"Do you have fire-flakes for eyes?! That was a foul!" She whistled and booed loudly, standing amongst the crowd and shouting jeers at the referee that went completely unheard.
Asami tittered next to her although the heiress had just been shouting a similar litany; Korra gave her friend a questioning look but before any words could be exchanged there was a loud splash that drew cheers from the crowd, downing out every other sound, even the twang of a bell announcing the end of the round.
The source of Asami's chuckles was no secret though. Despite her angry jeering, the Avatar was happy- she was watching her first real live Pro-Bending match in what felt like forever, she didn't even care that Tahno's team was winning against the Red Sands Rabaroo's , she was just happy to be in the stands enjoying the show even though she was disappointed not to be part of the proceedings this season.
"At least they don't seem to be cheating this year." Mako commented with a slight frown as the Wolfbats raised their hands, taking in the cheers of the audience while the Rabaroos walked back onto the stage for round two.
Korra agreed, as much as Tahno's cocky hair-flipping attitude annoyed the crap out of her she was actually starting to like him and would hate to have that ruined by seeing him cheat again, she wanted to believe that he had reformed and she knew his team was talented enough not to need foul play. The Avatar found herself discussing this with her friends until a very sneaky shot made Tahno's firebending comrade, Shaozu, go flying off the platform and into the cold watery embrace below, at which point she stood up to cheer with the rest of the crowd, she wasn't really taking sides, just enjoying the match in itself.
Bolin made some excited comment about the Rabaroo's and their new pretty earthbender, she appeared to be an acquaintance of his and he gushed about her technique when she smacked a rock disk onto Tahno's chest. Korra laughed at the move, she felt bad for Tahno since that was bound to hurt but his face was too hilarious to ignore, she laughed even harder when Asami, Mako and Bolin joined in as the cocky waterbender fell on his rear and had to bumble gracelessly to his feet and wipe stone fragments from his hair before he could fight back.
All things considered Korra was fully aware of why her friends had dragged her out to the match, they were trying to cheer her up and it was working really well. The reason she needed cheering was far from resolved though, it had been two weeks since Skoochy snuck into her house and since then Korra had grown increasingly more annoyed to the point of getting depressed and it was all her own fault.
At first she was innocent and believed that Beifong's anger towards her was unjustified but she hated it and wanted to do something about it so, against Noatak's advice, she had spilled the whole tale to Tenzin, who in turn made a huge ruckus about the matter and forced Lin to talk to a newly arrived Bumi whom the policewoman had been avoiding for a couple of days. Bumi had started out by becoming comically paralyzed, just stumbling around aimless and not really listening to anyone for the first couple of days, then out of the blue he became excited and cheerful and everybody thought he was going to talk to Chief again but instead he disappeared completely and had been gone for a while.
Tenzin and Korra actually tried going after the Commander but no matter where they searched they couldn't spot a trace of him and, after a whole week of this, Katara told them to leave the matter alone because she was confident her eldest son would return soon to abide to his responsibilities.
To make matters worse the news of Beifong's unexpected pregnancy became public and a new set rumors started, some were silly speculation on gossip columns and others very offensive assumptions through the grapevine but there were also those that seemed to have a hint of truth. There was one particularly colorful rumor that had reached Avatar's ears and that always made Tenzin turn defensive and red up to his bald head when it was mentioned so she wondered about its veracity, it wasn't even that great a story, it just claimed that Lin Beifong had apparently snuck into bed with all three of Avatar Aang's children at different points in time and was now sneaking her way into the family though the eldest. Korra wasn't sure why this bothered Tenzin so much but she knew for sure it wasn't about him specifically.
In the end Korra's meddling hadn't fixed anything, in fact it seemed to have made the matter worse and now the Chief refused to so much as look her in the eye, much less talk to her. The only interactions that Korra ever had with Beifong anymore where whenever she happened to pick up the phone when the woman was calling for Noatak and even in those cases the Chief would just hang up on her and call again later, the bright side was that Lin and Skoochy seemed to get along better than ever and the boy would share tidbits of news whenever he popped up at the island for more lessons with Jinora.
