warnings for this chapter: dubcon femdom. yeah you heard me aaaw yeah.
so uh...tell me what you think maybe? I love getting god reviows.
Asami looked a bit thinner than before, wrapped in a bomber jacket and shivering, her hair tied up elegantly. She seemed nervous and sad, and when Tenzin stood back and stammered, revealing her to Korra, Korra looked just as shocked as he did.
"Asami," she said quietly. Her face contorted into a look of childish misery, and she ran forward, embracing Asami gruffly. "Asami, how did you get out? How's Bolin, is he ok, is he…oh Spirits Asami did they do anything to you? I swear they better not have hurt you-"
"Korra-" Asami started, but Korra continued to blather, "I'm sorry I didn't protect you, I never wanted you to get into any of this-"
"Korra," Tenzin said patiently, as Korra shook Asami tearfully. "Let Asami speak."
She stopped, she let go of her friend and stared at her hopefully.
"Korra," she began again, "I'm OK. Listen…they tried to brainwash me. I think they might have…brainwashed Bolin too. I got away once they were convinced I was trustworthy. I couldn't think of anywhere else to go, I'm sorry."
"You can cry, Asami, it's ok," Korra said desperately, and Asami looked at her with a soft expression, as though Korra was the one she pitied right now.
"It's ok, Korra. I got all my crying out already."
Asami smiled at her. She wasn't wearing makeup anymore, Korra noticed, but she was still beautiful.
Tenzin ushered them inside, away from the cold.
The next day, Asami was reintroduced to Mako and Tahno. Mako's first instinct was to hug her and apologize a thousand times, something Korra recalled him having done to her as well, but without the hug. She realized she wasn't even jealous at this point. Korra wanted Asami to be happy, and Asami looked happy- everyone looked about ten times happier with her back too, with the exception of Tahno, who was acting rather bitter.
"What is wrong with you?" Korra asked him during the afternoon, while he practiced his swordsmanship as usual. "Can't you be happy for her? She escaped a horrible equalist prison, Tahno!"
"That's exactly what I'm worried about," Tahno said resentfully, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his air-acolyte-in-training clothes. The other Acolytes were rather baffled by Tahno at this point, and mostly left him alone. He did most of his duties on top of his obsessive need to learn self-defense, so no one could really complain.
"So you're not going to trust her because of what she's been through?" Korra exclaimed. Tahno lunged forward, away from Korra and at some invisible enemy, and then slowly adjusted his position and repeated the process.
"That's exactly it," he said simply, and Korra groaned and left him balancing there, a frustrated look on his own face while she stormed off towards the main building.
"You're just jealous, Tahno, I swear!" she shouted behind her, not caring to look at his reaction.
Korra entered the hall where Mako usually could be found reading, overhead his voice and stopped just outside the doorway, not wanting to interrupt the conversation.
"You're sure he's ok?"
"I am, Mako. I saw him myself. He's…"
"He almost seems happy," Asami said, so quietly that Korra almost didn't catch it. "They've been taking care of him since his injury."
The sound of something knocking over- a teacup, perhaps, and Mako swore loudly.
"I'm sorry, Mako, I shouldn't have-"
"No. No, it's OK, Asami. I'm just glad he's alive, and not scared. You have no idea how much this means to me."
'I do," Asami said, and Korra felt bad for listening by this point. It had become too quiet for her to retreat, however, so she sucked in her breath and listened. "You guys are like a family to me. I've never had friends I felt so close to before you."
"Yeah," Mako agreed.
"I'm just glad I'm with you again, Mako."
"I'm glad I'm with you too, Asami."
Three days after Korra's return and Tarrlok's disappearance, the other Council Members were captured as well. Tenzin had managed to evade two separate abduction attempts before he finally made it back to the island with the news that the city was now officially in his hands. There was a prison break the fourth day, and nobody was left to stop it. Helpless, all Tenzin could do was make phonecalls and send White Lotus members to assist where they could, but more often than not they'd just go missing as well.
"But you have to leave!" Korra shouted. "Your family can't stay here anymore! It just isn't safe now!"
"And what of you, Korra? And the rest of the city? How can I just leave when it's my duty to-"
"Leave the city to us and Iroh. You called Bumi, right? He'll follow through. He always does-"
"I can't back down in the face of adversary just because my people are in danger, Korra-"
"Yes," she said quietly. "You can."
He blinked, face fading to its normal peachy tone after a few moments of thought. everyone else was silent, gathered around the room somberly. Pema was sniffling, trying not to lose herself to tears.
"When I yelled at you for not doing anything…I was wrong. I hope you can forgive me, Tenzin. but there's not much time. You have to protect the last airbenders on earth."
