Chapter 18: Inevitable
"What is your contribution to this Library?" The large owl hissed in the twisted and grotesque face of the boy. He didn't budge, though any expression would prove to be painful, if Wan Shi Tong were any judge. He knew much about burns and wounds. For this boy to survive such extensive injuries was impressive, to say the least. Still, he owed the library a toll for using its knowledge.
The boy stared for a moment, before sitting down on the marble floor and rummaging through a small bag. Unlike other visitors, he held no desperation in his movements. Calm and collected, he leafed through papers, dirty napkins, bits of leaf and food, before procurring something wrapped in cloth.
"What is this?" Wan Shi Tong hissed, tilting his head at a painful angle to watch the boy unwrap the gift.
"I carved it," The boy stated in a matter-of-fact tone as he raised the carved rock to the Spirit, "I was going to sell it for money and food, but this is a much more worthwhile endeavor."
Wan Shi Tong narrowed his eyes, but waved a wing over the proffered gift. It would be worthwhile, in due time. For now, it would be categorized and put in its proper place by his assistant foxes. The pendant disappeared from little Kaemon's hands and the boy's arms fell back to his side.
"What is your worthwhile endeavor, child?" Wan Shi Tong warbled, staring at the damaged soul before him.
Kaemon's eyes trailed across the nearby cases, filled with tomes and knowledge and - perhaps - an answer to the questions that burned inside his brain. When he brought his gaze back to the owl, the boy stated, "A reason to live."
The owl regarded the boy and a soft sadness took the place of agitation in his voice, "A firebender did that to you, didn't they?"
Kaemon thought for a moment. The whole ordeal had been his fault. His mouth had run off with him and he thought, foolishly, he could bend and protect his family. In the end, the Sheng brothers had been the cause, though. Pressing his lips tightly together, Kaemon gave a curt nod.
Wan Shi Tong outstretched his wings to the boy, as if to envelop Kaemon in a hug, "Come then, child, and I will share with you my knowledge of benders."
The last word was said with so much bile and disgust, Kaemon felt an instantaneous draw toward the Spirit. With no fear, for he had no life he wanted to live, the young boy walked toward Wan Shi Tong. The owl closed his wings around the lad and both disappeared in a swirl of smoke and feathers.
It took them two days to return to Republic City. Both fought the urge to dawdle while also wishing to race back. Their evenings were peppered with discussions on how to use the sea of chi in returning bending, with flirtation, affection, and - inevitably - intimacy. Despite how Korra and Kaemon mentally tried to fight the draw to one another, they would give in.
On the morning of the third day, Korra and Kaemon lay, side by side, with a blanket tugged around them. At some point during the night, Naga took up residence by their heads.
The man awoke first, the light streaming through tree branches and dancing across his face. Korra snuggled against his side, using his arm as a pillow with her arm draped across his torso and a leg flopped over his hips. He watched her for a minute, shaking the drowsiness from his mind as Korra remained firmly affixed in dreamland. It was strange to think that a month ago, this sort of scenario would have seemed fit for dementia. Yet, here he was, snuggled close to Korra, realizing the natural pull toward each other wasn't simply enmity but thanks to belong - in a way - to each other.
A crack of a twig in the distance caught his ear and the feeling that others were near made his muscles tense. Naga and Korra didn't stir. Kaemon attempted to relax, but Korra began to shift against his tension.
"Wha's wrong?" slurred Korra, rubbing her eyes through a yawn. She sat up, keeping the blanket pinned to her naked chest.
"Thought I heard something." Kaemon sat up, careful to keep his modesty intact with the blanket, "Probably was just a badger-squirrel or rabbit-fox in the underbrush."
"Pff, sure, you just wanted to wake me up," Korra teased, leaning her head on Kaemon's shoulder. Her loose hair fell down his shoulder, tickling his flesh, "Cause you're a pervy old man."
Korra, yelped as she was suddenly shifted, pressed chest to chest with Kaemon. The blanket fell from her shoulders to rest behind the curve of her hips. He bent low, using the menacing voice that made Korra shiver in fright so many times in the past. Though Korra still shuddered, it wasn't from fear. "Is that a complaint, Korra?"