The whole situation had been stressing Korra immensely and the lack of anything more exciting to do than airbending practice was starting to bore her out of her mind so her friends pulled her along in all sorts of little outings to cheer her up- from loud lunches with Tani to thrilling satomobile tests with Asami and swimming races in the heiress's pool, from sparring sessions with Bolin and Mako to Pro-Bending matches with her old team. And through all those little outings Noatak stayed home with Nilak and Aga, she was aware that he wanted her to have freedom befitting her age but the former equalist mostly just enjoyed those moments alone with his mother and daughter and wanted to experience them as often as possible before the old lady went back to her home to the North.
The fight with Beifong overshadowed everything else but it wasn't the only thing that happened in Korra and Noatak's life in those two weeks.
There had been a small problem in terms of intimacy when a spontaneous moment of passion in the kitchen got out of hand and Korra had panicked momentarily, since then they had started using a set of safe words for even the most casual of interactions and things had vastly improved.
At three months old, Nilak had just started sleeping through the whole night, it was slightly precocious of her and Noatak often got worried and got up in the middle of the night just to make sure the child was alright but to Korra it was an immense relief and she counted it as something positive to balance out the rest of her stress.
Another new development was that Noatak had finally started working at Liu's academy though only twice a week for the time being; the place was still trying to find a proper pace but now that the city seemed to have recovered completely from the many tragedies that befell it, students were flooding in. Some people weren't comfortable knowing that Amon was teaching there but in general they accepted his presence after they witnessed his prowess and capability and his students quickly gained respect for him, he was just that talented at making people like him.
As for the matter of the bounty on Noatak's head and the prison uprisings, the prisoners had suddenly gone quiet and almost eerily well-behaved, it was suspicious and he had no doubt that something big was about to happen but this just reinforced Liu's advice to stay away from the matter so, although he was still dutifully investigating, Noatak did indeed distance himself from the situation and made sure to keep Korra well away from it too.
All in all quite a bit had happened but nothing that was worth mentioning over the chaos of what Korra nicknamed 'the Beifong situation'.
Three consecutive splashes and the resonance of the gong announced the end of the match. Tahno and Ming stood victorious, waiting for their companion to join them after his fall but they were as smug as ever with the cheering audience inflating their egos. Korra just smirked and applauded, she wasn't particularly happy about the Wolfbats winning but she wasn't that surprised either and the whole match had been impressive enough to watch.
"I win again." Bolin announced over the roaring crowd, he grinned and extended a hand to Asami who slapped a several yuans onto it. Korra was shocked that her friend would bet on Tahno's team but then again they were the strongest in this match so it would be crazy not to.
"Darn. I was really hoping the Rabaroos would wipe the floor with Tahno." The heiress grumbled a little.
"Maybe next time." Mako comforted the raven-head by placing his arm around her waist and kissing the top of her head.
"On the plus side, I'm sure that shot is gonna be bruised onto his chest for the rest of the week." Korra commented with a snicker.
Everyone laughed at the memory of Tahno's disgruntled appearance when the young earthbender girl sent the disk hurling onto his chest to knock him down. They were still laughing and discussing the match when they joined the flow of people exiting the arena and walking out into the cool night air.
"I just really wish we were the ones Pro-Bending in there you know?" The Avatar sighed wistfully as they walked out the gates of the massive stadium.
"We'll be back in there in no time, you'll see." Bolin bumped shoulders with her, smiling encouragingly to which she smiled back.
It was a cloudy evening, there were barely a handful of stars poking through the wine-colored haze of night clouds and the wind smelled like salt and felt damp and sticky. Korra loved this sort of weather, it was a prelude to rain but it was warm and pleasant yet not too warm as to make her melt in her boots like Republic City's Summer heat often did. It made her feel calm.
"So where to next?" The Avatar asked cheerfully, or at least more cheerfully than she had been all day.
