A/N I own nothing, all characters belong to Nickelodeon.
"How in Yue's name did you fall from up there?"
Water clings to her trembling body as a rough pair of hands pull her out from the bay. The Southern Water Tribe girl looks up at the two most important men in her life: her father and her master. "I didn't fall."
Tears once again begin to pour out her shut eyes. "I jumped."
The word rests in everyone's minds but doesn't dare travel out an open mouth.
Two concerned parental gazes are aimed at the Avatar as though the answer lies somewhere on her fallen face. Tenzin stands stiffly in the corner staring hard at the floor. The three know they are parents, but how does one simply ask their child why they tried to-
"Why did you jump, Korra?" Katara asks calmly.
"I wanted to die."
A quiet mewl emits from Senna as she buries her face in the crook of her husband's shoulder.
The widow of the former Avatar sits quietly in front of the newest Avatar, listening to the girl's sorrow.
Korra wipes away a strand of tears, sucking in a deep breath. "I-I'm not the Avatar. I can't... I can't bend."
With the admission of her state of being out in the air, the girl quietly begins to weep once more. "I am nothing."
No bending, no title, no nothing.
"You just sit here and try to feel better, okay?"
Korra remains mute as Mako pulls the blanket over her and kisses her forehead. How could someone who was once strong enough to vanquish Amon be the same person who is too weak to even tuck herself into bed?
Mako runs a hand through her hair as he stares at her. "Korra...it'll get better."
She closes her eyes.
She knows she shouldn't be here.
All that she was ever good at was bending, now with that gone she truly has no claim to the title 'Avatar'. She can't be a symbol of unity for the four nations if all she can bend is air. She can't be a spiritual bridge if she can't connect to the Spirit World. She can't do anything.
Korra knows she should have died so her spirit could be reborn in the Earth Kingdom. It wasn't like she didn't try. She wanted to go, wanted to do the world a favor and give it a true Avatar.
Knowing she's too powerless to escape life or do anything worthwhile only furthers her depression. There is no cure to give her what she's lost. There is no Avatar to protect the world.
There is no hope for her.
Ikki doesn't understand.
She loves airbending and the freedom it brings. She loves soaring on her glider and dancing like a leaf in the wind. It is by far the greatest sensation in the world and one that only Ikki and her family get to experience. That's how special it is.
Instead of laying on a cloud Korra lounges on a mattress all day and has for the past two months.
Instead of rejoicing her new abilities she wept over the ones she has lost. Instead of playing with her and Jinora and Rohan she would rather sleep all day and night. Instead of beating heads she beats a pillow with her fists as she wails in fits of hysterics.
Korra doesn't see that she isn't condemned and Ikki can't understand why.
"I brought noodles!"
The happy shout seems to be unheard as Korra lays there unresponsively. Mako's frown deepens as Bolin moves towards the window and tears open the blinds. The white powder coating the island is a large change from the bright light of late summer when she first began to lay here.
"Look at that snow!" Bolin grins, hoping the most amazing girl he has ever met will get excited. "It's winter outside, Korra, your favorite!"
"Bolin." Hisses Mako, "Hush."
He sits down on the bed and takes her hand. "There's supposed to be a meeting tonight and the council wants the Avatar to be there. They need you, Korra. We all need you."
She sits up, takes the noodles gingerly from Mako and breathes in their warmth. "You're right." Korra deadpans. "We all do need the Avatar."
Bolin and Mako hold their breath.
"To bad she's dead."
"You know, if you ever want to talk-"
"Nothing to talk about."
"Korra, I'm worried about you. Please, let someone try to help you."
"Leave me alone, Tenzin." She whispers, pulling the covers over her head.
She remembers a time when she swam in a sea that wasn't made of sheets.
"I love you." He whispers, squeezing her hand. "Can't you try to get better for me? Please?"
"Can you even answer me?" Mako frowns, "Can't you even say that you love me? Well? Can you!"
"For fucks sake Korra, give me something! Agni fucking damn it give me something!" He is shouting now, his voice rising with his temper. Korra knows these months of depression have hurt him deeply. Her distance such a sharp contrast from her borderline obsession with him before this all began.
But she has been in pain far longer than he has. She has slowly bled agony in this bed as the months dragged on and the permanency of her condition grew. Korra is no longer the Avatar and she knows it. She is now nothing.
Mako knows it too.
"-Are nothing without your bending you know that? Nothing! You curled up and died and left me to rot! What, just because your bending's gone you have to go to? Sometimes I wish that when you jumped off that cliff you would have die-"
He closes his mouth.
He closes the door.
Korra closes her eyes.
Closes her heart.
Begins to weep once more.
Korra turns over and sees a plastic bag on her bedside table with a little stuffed fire ferret and a bowl of sea urchins next to it.
It's signed 'Love, Mako'.
But she still recognizes Bolin's handwriting.
Lin scowls at her.
Her chest tightens and her face falls as the police chief stares at her with cold unforgiving eyes.
"I have seen masters have their bending torn away from them. I've watched whole families' bending be snatched. I saw one woman be stripped as her child watched. Do you know what all these people have in common?"
"They moved on. They learned to chi-block. They started to farm like non-benders to keep themselves alive. They taught other benders what not to do when they're bending is being threatened. But they certainly didn't sit in a bed for months wasting away because they're sad."
'You're the Avatar, apparently not as good of one as I thought." Lin continues, "You should be strong because it's your nature, not because you can bend. There's so much more to you than just a title, or at least I thought there was. You have a duty to these people, Korra. Start acting like Korra and not this...thing you've become."
Korra says nothing.
Lin clicks her tongue.
"You're all getting pretty sick of me, huh?"
"What? No, dear. Of course not."
Korra wraps her arms around her legs. "Lin's right. I am pathetic."
"Pema, why did all this have to happen?"
The non-bender can't answer what she doesn't know.
Mako has apologized exactly forty-six times by now for their last fight.
Korra has remained quiet forty-six times after he does so.
His words hurt her more than anything since she lost her abilities.
"-Never would have done this."
"You can't compare the two, Zuko. They're very different people."
The former Firelord scowls. "Still, Aang wouldn't have moped around like this. He would have done something."
Katara sighs. "She's going through a rough patch..."
"We've all gone through something hard, Katara. The difference is we all made an effort and got passed it."
Katara quietly pours another cup of tea.
"Are you ever going to get past this?"
"Korra, for Agni's sake just look at me! Speak to me! Just once, damn it!"
"...Can you even try to do something for me?" This is not a shout but a small, quiet plea. A wish on a twinkling star in the night sky.
Years on the street should have taught him that wishes never come true.
With every step he takes towards the door she feels a little more of her die inside.
There is a rush of noise Korra isn't used to hearing in her room this morning.
For a second she hopes it's a spirit come to take her away from this heart wrenching plain, to take her to a better place. In another second she fears Amon has returned to finish the job.
Instead she is greeted by Asami wearing worn-out pants and a scowl. The normally calm woman looks over Korra with disgust. "Get up."
Korra is so put off by Asami's uncharacteristic actions she actually answers. "What?"
"I said get up, now!"
"But I don't want to."
Asami narrows her eyes. "It wasn't a question."
For the first time in months Korra has left her bed. Then her room. Then Air Temple Island.
For the first time in months someone has gotten her out of bed.
For the first time in months someone isn't talking any shit from the Avatar. Accepting any excuses. Asami is being direct and firm and forceful and though at one point it never would have worked Korra is listening now.
There is so much anger in Asami's actions. So much hurt on her face. Korra doesn't know what's happening.
But she does know that it may be a good idea to be afraid.
The boat docks and Asami points to a bench. "Sit."
Korra complies and the raven-haired woman follows suit. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Oh, I noticed. You've done nothing but sit on your butt for the past few months. Why?"
"My bending is gone, Asami. What's else can I do?"
Asami pulls her up. "I'll show you."
"Do you know what this is?"
Korra looks up at the towering building in front of her. It reaches the sky and touches the corners of the Earth in size. The magnitude of it makes her suddenly feel very small and weak.
She's so used to it by now that it has little effect.
"This is Independence, the fastest growing machinery manufacturer in the world. At one point it was Future Industries."
She is surprised. "How come I've never heard of it?"
"We don't have our label printed on tissues or covers." Asami replies dryly. "Korra, in the span of a month I lost everything. I found out my father was an Equalist, heard that my boyfriend cheated on me, had my father try to kill me, then had my boyfriend leave me for someone else. The corporation was in ruin. No one would buy from it because of my father's work. I was alone swimming in debt with my father's mistakes haunting me. And you know what?"
