Notes: I lied. I will post this now before the fifth episode comes rolling in. (But Skinny Love won't be updated yet.) This is a serious fic. I am serious, haha. And I suggest you to listen to Colorblind by Counting Crows. And also From a Shell by Lisa Germano.
I am covered in skin
No one gets to come in
Pull me out from inside
I am folded and unfolded and unfolding
Colorblind by Counting Crows
Everything around her is white; she knows nothing else. (There are a few shades of blue—dark and light, but she knows nothing else.) She is a little girl of five sliding down snow hills and everything around her is white. She takes in the monotony of it all—Korra finds peace and smiles contently at how beautiful her surroundings are.
There is a spark, a fire floating just a few centimeters over her palms—a bright red, fading into orange at the edges. It's not white, it's not blue; she doesn't know what it is.
Korra spends the rest of her formative years growing in a compound, isolated from the rest of the world. She learns about so many things (philosophy, her duties, history) and is basically given a canvas to fill with all the colors she can get her hands on. She paints it with all the hues she can think of: the reds, the greens, and the new blues. But in her mind, there's a color she can't recreate with her paint—she searches every last corner and crevice of the compound, but it's nowhere in sight.
She runs away to find it.
By the end of the night, she is sitting catatonically at the bottom of the bay with a bubble of air around her, a thin shield that currently separates her from the water, from the ice above.
She thinks of ten minutes ago and sees images of Bolin's body—his lifeless body—lying beneath the wreckage of a collapsed building, his final masterpiece. (She tries to cover the gruesome sight by remembering his smile, his lips perking up and him—just him, closing the distance between them. Goodbye.)
She has never felt more detached from the world. (There is a light coming from her, and she destroys everything in her way.)
This is how the war starts.
It is winter and she runs. She runs and runs even when her knees are weak and she feels her calves burning. Everything around her is covered in snow—white—and the familiarity of the color isn't recognized by her heart.
(Not when she knows that somewhere, the white is stained with a darker red. Not when somewhere out there, his body is still resting with the small flakes.)
A week later, Korra finds refuge in another country. She has cut off her hair with a dagger she made out of ice (her heart) and she now blends in with the other citizens—the war hasn't reached this area yet, so she knows she is safe.
She is safe. She is the Avatar, and she is safe, unlike the other benders in Republic City who are most probably being persecuted right now. (She is safe.)
She is too caught up in her grief to feel guilty about running away.
After a month, she decides to be less selfish.
Korra starts to think of the people she left behind. First, her mother and father, who most likely are worrying themselves sick over her—something she thinks she doesn't deserve from them, from anyone else. Next, Tenzin and his family, whose whereabouts were unknown to her. Were they able to escape the city? find refuge like her? (She genuinely hopes that they are okay.)
Bolin crosses her mind next, but then she remembers how she left him and thinks that he would be okay.
Finally, there is Mako. She spends a good ten minutes considering all the possibilities of what has happened to him, but then she remembers that he was last seen with the prissy, rich nonbender. She knows he is safe, too.
History repeats itself.
She learns this the hard way after being forced out of her own body and thrown into the spirit world. She reacts with force—because that is how she is—she punches and kicks blindly into the air around her. When her limbs meet nothing, she cries out in frustration and collapses.
Avatar Aang is waiting for her when she wakes up.
This isn't the first war in the history of the world.
He admits to her that he hid, too—but she already knows this because history repeats itself and they are the same person. (He corrects her and tells her that she is her own person, but she doesn't want to believe.)
When she closes her eyes, she remembers him pushing her away, breaking their kiss, and bending the earth beneath them to cover her from everything falling around them. The concrete, the tiles, the other bodies, everything. Just to save her from a hundred Equalists.
(He could have saved himself, she realizes with bitterness.)
When the Equalists reach her, she has no choice but to fight back. The benders are behind her, scared, but willing to lay their lives down for their cause. (What cause? What is there to fight for? Is it bending? Or her, their precious Avatar? How come they believe in her while she can't?)
She remembers her first kill, how she felt the man's heart beating in her palm. Hours later, his pulse still haunts her.
Korra reaches the top of a mountain by midnight. She has never seen Republic City from such a high vantage point, but she's also never seen it in such terrible condition. It's only been half a year without her, and the city is already at its most entropic state.
The first sound that comes from her is muddled with confusion. (Should she be amused?) Soon enough, she is laughing maniacally—that of a person who has lost everything. (She blames this on being the Avatar, on knowing that this is the city Aang dedicated himself to building for the whole world.)
Above her, the moon is waxing. As a waterbender, she feels so confident with the moon on her side, but at the same time, she feels powerless. Hopeless. As though there is nothing she could do for the people below her.
(She is a girl of nineteen and she is finally realizing that there are more shades of grey than she imagined.)
