Hollow Infatuation

Asami Sato was from another world – one of lace and etiquette and manners. The delicate scent of Asami's perfume had been a confusing intoxication at first. There were, after all, no flowers in the southern tundra. Korra had first associated her with an expensive porcelain doll. So fragile, so beautiful, yet so easily broken when put into the hands of someone with a rougher touch.

Of course, Korra had been dead wrong.

The girl had a fire to her. For however graceful Asami was, a wild thing lurked beneath the surface – a beast that wanted to slam a car into a sharp turn at one hundred miles per hour, punch out an Equalist agent with her bare hands, and forcibly take whatever it was she wanted from the world.

Asami was bewildering – someone so different, yet so similar, that Korra found herself drawn closer and closer to the girl. Magnetism. It was something she couldn't help. It was instinct to reach out to someone who appeared to be your missing half, and Asami was a familiar little mystery that needed to be unraveled piece by piece. She didn't think for one second, though, that someone as classy as Asami would be remotely interested in a brute like her.

Dead wrong there, too.

It happened quite suddenly and without warning, leaving Korra no time to plan out a smooth reaction. She'd been practicing in the gym when Asami came in to watch. Nothing out of the ordinary. And then she felt a pair of hands glide up her back, following the contours of her honed muscles. She felt Asami's breath against her neck.

"You seem so much stronger than me," Asami whispered. "It's fascinating."


Korra stretched her arms over her head, arching her spine and tightening the muscles of her stomach. She let out a moan as Asami explored her smooth skin with her hands. There was a smirk on Asami's face – a proud, satisfied grin that came from a rush of domineering power. It melted away when she locked eyes with Korra, transforming into a joyful smile.

This was the end result of all that magnetism, as if forgoing words and uniting their bodies would serve as a faster way to learn about each other. Asami leaned down and kissed her without reservation. It was so easy to get lost in the sensation – soft lips, searching tongues, teeth gently tugging on flesh. Dangerous.

In the end, sex had always been their strong suit. Maybe it was because there was no one else involved. Nobody to impress. No clashing cultures. Just two bodies intertwined in the night, moving to a unique rhythm that would never be replicated by any subsequent romantic partners.

It was strange, really, how healthy the relationship was in the beginning.

Chemicals lacked sensibility.


Lazy days at home were the best. Korra appreciated the little things – not big, sweeping romantic gestures. Forget expensive bottles of champagne or trips to exotic locations. Watching Asami walk around in nothing but an old bending jersey, hair messy and face free of makeup, brought her more happiness than any fancy gift could.

Asami came back from the kitchen holding two steaming cups, and she extended one to Korra. "Here. I made some tea."

"You make mornings slightly more tolerable."

"I do what I can."

She held the cup up to her nose, taking in the rich scent of exotic spices imported from the Fire Nation. Asami curled up next to her on the couch, pulling their shared blanket tighter around her body, and instinctively worked her way beneath one of Korra's arms. She slid close, pressing her lips against Korra's neck before taking a long drink of her tea.

The radio was set on their favorite morning show – an enthusiastic host who rambled on about the city's latest news and gossip. They listened with half-interest, Korra flipping through a pro-bending magazine and Asami resuming her latest book. Relaxed. Content.

"Have they announced a date for the Pro-Bending Charity Tournament?"

"I think it's at the end of spring," Korra said, absently stroking Asami's dark hair.

"Should I reserve seats?"

"Nope."

Asami raised both her eyebrows. "No?"

"I was thinking about participating."

Asami's eyes lit up with excitement. "Really?"

"Just for the Charity Tournament, though – I don't have time to do a full season. I thought I might talk to Mako and see if he wanted in on it. A reunion of the classic Fire Ferrets should draw in some extra tickets.."

"Oh, please, take me with you when you tell Bo about it," Asami said with a laugh. "He's going to be so happy that he won't know what to do with himself."

Korra fidgeted, already imagining the fights ahead of her – the rush of adrenaline. "Tell me about. I've always loved competition, and I never get to bend for fun anymore. It's either training or legitimate fights nowadays."

"I won't have to give you back this jersey, will I?"

Korra held up a hand. "Oh, spirits, no. I wouldn't dream of taking it away from you. I know you've gotten very attached."

"I did technically pay for it," Asami joked.

"And I could destroy this entire city on a whim," Korra said, "so don't get too full of yourself."

"Yes, you're absolutely terrifying."

