With a deep breath, Korra rested her head against the wall at the head of the bed and stared at the door. She needed to sleep, she hadn’t slept very well in days. Between spending the last few weeks in a swamp and then traveling with Tenzin’s kids to Zaofu, the world hadn’t given her much time to relax.
Needless to say, she was exhausted, and a bit overwhelmed to suddenly be thrust back into the day to day madness of the world. When she saw Jinora, Ikki and Meelo coming towards her on their bison, she knew it was urgent. They wouldn’t have come for her if it wasn’t, since Tenzin was always so adamant at giving her time to heal.
There was a difference with the poison gone, she could feel it. Her body felt lighter, more so than it had in years. Like she was no longer carrying around a bag of weights on her back. The Avatar State was back, she could feel the completion of her power and knew that if she needed it, those centuries of strength were at the ready.
Still, there was so much doubt in the back of her mind. Was she really resistant to Su’s plan of fighting Kuvira because it wasn’t who she wanted to be anymore? Or was it because she doubted her own ability to win that fight?
No. Korra shook the thought away. You’re better than that now. Fighting never did anything but cause more problems. Talk first, be reasonable. At least give Kuvira the benefit of the doubt.
Korra rubbed her eyes and stood up from the bed to unravel the wraps from her hands. It was hot out, the bedroom was thick with warm air and her green tank top stuck to her body. She needed water, she needed to clear her head and stop worrying about tomorrow.
Everything would be fine. She could talk to Kuvira, figure things out and then hopefully go back to Republic City and tell everyone to calm down.
Truthfully, she was a bit frazzled from all the excitement of the last few days. It was the most she’d talked or interacted with people in months. When she was hiding out and participating in underground earthbending fights, nobody really gave her a second look. Even Toph barely tolerated her, which was a bit annoying considering how much Korra had heard of Toph being supportive of the Avatar. But then again, she was the woman who gave birth to Lin Beifong.
Just as Korra finished unwrapping her hands and reached for the door, there was a knock on the other side.
Opening it, Korra found Ikki standing in the hallway looking at her with bright eyes.
“Hey you,” Korra said as she knelt down a bit. Ikki was taller than she remembered. Without even responding, Ikki threw her arms around Korra and hugged her. Tears burned in the back of Korra’s eyes as she wrapped her arms around the girl and smiled. “What’s this for?”
Ikki shrugged, still holding on. “I missed you and I just…I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d come and see you. Then when I got outside your door I was worried that maybe you left again, and I don’t want you to leave anymore because everything was less fun when you weren’t around.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Korra said as she pulled back and held Ikki at arm’s length. “I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. A lot of things to make right.”
There was a blush on Ikki’s cheeks now. “Are you talking about Asami?”
“Ikki,” Korra sighed. “I—I really don’t want to get into all that right now. It’s something I need to talk about with her.”
“Oh I know,” Ikki rolled her eyes. “We were given strict orders by Dad not to tell you anything about Asami.”
This made Korra frown. “What? Why not? Is she okay?”
“Korra,” Ikki groaned. “What did I just say? I can’t tell you anything.” Just as Ikki started to turn to leave, Korra grabbed her gently around the waist and picked her up. “Hey!”
“No, no, you can’t just drop something like that on me and then turn around and leave.”
“Nope,” Ikki shook her head defiantly. “I won’t do it. I won’t break my promise.”
Pursing her lips, Korra tapped her foot impatiently as she continued to hold Ikki in the air. “Alright, I won’t ask you anything but you have to tell me that she isn’t hurt or in danger. Otherwise I’m going to hold you up like this all night.”
Ikki stared at her for a moment and Korra thought that she might actually test that threat. However, a short while later she slumped her shoulders and grumbled. “She’s perfectly fine. I just know some things that Dad said she’s supposed to tell you, not me and not Jinora, not even Meelo. We were given direct orders.”
“Okay,” Korra put Ikki down but still couldn’t wrap her mind around the secretive nature of this conversation. Asami was the one person Korra thought about most while she was gone. Granted, Korra didn’t really feel like she had any right to pry into Asami’s life anymore. But she couldn’t help her curiosity. Ikki noting that she wasn’t allowed to tell Korra anything only made it worse.
