Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra. Please direct all of your praise and awe to Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino. They deserve it far more than I ever will.
A/N: So here it is, the second installment of Leaves on the Breeze...but it's technically the first installment because it takes place in the first episode. And because I've rearraned my chapters to coincide with the order of the episodes...well, I've made a bit of a muddle of all this. So, for those who have stumbled upon this story, Leaves on the Breeze is a collection of oneshots that take place in-between the edits of the the episodes. Before each chapter I will include the episode title, characters, and a summary of when the oneshot is meant to take place within the episode, just to avoid confusion...so far I'm not off to a roaring success.
Anyway, I don't want to go on a ramble, I'll save that for the end of the fic, so let me just say that I would like to dedicate this story to every person, young, old and in-between, who have had to leave home and make their way out there in the real world. This story is for you and that first big goodbye we all have to say. It's often the hardest one we have to make, but that just means that the ones we're leaving behind have left an impression in our hearts, and we will carry them with us wherever we roam.
Episode: Welcome to Republic City
Character(s): Korra, Senna and Tonraq
Summary: Takes place after Korra escapes from the White Lotus compound but before she is outside of her parents' hut saying goodbye to them.
I'll Miss You
Tonraq turned his attention away from the spear he was repairing to watch his wife with a soft, gentle gaze, letting himself fall into a trance as he traced the movement of her hands while she sewed. He supposed he'd always been in love with her hands, ever since they first met.
Twenty years ago when he had been a proud and cocky youth of twenty-three, Tonraq had been on the losing end of a battle with a walrus-lion. Not only did his impulsive actions put his hunting party in danger and lose them their game, but he'd suffered three deep gashes to his chest, the blood loss effectively rendering him unconscious. When he'd finally come to, the first sensation his drug addled brain had registered was soft, wonderfully cool fingers tickling up and down his chest. Raising his arm, he'd captured one of those tiny healing hands between his large brown fingers. Opening his eyes, Tonraq had found himself staring at the most beautiful face in all of the Four Nations. The girl had been leaning over him, hair pulled back in a practical braid, her small face flush with concentration as she worked to heal his wounds, her eyes so blue it was as if the ocean had been captured in them. Feeling himself about to pass out again, Tonraq had managed to groan out a question. He'd wanted to know this girl's name. Even as the dark oblivion took him, his fingers going slack against her hand, he did manage to stay conscious long enough to hear her answer.
The rest, as the saying went, was history.
Tonraq and Senna courted, finding a mutual interest not only in various hobbies, but also in their waterbending. Tonraq was considered to be one of the most elite waterbenders in the South Pole, and Senna, a talented healer, was no sea-lion penguin when it came to handling a waterwhip. It was more often than not that one could find the young couple sparring on the glaciers rather than cuddling close around a fire and speaking softly, although they did share those quite moments as well.
Senna's hands had given Tonraq so much over the years. They healed him when he was hurt, made food from the game he would bring her, they pinched his arm when he annoyed her, and caressed his skin when lost in a moment of passion. When he asked, she gave him her hand, gladly, and a year after their marriage, it was Senna who first handed Tonraq the fussy bawling bundle that was their daughter.
"Is that for Korra?" he asked as Senna tied off the thread.
"Yes. I'll give it to her next week when we visit."
"I can't believe she's mastered firebending already," Tonraq sighed, his mind flashing back thirteen years ago to coming home and finding his home in complete disarray, Senna smiling patiently as she did her best to keep up with their rambunctious little Avatar. Those early years of Korra's life had been trying, and could have made bitter parents out of most, but Tonraq and Senna were a hearty and stable couple. If they could weather month long blizzards in one of the world's harshest terrains, then parenting an Avatar wasn't really that much of a challenge.
Besides, they loved Korra more than anything in the world, Avatar or not, she was their daughter.
For a few minutes more, Senna and Tonraq worked in silence. Tonraq had just decided to give up on repairing his spear when a few firm knocks at their door startled the pair from their concentration.
"Who could that be?" Senna wondered. "It's so late."
