Hey everyone! Thanks to lovely reviewers. Love knowing there are other Amorra shippers out there! :D And yes, this is a WIP, there will be more.
Bandle, Valkyrie Evans, chaoticcalm, theMidnightRainfall, Bearforce1, moor, Snowmiddy, Alkhemy Flynch, Kimiosiki, and Domenic. MUAH. Love yewz.
Hope you like ch. 2 - aaand up go the stakes...
They are all around her.
The red circles on their foreheads seem to glow like sinking suns. The slits in their masks are impenetrable; the beige and white designs are tribal paint. And the voices. A swirl of them. Male, female, young, old – their combined texture is a tapestry of hatred.
You've failed, Korra.
You have so much left to learn.
You have no idea what's coming next.
One of the voices is his.
But behind the crowd of masks, she can't tell who – she can't tell which – she can't –
She sits bolt upright, and the back of her head slams into Bolin's cheekbone.
"Ow! Oh Spirits, ow, ooh, ow." He reels back, his feet doing a jig of agony in midair.
"Sorry! I'm sorry," she says, wiping the sleep from her eyes with a splatter of sweat. The world bounces a little with Naga's strides.
It's been a while since she's fallen asleep on Naga's back. But this exhaustion is exquisite, blurring the lines of the world into a hazy impression.
"It's okay," Bolin says, rubbing his cheek mournfully.
Mako nods. "We're almost back, anyway. Get a good night's sleep, Korra."
In a minute, Naga stops, letting the two boys off. Korra waves, hoping Bolin's face is okay. Spirits know she has a hard skull.
Korra yawns and covers it with the back of her hand. Nice of Mako to tell her to get a good night's sleep – or as nice as Mako ever is, she supposes. The concern in his eyes was more telling than anything else, anyway.
She assumes it'll be pretty much impossible not to get a good night's sleep, what with her drooping eyelids and heavy-feeling limbs. When she finally slips into her bed, though, the exhaustion she's felt for the last hour is nowhere to be found. Korra stares at her wooden ceiling, shifting in her sheets, pulling her hair away from her sweating face.
Dammit, it's that thought.
what are you doing convincing yourself you've won?
She sits up, her face creased in rage. She has won. Without Amon – without the Equalists' figurehead – the movement will sink like a punctured zeppelin. What is he doing, trying to convince her his ideals still have a chance?
The remembrance of his voice slinks up her spine like a scorpion's claws. She can't resist shuddering, and she hates herself for it. He's gone. The threat is gone.
All that's left is her irrational fear.
I am not afraid.
Korra throws her sheets from herself and stands up. Naga whines in the corner, shifting.
"It's okay, girl," Korra says. "Go back to sleep."
If she can't make herself sleep, then hell, she'll force her body to shut down. Korra drops to the floor and regrets it as soon as her arms take her weight. She's already done so much exercise today, and she can feel its vestiges. The impact of earthbending in her legs, the pull of firebending in her biceps – and dammit, the strain of airbending throughout her every muscle. She wasn't built to move like an airbender.
She grits her teeth and pushes herself up. Lowers herself. Pushes herself up.
Sweat drips off her eyelashes. Come on, Korra.
She lifts one hand behind her back and lowers herself halfway to the ground. Her deltoid screams.
Her arms quiver, chocolate saplings under far too much duress.
Five minutes pass before she collapses. Her eyes droop, but her lips manage a smile. Another victory. So tired…
You can't stop me from living my life, Amon.
She falls asleep right there on the floor. Naga pads over and curls around her, surrounding the Avatar with cushion-soft fur.
In that moment – the moment of falling asleep – everything is bliss.
Four hours later, she wakes up screaming.
"All right," she says, and shuts the door so hard that the bare bulb above flickers and sways. "Tell me. Tell me what you were talking about!"
"My my, Avatar." He's sitting cross-legged past the bars, as if he was waiting for her. Maybe he was. "I sense some impatience. Isn't it a little late for you to be awake?"
"Get to the point. You said you had more plans. Who's involved, and what are they going to do? Spill. Now." She stays back from the bars, her heart thudding with alarming power. Being this close to him when he's not restrained – even with this metal barrier separating them – is making her nerves go haywire.
His mask turns up to face her. She hears half a smile in his silky baritone. "Give me an incentive to say a single word."
She yanks a fist downward, and a flame ignites atop her knuckles. "This enough of an incentive for you, scarface?"
"As if I haven't felt pain before," he says, and she can hear the mirthless smile widening, adorning his words. "As if I haven't been subjected to the cruelty of the privileged."
"I'm not privileged just because I was born a bender."
He stands in one fluid motion and approaches the bars. It's all she can do not to back away.
"By your logic, your friend, Ms. Sato, is not privileged just because she was born rich," he says. "And by your logic, seventy years ago, a man was not privileged simply because he was born a man."
"What are you talking about?"
"Inherent inequality does not make the inequality any less condemnable, and the desire you have to flaunt your power only proves my point."
Anger flares in Korra's fingertips. She extinguishes the fire and forces herself toward the bars. "I'm here to bring balance to the –"
"I've said this before," he whispers. Despite herself, she falls silent. "You've failed. Oh, Avatar, your potential is unrivaled. Your very reason for existence is to keep this world in order. But you've failed, as the Avatar before you failed. As long as the whisper of inferiority spreads throughout this city like a virus – as long as oppression roams unchecked – you will have failed."