Pabu shoved through the underbrush and interrupted Korra's barely begun retort with excited chattering. She tensed just as Bolin came rushing through the bushes, "Korra! I'm so glad we fo-ow, ow, oh."
"Oh spirits." Korra groaned, quickly snatching the blanket up and tossing it over her head while pressing her face to Kaemon's chest, hiding herself from friends and the world. Kaemon wrapped an arm around her, making sure the blanket was firmly in place.
Mako followed close behind his brother, nearly running into Bolin's retreating form. Catching his brother by the elbows, Mako's eyes quickly found Korra, "What in the world is going on?" His eyes flickered to Kaemon, eyebrows furrowing, "And who the fuck are you?"
"Is Korra all right?" Her airbending mentor followed soon after the Fire Ferret brothers, picking his way carefully through the brambles and leaves. Kaemon tensed under the airbender's confused gaze and winced as it became furious. The airbender almost stamped his foot as a slight breeze flared around him, "What is the meaning of this!"
"What did you-"
"If you all would kindly return to the other side of the thicket," Kaemon replied, with a chilly civility. As soon as the words fell from his mouth, shock registered over the three males' faces, finally recognizing him as Amon. Kaemon still trudged further, trying to keep an irritated edge from his voice, "Korra and I will make ourselves decent and answer your inquiries."
He glared at the three until they stumbled back through the brambles. Finally, with them out of sight, he relaxed, rubbing a hand along Korra's tense back. She began to relax under his massaging fingers. He couldn't begin to imagine the mortification she felt. While he was somewhat embarrassed, and a bit miffed about being seen unmasked, those men weren't anyone he had interacted with on the daily in the past. In fact, he was fairly certain one of them was the boy Korra had - or used to have - a crush on. Conflicting feelings must have plagued her in those few seconds.
A squeak issued from behind Kaemon and he looked over his shoulder, noting the small fire ferret atop Naga's head. The rodent had its head tilted to the side, as if to say 'me too?'
"No, you're fine." The man heard himself say, almost biting his tongue. Ludicrous, talking to a fire ferret. What was he becoming?
It became a unanimous decision to wait until they returned to Air Bender Island before discussing the strange turn of events. Every so often, the amber-eyed former firebender would throw Kaemon and Korra dirty looks, but Kaemon didn't mind. He did, however, wish he had chose to wear his makeshift mask. Korra, on the other hand, dallied half behind her companion, keeping minor connection with her hand on his elbow. As if a physical connection strengthened her. The nosy, hungry eyes of the citizens didn't help the tension in the small group as they entered the city. Naga, who trailed behind the odd couple, even bristled at a few of the nearer biddy-bodies.
Soon, they were back on the island, greeted by the councilman's family and ushered inside. Reluctantly, Korra let go of Kaemon as Tenzin requested her presence in a separate room, with a handful of others already milling about.
The old man eyed Kaemon, who had made a move to follow Korra, with a bushy quirked eyebrow, before slamming the sliding door shut. The barrier did little to block the conversation inside.
"What's going on, Korra?"
"Kaemon? His name is Amon." The firebender's venomous tone made Kaemon's fists clench tightly, "Don't tell me he fed you a sorry sob story and now you like him."
"Mako..." The earthbending Fire Ferret murmured.
A tug on Kaemon's sleeve roused the man from eavesdropping. Blinking against the flurry of fury in his mind, he glanced toward the Councilman's oldest son. From the doorway of the kitchen, his mother hissed to him and his sisters crowded behind her knees, but turned to the boy, "Yes?"
"You're Amon, right?"
"Y'know you kidnapped me and my sisters and my dad and threatened to take our bending away." The little boy's lips pursed as she put her hands on her hips. Kaemon wondered if the child was reckless, foolhardy, or brave. It could have been any or all, in truth.
"Yes, I do know." He tensed, feeling an inevitable conflict underway.
"You made Ikki have nightmares for a long time!" The boy exclaimed, his hands waving in animated frustration, "And Mommy had just had my little brother Rohan and you threw them into prison!" His hands swung, punctuating his last sentence with sincere seriousness. Suddenly, the boy swung his arms in quick circular motions, creating an air scooter and floating up in front of Kaemon's face.