Aang is a sadistic bastard, Korra concludes. With good intentions.
"I wanted to see you off. To war, I mean."
"Well, I'll be here."
By the time she reaches the city, she loses count of how many Equalists she has killed. (How many crushed hearts in her hands; her fingers feel too heavy to lift.) Amon is waiting for her at the top of the pro-bending arena, and she immediately sets off to get to him.
Aang has taught her how to control the Avatar state, so she enters it easily—sedates the thousand Equalists in her way. (No more killing, she tells herself; the Lieutenant's pulse is the last one she steals.)
The mask Amon wears taunts her and only provokes her—but she is bent on not killing him. (No more killing.) They talk for a while—philosophy, her duties, history. What the war was for. (She knows the former and is confused with the latter.) For a while, he doesn't make a move, and neither does she, but when he starts running at her, she freezes the room with water she has lifted from the bay. She breathes her way out and apologizes.
She binds him in shackles made from the ground and burns the golden building down. She no longer remembers what life was before fire. (White, it was all white—it must have felt something like this.)
(No more killing.)
"I found you."
She did not want to be found.
"You should thank me."
She did not feel obligated to thank anyone—not after what she did for the city.
"I loved you first."
Here was the man who broke her heart just two years ago.
"I don't blame you for what Bolin did. He loved you, too. More than I could ever."
She never was able to fully reciprocate what his brother felt for her.
"Korra, please wake up."
She wanted to, but she couldn't. (She wants to, but she can't.)
Aang chastises her for hiding. (She suppresses the urge to kick him, that hypocrite.) And after imparting a few more words of wisdom, he tells her to go back to her body.
But Korra wants to stall some more because here in the spirit world, she can think. There is something that pulls her back to the past—to when there was only snow, when life meant the animals and people around her, when there was nothing more to figure out.
She is sure the cloth in her hand holds a variety of colors, but here they all look white on white.
Korra smiles when she sees Tenzin looming over her with his eyebrows scrunched up. Now she is sure she is back.
Tenzin immediately fills her in on what's happened in the past two months. (He gives her a scrutinizing look; like father, like son.) It mostly consists of the council reestablishing the city and making all the arrangements for new agreements between benders and nonbenders. (It's obviously not as radical as Amon's intentions, but it's still brought on by the revolution.)
As the Avatar, he explains, she has to make a public appearance soon and announce all her intentions on how she wishes to aid in the rebuilding of society. (Never mind that she's the reason why at least fifty buildings are either ash or rubble and why a thousand people are dead and why no one believes in the title 'Avatar' anymore.)
"I wish you weren't just a girl," he tells her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You're too young to have been burdened by all of this."
She wants to counter his words with something in the lines of "I'm the Avatar," but she's no longer the same person who uses that argument. It doesn't mean anything to her. Not now, it doesn't.
A festival is held to celebrate the end of the war. She thinks—no, knows that this is a terrible idea, but the people need something to give them hope in the wake of destruction. (Her destruction.) At least, that is how the council reasons such a festivity. Korra thinks it's an excuse to get her out and interact with the citizens. (To prove she's not a monster who has left the city in ruins.)
The city is lighted by lanterns and the streets are filled with people interacting. (Let's forget that there used to be bodies here and there, casualties from the war.) Children run around freely, playing with others their age. (Let's forget that they had to witness traumatizing things.) Everywhere, there is merriment and ignorance. (Let's forget—period.)
Korra navigates her way through the different paths just to get a glimpse of it all. The reaction of the people around her vary—some are indifferent, some are thankful for being relieved of their fear; some are surprised to see her in person. Then there are also some that obviously hate her guts.
They are the ones who parade through the walkways with cloaks and gloves—all black in contrast to the bright colors for the celebration—with masks no one fails to recognize.
(We will not forget.)
Mako is the one to find her again—a wreck under a tree, she is fisting the grass below with the grit stuck under her nails. When he gathers her in his arms, it is the second time she admits her fears to anyone.
They stand before where Bolin was buried. Some old, benevolent man picked up his body and found some space in a field just a mile from the city borders to put him to rest. (In the midst of war, there was kindness—hope.) It is the one of the few places she finds comfort in. (Her new snow hill.)
She closes her eyes and when she opens them again, there are snowflakes falling. Why is she the only one who sees this? Is she the only one still grieving? Mako holds her hand and cradles her head and—no, she's not alone.
History repeats itself.
She knows that none of this (the peace, the lull, his love) will last.
"I really do love you."
"You can't just say things because I'm the only one left."
"You don't believe me?"
"I haven't believed in many things lately."
Korra doesn't know how many times she's run away from problems she can't punch in the face. She thinks, maybe, it's the third time. The first was when she couldn't find that color, the second was when the war started, and now this.