“Oh,” Korra looked up to see Jinora stop dead in her tracks at the sight of her and Ikki. “Um, I was just…coming to check on you.” She blushed a bit shyly and put her hands behind her back.
Korra couldn’t help herself, she grinned widely and waved Jinora over. “I missed you guys.” Ikki hugged her again as Jinora raced up and joined them. Korra stood, taking both girls up with her for a platypus-bear hug before setting them down. “I promise guys; I’m not going anywhere.”
Jinora stared at the floor as her foot scraped across it. “It’s just weird being here without Dad and I’m glad we found you. I’m glad you’re okay.”
It was easy to forget sometimes that they were still so young. Even with the things they’d done at such a young age, the number of hardships they’d faced and how fast they’d grown into the airbenders they were now, they were still just kids.
"You guys want to stay in here with me tonight? Su gave me a gigantic bed.”
Ikki hesitated for a moment. She looked back at Jinora who pursed her lips slightly before staring up at Korra with a smile. “Okay! I mean…we can hang out for a bit.”
With a smile, Korra turned to the bed and before she could get in, Ikki and Jinora had raced around her and climbed under the sheets.
Korra laughed heartily before reaching down and grabbing at Ikki’s sides to tickle her. She squealed with delight as Korra moved her to the side, tickling all the while before climbing into the bed and scooting Ikki over so that Korra could put herself in the middle between them.
“Um,” a soft voice came from the doorway and Korra looked over with the other two girls to see Meelo standing there wide eyed and nervous. “You girls are making a lot of noise and it’s keeping me up!” He raised his voice with each word he spoke. Then he puffed out his chest. “I know you’re scared but we’re doing just fine without mom and dad and we need to toughen up.”
Jinora gently nudged Korra’s shoulder and gave a small smirk which Korra understood as ‘he’s covering’. With a dramatic sigh, Korra patted the bed. “Meelo, would you mind coming and staying with us tonight so we can all get a good nights sleep together?”
“Oh,” there was a flickering smile threatening to escape as he sauntered into the room. “I suppose!” He rushed to the bed, using a blast of air to lift himself up before falling down right in between all of them
It took them a few minutes to get settled but once they had, Korra was lying on her back with Ikki tucked against her right side, Meelo practically between her legs and Jinora lying away from her but holding her hand and already fast asleep.
Being around them again like this was more than Korra could have ever asked for. After spending a year alone, she missed the closeness and the feeling of sharing a bed with someone. Of course, it wasn’t Asami, and she mostly thought of Asami when she fell asleep all by herself. But this was enough for tonight.
Just as Korra was about to drift off, Ikki squeezed her arm and whispered. “Korra…I really like your hair.”
Her smile stayed until she found sleep.
The sounds of crying woke Asami. The darkness of her bedroom was marred only by the streaming light of the moon outside trickling in through the window. She smacked her lips and waited a few seconds for her muscles to catch up when she suddenly felt a huff of air against the back of her head.
Turning around, she was face to face with Naga who rested her nose against Asami’s shoulder. Before she could say anything else, another cry sounded from across the room and Asami was suddenly more awake.
“It’s your turn.” She muttered to Naga who responded with another puff of air into her face. She laughed and rubbed Naga behind the ear a few times before pushing down the blankets and standing up.
Even though she didn’t have to, Naga stood up as well and gently hopped off the bed to follow Asami towards the sounds of distress.
As she peeked over the crib, she saw this tiny ball of frustration thrashing and kicking. Tears were spilling down her cheeks and her cries echoed off the walls. However, as soon as Asami was in view, it all stopped.
“Really, Tsukiko?” Asami deadpanned with a smile threatening at the corner of her lips. “This is all you wanted? To see your mommy, awake in the middle of the night?” With a sigh, Asami scooped her daughter up into her arms and held her close. She checked to see if she was wet and glanced at the time on a dresser near the bed. “4:15. Well you made it longer than you did last night.” Asami said as she bounced gently with every stop she took.
It was every morning she had to carry Suki down the long halls of the mansion just to reach the kitchen, that Asami wondered if this estate was just too big for two people and a polar bear-dog.
After a good five-minute walk, including two sets of stairs, they finally found the kitchen and Asami glanced down to see that Suki was already fast asleep again in her arms.
