Asami gently extricates herself from Korra's grasp, unpicking her fingers where they're wrapped around her middle, and rolls out of bed into the grey darkness of the morning. As she's knotting her dressing gown Korra opens her eyes blearily and pouts at her.
"Where're you going?" she mumbles, unconsciously rolling into the warm spot Asami just vacated.
"The sun's nearly up, people will be waking up soon," Asami whispers, brushing Korra's hair off her face.
The other girl whines and pushes her face into the pillow. She hates to leave Korra like this - bed-warm and cuddly - but no one knows that they've been sharing a bed, or why.
"Stupid people," Korra mumbles, but she's already going slack, relaxing into the mattress and falling back asleep with a snore.
Asami kisses her forehead once before slipping out of the door and making her way to her own room down the corridor.
It would be hard to come up with an explanation for why they sleep every night tangled together - she supposes Korra's trouble sleeping could justify it but it's still a little more than friendly, a bit suspicious. She artfully ruffles her own bed, trying to make it look a bit more lived in. The truth is, she hasn't slept here for two weeks.
It's a good thing Korra goes to sleep so early because Asami can never get back asleep once she's up. She's learning to enjoy seeing the sunrise, and it's good to get a head start on her correspondence.
She gathers her portfolio case and heads towards the kitchen.
She's surprised to see Pema already there, slumped over a water kettle at the sink.
"Let me take that," she says, taking the kettle and starting the tap.
"Thanks," the older woman says through a yawn. "Rohan woke me up crying an hour ago and I've not been able to get back to sleep."
"I'm the same," Asami replies absent-mindedly, lighting the gas on the stove.
"Who woke you up?" Pema asks her.
Asami blushes. "Oh, I just mean in general," she covers lamely.
"Ah," Pema says, thankfully too tired to think anything of it.
She always liked the older woman - she'd been kind to Asami back when she had nowhere to live and a criminal father on the loose. She looks ready to fall asleep where she sits so Asami takes charge of brewing the tea - bracingly strong with honey stirred in.
"Thanks," Pema says, practically folding herself around the cup while Asami takes hers outside into the ghostly half light of the misty morning.
She sits on a tiny stone bench and faces east out over the sea where a pinkish tinge is just starting to grow. She's blissfully alone with the lapping of the waves and her tea in her hand. Paperwork can wait a minute.
Korra is shuffling around getting dressed when she goes to check on her; she's transitioning to using a cane for short distances. It's sometimes painful to watch but she's read enough about the dangers of bed rest to curb her coddling impulses.
"You're getting around much better," she remarks, straightening out the bed sheets.
Korra huffs. "I'm getting around like an old woman," she says, already out of breath.
"A very pretty old woman," Asami says, coming over to wrap her arms around Korra's shoulders.
"You're so sweet," Korra says dryly, but when Asami coaxes her around to kiss her she's smiling.
It's so new, this thing between them, Asami is surprised every time when she can just kiss Korra and it's ok.
A noise out in the corridor startles them and they leap apart, turning to look at the doorway. Asami's heart is going a mile a minute.
When it becomes clear no one is about to barge in they both relax fractionally but the light atmosphere is gone. It's not all ok.
"How long do you think we can keep this up?" Asami asks, sighing.
"The sneaking around? I don't know," Korra admits, her gaze fixed on the ground.
"I wish I didn't have to sneak back to my own bed every morning," she says.
"Me too. I never sleep as well when you're gone. When I wake up, sometimes it feels like you were never there, like I just imagined it."
"Maybe we should just tell everyone," she suggests. It's not the first time she's said it, but Korra seems so terrified, she doesn't want to press it. She supposes she's less invested in whatever Tenzin and his family's reactions are, and she doesn't have any parents left to care. Korra is playing for higher stakes.
The other girl looks suddenly so ill, she adds: "but we don't have to."
"Maybe not yet," Korra says quietly.
Asami camps out with her latest set of reports and watches while Korra plays with Ikki and Meelo flying kites. When Asami had asked why the kites didn't have strings Meelo had just frowned and asked why a kite would need a string. Watching them now she understands that it's just another bit of airbending fun, the children controlling the flow of air and keeping it aloft but controlled.
