Growing up inside the compound surrounded by the White Lotus and her masters, Korra learns at an early age about how great an Avatar Aang was. People never ran out of stories on how he and his friends valiantly ended a war that has been going on for a century, and when she was still a kid, all Korra thinks about is how cool it was since she was the next to inherit the title of the Avatar.
But now, all Korra thinks about is how she failed Aang.
Really, why did she have to be born after an Avatar who saved the world when he was just twelve when she was seventeen and couldn't even save a goddamn city? To think that Aang achieved his mastery over all four elements in a deadline when Korra couldn't even make so much as a wisp of air.
After another unsuccessful airbending training with Tenzin, Korra feels a prick at the back of her neck, and she feels the heavy gaze of Aang's statue, pointed and questioning, a silent why. Korra wraps her arms around herself tightly, averting her gaze and following Tenzin back to his house.
"I can do it eventually, you know." she muttered - to herself, to the statue, to no one in particular. "Tenzin told me it's only a matter of time. You don't have to look at me like that."
She left the training grounds, and the statue's gaze did not relent.
Korra would never say it, but when Asami's father turned out to be the enemy, it hit her harder that she thought it would.
This was a war. A war against benders and non-benders, and Korra doesn't think that she can handle it. She wonders, every single day, if she was fighting for the right side. Because she knows both sides are just, that Amon has a point, but she did have one too.
She just doesn't know how to end this, because this war was going to kill lives if she didn't resolve this quickly. Already, families were being torn apart and forced to choose a side because of believing in different principles - Asami and Hiroshi were a living testament to that.
One sleepless night after letting Mako, Bolin and Asami stay at Air Temple Island, Korra catches herself looking at the mirror.
There was also a reason, Korra remembers as she stood in front of her bedroom mirror, why she avoided contemplating her reflection for too long these days.
When she looks at her reflection, she sees a girl who's barely mature, with dark hair and cerulean eyes, and the whole world on her shoulders.
Korra thinks she's a far cry from the beautiful Sato heiress.
But then she catches the reflection of her predecessor in her mirror, the statue visible on her open window, and suddenly she doesn't see herself in the mirror anymore. She sees Aang's frowning face, lips turned down, arms crossed, gray eyes demanding an explanation. You're supposed to be the Avatar. You have duties. You have no time for love.
And Korra scowls, because she just can't can't can't bear a disappointed look, and explains.
"I'm not dismissing my duties." she began, slowly. "I can't help who I like, alright? Besides, Mako and Asami are together - it's not like I could do something about that."
Aang's face stares back at her, silent, unsympathetic, unforgiving, and suddenly Korra is furious.
"It isn't fair!" she founds herself screaming at the mirror, and some part of her mind absently registered that Tenzin or Pema or the kids or Bolin or Asami or Mako were bound to storm inside her room if she kept this up but Korra doesn't care because she's fucking had enough. "It's not fair to dump this on me just because you ended a goddamn war! It's not fair to judge me because of what I feel! You have no right!"
When Aang didn't react, Korra draws back her arm and smashes the mirror to pieces. Afterwards, Tenzin rushes in to ask what on Earth was she screaming about and did a glass shatter but all complaints died from his lips when he sees his student cradling a bloody knuckle, blue eyes glassy from suppressed tears, and Korra remembers too late that she wanted to keep this quiet. That she never wanted anyone to see how a wreck she was inside. That she was the fucking Avatar and she had a war to stop and she didn't have time for something petty and stupid like feelings.
Tenzin silently bandages up her hand, looking at her in a way that reminds her of his father as Korra stammers up a half-assed excuse of accidentally breaking the mirror and, when Tenzin's back is turned, Korra surreptitiously wipes her eyes and thinks that she's getting terrible at keeping things to herself.
The next day, Korra's airbending master grants her a reprieve from training, stating that she has done well and she could rest for the meantime, but Korra isn't fooled. She remembers Tenzin and Pema sharing a glance when she came to eat breakfast, Meelo's furrowed eyebrows, Ikki's uncharacteristic silence, Jinora's frequent glances, Bolin's worried questions, Asami's typical gentleness, Mako's unflinching stare, and she knows they've been talking about her. And she just couldn't stand the unspoken question that the second Tenzin announced her free time Korra shot to her feet and left, without eating a single bite from her plate.
Korra spent the whole day with Naga at the stables, and she thanks everyone up there that no one approaches her.
But then she's a little disappointed that no one even cared to look if she was alright or not.
She thinks and thinks, and when night came she just couldn't take it anymore. She needed to dosomething, so she leaves Naga and goes to the meditating pavilion, assumes her stance, and closes her eyes.
Korra didn't know how long it took, but suddenly she opened her eyes, and she was in the Spirit World. And sitting across her was none other than Aang himself.
She growled. Of all the times she meditated and wanted to meet her past lives, it had to be today when her emotions were all akimbo.
"Korra." Aang greets with a smile, and Korra knows that it is out of courtesy. She held no illusions that her predecessor was pleased with her and her deeds.
She rested her head against the crook of her arms, face half-buried, and looked up at Aang in what could be called petulance. It was a childish gesture, wholly unbecoming of someone like her stature, but Korra couldn't care less.
"Do you have to haunt me every single day, Aang?" she asked the man, reproachful, as though it was Aang who was in the wrong. "I have training tomorrow."
Aang was a lot more interactive in the Spirit World, she'd found out, than he was when Korra usually saw him. The man tilted his head, slight puzzlement on his features.