Korra can't say a word for a second. She can't even breathe. And when words do finally trip to the tip of her tongue, she can't believe she's saying them: "It's not my fault."
His mask bows slightly. The bulb overhead casts that face in deep relief. "Oh, but it is," he says. "I see you, Korra of the Southern Water Tribe. I see every facet of your personality, for you are painfully simple. You would rather smash a problem until you can't see it anymore than dig it up at the root. You would rather focus on the external appearance of this city than drill to the deep wellspring of its discontent. … And that is why you will never solve the problem. That is why you are doomed."
She doesn't want to understand what he's saying. But she does.
"And you'd solve the problem by taking away everyone's bending, huh?" she says.
"If you give a man a gun, he will use it," Amon whispers. He looks up at her, and their eyes lock. "The solution is not to attempt some feeble prevention through disapproval. The solution is to take that gun from his hand and destroy it. As long as inequality exists, it will be a threat. That is a guarantee, as undeniable as the existence of bending itself."
Korra shakes her head. Takes a step toward him. "I will bring balance to the world," she says. "I am gonna fix things."
"You underestimate the power of resentment and hatred. People detest you, Avatar Korra. People would give their lives to stop what you stand for. They already have, in fact."
"Who are you to say what I stand for? Who are you to –"
"I am a message," he breathes down at her. "I am an idea."
"No," she says. "You are a sad and bitter man, and I'm not afraid of you."
He chuckles. The noise rings through the dark and prickles against the back of her neck, an icy and commanding hand. "If you weren't afraid of me, you would pull these bars aside. You would put away your water, your fire, your lightning, your stone. You would face me without the guard of the Spirits' blessing."
"I would do that if you wouldn't take my bending away as soon as you got the chance, you sick freak!"
"And if I were to promise not to?"
She scoffs loudly, half because the suggestion is ridiculous and half because she's afraid he'll hear her pounding pulse. Korra has never backed away from a challenge in her life, but this … "I'd be an idiot to believe any promise you made," she says.
"When have I ever broken a promise?" He's up against the bars now, the shoulder of his uniform pressing against the metal. She can't imagine how he can stand this temperature in that outfit, the hood drawn over his head, everything covered except his hands.
She searches for an answer. He keeps promises, no doubt about that. When he promised to hold a rally on Avatar Aang Memorial Island, he did, even when word got out about it. Even when a hundred metalbenders showed up to capture him. And he wriggled out of their clutches, of course…
"I give you my word now, but it doesn't matter. You're too ashamed to rise to my bait," he says. "You're ashamed that you couldn't last sixty seconds against me without bending. It's becoming apparent to you that my opinions on inequality are far more than opinions – they are fact, and you're ashamed, on a deep, basal level, that you're perpetuating that inequality by your mere existence. You're ashamed that non-benders feel inferior, and that benders take advantage of it. And with this shame comes guilt, Avatar Korra. It is why you can't sleep, and it is why you stand before me now. The guilt is why you feel choked when you see this face of mine, when you hear word of an Equalist brought down –"
"Shut up," she says.
"It is why you've plumbed the depths of your painfully shallow self-doubt, why you've had to come to terms with the fear you try to deny –"
"It is why you want to rend these bars and stand before me like an equal, because the guilt makes you want to prove it to yourself – and you want to prove it to me! – that you can hold your own, but you and I both know that you cannot –"
"STOP IT!" she explodes, and she steps forward –
Wrenches the bars wide –
And then he is upon her, all rough cloth and tough fingers and she is back-against-the-door –
"Oh, Avatar Korra," he murmurs. "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there is hope for you."
Her eyes glare up at him, two hard diamonds, and something deep in her believes his promise. Even as his hands grip her shoulders, as the breath from behind the mask tickles her forehead. He won't take away her bending, and she doesn't know why.
She curls up her fingers, and the bolt in the door slams shut. Locks them in.
His words are so soft she feels them in the top of her skin. Shivering. Spiraling. "You've lost this round," he says.
"If you're waiting for me to concede my defeat," she snarls, "you're gonna be waiting a long time." And she ducks out from his grip. He whirls around, grabs for her, but she evades again.
He doesn't chase her further. He leans against the stone wall, folds his arms. "Will you fall back on your crutch? Tempting, isn't it, to use a weapon your enemy doesn't have?"
Her fist falters from the base earthbending stance. Yes – that was exactly what she was going to do.
But it doesn't matter. She's the Avatar – why should she restrict her own bending? What the hell is he doing with his words?
She grits her teeth and punches forward. An arm of rock thrusts itself from the wall, sending Amon's body staggering back through the bars.
Korra pulls the metal back into place. "I don't know what you're trying to do," she says, injecting as much strength as she can into her voice. "You're going to tell me what your plan is."
"So we're back to square one," he says, rubbing his back. There's a long silence. He seems to consider her demand. "I'll make you another promise, Avatar."
"If you come back tomorrow night, I will give you one of five hints to my next initiative."
Her lips purse together. "Fine," she says. "I don't know what you think you'll get out of it, but I'll be back here in twenty-four hours. Be ready."
Another coarse chuckle rubs up the skin of her shoulders, the ghost of his grip. "I am always ready for you, Avatar Korra."
She doesn't want to leave, because turning her back makes her feel like she's fleeing. And she isn't fleeing.
She will never run from a challenge.
She slams the door behind her.