix an engine. And one day, when Asami passed her company down to them — assuming one of her children showed an aptitude for business — they would never know the man who had founded it. For all his faults and mistakes, Hiroshi had done some incredible things with his life.
A voice that sounded suspiciously like Korra’s sounded in her head.
You forgave your father, and he did horrible things. Is Korra’s desire to understand Kuvira’s motivations so different?
She grabbed the soap in a trembling hand and starting scrubbing, hoping she could wash away her thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much luck.
Korra paused in front of the large metal door, reminding herself to breathe. She’d awoken that morning with a knot in her chest, and it had pulled tighter and tighter as she made her way to Republic City’s maximum security prison, and then to Kuvira’s cell. Now, here she was, with only a door between her and the person who had almost destroyed the entire world.
A shudder ran down her spine. Although she was one of the few who saw past the infamous Great Uniter to the damaged and misguided person beneath, that didn’t mean Korra had forgotten the scope of Kuvira’s crimes, or that she’d forgiven them. If anything, Kuvira’s humanity made her all the more frightening—a stark reminder that anyone was capable of committing horrible acts when they forgot balance.
Instinctively, Korra reached out with her chi. The door was made entirely of refined platinum, and she sensed no impurities. That was good. Probably Future Industries’ doing—Asami would have insisted. Korra doubted Kuvira would attempt a jailbreak, or put up a fight, but she would take any reassurances she could get. Asami hadn’t exactly offered many that morning before leaving for work.
They had shared a mostly silent breakfast together, more resigned than cold. Pema had taken the pups, Asami had left her with a brief goodbye kiss, and now Korra’s only companions were the guards behind her at either shoulder.
“I’ll shout if I need you,” Korra said when she noticed them staring.
“If she threatens you, just use lightning,” one of the guards, a tall firebender, said.
The other guard, a shorter metalbender, snorted. She carried a baton. Electric, Korra assumed. “I don’t think the Avatar needs your tips, Po. Did you forget who put Kuvira here in the first place?”
Po’s expression became sheepish, but Korra gave him a reassuring smile. “I won’t be long. Thanks.”
The metalbender withdrew a set of keys and unlocked the door. She stepped aside, allowing Korra to enter Kuvira’s cell.
It large and barren, not unlike Zaheer’s. Green braziers burned at regular intervals on the walls, and faint sunshine fell through a circular window in the roof. The light illuminated a welded circle in the middle of the floor. Kuvira sat there, legs folded in a meditative pose, with manacles about her wrists. In her lap, she held a book. As Korra stepped forward, Kuvira folded the corner of her page, closed the book, and lifted her head.
“You came.” Her voice was lower and hoarser than Korra remembered. From disuse, perhaps. Her face was gaunter, too, her eyes hollower. Her dark hair hung limp around her face.
Korra worked moisture into her lips. She wasn’t sure what to say. None of the sentences she’d rehearsed on the way seemed appropriate anymore. Her eyes flicked to the book in Kuvira’s lap. “Guru Laghima’s poetry?”
Kuvira offered a tentative smile. “Books are one of the only things prisoners are permitted. I haven’t been granted the privilege of asking for my own yet, and I assume the few books available in the library were stocked at Zaheer’s request.”
Prisoners, Korra noted. She said ‘prisoners’, not ‘we’. Is she separating herself from the rest of them, mentally? Does part of her still think her actions were justified?
“I’ve never been much for poetry,” Korra said aloud. “Give me a good adventure novel any day.”
Kuvira arched a brow. “Don’t you get enough of that in real life?”
Korra didn’t have an answer for that, but she had plenty of questions.
“Why did you ask me to come here?”
Kuvira’s tired expression solidified into something serious and businesslike. She looked more like the Kuvira that Korra remembered from before, the Captain of Zaofu’s guard who had helped bring down Zaheer and saved her father’s life.
“We’ve had our differences in the past, Avatar, but you must know that I want to see the Earth Kingdom’s people prosper. That was always my intention.”
Korra noticed the use of the phrase ‘Earth Kingdom’ instead of Empire, but she didn’t comment on it. She nodded for Kuvira to continue.
“I’m allowed to send and receive mail once a week, although all my correspondences are read by the guards for safety reasons , of course . One of the most recent missives from a former general of mine is…concerning.”
“What did it say?”
“There is unrest in the Yi province. A portion of my former army has gathered there, building strength, refusing to accept Wu’s plans for democracy. So far, this group is only collecting allies and resources, but I believe they represent a significant threat.”
Korra took a moment to process that information. She’d noted an article or two about unrest in Yi in the papers Asmi had delivered. Bandits, some speculated. If Kuvira’s information was accurate, though, it might indeed be something more. “What makes you think they’re a threat?”
“Most of the weapons and technology I used for my…assault…” Kuvira forced the word out with obvious difficulty, and it was one of the only times Korra could remember hearing her sound uncertain. “...on Republic City were developed in that region. We need to act quickly and make sure this fringe group doesn’t have access to…my former work.”
“We are not going to do anything,” Korra said firmly. “Thank you for the information, Kuvira. I believe you, and I believe you want to protect the Earth Kingdom’s people. But this is your place now. You need to be here, in prison.”
Kuvira nodded her acceptance, but a bit of the light in her eyes dimmed. Korra frowned as she noticed. She couldn’t possibly think I’d let her out of here to help me deal with this, right?
“Of course. That’s what I meant.”
“I’ll go check things out in Yi,” Korra promised. “I don’t want anyone continuing your weapons development program, either.”
“You should take Asami with you,” Kuvira said. “I suspect your mate’s knowledge will be an invaluable asset.”
Korra had already planned on doing so, if Asami could spare the time, but she made a noise of agreement anyway. “I’ll come back and tell you how it goes. If the guards say I can, I’ll even bring you a book of your choice. Guess you can’t do much else in here.”
“I’m allowed to exercise outside once a day under strict supervision, but you’re right. There isn’t much to do. If you could bring me the paper, I’d be appreciative. I like to keep abreast of current events, even if I’m no longer shaping them. Perhaps it’s for the best that I’m not.”
Unsure what to make of that, Korra merely nodded again. “I’ll see what I can do. Goodbye, Kuvira.”
“Goodbye, Korra. Thank you for coming. I know you probably didn’t want to.”
Korra didn’t respond to the bait. With a short bow, she turned and left, feeling the burn of Kuvira’s eyes on the back of her neck all the way to the door.
“A splinter group in the Yi province?” Tenzin stroked his beard, a concerned wrinkle forming on his brow. “That is concerning news indeed.”
“I know.” Despite the laughter of children playing nearby, and the shouts of enthusiastic teenagers going through their training, Korra couldn’t keep her frown at bay. “That’s why I thought I should mention it. Ask if you’d heard anything from the airbenders in that area.”
Tenzin regarded her even more seriously than usual. “Word has reached me concerning a few minor incidents. Supplies going missing. People…”
“Missing people?” Korra’s eyes widened. “I wouldn’t call that minor!”
Tenzin hurried to reassure her. “No one’s been kidnapped, as far as I know, but some of Kuvira’s former soldiers never returned to their families, especially those who were originally from Yi to begin with. Most were declared dead, but now I wonder.”