Setting aside his damaged spear, Tonraq moved to bend the ice door away from the entrance of their hut when the person outside did it instead, inviting themselves in. For a moment, Tonraq's reflexes had him reaching to the water bladder at his waist, but Senna's delighted chuckle gave him pause, and that was when he noticed the familiar wolftail atop the intruder's head.
"Korra," Tonraq sighed, moving to join in wife in welcoming their daughter home. They wrapped Korra up in the warm cocoon of their arms, relishing the feeling of having their little girl with them again. Due to the importance of her final firebending evaluation, Korra's training regime had been intensified, so much so that Senna and Tonraq had not been able to visit their daughter in nearly two months.
"Hi mom. Hi dad," she said sheepishly as they cuddled.
"Oh my spirits, you've gotten taller," Senna gushed, running her hands along Korra's face fondly. "Honey, what are you doing here?" she asked when the three broke apart.
"Um…" Korra stuttered, her eyes flitting around the hut, "I just missed you guys. I wanted to visit," she said, the tone of her voice carrying an unconvincing passivity that completely failed to mask the guilt underlying her words.
Korra had never been a good liar.
Tonraq and Senna exchanged concerned knowing glances. While they might not have been able to raise her in a traditional manner, they still knew when something was bothering their daughter, and they especially knew when she was trying to hide something from them. Korra had many tells when she was working her way through a fib. She tended to fidget on the spot, her eyes darting everywhere but at them. She would chew on her bottom lip and stutter as she spoke, all of her confidence and bravado dripping away like ice under the sun. She was resorting to all of her nervous ticks as she moved further into the main room of the hut.
"Have a seat, dear. Do you want something to eat?" Senna asked.
"Actually, mom, I'm not staying long," Korra answered, her fingers fiddling in the locks of hair that framed her face, staring with keen focus on a wall hanging she had once scorched as a child.
"Why the rush?" Tonraq asked.
Korra didn't say anything for a long time, tapping her toes and chewing on her bottom lip as she tried to confess what she had come to tell her parents. Ever patient, Tonraq and Senna waited for their daughter to collect her thoughts and speak.
"You got my letter about me passing my firebending tests?"
"Yes," Senna said sweetly. "We are so proud. Your father was telling all the neighbors."
"Senna," Tonraq groaned, embarrassed. His wife ignored him while Korra blushed, once again shifting her eyes guiltily.
"Well, now that I'm a master firebender that means I get to start on my airbending training. It's the last element I need to learn before I am recognized as a mature Avatar."
Senna and Tonraq nodded. They knew all about Korra's training, the harsh drills and tests she had had to endure for the last ten years. It had saddened the couple that they were not permitted to teach Korra waterbending, nor were they even allowed to live with her in the White Lotus compound that was secreted away in the glacial mountains of the Antarctic dessert. Korra was their only child, and it was heart wrenching to be forced away from her, but these were the sacrifices necessary for their daughter's success and safety.
The world had already lost the Avatar once and it nearly burned for it. Such a travesty could not be permitted to happen again.
"So you're a master firebender. Does that mean that Master Tenzin will be moving to the compound soon?" Tonraq asked.
"Actually, he already came," Korra said conversationally.
"So?" Senna asked eagerly, "When do you begin airbending training?"
"Well, see, that's why I'm here."
A sudden somberness filled the little hut. Tonraq and Senna watched their daughter as she struggled to confess her news, pursing her lips, swallowing hard, fighting back tears, breathing deeply as she grasped onto the last threads of her strong poise. The only other time they had seen her act this way was on the day the White Lotus sentries and Master Katara came to move her to the compound.
"You see, Tenzin can't exactly move to the South Pole right now," the teenager began. Her parents stood before her, confused.
"How long do you have to wait until he can move here?" Tonraq asked.
"That's the thing," Korra answered, chuckling mirthlessly, "Tenzin doesn't think he'll be able to move down here for a long time."
"How long is long?"
"But, what about your airbending training?" Senna exclaimed. "He's the only airbending master in the whole world. He has to teach you!"
"And he's going to," Korra affirmed.
