Rated T for references to alcohol and slightly suggestive diction/language. Contains Howrra! :D
Light, peaceful music filtered through the tranquil, open teashop. Decorative brown-red dragons danced on the walls as a server delivered steaming cups of artisan tea to a table full of old men playing Pai Sho. Howl tinkered with his empty tea cup as he willed himself to lapse out of his drowsiness. He was out of reading material again. It was about dawn on a soft Monday morning, and boredom threatened to clutch and engulf him. Dressed down to his gray body under armor topped with a soft green top and a loose set of matching pants, he looked more like a patient at a sick ward than a White Lotus on vacation. He didn't mix with the old men here either. They were too alive, too enthusiastically playing Pai Sho through the weekend as he drifted in and out of languid sleep and bouts of sipping tepid tea. He stared too much at the steam rising from his fresh brews to drink it fast enough before it became lukewarm and dead-tasting. Stretching, he resolved to nap until dusk. Rising, he dropped some coins on the linen-draped table and approached the set of stairs leading to individual rooms.
As he stood a step from the staircase, the elderly matron of the Dragon of the West Tea House and Inn stopped him with her warm tray: "Young man, I'm tired of your laziness. Be a dear and fetch me some oolong from the dry goods store up a few streets?". Howl considered her offer, and although he was sure she'd sent her errand boy to stock up on oolong yesterday morning as he went to bed, he accepted. Crinkled, raspy hands granted him enough yuans for 5 pounds of tea. The woman chuckled as he made a quick exit.
Prior to Korra's escape to Republic City, a selection of White Lotus Guards received permission to vacation anywhere in the world to attempt to stifle some cases of Chronic Seasonal Affective Disorder- as staring at snow during one's waking hours sent some guards down an incline of depression. Despite Howl's silent happiness at the Avatar's side, he'd been included in the first batch of forcefully dispatched guards. The other guards favored Republic City, whose shining lights and skyline formed a sharp contrast against the bland color of the Southern Water Tribe. The older set of guards remained day and night, doing the same as they did on the job: Pai Sho. The younger men went off and partied. Howl stayed up all night reading and drinking tea and sleeping all day.
Coworkers ambled drunkenly toward the Dragon's door, some with companions and some draped over grumbling friends, smelling of essence of party: a mixture of different alcoholic scents along with sweats and perfumes and colognes. Howl acknowledged them with a nod.
He did not want to be here. He didn't want the sights and sounds of Republic City, he didn't want the freedom to sleep all day or not at all, he didn't want to be away from the Southern Water Tribe. He wanted the silence of snow falling deeply, covering the earth in white. He wanted the sparkle of the sunrise and sunset reflecting off the snow and making little prisms. He yearned for the clean air free from teas, old men, hung-over comrades and bustling crowds. But most of all, he wanted to bask at Korra's left, or her right, or above her in a tower. He needed banter breaking the monotony of his job, the thrill of hiding with her from others, the rush of slipping her past other guards into tastes of what she considered freedom. He missed the taste of lichi on her lips, the warmth of her skin. Mainly he wished for her expressions. Confused, considering, deciding, thinking, laughing, giggling, puzzled, thoughtful, thoughtless, and everything and anything beyond and between. Howl ran his hand across his face as homesickness overtook, wishing and wanting Korra's presence there and now. He could hear her now, laughing to herself at Naga's enthusiasm at tossing a penguin up into frigid waters with her nose, as the penguin wiggled far. A sigh escaped. Shaking memories away, he somewhat focused on the oolong tea he trudged toward.
"Pabu the Magnificent Fireferret! You're complete with that necklace, buddy! I think it suits you.", a voice exclaimed. Howl turned toward a street trinket-vendor, glancing a a trio of kids perusing the elderly man's wares. A light laugh, familiar, sounded alongside the burly speaker.
"I like this crown-thing for Naga, it matches her collar decoration. Ooh! This one for Meelo! It's a leafy pin,", the voice- her voice? Howl turned back to the trio. Training kicked in: two males: one playing with a fireferret, the other standing stoically, red scarf fluttering lightly in the morning breeze... one dark-haired, dark-skinned female in blues... It couldn't be. Not this early. Not here, not her. Howl began to tremble. It had to be. Naga, there's only one Naga. There's only one beauty in the world with that hair, those hair ornaments, that voice, and that rich skin. Heart beating in anticipation and confusion, Howl approached the female, softly laying his hand on her shoulder.
Bright, clear blue eyes, turned: startled. They widened in confusion, insecurity. In recognition and something more, something Howl only thought he saw- that which he hoped was there. She tilted her head, the situation fuzzy: "...Howl? Howl!". She pounced on him, he clad in simple green patient-garb and she in her most practical set of Water-tribe clothing. Howl returned her cripplingly tight embrace, his face reflecting glee like the starkness of snow emanating the life-granting sun's rays. Something welled in his throat and heart, as well as his eyes. Korra smacked his arm, "What are you doing here!", before bringing her face to his: too soon, she broke away.
He smiled as he held her close, "What are you doing here?".
I dig crack pairings. I have a fondness for Howrra.
Most likely I'll continue this: I wanna explore the Fabulous Bending Brothers' reactions to this. Please review!
Notes: 1; Howl didn't know Korra was in Republic City probending because he isolated himself in the hotel and didn't listen to the radio and old men playing Pai Sho (in my head) wouldn't listen to probending. 2; My fanon of Howl includes a relationship with Korra back at the Southern Water Tribe. 3; I named the Inn/Tea Shop "Dragon of the West" because Iroh is/was fantastic.