A/N: I wrote this right after I saw Ep. 7, so it doesn't take into account the new clip from Ep. 8 or anything along those lines.
This is also my first (submitted) fanfiction, even though I've been stalking the site for a couple months, so constructive criticism is very welcome! I want to know how I can improve!
Also, every female in this entire series is a BAMF. No question.
I do not own Legend of Korra.
Asami doesn't come down for breakfast.
The small, childish part of Korra wants to just leave her up there to cry or scream or whatever it is the ex-heiress does with her time now, but most of her actually is worried, even more so when she sees the dark circles under Pema's eyes and thinks that Asami was probably up all night, too. It makes her feel guilty, even though she was right about Hiroshi Sato and it's not her fault that he turned out to be an Equalist and if she hadn't figured him out a lot of people might have died.
"Don't," Mako says. She jumps at the sound of his voice behind her and silently curses him for being so damn quiet all the time. Would it kill him to actually make some noise when he walks?
"I went up there last night," he says, like a warning. "She doesn't want to be bothered."
"I'm not going to bother her, Mako, seriously-"
"Korra." He rests his hand on her shoulder, and she can feel her cheeks stupidly heating up. "Really. She won't talk to anyone."
Her eyes close, and she sees the bright flash of electricity behind her lids, Hiroshi's body falling to the floor. She hears Asami's voice- I love you, Dad- and wonders if she's feeling the same way Korra did after her encounter with Amon. Only worse. Terrified and betrayed.
"She'll talk to me."
"Why? Because you're the Avatar?" There's something harsh and bitter in his voice, not mean, exactly, but cutting into her all the same. She hears the echo of his voice, now- consider our friendship over- and feels a sharp stab right where she guesses her heart might be.
"Because I'm her friend," she snaps, even though that isn't exactly true. "But I guess that's something you wouldn't understand."
He recoils as if she's slapped him, and she almost turns to look at him but thinks better of it and runs forward before he can say a word.
Asami is in one of the upstairs rooms, the ones that are usually occupied by monks, but a lot of them left when they realized what a target they are now, hanging around the Avatar and the last remaining airbenders with this war raging around them. They said that they'd continue their studies and wouldn't turn their backs on the airbender lifestyle, but Korra can't help but thinking of them as cowards for running like this.
She just stands there in the doorway for a minute, waiting for Asami to turn and ask her what the hell she's doing here- the hinges are so squeaky, there's no way she hasn't heard her- but nothing happens, and eventually Korra has to be the first one to speak.
"Hey," she says. "Breakfast is downstairs, if you want any."
"It's all fruit and vegetables and stuff cause airbenders don't eat meat, but…" She trails off, searching for words that won't make her sound like an idiot. "I mean, it's okay if you're not hungry. You don't have to come down. I just thought I'd offer, you know?"
Still nothing. Asami's just sitting there on the floor with her back to the doorway, and Korra begins to wonder if she fell asleep sitting up or something.
"Uh, you okay?" she asks.
Asami turns her head slightly, just enough for Korra to see the corner of one eye. "I'm fine," she whispers, so quietly Korra can barely hear her. "I'll come down in a few minutes. Thank you."
"Okay, Korra mumbles. She steps back, closes the door behind her, and heads back downstairs, deciding to wait for the other girl just in case she needs to talk.
It takes her more than an hour of sitting at the table to realize that Asami isn't coming.
"So," she begins, watching the waves crash along the edge of the island. "Your brother's pretty pissed at me, huh?"
Bolin shrugs, throwing a few punches into the air. "Dunno. He's been kind of off lately."
"Off?" Korra repeats.
"He was pretty shaken up about the whole arena thing," Bolin elaborates. "And then Asami's dad turned out to be an Equalist." His shoulders sag, and he sits back down beside her, looking tired. "I mean, the guy sponsored our team and all."
