In a moment of horror Korra realises that this is not her laundry basket. Underneath the familiarity of tank tops, sweatpants, and sports bras she finds the imposter. A pair of boyshorts. Forest green and a cotton-spandex blend.
Korra only wears pure cotton boyshorts.
Rewind to four hours ago.
Korra’s juggling chores and daily exercise requirements by doing her laundry while she’s at the gym. Due to living in a nice apartment she has the luxury of the building having a gym and a laundry room three floors apart. If she times it right then she can put her load in the wash, do a half hour of cardio, then put her load in the dryer and leave it in while she pushes weights.
It’s a perfect plan really. She’s proud of herself as a tactician and as an adult.
Not bothering to sort between lights, darks, and colours (she’s a firm believer in water conservation and clothing equality) Korra dumps her load into an unoccupied washing machine. She adds soap, then a yuan to the coin slot. Wiping her brow in satisfaction, she heads for the stairs to get a head start on her cardio.
Three hours and fifteen minutes ago.
Sweaty and red faced, Korra remembers her laundry still in the washing machine.
There’s a woman in the laundry room who does a poor job of not laughing at her sweaty appearance and too-loud headphones blaring,
‘To the window! To the wall!’
She notices in relief that no one is waiting on the washing machine. She extracts her clothes and slops them haphazardly into the dryer. She puts a reminder on her phone about the clothes and heads back upstairs.
The gym’s pretty empty for this time of day. Korra guesses most people are too tired after work and need to get their second wind. There’s the usual crowd of people who live at the gym to instagram pictures of themselves working out (which honestly, includes Korra). The non-regulars are a few soggy mild aged people looking to get into shape, and strong looking woman doing sit ups atop a medicine ball. Every time Korra looks up she seems to make eye contact with this woman.
Korra doesn’t notice the pattern until the third time it happens. She’s benching 160 and on her second rep when her phone pings. She clenches her teeth and remounts the weights before taking her phone out of her pocket. It’s Bolin asking if she wants to go out for noodles.
Quietly and to herself, Korra says,
“Hell yeah I want noodles.”
As she types it.
She wipes up the bench and bar and gathers her water. The laundry is forgotten on the way to the noodles.
Three hours ago.
Bolin has some kind of godly sense about cheap delicious noodles. He always finds these hole-in-the-wall restaurants that hide the best food in town. It’s raining out and Korra’s a little glad that it washed off some of her gym sweat.
They sit in the window seat and watch the rain stick to the single pane glass. Bolin shivers slightly.
“So, is Mako coming?”
“He said Wu has some kind of formal thing to do tonight and he’s on duty.”
Korra rolls her eyes.
“That’s what he always says.”
Bolin shrugs as he pulls out his phone and begins texting.
“Opal bailed. She’s making some signs for a rally at school. And she totally has mastered guilt tripping me over the phone. You said Asami’s working late tonight?”
“She’s got some project pitch deadline next week and it’s all hands on deck. She’s practically sleeping at the office. I see her maybe two hours a day?”
Bolin leans perilously back in his stool and groans, “That suuuuuuuuucks.”
“If the pitch gets picked up--which it will ‘cause she’s a genius-- then the company will have a really good contract and she’ll get to relax a little more when it comes to finances.”
The server brings them their noodles. Korra asked for the same thing Bolin ordered because he also has a special sense for whatever’s the best item on the menu.
Today that is hand torn cumin noodles with lamb and it smells fragrant and delicious. Korra gets that terrifying murderous look of a lioness hunting when she’s hungry. Bolin knows to keep his hands away from her mouth.
They’re halfway through their plates of noodles when Korra’s alarm starts going off.
“God. Damn. Me. Idiot.” She says.
“I don’t think that was a complete sentence. Any of it.” He says.
“Ugh, I forgot my laundry in the dryer.”
“Well, I’m sure it won’t be too much of an inconvenience for someone to take it out and put it in your hamper. Not like there’s much you can do anyway. We could even go and see a movie.”
“I see you have an ulterior motive to your bad influence.”
Bolin gives her puppy eyes over his plate of noodles.
“Mako and Opal say it looks dumb and won’t go with me. It has action, horror, and comedy. Kung fu and guts, Korra!”