Korra winced. Cleaning up Kuvira’s mess had proven far more complicated than she’d expected, even with all her experience dealing with various disasters. This one had stuck around like stormclouds after a rainstorm, leaving everything damp and unpleasant long after.
Cities destroyed. People dead and missing. Even those of us who made it out alive will never be the same… She shook herself. No. It’s over. Kuvira’s in prison, and she’s going to stay there. Things will get better from here, and I have to keep doing my job.
“Could you spare some airbenders to help me out? I’m already planning on taking Asami, and possibly Mako and Bolin, but you know how it is. Some people are intimidated by Team Avatar—especially me. Wary villagers might be more willing to talk to a stranger.”
Tenzin’s expression shifted to one of approval. “That isn’t a bad idea. I suppose I could send someone…”
“Actually, I was wondering if Jinora might wanna join us. I’ve missed her. What’s she up to these days, anyway?”
“A little of everything. Her duties have her travelling all over the Four Nations. I suppose I could ask—”
“Would you?” Korra said, feeling a trace of positivity for the first time that day. “It’d be great to see her again.”
Tenzin nodded. “Her knowledge and wisdom have grown even more than her bending. She would most certainly be an asset to you.”
Korra turned at the sound of another voice, and a smile spread across her face as she saw Pema approaching. Yasuko and Rohan clung to her skirts, and she carried Hiroshi in her arms. Upon seeing Korra, Yasuko let go of Pema and sprinted toward her, tiny arms outstretched.
Seeing her daughter made Korra feel a hundred times lighter. She rushed forward and scooped Yasuko up, twirling her around and covering her face in kisses. “There’s my little otter-penguin! Did you have a good day with Pema and Rohan?”
Yasuko nodded furiously. “We played tag!”
“Did you?” Korra had witnessed the rough and tumble spectacle that Yasuko and Rohan called ‘tag’ before, and when she looked at her pup’s clothes, she saw the muddy evidence all over. “Uh-oh. We’ll have to clean you up before Mama gets home.”
“Sorry,” Pema said as she arrived with Rohan and Hiroshi, sounding a little sheepish. “We weren’t expecting you back so soon.”
“Please, don’t worry about it. You did me a huge favor today—and regularly. I don’t care if she’s a bit muddy. You should’ve seen me as a pup. I was a disaster.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” Pema offered Hiroshi, and Korra set Yasuko down with one more kiss, taking her son into her arms and holding him close. He squirmed and babbled, protesting the hug, which was probably a little too tight—but Korra couldn’t help it. After seeing to Kuvira, she had been reminded all to clearly just how fragile life was: including the lives of her children.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose them…to never see or smell or hold them again…
A small hand tugged Korra’s skirt, and she looked down to see Rohan beaming up at her. “Korra! Kooorraaah!”
“Hey, stinky,” she said, kneeling down to his level. “What’s up?”
Rohan giggled. “Play tag with us?”
“Yeah, Mommy!” Yasuko shouted, bouncing on her toes. “Play tag!”
Korra pretended to consider it. “Well…” She looked at Pema, who nodded yes. “Okay, we can play tag for a few minutes, but I won’t hold back! You’re both going down.”
Yasuko and Rohan both squealed in delight. “You’re it!” they shouted at the same time, slapping her on her knee and arm respectively before darting off across the grass.
Korra watched them for a moment before looking at Pema. “Do you mind? I’ll only be five minutes.”
“I’ll take him,” Tenzin offered, holding out his arm for Hiroshi. “My wife might need a break.”
While Pema gave Tenzin a grateful smile, Korra handed her son to him, ruffling the soft tuft of black hair atop his head. She lingered a moment, simply staring at him, partially unwilling to let him go, even into the safety of Tenzin’s arms. But Yasuko and Rohan called her name, so she turned and sprinted after them, roaring as she did.
“They’re going to be exhausted tonight,” Pema said as she and Korra watched Yasuko and Rohan wrestle on the ground, getting their clothes even muddier than before, with grass stains to boot. “Rohan loves having Yasu over. She’s the only one his age who can keep up with him.”
“Same,” Korra chuckled. “Keeping up with her on my own is a full time job these days. The only one she’ll be quiet for is Asami, and that’s just sometimes.”
Pema laughed as well. “She does have a way with children. Rohan adores her, too.” They watched the pups play for a few more seconds, before she added, in a softer voice: “Tenzin mentioned you were going to the Yi province before he went inside to get the pups’ things.”
“Yeah, I am. Hopefully Jinora’s going with me.”
“I see. We’ll be happy to look after the pups while you’re gone, of course.” Pema’s expression turned contemplative, and a worrying undertone threaded through her comforting omega scent. “Will you do me a favor while you’re there? It seems silly to ask out loud, because I know you always do your best to protect everyone, but…”
“You can ask me anything, Pema. What is it?”
Pema fiddled with her apron. “Please, will you do what you can to keep the non-benders in the area safe? Make sure they have contingency plans if the worst happens? Even with all this new technology Future Industries comes out with, not to mention Kuvira’s ‘advancements’…”
Korra’s shoulders sagged as the weight of understanding settled over her. Whenever conflict broke out, no matter how big or small, non-benders were always far more likely to get caught in the crossfire. Some, like Asami, found specialties that allowed them to defend themselves, and even rose to positions of power—but many non-benders weren’t afforded the same opportunities. When bad things happened, they endured a disproportionate share of the suffering.
She placed her hand on Pema’s shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “I know. Asami’s opened my eyes to a lot of things. I’ll ask some of the non-benders in Yi how they’re doing, and make sure they have some kind of safety plan if things turn ugly. Hopefully they’ll talk to me.” It was a sad fact that some non-benders didn’t believe the Avatar had their best interests at heart, and rejected her well-meaning overtures.
Pema gave a grateful smile. “Thank you, Korra. I knew you would understand.”
The moment was interrupted by the sound of pained squalls, and Korra darted into the pups’ fray to stop Yasuko from pulling Rohan’s hair. “Hey, kiddo, too rough! No hair-pulling. You know that’s cheating.”
“Sorry,” Yasuko mumbled, avoiding Korra’s eyes.
“Don’t say sorry to me. Say sorry to Rohan. He’s the one you hurt.”
Fortunately, Rohan didn’t seem too perturbed by the experience. The scruffy boy merely grinned, then started picking his nose.
He’s becoming more like Meelo by the day.
“I think it’s time to go home, huh?”
Yasuko’s eyes immediately welled with tears. “I don’t wanna go home! Wanna stay here and play.”
“Yeah,” Rohan chimed in. “Stay and play!”
“You know what? In a few days, you’ll get to have your very own sleepover with Rohan, because Mommy and Mama are going on a trip to Yi.” She leaned down, whispering conspiratorially. “I bet Pema will even let you have sticky buns if you’re good.”
“Oh no,” Pema mumbled. “Don’t hold me to that. They’ll be up all night.”
But the mention of a sleepover with sticky buns was the perfect cure for Yasuko’s bad mood. She remained at Korra’s side, and when Tenzin returned from the house with Hiroshi and the pups’ day bag, there were no further complaints.
“Don’t worry,” Korra whispered as she took Hiroshi from him. “She’ll forget all about the sticky buns by the time I drop her off.”