The councilman's wife gasped and took a few steps into the room, worried for her son's safety, "Meelo!"
'Meelo' pointed a finger to the man's nose and snapped, "What've you got to say for yourself, young man?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Kaemon saw Meelo's sisters tense, ready to attack if their little brother looked to be in harm's way.
"I'm not particularly young," Kaemon had to fight the slight smile that twitched at his lips as he returned his gaze to the airbender. The boy was brave, for sure, but also so foolish. Gently, Kaemon pushed Meelo's hand out of his face and added, "However, I have been rather...terrible in the past. I wish to make it up to you and your family, little airbender."
"Can I kick ya'?" The boy brightened up, his grey eyes nearly glimmering in joy.
"Meelo!" The mother again gasped.
"If it makes you feel better." Kaemon shrugged, hiding his amusement as he turned his gaze to the councilman's wife. She stopped where she was, with her daughters behind her, and held the look of a weary doe-calf, "I cannot blame any of you for wanting to physically harm me, ma'am. While nothing will be enough to erase my transgressions against you or yoru family, I offer to help however you wish."
The woman looked thoughtful, costernation dotting her brow as she looked him up and down. It was now that Kaemon realized her newborn sat close to her bosom, in a sling that matched the color of her bright robes. Briefly, his mind slid back into memories, when his mother wore a similar device with little Ayume.
"Well, there's a lot of dishes to do and Rohan needs to be fed..." The woman began, hesitant but opening up to the prospects of a house-slave, "And then there's dusting to be done, some harvesting of fruit outside, preserving fruits for the winter... How long are you staying?"
Kaemon glanced to the closed meeting, feeling some unnatural tug to wherever Korra sat beyond. Turning his gaze back to the woman, he realized she was much younger than the Councilman. Briefly, his thoughts touched upon Korra, again, but he brushed them away, "That is up to Korra, but I have a feeling it may be awhile."
"Good!" The woman chirped, clapping her hands together. Just as quickly as the brief joy flicked over her face, the woman turned serious, advancing on him with a motherly fire in her eyes. Her arms wrapped protectively around her youngest child, "But I'm warning you, if you hurt my family, you will pay. I might live on Airbender Island, but I'm not a pacifist, understood?"
"Fully." Kaemon nodded, bowing respectfully to the woman. Just as his head dipped down, he felt a pain splinter up his shin. He kept his composure, but jerked into an upright position, nearly falling into an instinctive fighting stance. Instead, Kaemon masked his movement into rubbing, ruefully, at his bruising shin.
"He said I could!" Meelo cried, as his mother boxed his ear.
"That doesn't matter, violence isn't the way of the airbender!" She reprimanded, stern and unyielding. Again, flashes of his mother taunted Kaemon. She stood straight, cradling her baby close. After one last, long look at Kaemon, she turned, motioning for him to follow, "I'll show you to the kitchen. There's tons of dishes to do."
Kaemon threw the closed door one last look, the conversation inside lost to him as he followed the Councilman's wife to the kitchen.
"What exactly happened on your journey, Korra?" Tenzin's voice strained against the angry silence that had stunted the conversation. Another angry outburst from Mako had silenced the Avatar into embarrassed silence. Lin sat in the room, stoic and quiet. Bolin sat near his brother, worried and furtive glanced darting around to his friends.
The Avatar looked up from where her hands rested on the table. She appeared thoughtful of his question, her mouth opening and closing to regale the tale. Finally, her mouth shut and she took a deep breath, steadying her thoughts. Closing her eyes, Korra scrabbled and found words, "We found a way to reverse Ka-Amon's de-bending."
"And that involved fucking each other?" Snarled Mako, arms crossed where he sat.
Tenzin shot him a dirty look, his voice cold and hard, "Mako, I know the confusion and hurt you may be feeling, but that statement is unneeded."
"No, Mako." Korra snapped, her eyes opening and flashing with some inside anger, a flame of rage that she kept contained. She sat straighter, her chin jutting out as she continued, "Kaemon is half-Avatar."
"What? You've lost your mind."
"Shut up, Mako." Bolin
"Thank you, Bo. Like I was saying, Kaemon is half-Avatar," Korra turned her gaze to Tenzin, the only person who might extrapolate an answer for the strange event, "He was able to bend, really weakly, when he was younger. I...I saw the memory of his parents dying. He felt it was his fault."