Korra chews her noodles and ruminates over her guilt at ignoring responsibility.
“Well, there happens to be a showing at the theatre near the train in a half hour.”
“You planned all of this.”
“Hey, it’s not often that people fall for my devious traps.”
Two and a half hours ago.
“Have you left the house at all today?”
Kuvira has her hamper balancing on a hip as she enters the apartment. Baatar is still at his corner desk in front of the computer. Their grey tabby, Fer is massaging his lap and purring. Baatar looks up at her briefly.
“You’re on Grindr.”
With confidence she grabs his phone off the desk and swipes it open. Three new messages within the last five minutes. She fixes him with The Look.
“We just moved here. After hiding from Mom and Dad for years I need to unwind. Let loose and meet some guys. Besides, I might be going out with one of them tonight.”
“You say that every night. Maybe you’d meet men if you actually left our apartment. Spirits know spending all day surrounded by pussy doesn’t make you a convincing gay guy.”
Baatar glares at her while he pets the cat, further proving her point. He lets Fer off his lap and stands. He keeps his glare fixed on her as he begins pulling out ingredients for dinner.
“Mom called while you were at the gym. She wants to know how we’re doing since yesterday. Oh, and we’re supposed to have dinner with Opal tomorrow.”
“Is Su still asking why we can’t finish our degrees in Zaofu?”
“Of course she is. She’s Mom.”
Baatar makes an annoyed noise as he rifles through the fridge. Kuvira looks up from her laundry folding to see what his deal is.
“It seems we neglected to get jalapenos. I can’t substitute them. Can you go to the store?”
Kuvira whips a dish towel at him.
“You go to the store.”
“I have to prep everything else and you’re already wearing pants!”
She looks down at his bare legs and red boxers covered in cat hair. Her brother really is a wet blanket of a human being.
“Fine. But you have to go out tonight. Meeting someone or not. Staying in the house all day isn’t healthy.”
“Yeah, thanks Mom.”
Kuvira flips him off. She grabs a hoodie from the hamper and shrugs it on. It’s still slightly warm.
“It’s raining so don’t forget an umbrella!” Baatar calls from the kitchen.
She’d call him Baatar, but that’s his name and he wouldn’t understand the familial jab. Calling him Senior would be weird.
Kuvira grabs her umbrella and steps into a pair ankle boots. She checks her appearance in the mirror by the door.
This is not her hoodie.
Korra sits with her hands tented in front of her face. She fucked up. She fucked up real bad. The pair of green boy shorts sits crumpled in her palms. Naga walks up and puts her head in Korra’s lap. She gives out a whine.
“Sorry girl, I’ll get your dinner.”
She leaves the underwear on her bed and gets some frozen salmon from the fridge. While it thaws in the microwave she goes back to the hamper.
Now that she looks at it more closely she sees none of the clothes are hers. There are more grey sweatpants than blue and the sports bras all have a green stripe. At the bottom of the hamper is a pair of cutoff sweat shorts and a worn-out soft T-Shirt. It has the faded image of a badgermole on it. This mystery person was cleaning their pyjamas. They could go to bed pyjama-less tonight and it will be all Korra’s fault.
Naga almost bowls her over in her excitement to be fed. She leans against Korra’s hip wagging and whining.
“Yes, yes, you haven’t eaten in decades.”
Korra pushes the white fluffy menace out of her way to put the bowl on the ground. Naga pushes the dish around the floor with her enthusiasm. With a laugh, Korra pets a long stripe from her spine to her tail. It takes away a handful of dog fur.
“I’m brushing you tonight. Ew.”
And then she returns to the hamper with the soft shirt. She takes a furtive glance around before lifting the shirt close to her face and smelling it. Just a quick sniff. Nothing weird. She just wants to know what kind of--
Oh that is glorious.
Naga won’t judge as Korra buries her face in the heather cotton and rubs it around. What kind of detergent smells like sun baked earth and human and rainbows?
Clearly Tide will no longer do.
No one’s home to scold Korra as she slips her own shirt off and replaces it with the worn one.
Woah, woah, woah, this was crossing a line. Someone could be going without pyjamas and here she is being a creep! A good smelling, cozy creep.
There’s a knock on her door. Sharp, authoritative, and demanding. She knows it can’t be one of her creepy neighbours. (The Yakones, single brothers too old to be sharing a tiny apartment.)