“Don’t count on it,” Pema said. “Pups remember everything. Everything.”
Here ya go. Have some praise kink and subspace Asami before the inevitable explosion of plot next chapter.
Asami dragged herself through the front door, arms hanging like dead weight at her sides. Her day had been far more grueling than usual, in no small part due to heavy thoughts. Despite reviewing a mountain of finance reports, and even paying a visit to one of Future Industries’ premier labs to check on some works-in-progress, she hadn’t managed to distract herself from thoughts of Kuvira—or of Korra, her mate, visiting the person who had killed her father, along with many others.
Attempts to reason with herself were even less effective than distractions. Korra has to do this. It’s part of her job as the Avatar. She wouldn’t have gone if she didn’t think it was important… But a steady stream of logic had little impact on Asami’s emotions. Those were painfully raw, and she couldn’t even put proper names to all of them.
She hardly had time to gather herself before she heard the sound of footsteps: the light, rapid patter of Yasuko’s tiny feet, followed by Korra’s slower thump. She met them at the bottom of the stairs, and a genuine smile spread across her face for the first time that day. Despite her worries and misgivings, she was relieved to see her family.
“Come here, Yasu.” She crouched, and daughter flew into her embrace, flinging both arms around her neck and squealing with happiness. “Were you good for Pema and Tenzin today?”
“I don’t know about ‘good’,” Korra chuckled, “but she was acceptable. Also dirty. Very dirty.” She shifted a very sleepy-looking Hiroshi against her shoulder and waggled her brows at Yasuko to let the pup know she was only teasing.
Yasuko giggled at the gesture. “Mommy’s joking. I was good!”
“I believe you, sweetheart,” Asami said, covering her daughter’s face in noisy kisses.
Yasuko squirmed and let go of Asami’s neck, scrambling back onto the floor and darting behind Korra’s legs. “Mommy says I can sleep over with Rohan if I’m good.”
Asami straightened, raising her eyebrows and offering Korra a look. Korra averted her eyes, appearing almost sheepish. “I was going to discuss it with you after dinner.”
“Really?” Asami said. “It sounds important.”
“Important, but not urgent.”
Realizing that was probably all she would get until after the pups were fed and put to bed, Asami stepped closer. She kissed Hiroshi’s head, then placed a gentle kiss on Korra’s mouth as well. Korra gave a soft growl, swiping her tongue against Asami’s lower lip, and slid a free hand down to grab her rear.
Oh? Is that really what you’re in the mood for?
To Asami’s surprise, she felt herself responding. She’d assumed she would be too tired and grouchy after her bad day, and the inevitable conversation she and Korra still needed to have, but familiar heat blossomed low in her belly. She ducked to plant another kiss against Korra’s neck before withdrawing.
Maybe I could use a little relaxation?
But it would have to wait, because Yasuko tugged excitedly at her skirt, peering up at her with shining green eyes. “Mama, what’s for dinner?”
Asami looked at Korra, who shrugged and rested her chin atop Hiroshi’s head. He yawned, showing his toothless gums, and grabbed a lock of Korra’s hair to hold in his pudgy fist.
“Narook’s?” Korra suggested, ignoring his grip. “I don’t feel like cooking.”
“I didn’t think they delivered.”
“I can—ow! Easy there, little guy—anyway, I can pick it up with my glider.”
“The noodles will be cold by the time you get back,” Asami pointed out.
“I’ll be fast.”
“You’ll be flying through the air with them.”
“We can reheat them.”
Asami relented with a sigh. “Go,” she said, gently unclasping Hiroshi’s fist from Korra’s hair and taking him into her arms. She got the impression that Korra might need some traditional Water Tribe comfort food. Maybe I’m not the only one who had a rough day. sShe’s the one who had to look Kuvira in the eye, after all. I’m sure it was even more unpleasant for her than thinking about it was for me.
“I’ll be right back,” Korra said, planting a kiss on Asami’s cheek and ruffling Yasuko’s hair. She darted for the front door, where her glider rested in a modified umbrella stand, and braced it on her shoulder while she headed outside. Predictably, Yasuko scampered after her, eager to watch her take off.
Asami joined them, standing in the doorway as Korra unfurled the wings of her glider and summoned a swift breeze. The chill made Asami shiver, and she opened her suit-jacket part way, using it to shield Hiroshi’s small body. He perked up, mouthing at one of the brass buttons, and giggled when Korra waved at them.
After an exaggerated blown kiss, Korra leapt into the air, soaring into a steep climb and sailing easily over the gate.
“Bye-bye Mommy!” Yasuko called, running several paces after her, even though she had no hope of keeping up. Korra’s shape grew smaller and smaller, until she disappeared from view. Only then did Asami place a hand on Yasuko’s shoulder, ushering her inside.
“I swear, I was going to discuss the sleepover idea with you before confirming,” Korra said later that evening, after both their children had been fed, bathed, and put to bed. (Very reluctantly, in Yasuko’s case, since Korra had already bathed her earlier—but a second bath was unfortunately necessary after she’d spilled a good portion of noodles and sauce down her shirt.)
Asami sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. She’d made herself a cup of herbal tea before changing into her nightgown, but still found herself fighting a splitting headache. “No, it’s all right,” she said, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. Neither of them had bothered to make it that morning, so the sheets were still rumpled. “We’re a team. You’re allowed to set up sleepovers for our pups, especially with Pema, who’s hosted them plenty of times before. That isn’t why I’m upset.”
“Then what?” Korra wandered over, pulling her nightshirt over her head. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing,” she huffed, before realizing her tone had come out sharper than intended. “No, I’m sorry. It isn’t about you at all. It’s about Kuvira, and my father, and…my anger. I’m still so angry, Korra, and I don’t know what to do with it.”
While she stewed, wringing her hands in her lap and chewing hard at her bottom lip, Korra took the empty space beside her. “I know,” she murmured, rubbing circles on Asami’s back. “You have every right to be angry. Your father was taken from you, just when you two started rebuilding your relationship. If Kuvira had killed my father, I’m not sure I’d be able to look at her now, either.”
Asami stopped worrying her lip, peering into Korra’s soft blue eyes with growing desperation. “But she isn’t going to be involved in this, right? You’re just following up on the information she gave you about Yi, like any other lead.”
Korra cupped Asami’s cheek. The warmth of her hand and its familiar shape, enhanced by well-remembered calluses, caused Asami to relax. “No, she won’t be involved. Yes, this is going to be like any other Team Avatar mission. Although it doesn’t have to be a Team Avatar mission if you don’t want it to be. If this hits too close to home…”
“I want to go,” Asami said, placing her hand over Korra’s. She drew it away from her face, turning it over and gazing down at the underside of Korra’s wrist. After a moment’s hesitation, she placed a soft kiss there, then closed her eyes and rested her cheek in Korra’s palm once more, nuzzling in search of comfort. “It’s just…a lot.”
Korra gave a low, sympathetic rasp of a laugh. “It is. I’m sorry—”
Asami squeezed Korra’s hand tighter, nipping lightly at her fingers. “Stop that. You aren’t the one who needs to apologize. You’re perfect.”