"I kept going. It hurt so bad but I knew I couldn't let it stop me. When I lost it all I took it as a challenge; I didn't give up." She gestures to the building in front of her. "I called in every favor I had from billionaires and wealthy men. I got money loaned to me to begin to rebuild, then had to find someone willing to purchase my parts after my Father ruined our reputation. I called up Iroh and convinced him to buy from us for the military. I spent countless nights writing down new ideas and designs to put us on top. I was met with the impossible and Spirits I did it."
She took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes. "And you can too."
The mornings are evil.
Everyday Korra thinks this as she heads down the dirt path to meet up Asami at 6 am for hand-to-hand sparring.
Everyday Korra gets her butt handed to her and is reminded that without her bending she has no idea how to survive.
And strangely enough everyday it gets a little easier to get out of bed.
"Could...Could you take me shopping for, you know, some clothes?"
The surprise is evident on her face. "Of course, Korra."
"Thanks. I-I lost weight while I was in bed." Even a man with clouded sight could see that. The once muscled body she had sported with full breasts, curves, and attitude had been replaced by a paper thin shadow of who she once was.
"I know. But hey, new clothes, new you. We'll find something perfect for you."
'You' and 'perfect' are not two words Korra tends to associate herself with.
He watched as she surrendered.
He saw as she took to sleeping away her days and drowning in sorrow.
He witnessed Mako leaving her and the pain it had caused.
Tenzin saw all of this and for the first time in a long time had no idea how to reach someone. Korra refused to speak. Refused to be helped. He knew how she had taken to viewing herself but no matter how many talks or sips of tea they shared he couldn't help her.
It had wounded him to watch her suffer- not because she had been his father, but because she was like a daughter.
Like his daughters she grew and changed. Slowly, subtly, but nonetheless there was change. Sparring with Asami had led to muscle beginning to outline itself along her body. New clothes showed her new demeanor. And, if you looked very closely at the right moment, a ghost of a smile would haunt her hallowed eyes.
Things always changed and Tenzin knew it.
This time he was thankful it seemed to be for the better.
"-My new scarf? It's Pabulicious."
Bolin strikes a pose as the fire ferret around his neck chatters away. Korra felt herself laugh, something she was beginning to do more and more of.
"Hey Bo, how's Mako?"
"Oh." The earthbender looked away and kicked a rock. "He's old Mako."
"...Why did you sign his name on those little gifts you used to get me?"
He falls silent and for a minute Korra fears he won't answer. "I just want you to be happy, Korra. That's all I want. Mako made you happy, so I tried to keep you guys together."
Bolin looked into her eyes. "As long as you're happy, I'm happy."
For a moment she understands what it means to have someone think you are truly amazing.
"Come on, I know you can hit harder than that!"
"Oof! Uncle! Uncle!" Korra cries, pinned to the ground.
Asami laughs and rolls off of her. "One day you'll get the hang of it. Consider yourself lucky you still have air to use when you're fighting. In a few months you might be able to at least hold against me but for now you're new to this. Still, you're not doing half bad."
Korra cracks her back. "Martial arts are so different then bending. I mean, bending's an extension of your movements but more powerful. When you fight there's so little of you. It's all muscle."
"Most of it is actually grace and flexibility." She reminds her, "A large part of fighting is avoiding getting hit."
"It reminds me a bit of airbending, actually. It's all graceful shit and I suck at it."
"You don't suck, Korra. Now stop complaining." Asami stands up and rolls her shoulders. "Come on, round two."
The Water Tribe girl wonders why she even needs this.
Korra stares up at the man above her, terror clenching at her body. Never before has she been afraid of other benders.
But that was when she was their equal.
Airbending still escapes her and her hand-to-hand is intermediate at best. Korra knows she doesn't stand a chance. Flames flicker on one of the muggers fingertips as he glares at her. "Unless you want this fire to burn ya' face off I suggest you keep still."
It is the most humiliating thing she has ever experienced. Being unable to defend herself against average benders reminds her that she is someone new.
Was this what it was like for the non-benders throughout the entire revolution? To be powerless as mortals with the abilities of Gods playing cat and mouse with your life?
Suddenly a rock is thrown at the man's head, followed by a metal lid. Her attacker collapses to the ground as Korra looks up to see a beggar no younger than forty holding out a hand to her. "C'mere, it's okay."
She takes it shakily. "I-I thought I was getting better with defending myself. But-but I had no control over-..."
"I know." The man squeezes her hand. "It's not fair, is it? They get blessed while the rest of us get bossed around. You'd think the Avatar would help but she's one of us now. Not that it matters, she always sided with her own kind beforehand. Never even gave a damn."
Korra begins to wonder if she ever even was a real Avatar.
"Here," Korra tosses the other girl a helmet. "I want to practice some more."
"But you never want to practice more!"
"That's when I thought I could just bend my way out of anything." Korra explains, "But I can't, and even if I did bending won't help against a chi-blocker. I need to be stronger, Asami. I need to be able to handle myself."
That and start extra airbending lessons with Tenzin.
"Come on Korra!"
"Yeah, you can do it!"
The Avatar grits her teeth as she tries to punch air out of her fist.
Ikki frowns at her. "Korra, come on. It's like dancing!"
Korra's never danced with anyone before.
Mako's face is full of surprise and confusion. "Korra, last time I saw you you were laying in a bed not talking. Now you show up a few months later and ask me to take you dancing?"
"It's for airbending, Mako. Ikki suggested it. Please."
"Are you going to actually talk instead of moping around and whining?"
She grits her teeth. "Yes."
He stares at her for a long time. "Let me grab my coat."
They twirl around the dance floor as one, Mako dipping her when the music calls for it.
As he pulls her up a thousand thoughts flood her head, none of them reaching her mouth.
Mako doesn't have that problem. "Have you gotten your bending back yet?"
She feels like she's failed some sort of test.
Tenzin feels the gust of wind rush against his beard. "Very good, Korra. Again."
She twirls on one hand and kicks her feet up sending a breeze around her body dancing. Ikki and Jinora clap as they watch the young woman complete the move like a dancer.
"You're right! I did it!" The proud grin on her face feels more deserving than anything has before.
Now if only she could become as talented with hand-to-hand.
Ignoring her spiritual side really was biting her in the ass.
But sitting on her bed at night, legs crosses, eyes shut, focusing on her energy wasn't helping either.
With a sigh she uncrosses her legs and rolls over.
Oh, well. At least trying has to count for something.
"I have to say I'm really surprised. When you asked to meet up and do something besides sparring I thought it was a joke."
Asami laughs and flips her hair. "I never joke about a good pedicure, Korra. Besides, you've earned it."
"So have you. Thank you for spending so much time helping me, Asami. I-I never expected you to be this nice to me. Especially after the whole thing with Mako." Korra confesses. "I thought you'd hate me for sure."
Green eyes close as memories return. "I was mad at first. Hurt, too. My father had betrayed me, left me abandoned, and then my boyfriend did the same. It wasn't a happy time. But...I never hated you or even Mako. Maybe it was me being too nice or naive but I just couldn't. You three were the only friends I'd ever really had."
"...Even after how bad I hurt you...? I-I don't understand how you can't be angry. Not just at Mako and I but at the world for all its done to you." She lowers her face, "I still get so mad I kick walls."
"Things happen, Korra. In life there's always going to be bad -Mom dying taught me that. However if you only focus on the tragedy, well, you become my father. We can't change what happened to us, but we can make it better."
"It's just so hard. I'm not even the Avatar anymore but everyone still expects me to be this power and I can't-I can't even stand against one damn mugger without getting robbed. I'm not the Avatar for Spirit's sake! She's dead."
"Korra, hush. We both know that isn't true. Bending is only half of what makes someone an Avatar and you're not even completely unable to do that either. You can still airbend, something only four other people in the entire world can do. Even if you weren't the Avatar that alone would be enough to make you special. That, combined with your connection to the Spirits, makes you the Avatar."
"Asami I can't even contact Aang! I never have!"
"So? You also couldn't airbend for a while, either. Now you're on your third set."
"Why? You put in the effort and it made all the difference, Korra. Maybe you need to start doing that with your spirituality. We could pause the hand-to-hand for a while."
"No." She was beaten once. The humiliation and feeling of powerlessness is something she wants to never again deal with. "I feel like I need to understand what it's like to fight with nothing but my body. I'll work on it."
"Good. You ready to go?"
