"Can you come with me?" I asked, "I mean, it's a nice offer, but can you actually afford to?"
"Sure. I will have to come back to Republic City once in a while; I do need to make trips back from time to time, but it's hardly the first time I'll have run Future Industries from away from Republic City." Asami smiled.
"Then... yes, it would be nice to have you at the South Pole."
That evening, Asami and I said goodbye to Mako, Bolin, and our other friends, and boarded a ship bound for the South Pole. Because the two of us could hardly manage to both fit into my parents house, Asami rented a place for us not too far from where they lived, and we moved in there for the time being.
For the first few days, I didn't do much at all. I stayed there, and did basically nothing. I couldn't keep food down, so I didn't eat, and I didn't even try to sleep, I was too afraid of the nightmares. Asami, who had been taking care of me largely without putting any pressure on me to do much of anything finally tried to put her foot down on the third day.
"Korra. Look, I don't want to put too much pressure on you, but you need to do something to help you improve. We talked about you seeing Katara, I think it'd be a good idea to do that." She said.
"I don't want to. I've had people try to heal me, it hurts." I groaned, "Katara is the best healer, but it's not going to hurt any less for her doing it."
"But if you DON'T, you're only going to remain sick."
"Fine, I'll go." I said.
"Thank you." She legitimately smiled when I said I'd go.
The next morning, Asami wheeled me to Katara's hut.
Once she'd let us in, Asami left to go finish some work, and I asked, "Can you heal me?"
"If you get in the healing tank, I can see what I can do." Katara said.
She helped me out of the chair, and helped me into the healing tank. The water itself felt fine, but I cringed anyway. I knew it was going to hurt in just a moment. Sure enough, as soon as Katara began healing me, I could feel a new pain flare up throughout my body; the normal positive feelings I had when healing were still there, but barely noticeable beneath the incredible pain. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on hanging in there. The pain just kept increasing, and I had to call out for her to stop. She did, but the pain only slowly decreased.
I was pulled somewhere else in my head; I was chained to a wall. I was trying desperately to keep from going into the Avatar state. The cycle depended on it. I would not give up, even against this immense pain. And then I was somewhere else, still reliving things that had already happened. Amon was standing over me taking my bending; it hurt unimaginably much.
"I told you I would destroy you." He said.
I threw a punch, only to feel a new pain in my hand.
As the pain decreased, I opened my eyes again. I wasn't reliving the past anymore, which was important, but I was still scared. It took me a moment to remind myself that it was past, and I was still shaken. I could see where I'd punched the wall of the tank; luckily I wasn't punching as hard as I used to, so it hadn't broken any skin.
I was still hurting though.
"I have some good news and I have some bad news." Katara said, "The good news is that I can do a lot to help you. The bad news is that for the first few weeks it's going to hurt a lot. You've got serious nerve damage, and when the nerves come back, they'll hurt a lot. I can try to make it hurt less at any given time, and it should hurt less as you continue healing, but it will still hurt."
I frowned, "I can live with that, I think. I may have to be done for a while, this hurts very badly."
"That's good. Don't overdo it." Katara said.
I sighed. Overdoing it was what I did best, normally, but right now, I had no desire to deal with the flashbacks again. The pain was still present, although it was fading to some degree. Katara helped me back into my chair, and then wheeled me to the house before saying goodbye. I knocked on the door.
Asami came out the door, "Can she help?"
"Yeah, but... It hurts. A lot." I said, "I want to heal, but I'm not sure I'll be able to do much at any given time."
That night, I went back for a second healing session. This time, the session went a little longer, in part because Katara worked more slowly, giving me a chance to catch my breath when possible. Still, I didn't get that much more healing done. The nice thing was that Asami was at least waiting for me at the door.
That night, I had more nightmares. In my head, I was in republic City, in the narrow hallways in which I had fought Amon. He took my bending, and then, before I could even fight back, I was in a different place, with Raava no longer connected to me and being destroyed by Unalaq. Then, back in Republic City, watching the first time I'd seen someone's bending taken away, only it was scarier than the first time some how.
I felt something or someone touch me. I threw a punch, only to feel it connect, if not particularly hard.