Watching the kites sparks a thought about her latest aeroplane, unlocking a possible solution to a problem she's been having. She's buried deep in sketches of wing shapes and she hasn't even touched her paperwork when there's a tap on her shoulder. She looks up from a line drawing of an aerofoil to see Korra leaning on her cane in front of her.
"Do you want to come in for lunch?" she asks, and Asami startles.
"Have we really been out here that long?"
Korra just laughs and says, "come eat something before you forget to breathe, nerd."
"Hey, I might be having a major breakthrough here," she protests.
"You can tell me all about it over lunch. I'm starving."
Asami spends the afternoon at the factory, talking over her ideas with the design team. It's pretty late by the time they've hashed out the details and she motors back out to the island. As a commute, it's a bitch unless you've got a flying bison. Maybe she can persuade Tenzin to put an airstrip on the island?
Korra is already in bed when she sneaks in but she sits up immediately, wide awake.
"Hey, I didn't think you were coming back tonight."
"Sorry, I got a bit caught up at the factory," she says, slipping out of her clothes and into her nightdress. Crap, she forgot her dressing gown in her own room.
Korra laughs sheepishly. "It's ok, you don't have to come back here every night to babysit me."
Asami slides into bed beside her and kisses her softly on the mouth.
"I always want to come back," she whispers.
Korra kisses her back, pulling her closer hungrily. In the narrow bed they practically have to lie on top of each other if they don't want to fall out. Korra's mouth is soft under her and when Asami darts out her tongue tentatively she opens easily and she feels electric thrills throughout her body.
Korra's hand slips lower and lower on her back, ghosting over the silky fabric of the nightdress. Her own breath is coming faster, the excitement ratcheting up as Korra presses a leg between hers and applies just the right amount of pressure - !
She gasps and backs off.
As much as you can back off in a single bed.
This seems to be their nightly ritual: they make out, things get exciting, and Asami is having a great time but then she freaks out and puts a stop to it.
It's not that she doesn't want to get a bit more physical, she can feel every fibre of her body aching to get back into Korra's space, to chase that feeling as far as it goes, to see where it takes them.
But. It's just a little terrifying.
Korra strokes her hair, her face furrowed with worry. "I'm sorry," she says.
"No!" Asami protests. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's wrong, I just… urgh!"
She groans into the pillow, trying to hide her face.
Korra just keeps stroking her hair soothingly until the heat between them has dissipated and Asami feels a little bit more rational.
"Am I doing something wrong?" Korra asks, and Asami can't bear the worry on her face.
"No, you're fine. I'm just nervous, I guess."
It feels so embarrassing to say it, but Korra just kisses her chastely on the forehead and wraps her arms around her. Asami returns the hug miserably.
"We don't have to rush," she whispers into Asami's hair. "We can take it slow.
A week later, Korra's scream wrenches Asami fully awake and she twists around to see the avatar is still struggling in her sleep, her face twisted with pain.
"Korra," she says. "Korra!" she repeats louder when the other girl gives no reaction. She shakes her shoulder lightly.
Korra's eyes snap open wildly and she grabs onto Asami's arm. She looks about, as if she's expecting to find her bedroom filled with Red Lotus members.
"Korra, it's me," she explains patiently. "You're at home, in bed, and you're safe. I'm here with you."
"Asami!" she says, recognition dawning. "They had me again, Zaheer got free and they had me and - " she stops, breathing heavily and slowly releasing her death grip on Asami's arm. "It felt so real," she says softly, wrecked.
"It's ok, I know it did, but it's over now," Asami says, pulling Korra into her arms.
It's not easy seeing Korra like this, so torn apart and raw with emotion. She'd gotten so used to blithe, confident, self-assured Korra that it's disconcerting to see her come apart. She wonders if this has happened before, if it was Mako holding her after nightmares about Amon, or if she kept it contained, hid it from everyone. Maybe this is just years of repressed emotion, suddenly let loose.
Korra's breathing eases out and becomes more regular. She presses a kiss to her brown hair.
"Do you want to go back to sleep?" she asks.
"No," Korra says with absolute certainty.
"Want to go for a walk? It might help."
Korra sighs but nods, and they both extricate themselves from the sweaty tangled sheets.
"Its weird," Korra says, staring up into the sky. "It's not really the city out here, but it's not the country either."