“That’s not what you usually say,” Korra chuckled, freeing her hand to save it from further affectionate attacks. She paused to tuck a lock of Asami’s hair behind her ear. “Maybe this is Kuvira’s way of apologizing. Not that it changes what she did, but if she wants to help clean up her mess, I won’t stop her. Someone’s gotta do it anyway, and it’ll go faster with her cooperation.”
Asami heaved a sigh. The thought of Kuvira ‘apologizing’ for killing people and almost destroying Republic City was grating, but she had to concede Korra’s point. Things would go a lot smoother if Kuvira continued cooperating. “As long as I don’t have to deal with her.”
“You won’t,” Korra said. “I’ll handle that part, and I’m glad you’re coming with me to Yi.”
“Oh, really?” Asami gave Korra a searching look, pleased to note a playful spark in the alpha’s sea-blue eyes. She shivered, remembering the way Korra’s hand had wandered down her back to squeeze her rear earlier that evening. “Any particular reason?”
Korra grinned wide enough to show off her dimples. “I can think of a few, yes… especially since the pups won’t be there.”
Asami ran her tongue across her lips and leaned in closer, near enough to catch more of Korra’s scent. It smelled sharp and insistent, like an ocean breeze, but it was also comforting and familiar, especially when she picked up the desire mixed in as well. For the first time that day, she allowed herself to relax.
“Would you care to elaborate on those ideas?” she murmured, staring at Korra with half-lidded eyes. It was the most seductive look she could muster, and she was extremely gratified when Korra gave a visible gulp.
“Well, I was hoping there’d be some of this…” She leaned forward, and Asami draped an arm behind her neck, tilting so their mouths met at an angle.
The kiss was passionate from the start, far deeper and more urgent than the welcome-home pecks they’d shared earlier. As delightful as it was, Asami craved more with a hunger that surprised her. She gave into the feeling, running her fingers through Korra’s hair and opening her mouth as an invitation.
This. This is exactly what I need right now. Korra will make it better. She always does.
Korra only broke the kiss to allow them both a moment to breathe. She latched onto Asami’s neck, leaving what would undoubtedly be a noticeable bruise the next day. “What do you want?” she panted, soothing the spot she’d sucked with a swipe of her tongue. “Tell me. Anything you need.”
It was an enticing offer, and when Asami searched inside herself, she found her answer—an answer she often landed upon when she was upset, or felt like her world was spiraling out of control. “I want you to use me, Korra. I want you to make me do whatever you want.”
Korra’s eyes lit up. “I can work with that.” She swung a knee over Asami’s lap,pushing her back onto the bed.
A whimper rose in Asami’s throat as Korra’s body stretched over hers. Its shape was familiar and comforting, and the obvious bulge in her mate’s underwear felt incredibly right pressed against her lower belly. She gazed up at Korra with hooded eyes, hoping for a kiss.
Korra dipped down to take her lips, seeming to read her mind. “Love you,” she murmured against Asami’s mouth, her breath warm and sweet.
Asami’s heart skipped a beat. It always did when Korra said those words. “I love you, too.”
After that, Korra wasn’t gentle. She shifted her grip on Asami’s wrists, holding them down with one hand instead of two. With her other hand, she grabbed Asami’s hair and pulled, plunging her tongue past Asami’s lips as though it had every right to be there. To claim.
Asami fought Korra’s grip, not to escape, but to find more contact. Her instincts urged her to grab Korra’s nightshirt, to rake eager nails down her back, but Korra didn’t allow it. She tightened her hold on Asami’s wrists, keeping them where they were, and the show of force sent heat shooting straight between Asami’s legs.
Korra kissed her fiercely, as though to steal her very breath, so Asami did the only thing she could—she wrapped both legs around Korra’s waist, tilting her pelvis to rub against Korra’s hardness. Her mate had already shifted, and Asami spilled another needy whimper into Korra’s mouth. To her delight, Korra responded with a low, possessive growl. She nipped Asami’s lower lip, tugged firmly, and said: “No. ”
The low, commanding word made Asami’s blood run hot. Her face flushed, and her breathing sped up. Spirits, how does she do this to me so easily? Every single time? No matter how often they made love, or fucked, or any combination of the two, the responses Korra earned from her always came as a surprise. They were primal, pure, and they never failed to help her—or force her—to let go of whatever burdens she carried. She felt light and dizzy as Korra released her wrists and hair, warning her to stay still with a look. Asami obeyed instinctively. Joyfully.
Much to her relief, Korra didn’t tease. She slid both palms along Asami’s bare thighs, lifting the hem of her nightgown. With one less layer of clothing between them, Asami felt the length of Korra’s cock even more intimately. It was warm through the thin fabric of her underwear, and she couldn’t stop herself from grinding against it.
“Soon.” Korra nipped lightly at her chin, trailing hot kisses down her neck. “Feel how hard I am? That’s your fault, and you’re gonna do something about it.”
Asami’s mind raced with possibilities. Will she take me right now, or make me use my mouth? Both prospects made her burn, but they weren’t as overwhelming as the knowledge that she didn’t have to choose. It was all up to Korra. Her mate’s decision. I just need to follow orders. To her mild embarrassment, her eyes welled with tears of gratitude.
Korra didn’t ask about them. She already knew what they were, why they were there—Asami could tell. She merely wiped one of the tear tracks with her thumb, maintaining eye contact until Asami gave another nod of permission. Once it was granted, Korra yanked her underwear down and flipped her onto her stomach, grasping Asami’s hips to position them just the way she wanted.
The new pose left Asami feeling incredibly vulnerable and exposed. Cool air caressed the heat between her legs, but only for a moment. Then, Korra’s fingers were there, gathering up her wetness to paint circles over her clit.
“So pretty,” Korra growled, and Asami felt the heat of her stare. The praise only worsened her shudders, and she gasped as Korra found her entrance, sliding in with one finger, then two. There was hardly any resistance, but the stretch was delicious. For the first time that day, Asami truly relaxed. Korra was inside her, and everything was going to be okay.
“Fuck, you’re so tight.” Korra curled her fingers, and Asami tensed, burying her face in a pillow to muffle her cries. Her mate knew exactly how to find the perfect spot without error, and she didn’t want to wake the pups.
Staying silent only became more challenging when Korra’s fingers withdrew, leaving her empty, swollen, and even slicker than before. Her inner walls clenched, searching for something to grip, and with each pulse, more wetness trailed down her thighs. She bit back a “Please,” reminding herself that she’d asked for this helplessness.
“Sweet girl,” Korra muttered, her voice full of warmth and awe. Asami bit her lip as wet fingers touched her backside, drawing the shape of a heart on the left cheek. “I think you’re ready for my cock. Are you?”
Asami turned away from the pillow, but couldn’t find her words. All that came out was a high-pitched wail, much louder than she’d intended. Korra chuckled, giving her rear a loving swat before kneeling behind her. Asami felt the mattress move, and heard the shift of fabric. Undoubtedly, Korra was pulling down her underwear.
The moment the blunt head of Korra’s cock came to rest against her entrance, Asami whimpered in relief. Though it wasn’t yet inside her, the promise of pleasure, of being filled, was enough to make her melt from the inside out. When Korra grasped her hips and pushed forward, she rocked back without being ordered, eager to be stretched. Filled. Taken.