Korra opens the door and is startled to see a woman her exact height wearing her hoodie. Her face is all angles--high cheekbones, a square jaw, thick brow, thin eyes and lips. Her wiry hair’s been pulled into a loose ponytail. In her arms is Korra’s laundry hamper.
“That’s my shirt.”
“That’s my hoodie.”
Naga weaves between Korra’s legs and the door and whuffs suspiciously at the stranger.
In between barks she burps and gives them both a whiff of salmon.
“Gross, dog. Get back in the house.”
The woman holds a hand out for Naga to sniff. It meets approval and she’s given ear scratching privileges.
Korra puffs her chest out in pride.
“Yeah, she is.”
“What kind of dog is she?”
The stranger holds the basket a little lower so Naga can sniff the contents.
“We have no idea. We found her digging through our garbage when I was a little girl.”
Naga yawns and bumps her head against the stranger before walking inside. Korra moves out of the way and stretches out an arm in invitation.
“I know you as ‘That Amaruq Girl On the Second Floor’. Nice to meet you properly, I’m Kuvira. I live on the Ninth Floor.”
Kuvira follows Korra inside and seems to innocently scrutinize the place. Korra tries to look at her apartment from an outsider perspective. Clean kitchen (Korra), messy dining table (also Korra), shoes everywhere (Asami and partly Naga), tidy-ish living room covered in blankets (Korra and Asami), posters of Bruce Lee (Korra).
She turns around to see Kuvira’s eyes dart back to her face almost guiltily. Was she just being checked out? Why isn’t she checking this woman out? She’s built like a brick tithouse and that’s something Korra didn’t know she was into. (Though looking at herself and her browser history, she’s not really surprised.)
“You’re still wearing my shirt.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry! It just looked so comfortable I had to make it weird.”
Korra takes the shirt off.
She just takes it off in front of this almost-stranger. Kuvira’s eyes widen and her pupils expand with them.
“I just made it weirder.” Korra says, holding the shirt in front of her half-naked torso.
Without saying anything, Kuvira unzips the hoodie she’s wearing and holds it out to Korra. She doesn’t let her take it and instead Korra has to put one arm in and then the other like when she was little and her mom would hold her coat for her. It feels oddly intimate. Korra reaches for the zipper and Kuvira bats her hand away with her own. She drags cool knuckles down Korra’s abdomen leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. She pauses at the navel and averts the bellybutton.
“You’re an outtie.”
She pulls the jacket together at the zip. Korra’s heart is pounding in her throat and she’s not sure if she can say anything. She nods. Kuvira brings the zipper up painstakingly slow watching the teeth knit together. She stops it at Korra’s collar.
“There. No longer weird.”
Korra lets out a shaky laugh.
“Yeah, that wasn’t weird.”
Kuvira’s looking at her mouth. Korra dips to meet her eyes and unconsciously licks her lips. She still got the freaking shirt in her hand. Korra tosses it into her own hamper.
And then she’s kissing Kuvira hard against her kitchen counter. Their hips at at the exact same height. Korra pushes Kuvira’s T-shirt up a little to touch the hard muscle beneath. It earns her a gasp against her mouth.
Naga walks up and worms her head between their mashes knees. She gives a whine.
Korra pulls back but Kuvira chases her.
“are we doing?”
The last bit is mumbled against Kuvira’s mouth.
Kuvira shrugs in her arms and Korra can’t help but laugh hysterically.
“I think it’s called a meet cute.” Kuvira offers.
“So, do you always make out with strangers who accidentally took your laundry?” Korra says.
She’s joking but she actually feels a little insecure.
“This has only happened once, so that would make that 100% of the times this happened. So, yes?”
Korra groans and tucks her head against Kuvira’s shoulder. There’s that amazing smell.
“You think you’re cute.” She says.
“I’m pretty freaking cute.”
“You’re a little cute.”
“You’re more obnoxious.”
Kuvira sticks her tongue out at Korra. Korra licks it. She blushes.
“Go out with me.” Kuvira says.
“Not until you go out with me.”
“I asked you first.”
“I asked you second.”
They share a breathless giggle and nuzzle.
“My dog likes you and you smell really nice.”