"Do I detect a hint of insincerity?"

"You bawled your eyes out during that play we saw last night. Doesn't exactly paint an image of a cold-blooded warlord."

Korra pouted. "I can be tough."

Asami patted her head. "I'm sure you can."


Part of her was jealous that Asami had other friends, but it was foolish to think that 'Team Avatar' was the maximum extent of her social circle. She was a bright, charming woman. Life did not perpetually revolve around fighting crime and taking down the leaders of revolutions – even if 'normal' things were infinitely more boring. Meeting Asami's parents was a milestone that Korra wouldn't have to tangle with, but meeting her other friends was just as uncomfortable.

Korra sat perfectly straight in her elaborately carved chair, afraid to move. Getting through a dinner like this required more effort than a bending exam. There was an interesting array of food – or things that vaguely resembled food – on the porcelain dinner plate in front of her.

It was supposedly a seared fish in some kind of cream sauce, but Korra was fairly certain that the thing in front of her was not a fish. Didn't look like one at all. And there wasn't a single fish in the world – apart from maybe Tui and La – that should have been this expensive. A laborer would have to blow his entire paycheck just to eat this puny thing.

They were in the fanciest restaurant in Republic City, and Korra was the only one in the group who seemed intimidated by that fact. Asami's friends were all elite members of society, though Korra didn't understand why. One, a woman dressed in ridiculous clothes that seemed to be "fashionably poor-looking," was a ritzy fashion designer. Another was a man who had just started a career as a stock broker. They were all like that.

"I adore your hat, Korra," said the fashion designer.

She smiled politely. "Thanks."

"It's so rare to see genuine Water Tribe clothing here, but I love it so much! That beadwork is so impressive."

"Yeah, it's amazing to see artisans at work. I never had the patience for crafting. Wish I did."

The designer continued to gush. "My friend is a photographer – does a lot of work with celebrities. She and I teamed up to do a shoot in the woods with this gorgeous model. We had her naked, save for a traditional Northern Tribe headdress and this fantastic woven blanket. It was just this fantastic representation of being wild and uninhibited." She cut into her fish. "You know, I wish people in the city could be more down to earth like the Tribes."

Korra blinked. "You... you put her in a headdress? Naked?"

"Absolutely fantastic shots! I should send you some."

"You always did love the unconventional," Asami said.

Oh, hell no. Korra clenched her jaw and used every ounce of her willpower to refrain from yelling at this pretentious little snot.

First off, a headdress was something reserved for only the greatest members of a tribe – Kuruk, chieftains, elite warriors. They were not things for airheaded city bimbos to prance around in. Second, she was naked? Since when did anyone in the poles strut around naked? Naked and the headdress? Doubly insulting. Wild and uninhibited – oh, please. These people wouldn't know what it was like to be out in nature. They'd come crawling back to a grocery store the moment they got hungry.

The little fashionista reached over and grabbed Korra's hand. "You should let us take some pictures of you! I could get you on the front page of Republic City's best art magazine."

Korra pulled her hand back. "I don't like cameras."

Asami detected the hostility in her voice and looked over in worry, though she didn't make it obvious to anyone else. Their eyes met for a few brief seconds – Asami silently asking if Korra was all right. Could she really not understand why that was insulting? Korra turned her eyes away, focusing back on her pitiful excuse of a dinner.

The up-and-coming stock broker, his black hair slicked back with grease, shifted the topic to something more productive. "So, how's Future Industries doing? I saw your numbers for last quarter and was very impressed. You've really turned it all around."

"Absolutely," Asami said with a hint of pride. "It's been difficult, but I think our new line is really appealing – especially for younger people. Everything's more affordable. I modified a lot of my father's older designs for last year's offerings. I'll be showcasing my own designs next spring."

"Looking forward to it!" He smiled – a charming, oily expression. "Do you think you could set me up with your new K-type model? That thing is a beauty. I'd love to have it for my collection."

Collection? Korra had seen designs for the K-type. That car was the most expensive luxury model Future Industries offered! How many of these cars did he have? And he only wanted it for a collection? Ugh. Bad memories of Tarrlok.

"I'd be more than happy to set one aside for you."

"Still racing?"

"Of course I am," Asami said.

"You should enter the next Republic Grand Prix! Put your skills to the test, Sato."

"Oh, no, I wouldn't dream of it."

"Why not?"

