A/N: I'm aware this is OOC and very, very unrealistic (thankfully).
There can be no peace without an Avatar. There can be no Avatar without bending.
It was what she came to realize in the days that followed. It dawned upon her, slowly, and with it grew the impending sense of doom that had come to taint her mind, which wrapped around her like a blanket, suffocating her. It was what they all had learned since they were children the Avatar brought peace to the world, and upheld it, by being the master of all four elements, something she now never could be.
He had taken her bending, and she had been powerless to stop it; his grand plan, flawlessly executed, and she had played right into his hands, ignoring Tenzin's warnings, ignoring her friends' advice, and instead fighting her way through to the end, headstrong and reckless.
She could blame everything on being reckless, but that changed nothing. Nothing could change anything, and now, she was no more the Avatar than she was a Platypus Bear, for what was an Avatar without bending?
The regret would overwhelm her in waves so strong she almost lost her footing, stumbling where she walked. It was almost a physical thing, the way it hit her like she'd run into a wall, and it was always there.
Ten days after it had happened, she told Tenzin of the decision she had come to after many sleepless nights where she lay awake, staring into the darkness and contemplating her fate, alternating between shedding a few tears for what could never be and thinking of a million ways things could have gone differently.
"I.. I have to die, don't I?" It came out posed as a question, and try as she might, she couldn't contain the small tremble to her voice as she whispered what she'd come to realize. "The world needs an Avatar.. and I can never be that Avatar."
Tenzin says nothing, his expression grave, but when he bows his head, she swears his eyes are glistening.
"I can't tell you that that is what you must do, Korra," he says, and she notices his voice is unsteady, too, which only fills her with more dread, more fear of what is to pass. "But you are right. Without an Avatar, the world will fall into chaos, and there.. there is no way for you to bring peace to the world, not without bending. For bending has always been the key to the Avatar's ability to bring peace, and keep it. I wish there were another way to do this, but alas, I know none. However, I will not force this upon you. It is your decision, and yours alone."
They set the date. A month.
The first day, she does nothing but lie on her bed, feeling her pulse, knowing that her heart's beats are numbered. How odd it feels, she thinks, to know that you're going to die.
"I have to die." She says it aloud, and the sound of her own voice echoes off the stone walls, the silence filling the room, expanding, choking. She knows she has to tell them; her parents, her friends, but how can one tell them of such a decision?
She knows they'll fight it, knows they'll tell her that of course there's another way, Korra, you don't have to do this and she knows that there isn't another way, how could there be? and she knows that she can't let them change her mind, no matter how much she wants to give in, no matter how much she wants to pretend.
She's told Tenzin she doesn't care how, she just wants it to be quick and painless. She doesn't want to know how, because then she'll be thinking about it all the time, even if she already is.
A knock on her door leads her to get up, quietly sliding the door open. Mako.
"Is everything alright, Korra?" Worry in his tone. He cares. It makes everything worse. "You didn't come down to dinner, are you feeling alright?"
And she opens her mouth to tell him what must come to pass.
At first, they protest, as she knew they would.
"No way is that going to happen!"
"There has to be another way!"
How odd it is, having to persuade people that you have to die, when you really have no desire to.
Eventually, silence falls, and the tears begin to fall, too. They see the reason, as she knew they would. And they're saddened by the consequences of this decision, but she can't help but feel a tad of resentment, for their lives will go on they'll live, they'll be together, and she won't be there. Her life will go on, yes, but she won't be there for it.
And her tears fall, too, when she thinks of all the things she will never experience.
She had contemplated taking more time; being selfish and ignoring the greater good, but the longer she stayed, the more the balance of the world was thrown of its axis. At night, she dreamed of the city in ruins, ablaze, screams echoing in the night. The world would crumble and fall to madness without an Avatar to bring balance, to restore the peace that had gone missing in the wake of Amon's plans.
How dearly she wished she could be that Avatar.
