"So, was it, uh, was it, y'know, l-love at first sight? Or whatever?" Ai asks suddenly. "For you two?"
Korra pauses in the act of airbending the dinner dishes dry. She glances at her daughter, who has her head firmly down, her attention apparently focused on the bowl she's listlessly scrubbing. Korra looks up, past her daughter's pink-tinged ears and meets Asami's eyes. Korra raises an eyebrow.
Asami shakes her head. She pours hot water from the kettle into the teapot. Then, the corner of her mouth twitching up, she says, "Oh, it was definitely more of a whatever for us. Our first meeting didn't go well."
"Hey now!" Korra protests weakly. "It wasn't that bad!"
"You were glaring daggers at me." Asami strokes two fingers across her skin, from her right temple to her jaw. "I can still feel the scars."
Korra fights down the irrational surge of jealousy she feels whenever she isn't the one touching Asami's skin. While she's busy doing that, Ai turns to face them both, resting her hands on the edge of the sink. She looks from one to the other, her brown eyes wide, her mouth curving into a disbelieving grin. "You hated each other?"
"No!" Korra protests. "We didn't hate each other at all!"
"No," Asami says calmly. Her eyes are never greener than when she thinks she's about to be funny and they're so green right now. "I was excited to meet the Avatar. Korra hated me on sight."
Ai gasps and clutches at her heart. "Mom! How could you?!"
"It wasn't like that!"
"It really was."
"'Sami, no, I didn't hate you! I--"
"Why did mom hate you so much, mom?" Ai asks cheerily.
"A boy." Asami sighs. "This was a long time ago, Ai."
"Stupid Mako," Korra grumbles.
"You dated uncle Mako?" Ai's gasp this time is less theatrical. "Wow, how could you, mom? Seriously...how? He acts like fun is an abbreviation of funeral."
"Oh, Korra dated him, too. After I did. She was jealous I was dating him, that's why she hated me."
Korra stops laughing. Ai picks up the slack, clutching her stomach as her whole face turns red. "You were both such messes! Wow! I thought you, like, had this romance of the ages. This is a let down. It's a relief, but also a let down."
Korra's about to go after the word 'relief,' but Asami tilts her head a fraction of an inch and Korra backs off. Humming softly, Korra finishes drying the dishes while Asami pours three cups of tea. Asami gestures to Ai, who happily abandons the last few dirty bowls and joins Asami at the table.
"You know, if it wasn't for uncle Mako, we might not have met," Asami says softly. She smiles wistfully. "Or things might have been a lot worse when we did."
"What do you mean?" Ai blows on her tea, like she always does, regardless of the temperature. Korra's heart swells, like it always does when she sees aspects of the tiny girl Ai once was in the young woman she's becoming. "Why worse?"
Korra goes to the sink to finish the dishes. She watches Asami in the reflection of the kitchen window, because memories dull over time, but some can still cut deep.
"Oh, nothing really." Asami sighs and sips her tea. "It was a difficult time, that's all." She suddenly looks up, catching Korra watching her. Asami smiles, her shoulders easing down. "Our second meeting wasn't much better. Korra was a pro-bender--"
"This I know," Ai sighs. "The Fire Ferrets should have won the cup, but--"
"We were robbed!" Korra yells cheerfully. She bends the wash water from her hands and joins her wife and daughter at the table. "This may shock you, Ai, being so young and innocent, but the Wolfbats did a thing called--"
"Cheating!" Ai widens her eyes absurdly. "Oh, no! How could you shatter my innocence so cruelly, young mom?"
Asami almost chokes on her tea. "Ai! Please don't start that again."
"Start what, old mom?" Ai asks innocently. She smiles, her cheeks dimpling. "You're a year older. It's easier this way. That's all."
"I blame myself for this, personally," Korra says, grinning. "I'm a terrible influence."
"Yes, I was going to blame you, Korra." Asami takes advantage of Ai's laughter to point her chin at their daughter. This time, Korra shakes her head. "Old mom. Really?"
Ai has the grace to look abashed. "Sorry, mom. Would older mom be better?"
"No. No, it would not."
"Asami, you've aged as gracefully as you've always moved," Korra says, smiling softly because it's true. "No one would know you're a whole sixteen months older than me."
"Flatterer." Asami takes a sip of tea, but Korra can tell she's smiling behind her cup. "Don't think it'll get you off the hook."
They share a look, one that makes Korra fairly confident that she won't be getting banished to the realm of no snuggles tonight.
Ai clears her throat. "So, uh, when did you guys start getting along? When did you figure things out?"