Her smile was playful. "Unfair advantage. Think of those other, unfortunate drivers. They wouldn't stand a chance."

"Won't believe you until I see it."

"How about you just be impressed by my next earnings report?"

"Think you can ride over the wave of new taxes? Profits might take a hit next year now that the Council's raised corporate tax." He sighed. "Again."

"Oh, I think we'll be fine."

Korra scowled into her glass of champagne. And what was wrong with new taxes? They'd passed that measure in order to pay for new educational programs. These people had more than enough money to spare. If Mr. Greasy-Hair could afford a damn collection of Satomobiles, and if they could all afford to spend a sinful amount of money on a tiny plate of fish, then they could damn well spare enough money to let kids study.

She didn't claim to be the most merciful or diplomatic person in the world, but her job involved going into slums and beating the shit out of people who threatened the underclasses. She'd been elbows deep in poverty, trying desperately to bring a lot of those people the slightest bit of justice, and these little princes and princesses – Asami excluded – had never gotten down off their shining pedestals to actually do one damn thing for people who actually needed help. What on earth did they do with all this money, anyway? Who needed that much? The entire Southern Water Tribe had a national budget that involved less money than what this dashing stock broker made in a year, and they weren't worse off because of it.

There were a lot of things that Korra didn't understand, but she liked to think that she had grown since her early days as an ineffective Avatar. She'd been lectured about ignoring the hardships faced by non-benders, but had Asami ever genuinely considered the hardships faced by the poor?

No, that wasn't fair. Asami was a good person – warm, giving, someone who had no trouble living in filth if their latest adventure demanded it of them. She wasn't like the others.

Still, with all of them chatting so casually about expensive toys and the idle play of social elites, Korra couldn't help but feel out of place. She sank down in her chair and attempted to tune it all out. Why did Asami want someone like her when their lives were so inherently different?

Korra was surrounded by people, yet she felt incredibly alone.


Later that night, a terrible windstorm swept over the city. Rain pounded against their bedroom window, and the building creaked under the pressure of the passing gale. Asami shifted closer to her, holding her tight, but Korra loved the sound of a good storm. It reminded her that this wasn't some artificial place dominated by concrete and steel. That it had once been a thing of nature.

She had always had trouble sleeping in Republic City. At first she thought it was just from stress and nightmares related to Amon, but it persisted long after he'd been defeated. It was the sounds of the city – all the sirens, the shouting, the constant motion going on throughout the entire day. The lights had once been impressive, but now they just felt like artificial day. Her body rhythm was off. It just didn't feel right.

It felt like she was an animal trapped in the zoo – it was a manufactured place that only occasionally tried to imitate natural settings. Maybe that was a fitting comparison. That designer friend of Asami's had acted like she was some wild thing brought in from the jungle. Something to be admired, yet something they couldn't ever really understand.

Maybe that was how Asami felt about her – that she was this captivating, wild animal. An exotic pet that had been tamed just enough to live happily in a home.

Korra listened to the rain fall and nestled her face against the crook of Asami's neck. That probably wasn't fair. This was warm. It was nice. Asami was very generous and giving. Courageous. She just... felt out of her element and was lashing out at others because of it.

Out of her element...

"Hey," Korra whispered.

"Hm?"

"I want to visit my family."

Asami propped herself on an elbow. "Yes, of course. It's been a while. I'm sure you're homesick."

"Do you want to come with me?"

She smiled. "Of course. I'll clear my calendar."

Her hands brushed through Korra's hair, and they stared at each other with affection. Korra's worries and tensions melted away. It was all silly, she thought. She was overreacting. This could work. There was unconditional love there. They just had some things to get used to.


There was nothing in the world that could match the power or warmth of Tonraq's bear hugs. Korra jumped into her father's muscled arms, and he all but crushed her ribs as he spun her around. A huge smile was plastered on his strong face – one that she reciprocated with every fiber of her being. He was like a great big polarbear dog in his own right. Naga agreed. She gave him a big lick when the two separated, leaving one of his cheeks covered in drool. He didn't mind.

"It's so good to see you again, little one," Tonraq said with the utmost affection in his voice.

"Missed you too, papa bear." Korra left him briefly, giving her mother an affectionate – but infinitely more delicate – squeeze. "Come here, Mom!"

Senna happily threw her arms around Korra's shoulders, but made a horrible realization. "Have you gotten taller than me? Oh, no, you have. When did this happen? I don't like this at all."