"It can be nice, the best of both worlds," Asami offers.
"I miss the stars though. You can kinda see them here, but they're so dim. Less brilliant."
Asami looks up too. She barely notices normally, she's so used to the light pollution of Republic City, but she imagines Korra growing up under the vast empty sky of the South Pole, the stars as bright and clear in the sky as diamonds. "You're right, it's not the same."
She burrows deeper into her borrowed jacket. Water Tribe tailors really do make the warmest clothes.
"Tell me every constellation you know," Korra says suddenly.
"Um…" Asami hesitates. She never really learned any of that. "Up there," she points to the west, to three bright stars in a line, "that's Shen, I know that one. What ones do you know?"
"Is that really it?"
Korra laughs. "I guess you never had to learn traditional navigation."
"Not really, no. So educate me," she says.
"I can't, the stars are all different up here."
"Oh, of course."
Korra rolls her cane between her hands, the end scraping dryly on the dusty ground. She keeps looking up, like she can discern the constellations by herself if she studies hard enough.
"Do you think I'll ever get better?" she asks eventually.
Asami is startled. "Of course you will! Your healers say you're getting stronger every day."
Korra shakes her head. "Not physically. I can feel I'm getting stronger - slowly, but it is happening. I mean, in here," she lays a hand over her heart. "And here," she points to her head.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean… what if I'm always going to be waking up screaming? I feel like a broken pot. You can glue me back together again, but I'll be cracked forever."
She doesn't know what to say to that.
"Korra," she says haltingly. "You're still the bravest person I know, and if you keep having nightmares, then I'll keep being there to wake you up."
She sees a tear run down Korra's cheek but she ignores it, lets Korra brush it away herself. She draws the other girl into a hug, her body convulsing with silent sobs and she just has to hold on, try to be some kind of a tether in the darkness.
They're both grey-eyed and gross in the morning. Korra's acupuncturist scolds her for not being properly rested as soon as he sees her, and Asami is nearly falling asleep as she waits outside her room.
They had stumbled back to bed and gotten a fitful sleep after Korra had calmed down, but Asami had to get up again almost immediately to go back to her room.
She's getting really tired of this.
The door slams open and Dr Wu storms out in a haughty swirl of robes.
"See if you can get through to her," he says coldly, and marches out.
Asami watches him go dumbly. As far as she was aware Korra was submitting to treatment quite well. She was doing sessions every other day and abiding by the dietary advice as best she could.
The sound of a wooden cane being flung at a stone wall comes from inside the room, and she hurries in to see what's happened.
Korra is sitting in her wheelchair - an uncommon enough sight as it is - and her cane is lying forlornly on the ground. She looks furious, and her hands are shaking even as she tightens them into fists.
"Korra, what happened?"
She shakes her head bitterly. "I'll just have to hire a half decent accupuncurist," she yells down the corridor the healer left through.
"He's gone Korra, I don't think he can hear you," she says soothingly.
"Good riddance," she mutters. She takes a deep breath and Asami sees her press her hands to her thighs, frowning at them as if she's angry that they won't obey her. It's been a while since the tremors have been so bad.
"What did he say?"
"He thinks I'm not trying hard enough with my recovery, when who does he think has the worst time of it? Why wouldn't I want to get better?"
"Maybe he just meant you could be doing more?" she suggests.
"I knew you'd take his side," Korra mutters.
"What are you talking about, I'm not taking his side!"
"You would, though. He said 'deception was a powerful negative energy inside me'. He thinks I'm keeping secrets."
"Well," Asami says blandly, "you are."
"I know! But I have good reasons for keeping them."
"If this is making you sicker -" she begins, but Korra interrupts her.
"Whatever, I don't want to talk about it," she says. "Can you wheel me to lunch?"
Asami tries to tamp down her irritation. "Are you sure you don't want to use the cane, the healer said - "
"I know what the healer said!" Korra interrupts her. "Can you just push me? I'm tired."
"Alright," she agrees.
It's a tense walk to the dining room, neither of them speaking to the other.
After lunch, Korra takes her aside to talk.
"I think maybe we should be more careful," she says.
"What do you mean?"
She shrugs tensely. "I feel like people can tell. We should take a step back for a few days."