"I think you should go, too" Asami finally said, nodding in agreement. "There might not be much time before they target this island- and you. We can hold up the city in your leave, until the United Forces get here."
"Asami…" Mako said quietly, and she turned to him and smiled reassuringly.
"Don't be afraid, Mako. Korra's a strong Avatar. And I'm not so bad myself in a pinch! And Tahno's been training with his swords-"
"Leave me out of this," Tahno snapped, and Korra tried willfully to ignore him.
"Is that what you really think? That I should leave the city in your hands? But…but you're only kids, Korra-"
"Excuse me? How old was Aang when he saved the world?" Korra said cheekilly.
"I'm not some half-baked Avatar ok? I can handle myself," she said, voice choking up, finally cracking from keeping cheerful so long. "I'm going to figure out this illusion- and break it. And when you come back, we'll rebuild everything together, ok?"
Tenzin hugged Korra tightly, then loosened up and pat her back awkwardly, looking down at her. Both of them were tearful.
"We'll leave in two days. You're a brave girl, Korra. But don't be afraid to show when you're scared."
"I won't, Tenzin. Thank you for everything."
Amon visited Tarrlok late the night the other council members were captured. He was kept unguarded, in a part of headquarters only Amon had access to- there was certainly no need for questions to be asked yet, and Tarrlok was in no state to answer questions anyway.
He looked distant, tired, out of it, like he'd done nothing but stare at the wall for days, and judging by the consistency of his position and his refusal to eat, it was pretty likely he had.
"I'm going to give you the chance to ask what needs to be asked," Amon said, arms crossed behind his back. Tarrlok moved his lips dryly.
"I have no questions for you," he said, his voice dull and cold, as though he were talking to a stranger.
"I'm sure you do. Don't tell me after all this time-"
"Don't talk to me like you know me," he said, as though every word killed him. He was so quiet when he spoke- Tarrlok had never been so quiet before.
"I've seen you for years. I've seen you try to move from our father's shadow and into the light. I've seen you get lost in your own darkness and biases. I've seen you struggle and fail to be happy. I watched you for so long, but could say nothing to you."
"You can now, I guess," Tarrlok whispered. "Captive audience and everything."
"I'm trying to reach you, Tarrlok!"
"After how many years of you being dead am I expected to still care about your ghost? I've wasted enough of my life mourning over you, for you to come back and ruin what little happiness you didn't already suck from my life when you left me there alone."
Amon- Noatak, no, no he was definitely Amon, he turned away as though it made a difference- Tarrlok couldn't see the rage on his face, but he could undoubtedly hear the menace in his voice.
"We have a second chance at happiness."
"There's no way I could ever be happy in your captivity, Amon. Besides, I believe showing the world our relation botches your 'humble little farmboy' story."
"As if you have a choice," the masked man hissed. Tarrlok's slumped-over posture straitened. He lifted his head. Amon started to laugh. "You'll be like the rest of them soon enough. You should know by now I don't take no for an answer."
Amon turned towards him again. Tarrlok stared back hazilly. There was nothing accusatory or emotional about his expression. It was just a blank, hopeless, unloving look, and Amon realized for the first time what it felt like to fully lose a battle.
When Asami left her room the night of Tenzin's goodbye speech to Korra, it was not with the intention of speaking to Tahno. In fact, she had it in her mind to ignore him as long as possible, since he seemed intent on scowling at her wherever she went. It was 2:00 in the morning. He shouldn't have been outside of her room, and even when she saw him, Asami attempted to ignore him, until he was forced to speak out loud, deep voice echoing through the hallway.
"I know what you're doing, Sato."
Asami turned towards him. She sneered at him, noticing that his hair had that jaunty curl to it again, and that his nasty little smirk returned.
"Do you now?" she responded coolly, as though confused by whatever his allegations might be. Figuring she should play up his insecurities, Asami tilted her head and said "I'm sorry, if you think I'm trying to make you jealous with Mako, you're completely self-absorbed-"
"Shut up, Asami!"
Tahno pulled something from behind his back- a pair of swords she recognized as the ones he'd practiced with earlier, and brandished them at her with shaking arms.
"A little paranoid, aren't you?" Asami said, voice slightly nervous but still cool. "I think losing your bending made you a bit crazy…not that you weren't to begin with."
"You're a brainwashed little bitch, Asami, and I'm not going to let you turn it against me."
He pressed the blade up to her cheek, catching a bit of her hair with it.
"Oh no! You found me out!" Asami said in mock surprise. "How are you going to prove it? You're the outsider here, Tahno. They don't like you."
Tahno's face became pained- it was evident she had hit a nerve, but he did not back down.