"You saw his memory?"
Korra nodded, offering up the only explanation she had for the memory to be entwined with the other side, "The event was traumatic, even on the environment; the memory is present in the Spirit World."
Tenzin fell silent, shock and happiness mingling in his throat and on his potential words. Korra had been anything but yielding to spiritual mentoring. To be told her archnemesis assisted her was, well, unbelievable!
"He's my other half, Tenzin." Korra's words were so soft, he almost didn't pick up on them.
Shock overcame happiness, "What! He wants to rid the world of bending, how-"
"He's my Spiritual half. The year I was born, he became very sick and I think he lost what little bending ability he had," Korra interrupted Tenzin, forcing her theory out in a rush of words. Glares and scoffs settled into the short silences of her words, but Korra continued forth, "I took his bending by being born, but he survived and kept the Spiritual aspect of being an Avatar. I-I thought, maybe, you had an explanation for a...a..."
"A schism of the Avatar cycle?"
"What makes you think there was a split?" Tenzin asked, his mind revolving around the old scar on his father's back. A scar of battle, brought upon by the former Princess Azula while Avatar Aang was in the Avatar State. The old airbender had to swallow a lump in his throat, trying to hide his nervousness.
"I can't get into the Spirit World without him and he is so much that I'm not and," Korra paused, feeling foolish for the next part, "He knows the saying 'waterbenders rise with the moon, not the sun.'"
The saying brushed mental dust off the old story his mother used to tell him. A first-person anectdote of a fight between herself and the then Prince Zuko during the Winter Solstice in the North. His father had been in the Spirit World, presumably unable to hear. Apparently it was stored somewhere, though, if Korra's theory was correct. That little saying was rarely publicized. The play-by-play dialogue rarely was, for various reasons.
"What kind of saying is that?" Mako scoffed.
"But, Korra, he isn't a waterbender or of the Tribes."
Korra pressed her lips together, her eyes falling to the table as she picked at the top. Quietly, she stated, "His mother was spot-on Water Tribe. She even wore an engagement necklace."
Tenzin fell silent again, deep in thought.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Lin remained silent. Finally, her voice shot thorugh the room, like an arrow through the clouds, "So, did you figure out how to fix us?"
Korra's eyes turned to Lin, not shirking back from her glare, "I think so, but I won't know until Kaemon and I try. Together."
The answer was unsatisfactory to the police chief. Her lips sourly pursed, eyes narrowing.
Mako didn't bother to hide his irritation, "Great, so someone has to be a guinea pig-hamster to that guy? Do you think anyone is going to willingly-"
"If they want their bending back, then yes!" Korra slammed her hands on the table. Her jaw set as she stood, pointing to the closed door, "That man out there once tortured and tormented me, but I have forgiven him and even come to love him! I cannot fathom how terrible it is to lose your bending, but if anyone truly wants it back, they will suck it up and face their fear!"
There was a palatable anger between Korra and Mako. Mako, too, stood, his body tense with rage, "Then count me out. I don't know what's messed up in your head, but I don't want any part of it!"
"Then suffer, Mako." Korra snarled, ignoring the looks of shock from the others, "Bending is part of who you are and you're not complete without it, but if you won't face Kaemon, then suffer."
"Korra." Tenzin gasped, breathless.
"No, no more." Korra sliced her hand through the air in a definite sign that the conversation was finished, "We will accomplish nothing more from this conversation. Kaemon and I will try out our method, since it's the best we have." Korra, holding herself tall and with authority, turned her sights on Lin, "The Equalists will be released, per our agreement. Amon has helped, as much as he can, and they do not deserve to be kept from family any longer."
This time, Lin stood to prostest, "Bu-"
"No, that was the agreement. We have returned, they're to be released." Korra was taking no prisoners and holding her ground. Once Lin grudgingly nodded to Korra's demands, the Avatar started for the door, silently dismissing the whole of the meneagerie of a council. She had had enough of the fighting, their words, their insinuations and disgust. She was the Avatar and she didn't need to take those reactions.