"Sure. Let's go mess up our feet by kicking things so we can come back here soon." At Asami's face Korra adds, "What? It's not like I was going to become completely girly after one pedicure."
"Well we can't have that now, can we?"
The warmth around the cup in her hand soothes her as she walks down the street and turns into the alley.
Sitting under a tent made of sticks and a blanket her savior is curled up asleep. Korra smiles softly, setting down the soup. She pulls a candle out of her pocket wishing for a second she could use only her hand to light it before pulling out a match. The glow makes the man's living space seem like a home.
Feeling like this penance isn't really enough she walks away from the man who saved her that day in the alley.
Meditation is no longer a chore. Instead it is a tool to ease herself, to focus.
She now understands what Tenzin has argued for so long. It is a way to achieve peace in such a chaotic world. A method of contemplation and escape.
Of course it's not supposed to be done in a hot spring with only the cool breeze of the night and steam covering her instead of under a tree or something, but the water relaxes her returned muscles after a hard day of working.
For a moment she feels whole again. The water seems to want to be around her nude body, begging to lap against her skin. Korra reaches out a hand, tentatively holds it above the water, clenches it into a fist.
The only water she causes to move are the tears trickling down her face as remembers calling upon the sea to work for her.
"One. Two. Three." Exhale, roll over, new position. "One. Two. Three."
A pair of feet decked in metal-covered shoes fall into her line of vision. Lin quietly watches her train for a moment before saying, "If you tighten your core when you rise it will make you stronger."
She tries it and is surprised at the impact it makes. "Thanks."
"...I am very impressed, Korra."
The young woman is so startled she collapses. Stunned, she looks up at the former chief of police. "Wh-What? But you said I was pathetic!"
"No, you misunderstood me. I meant you were acting pathetic. Instead of trying to fight for your bending back you chose to curl up in surrender. That was pathetic. But now...now it's different. I've seen you spend hours fighting with Asami to learn to defend yourself without your bending. I hear about you trying so hard to become more spiritual that Tenzin had to tell you to relax. I feel gusts of wind coming from the island with such force I know you're working hard to get airbending. But that isn't all.'
'You are growing into a fine young woman. Not just physically, but in every sense of the word. The girl I met over a year ago was an obnoxious, arrogant brat who had been spoiled. You were nothing like an Avatar should have been to me. When you're bending was taken away and you retreated from the world my thoughts were validated. You ignored your duty to the humanity and you ignored your duty to your own well-being."
Her face burns. Did Lin really come here to criticize her? Especially after she said that she was impressed!
"But something changed. You began to go outside again. Asami began training you. Something inside you was different. It was small at first, now it's stunning. In the past months you have grown more than I ever thought you could. You think about others. Recognize that there is more to being the Avatar than bending. Take tips. You have managed to do something most can never do: you impressed me, Avatar Korra."
Now her face scorches in embarrassment. All her life she had been handed compliments from people she expected to give them to her. But Lin? Tough, no nonsense, badass Lin?
She feels humbled.
"I-... Thank you, Lin. That means a lot to me."
"Well, someone had to tell you that you were doing better. Someone you could believe it from." Her green eyes sparkle, "A compliment like that isn't something trite you know. I expect you to make damn well sure that you keep up to par with my new heightened expectations."
Korra bows, her stomach swelling with pride. "I won't let you down."
Lin smiles back. "I know."
Though there are times when she misses her bending Korra begins to realize she is a better person without the gift that made her a God among the common man.
She knows taking time off after Lin just told her to work hard is a little rude, but a vacation is needed.
The ice clings to her boots while she rides Naga through the snow of her home. Wind whips around her as her fingers dig into her oldest friend's fur. Feeling her hair get smacked against her face earns a scowl from the young woman. Spirits how she wishes she could control the wind.
Only to remember that she can.
Korra's laugh echoes around the glaciers as she leaps off Naga. Her bark of delight only furthers her enjoyment as Korra begins to leap around the snow like a trapeze artist. The freedom this element brings makes her wish she had used it more in her childhood.
The voice startles her into snapping her eyes open. She looks down at the ground and sees a tall man with a beard grinning up at her. "Try to get a glider!"
Even a glider wouldn't have stopped her from hitting the ground after a shock like that.
"Aang? Aang!" But he isn't there and Korra suddenly knows she shouldn't be either.
She needs to get back to Tenzin.
"So no luck after that, huh?"
"None." Korra sighs, biting off a chunk of bread and dipping it in her soup. "And that was almost a month ago. What am I doing wrong, Kuzon?"
The old man stokes his beard thoughtfully in that way Korra had come to find endearing. It had grown since he had saved her from the mugger a few months back. She offered to sneak him a razor but Kuzon had politely refused.
The first time Korra sought him out it had been to give him soup. The second time to bring bread as well. Now she had returned to the older man countless times bringing with her an array of foods. He never eats in front of her -something about a custom- but insists it is the thought that counts.
"-Perhaps trying too hard. I often find that to be the case with people striving to be the best." When she admitted to being the Avatar he didn't believe her, but now after nights of confiding and demonstrating airbending Kuzon sees the truth.
He has become a hero to her- something that would seem funny if she told anyone else. Kuzon has nothing to his name except the cloths on his back yet she has never met someone so content with their existence. As he weaves stories of fearless warriors defending the meek and Spirits radiating cosmic power protecting the fragile life inside humanity Korra feels an urge to become one of these noble figures like nothing else. To be as selfless as them, to stand tall arm and arm.
Secretly she thinks Kuzon is one of these warriors in disguise. She has seen him give up his only blanket to a shivering child, bore witness to him sacrificing his food to keep a pregnant woman healthy. Free of bending or weapons he still will jump in front of a girl being mugged to try to protect her.
Kuzon is a true hero. Korra looks up to him, wants to be like him.
He tells her to just be herself.
One day in town she sees Mako shopping for fruit from a vending cart.
On impulse she finds her legs walking towards the firebender, her heart beating just a little faster. He doesn't make an effort to talk to her anymore or see her. Yet she still feels a connection to him she can't explain.
Suddenly a slim woman with narrow hips slips her arms around him as she kisses his cheek. Pain splinters her heart. For a moment she forgets to breathe. It is too similar to how she felt when she heard Mako was with Asami so long ago.
Except this time it's gone as quickly as it appears.
She watches them interact curiously. Notes the tender smile on the woman's face while she looks up at Mako. The two look good together, they look happy.
Korra turns away.
Doesn't say a word.
She wonders if this means she's growing up or growing soft.
"Was she pretty?"
They are in the spring she uses to meditate. The night is cool, a sharp contrast against the steaming water. Fog dances off the water's surface and becomes one with the night sky.
Korra inhales as she asks the question nagging at her. "Bolin, have you ever been in love?"
"Yes. But she wanted someone else."
"Oh." A pause. "Was she pretty?"
Bolin rolls a rock around in his palm thinking about the first girl he ever loved. "Very."
"...Did you tell her before you grew apart?"
Green eyes meet blue. "I never left her side."
Korra exhales and breaks the gaze.
Her fists are beating against her pillow wildly in fury as she chants obscenities.
Why? Why can't she just get this? She's trying so excruciatingly hard yet nothing comes from all this practice. Even when she sits in her spring and swears she can feel her past lives sitting with her nothing ever happens.
She just...can't do it.
The lull of sleep pulls her in. Rest wraps around her mind begging her body to cave. She feels herself be seduced by slumber as she slumps against her wall.
"Sometimes rest is the greatest door to our minds."
Korra gaps at the enigma in front of her in her dream. "Aang?"
"I am so proud of you, Korra. I've watched you grow and learn. All of us have." A collage of her former selves appear in front of her. "You've learned, Korra. But there is still so much to know.'
'To be a full Avatar you need to understand all elements. To do that you must be able to bend them. You have proven yourself worthy of this gift after all."
She waits for a rush of power or a jolt of energy. Instead she finds herself feeling exactly the same. Aang laughs at her expression and explains, "To regain your power you're going to have to do it the way our ancestors did. By watching, learning, and connecting."
"...What the Spirit's does that mean?"
She awakes before she has an answer.
Korra is mulling over Aang's words when someone knocks on her door.
"Korra, something...odd has occurred. A homeless man was found dead in an alley this morning. Police were clearing out the box he used as a sort of home and they found something addressed to you of all people."
No. Not Kuzon.
He pulls an object out of his pocket and hands it to her. "Here."
It is a drawing of the heroes he had always spoke of. In the middle of them is her dressed in a white dress, staring down at the world below with maternal love.
She doesn't try to hold back her tears.