"But you just said –"
"I'm going to live with him," Korra finally said, rushing to get the news out quickly. Tonraq and Senna were stunned into silence, the weight of Korra's announcement lying like a heavy smoke in the room.
"But I thought you were supposed to stay in the compound," Tonraq said, "where you could be protected while you trained."
"I'll be fine, dad," Korra assured.
"Where are you going?" Senna asked.
"Republic City. I'll live with Tenzin and his family on Air Temple Island while I train."
"But I thought Republic City was too dangerous for you right now," Tonraq argued, regurgitating the same arguments that the White Lotus elders had been spewing at Korra for years.
"Tenzin says I'll be fine," Korra bickered back, her temper overshadowing her guilt for lying. "He thinks I'm ready."
"And where is this Tenzin?" Tonraq demanded coolly, crossing his arms over his brawny chest, the tight muscles of his arms straining against the sleeves of his tunic. "I'd like to have a talk with him."
"You can't!" Korra cried, rushing to grab her father around one of his arms before he could march to the door.
"Yes I can," Tonraq stated matter-of-factly.
"No, you can't," Korra sighed, defeated. She dropped her hands from Tonraq's elbow and lowered her chin in shame, playing nervously with a lock of her thick brown hair. "He's not here."
"Where is he?" Senna asked, laying a comforting arm over Korra's shoulders.
"My guess? He's halfway back to Republic City by now. He left almost two days ago," Korra whispered honestly.
"But why did he leave you behind? If he's going to train you in Republic City why didn't he bring you along?"
Closing her eyes, Korra searched for strength. Although she had grown up away from them, although she had many other parental figures in her life, although she couldn't claim to having a normal childhood with a doting mother and father guiding her along, this man and woman were still her parents. She loved them and she wanted to make them proud.
And to do that, she needed to realize her own destiny as the Avatar.
She needed to follow Tenzin to Republic City.
"Tenzin," Korra started, looking first at her mother then settling her clear aqua gaze on her father, "doesn't exactly know that I'm coming."
"You're running away!" Senna exclaimed.
"Yeah, I guess I am," she admitted bluntly.
"Korra," Tonraq began again, his voice low and commanding, the same tone he used when he led a hunting party into the wild. "Did you even stop to think about what could happen to you? Running away? You're just a kid!"
"I'm the Avatar!"
Tonraq was leaning low over Korra, his nose nearly brushing hers, identical frowns marring their sharp features as neither cowed to the other, hands on their hips and legs spread wide as they held their ground. If the situation wasn't so tense, Senna might have laughed. Ever the calm one in the family, Senna gently pushed her husband and daughter apart, letting them catch their breath, letting them find some calm, before moving to stand beside Tonraq.
"You're not leaving this hut," Tonraq said. "You'll stay here while I go to the compound and tell the White Lotus where you are."
"You can't stop me from leaving, dad," Korra insisted, managing to keep her temper in check.
"Then why did you come here?" he demanded.
"Because I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye."
Taken aback, Tonraq felt his ire calming just slightly, the sight of his daughter furiously wiping away at the stray tears that were beading in the corners of her eyes breaking his heart. Unable to fight against the overwhelming compulsion, Tonraq pulled Korra into a firm hug, one large hand moving to cup the back of her head and hold it tenderly against his chest over his heart. Korra returned the embrace, squeezing her father tightly, not wanting to let go, knowing that it would be so much longer than a few weeks or even a few months before she got to hug the man again.
"I couldn't leave and not see you guys one more time," Korra explained quietly. "I know that I haven't lived with you in a long time, that all this Avatar stuff has gotten in the way of us being a normal family, but I love you and I'll miss you while I'm gone."
"You don't have to go," Tonraq countered gently.
"Yes I do," Korra insisted, moving her head so she could look her father in the eye. "I can't stay hidden away anymore. The Avatar is supposed to serve the world, but what kind of an Avatar will I be if I haven't even left the South Pole in my entire life? I've spent seventeen years listening to other people tell me which road to take in order to become a fully realized Avatar. It's time I take my own road, the one I want to follow."
