A/N: and here we go.
Fourteen years ago
Her husband is still and limp on the floor, one hand out, open in supplication. The man is at her throat now – his gloved fingers clawed into the soft flesh under her jaw – he pins her to the wall and Senna feels cold all over, like her blood is turning to stone – she can't move –
"Where is your daughter?" asks the man, voice cool and rich through the mask, like snow on her neck.
"We don't – have a daughter," Senna gasps, and her muscles are dragging on her body, her bones are going to break through her skin if she tries to fight him –
"Liar," he says, and just past the black stars bursting in her eyes he snaps something open with a flourish. It's Tonraq's letter to the White Lotus. Why he has it, she doesn't know, but each one of those words cuts now, each stroke carved on her soul with a knifepoint: we have reason to believe that our daughter may be the Avatar…
"This is about your daughter, isn't it?" the man says, his grip loosening slightly, and she shakes her head, clenching her teeth in a silent snarl. He drops her suddenly and she collapses to the floor, sucking in huge mouthfuls of air, she braces herself to dive for the jugs of water or the spears or anything and fight – but he twists his hand through the air and her own body clamps sharply around her spine. There is no sound in her shriek, just a high blank note of dread ringing in her mind as she tumbles roughly through the curtain and finds herself face to face with her sleeping child.
"Wake her up," says the man, his masked face rising like a cold moon over her daughter's bed. Senna kneels by the bed and stares at him, her breath snagging in her ribs; she's not going to give him anything.
"No," she chokes; her rage is dry and sour in her mouth. The man hesitates, his hand tensing over her; but he swoops onto Korra and shakes her – how dare he touch her –
"Get away from my d – " but he shoves the words back down her throat with a wave of his closed fist, nails her to the floor with his lightless gaze. Every breath tears and aches but she is long past the point of simple fear. She just wants to make him hurt –
Korra stirs, mumbles, and sits up, her toddler belly curving out under her nightdress; she rubs her eyes with the back of her hand, still round and padded with baby fat.
"Mhmma?" she murmurs, at the sight of her mother's stricken face.
"Make her firebend," whispers the man, "now."
He flings his hand towards the other room and there is a horrible wet splintering noise as he wrenches an unintelligible syllable of agony from her husband's mouth. Senna looks into Korra's bleary eyes and strokes her face, her downy brown hair, her fingers trembling. She's so beautiful.
"Korra? Can you firebend for me? Firebend for mommy," she breathes, cupping her cheek, shaking uncontrollably. Korra moans in a low undertone and tries to flop back onto her pillow, but Senna peels enough strength from her aching body to steady her as the man forces another gurgling sob from Tonraq.
"Korra – "
Don't do it. Don't do it. I know you love it so much, the way you can pull heat off the midnight sun, hold fistfuls of sparks, the flicker on your face, the burning of your soul into godhood – but don't do it don't do it don't firebend please
Korra shows her hand to her mother, a glowing blossom of white and yellow hovering an inch over the lines of her palm. It flashes over her eyes as she waits for Senna's what a pretty fire, let's show Daddy and in the other room, Tonraq stops twitching.
"That's my girl," Senna says quietly, her heart flooding with despair.
The flame goes out with a weak cry as the man lifts Korra from her bed, blanket and all, cradling her to his chest with one arm and Senna lunges for her but it's not enough – Korra's bare foot slips through her grasp, she can feel each warm toe sliding past her fingers, and the man looms over Senna as Korra starts to fuss and whine. She has never hated anyone so much in her life – she just needs one hand to kill him – break his neck – pulverize his organs with a squelch – she can't move and he yanks on the air, a hard backward thrust like tightening a knot. Senna feels it in her head and as she falls into a soft, dizzying blackness, she sees Korra's sleepy, irritated pout, lower lip quivering; her hair shrubby and wild, her tiny hand slapping clumsily at the mask: I - don't - want – up mmaahhh
Good girl, thinks Senna, fight him
and she clings to this, her one last hope.
A/N: chp. 1 will be up in a few days; chp 2. within two weeks. enjoy. reviews always appreciated, + you can find updates and general fandom foolery on my tumblr (pulpofiction tumblr)