"Are you going to hurt me, Tahno?" Asami asked sweetly. "Go ahead."
Tahno was pissed as hell, the blade threatening to draw blood as his grip shook.
"No," he whispered. "I hurt you enough already."
"Then what's this half-assed threat? Are you trying to impress me?"
He clenched his teeth, refused to look at her. Asami moved past his blade, pushing it away gingerly, knowing he wouldn't injure her.
"That's what it always goes back to with guys like you, right? Just looking to get laid. You don't care if I'm brainwashed, Tahno." She slid up close to him, so he was backed against the wall, her unstained lips pressed close to his exposed ear. "You want me."
"They really did a headjob on you, Sato-"
"It's the truth though, isn't it?"
"Like I can't do better than a brainwashed equalist bitch-"
"Maybe you can't…at least not with your usual crowd," Asami said dangerously, with a hint of playfulness creeping into her tone. "Maybe if you joined the equalists, you could be appreciated for what you truly are, not what you used to be patted on the ass for."
As she spoke, Asami slid her hand behind his back, across the fabric of his pants. She felt his body tense against hers.
"What are you so afraid of, Tahno? If I recall, you used to love to play rough…I thought that's the type of guy you were?"
"I won't if you don't want me to. But you have to explain to me why there's a bulge in your pants," she whispered.
"You're half aroused by this? You're crazier than I thought."
"You're the crazy one," he muttered as she moved her hand around to the front. He glared and she smiled huge, until he eased his eyebrows and gave her a resigned shrug of the shoulders as she groped him through the fabric.
"What. What was that for?" she snapped irritably.
"OK, go ahead, then."
"Yeah, you heard me. You got me hard. You gonna leave it like this, or are you going to do something about it?"
"If that's what it takes to shut you up…"
"Who knows? Maybe it will, maybe it won't."
"I'll take the risk," Asami retorted, pulling the collar of his shirt towards her. The entire time he kept his grip on his weapons, as though afraid to give her the chance to attack, but his face remained smug and impassive. "My room is right here, which you apparently knew, so if you'd like to carry on, I suggest you ditch the swords."
He continued to look amused and unafraid, but he was obviously clinging to his perceived 'upper hand.' then, very slowly, his smile grew wider and he lowered the weapons and his body, so that they were resting against the wall, and drew himself back to his full height. He held his arms out and wiggled his hands, still looking at her like a happy psychopath.
"There. Helpless. Unarmed."
"Good." Asami let go of him none-too-gently, and beckoned for him to follow her into the darkness of her bedroom. He flicked the switch to the desk lamp upon entering. She doubled back, flicking the switch back down, hand over-top of his and eyes half-lidded.
"No need for light," she said sweetly.
"I see, your type are used to operating in the dark."
"I don't need too see your face when you come, I've already seen it, it's not cute."
"Oh, fuck you."
"You don't have that privilege tonight," Asami whispered, trailing her hand across his cheek. She brought her hand down to his chin, tracing his chest through his clothes lightly before pushing him backwards, so he sat on her bed, looking at her moodily. "Strip," she told him, and he started to pull his shirt and coverings over his head, the cotton material stuck to his body- he must not have noticed how much he'd perspired. Asami put a cold hand on his chest as he was still working with his shirt, moving her head forward so her lips were grazing his bare skin and he inhaled sharply, pausing. The pause was just long enough- she twisted the material behind his back and disabled his arms as he attempted to unwind them. His look was anything but arrogant now, hair a mess in front of his wild blue eyes.
"Be good, and maybe you'll get something out of this before I ship you off to be equalized."
"Don't be petulant, Tahno. You miss me, don't you?"
"Even if I did, you aren't Asami-"
"Maybe you fell for someone else, is that it?"
Tahno gritted his teeth as she brought her lips close to his, knee pressed to his crotch so he couldn't even move forward.
"I don't think she loves you back," Asami whispered mischievously, walking her fingers across his chest as she moved her mouth across his bare neck. "How ironic, you of all people falling in love, and with her…join like queue buddy, though, really?"
"Asami," Tahno groaned. Her leg was digging into his groin agonizingly. "Wake up Asami."
"There's nothing to wake up from, Tahno. The life I lived before was the dream- this is the reality."
Her left hand slipped into his pants while the right lifted his chin so he was looking directly into her eyes. He was still defiant, even though he had all but lost. She started to move her hand and he looked away in shame.
"You changed a lot," Asami said brightly. "I feel like under other circumstances I might like this new you. You just need to see the truth."
"I'm going to lose my boner if you keep talking propaganda to me, Sato."