"What exactly are we doing here, Korra?"
"I used to come here a few nights a week and talk with Kuzon, the man that was killed. There were always a few street kids running around that he used to feed. I want to make sure they're okay."
"Good thinking." Bolin nods. He is far too familiar with the prospect of spending a childhood on the streets in hunger. Mako had done his best to care for them both but he had only been two years older than Bolin himself. A young boy couldn't care for another child no matter how hard he tried and there were many nights when they would lay starving under a bridge.
If he could make life easier on another child then he was damn well going to do so.
"Ichigo! Kiki!" She calls, praying the two are alright. Despite her urging for Kuzon and many of his homeless friends to go to a shelter they refused saying they would be abused or worked as slaves. The tainting of the government's system for its lesser off population irked her.
Bread was broken, thanks given, and promises to be safe were shared as the two siblings headed off. Korra watched them crawl back into the city's filth. "They don't deserve to live like this. No one does."
Bolin agrees but knows not even the Avatar can save everyone.
Sometimes the Spirits give the Water Tribe prodigy a break if she's been working hard.
Korra sits crisscross on the roof staring on the island that is her home. There is so much room here, so much space. It's too big for all of the Acolytes, guards, and Airfamily combined.
Her brow furrows as she remembers Kuzon and oppression and warriors and starving children and Mako and Bolin and the protector being protected. She knows she will never be able to get the faces of the people who need her help the most out of her mind.
There was a time when Amon was evil in black and white. Everything was so cleanly cut. Now grey has seeped into the picture painted of how the world works allowing her to truly see how it operates. She sees the cruelty the poor were handed to by circumstance. The injustice non-benders faced because the cards were simply not in their favor. Faces of benders who repeatedly abuse their power without consequence.
Now there is sympathy where contempt once resided. Understanding has trumped assumption. No Equalist is evil nor are they innocent- they are merely scared men fighting Gods in the name of fairness. All they desire is the equality they are entitled to: being able to sleep with a safe mind, letting their children run lose without fear of never seeing them again, never losing a loved one to a man with the gift of an immortal.
Finally, she gets it.
No one is the good guy in this situation they have created; it is far too complex for that. All who want equal treatment are not monsters but humans wanting fairness. Amon was an extremist, his behavior understandable but not justified. He simply craved equality in the only way he could see it occurring- by eliminating the 'problem' completely.
The first step was to help the helpless, the ones who starved on the streets and were beaten by benders. There had to be a place where the needy could be welcomed with open arms and helped. If ties between both parties were formed now it would mean less conflict in the future.
If she closes her eyes she can see shelter homes being erected. Is she listens hard enough the sound of children both non-bender and bender alike laughing without worry rings in her ears. If Korra just imagines she can taste the sweetness of helping solve two problems at once.
She rises and goes to search out Tenzin to share her idea.
Mako isn't quite sure when exactly he picked up on the change. Now it is the dominant thought in his mind as he strolls through the city.
He can go a few blocks now without a man asking him to spare some change. The once prominent bark of a shop owner directed at a young child swiping a morsel of fruit has all but vanished from the air. Hell, the guy who lived in the alley behind his apartment Stinky Stio isn't there anymore.
It's as if the underbellies citizens were slowly disappearing.
It isn't necessarily a bad thing. The city looks less depressing. Mugging isn't as common as it once was. He can't remember the last time he saw a bender threatening a non-bender without fear of consequence.
He has no idea where they're all going or if they're coming back. But then he arrives at his doorstep and the thoughts slip into the back of his mind.
Ever since she was a little girl Asami has loved to dress up. Her Mother would stand in front of her vanity and demonstrate how to paint a face of beauty onto her skin with the trace of a pencil and caress of a brush.
Sometimes Mom would even give her a small swipe of blush on her cheeks and whisper, "A little pink for my little doll." Asami always remembers those words as she applies her make-up. They run in her head now as she reapplies a smudge of eyeliner discreetly in an attempt to have no one notice at the rather ritzy party she is attending.
A woman in blue comes into the corner of her compact mirror causing Asami to quickly snap it shut with a grin. "Korra in a dress? I didn't know you were getting married."
Korra rolls her eyes. "It's for charity, Asami. You know all the money from this goes to help expand my program on Air Temple Island. I had to get these old guys in here to donate money somehow."
The raven-hair beauty reaches out and tugs the other girl's plunging neckline even lower. "That should do it."
She laughs but re-adjusts it. Though Korra has no qualms about her body and often went naked at home the last thing she wanted was no one to take her seriously tonight. "Maybe for the after party. Why is it so important for women to wear dresses to these things again?"
"So when your Ex walks in you can make his jaw drop."
Korra turns to meet Mako face-to-face. "M-Mako? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see you smash their skulls against the wall shouting for them to give you money but, uh, you kinda seem to just be talking."
"It gets more done." Korra shrugged. "She taught me that. Didn't you, Asami?"
When she realizes Asami has scampered off she scowls before turning back to Mako. "So...what's up?"
"Kiana left me."
He watches her face carefully for a smile or any indication this may work in her favor. She looks him directly in the eye coolly, no trace of joy at all. There is confidence in the way she carries herself, a contrast from the cocky, arrogant mannerisms she had previously. Now her self-confidence seems well-earned.
"She didn't say yes when I asked her to marry me."
"Marry you? Mako, you're twenty! You have your entire life ahead of you. Why would you want to get married now?"
"To start a family. Besides, we were good for each other. We'd been dating almost five months."
Korra groans and drops her face into her hands. "Mako... No. That's too soon."
"I fell for you in six weeks."
"And look how that turned out." She points out. "Anyways, enough about the past. This is all about the future tonight. We already have one building up for the homeless but if we raise enough we'll be able to support an additional 500 people. Not to mention the programs we're going to start and-..."
Mako stopped listening to continue studying her. She had turned from arrogant God to wallowing girl to...what? The female in front of him was no longer a girl, not just physically but inwardly as well. He was staring at a woman and a damn good one. Why did she have to change so much? He'd had enough instability in his life to desire anymore. He simply wished everything would stay the same.
"-Would be so proud. He was an old friend of mine who inspired me and-...are you listening to me? Mako? Mako!"
When he returns to Earth Korra is eyeing him oddly. "What?"
"Of course I did, Mako. I lost my bending and myself for a long time. I couldn't stay like that forever. A lot of wonderful people helped me get back on my feet."
"But you didn't. I mean your bending's still gone, you're still normal. You're no better now then you were then."
"What do you mean? I'm a lot better now. I'm happy and making a lot of progress."
"Well, socially, but what's feeding a few kids going to do if there's a war? The world needs an Avatar, Korra. They need the old you back and badder than ever. The Korra I know would have never gone this long without searching everywhere for any possible way to earn your bending back. Think of all the people who still are without it."
Her eyes burn. "Do you know how much lower crimes been because of that? Obviously I'll give it back but maybe it's not such a bad idea to see how the other side lives for a while. Besides, I've been really busy with getting back my strength and starting this whole thing."
"Well if you'd just fought this instead of curling up in defeat maybe you would have it back by now."
"Hey! It wasn't that easy you know! And if I would have done that then I might not have met Kuzon or started all this. Mako, this is going to help people in time. It's going to get them to learn to help each other-"
"You think it's going to help, Korra. Big difference. You and I both know the only way to get people to behave is with threats, and your powers were the biggest threat out there. You've gotten too soft, Korra. You're not the girl I knew. You changed."
"Of course I changed, Mako. Everyone changes when they grow-up. I can't just beat a wall and whine for my bending. I have to do other Avatar things too."
"I'd buy that if you were still the Avatar, Korra, but you're not. Now you're just a figurehead in a dress trying to show that she's a good person."
"Fine. Be that way, Avatar."
Forgetting she isn't a teenager anymore she sticks her tongue out at him as he leaves.
"-Right though. The biggest thing about being the Avatar is to keep balance, to do that you have to be able to bend all the elements. I can only bend one."
Tenzin stares at her thoughtfully. "Interesting. Have you connected with Aang since last time?"
"Unfortunately no. He hasn't told me anymore than he already did." Korra sighs in frustration. "Tenzin, why am I so bad at this? I used to be so great at bending and now I can't even produce a flame."
"You just have to figure it out, Korra. 'By watching, learning, and connecting'. What do you suppose he means by that?"
"Well I already know the moves so that's easy. It's the other two I don't get."
"We'll figure it out, Dad." Tenzin promises, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly before launching into a lecture on the 8th chakra.
Korra quietly refrains from pointing out that he referred to her as her past life.