As Korra disappeared through the doorway, only Bolin had the nerve to speak. He fidgeted nervously, phrasing what everyone had on their mind, "She...uhm, she sounded like Amon there, right? Like, not her voice, but her words and posture and everything. It wasn't just me, right?"
Mako glared at his little brother, while Lin remained silently staring at the Avatar's exit.
"No, Bolin," Tenzin shook his head, sighing. Quietly, he stood and straightened his robes. He couldn't bring his eyes to the young earthbender's earnest gaze, "You're right. She sounded remarkably like her other half."
Korra felt her heart throb painfully in her chest. Kaemon wasn't waiting outside the room, he wasn't out on the veranda. Had he run, disappeared? Did he decide, without her input, to make her whole? The last thought made a chill run through Korra's blood and her stomach twisted violently. She felt instantly sick.
"He's in the kitchen." Ikki's chirp cut through Korra's sudden nausea. The Avatar's sick feelings lifted as she turned to the grinning airbender. She was shocked to find the little girl, a victim of Amon nightmares, to be in such a good humor. As if reading her mind, Ikki laughed, "I'm fine. Grandaddy Aang always said forgiveness is a salve for the spirit and I think I forgive Amon. I haven't had a nightmare in awhile, anyway."
She could feel the stunned reactions radiating behind her, but Korra didn't turn to see her friends or mentors. Ikki forgave Amon and she had been so affected by his prior torment. Either Kaemon had one hell of a way to apologize or the young girl felt the change in his demeanor. Regardless, Korra dropped to her kneels and hugged the little airbender close, feeling a warmth expanding in her chest, "Thank you, Ikki."
Before Ikki could question her actions, Korra stood and started for the kitchen. The airbender looked at her dad, a curious glint in her eyes, "Is Korra alright?"
Tenzin didn't answer his daughter, but quietly followed Korra to the kitchen, soon followed by the Fire Ferret brothers and Chief Beifong.
"Pema has you doing dishes, huh?"
"Among a list of things." Kaemon nodded to a rather long laundry list pinned to a nearby cabinet. Korra peered at the list and let out a low whistle, to which Kaemon added, "I don't mind, I offered."
"You don't need to do this, though, you know."
"I do." His voice took a firmer edge as he dunked a plate beneath the suds, "I terrified them, Korra. I terrified children, just as the Sheng brothers tormented my family. I need to work for forgiveness and, even then, I do not expect them to forgive me."
"Kaemon..." Korra approached him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He paused in drying a cup and glanced at her, eyebrows raised. She smiled up at him, "You're going to help me restore bending, that should be work enough."
"No, it's not. I terrified men, women, and children. I have much to atone for," Kaemon's voice took on a somber edge. Korra opened her mouth to argue, but Kaemon pressed a rag to her lips - his hands still sopping wet - to silence her, "You will not change my mind on this, Korra."
The Avatar crossed her arms and gave him an equally cross look, unimpressed with his need to be a martyr of sorts. Kaemon sighed and returned to his dishwashing under the half-annoyed gaze of Korra. After a beat of silence, he inquired, "How did the discussion go?"
"Badly." Korra grunted, leaning against a counter, "Mako is pissed."
"Does that matter to you?"
Korra was silent, almsot instantly picking up on his attempted aloof. She wondered how long it was going to take Kaemon to realize Mako had been her prior crush. Now? Korra just found the once-firebender to be a raging donkey-ape's butt. At least Kaemon wasn't being over-the-top jealous.
"No, it doesn't. He's a jerk." Korra replied, shrugging.
"He's being a jerk, with reason, but you're his friend, I'm sure he's got some positives."
Korra grinned, deciding to bait him, "Well, he is a looker."
"With those eyebrows?" Kaemon slipped into snark, despite his attempt to be reasonable. His guilt subsided as Korra chuckled. Shaking his head, Kaemon hid his smile, "Okay, so he's handsome. Does he have anything else going for him?"
The Avatar sighed, thinking over her memories. More of Mako's flaws came to light, rather than his virtues. Still, she knew deep down he wasn't bad, "He cares about his brother and his friends and he's a hard-worker."
"There you go."
Korra was quiet for a second, regarding Kaemon with a slight smile, "Why're you doing this?"
"Washing dishes? We established that." He replied, ignoring her obvious intent.
