Author's Notes: This is a season 1 finale ending AU, and it takes off from there.
Pairings: None yet
Warnings: Gore related to bloodbending in later chapters.
There was one thing that airbending was good for, Korra decided bitterly. It allowed you to slam the door without needing to touch it, and the additional gusts of wind that were pulled from thin air didn't hurt the drama.
She stormed down the steps, still hearing Mako half-pleading with her on the other side of said door. Declaring his love. Or whatever. Korra stopped listening as soon as Katara had entered the room. Just five minutes ago.
Just to confirm her bending couldn't be restored. For the past week, Korra had felt drained, but the exhaustion was now replaced by rage. Katara left her alone after consoling words that fell flat, but Mako insisted on being there with her, telling her it would all be fine when it certainly would not.
So she used her brand-spanking new airbending to slam the door in his face on the way out.
Forcefully, she shoved every thought of Mako's pleading and Katara's healing out of her mind as Naga nudged her huge head against Korra's chest, warm breath sending smoky puffs into the air.
"I'm sorry I haven't been coming out lately." Naga whined in response, then pawed the ground in a question that might as well have been spoken out loud.
"Of course we'll go out."
In half a minute they were outside the compound, pounding through the snow drifts and ice patches until the buildings were just a speck in the distance, and then until they were gone. Korra felt the air like never before, how it warped and twisted around them. She could sense the rocks jutting out from the ice, the polar bear dog pack to the east and someone just ahead of them. Going this fast felt like heaven; and her mind felt at peace for the first time in months.
Naga slowed to a trot. Korra squinted, trying to see exactly whom the air was wrapping around. A few meters away was a man. A tall man. Naga didn't seem bothered, but Korra jumped to the ground and crouched down, just in case. Twisting her right arm in a circular motion, she slowed the wind, albeit temporarily. The airflow slowed to nearly a full stop, and she saw him.
It was Tenzin...yet not Tenzin. He was dressed in the Air Acolyte robes, and he held a staff in one hand.
Korra couldn't hold back a gasp.
The other Avatar smiled gravely, walking forward slowly. Korra looked to Naga, to see what the polar bear dog's reaction would be, but there was none. Naga lay down, content to allow the snow to pile up on her.
"You are in the spirit world, Korra."
"I - I don't know what that means."
Aang smiled, but this one held real warmth. "I have a lot to teach you. And you have much to learn. Has Tenzin taught you my marble trick yet?"
"Wh - no he hasn't." This was not how she'd expected the conversation to go. "Aang, I hate to ask, after everything you've done for this world, but-"
Somehow Korra knew Aang understood in a way even Katara couldn't, even as she tried again. "You didn't even hear what I was going to ask!"
"I cannot restore your bending Korra, for the same reasons Avatar Roku could not teach me earthbending, or give me the answer to defeating Fire Lord Ozai. That is your hardship to overcome."
"But you did learn earthbending, and you figured out how to win the war!"
Aang nodded. Korra frowned.
"So you're saying there's a way for me to get my bending back?"
"If you choose to go down that path."
"What path? When can I start?"
"There is something you have to know Korra. Noatak isn't dead."
"But they saw his ship blow up - Tenzin said they found a body."
"It is not Noatak's."
"I'm not afraid of him." Even as she said it, Korra knew Aang saw through the lie. "What else can he do to me?"
"More than you know. But you will have help. Someone is coming right now. Korra, I must ask that you trust him for now."
"For now? What does that mean?" the wind was starting again. Korra tried to push it back, but it refused to listen. "Tell me!"
"You'll see." Aang seemed to dissolve, taken into the swirling winds, and Korra was back on Naga, who stood up, growling. Korra jumped off again, shaking off the snow that had accumulated on her shoulders.
"What is it girl?"
Naga snarled, paws spread out in an aggressive stance. Korra could sense someone approaching as the wind pushed him - or her - onward. After ten heavy breaths a dark shape appeared. Anxiously, Korra looked to the sky. Night was falling. If they didn't get back to the compound soon, they would be stuck out here for the night with a stranger for company.
The shape limped closer. It was most definitely a man, wrapped in several layers of clothing. He clutched his arm to his chest. As he neared Korra, she stepped forward.
He looked up and their eyes met. His eyes were yellow.
Of course, he could always have been a firebender, but their color, and the quickly darkening landscape ignited the old fear in Korra. She stumbled back, boots scrabbling on the ice.
"You - you - how did you get here?" a burst of air snapped his head up, holding him off the ground. "Tell me!"
She slammed him into a snowdrift, standing up and walking over to him. He struggled to stand, and she let him. Naga growled, but Korra shook her head.
"Korra, I must ask that you trust him for now."
"No Aang. Not him. Not Noatak. Not after what he did to Lin and everyone else and me."
Noatak coughed out snow tinged with red. Korra raised her hands, prepared to kill him; or to try and kill him with nothing but air.
"Not - Noatak." He was gasping for breath. "Use your eyes, Avatar."
Korra looked him over. His face was still scarred, despite the sweat that poured off of his forehead. And from what she could see, his body didn't look like it had been at ground zero of an explosion.
"You're a waterbender, Noatak. You could've healed yourself and just waltzed into the compound!"
"Then burn me where I am and bury me in the earth Avatar. You have won."
With one clean move, Korra punched him in the jaw. Noatak's flinched.
"How dare you talk to me about bending! If you wanted that death you shouldn't've taken it away from me!"
"I didn't take your bending away, Avatar." he struggled to stand, putting one hand against the snowdrift for support. Korra bit back a laugh when it collapsed, sending him to the ground again. "That served you right."
Noatak managed to stand again. He stepped forward, hand held out. Korra began to step back, but he grabbed her by the wrist.
"I am Amon."
Korra tensed, trying not to show how badly she wanted to pull away.
"Let go of me."
He obliged, but only so he could collapse into her arms. He wasn't as heavy as Korra had expected, but that wasn't saying much.
Korra felt a warm head press against her back. She flinched before realizing it was only Naga, probably wondering if she'd decided to kill Noatak - or Amon or whatever he wanted to call himself.
"He's not dead, girl." With him not speaking and not looking at her, Korra found herself able to relax. "But what am I supposed to do with him?"
Naga huffed in response.
"I can't trust him. Even if what he's saying is true and he isn'tNoatak - he's - he's bad. Evil. He wanted to get rid of benders! But Aang told me to trust him, and I trust Aang."
Decision made, Korra threw Noatak - or Amon or whatever - over Naga's back and followed suit.
"Let's go home."