A week after the fundraiser a letter arrives for Korra on her doorstop. After tearing it out the envelope she reads the apology note from Mako blaming his remarks on lack of sleep and a bad mood.
He hopes she can forgive him.
She hopes he can understand why she can't.
Though fire was always her preferred element Korra was native Water Tribe. This was never more obvious than when she slipped into the bubbling hot spring nude, the gentle lap of the water soothing her.
The moon sits in a court of stars on her throne. She remembers hearing stories when she was a child about Yue, the Moon Princess, her chosen husband, and a simple warrior from their sister tribe in the South. Katara loved to tell this particular story claiming that she witnessed the Princess sacrificing her life to save her people as well as their bending by transforming into the Moon.
The old woman goes so far as to claim that it was her brother who was the warrior in love with the beautiful young woman. Even when she was a kid Korra had been skeptical of that claim.
Still the tale sings of the things that make people memorable like sacrifice. Yue herself wasn't a bender yet she still died to save the art. Korra's cerulean eyes stare at the Moon in wide-eyed wonder. It was full tonight as though the night had put on a show just for her. Even without her bending she could feel the power in her veins as she sat waist-deep in the water.
A warm breeze blew in the air as treetops rustled. The moon appeared to glow even brighter than it had before. Drinking in the lunar power Korra closed her eyes and focuses on the water surrounding her. She twirls her fingers beneath the surface creating miniature whirlpools with her hands. She begins to move her arms back and forth as though she is swimming before floating on her back.
Her naked body bobs to the surface while her hair drifts around her shoulders like a cloak. The moonlight kisses her body like silk sheets against her skin. For a moment the woman swears she can feel the water churning with more ferocity as though it is becoming alive. Korra snaps her eyes open as a particularly strong surge of power rockets through her being.
A woman dressed in a whimsical flowing gown with ice blue eyes and pale skin appears in a beam of moonlight. She is beautiful. Korra gapes at her in wonder before realizing she is engulfed in moonlight.
Around her it is as though tides have begun to push and pull around her. Korra stands and feels water churning around her waist. Push. Pull. Repeat. The Moon Spirit is watching her, "Push. Pull."
It is a chant the smallest children of her tribe cry on a full moon where the people of the North gather and pay worship to the Moon, the one that taught them the ways of bending. Like the tides they learned to push and pull, mimicking their movements. Remembering the moves in a memory so long faded it was only half-understandable Korra began to move her arms. Push. Pull. Repeat.
She fell into the ancient rhythm with ease. The moon empowered her with a zolt she had never experienced. The beautiful woman floated above her, now her movements shadowing Korra's. Together they preformed a sacred dance of tradition and power in synch.
The water around Korra began to change. She could feel it twist and churn around her as though it was crying for a master to take command. Eyes closed, body dancing, Korra raised her arms in a circle and felt the water around her rise up in the air.
Her cerulean eyes snapped open in a rush to reveal a smiling moon woman watching her command the tides like she used to. She nods her head down in a bow and vanishes back into a beam of moonlight leaving Korra standing under a pool of water she is making stay up.
Korra lets it fall and laughs.
"Pass the soup, will you?"
"Sure." With a flick the steaming liquid rises from the bowl and dances on her palm. "Where do you want it?"
"Where do I...?" Bolin looks up and sees Korra grinning widely, her eyes mischievous. "What is i-... Oh."
He breaks out into a large grin. "Can we celebrate with dessert?"
There is a sense of dissatisfaction hitting her when she least expects it. An antsy feeling that wouldn't leave her alone.
It takes a while for Korra to begin to understand what it is. She is restless. Republic City is nice but she has never ventured anywhere except its crowded streets and the frozen tundra she calls home. As an Avatar (and she is the Avatar, bending or not) she is supposed to understand all of the different people she must protect. To try to get to know them.
The world is so big yet she has seen so little.
The travel bug has nipped her and refused to let go. Slowly she begins to plan. There are things that need to be in check before she leaves. After all she can't just run out without warning and dump responsibilities on others.
She's outgrown it.
"-Sure you'll overlook everything? You'll have the time? I know you're busy but I just-"
"Korra, enough. I already agreed." Tenzin says, cutting her off. "I do live here you know. I'll care for your shelter program while you're out exploring. The men are all hard at work training to fight for General Iroh or manage military supplies. The women either choosing to become Air Acolyte, getting an education they were denied, or working through Asami. The children are all in school. Everyone is fine and will continue to be in your leave of absence."
"Alright. What about the rest of the city?"
"Chief Beifong did fine before you arrived, Korra. She can protect her city."
"I don't know, Tenzin. I have a duty to protect Republic City, but... I need to know what I'm supposed to fight for. Who I'm supposed to defend, you know? That and I've just been here too long. I need to leave. Is that selfish?"
"There is nothing selfish about wanting to grow nor is there anything wrong with wanting to understand people better. I'm proud of you for deciding to do this, Korra. You've come a long way."
The woman leaps forward with a smile, wrapping her arms around him. "Thank you. For everything."
He squeezes his surrogate daughter in his grasp. "No, thank you. For teaching me that I still have much to learn about life. Women in particular..." Korra laughs. "Though if you plan on going I do have one condition."
"Don't try any cactus juice."
In a fit of rage his hands catch on fire as he yells, accidentally sending a ball of flames towards the wall.
Bolin ducks fast but not fast enough. With a cry he falls to the ground in agony clutching his arm.
Mako stares open-mouthed. Did he just...? "...Bolin?"
"You-...You firebended me." Bolin blinked in disbelief, tears stinging his eyes. "You promised you would never use what killed Mom and Dad on me."
"B-Bolin, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!" He spurts, his throat constricting as he ogles the reddening wound on his arm. "I was just so angry and-"
"You're always angry! Damn it Mako all you ever do is snap and yell and roll your eyes and tell me everything I do is wrong! Why? Why can't I just do one thing right? You always have to be better than me, more mature! I'm not five anymore Spirit's damn it! I don't need your help with every little thing! I am so sick of you putting me down and taking out your anger on me because you know I'll always forgive you! You're not Dad, Mako, you never will be! You see where yelling at me got you? You burned my arm!"
"I am so sorry, Bolin! If you had just-"
"What? Gotten out of the way faster? Stop blaming everything on me! When you kissed Korra on my date with her it was my fault for dating someone on the team who you had just kissed. When Asami found out you tried to do it again because I had to tell her since you were just going to lie! You're supposed to be the mature one but you act like a child when it comes to doing something wrong! I'm done!"
"Wait, what? After one fight you're going to abandon the guy who's always had your back?"
"It isn't one fight, Mako. It's years of you treating me like I'm still a kid and refusing to let me grow up. It's you always blaming me. It's you never acting like a real brother- Just an ass with responsibility. It's the fact that you just did to me the one thing I thought you never would!"
"Bo, if you let me explain-"
"I don't want to hear it! I'm done!"
"Done? What do you mean?"
"Pft, where would you go?"
"Korra's, maybe Asami's. I still talk to them." The earthbender remarked with a frown. "I actually treat the people I love good so they'll stay."
"You can't do this."
Silently Mako does. He watches as his little brother strode out of the living room and through the door. His heart is pounding. Bolin will be back, he has to come back. He wouldn't ditch him forever over some stupid fight he doesn't even remember the cause of. Mako knows this isn't permanent; Bolin will be back.
So why is he sitting in his brother's room bawling like a baby?
After a knock on the door woke her up Korra found herself face to face with an old friend.
She invited him in to escape the cold with an offer of noodles. Over bowl after bowl Bolin tells her everything he has suppressed over the years. They chat until dawn when the sun finally rises much like Bolin's spirits. They reflect on the familiarity of being able to be such good friends with someone and smile.
"Korra... I can't live there anymore. Not for now, anyways."
She thinks it over. "You know, I may have the perfect solution..."
On their third week of traveling Korra somehow manages to get lost in the canyons of the Earth Kingdom at night. All of the rocks are twisted in such a way that climbing out is nearly impossible. There is a serious lack of water (the land had been plagued by drought the past decade) and the uncertainty of where exactly rocks were located -especially above her- made Korra hesitant to try airbending to escape.
Being locked in a cell by Tarrlok had left her with claustrophobic tendencies. Whenever she was trapped it didn't take long for panic to set in as it was now. Her breathing becoming hitched, Korra wandered around the maze of stone in the dark for hours.
She wasn't positive that she had somehow ended up underground until she began to calculate the hours it had been since she had entered.