"Do you want to stop?" she asks, a cold vice compressing her heart.
"No!" Korra says. "Just, maybe during the day we can be around each other less."
"If that's what you want," she says blankly. "Maybe I'll go visit the factory today then."
"Good idea," Korra says, trying to smile.
Asami must look totally downcast, because Korra looks around, makes sure they're alone then darts down and kisses her on the cheek.
"Have a good afternoon," she says.
"You too," Asami replies, feeling the imprint of the kiss as she walks down to the dock.
Even if it is enforced, it's nice being back in the city. She misses the noise, the smells, the energy in the streets. Air Temple Island is nice, in a quiet-retreat-from-the-world kind of way, but she's a city girl at heart.
Not to mention, she's getting sick of vegetarian food.
She splashes through the puddles on her way to the marina, breaking up the shimmering reflections of the streetlights and the neon signs of tattoo parlours and diners and one night hotels. She stops at a blue painted food stand, thinking she might be able to fix that last part.
As she's biting into her arctic hen - so succulent! so meaty! - it occurs to her that Korra might be getting bored of tofu and veggies as well.
"What would be a water tribe comfort food?" she asks the vendor.
"What d'you mean?"
"Like if you were sick, what would you have?"
"That's easy," he laughs. "There's nothing a good sea prune stew can't set right."
"Can I have a carton to go? Extra pruney."
But when she opens the door to Korra's room she's already asleep, frowning into her pillow with her limbs starfished out.
Asami watches her for a second - the wild tumble of her hair, the way her hands curl into fists even in sleep - and resists the urge to climb in beside her. She'll respect her wishes, and her secrecy, if that's what's important.
She leaves the carton of soup on the dresser and closes the door behind her.
Korra doesn't mention anything at breakfast - in fact she doesn't even speak to Asami. She tries to intercept the other girl but she immediately heads off, pushed in her chair by Bolin to watch him practice his lava bending. Apparently, he's getting seriously good.
She tries not to be upset. It was just some soup. But she woke up by herself in a cold empty bed and she wanted nothing more than to roll over and kiss Korra good morning, brush the hair out of her eyes.
At a loss, she takes her boat and heads back into the city. Her team will be excited to see her, at least, and maybe it'll be distracting enough to shift this hard knot in her stomach.
Korra's asleep again when she gets back late at night. She hovers awkwardly in the doorway, wanting to creep in and insinuate herself under the covers next to her. At the very least she wants to talk to her, find out what Bolin's been getting up to, hear about her day. It would be selfish, though, to wake up just for a chat.
She closes the door gently, and returns to her room.
Her bed feels odd - too wide, too empty - when she wakes up. It's only just getting light outside, she hasn't shaken the habit even with the necessity gone.
At the breakfast table she glances over to where Korra is sitting. It looks like she's having a bad day, her hands are shaking and her eyes are ringed with dark bags, fixed determinedly on the table. She doesn't look over to Asami, and she only talks to Ikki sitting beside her.
She barely tastes what she's eating, and excuses herself as soon as she can.
Air Temple Island is full of quiet spots. She heads out for the shelter of an old fig tree which hides you from view of the compound and the worst of the wind. If you time it right you can sit and eat figs all day without moving.
It's too early for that, they're still only tiny green nubs on the branches, but it's the perfect place to sit and stew with her feelings.
Except now the island is that much busier, and she doesn't have a monopoly on wanting some solitude.
"Oh hi Asami!" Opal says brightly.
At least it's nice to encounter her for once not making out with Bolin.
"Hi Opal," she smiles. "I'm sorry, I'll just leave you alone."
"No! Please don't go! I'm dying to get to know you," she says, reaching up and beckoning her to sit down.
She does so, uneasily. People who want to 'get to know her' generally already have their minds made up.
"What were you up to out here?" she asks, trying to be polite.
"Oh, I was doodling," Opal says, gesturing to the sheets of paper she's weighed down with her ink pot. "It's always been a hobby of mine, and I've barely had time since all this craziness started."
"You're really good," Asami says.
Opal blushes and thanks her and Asami looks at her speculatively. There's something she's been dying to know ever since the new airbenders began appearing, and this might be her best chance.
"Opal, can I ask you something?"
"What's it like?" she asks. "Suddenly being bender? Does it feel different?"