"Nope," Korra said. "You've just started shrinking in your old age."

"You may be the Avatar, but I will end your life if you keep sassin' me," Senna warned.

"It's how I express my love."

Senna grabbed her hands and dragged her into their home, overly-excited to be able to spend time with her daughter. Peaceful time. Time that didn't involve crazy spirits or war or bending experiments. And that was good, but that eagerness made her forget entirely about Asami, so Korra turned around and held out a hand, gesturing for Asami to join them.

The look on Asami's face was decidedly unhappy. Not angry, not bitter, but... sad. Jealous. Korra held back a wince. Of course this was bothering her. It was all family and togetherness and she no longer had those things. Not with Hiroshi, still refusing to apologize for his crimes, locked away in the RCPD's most secure prison.

She probably felt very out of place here.

No matter how awkward it may have been, Asami snapped out of it when Tonraq laid one of his big paws on her shoulder and ushered her into the little hut – always able to make anyone feel welcome.


Korra followed her father through the icy hills as he tracked a moving herd. With any luck, they would find and bag their dinner within the next couple hours. Father and daughter carried wooden spears and wore traditional fur robes in order to ward off the frigid cold. She'd always loved their hunting trips. It was time to reflect, and the chemical high of exercise always helped clear her mind of toxic restlessness. She was able to think more clearly.

"Hey, Dad?"

"Ah?"

"Do you regret leaving the North Pole?"

Tonraq stopped and turned around to face her, confusion on his face. "What do you mean?"

"To be with Mom," Korra said. "Do you ever feel out of place here?"

Tonraq smiled. "Well, no, but the Southern Tribe isn't all that different from what it's like up North. A little less developed, maybe, and with a couple different traditions, but it's not like I moved to Omashu." He smiled faded. "Why?"

She shrugged.

"Korra."

"Republic City was so exciting at first," she said, "but the more I stay there, the less comfortable I am. The whole place is just so manufactured. The people are like that, too. They don't work with the land or anything. They just sit on their butts and talk about money all day long. It's great to visit, don't get me wrong, but it's just not..."

"You," he finished.

"Yeah." She sighed and looked away. "I'm lonely, and I'm guilty for feeling that way."

Tonraq frowned, but he came over and placed both hands – covered in warm, thick mittens – on top of her head. "Listen to me, little girl. You don't need to feel guilty about that. I wouldn't feel comfortable in that city, either. I'm so sorry that you feel lonely. Maybe you need a change of scenery. You don't have to base your work out of Republic City."

"Asami," she said.

"Have you talked to her about how you're feeling?"

Korra shook her head. "Not yet."

"You should," Tonraq said. "Nothing's going to get better if you don't communicate."

"Yeah, I guess."

He leaned down and rested his chin against the top of Korra's head. "Important people like Asami don't always have to run their companies from wherever they've got their headquarters set up. They can appoint people to do the dirty work and give directions from afar. Maybe you could convince her to buy a house out in the country?"

"Maybe. I think she'd get bored, though. I like focusing on the little things, but Asami's... really smart. Like machine-smart. If we're not solving a world crisis, then she always has to be working on something – and it's easier to do that in the city."

He didn't say anything for a long while. "I used to fancy a girl before your mother. She was a pretty thing from the North. From one of the more established families. Everyone wanted her and I to get together. We courted for a little while. Almost got betrothed."

"It obviously didn't work out," Korra said. "What happened?"

"She and I got along. But she was just... too pretty and high-maintenance for me. We could have lived together, but I think we would have driven each other crazy over time. Then I met your mother – my little wildcat – and everything came together," he said. "Love's complicated. You can be absolutely smitten with someone for who they are, yet not understand how they live. Or you can share a culture and lifestyle with someone, but not feel all that attracted to them. You've got to have both working in harmony in order to make it last."

Korra frowned, burying her head into her father's chest and wondering which one best described her attraction to Asami.


They were back home. Asami was content again, hunched over her desk and drawing out new design plans for the next generation of Satomobiles. Korra was sprawled out on the couch, tired from a workout at the gym, but that had only vented a small portion of her restless energies. The gym was repetitive conditioning – not something genuine. She wanted to go out adventuring. Or go hunting. Or do something that made her feel alive.

This was as good a time as any to get this conversation over with. She got up and walked over to Asami's work desk, leaning against it with mild hesitation. Asami looked up and smiled.