“I wore the hoodie with the hood up because I could sniff it easier that way.”
Kuvira pushes her away and then pulls her back, missing the moment of absence. She plays with the cords of her hoodie. She’s blushing and looking down.
“I don’t usually kiss complete strangers. But, I do always get what I want.” The last line is said with a smoulder.
Korra doesn’t know whether to laugh or fall in love (it’s probably too late for that). Instead, she follows the first topic.
“We’re not complete strangers. I mean, I know what your underwear looks like.”
“And I know you’re a cotton purist.”
“I was raised on all natural fibres, man. You can’t break the habit.”
“Cotton spandex clings better and is still breathable.”
“This is it. This is going to be the argument that ruins our budding relationship.”
Kuvira cocks her brows.
Korra sputters and removes her hands from the other woman’s shoulders.
“I mean-- I just thought-- I’m monogamous.”
Kuvira grabs her hands and dips her head to make eye contact with Korra (who’s staring at their feet).
“Relax. Me too. I was screwing with you.”
Korra tightens her grip on her hands. She tries to casually get her breath back to normal. She looks at Kuvira from under her eyelashes. The eye contact is intense, but she doesn’t want to shy away. Korra doesn’t like backing down.
Someone’s phone buzzes between them. It makes them both start and shudder.
Kuvira pulls hers out of her pocket and makes an exasperated noise.
“My dumb brother needs me to rescue him from a bad date.”
“You have a brother?”
Korra doesn’t want to let go so she starts playing with the hair on the back of Kuvira’s neck.
“Mmmhm, four actually.”
She kisses Korra’s earlobe.
“Lucky. Older or younger?”
“Three younger and one older by two months.”
“Did you just need to cook a little longer?”
Kuvira’s confused by the comment and then gets it.
“Oh, no, they’re foster siblings. I’m adopted.”
Korra gives her a distressed look.
“Are you an orphan?”
“No, it’s a little more complicated than that. I was accepted into a special school across the country in Zaofu. My parents needed kids who could work on the farm, not dancers. It was just easier for the headmaster to adopt me.”
“That’s so sad.”
“Not really, they got what they needed, and I got what I needed. It’s not like I grew up in a less loving household.”
“Are you the only girl?”
“Nope,” Kuvira smiles, “I have a baby sister. Well, not a baby. She’s twenty.”
Korra’s eyes widen.
“How old are you then?”
“Twenty six. You?”
“Oh no, I’m a cougar.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
Korra kisses her. The phone buzzes again, then it rings for just a few seconds. Kuvira growls into Korra’s mouth. She looks like she wants to throw the offending device. Korra takes it from her hands and begins typing on it.
“There’s my number. And if that doesn’t work then you know where I live. Text me when you’re free. Then we can plan a date.”
Kuvira pulls one of her own hoodies out of her laundry basket and starts putting it on. Korra stops her and offers the one she’s wearing. Kuvira’s face lights up as Korra strips again. She kisses her bare shoulder. The hoodie in her hands replaces the one Korra gives her.
“It’s not my sleep shirt, but I need that to sleep.”
With one (two, three, four) more kiss(es) Kuvira leaves with her basket. Korra collapses against the locked door and puts her hands over her face. Naga comes and sticks her nose in between Korra’s legs. She knows she probably reeks of pheromones down there.
“Dude,” She knees Naga’s nose away, “boundaries.”
When she finds Baatar he’s smoking an e-Cigarette outside the club with his date nowhere to be seen.
“I’m supposed to be in the bathroom. I took the bus over and he takes the same one home. I didn’t want to risk him seeing me.” He says.
She punches him in the shoulder and storms off in the direction of their car.
“Why are you being such a bitch right now?”
Her face is perfectly calm and hides a storm of sexual frustration and disappointment.
“I was with a girl.”
She gets into the car. Baatar goggles her. He checks the clock on his phone.
“How?! There isn’t a lesbian version of Grindr. Is there?”
He starts to search for it on his browser.
“Seatbelt please. I met her the old fashioned way.”
“You went to a matchmaker and said, I want a wife born in the year of the Ox with a strong back for farming and a healthy sexual appetite?”
Despite her ire, Kuvira chuckles.