"No one's asked me that!" she says happily. She looks thoughtful, and tilts her head like she's mulling the question over. "I don't feel any different, not really. It's not like I've changed fundamentally. But I'm glad it happened."
"Even when it got you into all this trouble?" she presses.
"Even then," she nods. "Suddenly I feel connected to this whole history, and it's like my destiny finally arrived. I never really knew what I was going to do before and now I do."
"Like it's just decided for you?"
That sounds awful.
"No, like I decided it," she corrects a touch defensively.
"I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be rude. I just can't imagine it. If I want to fly I can just build an airplane, I don't see why you should have to give up your earthly attachments just to zoom about like a berk." That definitely did come out rudely.
Luckily, Opal just laughs and lays a hand on Asami's knee. "That's because you already have your destiny, you know you don't need special powers or anything. I saw the way you took down the guard in the Red Lotus cave. You were so fearless, it was amazing."
Asami shakes her head. "More like angry. I wanted to kick his head in."
"See? You've already got what you need."
"Maybe. I don't always feel like it," she admits.
"Everyone feels like that sometimes," Opal says. "My mom always told me you just need the people around you to believe in you long enough for you to realise it yourself."
"I think you're right. Excuse me," she says, standing up. "I think I need to go find one of those people right now."
She goes looking for Korra because she can't stand it any more. She wants to talk to her, she misses her.
She hears her voice, too quiet to make out the words, but obviously Korra. She turns a corner and sees her sitting on a stone bench, deep in conversation with Mako.
An insane impulse makes her stop where she is, watching as the scene unfolds. Korra looks miserable, slumped over, Mako pacing about beside her.
"Was I a terrible girlfriend?" Korra asks, just loud enough for Asami to hear. Mako looks shocked, and embarrassed to be asked.
"No! Of course not! Why would you ask that?"
"No reason," Korra shrugs. "I just seem to be really rubbish at relationships."
"Korra, we broke up because we couldn't go two days without fighting, we just didn't work. It's not your fault."
"Isn't it? I'm clingy and demanding and I'm probably a rubbish kisser. Maybe I'm just not meant to be in a successful relationship."
Mako blushes harder. "None of that's true. Where is this coming from? Is some guy saying this? Because I'll tell you now, he doesn't deserve you."
"No, there's no guy," she says.
"Korra, anyone would be lucky to date you. I was, and I'm lucky to be your friend now," he says softly, and he sits down next to her to hug her. Asami can see the way his face softens as Korra returns the hug, turning his face into her, gripping her like he doesn't want to let go.
A sharp stab of guilt pierces her; this is a private moment.
She turns around, her cheeks flaming, and puts it behind her.
She sits on her bed, touching the sheets where they hang in an untidy mess. This distance between them doesn't sit well with her. Keeping her distance feels too much like not even being in a relationship. They saw more of each other when they were just friends.
She wants to be able to do everything with Korra, she wants everyone to know what they mean to each other. She wants so much to wake up every morning next to her.
But if it makes Korra unhappy, is that fair?
She's startled from her thoughts by a knock at the door. She gets up to open it and is surprised to see Korra, red eyed and leaning heavily on her cane.
"I've been afraid," Korra says quickly, likes she's afraid to lose her nerve.
"Excuse me?" she says, startled.
"I've been afraid, I'm sorry. I've been pushing you away."
"You better come in," Asami says, ushering Korra to sit on the bed.
"I didn't want anyone to know we were together, it was driving me crazy. And then when I took a step back, I missed being with you."
Asami feels a loosening, the tension around her heart easing a little. "I missed you too," she admits with relief.
"I don't want you to have to sneak out of bed any more," she says. "I don't want to have to police where I look. I just want things to be straight forward."
"Where does this leave us?"
"We need to tell everyone," Korra says firmly.
"Are you ok with that? I know it makes you nervous," Asami says cautiously.
She rolls her eyes. "Going to sleep makes me nervous. Doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. "
"Maybe we should talk to our friends first, and tackle the grown ups later," she suggests.
Korra nods. "How do you think Mako will take it?" she asks.
"Probably not great. But we're all friends still, I think he'll accept it."
"I'm more afraid he'll be turned on," Korra says darkly.