Korra cannot muster up a flame to guide her or use the earth to help herself escape. So she wanders aimlessly beginning to grow more and more desperate. Her breaking point comes when a low rumble groans behind her followed by a sharp crack! that split the air. The sharp intake of air she gasps for falls deaf among the tumbling rocks.
Unseeing and trapped the walls began to close in around her.
A few quick breaths quickly turn into frantic pants as she collapses on the ground in terror. Sight isn't needed to know that there is a barrier preventing her from ever seeing light again. In that moment Korra knows she is going to die and makes no effort to wipe away the frantic tears pouring out of her trembling eyes. Hiccups bounce around the cave as the situation seems to only grow graver with every second ticking by.
This is it and she is so scared. This scenario had run ramped through her slumbering mind dozens of times taunting her for her lack of power, lack of control, her weakness. Trapped like a helpless imp with no escape she throws her head back and lets out one last, pained yell at the top of her lungs.
"Will you shut up!"
Her bed had always been so soft. There were morning when her tired body begged for just a few more precious seconds of comfortable bliss. The mornings are evil, after all.
This morning something is wrong. The bed seems...hard? Confused, Korra sits up to find herself still in darkness. "Wh-What?"
"Your big mouth almost got you killed. Why were you screaming, Seaweed Brain?"
"Who are you?" Korra asks, ignoring the nickname. "Where am I?"
"My home." The voice replies, Korra recognizing it as female. "I live here underground."
"Underground! That's impossible! How do you see?"
"With the Earth. You're the Avatar, which means you're also an earthbender. Haven't you ever felt the vibrations in the ground to see?"
"No. No I haven't." She lowered her eyes. "And I may not ever. I can't earthbend anymore. But that doesn't matter." She throws her legs over the bed. "Why have you brought me here?"
Without warning she is thrown back onto her bed by the ground. "Huh, you're a lot less trusting than the last guy. If you were him he'd probably have made me tea by now."
"Aang and I are different. Could you show me the way out of here now?"
"I can see it, why can't you?"
"Because I can't earthbend!"
"I didn't ask for an excuse I asked for a reason."
"That was a reason!" Korra snapped, "Look, I need to find my friend okay? Could you please let me leave?"
"I'm not stopping you."
"But you're not showing me how!"
"How am I supposed to know? I'm blind and you can't see, Seaweed Brain. I guess we're both screwed."
"But you live here! How can you be blind?"
"Because my eyes stink."
"..." This is going to be a long day. "Please let me out."
"I can't 'let' you out." A pause. "But I can help you figure out how to leave."
Bare feet planted firmly on the ground, Korra gets into a basic position knowing full well it will do no good.
"What are you doing with your feet?" The woman laughs. "What are you, an earthbender or a flying bison?"
Korra glares at her before remembering the lady can't see it. Even if she hadn't been blind there was no way she could have looked at her. There was no light down here below the Earth. They were where the sun's rays couldn't stretch.
Keeping her claustrophobia in check was harder than not being able to see.
"What's wrong with my stance?"
She gets her answer when the ground shifts causing her legs to snap out. Before she can process the attack she is on the ground in a split, wincing in pain while thanking the Spirits she was a woman. "Oof!"
"Told you." The woman kicks again bringing Korra to her feet. "Earthbending is about being able to see through the Earth, not your eyes. The ground is an extension of your senses. Once you can use it to see you'll realize there is so much your eyes aren't telling you."
Korra doubts it before remembering Lin. The woman wasn't blind but she definitely used the same technique this woman did. "How do I do that?"
The taste of dirt is one that she's beginning to get used to. Down here there is no track of time. The only way Korra has any idea how long she's been here is by adding up all the times she's face planted into the ground.
96, to be exact.
Normally as she progresses her development is set in motion and her abilities advance. When it comes to seeing through Earth it takes an incredible amount of work to make the slightest bit of progress.
It's exhausting but worth it if Korra can escape these caves.
Claustrophobia has subsided from her psyche. Now her anxiety is focused on survival, not death. With every kick the heel off her foot eagerly awaits a connection with the ground.
'Be patient.' Her subconscious chimes in. 'Everything is connected.' A kick connects with the Earth jolting Korra's senses. Suddenly she gets it. The cave is just as dark but it doesn't matter. Her body knows where every pebble, rock, and boulder is in this cave.
Korra is cut off from her joyous shout by a thousand pounds of fur bursting into the cave.
"Gah!" Rolling onto the ground she covers her face and head. Desperately she looks for the old woman, "Hello?"
"No need to yell Seaweed Brain." The old woman smirks, stroking the creatures head lovingly. "Say hello to my old master."
"A badgermole, I know. Greatest non-human earthbenders to ever live."
Korra could feel the frown on the face of the old woman. "You're not too bright are you, Seaweed Brain?"
"Stop calling me that! And it's not my fault they didn't teach me too much about animals at the compound! All bending is derived from the Spirits sending four guardians to teach the humans to communicate with them through energy. They were the moon, the dragons, the skybison, and the badgermole. But I always thought it was just a myth..."
"It's no myth, I'll tell you that." She replied, "At least for earthbending. When I was a kid my parents locked me away for my protection to keep me safe. Instead they ended up locking me away from the rest of the world convinced that I was helpless. They were so busy trying to keep me alive they forgot to let me live."
A collage of memories bombard Korra of having no one to play with, no days to simply clown around, and channeling her anger at all her responsibilities into tearing up targets at the compound. The White Lotus swore they were doing it to help her be the best Avatar she could be but forgot at times that she was a child, not a weapon.
Korra could empathize the woman's childhood.
"I ran away at least once a week. See, I couldn't be the person they wanted me to be. It just wasn't...me. I didn't want to sit alone in a quiet room wearing a pretty dress and hiding from the world. I wanted to run around knocking people in the head with boulders." Korra's initial hesitance with this woman is rapidly vanishing as she tells her tale. "Then one day I made it all the way to the caves. Unable to see I wandered around until I began to cry. Then the badger moles, my teachers and friends, found me. I learned everything from them."
The beast is no Naga yet Korra walks up to it and places a hand on its pelt. Reveling in the surprising softness she murmurs, "The original masters."
"Yes, and they're blind too. Earthbending isn't just throwing rocks, kid. It's about connecting with the planet and all its life. The badgermoles use it to see, to communicate. That's how earthbending began."
An epiphany. "You've been re-teaching me how to earthbend, haven't you?"
"Ding ding ding, give the girl a medal." She grins, "Now, you see the way they move their paws..."
"One more Seaweed Brain! Give me one more!"
The ground creaks in protest but remains ignored as Korra leaps up and throws a punch. A boulder mimics her fist before crashing into the wall with a thud. "Easy, kid! This is still my home you know!"
Korra bows apologetically. "Sorry, Master." A pause. "Sorry that I 'rocked the house'."
She groans and covers her ears as Korra laughs. The woman had expressed her distaste for puns on more than once occasion (Something about Sokka Syndrome, whatever that was) and she couldn't resist. Thankfully the lady was one who enjoyed a good joke.
"If you ever say something like that again you'll be eating pebble. Now-wait, what are you doing? Stand up." Confused, Korra does as she's told before receiving a surprisingly hard punch to the shoulder. "Not bad kiddo, I think you're ready to leave."
"But what if I get lost?"
"You're the Avatar, SeaWeed Brain. It's not like you're ever alone."
Korra nods and shakes hands with her teacher. "Thank you, Master. I don't think I could have found a better earthbending teacher if I tried."
"That's 'cause there is no one better. Now enough with the mush, kid. Go get cracking!" With a smile Korra throws out her hands to make a crawl hole. As she begins to leave the woman cries out one last time, "And say hello to my daughter Lin for me!"
Unbelievingly Korra spins around her head. "Toph?"
But the woman has disappeared and Korra knows that no one will find the World's Greatest Earthbender in a pile of rock if she doesn't want to be found.
When she catches sight of her friend she can't help but break into a run. "BOLIN!"
The boy whips his head around in disbelief. "Korra? KORRA!"
He catches her in a hug so tight Korra's ribs ache. Instead of recoiling from the pain she squeezes harder. "Bolin, you'll never believe what I-"
"Do you have any idea how worried I was?" He shouts, breaking the embrace by grabbing her shoulders and staring into her eyes. "You just disappeared for a week with no warning! I didn't know where you went or if you were okay or-or if you were dead! Spirits, Korra, what were you thinking?"
