A/N: *Waves* Greetings! So, I've never written this particular pairing before even though they're my top OTP in all of LoK, but I found out about the "Twelve Days of Tahnorra" over on Tumblr and decided to add in my own take on things. Warning: I literally found out about this celebration on 12/13 thanks to the fabulous shoeninja and have never attempted drabbles, so these one-shots may be somewhat crappy because they're mostly random/unplanned and are quickly written (I'm in the midst of finals weeks at my college). The premise: this one-shot begins at some point during "The Spirit of Competition" and considers what would happen if Tahno and Korra were linked by a spirit bond because the spirits believe our young waterbenders can help one another. If this first one-shot proves popular per your review comments, I will retain this linear theme/story for the entire collection.
It begins when Tenzin asks why Korra looks groggy at their morning meditation session on Air Temple Island.
"I haven't slept in three nights," she admits, which is true. Each night she rolled over and over on her bed and even punched her pillow until the brink of exhaustion, but sleep would not come to her. Not only that, but there was the slight matter of her racing heart and shallow breathing, the distant pain in her arms and legs as if she were viciously training or wildly dancing way past midnight. Last night was worse than the previous two. She was lying in bed when suddenly her heart stopped, literally, and then felt like it was about to rip through the paper-thin walls of her chest. She rolled off her bed and crawled to the door, gasping, wondering if this is what a heart attack felt like—but, suddenly, her heart resumed its usual calm beating. Korra was left panting on the floor, her hand fisted against the valley between her breasts.
"Are you ill?" her airbending mentor asks, now concerned. Meelo, Ikki, and Jinora blink at her curiously, still sitting quietly in proper lotus positions.
Korra is ill, though not from the long sleepless hours. She's ill with the memory of that disgusting sleazy bastard it was her miserable misfortune to brush past three nights ago at Narook's Seaweed Noodlery. A portrait of his body has stuck with her. He is a man who tilts, though this is not a matter of lazy posture. When he approached her dinner table, he purposefully slanted his head or leaned to always be off-center. He is the kind of person who is probably vain about all parts of his body: eyes (a commanding gaze), mouth (he is always smirking; his mouth arched downward is merely an ironic smile), hair (the most important feature). Leaning draws attention. Emphasizes the charm he believes himself to possess, the charm that apparently gives him permission to coo such things as if you'd like to learn how a real pro bends, I could give you some private lessons.
She hates him.
"I'm fine," she tells Tenzin. "Just . . . restless. I'm worried about the next pro-bending match."
Wait. Oops. Her mentor's eyes harden, grow flat and narrow as coins. She realizes bringing up the match was a mistake.
"Korra, you must focus on your airbending. There is a great threat to the city, and the world needs its Avatar. This distraction—"
"I know, I know," she says. "Sorry, I just . . . listen, I'm going to ask Pema for some herbal tea. I need a nap or I'll pass out." She yawns and rubs her eyes for emphasis.
Tenzin pinches the bridge of his nose but says nothing as Korra gets up. Jinora and Ikki shoot her questioning looks. The oldest airbending child silently mouths something suspiciously like boys? but Korra is too tired to deal with it. She wanders across the island and staggers into the kitchen where she drops her head on the counter. She's half-snoozing while Pema warms up tea in a kettle, which would normally be Korra's job as the firebender but she's not up for bending in this state. Mako will definitely be pissed off that she's skipping their morning training session. Whatever. She wouldn't be very useful, and besides. That firebending captain of theirs should have let her skip out after yesterday's mishap, anyway.
It was just the sleep deprivation getting to her, she was sure, because at first yesterday's morning training session followed the usual game plan. She lifted water from a bucket and unraveled it into a spinning airborne river that coiled around her body. A simple dance with water, silly and sentimental, as she considered her first strike. Then she called heads up! to Bolin and punched bursts of water his way. He leaped back from the shots and returned an earth disk. Korra danced around it, lighter on her feet than usual. Her spin quickened as she prepared another volley of water to launch—
There was an urgent shaking at her shoulders, the feeling of someone's hand gripping hers, and Bolin leaning over her with his heart in his eyes. Are you okay? Korra?
Hmm? Yeah, I think so . . . did I take a head shot?
You passed out, Mako said. Only then did she realize the firebender was also beside her. He was the one holding her hand, though he let go quickly when her fingers flexed.
The two brothers help her sit up on the practice room floor. What do you mean, I passed out?
Bolin gestured wildly with his hands as if this was supposed to help paint a clearer flashback. You were about to make a move at me when you just—bam! Fell straight forward on your face.
You've only been out a few minutes, Mako explained. Are you feeling sick?
She was sick, this time for showing such weakness before her teammates and especially before Mako. Avatars are supposed to be nothing but physical manifestations of strength and courage and punching the world's problems away. Korra is allowed to be a master bender, a master pro-bender even, but she is not allowed to be weak in anything because that is not what the world needs.
The young Avatar pushed both boys away. I'm fine. Let's just keep going.
But Bolin was insistent and refused to let them keep training. Go home and get some rest, he suggested. Mako's shoulders slumped. He agreed halfheartedly. Korra knew she was disappointing him because this would put them behind on their training schedule and at a disadvantage in the next match. She wanted to apologize, but to be sorry for something is again to show weakness. Per the sum of her life's training, she is not supposed to be human and mortal but something above that. And she intends to be.
If only she could get a good night's rest and get back to her usual tough self.
Back on Air Temple Island in the present time, Korra rubs her eyes again. "How's the tea?" she asks Pema.
The brown-haired air acolyte grins at the young Avatar. "All ready. Anything interesting been going on these sleepless nights?"