"I doubt it…at the rate you're going now-"
"Stop talking," Tahno groaned, throwing his head back.
Asami pressed her one hand against his chest harder, pushing him onto his back. Her other hand wrapped firmly around his length and she moved onto her side, so she could talk to him more- obviously that was what was getting him off, even if he hated to admit it. She'd always pegged him for the masochistic type, no matter what a conniving asshole he liked to believe he was.
As she lay next to him, Asami pulled his face closer to hers, lost the distance between their lips. It was in no manner romantic, though passionate could be technically used- he didn't attempt to bite or push her away, kissed back, even, having to pull back and whimper a bit when she squeezed him too hard.
"Poor Tahno," Asami said, twisting a lock of his hair behind his ear as she jerked him off casually. "You feel like you have nothing to look forward to, is that it? There are rewards that come with being an equalist…"
"I don't need your shitty rewards," he groaned, and Asami stopped moving her hand, waiting for his eyes to shoot open in desperate humiliation. She sat up again.
"I was going to finish you off before I knocked you out, but you're so insistent on being stubborn-"
"Asami!" Tahno growled, thrashing back and fourth on her bed. She put her unoccupied hand over his mouth.
"If you were an equalist this wouldn't have happened, you know. You'd be able to defend yourself."
He stopped moving. His expression was distant and resigned, roaring with indignation behind the submission. She pulled her hand away slowly.
"That's better," Asami said affectionately. She moved her other hand back to his aching length and stroked him gently, until he bit his lower lip and held his breath as long as possible, her hand coming away sticky and wet.
"Well that was fun," Asami said deviously, and his look of shame quickly washed over with horror as she pulled her hand back, two fingers braced like a snake ready to strike, and the next thing he must have known was pain and then darkness, Asami wiping her hand on his pants and scoffing.
"Now I have to erase you. Perfect. Well you did put a small dent in my plans, Tahno, I hope you're happy."
Unconscious, Tahno said nothing in return.
They searched the grounds for him the next day, but needn't have. The note he left was, in Korra's furious opinion, enough to say it all- don't look, you won't find me.
Was she furious though? Or was that burning behind her eyes sadness?
Listen, I wanted to tell you in person but I chickened out. I'm in over my head, and I feel so weak and helpless without my bending. I know I'm a burden to you and Tenzin. I don't feel like I belong here, and I'm losing my nerve.
I'm not exactly sure what I'll do, or where I go. But thank you for the time we spent together. I hope you don't hate me too much.
I guess you would call this the 'easy way out.' It is. Don't think I've changed so much from when you first met me. Like I said I hope you don't hate me, but you probably should anyway. Taking the easy way out is just what I do. I wish there was a way to cheat at things like life and friendship too, so I could figure out how to stay with you guys through all this. Like I said this is just too much for me. sorry. I'm sorry.
"Listen, Mako. He didn't say that he killed himself-"
"He did, though, Asami. It's pretty much there in plain words."
"He just said it was 'too much,' not that he wanted to die-"
"You don't get it, Asami. I talked to Tahno. He's not like that. He's pretty down-to-earth when you get to know him…I was locked in a cell with him for days. He wouldn't have just run away. If…if Tahno really thought it was too much…he could be so morose sometimes…I feel like shit for not noticing…I feel the same sometimes, even, like I never asked for all this…like it's too much to bear-"
"Mako, you're nothing like Tahno, ok? No matter what, you wouldn't give up on your brother, or your friends. You have someone to live for and watch out for-"
"What if he doesn't need me?"
"Of course he needs you, Mako, we all need you-" Korra tried to interupt, but Mako continued, putting his head in his hands and talking in a low, emotionless voice.
"This world suddenly without bending, where people you love and care for get hurt…how can you blame him for wanting to get out while he still could?"
"Mako…if you want to leave now, you can. Nobody would blame you-"
"Of course I don't want to leave, Asami. I…I'm sorry for being so irrational about it, I just…I didn't see it coming, and now I feel like I should have. I know how he felt, Asami, I really do."
Mako seemed to be struggling to keep composure. Asami was doing marvelously, which almost upset Korra a little bit…hadn't Asami and Tahno even dated for a bit? Did she really have no feelings about this?
"I think all nonbenders know how that feels at some point, Mako," Asami whispered. "Feeling helpless, or scared. It's not a new feeling to me. Hopefully we can do something to change that."
Korra found herself agreeing with her sentiment, but not her tone.
When Tahno woke up, he was strapped to a chair in an eerie room with a projector. The weirdest thing was, it was dead silent, and unoccupied save for a boy a few years his junior, tall and oddly put together, who stood there watching the screen nonchalantly.
"Who are you?" he asked the guy in front of him.