"That's a danger," Asami admits, leaning forward to cup Korra's face in her hands. "You are super hot."
That makes her laugh and they fall into a sweet kiss, lips lingering gently and barely advancing.
"You're a great kisser," she whispers into the corner of Korra's mouth. She can feel her smile under her lips.
That night, Asami climbs into bed next to Korra and rests her head on her chest, wrapping her arms around her. In the darkness they can only see by touch, and the rest of the world falls away. It feels right.
Korra kisses her softly, her thumb stroking the curve of Asami's jaw. There's a new kind of anticipation between them, like they're building up to something far off but new and wonderful. They end the kiss and settle down next to each other, their legs twisted together.
Asami hasn't slept so well for days.
It's Korra's idea to take them all out of town. She thinks it'll make it more momentous, besides getting them out of the way of the adults. Asami thinks the break will do her good too - she's spent too long in one place, and if there's anything Korra likes to do, it's keep moving.
"Can Ikki and Meelo come too?" Korra asks, surprising her.
"Sure if you want. Don't you think they're a bit young?"
Korra shrugs. "Maybe. But I don't want them to feel left out. It's been hard on them since Jinora left."
"So long as you don't want Rohan to come too," she teases.
Korra screws her nose up. "No thanks. Literal babysitting sounds… hard."
"That makes six in the car, then. It'll be a tight squeeze."
"The kids can sit in our laps?" Korra offers optimistically.
"They'll have to," Asami says.
It's seriously cramped in the Satomobile - Korra, Asami and Ikki in the front; Mako, Bolin, Opal and Meelo in the back. Pokey alternates between flying above them and perching on Meelo's shoulder, and Pabu has draped himself around Bolin's neck.
Asami really hopes they're not pulled over by a traffic cop.
They make it safely out of the city, where it becomes quiet, empty roads and picturesque scenery. She really opens up the engine, lets the it purr and her tyres eat up the smooth asphalt.
"It'll be awesome," Ikki says, twisting around to speak to Opal. "I can show you how to fly a kite airbender style!"
"Hey!" Meelo interrupts crossly. "Why can't I help too?"
"Because last time you wrecked my kite that's why!" she snipes back.
"That's not fair!" Meelo protests, and Asami worries they're going to have a full on blow out, but Opal steps in to soothe him.
"You can show me a different airbending trick, Meelo. I'll bet the air scooter is fun on a beach."
Asami glances over warmly to Korra, wanting to share the moment, only to find her already looking at her with a smile on her face. She wants to put her hand on the other girl's leg, wishes they weren't still trapped by secrecy. Maybe on the way back.
With everyone placated, they follow the winding coastal road as it hugs the seashore until they reach the little village where Hiroshi Sato built his holiday home. It stands a little away from the rest of the village, larger and more imposing than any of the other houses. It's raised on struts in case of surges or spring tides with steps straight down onto the sandy beach at the back.
The boys leap out to get the bags as soon as they're parked, Meelo trying to compete with Mako and Bolin and practically collapsing under the weight.
"Let me take that," Opal says sweetly, relieving him of some of them and heading up the steps. Ikki runs after them to laugh at Meelo.
Asami helps Korra out of the car, giving her a strong arm to brace against as she levers herself out and gets her cane under her.
"You ready?" she asks.
"We'll find out," Korra replies, and Asami enjoys for a moment that they have an excuse for Korra to hold onto her arm as they make their way up the steps.
"I'll bet I can make sand lava," Bolin announces, dumping the bags in the downstairs living room.
"Wouldn't that be more like glass, honey?"
"That's even cooler!" he exclaims and grabs Opal's hand. "Let's go see if you're right!"
"Wait for me!" Ikki shouts and runs after them out of the door.
"And us!" Meelo follows, kite crumpled in his fist, Pokey soaring over his head.
That just leaves Korra, Asami, Mako, and a whole lot of luggage.
They're all quiet for a second before Mako coughs and gestures to the bags. "Shall I take these upstairs?"
"Not yet," Asami says, looking to Korra for a confirming nod. The other girl looks nervous but resolute, like she does before a death-defying stunt or a fight with impossibly stacked odds. Considering Korra's record in that department, she thinks they'll probably be fine. "There's something we wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh, ok," Mako says, and sits down on the cushion opposite them. "What is it?"