"Sorry, am I getting too involved in this?"

"No," Korra said. "I want to talk to you, though."

Asami put down her pen. "Sure. What about?"

"Things are going well at Future Industries, right?"

"Very well."

Korra began to play with the edge of the desk. "So, you wouldn't necessarily need to spend all your time there anymore, would you? You could mail your designs in to engineers and let someone else take over the grunt work?"

"Uh, well... I wouldn't say that," Asami said, leaning back in her chair. "I'm still an instrumental part of the company's success, and I've got to keep steering it in the right direction."

Korra felt something in her chest tighten. "Right."

"Why?"

"I was just thinking it might be nice to live outside the city," Korra said. "Get a house in the hills, maybe. Or spend more time on Avatar adventures."

Asami's face fell – slowly, with growing realization, and she didn't say anything for what seemed like ages. Her voice was quiet. Scared. "Are you unhappy?"

Korra took a deep breath. "I don't belong here."

"But this is the center of global politics," Asami said. "There's no better place to live if you want to keep the peace."

"I know."

"Then?"

"I should be out roaming the world, protecting people from even little threats – not just catastrophes," Korra rambled. "I don't... I... just feel very alone here. The culture's so different. I don't understand anyone."

Asami's eyes widened, and her voice carried pain with it. "You feel alone?"

"No," Korra blurted. "Not like that. I'm happy with you – with just you. It's everything else that bothers me."

"What do you mean?"

Korra shook her head. "This whole place just feels dead. My body doesn't know how to react to it. It was so exciting when I first got here, but now that's worn off. All these buildings and all these businesses just remind me how far I am from home – how far I am from the natural order of things."

Asami opened her mouth but said nothing, unsure of herself and how to react. Her eyes darted between her designs and Korra – no doubt weighing the importance of her love life and her business. Both were, after all, two very essential aspects of her existence. Asami's eyes were on the verge of filling with tears, but she kept them controlled.

Instead of saying anything, she stood up and took Korra in her arms, holding her tight, as if she were afraid that the Avatar might disappear.


Their lovemaking had become almost desperate, with Asami trying to lavish every inch of Korra's body with tenfold the amount of attention that had been given before – efforts to keep Korra bound to her, to make her feel loved, to pull her out of that lonely depression.

And while Korra truly did enjoy it, she began to wonder if that was the only thing she was staying for.


Asami slammed the door behind them and threw her purse into a nearby chair.

"Stop!"

Korra spun back around, fury on her face. "What?!"

"How can you possibly justify acting like that to my friends? And then you outright walk away from me while I'm trying to talk to you!"

"Your friends are a bunch of spoiled brats who never had to work a day in their lives," Korra hissed. "The way that pompous blowhard talked about those people on the street...!"

Asami narrowed her eyes. "They grew up the exact same way I did."

"And if it weren't for Amon, you'd still be sitting on your laurels getting Daddy to throw money at every good-looking person that made your panties wet."

She was momentarily shocked, having never been talked to like that before, but quickly went back on the offensive. "That is not how that happened, and don't you dare talk to me like that again. I don't care how this city makes you feel. You don't get to treat people this way."

Korra crossed her arms. "Do you agree with that asshole?"

"Takeda is not an asshole," Asami maintained.

"Answer my question."

Asami gritted her teeth. "I think there is a big difference between giving someone help and coddling them into pathetic dependency."

"Not where I'm from," Korra said. "Where I'm from, if someone's hungry, then you just give them some damn food and be proud of the fact that you helped them. Maybe people wouldn't feel so damn helpless if you elites didn't act like condescending pricks whenever you so much as flick a coin their way."

"My family didn't start out this way. Do you know how my father became self-sufficient? By busting his ass. Half of these people take handouts without even wanting to contribute," Asami argued. "If I had a child and they just sat around all day asking for money, I'd cut them off and make them go find a job."

Korra raised her eyebrows. "Really? And where were you employed when I first got to Republic City? Because from where I was standing, it sure looked like you were just playing with Hiroshi's racecars and buying a lot of clothes."

"I was about to start university!"

"And who was paying for that?"

Asami tightened her fist at her side. "That is not the poi-!"

"That is exactly the point! What do you think Bolin and Mako could have done with their lives if they'd been able to go to university? They even didn't have the opportunity – they had to work, they had to get mixed up in crime in order to survive." Korra's temper was boiling over. "And then there's you and your friends – who just sail by without a hint of struggle, and somehow you're the ones who are painted as being saviors just because you occasionally donate to charity."