Asami buried her face in the pillow again to stifle her cries. It was a good thing, because the noise that escaped her throat was one of pure need. This moment, feeling Korra take that first thrust, always threatened to undo her.
“Fuck,” Korra huffed through gritted teeth. “‘Sami. So soft and… hff… tight…” Her hips picked up a quick, shallow rhythm almost immediately, and Asami braced herself on her forearms, biting into the pillow’s fabric. This was Korra’s favorite tempo and depth, not hers—and somehow, that made it better. It was exactly what she needed.
Once Korra started fucking her, Asami allowed herself to float. She let herself become an object for Korra’s use, a vessel for Korra’s pleasure, a being whose only purpose was to serve. She didn’t have to worry about her company, her children, or…
No. I won’t even think her name right now.
Behind her, Korra stopped, obviously sensing that something had shifted. “Asami?” Her voice was gentle, but also strained, and her length gave a needy twitch within Asami’s walls. “I’m gonna keep going.”
It was a question as much as a statement—an opportunity for Asami to change her mind, or request something else, but in the same commanding tone that Asami had begged for in the first place. She didn’t change her mind. She raised her ass higher and squeezed down around Korra’s cock, shifting into an even wider and more inviting stance.
Korra moaned and resumed her rhythm, leaning over Asami’s back. She brought their sweat-slick bodies together, skin on skin, and her teeth found the scar on Asami’s throat, the one that had never even begun to fade in the three long years they’d been apart. “Mine,” she growled around the bite, only occasionally releasing it to smother it with softer kisses.
Yours. All yours, Korra.
It was all too much. The words. Korra’s teeth. The weight of her body and the movement of her hips. Although Asami had tried to be as obedient as possible, holding the precise position Korra had put her in, allowing Korra to fuck her exactly the way her mate wanted, she still came first—loudly, and with a great deal of helpless shuddering.
Korra didn’t seem to mind. Her hips jerked out of rhythm, and Asami spilled what had to be a sea of wetness as she felt the bulk of Korra’s knot roll against her entrance, catching against her clit. In her current state, she didn’t have any doubts about taking it. She would do anything Korra asked. Anything to please her alpha.
“That’s it,” Korra grunted into her neck, dragging her tongue over the scar there. “I know you can take me. Be my good omega and let me in.”
The pulses of her orgasm came harder and faster. Not just a good omega. Her good omega. Hers. Relaxing came naturally. Encouraged by Korra’s praise, her body knew what to do. It blossomed open, and Korra pushed inside with a wet, satisfying noise that made Asami’s clit twitch.
Korra went rigid on top of her, pinning her face-first to the bed. Despite the tie, her hips went wild, searching for every centimeter of motion they could get. Trying for more depth.
Asami yelped, panting sideways into the pillow. The fullness of Korra’s knot sent shockwaves through her every time it moved. She clawed at the covers, bracing herself for the flood, because she knew it would make her come again.
The first rush of warmth made her sob and toss her head. Her mouth fell open, but this time, her scream was silent. She forgot how to speak, how to move, how to breathe as Korra emptied inside her, flooding her deepest places. She went limp, allowing the short, choppy thrusts of Korra’s hips to move her over the tangled sheets. Her mind went blank, and her body relaxed into a state of quiet, pleasurable numbness.
“Asami? Are you okay?”
Dimly, she became aware of Korra’s concerned voice. It sounded faint, distant, although Korra’s body felt very close, still clinging tight to hers. Still tied. Asami tried to answer, but her tongue felt thick and clumsy in her mouth, and her eyelids were almost unbearably heavy.
Since she couldn’t remember how to speak, she communicated the only way she knew how. She started purring, groping for Korra’s hand with one of hers and lacing their fingers together. That one gesture was all she could manage, but it was enough. Korra sighed with relief into the back of her neck, brushing some of her sweaty hair aside to kiss it.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I’ve got you. You were so good. So good, Asami…”
Asami closed her eyes, her lips twitching into a smile. She was exhausted, but she didn’t want to sleep just yet. She wanted to savor Korra’s praise, to soak in her mate’s loving reassurances for a few moments more. She yawned and nuzzled the pillow, purring louder as Korra kissed her neck.
“You can fall asleep if you want. I’ll clean you up and tuck you in when I pull out.”
“Nhh.” Asami clutched Korra’s hand tighter, refusing to let go. She didn’t want Korra to leave, not even for a quick trip to the bathroom. She felt perfect just like this, with Korra sealed securely inside her, feeling the steady thump of her mate’s heartbeat against her back.
“Okay.” Korra kissed her temple, then the top of her head. “I’ll stay. I’m not going anywhere.”
And now the plot begins. *Mwuahahaha!*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Korra jolted upright, the covers falling from her chest. Her heart hammered her ribs, and cold sweat broke on the back of her neck. She scanned the darkened bedroom, but saw nothing out of place. The pale moonlight streaming through the window cast only familiar shadows.
Beside her, Asami stirred. “Korra? What is it?”
“Don’t know yet.” Korra strained to hear, but nothing drew her attention. Only the whisper of the breeze outside.
“Are you sure?” Asami twisted the covers in her hands. “I could’ve sworn I heard something.”
Korra listened again. This time, she heard more: the click of a doorknob turning. A smile spread across her face. “Someone’s tiptoeing around the hallway. Probably looking for a midnight snack. Did you know Yasu was tall enough to reach the doorknob?”
Asami yawned, sliding back beneath the covers and nuzzling into her pillow. “Mm. She’s getting so big. Not too big for Mommy to put back in bed, though.”
“Yeah, yeah. I get the hint.” Korra climbed over Asami, dropped a kiss on her forehead, then searched the floor for her discarded nightshirt. During the heat of the moment, she and Asami hadn’t bothered to put their clothes in the hamper before bed.
Once she was covered, Korra checked on Hiroshi. He slept peacefully in his crib, apparently undisturbed by his sister’s midnight adventure. She stroked the silky tuft of black hair atop his head, then left the bedroom in search of her daughter.
It was even darker in the hallway. As Korra expected, Yasuko’s door was part-way open. She tip-toed over to the room, poking her head inside. Her chest constricted. The bed was empty, covers and blankets flung aside. Two large figures loomed over it, dressed entirely in black.
Both figures whirled, and Korra saw that they wore masks. One of the intruders thrust his arm toward her, and a metal band uncoiled from his wrist, forming a wicked point and flying straight toward her face.
Korra sent the sharpened metal thudding into the wall with a sweep of her hand. She rushed the intruders, only one thought pounding in her head: Yasuko! Where’s Yasuko?
The metalbender who’d attacked first took a defensive stance, but barely had time to brace himself before Korra sent him hurtling into Yasuko’s dresser with a blast of air. He grunted, struggling beneath the overturned dresser, but Korra ignored him. The other intruder attacked, forcing her back with a brilliant spout of fire.
Korra ducked. Heat washed overhead, but she protected herself with another gust of air. The firebender’s eyes widened behind his mask. He shot more spurts of flame at her, but Korra dodged them all, closing in to seize him by the throat. She thrust her face in his, lips pulled into a furious snarl.