“You’re such a brat.” Asami whispered as she kissed her baby atop the head and found a chair to sit down in at the table. Lifting her legs up, Asami rested them in another chair in front of her and stretched out. She sunk down a little deeper and found a more comfortable position to hold Suki. She ignored the stack of letters on the table, meant for later in the day and a pain she would deal with eventually. Asami felt her eyes drifting shut again until something poked at her side. “Naga,” she mumbled and opened one eye to stare down at her attacker. “This is perfectly fine.” She said and Naga nudged her again with her nose. “Ugh, I’m not going to drop her because I won’t really fall asleep.” Another nudge and Asami sighed before putting her legs down. “You know; you really need to loosen up mom. I’m not going to hurt your child.”
Asami got up from the table and cradled the sleeping Suki closer to her chest. She moved to the living room and found solace on the couch, Naga was still following right behind her but once Asami laid down, with Suki protectively placed between herself and the back of the couch, Naga relaxed.
It never ceased to amaze Asami how much Tsukiko looked like Korra. From the few baby pictures Senna had shown her, they were almost identical, save for the green eyes. Asami stroked her finger through Suki’s thin tuft of hair and wondered how she managed to survive before this little girl was in her life.
Suki had become her entire world. For the longest time, Asami assumed she would stay in the Southern Water Tribe forever. Until Tenzin had caught wind of trouble at Future Industries and that they were actively trying to contact her and bring her back into the fold. The decision was made then to return, and Future Industries was suddenly more than willing to be flexible to her schedule so long as she helped stabilize the company after it invested billions into a city wide transportation restructure plan that flat out didn’t work.
So Asami came home, five months pregnant and still feeling very lost. Senna had stayed in the city with her through the pregnancy along with Naga, and helped her explain to everyone that, yes, she was carrying Korra’s baby. And no, she had no idea where Korra was or if she was coming back.
She also had to explain to Bolin at least a dozen times that she didn’t know how it happened.
Asami had fixed the restructure plan, she held the big golden scissors and cut the ribbon on the new railway system. Then a month later, Suki arrived and her entire world got smaller.
Suddenly, she wanted to stay home every day. Working from home was ideal, and spending time with Suki was all she cared to do with her free time. Children had never really been a part of Asami Sato’s plan. She was never good with them and had no idea how to talk to them. She struggled with Tenzin’s children greatly and was merely polite but never sought out spending time with them.
But Suki was different. Suki was…everything. She was the first thing Asami thought of in the morning (mostly because she was always crying and waking her up) and the last thing to cross her mind before going to sleep.
Of course, the second thought she usually had was Korra. As the year progressed, Korra became less a source of angst and more of a good memory that Asami worried and wondered about. Nobody had heard from or seen Korra in over a year. There were scattered reports that would come through of random people spotting the Avatar all over the world. But no one ever had anything concrete.
Asami hoped they were true. She hoped that Korra was journeying and learning. Most of all, she just hoped that Korra had found a way to sleep at night and to enjoy her life again. To be the person she so desperately wanted to be.
She wanted Korra to be happy and maybe come back one day and meet her daughter. Even if she and Korra were never meant to recapture the love they once shared. Asami wouldn’t let herself open up that much again. She had too much at stake now to be careless with her heart.
At the sound of Naga snoring gently on the floor, Asami smiled and closed her eyes. Letting sleep take her again.
Asami sat in her study and flipped on her radio. When she’d returned to Republic City she had wanted a way to talk to Tonraq and Senna. While the radio she’d installed on Air Temple Island was great, it made sense to have one in her home considering how much of a chore it was to pack up Suki and take her on a ferry all the way to the island. So she’d put on in her home and every Saturday Tonraq and Senna would call her up and check in on everything.
Her relationship with them had been the one thing that kept her head above water during the lower points of finding out she was pregnant. She’d been so scared because Korra was gone and she was only twenty-two and it had all happened so unexpectedly. But they had been there with her, and had supported her through the long nights and morning sickness. When she was finally ready to return to the city, when she knew she wanted to raise her baby in her own home, they were supportive of that as well.
At the slight sound of fussing, Asami swirled her char around to peek over the crib railings and see that Suki was still fast asleep. After Asami woke up a few hours later on the couch she’d come in here to do some drafting work for improving a pet project of hummingbird suits that might be useful for repairs on larger machines like the airships. Not every worker would be willing to trust a harness in the middle of the desert only because they knew the Avatar was there to catch them if they fell.