She wants to tell him not to make up excuses for his brother, but bites the words back and thinks (for once) before she says anything. Hiroshi Sato's involvement with the Equalists wasn't much of a betrayal in her eyes; she'd suspected that something was wrong with that family from the first time she met them (of course, that could have just been her jealousy at seeing Asami with Mako, but she chooses to ignore that), and she'd even thought of the sponsorship as some kind of bribe. But Mako and Bolin had everything riding on the championship; they must have felt like they owed Hiroshi everything for giving them the money, and to find out that he had been plotting against them the whole time…
She shakes her head, as if that will help her get rid of the thoughts. This whole thing is so much easier if she thinks of it in black and white; next thing you know, she'll be sympathizing with Amon.
"I guess I understand," she says, looking down at her feet.
"No offense," Bolin says, "but you really don't."
She shoots him a glare, but really, he's right. What she'd said before, about always having someone taking care of her, that was true. As suffocating as the Order of the White Lotus was, they had made sure that she was constantly safe and content, if not truly happy. Compared to the brothers, she's had a remarkably good life.
But maybe she'd actually trade everything she has- safety, power, destiny, the ability to bend and eventually master all four elements- for just a taste of what Bolin has. A brother. A friend. Someone who will look out for him forever. Even if that person can be a total prick, at least Bolin has the certainty that there's someone out there who will always love him.
The only person Korra can think of who loves her like that- unconditionally- is Naga.
"Let's talk about something else," she says.
She pretends not to notice when Asami doesn't come downstairs the next day, either, or that Mako doesn't even glance at her through the entire meal. She lets herself be distracted when Ikki knocks over a pitcher of juice and Pema spends more than an hour in the bathroom throwing up with Tenzin kneeling down beside her, awkwardly attempting to comfort her. You'd think that, after three children, he'd be used to this.
Oddly enough, she finds herself thinking of Tahno. His hollow voice when they talked in the police station and how different it was from the cocky tone that had made her want to punch him in the face. The emptiness in his eyes when he told her that it was permanent. His obvious resignation to the fact that, unless Korra somehow finds some miracle way to reverse whatever Amon did, he'll be like this until he dies.
She thinks of her promise to take Amon down and feels chills run up her spine. Many past Avatars have sacrificed themselves in order to restore peace, she knows. Aang would have done it without a second thought if it meant taking Fire Lord Ozai down. But she isn't Aang.
She isn't Aang.
Everyone expects her to be. Or, if not him, then someone like him, someone who knows what to do, someone who is calm and spiritual and wise even as a thirteen-year-old kid. Someone with the ability to save the world, even if it meant risking his own life. Even Master Katara, who assumed the role of Korra's mother throughout those lonely years at the compound, would look at her sometimes like she was waiting for something, anything to show that she really is Aang, just with a different voice and a different appearance and a different life.
Sitting here with Aang's son and Aang's daughter-in-law and Aang's grandchildren, all these people who carry his ability, his lifestyle, his legacy, all these people who expect her to be like him, she can feel something like panic beginning to set in. What if, when Tenzin looks at her, he sees his father? What if everyone- Mako and Bolin and Asami and Tahno and Jinora and Ikki and Meelo and Tenzin and Pema and Katara and her parents, God, her parents- expect her to be something great and wonderful and legendary, and she isn't? What if she fails?
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she's always wondered whether they really love her, or if they just love Aang.
She pretends not to notice the screaming fear in her mind or the empty places in her heart or the tears burning behind her eyes.
To clear her mind, or maybe just to get away from everything for a minute, she offers to take a plate of food up to Asami around lunchtime, just in case she's decided to eat. Mako glances up for long enough to glare and Pema says something about how Asami might just need her space for a while, but Jinora says that they can't let her starve or anything.
It's at times like these that Korra is really, really glad that at least one of Tenzin's kids is old enough to think rationally. Well, besides all the suicide-by-volcano role models.
