Title: The Trophy Wife
Rating: M, because there will be smut!
Characters/Pairings: Everyone; eventual Amorra, hinted unrequited Makorra, Masami
Author's Note: Already posted on Tumblr, but what the hell. I'll post it here, too. Dedicated to the lovely ladies of the S.S. Amorra TinyChat/Chatzy, who fill my life with laughter and sunshine and rainbows and sometimes a unicorn or two. And repeated playings of "Call Me Maybe" and "Peacock."
Anyway, this is a post episode nine AU (because there aren't enough of those already!) where Korra is captured, and she strikes a bargain with Amon in hopes that her friends will keep their bending. And then things don't quite go according to plan. There is snark, sarcasm, romance, friends, and old wounds to be healed. And the occasional shenanigans.
She spoke before thinking because that was how she operated. The statement was blurted out in the heat of the moment, one last desperate attempt to save herself and her friends.
"I'll marry you."
Well, that certainly got his attention.
Next to her she sensed Tarrlok stiffen, while the masked man who stood in front of her was the perfect statue of indifference.
"I beg your pardon, Avatar?"
She swallowed her fear and spoke. "Purely political, mind you. But think about it, what would be a better symbol for peace than the leader of the Equalists to marry the Avatar? To show that benders and non-benders can live together, in peace? I know it's not the outcome either of us wanted…" her voice trailed off as she repressed the memory of Mako smiling at her, "but perhaps we can end the fighting. End the violence. We'll work to make sure that the council and the police don't ignore the plight of the non-benders. We can re-designate task force to taking on the Triads and when I become a fully realized Avatar you and I can take the bending of those who abuse their power."
He tipped his head up ever so slightly at her. "An interesting proposition but not one I'm particularly inclined to think about too hard."
"You may think that saving me for last is your best plan of action, but taking me down, the Avatar, a seventeen year old girl, isn't exactly going to win you a lot of love and support. I know plenty of non-benders who don't agree with your philosophy. At all. In the end you'll be outnumbered and outgunned I don't care how many fancy toys Sato can make for you." She gave him a hard look. "Look, we make this sacrifice and I can make sure that non-benders have a chance against benders. We can invoke stiffer punishments for benders who use their abilities to threaten non-benders. The task force and your troops can take down the triads. We can work together and get everything balanced out again, or you can take me out now and find yourself backed into a corner later. Your choice, Amon."
He studied her shrewdly. Behind him, the lieutenant snorted. "It's a trick, sir. She's begging to keep her bending in the most pathetic way imaginable – by throwing herself at you."
"It certainly does seem that way, doesn't it, Lieutenant," Amon agreed. But her argument was fairly sound. At the moment, Sato could keep them in front of Republic City's forces. He worried, though, that the man wouldn't be able to keep them in front of the united forces of the world out to avenge their avatar. "Still, her argument is a compelling one."
"Sir?" the lieutenant asked.
"She has a point. Keeping a few steps ahead of Republic City's forces is child's play. Keeping a few steps ahead of the world united against us may prove more problematic."
"You don't really believe her lines about working together, do you?" the lieutenant scoffed.
"She is the Avatar, if she demands it, the council will have to listen, won't they, Councilman Tarrlok?" The name, once so dear to him, felt foreign in his mouth. He'd had to say it far more often as of late, but that didn't change the fact that the man with the messy hair and defeated eyes was a stranger to him. Even though they had once been so close.
Tarrlok looked up at the mask, like he was trying to see past it. His eyes narrowed a little, but he gave a defeated sigh and then nodded. "The council will default to the Avatar when necessary. If you threaten to take their bending unless they comply with the Avatar's wishes, then yes, they'll go along with whatever she says. She could mandate that every third day we have to dress in drag for meetings and we'd have to comply."
This earned a bark of laughter from Amon. Korra was startled because laughter wasn't a sound that she associated with him at all, but Tarrlok looked genuinely pained by it. "That I'd pay to see."
"I'm sure you would," Tarrlok mumbled quietly and certainly not loud enough for anyone to hear.
"I'll consider your offer, Avatar. I'll have my response for you in the morning." He paused and Korra had the distinct feeling that he was appraising her like one might appraise an ostrich-horse or a cow-hippo. She lifted her chin and he chuckled. "I hope you realize what you're offering me," he murmured before turning and leaving. When he and the lieutenant left, Korra sighed and slumped down in the cell.
"You have no idea what you're offering him, do you?" Tarrlok asked dryly. "Marriage? To that…that…" The now bendingless councilman let out a snarl of barely contained rage.
"I'm giving him me. I have no doubt that he'll take my bending. I'd be disappointed if he didn't," Korra replied sourly. "But if I sacrifice my bending so that Tenzin, Lin, Mako, Bolin and countless other can keep theirs, then it's the only choice."
Tarrlok sighed as he ran his hand through his now loose hair. "A man like that…he probably has no idea what to do with a wife."
Korra crossed her arms against her chest and cocked an eyebrow at him. "And you do?"
Tarrlok snorted. "Don't take this the wrong way, Avatar, but I do know how to treat a woman. Despite my father not exactly being the pillar of husbandly and fatherly virtue."
"He didn't love your mother?" Korra asked softly.
"No, I think he loved her in his own way, but he loved revenge more," Tarrlok answered bitterly. He drew his knees to his chest and pouted. Korra was reminded of a petulant child. "In the end nothing matters. I tried to avoid my father's shadow, tried to be more than he ever was and then it turns out I'm just the same."