"I'm you," he said cooly. "You in a past life."
The way he echoed, the familiarity of his prescence- Tahno didn't doubt it.
"Pretty spiffy. You don't look much like me."
"I'm from the earth kingdom," he said, chewing on an odd straw sticking from his lips.
"And the time before hairbrushes were invented apparently. What's with that grass in your mouth?"
"Don't know. Habit I guess. Reminds me of the earth, plants, what it's like to feel safe. Grounded."
"That's pretty deep past me. So what are you doing here?"
"I've been calling out to you," he said, very gravely, almost like he was annoyed that Tahno didn't get the message sooner.
"Yeah, I noticed. I assume you're the firebender hater?"
"Firebenders killed my family."
"That seems to be a theme with firebenders. Never hear about waterbenders killing anyone-"
"Actually, if you look at the screen presented to you, you will find historical photographs captured demonstrating the power and corruption potential of waterbenders."
For the first time, Tahno looked at the screen and its contents. He nearly puked. Someone had just been choked to death with their own blood. The caption read "Pao Jeong- Red Monsoon attack on 45th street."
"W-why would you want me to see that! Augh! I thought you were here to protect me or something?"
"Protect you? nah. You don't need shit like that. You can make your own decisions. That's why I'm here. To make sure you make your own decisions."
Tahno continued to watch the things on the screen, taking it all in with horror and fascination.
"So they're trying to brainwash me."
"But why me? Why am I able to resist when Asami couldn't? I'm not really that strong willed, you know-"
"You were already brainwashed once. It led to our death in a past life, and it wasn't to a firebender- one of my own, an earthbender killed me. At that moment I understood that corruption comes from power of any sort. Once a person holds power over another person, it is their decision what they do with that power- do they use it for good, or abuse it? Too many will take the latter option."
"What's your name, other me?"
"Jet, I guess. But even then, that I am separated from our past and future lives is an illusion.
"I suppose I have to start small with you. You are me, after all. I wasn't much of a critical thinker myself, in my lifetime. Let's start with this. Anyone can abuse bending. This is a fact.
"So if benders abuse their power, maybe it's true. Maybe the equalists are right."
"At this rate I might as well just let you get brainwashed," Jet said, becoming annoyed.
"Think more critically than that, asshole. There doesn't always have to be an extreme. Compromise can be reached. "
Tahno looked at the images on screen. He remembered the night Amon pressed his thumb to his forehead, the sheer terror he felt inside as he was dumped over the edge of the arena.
"You were nonbending, right?"
More gore onscreen, then some meaningless images of equalists doing meaningless things.
"How did you find power?"
"Through my personal voice."
"When did you feel the most helpless?"
Jet's brow furrowed, shadows building around his eyes.
"When I lost my personal voice."
He turned to Tahno and pointed at him.
"That's why you can never, ever let yourself be silenced. They can take everything from you, but they can't take your mind."
Tahno stared at Jet, taking in everything about his face and mismash of clothing.
"I can't stay with you much longer- the amount of energy it expends to speak to your spirit is taxing on the body and mind."
'Why can't we do this all the time?'
"Because a the strength of a person's soul is measured in the karma they accumulate in their lifetime. I lived a short, turbulent life before you, and did a lot of good and bad things- this has given me a great deal of spiritual energy, good and bad. Likewise the capacity to do both good and bad lie within you. You are me, reborn, but with a clean slate. Already you have made many of the same bad decisions, but hopefully you will save yourself before the cycle repeats itself."
"How do you know all this? If you're just me? What are we some kind of Avatar?"
"'Just you.' That we are separate, that the avatar's soul is any different from a normal human..that is the illusion the living are still under, and unfortunately I do not have what it takes to break it. Good luck, Tahno."
Jey gave a cocky grin and turned, body flickering away like a slide on the screen. The second his presence was gone, Amon's voice was there instead.
"You are impure."
"You are lost."
"You will take your place among our ranks."
Tahno thrashed, the images and voice no longer a buzzing annoyance but full-blown agony.
It went on for hours, maybe even days, who really knew, Tahno had no concept of time in that hellhole they called the room of Spiritual Reconstruction.
Bolin's legs were heavy, but he quickly learned the advantages.
He learned that if he kicked hard enough, he could still crack the earth with his feet. He learned that there were certain places with switches that would cause blades to flick out, and that having extremities that were largely impervious to pain could turn the tides in a fight. He had his memories of probending, too, and built this new style largely based off evasive maneuvers in the ring.
And he had Amon's encouragement.