His rant barely reaches her ears as the Southern Water tribe girls looks -really looks, at the boy. 'No.' Korra mentally corrects herself. 'Man.' Her friend's outrage is so unlike the childish behavior he used to exhibit. Though they are the same age Bolin always seemed younger to her, like a child. Now the baby fat on his face has been replaced with masculine cheekbones and the stubble of a beard. The naive look in his eyes is fiery concern. Even his body is harder somehow and Korra realizes that she is staring at a man.
When had he grown-up?
"I..." Words escape her grasp. "I'm so sorry, Bo. I got lost while we were going through the canyon in the dark. Somehow I ended up-..." While rattling out her tale Korra studies him. There is so much change Bolin is displaying that she briefly longs for her old friend. How had this change gone unnoticed? If Bolin has evolved this drastically what did she look like? "-I ended up here. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Korra. Just...don't do it again. I was worried sick about you." This hug is sad and relieved and begging her to stay. It makes her remember meeting this boy grown man at the arena. How he helped her without needing an invitation. How she had no idea he would be such a good friend to her.
"I won't." It is a promise she cannot keep yet makes because she knows he needs to hear it. "But it's my job, Bo. I have to do things like this sometimes."
He nods slowly. "Hey Korra, I was thinking."
"I miss Asami and Mako." A pause. "Can we go get home?"
Korra swallows as she remembers the island she once risked her life to visit. "I think that's a really great idea."
im so so so sorry that i snahpd at u that day i wus upset n yelld at u liek that i wus rong and no that ur mad at me. plees forgiv me and cum home. i mis u. i no i wus rong nd stoopid n meen n i
Mako stopped there, glaring at the paper. He took it into his hand, crumpled it, and burned it in a single gesture. Growing up on the streets hadn't given him the literary tools needed to write a letter. Those little things like spelling and punctuation weren't something that could be discarded when writing. Unlike him Bolin had actually received a little bit of education from other kids and the occasional old woman during the day while Mako looked for food or worked for money.
He was more than willing to sacrifice his pride in a poorly written letter as long as it meant his brother came home. In his mind what he wanted to write was so clear. 'Dear Bolin, I am so so so sorry that I snapped at you that day. I was upset and stupid and an ass but I will do anything if you just come home. I need my brother.' It just didn't work out on paper.
Mako missed his brother more than anything. He had to make this right.
Determined he picked up another piece of paper from the dwindling pile and began again.
There was a missing presence at the factory.
Bolin and Korra walked through the aisles searching for their friend without success. Finally Korra stopped and ask a worker where the beautiful heiress was lurking. The man said nothing as he pointed up towards the private office of Ms. Asami Sato.
Confused the pair thanked the man before walking down the aisle and up the stairs. Tentatively Korra knocked on the door. "Asami?"
She tried again.
Concern won over respect for privacy as Korra made quick work of the lock. The door swung open to reveal a dark room with quiet sobbing echoing through the shadows. Bolin turned on the lights to reveal a distraught Asami, make-up running down her cheeks as tears poured freely from her eyes. The woman was curled in a ball behind her desk, a letter crumpled in her palm.
Korra kicked away a bottle of liquor racing towards her friend. "Asami! What's wrong?"
The weeping woman sat up shakily, her bloodshot eyes closing as she fought to catch her breath. "I-I, He..."
"Who?" Bolin asked kneeling next to her. "What's wrong?"
Korra took the letter from her friend's trembling hand. "Dear Ms. Sato, we regrettably inform you that your father Hiroshi Sato took his life this morning in his cell." Asami's body convulsed as a fresh round of tears shook her frame. "Oh, Asami..."
"This is all my fault. All of it." Asami gasped, not for the first time. "Ever since Mom died I knew he started drinking. Damn it, I knew something was wrong! I knew and I didn't do anything!"
"This isn't your fault, Asami." Bolin said firmly, "Don't blame yourself for this. This was Hiroshi's choice, not yours."
"Do you know how many times I wished he would die?" She whispered, "I-I used to get so mad at him. All I wanted was this..thing disguised as my father to go away and never come back. He tried to kill me. My own father, he tried to kill me."
Korra gave her friend's hand a squeeze. "But you didn't kill him. Even after that when you had the chance you didn't take it. You're so strong, Asami. Someone to admire."
"For what? Not killing the only parent I had left? Do you have any idea how many people think I'm 'perfect'? Flawless? They're so stupid." She takes a deep breath. "I am so messed up, so flawed that it kills me. I've done so many things I regret. You know when I was little I used to put wine in the sauce and soup of my Dad's dinner because it calmed him down when he started to rage? I made him a damn alcoholic! When I was fifteen I had a crush on one of the guards. He-He told me he loved me and I slept with him. I gave him everything and you know what he did? He bragged to all the help. I was too scared of my Dad to let him know so I just let him bully me like a weakling."
'I drink every single night. I know what it does and I don't care. When I look into the mirror all I see is a failure whose parents left her. I feel so alone that it kills me. I am so fucked up that I-I just want to..."
Korra's heart pounds. "Want to what?"
"I just want to die." Asami finished, collapsing against Bolin's chest. He rubs her back while Korra holds her hand. "All I try to do is make Mom proud. That's all I want. My Mother to look down at me and be proud of me. But all I do is let her down."
"That's not true, Asami. You're one of the greatest people I know." Bolin said, "You never stopped fighting for what's right, even when you had to go against Hiroshi."
"You rebuilt Future Industries and made it better than ever." Korra added, "You got me back on track with my life for Spirit's sake!"
"You paid for me and Mako in the tournament."
"You helped me with my project for the less fortunate."
"You've got the greatest hair since Tahno."
The last one got a laugh out of her. Smiling softly she said, "Thank you. You're both so sweet."
"You're a great person, Asami. Never forget it." Korra ordered. "Right, Bolin?"
She hugged her friend's close. "I really appreciate it. It doesn't make everything better, but it really helps."
"Good. Now go get dressed."
"We're celebrating Korra's earthbending at Narook's."
Korra is awakened an excited squeal. "It's here! It's here!"
"What is?" She yawns. Instead of answering her Ikki throws the invitation onto her bed and runs to find her sister. Korra picks it up to see the words the royal Fire Nation seal on the side. Prince Iroh was going to move up as Firelord and the royal family wanted the Avatar to attend the ceremony and after party. Sometimes her obligations were tiring.
At least she had an excuse to see Asami, even if it was to go shopping.
Bolin can't help but smile as he sees Korra and Asami walk in the entrance of the Crowning Ceremony. Not only do they add beauty to the atmosphere but give him someone to actually talk to.
As he heads over he notices a man staring at them. Though most people were the way he was doing it was...odd. As though they were a memory. As he walked closer he noted the man's very familiar features, particularly his eyebrows...
Bolin bolted towards the man without hesitation. "Mako!"
The look of shock is quickly replaced by the expression of guilt. How can his brother gaze at him with such joy despite their fallout? "B-Bolin?"
His sibling is clutching him so incredibly tight there's no room for breath yet Mako feels like the iron grip is the only thing holding him together. As Bo laughed and cried out that he had missed him Mako couldn't help but stutter out, "You forgive me?"
"Well, yeah. You're a bit of an ass, Mako, but you're still my brother."
"A bit? Are you kidding me? I hurt you, Bolin. I used my bending to hurt you." His voice lowered in shame. "I can't bring myself to even try it again. Not after that."
"You haven't bended since I left?"
"No. I don't want to hurt anyone else ever again. It isn't worth it."
"Mako, no offense, but you're an idiot." Bolin stated firmly. "What you did was bad but that doesn't mean you're a bad guy. You made a mistake, bro, we all do. There's no reason to scrap firebending because you got a little out of control."
"It wasn't a little out of control, Bo. It was monstrous."
"Yeah, but it's not like I had any permanent damage."
"Bolin, just because you've forgiven me doesn't mean I've forgiven myself. I swore to Mom and Dad that I would always keep you out of harm only to be the thing that hurt you. I can't do it."
"Hey, I'm ruining a good moment." He looked up at his brother. "How was your trip?"
"Lonely. I missed you bro."
Mako felt his heart clench in his chest. "Yeah. I missed you too."
The Fire Nation had always been her favorite place to visit as a child.
Her native element may have been water yet nothing complemented her heart like fire. Passionate, fierce flames were the first thing she ever managed to conjure out of thin air through bending despite being a child of the tides. Fire was her element.
Or at least it was.
Air, water, and earth were the only elements she could currently summon. Fire had escaped her grasp. After regaining the other three Korra had begun to work with an intensity to earn firebending like she had never before possessed. She spent hour after hour reciting drills until her body screamed for rest. Korra labored until sweat had dripped down to her feet with no success.
