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tide after tide

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Nights on Air Temple Island are cold and lonely. There’s something about the way the wind plays through the airbending gates and on over the bay that makes Asami feel more alone than she ever has in her life—not that an empty mansion with a widower father was anything close to togetherness, but even though she’s living in a house with eight other people, the feeling of having no true family is something that can’t just be shaken off. Tonight she’s watching the moon drift full over the water, the flickering gold of Republic City’s nightlife still awake long past midnight.

A hand finds its way to the shoulder seam of her nightgown, and in the corner of her eye Asami catches a flash of brown skin and blue eyes. The Avatar is a heavy sleeper on most nights, at least. “Asami,” says Korra, as her hand ghosts awkwardly down the taller girl’s waist. “Have you seriously been out here all night? Are you—are you okay?”

Asami bites back the pang of apology that rises in her throat, jerks her hand up toward the moon, the shining water. “I’ll be okay.” The words unspoken hang between them and she tilts her head up to the moon, trying to pretend that she doesn’t know anything. That she doesn’t know about the lairs of the Equalists, deep under the golden halls of Republic City; that she doesn’t know that the future of all benders is in danger; that she hasn’t seen the blatant sexual tension erupting and eddying between the Avatar and her own boyfriend.

And most of all, that she doesn’t know that her father is now the enemy.

“There’s an old tale about the moon, you know,” Korra is saying, and Asami jerks her head away from the glowing orb to flash a glance at the other girl’s face. “Katara told it to me once when I was small.”

“My mother used to tell me fairy tales.” Her voice sounds old and hollow now, the sharpness of consonants leaving warped echoes in the air between them. “About how the moon was lost during the war and a princess gave her life to save it.”

What Korra says next catches her completely by surprise. “It’s true,” she explains, almost flippantly. “Katara knew her during the war. She was Water Tribe, actually. Northern.”

The pause in which Asami tries to process this information is too long for any normal conversation.

“I didn’t—”

“Just—”

“Sorr—”

“You go first,” she manages to spit out, still keeping a lingering glance on the moon. Maybe if she stares at it long enough she’ll be able to fade away.

“I miss my parents,” says Korra.

“I miss having a family,” says Asami right afterward, and suddenly the moon is gone and her face is pressed into the deep heady scent of the Avatar’s coat and their arms are tangled up and there are tears welling in her eyes.

“I miss having a father who I thought was good and a home in Republic City and thinking life could turn out to be fair,” she half gasps and half sobs into Korra’s shoulder. And she misses having peace in her life: racing satomobiles against the fastest drivers in the city, probending matches and noodles afterward, candlelit dinners with cute boys. Instead the fur-wrapped arms just pull her tighter until she can feel against her ribcage every breath that Korra takes, the steady in and out lulling her to something remotely resembling calmness.

The wind plays tuneless lullabies on the bay and Asami remembers a ghost of a memory: diagrams and lines of calculations in her father’s study, explaining how the moon pushed and pulled the sea, tide after tide. Something inside of her falls empty and when she finally grasps for consciousness her fingers find purchase in the thick dark bundle of Korra’s ponytail. In a flimsy silk nightgown the breezes blowing off the bay are cold, but the Avatar is warm.

The gnawing feeling of loneliness flickers for a moment, and she sighs against the spicy scent of Korra’s hair.

“It has to be okay.” The whisper is hot against Asami’s ear, and she presses herself against Korra’s body and wishes she could believe the words as truth.