“You have three seconds to tell me where my daughter is. One, two…”
While the terrified firebender flailed in her grip, the metalbender managed to squeeze out from beneath the dresser. More metal blades whipped toward her, and she threw the firebender aside, deflecting them with a series of rapid arm movements. Some clattered to the floor, while others flew back toward the metalbender, pinning him to the wall by his shirt.
The firebender tried to crawl away, but Korra stomped her foot down on his spine, trapping him against the floor. Her clenched fists shook with rage, and her heart pounded frantically in her ears.
“I’ll ask one more time. Where is my daughter?”
She looked from one intruder to the other. Neither of them answered. Too terrified, or too stubborn.
Before she could beat the truth out of them, another loud crash sounded from the adjoining room. Ignoring the hall completely, Korra barrelled for the door that led directly between Yasuko’s room and theirs. She burst back into the master bedroom to see three more figures in black, surrounding Hiroshi’s crib…
Asami had leapt out of bed, standing naked between the intruders and their child. A loud wail came from the crib, and Korra felt a surge of relief. At least Hiroshi hadn’t been taken or hurt. Yet.
All three masked figures whipped their heads, whether because of Asami’s cry, or because of the thud of the door swinging back against the wall—but it was all the opening Asami needed. She hit the nearest enemy’s back with a well-practiced pattern of blows. He slumped to his knees, then face-planted onto the floor, completely unable to move his limbs.
With a furious roar, Korra charged the other two. Fear and anger pounded through her veins, fueling the thick columns of fire that spiraled from her mouth and palms. She attacked without a single thought of restraint. She saw her mate, naked and afraid, and heard her helpless pup scream, and didn’t feel an ounce of hesitation as she sent one of the men blasting through the wall. Back into Yasuko’s abandoned bedroom. With his clothes on fire.
She didn’t hear Asami’s cry until too late. The third masked intruder struck two sharp, pointed blows behind her shoulder blades, and she felt the fire within her dim. It was still there, just out of reach, but muted somehow— blocked. No!
Korra whirled around, her arms swinging sloppily a few seconds behind her torso, but the fist flying toward her face didn’t connect. A pale forearm blocked it, and she jerked back as Asami darted between them, exchanging punches and kicks with the final assailant.
It didn’t take her more than a few seconds to drop him. His head cracked against the crib on the way down, and blood spilled onto the floorboards from a shallow head wound. “Yasuko?” Asami asked.
An empty chasm ripped open, right in the middle of Korra’s chest. “Gone.”
A look of utter fury twisted Asami’s face. “Stay with him,” she barked, running from the master bedroom.
Korra started to follow, but Hiroshi’s hiccuping sobs stopped her before she could take a step. She rushed for her son’s crib, scooping him up and cradling him to her chest. Luckily, she’d mostly regained the use of her arms. All that training with Asami in the gym had paid off.
“You’re all right, you’re all right,” she whispered, torn between looking at Hiroshi, drinking in the sight of him, and keeping an eye on the fallen intruders. Fortunately, they all seemed dazed, unconscious, or worse. None moved to escape.
Korra stood there, shaking with simultaneous terror and relief, for what felt like an eternity. Each moment without Yasuko, without Asami, was agony—but she couldn’t leave her son. More intruders might come for him, and if she went looking for the rest of her family, she might carry him straight into danger.
I have to trust Asami. Trust that she’ll find our daughter. That they’ll both be okay… But with each passing heartbeat, that trust wavered, and fear threatened to take over.
At last, she heard a sound. She tensed, but when the door opened, the sight brought tears to her eyes: Asami, still naked and pale in the moonlight, with her knuckles scraped and covered in blood. Clinging to her leg was Yasuko in her nightgown, looking incredibly small and vulnerable, her cheeks stained with tears.
Korra rushed forward, passing Hiroshi to Asami and scooping Yasuko into her arms. She hugged her daughter tight, inhaling the scent of her hair like a dying woman, crying into it almost hysterically.
“Mommy, too tight,” Yasuko whimpered, struggling to escape her arms.
Reluctantly, Korra let her go. She held Yasuko’s damp cheeks in her hands, reassuring herself that, yes, her daughter was alive, and apparently unharmed.
“Sorry. I’m sorry, baby. I was just so scared for you…” She took a deep breath, trying to center herself. If she stayed like this, Yasuko would only become more frightened. “It’s okay. You and your brother and Mama and Mommy are safe.” She looked at Asami, hoping her mate would confirm that was the case.
“I caught them heading for the back entrance near the kitchen,” Asami said. Her voice was flat, distant, as though she hadn’t completely processed what had happened. “They won’t be a problem.”
Korra decided not to ask what Asami meant by that. She honestly didn’t care, just as she hadn’t cared about the man she’d thrown through the wall. “Let’s call the police,” she said, pulling Yasuko back into her arms before standing up. “Lin and her people can question them. Find out who they’re working for.”
Asami looked at the other fallen intruders. “You didn’t tie them up.”
Korra blinked. She’d been so focused on Hiroshi that she hadn’t even thought to do so. Her throat bobbed, and her face burned with embarrassment and anger—anger at herself. I’m the Avatar. I’ve taken down way more dangerous threats than these thugs. I’m supposed to be an expert—so why did I forget everything I know?
She knew the answer. Because none of her other enemies had threatened her children before—at least, not this directly. Kuvira had, but she’d never been within inches of snatching the pups from her grasp. Hurting them. Killing— No. They’re fine. Yasu and Hiro are fine, and Asami’s fine too. She set Yasuko down, pushing her gently back toward Asami, and did her job.
Quickly and quietly, she went to the bedside drawer and retrieved the thin silk cords she kept there. She’d never be able to use them to tie Asami to the bed again after this, and that odd, completely irrelevant thought stuck with her as she tied the dazed and unconscious intruders’ hands behind their backs, hauling them none too gently into the bathroom.
The third figure didn’t need to be tied, as it turned out. He wasn’t breathing, and his neck was bent at an odd angle—most definitely from when Korra had blasted him through the wall. She braced herself, waiting for a surge of sadness and guilt to come, but it didn’t. She felt strangely numb as she carried his body to the bathroom with the others.
Pretend he’s unconscious. Don’t let Yasuko know you killed someone in her room.
Once she’d retrieved the remaining four, including the two in Yasuko’s room, she shut the door and braced Hiroshi’s crib against it, just in case one of them gathered themselves enough to slip their bonds and attempt escape. She turned to see Asami pulling on new clothes, although she hadn’t done anything to wipe the blood from her hands.
Did she kill someone, too? How many?
Korra didn’t dare ask. “I’ll go to your office and call,” she said instead.
Asami gave a silent nod.
“Mommy, don’t go!” Yasuko ran to her, throwing both arms around her waist and clinging like her life depended on it.
Korra placed a hand on Yasuko’s head, trying to offer comfort. This is my fault. They came for my children because of me.
“We’ll all go to the office together,” Asami said, in the same flat monotone. She headed for the door, still carrying Hiroshi in her arms. Korra took Yasuko’s hand and followed. It was so small in hers, and it trembled as they entered the hall.
The next few minutes passed in a blur.
Asami was the one who dialed, speaking words Korra couldn’t remember into the telephone. They returned to the bedroom, silently putting on their bathrobes for an extra layer of warmth and protection. Korra noticed that Asami’s hands still had blood on them as they tied the knot at her midsection.