Just as Asami’s mind started to slip into thoughts of Korra, the sound of her radio scratching pulled her away. She swiveled back and picked up the receiver, waiting for that familiarly comforting voice.
“Asami?” Tonraq said and she immediately smiled.
“Hi Tonraq, how are you?”
He exhaled slowly. “A bit tired, it was a long night, but it’s good to hear from you.”
“We can do this another time if you like?”
“No,” he said with a smile in his voice. “I know you needed to talk today given your plans. I’ll be alright for a little bit. Senna’s still in bed though, so she wanted me to tell you she misses you and one way or another we’re coming to see you and that little girl soon.”
A thankful smile pulled at the corners of her lips. “We’ll be happy to have you. Did you get the letter with the most recent pictures?”
“We did!” He beamed and Asami couldn’t help but laugh. “She’s got your eyes and I’m fairly certain she’s hit the jackpot and has my strong chin.”
This only made her laugh more. “Well I know it’s early, but I’m fairly certain she got your daughter’s pout too.” Even though they’d all accepted it, whenever Korra was mentioned the conversation always felt heavier. “Did Tenzin tell you he’s sent his kids out looking for her?”
“Yes.” Tonraq answered tiredly. “He let me know a few days ago that he was planning it. He seems to think Jinora will be able to track her down. I know she’s needed, but I just hope she’s okay. I hope she’s—“ His sentence trailed off and Asami answered for him.
“Whole again?” When he sighed across the line, Asami took that as his response. “She’s tough, Tonraq. She’ll be okay. It…it’ll be good to have her back with what’s been going on. If they find her it’ll…it’ll be good to have her back.”
“So you’re really going to see your father today?” Tonraq changed the subject, and even though talking about her dad was one of her least favorite things to do, this was a welcome transition.
“Yeah, I want to tell him to stop writing me. I stress over his letters so much and I just…I don’t have time for it. I can’t spend all day feeling bad when I get one. I have a daughter who needs me and with everything going on I know things are only going to get crazier.”
There was a slight pause as Asami waited for him to respond. “Are you sure that’s the only reason you’re upset? That it’s intruding in your life? Maybe you want to talk to him and that upsets you even more.”
“I don’t want to talk to him.” She didn’t. She had spent many nights thinking that it might be the best thing for her if she did talk to him, but the thought of even seeing him again was terrifying. “The man tried to kill me. I have nothing to say to him.”
“I know, Asami.” Tonraq spoke softly. It was obvious he didn’t want to match her rising tone. “But clearly he has something to say to you. It might serve you well to hear him out.”
“Tonraq, he’s a monster!”
Tears were gently spilling down her cheeks and she brushed them away. She glanced back at Suki’s crib and didn’t want to wake her. “I’m not saying you go there with any intention of forgiving him, but you need to tell him how you feel. Tell him to stop writing you if you want. Tell him how much he hurt you. Though I’m certain he already knows.”
“It’s not just me though,” Asami reminded him. In a way she was reminding herself too. “I don’t want him to know about Suki. For a lot of reasons.” She leaned forward and put her elbows on the table, resting her head in her free hand. “I don’t want him to think he has any obligation to see her. He doesn’t and he’s going to ask me about how she was born and I just…Tonraq I don’t even know how to explain that to myself. Let alone anyone else.”
This made Tonraq chortle a bit. “Well while I do not enjoy speaking on my daughter’s romantic life, I do believe it had something to do with the Spirit Oasis and her being the Avatar.”
Asami could remember when she’d first found out. That day Katara had told her and how angry she was. She screamed at Katara, called her a liar and ran out into the cold and the snow and just collapsed into tears in the midst of it. It was Senna who found her and helped her back to their house. They fed her, they calmed her down and talked to her, and they promised her they would support her no matter what.
She had been terrified. She asked them to find Korra, begged them to send out search parties for her. It was too much at the time; it had been so daunting. But Tonraq told her then what he’d told her each time she asked, what she knew the minute she read that letter months ago.
If Korra didn’t want to be found, they would never find her.