"Thank you for coming to train with me today, Amon sir," Bolin said politely. Truthfully, there was still an innate part of him that found Amon scary as fuck, but he knew the equalist party was right and therefor Amon was right, so after a while even the mask didn't make him as nervous as usual.
"It's always encouraging to see a new recruit put so much into training."
"I don't want to be a burden, sir. I always felt like I was on my brother. I've always been the weakest link in our team."
"I am a firm believer that there should be no weak or strong links in team. Everyone should be equal."
"Sometimes that requires bringing a strong person to their knees, do you agree, Bolin?"
"Your brother is dead now, so you don't have to feel like a burden to him anymore. That's a good thing."
"I suppose…" Bolin didn't even look reluctant, just ponderous. He was thinking about it then, the cogs of his brain turning over the question- who is Mako? Who is my brother?
"I don't think of you as a burden, Bolin."
Bolin's eyes were suddenly filled with a new light. He tried his best to smile, faltering a bit in the presence of Amon's gaze, but quickly recovering.
"That means a lot to me," Bolin whispered.
"And I as well," Amon returned, voice as unreadable as always.
"Do you really think he didn't change?' Korra whispered. They stood in the courtyard where Tahno had practiced every evening, Korra gazing at the bay with a nondescript stare. The wind tore at the jacket she wore- the fancy one Asami had bought her weeks ago, it was sleeveless and slightly oversized, the loose clasps in the front hewn from bone- way trendier than the one she'd been wearing, but for some reason it didn't feel right. Asami didn't even say anything about the coat, which made Korra feel angry, and she didn't say anything about Tahno at first either, and that made her even angrier.
"I don't know what to tell you, Korra. Maybe he did. The Tahno I knew was a charmer. I never knew when he was being honest with me."
Korra turned her gaze to Asami, who was staring impassively at the statue of Aang in the distance.
"Aren't you scared, Asami?"
"No. I'm sure everything will work itself out."
She was so stone-cold, so calm. The Asami Korra had met, if only briefly, had been a warm girl. She wasn't afraid to confess her weakness, nor proclaim her strength. Who was this person who stood beside her? What drove her, what motivated her?
"Tenzin is leaving tonight. After that, Mako is taking us somewhere Amon doesn't know of. You can…you can leave after that, you know. You don't have to stay with us."
"Listen to you, so frightened."
"If I were you I would have given up."
No, Asami. No you wouldn't have. This isn't adding up.
"Maybe we don't really have a chance after all," Asami whispered, and Korra's eyes widened in shock. "Maybe we should just-"
"Enough!" Korra shouted. Asami turned to her, smiling with just a pinch of nervousness. Korra had raised her hand as though to slap her, but held herself back.
"What's wrong, Korra?"
"What have you done to Asami!?" Korra cried, grabbing the girl by the front of her jacket. "What have you done to Tahno?!"
"Korra…" Asami whispered, expression hurt. "Korra, what-"
"I don't want to believe you're lying, Asami. I don't want to believe you betrayed me. But even if you did…it's ok, Asami. It's ok, I can protect you from them-"
"No" Asami shouted, pushing Korra away as she tried to pull herself together. Her thin eyebrows were knitted together in frustration. "I don't want to hear it!"
"No!" Asami roared, lashing her fist for Korra's neck, narrowly avoided as the other girl ducked to the side. "I know what's right for once! Don't make me look back!"
'it's ok, Asami-"
"It's not ok," Asami said, bringing her leg up in a strong kick that could have knocked the breath out of her if Korra hadn't blocked it."You weren't supposed to figure this out! This could have gone so painlessly for both of us-"
Korra ducked from another one of Asami's punches, twisting around her back and blocking a series of blows with her forearm."
"Go on, Korra. Bend. Protect yourself."
"You sound like your father!"
"So? So what if I do!? He's a good man, who protects the innocent. And who are you, Korra?" she growled, this time her punch hitting Korra square in the chest. Korra doubled over and coughed. Asami kicked her all the way to her side, where she twitched in pain.
"You can't even protect yourself. If you would just come peacefully it wouldn't be like this. Tahno was stubborn too! I know you're smarter than that, Korra, that you understand the suffering nonbenders face day to day. don't you think a world without bending would be better-"
"No!" Korra roared, rolling over and trying to knock Asami off balance. "A world without bending changes everything, Asami! What about the sports you used to love? The diversity of cultures, and the history and spirituality involved in bending? Why would you want that to go away?"
"We will build a new culture, Korra- the old one is in serious need of a rehaul."
Asami jumped over her neatly, digging her heel into Korra's back. "Give up already!" she demanded.
Korra groaned and crawled to her knees. Asami grabbed her hair and punched her in the cheek once, the eye second. Korra took it without fighting back, but she continued to try getting to her feet, no matter how much Asami hit her.