Telling her parents is the worst. Senna cries, as Korra knew she would, holding her only daughter tightly, stroking her hair as she had when Korra was a child. Tonraq embraces them both, silent but sturdy, yet he's crying, too.
She's done more crying than she ever has in her life these past days, and it never seems to end.
Her parents don't try to talk her out of her decision, don't try to change her mind, and she's so very grateful for that. They know her, know how firmly she sticks by her decisions, and though they don't want to accept it, they know her choice is the right one.
"We love you, Korra," her mother whispers into her hair. "We love you so much, and we'll be there with you until the end."
A part of her wants to tell them that no, they shouldn't, because she doesn't want them to watch their only child die. A bigger, selfish part of her says nothing, however.
She nods in thanks, hoping they understand. They always do.
"Just.. is there anything you want, Korra? I'll give you anything I can, before.."
"I want you to pretend.. pretend that you love me. Just for one night. Just stay with me as I sleep. Please, Mako."
And he does.
In the morning, when she wakes, his arm is flung over her, her back pressed to his chest. She closes her eyes, inhaling his scent, reveling in the feel of his body against hers, his arm holding her to him, and pretends that he's hers, that he loves her as she loves him.
But deep down, she knows this is a lie, and she knows that Asami is the one who'll wake to this, while she herself will be gone, gone forever.
They go to Narook's Noodlery, just like they had so long ago on their date. She halfheartedly slurps down her noodles; he merely pokes around in his bowl with his chopsticks.
They go to the movies and watch a movie neither of them is really seeing; when over, she barely knows what it was about.
They go to a Pro Bending match, and it brings back so many memories that she gets up and runs out of the arena in the middle of it, arms wrapped around herself, gasping for breath.
He breaks into huge, childish, heart-wrenching sobs on the ferry back to the island.
"I don't want you to go, Korra," Bolin bawls as she wraps her arms around him. "I'm going to miss you so much, and we never even had a cha-chance t-to.."
The next part is unintelligible, but she catches the words "love", "marry", and "forever. Her heart hurts for both of them, and for the future she'll never have.
She learns how to drive a Satomobile, unable to bear riding Naga anymore, knowing that soon, she won't feel the wind blowing through her hair as they gallop away, won't feel the steady, rhythmic pounding of Naga's paws against the street, won't be able to bury her face in soft, white fur and inhale the familiar, comforting doggy smell she'd grown up with won't be able to feel anything.
"I'm sorry we never got to know each other better," Asami says one day when they return to the island. "And for what it's worth, I think what you're doing is the most noble, self-sacrificing thing I've ever heard of. It'll be remembered forever."
She's never thought of it that way, as something that'll go down in history.
It wasn't the ending to the Anti-Bending revolution that any of them had expected, not ever.
The month passes too fast, and all too soon, the day arrives.
She wakes, sweating, the sheets tangled around her, and the panic finally begins to set in, seeping through her veins. She isn't ready. She's only 17. She has her whole life in front of her, and now, before it's really begun, it's about to end.
She spends the days surrounded by her friends and family, but none of them are able to laugh or smile, and they all go through the day with heavy hearts full of sorrow.
"It's time," Tenzin says, and it strikes her that she's not sure where or how this is going to happen, and it strikes her as so ridiculous that she's willingly walking to her death that she bursts out laughing, so nervous she feels sick.
He leads her to the sitting room, has her sit on the couch. She breaks out in a sweat, clammy hands twisted together as her friends and family surround her. She reaches out her hands, and they all move to grasp her hands as she finally breaks down into sobs.
"I'm so scared," she confesses. "I don't want to die. I don't."
Her mother holds her as she cries, just as she had when she was five and nobody wanted to play with her, just as she had when she was seven and was to be taken away to the compound.
"It'll be okay, sweetie," she says. "We're all here."
How awful, she thinks, for them to watch her die.
"I don't want you to see this," she croaks. "Can we.. can we say g-goodbye now?"
Asami is the first to approach her. The elder girl bends down, giving Korra a hug, the scent of her perfume drifting down to settle around them both.