I was drenched in sweat, and in a small room. The room I had been sleeping in, I realized, but I felt disoriented and scared. The only thing that felt at all familiar in the room was Asami, and I realized that I'd just punched her, especially given that my arm hurt as if I'd just tried to actually do something with it. She still had a hand rested lightly on my shoulder, so I probably didn't hurt her too much, but I wasn't sure how much of that was just for show.
"Sorry, sorry!" I said, a wave of guilt washing over me.
"It's alright, you weren't really conscious. Plus, you don't hit very hard in your sleep." Asami smiled, "Are you OK?"
"No." I admitted, "I'm scared and I'm in pain. I'm wide awake."
Asami nodded, "I'm sorry."
She patted my shoulder, as if she was uncomfortable.
Well, who wouldn't be uncomfortable? I thought, I mean, I'm broken, scared, and apparently I hit the people trying to take care of me.
I was fairly sure that didn't completely add up, but I wasn't really sure how, and it seemed about right to me at the time. I frowned, and said, "Hey, if I'm too much of a hassle, you can go back to Republic City. I understand if-"
"Korra, it's fine."
Asami stayed with me until I calmed down and fell asleep again. I managed to sleep for a couple more hours before I woke up again, in another cold sweat, after another set of nightmares.
She was there again.
I was grateful to have her there, but after a while, I felt kind of guilty.
"Thank you. You can go to bed now."
"Please. I feel really guilty about keeping you up." I interrupted
"Are you going to be OK?" She asked, fidgeting slightly with her hair.
"As alright as I'll ever be." I said.
She went back to bed, but I didn't go back to sleep. I lay in my bed for the next two hours, bored, but at least not terrified. Over the next several days, I fell into a routine where I ate little, slept less, and had two short, painful healing sessions each day.
At the beginning, I was optimistic; I WOULD get better, I promised myself. But as the days dragged on, I was growing less and less hopeful. Nothing seemed to be changing. After two weeks, I was feeling absolutely hopeless.
It all felt so fucking pointless. I was suicidal at this point; if I had been able to move much on my own, I'd have jumped off a cliff somewhere. Healing seemed to be doing nothing for me, eating was painful, I could do nothing on my own, and here I was, unable to even kill myself. I wished I'd died after the fight with Zaheer; killed him, left the Avatar state, and died.
I was in this head-space when Asami, her eyes filled with pain and pity, asked me if there was anything she could do.
"No." I said. I tried to keep the bitter anger out of my voice; I knew that it wasn't fair to HER to get mad. Still, I had no desire for her pity. I wanted to impress her again, for her to see me with eyes full of wonder. The pity was INFURIATING; it made me feel more worthless than I already did.
What was worse was the pain, though. I was a cause of her pain, and that hurt me.
If I was dead. I thought, nobody would hurt for me, not after a while. Sure, they'd hurt for a while, but they'd get over it, and I wouldn't hurt anymore either.
"You... could kill me." I said, I didn't expect her to actually do it, but it felt like any chance was worth it.
"No." She said forcefully. She wasn't pitying me anymore, at least. She was mad at me.
"Why not? Everything hurts! I can't sleep! Eating hurts! I can't walk! Fuck, I can't even kill myself. I have no agency, no privacy, I feel completely powerless. Living SUCKS." I yelled. Yelling hurt.
"But you are getting better." Asami said. That sounded almost like a statement of faith.
"I've been 'getting better' for two weeks. I can't wheel this chair twenty feet on my own. All that 'getting better' has done has been cause me more pain!" Yeling again, "Please. I want to die."
"Korra... no." She was crying. I averted my eyes, trying not to cry myself, "I can't. You know I can't. You know know it's not fair to ask me."
"Why can't you? I mean, no one else is going to." I didn't turn towards her; I didn't want to see the effects my words had on her.
She didn't answer immediately. I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and turned to look at her, "Look. I'm not making anyone else happy. You're constantly hurt or taking care of me or pitying me, and you're not doing the things you love back in Republic City. My family is constantly worrying about me, I'm taking up my father's time and energy from the Southern Water Tribe, which needs HIS leadership. The world needs it's Avatar, and I can practically feel the world around me falling out of balance, but I can't do anything. Katara, even, seems to pity me. It's not like anyone looking at me seems to think this life is worth living. If it were just the pain, I could probably handle it. But I feel like I'm failing all of you, or that I'm making you support me.