It turns out not to matter, anyways, because Asami's door is closed she won't answer no matter how much Korra knocks and she ends up just leaving the plate in the hallway and hoping no one steps on it. Whatever, she thinks, stalking away. The princess can do whatever she wants.
Still, she's worried. More than she should be. And no matter how much it hurts to know that Mako likes (maybe even loves) Asami more than he does Korra, she can't bring herself to regret the decision she made to tell him to go back to her.
She tells herself that he would have anyways, that- like Bolin said- he was just a little confused and shaken and maybe even scared because of the Hiroshi-Sato-is-an-Equalist issue. He never would have picked Korra over Asami, so she shouldn't get her hopes up.
In her mind's eye, she pictures Asami at the gala, Asami in the pool, Asami on her motorbike, Asami's eyes nearly glowing with sorrow and determination as electricity arcs from the glove to her father. She thinks of her kindness, her generosity, her bravery, her strength, and she can understand why Mako fell for her. Asami is beautiful and feminine in a way Korra's not and tough and amazing in a way Korra hopes she might be, and don't forget that she needs Mako right now and Korra doesn't but she feels like she needs someone and-
"Stop being stupid," she says out loud. She feels like an idiot, talking to herself like this, but she can't help it. The words sound better out loud instead of bouncing around inside her head.
Because she is being stupid. She almost cried at breakfast for no reason other than that maybe people loved Aang more than they love her- really, who can blame them?- and now she's freaking out just because her pathetic little schoolgirl crush has a girlfriend. Doesn't she have anything else to worry about, like, say, Amon? Like stopping the war? Like actually fixing problems that go beyond stupid teenage drama?
"Stop being a shitty Avatar," she says, and resolves to put it out of her mind.
When Korra goes up into Asami's room after sundown and finds it empty, she immediately to the conclusion that Equlists must have somehow snuck onto the island and kidnapped Hiroshi Sato's daughter. Then she remembers the way Asami fought back against the chi-blockers, against her own father, and realizes that there's no way that could have happened without some sign of struggle.
It takes her more than an hour of walking around in the darkness, but she eventually finds her behind the meditation pavilion, just sitting there staring up at the sky. It's a clear night, and the stars- pretty, though not nearly as bright as they are in the South Pole- are beginning to appear, shining like diamonds against the blackness.
She just stands there, not sure what to say. It seems so stupid to ask Asami if she's okay now, when she most certainly is not, but she doesn't know if the other girl even knows that she's there.
"I used to wish I was a bender," Asami says, startling her. "When I was a little kid, I mean. There was a waterbender in my class and I wanted to be friends with her so much just because I wanted to know what it was like to be able to… do that."
"It's nothing special," Korra says, because she feels like she has to.
Asami laughs, and Korra is surprised at how bitter she sounds. As much as she originally disliked the other girl, she's always thought of Asami as sweet and kind, almost sickeningly so. Bitterness is not a word she associates with that dark curling hair and those pretty green eyes.
Pretty? Yeah, Asami is definitely pretty. It's just a dumb fact, like saying the sky is blue. Korra doesn't know why the thought makes her cheeks heat up, or why she's suddenly so grateful for the darkness.
"Easy for you to say," Asami whispers, so quietly Korra can barely hear her. "You're the Avatar. You don't… you don't know what it's like." The words start coming out quicker, seeming to blur together in their rush to escape her lips. "That waterbender… I don't even remember her name. I haven't thought about her in years, but… I just wanted to be friends with her so bad. She was nice and funny and I never even noticed because all I wanted was to have a bender as a friend. I mean, I was six. What did I know? And then people found out that I'm Hiroshi Sato's daughter." She laughs again, and Korra decides that she most definitely does not like the sound. It's just… not her, somehow. "Everyone wanted to be around me just because I- just because I was rich. It wasn't that they wanted my money. Not all of them. But… I don't know." Quieter, she repeats, "You don't know what it's like. To want something so hard it hurts."