She was so very close to becoming a true Avatar again. Though she was no longer so foolish as to believe that bending alone wasn't what made someone the Avatar she also wasn't naive enough to think it was irrelevant. Having all four of the elements under her control once more was the final step in being a true Avatar.
This coronation was distracting her from achieving that rank. Inwardly Korra chided herself for thinking such thoughts. She had a duty to attending royal celebrations throughout the four nations. Still, she was itching to escape and work on her bending again.
"Avatar Korra, so nice to see you again."
The young woman turned to see the previous Firelord Honoura, daughter of Zuko, heading towards her. "So nice to see you, darling."
"You too." She agreed, bowing politely. "This is a beautiful ceremony."
"Eh, it could use more liquor and less politicians. When I was crowned Firelord all of my guests were required to have a few drinks to loosen up. My father looked like he didn't know whether to laugh or scream." The woman smiled in memory. "Unfortunately my son, Iroh, wanted something more formal. Not even a day as Firelord and he's already making his own choices."
"He'll be a great ruler."
"Mm, but you don't particularly care, do you?" Korra opened her mouth to object but the older woman cut her off. "It's alright, darling. Ceremony is hardly something to get all rallied up over. I take it you're thinking of far more serious things?"
Korra bit her lip. "...I haven't gotten my firebending back yet. I know I shouldn't complain. I can bend the other three, so who cares? But fire...fire was always my favorite element. The one I related to the most. It's what I miss most of all."
"Fire isn't just the element of destruction, Dear." Honoura said soothingly as she placed a hand on the other woman's shoulder. "Fire is warmth; a flame glowing that is a port in an ocean. It's comfort, especially for those who bend it. Losing that home is like losing your place."
"Yes! Exactly!" Korra exclaimed, "I feel so lost sometimes without it. It's like the light that always guided me somehow got lost."
"Korra, being a firebender is in your nature. It's only natural that you would feel misplaced without it. But that doesn't mean you can't find yourself."
"I feel like I understand who I am now more than ever in my life. I've reached a point where not only am I happy for myself but for the people I represent. There doesn't seem like anything I can't handle without turning stronger. I have a good sense of self, but still find myself feeling like there's a part of me missing. Not just as Korra, but as the Avatar."
Her lips flickered in sad knowledge. "Bending is not what makes the Avatar who they are- it's about being a bridge between worlds. My duty is to represent my people, people I understand. Without firebending I can't help but feel like I'm letting so many of them down."
"Spoken like a true diplomat." Honoura smiled softly, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly. "I think that even without your bending you're still a great Avatar, Korra."
"Thank you, Lady Honoura." The young woman bowed. "Enough about me; this is your son's coronation. You should be focusing on him."
"It is, isn't it?" The statement was surprisingly sad. "My son is all grown up. Agni, if my baby is old than I must be..."
She trailed off into a moment of silence. "I think it's time for more wine."
Asami blushed lightly as Iroh kissed her velvet-covered knuckles.
"You look dazzling this evening, Ms. Sato. Are you enjoying yourself?"
"How can I have anything but a fabulous time at such a lovely event, Firelord?"
"It's just Iroh around friends."
"What about more than friends?" The raven-haired woman asked nonchalantly.
"Of course." He coughs, "Do you plan on dancing the Dance of Dragons?"
"No, unfortunately I wasn't permitted to learn it as a child. My father didn't forbid me from socializing with firebenders but limited what I learned about their bending. Being a nonbender didn't help, either."
"Ah, well it's a lovely display of power and grace. It's actually about to begin. If you excuse me, Ms. Sato, I have to go join the other dancers."
"Why Firelord, are we all going to get to see you light up the dance floor?"
"Even if we light up the sky with fire I still think more men will be entranced by your beauty than by the display, Ms. Sato." He replied with a gentle kiss to her hand before walking away from a blushing heiress.
Korra stands across from Iroh in a circle of benders preparing to dance the Dance of the Dragons. Firelord Zuko had made it a tradition to perform the first set of firebending at a coronation as a tribute to the original firebenders. Now when a new Firelord was crowned it is tradition to have the new Firelord, the previous one, the Avatar, and the other members of the royal family to perform the dance.
Even though Korra could no longer bend ceremony had bound her to dance this evening. With a deep breath she leapt on one foot as the music began to beat.
It was such a graceful dance yet it still teemed with power. As she bent and dipped her body the familiar feeling of power pulsed through her veins. She could feel the essence of raw energy take over her as she allowed herself to become a puppet of rhythm.
Fire was life. Life was energy. Energy was motion in form. As Korra threw a kick in the air, her time in sync with the other dancers, her core began to warm. To bend fire was to trust the very energy you wished to control. In exchange for its use you had to trust it not to burn you. For a well earned reason fire was met with hesitance; it was raw power that consumed all in its path. But fire was not something to fear. Fire was life. It was rebirth. Fire was something to respect, not to use as a weapon.
Firebending was similar to her status as the Avatar. Yes, it was a great power that earned much fear because of it. But it was also caring; something that stood for life. Fire was a part of her. Korra herself was fire.
And as she glided on the dance floor she looked like a flame blowing in the wind. Her fists would shoot out as she contoured her torso to bend like a fireball. She would leap and duck in time to the pounding drums, breathing deeply as power flooded through her body. As the music picked up signaling the grand finale Korra gave it her all. She threw her whole spirit into the dance.
A dip. A kick. Music picking up in climax. Inhale. Hold it. Throw a kick mid-flip. Land. Throw out your arms and for all you're worth let out your breath in a ROAR.
"Raaaaaaaaw!" Korra landed perfectly, her hands shooting out as she stuck the pose of Dragon's breathe. Heat pulsed through her fingers as flames shot out of her palms.
The crowd broke out into applause.
Panting, Korra stared at her hands in wonder. "Did I just...?''
She had done it. Making sure it wasn't some odd fluke Korra quickly created a small flame, staring at it in wonder as it flickered in her palm. "I did it. I-I can be whole again."
It felt like her face had been kissed by the sun for the first time in a 1000 years.
"See, I told you she could do it!"
"Oh, sure you did." Katara smirked, rolling her eyes. "You never doubted her at all, did you Zuko?"
"Well, maybe for a minute." The old man admitted. "But it was a justified assumption. She was spending her days wallowing in self pity at the time. Now she's a strong, confident young woman making her mark on the world and as the Avatar."
"I knew she would grow up to be a good girl. After all, how could anyone with Aang in them be anything but great?"
"Agreed. But I'm happy to see Korra carry on his great legacy while making her own."
"We all are." The waterbending master smiled. "Cheers, to Korra."
Zuko clinked his teacup with his old friends. "And to overcoming the blocks onjln the road of life."
Water ripples around her toes as she dips her foot into the gentle lapping of the water.
Korra looks at Republic City in front of her and feels a maternal love stem from her heart. This city will always be special to her. It's where she lost and found so much of herself. Some days it seems as though she is still a little lost, but then Korra reminds herself that no one in life ever really knows where they are going for certain.
She sits on the hard cement by herself, though she isn't alone. When you have the voices of hundreds of past lives all whispering and watching you being truly alone is a fantasy. Still, Korra contemplates if she will ever meet someone special to give her heart to. Having a boyfriend isn't necessary for her to be complete yet she still wonders if there's a man out there that will one day go penguin sledding with her.
In just a few short years Korra knows she has grown more than most do in their entire lives. She now understands that losing her bending was vital in her journey of becoming the woman she is today. With her power back she knows it would be all too easy to slip back to past habits, but Korra knows she can never forget her experiences.
"Thanks, Aang." The woman murmurs, craning her neck to look at the towering statue behind her. "I understand. I was so mad at first that you wouldn't just give it back to me. Agni, I was so stubborn.''
She still is, too. But she now listens to others instead of assuming she is always in the right. Though Korra is far from perfect and fully aware she will never be she feels like it might be okay to be flawed. Like Kuzon said, if people were meant to be perfect then they wouldn't be people.
Loss isn't to be wallowed in; you can't live in the past. As Korra ages she sees this more and more clearly and thanks the spirits for possessing the strength to get through life's challenges.
She isn't just a label. She isn't nothing without her bending. She is a friend, a diplomat, a daughter, a determined woman, a fighter, a lover, and a care giver. She is all of this and more.
She is not a title. She is a person, and a damn good one at that.
She is Korra, and that's all she ever has to be.
A/N Oops, I developed a character. All reviews are welcomed and highly appreciated:)