Ice baths are the only time Avatar Korra can let her guard down. At first, they are only meant to soothe her constantly aching muscles from the strains of her daily training, but soon Korra finds that the chill of the water becomes more therapeutic to her mind than to her body. She sits in the metallic tub and soaks for at least an hour in freezing water to heal, to contemplate, to allow herself the time to be human and cope, and to… mentally recover from whatever catastrophe occurrs that day.
Today is different.
Today marks the first death of another by Korra's own hand.
Of course, as official balancer of the world, Korra knows that there would come a time when it she would have to end a life so that the innocent and oppressed could live. She just doesn't expect it to happen so soon. Then again, death never comes at the right time, despite what everyone says. Death always arrives like a thief.
Granted, the man is no saint. He had killed before. Raped as well. Still, a life is a life and even though Korra is strong in so many ways when the ice dagger drives through his chest and the light leaves his wide, incredulous eyes Korra breaks down. She doesn't speak to anyone after the police officers took her detached, distracted, distanced statement.
When Team Avatar arrives back at their base of operations (Airbender Island), Korra heads straight into bathroom, drags the tin tub to the middle of the room, lights the candles with a deep breath, freezes the top of the water into cubes of ice with a twitch of her fingers, strips down to nothing, and sits in the tub without a word.
She sits. She cries. She stares blankly at the wall. Cries some more. Sits under the water for as long as she could without passing out. Possibly contracts hypothermia. Cries.
The door opens and the moping Avatar does not acknowledge the change in her environment. Heels click on the tile floor to a stool that Meelo tended to use so he could stand on it and wash his hands and begins clicking again only to set the stool down behind Korra. She sits onto the wooden seat placing her manicured hands on Korra's shaking shoulders: The Avatar is sobbing again.
For a few moments, Asami doesn't say anything to her. She only slides her hands from the base of Korra's neck outward across her shoulders, kneading into the tense muscles gently. It continues on until Korra's shoulders stop quivering. A dry sob is the only sound other than ice bumping slightly against metal.
Asami hushes her, squeezing the tops of her arms one more time before sliding downward along her triceps and forearms. The hands return back to Korra's shoulders in their journey they slid over the inside of her arms, opposing their previous track. They resume their familiar pattern at the base of her neck.
Korra can feel Asami's warmth and comfort, but she feels so cold and so isolated from everyone else like a solid sheet of ice is surrounding her. If everyone felt like she did after they delivered death to another, there would be no more murder in the world.
Leaning forward to cover her face with her hands –she doesn't want Asami to see her crying-, Korra exposes her bare back and Asami's comforting hands slip down across her protruding shoulder blades pressing into the flesh with firm hands. Thumbs push gently on the flesh between the nobs of her spine, walking downward until she reaches Korra's bruised tailbone. Fisting her soft hands, Asami drags them upwards parallel on either side of her spinal cord.
"No one is upset with you, Korra."
How could they not be? She killed someone. People probably think that Avatar Aang could have saved his life and still brought him to justice. "You're lying to me," She says, her voice is hoarse from the tears. Warm hands sweep back down her icy body and the Avatar fails to suppress a shiver.
"I would never. Lin even said she was proud of you." The voice is in her ear tickling the sensitive shell with its warm vibrations. Korra is slowly thawing and Asami is breaking through the hard ice with only her hands.
"She didn't see the way he looked at me. I've never seen death before that, Asami. The light in his eyes… it just disappeared. Gone. Snuffed out by…" Her face contorts at the reoccurrence of the realization, "Me."
Her hands squeeze her shoulders hard now, "I know that you're hurt by this. I'm sorry. But you shouldn't feel bad for him." A hand cups her chin and gingerly force Korra to turn and face her for the first time; the light, the sincerity Korra sees in Asami's green eyes thaws her more, melts her guilt and self-doubt.
Asami's stare is fixed on Korra, "Korra, the light in his eyes was tainted and only shined to bring fear and pain into the world. When you 'snuffed it out', you prevented the death of a purer soul." Busy fingers massage her face now, smoothing the crinkled brow and turning her frown, "I'm sorry that you had to go through that, but I'm not sorry you killed him. Everyone loves you and we hate seeing you beat yourself up over this. I'm worried for you."
Korra goes to speak but she can't think of anything valuable to say. Logic and reason has beaten passion and emotion once again. Asami is right. Korra is wrong.
She wants to cry again, but only because Asami's compassion has touched her more thoroughly than her hands ever did, "Thank you."
Asami presses a kiss to her forehead Korra's shield of ice melts completely, "You're welcome. Now get out of that freezing water or you are going to get sick."