"I do," Korra mumbles. Then, louder, clearer- "I do, okay? Just because I'm the Avatar doesn't mean… you know what, Asami? You're the one who doesn't know what it's like. You have no fucking idea what it feels like to have everyone want you to be someone else." Her voice rising, she nearly shouts, "Everyone wants me to be Aang, okay? Do you know what it's like for people to look at you and… and see someone like him? Do you know what it's like to know that you'll never live up to that, no matter how hard you try?"
Her voice echoes in the quiet. Even the crickets have been stunned into silence.
Struggling to control herself, Korra sits down beside Asami, deliberately not looking at her. "And my parents," she says, staring down at her hands. "Your dad…"
"Your dad betrayed you," Korra continues, as if the other girl hadn't spoken at all. "But at least he loved you. At least he cared. Everything he did, he did for you. My parents…" She takes a deep breath, steadying herself. "They love me. I know they love me. But after they found out I was the Avatar… it was like that was all I was to them. Like I wasn't their daughter anymore. Just the Avatar."
"But they didn't hide from you," Asami says. "At least they didn't lie to you and… and pretend that they didn't care about a war going on when really they were one of the leading forces." A single tear rolls down her cheek. Korra doesn't know why, but she wants to reach over and wipe the tear away herself. "My dad was my best friend, okay? When everyone else only wanted to be around me because I'm Asami fucking Sato, my dad listened to me. I thought I could trust him because…" She trails off, tilting her head back to stare up at the black sky.
"I grew up in a frozen wasteland. An isolated compound in a frozen wasteland. At least you had fake friends."
"Oh," Asami says, wiping the tear away, "I'm sure you had someone."
Korra says, "My best friend is a polar bear dog."
Asami laughs. Not the harsh, bitter laugh, but an honest sound that it something between a giggle and an unladylike snort of amusement.
"Sorry," she says immediately. "Oh, God, I'm not laughing at you, I just-"
"No, it's okay," Korra says. "I guess it is kind of funny."
"It's not," Asami replies firmly. "I'm sorry. I'm being horrible, aren't I?" She shakes her head, but there's a hint of a smile on her lips. "I've just… wanted to be you for so long. I kept thinking that it would be perfect, being the Avatar, but…" She turns towards Korra, her eyes bright and almost glowing in the darkness. "I think I misjudged you," she says. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Korra replies. Her heart is beating too fast in her chest, but she can't tell if that's because Asami's so close to her (and she really is seriously beautiful) or if it's the relief of finally opening up to someone and not being laughed at. "I think I misjudged you, too."
"This is so weird," Asami says, "but can we be friends?"
Korra can't help smiling. "I thought we already were."
At breakfast the next morning, Bolin and Korra joke like nothing's happened. Pema smiles as she sips a glass of water, taking care not to upset her stomach, and watches as Ikki stubbornly carries on a mostly one-sided conversation with Mako. Just when Korra's certain that he's about to smile, a new voice speaks up.
"Room for one more?" Asami asks, standing in the doorway. Her smile falters when everyone falls silent, though more in shock that she came down than anything else.
In answer, Korra shifts to the side, making enough room between herself and Pema for Asami to squeeze in. Her hair is pulled back from her face and she isn't wearing any makeup and it just fits, somehow, with the opened-up version of her that Korra met the night before.
"Of course," she says. "Airbenders, you know. Can't turn away a hungry guest."
"No meat," Pema says. "I hope you don't mind."
"No, it's fine," Asami says. "I'm a vegetarian, anyways."
The two of them strike up a conversation, easy, light, and Korra smiles at how easily her friend is fitting in here. Asami shifts slightly, her shoulder brushing against Korra's, and she notices Mako looking at them across the table; wondering, maybe, when they became friends, when they switched from he didn't tell me anything about you to she needs you to friends. Friends.
He notices her smile and, after a slight hesitation, offers a small one of his own.