"What? That wasn't enough excitement for the Avatar?" Mako cocked a brow, allowing a smirk to grace his brooding face.
"Come on, let me blow off steam. Did you know Beifong even yelled at me this afternoon when we went to pick you up at the precinct just because I asked how she was doing." The Avatar scowled sulkily. "If I didn't personally know how hard she has it right now I would have smacked that Chiefy face of hers."
"Ok, ok." Asami put in before Korra could get all riled up. "How about we get something to drink while decide what to do next? I know a decent bar a few blocks from here."
"Sounds good!" Bolin announced with Pabu poking his head up, curious about the excitement.
"No alcohol for you." Mako scolded his brother who pouted comically and slouched.
Korra chuckled at Bolin's reaction but followed Asami to her satomobile, intent on enjoying the evening to the fullest, especially because she knew she'd be too busy for outings in the next few days- Tenzin had asked for help preparing the whole ceremony where Jinora would be recognized as an airbending master and get her tattoos and Korra couldn't say no so she had committed herself to helping out.
The bald master wasn't exactly sure of the situation, he felt his daughter was still too young but by Air Nomad standards she had earned her tattoos already and he couldn't keep stalling for time so he had decided to go through with the small ceremony, he had even decided to indulge in Korra and Ikki's request and let Tani and Chintak assist and learn about that part of Air Nomad culture. Either way the ceremony was just three days away and Korra would be stuck at the island during all that time.
The clack of the key turning in the lock silenced Noatak, he had been up late waiting for Korra while he sat by the fireplace and read to Nilak since the baby didn't seem to sleep as well as she had been lately unless her mother was there to put her to bed. The child babbled something incoherent when he stopped talking so he resumed the narrative in a soft even and slightly airy tone that made Nilak quiet down at once in her father's lap.
The Avatar stumbled into the house, closing the door carefully to try and be silent but dropped the key with a very audible clatter on the table. Naga, who lay by the stairs, raised her head to the door and then stood and padded over to Korra in order to lick the woman's face in a gesture of welcome.
"Naga!" She giggled and hugged the furry beast but then pressed her finger to her lips and made an exaggerated shushing sound. "Don't wanna wake the baby."
The polar bear dog sniffed her and snorted, backing away from Korra and disappearing into the kitchen to get far from whatever smell the Avatar was giving off, this made the woman pout and roll her eyes before she turned to walk upstairs, well crawl upstairs anyway, oblivious of the light being on in the main room she was in until she heard his voice and spotted him a few feet away. Evidently, Korra wasn't herself.
"You still up?" She mumbled and kneeled next to Noatak a little clumsily with the smell of emberglow and some other sweet alcoholic substance wafting from her breath, her mumbles then turned into flamboyant slurring. "Why didn't you say you were…you know, up? I wouldn't have…er… been silent and stuff… I would have barged in all, like… 'I'm back, bitches!'"
She opened her arms in to highlight her words with pompous mimic of an arrival but seconds later she fell funnily to the side and burst into silly giggles.
"I was waiting for you, of course." He replied in that same reading tone in their native language, as if he was narrating another part of the book. Korra tilted her head into a comically low angle to catch the title of the tome and realized it wasn't really a book but a collection of Amon manifestos from the equalist era written in Water Tribe script.
"Noatak…" Korra frowned with a warning growl to her voice.
"I'm only reading this because it's the only thing I know by heart and one of the very few things we have at home written in Water Tribe." The former equalist explained without breaking that soft narrating timber, it was the truth- the manuscript was a collection of all the manifestos and speeches he had written and that had been translated into various languages to spread equalist propaganda to other nations but the words no longer had the same power to him, in fact he now saw flaws in his logic and gross signs of megalomania in every few pages.
"Isn't this a little too advanced for her anyway? She'd probably like fairy tales better." The Avatar remarked with a skeptical frown.