"Big questions," Korra says, gulping her tea. "What do you say, wife?"
"Mm, really? I didn't think there was a question at all." Asami purses her lips. "The...sixth time we met. The day at the track was when we started to connect. I used to test race cars," Asami says to Ai, grinning. "Korra only started to like me after I took her for a drive. A race, in fact! Which, in case you were curious, I won."
"Spirits! You were so wild, so eager to win! It was amazing."
"That was when everything started, really, for us." Asami raises her cup in a salute. "Even if it took us a good few years to understand how we truly felt about each other." Asami hesitates, flicking a glance at Korra. Korra taps her finger against her cup twice. "You see, Ai, love at first sight can happen--"
"Yup." Korra ruffles Ai's hair. "I know, because that's what happened the first time we saw you. Instant love, little one. Like nothing else I've known."
And Korra is content to prove it in all the small, everyday ways that she can. But she knows, has known from the moment she first laid eyes on Ai, that should Ai need a mountain to be moved, Korra would bend that mountain without hesitation. And should the world try to bare its teeth at her daughter, the world will find Avatar Korra's fist poised and ready to knock those teeth out.
"I'm not little anymore!" Ai rolls her eyes and sets about fixing her hair. "I'm fourteen!"
"Yeah," Korra says fondly. "Not so little anymore."
Asami takes Korra's hand, twining their fingers together. "Love at first sight can happen, Ai. But sometimes it takes time. Love isn't really one thing. Love is...something that grows into its own unique shape between the people who share it."
"Huh," Ai murmurs, chewing her lip. "It sounds confusing."
"It can be." Asami squeezes Korra's hand. "But at some point, it becomes the only thing that makes sense."
Ai blows on her tea and drinks, her eyes distant.
Korra glances at Asami. Asami's lip quirks. Korra slowly smiles. "What's the matter, wife?"
"Just curious, wife," Asami says easily. "Did you have a different answer to when we first started getting along?"
"No." Korra winks at Ai. "Also maybe yes."
"Uh oh!" Ai perks up, grinning at Asami. "I think we're about to get some Avatar 'wisdom.'"
"Hey! I'm the wisest Avatar in the whole wide world!"
"You're the only Avatar in the world."
"The point stands! I'm incredibly wise, Ai. I have so much wisdom. Avatarly wisdom. That's the best kind of wisdom."
Ai sighs dramatically. She props her chin in her hand. "Okaaaaay. Let's hear it. Unless it's about how cake makes everything better."
"It isn't. Although cake does. There are spirits who will back me on that bit of wisdom, too!"
"Let's leave spirits out of this for now." Asami props her chin on her hand and raises her eyebrows. "We're much more interested in the latest Avatar wisdom."
"Well, good. Because it's the wisest wisdom yet!" Korra pauses, smiling at Ai. "Now, Ai, you know that your oldest mom is the--"
"Korra. Display more wisdom."
"Excuse me. You know that my beloved is the smartest woman in the world and that she is almost always right about things."
"I know this, yes," Ai says gravely. "I have felt the burden of it most of my life."
Korra laughs while Asami quietly grumbles into her teacup. "But the way we think about the world is shaped by our experiences. Asami is an engineer, an inventor, and a brilliant CEO. Now, what do those things have in common?"
"Huh?" Ai blinks. Then her eyes widen. "Oh! Math?"
"Right! So, your most beautiful mom is right--"
"Korra!" Asami is blushing slightly, and Korra feels her heart speed up in response. "Beauty isn't some kind of contest!"
"Right, but only because you'll always win!"
"Korra, you can't--'
Ai chuckles. "It's okay, I get it! There's a lot more to people than their looks, right? And beauty is, um..."
"Subjective. Yes. There are as many kinds of beauty as there are people in the world." Asami shakes her head at Korra. "Enough flattery, wife. Get to the Avatar point."
"Okay." Korra grins. "Asami is someone used to order and structure and physical processes and...math..." Korra shudders, winking at Ai. "So, it's understandable that she'd say the sixth time we met is when we started to get along. She's right, but she's also wrong. It wasn't the sixth time we met."
Ai's brow wrinkles. "When was it, then?"
Korra smiles. "The first moment I saw Asami I didn't really see her beauty, I saw how her beauty had caught the attention of someone whose attention I wanted. I didn't even see Asami at all. I was new to the city, new to being in the world, I barely knew what it meant to be the Avatar and being the Avatar was all I thought I could be. I didn't know who I was, Ai. And I didn't know who Asami was. Is that supposed to be when we first met?"
"I...thought so?" Ai shakes her head. "If not that time, then when?"