Asami shook her head. "I donate more than just 'occasionally,' thank you."

"Don't act like I haven't seen the numbers. You give, what? Five percent of your total income?" Korra snorted. "Is that enough to justify all the wasteful things you people do in your spare time? Maybe your little fashion designer pal should stop desecrating my culture and go hunting for a change."

"It's art," Asami stressed.

"It's pretentious!" Korra threw up her arms. "I put my life on the line – no, multiple lives stretching back for centuries – to protect the people from the world's greatest threats. Do you know how much I'm paid? Nothing! You know why? Because it's not about money!"

"No, with you it's about power. States host you – support you – because you can wipe them out without a second thought."

"Because I can save them."

"Depends on the whim of the Avatar's incarnation," Asami said, stepping forward. "At least us mere mortals have a chance to make our own destinies, even if some end up with more wealth than others. It's better than bowing down to some ageless spirit walking around in human skin."

What?

Korra leaned back, stung. "I am a person."

"You are a spirit that's playing cruel games," Asami hissed. "What would the world have been like if you had just stayed in the Spirit World? Maybe that's why you never understand people– because you weren't meant to be in this realm to begin with."

Korra felt a tear drop from one of her eyes. "What would it have been like? You'd be swearing loyalty to the Fire Lady right now if it weren't for the Avatar."

Asami jabbed a finger into her shoulder. "Avatar Kyoshi – made the Dai Li. Avatar Kuruk – neglected the entire world. Avatar Yangchen – killed over a thousand revolutionaries trying to fight for democracy in the Earth Kingdom. Avatar Hakan – tried to make himself divine emperor of the world. For however many good things you did, how many times did you stomp all over human will to preserve what you thought was order?"

"That's not how it works," Korra said. "We're individuals. We're people."

"We've battled the spirits – I've seen how they work. The Avatars are fragments, and they stay in the Spirit World for the rest of eternity after they've spent a lifetime pretending to be human. Because the living incarnation has to be able to draw on all those fragments for power. When's the last time you saw one of the dead incarnations share their eternity with a loved one? Never. That's because when Aang died, he had to stay there to offer his power to you. When Katara died, she got reincarnated – properly – just like any other human would." Asami raised her hands and backed away. "Maybe I don't want to die knowing that I'll never see you again. Maybe I don't want to be the experimental plaything of a deity."

Korra was torn between bursting into tears and screaming. "That's not -"

"Fine, you get what you want. You're free, Korra. Let me live out the rest of my life with someone who's actually human, and go find where you belong."

For a moment, she lost touch with reality. Had those words been real? Had Asami really said that? It was over? No, it couldn't have been – it was. Asami was staring her down with fury in her sharp green eyes, waiting for her to make some kind of move.

Korra backed away, slowly, and Asami did not stop her.

"I just..."

"Go."

And she did.


They met again three weeks later – when Korra came back from the mountains to gather what few things she owned. Asami offered her tea. She accepted it. They both found their way to the rear balcony, where they watched the passing clouds for several long minutes before conversation became inevitable.

Asami was the first to break the silence. "I'm sorry for the things I said."

Korra took a drink of her tea. "Me too."

"We aren't going to make this work, are we?"

She tightened her hold on the ceramic cup. "I don't think so."

Asami's lower lip trembled. "I wanted it to work."

"It's probably better this way," Korra said. "For both of us."

"You would have withered and died in this place, I suppose. Selfish of me to keep you."

"The spirit of the planet does not enjoy being removed from nature," Korra said, a slight hint of lingering hostility there.

"You're a person," Asami apologized. "You're my favorite person."

Korra wrapped an arm around her, nuzzling Asami's hair. "You are going to make someone ridiculously happy."

Asami's body convulsed in a silent, repressed sob. They turned into each other without thinking, pressing their lips together, trying to leave it on a pleasant note. There was love there. There would always be love there. It just wasn't the kind of love required for a lasting partnership. It was, and always had been, pure admiration – fascination.

When Korra returned to the Southern Water Tribe unannounced, both of her parents instinctively knew what had happened. As with their last visit, Tonraq pulled her into an embrace – but this time it was gentle and sensitive. The three of them huddled together next to the roaring fire in the center of their home, antarctic wind howling outside, and Korra felt the first stirrings of life return to her.