“Remember how I mixed up my laundry basket? Turns out this woman I was checking out at the gym took it. I went down to the laundry room and asked the attendant. She said she was waiting for one of us to notice we’d switched.”
“So you went to her apartment and what? Just started making out?”
“Wait, seriously? I thought it was supposed to be gay men who hooked up easily.”
“Is that why you needed me to come get you?”
Baatar blushes and stares pointedly out the window.
“He called my skin colour ‘exotic’.”
Kuvira makes a disgusted face. He mirrors it with an ‘I-know-right?!’ eyebrow raise.
“So, what’s her name?”
“Korra.” Kuvira sighs.
“Is that all you know?”
He’s got his arms folded over his chest and he’s giving her his full attention (which is rare because he’s always hooked up to some electronic device.).
“She’s an only child, twenty-one, has a giant dog, likes all natural fibres. She lives with a girlier roommate but they’re not together. She feeds her dog raw fish instead of kibble. She’s either clumsy or was in some kind of accident, or worse, but her entire upper body is covered in scars.”
He hisses through his teeth. It does sound like a potential red flag. At least the source of baggage.
“All I know is that I wanna kiss all of them.”
Baatar is silent as he puffs his e-Cig.
“You’ve got it bad.”
“Yeah, I do.”
Asami comes staggering into their apartment at around 12:30. Korra hears the familiar scratching of the lock followed by grumbling and clicky shoes being taken off. Then a huge sigh and keys being dropped back into a stylish purse.
She looks like the prettiest zombie of the horde.
Korra’s playing it cool as she lays on the couch playing GTA.
“I know you probably ate at work, but there’s some salad and rice left over for you in the fridge.”
Asami makes a relieved noise and Korra hears the fridge open. Hell yeah, she’s an awesome roommate.
She keeps playing as Asami wanders over with a large bowl of salad and sits on her feet. Korra slips them away and pushes them up and over the couch back.
“How was work?”
Asami makes some gestures with her fork through a mouth of shredded komodo chicken and tangerine.
“Awful.” She says after swallowing, “How was your day off?”
Korra drives a car off a ramp and into the ocean. The screen tells her she’s been Wasted.
“It was good. I got some laundry done. Went out for noodles and saw an awesome-terribad movie with Bolin. Went to the gym. And, I-uh, met someone.”
Asami shovels a large amount of lettuce into her mouth. Korra’s eyes keep darting between her and the loading screen. She wants Asami’s approval. They’ve both been off the dating scene since their terrible mutual ex kinda made them need a break from romance for awhile.
“That’s great,” Asami sounds really excited, like fake excited, “awesome Korra. What’s his name?”
“Her name’s Kuvira.” Korra says.
“Her? Cool. That’s. Great. Really. You never said you were bi. Even when I told you I was.”
Ohhhhh. She’s hurt because she feels like Korra’s been lying to her.
“Dude,” Korra drops the controller and hugs Asami, “I didn’t realise we were sharing our sexualities that day. I just wanted to be supportive of you. I’m not, bi, by the way. I think the term is personal pan pizza sexual.”
Asami snorts into her shoulder.
“Same thing. And well, surprise, I like girls and more. I really like this girl in particular. So does Naga.”
Naga wags from her spot on the floor.
“She’s met the dog?”
Korra shows her teeth in an apologetic grimace.
“She’s been to the house… Korra did you have sex with her in our kitchen?”
“Why is that the first place you asked?!”
“Because the spice rack was knocked over.”
“We didn’t have sex in the kitchen.”
"Or anywhere else if you're wondering."
They fall into a semi-comfortable silence. Korra runs over little old ladies and drug dealers, Asami eats her salad.
“Okay, I gotta be up early. Goodnight.”
Asami pats Korra’s shoulder instead of the usual forehead kiss. Korra frowns at its absence. She turns the game off and retires to her room. Her phone has about three text messages from Kuvira. Korra smiles and rolls around on her bed in excitement.
Asami Sato stares at the ceiling of her bedroom. Four years. Four years of carrying a torch for her best friend. Most of that time trying to remind herself that Korra Is Straight and that she doesn’t stand a chance. Three years of barely communicating after Korra’s accident. One year of living together in domestic bliss.
Korra’s pansexual. She likes girls. She just doesn’t like Asami that way.
“Fuck my life.” She says.