"I meant, why are you standing up for Mako. He's been a total ass."
"I may not like Magoo, but he is your friend," Korra couldn't help but grin at Kaemon's name for the Fire Ferret, and though he enjoyed her smile he continued, "A friend who is currently facing insurmountable confusion, frustration, and anger on top of not being able to bend. Whatever is said, take it with a grain of sand."
Korra fell silent, mentally digesting Kaemon's words. Mako was on an emotional precipice and was already unbalanced without his bending. Though his words and attitude weren't worth condoning, her relationship with him didn't need to be thrown away. They were both under stress and, after his bending was returned, hopefully they could forge a stronger friendship. Korra wondered what Mako would think, without her crush on him, of such a relationship.
Her eyes focussed on Kaemon. It was kind of funny, watching him do household chores. A scarred, six foot, muscular man doing dishes; a rather handsome, scarred, six-foot, muscular man. She never thought she'd see the day. Pushing off the counter, Korra sidled up next to him, enjoying the body heat he radiated, "Want me to help dry?"
"Actually my hands are pruning like hell," Kaemon held up his dripping hands, shaking the water off them so Korra could see the wrinkles on his fingertips, "Would you mind washing while I dry?"
Korra scoffed, sniggering at her other half, "Pfft, weenie."
Kaemon simply rolled his eyes as Korra took his position. He sidled down a position, drying the wet dishes and stacking them into neat piles. Quietly, to the symphony of clinking dishes and splashing water the two washed the dishes, comfortable with each other's presence. From the doorway, Tenzin and company watched, eyebrows quirked at the scene of their Avatar - and her supposed second half - partaking in a menial chore.
Near sunset, everyone - or just about everyone - on Airbender Island gathered in the courtyard. The sun hung low on the horizon, lingering just above the waters of Yue Bay, as if it wanted to watch the scene about to take place. A warm breeze fluttered over the island. The 'guinea pig-hamster' knelt before Korra and Kaemon, her lips pursed in agitation at, again, being on her knees in front of a man she considered her enemy for so long.
"This is ridiculous." Lin Beifong snarled to herself, arms crossed over her breastplate.
They had spent five minutes, breathing deep, trying to heal the broken links or turn on the Avatar State. Nothing had happened. Kaemon couldn't help but feel the leers on his back, burning humiliating holes into his back.
"Trust me, you're not alone in that sentiment." Mumbled Kaemon as he and Korra stood together, facing each other. His hand pressed to Lin's forehead while Korra's pressed to the flat of Lin's chest.
The negativity was irking Korra, "Well, if you have a better idea, feel free to offer it up!"
"I don't see how the sea of chi idea is going to work." Kaemon stated, pointing to his abdomen, "My stomach is a bit higher than yours."
"Then what do you suggest!" Korra craned her neck to glare up at him.
Kaemon was silent, under the silent gazes and glares of their audience. His eyes trailed over the assembled, every one of them hoping for failure so they could continue to hate him for what he stole. While he had an idea, the man wasn't sure if it was proper to switch positions in front of the people present. If they were going to publicly return bending, there was no other option.
With no words, Kaemon swallowed his pride and thoughts of being proper, and gathered Korra up in his arms. He shifted their position, so he sat crosslegged on the ground with the young woman in his lap. Her back pressed to his chest. Kaemon's hands slid down her arms, positioning them at Lin's abdomen. The sea of chi was the key. Whatever he had done to injure the flow of chi through a body, perhaps it took healing the biggest well of chi to change.
"Be quiet, Lin." Korra snapped, catching up with Kaemon's plan. She closed her eyes and began to breath deep, listening to Kaemon's own deep breathing. The real plane began to slip away and an interim, a world morphed of Spirit and Physical, assembled in a glowing light blue. Both felt the flow of the world, the streams that ran through plants and animals and the environment and...the people. Korra and Kaemon quickly felt the disparities, the knots, the blockages in Lin's chi. The flow was stunted and soured by an influx of negative chi, which originated at Lin's chest and forehead.
With both of their hands moving, slow and graceful and in unison, it took a scant few seconds to clear the negative energy and replace it with cleansed chi. It seemed easy and natural; so simple.