“I’m scared, Tonraq. I knew at some point I’d have to see him again but it’s really hard and I feel—“ So alone. That was what she wanted to say. But she knew if she did, he’d be on the first boat out. “I don’t owe him anything.”
“You don’t,” he assured her. “You do owe yourself closure though, if that’s what you want. Go talk to him. Tell him what you need to tell him and spend the rest of the night with your daughter.” The tears fell a bit harder as he spoke and Asami felt her confidence rising through his support. “Remember, he’s not the only family you have anymore, Asami. There’s Suki and…there’s us. We love you.”
The smile on Asami’s face was ear to ear. “I love you too. Both of you. Thank you. Go to bed now.” She teased and enjoyed hearing him laugh.
“I will. Good luck. Kiss that girl for us.”
“Twice.” She added before they said their goodbyes and hung up.
Pema had agreed to take Suki for the day, so Asami just had to prepare herself to see her father again. After all these years.
“Have you been out here all night?”
From her spot on the bench just outside where everyone was sleeping, Korra turned back to see Opal lingering behind her. She was still fully dressed in her air glider suit and looked exhausted.
Korra shrugged. “Just going over some things.” It was true. Korra had spent the rest of the night trying to convince herself that this wouldn’t be a fight with Kuvira. Su made a mistake. She had let her emotions get the better of her, and she made a mistake going after Kuvira. It was hard for Korra to interject much in these matters because she hadn’t been around for them. Korra knew she was stepping back into the fire with no idea where the flames were coming from. The truth was, Su had seemed like the one who was going too far. Kuvira had been quick to agree to a truce, after all.
Kuvira was just defending herself.
“You’re going to have to fight her, Korra. You have to stop her.”
“Opal,” Korra breathed. “It’s…not that simple.”
She heard a huff behind her. “Did she play you too?”
“What?” Korra quirked a brow back at Opal who had her arms crossed with a glare. “She didn’t play me.”
“Oh no? You wouldn’t know if she did. Bolin certainly didn’t.”
Korra frowned. “Bolin?”
“Didn’t you hear?” Opal seemed ready to burst, like she’d set up this conversation just to vent about it. “Bolin is a proud member of Kuvira’s army. He’s turned his back on me...on my family. He thinks her cause is justified. Capturing my family is not justified! There’s nothing right about what Kuvira’s doing.”
“I know her methods are a little harsh, Opal. But I don’t think she’s out to hurt anyone.”
Opal rolled her eyes. “She’s marching her giant army into every city in the Earth Kingdom and demanding that they surrender to her. How can you see that and not see what she’s doing?”
The words were harsh. Marching and surrendering were terms meant to dominate. But what Kuvira had done was re-stabilize the Earth Kingdom in her absence. She’d done the work Korra hadn’t been able to do for three years. Korra had spent those years away, and had been unable to help. What right did she have to come back and pretend she knew how to make this better?
“Opal, I promise you, I will fix this tomorrow.”
Suddenly Opal’s glare turned into a sad pout. “Korra, I don’t need you to fix it. You need to stop it. You need to take down Kuvira’s army.”
It was just so simple to everyone. Su had said the exact same thing.
Go into the Avatar state and destroy Kuvira’s army.
Did they really think that she was capable of that? Of fighting an army? Yes, she was the Avatar, and certainly she’d regained the Avatar state, but she was far from her best right now. She hadn’t fought anyone in three years. She had barely overcome the challenge of sleeping through the entire night or working through an oncoming panic attack by herself. These were the few victories that Korra had had in the last year.
With this in mind, the idea of standing up to an army seemed impossible.
Maybe I should have stayed gone. At least then I wouldn’t disappoint anyone.
Korra shook her head. She wasn’t a disappointment; she was just working her way back. And this madness was all coming so fast toward her. She couldn’t be pushed like this. Not yet.
Standing up, Korra stepped over to Opal and put her hands on her shoulders. She waited for Opal to look at her. “You have to trust me, Opal. If it comes to it, I’ll do what I have to tomorrow. But you heard Kuvira, Su broke the truce. I haven’t, and I won’t if I don’t have to.” She felt Opal start to pull away, and Korra held her steady. “Give me a chance to work this out peacefully. Please.”
“And if you can’t?”
She swallowed against the dryness of her throat. She was the Avatar, the last year had at least given her that back. “Then I’ll stop her.”