They look to each other again. Unfortunately, whenever it came to this stage of planning they'd both stalled, horrified, and moved onto something a little less awkward.
It's twice as bad in real life.
"Well," Asami starts, her voice wavering, "we wanted to tell you something."
"About us," Korra adds.
"Oh," Mako says, looking increasingly nervous.
"You know we've become good friends?"
"Yes," he replies cautiously.
"And that all three of us are friends!" Korra cuts in, smiling in a way she probably thinks is comforting, but comes across more demented.
"Yes," he repeats and Asami can see his eyes flicking around, checking for exits. They need to move fast.
"We're dating," she blurts out.
Mako just looks more confused. "No we're not?"
"No, we are, master detective," Korra says rolling her eyes.
"Oh," he says. "Oh! You're…" he points at both of them. "Together?"
"Yes," they say in unison.
"Well, congratulations, I guess?" he says, sounding completely bewildered.
"You can take the bags upstairs now if you want," Korra says and he practically trips over himself to get away.
Korra keels over in slow motion to lean against her side groaning.
"That went well, I thought," Asami says.
Korra just glares at her.
Mako spends the rest of the evening sitting in a corner by himself, looking utterly shellshocked. Bolin and Opal take charge of the cooking because Asami knows herself and knows she shouldn't be trusted within five feet of a frying pan. She's been known to burn ramen.
She watches as Korra plays a Pai Sho match against Ikki, both of them frowning in concentration. Meelo is playing with Pokey, teaching him to roll over for treats and fending off Pabu's attempts to muscle in on the action. It's cosy having everyone together, it's much friendlier than the family holidays she remembers here, just her, her dad and her nanny.
Korra's next move is so obvious though, it's physically paining Asami to see her miss it. She leans over to whisper it to her but Ikki protests loudly.
"Hey! It's not fair for you to help Korra win, even if she is your girlfriend!"
They both freeze, catdeer caught in the headlights. Mako chokes on his tea, Bolin and Opal poke their heads out through the kitchen door.
"Um," Korra says eloquently.
Bolin laughs. "Ikki, they're not girlfriends! They're friends who are girls."
"Nuh-uh," Ikki says, turning to face him with a smug expression. "I saw them kissing, and not in a friendly way either."
Bolin looks at them, his smile slipping. They just stare back.
Asami looks to Korra, Korra looks at her. They can hardly deny it when they're planning to tell everyone at dinner.
"Surprise!" Korra says, holding up her hands dramatically.
"Really?" Bolin says.
"Really," Asami confirms.
Bolin glances at his brother, no doubt worried about his reaction.
Mako just nods soberly. "Really."
"Really!" Ikki interjects, clearly annoyed she wasn't believed.
"Well that's great news!" Opal says, clasping her hands together. "I'm so happy for you guys!"
"Yeah, congratulations," Bolin says, still a little lost.
"Well you can tell us all about it over dinner," Opal says as the timer goes off. "I hope everyone likes kale casserole!"
"It could have gone worse," she says as they brush their teeth side by side.
Korra snorts, spraying toothpaste everywhere. "Maybe. If Fire Lord Zuko had turned up and told everyone he figured it out too."
"No, really, everyone was fine. So it didn't go to plan - what does?"
Korra spits and rinses. "I'm going to be tasting kale for weeks."
Asami laughs and jostles Korra with her shoulder. "Stop it, that's so bad."
"Do you want to go for a walk?" Korra asks. "Only I'm still all keyed up, and I never got to see the beach earlier."
"Sure thing," she smiles. "Let me grab my boots."
They venture along the moonlit beach with their coats bundled over their sleeping clothes. Korra leans on her cane less, pressing into Asami's side for support.
"Let's stop here," Korra says, pointing to a patch of dune grass sprouting from the sand.
They make a little nest with their coats, snuggling into each other to stare up at the sky. They're far enough from the house that they can barely see its lights and they're alone in the dark with the sound of the waves.
The stars above them are so much brighter here, it's astonishing. It feels like she could reach up and pluck one, hand it to Korra to hold in her palm.