Police cars pulled down the mansion’s gravel drive, lights flashing, but without any sirens. Korra was grateful for that. Hiroshi was already fussy from being woken in the middle of the night, and Yasuko was still obviously frightened.
Lin Beifong strode into the bedroom a minute later, asking a series of rapid-fire questions, but Korra could hardly focus as Asami answered them. Her awareness only sharpened for a brief moment, when a pair of medics carried a stretcher out of the bathroom with a body on it.
It took her a moment to realize who had spoken—Lin, who continued looking at her expectantly. She shook herself. What is wrong with me? I’ve been through more traumatic things than this.
But your pups haven’t, another voice said. When Asami and your friends were in danger, they were adults. They could at least defend themselves. But Yasu and Hiro are so little. Helpless. If you’d been a second slower…
“Sorry, Lin. What?”
“Did the intruders say anything? Any clue as to who sent them, or why they targeted you?”
She shook her head. “No. Nothing.”
“I know who sent them,” Asami said. Emotion had finally returned to her voice, but there was far too much of it. Each word crackled, and her blazing green eyes gave off sparks. “It’s no coincidence that Korra spoke to Kuvira this morning, and tonight, someone tried to take our pups.”
“I don’t believe in coincidences either.” Lin closed the small notebook she’d been holding, tucking it into her uniform. “I’ll question Kuvira myself, as soon as I escort these thugs to a cell. Do the four of you want to come to the station? We can update you as soon as we have more information, and my officers will guarantee no one else tries to hurt your children tonight.”
Korra looked at Asami, who nodded gravely. “Yes. Thank you, Lin.”
“Hear that, Yasu?” Korra said, kneeling down to the pup’s level and forcing extra cheerfulness into her voice. “We’re gonna stay with Aunt Lin at work. Won’t that be fun?”
Yasuko sniffed, but offered a weak smile. “‘Kay. Can I do the sirens?”
Korra couldn’t resist hugging her again. “Sure, Yasu. Anything you want.”
Some of you are probably wondering, "WHERE IS NAGA?"
I promise, that question will be answered next chapter.
No polar bear dogs were harmed in the writing of this chapter.
They found Naga on the bottom floor, sprawled across the living room rug. Her eyes were closed, and her tongue lolled from her partially open mouth. Korra rushed to the limp polar bear dog with a burst of air beneath her feet, crouching beside her and shoving both hands into the ruff of fur along her neck.
Asami’s heart lodged in her throat. She’d been so concerned for her pups that she hadn’t stopped to wonder why Naga hadn’t sounded the alarm. She hadn’t even noticed the polar bear dog’s absence from her usual spot at the foot of the master bed. She’d thought the noise she and Korra had made had disturbed the poor creature, and she’d settled down to doze by the fireplace until the house quieted.
She watched with a stabbing pain in her chest as Korra stroked Naga’s large head, whispering soft, strained words. “It’s okay, girl. It’s okay. I’m here.”
Asami’s spirits sank. Naga didn’t lift her head, nor did she respond to Korra’s pleading murmurs.
Then, thump. The polar bear dog’s tail thudded on top of the rug. Thump. Thump. Thump. She cracked open an eye, letting out a long yawn before licking Korra’s face.
Korra threw her arms around Naga’s neck, and Asami was tempted to rush in and do the same. She would have, if she hadn’t been holding her son against her hip with one arm, and clasping Yasuko’s shoulder tightly with the opposite hand.
“Mama?” Yasuko asked, peering up with wide, fearful blue eyes. They swam with tears, much like Korra’s. “Is Naga okay?”
Asami swallowed. She didn’t know how to answer. The polar bear dog’s eyes had opened, but she remained sluggish, unwilling to get up in spite of Korra’s coaxing. “I’m not sure,” she answered honestly, letting go of Yasuko’s shoulder to stroke her hair. “I hope so.”
Tears welled in her eyes, the first she’d shed that night—tears of guilt, because she should have realized something was wrong sooner, and tears of anger. They hurt Naga. They attacked my mate. They tried to take our pups. I won’t rest until I find out who’s behind this and make them pay.
“Mama?” Yasuko tugged the sleeve of her bathrobe. “Don’t cry.”
Asami sniffed, letting go of Yasuko to wipe away her tears. She hid her face in Hiroshi’s hair, kissing his head. Fortunately, he’d fallen back asleep despite the commotion. He didn’t even seem aware that Republic City police officers were traipsing through their home, securing the scene.
“It’s okay, Yasu,” she said, with a calmness and confidence she didn’t feel. It took everything she had to keep her voice steady, and it still cracked despite her efforts. “Aunt Lin and her friends are here now to keep us safe, and Mommy and I will take care of Naga. You can help.” She covered the short distance to the fireplace, coming to stand behind Korra with both pups in tow. “How is she?”
Korra, who had been moving her hands in circles inches away from Naga, answered without stopping or opening her eyes. “Hold on.” She continued her patterns, and a faint, glowing blue light crawled over Naga’s fur. It flared brightly for a moment, then faded, as if disappearing into her body. Naga lifted her head, blinking her big black eyes and letting out a soft snort.
“Good girl,” Korra said, scratching the polar bear dog’s chin. Naga whuffed in approval and licked Korra’s wrist, wrapping her long pink tongue almost all the way around it. After a moment, Korra finally turned and answered. “She was poisoned. I didn’t study all those years with Katara for nothing. I’m not sure how, but it was bad. We’re… we’re lucky she’s still…” She sniffed to stifle more tears, even though her cheeks were already covered in wet tracks.
Asami’s own eyes started to sting again, but she restrained herself. “Will she make it to the station? I’d never even consider leaving her, but moving her if she doesn’t want to be moved won’t be easy.”
Fortunately, Naga seemed to be feeling better. When Korra stood and patted her thighs, the polar bear dog lifted herself on shaky legs. Her tail wagged behind her, and she plodded slowly across the room, with Korra by her side the whole time. Yasuko let go of Asami, putting her tiny hand on Naga’s flank as if to help.
“Come on, girl,” Korra said, and Yasuko imitated her in a small, high voice.
They gathered what they needed and made the trip to the police station mostly in silence. Lin offered to drive, but Asami refused, insisting she could handle it herself. For once, Korra didn’t crack any jokes about her being a control freak behind the wheel—and Asami was glad. She needed to be in control of something tonight, if only a satomobile.
She didn’t feel much better upon their arrival. Yasuko, who usually loved visiting her Aunt Lin’s place of work, remained unnaturally quiet, rubbing both eyes with her shirt sleeves. She wore a slightly oversized Fire Ferrets jersey, likely what had been nearest at hand when Korra had dressed her. Asami kept a close eye on her while Korra unbuckled Hiroshi from his car seat.
“Just a few questions,” Korra said, approaching with Hiro and Naga in tow. “After that, we’ll go to Air Temple Island and get some sleep.”
Asami knew the plan was a good one. The station and Air Temple Island were both relatively secure locations, with plenty of people around to protect them. But the prospect didn’t make her feel any better. Every time she looked at Yasuko and Hiroshi, she saw what had almost been taken from her. It gutted her so deep that sometimes she forgot how to breathe.