"Are you listening to me? Stay down! don't fight back!" Asami said, and Korra looked up at her, face swollen and stinging, one eye half shut.
"I know they hurt you Asami…I'm so sorry-"
"I don't want you to be sorry! I want you to be safe! I want you to be the same as anyone else! I want this fighting to end!"
"People are getting hurt, Asami."
"People were getting hurt before, Korra, and nobody noticed until it was benders."
"I know, Asami! I know, it's fucked up, it really is, and it's wrong! But the equalists are not right. Amon's a liar-"
"Shut up, Korra-"
"What he's doing isn't even energybending-"
"I'm warning you-"
Korra stumbled to her feet, bleeding from the mouth. She spat pink-tinted saliva onto the stone surface of the courtyard.
"Asami, I'm not going to let you stay this way, I promise! I'll fight you all night, I'll let you beat me to a pulp if you have to-"
"How responsible. How noble. You chose me over saving Tenzin's family."
Korra looked like she was going to be hadn't even occurred to her yet, and from Asami's expression she could tell it was probably too late already.
"Really, you think I didn't think this through? Tahno almost caught me making the call. That's why I had to get rid of him too-"
"Stop it, Asami. What happened to you?" Korra whispered, wiping her mouth on her forearm. "This isn't you at all. I…I don't know what they did, but I promise we're going to bring you back-"
"Would you really want me back, Korra? Knowing how broken I am by your standards…how could things ever be the same?" Asami said, just as quiet, as grave.
"Asami…Please…I can't lose you too."
'You won't lose me. You'll be with me, together, as my equal. What could be better than that?" she said, the excitement returning to her face. "Oh, Korra, that's all I want for you. For you to be safe and happy."
Korra looked convinced for a second, and Asami took her hands, trying to raise her up with her own half-moon smile.
Korra closed her eyes, resigning to the feeling of her friend's comforting grip, before her eyes became focused and brows furrowed. She blew a strong gust of air strait for her, knocking Asami Sato away like a twig. Korra knew that now was not the time to hesitate- she had to save Tenzin, after all.
Asami twisted to the side, shielding herself from the majority of the blast with a defensive pose and ran towards Korra ,winding into what Korra recognized as a chi-blocking position. Korra knocked her fist away and grabbed her arm with two hands, swinging her outwards with a giant sweep of brute strength, but Asami braced her feet and lunged forward, barely affected by a toss that had disabled men twice her size. Another blast of air that only served to make Asami's hair whip wildly. Korra dodged her every attack, trying to think of how to disable her without hurting her. The dilemma was so familiar that Korra resorted to the exactly same technique- halfassed airbending to blow her a few paces back, a fragile distance which Asami would inevitably bridge again.
"Come on Asami! Wake up!"
"You people keep saying that like this is some spell you can undo with an incantation and some friendship. This is not a delusion I can just snap out of. This is my reality. You're the one who's dreaming!"
Asami's hands were lightning fast, they aimed to hit every corner of her body, but Korra blocked her out, inhaled with a sharp intake of air and spun, winding circles around the confused Asami, who could not predict her chaotic path.
Asami became irritated, easier to hit. Still turning circles around her like a leaf caught in the wind's clutches, Korra started to bend- melted the snow around the courtyard first, then forced it to creep up the other girl's legs. Finally she paused in her frantic dance, blew a gust of cold air that froze Asami's feet to the ground. Asami wiggled uselessly, caught in place, and Korra started to backtrack.
"I'm coming back for you," Korra said urgently, turning away. She started to run, but Asami's cry stopped her short.
Korra did nothing, just swallowed the huge lump in her throat and stopped. The next words were weak.
Korra smiled. "I promise. We'll get you out of this."
"It may be too late."
"Well then we'll be equal together, right? But I'm not giving up on my beliefs just yet."
Her sentence was punctured by a slight ripple in the air- Korra moved to the side just as a cable went spinning past her, aimed for her unsuspecting legs. The equalist that had thrown the cable leaped towards her like a terrifying frog, and Korra almost didn't notice the other stationed behind her, ready to intercept.
Something like bones breaking brought her back to reality. Korra was out of the way just in time for Mako to throw himself forward. He'd kicked whoever it was clean in the jaw, and it was not looking good for whoever was under that mask. Mako hit the equalist again and again, as though his blows were the flames he longed to control. He was fighting so recklessly that he managed to overpower both, Korra aiding him by freezing their feet as well, so that there now appeared to be a collection of live equalist statues wriggling on the patio.
"What happened to you?" Mako said in a panicky voice, grabbing her shoulders, and Korra remembered with the stinging return of pain and vanishing of adrenaline that Asami had beat the ever-loving tar out of her.