And just like that, Korra and Kaemon fell out of the Avatar State, opening their eyes to catch the shocked gaze of Lin Beifong. Her eyes flicked to the group behind Kaemon and Korra, where murmures and whispers of curiosity began to swell.
Lin stood up and, to their unspoken inquiries, turned away. Her arms raised slowly, fingers extended. Pebbles strewn about the island suddenly levitated, spinning around Lin in a whirlwind of rock before racing to her body, forming a veritable armor of stone around her body. She turned to face the crowd, arms outstretched as if to say 'ta-da', before allowing the pebbles to drop and scatter over the courtyard cobbles.
Korra hopped to her feet, turning to everyone with a big grin and her hands on her hips. She barely contained her eagerness as she shouted, "Who wants to be the next guinea-pig hamster!"
A week into returning, most benders had their powers back. The Neo-Equalist movement had fought for certain individuals to remain powerless, such as known mafia agents and SpiritFathers of gangs. The Republic City Police Department voiced agreements to the sentiment and, so, certain members remained without their born powers. Though Korra felt a swell of guilt, it wasn't as if redemption was beyond the gang members' capabilities. If they contributed to the community, and went through the proper avenues, they could be rewarded with a cleansing of their chi. Kaemon voiced dissent to publicizing the option, saying many evil men could be patient if it meant power.
Happy to have any excuse to celebrate, a gala was held. A place where the councilmen and women could take credit for Korra and Kaemon, state their support for the endeavor in front of the swarm of reporters.
After an obligatory amount of schmoozing, both Avatars exited the gala, finding an unused drawing room for a little quiet. Korra huffed, muttering about the discomfort of the formal dress she wore, shifting her bust bandages as much as she could while fidgeting with the skirt of the gown. Kaemon chuckled, taking a seat on a chaise and crossing his legs. His gaze followed Korra's movements, enjoying every shift and fidget.
Feeling his eyes on her, Korra glanced up, flushed. Pushing her loose hair out of her face, Korra averted her gaze, feeling naked beneath Kaemon's gaze. It shouldn't make her flush, considering how often they were bare before each other, but the heat in his gaze brought an overwhelming warmth through her.
"So, how do you like the party?" Korra asked, trying to shift the attention to something a little less warm.
"Tedious." Kaemon sighed, rolling his eyes. Korra had heard his rants over the last two days about reporters hungry to twist words, politicians working for their own bank account, and pesky 'friends' crawling from holes. She couldn't help but smile, though. As much as Kaemon had hid behind a mask, he wasn't afraid to voice his opinions.
"Speaking of festivities, I have a gift for you." Kaemon hoisted himself off the chaise, rummaging through the inside pocket of his jacket. He soon withdrew an ivory white box.
"Is that the thing you bartered for?" Korra cocked an eyebrow, a slight grin on her lips.
"Oh, you see right through me." He proffered the box, fighting down his anxiety as he popped the lid open, "It reminded me of you, delicate and strong and..." Korra's eyes widened and, instantly, Kaemon felt sheepish and awkward, "If you don't like it, don't feel obliged to wear it, I just thought that it suited yo-"
"Do you know what this is?" Korra asked, her eyes glancing up from the box before returning. Gingerly, her fingers delved into the velvet lined box, lifting the necklace from its home. The large circular pendant was carved of a blue rock, carved into a delicate panda-lily pattern with dark and light blues taking the shape of the extended petals.
"Uhm, it's a necklace."
"Do you know nothing of Water Tribe culture?" Korra laughed, a smile stretched widely across her lips.
Kaemon felt rather stupid, his gaze trailing around to seek an answer from the walls. He came up short, unable to make a remark or to answer her. Korra's smile broadened as far as it could go. Kaemon had been too young to question his mother's necklace, too young to even know the tradition, "Kaemon, it's traditional in the Water Tribe for the man to carve and give his betrothed a necklace. An engagement necklace."
