"Who does she think she is?"
"That trash needs to leave this city!"
"You're a worthless nobody!"
The crowd surrounded her, hurling insults so fierce and strong that she fell to her knees. She'd lost. She'd lost everything and therefore deserved their hatred. Mako glared at her from a rooftop, Asami snickering on his arm. Bolin refused to make eye contact. Jinora ignored. Ikki sniggered. Meelo laughed.
They all relished her suffering.
Long ago, she would have used her bending to shut them up, but now…
Tenzin plowed through the crowd. Her heart, weak and tired and fragile, rose at the sight of him and started to soar when he lifted her off the dirty street, pulling her through the mass of people. They tugged on her clothes, scratched her skin, clawed at her hair. She buried her face against Tenzin's back and clutched his robes; her eyes leaked acid, and it burned, it burned.
He tossed her onto a stage, where everyone could have a view of the Avatar who once was, the little girl who had nothing. He didn't even spare one single glance before he turned away, cloak rippling behind him. Equalists tied her arms down, giggling at her. Their masks glowed with the thrill of victory. She cringed when the crowd's first rotten cabbage hit her in the shoulder, but she did not move. She could not move. Eyes opened barely, and she saw… was that really…
"Mommy?" Her voice came out in a whisper. "Daddy?"
Senna gripped her husband's arm, lips tight. She stared at the girl with furrowed eyebrows, marking her recognition. She refused to speak her name though. The name was dirty now. Her name was filth.
"Daddy, please, help me," she begged. "Please…" A tomato collided with her cheek, and its juices mingled with her tears, sliding down her face and dripping onto the stage floor.
Tonraq's eyes were cold and unforgiving.
"You are no daughter of mine."
A scream ripped out of her throat.
Heavy breaths forced their way in and out of her lungs. She flicked her hand out, and a weak flame appeared in her palm. The light stung her eyes, but it was okay, it was okay. She still could bend. It had just been another nightmare.
Naga approached and rested her head in Korra's lap.
Korra ran her fingers through Naga's fur again and again and tried to slow her breathing. She'd been having more and more bad dreams recently, all too familiar, all too powerful, and nothing she did seemed to calm her. It was times like these that she wished she were a kid again. If she had a nightmare when she was a little girl, Korra would tiptoe into her parents' bedroom, clutching her blanket, terrifying images clinging to her heels. She'd stand in the doorway and hug herself, sobbing gently in the dark until her father would wake and notice her. "Come here, baby girl," he'd say as he sat up, arms wide open, inviting her in. She'd stumble over as fast as she could, climb into the bed between her parents, and cry.
She'd whimper into his chest, and he would wrap his arms around her, tight and safe, and hold her close. He'd hold his baby girl close. He'd protect her, fight for her, love her beyond all measure because this was his baby girl and nobody was going to ever hurt her.
He'd stroke her hair, softly, gently, warmly, the caress falling into the rhythm of her breathing as the sobs abated and slumber came anew.
But she wasn't a kid anymore.
Knock knock knock. The sound was cautious. "Come in," she said, and the door opened. Tenzin hesitantly poked his head in.
He entered the room. "Are you all right? I heard you scream."
Korra shrugged her shoulders and stared at her hands in her lap. She hadn't realized that she had screamed out loud. "I'm sorry; it's nothing. I just had a bad dream." She rubbed her eyes. Tenzin walked closer and sat down on the foot of her bed, patiently waiting for her to elaborate. Naga moved to sniff him, and he patted the top of her head in response.
She'd said it was nothing, but she'd been having the same type of dream every night for days. That never happened, not even when she was a kid. Tenzin had told her once that he was always there if she ever wanted to talk. He'd told her to talk about her fears. And here he was, waiting.
Maybe it would help. Maybe.
Korra cleared her throat. "What do you think life would be like if you weren't an airbender?"
"You mean if I were a waterbender like my sister?"
She looked up, serious. "No, I mean if you couldn't bend at all."
He sighed and stroked his beard, contemplating the question. Naga left and went to lie down again on the other side of the room. "Life would be different," he admitted. "But mostly the same." Korra looked back at her hands, trying desperately to ignore the lump growing in her throat. Maybe she shouldn't have said anything. Tenzin continued, "I'd still be on the city council, I'd still have my family, I'd still have my spirituality." She couldn't hold it back anymore; a sob escaped her chest. His voice changed. "Korra, what's the matter?"
She shook her head. "I… I can't say the same. I wouldn't be the Avatar, I wouldn't be a pro-bender, I wouldn't be… nobody would care."
Tenzin scooted closer to her. "Korra…"
"Tenzin, if Amon takes my bending… I'm nobody." Hot tears filled her eyes, clinging to her lashes and threatening to fall over. The dream's images pervaded her mind. The humiliation, the threats, the coldness. Nothing.
His tone was stern. "Korra, don't think like that."
The tears finally spilled over with a blink, and her voice cracked. "But if I lose my bending…" She sniffed.
Tenzin adjusted his legs and faced her. "You are more than your bending, don't you ever forget that."
"But I'm the Avatar. If he takes it…" she trailed off, avoiding his gaze.
"You're more than the Avatar. Underneath all that, I still see a beautiful, strong, young woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, who is brave and smart and full of love and compassion. I see someone who cares about her friends and her family and this city and the world more than herself. And none of that has anything to do with your bending."
She looked up at him, rubbing her wet cheeks with the back of her hand. Her lip trembled slightly. "But—"
"But nothing. You're an amazing young woman, Korra. And I'm so very proud of you, with or without your bending."
…Without her bending. It was hard to imagine a reality without it. Her whole life had been dedicated to bending, to learning its techniques, experiencing its power. She'd spent years fine-tuning her art because she had to be the best, and it was so ingrained into her system, that she didn't want to believe the words he was saying to her.
But she had to. She had to trust him.
And a tiny part of her, buried deep in her heart, truly did.
"Okay," she said shakily, the only word she could manage.
Tenzin smiled slightly then, arms open wide, inviting her into his embrace. She collapsed against his chest, whimpering away the last bits of her nightmare, the cold stares and mean taunts. He held her tight and he held her safe and he held her close, laying one hand on top of her head, stroking her hair gently.
Korra closed her eyes tight and gripped his robes, waiting for the sobs to subside.
a/n: LE GASP. NOT A MAKORRA! WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE! I know. But I knew I'd start branching out more as the series progressed (not like I'm gonna stop writing Makorras, so no worries there). This was written realz fast, so quality may not be up to par, BUT it's inspired by episode 4 and my obsession with Tenzin and Korra's father-mentor relationship. IT'S JUST TOO PRECIOUS FOR ME TO HANDLE. I think everyone's hearts broke a little when our baby started crying on him. I KNOW MINE DID.
Korra and friends © Bryke.