"Goodbye, Korra," she says softly. "We'll deal with Amon, I promise. You're so, so brave for doing this. It won't be forgotten."
Bolin hugs her, too, firmly wrapping his arms around her, clutching her too him.
"I love you, Korra," he whispers hoarsely, green eyes sparkling with unshed tears. "I wish we had more time."
"So do I," she whispers back. "But I have to do this, Bolin."
He nods, then turns and runs from the room, unable to bear anything more.
Mako is the last of her friends to approach her, silently hugging her without a word. She meets his gaze, and in his eyes sees all the emotions mirrored in her own eyes sorrow, grief, longing, desperation.
Gently, he bends down and kisses her softly on the lips. Stunned, she merely stares at him.
"I wish things could have gone differently, Korra," he tells her. "I love you."
And he leaves, and within her opens an abyss filled with her longing for the future she can't, won't have with him.
Her parents, even her strong, silent, resilient father, are both crying quietly as they embrace her. There are no more words for her to say, nothing that could make this right, nothing that could make this fair.
"Goodbye mom, dad," she says softly, hugging them back, memorizing their faces as they pull away and slowly leave the room.
And just like that, she's ready.
It'll all be over soon, she tells herself. This has to happen. It makes things right.
Tenzin enters the room again, Lin at his side. She's surprised the chief of police has come to bid her goodbye.
"Goodbye, kid," the elder woman says somewhat gruffly. "It's a noble thing you're doing here. Guess I was wrong about you."
She manages a weak smile. "Thanks."
"Here," Tenzin says, handing her a small vial of clear liquid. She notices the tears are running down his cheeks, trickling into his beard, and she's touched that he's cared so much for her ever since she came to the city, been there for her, understood the situations she got herself into.
"Thank you for everything, Tenzin," she whispers. "Thank you for being like a father to me.. and I want to be buried here, if it's alright. On the island."
He bends down to embrace her. "Goodbye, Korra. We'll never forget the sacrifice you made."
They leave, and she's left staring at the vial. She could just not take it. She could leave, run, go into hiding. But it wouldn't be the right thing to do, to ignore the world and the responsibility that came with being the Avatar.
All at once, everything boils down to the small vial sitting inconspicuously on the table in front of her; it is her duty now. To make things right.
Lying back on the couch, she closes her eyes, inhaling deeply, as the memories overwhelm her. Her childhood. The compound. Training. Coming to the city, meeting Mako and Bolin; her first real friends. Pro bending. Amon. Looking back, she realizes that her life really started when she came to Republic City.
And now, she's at the end. Too soon.
She grasps the vial and, before she her fear catches up to her, uncorks it and drinks. It feels just like falling asleep to her, she thinks, as everything goes black.
"That's her. It has to be," Bolin says, pointing to the green-eyed, brown-haired toddler in front of them. Mako doesn't have to ask why Bolin thinks this; it's obvious. As they watch, the child toddles over to a girl, pushing past her to get in line for the free candy being handed out. The next child in front gets her pigtails pulled. A boy gets kicked in the shin.
The way the child walks, acts, talks everything reminds them of what Korra surely must have been like as a child. The toddler in front of them has to be the new Avatar.
They've searches for months, traveling across almost the whole Earth Kingdom until coming to this remote village. And now, they're journey has come to an end.
It's been hard without her, harder than he could have imagined, and every time Mako looks at this child in front of them, he's besieged by grief. He should remember the heroic choice she made; for the better good, everyone said, but all he remembers is the grief, the emptiness without her there.
He remembers her lopsided smile, the way her bright blue eyes sparkled, the way she put her hands on her hips and smiled smugly when she knew she was right and he wasn't. He remembers how her very presence could fill up a room, how she was loud, rambunctious, headstrong, and so Korra. And he remembers how little time together they had, and he misses her.
He takes a deep breath.
"Come on, Bo," he says. "Let's go introduce ourselves."