And... I can't do the things I used to like to do. I can't spar. I can't make you happy. I can't be a great Avatar. I can't spend time with my friends, or at least, not without making them sad. And it's not like I know for sure that I will get better. It's like, everyone else takes that on faith, but I have to live with the results, unlike the rest of you. I can't take that on faith. How am I supposed to feel? What do you want from me? To pretend that I'm happy?"
and... she was hanging her head, staring at her toes.
"See? Now you're guilty. Still not a good emotion, and here I am causing it." I said.
Finally, she met my eyes again, and spoke, "I'm sorry-"
I interrupted her, "Please. I don't want an apology. That's not what I want."
"Hey, I listened to you. Now will you listen to me?"
"Not like I have much choice, now do I? I can't exactly up and leave."
"If you want, I can take you to your healing session, and leave you alone. It's either that, or you can actually listen to me." She seemed angry.
"Fine, I'll listen." I said.
"First, I'm sorry. It's kind of selfish of me to focus on how this hurts me, and you're not wrong that I've been sort of doing that. Second, I'm sorry that I never really thought about how only thinking about 'getting better' put pressure on you and made it only seem like you're worth being around if you were better. I'm sorry about that.
But... Never ask me to kill you again." Tears were welling up in her eyes again. I was tempted to look away, but I was fairly sure that I would only hurt her more, "That's not fair to me. I care about you SO MUCH, I can't imagine doing anything like that to you."
I was crying now, too, "I'm sorry. It just sucks. It hurts, and it's kinda lonely. I really don't want you to not feel like you get to hurt; you get to have feelings to. This sucks for you, and I understand that, and honestly if it didn't it'd probably make me more uncomfortable. I just... want to stop feeling like I'm only causing you pain."
"I'm sorry I make you feel that way." She moved to hug me, but then hesitated.
I opened my arms as an invitation, and she hugged me. The warmth of actually being touched (in ways other than the nervous touch on the shoulder I'd dealt with recently) felt really, really, good. I felt a warm glow, and I couldn't help but smile.
"Thank you." I said, As she let go, my arms fell to my side. I balled one hand into a loose fist, as if trying to cling on to this good feeling.
"Honestly, I needed a hug as well." She smiled, "I'm really glad to see you smiling, it's been too long."
"I could say the same about you." I laughed.
"Let's get you to Katara for healing. We can talk more later, but you should actually go. At least let's get you as better as you can get." Asami said.
"Alright." I said.
The screaming pain from the water was the same as usual. I wished I'd invited Asami to be here to keep me company; I realized after a moment that I probably could have. Sure, she did work during this time, but she COULD do it during some other time, and this was probably when I needed her the most. For now, though, I held on to the memory of the hug and her smile, something positive to get me through the pain.
For the most part, it was enough. The pain was still getting worse, but it didn't bug me as much as usual. Eventually, though, the pain grew to be too much. I'd made it a longer than usual, but the fear was back, as were the flashbacks.
In my head, the poison was being bent at me, and I was chained to the wall. The pain stopped getting worse. There were two men and one woman standing around me. I was chained to the wall. I was sure I was going to die. I knew this wasn't real, but I was sure I was going to die.
As the metal poison entered my veins, I felt myself being lifted from the tank; Katara was waterbending me out, I reasoned, to avoid my flailing limbs. After a moment, the flashback passed, and I found myself back in reality.
I felt the pain slowly receding; still, it was some of the worst pain I'd felt in my entire life.
If I was less shaken, I might have been embarrassed; I'd been telling Katara when the pain got too bad since my first healing session set me off. The positive vibes from earlier were mostly gone, and I was honestly pretty miserable. I felt so tired and hurt and scared.
I asked Katara to take me home, and she agreed. Still, she only wound up taking me as far as the door.
Asami was waiting there at the door.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I was just... worried about you." She said.
"I'd say 'I'm fine', but I'm not."
"Korra, should I leave you with Asami?" Katara asked.
"Sure." I replied.
As Katara walked back into her house, Asami and I continued our conversation.
"So, what's wrong? Did something new happen? Are you alright?" Asami fretted
"I'm fine." I sighed, "I just didn't stop Katara in time to avoid another set of flashbacks."
"That's not good."
"No, it's not. On the other hand, I managed to deal with healing for a lot longer than before, so that's good." I smiled.
"That is good."
"Hey, would you be willing to be with me next time? It really hurts and you can be really comforting." I said.