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don't wait and live it

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Korra's head spun and she wobbled in her chair precariously, gripping one arm as she held her drink in one hand and tried to not let it slosh over the sides of her glass.  Tahno and his teammates were ecstatic, far gone, much farther gone than she was, and well, she didn't blame them: she remembered what it felt like, to have her bending back, to feel those connections un-severed, when she barely even noticed them on a daily basis--to have a part of herself opened that thrilled and excited her beyond any physical measure, beyond what any adrenaline-induced rush gave her from bending, or the excitement she felt during a Pro-Bending match.

Her spiritual side, her connection to the spirit world, those chords she now felt and sensed inextricably as a part of her, she decided, were much, much more than she had assumed.

She remembered, too, what being without those connections felt, for those weeks after the fall of Amon's reign when they journeyed to the South Pole to seek out Katara and her master healing abilities, the empty pit when even Katara, her old Master, couldn't help, and then the unexpected thrill of seeing Aang, Avatar Aang, then all the other Avatars before her, before him, lending their strength to her, pouring into her in an endless torrent, and then suddenly feeling rent connections made whole.

She couldn't imagine being without them as long as they had.

"So, Avatar."  Tahno slid into the bench beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and leaning in closer than she would have liked.  "Now that I'm in your debt, I feel obligated to offer a round of those... private lessons again."

Korra looked at him, and looked at him, and saw the glint of what he really meant in his eyes, and shrugged his arm off her shoulder.  "Ask me that when you mean it sincerely."

Tahno made a face at her and stood, and his firebender teammate—Shaozu?—took that opportunity to sling an arm around his waist and pull him close, whispered something in his ear, and Tahno batted at him in a manner that Korra would call affectionate (especially since Shaozu dodged him easily and Tahno didn’t bother trying again).  Korra raised a confused eyebrow at them, not sure what to think, but Tahno kept looking at her with something unreadable, some ghost of that melancholy from the station, and she held his eyes unrelenting, keeping herself and her head steady through sheer force of will.

After a moment they left, Tahno allowing himself to be pulled and lead by his teammate back to the throng of people celebrating in Narook's.  She recognised a few of the girls from the time she had been here with Bolin, when Tahno had first challenged her, but most of the restaurant's patrons were fans of the team that she didn't know—not surprising, considering.

It was sometime later when Korra was picking at a bowl of noodles, considerably more sober, when she heard someone slide into the seat across from her and say, "We're eternally indebted to you, you know."

Korra whipped her head up and saw the Wolf-Bats' earthbender and she couldn't, for how much she tried, recall his name.  Her face must have showed something because he grave a wry smirk and held a fist to his chest and placed his other palm over it, bowing in his seat.  "Ming," he said.  "The team earthbender, again.  Thanks to you."

"Just doing my duty as the Avatar," Korra said, but bowed in return.

"No," Ming said, eying her curiously.  "No, if you were just doing your duty, you wouldn't be here right now.  You wouldn't have accepted Tahno's invitation."

Korra glanced away, remembering the imploring look in Tahno's eyes when he had invited her--The Return of the Wolf-Bats, he'd said, a party not to miss, everything on him, every fan, past and present, welcome.  The same look he'd given her when she'd promised to get Amon for him, in his name, take him down for the Wolf-Bats.

She had kept her promise, honestly.

Even if Tahno had barely crossed her mind since she had seen him go in for questioning with Beifong and Tenzin.

"I felt obligated," she said, eventually, looking back at Ming and stirring her noodles, hunger suddenly gone.

"Hm."  Ming sat back, crossing his arms over his chest and his legs under the table.  “I have to say, I am curious as to how you managed to get away from your entourage.”

Korra’s eyes narrowed and she glanced at him but didn’t say anything.

(Promise to Mako to be careful.  Promise to Tenzin to not drink anything.  Another promise to Mako to be careful.  Promise to Lin and Asami that yes, she did feel obligated, not pressured, into going.  Another promise to Mako to be careful.  Promise to Bolin to punch Tahno or razz him up or something.)

She felt a good enough portion of those had been kept, and took another slow, hesitant sip from the drink Tahno had insisted he (pleaded to) buy her.

They sat in amicable silence for a time, Korra finishing her noodles, Ming watching her contemplatively and turning down the occasional offer from Tahno or Shaozu to join back in the revelry.

"We misjudged you," Ming said, abruptly, and Korra turned back to him while he kept his gaze averted.  "We misjudged all of you.  And we paid for it."

"I don't think it was misjudging us that lead to Amon hijacking the tournament and taking your bending," Korra let out, and Ming snapped his gaze back to her, but she didn't back down or shy into her seat.

"No," he said.  "No, it wasn't, was it?"  He stood and bowed again, fully, this time, and looked her square in the eye.  "Next time we meet in the arena, I hope we'll be able to prove we're better than that."

Korra watched him turn and go, groaned as her head began to throb again, and went to find Tahno so she could punch him and leave.