"Ah, that's easy. Because I am incredibly wise and spirity, I can tell you--"
"Spiritual, Korra. The word is--"
"Now." Korra locks eyes with Asami. "Now is when. This is still the first time, love. We haven't met. We're meeting."
Asami's impossibly beautiful green eyes widen. Her lips form a soundless 'oh.'
Ai blinks. "Huh?"
Korra smiles at her wife and at her daughter. "The secret about grown-ups is, we're still growing up, too. You only stop growing when you tell yourself you have nothing else to learn in life, Ai. If you're wise, you'll realise that there is always more to learn. You'll never stop growing. I haven't stopped growing. Asami hasn't stopped growing. We don't fully know ourselves, or each other, though I think sometimes we know each other better than we know ourselves! Our first moment wasn't a good one, your amazing mom is right. But that was just the beginning of a meeting of souls that has seen us become allies, friends, best friends, wives. Maybe that first moment didn't plant the seed of love, but I can still look back and cherish it because it led to so many moments so full of love, like this one. So many moments, one single meeting. And it isn't over. Because we're still growing, still changing, still learning more about ourselves and each other. Still getting closer to one another, after all these years. We're still--"
"Still finding ways to fall deeper in love with each other," Asami whispers, staring at Korra in a way that lets her know that she will most assuredly be on the receiving end of snuggles tonight. "Spirits, how you keep finding ways to make me love you more..."
"You do the same for me, love. You do the same for me." Korra squeezes her hand. "So that's the way I see it, Ai. This isn't our first moment together, but it's still our first meeting. It wasn't the smoothest start, and there have been bumps along the way, but...meeting Asami was the single best thing in my life. Until I had my first moment with you, Ai. Now I have two best things. How lucky am I?"
Ai rolls her eyes, but the way her teeth dimple her lower lip lets Korra know she's biting back a smile. "You're lucky I put up with your goopiness, mom."
"This I know," Korra sighs. She looks at Asami. Asami nods. "What I don't know is the name of the person you think you might have fallen in love with at first sight, then somehow messed up your first meeting with."
Ai's eyes dart nervously between Korra and Asami's faces. "Uh..."
"Korra made moon cake this morning," Asami says softly. She places a hand on Ai's. "We could cut three slices, make a fresh pot of tea, and sit by the fire in the living room with the other lights out. We could talk about it, if you want?"
"And if you need someone beaten up..." Korra flexes her arms. "I happen to be the strongest Avatar in the whole wide world. I can beat up anyone you like."
"What? I'm the Avatar! I can totally beat up some kid! Wait, no, saying it out loud like that fills me with regret..."
Ai bursts out laughing. "Okay, most embarrassing mom! I'll keep that offer in mind, but I don't need you to beat anyone up. Our first...moment didn't go that bad."
"Aww," Asami sighs. "You had a first moment..."
"What? No! Maybe...shut up."
"Wanna tell your embarrassing moms about it?"
"Or rather," Asami says primly, "your embarrassing mom and your not at all embarrassing mom?"
Ai chews her lip for what feels like a long, long time. At last she smiles shyly at Korra and at Asami. "Well, I guess...if there's moon cake..."
Korra meets Asami's eye. "I'll get the cake, you get the tea?"
Ai hops out of her seat. "I'll get the blankets. This is going to require blankets!"
Korra watches her run out of the room. She squeezes Asami's hand. "So. Are you as terrified as I am by this development?"
Asami chuckles. "No. Because I have you to help me get Ai through this. I have you to help me get through anything. You and all your Avatarly wisdom."
"I'm the wisest Avatar you know, that's for sure."
Asami looks at their joined hands. Softly she says, "You're...the only Avatar I want to know, Korra. I'd like it if you're the only Avatar I ever meet. Please?"
"Hey, now!" Korra leans across the table. "This is our first meeting, Asami. Some day, it'll be over. But who says we don't get a second? Or a third? Or more?"
"Hmm. You might be right." Asami meets her eye and she smiles. She is wonderful and beautiful and her lips are an invitation and her eyes are the greenest things that Korra has ever seen. "Next time, can we try to meet Mako platonically?"
Korra laughs. "Oh. See? You made it happen." Korra leans further across the table. "I'm falling deeper in love with you right now."
From the living room, Ai yells, "Moms! I have blankets and secrets over here!"
"Blankets and secrets," Korra murmurs, smiling.
"Best not keep her waiting," Asami says, smiling back.
Asami meets Korra halfway, kissing her briefly, but with the promise of many more kisses to come later. Then they ready tea and moon cake and ready themselves to hear their daughter's secrets.