"Who did this to you? Why is Asami restrained?"
"S-she's brainwashed, Mako. I couldn't hurt her. I couldn't," Korra said, finally breaking down and crying. Mako pulled her close and hugged her, awkward and abrupt, then looked at her seriously in the eyes.
"Listen, we need to get off the island."
"Tenzin and the kids-"
"We'll grab them now. We'll figure out a way to get everyone away safe. We'll tie up Asami if we have to-"
"You have the most altruistic friends, Avatar. It's almost sad to watch you struggle with your beliefs when confronted by reality- like a child no longer believing in myths."
Korra's entire body tensed. She turned towards the source of Amon's voice, and Mako turned too, both of them horrified to find him accompanied not only by his Lieutenant, but Ikki and Jinnora.
"You're sick!" Mako growled. "There's something wrong with you-"
"The concept of right and wrong means little to me."
'"Especially in the instance of a child who refuses to play fair himself," Korra said, and there was a strange gust of air that seemed meager in place of the words that couldn't be spoken.
"Come with us and the children won't be hurt," he assured her, remembering his purpose. Korra gulped, she took a step forward. Mako grabbed Korra's arm, stopping her in her tracks.
"What is that going to solve?" Mako asked her. Korra jerked her arm but he remained strong in his grip.
"We can't let him hurt them-"
"You think he won't hurt them just because we surrender? You think he won't hurt us?"
Korra stepped back, she looked desperately at Ikki and Jinnora. The older sister looked strait at her- there was not a bit of trepidation or fear in her eyes. It was resigned acceptance. Ikki looked frightened and worried, and kept shaking her head, as it to tell Korra to leave them.
"The 'fabulous' Cool-Under-Fire Mako. I've watched a few of your matches before, boy- not out of personal enjoyment…obligation, mostly, curiosity…what was it about you that captured Republic City's attention so well? And then I realized I was being silly. It's your story, kid. So similar to my own. Of course, I didn't have the other half of my duo, my brother- I had lost him at a young age, in the same tragedy that took my parents."
Noatak's death killed my parents- my father first, then my mother. It almost killed me too.
Korra felt her throat constrict. There was his name on the back of her tongue, a name she had never said aloud, but a million fears held her back and forbid her to speak.
My brother came back to haunt me, he'd said. Tarrlok's brother- a prodigy waterbender, a skilled bloodbender, a child that had seen the pain and humiliation bending could inflict, the misery it could bring into an otherwise happy life.
Korra closed her eyes. She envisioned herself stopping it then. Amon's form melted away and became hers, they stepped forward and placed a thumb upon each other's foreheads.
her own voice spoke, melded with a thousand others.
He's bloodbending. He causes a block in your Ajna chakra that causes you to fall under the illusion of lost bending. Nothing he's doing is spiritual and…nothing he's doing is irreversible.
The two forms melded together again. Korra became a giant, a radiant being of light and pure cosmic energy, a spirit that glowed a color beyond violet. She stood there, witnessing herself in that godlike state, cringed away from its very power.
This…this is me.
If I let go of myself, of my friends, then this is what I can be.
Mako was pulling her back. Korra reached her hand forward, as though to grasp something tangible. Amon's hand, his shirt, even his mask, as if she could tear it from his face- something to ground her to reality, to keep her with the people she loved. Then she slowly drew it back, reality settling in like whiplash.
She could absolutely not surrender.
There was still a chance to right things without that.
"No," Korra whispered.
"You'd abandon these children?" Amon said coldly.
"Never," she retorted. 'And that's precisely why I won't let you win."
'It sounds like cowardice to me."
He was striking below the belt. Then she would as well. Let him understand the fear she felt in his presence whenever he thought about her-
"Only a hypocrite would hurt a child when his own background pleads the same case. Perhaps Amon believes the end justifies the means, but what does Noatak think?"
He froze, said nothing, his eyes shrinking and body tensing. Lieutenant watched her furiously, tightening his grip on Ikki, who gave a muffled cry.
"I believe in your good heart, Amon," Korra whispered. "But I will not let you commit evil in the ground of good intentions."
"What is she talking about?" the Lieutenant grumbled irritably.
"Will you give me the chance to fight back?"
"Let them run," Amon said finally, watching them prepare to do so. The Lieutenant stood stiffly, looking at Amon like he just might be an alien behind the mask.
"Don't question me. We're retreating without the Avatar."
Out over the bay, the sound of explosions signaled the arrival of the United Forces. Korra held Mako's hand and together they plunged into the water, the waves parting to envelop them at Korra's command.