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“Urh. Why is something so simple so difficult?” moaned Korra to herself, licking the rice stuck on her fingers in an attempt to make it disappear. The kitchen of the Air Temple was still quiet at this hour. Early sun rays warmed the countertop, basking five destroyed rice balls in a golden glow. It would be a nice day. If only the rice balls behaved and remained whole for a—
“You’re not supposed to lick it away,” declared Ikki as she burst in from the window, twirling air and morning dew in her wake. “Morning Korra!” She sat on the top shelf. “Where’s the cookie jar? Did you take it? You’re up early: something’s wrong. Did Meelo take it? You just need water, you know.” She jumped back down purposefully, filled a cup with water, and handed it to Korra.
“Uh, thanks.” Korra drank it in one gulp. Had she had that much plum wine yesterday? Varrick did import the best from the South. Had she gone too far? Crossed a line? A vacation. How long were those, usually? What if...
“For the rice. ” Ikki rolled her eyes, refilled the cup, and dipped her fingers in. She cupped the pickled vegetable filling in rice and formed a tiny, perfect ball. “Where are you going? This is a picnic, right? Can I come?”
“No!” replied Korra, too quickly not to attract suspicion. “I— It’s... in the Spirit World. You can’t come.”
“Is Jinora— You’re blushing! Is it a date? Is that why I can’t come?” Ikki’s hands were on her hips. “Does my sister know about this? Jinora was smirking all night yesterday, and not telling me anything during the whole wedding, you know how Jinora loves not telling anyone anything, she’s cruel. Why are you up so early, are you in a hurry to leave? Did Meelo take the cookie jar?”
“Um, look…” Korra bent down and picked up something wrapped in cloth from her small backpack. “If I tell you where the cookies went,” she pointed at the rice disaster on the counter, “can you turn these into rice balls for me?” She grinned, offering Ikki a crooked plea.
Pema walked in with a yawn that turned into a very audible chuckle, Rohan on her hip. With stunning dexterity for someone with one free hand, she filled the kettle and put it on, clearly amused.
Ikki was not amused. “Does Mom know about this too? That’s so unfair . Korra, I’ll handle your lunch if you tell me who your crush is. Deal?”
Korra glanced at Pema, a soft panic in her chest.
“Ready to go?” said Asami in the doorframe, dropping a rather heavy looking backpack down against the wall.
Korra’s heart did a somersault. She had rice stuck between her fingers, a week’s worth of food to pack (was it a week?), an impertinent child to bribe, and a thousand butterflies in her stomach. Ready? How would she ever—
“JINORA! I KNOW WHO KORRA’S CRUSH IS!” yelled Ikki as she zoomed out of the window on an airball. Bolin and Opal’s giggles came in from the dining hall. Rohan clapped and tried to follow his sister in defenestration before Korra caught him by the seat of his pants. “NO AIRBALLS IN THE KITCHEN,” yelled Pema in a voice that was weary but never gave up.
Asami’s raised eyebrow and inquiring smile only exacerbated Korra’s growing alarm. Rohan, in her sticky grip, was now stuffing his face with the Avatar’s unsightly rice balls. She was losing her bearings. As a Spirit guide she’d have to be in control. This was a disaster.
Pema’s amusement turned to all out laughter. “Korra, why don’t you make tea for our guests while I handle… whatever this is.”
“We’re going on a vacation,” said Asami, matter of factly, as she navigated the Air Temple’s kitchen with familiarity. She measured out the tea leaves, precisely. “Two weeks.” Korra’s eyes widened. “I made sure the company would be taken care of.” Asami gestured vaguely at Republic City out the window. “We can really use a break.”
True, Republic City behaved like Korra’s cooking: it could never seem to hold itself together.
Asami vanished into the dining room with the tea kettle.
Korra closed her mouth, which, apparently, had been open. Startled into her own body, she activated, setting down the littlest air kid, opening cupboards, placing breakfast buns on a tray and throwing nuts and dried fruit at her bag. “Two weeks...” she said out loud. Vertigo overcame her, and she steadied herself with both hands on the counter.
She offered Pema her best imploring eyes. “Can you help, Pema? I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt Asami packed any food.”
The air acolyte beamed. “Don’t worry about it. You both deserve a break!” Korra’s relief filled the air around. Truth be told, she didn’t deserve the airbender family.
“Appreciate it!” replied Korra in an understatement. She headed out to join her friends in the dining hall, holding a tray loaded with leftover delicacies from the night before. She turned in the doorway to give Pema her widest grin of gratitude.
Twenty seconds after leaving, Korra’s head poked in again from the doorframe. “Um, Pema? Can you feed Naga for two weeks, please? Appreciate it!”