"It has nothing to do with what I read but how I read it, Korra." Noatak replied in that same airy and too-soft voice. "It's the tone of my words that she likes, not the content." With that he stopped talking and in mere seconds the baby began to protest and try to grab the big paperback book with her tiny hands; grabbing everything in sight was a new habit she had started developing.
"Ohhhhh." Korra replied with exaggerated enthusiasm, all her anger seeping away as if leaking from a broken container.
"And you're drunk, aren't you?" He enquired, setting the book aside but teasing her with that reading voice as he examined her from head to toe.
"Nah…" She began but then shrugged and held her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart to squint at the gap between them. "I don't know, a little bit?" She grinned sheepishly and rubbed the back of her head, swaying precariously in place.
"A little bit." Noatak repeated skeptically, now in his usual speaking voice.
"Whatever." The Avatar shrugged and extended her arms to Nilak. "Nini, I miiiiiissed you. Let mommy hold you…"
"Ah, no." Noatak held the baby to his chest and got up, stepping away. He didn't trust her with Nilak when she could barely sit up straight.
"Give me my baby, Noatak." She slurred on his name and scowled, standing up as well.
"No, Korra. Go wash up and get to bed."
"But I want her! Gimme!" She demanded childishly. "Gimme or I'll… I'll hit you!" Korra swung her fist, intent on punching him in the gut but she never even got close before the force of the swing made her loose her balance and fall on her face on the floor.
"How frightening." Noatak deadpanned, he hadn't felt the least bit impressed so he hadn't even moved and now looked down on her fallen form.
"Ow…" Korra rolled onto her back, rubbing her nose and once again stretched her arms to him from her position on the floor, making grabby hands. "Come on, she must be hungry… Let me nurse!"
"No, she's fine. Besides, you'd probably make the baby drunk." He joked and sidestepped her to go put the child to bed.
"Hmph." The Avatar pouted and her hands flopped down at her sides but she was too dizzy to get up.
Noatak climbed the stairs and deposited Nilak in her crib, she immediately began trying to grab the little creatures hanging in the mobile and yawned sleepily. She had always had a fascination for the dangling figurines but only now did she try to grab them, the same thing applied to the toys that before she had no interest in but that now she liked to hold and shake and drop for no reason other than the fact she could.
He stared at the baby fondly for a moment and caressed her wispy hair but then Korra's loud whiny voice reached him from all the way downstairs and he realized it was time to tend to the esteemed Avatar.
Korra was still sprawled on the floor on the exact same spot where he had left her, she tried to get up when she spotted him coming down the stairs but managed only to roll to the side and snuggle to the rug, immediately forgetting what she was trying to do while grinning like an idiot.
"I really don't like seeing you come home in this state." Noatak shook his head in admonition. "You're only eighteen but you should know better."
"Oh shush, old man. You're my lover, not my father." The Avatar countered sulkily.
"I'm merely concerned, in the state you're in you would attract trouble." He crossed his arms as he spoke down to her, though honestly the trouble that crossed his mind was the sort related to her low inhibitions and her reputation rather than any fight she might likely get into.
"Nah, I had Bo and 'Sami and Mako with me, they'd keep me outta trouble." She waved off the matter dismissively, managing to almost smack herself in the jaw by accident.
"Ah!" He let out derisively, he didn't see the need to restrain himself when she was so unrestrained herself.
"What? What was that 'ah' for?" Korra finally sat up, only to slump against his legs.
"I wouldn't particularly trust the firebender with your safety in this condition." Noatak admitted, to be honest what he didn't trust was for Mako to keep his hands to himself if he caught Korra in that state.
"Huh?" She mumbled against his pants. "Why not?"
"You'd probably end up dragging him into something insane and dangerous and as a police officer he would have more problems than you." The former equalist lied to hide his true thoughts.
"Huh…." The Avatar frowned, apparently trying to decipher his words and then she shrugged and fell back, talking in a rambling giggly way- "It was fine. There was this bunch of fans getting all over me and Mako chased them off… Of course he was also tipsy and felt right over me afterwards but it was sweet. And then Asami started dancing on the table and I tried to join her and Mako was moping and Bo started yelling and had to carry us all outta there."