Numbly, she took Yasuko’s hand in her right and Korra’s in her left, leading them into the station. Naga, ever faithful, brought up the rear—and that did make Asami feel the tiniest bit better. If their enemies made another attempt, however, a polar bear dog’s teeth would be the least of their worries.
“And you don’t have any proof Kuvira sent these attackers?” Lin asked. They’d moved into one of the interrogation rooms, more for privacy than anything. Korra, who’d already shared a few words with Lin, was waiting just outside with the pups and Naga.
“Solid proof? No.” Asami sat forward in her chair, staring Lin directly in the eye. “But I don’t believe in coincidences. Kuvira has something to do with this—I’m sure of it.”
To her credit, Lin didn’t react to Asami’s harsh tone. Her expression remained calm but serious as she continued. “Korra was of a different opinion when I spoke to her.”
“Of course she is. She believes her true power comes from her ability to relate to people. Even monsters. She sees the best in them, because that’s her way into their heads.”
“But you know better.”
“I know Kuvira killed my father, and tried to kill my mate. It makes perfect sense that she’d try to take our children, too.”
“None of the intruders mentioned her, though?”
“I didn’t give them the chance. I was concerned for my daughter.”
“Understandable. And I assume you didn’t get to question them afterward, considering the state we found them in.” It was a statement, not a question.
Asami blinked dully. Was it her imagination, or did Lin look sad? Her mind was still too foggy to tell. “You mean the state I left them in.”
“You won’t be charged with manslaughter, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’ve never seen a clearer case of self-defense.”
“It’s not that.” Asami rose from her chair, placing both hands flat on the table. Her long, tousled hair slid off her shoulders, falling on either side of her face, but she neither noticed nor cared. “You’re wasting time questioning me. Kuvira did this. Go ask her why, or I will.”
Lin rose, folding her hands behind her back and adopting a stiff posture. “Believe me, I’ll speak to Kuvira personally—but we have to explore every avenue. Think of your family. If we don’t do this as thoroughly as possible, it could expose them to more danger.”
Asami’s hands clenched into fists, trembling with anger—but not at Lin. Much as she hated to admit it, the chief of police was right. Asami wanted the department’s absolute best work, if not to uncover the obvious identity of the villain who had attacked them, to pin down the how and why.
“Fine.” Then, stiffly, she added: “Thank you.”
Lin gave her a rare smile. “I’ll assign a detail to escort you to Air Temple Island—unless you want me to take your family personally?”
Asami shook her head. “Don’t bother. I’ll accept the escort, but Korra and I are more than capable of defending ourselves. You’re needed here.”
Lin went to the door, holding it open so Asami could exit into the hall. “I’ll get to the bottom of this,” she said as Asami paused beside her. “I promise.”
“Asami, Lin,” Korra said, approaching at a brisk pace. She held Hiroshi in her arms, and Yasuko rode on the narrow dip of Naga’s neck, fists bunched tightly in the polar bear dog’s white fur. Naga butted Asami’s shoulder and licked her cheek, causing Yasuko to giggle.
“Naga kissed you!”
Asami didn’t smile, but she scratched Naga’s ears out of habit. “What is it, Korra?”
Korra’s gaze bounced from her to Lin. “Your detectives found something at the scene. One of the bod—” She cut herself off, glancing at Yasuko. “One of the intruders had a blowgun and several darts. We think that’s what they used to poison Naga.”
“Zaheer and his gang tried the same trick once,” Lin said with a scowl. “Not very original.”
“But effective,” Asami admitted. “Do they tell us anything? Something to do with Kuvira?”
“The opposite,” Korra said. “One of the detectives on the scene grew up in Yi. He recognized the design of the blowgun, and the darts as well. We’ll have to do some tests to make sure, but he thinks it comes from a rare, poisonous flower that grows in the province.”
Asami tried to think. She sensed a mental connection just out of reach, but she was too tired, angry, and frustrated to make it herself. The fog in her mind hadn’t cleared at all, growing worse by the minute. “And?”
Lin caught on more quickly. “You think it’s the hold-outs from Kuvira’s army.”
Korra nodded. “I was about to pay them a visit before this happened. If they’d managed to kidnap my pups, they would’ve had powerful leverage over me. Enough to prevent me from interfering with whatever they’re up to, or at least throw me off and delay me.”
“Then they don’t know us very well,” Asami snarled through gritted teeth. “If the hold-outs are involved, I’ll make sure they pay for it. Kuvira, too.”
Korra, who had brightened at the prospect of a lead, lost the faint smile she’d had. “That’s the thing, Asami. I don’t think Kuvira’s involved.”
“What?” Asami stared at Korra in disbelief. She couldn’t form any other words.
“Kuvira warned me about the hold-outs in Yi,” Korra said. “Why would she do that if she was the mastermind behind all this?”
“Because she’s trying to throw you off,” Asami snapped. “Why are you so willing to believe she’s innocent? After what she’s done?”
Korra’s face fell, but she looked no less determined for it. “I don’t think she’s innocent. I just don’t think she’s behind this. I met with her, Asami. She seems repentant.”
Anger bubbled up from within Asami’s gut. Anger at Kuvira, at the intruders who had tried to harm her pups, and at Korra. The answer is right in front of her face. Why can’t she see it? “And just because Kuvira acted ‘repentant’ around you for five minutes, you think she isn’t capable of horrible things anymore? Don’t be naive. At least I remember what she’s capable of. I don’t have the luxury of forgetting.”
“You think I’ve forgotten?” Korra’s eyes flashed, and the line of her shoulders stiffened, as though preparing to defend herself from attack. “You aren’t the only one who lost something.”
“Oh? Well, if I remember correctly, both your parents are still alive and happy in the South Pole—”
The sound of Yasuko wailing their names put an abrupt end to the argument. Asami swallowed her anger—as she’d grown accustomed to doing every time Kuvira was mentioned—and turned to her daughter. “What’s wrong, Yasu?”
Yasuko didn’t look convinced. “Fighting,” she sniffled, staring at Asami with watery eyes.
Korra placed a reassuring hand on Yasuko’s back. “We’re sorry. Everything’s okay. How about we go to Air Temple Island for that sleepover with Rohan?”
Yasuko wiped her nose with her overhanging sleeve. “Sleepover?”
“Mommy and Mama will come, too. A family sleepover.”
That seemed to cheer the pup considerably. “Okay,” she said, giving them both a weak smile.
Asami suddenly remembered their argument had an audience. She shot Lin an apologetic look, and the stalwart chief of police gave the smallest of nods. “I’ll arrange your escort,” she said. “Believe me, Asami—if Kuvira had anything to do with this, she’ll pay for it. If not, we’ll find out who planned this and bring them to justice.”
“Thank you, Lin.” Korra stepped forward, clasping Lin’s forearm with her free hand. Lin returned the gesture, and she gave the still-sleeping Hiroshi a rare smile.
The knot in Asami’s chest loosened the tiniest bit. Frustrated as she was with Korra, and filled with hate as she was for Kuvira, she had to admit—things could have turned out much worse. Her family was alive and unharmed, and they had plenty of allies.
We’ll find out who did this and make them wish they’d never been born.