She points up to a buckety shape in the north of the sky. "Those are the seven stars of the northern ladle," she says. "And if you line them up, you can find the pole star, over there," she points to a particularly bright star aligned with the edge of the bucket. "That's how northern water tribe people have navigated as long as anyone can remember. If you can find the pole star, you can find your way anywhere."
"You looked those up?" Korra asks.
"I thought I ought to know," she answers.
"You're so sweet," Korra says and rolls over onto her side to kiss her gently. She continues down her jaw, onto her neck.
"Oh!" she exclaims softly and tips her head back as Korra grazes her teeth over a particularly sweet spot.
"Do you want me to keep going?" Korra asks, looking up at her.
She smiles and nods and pulls Korra up to kiss her on the mouth.
It's like a weight has been lifted, giving their friends the news. It's freeing, not speculating about people's reactions, not waiting in anticipation of anger or confusion.
Korra's tongue sweeps out to lick at her mouth and she opens willingly. The other girl darts her tongue in to tangle with hers, then pulls back to brush their lips together lightly.
They're barely touching, their lips only ghosting together, the sensations all the more intense for it, until Asami is straining upwards for more.
Korra laughs deliciously dirtily at her desperation and dives back in, kissing her senseless.
Asami abandons all restraint, grabbing and pulling at the other girl's clothes, trying to pull her closer while also getting her undressed.
"Can we swap?" Korra asks breathlessly. She makes a face: "my arms are getting tired."
"Of course," she says, and they flip around so Korra is on her back and Asami is draped over her, straddling one of her legs.
They kiss, and Asami moves her weight forward to press their bodies together and is surprised how good it feels just to grind herself down onto Korra's leg. She repeats the action and gasps into Korra's mouth.
Korra is creeping her hand up Asami's bare leg inside her coat, resting warmly on the outside of her thigh. Her heart speeds up just at the thought of it going higher and she wiggles impatiently, trying to encourage it. When that proves fruitless, she grabs the other girl's hand and physically moves it to grip her ass.
"Mmmm," Korra hums into her neck, and begins a two-pronged attack, scattering her neck with feather-light kisses and the lightest scrapes of teeth, and tracing infuriating patterns into the soft skin of her lower back, rucking her nightdress over her hips.
Asami presses herself down hard onto the leg she's straddling, trying to get some relief.
"Take this off," Korra says, plucking at her silk nightdress.
She sits up and drops the coat from about her shoulders. The cold is shocking, and the feel of dragging the silk material over her hard nipples makes her gasp.
"You're beautiful," Korra says, looking up at her with a soft expression, reaching up to frame her ribs with her hands.
"I want you so much," Asami says breathlessly and Korra pulls her back down, pulling the coat over her like a blanket.
She can feel the urgency building in her body. It's weeks of tension, months, probably, if she's honest. A precipice she wants to leap off.
Korra touches her lightly, just one fingertip on her most sensitive nerves and she can barely restrain the shout she wants to make. She arches further into the touch and buries her face in Korra's neck, knotting her hands into the rough grass above her head.
Korra lets her rock into her hand, letting her set the rhythm. It feels raw and physical and about as far from passive as she can imagine.
Korra's other hand alternates between tangling in her hair and scraping her nails down her back. She whispers encouragement in her ear, stupid sexy nonsense that she would laugh at at any other time, but with her blood rushing and the waves of pleasure inundating her she just moans and kisses her.
"I'm close," she whispers, biting her bottom lip as she rocks on Korra's fingers.
"I've got you," Korra whispers back.
The pleasure overtakes her in a single great wave, like a pulse of sensation emanating from her clit and rippling outwards all the way to her fingertips. She bites down hard on Korra's shoulder to stay quiet - she really doesn't want to cause a scandal in the village, as unlikely as it is anyone is walking on the beach at this time of night.
She's somewhat surprised when she opens her eyes to find she's still in the same body. She feels sure she expanded, overspilling her edges. She should be a puddle on the ground.
She collapses sweatily on Korra's chest and tries to get her breath back.
"Wow," she says.
When she looks up she sees Korra is sucking lazily on her fingers, and her whole body quakes with aftershocks. She realises that while she's tired and sated, she also wants Korra again, immediately. And again, and again.
Oh dear, how is she ever going to get anything done?
"Good?" Korra asks a little smugly.
"The best," Asami replies and kisses her. She doesn't think she'll mind the distraction.