"I'm glad you had fun." Noatak remarked sarcastically, hoping there wouldn't be anything about the escapade in the morning papers. However, the part of her story that stuck to him the most was… "So Mako fell on you, was it?"
Korra tilted her head to squint at him for a long minute, his arms were still crossed and tension rippled through his body. She smirked and slurred- "Noatak… Are you jealous of Mako?"
"Excuse me?" The former equalist stared at her, surprised at how perceptive she could be despite the inebriated state.
"You did that thing where you hesitate and use that weird snippy tone… You do that when you're jealous." She explained with a smug grin.
"I do not." He defended, making a mental note to remember that next time.
"Yeah, you kinda do." The Avatar giggled and rolled around like a playful kitten.
"I am not jealous of your friend." Noatak insisted, the words tasted ashy in his mouth.
"Uh uh." She didn't believe him at all and then grabbed onto his legs again, speaking in the most sarcastic tone she could use. "'Cause you have sooooo many reasons to be jealous!"
"That so?" He kept staring at her disapprovingly.
"Yeah!" Korra replied enthusiastically and her hands roamed up his legs to his crotch. "After all, you're the one fucks me all the time and...-"
"Alright, let's get you sober, shall we?" Noatak cut her off, he grabbed her hands to stop her and then crouched down to hoist her into his arms and carry her to the kitchen.
"Sober is stupid…!" The Avatar mumbled under her breath. "Sober is stupid and drunk is stupid and you're stupid jealous and Lin is a stupid poopy head and… I forgot what I was saying." She trailed off in her mumbled rant but accepted the water that he made her drink.
After he was sure she was properly hydrated, the former equalist once again picked Korra up and carried her upstairs towards the bathroom where there was a good fifteen minutes of struggling with the uncoordinated Avatar to remove her clothing so he could coach her into a quick cold shower which washed away the smell of sweat and alcohol and seemed to wake her up if the squealing and complaining against the temperature were of any indication.
He dried her hair with a towel and helped her slip on a pair of undershorts and the top she wore to sleep, then he finally carried her into bed, ignoring the constant whining that Korra spilled out about not being tired and wanting to play, and her definition of play was clear in the way she kept pressing to him with her hands crawling into his clothes.
The former equalist merely sighed, he wasn't about to give into her drunk attempts at seduction, such a thing was unacceptable unless he was as equally inebriated as her which clearly wasn't the case. So he held her hands to keep them from wandering, kissed her forehead and told her to sleep it off, he could have used the little bloodbending trick he had shown her weeks before but it felt unnecessary and therefore unethical in his book, not to mention that he felt the hangover would teach her a valuable lesson.
Korra grumbled and complained for a bit longer but curled close to his body and started dozing off quicker than he had expected, soon she was drooling slightly onto her pillow with her legs tangled to his and their joint hands between them.
Noatak watched her for a bit, he wanted to give in to his jealousy, he wanted to admonish her further but he really couldn't, not when he had been far worse when he was her age, the difference was that he hadn't had her responsibilities and a child to care for back then… Now that he thought about it from that perspective, he didn't think his eighteen year old self would have been able to handle everything Korra had on her plate and all she had endured, not even close.
She was strong, amazingly so, and so positive and bright that she put the sun to shame but these thoughts still made his heart twist for her- she deserved those silly moments of stress release, she deserved freedom and happiness, she didn't deserve to have the years of naïve optimism and wild exploration and experimentation cut short and yet she had and now she was forced to be an adult when she had never even truly been a kid. Part of that felt like his fault but Noatak couldn't really feel remorseful when it had earned him Korra and Nilak for himself so all he could hope for was that the Avatar would consider her sacrifices worth the reward.
(Author's Note: I suuuuuuuck at comic relief, comedy has always been my weak spot. I do hope some parts here were at least mildly funny though.
Things will start getting very serious very soon.)