"You called for me, Korra," Aang replied, patient, without a hint of accusation. "It is you who wishes to speak to me."
"I don't," Korra snapped impatiently. I've always wanted to talk to you, to ask for advice, for guidance, for something, but you never answered me! "I've always known what you're going to tell me."
"You do?" Aang raised an inquisitive brow.
"That I'm not what you want me to be; that I'm failing to preserve balance in the world. I don't need to meet you in person to know that."
The airbender blinked. He didn't look very surprised at the turn of events.
"So this is why," he said, his tone laced with subtle sadness.
He stood, made his way around the tea table they were seated around, and stopped within a few feet of Korra. His successor tilted her head a little higher, wary of his intentions. Aang thought this a curious reaction; he'd never tried to harm Korra before.
"I am not going to judge you," he said, gently, "I do not have a right to, in this matter. I wish merely to understand what is troubling you so."
"I am not troubled…"
"Your mind is in shambles, Korra." Aang sighed, pointing out what should have been obvious, and rested a hand against Korra's forehead, ignoring her flinch. "You worry constantly, thinking that I'm going to judge you for what you have done."
Korra slouched down on her chair, as if his touch was acidic. "You should be angry. I know you are. You've always wanted me to be something else."
Aang shook his head. "I feel no anger towards you. You're at war with your own conscience, Korra. You are going against your own heart, and it is consuming you. I should have seen this sooner. You… are far too young to handle your responsibilities."
"Like you're one to talk!" Korra finally erupted, standing abruptly and pointing an accusing finger at Aang, ignoring the tears cascading down her face. "You were just twelve when you ended the war! But look at me! What have I accomplished? Nothing! I can't stop the equalist from destroying a single city! I can't let Mako go! On top of that, I can't even airbend! I'museless!"
Korra let out a choked sob, chest heaving after her rant and furiously scrubbed at her face when she felt a gentle hand stop her actions. Aang's gray gaze was quiet, unwavering, and Korra found herself unnerved before his calmness.
"You are not useless, Korra." Aang sternly told her, moving both hands so that he was cradling Korra's face. "The Spirits has a reason why they chose you as my successor. You may not know it, but you are strong. You are destined for greatness. You have nothing to be afraid of."
Her parents. Katara. The White Lotus. Tenzin, Pema, Jinora, Ikki and Meelo. Asami. Bolin and Mako. Now it was Aang. They all had high hopes for her, and it would be so wrong to betray that. And it was exactly that expectation that was pulling her under, unraveling her mind.
"I'm not afraid." Korra sniffed, averting her eyes to look the the ground. "It's just that - I don't want to disappoint people. They believe in me so much that - that it scares me to think what would they think of me when I fail them."
Aang stared at her, knowing what it took for Korra to admit her fears to him, and he felt his heart twinge at his successor.
"I… see. Think, however, of this: what would the people you care about feel about how you are now?
Korra stared at Aang, wondering what he was on about, when her mind turned abruptly to the scene in the dining table just this morning. Tenzin and Pema's shared glance, Meelo's furrowed eyebrows, Ikki's uncharacteristic silence, Jinora's frequent glances, Bolin's worried questions, Asami's typical gentleness, Mako's unflinching stare; and she couldn't shake off the feeling that shit shit holy shit, they already knew.
The realization hit her, a kick to the gut, and Korra groaned in her sudden bout of mortification.
"I have no answers for you," Aang told him flatly. "Whatever it is that you seek, it lies within you. And your friends."
Korra's lips turned upwards in a smile; half bitter, half tired. "I used to think you hold all the answers for my life, Aang. That's why I could go to the Spirit World and talk to you about these things."
Aang tilted his head at her, mildly amused. "The answer is yours to find, Korra. Has my son not taught you that?"
Korra was about to make a comment about Tenzin's vague answers to her and that it just left her with more questions, but was stunned when she found herself enclosed in a brief, comforting hug.
"But I know you will find your answer, in due time."
When Korra stirs from her meditative stance, she finds herself with tears streaming down her cheeks and a very concerned Mako hovering above her, carefully wiping the tears from her face with a finger.
"Hey." Korra started, voice husky from being unused, not finding it within herself to be embarrassed when the one she liked saw her at her most vulnerable state.
"Hey yourself." Mako replied, gently wiping the last remaining tears and plopping down beside her. "You didn't went to eat lunch and dinner, so Pema told me to get you."
"Oh." Korra mumbled, slightly amazed on how much time has passed here when she was in the Spirit World in just an hour. "I wasn't hungry."
Mako snorts. He can see right through her bullshit and both of them knew it, but the boy doesn't comment. Instead they lapse into a comfortable silence, Korra taking comfort on her team captain's presence.
"You okay now?" Mako finally breaks the silence, his tone very different from what he usually used around her, and Korra looked at him, eyes hooded and eyebrows furrowed. He does know, Korra realized with a start. Perhaps he's always known.
"Aside from a bit of identity crisis?" Korra chuckled, turning her head so that she was looking at Aang Memorial Island. "I guess so. I mean, Aang helped me a bit. So… Yeah. I'm fine."
Mako is silent for a moment, but then his hands come up to her shoulders and gave it a comforting squeeze. Korra, startled, whips her head back to look at him and sees Mako giving her a small smile.
"You're Korra." he said, simply.
Her eyes immediately fill up at those words, those two simple words, and laughter bubbles up her chest when she saw Mako suddenly panicking.
Suddenly, she finds it easier to look at Aang's stone statue.