It has been three years since she's last seen her parents, and the relief that washes over her when she sees their smiling faces at the pier is too immense for her to handle. (She runs to them and almost tramples over her own father.)
She is reunited with the snow, with the white, and she doesn't know how to explain to them that she's getting married.
When she returns to the city, she finds Mako at the pier where she first kissed him. (The memory of her first heartbreak flashes back—a dark sepia, all her memories are in that shade—and every other moment with him leading to this one also plays in her head.)
Sorry. Korra asks for his forgiveness first—she doesn't think she owes anyone else that. There is nothing she can do with the silence that hangs over them. I'm so, so sorry. Because there is no way to get it right, not with him, and he might as well know that.
But he tells her good news: Asami and her father have been pardoned for being involved with Amon. She thinks it's just; they did what they had to do to survive. (Survival has been everyone's excuse lately.) And after an awkward pause, she congratulates him.
"Why?" he asks, confused.
She shrugs her shoulders. "You don't have to tell me you love me anymore."
(Before she leaves, there is a kiss. Then, goodbye.)
Teo is just like his father. He gives her the most extravagant of gifts to gain her favor—not that he needs to; she will marry him regardless of what else he offers. (For the peace, she reminds herself. This is the best way.)
Tenzin doesn't agree and fights the decision of the other councilmembers—even Teo himself, who has taken the role of his late father as the representative of the Northern Water Tribe. (This is all for the peace.) Apparently, a union between a nonbender and the Avatar is the greatest idea the rest of the council can think of.
We need somebody to show them that a bridge can be formed—love, we need to show them that we can love each other. Korra scoffs at the words of the representative from the fire nation. She doesn't want to marry Teo, not really, but she still wears the blue necklace he bought for her. (She knows this kind of blue.)
In her dreams, she has tea with Bolin.
"He loves you."
"And so did you."
"But you love him. You've always loved him."
"He has Asami. They deserve each other."
"Even she knows that he loves you."
"I would have loved you."
"But you still would have loved Mako."
(Their arguments go around in circles, and when she wakes up, she has tea by herself.)
She has lost herself. She knows this because she has lost sight of why she ran away in the first place.
(She is colorblind.)
Teo tells her it's not too late, that she can still back out on whatever agreement she has with the other councilmembers. (She wants nothing but to slap him, because he's also part of the council, the idiot.)
He knows she loves someone else. She knows he loves only himself. But that doesn't stop any of them from deciding on a date just a few weeks away.
Korra is wearing all white when she walks down the aisle. (All white, except for the small blue of her necklace.) The ceremony is being held at the pavilion on Air Temple Island, and all the important people, officials in the city are present.
Except Mako. (To her, he matters—he matters the most.)
She pauses in her steps, right in the middle of the area, to take in the decorations of her surroundings. (Never mind the dramatic gasps and murmurs of those politicians who barely know her; Tenzin is most likely squirming in his seat.) Everything is white and the color has never looked so, so wrong. (This is wrong.)
When she turns around, her dress whirling after her, no one tries to stop her.
The headlines make it look like she is the villain, the perpetrator of such a huge crime against the city. (The Avatar Escapes Wedding—Breaks Peace? She knows no peace besides a snow hill.)
She is apathetic. (Who she loves, she knows, will not affect the balance of the world.) She is a mile outside of town, comforting herself in the only way she knows how. She is waiting.
There is no rain, but she sets up a small tent a meter away from another slab of stone. (Her old rock.)
"You were my best friend," she whispers to no one—someone, six feet down. "Now I don't know what to do."
Korra feels it again: the echoes of a pulse at the tips of her fingers. She placates herself by imagining they were hers.
She has been counting the number of moons that pass by without him finding her. There are three. It takes him four days to find her, and when he sees her lying on the grass, he cries. (He probably thinks she's dead—how entertaining.)
He places a tentative kiss on her lips—something akin to another goodbye. (Because history repeats itself; they both know this.) She slaps him away, but after she is sure she has had enough of seeing the shock on his stupid face, she pulls him back to her and kisses him as well.
"Mako," she breathes out after they part for a bit of air.
"Don't ever leave me."
He smiles and plants his lips on hers.
She steals him away from the city, from the rest of the world, because she is selfish. She is selfish, and this escapism is the only thing she can think of that could fix them both. (Quell their insecurities, even temporarily.) She is twenty (and he, twenty-two) and they are both sitting on top of a snow hill. Everything around them is white and—just this once, she knows it is right.
He shivers because he is not used to this kind of cold, so she lights a flame over her palm; he takes her hand and shares the fire. It settles just a few centimeters below her chest; it stays there for the rest of her life—at least, this incarnation of her life.
It takes Korra a while to notice, but she finds the color she was looking for in his eyes—the most beautiful shade of broken hidden between golden flecks.
(It was always him.)