She could sense that there was some underlying hurt there, that perhaps she'd poked at his weak spot a little too hard. However, she knew he wasn't going to say anything else. She recognized the look of someone who had closed up, who wouldn't speak of whatever was bothering even if it would be the best thing for them. With a frustrated sigh she lay down and tried to sleep.
Most of the night was spent drifting in and out of consciousness. Tarrlok had eventually stretched out and fallen asleep, and she was relieved to discover that he didn't snore. At least she didn't have to deal with that, which meant sleep came a little easier, but not nearly easy enough. Her stomach was churning in anticipation. She wasn't sure she wanted Amon to accept her proposal, but she wasn't sure that she wanted him to say no, either. If he said yes there was a chance that things could return to balance, that benders and non-benders could live in peace once again. If he said no…Korra wasn't quite sure what would happen if he said no. She wouldn't let herself think that far ahead.
Morning came all too soon, the sunlight sneaking into her eyes and turning the world red. With a soft groan she forced herself to sit up and assume a meditative pose. She would have spent more time trying to make contact with Aang, but she found herself facing Amon, who was sitting on the floor much like she was.
"Good morning, Avatar," he said softly. Korra's glance slid to the other side of the cell where Tarrlok was still sleeping and found it odd that he was keeping his voice down so the other man could sleep.
"How long have you been here?" Korra asked, barely remembering to keep her voice down. She didn't feel like dealing with Tarrlok so early.
"Long enough," the Equalist leader shrugged. "You know, you're quite pretty when you're asleep."
Korra pursed her lips to keep from calling him a creep. She inhaled deeply through her nose and then released it through her mouth before asking the question she longed, and dreaded, to have answered. "Have you made your decision?"
"I have," he answered evenly. "Kept me up all night, you know."
"If it makes you feel any better I didn't really sleep either," she retorted. Then she grimaced. She'd have to get better about holding her tongue. She had no idea how he could hurt her if she pushed him too far, or if he would hurt her.
"So it's not an easy thing that you offer me, then," he noted with what could only be satisfaction. "You realize that this is a not a decision that can be made lightly."
"I know that I'm not just the Avatar for the benders. I'm the Avatar for the non-benders, too, and I can't just turn my back on them. I think that us working together, being together, is the best way to achieve that," Korra answered. It had been her steady train of thought the whole night. She knew that Tenzin wouldn't approve of her proposed solution (proposed, ha), but it felt like the only option left that didn't include everyone getting their bending taken away.
Her statement seemed to put him at ease, because the next thing she knew he was fumbling in his pocket for something. "Here, this should be enough of an answer for you."
Korra watched his hand like an eagle-hawk. His large hand was wrapped securely around whatever it was that he pulled out, and she looked at him skeptically until he uncurled his fingers. A betrothal necklace rested in his palm. "Um, in case you missed the memo, I'm from the Southern Water Tribe. We don't do betrothal necklaces."
"Here's the first thing you're going to learn about me, Avatar," he said calmly. "My family hails from the Northern Water Tribe. We do betrothal necklaces."
"Oh," she answered softly as she shifted so she could reach between the bars of the cell and take the necklace from him. She tried not to react to the feel of his skin against her fingers, clasping the necklace and drawing it towards her. She studied the carved blue stone, noting that the symbols for water, earth, fire and air had been carefully scrawled on to it. However, there was also something inscribed on the back. Turning it over, she found the symbol for equality. Of course he had put it on there. "It's beautiful."
"And why I didn't sleep," he informed her. He stood and motioned that she should do so as well, and she was surprised when he unlocked the cell door.
The squeaking hinges woke Tarrlok, who rubbed the sleep from his eyes but still watched them carefully. Korra slipped from the cell and stood before Amon, chewing on her lower lip nervously. He held out his hand and Korra placed the betrothal necklace in his palm. He then motioned for her to turn around and she obeyed, holding her breath and unsure of what he would do. She was surprised when she felt the ribbon slide around her neck and the weight of the stone resting against the hollow of her throat. With the ribbon secured, she turned to face him, absently fingering the stone.
"Thank you," she murmured.
"No, Avatar, thank you," he said. "Lieutenant!"
The door to the containment room opened and the Lieutenant entered. "Sir?"
"Take her to the room I had prepared earlier," Amon instructed. "I don't think it's an auspicious start to a relationship if one person is locked in a cell like an animal."
"You've taken her bending?"
"Not yet. She may not give me a reason to," Amon answered. "I don't think she'll do anything to jeopardize her truce. Take her to the room, let her get cleaned up. If she's bending in the shower, it's probably harmless." He turned to her. "Though if you do try anything funny…"
"I promise I won't even bend in the shower," Korra said quickly.
Amon turned to his lieutenant. "You heard her."
The lieutenant looked at his leader and then the Avatar. "If she tries anything funny I'll bring the shock and awe."
"Fair enough," Amon said with a wave of the hand. "I have a few things I need to speak to the councilman about. Then I'm going to lock myself in my chambers and anyone who dares to rouse me for anything less than a full on rescue attempt for the Avatar puts their own lives on the line."
"Yes sir," the lieutenant answered. He pulled out his kali sticks and prodded Korra to get her to move. "Come on, I'll tell you where to go."
When the door clicked shut behind them, Amon turned to the disheveled councilman who was sitting on the floor. "Now, let's talk."