Tonraq kept silent, listening to his daughter's convictions, her sincerity shining like a little fire in her eyes, burning him. He didn't like that she was leaving. He didn't like that she was going on her own. He didn't like that neither he nor Senna could go with her.
He didn't like that his little girl wasn't so little anymore.
"Does anyone at the compound know that you left?" he asked, releasing her from their embrace.
"Katara does. And she agrees with me. She actually helped me sneak out," Korra answered, forever grateful to the old waterbending master for helping her to bend a tunnel under the compound and then collapsing it after Korra and Naga had safely escaped.
"And how are you planning to get to Republic City, exactly? Naga can't swim the whole way."
"Trading ship," Korra answered. "I know one will sail out in a few hours, which means I have to leave soon."
Tonraq knew which ship Korra meant. Earlier that afternoon he had traded several pelts for some linen, fresh fruit, oil lamps, lumber and a few yuans with one of the merchants that sailed with the vessel. Without a word, Tonraq left the main room and retreated to his and Senna's chamber.
Crushed at her father's disappointment, Korra turned to her mother and found the little woman smiling sadly.
"I'm sorry, mom."
"Don't worry about your father," Senna soothed, moving to grab the anorak she had just completed before Korra's unexpected arrival. "Here, take that old one off."
Obeying, Korra quickly changed, her hands running over the soft, lovingly crafted fur coat, admiring the rich blue dye and the snuggly snow white trim on the hood and sleeves. It would keep her warm while she was away, like having her mother's arms wrapped protectively around her. Leaping into her mother's embrace, Korra hugged Senna so forcefully that she lifted the small woman off the ground. Senna giggled, although her laughter was flecked with sadness, and kissed Korra on the check. Tonraq reentered the room then, his heart clenching painfully again as he looked at the two most important people in his world.
"Take this," he said, breaking up mother and daughter and placing a strand of coins into Korra's hands. Korra held up the twine that kept the yuans linked together, the firelight catching in their shiny surface. "There's a deckhand who works on that boat, his name is Kodac. I grew up with him. Tell him you're my daughter and give him the money. That should be enough to buy last minute passage for you and Naga to Republic City. You won't be traveling first class, but you should be comfortable. I'm sorry I don't have more to gi –"
"It's perfect, dad," Korra said, jumping up to grasp her father by the shoulders. She pulled herself up and kissed him on the cheek, memorizing the way his coarse whiskers felt against her lips, how warm his skin was and how he smelled of smoke and oil. "Thank you."
"Come on," Senna said, "we'll walk you out."
Huddled between her parents, Korra let their warmth permeate into her skin. She wanted to soak up all of their kindness, and patience, and sacrifice, and love and carry it with her to whatever corners of the Four Nations she found herself in.
Because she would miss them, every day that she was gone.
She would miss them terribly.
And now for that ramble I promised.
So, I don't know why the idea appeals to me, but I think Korra is a Daddy's Girl. I also think she might take after Tonraq, which is why I gave the two similar characters in this fic. Also, due to the newest clip that Korranation has issued, I happen to believe that Korra is a deplorable, but hilarious, liar.
There was definitely some author/character projecting happening here. I'm a bit of a Daddy's Girl myself, and when I went to grad school and had to move away to a new city all by myself, I balled like a baby when I had to say goodbye to my parents. In fact, I recall lamenting to my new roommates that I had been abandoned in this strange new city (I may have been just a touch of a drama queen), but then we discovered a kick-ass sushi place and later a great little pub that had amazing live music, and suddenly, this new autonomous life didn't seem so scary anymore. I've sinced moved to and from my parents' home four times. Each time I say goodbye to them it gets a little easier, but that doesn't mean that it's something I like doing. It's hard to leave those we love behind, and it's harder still to make a living for oneself in a world that sometimes feels too big, too small, too loud, too fast, and all we want is to feel safe.
Because that's what mom and dad's do. They make us feel safe, and whether you're a guy, girl, a millionaire or a vegabond, or even the Avatar, sometimes, all you want is to just feel safe.
Please leave a review and let me know what you think!