His mouth fell open in a genuine look of shock, completely unaware of the implication behind the jewelry. He nearly cursed as he remembered that grin, that large grin that stretched across the old woman's lips, as she convinced him that his gut instinct was right, that Korra would adore the gift. He felt a fool, a complete and utter fool. He reached for the necklace, a little disappointed when Korra willingly handed it back, "I-I'm sorry, I didn't reali-"
"Oh, shut up, we're Avatars," Korra laughed. She turned, lifting her hair out of the way as a silent demand to put the necklace on her. Kaemon felt a little swell of encouragement and obliged, fingers shaking as he fumbled with the clasp. He could hear the amusement in Korra's voice, "We make our own rules and it's different enough to not count as an engagement necklace, I suppose."
She turned, a smile on her lips as she struck a pose, emphasizing the necklace, "How's it look?"
The pendant rested in the dip of Korra's throat, seemingly made for her body. The blue hues were at home, traditional and cultural against her skin tone. The choker accentuated the curve of her strong neck and, briefly, Kaemon thought of the kisses he left there that morning. Ghost memories of the sounds she made under his lips, the squirms she made beneath his fingertips, the way her soft body felt against his bubbled through his thoughts. His gaze trailed down her body, truly seeing her in the dress for the first time and noting how it hung on her body; attractive, in the conventional sense, but not Korra. The gown was out of place, considering her personality, and he was much happier to say the necklace suited her much more.
However, Korra was waiting for an answer. Bringing his gaze to her eyes, Kaemon motioned to the only mirror in the room, "See for yourself."
Korra stepped closer to the mirror, her eyes lighting up as she saw the pendant on her. Her fingers raised, trailing against the ridges of the panda-lily bloom, feeling an instant fondness for the stoen. A wistful smile tugged at her lips, but Kaemon saw a slight sadness in her eyes. It made his heart twist violently and, in that second, he knew how to mend it.
"There are only two things I want most in this moment," Kaemon suddenly came up behind her, bending low so his lips were level with her ear. Korra shivered as his arms wrapped around her torso, pulling her body against his heat, "One, for that dress to come off you, so you may truly see how perfect that necklace is on you and two," He paused, wondering how to phrase his next desire. Closing his eyes, feeling the blush claw across his cheeks, he finally found the words, "And two, for our own union to be just as perfect."
Kaemon pressed his lips together tightly, nearly holding his breath as he waited for Korra's response. Shock radiated from her. He could imagine why. Not too long ago, they were enemies, fighting to spill blood. Now, after so short a time, he couldn't imagine life without the young woman and, he hoped, she found herself in the same position. Still, such a short time, not knowing exactly how their bond worked - or if the bond was entirely in their heads - was enough to make declining his impromptu proposal valid.
The young woman twisted in his arms, turning to face him. His eyes opened, ready to hear a sad rejection on her lips. Instead, he found Korra's eyes bright with unspoken happiness. Though she smiled with both her eyes and her lips, the man knew she wasn't going to be so easy as to answer. A teasing was imminent and that excited him, "I'd be spoiling you if I gave you both, Kaemon."
He could barely wait for her to finish the sentence. Excitement pinched at his lower stomach as he pressed Korra closer, savoring the soft feel of her breasts against his chest and the way her body bent to his. Kaemon dipped low, his lips against hers so she could feel his every word, "Then allow me the pleasure to earn both, Korra."
The female Avatar shuddered against her counterpart, his hot breath teasing her blood and warming it with tingling anticipation. She had barely begun to gasp when his lips captured hers, silently evoking the need and the want Kaemon felt. Korra clutched at his jacket, knees going weak and the man lifted her up, carrying her to the nearest desk without breaking the breathless kiss. He gathered bunches of the gown cloth up after setting her down, pushing the skirt up along her leg, along her thigh, feeling her warmth pressed against his groin. Kaemon moaned against Korra's lips as her fingers ventured away from his chest, leaving spidery wisps of tingling burns through the fabric.
"Remember, Kaemon, I'm not as easy as that kitsune." Korra gasped as his hands roamed, barely restrained in tearing the fabric off her body. His musk was sending her through lascivious memories, making heat claw at her lower tummy while Kaemon coaxed her into a frenzy.
"I expect no less," He mumbled against her ear, his tongue flicking to catch her earlobe. Korra whimpered and squirmed beneath his sucking mouth before Kaemon released her from the pleasure. Her scent intoxicated him, brought out a primal need to be in her, with her, be one. He nearly growled against the juncture of her ear and throat, "I love that about you, Korra."