Korra snatches the cup more roughly than necessary. Can't she get a break? Sipping on the drink that should hopefully be a sleeping aid, she wanders back to her room. Her heart is acting normally this morning, thankfully. She flops on her bed and tugs the covers up to her chin. Sunlight slants through the windows, but she doesn't mind the bright daylight as long as she gets sleep at last . . .
"Korra? Are you in here?" Ikki sneaks in and props her elbows against the bed. She rests her chin on her linked fingers. "Jinora thinks you were off seeing some boy. She thinks it's that tall dreamy firebender. Is that why you weren't sleeping? Did you sneak off?"
The Avatar smothers her face with the pillow. "I wasn't sleeping because I wasn't sleeping," she growls into the fabric. Does no one believe that she's actually suffering from some serious insomnia? "Listen, please, Ikki . . . I'm really tired. Can we talk about this later?"
The little airbender's lip bottom pokes out in a pout. "Fine," she grumbles, "but that's a promise. I wanna hear the whole story!" She skips out, and Korra is left wondering whether she should just improvise a story to get everyone off her back since they won't believe the truth. But she'll deal with that after she gets some nice, warm, cozy rest as the herbal tea lulls her off to sleep . . .
She wakes up screaming, writhing, every nerve ending set on fire. Her forehead feels like it's just cracked open with white-hot agony.
People run into the room and there are suddenly many figures surrounding the bed, Tenzin and Pema and Jinora and Ikki and she doesn't even know who else, but she just needs this pain to stop, she's twisting around and the bedcovers are strangling her, and the pain is blinding, and she's clutching her head shrieking and she can't breathe because something heavy is crushing her chest—
She's knocked into blackness, and the next thing Korra knows she's waking up slowly in a very white room that's nothing at all like her own on Air Temple Island. One side of her cot is pressed against the wall. On the other side are other cots lined up beside her own, a whole long row of ten beds or so. She guesses this must be some hospital wing in Republic City. The raw tortured pain and her screaming probably had Tenzin rushing her to this place. Now all she feels is dull throbbing everywhere and an odd sensation of sedation.
Korra is about to fall back on her covers when she realizes there is someone keeping her company in the adjacent cot to the right. She can barely make out the person beneath the bandages wrapped around his arms and neck, under the cuts on his face and the ugly black bruise leaking across his forehead. His sleazy smirk, even in sleep, gives his identity away. No, not in sleep. That bastard is also just now stirring into consciousness, his eyelids squeezing together just before they flutter open.
She lies back quickly and covers her face. No way is she getting into a scuffle when she feels so sick already. Korra slowly breathes into the calming darkness, trying to stay quiet. Somewhere far off, footsteps alert her to someone coming over to check up on them.
"How are you feeling?" a soft voice asks, probably a nurse.
"Fucked up," Tahno admits. "Do I get to keep all my limbs?"
"You'll be fine in the long run. That's a miracle given your accident. We'll have to keep you here another few hours, though. We may need to apply a cast to your arm—"
"A cast? No, listen, you don't understand. I have a match in a few days. I'm a waterbender. I need both arms." His voice is tight, angry, and beneath the covers Korra smirks. It looks like an automatic knockout for the Wolfbats if their captain can't play. She could kiss whichever kind spirit set up this accident of Tahno's.
"I'm sorry," the nurse says, "but I promise we're doing all we can."
"I can't believe it. A car crash. I've never fallen asleep at the wheel."
Shocking, actually. Given that he probably does nothing but party all day and night (when he's not training to take down the competition), Korra is surprised this is the first time he's gotten into trouble of this kind. Well, he must get into all other kinds of problems to compensate.
"And you, Korra?" The nurse tugs the blanket off her face, leaving the young Avatar blinking in the sudden light. "How are you feeling?"
Tahno rolls his head to the left so he's looking at her. Now she notices the dark circles beneath his eyes (sleepless nights from wild parties?). His cheek presses into the pillow as the corners of his mouth crawl up into its usual dirty smirk. "Well, this is pathetic. Looks like the Uhvatar can't stay away from me even here."
Korra's fists tighten. She tries, very hard, to remember why she can't punch his face even though that's exactly when his smug expression is begging for. "I think I'm fine now," she says, sitting up. The dull throbbing remains, especially in a smear of pain across her forehead. "Can I go?"
Before the nurse can react, Korra discharges herself by standing up in her hospital gown—and topples right over on the ground because her legs won't hold her steady. She hits the floor hard on her hands and knees. Somewhere above she hears Tahno inhale sharply. Tears prick into Korra's eyes. Such intensity of weakness is not what she expected.
"You're staying a few hours, too," the nurse instructs as she helps the young Avatar back into bed. "And no more getting up, do you understand? You're not ready to walk yet. I'll call your family to let them know you're awake and doing well. Then I'll bring you some lunch."
As the nurse goes, Korra ducks under the covers again. This is fortunate because it means she doesn't have to see Tahno's face when he says, "Looks like we're stuck together, sweetheart."
Her forehead throbs just as the Wolfbat captain grunts from somewhere beyond the veil. And as she lies there, a very strange thing occurs to her slowly. How funny is it that her unfounded torment and his car accident came in such close proximity? How the placement of his bruises seems to overlap with the worst of her dull aches, like the one on his head? How she feels the very distant pressure of fabric against her left cheek even though her own is touching only cool, still air?
Nothing but delusions from her illness, she's certain. But regardless, Korra lies in the dark beneath the sheets and wonders at how mysteriously coincidental her odd life can sometimes be.
A/N: Good idea? Bad idea? Now is the time to let me know if you'd like me to continue this single story arc for all twelve installments of my "Twelve Days of Tahnorra" series.